The Crisis of the Modern World

René Jean Marie Joseph Guénon (November 15, 1886 – January 7, 1951) also named Sheikh ‘Abd al-Wahid Yahya upon his acceptance of Islam, was a French-born author. His field was metaphysics, applied to the study of cultural traditions. Labels such as philosopher and thinker were disowned by Guénon, who described himself as an “exposer of traditional data”. His work dealing with history of religions and social criticism may be interpreted as by-products of the traditional function with which he was invested: to provide modern man with the means to understand traditional societies.

Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power – Guénon and Action Française
Thanks to Integral TraditionFrom Paul Chacornac’s Simple Life of René Guénon

There seems no doubt that some degree of sympathy existed at the time between Guénon and certain leaders of Action Française. We say ‘some degree’ because it is clear that Daudet, of all the leaders of Action Française, was the most capable of understanding Guénon, and of accepting, at least partially, his point of view. It is no less evident that there must have been far less sympathy between Guénon and Charles Maurras, for certain circumstances, upon which we cannot enlarge here, were soon to reveal just how far apart Maurras’ and Guénon’s ideas were on traditional society.

In his consistorial address of December 20, 1926, entitled Misericordia Domini, Pope Pius XI condemned the political movement Action Française as ‘a danger to the integrity of faith and morals as well as to the Catholic education of youth.’ On December 26 Action Française took the side of resistance against the authority of the Church, publishing its famous Non possumus. A decree of the Holy Office on December 29 then proscribed the journal and placed it on the Index. This condemnation, and the insubordination of Action Française, were to disturb Catholic circles for some years both in and out of France to such a point that a member of the Sacred College, Cardinal Billot, relinquished his red hat. Guénon was not in the least occupied with politics but could not avoid hearing of this affair, which seemed to him a characteristic illustration of his contemporaries’ lack of understanding, however ‘traditionalist’ they proclaimed themselves to be, of the normal relationship between religion and politics. This served as the occasion for him to define the traditional position on this point and to set it in a wider context by broadening its scope, which he did in his Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power, published in 1929 by Vrin. Asserting that here as elsewhere it is principles he constantly has in view, the author nevertheless acknowledges in his preface that the considerations to be developed in this study have an added interest at the present time due to recent discussions about the relationship between religion and politics—a question that is only one particular form, under certain determinate conditions, of the relationship between the spiritual and the temporal. But it would be a mistake to believe that these considerations have been inspired by the incidents we have alluded to, or that we intend to deal with them directly, for this would amount to according an exaggerated importance to purely episodic matters that could never influence conceptions that are in reality of a completely diVerent order in their nature and origin.

From the traditional point of view, the relationship between the spiritual and the temporal refers principally to that between knowledge and action, action being—in a normal civilization—hierarchically subordinate to knowledge. This is expressed concretely in the predominance of the priestly over the royal caste in civilizations such as those of India or of medieval Christianity, for the crowning of emperors and kings by the spiritual authority is, at least in principle, a submission of the temporal power to the authority of the priesthood. This situation is reversed when royalty aspires to supremacy, or even lays claim to independence. The author mentions examples from India and Christianity, citing particularly quarrels over investiture and disputes of certain kings of France, notably Philip the Fair, with the papacy. In a certain way one must say that Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power forms the indispensable complement to East and West and The Crisis of the Modern World, since a return by the West to its tradition implies an awareness of the normal relationship between the spiritual and the temporal, for as long as a regularly constituted spiritual authority continues to subsist, even though it be unacknowledged by almost all (including its own representatives) and reduced to no more than a shadow of itself, this authority will always prove the better part, and this can never be taken away from it because it contains something higher than the possibilities that are purely human; even weakened or dormant, this part still incarnates ‘the one thing needful’, the only thing that does not pass away.

“Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power“ deals with the normal relationship between the spiritual and the temporal powers implied in a healthy traditional civilization; that is, the supremacy of knowledge over action, of the sacerdotal over the royal caste. Touching first on India and the medieval West, Guénon then illustrates his point by citing quarrels over investiture and disputes of certain French kingswith the papacy as evidence of a deviation in Christianity.

This century has been witness to both widespread global destruction of traditional institutions of temporal power and the questioning of the very anti-traditional ideas and ideologies which have brought about that destruction. At such a moment when so many seek to understand what the foundations of political power and the principles for the structuring of society should be, the classical work of René Guénon remains an invaluable source of guidance. Based on traditional principles expounded with the lucidity and clarity that characterizes Guénon’s other writings, this work makes clear the significance of temporal authority, the source of its legitimacy, and its role in a society structured on the basis of principls which the contemporary world neglects at its own peril. Dealing with doctrines which transcend time, Guénon’s work is as timely today as when it was written. Its first translation into English presented here cannot but be welcomed by all interested in traditional doctrines, and more particularly in the application of these doctrines to the social order.

—Seyyed Hossein Nasr.

In a sense the present work complements Guénon’s East and West, The Crisis of the Modern World, and The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, for whereas the latter detail the West’s gradual movement away from its tradition, Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power focuses by contrast on what Guénon believed to be the normal relationship between the spiritual and the temporal implied in a healthy traditional civilization, that is, the supremacy of knowledge over action, of the sacerdotal over the royal caste. Touching first on India and the medieval West, Guénon then illustrates his point by citing quarrels over investiture and disputes of certain French kings with the papacy as evidence of a deviation in Christianity. In his preface Guénon refers to recent ‘incidents’ that had drawn attention to this general question, and although he says that his deliberations are not meant to deal directly with them, it may be of interest to note that the events concerned centered on a confrontation in 1926 between the political organization Action Française and Pope Pius XI.

Tradition and Traditionalism
Except from The Reign of Quantity and Signs of the TimesTHE falsification of everything has been shown to be one of the characteristic features of our period, but falsification is not in itself subversion properly so-called, though contributing fairly directly to the preparation for it. Perhaps the clearest indication of this is what may be called the falsification of language, taking the form of the misuse of certain words that have been diverted from their true meaning; misuse of this kind is to some extent imposed by constant suggestion on the part of everyone who exercises any kind of influence over the mentality of the public. It is a case of something more than the mere degeneration alluded to earlier, whereby many words have come to lose their original qualitative meaning, keeping only one that is purely quantitative ; it is more a question of a ” diversion “, whereby words are applied to things which they do not fit in any way, and sometimes in a sense directly opposed to their normal meaning. This is one of the most obvious symptoms of the intellectual confusion which reigns everywhere in the present world ; but it must not be forgotten that this very confusion is willed by that which lies hidden behind the whole modern deviation ; this thought obtrudes itself particularly in view of the simultaneous appearance in many different quarters of attempts to make illegitimate use of the very idea of ” tradition ” by people who want improperly to assimilate its significance to their own conceptions in one domain or another. Of course there is no question of suspecting the good faith of any particular party, for very often it may be a case of mere incomprehension and nothing more; the ignorance of most of our contemporaries about anything possessing a truly traditional character is so complete that this need cause no surprise. Nevertheless it must also be recognized that such errors of interpretation and involuntary misconceptions serve the purpose of certain ” plans ” so well that it is permissible to wonder whether their growing diffusion may not be due to some of the ” suggestions that dominate the modern mentality, all of which lead ultimately to nothing less than the destruction of all that is tradition in the true sense of the word.

The modern mentality itself, in everything that characterizes it specifically as such (and this must be said once more, for it is something that cannot be too often insisted on) is no more than the product of a vast collective suggestion, which has operated continuously for several centuries and has determined the formation and progressive development of the anti-traditional spirit, and in that spirit the whole of the distinctive features of the modern mentality are comprised. Nevertheless, however powerful and clever the suggestion may be, a moment may always come when the resulting state of disorder and disequilibrium becomes so apparent that some people cannot fail to become aware of it, and then there is a risk of a ” reaction ” which might compromise the desired result. It certainly seems that matters have to-day just reached that stage, and it is noticeable that this moment coincides exactly, by a sort of ” immanent logic “, with the moment at which the merely negative phase of the modern deviation comes to an end, the phase represented by the complete and unrivalled domination of the materialistic mentality. This is where the falsification of the traditional idea comes in with great effect ; it is made possible by the ignorance already mentioned, itself but one of the products of the negative phase; the very idea of tradition has been destroyed to such an extent that those who aspire to recover it no longer know which way to turn, and are only too ready to accept all the false ideas presented to them in its place and under its name. Such people may have become aware, at least up to a point, that they had been deceived by openly anti-traditional suggestions, and that the beliefs imposed on them represented only error and deceit ; that is certainly a change in the direction of the ” reaction ” alluded to, nevertheless no effective result could accrue if nothing further were to happen. This is clear enough from the growing quantity of literature containing the most pertinent criticisms of our present civilization, but contemplating measures for the cure of the evils so rightly denounced that are, as indicated earlier, curiously disproportionate and insignificant, and often more or less infantile: such proposals can be said to be ” scholarly ” or ” academic ” and nothing more, and there is anyhow nothing in them that gives evidence of the least knowledge of a profound order. This is the stage at which the effort made, however praiseworthy and meritorious it may be, can easily allow itself to be turned aside towards activities which will, in their own way and despite appearances, only contribute in the end to the further growth of the disorder and confusion of the ” civilization “, the reinstatement of which they were intended to bring about.

The people just referred to are such as can properly be described as ” traditionalists “, meaning people who only have a sort of tendency or aspiration towards tradition without really knowing anything at all about it ; this is the measure of the distance dividing the ” traditionalist ” spirit from the truly traditional spirit, for the latter implies a real knowledge, and indeed in a sense it is the same as that knowledge. In short, the ” traditionalist ” is and can be no more than a mere ” seeker”, and that is why he is always in danger of going astray, not being in possession of the principles which alone could provide him with infallible guidance; and his danger is all the greater because he will find in his path, like so many ambushes, all the false ideas set on foot by the power of illusion which has a capital interest in preventing him from reaching the true goal of his search. It is indeed evident that this power can only maintain itself and continue to exercise its action on condition that all restoration of the traditional idea is made impossible, and more than ever so when it is preparing to take a further step in the direction of subversion, subversion being, as explained, the second phase of its action. So it is quite as important for the power in question to divert searchings tending towards traditional knowledge as it is to divert those concerned with the origins or real causes of the modern deviation, and thus liable to reveal something of the true nature of the said power and the means of its influence; these two devices are both necessary and in a sense complementary, and they could fairly be regarded as the positive and negative aspects of a single plan of action having domination as its objective.

