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From Anti-Tradition to Counter-Tradition

From The Reign of Quantity

and the Signs of the Times

Sh Abd Al Wahid Yahya - René Guénon

Edit by OmarKN

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"Something much more formidable is in preparation for a future considered by some to be near, the growing rapidity of the succession of events today being an indication of its proximity." Published 1945

The previous chapter was concerned with matters that, like everything else belonging essentially to the modern world, are radically anti-traditional; but in a sense they go even further than ‘anti-tradition’, understood as being pure negation and nothing more, for they lead toward the setting up of something that can more appropriately be called a ‘counter-tradition’.

The distinction between the two is similar to that made earlier between deviation and subversion, and it corresponds to the same two phases of anti-traditional action considered as a whole. ‘Anti-tradition’ found its most complete expression in the kind of materialism that could be called ‘integral’, such as that which prevailed toward the end of the last century;[11] as for the ‘counter-tradition’, we can still only see the preliminary signs of it, in the form of all the things that are striving to become counterfeits in one way or another of the traditional idea itself.

It is as well to point out at once that, just as the tendency to ‘solidification’, expressing itself as ‘anti-tradition’, has not been able to reach its extreme limit— since that limit would have been outside and beneath all possible existence— it may be expected that the same will apply to the tendency to dissolution, expressing itself in its turn in the ‘counter-tradition’. The very conditions of manifestation, so long as the cycle is not entirely completed, obviously demand that this should be so; and as far as the actual end of the cycle is concerned, it presupposes the ‘rectification’…

whereby the ‘malefic’ tendencies will be ‘transmuted’ to produce a definitely ‘benefic’ result, as has already been explained above. Moreover, all the prophecies (the word is of course used here in its rightful sense) indicate that the apparent triumph of the ‘counter-tradition’ will only be a passing one, and that at the very moment when it seems most complete it will be destroyed by the action of spiritual influences which will intervene at that point to prepare for the final ‘rectification’.[2]

Nothing less than a direct intervention of this kind would in fact suffice to bring to an end, at the chosen time, the most formidable and the most truly ‘satanic’ of all the possibilities included in cyclical manifestation; but that is enough by way of anticipation, and it is now necessary to continue with a more careful examination of the real nature of the ‘counter-tradition’.

For this purpose, the part to be played by the ‘counter-initiation’ must again be referred to: after having worked always in the shadows to inspire and direct invisibly all modern movements, it will in the end contrive to ‘exteriorize’, if that is the right word, something that will be as it were the counterpart of a true tradition, at least as completely and as exactly as it can be so within the limitations necessarily inherent in all possible counterfeits as such.

Just as initiation is, as explained, the thing that effectively represents the spirit of a tradition, so will the ‘counter-initiation’ play a comparable part with respect to the ‘counter-tradition’; but obviously it would be quite wrong and improper to speak of the spirit in the second case, since it concerns that from which the spirit[3] is most completely absent, that which would even be its opposite if the spirit were not essentially beyond all opposition; nevertheless opposition is undoubtedly attempted, and is accompanied by imitation in the manner of the inverted shadow previously referred to on more than…

one occasion. That is why the ‘counter-tradition’, however far it carries the imitation, will never succeed in being anything but a parody, but it will be the most extreme and the most gigantic of all parodies, and we have only so far seen, despite all the falsification of the modern world, some very partial ‘trials’ and some very pale ‘prefigurations’ of it; something much more formidable is in preparation for a future considered by some to be near, the growing rapidity of the succession of events today being an indication of its proximity.[4]

However that may be, the thing that makes it possible for affairs to reach such a point is that the ‘counter-initiation’ (and this is something that must be said) cannot be regarded as a purely human invention, such as would be in no way distinguishable by its nature from plain ‘pseudo-initiation’; in fact it is much more than that, and, in order that it may really be so, it must in a certain sense, so far as its actual origin is concerned, proceed from the unique source to which all initiation is attached, the very source from which, speaking more generally, everything in our world that manifests a ‘non-human’ element proceeds; but the ‘counter-initiation’ proceeds from that source by a degeneration carried to its extreme limit, and that limit is represented by the ‘inversion’ that constitutes ‘satanism’ properly so called.

