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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gianluca Casseri a Traditionalist, but the explanation lies elsewhere

Gianluca Casseri, who shot three Senegalese street-vendors in Florence on December 13, killing two of them, and then killed himself to avoid capture, is being described by some press reports as “the Italian Breivik.” Both were from the radical right, both were enthusiasts of fantasy literature, and both seem to have thought themselves fighting in an apocalyptic clash of civilizations.

There are important differences between Casseri and Breivik, however. Breivik dismissed Traditionalism, while Casseri was a Traditionalist. And while Breivik’s writings make his acceptance of the clash of civilizations narrative very clear, Casseri’s writings barely refer to Islam. For Casseri, the important clash seems to have been that between Tradition and Modernity. And the important narrative may have been that of the warrior, Casseri’s interest in whom may owe something to Evola. This may help to explain his actions, but it does not explain his targets.

Something of Casseri’s ideology may be reconstructed from the four publications that can be found relatively easily: one novel, one short essay, one extended essay, and one long non-fiction book. The short essay, from 2010, argues for finding the “roots of Europe” not in Christianity or the Enlightenment but in paganism, Indo-European religion and ultimately the Vedas. It bases itself largely on Sul problema d’una Tradizione Europea (On the problem of a European Tradition, 1973) of the Evolian Traditionalist Adriano Romualdi (1940-73), and thus ultimately on Evola.

The extended essay, from 2000, “Dracula, il guerriero di Wotan” (Dracula, the warrior of Wotan), deals at length with what Casseri sees as a central figure in this tradition: the berserker, the bearskin-clad super-warrior of Norse myth. Casseri seeks to demonstrate the relationship between the Dracula myth and the berserker, with careful footnoting and references to Eliade, C. G. Jung, and Georges Dumézil, among others. Eliade and Dumézil, of course, have their own relationship to Traditionalism. The basic idea of Casseri’s “Dracula,” however, seems to come from a book by a scholar at the University of Cagliari, Marinella Lorinczi, author of Dracula & Co. Il richiamo del Nord nei romanzi di Bram Stoker (Dracula & Co.: The call of the North in the novels of Bram Stoker, 1998).

Casseri's novel, La chiave del caos (The key of chaos, 2010, pictured) was co-written with Enrico Rulli (unidentified), and starts in Vienna at the end of the Second World War (a crucial point in Evola’s life). It then becomes a historical novel, taking the reader back to sixteenth-century Prague and the secrets of John Dee. In an introduction to this novel, Gianfranco de Turris, perhaps the most eminent follower of Evola in Italy today, wrote that the book “challenged the foundations of the society we live in” with “the mentality of the men of the sixteenth century, representatives of the perennial philosophy.”

The non-fiction book, I protocolli del savio di Alessandria (The protocols of the Learned Elder of Alessandia, 2011) refers to Umberto Eco, who was born in Alessandria (Piedmont, Italy), and challenges the version of the origins of The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion given by Eco in his Il Cimitero di Praga (The Prague Cemetery, 2010). Part of Eco’s novel places the origins of the Protocols in Eco's own picaresque occult-tinged story. Current resources do not allow me to see what Casseri’s alternative version is.

Casseri, then, appears as an Evolian Traditionalist with a taste for fiction, and also as a member of Italy’s Evolian milieu. De Turris writes introductions to his books. “Dracula” was published on the website of the Centro Studi La Runa, a mainstream Evolian group dating from 1994. The essay on the pagan roots of Europe was first published on the website of a mainstream non-Traditionalist neo-Fascist group, the  CasaPound, but the Centro Studi La Runa then republished it. Although a member of the Evolian milieu, Casseri was also read outside it: La chiave del caos was published by a small but mainstream publisher specializing in books on personal growth and related topics, and I protocolli del savio di Alessandria was also published by a non-Traditionalist publisher, though a rather smaller one.

If Casseri’s ideological profile is reasonably clear, the relationship between this and his actions is not clear. To judge from his writings, he had little interest in Islam, and neither does  the Centro Studi La Runa, or even the neo-Fascist CasaPound. Casseri wrote against the Christian myth of Europe to which Breivik subscribed. Perhaps the extended essay on the berserker, the hunter and the beast-warrior explains something?

Even though some websites and Facebook groups are now hailing Casseri as a “patriot” and casting Dracula as a hero of European resistance against Islam (on the grounds that he fought Turks), Casseri seems very different from Breivik. In Breivik’s case, the connection between ideology and action was clear. In Casseri’s case, the connection is far from clear. Casseri was clearly a committed Traditionalist, but this seems to have nothing to do with the deaths in Florence. Normally, ideology is a key to understanding terrorism, but ion this case, the explanation evidently lies somewhere else.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

After the Traditionalist Conference in Moscow

As previously announced, a major Traditionalist conference was arranged in Moscow by Natella Speranskaya, 15-16 October 2011. This featured the leading Russian Traditionalists, Alexander Dugin and Gaydar Jamal.