All misuses of the word ” tradition ” can serve this same purpose in one way or another, beginning with the most popular of all, whereby it is made synonymous with it custom ” or ” usage “, thus bringing about a confusion of tradition with things that are on the lower human level and are completely lacking in profound significance. But there are other and more subtle deformations, all the more dangerous because of their subtlety; but all have as a common characteristic that of bringing the idea of tradition down to a purely human level, whereas on the contrary there is nothing and can be nothing truly traditional that does not contain some element of a superhuman order. This indeed is the essential point, containing as it were the very definition of tradition and all that appertains to it ; this is also therefore the very point which must on no account be allowed to emerge if the modern mentality is to be maintained in its state of delusion, and still more if it is to have yet other delusions imposed on it, such as will not only suppress any tendency towards a restoration of the super-human, but will also direct the modern mentality more effectively towards the worst modalities of the sub-human. Moreover in order to become aware of the importance assigned to the negation of the super-human by the conscious and unconscious agents of the modern deviation, it is enough to observe how all who lay claim to be ” historians ” of religion and of other forms of the tradition (and they anyhow usually mix all these forms together under the general title of ” religion “) are eager above all to explain everything in terms of exclusively human factors ;. it matters little whether, according to school of thought, these factors are psychological, social or anything else, the very multiplicity of the different explanations facilitates the seduction of a greater number; common to all is the well-defined desire to reduce everything to the human level and to retain nothing that surpasses it ; and those who believe in the value of this destructive ” criticism ” are thenceforth very ready to confuse tradition with anything whatever, since there is nothing in the ideas inculcated into them such as might enable tradition to be distinguished from that which is wholly lacking in traditional character.

Granted that nothing that is of a purely human order can for that very reason legitimately be called ” traditional “, there cannot possibly be, for instance, a ” philosophical tradition ” or a ” scientific tradition ” in the modern and profane sense of the words, any more, of course, than there can be a ” political tradition “, at least where all traditional social organization is lacking, as is the case in the modern Western world. Nevertheless such expressions are in common use to-day, each in its way denaturing the idea of tradition; and it is obvious that if the ” traditionalists ” referred to above can be persuaded to allow their activity to be turned aside towards one or other of these domains and to confine their activity to it, their aspirations will be ” neutralized ” and rendered perfectly harmless, and may even sometimes be used without their knowledge for a purpose exactly contrary to what they intend. Indeed it sometimes happens that people go so far as to apply the word ” tradition ” to things which by their very nature are as directly anti-traditional as possible : thus they talk about a “humanist tradition “, and a ” national tradition ” despite the fact that humanism is nothing if not an explicit denial of the super-human, and the formation of ” nationalities ” has been the means employed for the destruction of the traditional civilization of the Middle Ages. In the circumstances it would not be surprising if people began one day to talk about a ” Protestant tradition ” or even a ” lay tradition ” or ” a revolutionary tradition ” or if the materialists themselves ended by proclaiming themselves the defenders of a ” tradition “, if only in their capacity as the representatives of something already belonging in a great measure to the past ! Most of our contemporaries have reached such a state of mental confusion that associations of the most manifestly contradictory words bring about no reaction on their part and do not even provide them with food for thought.

This leads at once to another important observation when a few people have become conscious of the disorder of these days owing to the all too obvious effects of its present stage of development (more particularly since the stage corresponding to a maximum of ” solidification ” has been left behind) and when these people try to ” react ” in one way or another, the best means for making their desire for ” reaction ” ineffective is surely to direct it towards one of the earlier and less ” advanced ” stages of the same deviation, some stage in which disorder had not yet become so apparent, and was as it were presented under an outward aspect more acceptable to anyone not yet completely blinded by certain suggestions. Anyone who considers himself a ” traditionalist ” must normally declare himself ” anti-modern “, but he may not be any the less affected, though he be unaware of the fact, by modern ideas in a more or less attenuated form; they are then less easily detected, but they always correspond in fact to one or other of the stages passed through by these same ideas in the course of their development ; no concession, even unconscious or involuntary, is admissible on this point, for from the very beginning up to the present day, and beyond that too, everything holds together and is inexorably interlinked. In that connection, this much more must be said: the work which has as its object to prevent all ” reaction ” from aiming at anything farther back than a return to a lesser disorder, while at the same time concealing the character of the lesser disorder so that it may pass as ” order “, fits in very exactly with the other work carried out with a view to securing the penetration of the modern spirit into the interior of whatever is left of traditional organisations of any kind in the West; the same ” neutralizing ” effect on forces of which the opposition might become formidable is obtained in both cases. Moreover something more than mere ” neutralization ” is involved, for a struggle must necessarily take place between the elements thus brought together as it were on the same level and on the same ground, and their reciprocal enmity is therefore no more than an enmity between the various and apparently opposed productions of one and the same modern deviation; thus the final result can only be a fresh increase in disorder and confusion, and that simply amounts to one more step towards final dissolution.

As between all the more or less incoherent things that are to-day in constant agitation and mutual collision, as between all external ” movements of whatever kind they may be, there is no occasion to take sides “, to use the common expression, whether from a traditional or from a merely ” traditionalist ” point of view, for to do so is to become a dupe. Since the same influences are really operating behind all these things, it is really playing their game to join in the struggles promoted and directed by them ; therefore the mere fact of ” taking sides ” under such conditions is necessarily to adopt, .however unwittingly, a truly anti-traditional attitude. No particular applications need be specified here, but it must at least be made clear in a general way that in all this agitation principles are always and everywhere lacking, despite the fact that ” principles ” have surely never been so much talked about as they are to-day on all sides, the word being commonly applied more or less regardlessly to things that are least worthy of it, and sometimes even to things that imply the negation of all true principle. This particular misuse of a word is again highly significant of the real trend of the falsification of language already well exemplified by the perversion of the word “tradition” ; that example has been specially stressed because it is most closely connected with the subject of this treatise, in so far as the latter is intended to give a picture of the last phases of the cyclical ” descent “. It is not in fact possible to stop short at the point which represents most nearly the apogee of the ” reign of quantity “, for what follows that point is too closely connected with what precedes it to allow of any separation being made otherwise than quite artificially ; no “abstractions” are therefore admitted here, for they only represent a particular form of the ” simplification ” so dear to the modern mentality ; on the contrary, the object is as far as possible to present reality as it is, without omitting anything that is essential for the understanding of the conditions of the present period.

The Fissures in the Great Wall
Except from The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the TimesHOWEVER far the ” solidification ” of the sensible world may have gone, it can never be carried so far as to turn the world into a ” closed system ” such as is imagined by the materialists. The very nature of things sets limits to ” solidification ” and the more nearly those limits are approached the more unstable is the corresponding state of affairs; in actual fact, as we have seen, the point corresponding to a maximum of ” solidification ” has already been passed, and the impression that the world is a ” closed system ” can only from now onwards become more and more illusory and inadequate to the reality. ” Fissures ” have been mentioned previously as being the paths whereby certain destructive forces are already entering, and must continue to enter ever more freely; according to traditional symbolism these ” fissures ” occur in the ” Great Wall ” which surrounds the world and protects it from the intrusion of maleficent influences coming from the inferior subtle domain.116 In order that this symbolism may be fully understood in all its aspects, it is important to note that a wall acts both as a protection and as a limitation: in a sense therefore it can be said to have both advantages and inconveniences; but in so far as its principal purpose is to ensure an adequate defence against attacks coming from below, the advantages are incomparably the more important, for it is on the whole more useful to anyone who happens to be enclosed within its perimeter to be kept out of reach of what is below, than it is to be continuously exposed to the ravages of the enemy, or worse still to a more or less complete destruction. In any case, a walled space as such is not closed in at the top, so that communication with superior domains is not prevented, and this state of affairs is the normal one; but in the modern period the ” shell ” with no outlet built by materialism has cut off that communication. Moreover, as already explained, since the ” descent ” has not yet come to an end, the ” shell ” must necessarily remain intact overhead, that is, in the direction of that from which humanity need not be protected, on the contrary, only beneficient influences can come that way; the ” fissures ” occur only at the base, and therefore in the actual protective wall itself, and the inferior forces which make their way in through them meet with a much reduced resistance because under such conditions no power of a superior order can intervene in order to oppose them effectively. Thus the world is exposed defenceless to all the attacks of its enemies, the more so because, the present-day mentality being what it is, the dangers which threaten it are wholly unperceived.

In the Islamic tradition these ” fissures ” are those by which, at the end of the cycle, the devastating hordes of Gog and Magog will force their way in,117 for they are unremitting in their efforts to invade this world; these ” entities ” represent the inferior influences in question. They are considered as maintaining an underground existence, and are described both as giants and as dwarfs; they may thus be identified, in accordance with what was said earlier on the subject, and at least in certain connections, which the ” guardians of the hidden treasure ” and with the smiths of the ” subterranean fire”, who have, it may be recalled, an exceedingly maleficent aspect; in all such symbolisms the same kind of ” infra-corporeal ” subtle influences are really always involved.118 If the truth be told, the attempts of these ” entities ” to insinuate themselves into the corporeal and human world are no new thing, for they go back at least to somewhere near the beginning of the Kali-Yuga., a period far more remote than that of “classical” antiquity, by which the horizon of profane historians is bounded. In this connection, the Chinese tradition relates in symbolical terms that ” Niu-Koua (sister and wife of Fo-hi, who is said to have reigned jointly with him) melted stones of five colours in order to repair a tear in the sky made by a giant ” (apparently, though it is not made quite clear, the tear was situated on the terrestrial horizon) ; and this took place at a period not more than a few centuries after the beginning of the Kali-Yuga.

Nevertheless, although the Kali-Yuga as a whole is intrinsically a period of obscuration, so that ” fissures ” have been possible ever since it began, the degree of obscuration pervading its later phases is far from having been attained at once, and that is why ” fissures ” could be repaired relatively easily in earlier times; it was none the less necessary to maintain a constant vigilance against them, and this task was naturally among those assigned to the spiritual centres of the various traditions. Later on there came a period when, as a consequence of the extreme ” solidification ” of the world, these same ” fissures ” were much less to be feared, at least temporarily; this period corresponds to the first part of modern times, the part that can be defined as being characteristically mechanistic and materialistic, in which the ” closed system ” alluded to was most nearly realized, at least to the extent that any such thing is actually possible. Nowadays, that is to say, in the period which can be called the second part of modern times and which has already begun, conditions are certainly very different from the conditions obtaining in all earlier periods: not only can ” fissures ” occur more and more extensively, and be much more serious in character, because a greater proportion of the descending course of manifestation has been accomplished, but also the possibilities of repairing them are not the same as they used to be; the action of the spiritual centres has indeed become ever more enclosed, because the superior influences which they normally transmit to our world can no longer be manifested externally, since they are held back by the ” shell ” alluded to above; and when the whole of the human and cosmic order is in such a condition, where could a means of defence possibly be found such as might be effective in any way against the ” hordes of Gog and Magog ” ?

