Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Traditionalism in Brazil

Now available online (if your library has access): Mark Sedgwick, "Traditionalism in Brazil: Sufism, Ta’i Chi, and Olavo de Carvalho," in Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism

The abstract is:

The Traditionalist movement that derives from the French esoteric philosopher René Guénon is known to have been influential in Europe and North America, especially through the activities of religious groups, usually of Sufi origin, and also through the growing impact of the political version of Traditionalism first developed by the Italian esoteric philosopher Julius Evola. This article looks at Traditionalism beyond Europe and North America, taking the important case of Brazil during the 1980s and 1990s, where one of the main Traditionalist Sufi groups, the US-based Maryamiyya, became established, and where two local groups developed, one of which focused exclusively on doctrine, and one of which turned not to Sufism but to T’ai chi and Brazilian indigenous religion. The article also considers a new and important political philosopher, Olavo de Carvalho, who emerged from the Brazilian Traditionalist milieu. Carvalho applied Guénon to political issues rather as Evola had, but unlike Evola combined Traditionalism with Roman Catholicism, a development also found in Argentina during the early twentieth century. During the 2010s, Carvalho’s radical rightist philosophy became widely known in Brazil, where his admirers included the president, Jair Bolsonaro.

This is under Advance Articles; the article will be in the print version of Aries in 2021. It will also be published in Portuguese as an epilogue to the forthcoming Portuguese translation of Against the Modern World.

Monday, October 12, 2020

New website and new videos about Schuon

A new website,, deals with "News Accounts of the Frithjof Schuon 1991 Legal Ordeal." The events of 1991 are discussed in outline in my Against the Modern World, so I will not go over them again here. The website contains press cuttings and a short video of an old interview with Schuon himself (7 minutes), also available on YouTube, in which Schuon makes some counter-changes against Mark Koslow, his principal accuser in 1991.

The website, as is presumably its purpose, makes the case on the Schuon side. It contains no new information, but the video of Schuon is worth watching, for the overall effect, and also for the quotation from Dante and Schuon's claim (towards the end) that all he does is write books and answer questions.

There is no explanation of why this website has been launched now, but it may have something to do with the blog on the other side, Frithjof Schuon: A last minute lesson in discernment, run by Maude Murray, a former wife of Schuon and now (at 81) a vocal critic. The blog's current entry comments negatively on 

The blog also contains a rather longer video (31 minutes), also available on YouTube, in which Murray talks not only of what led to the 1991 charges, but also of Schuon's own view of himself as an Aryan quasi-prophet, referring in this connection to Gregory A. Lipton's Rethinking Ibn ‘Arabi (see earlier blog post). The website and video announce Murray's forthcoming book, Third Wife of the Muslim Shaykh Frithjof Schuon: My Lifelong Search for Truth, which can be pre-ordered here.

Most of what Murray says is confirmed by other sources, and nothing that she says is contradicted by any source known to me. It is interesting that while she charges Martin Lings and Seyyed Hossein Nasr with doctrinal errors taken from Schuon, she broadly excuses them--and especially Lings--from any guilt relating to the events leading up to 1991.

Thanks tho those who have recently drawn and the Schuon video to my attention.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

New PhD dissertation on Dugin

John Cody Mosbey has just defended a PhD dissertation on Alexander Dugin at the Irish School of Ecumenics, part of Trinity College, Dublin: "Alexander Dugin: Geopolitics at the Confluence of Theology, Tradition, and Eurasia," available online

The dissertation first looks at Dugin's background, his "political theology," his Neo-Tradititonalism. his Neo-Eurasianism, his critique of liberalism, the hermeneutics of the Forth Political Theory, his "esoteric mindset," his Christianity, and his eschatology. It then interprets all of these, and looks briefly at the reception of Dugin in and beyond Russia. It argues that Dugin's Traditionalism is both "Neo" and applied, like his Eurasianism, and insists on the importance of theology for his politics, and indeed for politics in general. The importance of this aspect of Dugin's thought, the dissertation argues, is often underestimated. 

This dissertation is objetive and thorough, though it might perhaps have used even more of Dugin's own writings, and could serve as a good introduction to Dugin's thought.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

More on Hakim Bey

In a recent post, I described Peter Lamborn Wilson (Hakim Bey) as a “former Maryami,” and wondered how he had moved from the Maryamiyya to the Temporary Autonomous Zone. I have since had two suggested explanations.

One, provided by someone who knew Wilson in Tehran, is that although Wilson was definitely “in the circle of Nasr,” he was not actually a Maryami. He considered himself a Muslim, and admired Frithjof Schuon—he thought his Transcendent Unity of Religions was the most important book of the twentieth century—but he did not follow any one ṭarīqa exclusively. As well as being in the circle of Nasr, he spent a lot of time with the Ni'matullāhīs (Javad Nurbakhsh had a large following at that time, including foreigners) and was always interested in other, less mainstream forms of Islam.

Christian Greer has meanwhile drawn my attention to the discussion between Arthur Versluis and Wilson (see earlier post) where Versluis asks Wilson about his relationship with Traditionalism, and Wilson responds that he never stopped being a Traditionalist, and just rejected “the party line,” “the rigid exclusivist neo-Traditionalism of the sort that leads to murky politics and interpersonal, interhuman relations.” “Murky politics” might refer to Nasr’s political relations with the Shah’s regime, and “murky… interhuman relations” might refer to difficulties in Bloomington. As the earlier post discusses, Wilson goes on to propose an alternative “even more traditional Traditionalism.”

Further reading: Zaheer Kazmi, “Automatic Islam: Divine Anarchy and the Machines of God,” Modern Intellectual History 12, 1 (2015): 33–64, which looks at Hakim Bey and two other “Muslim anarchists,” and Wilson’s own Scandal: Essays in Islamic Heresy (New York: Autonomedia, 1987) and his Sacred Drift: Essays on the Margins of Islam (San Francisco: City Lights, 1993).

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

American Jews and Sufism

Quite a lot of Traditionalists have been Jewish, perhaps disproportionately, just as quitea lof of American Sufis have been Jewish, and quite a lot of American Buddhists, too. A new book, Emily Sigalow's American JewBu: Jews, Buddhists, and Religious Change (Princeton University Press, 2019), asks why. her book and its implications for Sufism are discussed in a post on the sister of this blog, at "American Jews, Buddhism, and Sufism."