As can be seen in the photograph, among the guests were Abd al Wahid Pallavicini and his son Yahya, of the of the CO.RE.IS (Comunità Religiosa Islamica, Islamic Religious Community). Although Italian "political" Traditionalists such as Claudio Mutti (who was also in Moscow) have been interested in Dugin for some time, interest in Dugin on the part of "spiritual" Traditionalists with their origin in Schuon's Maryamiyya is new. Perhaps a sign that Dugin's influence is now so great that the spiritual and political branches may not always remain as separate as they have been in recent decades?

As well as something new, something old: the verse of Yevgeny Golovin, one of the leading figures in the Soviet-era dissident circle from which Russian Traditionalism emerged. Among the cultural events arranged in connection with the conference was a "rock ballad" using the Golovin's verse, performed by Alexander Sklyar.

Topics discussed are reported to have included eschatology, the postmodern situation, neo-Platonism, chaos, Kabbalah, and "the sacredness of authority and metaphysical horizons of the revolution."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Round-table on "Traditions and Traditionalism," Donetsk National Technical University

Another conference, or rather a round table, on "Traditions and Traditionalism," scheduled for November 11, 2011, at the Donetsk National Technical University, Ukraine. The Call follows normal academic protocol, and the round table is sponsored by the Department of Philosophy and the Center for Religious Studies, but is actually organized by a group called Aghlaqin that describes itself as "Thelemic"--i.e. inspired by Aleister Crowley. Conference languages are announced as Ukrainian, Russian and English, but the Call is only in Ukrainian.

There seems to be quite an interest in Tradititionalism in Ukraine. One of the websites carrying the Call is that of the Ukrainian Traditionalist Club, based in Kiev.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Dugin and the Eurasian Union

Charles Clover of London's Financial Times makes a link (FT, October 5) between Alexander Dugin and Vladimir Putin's new Eurasian Union, announced by Putin in an article in Izvestia on October 3. “We have waited for 25 years for these words to be uttered in public by our leadership,” Clover quotes Dugin as saying. “We did help in the preparation [of Putin's article], but, unfortunately, they softened our formulas.”

Actually, any contributions by Dugin to Putin's article seem to have been softened to invisibility. As described in the article, Putin's Eurasian Union sounds very much like a copy of the European Union, without the problems. However, the wind in Moscow  is clearly continuing to blow Dugin's way.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Rebellion, Tradition, and Complex Cultural Systems

A new article by Kennet Granholm on "Heathen Influences in Black Metal and Neofolk Music" (its subtitle), with the title "Sons of Northern Darkness," has just been published in Numen 58, no 4 (2011), pp. 514-544. The article is about Black Metal and Neofolk rather than Traditionalism, but does cover Traditionalism, and provides an interesting answer to the question of the relationship between Traditionalism and these two music scenes.

The argument is that we should think of Black Metal and Neofolk not just as music scenes, but as "complex cultural systems." Otherwise, it is hard to explain why two scenes that are so different in musical terms should partly overlap. The article traces in detail the development of the "esoteric" content of these scenes (or systems). Rock music is inherently rebellious, it argues. This is why Black Sabbath toyed with Satanism in the 1970s. When Satanism lost its power to shock, musicians moved on and went deeper, ending in some cases in what might be called classic heathenism, and in other cases in "Radical Traditionalist" heathenism. The article also charts a parallel process for Neofolk.

So, some might say: it's just posing, using Traditionalism (and/or heathenism) to very un-Traditional ends. Not so, in effect replies Granholm. Firstly, something either is or is not part of a cultural system, and if it is, it doesn't matter how and why it got there. Secondly, even if the root of the interest in Traditionalism (and/or heathenism) is rebellion, something similar is also true for esotericism as a whole. Rebellion against, or rejection of, the modern world is actually an integral aspect of all esotericism. And:

The key characteristic of Traditionalism, as well as the later Radical Traditionalist movement, is the rejection of dominant Western cultural and societal values and norms. Instead, the attention is shifted away from the modern West, and to what is considered to be more authentic culture and uncorrupted expressions of eternal wisdom. While the common “tradition” of choice for the original Traditionalist school was mystical  expressions of Islam, mainly Sufism, later developments of Traditionalism — in particular Radical Traditionalism — have often turned to European pre-Christian traditions. (537-38).

