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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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Reilly's article is a nice summary of a terribly dense book. But the comparisons he makes between Heidegger and Guenon are untenable for anyone with even a whit of understanding of their respective ideas. Heidegger's phenomenology which "appeals to the actual phenomena of existence" is a completely anti-metaphysical way of approaching ontology and is basically the same method used by the empiricist or experimental scientist. Guenon's approach to ontology relies on the complete a priori acceptance in principle of any possibility which is not self-contradictory (the Infinite or Universal Possibility in his terms). This, in fact, transcends ontology in the etymological sense of the word (discourse about Being/what is). For Heidegger, the human being is fundamentally temporal and historically conditioned; for Guenon, nothing exists apart from its immutable and transcendent principle. Also, what Reilly writes about Guenon's opinion of Plato is nowhere to be found in his works. Guenon's invective is reserved strictly for modern philosophy (from Descartes onwards), including, one can safely assume, Heidegger himself. Guenon has what one might call a reservedly positive opinion of pre-modern Western philosophy (basically, Platonism and the Scholastics), which, though incomplete in his view, is in complete agreement with the Vedanta on many essential points. As for Guenon's use of primordial, it is limited simply to the Primordial Tradition, Guenon's Westernized term for the Hindu idea of Sanatana Dharma. Perhaps this is more detail than what Reilly was aiming for; this does not, however, justify even this cursory assimilation of these two writers' ideas, which are fundamentally lightyears apart from one another.