Thursday, August 04, 2022

New article on Traditionalism in South America

A new article, Mark Sedgwick, "The Glocalization of Esotericism: Guénonian Traditionalism in South America" has been published in Nova Religio 26, no. 1, pp. 35-58, https://doi.org/10.1525/nr.2022.26.1.35. It brings together three earlier articles on South America. It is aimed at readers interested in religious studes who do not know Traditionalism. The abstract is:
This article traces the history of the South American reception of the work of the esoteric philosophers René Guénon and Julius Evola, and of the Maryami Sufi Order of Frithjof Schuon, focusing on Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru. It compares South American forms of Traditionalism with those found elsewhere, primarily in Europe and North America, understanding differences between these in terms of “glocalization,” the local adaptation of the global. Traditionalism in South America was most localized in its religio-political form, which was more important for the Right in South America than elsewhere, and least localized in its purely religious form, which was less significant in South America than elsewhere. The impact of Traditionalism in South American academia, notably in philosophy and anthropology, also reflects local conditions, as does an unusual interest in indigenous peoples.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Maude Murray’s book

The autobiography of a former leading Maryami, Maude Murray, was published in 2021 by Beacon Books, an Islamic publisher in Oldham, England, as Third Wife of the Muslim Shaykh Frithjof Schuon: My Lifelong Search for Truth. Following threats of legal action, and possibly some actual litigation, it was withdrawn and has not been reissued, though a pdf of the proof is currently available on Google Drive here.

The book is extremely critical of Murray's former husband Frithjof Schuon, following the same line taken by Murray in her YouTube video (here) and on her website (here). It consists of 31 relatively short chapters that cover four phases in Murray’s life: (1) youth and encounter with Traditionalism (chapters 1 to 5); (2) the extended Schuon family in Lausanne (chapters 6 to 9); (3) the Bloomington community (chapters 10 to 19); and (4) Murray’s subsequent life, including reflections on earlier events (chapters 20 to 31). Murray becomes Schuon’s third wife during phase 2, and the relationship ends during phase 3.

The book is a valuable primary source for the history of the Maryamiyya, but not always an easy one. The chapters covering the first two phases are quite well written, in a pleasant, rather chatty style with occasional repetitions and digressions. Murray, it seems, was generally happy during these phases of her life, and reports them happily enough. The picture they paint is believable, and is not contradicted by anything we know from any other source. Phase 3 begins much as phase 2 ends, but the narrative then becomes increasingly hard to follow, as Murray becomes more unhappy and troubled. This is understandable—she was not having an easy time at all towards the end of the Bloomington period—but somewhat reduces the empirical value of the account.

Third Wife, then, is strongly recommended as a source—to be taken, like all sources, along with other evidence—and somewhat less strongly recommended for other purposes. Casual readers may find themselves skipping a bit after half-way through.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Catholic and Guénonian Traditionalism, and the Angelico Press

As well as the Guénonian Traditionalism that this blog follows, there is also “Catholic Traditionalism,” the broad stream of Roman Catholic thought that is hostile to the ascendent liberalism that it identifies with the Second Vatican Council. In general, Guénonian and Catholic Traditionalism are quite separate phenomena, but Alistair McFadden (a pseudonym) has drawn my attention to an overlap between the two at US-based Angelico Press, one of the leading “traditional” Catholic publishers.

Angelico Press is important for Catholic Traditionalism. In McFadden’s words, “Traditional Catholics will likely have at least one Angelico title on their bookshelves.” Others agree about the press’s importance. 

McFadden, himself a traditional Catholic, finds the presence of Traditionalist and other esoteric voices at Angelico problematic, as he argues in a long blog post, “Observations on the Influence of the Occult in Traditional Catholic Discourse.” It is not the scope of this blog to address such judgments. But publishing Traditionalist works was one reason why Angelico was established in the first place, as explained in an interview (here) by its founder and current president, John Riess:

I wanted to run a Catholic press, yet reach beyond what most Catholic presses were publishing: to explore the catholicity past and present of the tradition; to give a mouthpiece to contemporary Catholic voices such as Stratford Caldecott, Jean Borella, and Jean Hani.

Caldecott (1953-2014) was and English convert to Catholicism who seems to have been what I term a “soft” (Guénonian) Traditionalist, while Borella (b. 1930) and Hani (1917-2012) were leading French Catholic (Guénonian) Traditionalists. Riess’s partner in starting Angelico was James Wetmore, the director of the leading US (Guénonian) Traditionalist publisher Sophia Perennis. Angelico, then, was as much a (Guénonian) Traditionalist publisher that became popular among traditional Catholics as it was a traditional Catholic publisher that published (Guénonian) Traditionalists.