I am not 100% certain that this is the last word on the subject, but I think we are getting there. And I suspect this argument helps explain more than the music scenes that are its topic. It could also perhaps be developed to cover the political: the young Evola of the 1930s, the Evolians of the 1970s, and even parts of today's New Right.

Monday, September 19, 2011

New book on Martinism

For those interested in the history of Martinism in France, especially when it comes to social and political views: David Allen Harvey, Beyond Enlightenment: Occultism and Politics in Modern France (Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2005).

The book "traces the birth of Martinism during the Enlightenment, its revival in the fin de siècle, and the late nineteenth-century formation of a distinctly Martinist project-the synarchy-aimed at the social and political renewal of France and the greater world." It maintains that "The Martinist doctrines formed a unique synthesis of Enlightenment and counter-Enlightenment thought."

Thanks to Marcel Roggemans for bringing this book to my attention.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Modernism, Anti-modernism, and Traditionalism

For anyone in Munich on Tuesday August 2, I will be giving a lecture on "Modernism, Anti-modernism, and Traditionalism" at 20:00, at the invitation of Slavs & Tatars, as part of the "Group Affinity" summer school and exhibition organized by Kunstverein München. See http://www.kunstverein-muenchen.de/2008/group-affinity-en.php.

Ivan Aguéli archive

Just found: an Ivan Aguéli archive at http://agueliportal.forst.nu. Contains letters and articles. Unfortunately for many, the site is in Swedish, as are the letters, BUT the articles are generally available in original pdf form, in the original languages (Italian and French). Click on "Tidskrifter."

Sources for the Alawiyya of Mostaghanem

Two  unusual sources for the Alawiyya of Mostaghanem in the 1960s, and--especially--for what sent two different Westerners there: one is Robert Irwin, Memoirs of a Dervish (London, Profile Books, 2011, previously mentioned here), and the other is Esther Freud, Hideous Kinky (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1992, and later editions). I had not realized that Freud's Sufis were from the Alawiyya until I read Irwin, who says they were, and is not contradicted by Freud.

Both books are memoirs, Irwin's based on diaries kept at the time, Freud's based on childood memories--it was Freud's mother who decided to go to Motaghanem, not the two young daughters she took with her. Freud's book probably has more literary merit, while Irwin's has more Sufism, and has literary merit too.

Irwin and his friends discovered Sufism through the Traditionalists. A friend of Irwin's, in fact, read Schuon at twelve and converted to Islam at fifteen. But none of them became Traditionalists, and the Traditionalists merely cross the pages of Irwin's book from time to time, sometimes to be condemned (as "pernicious rubbish," for example). For those interested in Traditionalism, the value of Irwin's book is that it gives an independent picture of what the Mostaghanem zawiya was like for a young Westerner on a spiritual quest, though Irwin of course arrived there some thirty years after Schuon, and was evidently a very different sort of young man, as well as belonging to a different age.

Both books are, from a Traditionalist perspective, highly irreverent, and psychological rather than doctrinal.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Erratum: Pouvourville

In Against the Modern World I give the dates of Albert de Pouvourville ("Matgioï") as 1861-1940. In fact, he died in 1939. Thanks to Andriy Voloshyn for pointing this out.

Breivik's "European Declaration of Independence"

Although some connection between the Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik and either Evola or Dugin has been suggested, a quick reading of his 2083--A European Declaration of Independence indicates that he did not draw on Traditionalist sources. Evola is not mentioned, Dugin is referred to only in passing (in connection with Ergenekon), and the mainstream Traditionalism of Guénon and Schuon is placed on the other side. This Traditionalism is given as one of several causes of what Breivik calls "Islam negationism," the alleged rewriting of the truth to portray Islam as not being the threat that he sees it as. "Rightist traditionalism" comes after "Leftism" and before economic liberalism in a list of nine causes of this.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Traditionalist conference in Moscow

Natella Speranskaya is organizing a major Traditionalist conference in Moscow on 15-16 October 2011, under the title "Actual Problems of Traditionalism." Promised speakers include Claudio Mutti, there will be an art exhibition including the Russian painter Alexey Belyaev-Gintovt, and a conference volume will be published. Planned sessions are:

  • "Tradition vs. Postmodernity"
  •  "Horizons of the new metaphysics and the figure of Radical Self"
  •  "The mission of Julius Evola"
  •  "Traditionalism and esoterism in Islam"
  •  "Traditionalism and the problem of monotheism"
  •  "Primordiality as a problem"
Other topics or interest are desecularization, eschatology (orthodoxy and heterodoxy), neo-spiritualism, the problem of initiation, and "the Reign of post-Quantity."

