Sunday, December 27, 2020

Gap plugged in the history of German Traditionalism

The apparent absence of a mid-twentieth-century German Traditionalist movement has always seemed surprising, given the presence of Traditionalists beyond France in Switzerland, England, Italy, the USA, Argentina, Brazil, and even smaller countries like Sweden. Discussions in Jean-Pierre Laurant’s new book, Guénon au combat: Des réseaux en mal d'institutions (see post here) make clear that there was also a major Traditionalist sympathizer in Germany, Leopold Ziegler (1881-1958, seen to the left), who I did not mention in my Against the Modern World

Ziegler was an academic philosopher who spent most of his life as an independent scholar, but whose status was recognized by the German academy on his seventieth birthday, when he received an honorary doctorate in theology from the University of Marburg and an honorary professorship from the University of Freiburg, the institution at which he had once hoped to make a career. 

Ziegler was already a believer in the philsophia perennis when he discovered the work of Guénon in the 1930s, to which he was introduced by André Préau (1893-1976), the translator of Heidegger into French and a key member of the French Traditionalist network. In 1932 Ziegler started a correspondence with René Guénon, on whom he published an article in the respected journal Deutsche Rundschau in 1934.

Ziegler hoped to arrange for Guénon to be translated and published in Germany, but these plans were interrupted by the advent of the Nazi regime, and Guénon’s work did not begin to appear in German until after the Second World War. La Crise du monde moderne was published in 1950 as Die Krisis der Neuzeit (Cologne: Hegner) and Le roi du monde as König der Welt (Munich: Otto Wilhelm Barth) in 1956. These dates are significant, because the 1950s were generally a low period everywhere for the reception of Guénon. Traditionalism’s relative lack of impact in Germany is, then, to some extent a matter of timing.

Ziegler was already an established thinker before he read Guénon (he had won the Goethe Prize in 1929), had already published on Buddhism, and (as has been said) was already convinced of the philsophia perennis. What he took from Guénon was, especially, the concept of tradition, which he translated as Überlieferung. One of his major books was entitled simply Überlieferung (1936), and cites seven of Guénon's books (and was reviewed sympathetically by Herman Hesse--see here). It is unclear to what extent Guénon was responsible for Ziegler's anti-modernism. There are also differences, however, as Matthias Korger points out: Ziegler was determinedly European (and in a certain sense Christian) in a way that Guénon was not, and admired and drew on European philosophers whom Guénon ignored or dismissed.

Further reading: 
  • Jean-Pierre Laurant, Guénon au combat: Des réseaux en mal d'institutions (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2019). 
  • Sophie Latour, "Leopold Ziegler—und die Philosophia perennis," pp. 135-54 in Leopold Ziegler: Weltzerfall und Menschwerdung, ed. Paulus Wall (Würtzburg: Köningshausen & Neumann, 2001).
  • Matthias Korger, "Ziegelrs ’Lehrer’ René Guénon—Die Metaphysik," pp- 169-89 in Leopold Ziegler, ed. Wall.

New book on French Traditionalist networks

The doyen of French Guénonian studies, Jean-Pierre Laurant, has just published a new book, Guénon au combat: Des réseaux en mal d'institutions (Guénon at war: Networks without Institutions; Paris: L’Harmattan, 2019).

The networks in question are mostly French, notably those built around the correspondence and relations between three long-term followers of René Guénon, the bookseller and publisher Pierre Pulby (1910-1993), the physician Pierre Winter (1891-1950), and the Germanist and translator of Heidegger André Préau (1893-1976). Winter established two Traditionalist groups that are not discussed in my Against the Modern World, a Groupe d’études métaphysiques (Metaphysical Studies Group) that was active between 1936 and 1940 and then, after the Second World war, a group of Hindu and Orthodox orientation that Laurant calls the Winter Group, which survived for some years after Winter’s death, until 1957.

The book also discusses the Union intellectuelle pour l'entente entre les peoples (Intellectual union for understanding between peoples), led according to Laurent by Guénon and a Dutch friend, Frans Vreede (1887-1975). In fact, it is not clear that Guénon was really that influential, as the objectives of the Union were defined by others, and most members of its board had no connection with Guénon. It is notable, howeer, that one member of the “advisory committee” was Louis Massignon (1883-1962), now the best-known French scholar of Islam from the period.

Laurant also discusses two networks outside France, that in Italy around Arturo Reghini (1878-1946), recently the subject of a PhD thesis by Christian Giudice (see post here) and that in Germany around Leopold Ziegler (1881-1958) (see post here), whose main contact in France was Préau. 

The book closes with a series of short but useful biographical notes on each of the major figures discussed in the book. 

Guénon au combat is an important addition to our knowledge of the early Traditionalist milieu, especially in France.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

New article on Traditionalism in Bosnia

A comprehensive study of Traditionalism in Bosnia has just been published: Samir Beglerović and Mark Sedgwick, "Islam in Bosnia Between East and West: The Reception and Development of Traditionalism," Journal of Religion in Europe 13, no. 1-2 (December 2020): 145–172,

According to the abstract, 

The article looks at the reception and development of Guénonian Traditionalism in Bosnia from the 1970s to the present day. Traditionalism was initially received in Yugoslavia as esotericism, but then its reception became more Islamic, based in Sarajevo’s Islamic Theology Faculty. After the Bosnian War, Islamic Traditionalist works became popular among young Bosnians who wanted to combine Islam with European identities. Some Bosnian ulama taught Traditionalist works to their students, a development unparalleled elsewhere, and wrote their own Traditionalist-influenced works, mostly dealing with interreligious dialogue. The Bosnian reception and development of Traditionalism is unique, and it is argued that this reflects Bosnia’s special position between East and West. 

Samir Beglerović (1973–2020) was an associate professor of aqida (dogmatics), Sufism and Comparative Religion at the Faculty of Islamic Sciences, Sarajevo. He died of COVID-19 on 9 November 2020 as the final touches were being put to this article. An obituary in English can be read at