But that is not all: what has been said so far covers so to speak only the negative side of the growing difficulties encountered by all attempts to oppose the intrusion of maleficent influences, among these difficulties is a sort of inertia resulting from the general ignorance of such matters, and from ” survivals ” of the materialistic mentality and of the outlook it engenders; this inertia may endure longer than it otherwise would because the outlook in question has become more or less instinctive in the moderns and is now incorporated in their very nature. Of course a majority of ” spiritualists ” and even of ” traditionalists “, or of people who call themselves such, are in fact quite as materialistic as other people when matters of this kind are in question, so that the situation is made even more irremediable by the fact that those who. most sincerely want to combat the modern spirit are almost all unwittingly affected by it, and all their efforts are therefore condemned to remain without any appreciable result; for these are matters in which good-will is far from being sufficient; effective knowledge is needed as well, indeed it is more needed than anything else. But effective knowledge is the very thing that is made impossible by the influence of the modern spirit with all its limitations, even in the case of those who might have some intellectual capabilities of the required kind if conditions were less abnormal.

But apart from all these negative elements, the difficulties now under review have an aspect which can be called positive, and it may be taken to include everything in our world as we know it actively favourable to the intervention of subtle influences of an inferior kind, whether its work be done consciously or unconsciously. The logical sequence here would be to consider in the first place the more or less ” determining ” part played by the actual agents of the whole modern deviation, since the intervention of inferior influences really represents a new phase in the said deviation, and fits in exactly with the sequence of the ” plan ” by which it is brought about; it would clearly be necessary to seek in some such direction for the conscious auxiliaries of the maleficent forces; nevertheless the extent to which they are individually conscious of what they are doing may actually differ greatly in particular cases. As for the other auxiliaries, those who act in good faith and, because they know nothing of the true nature of the forces involved (thanks to the recently mentioned influence of the modern spirit) they are never anything but mere dupes, though this does not prevent their activity from being proportional to their sincerity and to their blindness; these auxiliaries are already virtually numberless, and they can be placed .in many categories, ranging from the ingenuous adherents of all sorts of ” neo-spiritualist ” organizations to the ” intuitionist ” philosophers, by way of the ” metapsychic ” scientists and the psychologists of the more recent schools. This matter need not be pursued any farther for the moment, for to do so would be to anticipate what will come later; in the meantime some examples must be given of some of the ways in which ” fissures ” can actually be brought about, also of the ” supports ” which the inferior order of subtle or psychic influences (for the terms ” subtle ” and ” psychic ” applied to a domain are for present purposes synonymous) are able to find in the cosmic environment itself, to assist them in bringing their action to bear on the human world and to enable them to propagate themselves therein.

Initiation and the Crafts
Initiation and the Crafts was published in the Journal of’ The Indian Society of Oriental Art, Volume VI. 1938We have frequently said that the “profane” conception of the sciences and the arts, such as is now current in the West, is a very modern one and implies a degeneration with respect to a previous state in which both of them had an altogether different character. The same can be said about the crafts; the distinction, moreover, between arts and crafts or between “artist” and “craftsman” is also specifically modern, as if it were born of this profane deviation and had no meaning outside it. The “artifex”, with the ancients is without differentiating, a man who practises an art or a craft. He is neither an artist nor a craftsman in the sense these words have today, but something more than the one or the other, for his activity, in its origins at least, issues from principles of a far more profound order.

In all the traditional civilisations, in fact, every activity, of man, whatever it be, is always considered as essentially derived from the principles; on account of that derivation it is as if “transformed” and, instead of being reduced to what it is simply in its exterior manifestation (this would be the profane point of view), it is integrated in the tradition and, for the one who performs it, it is a means of effectively participating in this tradition. Even from the simple exoteric point of view this is so: if one views, for example, a civilisation like that of Islam or the Christian civilisation of the Middle ages, it is easy to see the “religious” character which the most ordinary acts of existence assume in it. Religion there, is not a thing that holds a place apart and unconnected with everything else as in the case of the modern Westerners (those at least who still consent to acknowledge a religion); on the contrary, it pervades the whole existence of the human being; or, it would be better to say, all that constitutes this existence and the social life particularly, is as if included in its domain, so much so that under such conditions there cannot really be anything “profane”, but for those who for one reason or another are outside the tradition and whose case is then a mere anomaly. In other civilisations, where there is nothing to which the name religion can be properly applied, there is none the less a traditional and ” sacred” legislation which, while having different characteristics, exactly fulfils the same role; these considerations can therefore be applied without exception to all traditional civilisations. But there is something further still; if we pass from the exoteric to the esoteric (we use these words here for the sake of greater convenience, although they do not fit all the cases with equal rigour), we observe, generally, the existence of an initiation bound up with the crafts and taking them as its basis; these crafts then are still susceptible of a superior and more profound significance; we would like to indicate how they can effectively furnish a way of access to the domain of initiation.

Our understanding of it is made easier by the notion of what in Hindu doctrine is called “svadharma”, that is the performance by every being of an activity consistent with his own nature, and it is also by this notion, or rather by its absence, that the deficiency of the profane conception is most clearly marked. In the latter, a man can adopt any profession and he can even change it according to his will, as if this profession were something purely exterior to him, without any real connection with that which he really is and by virtue of which he is himself and not another. According to the traditional conception, on the contrary, every one must normally fulfil the function for which he is destined by his very nature; and he cannot fulfil any other without a grave disorder resulting from it which will have its repercussion over the whole social organisation to which he belongs; more than that: if such a disorder becomes general, it will have its effects on the cosmical realm itself, all things being linked together according to strict correspondences. Without insisting any further on this last point, which, however, could easily be applied to the conditions of the present epoch, we may remark that the opposition of the two conceptions, in a certain connection at least, can be reduced to that of a “qualitative” and a “quantitative” point of view: in the traditional conception, the essential qualities of beings determine their activities; in the profane conception, the individuals are considered as mere “units”, interchangeable, and as if in themselves they were without any quality of their own. This last conception is closely connected with the modern ideas of “equality” and “uniformity” (the latter is contrary to true unity, for it implies the pure and “inorganic” multiplicity of a kind of social “atomism”) and can lead logically to the exercise of a purely “mechanical “activity only in which nothing properly human subsists; it is just this, in fact, that we can see today. It is thus well understood that the “mechanical” crafts of the modern age, being but a product of the profane deviation, cannot by any means offer the possibilities of which we intend to speak here; they even cannot in truth be considered as crafts, if one wishes to preserve the traditional meaning of the word, the only one with which we are concerned at present.

If the craft is something of’ the man himself and is, in a way, a manifestation or expansion of his own nature, it is easy to understand, as we have already said, that it can be used as a basis for an initiation and that generally even it is the fittest thing for this end. In fact, if initiation essentially has for its aim a surpassing of the possibilities of the human individual, it is equally true that only this individual such as he is in himself, can be taken as its point of departure; this accounts for the diversity of the ways of initiation, that is to say, of the means wrought up to act as “supports”, in conformity with the difference of individual natures. a difference which subsequently intervenes less and less, as the being goes on advancing on his way. The means thus employed can be efficient only if they correspond to the very nature of the beings to whom they are applied, and as it is necessary to proceed from the more accessible to the less accessible, from the outer to the inner, it is normal to take these means from the activity by which the nature is manifested outwardly. It is evident, however, that this activity can play such a part only inasmuch as It really expresses the inner nature; here is truly a question of “qualification”, in the initiatory sense of this term; in normal conditions this “qualification” should be a necessary condition for the exercise itself of the craft. This is at the same time related to the fundamental difference which separates the initiators teaching from profane teaching: whatever is simply “learnt” from outside is here without any value; the question is to “wakeup” the latent possibilities which the being has in himself (and this ultimately is the true significance of Platonic “reminiscences”).

Following these last considerations, one can also understand that the initiation, taking the craft as its “support”, will have at the same time, and inversely in some way, a repercussion in the practice of this craft. The being, in fact, having fully realised the possibilities of which his professional activity is but an external expression, and having thus an effective knowledge of the principle itself of this activity, will henceforth fulfil consciously what hitherto had been but an instinctive consequence of his nature; if thus the initiatory knowledge, for him, is born of the craft, the latter, in its turn, will be the field of application of this knowledge from which it can never be separated any more. There will be then a perfect correspondence of the interior and the exterior, and the work produced will be an expression, not only to some degree and more or less superficially, but a really adequate expression of the man who conceived and executed it; it will be a master-work in the true sense of this word.

This, one sees, is very far from the so-called “inspiration-, unconscious or subconscious in which modern people want to see the criterion of the real artist, who is nevertheless considered superior to the artisan or craftsman, according to -the more than contestable-distinction which they are in the habit of making. The artist or artisan, if he acts under such an “inspiration”, is in any case but a profane person, he shows, no doubt, by his -inspiration- that he carries within himself certain possibilities; as long however as he has not effectively become conscious of them, be it even that he attains to being what is generally called a “genius”, this does not make any difference; unable as he is to control his possibilities, his success will be but accidental and this is granted as one commonly says that the “inspiration” is sometimes lacking. All one may concede so as to bring the present case nearer to the other where true knowledge intervenes, is, that the work which consciously or unconsciously flows from the nature of the person who performs it, will never give the impression of a more or less painful effort; the effort always carries with it some imperfection, being anomalous, whereas such a work derives its perfection from its conformity with the nature; this conformity implies directly and necessarily that it is exactly suited to the end for which it is destined.

If now we intend to define more rigorously the domain of what may be called the initiations through the crafts, we have to say that they belong to the “lesser mysteries”. referring as they do to the development of the possibilities which belong to the human state proper; this is riot the last aim of initiation, but constitutes at least its first obligatory phase. It is necessary, in fact, that this development is accomplished in its integrity in order then to allow a surpassing of the human state; beyond this, however, it is evident that individual differences, in which these initiations through the crafts have their support, disappear completely and play no part any more. As we have explained elsewhere, the “lesser mysteries” lead to the restitution of the “primordial state”, as it is called in traditional doctrines; yet, once the being has arrived at this state, which still belongs to the domain of human individuality (and which is the point of communication between it and the superior states), the differentiations which give birth to the diverse “specialised” functions have disappeared, “although” it is there that they all have equally their source, or rather “on account” of this very fact; to this common source one has to remount so as to possess in its plentitude all that is implied by the exercise of any function whatever.