Proposals in Russian, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, German, or Italian to solomon2770@yandex.ru.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Traditionalism in Indonesia

By Dinar Kania, Ph.D. student, Ibn Khaldun University, Indonesia (najmasyira@gmail.com)

Schuonian perennialism has been present in Islamic thought and education in Indonesia since the publication of a translation of Schuon’s Transcendent Unity of Religions in the 1990s, and has since grown through the impact of the works of  Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Perennialist perspectives have been adopted by some Islamic scholars as a philosophical foundation for the legitimization of religious pluralism and of multiculturalism-based education. They have also been criticized as incompatible with Islamic teachings, and as potentially disrupting the unity of Muslims in Indonesia, despite offering a cursory solution to the issue of violence in the name of religion.

"Inclusive Theology"
Schuon's "transcendent unity" is behind the emergence of the so-called "Inclusive Theology" that was proposed by "Cak Nur," Nurcholis Majid (1939-2005), and that has been encouraging the spread of religious pluralism in Indonesia. Cak Nur, who did his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago from 1978 to 1984, has had enormous influence on the development of liberal Islamic thought in Indonesia, and his name was even proposed as a presidential candidate in 2004. His Inclusive Theology asserts that Islam is but one way to approach God, because the way to God is very wide and diverse.(1) Religious discourse can thus be expressed through various forms, for example, in Hinduism as Sanatana Dharma, in Taoism as the Tao, and in Buddhism as Dharma, all of which represent the primordial tradition, or al-din al-hanif in Islam. Al-din al-hanif, in Allah’s sight, is actually the attitude of resignation (islam) which is common to all religious believers, particularly followers of the scriptures, both Jewish and Christian.(2) All religions teach monotheism (tawhid) and the attitude of surrender (islam), and differ in their exoteric aspects (sharia), and not their esoteric aspect or batin.(3)

Sukidi, in his Teologi Inklusif Cak Nur (The Inclusive Theology of Cak Nur, 2001) argued that the perspectives of the perennial philosophy are needed to apply Inclusive Theology universally to all religions and authentic religious traditions. The search for the roots of the epistemological construct of the Inclusive Theology will thus not stop at finding ultimate reality, but can go deeper through the mystical experience of unification with God. Only through this trans-historical perspective, Sukidi maintains, can the adherents of an Inclusive Theology achieve an authentic ecumenism, timeless and perenenial, although this can only be in the esoteric (batin): religious harmony can only be achieved in the "Sky divine," not in "Earth's atmosphere."(4)

The Study of Religion
Religious Studies in Indonesia were changed by the opening of the Comparative Religion Department at Institut Agama Islam Negeri (State Institute of Islamic Studies) in Yogyakarta in 1961 under Professor Abdul Mukti Ali, Minister of Religious Affairs 1973-1978. Mukti Ali approached the development of comparative religion from the perspective of the Western study of religions, particularly those developed by Snouck Hurgronje, his followers, and the Leiden tradition. Since then, the study of religion in Indonesia has used the secular-liberal approaches of the historical sciences, psychology and philosophy.

More recently, the perspective of the perennial philosophy has begun to be employed as an "original approach" to comparative religion that does not parse religions vertically into historical entities such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Schuon's approach is claimed as a spiritual trans-historical perspective which is grounded in historical fact, then raised to the level of mystical theological transcendence so that historical fact becomes relative to the spiritual truth which is seen as the core of religion. Such perspectives became increasingly widespread once Seyyed Hossein Nasr's work was introduced into Indonesia, and eventually became quite popular in religious studies.(5)

Multiculturalism-based Education
On the basis that many horizontal conflicts in Indonesia have had religious nuances, multiculturalism-based education has been massively promoted by liberals since the regional autonomy and decentralization of 1999/2000.(6) Schuon's thought has been used to assert, theologically and philosophically, the importance of developing religious studies based on multiculturalism, according to Syamsul Arifin in his inaugural address as professor of sociology of religion in one of the Islamic private universities. Syamsul Arifin argues that the concept of multiculturalism can be used as a framework or epistemology to understand and disseminate the notion of transcendent unity among the various religions. The study of religion based on multiculturalism can, he further argues, erode conflict and violence, and foster a non-violent culture with the values, knowledge, feelings, and willingness to cooperate on the basis of transcendent unity.(7)

Critiques
As well as influencing Islamic thought and education in Indonesia, perennialism has also been heavily criticised by some Islamic scholars. Adian Husaini, former Chairman of the Islamic Da'wah Council of Indonesia (DDII), has argued that perennialism is against Islamic teaching, as the sharia is not just "exoteric" but rather one of the most fundamental aspects of Islam. One of the primary missions of the prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH) was to give guidance on how to worship Allah. To achieve true esotericism, one must perform proper religious procedures in accordance with the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It is Allah that is worshipped and nothing else, neither gods nor otherwise.

