By Omar K Neusser
”In any case, what Westerners call civilization, the others would call barbarity, because it is precisely lacking in the essential, that is to say a principle of a higher order.”
René Guénon, East And West, p.90
It seems quite unnecessary but it has to be clearly stated:
The analysis of the West and the exposition of ’tradition’ and ’traditional’ by Shaykh Abd Al Wahid Yahya - René Guénon, cannot and must not be falsified and so degraded by Right Wing - Neo Nazis or Supremacists of any kind.
Already Evola and Schuon misconstrued much from what he gained from Guénon’s teachings.
For those Muslims educated in the West, or in anyway influenced by anti-traditional life models and patterns of the West and East, Shaykh Abd Al Wahid Yahya - René Guénon can probably be a guide among others for a deeper understanding of our world, of what religions are, or of metaphysics and many related questions.
civilization crisis function initiation islam mentality metaphysics modernity postmodernism principles religion sacred spiritual symbolism teachings tradition universal
“René Guénon's role (was to be the) reviver of Tradition for the Western world.”
[ sacredweb.com ]
“For Guénon, the malaise of the modern world is its relentless denial of the metaphysical realm, the metaphysical world being comprised of both philosophy and spirituality. Guénon sees everything in the world of creation as an application and manifestation of metaphysical principles that are contained in the perennial teachings of religions, and applies them to every single subject that he addresses in his works. Both the value of traditional sciences of nature and the misguided claims of modern secular science are judged in proportion to their proximity or distance from these principles. In this sense, Guénon is a metaphysician par excellence who has devoted his life to the diagnosis and correction of the metaphysical mistakes of the modern world.” Ibrahim Kalin
[ www.cis-ca.org ]
“His function (was), in a world increasingly rife with heresy and pseudo religion, to remind twentieth century man of the need for orthodoxy which itself presupposes firstly a divine intervention, and secondly a tradition which hands down with fidelity from generation to generation what Heaven has revealed...”
Dr. Martin Lings, (quote from Vol1Num1),
[ sophiajournal.com - Martin Lings commemorative issue ]
“Guénon undermined and then; with uncompromising intellectual rigor, demolished all the assumptions taken for granted by modern man, that is to say Western or westernized man. Many others had been critical of the direction taken by European civilization since the so-called 'Renaissance', but none had dared to be as radical as he was or to re-assert with such force the principles and values which Western culture had consigned to the rubbish tip of history. ...”
“The language of this Tradition [is] the language of symbolism, and he had no equal in his interpretation of this symbolism.
Moreover he turned the idea of human progress upside down, replacing it with the belief almost universal before the modern age, that humanity declines in spiritual excellence with the passage of time and that we are now in the Dark Age which precedes the End, an age in which all the possibilities rejected by earlier cultures have been spewed out into the world, quantity replaces quality and decadence approaches its final limit. No one who read him and understood him could ever be quite the same again.”
[ Sh. Hassan Abdul Hakeem Gai Eaton ]
“The writings of the great French thinker René Guénon - Shaykh `Abd Al Wahid Yahya (1886-1951) have by now achieved luminary status. His castigation of the modern world, grounded upon a pioneering reinstatement of the universal, first principles of the one true metaphysic abiding at the heart of the sacred traditions, has stood fast against the shifting sands of recent philosophies and can refurbish our powers of discrimination in face of the new millennium and the postmodern age.” - expired link (before 2017) - seriousseekers.com
His function was (and is still today) to warn everyone, also people of religion, also Muslims, of the entanglements (fitna) of (post-) modernity, how it threatens to destroy the mentality even of some religious people as it did when modernity first emerged in the West, how it casts into doubt any absolute, metaphysical truth and how it influences the public at large.
His works are primarily in French and in English. In Swedish there is an excellent book about Shaykh Abd Al Wahid Yahya: "I tjänst hos det Enda" ( In the service of The One), edited by Kurt Almqvist, a Swedish author writing on metaphysical questions. This is still the only disposition of RG's life and work in a Scandinavian language and it includes excerpts from some of his books, such as "Crisis of the Modern World" and "The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times."
A European intellectual from the first half of the 20th century, he had witnessed the tragic and seemingly unavoidable events of his times, not the least both World Wars. He confronted the ruling myths of this civilization, such as 'human progress', 'technical development towards a brighter future' and he penetrated some of the most important philosophical and religious traditions - when towards the middle of his life - he embraced Islam and travelled to Egypt where he lived until the end of his life as a well-respected Muslim author.
