Saturday, April 13, 2024

New article on Guénon in Cairo

A new article by Mattias Gori Olesen in Aries explains and contextualizes René Guénon’s impact on Egyptian intellectual life before and during his time in Cairo. It is “The Perennial Solidarity of the East: René Guénon, Sufism and Easternist Anti-Colonialism in Early Twentieth-Century Egypt,” Aries 2024, online first at

The article is developed from Gori Olesen’s PhD thesis, for which see an earlier post here. Again, we see the reception of Guénon by ʿAbd al-Razzaq al-Sanhuri, and the subsequent engagement of Guénon with the “Easternists” and the Egyptian journal Al-Maʿrifa, in which Guénon at first wrote. This engagement ended with disagreements over modern education with Muḥammad Farīd Wajdī and over modern spirituality with Muḥammad Farīd Wajdī

Gori Oleson concludes that neither “Traditionalism nor any other expressions of Western esotericism came to play a role in Egypt similar to that played by the Theosophical Society in India.” Indeed. When it comes to the roles that India played for the Theosophical Society and that Egypt played for Guénon, and thus for Traditionalism and Western esotericism in general, it is less clear. The experiences that Gori Olesen has brought to light help explain how Guénon came to modify his earlier pairing of the East with tradition and the West with modernity, as they showed that modernity was also present in Egypt. Presumably there were other experiences, of which we do not yet know the details, that would help explain other modifications, notably the growing emphasis on the need for an orthodox exoteric frame for esoteric practice.