If we view the history of humanity as taught by traditional doctrines, in conformity with cyclical laws, we must say that in the beginning man had the full possession of his state of existence and with it he naturally had the possibilities corresponding to all the functions prior to any distinction of these. The division of these functions came about in a subsequent phase, representing a state already inferior to the -primordial state”, in which however every human being, while having as yet only some definite possibilities, still spontaneously had the effective consciousness of them. It is only in a period of greater obscuration that this consciousness became lost; hence initiation became necessary so as to enable man to find once more along with consciousness, also the former state in which it inheres; this is, in fact, the first of its aims, and the one at which it aims immediately. In order to be possible, this implies a transmission going back by an uninterrupted “chain” to the state to be restored and thus step by step to the “primordial state” itself; still, the initiation does not stop there and the “lesser mysteries” being but the preparation for the “great mysteries”, that is for the taking possession of the superior states of the being, one has to go back even beyond the origins of humanity. In fact, there is no true initiation, even , in the most inferior and elementary degree, without the intervention of a “non-human” element, which is the “spiritual influence” regularly communicated by the initiatory rite. If this is so, there is obviously no room for searching “historically” for the origin of initiation-a search which now appears bereft of sense-nor the origin of the crafts, arts and sciences, viewed according to their traditional and “legitimate” conception, for all these, through multiple, but secondary, differentiations and adaptations, derive similarly from the “primordial state” which contains them all in principle, and from there they link up with other orders of existence, even beyond humanity itself; this is necessary so that all and each, according to its rank and measure, can concur effectively in the realisation of the plan of the Great Architect of the Universe.

Conditions for Initiation
We can now return to the question of the conditions necessary for initiation. Although it seems self-evident, we should begin by saying that the first of these conditions is a certain natural aptitude or disposition without which all effort would be in vain, for the individual obviously can only develop those possibilities he possesses at the outset; this aptitude, forming what some call ‘initiability’, properly constitutes the requisite ‘qualification’ demanded by all initiatic traditions. [1] This condition is moreover the only one that is in a certain sense common to both initiation and mysticism, for it is clear that the mystic must likewise have a particular natural disposition, though one entirely different from, and even in certain ways opposed to, that of the ‘initiable’ person. But in addition to being necessary for the mystic, this condition is also sufficient; no other need be added, as circumstances will take care of the rest and facilitate the passage from ‘potency’ to ‘act’ of those possibilities contained in the disposition in question.

This is the direct result of that ‘passivity’ we mentioned earlier: in such a case it could never be a question of any effort or personal exertion of whatever sort; the mystic will have nothing to effect, indeed he will even have to guard himself carefully against this, as something that might hinder his ‘path’, [2] whereas in the case of initiation, and its ‘active’ character, this exertion constitutes a further condition no less necessary than the first, without which the passage from potency to act, or ‘realization’, could never be accomplished. [3]

More remains to be said, however, for we have developed this distinction between initiatic ‘activity’ and mystical ‘passivity’ in the first instance in order to make the point that initiation requires a condition that could never obtain in mysticism; but there is another condition no less necessary that we have not yet mentioned and that in a way falls between those alluded to above. This condition is in fact the most characteristic of all, that is to say that which allows us to define initiation in such a way as to preclude any possible misunderstanding and to avoid confusing it with anything else whatsoever, a point we must insist upon all the more as Westerners are often rather prone to ignore it or to minimize its importance.

As a result, initiation is more clearly delimited than mysticism could ever be, and for which no such condition exists. Indeed it is often very difficult, if not altogether impossible, to distinguish false mysticism from true, for the mystic is by very definition isolated and ‘irregular’, and sometimes does not himself know just what he is. The fact that any genuine knowledge he possesses is not in its pure state but is always conditioned by a mixture of sentiment and imagination is far from simplifying the matter; in any case, there is something in mysticism that escapes all control, which we can express by saying that for the mystic there are no ‘means of recognition’. [4] One could also say that the mystic has no ‘genealogy’, that he is a mystic only by a kind of ‘spontaneous generation’, expressions easily enough understood and requiring no further explanation. How then can anyone venture to claim unequivocally that one person is authentically a mystic and another is not, when to all appearances they are the same? On the contrary, imitations of initiation can be detected without fail by the absence of that condition we have just alluded to, and which is nothing other than attachment to a regular, traditional organization.

There are ignorant persons who imagine that one ‘initiates’ oneself, which is a contradiction in terms; forgetting, if they ever knew it, that the word initium means ‘entrance’ or ‘beginning’, they confuse initiation understood in its strict etymological sense with the work that must be accomplished subsequently in order that this initiation, at first virtual, may become more or less fully effective. Understood in this way, initiation is what all traditions designate as the ‘second birth’; and how could a being act by itself before being born? [5] We are well acquainted with the objection: if the human being is truly ‘qualified’, he already carries in himself the possibilities to be developed, and if this is the case, why could he not realize these through his own efforts, without any outside intervention? Now such a thing can indeed be entertained in theory provided that one see it as the case of a man ‘twice-born’ from the first moment of his individual existence; however, if that is not impossible in principle, it is nonetheless impossible in fact, in the sense that it contradicts the established order of our world, at least in its present conditions. We are not in that primordial epoch when all men naturally and spontaneously possessed a state that today is only attached to a high degree of initiation; [6] and even so, in such an epoch the very word ‘initiation’ could not have any meaning. We are instead in the Kali-Yuga, that is, in a time when spiritual knowledge has become hidden and only a few are able to attain it, provided they place themselves within the conditions required for obtaining it.

Now one of these conditions is precisely that which we are discussing, just as another is that effort of which men of the first ages had no need at all, since spiritual development was effected in them just as naturally as bodily development.

What is involved, therefore, is a necessary condition imposed in conformity with the laws governing our present world, something perhaps better understood by recourse to an analogy: all beings that will develop in the course of a cycle are from the very beginning contained as subtle embryos in the ‘World Egg’; this being so, one might well ask why they are not born into the corporeal state by themselves rather than through parents; nor is this an absolute impossibility, and we can conceive of a world where things would happen in this way, although such a world is in fact not ours. We reserve, of course, the question of anomalies, for it may be that there are exceptional cases of ‘spontaneous generation’; and in the spiritual order, we ourselves have just applied this expression to the case of the mystic. But we added that the mystic is ‘irregular’, whereas initiation is essentially ‘regular’, having nothing to do with anomalies. Besides, we would have to understand just how far such cases can extend, as they, too, must ultimately be under the rule of some law, for nothing can exist except as an element of the total and universal order. This alone, upon reflection, would be a sufficient cause for us to think that the states realized by the mystic are not precisely the same as those realized by the initiate, and that if their realization is not subject to the same laws as his, it is because something different is indeed involved; but since we have established enough for our present purposes, we can now leave aside the case of mysticism altogether and turn exclusively to that of initiation.

It remains now to clarify the role of attachment to a traditional organization, which could of course never exempt one from the necessary inner work that each must accomplish by himself; it is, rather, a preliminary condition for such work effectively to bear fruit. It must henceforth be understood that those who have been made depositaries of initiatic knowledge cannot communicate this knowledge in the same way that a secular teacher communicates to his pupils bookish formulas that they need only store in their memories, for what is involved here is something that is in its very essence ‘incommunicable’ since it concerns states that are realized inwardly. What can be taught are only the preparatory methods for obtaining these states; what can be furnished from the outside in this respect is only an aid, a support, that greatly facilitates the work to be accomplished, and also a control that dispels those obstacles and dangers that may present themselves. All this is far from negligible, and he who is deprived of it runs a high risk of failure, but this alone would still not entirely justify what we said about a necessary condition, for this was not really what we had in view, at least immediately. This is a secondary consideration (somewhat under the heading of consequences) coming after initiation understood in the strict sense we have explained, and involving an effective development of the virtuality that initiation establishes; but then again it is necessary before all else that this virtuality pre-exist. So we must understand the initiatic transmission proper in another way, and we could not characterize it better than by saying that it is essentially the transmission of a spiritual influence. We will return to this later for fuller treatment, limiting ourselves for the moment to determining more precisely the role played by that influence in mediating between the natural aptitude of the individual at the outset and the work of realization that he will accomplish later.

Elsewhere we have explained that the phases of initiation, as also those of the Hermetic ‘Great Work’ – which is one of its symbolic expressions – reproduce those of the cosmogonic process; [7] more than any other consideration, this analogy, based directly on the correspondence of ‘microcosm’ with ‘macrocosm’, allows us to clarify the questions that concern us here. We can say that the aptitudes or possibilities included in the individual nature are, in themselves, first of all only a material prima, that is, a pure potentiality, where nothing is developed or differentiated. [8] Here is that dark, chaotic state that initiatic symbolism equates with the profane world and in which the being that has not yet attained the ‘second birth’ finds itself. For this chaos to begin taking form and organizing itself, an initial vibration must be communicated to it by the spiritual powers, which the Hebrew Genesis designates as Elohim, this vibration is the Fiat Lux that illuminates the chaos and is the necessary starting-point for all later developments. From the initiatic point of view this illumination consists precisely in the transmission of the spiritual influence we have just mentioned. [9] Thereafter, and by virtue of this influence, the spiritual possibilities of the being are no longer the simple potentiality they were before but have become a virtuality ready to be made actual within the various stages of initiatic realization.