Anis Malik Thoha of the Institute for Study of Islamic Thought and Civilization (INSISTS) in Jakarta, who currently teaches at International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), has argued that the perennialist conception of esoteric truth is  over-simplistic. Perennialism is an interpretation, not a revelation, and is contrary to religious principles in general, and to Islam in particular. Religious concepts such as Sanatana Dharma and al-din al-hanif have been terribly distorted to fit the ideas of the Traditionalists. Perennialism is therefore more of a problem than a solution to the issue of religious diversity.(8)


References
  1. Nurcholis Majid in George B. Grose and Benjamin J. Hubbard, Tiga Agama Satu Tuhan (Jakarta: Mizan, 1998), p. xix.
  2. Sukidi, Teologi Inklusif Cak Nur (Jakarta: Kompas, 2001), p. 22-23.
  3. Azhari Akmal Tarigan, Islam Mazhab HMI; Tafsir Tema Besar Nilai Dasar Perjuangan (NDP) (Jakarta: Kultura, 2007), p. 48.
  4. Sukidi, Teologi Inklusif, p. 19-20.
  5. Ahmad Norma Permata, Metodologi Studi Agama (Yogyakarta: Pustaka Pelajar, 2000), p. 32-33.
  6. Choirul Mahfud, Pendidikan Multikultural (Yogyakarta: Pustaka Pelajar, 2008), p. 7.
  7.  Syamsul Arifin, Silang Sengkarut Agama di Ranah Sosial (Malang: UMM Press, ND), p. 47.
  8. Journal of Islamic Thought Islamia-Republika, 23 April 2011.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Memoirs of a Dervish

Just published: Robert Irwin, Memoirs of a Dervish: Sufis, Mystics and the Sixties ($17.59 from Amazon US and £8.49 from Amazon UK). This is an autobiographical account by a talented writer and novelist of his own journey from 1960s Oxford through the Maryamiyya to Mostaghanem and onwards. Irwin, who is Middle East editor of The Times Literary Supplement, is perhaps best known for his criticisms of Edward Said's Orientalism. Well worth reading, and endorsed by Esther Freud (of Hideous Kinky).

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Nasr and Hisham Kabbani (and Prince Charles)

A link between Traditionalism and another form of non-Guénonian "traditional" Islam: Seyyed Hossein Nasr, who admittedly writes quite a lot of prefaces, has written prefaces for two books by US-based Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani (pictured right), the deputy of Shaykh Muhammad Nazim Adil Al-Haqqani of the Naqshbandiyya Haqqaniyya, one of the best known (and quite possibly the largest) of Sufi tariqas in the contemporary West.
 
Nasr welcomed Kabbani's Classical Islam and the Naqshbandi Sufi Tradition (1994) as "a precious reminder of the traditional and orthodox understanding of Sufism as represented by one of its major orders," and Kababni's multi-volume Encyclopedia of Islamic Doctrine (1998) as "re-stating traditional and orthodox Islamic teachings without any compromise" and restoring the "universal orthodoxy" that had been "attacked not only from without by the forces of modernism ... but also from within." So Nasr approves of Kabbani, and Kabbani approves of Nasr, and has no major problem with his view of "universal orthodoxy."

Nasr might have had something to do with the introduction of Kabbani to Prince Charles (pictured left, in 2006), but this might simply have been a fruit of the British government's counter-radicalization strategy.

Thanks to Simon Stjernholm, whose PhD dissertation "Lovers of Muhammad: A Study of Naqshbandi-Haqqani Sufis in the Twenty-First Century" was successfully defended at Lund University on June 1, 2011, for noting these connections.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Important new book on Evola

What looks like a very important new book on Evola has just been published: Paul Furlong, Social and Political Thought of Julius Evola (Abingdon: Routledge, 2011). Unfortunately, given the publsiher, the book is not cheap: £80 ($130) in Europe, and an astonishing $260 if ordered from Routledge in the US. [With a less awful price on Amazon, according to a comment to this post].

Professor Furlong is head of the School of European Studies at the University of Cardiff, and has previously published mostly on Italian politics and on the European Union.

In the preface to his book, he declares that the book's focus is Evola's texts and ideas. Furlong includes the historical, cultural and political context to the extent needed to make sense of those ideas, but does not look especially at what people have done with them (though from its title, it looks as if the conclusion does go some way in that direction).

