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.


Randy said...

Have you looked into the 1930 “Philosophia Perennis: Abhandlungen zu Ihrer Verangangenheit und Gegenwart,” festgabe for Joseph Geyser’s 60th, by Fritz-Joachim von Rintelen, and things connected to this? I found a this in Munich, along with a related early German Indiological pamphlet, Über das Sâmkhya: Verducci Eisner Wiederherstellung und Deutung der Sâmkhya-Prinzipien,” by Ludwig Berndl.

Joachim Werneburg said...

Ich besitze von Guénon (außer „La Crise du monde moderne“ und „Le roi du monde“) noch zwei weitere Bücher auf deutsch:
- Die Symbolik des Kreuzes. Aurum-Verlag, Freiburg 1987 (Le symbolisme de la croix)
- Stufen des Seins. Die Vielzahl der Welten. Aurum-Verlag, Freiburg 1987 (Les états multiples de l'Être).

Sebastian Mikhail said...

Die Leopold-Ziegler-Stiftung gibt regelmäßig sehe interessante Bücher mit Beiträgen zu Leopold Ziegler heraus.

Ein sehr interessantes Buch ist auch die Weltgeschichte, geschrieben von Timo Kölling , bei der mich besonders die Herausarbeitung der Beziehung zu Heidegger interessiert hat.