We can summarize all our preceding remarks by saying that initiation implies three conditions that present themselves successively and correspond respectively to the terms ‘potentiality’, ‘virtuality’, and ‘actuality’: (i) ‘qualification’, consisting in certain possibilities inherent in the nature of the individual, which is the material prima upon which the initiatic work is to be effected; (ii) transmission, by means of filiation with a traditional organization, of a spiritual influence giving to the individual the ‘illumination’ that will allow him to order and develop those possibilities that he carries within himself; and (iii) interior work by which, with the help of ‘adjuvants’ or exterior ‘supports’ (as needed, and especially in the first stages), this development will be gradually realized as the individual passes stage by stage through the different degrees of the initiatic hierarchy and is led to the final goal of ‘Deliverance’ or the ‘Supreme Identity.’ Notes:

1.. From the special examination we will undertake later about other aspects of initiatic qualifications it will he seen that this question is really much more complex than one might at first gather from the very general notion we give of it here. 2.. Thus theologians not without reason readily see a ‘false mystic’ in anyone who seeks by any means to obtain visions or other extraordinary states, even where this effort is limited to a mere desire. 3.. One result of this among others is that while doctrinal knowledge is indispensable for the initiate – since a theoretical understanding of it is for him a preliminary condition to any ‘realization’ – it can be wholly lacking in the mystic; from this often comes a strange incapacity in the latter to express himself intelligibly, not to mention many possibilities for error and confusion. The knowledge in question has of course absolutely nothing to do with any outward instruction or profane ‘knowledge’, which is here of no value whatsoever – as we will later explain – and is even, given modern education, rather an obstacle than an aid in many cases. A man might very well not know how to read or write yet nonetheless reach the highest degrees of initiation, and such cases are not so rare in the East, whereas there are those who in the eyes of the profane are ‘scholars’ and even ‘geniuses’ who are not ‘initiable’ in any degree whatsoever. 4.. By this we do not mean words or outward and conventional signs, but that of which such means are really only the symbolic representation. 5.. Let us recall the elementary scholastic adage, ‘To act one first must be.’ 6.. This is what is indicated in the Hindu tradition by the word Hamsa, the name given to the sole caste that existed in the beginning and strictly speaking designating a state that is ativarna, that is to say above the distinction of present-day castes. 7.. See The Esoterism of Dante, chap. 8. 8.. It goes without saying that strictly speaking this is a materia prima only in a relative sense, not in the absolute sense, but this distinction is not important from our present point of view. Moreover, it is the same with the materia prima of a world such as our own, which, being already determined in a certain way is, with respect to universal substance, really only a material secunda (cf. Reign of Quantity, chap. 2), so that even in this respect the analogy with the development of our world from initial chaos is quite exact. 9.. Whence expressions like ‘shedding light’ and ‘receiving light’, used with respect to the initiator and the initiated, respectively, to designate initiation in the restricted sense, that is the transmission here in question. It will also be noted that the septenary number attributed to the Elohim relates to the form of initiatic organizations, which must be an image of the cosmic order.

Chapter 12 of “Initiation and spiritual realization”]The word ‘conversion’ can be taken in two totally different senses. Its original meaning corresponds to the Greek term METANOIA, which properly expresses a change of NOUS, or, as A.K. Coomaraswamy has said, an ‘intellectual metamorphosis’. This interior transformation, indicated moreover by the Latin etymology (CUM-VERTERE), simultaneously implies both a ‘gathering’ or concentration of the powers of the being, and a certain ‘return’ by which the being passes from ‘human thought’ to ‘divine comprehension’. METANOIA or ‘conversion’ is therefore the conscious passage of the ordinary and individual mind, normally turned toward sensible things, to its superior transposition, where it is identified with the HEGEMON of Plato or the ANTARYAMI of the Hindu tradition. It is obvious that this passage is a necessary phase in every process of spiritual development. It must be understood that this development is of a purely interior order, having absolutely nothing in common with any kind of exterior and contingent change, whether arising simply from the ‘moral’ domain, as is too often believed today (METANOIA is even translated as ‘repentance’), or from the religious and more generally exoteric domain. (1)

After the above explanations, and in order to avoid any confusion, we must now take up the common meaning of the word ‘conversion’, the meaning it bears constantly in contemporary language, where it designates only the exterior passage from one traditional form to another, whatever the reasons that determined the change, reasons usually completely contingent, sometimes lacking any real importance, and in any case having nothing to do with pure spirituality. Although without doubt more or less spontaneous conversions can sometimes occur, at least in appearance, they usually result from religious ‘proselytism’, and it goes without saying that all the objections which can be formulated against the value of ‘proselytism’ apply equally to its results. In short, both the ‘convertor’ and the ‘convertee’ show the same incomprehension of the profound meaning of their traditions, and their respective attitudes show only too manifestly that their intellectual horizon is likewise limited to the viewpoint of the most exclusive exoterism. (2) Even aside from this reason of principle, but for others reason too, we have little regard for ‘converts’ in general, not that their sincerity should be doubted A PRIORI (for here we do not consider the all too frequent case of those motivated by some base material or sentimental interest, who really should be called ‘pseudo-converts’), but first because they give proof at the very least of a rather unfortunate lack of mental stability, and then because they almost always have a tendency to the narrowest and most exaggerated ‘sectarianism’, either because of their own temperament, which has driven dome to pass from one extreme to another with disconcerting ease, or simply as a means of deflecting the suspicions they fear in their new milieu. Basically, ‘converts’ are of little interest, at least for those who look at things without any prejudice of exoteric exclusiveness and have no taste for the study of various ‘psychological’ curiosities. For our part, we certainly prefer not to examine them too closely.

Having said this, we must turn to a point that we have been especially wanting to discuss. People often speak of ‘conversions’ very inappropriately and in cases where this word, understood in the sense just given above, could never be applied, that is, the case of those who, for reasons of an esoteric and initiatic order, adopt a traditional form different from that to which they would have seem to be linked by their origin. This could be either because their native tradition furnished them with no possibility of an esoteric order, or simply because their chosen tradition, even in its exoteric form, gives them a foundation that is more appropriate to their nature, and consequently more favorable to their spiritual work. Whoever places himself at the esoteric point of view has this absolute right, against which all the arguments of the exoterists are of no avail, since by very definition this matter lies completely outside their competence. Contrary to what takes place in ‘conversion’, nothing here implies the attribution of the superiority of one traditional form over another. It is merely a question of what one might call reasons of spiritual expediency, which is altogether different from simple individual ‘preference’, and for which exterior considerations are completely insignificant. Moreover, it is of course understood that one who can legitimately act in this way must, since he is truly capable of placing himself at the esoteric point of view, be conscious, at least by virtue of a theoretical if not an effectively realized knowledge, of the essential unity of all traditions. This alone is sufficient to show that when the word ‘conversion’ is applied to such cases, it is meaningless and truly inconceivable. If it is asked why there are such cases, we reply that is due above all to the conditions of the present age in which, on the one hand, certain traditions have become incomplete ‘from above’, that is, from their esoteric side, the existence of which their ‘official’ representatives sometimes even go so far as to more or less formally deny; and on the other hand, it too often happens that someone is born into a milieu not in harmony with his own nature, and because not really suitable for him, does not allow his possibilities, especially of the intellectual and spiritual order, to develop in a normal manner. Certainly it is regrettable in more than one respect that things are this way, but these are the inevitable drawbacks of the present phase of the KALI-YUGA.

Besides the case of those who ‘take up their abode’ in a traditional form because it puts at their disposal the most adequate means for their interior work they have yet to accomplish, there is another that we must also mention. This is the case of men who, having reached a high degree of spiritual development, adopt outwardly one or another traditional form according to circumstances and for reasons of which they are the sole judges, especially since these reasons are generally those which escape the understanding of ordinary men. Because of this spiritual state they have reached, these men are beyond all forms, for whom they are only a matter of outward appearance, unable to affect or modify their inner reality in any way. Not only have they reached that understanding spoken of earlier, but they have fully realized, in its very principle, the fundamental unity of all traditions. To speak of ‘conversion’ in this case would be absurd. Nevertheless, this does not prevent certain people from writing seriously that Sri Ramakrishna, for example, had ‘converted’ to Islam during one period of his life and to Christianity during another. Nothing could be more ridiculous than such assertions, which give a rather sorry idea of the authors’ mentality. For Sri Ramakrishna it was simply only a kind of ‘verification’ by direct experience of the validity of the different ‘ways’ represented by the traditions to which he temporarily assimilated himself. Is there anything in this that could closely or distantly resemble ‘conversion’ in any way?

Generally speaking, anyone who has an understanding of the unity of traditions, whether through a merely theoretical comprehension or through an effective realization, is necessarily for this very reason ‘unconvertible’ to anything whatsoever. Moreover, he is the only person who is truly so, since everyone else is always at the mercy of contingent circumstances to some degree. We cannot denounce too vigorously the equivocation that leads certain people to speak of ‘conversion’ where there is no trace of it, for it is important to put an end to all such nonsense widespread in the profane world, and beneath which it is not difficult to divine intentions that are clearly hostile to everything associated with esoterism.

(1) On this subject, see A.K. Coomaraswamy, ‘On Being in One´s Right Mind’ in WHAT IS CIVILIZATION? (Great Barrington, MA: Lindisfarne Press, 1989)

(2) In principle, there is only one really legitimate conversion, the one that consists in the connection to a tradition, whatever it may be, on the part of someone who was previously lacking any traditional attachment.

The Hindu Doctrine of Castes
One of the concepts less understood in the modern Occident refers to the Hindu Doctrine of Castes. Taking your own socioeconomic references and transposing it tendentiously, the Westerners criticize violently what they judge to be “the unjust system of castes” as if it was a discrimination among socioeconomic classes, just as they exist, for instance, in the USA and Europe.

Actually, the caste is certain for each individual’s own nature, that is, your deeper vocation. The term Hindú for this concept is VARNA, that means quality or nature peculiar of a being. Nobody will doubt that in a same family there are clear differences among the children and that they show it very early. One of them demonstrates, for instance, easiness for singing and musical instruments. Other, prefers to devote himself to mechanical or manual tasks. And other, with an introspective nature, is devoted to the studies with easiness. These differentiations are determined essentially and it announces the constitution of each one, constituting what we calls his/her natural “vocation” or “calling”.

In traditional India, the goal of education is to provide each person with the best means, so that his own qualities can be developed completely, since tender age. Four castes exist, based in criterion that nothing has to do with socioeconomical position. The castes are: Brahmana, Kchatriya, Vaishya and Shûdra. Such division settles on criterion of hierarchy , that is, from the highest stature – the spiritual – until the more inferior, the material.

The Brahmanes are individuals whose vocation leads them irresistibly to the spiritual life. It is their attribution the preservation and transmission of the metaphysical and religious knowledge. Their symbolic color is the white, that symbolizes the purity and the spiritual light (sun). Their direction is vertical, ascendent. The mental physiognomy is concentrated. Their accomplishment, transcendent. The symbolic metal is the gold, because its qualities are permanent, it is not corrupted with the time. He is identifie to the Age of Gold. Essence. Light Sapience. SUN. Priesthood, Theocracy.

The Kchatriyas are those individuals whose own qualities qualify them to the functions related to the men’s government and the defense instruments of this government. The kings and the armies are in this caste. Your symbolic color is the red, related to the heat, the expansion. The Japanese flag is par excellence, a Kchatriya representation , as well as their feudal organization and the samurais. The direction is horizontal, expansion. This caste report itselfs naturally to Brahmanes and it is for this reason that, for instance, in the Medium Age, the kings were sacred by Pope. The real function, affirms the Taoism, is to unite the sky and the earth, establishing a government in agreement with spiritual principles. The Kchatriya reflects and orders (in the two senses of the word). They are identified to the Age of Silver. MOON. Monarchy. Aristocracy.

