Sunday, September 24, 2023

Special issue on Hans Thomas Hakl and Julius Evola

The journal Religiographies has just published a special issue (available here) on “Hans Thomas Hakl and his Library” (library pictured to the left). Much of the special issues is in fact about Hans Thomas Hakl and Julius Evola, as it is for his work on Evola that Hakl is best known, at least among those who have not visited his library.

One article is devoted to Hakl and Evola: “The Philosophical Gold of Perennialism. Hans Thomas Hakl, Julius Evola and the Italian Esoteric Milieus,” by Francesco Baroni. Evola is also discussed in most of the other articles. In “Hans Thomas Hakl: Reminiscences and Reflections on the Challenges of Studying Esotericism in Problematic Contexts,” Marco Pasi addresses “the perceived connection between modern and contemporary esotericism and far-right politics.” In “Hans Thomas Hakl: Three lives in One,” Bernd-Christian Otto explains how Hakl encountered Evola and covers the work he did on him. Evola is also discussed in Joscelyn Godwin’s short “Hans Thomas Hakl: Personal Reminiscences.” 

Most interesting for those interested in Evola, however, is Baroni’s article. Here is the abstract: 

This article examines the relationship between the Austrian entrepreneur and scholar Hans Thomas Hakl (born 1947) and the esotericist Julius Evola (1898–1974), the most influential Italian representative of the so-called “Traditionalist School.” Best known as a far-right ideologue, Evola was frequently blacklisted from academia, and received scarce scholarly attention until the 1980s. After translating Evola's main books into German, Hakl has established himself as one of the most reliable specialists of Evola, thus contributing to his international resonance, as well as to his recognition as a legitimate object of academic research. As Hakl has shown in his publications, Evola has been a significant personality in 20th-century cultural history. His groundbreaking contributions on Eastern spiritualities and hermeticism, for instance, have interacted with mainstream culture more than many were willing to admit, which is confirmed by Evola’s lasting relationships with famous scholars of religion such as Mircea Eliade and Giuseppe Tucci. Later on, in the context of globalization, Evola’s idea of Tradition was seen as a tool for negotiating alternative worldviews, as well as for a radical reshaping of cultural identities. Our research took place mainly in Graz, where Hakl’s archives are located. Access to these facilities proved invaluable, enabling the identification and study of unpublished documents. 

The occasion for the special issue is that Hakl has donated his magnificent library to the Giorgio Cini Foundation in Venice, the institution that sponsors the journal Religiographies.

Saturday, September 02, 2023

The influence of Traditionalism on contemporary Dutch politics

Guest post by Milan Reith

In recent years Traditionalist ideas have surfaced on the fringes of Dutch politics, yet another instance of their ongoing revival. The most notable examples of this phenomenon coalesce around a network of individuals connected to the far-right political party Forum voor Democratie (FVD). Originally founded as a conservative think tank, this organization later evolved into a political party which did very well in the 2019 provincial elections, and has since undergone a significant process of radicalization. While its political agenda initially centered around Euroscepticism, it has increasingly begun to put forward conspiratorial, antimodern and racist ideas, leading to a considerable loss of electoral support.

In 2022, the affiliated youth wing of FVD published a special issue of their periodical De Dissident dedicated to the topic of “Tradition” (see image). Some pieces of note within this special issue include an interview with Alexander Dugin and a new Dutch translation of an article by Julius Evola. This translation was completed by Massimo Etalle, who is the editor-in-chief of the magazine in question, as well as the interviewer of Dugin. As it happens, this marks the second time Evola has been translated into Dutch, with the first instance being a translation of Evola’s book Orientations which was completed by the Flemish nationalist Peter Logghe in 1982.

In the interview titled “Western Europe has chosen Satan,” Dugin repeats his familiar talking points, portraying traditional religion and extremist politics as indispensable instruments in the fight against modernity. In the course of the discussion, he particularly emphasizes active resistance against the forces of modernization, reminiscent of Evola’s distinctive brand of Nietzschean esotericism. This hostile dimension is confirmed in the conclusion of the piece, where Dugin stresses the need for young people in the Netherlands to read authors such as Guénon and, especially, Evola, as he emphasized the need for practical action.