Angelico’s success among traditional Catholics owes something to the fact that it republishes traditional Catholic classics. The model of republishing classics was pioneered by the US publisher Dover, starting in the 1940s, and Riess worked for 15 years at Dover before starting Angelico. Its current list includes not only Catholic and Traditionalist authors, but also Rainer Maria Rilke and Max Weber.

In 2020, Angelico’s imprints included a joint Angelico Press/Sophia Perennis imprint with sixteen books, and a purely Sophia Perennis imprint with three books. These imprints have now vanished from Angelico's website, perhaps partly as a reaction to McFadden’s criticisms, but the books involved remain. At time of writing, Angelico has, as intended, published Caldecott, Borella, and Hani (four books each). It has also published contemporary Catholic (Guénonian) Traditionalists—notably Wolfgang Smith (born 1930) and Bernard Kelly (see earlier post here—and non-Catholic (Guénonian) Traditionalists—notably Charles Upton and Brian Keeble (born 1941). And it has also republished classic (Guénonian) Traditionalists, including Ananda K. Coomaraswamy (1877-1947) and Lord Northbourne (1896-1982), and the “soft” Traditionalist (and typeface designer) Eric Gill (1882-1940).

Angelico, then, is known as a major “traditional” Catholic publisher, and is also a significant (Guénonian) Traditionalist publisher. As such, it represents an overlap or even a mixing of two formerly distinct streams within contemporary religious thought, an interesting development. My thanks to McFadden for bringing it to my attention.

Note

  • Jean Borella (b. 1930) and Jean Hani (1917-2012) were leading French Catholic Traditionalists. Borella was a professor of philosophy, and for many years the leading Catholic Traditionalist in France. For some years in the 1990s he was the joint editor of the journal Connaissance des religions (1985-2005), which was in effect the Schuonian successor to the original Études traditionnelles of René Guénon. Jean Hani was also a French scholar (of classical antiquity), a Traditionalist, a Catholic, and a regular contributor to Connaissance des religions.
  • Stratford Caldecott (1953-2014) was an English scholar and convert to Catholicism who accepted the Traditionalist understanding of the transcendent unity of religions but does not seem to have been a paid-up Traditionalist, though he is said to have often cited Borella. He acknowledged the influence of Guénon’s one-time sponsor, the great French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain (1882-1973).

Monday, June 27, 2022

In memoriam Peter Lamborn Wilson

Peter Lamborn Wilson (1945-2022), also known as Hakim Bey, died on May 23, 2022 at his home in Saugerties, NY, at the age of 76. His transition from the Maryamiyya to becoming one of the most important contemporary theorists of anarchism is discussed in an earlier blog post and subsequent comments, here. May God have mercy on him and on is all.

John Michell, Traditionalism, and UFOs

A new article looks at the neopagan Traditionalist John Michell (1933-2009) and the unusual connection he made between the primordial tradition and extra-terrestrial beings. The article is Marleen Thaler, “How Modern is Technology? The Link between Prehistoric UFOs and Modern Traditionalism,” Religio 30, no. 1 (2022): 7-24, available here.

Michell, an admirer of the work of Julius Evola, was the author of various “Radical Traditionalist Papers" in the 1970s and 1980s, and of Confessions of a Radical Traditionalist (London: Turnaround, 2005). In a 2011 article, Amy Hale argues that he played an important role in bringing Traditionalism to the attention of Neopagans in the US and the UK (see earlier blog post here).

Thaler argues that Michell combined Traditionalism with what she calls “alternative archeology,” which she traces back to Alfred Watkins (1855-1935) and his The Old Straight Track (London: Methuen, 1925), the book that introduced ley lines into the English (alternative) consciousness. Books such as George Adamski and Desmond Leslie’s Flying Saucers Have Landed (London: Laurie, 1953) and Carl G. Jung’s Ein moderner Mythus. Von Dingen, die am Himmel gesehen warden (1958; translated as Flying Saucers. A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies, London, Routledge & Paul, 1958) then added UFOs to ley lines.

As Thaler says, alternative archeology and Traditionalism have very little in common, but one thing that they do have in common is a preference for the prehistoric past over modernity, which is seen as in decline relative to that past. So combining Traditionalism with UFOs is not as difficult as one might at first think. Michell's crucial works for this are The Flying Saucer Vision: The Holy Grail Restored (London: Sidgwick and Jackson 1967) and The View Over Atlantis (NP: Sago Press, 1969). Both precede Michell’s Radical Traditionalist Papers.