I haven't read beyond the preface, but the rest of the book looks serious and important.

The contents are:
  1. Introduction: Evola in context
  2. Magic idealism and the need for the absolute
  3. Tradition and history
  4. A rigorous political doctrine
  5. Nations, nationalism, empire and Europe
  6. The strategy for the Right: Men and ruins
  7. Race, sex and anti-Semitism
  8. Conclusion: Evola and modern conservatism

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Essay on Dugin

A good extended essay on Dugin, covering more or less everything, and available on-line: Yigal Liverant, “The Prophet of the New Russian Empire,” Azure: Ideas for the Jewish Nation 35 (Winter 5769 / 2009), pp. 50-83. At http://www.azure.org.il/article.php?id=483.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The United States and Eurasia

An interesting on-line debate between Alexander Dugin and Olavo de Carvalho (both pictured below) has been going on since March elsewhere on blogspot.


Dugin requires no introduction to readers of this blog; de Carvalho does require some introduction. He is a Brazilian journalist, columnist and philosopher now living in the United States, where since 2009 he has been heading an Inter-American Institute for Philosophy, Government, and Social Thought. According to this institute's website, "the keynote of his work is the defense of man's innermost consciousness against the tyranny of collective authority," and he believes that "the most solid shelter for individual consciousness against alienation and reification can be found in widely varying degrees in the ancient spiritual traditions."

And Dugin, of course, represents another form of Traditionalism, similar and yet different--as the two photographs above, chosen by de Carvalho, indicate. And as the development of the on-line debate, entitled "The United States and the New World Order" and focusing on Eurasian-Atlantic relations, has also indicated.

Worth looking at.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Heidegger and Traditionalism

Reposting from John J. Reilly's article on Martin Heidegger's Being and Time

Parallels can be found in the similarities between elements of Heidegger's system and that of esoteric Tradition, principally though not exclusively as represented in the philosophy of Heidegger's contemporary, Rene Guenon. Both were convinced that Plato roughly marks the point where Western philosophy departed from the contemplation of Being in order to gossip about the eternally expanding vacuum of mere ideas. Both had a horror of mechanism and quantification, and of what the modern world's embrace of these principles meant for the future. (Guenon's apocalyptic masterwork, remember, is called The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times.) Parallels show up even in the details of their work, such as their insistence that time and space are meaningful in a way that geometry and clock-time simply caricature. Both were oddly fond of the adjective "primordial," at least if their translators are to be believed.

And then, of course, there is Julius Evola, sometime ideologist for Fascist Italy, and by most accounts the black sheep of the Traditional family. His system almost seems like Heidegger re-expressed in alchemical terms. Evola's formula for immortality involved not just resolution towards death, but the resolution to actually die. His late work, Ride the Tiger, is about the cultivation of the authentic self in a world where history is breaking down. By any reasonable reading, it is a form of existentialism, with only residual esoteric content.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mohamed Omar and the Swedish radical right

Guest post

In addition to the recent post about Mohammed Omar and the 'Ivan Aguéli Study Group,' it is worth noting that there exist several interesting connections between Omar and the people around him, and groups connected to the Swedish right. These connections have caused a lot of internal discussion among Traditionalists and Swedish nationalists about Islam and its potential as a threat or ally--a debate that originates in an international discussion on the Right spurred by the publication of Guillaume Faye's controversial La Nouvelle question juive (The New Jewish question), which proposes an alliance with Israel against Islam.

The Swedish right has in several steps approached and adopted Traditionalist and New Right ideas, with the blogging collective www.motpol.nu being the prime example, with several self-proclaimed 'Traditionalist' bloggers.In 2009 Mohamed Omar interviewed the Swedish Right Wing, Traditionalist and New Right blogger 'Oskorei' (see here).1½ years later, in December 2010, Oskorei in turn interviewed Omar on Motpol (here). Recently, in January 2011, an extremist and anti-traditionalist but radical nationalist blog/newspaper, Nationell.nu accused the people behind Motpol of being 'Traditionalist' and 'pro-Muslim', and a 'danger to Swedish nationalism' (here).

In late February 2011 Omar planned to attend a New Right/Identitarian gathering in Sweden (www.identitet.org), although he did not show up. He notified his friends on facebook of the meeting (due to it having traditionalist/'anti-zionist' speakers), which in turn spawned a lengthy (87 posts and counting) debate on a nationalist forum (here) where the relationship between Traditionalism, Islam and Swedish nationalism is discussed and put into question.