Owing to this renewed appreciation for Traditionalism within the FVD, it is perhaps unsurprising that the party leader Thierry Baudet has routinely put forward ideas which mirror the sentiments of Dugin’s political thought. For example, Baudet’s framework for viewing the geopolitical sphere as a clash between Russian and American civilization owes much to Dugin’s theories. Whereas Baudet perceives America to be guided by a globalist conspiracy, he praises Russia as the only country offering a conservative resistance against the progressive agenda.

The special issue of De Dissident marks an attempt to introduce Traditionalism to a broader range of readers in the Netherlands. Although the target audience is already somewhat embedded in a subculture of conspiracy, nationalism, and a deep sense of nostalgia, they are likely not overly familiar with the thought of either Evola or Dugin. In that regard, it is certainly significant to see FVD make the decision to go in this particular direction. This development once again highlights the significance of Traditionalism as a source of inspiration for the contemporary far-right.

Milan Reith is pursuing both a research master's in philosophy at Radboud University, and a master's in religious studies at the University of Amsterdam. He is primarily interested the relationship between esotericism and politics in the twentieth century.

Monday, August 28, 2023

New article on Traditionalism in Hungary

A new article examines the past and present of Traditionalism in Hungary. It is Magdalena Marsovszky, “’Gegen die moderne Welt’. Julius Evola in Ungarn” [Against the Modern World: Julius Evola in Hungary], Zeitschrift für Rechtsextremismusforschung 3, no. 1 (2023), pp. 19-34, available here (try here if the download does not work).

The first half of the article introduces Julius Evola and his thought. It then traces his influence though the Hungarian writers and philosophers Béla Hamvas (1897-1968), András László (born 1941), and Tibor I. Baranyi (born 1967). This, argues Marsovszky, matters much more than Evola’s own visits to Hungary between 1936 and 1942. Although he was invited by Countess Eduardine Zichy (1877-1964), the president of the Hungarian Literary Society who was supported by the minister of culture and education, Evola’s last Hungarian lecture, on “The Mystery of the Grail and Reich Thought" in March 1942, attracted only a small audience of 25.

The Hungarian Traditionalism of Hamvas, in contrast, grew in popularity after the 1960s and especially after the fall of Communism in 1989. Hamvas drew on Evola, René Guénon, and Guénon’s main German collaborator, the philosopher Leopold Ziegler (1881-1958), author of Überlieferung (Tradition, 1936). It was then further spread by Hamvas's follower László, and László’s follower Baranyi, both of whom taught at the King Atilla Academy established by the political party Jobbik, which she says has continued operating underground since its official closure in 2016.

Marsovszky considers Scientia Sacra (Sacred Science, i.e. Tradition, 1942-43) as Hamvas’s main work, and sees it following Evola in its conviction that decline from the Golden Age could be arrested through cyclical reincarnations of ‘initiatic communities’ following an ancient traditional Boreal higher order. He also followed Evola’s understanding of race as metaphysical and spiritual rather than biological (thus rejecting Nazi racism). She considers his most important departure from Evola and Guénon to have been his inclusion of Christianity in the perennial philosophy, which she believes Hamvas took from Ziegler.

“Today,” writes Marsovszky, “Hamvas's theses are often regarded in Hungary as a democratic alternative to the biologistic descent-oriented direction of the ethnic nationalists and are also classified by anti-fascists as anti-fascist, while Hamvas's and Evola's neo-Right ideology is not reflected upon analytically.” She continues “The fact that democracy in Hungary has not been able to become stable since the fall of communism in 1989 and that society has been infiltrated by anti-modern, anti-democratic attitudes is partly due to the dissemination of Evola's theses.” Although Jobbik and the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán are politically opposed, she believes, they in fact share much the same basic ideology.