A degeneration of this kind is obviously much more profound than is that of a tradition merely deviated to a certain extent, or even truncated and left with only its lower part; something more is involved even than in cases of dead traditions so completely abandoned by the spirit that the ‘counter-initiation’ itself can make use of their ‘residues’ for its own purposes…

as explained earlier. This leads logically to the thought that this extreme degeneration must go a very long way back into the past; and, however obscure the question of its origins may be, there is some plausibility in the idea that it may be connected with the perversion of one of the ancient civilizations belonging to one or another of the continents that have disappeared in cataclysms occurring in the course of the present Manvantara.[5]

In any case it is scarcely necessary to say that as soon as the spirit has withdrawn itself it is no longer possible to speak of initiation; the representatives of the ‘counter-initiation’ are in fact as completely ignorant as ordinary profane people, and more irremediably ignorant, of the essential, in other words, of all truth of a spiritual and metaphysical order, for this truth has become completely strange to them, even in its most elementary principles, ever since ‘heaven was closed’ to them.[6]

Since it can neither lead beings toward ‘supra-human’ states as can initiation, nor confine itself exclusively to the human domain, the ‘counter-initiation’ inevitably leads them toward the ‘infra-human’, and the power to do so is precisely the only effective power left to it; it is only too easy to see that this is something quite different from the comedy of ‘pseudo-initiation’.

In Islamic esoterism it is said that one who presents himself at a certain ‘gate’, without having reached it by a normal and legitimate way, sees it shut in his face and is obliged to turn back, but not as a mere profane person, for he can never be such again, but as a saher (a sorcerer or a magician working in the domain of subtle possibilities of an inferior order).[7]

It would be impossible to put the position more clearly; it is a question of the ‘infernal’ way trying to oppose the ‘celestial’ way, and actually achieving the outward appearances of…

opposition, although such appearances can only be illusory; and, as was pointed out earlier when speaking of the false spirituality in which some beings, who are engaged in a sort of ‘inverted realization’, lose themselves, this way can only end at last in the total ‘disintegration’ of the conscious being and in its final dissolution.[8]

Naturally, in order that the imitation by inverted reflection may be as complete as possible, centers are likely to be established to which the organizations appertaining to the ‘counter-initiation’ will be attached. These centers will of course be purely ‘psychic’, like the influences they use and transmit, and in no sense spiritual, like the centers of initiation and of the true tradition, but they will be able, for the reasons given, to assume up to a point the outward appearance of spiritual centers, thus producing the illusion characteristic of ‘inverted spirituality’.

But there need be no cause for surprise if these centers themselves, and not merely some of the organizations that are more or less directly subordinated to them, are found to be engaged in struggles one with another, for the domain in which they are placed is the nearest domain of all to ‘chaotic’ dissolution, and therefore all oppositions are given free rein in it, and are not harmonized and reconciled by the direct action of a superior principle, necessarily lacking in such case.

The result often is an impression of confusion and incoherence in everything connected with the manifestations of these centers and their offshoots, and that impression is certainly not illusory; it is even a characteristic ‘mark’ of such things; they can only agree as it were negatively, in the common struggle against the true spiritual centers, insofar as the latter are situated on a level at which such a struggle can take place, that is to say only insofar as they are concerned with a domain that does not extend beyond the limits of our individual state.[9] It is here that what…

can properly be called the ‘stupidity of the devil’ becomes apparent: the representatives of the ‘counter-initiation’ who act in this way are deluded into thinking that they are opposing the spirit itself, though nothing can really be opposed to it; but at the same time, in spite of themselves and unknown to themselves, they are really subordinated to it and can never cease to be so, just as everything that exists is submitted, albeit unconsciously and involuntarily, to the divine Will, from which nothing can escape.

Thus they too are in fact being made use of, though against their will, and though they may themselves hold an exactly contrary belief, for the realization of ‘the divine plan in the human domain’;[10] like all other beings they take the part in that plan that suits their nature, but instead of being effectively conscious of that part, as are the true initiates, they are only conscious of its negative and inverse aspect. Thus they themselves are dupes, and in a way that is much worse for them than is the mere ignorance of the profane, since, instead of keeping them as it were at the same point, it has the effect of driving them ever further away from the principial center, until finally they fall into ‘outer darkness’.

