Sunday, January 13, 2019

Schmidt-Biggemann on the earlier philosophia perennis

I have just come across an interesting book on the earlier philosophia perennis, written by Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann, professor of philosophy at the Freie Universität Berlin. It is Philosophia Perennis: Historical Outlines of Western Spirituality in Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Thought (Dordrecht: Springer, 2004). This is a somewhat modified version of an earlier book in German,  Philosophia perennis. Historische Umrisse abendländischer Spiritualität in Antike, Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit (Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1998).

Schmidt-Biggemann does not consider any modern perennialists, so there is no mention of Guénon or even Blavatsky. His starting point is the Renaissance, from where he proceeds backwards to Proclus and Plato, and then forwards to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. There is a special focus on the Christian Kabbala, on which Schmidt-Biggemann published a monumental three-volume work, in German, in 2012-2013. 

The book is about what Schmidt-Biggemann calls "theological ideas that cannot be separated from philosophical speculation," notably God's self-revelation and the theology of time. This is what gives the book its organisational scheme. Within this, he looks at all the main thinkers of ancient, medieval and early modern perennialism, including--as well as Proclus and Plato--Dionysius the Areopagite, Raymond Lull, Marsilio Ficino, Giovanni Pico, Guillaume Postel, Giordano Bruno, Jakob Böhme, and, finally, Leibniz. He also mentions al-Kindi, whose name he consistently misspells (as "Khindi"), but then he is not a specialist in Arabic thought.

As well as a very wide coverage, the book has some interesting insights. For example:
Seen from the modern perspective of philological historicism, philosophia pernennis was, of course, a syncretistic movement, for it adopted and assimilated all available philosophical topics into its theologico-philosophical system. This was, however, precisely the working idea of perennial philosophy. Since all possible wisdom stemmed from God's original Edenic revelation, no human philosophy could be conceived independent of this origin (xiv-xv). 

Friday, January 04, 2019

Panel on Traditionalism at European Academy of Religion

There will be a panel on "Dynamics of Local and Global Reception of Traditionalism: Reconsidering the Heritage of René Guénon" at the 2019 Conference of the European Academy of Religion, to be held in Bologna, Italy from Monday 4th to Thursday 7th March, 2019.

The panel is on March 7, 16:45-18:45.

Panel abstract:
One of the most influential Philosophers of the 20th century, René Guénon (1886-1951) has left a rich heritage, whose intricate history and ramifications are only beginning to be studied. The aim of this panel is to present some cases of this heritage, insisting on the local factors modeling its reception, as well as on its adaptation to metapolitical and global concerns. Attemptive typologies of the complex reception of Traditionalism will also be proposed and discussed. 
Chair: Ionuţ Daniel Băncilă (University of Erfurt)

  • Marco Giardini (Independent Scholar) - The Journal “L´Ultima” and the Reception of René Guénon in Catholic Italy
    The journal “L'Ultima” occupies a special place in the landscape of Catholic thought between Second World War and the Second Vatican Council, although it has been surprisingly neglected by the majority of scholars of Church History of History of Religions. Marked by a strong eschatological vocation, it gathered several authors who proposed original interpretations of Catholicism inspired by the “traditionalist” current that was taking shape in the mid-twentieth century around the works of René Guénon. In particular, contributors such as Attilio Mordini (1923-1966) and Silvano Panunzio (1918-2010) wrote a considerable amount of articles in which the main aspects of Christian doctrines re-interpreted in line with the metaphysical and cosmological principles that these authors “discovered” in Eastern traditions through the works of Guénon and his first followers. The paper intends precisely to highlight some aspects of Mordini and Panunzio's writings for “L'Ultima” in order to assess the original aspects of what may be called the first organic reception of Guénon's works within Italian Catholic circles, in a way that reveals a very positive stance to the “traditionalist” current in contrast to various forms of criticism leveled to the French metaphysician in previous decades.
  • Ionuţ Daniel Băncilă (University of Erfurt) - A Typology of Romanian Traditionalism
    While the reception of R. Guénon in Romania reached its peak in 30es, not one single profile of the intellectuals involved in this process (M. Avramescu, M. Valsan, V. Lovinescu, A. Dumitriu) was like the other. My paper aims to give these and other actors in this complex reception process their proper historical and cultural contextualization, but also to discuss affinities of other individuals and groups with guénonian thinking. Later reception of Guénon through the reading-group established by V. Lovinescu at the end of the 50es and its reactivation under different auspices after the fall of the Communist regime will also be discussed. The individual intellectual profiles marked by the thinking of Guénon are then to be summed up in a tentative typology of his reception in Romania.
  • Marco Toti (Independent Scholar) - Metapolitics as Esotericism Through Geopolitics. A. Dugin and C. Mutti’s Eurasian Perspective
    This paper aims to focus on the so called “Eurasian perspective”, by way of analyzing some of the most significant topics endorsed by two of its most important spokesmen, the Russian A. Dugin (1962-) and the Italian C. Mutti (1946-): their major sources and essential geopolitical purposes, with special reference to the “heterodoxically metapolitical” rereading of Guénon and Evola, “revised” through a wide spectrum of assorted ideological insertions. In particular, the paper aims to clearly distinguish their perspective from American “apolitical” perennialism (H. Smith, J. Cutsinger). This does not mean that the respective Weltanschauungen could not often converge, although “metapolitical purposes” are irrelevant to the latter. The main point, as we understand it, is the relationship between metapolitics and "pure metaphyscs".

