Saturday, February 23, 2019

Criticism of Guénon's understanding of Hinduism

Renaud Fabbri has published an unusual critical re-evaluation of the work of René Guénon in its relationship with Hinduism, written from within the Traditionalist perspective. This is René Guénon et la tradition hindoue. Les limites d’un regard (René Guénon and the Hindu tradition: The limits of a view; Lausanne: L’Age d’homme, 2018).

Fabbri knows his Traditionalism well. He is a former editor of a Maryami journal, Vincit Omnia Veritas, and (former?) webmaster of, a Maryami website. He seems to have distanced himself from the Maryamiyya, however, and is is now director of the Aditi Center for Study of the Hindu Tradition (Centre Aditi d’Etudes sur la Tradition Hindoue) in eastern France, which describes itself as being “within the perspective opened by the work of René Guénon but without being attached to any particular school.” His René Guénon et la tradition hindoue is critical primarily of Guénon, but also of Schuon, noting for example that while Guénon resisted the temptation to see himself as an authoritative figure above the great spiritual authorities whom he interpreted, Schuon did not, with “catastrophic” consequences (p. 69, n. 2).

René Guénon et la tradition hindoue asks to what extent the teachings that Guénon presented as of Hindu origin are actually compatible with that tradition. After an introductory section, “René Guénon: Topicality and Paradox,” Fabbri moves on to “Metaphysics and Non-Duality,” and then to “Tradition and Millenarianism,” where he makes his most serious criticisms. He starts with the primordial tradition, which he argues is not really a Hindu concept, and moves on to the Axial Age, arguing that Guénon’s understanding of transcendence was characteristic of the post-axial. Then comes the Kali Yuga, which Fabbri argues is not, in its Guénonian form, compatible with Hindu understandings. Guénon’s understanding of the Kali Yuga is, in Fabbri’s view, characteristic of the millenarianism of the monotheistic faiths, and quite alien to Hinduism. This section is followed by “The Spiritual Path,” where Fabbri starts with the “Hindu masters” of Guénon, whom he thinks may not have existed except perhaps in some sort of vision, and continues with initiation, Ramana Maharshi, and initiatic work. In the final section, on “Sacred Femininity,” both the views of Guénon and Schuon are considered. Fabbri ends by concluding that Guénon’s work finds its greatest significance today in the Sufi forms that Traditionalism has taken, not in any Hindu forms. Given the major criticisms of Guénon’s understandings of Hinduism that the book has previously made, this is a relatively mild conclusion.

Fabbri’s thoughtful and thought-provoking book is something that is found relatively rarely within the Traditionalist movement: an understanding of the work of Guénon as a historical construct that cannot be accepted in its entirety, but that still contains much of value. Though rare within the Traditionalist movement, this type of understanding is actually the way in which human thought normally develops.

The book is short (136 pages), made up of 18 very short chapters, some no longer than three pages. These are collected into the five sections mentioned above. Unfortunately, the book does not give source references.


William Braddell said...

Do you know if we will ever see an english translation of this? I would really like to read it.

João said...

This is from the homepage of the "Centre Aditi d’Etudes sur la Tradition Hindoue":

"In an age marked by the collapse of the social structures of the modern world and the spiritual derailment of so many religious traditions, Hinduism, with its metaphysical and primordial perspective on man, the world and the Sacred, occupies a unique position.

Whereas Buddhism is well established in France and represented institutionally through organizations, journals and publishing houses, nothing similar exists for Hinduism. In general, the landscape is dominated either by an agnostic academic discourse or by new age publications that totally distort Hindu teachings.

The Aditi Center for the Study of the Hindu Tradition intends to fill up this gap. Without dismissing the importance of scholarly works on Hinduism, it focuses on the initiatory dimension of the Sanātana Dharma. It also rejects all the New Age attempts to reduce Hindu symbols and spiritual practices to a few superficial techniques for self-development and well-being. To some extent, this center finds its inspiration in the work of the French metaphysician René Guénon, without being affiliated to any school per se."

If the center for Hindu studies created by him is inspired by Rene Guenon, how is it that he makes the conclusions that you mentioned?

Mark Sedgwick said...

Perhaps the explanation is that one can be inspired by someone's writings and also be critical of aspects of their thought. It does not have to be all or nothing.