The Vaishyas are the ones that naturally identify themselves with the commercial and industrial function. They are the “material providers “, we can say. The ones that work in the fields planting or creating animals. The ones that build houses and and other private or public constructions. Any craft and manufactures. And those that trade victuals, utensils, finally, everything that constitutes the material support so that the men’s life is possible and that each one can accomplish his own function. In summary, the ones that produce and sustain. Symbolic color is dark yellow or brown. They identify to the Age of Bronze, that is their symbolic material (constituted of: copper/red + tin/gray). They link to the material world. EARTH. Bourgeois democracy. Sentimentalism.

Are Shûdras the ones wich their nature is devoted to the most varied functions of heavy manual work. Workers. They are the ones that apply physical force in their professional occupations. They identify to the Age of Iron, whose symbolic color is the dark ash. The mental physiognomy of the Shûdras is marked by the attachment to the appearance, to the emotion and the superficiality. Working class. Socialism and communism. Kingdom of the Amount.

As one can see, nothing is compared to the modern social divisions, marked by the materiality, represented by the financial power. A Shûdra can be rich , while a Brahmana, what happens with certain frequency, entirely poor, materially speaking. Exists a sub-caste, Shandala, that is characterised by the absence of any qualification. They accomplish the function of agents of the dissolution, disaggregation, destruction. They are blind forces, corrupted and corruptors, dissolute, acting everywhere and in several levels.

The allege of “democratic” equality is something not only inexistent but also entirely impossible among the men. It attacks violently the Hindú Doctrine of Castes, doctrine that keeps perfect analogy with all the genuinely oriental knowledege.

Shivaism and Vishnuism
Excerpted from Introduction to the Study of the Hindu DoctrinesSHOULD the Supreme Principle, total and universal, which the religious doctrines of the West call ” God,” be conceived of as impersonal or as personal? This question has given rise to interminable and moreover quite pointless discussions, because it originates from partial and incomplete conceptions which it would be useless to attempt to reconcile without going beyond the special domain, theological or philosophical, where they belong. Metaphysically, it must be said that the Principle is at once both impersonal and personal, according to the aspect under which It is viewed : impersonal, or, if preferred, ” supra-personal ” in Itself ; personal in relation to universal manifestation, without however this ” Divine Personality ” partaking in the least degree of an anthropomorphic character, for “personality” must not be confused with ” individuality.” The fundamental distinction just formulated, by means of which the apparent contradictions between secondary and multiple points of view are resolved in the unity of a superior synthesis, is known in the language of Far Eastern metaphysic as the distinction between ” Non-Being ” and ” Being ” , it is no less clearly recognised in the Hindu doctrine, as follows necessarily from the essential identity of pure metaphysic beneath the diversity of the forms in which it may be clothed. The impersonal and therefore absolutely universal Principle is called Brahma , the Divine Personality, which is a determination or a specification of this Supreme Principle, implying a lesser degree of universality, is generally known by the name of Ishwara. Brahma in Its Infinity cannot be characterised by any positive attribute, which is expressed by declaring it to be nirguna or beyond all qualification,” and again nirvishesha or beyond all distinction ” ; on the other hand Ishwara is called saguna or ” “qualified,” and savishesha or ” conceived distinctively,” because He is capable of receiving such attributions, which are obtained by an analogical transference into the universal of the diverse qualities or properties of the beings of which He is the Principle. It is evident that an indefinite number of Divine Attributes may be conceived of in this manner, and indeed every quality enjoying a positive existence may thus be transposed by being envisaged in its principle ; each of these attributes, however, should be considered in reality only as a basis or support for meditation on a certain aspect of Universal Being.

It will be apparent from what we have said on the subject of symbolism how that same incomprehension which gives rise to anthropomorphism could have the result of turning the Divine Attributes into so many ” gods,” that is to say into entities conceived after the pattern of individual beings and endowed with an independent existence. This is one of the most obvious examples of idolatry, which takes the symbol for the thing symbolised, and which here assumes the form of polytheism ; but it is clear that no doctrine was ever polytheistic in itself and in essence, since it could only become so as the result of a profound corruption, which moreover happens on a large scale much more rarely than is commonly supposed ; in fact only one example of the generalisation of this error is known for certain, in the Graeco-Roman civilisation, and even here there were at least some exceptions among its intellectual elect. In the East, where the tendency towards anthropomorphism is non-existent apart from individual aberrations that are always possible though rare and abnormal, nothing of the kind has ever succeeded in coming to light. This will no doubt surprise many Western people, who, being only acquainted with classical antiquity, are prone to look everywhere for ” myths ” and ” paganism but it is none the less true. So far as India s concerned, the symbolical image representing one or other of the Divine Attributes, and which is called pratika, is most certainly not an “idol,”‘ for it has never been taken for anything other than what it really is, namely a support for meditation and an auxiliary means of realization, each person moreover being free to attach himself according to preference to those symbols which are most in conformity with his personal tendencies.

Ishwara is conceived under a triplicity of principal aspects, together constituting the Trimurti or ” triple .manifestation,” from each of which are derived other aspects, more particular and secondary in relation to the three principal ones. Brahma is Ishwara considered as the productive principle of manifested beings ; He is so named because He is considered as the direct reflection in the realm of manifestation of Brahma the Supreme Principle. In order to avoid all confusion it should be observed that the word Brahma, without an accent, is neuter while the word Brahma is masculine ; the use, current among orientalists, of the single form Brahman, which is common to both genders, has the serious disadvantage of obscuring this essential distinction, which is sometimes further marked by expressions such as Para-Brahma or the ” Supreme Brahma,” and Apara-Brahma or the ” non-supreme Brahma.” The two other aspects constituting the Trimurti, which are complementary to each other, are Vishnu, who is Ishwara considered as the animating and preserving principle of beings, and Shiva, who is Ishwara considered, not as the destructive principle, as He is commonly described, but as the transforming principle; these then, are truly universal functions, and not separate and more or less individualised entitles. Each person, with a view to placing himself at the standpoint best adapted to his own possibilities, will naturally be able to give precedence to any one of these functions, and in particular, because of their apparent symmetry, to one or other of the two complementary functions represented by Vishnu and Shiva : hence the distinction between Vishnuism and Shivaism, which are not sects as Westerners suppose them to be, but simply different ways of realization, both equally legitimate and orthodox. It should however be added that Shivaism, which is less widely diffused than Vishnuism and attaches less importance to exterior rites, is at the same time more elevated in a certain sense and leads more directly to pure metaphysical realization : this may easily be inferred from the very nature of the principle to which it gives first place, for ” transformation,” which should be understood here in its strictly etymological sense, implies a passing ” beyond form ” which only appears as a destruction from the special and contingent point of view of manifestation ; it is a passing from the manifested to the unmanifested, representing the return of the being to the eternal immutability of the Supreme Principle, outside which nothing can exist save in an illusory manner.

The ” Divine Aspects ” are each regarded as being endowed with a power or energy of their own, called Shakti, which is represented symbolically under a feminine form : the Shakti of Brahma is Saraswati, that of Vishnu is Lakshmi, and that of Shiva is Parvati Among both Shaivas and Vaishnavas, certain persons devote themselves more especially to the consideration of the Shaktis, and are for this reason called Shaktas. Furthermore, each of the principles we are discussing can be envisaged under a plurality of more particularised aspects, and from each of them also are derived other secondary aspects, this process of derivation being most often described as a symbolic filiation. We naturally cannot develop all these conceptions here, particularly as it is not our aim to expound the doctrines themselves but only to indicate the spirit in which they should be studied if they are to be really understood.

The Shaivas and Vaishnavas each possess their own special books, the Puranas and the Tantras, which form part of the body of traditional writings known collectively as Smriti and which correspond more particularly to their respective tendencies. These tendencies nowhere appear more clearly than in the way in which they respectively interpret the doctrine of Ivatiras or ” Divine manifestations” ; this doctrine which is closely bound up with the conception of cosmic cycles, deserves to be studied separately, but we cannot think of going into the subject at present. To conclude these remarks on the question of Shivaism and Vishnuism, we will simply add that, whatever the way each man may choose as being most in conformity with his own nature, the final end to which it leads, provided it be strictly orthodox, is always the same : the end in every case is effective realization of a metaphysical order, which will be more or less direct, and more or less complete, according to the circumstances in which it Is undertaken and the extent of the intellectual possibilities of each human being.

The Illusion of Democracy
One of the false foundations of the democracy is the vote, that should be ideally a collective judgement of the art of governing. Now, nobody, sincerely, would defend the peculiar idea that the majority would be intellectually qualified and with enough knowledge on what is administration and government to be in conditions of exercising a judgement.

Kept the due proportions, such supposition igualitarist would be equal to affirm to that everybody is qualified, for instance, on a medical ubject. A real situation would illustrate very well such absurd. A person is seriously wounded. Dozens of onlookers observe afflicted the event. Which could be the plausible criterion to determine who can help the wounded? Naturally, the ones that are qualified for such, that is, doctors or nurses. A voting would be entirely irrelevant, because the majority is never qualified for the medical function, as well as it is not for the admistration.

If the reasoning is valid for a wounded person, it is evident that if we take in account the destiny of millions of individuals, that is what happens in the case of elections for the government, we can see that the irresponsibility is the more complete imaginable.

We would have a variety of examples of the nonsense of the “democratic” foundation that affirms the superiority of the majority, in other words, that an opinion of a larger number of individuals is superior to other, defended, for instance, by a qualified minority.

How to sustain that 200 bottles of cheap wine, only because of its number, is superior to an only wineglass of high quality? Or, then, how to affirm that 1450 individuals, of the most varied professions, less the physics, will be more qualified that an unique specialist to solve a subject of quantum physics? In the origin of the Democratic Illusion is the denial of the natural hierarchy, whose clearer expression is in the Hindú Doctrine of Castes, hierarchy that settles down from top to bottom, that is, from the highest quality, the spiritual, until the least high, in other words, the material. The mentors of the modern democracy based it precisely on what exists of more roughly material and quantitative.

The denial of the qualitative superiority and of the hierarchy begins at the end of the Medium Age, more precisely by the year of 1313, with the destruction of the Order of the Temple by Felipe the Beautiful, then King of France. This monarch ordered to surround the Pope’s palace, that died humiliated few days after such insult. Felipe, the Beautiful, decides then to force the nomination of a submissive pope, easy to his greed and to his political projects, what will be impossible under the authority of a real Sumo Pontífice.