One of his main concerns was to produce an unsentimental analysis of Western ideological and religious development since the Renaissance, focusing on the degradation - as he saw it - of metaphysics, religion and philosophy and consequently of the mentality of the general populace.
He explained why the civilization of the West was built on false foundations, like a house built on sand: its positivism, its denial of true tradition and in consequence its metaphysical blindness. He also showed the way to reform this situation by gaining access - through initiation - to the sacred and eternal treasure of timeless wisdom hidden in the religious traditions. His writings have inspired many engaged readers to search for truth and meaning in an otherwise meaningless world.
Another of his main concerns was to clear from the pure concept of Ultimate Reality (or Divine Centre) everything that It is not and to teach its pure doctrine, because It can only be described in negative terms ( of what It is not )fn1. His work is also a reminder of the impossibility of having any rational concept of the Ultimate Reality (or Supreme Centre), except for the insight gained from intellectual intuition ( ma`rifa - intuitive knowledge of God) and the knowledge of revelation and prophetic tradition gained by practicing its teachings.
This introduction is not an adequate overview over this outstanding writer's work, who wrote no less than 26 books and conducted a numerous correspondence with many intellectuals of his time. Some of his main areas of focus are:
A definition of tradition versus anti-tradition and sentimentalized religion
a distinction of metaphysics regarding philosophy and religion
an exposition of metaphysics and the hierarchy (of stages) of being
a clear doctrine (teaching) of the Ultimate Reality, Allah, Almighty God
a thorough examination of Western thought and mentality:
- individualism, modernism, rationalism, quantification; slackening of doctrine, nihilism, indifference
a rigorous distinction between Intellect and reason
an explanation of esoterism and its function in religion, of initiation
an explanation of the sacred science of symbolism
an analysis of anti-tradition and of counter-tradition, phenomena all the more acute in our times ( past 2014).
It has been asked in what order one should read Guenon’s metaphysical books. Although each book is related to all of the others due to the coherence and consistency of Guenon’s teaching, some of his books were formulated as companion volumes comprehensively expressing a particular subject. With this in mind, I thought it might be helpful to share some of these loose trilogys that, taken together, provide a useful overview of many of his core ideas.
The first is comprised of “Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrines,” “The Spiritist Fallacy,” and “Theosophy, the History of a Pseudo-Religion.” In these works Guenon introduces the reader to the foundational elements of tradition and illustrates what orthodoxy is and what it is not. These are sometimes described as clearing the ground for his other works.
The second consists of “East and West,” “The Crisis of the Modern World,” and “The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times.” These fully develop his thesis of the degeneration of the modern West in light of Hindu teachings concerning the Kali Yuga.
The third consists of “Man and His Becoming According to the Vedanta,” “The Symbolism of the Cross,” and “The Multiple States of the Being.” Metaphysics as the foundation of Guenon’s teachings is found referenced throughout all of his works but here the subject is given its most direct and systematic exposition.
A fourth consists of “Initiation and Spiritual Realization,” “Perspectives on Initiation,” and “Studies in Freemasonry and the Compagnonnage.” In the first two books, Guenon uses the language and categories of Freemasonry (without explicitly referring to it) to unfold a universal understanding of the phenomenon of initiation. They constitute the closest that he came to providing instruction in the practical disciplines of realization. The third volume is more explicit in its references and concerns miscellaneous Masonic topics not covered in the first two.
There are innumerable other ways to approach Guenon’s work but I think that these informal trilogies are a useful starting place for branching out to the rest.
