Friday, May 24, 2019

Perennialism, hyperdiffusionism, and the end of the Kali Yuga in 2012

An interesting short article in Nova Religio contrasts perennialism and “hyperdiffusionism” in the context of understandings of the monuments left by vanished civilizations such as the Mayan and the Pharaonic. It is “The Highest Common Factor: Heterodox Archaeology and the Perennialist Milieu” by Kevin A. Whitesides, Nova Religio 22, no. 4 (May 2019): 27-43.

The term “hyperdiffusionism” was probably coined by Glyn Daniel in 1963, and denotes the widespread idea that contemporary human cultures all share a common origin in an earlier grand civilization. The difference between hyperdiffusionism and perennialism, Whiteside says, is that a hyperdiffusionist needs to show some sort of physical transmission, while a perennialist does not, as for a perennialist metaphysical knowledge is in some sense innate.

Whitesides gives three examples of approaches to ancient monuments and their civilizaitons. One, that of Augustus Le Plongeon (1826-1908), was purely hyperdiffusionist, arguing for a Mayan origin for all human wisdom and culture. Another, that of John Major Jenkins (1964-2017), was purely perennialist, arguing that the Mayans “independently tapped into the same doctrines also found in ancient Vedic and Egyptian cosmology.” A third, that of R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz (1887-1961) mixed both hyperdiffusionism and perennialism in his interpretation of Pharaonic monuments.

The contrast between perennialism and hyperdiffusionism is an interesting one, as the case of Schwaller de Lubicz is not unique: while the two understandings are logically distinct, they can easily be combined, and perennialism often contains traces of hyperdiffusionism.

Jenkins himself is also interesting. He is best known for his part in promoting the idea, widespread during 2011 and 2012, that 21 December 2012 would have major eschatological significance—an idea that apparently helped boost sales of private underground blast shelters in the US. Jenkins based his arguemnts mostly on the Mayan calendar and the idea of “galactic alignment,” but he also drew on Ananda Coomaraswamy and René Guénon, identifying 2012 as the end of the Kali Yuga, in Galactic Alignment: The Transformation of Consciousness According to Mayan, Egyptian, and Vedic Traditions (Bear & Company, 2002).


Andrew Kushner said...

As I understand it, Aldous Huxley (who literally authored a book titled "The Perennial Philosophy") could also be considered a sort of hyperdiffusionist. In his case he believed that all the world's religious traditions had roots in India.

Charles upton said...

I tend to be a Perennialist in terms of fundamental principles but a hyperdiffusionist in terms of specific manifestations. Every language has nouns and verbs, but their forms vary widely; the notions of "object" and "action" are universal, but the words we use to name/describe them are particular. Martin Lings was a hyperdiffusionist when he pointed out the great similarity between the Vedic and Lakota doctrines of the world ages. The Vedic doctrine speaks of the "Bull of the Dharma" who stands in 4 legs in Krita-yuga, on three in Treta-yuga, on two in Dvapara-yuga and on one in Kali-yuga. The Lakota use an almost identical symbol, that of a buffalo who loses a leg with each passage from one world-age to the next. To me, this is too specific to be attributed to innate ideas. On the other hand, the idea of some sort of manvantara or Great Year is closer to being universal, though this can be explained by a diffusion of astronomical knowledge that could have been arrived at in many separate instances, since the stars are always there to be seen & studied. I once saw an exhibit of Navajo textiles. One blanket had a clear image of a vajra, the stylized thunderbolt of Hindu iconography that the Tibetans call the dorje -- a straight line with two U-shaped lines at the extremities that intersect it, thus producing a figure like a two-ended trident. (Poseidon's trident appears to be one-half of the trident of Zeus, indicating a reflection of Zeus's function on a lower and more partial level.) And the same shape representing a thunderbolt appears in a bas-relief of the Babylonian god Marduk in the act of slaying the chaos monster Tiamat. To me this is too specific to be explained by innate ideas, since the double-trident is certainly not the only way that a thunderbolt could be visually represented. But the idea of a masculine sky-god, which is nearly though not absolutely universal, whose majesty and justice are represented by thunder and lightning, is closer to an innate idea. And the idea of an Empyrean or realm of the Formless Absolute, beyond the imaginal and intelligible domains, such as we find in Dante's Paradiso, also appears in the great vision of the Lakota Black Elk. This is a true innate idea, or rather a true ontological level that is always there to be intuited by human consciousness in states of mystical exaltation.

Olegario said...

