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.


Victor Bruno said...

Dear Professor Sedgwick,—

Yours is the first—if brief—analysis of Carvalho’s influence in the future Brazilian federal government. However, I should point out two things,

(1) Professor Carvalho denies being a “guru” of Bolsonaro, repeatedly stating that he talked only in three opportunities with the future president. His power to influence the picking of the ministries has more to deal with the general respect he inspires in the now-emergent Brazilian Right-wing than with a direct access to the new president.

(2) But on your second paragraph, I wish to point out that Carvalho has clarified that Araújo’s use of the term “metapolitics” isn’t borrowed from the Nouvelle Droit; Carvalho, especially, states that he considers metapolitics as a discipline of study in political philosophy, and not—and thus departing from the Nouvelle Droit—as a means of action. Some Brazilian commentators have insinuated that Araújo has links with Alain de Benoist because of his use of the term, but as Carvalho said in a Facebook post:

“[Some people are] promoting the posts of some Russian guy [Evgeny Morozov] who accuses Ernesto Araújo of having links with the Alan de Benoist’s French ‘Nouvelle Droit.’ Evidences? Both men use the word ‘metapolitics.’

“This is sheer stupidity, and the only answer it deserves is the classic Go F*** Yourself, but to the innocent audience I clarify that:
“1) Metapolitics is the name of a subject, and not of the password of an initiatic group: to use this word is not to profess a faith.
2) Ernesto Araújo is Catholic and would never follow the teachings of an atheist evolutionist like Benoist.”

And, four years ago, in a text obviously unrelated to the present issue, he used the word in the following context:

“The Eurasian Empire as Alexander Dugin and his most important pupil, President Vladimir Putin, is a synthesis of the late URSS and the Tsarist Empire. As the theoretical backbone of the project is, in its turn, a mix between Marxism-Leninism, Russian messianism, Nazism, and Esoterism, and since there is hardly a Western reader who has sufficient knowledge of all theses schools of thought, each one only see in it the part that to which he is more sympathetic, inadvertently buying the rest of the package. . . . [Thus] esoterists, followers of René Guénon and Julius Evola, judge that [the Eurasian Empire] is the incarnation of a superior “metapolitics” that is incomprehensible to the vulgar man, more or less similar to the one that Raymond Abellio (an esoterist himself) describes in LA FOSSE DE BABEL.” ("Eurasianismo e genocídio" [Eurasianism and Genocide],

On the other hand, Araújo has not defended himself from these charges. However, it is clear, at least for me, that of the term “metapolitics” falls on the lines described in the earlier quote from Professor Carvalho—that is, metapolitics as an academic subject.

At any rate, Professor Carvalho was the first to bring René Guénon to the spotlight in Brazil. On that I should recommend the reading of a previous book of his, O JARDIM DAS AFLIÇÕES [The Garden of Afflictions], a general panorama of Western spiritual and philosophic degradation. It is one of his (two) “books of transition,” written a few years after he left Sufism and went back into Catholicism. Guénon (and Schuon, someone who he knew personally) is referenced a few times, but not from a philosophic—and not from a spiritual, as a follower of his would certainly do—standpoint.

Caio said...

Hello. Olavo broke relations with Schuon many years ago. He seems to subscribe to the general opinion nowadays that Schuon was an inspiring genius that went crazy. He talks openly about his days at the Tariqa, I bet he would gladly accept an interview with you. This article shows that he doesn't believe in Guénon's doctrine despite admiting that his work is valuable in other areas:

I enjoyed your book very much. Goog work.

Victor Bruno said...

In addition to my last comment, I point this article that Ernesto Araújo recently published in THE NEW CRITERION (Jan., 2019). Its title is "Now We Do." See

Mark Sedgwick said...

Thanks to Victor Bruno and to Caio for their comments and references. The piece by Olavo de Carvalho (“As garras da Esfinge – René Guénon e a islamização do Ocidente”) is one I had not read, and is an important one.

In response to Victor Bruno, Carvalho may deny being Bolsonaro’s guru, but Bolsonaro evidently respects him and his work, as does Ernesto Araújo, as is clear in the article in The New Criterion to which Victor Bruno draws attention. And as to the significance of “metapolitics,” I am not suggesting that Araújo is a devoted disciple of all aspects of Alain de Benoist’s teachings. He is not. As Carvalho points out, Araújo is a Catholic while Benoist is anti-Catholic. My suggestion is rather that Araújo is probably familiar with the thought of the French New Right.

Caio said...

This work is very important. Many people adopt a paternalist tone with those who read and admire some aspects of Guénon's work, as myself. It takes but one citation to be associated with secret organizations, etc. There is a Wall of China of prejudices to cross to achieve a sober discussion of these ideas.

Francisco said...

It is rather important to state that senhor Carvalho is not anymore a follower neither of Guénon, nor of Schuon, nor of the Perennial Philosophy school. Of course the most interesting ideas that he still convey despite his (Carvalho's) opposition to the Sophia Perennis still come from the Guénon-Schuon school. The rest, what comes from himself, has no interest at all. Carvalho wants to be known as a "philosopher", but he does not have the caliber to claim this. He is much more a journalist and a polemicist; he is interested only in the immediate, not in the perennial. Besides, it is totally false that Guénon and Schuon wanted to "islamicize" the Western world. They were universalists, they believed in, and expounded the ''transcendent unity of religion''. Schuon in particular has inspiring and illuminating views on Christianity and its saints an sages. For him, St Francis of Assisi and St Therese of Lisieux were Christian Bodhisattvas! It is enough to read Schuon's book "Forme and substance in the Religions", or "Christianity/Islam", to know this for sure.