As noted in an earlier blog post (here), the only book by Hamvas available in English remains his remarkable The Philosophy of Wine. Readers who want to get a feel for the dimensions of Hungarian Traditionalism can visit the Traditionalist publisher Kvintesszencia Kiadó at, and may consult Metaphysicum et politicum - A magyar tradicionális iskola bibliográfiája [Metaphysicum et politicum - Bibliography of the Hungarian Traditionalist School] by the Hungarian Traditionalist Ferenc Buji (Debrecen: A Metafizikai Hagyomány Centruma, 2008). In 334 pages, this lists and comments on Hungarian Traditionalists authors, publishers, and periodicals prior to its publication. It is available here.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

New thesis looks at Pouvourville and his impact on Guénon

A new thesis sheds new and important light on Eugène Albert Puyou de Pouvourville (1861–1939), his understanding of Taoism, and his influence on René Guénon. It is "Chinese Whispers: Albert de Pouvourville, René Guénon, and Traditionalism’s Hidden 'Chinese Roots,'" by Davide Marino, submitted at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and available here.

The main significance of the thesis is that it argues that the impact of Pouvourville on Guénon was comparable to the impact that Ivan Aguéli had, an impact that, as I argued in "The significance of Ivan Aguéli for the Traditionalist movement" (see here), is greater than generally realized. Likewise, the impact of Pouvourville was greater than has been realized.

The thesis consists of an introduction, eight chapters arranged in three sections, and a conclusion. The chapters are

Part I: Framework
1. Occultism, Traditionalism and the Crisis of Authenticity 
2. Orientalisms

Part II: De Pouvourville, Guénon and the Birth of Traditionalism

3. Albert de Pouvourville’s Colonial Occultism
4. De Pouvourville Meets Guénon
5. De Pouvourville’s Influence on Traditionalism
6. Making Masters and Losing Friends

Part II: Two Shades of Esoteric China

7. De Pouvourville’s Tradition orientale
8. Traditionalist China

The central argument is that "the orientalist interpretation of China proposed by the occultist Albert de Pouvourville become the metaphysical core of René Guénon’s esoteric movement (Traditionalism)," While Aguéli contributed the Sufi pair of bāṭin and ẓāhir to Traditionalism's pair esoteric and exoteric, and Aguéli's binary of traditional Sufism and modern reformism to Guénon's binary of tradition and modernity, Pouvourville's contribution was even prior to that, as Marino argues in chapter 5: "From fundamental elements of Traditionalism like intellectualism and the theory of 'multiple states of Being' to secondary aspects like a distaste for Buddhism and contempt for 'sentimentality,' de Pouvourville’s teachings can be found all across Guénon’s work."

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

Evola merch

Evola T-shirts have been available for some time from several suppliers, including the online marketplace Redbubble in the US, who also sell mugs against the modern world, and Motpol in Sweden. Now Evola busts are also on sale. There are currently two suppliers. ProperCrafts in Romania will sell you a bust (see photo) made in a special eco-friendly plastic, in varying heights and colors. Heretic Camp in Ukraine will sell you an enameled plaster bust. ProperCrafts seems to be a commercial venture, and can also sell you busts of Mussolini, Julius Caesar, Boris Johnson, and Joe Biden. Heretic Camp specializes in Black Metal Music tracks, and busts are a sideline. It seems to be connected to the Azov Brigade.

My thanks to AK for pointing me to ProperCrafts.

Thursday, June 01, 2023

New book on Traditionalist thought published (coming soon in US)

Mark Sedgwick, Traditionalism: The Radical Project for Restoring Sacred Order is now available in Europe and Canada. Readers in the US will have to wait until July 6. 

Official UK price is £25, but is selling for £22 and £12.99 on Kindle. In Canada, $53.95 and $17.99 Kindle, and in Europe €22.19 and £18.75 Kindle. 

One of the first reviews is in The Scotsman, and says (in part) "This very fine book is a forensic look at the movement and its influence, and has several points where you both realise something and ponder 'why did I never realise that?'” That is rather what I had hoped for.