"I once saw an exhibit of Navajo textiles. One blanket had a clear image of a vajra, the stylized thunderbolt of Hindu iconography that the Tibetans call the dorje -- a straight line with two U-shaped lines at the extremities that intersect it, thus producing a figure like a two-ended trident"

That's the stylized symbol of the Avatara as it was conceived along the whole of the ancient American continent (Wirakocha, Gukumatz, Bochica, Kukulkan, Elal, etc). The following is the original and complete figure out of which the "vajra" arises:,+Kultrun+02+Mapuche.jpg

The "vajra" is one of the four "legs" of the cross (of which of course the "buffalo of the dharma" is another aspect). Paradoxically the one leg in which the buffalo stands during kali-yuga seems also to indicate the concealment of the complete symbolism.

You can find the same symbol in ancient Spain, it's known as "La pata de la Oca":

To my knowledge the Perennialist school never wrote about the complete symbol (a four-armed cross with its extremities ending in three limbs), but only referred to some of its fragmentary aspects.

Anonymous said...

To Olegario, speaking of Mesoamerican symbolism, are you familiar with the research conducted by Federico Gonzalez Frias? I found his work to be rather interesting, since he is one of few who has actually undertaken a "non-academic" study of "archaic" people,studying their approach to reality from a metaphysical perspective. If you haven't, you should check out his work, you may find it interesting. Here is a link to his study on Precolumbian Mesoamerican Symbolism:

It's provided in multiple languages as well. The only other person I've seen study the teachings of archaic people in more or less the same vein is Charles andre Gilis, with his work on the African people, part of which can be found here:

The study " l'homme fut serpent autrefois " is where certain insights are drawn from the nature of such people. Another is a recent book:

Anyways, just in case you would be interested in a non-academic(basically non-anthropologist), metaphysical inquiry into the approach that various archaic people (whom Guenon collectively refers to as the descendants of Abel) took towards reality, those are a few studies I am familiar with. The interesting thing about such people is the hidden and slumbering power they are said to possess, that is said to awaken before the world ends, thus giving "Abel his revenge over Cain"...

Olegario said...

Thanks very much for the links to Charles Andre Gilis texts, I have just red the article you posted. Ancient native-American traditions and the ones from Africa have both very much in common and probably the same source, just to give one example from the field of comparative archeology, take a look to the pottery from the Mangbetu people in Congo:

And now compare to the following piece of pre-columbian work:

Look at akwanshi monoliths in Nigeria:

Compare to Tiawanaku's central figure, the pre-columbian "avatara" (Wirakocha, Kukulkan, etc.), ubiquitous in the continent:

You will see that in the representation the avatara is "crying", exactly like the akwanshi figure. The Mangbetu and Diaguita ones are also crying (this two figures which are equivalent, symbolizes the "mother" of the avatara, his "shakti"). The avatara is the "Bida" ("l'homme serpent" mentioned by Andre Gilis). His "mother", the shakti (also identified by native americans with the planet Venus) shows in many artistic representations all over the continent as a Gorgonic-like effigy (very similar to the mediterranean "gorgoneion"). The same figure (although with masculine polarity) exists in the Indian subcontinent and also in China (Kirtimukha and Taotie).

The symbolism contained in the human face seems to be the oldest of all. Our face naturally contains the symbol of a cross which looks also like a schematized human figure. It is formed by our mouth, nose and superciliary archs, the "head" of this human figure (which also corresponds to the upper arm of the cross -like the "fleur de lys"-) finds its place exactly in the center of our forehead.

This cross is also a mountain with a fourfold base, each base in its turn is divided by 3 (see the "Kultrun" image in the first link posted on my reply to Mr Upton), when is thus interpreted the spot in the center of the forehead must be understood as a sacred city (the supreme center).

The artistic procedure by which this extremely ancient symbolism was produced consisted in coupling together two specular profile figures whose pairing resulted in a 3rd one (frontal), a visage. The profile figures of course represents the primigenial cosmic duality but they have also a distinct ontological reality in lesser degrees of existence, thus the native-american chamán encounters a reflection of them during his voyage to the underworld (when approaching the lesser "barzakh") and there's reason to believe that distinct beings from the subtle realm are acting as "guardians" to sacred endroits at a quasi-strictly material level.

Olegario said...

For more on the origins of native-american population and its connection to Africa you may find very interesting the following book:

This is a very rigorous academical work but pay special attention to chapter (XIX), it contains insights that may conduce to very important developements.

With respect to González Frías, I know his work and I find it valuable but I must transmit you what I was told when I asked about him to a person authorized to speak in the name of a still subsistent native-american tradition: that from the mistakes González Frías made when interpreting certain symbols, it seems that his knowledge does not go beyond mere erudition.

Please see the following article for more on the "Vajra" symbol mentioned by Mr Upton:

You can use google online translator if you don't read spanish, the work is a commentary made by a native-american on Schuon's remarks to Hehaka Sapa's book. Look at the figure of the cross in the notes...