The denial of the priestly superiority (typical attitude of rioted Kchatriya) implicates the denial of the Unique, or God. But, respecting the logic, is it possible to defend such denial?

EXCERPT FROM CRISIS OF THE MODERN WORLDOUR chief purpose in this work has been to show how it is possible, by the application of traditional data, to find the most direct solution to the questions that are being asked nowadays, to explain the present state of mankind, and at the same time to judge all that really makes up modern civilization in accordance with truth instead of by conventional rules or sentimental preferences. We make no claim to have exhausted the subject or treated it in full detail, nor to have developed all its aspects completely without omissions. The principles that inspire us throughout make it necessary, in any case, to put forward views which are essentially synthetic and-not analytical, as are those of ” profane ” learning ; but just because these views are synthetic, they go much farther in the direction of a true explanation than could any analysis, which, indeed, can scarcely have more than a merely descriptive value. At least we consider that enough has been said to enable those who are capable of understanding to deduce for themselves a part at least of the consequences contained implicitly therein ; and they can rest assured that the work of doing so will be of far more value to them than reading something that leaves no matter for reflection and meditation, for which, on the contrary, we have sought to provide an appropriate starting point, that is to say a foundation from which to rise above the meaningless multitude of individual opinions.

It still remains to speak briefly of what might be called the practical bearing of such a study ; this could be passed over or ignored if we had confined ourselves to purely metaphysical doctrine, in relation to which no application is more than contingent and accidental ; but in the present study applications are just the thing with which we are concerned. These have, moreover, a twofold justification, quite apart from the practical point of view : they are the legitimate consequence of the principles, the normal development of a doctrine which, as it is one and universal, must embrace all orders of reality without exception and at the same time, aswe explained when speaking of ” sacred science,” they also form, at least for some persons, a preparatory means of attaining to a higher knowledge. Furthermore, when in the realm of applications, there is no harm in considering these for their own sake as well, provided in so doing one is never led into losing sight of their dependence on the principles. This last is a very real danger, since it is indeed the source of the degeneracy that made ” profane science ” possible, but it does not exist for those who know that everything derives from and is altogether dependent on pure intellectuality, and consequently that anything which does not proceed consciously from it can be no more than mere illusion. As we have said many times already, the starting point of everything should be knowledge ; and thus what appears the most remote from the practical order is nevertheless the most potent even within this order, since it is impossible, here as everywhere else, to accomplish without it anything of real value or anything that will prove more than a vain and superficial agitation. But to return more particularly to the question that. concerns us here, it may be said that the modern world would cease to exist at once if men understood what it really is, since its existence, like that of ignorance and all that implies limitation, is purely negative : it exists only through negation of the traditional and superhuman truth. Thus, through knowledge, the change could be brought about without the intervention of a catastrophe, a thing that seems scarcely possible in any other way ; is it not right, then, to say that such knowledge can have truly incalculable practical consequences ? At #he same time, however, it is unfortunately very difficult to conceive of all men attaining to such knowledge, from which most of them are further-removed than was ever the case before ; but as a matter of fact, it is quite unnecessary for them to do so, and it would be enough if there were a numerically small but powerfully established elect to guide the masses, who would obey their suggestions without even suspecting their existence or having any idea of their means of action ; is it still possible for this elect to be effectively established in the West ?

We do not intend to repeat here all that we have already had occasion to say elsewhere as to the part that the intellectual elect will have to play in the various circumstances that can be regarded as possible in a not too distant future. We will confine ourself to saying this : in whatever way the change, which may be described as a passage from one world to another, may come about-whether these ” worlds” be larger or smaller cycles does not matter-it can never involve absolute discontinuity, since there is always a causal chain linking the cycles together, even though the change may have the appearance of an abrupt breach. If the elect of which we spoke could be formed while there is still time, they could so prepare the change that it would take place in the most favourable conditions possible, and the disturbances that must inevitably accompany it would in this way be reduced to a minimum ; but even if they cannot do this, they will still have before them another yet more important task, that of helping to preserve the elements which must survive from the present world to be used in building up the -one that is to follow. Once one knows that a re-ascent must come, even though it may prove impossible to prevent the downward movement first ending in some cataclysm, there is clearly no reason for waiting until the descent has reached its nadir before preparing the way for the re-ascent. This means /that whatever may happen the work done will not be wasted : it cannot be useless in so far as the benefit that the elect will draw from it for themselves is concerned, but neither will it. be wasted in so far as concerns its later effects on mankind as a whole.

The question, then, should be viewed in this way the elect still exists in the Eastern civilizations, and granting that it is becoming less and less numerous owing to modernist encroachments, it will nevertheless continue to exist until the end, because this is necessary in order to safeguard the “ark” of the tradition, which cannot perish, and to ensure the transmission of all that, is to be preserved. In the West, on the other hand, the elect now no longer exists ; the question may be asked, therefore, whether it will be reconstituted before the end of our epoch, that is to say whether the Western world, despite its deviation, will take part in this work of preservation and transmission. If not, the result will be that Western civilization will have to disappear completely, since, having lost all trace of the traditional spirit, it will no longer contain any element that is of use for the future. The question, thus framed, may have only a very secondary importance in so far as the final result is concerned; it has, nevertheless, from a relative point of view, a certain interest that cannot be overlooked once we consent to take into consideration the particular conditions of the times in which we are living. In principle, it would be sufficient to remark that this Western world is a part of the whole, even though it seems to have broken away since the beginning of modern times, and that all parts must to a certain extent contribute towards the ultimate reintegration of the cycle. But this does not necessarily involve a preliminary restoration of the Western tradition, – which, indeed, may be preserved only in a state of permanent possibility at its source and not in the special form that it has taken on at any time. We merely indicate this in passing, for, in order to make it fully understandable. it would be necessary to branch off into considerations affecting the relations between the Primordial Tradition and the subordinate traditions, for which there is no place here. Considered in itself this would be the most unfavourable solution for the Western world, but the present state of things in the West gives rise to the fear that it is the one which is actually being realised ; however, there are, as we have said, certain signs which seem to show that all hope of a better solution need not yet be quite’ abandoned.

There are at present more people in the West than one might suppose who are beginning to see what is wanting in their civilization; if they fall back on vague aspirations and embark on research that is too often barren, and if they sometimes even lose their way altogether, it is because they lack real knowledge, which nothing can replace, and because there is no organisation that can give them the doctrinal guidance they need. We do not refer here, of course, to those who have succeeded in finding such guidance in the Eastern traditions and who are therefore, intellectually, outside the Western world ; such persons must necessarily remain exceptional cases and cannot in any way form an integral part of a Western elect ; they are, in reality a prolongation of the Eastern elects and might form a link between these and that of the West once this was really established ; but the latter, by very definition, can only be established through the initiative of the West, and therein lies the whole difficulty. This initiative could come in one of two ways only: either the West would have to find in itself the means of bringing it about through a direct return to its own tradition, a return which would be a sort of spontaneous reawakening of latent possibilities ; or certain Western elements would have to bring about this restoration with the help afforded by a knowledge of the Eastern doctrines, which, however, could not for them be quite direct, since they would have to remain Westerners, but which could be obtained by a sort of second-hand influence working through intermediaries such as those of whom we have just spoken. The first of these two hypotheses is very unlikely, since it depends on the existence in the West of at least one rallying point where the traditional spirit has been preserved intact, and as we have already said, this seems to us very doubtful, notwithstanding certain affirmations to the contrary ; it is therefore the second hypothesis that needs to be examined more closely.

In this case it would be better, although not absolutely necessary, for the elect to-be able to take ‘ as its basis a Western organization already enjoying an effective existence. . It seems quite clear that there is now but one organization in the West that is of a traditional character and that has preserved a doctrine which could serve as an appropriate basis for the work in question, and this organization is the Catholic Church. It would be enough to restore to the doctrine of the Church, without changing anything of the religious form that it bears outwardly, the deeper meaning really contained in it, but of which its present representatives seem to be unaware, just as they are unaware of its essential unity with the other traditional forms ; these two things are, as a matter of fact, inseparable from one another. This would mean the realization of Catholicism in the true sense of the word, which etymologically expresses the idea of ” universality,” a fact that is too apt to be forgotten by those who seek to make of it no more than the denomination of one special and purely Western form, without any’ real connection with the other traditions. Indeed it may be said that in the present state of things, Catholicism has no more than a virtual existence since we do not see in it any real consciousness of universality ; but it is none the less true that the existence of an organization bearing such a name is in itself an indication that there is a possible basis for a restoration of the traditional spirit in its fullest sense, the more so because throughout the Middle Ages it has already served as a support for it in the West. . Really, therefore, all that would be necessary would be to re-establish what already existed prior to the modern deviation, though with the adaptations called for by the conditions of another period; and if such an idea astonishes or offends certain people, it is because they themselves, though unconsciously and perhaps even against their will, are so completely governed by the modern outlook as to have quite forgotten the meaning of a tradition of which they retain only the outer shell. The important question is whether the formalism of the ” letter”, which is also, a variety of materialism as we have defined it earlier on, has utterly smothered spirituality or only temporarily overshadowed it, leaving the possibility of a re-awakening within the existing organization ; only the course of events will give an answer to this question. It is possible, moreover, that this same course of events might sooner or later force on the leaders of the Catholic Church, as an unavoidable necessity, a decision whose intellectual import they would be far from properly understanding. It would certainly be matter for regret if they should be driven to reflection by circumstances as contingent as those springing from the field of politics-so long, that is, as this is considered apart from any higher principle. But at the same time,’ it must be admitted that the opportunity for the development of latent possibilities must be accorded to each person through those means that fall the most immediately within the scope of his present understanding. For this reason, we do not hesitate to assert, in view of the ever increasing state of confusion that is becoming more and more widespread, that it has become necessary to call for the union of all the spiritual forces whose action still makes itself felt in the outer world, as well in the West as in the East ; and so far as the West is concerned, we can see no other such force than the Catholic Church. If the latter could thus be brought into touch with the representatives of the Eastern traditions, it would be a preliminary step we could not but rejoice at, and might serve as the starting point for what we have in mind, inasmuch as it would doubtless not be long before it became apparent that a merely outward and ” diplomatic” understanding was illusory and could not yield the desired results ; it would then become necessary to pass on to what should normally have come first, that is to considering a possible, agreement on principles. For this agreement the essential and only essential condition is for the representatives of the West to return to a real consciousness of these principles, which the East has never lost. A true mutual understanding, be it said once more, can come only from above and within, which means that it must be in the domain which can equally well be called intellectual or spiritual, since the two words really bear exactly the same meaning ; later, and starting from this point, the understanding would be bound to extend over all other domains, just as, once a principle is enunciated, it only ‘remains to extract, or rather to make more explicit, all the consequences implied therein. There can only be one obstacle in the way of such an understanding : that is Western proselytism, which cannot bring itself to admit that it is sometimes necessary to have ” allies ” who are not subjects” ; to put it more correctly, the. obstacle is the lack of understanding of which this proselytism is only one of the products ; can this obstacle be overcome ? If it were not, the elect, in establishing themselves, would be able to count only on the efforts of those who were qualified by their intellectual capacity, apart from any particular environment, and also, of course, on the support of the East ; its work would thereby be made more difficult and its influence could only make itself felt after a long interval, as it would itself have to create all the necessary instruments, instead of finding them ready to hand, as in the other case ; but we are far from supposing that these difficulties, however great they may, be, are of a kind that could in any way whatsoever prevent the work that has to be done.