Friday, December 28, 2018

Limited Guénonian influence in incoming Brazilian government

There has been some discussion of the impact of Traditionalism on the incoming government of Jair Bolsonaro, who will take over as president of Brazil on January 1, 2019. Olavo de Carvalho, the exiled Brazilian intellectual who is widely said to be one of Bolsonaro’s “gurus,” is a former Maryami, and is reported to have chosen Brazil’s incoming foreign minister, Ernesto Araújo (pictured), who has recommended the reading of René Guénon.

Bolsonaro clearly respects Carvalho, as was indicated by the choice of four books that he placed on the table in front of him for his acceptance speech on October 29, 2018, noted by Gaúcha: the Bible, the Brazilian constitution, Winston Churchill’s Memoirs of the Second World War, and Carvalho’s best-selling collection of essays, The Minimum you Need to Know Not to be an Idiot (O mínimo que você precisa saber para não ser um idiota). It is also likely that Carvalho’s recommendation played a part in the appointment of Araújo as foreign minister.

Carvalho, however, is no longer especially Traditionalist. Guénon is cited only twice in his The Minimum you Need to Know, and in a Facebook post in 2016, Carvalho denounced the Traditionalists, including Frithjof Schuon, for making it possible for “a small Islamic intellectual elite to dominate the intellectual elites of all religions… It is a huge power, which claims to be purely spiritual and unrelated to politics, but whose devastating political effects are clearly visible… Islam is already in the midst of a war of occupation.” Only in Carvalho’s consistently negative understandings of modernity can one see any traces of Traditionalism. Alexander Dugin, incidentally, came to similar conclusions in the course of a long on-line debate he held with Carvalho in 2011, which he finally regretting having started under the mistaken impression that Carvalho was “a representative of Brazilian traditionalist philosophers in the line of R. Guenon and J. Evola.”

Foreign Minister Araújo, however, may be a different case. Certainly, when he recommended the reading of Guénon in 2017, this was in an article on “Trump and the West” (“Trump e o Ocidente,” Cadernos de Política Exterior 3, no. 6, 2017, pp. 323-357) in which he commented on the influence of Guénon on Steve Bannon; he recommended the reading of Guénon to understand Bannon and what was going on in America, a position which might equally be taken by an opponent of Traditionalism. The recommended reading at the end of the article, however, tells a different story. It is short—only 13 works—and includes not only Guénon’s Crisis of the Modern World but also Julius Evola’s Metaphysics of War, to which there is a passing reference in the article. Guénon and Evola are joined by Nietzsche and Heidegger, Oswald Spengler, Carl Gustav Jung, and a few others, including Virgil and Aeschylus. Araújo’s blog, Metapolítica 17, does not refer to Guénon or Evola, but its title refers to a key concept originating with the French New Right (also not mentioned by name). Araújo, then, looks like an informed and sympathetic reader of the Traditionalists, at the least. One thing he has taken from Carvalho, however, is a pro-Christian and anti-Islamic position.

The new Brazilian minister of education, also said to have been recommended by Carvalho, is Ricardo Vélez-Rodríguez, a professor emeritus of philosophy who is definitely an intellectual of the Right, but refers to Alexis de Tocqueville rather than to Guénon, and does not show signs of interest in Traditionalism.

My thanks to Daniel Placido for drawing my attention to Araújo.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Call for papers: The Impact of Traditionalism on Contemporary Magical Communities

Traditionalism is a philosophical school which has significantly impacted religious communities and political movements in the twentieth and twenty first centuries, yet it remains virtually unknown among scholars and the general public. Yet when Steve Bannon cited Réne Guénon and Julius Evola as key influences in formulating his political positions, this inspired new interest in the history and ideas informing the growing Alt Right. However, both Guénon and Evola have been known within Pagan and occult communities for decades as esoteric theorists. Overall, the tenets of Traditionalism, which include Perennialism, the cultivation of an initiated elite, the notion of cyclical time, a past golden age and anti-modern sentiments, have increasingly impacted Pagan and occult communities, as some of these ideas are complementary to Pagan and occult aesthetics, values and practices.

A special volume of The Pomegranate will feature articles examining the ways in which Traditionalism has influenced Pagan and occult subcultures. Topics could include:

  • Traditionalism and Pagan or esoteric publishing.
  • The intersection of Traditionalist ideas with Pagan values and ethics.
  • Neofolk music.
  • Traditionalism and Polytheism, Reconstructionism and Heathenry.
  • Pagan and occult themes in Traditionalist theory.
  • The impact of Traditionalist debates in various orders, such as the O.T.O.
  • The impact of Traditionalism on historic individuals relevant to Paganism, for example W.B. Yeats or Kathleen Raine.

Please note that while papers may reflect the impact of Traditionalism on the Alt Right or New Right in relationship to these topics, that we would like to ensure that we focus on relevant philosophies and frameworks explicitly inspired by Traditionalism.

If you would like to contribute to this issue of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies edited by Amy Hale, please submit an abstract of 300-500 words to  by April 1, 2019. Final Submissions of 5000-8000 words will be due August 1, 2019.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Evola and the Alt Right

Matthew Rose, in an article (click here) in the March 2018 issue of First Things, discusses what he calls "the Anti-Christian Alt-Right." He identifies three key thinkers: Oswald Spengler, Julius Evola, and Alain de Benoist. The connection between Spengler and Evola is perhaps less certain than he suggests, but he is right that all three thinkers are key, and Evola and de Benoist, at least, were anti-Christian. And he is also right that they matter: "The alt-right is not stupid. It is deep. Its ideas are not ridiculous. They are serious."

A book on The Key Thinkers of the Radical Right, forthcoming from Oxford University Press and edited by Mark Sedgwick, covers Spengler, Evola, de Benoist, and thirteen more thinkers whose ideas are indeed serious, whether one likes them or not.