Anonymous said...

@ Olegario, Thanks for the link to the commentary by Aukanaw, it really is interesting indeed and a thing to note from it is, though well-meaning, at times Guenon, Schuon and others do make mistakes regarding the approach to reality by people from certain places in the world; they may seek to confirm certain innate biases, though slight, that may have formed within them, in this case, some errors made regarding natural stones by Guenon and the traditional dress of certain tribes by Schuon. With regards to the latter, the dress being an externalization of the nature of the individual in a way; a nature that can be seen more directly in the subtle planes of being by those who are of a "non-ordinary consciousness". I found that point to be the most interesting.

There is also something that I always found strange with regards to how Guenon classified the races, connecting the black race to the element of fire, whereas, looking at their actual traditional data and the manner in which they approach the Metaphysical Reality, there is almost no mention of this element. On the contrary, we see the element of water, as Mr. Gilis has pointed out in his studies. The African Avatara, or Universal Man, is seen as a Serpent, originating from Water(here, water transposed to a metaphysical reality) and at the same time, if one looks at the symbolic origin of the cosmos within the Dogon Tribe, again it is water, not fire that plays a central part. The Africans themselves say they have a watery and not a fiery nature, since it should be evident how close the snake and the element of water are. The only Africans that have some connection to fire would be the Ethiopians, a connection to the Empyrean Fire, but among the other Bantu and Nilote African groups, there is no mention of this. If this classification of the black race is basically incorrect and has no evidence, does that not disband the classification of the other races as well, in the Guenonian schema?
[Continued below...]

Anonymous said...

[Continued from above...]
The same strange errors are present with regards to how the Tantric Tradition is approached, whereby certain Tantric Masters point to possibilities that are either: unknown by Guenon, misunderstood by him or for some reason, if he knew them, they are not spoken of at all. This is interesting because the tantra, has its basis in southern India, where the people and the tradition itself share many striking similarities with the Africans and native Americans(all three groups for instance, revere the Serpent, Shakti, view cosmic reality not as a "prison", but as a "game" to be mastered and enjoyed etc.). It's almost as if Guenon and those he influenced have some difficulties in understanding these types of people and as a consequence of that, they ignore a certain set of ways used to approach metaphysical reality. We saw the same case with Buddhism after all...

Anyways, thank you very much for the things you pointed out and I must mention that the journey to the underworld, made by the native-american chamán is basically the same journey that the African shaman makes and its connection to the finding of a treasure therein is present also within the Kabiric Mysteries, as pointed out by Mr. Gilis in his recent book. This connection of subtle guardians, hidden treasures and certain places that act as endroits for them was also mentioned by Guenon in his book, The Reign of Quantity and the signs of the times, wherein he says, one day, these guardians will basically be able to manifest visibly and wreak havoc upon those men who have, without any qualification or permission, encroached on their territory and stolen their precious treasure. The material aspect of this treasure is obviously the gold, diamonds and so on found deep within the earth but of course it has other aspects as well, some metaphysical, others relating to super-powers etc., as pointed out by Guenon. Of course, both the mesoamericas(aztecs for example) and the ancient africans held gold in high regard.

Continuing on the last point and to conclude,the colonial exploitation of these types of groups was not merely carried out for material ends, but also and more importantly, to harness the energy and power that had concentrated in certain areas for nefarious purposes. The "counter-initiates" were behind a lot of the 15th to 20th century expansions into these regions, guided by a sort of "sacred-geography" with the desire to harness, forcefully, the residues of these sacred energies in their bid to one day take over the planet...

Well, of course we are all indebted to Guenon for teaching and revealing many things and more importantly, to whatever influence it was that sent him, but there are reservations to be made when the consideration of the earth's "aboriginal" people is dealt with. This also means that there are multiple ways of approaching the "hidden reality", yet unexplored by Guenon, that is, if he did not intentionally remain silent about them.

Anonymous said...

Some information on the sources of Guenon's original classification of the races can be found in Jean-Pierre Laurant's "Le sens caché dans l’oeuvre de René Guénon" (Paris: L’Age d’Homme, 1975), pages 46–47. Apparently, in trying to reconstitute the "Ordre du Temple Renové", certain questions were posed to either spirits or some other influence and it is from the answers given to the group, of which a young Guenon was part, that the schema which classifies the races was given. Automatic writing, as well as séances were employed, to give this non-physical source a body of sorts in which it could manifest. Of course, some of the answers given have little to no support, such as the erroneous classification of the black race to exclusively the element of fire, but it could be individual biases which interfered with the revelations. A set of methods that would later be condemned by Guenon as "very heterodox" were used by him to arrive at conclusive "orthodox and traditional" very interesting!