But if the affair is looked at, not in relation to these beings themselves, but in relation to the world as a whole, it must be allowed that they are necessary in the place they occupy as elements in that whole, like all other beings, and as ‘providential’ instruments (to use theological language) in the passage of the world through its cycle of manifestation, for all partial disorders, even when they appear in a certain sense to be the supreme disorder, must nonetheless necessarily contribute in some way to the total order.

These few considerations should make it easier to understand why the constitution of a ‘counter-tradition’ is possible, but also why it can never be otherwise than eminently unstable and almost ephemeral, but this does not prevent its actually being in itself, as was said earlier, the most redoubtable of all possibilities. It will also…

be understood that this is the goal at which the ‘counter-initiation’ really aims and has always aimed throughout the whole course of its activity, and that the merely negative ‘anti-tradition’ only represented a necessary preparation. It now only remains to investigate rather more closely what can be foreseen, with the help of various concordant indications, of the modalities in which the ‘counter-tradition’ is likely to be realized in the future.

. - .

"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, 1924

صلّى الله على سيّدنا محمّد و على آله و صحبه و سلّم

The blessings and peace of Allah on the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions, ( sallAllahu `aleihi wa sallam ) .



Related texts

1: This is the whole text from the chapter "From Anti-Tradition to Counter-Tradition" in "The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times" by René Guénon, pp.260-267.
Extra paragraph breaks have been added, as well as some italic and black font edits.
The book can be read here at - archive.org → reneguenon - free of charge and even downloaded.

2: This truth relates to real prophecies found in all world religions in different forms.

3: The spirit ( rūh ) is from Allah (God). - Quran:
{ They ask you ˹O Prophet˺ about the spirit. Say, “Its nature is known only to my Lord, and you ˹O humanity˺ have been given but little knowledge.” } 17-85

4: (Continuation from orig text) Needless to say, no attempt will be made here to fix on more or less precise dates, after the fashion of the followers of the so-called ‘prophecies’; and even if it were possible to do so through a knowledge of the exact length of cyclical periods (the main difficulty in such cases lying always in the establishment of the right starting-point to take as a basis of calculation), it would nevertheless be proper to maintain the strictest reserve about the results, and that for reasons exactly contrary to those that actuate the conscious or unconscious propagators of denatured predictions, that is to say, in order not to run the risk of contributing to a further growth of the anxiety and disorder now reigning in our world.

5: The sixth chapter of Genesis might perhaps provide, in a symbolical form, some indications relating to the distant origins of the ‘counter-initiation’.
(fn from orig text)

6: The symbolism of the ‘fall of the angels’ can be applied analogically to the matter in hand, which corresponds exactly thereto in the human order; and that is why the word ‘satanic’ can be used in its most precise sense in this connection.
(fn from orig text)

7: The last degree of the ‘counter-initiatic’ hierarchy is occupied by what are called the ‘saints of Satan’ ( awliya' al-shaytan) who are in a sense the inverse of the true saints ( awliya' al-Rahman)-, thus manifesting the most complete expression possible of ‘inverted spirituality’ (cf. The Symbolism of the Cross).
(fn from orig text)

8: A finality so conclusive of course represents only an exceptional case, which is that of the awliya’ al-shaytan; the fate of those who have gone less far in the same direction is only that of being abandoned on a road that leads nowhere, to which they may be confined for the indefinity of an ‘eon’ or cycle.
(fn from orig text)

9: From the initiatic point of view this domain is that of what are known as the ‘lesser mysteries’; on the other hand, everything connected with the ‘greater mysteries’ is essentially of a ‘supra-human’ order, and is thereby out of range of any such opposition, since it belongs to the domain which is by its very nature absolutely closed and inaccessible to the ‘counter-initiation’ and to its representatives at all levels.
(fn from orig text)

10: Al-Tadabr al-ilahiyyah fi'l-mamlakāt al-insāniyyah, title of a treatise of Muhyi’ d-Dīn ibn al-‘Arabi.
(fn from orig text)

11: "that which prevailed toward the end of the last century" = around the 1890ies


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