The book looks at the intellectual foundations of Traditionalism, its application both to various projects, and "post-Traditionalism." Each chapter looks first at the general intellectual background to the issue it discusses, and then at Traditionalist understandings, starting in most cases with René Guénon and ending as much as possible with living Traditionalists.

Monday, May 29, 2023

New book covers Traditionalist influence on contemporary European Sufism

Just published: Francesco Piraino, Le soufisme en Europe. Islam, ésotérisme et new age (Sufism in Europe: Islam, esotericism and the new age), Tunis: IRMC, €35, soon to be available also in English translation.

According to the abstract,

Sufism... is undergoing a phase of expansion in the twenty-first century, guided by charismatic masters who are renewing their message, attracting new disciples and transcending their original cultural-geographical frameworks. This book describes the development of Sufism in Western Europe, particularly in France and Italy, through extended empirical research based on participant observation in four Sufi brotherhoods in Paris and Milan: the ʿAlāwiyya, the Būdshîshiyya, the Naqshbandiyya-Ḥaqqāniyya and the Aḥmadiyya-Idrîsiyya Shādhiliyya.... the author shows the tension present in contemporary Sufism between... mysticism centred on direct experience of the divine which enables a measure of creativity, and... the tradition based on the sacred texts which reproduces Islamic structures and moral order. It also describes the various forms of hybridization between the Islamic Sufi tradition, Western esoteric discourse, particularly Guénonian Traditionalist, and New Age discourse; hybridizations which often lead to the creation of new rituals, doctrines and organizational structures, and which give rise to a variety of universalist discourses. Finally, the book discusses the different political positions taken by Sufism in Europe, including indifference due to imminent eschatological expectations, civic engagement and metapolitical elitism.

With a foreword by Mark Sedgwick.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Evola on Italian public TV

Guest post by Davide Marino

Rai 3, a state-owned Italian TV channel (traditionally considered the most left-leaning channel of Italian public television) broadcast a 35-minute program on Julius Evola on 30 March 2022. The episode, which can be seen here (in Italian), belonged to a series entitled “Passato e Presente” (Past and Present), a daily show in which the host, the political journalist Paolo Mieli, discusses with a guest historian (and three history students) a historical event or figure. The guest on the show was Alessandra Tarquini, Associate Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Rome Sapienza and author of a good Storia della cultura fascista (History of Fascist Culture).

The episode was divided into three parts, mainly following the periodization used by Evola himself in his autobiography Il cammino del cinabro (The Path of Cinnabar). Part 1 described Evola’s artistic period, his juvenile enthusiasm for Futurism and Dadaism, and his relationship with important exponents of the Italian culture of his time. Part 2 discussed his relationship with the Fascist and Nazi regimes and his Sintesi di dottrina della razza (Synthesis of the Doctrine of Race), presented as different from Rosenberg’s “biological racism.” Part 3 followed Evola in post-war Italy where, after being accused (and later acquitted) of being the inspiration for a neofascist bombing attempt, he became an influential figure for the extra-parliamentary Right.

None of the participants is a sympathizer of Evola’s ideas, and Mieli introduced him as “ultra-fascist, more than fascist, anti-Semitic without a doubt, [...] and appreciated by Mussolini.” However the discussion remained calm and factual, and Evola was described as “an original philosopher, useful for understanding the twentieth century”. Even when discussing Evola’s racism, Mieli argued that Sintesi di dottrina della razza contains “horrible theories but formulated in an original manner,” more sophisticated than other contemporary racist authors.

Not everyone in Italy appreciated this approach, which was considered by some as an attempt to whitewash Evola. In Italy, the public discourse remains extremely polarized and Evola is normally either celebrated as a master by Far-Right circles or, in the famous formulation of Furio Jesi, considered “a racist so dirty that it is repugnant to touch him with one’s own fingers.”

