Saturday, December 30, 2023

More on E. F. Schumacher

A new article has clarified the spiritual and intellectual biography of E. F. Schumacher (1911-1977), author of Small is Beautiful (1973) and so one of the inspirations of major parts of the contemporary green movement. It is by Robert Leonard, an economist who has worked on Schumacher for some time: “The Traditionalist Path of an Economic Heretic: E. F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed,” Temenos Academy Review 26 (2023), pp. 193-206.

Leonard removes any perplexity by carefully tracing Schumacher’s conversion from Nietzsche and socialism to Gurdjieff and Buddhism, and then to Catholicism, and makes clear the importance to him of Traditionalism and his major work’s debt to A. K. Coomaraswamy. It also clarifies the timing. Schumacher discovered Traditionalism in the early 1950s through a Buddhist friend, Edward Conze (1904-1979), and taught an adult education course on the Perennial Philosophy at the University of London in the late 1950s. In the 1960s he then moved towards Christianity, finally converting to Catholicism, a move out of step with Traditionalist norms. He retained, however, his agreement with the Traditionalist analysis of modernity, which he described in 1976, the year before his death, as a “great deviation from the universal tradition of mankind into a gross form of materialism.”

Leonard also makes clear that the absence of Traditionalism and metaphysics from Small is Beautiful was a tactical choice on Schumacher’s part. He aimed to inspire practical action, not religious commitment. This was sensible, as his attempts at explaining the esoteric and religious underpinnings of his economic and social convictions were rarely well received.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Guénon's source for China: Matgioi

This blog has already mentioned Davide Marino’s PhD thesis on Eugène Albert Puyou de Pouvourville (1861–1939), his understanding of Taoism, and his influence on René Guénon (see here). A new article on Pouvourville has just been published, drawing on one part of this thesis. It is “Albert de Pouvourville’s Occultisme Colonial” (see here),  and is part of a special issue of Numen on “Euro-American Esoteric Readings of East Asia” that also includes an article by Julian Strube on “Esotericism between Europe and East Asia: How the ‘Esoteric Distinction’ Became a Structure in Cross-Cultural Interpretation” and another article by Franz Winter, “Introducing “the Heavenly Empire of China” (le Céleste Empire de la Chine): China versus India in the Quest for an Ancient Model Society in Joseph Alexandre Saint-Yves d’Alveydre.” 

The abstract runs: 

Albert de Pouvourville (1862–1939), better known by his nom de plume Matgioi, was one of the most noticeable characters of the nineteenth-century French occult milieu. In addition to his prominence in fin-de-siècle occult Paris, de Pouvourville also served as a soldier in Indochina, and after the end of his military career he continued to play an important role in French colonialism. This article aims to describe both de Pouvourville’s occultist and colonialist production and argues that they should be understood as two parts of a coherent intellectual trajectory, characterized by two fundamental elements of de Pouvourville’s worldview: “elitism” and “colonial Darwinism.” From gender and race to initiation and opium consumption, de Pouvourville’s “discourse on the Far East” is a form of “colonial occultism”: a peculiar mix of imperialist hegemonic aspirations and spiritual thirst for “the wisdom of the East.”