Finally it is worth noting that Lars Adelskogh, a former speaker in the Agueli Study Group, is also a collaborator with Omar on an Islamic Publishing house, islamiskaforlaget.se. Adelskog has several ties to the Swedish Right Wing scene. Besides having translated Guénon's The Reign of Quantity, Adelskogh has also written the book En tom säck kan inte stå: myten om "förintelsen i gaskamrarna" i Auschwitz (An empty sack can not stand: The myth of the "gas chamber Holocaust" at Auschwitz), a revisionist book that questions the scope of the Holocaust. This book was published in 2002 by Nordiska Förlaget. He has also translated Kevin MacDonald's The Culture of Critique (as Kritikkulturen: en evolutionär analys av judiskt engagemang i 1900-talets intellektuella och politiska rörelser), which is considered a key text in the contemporary Right Wing scene, and likewise published on Nordiska Förlaget.

Swedish nationalists have in previous year been observed at pro-Palestinian Al Quds demonstrations, but it is probably still too early to evaluate the exact extent and potential future developments of Islamic and New Right relations in Sweden.

Jacob Christiansen Senholt, Aarhus University

Monday, March 21, 2011

Simone Weil?

An anymous comment (which I post undedited) runs as follows:

Simone Weil was progressive and she too spoke of a need for roots. Dont know whether she fits into Traditionalism or not. But some elements of her work would be highly compatible with traditionalism.

"What makes an impression first is the distinction drawn by Weil between rights and obligations. Weil did not dispute the significance of rights, but she put them, it might be said, in their place. She viewed rights as 'subordinate and relative' to obligations: the exercise of a right did not depend on the demands of the individual possessing them, but on the recognition by others of their obligations....

...Weil insists that a progressive concerned with the promotion of just order must be able to speak about more than economic advancement, the expansion of rights, or the pursuit of individual happiness through restless scientific advance. Weil believed that progressives need to speak, too, to the need for 'roots,' understood as a basic—even spiritual—need. They should be able to speak of love of country, not only of submission to the State. Their language should be that of obligation, not only of rights, informed by morality even before it appeals to law...." (from book review by Bob Bauer on More Soft Money Hard Law website)

Book review: "This is one of those books which ought to be studied by the young before their lesiure has been lost and their capacity for thought destroyed; books the effect of which, we can only hope, will become apparent in the attitude of mind of another generation." T. S. Elliot


More here

http://www.ou.edu/cas/psc/bookweil.htm

Hellenic Eurasian movement opens website

The Hellenic Eurasian movement now has a blog (at http://eurasiagr.blogspot.com/) with translations of Dugin.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Traditionalism and Dugin, in Russian

There is a new article in Russian on Dugin by Andreas Umland and Anton Shekhovtsov, "Philosophia Perennis и «неоевразийство»: роль интегрального традиционализма в утопических построениях Александра Дугина" (Philosophia Perennis and 'Neo-Eurasianism:' The Role of Integral Traditionalism in the Utopian Constructions of Aleksandr Dugin), in Форум новейшей восточноевропейской истории и культуры - Русское издание 2 (2010), available at http://www1.ku-eichstaett.de/ZIMOS/forum/inhaltruss14.html. This is a translation of Anton Shekhovtsov and Andreas Umland, "Is Aleksandr Dugin a Traditionalist? 'Neo-Eurasianism' and Perennial Philosophy" The Russian Review 68 (October 2009), pp. 662–78, discussed in a previous post.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ivan Aguéli Study Group established in Sweden

An Ivan Aguéli Study Group has been established in Uppsala, Sweden by Mohamed Omar (b. 1976, to the left in picture), a Swedish poet and journalist with an Iranian "biological father" who converted to Islam at the age of 16.

Mohamed Omar was previously popular in Sweden as a "moderate" Muslim, but in an article in the Swedish Kultur in 2009 declared that he had become a radical Muslim in response to events in Gaza. He describes his Ivan Aguéli Study Group as "radical and Islamist, "radical in the sense that we are looking inwards and backwards in the Islamic tradition, the roots, radices, to draw strength and inspiration. Everything new must build on the old and traditional" and Islamist in the normal, political sense. Mohamed Omar's "radicalism," then, has much in common with Traditionalism. The three stated requirements for membership of the study group are to speak good Swedish (which presumably excludes certain Muslim immigrants), to respect Islam, and to "have an anti-Zionist stance."

The study group seems to be becoming a center for one variety of Swedish Traditionalism. Guest speakers have included Ahmed Valsan (to the right in the picture), the Swedish-domiciled eldest son of the important Parisian Traditionalist Sufi shaykh of Romanian origin, and Lars Adelskog, not a Sufi but a former Swedish educator who lost his job after publishing a pamphlet entitled ”Är EU en judegrej?” ("Is the European Union a Jew thing?"). Adelskog is the translator into Swedish of Guénon's The Reign of Quantity, available on his website www.veidos.se,whioch also has an English-language section, in which he explains his version of P. D. Ouspensky's Fourth Way.

