Monday, January 29, 2007

Islamist terrorism and Evola

I've just noticed an interesting detail concerning Fuad "Ali" Salah, the leader during the 1980s of a French group calling itself the "Comité de soutien avec les prisonniers politiques et arabes et du Moyen-Orient" (Committee for solidarity with Arab and Middle Eastern political prisoners).

Salah was born in France. Of Tunisian origin, he would have been Sunni (if religious, which he might not have been). In his early thirties, however, he traveled to Shi'i Iran, and then joined forces with Hizbullah (also Shi'i). A small group that he organized in Paris in 1985-86 planted a number of bombs that killed some 14 people and injured some 200, with assistance from both Hizbullah and an Iranian diplomat. Iran, it was thought, wanted to discourage French support for Iraq, then at war with Iran.

Salah and his companions were caught, and tried in Paris 1990-92. During his trial, Salah dismissed his lawyer and conducted his own defense. As might have been expected, he quoted on several occasions from the Quran. And then finally he quoted--at length--from Evola's Revolt Against the Modern World.

Which came first: Evola or Islam? An alienated Frenchman of North African origin who read Evola might certainly turn to a revolutionary organization such as Hizbullah. Sunni Muslims conducting spiritual searches do not normally end up in Iran, however. Devout Shi'i Muslims do not normally discover higher justifications in the works of Westerners, either. My guess, then, would be that Evola came first.

  • "Saleh l’imprécateur," L'Humanité, February 3, 1990.
  • "Devant la cour d'assises de Paris Fouad Salah a plaidé à la place de ses avocats," Le Monde, April 15, 1992.
From Le Monde:

Faut-il voir une tentative de justification de ses actes quand il évoque " les causes qui poussent les opprimés de la terre à combattre l'Occident " ? Mais la logique devient vacillante quand il cite pêle-mêle le maréchal Bugeaud, Ernest Renan, Spartacus, Krishna, Albert Schweitzer, " grand théologien ", et Richard Coeur de Lion, qu'il appelle " Coeur de Loup ". Reprenant son cahier, il lit sur un ton chantant, comme s'il s'agissait d'un psaume : " Sans la guerre, les peuples restent souvent opprimés. " Au milieu de quelques sourates du Coran, il parle aussi de " ses meilleurs amis " : Max Frérot et André Olivier, deux membres d'Action directe, et de ce surveillant-chef de la prison, " français et monarchiste ".

Salah s'interrompt, fouille dans son sac pendant de longues minutes, puis évoque saint Matthieu, avant de produire une image de Jeanne d'Arc, " une femme qui a donné l'exemple. Elle défendit son pays contre l'agresseur ". Une référence entendue ailleurs, et qui n'est pas nécessairement fortuite, car Salah se lance ensuite dans une interminable lecture de l'ouvrage Révolte contre le monde moderne, de Julius Evola, auteur italien souvent cité par les mouvements d'extrême droite.

Evola and Sex Magic: Book announcement

Hugh Urban (Ohio State University) has just published the "first history of western sexual magic as a modern spiritual tradition:" Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006).

Urban devotes one of his eight chapters to Julius Evola, described as "one of the most influential twentieth-century authors on Tantra and the spiritual aspects of sexuality." This is chapter 5, "The Yoga of Power: Sex Magic, Tantra, and Fascism in Twentieth-Century Europe" (pp. 140-61).

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Traditionalism in Chechnya: research announcement

Eduard ten Houten, a graduate research student at the University of Amsterdam, is writing an MA thesis on the life and ideas of Khohz-Akhmed Noukhaev, the Chechen who developed "Hanific Traditionalism."

Mr ten Houten is a student in religious studies, working in the research group on the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents. He is also interested in the political forms of Traditionalism as developed by Julius Evola and Aleksandr Dugin, and in related currents, including those in fin-de-siècle Vienna and the Weimar Republic.

Mr ten Houten writes:

I welcome any information concerning Noukhaev, his business and political past, his network of contacts, his position in Chechen society and discourse, as well as any other aspect of his life and ideas. Especially information related to the period after October 2003 would be very much appreciated. All correspondence will be treated with discretion. You can contact me at: Thank you in advance.

Alternative spellings of Noukhaev include: Noukhayev Noukhaev Nukhaev Nukhayev Noechajev Nuxaev Nuchajew Nuchajev Nouchaev Nugaev Nuhaev Nuhayev

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Eurasianists in Ukraine

Late update:

In April 2006, Andreas Umland reported that a Ukrainian party connected with Dugin's Eurasia Movement had fallen just short of the 3% threshold for entering the Rada. Read more here.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Traditionalism and Fascism

The post on Nasr and the Shah has generated a certain amount of discussion (not all of it on topic, but still). Abdul-Halim V. wrote:
somehow Perennialism/Traditionalism seems to be associated to elitist and Fascist tendancies. Is that an accident? Are there thinkers out there who are serious thoughtful Perennialists but who are also progressive and democratic?