The scope of the episode was, however, limited. With the exception of the Romanian Dadaist Tristan Tzara, Hegel and Nietzsche, there is no mention of the European culture that really influenced Evola. Bachofen is never mentioned and, most importantly, nobody explained that Evola’s “Traditionalism” was influenced by Guénon, not even when discussing Evola’s Rivolta contro il mondo moderno (Revolt Against the Modern World). Also, Mieli correctly noted that Evola’s “tradition” was “invented”, but not that his “Orient” (today quite influential in Italy) was constructed among similar lines (as recently demonstrated by Filippo Pedretti, see article here). Similarly, there was no mention of the enormous influence that Evola had, and still has, outside Italy, and the presenters ended the program by stating that “there are no Evolians,” which is hardly the case.

At the end of each episode, the guest historian normally recommends three books about the topic discussed, normally one primary source and two books of critical literature. However, in this case, Alessandra Tarquini simply pointed to three of Evola’s own books (Imperialismo pagano, Rivolta contro il mondo moderno, and Il cammino del cinabro), saying that “given the complexity of this author, the best thing to do is to start reading him”. This is hardly true. Complex and controversial authors need more critical literature, not less. The truth is that, to date, not much serious academic work on Evola has been published in Italian, and those who study Evola prefer to publish in English, a language inaccessible to a large part of Rai 3’s audience.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Traditionalism and Urdu literature

A new article discusses the encounter with Traditionalism of one of Pakistan’s leading literary critics, Muhammad Hasan Askari (1919-1978, see photo). It is by Arian Hopf, "Muhammad Hasan Askari: Mulla-Turned Modernist or Saviour of Tradition?" Zeitschrift für Indologie und Südasienstudien 39 (2022): 1-32. 

Askari was one of Pakistan’s leading literary critics, earlier a member of the socialist and anti-colonial Progressive Writer’s Association, influenced by Anton Chekhov and T. S. Eliot. After hearing of Guénon in 1947, he wrote “perhaps he expresses some satisfactory ideas.’’ After reading Guénon, he became a “hard” Traditionalist, following Guénon’s line mostly letter for letter, and preparing—but never publishing—what was in effect an Urdu version of Guénon’s Crisis of the Modern World, entitled Modernity, or a History of Western Aberrations (Jadīdiyat yā maghribī gumrāhiyūn̲ kī tārīkh). He called tradition revāyat, literally ‘narration’, and distinguished it from ʻādat, custom. 

Askari applied Traditionalism to the question that had occupied him for most of his professional life, Urdu literature. While he had once argued in favor of strengthening the Urdu element in a fusion of Urdu and Western literary norms, in his Traditionalist phase he argued that Urdu and Western literature could not be combined as they were fundamentally different. Western literature was based on individual experience and a study of character precisely because the West had lost tradition, while Urdu literature was the literature of a Muslim culture that had not lost the tradition. As such, Urdu literature should be based in traditional metaphysics and serve as a means to self-realization (ʻirfān). 

Askari was, however, pessimistic about the chances of Urdu literature achieving this ideal, given the extent to which it had already been adulterated by Western literature. Perhaps he knew the realities of the modern Orient better than the young Guénon.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Guénon in The Philosophical Forum

Following on Professor Wael Hallaq’s academically Traditionalist book Restating Orientalism: A Critique of Modern Knowledge (see blog post here), another scholarly article has appeared, in the venerable journal The Philosophical Forum, by Noah H. Taj. This is "On rooting religious studies: The metaphysical proposal of René Guénon," and can be read here. The abstract is:

The   present   article   problematizes   current   dominating   approaches  to  method  and  theory  in  the  study  of  religion  by  pointing  to  their  inapplicability  to  theorists  working  outside secular worldviews. The first section of this article introduces  decolonialist  narratives  by  touching  on  important topics which are subsumed within larger discussions, such as secularism, positionality, and others. This is done by putting René Guénon (1886–1951) in conversation with other  theorists,  the  foremost  of  whom  is  Bruce  Lincoln.  Section two introduces Guénon using Wael Hallaq's categorisation of him as a subversive author, and sections three and  four  elaborate  on  his  subversion  through  touching  on  two key theories. The first relates to problematizations of the term ‘religion’ itself along with a treatment of Guénon's actual  theory  of  religion.  The  second  is  Guénon's  metaphysical  method,  which,  contrasted  against  the  historical,  opens  new  avenues  for  our  study  of  the  past  in  manners  unrestricted  to  materialism  alone,  expanding  thereby  the  academic frameworks with which we come to the table in the academic study of religion.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