(This section with permission from Desmond Meraz, 2020-10-12)
East & West -- some quotes
The Confusion of the Psychic and the Spiritual René Guénon
Oriental Metaphysics; Explanations, And Traditional Definitions
Words and Symbols René Guénon
On the Supreme Principle - Metaphysics
Role of The Spiritual Master
True and False Spiritual Teachers
Al-Faqr or 'Spiritual Poverty'
The Fissures In The Great Wall
The Kali Yuga: René Guénon’s Critique of Modernity; Thomas F. Bertonneau
Notes on the End of the World (The Reign of Quantity); René Guénon
On 'The Multiple States of Being' at: simplyislam.com The Book
The Multiple States of Being, René Guénon, pt1
The Multiple States of Being, René Guénon, pt2
Signposts: Quotes On Metaphysics, On Non-Dualism etc [see below]
Al-Azhar Sufism in Modern Egypt: The Sufi Thought; pt.1 Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi'
Al-Azhar Sufism in Modern Egypt: The Sufi Thought; pt.2 Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi'
|||L'oeuvre De Guénon En Orient*
*Regardez dans les notes de cette page:
Al-Faylasūf al-muslim René Guénon aw Abd al-Wāhid Yahyā;
publ. Dr. Abdel Halīm Mahmūd,
Professeur à Ulūm ad-Din de l'Université Al-Azhar (Cairo)
Al-Madrasa ash-Shādhiliyya al-hadītha wa imāmuhā Abū-l-Hasan ash-Shādhilī,
(Cairo, 1968), chapter: Al-'Arif bi-Llāh (Le Connaissant par Allah) ash-Shaykh 'Abd al-Wāhid Yahyā from www.reneguenon.net
| antitradition|| creation|
| dualism|| freedom of thought|
| initiation|| intelligence|
| intuition|| islamic tradition|
| metaphysical zero|| metaphysics|
| modernity|| mysticism|
| non-being|| non-duality|
| religion|| revelation|
| role of spiritual master|
| sentimental|| The Source - the Supreme Center|
| spiritual|| mysticism|
| the end of time|
| tolerance|| tradition|
Through a serious of fortuitous events I was able to visit the home of René Guénon in Cairo a few days ago. Upon entering his home, there was what can only be described as a powerful spiritual ambiance, almost like an electric current of Baraka running through the room. In this particular case, however, it seemed as if the spiritual power or radiance had been “concentrated” exponentially: it was so palpable one could literally feel it on their skin. The only other place where I have felt a similar concentration of spiritual energy was in the room closed off to the public which housed the relics of Shaikh Ahmad al-Badawi, the great saint of Tanta.
Guénon’s library, his son informed us, was in virtually the same condition he had left it, with nothing having been moved — this being the consequence of a very specific request he had made of his wife shortly before his death. “I will be present, and here with you so long as my books are kept where they are.” The library itself comprised works in many different languages (Guénon knew thirteen in total) and included books on virtually every subject related to the inward and symbolic contents of religion, ranging from Native American and African mythology to the occult and metaphysics.
When I inquired from his son as to the precise nature of his spiritual practice, he replied in one word: “contemplation.” Upon being asked to elaborate, he explained that Guénon would sometimes stand in his balcony overlooking Cairo and stare into the night sky literally for hours. But Guénon also participated very much in the Sufi culture of Egypt, despite his general privacy, especially with respect to visiting the shrines of the saints of Cairo, and the Ahl al-Bayt, and attending the circles of dhikr. And he had also developed close ties to some of the leading spiritual authorities of the city, not the least of them being Shaikh Ibrahim, a Shadhili master who taught Maliki fiqh at Al-Azhar, and whose daughter he later married.
While Guénon was generally reclusive and extremely difficult to meet in person, especially for outsiders who came to visit him, he would respond to everyone who wrote to him by mail. Before his death, he left behind forty-two boxes of letters, most of them still unpublished. He would sleep for no more than two to three hours a night, and would spend most of his time in his study, in reflection, prayer or writing. He loved burning bukhur, and had a particular fondness for felines: Uthman, his personal cat, died on the same day, at the same hour as he did.
His youngest son, Abd al-Wahid Yahya, was born three months after his death. Guénon knew beforehand that he would not live to see the birth of his son, the cause of great sadness for his wife. He instructed her to name him after himself, and assured her he would be present to help the family even after his death. A deeply pious man, the younger Abd al-Wahid Yahya served us Zamzam water from Mecca, dates and tea on our visit.
We learned that Guénon’s residence now holds regular Sufi gatherings of the Order with which he himself is affiliated: the Bilqā’idiyya Tariqa whose origins are to be retraced to Algeria. The ism al-a`ẓam or Supreme Name is now regularly recited in closed gathering among members of the Order in the room where Guénon penned some of his most influential books in the last fifteen years of his life: a fitting symbol for all that he called his readers to.
The troubles in question are shown to have sprung ultimately from loss of the mysterial dimension, that is, the dimension of the mysteries of esoterism. He traces all the troubles in the modern world to the forgetting of the higher aspects of religion. He was conscious of being a pioneer, and I will end simply by quoting something he wrote of himself,
“All that we shall do or say will amount to giving those who come afterwards facilities which we ourselves were not given. Here as everywhere else it is the beginning of the work that is hardest.”
Martin Lings [From The ’Introduction by Lings’]
 The troubles in question: The failure [of the (post-)modern world] to understand the meaning of the transcendent and the meaning of the word intellect in consequence, a word which always continues to be used, but the intellect in the traditional sense of the word … had simply been forgotten in the Western world.
Muhyiddin Ibn `Arabi, Presentation of Some 28 Texts