There are "progressive" perennialists, but I have not heard of many "progressive" Traditionalists. This is presumably because Guénon saw progress as an illusion, an important point with which few (if any) later Traditionalists have disagreed. This does not mean, however, that all Traditionalists have gone to the other extreme and become fascists. Many are not particularly interested in politics, progressive, fascist, or centrist.

There is an important political stream within Traditionalism, though, which follows Julius Evola and Alexander Dugin, and has often been described as "fascist," though I myself prefer a label such as "new right" or "far right." This has only limited implications for the spiritual Traditionalism represented by people such as S. H. Nasr, however. Since the 1920s, political Traditionalism has developed separately from other varieties of Traditionalism. Certainly, both spiritual and political Traditionalism ultimately derive from Guénon, even though Guénon himself had little interest in politics. But both S. H. Nasr and Sayyid Qutb ultimately derive from the Prophet Muhammad, without having anything much to do with each other.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

New Year's Competition!

How can "traditionalism" best be translated into Arabic?

This question has come up twice in the last fortnight, and there is no really satisfactory answer that I know of, so I am offering a small prize for the best suggestion.

Small print: I have no idea what the prize will be yet--it will depend on the quality and quantity of entries. At the very least, a certificate!


Blogger has added a new feature that allows postings to be indexed.

I have generally indexed postings

  • by geographical area (e.g. Russia) or Traditionalist (e.g. Evola)


  • by type (e.g. Book announcements)

To take advantge of this feature, I have reposted in this blog a number of updates that were previously posted on the addenda page.

Against the Modern World

The following was peviously posted on the old addenda page.

"A correspondent has drawn my attention to what might be a fundamental problem with my Against the Modern World..." [click here to read more].

Traditionalism in Bosnia

The following was peviously posted on the old addenda page.

Traditionalism is indirectly influential in Bosnian public discourse. Traditionalists writings guided Rusmir Mahmutcehajic--later a leading Bosnian public intellectual and for a time a politician--from a youthful involvement with an underground group deriving from the Muslim Brothers to a Traditionalist understanding of Islam and other religions. Mahmutcehajic resigned from the government of Alija Izetbegovic when Izetbegovic accepted the de facto partition of Bosnia, and worked for the restored unity of Bosnia on the basis of what was ultimately a Traditionalist understanding of the unity of religions. Traditionalism is an important element in Mahmutcehajic's thought, but only one element in a wide-ranging and original analysis.

Current interest in Traditionalism

The following was peviously posted on the old addenda page.

There is more public interest in Traditionalism in Palermo than in any other city in the world, according to an analysis of Google searches. In recent years, interest in Evola and Guénon has been greatest in Italy, Romania and Hungary, and also in South America, primarily in Argentina, Chile and Venezuela. France is interested only in Guénon.

Traditionalism in the Arts

The following was peviously posted on the old addenda page.

The celebrated British composer Sir John Tavener is now arguably the leading interpreter of Traditionalism in the arts today. An Eastern Orthodox Christian, Tavener has described Frithjof Schuon as he "in whose mystical presence I live." Tavener's journey to Traditionalism was a long one. He first came to fame in 1968, when his The Whale was performed as the inaugural concert of the London Sinfonietta, and then released by the Beatles under their own "Apple" label. It featured "the then highly fashionable collage, pre-recorded tape, amplified percussion and a chorus using loudhailers." Tavener converted to Russian Orthodoxy in 1977, and for many years his musical work then followed Russian Orthodox themes and inspirations. Finally, at the end of the 1990s, he turned to Schuon and Traditionalism.

Tavener's recent work reflects Traditionalist influences. The use of Jewish, Christian and Islamic texts in his Lament for Jerusalem (2002) reflects his conviction that there is a "transcendent unity of all religions," that "the same essential Truths lies hidden beneath the forms of all great traditions." The use of Hindu texts in his Ikon of Eros (2000), as well as works of the Church Fathers, echoes the place of Hinduism in the first Traditionalist attempts to recover the perennial philosophy. The use of the music of American Indians in Tavener's Hymn of Dawn (2002) suggests Schuon's influence.

Tavener's The Veil of the Temple, "a seven-hour spiritual journey punctuated by 150-plus magnificent choristers, moving recitations, incense and candles, and the mesmerizing sounds of a Tibetan horn, Indian harmonium, duduk, brass choirs, and temple bowls," had its US premiere at the Lincoln Center in New York in 2004, and Tavener's Schuon Lieder (settings of nineteen poems by Schuon) were performed at a festival in Chicago.

