A Summary of René Guénon’s ’Crisis of the Modern World’ by Omar K Neusser
In his book ’Crisis of the Modern World’ (≈ 1926) René Guénon analysed the characteristics of the modern world probably as no-one before him. Although there are many scholars and thinkers who criticised the dominant world system, RG could - with the help of Eastern doctrines - reach much deeper levels of understanding about this civilization, which is basically ’built on sand.’ Now in the new millennium we know that the "Western model", which is a purely materialistic one, has been spread - more or less unaltered - to all corners of the world. Real critique to this paradigm shift is rarely discussed on a neutral level. (Text has 1350 words in 9 parts).
The modern world is a result of profound changes in European history:
“The Renaissance and the Reformation, which are usually regarded as the first great manifestations of the modern spirit, completed rather than provoked the rupture with tradition.” - Start of modern times: 14th century. 56
The existence of the modern world, “like that of ignorance itself and of everything that implies limitation, is a purely negative one. …It has come into being solely through the denial of traditional and superhuman truth.” 109
Therefore the birth of the modern world can be summed up as the opposition to the traditional outlook, or the rupture with tradition. 56
And the negation of tradition is individualism, resulting in the negation of principles. 56ff
When human actions are divorced from a principle they “degenerate into agitations as unprofitable as it is trivial.” 33
The most conspicuous features of modern times are “a craving for ceaseless agitation, for continuous change, for ever-increasing speed, like that with which events follow upon each another. On all sides we see dispersion in multiplicity, a multiplicity no longer unified by consciousness of any higher principle.” 33
The absence of principle “endows the modern world with its abnormal character.” 51
“Hence the inaptitude for synthesis and the incapacity for any sort of concentration.” 33
“Most of our contemporaries find themselves quite at their ease amid this confusion, in which they see a kind of exteriorized image of their own mentality.” In a state of continuous change there is no place for the changeless and the permanent. 34
The modern world has solely come into existence through the denial of traditional and superhuman truth.
Hieronymus Bosch, 16th century
For this material development, for the sake of this one type of development, we sacrificed many things of incomparably greater worth, “the higher forms of knowledge that have been forgotten, the intellectuality that has been destroyed and the spirituality that has disappeared.” 89
“Everything that derives from matter can only beget strife and … conflict between peoples as well as between individuals,” because matter is essentially multiplicity and division. 33
Only in the material world exists the supremacy of multiplicity, 73
and when the principle of unity is denied or lost sight of, nothing remains except multiplicity pure and simple, which is identical with matter itself.” 74
The experimental sciences received a development in modern civilization as never before, because “they confine their attention to things of the senses and to the world of matter, and also they lend themselves readily to the most immediate practical applications.” 42
'Materialism': ”A conception according to which nothing exists at all except matter and its derivatives” - a novelty in the history of mankind, and “a product of the modern outlook.” 79
‘Materialism' became an entire mental outlook, “which consists in more or less consciously giving preponderance to things belonging to the material order and to preoccupations relating thereto.” And “this is the mental attitude of the great majority of our contemporaries.” 80
“The ideal of the modern world is the ’human animal’ who has developed his muscular strength to the utmost.” - a world sunk low - nearing its end. 92
Men are not happier today than they used to be “because they command swifter means of transport … or because of their more agitated and complicated mode of life?” 92
“Modern civilization aims at creating ever greater and greater artificial needs. 92
When people today have to do without (formerly unheard of) things “they are bound to suffer when deprived of” them.
People “struggle to acquire whatever can produce them material satisfaction, … they “become absorbed in 'making money.’
They always desire more, “because they are continuously discovering fresh needs, until this pursuit becomes their only aim in life.” 92
“Those who unloose the brute forces of nature will perish, crushed by those same forces. of which they are no longer masters when they rashly set them in motion.” 93
“If some remnants of true spirituality have been preserved, that can only be in spite of the modern outlook and in opposition to it. As far as strictly Western elements are concerned, it is in the religious sphere only that these remnants of spirituality are still to be found,… if certain possibilities still remain,… their present influence at present amounts to very little.” 94
“The acceptance of individuality necessarily implies a refusal to admit any authority higher than the individual and any faculty of knowledge superior to individual reason.”
