Mysticism In The Light of Metaphysics

From 'Le Dictionnaire de René Guénon', Jean-Mark Vivenza, abbrev. DRG

René Guénon always considered mysticism, from the point of view of initiation, as an enomous fault which consisted in giving sentimentality a too great space, which prevented it (mysticism), as can be seen, to be able to go beyond a narrow individual perspective in relation to (the subject of) transcendance. 

This "influence of the sentimental element, as writes René Guénon, obviously affects the intellectual purity of the doctrine[3], and marks after all, it has to be said cleary, a degenaration in relation to metaphysical thought."

Concerning this question one could not be clearer and more straight forward.

He adds in this connection that "a sentiment[1] is only relative and contingent[2] and a doctrine[3] which addresses and reacts to it can itself only be relative and contingent. This can particularily be observed regarding the need of 'consolation' to which responds, to a large degree, to the religious point of view."

In that way, a doctrine such as Mysticism, which places itself under the rule of a strong tonality[4] of affections, "cannot any longer be identified with absolute and total Truth; a profound modification which produces in it the introduction[6] of a principle of consolation is correlativeof an intellectual deficiency[7] of the human collectivity to which it addresses itself."

In this intellectual degeneration lies the origin of the (innate) diversity of religious dogmas, which - while no longer (being) aware of the unique nature of Truth, and having their intelligence dimmed by those multiple forms which sentimentality can take on - do not manage to free themselves from their own very restrictive and limited perspective.

One has however to note that 'mystic realization'[5] - although it is very far from the level of comprehension of 'metaphysical realization' - however possesses "some effective [element] which makes it more than simple theoretic knowlege." 

Although those mystical states are not super-individual, and very often fall into the disorderimagination and exaggerated sensibility which are liable to the least interior or exterior manifestations, or to non-explained phenomena, to visions and expressions, they never-the-less imply an extension of the individual possibilities (which are) infinitely superior to the common general level. Certainly, this 'realization' does not have a universal significance such as the 'metaphysical realization' ....

[This 'mystic realization'] does "never imply any identification, but on the contrary, always leaves there (remaining) the duality of subject and object."

As Guénon writes: "[For example in the case of Christian mysticism] it is never the case of the union with the Christ-principle, which is to say with the Logos It-self ..., it is always a union with the Christ Jesus"....(

To sum up, mysticism does not go beyond the dualism of subject / object which belongs to the religious exoteric domain, and does not focus its attention on the objective to reach pure Knowlege, but places itself into a 'passive' attitude, in which the expectation [of experiencing a mystical state] is taken as sole spiritual 'method', always starting from an isolated and individual approach, therefore not joining any initiatory 'chain' where it would be possible to transmit [to the person in question] a veritable 'spiritual influence', [so this doctrine of Mysticism] can only be very limited and incomplete, [and only] presenting numerous very minor aspects.

One can understand easily from what has been said, "that the path of mysticism" and the "path of initiation" as Guénon reminds us, "are radically incompatible [paths], because of their respective characteristics." They represent two very different perspectives whose objectives it is important to distinguish in order to avoid any confusion, and in order to respect, as far as this is can be done, the originality and end of each "path."



[1] sentiment: a mixture of thought and feeling. Admiration, patriotism, and loyalty are sentiments. 

[2] contingent: possible but not certain to occur; 

[3] doctrine:

-a (RG's def): .....

-b (usual def): what is taught as the belief of a religion, a nation, or a group of persons; belief; principle.

[4] tonality: any stressing of a particular tone as the basis of a passage, movement, or composition; also: the color scheme of a painting, etc.

[5] realization:a clear understanding; full awareness; perception; sv: förverkligande

[6] the introduction of ... : when pristine[7] Tradition underwent modifications and aberrations

[7] pristine: as it was in its earliest time or state; original.

[8] deficiency: or weakness

More Texts And Explanations:

freedom of thought
his personal traits
Islamic tradition
metaphysical zero
metaphysics 2
role of spiritual master
The Source - the Supreme Center
spiritual teachers
the end of time

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