C. S. Lewis on Lings and Guénon

The following was peviously posted on the old addenda page.

As an undergraduate student at Oxford in 1931, Martin Lings studied under C. S. Lewis, who at first thought very highly of his talents as a poet. By 1932, Lings had become a friend of the Lewis family.

In 1937, having discovered Guénon, Lings sent Lewis three of Guénon's books. Lewis, who had experienced his "reconversion" to Christianity in 1931, was not impressed. In a letter to to a friend of his own generation, Lewis wrote that that Lings was "trying to convert me to Hindooism," and described Guénon as "as obvious a quack as ever I smelled out." "The more one sees the confusion in which young men's minds grow up now-a-days," lamented Lewis, "the more cause we have to be thankful on our own part."

The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 2, ed. Walter Hooper, pp. 24, 90, and 204. My thanks to Gene McGovern for drawing my attention to this.

Traditionalism in Australia

The following was peviously posted on the old addenda page.

Guénon and Coomaraswamy were being read in Australia in the 1940s by two "classicist" Australian poets, James McAuley (1917-76) and Harold Stewart (1916-95). The two were responsible for Australia's most famous literary hoax, when in 1943-44 they composed parodies of the modernist verse they both detested, and had their parodies published in the leading avant-garde magazine, Angry Penguins, under the pseudonym "Ern Malley." Ironically, Ern Malley is probably more read today than either McAuley or Stewart.

In 1953, McAuley condemned Traditionalism as a "gnostic heresy" (Maritain's phrase) and converted to Roman Catholicism. He later became known as one of Australia's leading anti-Communist intellectuals. Stewart went on to lead a small Traditionalist group in Melbourne which met regularly in an avant-garde bookshop, the Norman Robb Bookshop, from 1952 until 1963. The group disliked the "high-handed and elitist" attitudes of the Schuonians, and only one of its members joined the Maryamiyya. Several of the others became Buddhists of the Pure Land school, including Adrian Snodgrass, later a professor at the Centre for Cultural Research of the University of Western Sydney. After Stewart moved definitively to Japan in 1966, the group ceased to exist. My thanks to Peter Kelly for this information.

Further reading: Peter Kelly, Buddha in a Bookshop (forthcoming); Michael Ackland, Damaged Men: The Precarious Lives of James McAuley and Harold Stewart (Allen and Unwin 2001); Michael Heyward, The Ern Malley Affair (Faber & Faber, 2003). See also

The death of Rudolf von Sebottendorff

The following was peviously posted on the old addenda page.

Although the Turkish authorities reported that "von Sebottendorff's body was found floating in the Bosporus" in 1945, this may not have been true. There is now evidence (which still needs to be checked) that von Sebottendorff remained alive after 1945, and was protected by Turkish intelligence (for whom he then worked) against anyone who might have been interested in him because of the role he had played in the origins of the Nazi Party. According to this version, von Sebottendorff moved back to Egypt, where he died in the 1950s. My thanks to Dr Thierry Zarcone for this.

Carl Schmitt and Traditionalism

The following was peviously posted on the old addenda page.

Another approving reader of Guénon was the German jurist and political philosopher Carl Schmitt (1888-1985).

Arthur Versluis points out that Schmitt referred to Guénon's Crise du Monde Moderne (1927) in his Der Leviathan in der Staatslehre des Thomas Hobbes (1938; The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes). Schmitt remains a controversial figure, condemned by many for his activities in the Nazi Party (especially in 1933-37), but respected by others for his political thought. Among those who took Schmitt seriously was Leo Strauss, an important influence on many contemporary American Neo-Conservatives, including Paul Wolfowitz.

Jordanian Traditionalists

The following was peviously posted on the old addenda page.

Jordan should be added to the countries in the Islamic world where Traditionalism has had an impact.

  • Shortly before his death, Schuon instructed Martin Lings to take over a Maryami zawiya in Jordan. While the membership of this zawiya is not known, it is striking that three members of the royal house provided testimonies to Martin Lings for the In Memoriam section of A Return to the Spirit (Louisville, Fons Vitae: 2005). They were Prince El Hassan bin Talal (the brother of King Hussein and for a long time the Crown Prince), Princess Wijdan Ali (a prominent artist with a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, married to Prince Ali bin Nayef, the grandson of King Abdullah I and at present the private chamberlain of King Abdullah II), and Princess Wijdan's daughter Princess Nafa'a Ali.
  • In 2005 King Abdullah II appointed an American Maryami academic as his Special Advisor for Interfaith Affairs. Lumbard was closely involved in King Abdullah's very successful dialog with Jewish and Baptist leaders on visits to the US in 2005 and 2006.