ʿAbd al-Rahman ʿIllaysh


A contact in Egypt has found this photograph of ʿAbd al-Rahman ʿIllaysh (1840–1921), the Sufi and expert on Muhyiddin ibn ʿArabi who taught Ivan Aguéli much of what he knew about Sufism. Since Guénon took his initial understanding of Sufism, and probably also of the relationship between the esoteric and the exoteric, from Aguéli, the ultimate global impact of ʿAbd al-Rahman ʿIllaysh was considerable. Good to see what he looked like.

Friday, March 17, 2023

New light on Guénon's impact in Egypt

A recent PhD thesis defended at Aarhus University sheds new light on René Guénon’s reception in Egypt. This is Mattias Gori Olesen’s “The Future is Eastern: Muḥammad Luṭfī Jumʿa (1886-1953) and the Drang nach Osten in Interwar Egypt.”

Guénon’s first reception by an Egyptian was before he moved to Cairo, in the 1925 doctoral thesis on the Caliphate of the Egyptian lawyer (and later jurist and politician) ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Sanhūrī (1895-1971). The thesis argued for the re-establishment of a caliphate, and drew on Guénon to argue that an East-West rapprochement could be achieved partly by re-traditionalizing the West, and also argued that different Oriental forms all reflected one common tradition. Al-Sanhūrī presumably encountered Guénon in France while working on his thesis, and does not seem to have been much influenced by Guénon in his later work.

The second reception was after Guénon’s arrival in Cairo, and was in the journal al-Maʿrifa, edited not by Muṣṭafā ʿAbd al-Rāziq (1885-1947) as both Xavier Accart and I wrongly supposed, but by ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz al-Islāmbūlī, about whom little is known. Al-Islāmbūlī was evidently himself a Traditionalist, not only publishing an article by Guénon in the first number of al-Maʿrifa, but also later arguing himself that Ibn ‘Arabī and Advaita Vedanta were one and the same. In this first article, Guénon explained the basics of Traditionalism, with “primordial tradition” rendered into Arabic as al-ʿilm al-qadīm (ancient knowledge).

This second reception soon ran into difficulties, however. First, in June 1931 al-Islāmbūlī arranged a public meeting that was attended by both Guénon and Valentine de Saint-Point. Guénon did not speak, but Saint-Point argued in Traditionalist fashion that education in Egypt should not be modernized to focus on exoteric knowledge, but should rather focus on the esoteric to equip Egyptians to resist modernity. This drew an angry response from Muḥammad Luṭfī Jumʿa, who believed that modern education was one way to strengthen the Eastern nations against the West—this was fundamental to the “Easternism” that he supported, and which is the main topic of Gori Olesen’s thesis.

Then, the next month, al-Maʿrifa published an exchange between Guénon and Muḥammad Farīd Wajdī (1875-1954) on the topic of spiritism. Wajdī wrote in favor of it, Guénon against. Wajdī rebutted, and Guénon rebutted the rebuttal, and never published again in al-Maʿrifa, or perhaps was never published again in al-Maʿrifa. Ironically, as Gori Olesen notes, in 1907 Wajdī had written in Ivan Aguéli’s Il Convito on “L’Islam, Religione Universale” (Islam, the Universal Religion). An Islamic universalism that had agreed with Aguéli, then, did not agree with Guénon.

Gori Olesen concludes:

Ultimately, Guénon and traditionalism were thus only of selective use to the Easternists. The perennialism and praise of the esoteric and spiritual that traditionalism represented were amenable to both Easternism’s political and cultural project and the way they conceived the problem and incipient solution at hand. But the anti-modernism was not… In Jumʿa’s case, the more direct inspiration for his perennial vision came from theosophic literature.