We therefore consider it opportune to make also the following statement : there are now already, in the Western world, signs of a movement which is still ill-defined but which may, and even, if things take their normal course, must lead to the re-establishment of an intellectual elect, unless a cataclysm comes too quickly for it to have had time to develop fully, It is scarcely necessary to say that the Church would have every interest, so far as the part to be played by it in the future is concerned, in giving its support to such a movement rather than letting it take place quite independently and being obliged later on to follow it in order to retain an influence that threatened to melt away. Without attaining to a very- lofty and difficult standpoint it can be understood that it is the Church that would benefit the most by an attitude which, in fact, far from involving the slightest compromise in the field of doctrine, would have the contrary result of freeing it from all infiltration of the modern spirit, and which, moreover, would entail no outward changes. It would be something of a paradox to see integral Catholicism realized without the collaboration of the Catholic Church, which might find itself under the strange necessity of submitting to be defended against onslaughts more terrible than any it has yet faced, by men whom its leaders, or at any rate those whom they allow to speak in their name, had at first tried to discredit by casting on them the most ill-founded suspicions. For our own part, we should be sorry to see this happen ; but if it is not to come to this, it is high time for those on whom their position places grave responsibilities to act with their eyes fully open to the matters at issue and no longer to allow attempts which might have consequences of the utmost importance to run the danger of frustration owing to the incomprehension or ill-will of certain more or less subordinate individuals, a thing which has happened before now, and which is one more sign of the extent to which confusion reigns everywhere today. Doubtless we shall receive no gratitude for this warning, which is given quite independently and disinterestedly; but this is of no importance, and we shall continue none the less to say what has to be said whenever it becomes necessary and in the form that we consider most suited to the circumstances. The foregoing is only a summary ‘of the conclusions to which we have been led by certain quite recent investigations, carried out, it is scarcely necessary to add, in a purely intellectual field. There is no need, at least for the moment, to give a detailed. description of them and as a matter of fact this could have little interest in itself ; but it may be affirmed that not a single word of what has been said above has been written without ample reflection. It should be clearly understood that it would be utterly useless to put forward here by way of objection any more or less specious philosophical arguments ; we are speaking seriously ,of serious matters, and have no time to spend over verbal disputes that would be of no interest and could serve no useful purpose. Moreover it is our intention to remain entirely aloof from all controversies and quarrels of school or party, just as we refuse absolutely to accept any Western label ” or definition, since there is none applicable whether this prove pleasing or displeasing, it is a fact, and nothing will make us change our attitude in -this regard.

A warning must also be addressed to those who, through their capacity for a higher understanding if not through the degree of, knowledge to which they have actually attained, seem destined to become elements of a possible elect. There is no doubt that the force of modernism, which is truly ” diabolic ” in every sense of the word, strives by every means within its power to prevent these elements, to-day isolated and scattered; from achieving the cohesion that is necessary if they are to exert any real influence on the general mentality. It is therefore for those who have already more or less completely become aware of the end towards which their efforts should be directed to stand firm against the difficulties, whatever they may be, that arise in their path and threaten to turn them aside. Those. who have not yet reached the point beyond which an infallible guidance makes it impossible henceforth to stray from the true path, remain always in danger of the most serious deviations ; they need to display the utmost prudence ; we may even go further and say, that it should be carried to the point of distrust, for the ” adversary,” who up to this point has not yet been definitely overcome, can take on the most varied lot and, at times, the most unexpected forms. It happen, that those who think they have escaped from modern materialism fall a prey to things which, while seemingly opposed to it, are really of the same order ; and in view of the turn of mind of modern Westerners, a special warning needs to be uttered against the attraction that more or less extraordinary phenomena may hold out for them ; it is this attraction that is to a large extent responsible for all the errors of ” neo-spiritualism ” and it is to be foreseen that the dangers it represents will grow still worse, for the forces of darkness that keep alive the present confusion find in it one of their most potent instruments. It is even probable that we are not very far from the time referred to by the prophecy of the Gospel to which we have already alluded to elsewhere . For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.” The ” elect ” here referred to is the elect in the fullness of its real meaning, according to the sense in which we have invariably used the word, those who, in virtue of the inner ” realization ” they have achieved, can no longer be seduced ; but this is not the case with those who, as yet, possess in themselves only, the possibilities of knowledge, and who are therefore, properly speaking, only the ” called “; and this is why the Gospels say that “many are called but few are chosen.” We are entering upon a period when it will be extremely difficult to ” separate the chaff from the grain and carry out effectively what theologians call the ” testing of the spirits ” owing to disordered manifestations that will only grow stronger and more frequent, and also owing to the want of true knowledge on the part of those whose normal function should be to guide the rest, but who to-day are too often nothing but ” blind guides.” We shall see then whether the subtleties of dialectic avail anything in such circumstances, and whether any philosophy, even were it the best possible, can have the strength to prevent the ” infernal powers ” from being let loose ; this also is an illusion against which some people need to guard, for it is too often supposed, in ignorance of what pure intellectuality really is, that a merely philosophical knowledge, which even in the best of cases is a bare shadow of true knowledge, can put everything to rights and lead back the contemporary mentality from its deviation ; in the same way, there are those who think they can find in modern science itself a means of raising themselves to the higher truths, whereas this science is in fact founded on the negation of these truths.

All these illusions are so many influences leading people astray, and by means of them many of those who sincerely desire to react against the modern outlook are reduced to impotence, since, having failed to find the essential principles without which all action is absolutely vain, they have been swept aside into blind alleys from which there is no hope of escape.

Doubtless, the number will be small of those who will succeed in overcoming all these obstacles and triumphing over the hostility of an environment opposed to all spirituality ; but let it be said once more, it is not numbers that matter, for we are here in a domain whose laws are quite different from those of matter. There is therefore no cause for despair, and, even were there no hope of achieving any visible result before the modern world collapses under some catastrophe, this would still be no valid reason for not undertaking a work whose scope extends far beyond the present. time. Those who might be tempted to give way to despair should realise that nothing accomplished in this order can ever be lost, that confusion, error and darkness can win the day only apparently and in a purely ephemeral way, that all partial and transitory disequilibriums must perforce’ contribute towards the great equilibrium of the whole, and that nothing can ultimately prevail against the power of truth their device should be that used formerly by certain initiatory organizations of the West : Vincit omnia Veritas.

Notes on the End of a World
According to the Hindu tradition of cosmology, we are now nearing the end of the Kali Yuga (the Age of Iron) which is the final and most negative of four evolutionary Yugic cycles.

Each Yuga is like the season of a super-cosmic year, even greater than the cosmic year of the precession of the equinoxes. When the Earth came into its current phase of manifestation and the first Yuga began («Satya» Yuga, meaning «Purity») humanity was barely removed from its original state of God-like innocence. This was the original Golden Age. As time progressed the planet underwent the influence of a negative descending spiral, and the quality of life in each successive Yuga became further and further removed from the knowledge of truth and natural Law (in other words, «Reality»). In the second, Treta Yuga (Silver Age) spiritual awareness decreased by one fourth and by the time of Dvapara Yuga (Copper Age) negativity had a 50% holding. In the Kali Yuga the vibration has become pretty murky and humanity is labouring against heavy odds. Righteousness (right-use-ness) has diminished to scant one fourth of its original strength. Throughout our current history we have created and been assailed by all the evils of Pandora’s box. No wonder the human race is having such a difficult time. But the turning point has now arrived, and the dawn once more sheds its light on a confused and ignorant planet.

The Vishnu Purana, one of the oldest sacred texts of India says about the Kali Yuga, «The leaders who rule over the Earth will be violent and seize the goods of their subjects… Those with possessions will abandon agriculture and commerce and will live as servants, that is, following various possessions. The leaders, with the excuses of fiscal need, will rob and despoil their subjects and take away private property. Moral values and the rule of the law will lessen from day to day until the world will be completely perverted and agnosticism will gain the day among men».

There are many other references to this division of time. For instance, in the Bible, Nebuchandnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2:31-45) was of a bright and terrible image with a head of finest gold, chest of silver, hips of brass and legs of iron. The feet and toes were of iron mixed with clay. This image was destroyed by stone, unmade by human hands, which crushed the feet to dust and the pieces blew away in the wind. Although Daniel the prophet interpreted the various metals as the world empires which succeeded Babylon, the dream also has a more cosmic meaning. It represents the great yugas. The iron legs are the Iron Age or Kali Yuga which deteriorates at the end of its cycle into the present unstable civilisation symbolised by the feet of iron and clay. The prophet interpreted the stone as the true kingdom of God which would replace the other civilisations as the real and lasting Kingdom.

The End of a World

This end only appears to be the «end of the world», without any reservation or specification of any kind, to those who see nothing beyond the limits of this particular cycle; a very excusable error of perspective it is true, but one that has nonetheless some regrettable consequences in the excessive and unjustified terrors to which it gives rise in people who are not sufficiently detached from terrestrial existence; and naturally they are the very people who form this erroneous conception most easily, just because of the narrowness of their point of view. …the end now under consideration is undeniably of considerably greater importance than many other, for it is the end of a whole Manvantara, and so of the temporal existence of what may rightly be called a humanity, but this, it must be said once more, in no way implies that it is the end of the terrestrial world itself, because, through the «reinstatement» that takes place at the final instant, this end will itself immediately become the beginning of another Manvantara…if one does not stop short of the most profound order of reality, it can be said in all truth the «end of a world» never is and never can be anything but the end of an illusion.