For those who read Swedish, the Study group website is to be found at www.mohamedomar.org and the blog of Mohamed Omar is to be found at alazerius.wordpress.com.

My thanks to Gustaf Görfelt for help with this posting.

New article on the work of Andrei Scrima

Marco Toti, author of the paper that first drew attention to the Romanian Traditionalist Andrei Scrima (1925-2000, see earlier post here), has now published an article on Scrima's thought and writing, "Religious Morphology, Hermeneutics and Initiation in Andrei Scrima’s Il padre spirituale (The Spiritual Father)," Aries 11.1 (2011), pp. 77-97.

After a complex and nuanced discussion, Toti concludes that Scrima was not so much a hard Traditionalist (in the sense in which I use the adjective) as someone who "recovers, develops, deepens and recontextualizes some typical ‘traditionalist’ themes—softening, for example, the ‘mathematical’ orientation given by Guénon to them, and placing in his treatment poetic and philosophical motives which are completely irrelevant to the French metaphysician" (p. 94). This is much what Patrick Ringgenberg concluded in the case of Schuon (see earlier post here).


Scrima's life is not Toti's main subject, but he notes, interestingly, that Scrima was "one of the ‘inspirers’ for the establishment in Bucharest of the ‘New Europe College’, an institute for advanced studies in humanities founded in 1994 by Andrei Pleşu, former Foreign Minister and Minister of Culture of the Republic of Romania" (p. 78). The name of Pleşu has featured before in the history of Traditionalism in Romania.

2007 French article now available online

A French article from 2007 is now available online: David Bisson, "Soufisme et Tradition," Archives de sciences sociales des religions 140 (October 2007), pp. 29-47.

The article is a good introduction to "Guenonian Sufism" as "the last initiatory possibility in the West." It covers Abd-al-Wâhid Pallavicini especially well, focusing on his development of a Western Sufism which is Christian in its culture, European in its geographical location, and Guenonian in its "metapolitical projections."

One interesting detail for those who see Guénon as Muslim before his arrival in Cairo (which I, for one, do not): Guénon wrote in Orient et Occident (1924) « il ne nous paraît pas opportun de s’appuyer principalement sur l’ésotérisme islamique ; mais, naturellement, cela n’empêche pas que cet ésotérisme, étant d’essence proprement métaphysique, offre l’équivalent de ce qui se trouve dans les autres doctrines » -- that is, "it does not seem to us appropriate to rely principally on Islamic esotericism, but, naturally, this does not prevent this esotericim, being properly metaphysical in essence, from offering the equivalent of what is found in other doctrines." Hardly the words of a Muslim.

Thanks to HF for drawing this article to my attention.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Massignon, Corbin, Guénon, and Schuon

New book by Patrick Laude: Pathways to an Inner Islam: Massignon, Corbin, Guénon, and Schuon (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010).

I have just published a review of this book in Aries, and the review is available here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Marie Huot as drawn by Ivan Aguéli

Jean-Yves has been kind enough to supply the following two drawings of Marie Huot, by Ivan Aguéli.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New book by Seyyed Hossein Nasr

To be realeased on January 25, 2011, a new book by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Islam in the Modern World: Challenged by the West, Threatened by Fundamentalism, Keeping Faith with Tradition (HarperOne, $18.83 from Amazon).

Topics covered are, according to the blurb,
  • holy wars
  • women's roles in Islam
  • the rise of fundamentalism
  • the future of Shi‘ism in Iran
  • the challenge of modern science to religious belief
  • controversial art and architecture in Islamic cities
  • the role of the madrassas in education
  • urban conditions and challenges in the Islamic world

Friday, January 14, 2011

Faouzi Skali lecturing in Paris

Faouzi Skali of the Boutchichiyya is delivering three lectures at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris, one of which has already happened (apologies for late announcement). They are (were):
  • 11 January 2011, 11-13, Vers un renouveau du soufisme au Maghreb ?
  • 19 January 2011,15-17, Soufisme et Société : émergence d’une nouvelle conception du développement humain 
  • 21 January 2011, 13:30-15:30, La politique confrérique du Maroc en Afrique
At the EHESS, 96 bd Raspail, 75006 Paris.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Discussion on Aguéli

My post on the death of Marie Huot led to some unrelated but interesting discussion of Aguéli, now attached to this post. The original post has been moved elsewhere.