 This seems just about right.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Traditionalists blog passes 1 million page views

This blog has now received one million page views. Started in 2006, it passed 500,000 page views in 2017. Over this period, interest has come from all over (see map). 38% of visits have been from the US, 29% from a range of other countries (in order, the UK, France, Germany, Russia, Canada, Italy, Sweden, Brazil, and Spain), and 33% from elsewhere—or perhaps from countries that Google Analytics failed to identify.

Thanks to all concerned: the readers whose interest makes this blog worthwhile, the individuals who from time to time have written to me with information and suggestions, and also the various authors of guest posts over the years. And thanks also to Google, for making Blogger available, free, and user-friendly.

New study of the Alawiyya

Manuel Chabry has just published an excellent study of Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi (died 1934) and of the Alawiyya, the Algerian-based Sufi order that Frithjof Schuon brought to Europe and then developed into the Maryamiyya

The study is entitled Le Pôle - La confrérie soufie Alawiyya (1894-1952), and was written as an MA thesis at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), one of France’s leading research institutions for the social sciences and humanities. It is self-published, and available from Amazon for $22.65. 

Chabry’s study is exhaustive, and carefully based on primary sources, notably the Alawiyya’s own publications. It falls into three parts: a historical study of the Alawiyya before, under, and after Shaykh al-Alawi (pp. 13-247), an analysis of the Alawiyya’s positions and activities (pp. 249-441), and a selection of primary texts, translated into French (pp. 461-560).

The historical study documents the dramatic expansion of the Alawiyya, especially between 1923 and 1934. The analysis is especially interesting, with short chapters on sanctity, legitimacy, and the Alawiyya’s positions regarding Islamic reformism, modern natural science, modernity in general, and Christianity. This section ends with a chapter on the Alawiyya’s ambition to spread Islam in Europe and another chapter on the Alawiyya’s Western disciples. 

The Alawiyya’s central objective, argues Chabry, was “to lead the Sufi orders to play a role in the revival of Algerian Islam in an authentic form, and against the imported innovation of reformism, by emphasizing religious education instead of relying on tribal practices and the organizations of another age.” This involved taking modernity seriously. There is a lot more to it than that, as Chabry also shows, but that is the core of what was going on. 

The chapter on Western disciples mentions Schuon, but relatively little is said of him. His relations with the Alawiyya, Chabry thinks, deserve a separate study of their own, but little light is shed on them by the published sources on which Chabry’s study is based. Even so, that study will be of interest for those who are interested in Schuon’s Traditionalism, as it reveals the context of his attachment to Sufism: the Alawiyya in general, and its (often universalist) approach to Christianity and Westerners in particular. It reminds us that Arab Muslims, as well as Westerners, played active roles in shaping relations between Islam and the West. 

The study is also an important contribution to the whole question of the adaptation to modernity of Sufism in the Muslim world.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Forthcoming book on Traditionalist thought

One of the criticisms that have been made of my original Against the Modern World is that I did not pay enough attention to Traditionalist thought. I agree, and therefore a new book will come out in June 2023 focusing on ideas: Traditionalism: The Radical Project for Restoring Sacred Order. The book is a companion to Against the Modern World, not a replacement--it goes over different ground.

The publishers are Oxford University Press in the US (see cover without tree) at $29.95 (pre-order here) and Pelican in the UK (see cover with tree) at £22 or £9.99 on Kindle (pre-order here). Two very different covers, but the text is the same. 


The chapters are:

1. Traditionalism and the Traditionalists  
2. Historical perennialism  
3. Traditionalist perennialism   
4. Traditionalist history   
5. The Traditionalist critique of modernity   
6. Traditionalism, thought, and society    

7. Self-realization    
8. Religion    
9. Politics    

10. Art    
11. Gender    
12. Nature    
13. Dialogue  
14. The radical right   
15. Conclusion    

Monday, January 16, 2023

A new and independent branch of the Maryamiyya

A new and independent branch of the Maryamiyya, the "Washington-Baltimore Branch of the Maryamiyyah Tariqah," has been established, and has established an online presence. Some of the content on its main website,, is restricted to members, but some of it is generally available, including comments by its shaykh, Terry Moore (Shaykh al-Bashir, pictured left) about how the branch became established, which are also available on YouTube.