“As a consequence the modern outlook was bound to reject all spiritual authority in the true sense of the word, authority originating in the supra-human order, as well as any traditional organization based essentially upon such authority.” 57
In Europe this blightening process was enabled by Protestantism. While rejecting spiritual authority (and any traditional organisation), it set up the 'freedom of enquiry.’ 57
Protestantism claimed to set up an interpretation of the scriptures based solely on the exercise of human reason. 58
Individualism is the determining cause of the present decadence of the West, because at the outset individualism refuses “to admit any authority higher than the individual and any faculty of knowledge superior to individual reason.” 57
The denial of any principle superior to the individuality, has the consequence to reduce civilization in all its departments to purely human elements.” 51
There are two synonyms for individualism: humanism and the profane outlook, i.e. the anti-traditional outlook. 51
Individualism 'provides' “the driving force for the exclusive development of the most inferior possibilities of mankind.” It denies first of all “intellectual intuition,” because intellectual intuition “is essentially a supra-individual faculty, and the repudiation therefore of the order of knowledge which constitutes the true province of that intuition, that is to say of metaphysic understood in its real sense.” 52
In the state of mind of the modern outlook religion is 'minimized', i.e. turned “into something to be kept on one side… something which is devoid of any real influence upon the rest of existence.” 62
The modern religious contemporary is essentially in total ignorance from the doctrinal point of view.” 62
Religion for many (modern) people now-a-days “is simply a matter of performance, of custom, …of routine.” - not necessary to be understood. 62
Nowadays religion “amounts to little more than ‘moralism,’” and when its teachings (its doctrine) is discussed - when at all - it is only to debase it through discussion with opponents on their own 'profane' ground. 62
The modern fence off religion from the concerns of their everyday life.
What is necessary for a change of the modern world (while not everyone needs necessarily attain to this knowledge) [are people who are willing to learn and then to teach,] while there is still time.
Also it is necessary to preserve “those elements of the present world which are destined to survive and be used in building up the world that is to follow” 110
“Those qualified to speak in the name of a traditional doctrine are not required to enter into discussion with the ‘profane,’ or to engage in polemics; it is for them simply expound the doctrine (the teachings) such as it is (as they are), for the sake of those who are capable of understanding it, and at the same time denounce error wherever it arises.” 65
The universal hierarchical order concerning knowledge and action is that “knowledge enlightens action without participating in its vicissitudes.” 65
The recovery of the modern world has to start from the principles and from an understanding the essential truths. 66 Therefore the means of escape from the [present] chaos are “the restoration of intellectuality” and consequently [people who are willing to learn and then to teach.] 77
And the few isolated elements [of intellectuality in the West] are in want of of principles and doctrinal direction. “It could be said that the modern world protects itself by means of its inherent dispersion, from which even its would-be opponents do not succeed in freeing themselves.” 77
Regarding Intelligence: Don't reduce intelligence to analytical reason!
Iblis/ Satan rebelled and in his pride replaced intelligence with ordinary logical reasoning. But intelligence is a light which (is meant to) open up human understanding to the Divine truths and Lights from Heaven.
Now-a-days in the West, concepts like ‘gender justice’ or ‘gender equality’ are promoted, while justice is realizing & nurturing capabilities God which has gifted.
The transcendent and universal principles. 35
Manufacturing Opinion, expressed long before the expression ”manufacturing consent” was coined.
Now-a-days with the advent of this ’new age’, ”postmodernists attacked science and its goal of attaining objective knowledge about a reality which exists independently of human perceptions, which they saw as merely another form of constructed ideology dominated by bourgeois, western assumptions.”
They need to do this, because the postmodern condition can be defined as “an incredulity towards metanarratives.”