Moore joined the Maryamiyya in Lausanne in 1975, and separated from the main tariqa in 2017, along with Hasan Awan, who is now his khalifa (deputy), and the late James Cutsinger (1953-2020), who was a leading follower of Frithjof Schuon in a personal capacity, though never (as an Orthodox Christian) a formal member of the tariqa. 

The Washington-Baltimore Maryamiyya describes itself on its other website,, as “orthodox and universalist.” The orthodoxy is circumscribed: they "observe the Sunna as much as feasible in our circumstances, and follow the essential elements and spirit of the Shari’ah" [my emphasis]. The universalism is described in terms of “transcendent unity,” Frithjof Schuon’s major contribution to Traditionalist doctrine, and thus “We accept the uncorrupted forms of all the orthodox religions as true and do not regard any of them, in their essence, as superior.” [my emphasis] This, again, is a limitation on their claimed Islamic orthodoxy. Moore makes clear in his book Here, Now, One: A Practical Guide to the Spiritual Life (Salisbury, England: New Sarum Press, 2021) that his starting point is perennialism: “Unfortunately… we can’t practice perennialism, as it has no form. It is a smile without a cat… In order to be operative, it must be packaged in a form that allows practice. The package it comes in is orthodox religion.”

The Washington-Baltimore Maryamiyya acknowledges the teachings of René Guénon, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Frithjof Schuon, Martin Lings, and Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Its website says that it was “the Shaykh of the Washington, DC branch of our order,” i.e. Nasr, who “authorized our two leaders to establish an independent branch of the order.” So perhaps not an acrimonious split. But evidently not all are happy, as one comment on Facebook warns that the group “has departed to a vast extent from and is critical of much of the traditionalist-perennialist perspective and the spiritual heritage and… method broadly affirmed and transmitted by all other branches of the Tariqah Maryamiyyah” and is “varyingly modernist, postmodernist, and New Age/self-help.” This post alleges that Moore and Awan are excessively influenced by the Direct Path of the Indian guru Sri Atmananda (1883-1959).

The presentation of the tariqa stresses respect for all “regardless of gender, race, class, or previous religious affiliation,” and states that "faqirat" (female members) “participate in leadership and decision making within our community at all levels.” It adds: “We require our leaders to adhere to the highest moral standards, especially in their relationship with fuqara’ [male followers] and faqirat [female followers].” This seems to be an acknowledgement of some of the problems from which the main Maryamiyya suffered in earlier periods, and a determination not to repeat then.

It is unclear how large the branch is, but Moore’s YouTube channel, herenowone, has 117 subscribers.

Two other connected websites are and

Many thanks to the reader of this blog who draw my attention to all this. 






Sunday, January 15, 2023

Mary Schillito: correction

René Guénon first traveled to Cairo in 1930 in the company of Mary Schillito (image to right), who I identified in Against the Modern World as a convert to Islam on the basis that she had taken the first name Dina. In fact, Dina was the surname of her husband, Assan Dina, who was not Egyptian (as I had wrongly supposed) but rather the wealthy son of an Indian-Mauritian father and a French mother. 

Assan Dina died in Egypt in 1928 while traveling home through the Suez canal from India to the chateau that he and Mary had built at Cruseilles in the French department of Haute-Savoie, just south of Geneva. This chateau, the Château des Avenières, contained a remarkable chapel with mosaic wall panels from the tarot, which can be seen on this website. The chateau is now a hotel with a fine restaurant, and those with sufficient funds can book a stay or a table here (though at present it seems to be closed). 

Alternatively, those who are looking for somewhere to live in Cincinnati, Ohio, might consider The Lofts at Shillito Place (see here), once the massive department store built by Mary Schillito’s father John Schillito, whose career is described in the Northern Kentucky Tribune (see here). 

 My thanks to Davide Marino for correcting me regarding Assan DIna.