- Series: Rene Guenon Works
- Paperback: 136 pages
- Publisher: Sophia Perennis; Revised edition (June 24, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780900588242
- ISBN-13: 978-0900588242
- ASIN: 0900588241
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 16 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #546,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Crisis of the Modern World (Rene Guenon Works) Revised Edition
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Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
René Guénon (1886–1951) was one of the great luminaries of the twentieth century, whose critique of the modern world has stood fast against the shifting sands of intellectual fashion. His extensive writings, now finally available in English, are a providential treasure-trove for the modern seeker: while pointing ceaselessly to the perennial wisdom found in past cultures ranging from the Shamanistic to the Indian and Chinese, the Hellenic and Judaic, the Christian and Islamic, and including also Alchemy, Hermeticism, and other esoteric currents, they direct the reader also to the deepest level of religious praxis, emphasizing the need for affiliation with a revealed tradition even while acknowledging the final identity of all spiritual paths as they approach the summit of spiritual realization. René Guénon, of whom Jacob Needleman wrote in The Sword of Gnosis that ‘no other modern writer has so effectively communicated the absoluteness of truth,’ is gradually being recognized by deeper thinkers as one of the few who have truly penetrated the seductive veil of the modern age. As an expositor of pure metaphysics and its application to the science of symbols, Guénon is without peer; and his extraordinarily prescient critique of the modern world is attracting more and more attention among cultural commentators. Little known in the English-speaking world till the recent appearance of his Collected Works in translation, Guénon has nevertheless long been recognized as a veritable criterion of truth by a vanguard of remarkable writers who evince that rare combination: intellectuality and spirituality. After a lonely childhood, often interrupted by ill health, Guénon navigated the seductive half-truths of occultism toward a deeper, unified vision offering a way out from the confusion and fragmentation of our time. Regarded by leading scholars as the first truly authentic interpreter of many Eastern doctrines in the West, Guénon never tired, in face of the seemingly inexorable process of dissolution in the twentieth century, of pointing to the transcendent unity of all religious faiths and the abiding Truth that contains them all.
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- Rene Guenon, ‘The Crisis of the Modern World’
The French metaphysical scholar Rene Guenon (1886-1951) is considered to be one of the greatest of all in the western world. Guenon was no mere occultist. He was an authority on the Sanskrit teachings, Sufism, Taoism, and many others including western esoteric traditions. ‘The Reign of Quantity’ is his masterwork and was the turning point in my own understanding as he convinced me to accept the Cycles of Time as reality.
Guenon’s ‘The Crisis in the Modern World’ was written in 1942 (three years before my own birth) and describes our current times with prescient and increasing accuracy. In the chapter on ‘Knowledge and Action’ Guenon explains in his razor-like French precision that the modern world, its sciences and philosophies, its very foundations have become completely disconnected from any metaphysical truth. The reason for this is our ongoing Kali Yuga descent into matter and limited five-sense perception, which blocks our understanding of the Invisible Realms that are the support and substratum of this entire universe.
The people who have become prominent in all fields of modern life simply are no longer capable of understanding the real underlying metaphysical principles that are the substratum of the temporal illusory earth we stand upon. Thus the various and always changing theories that become the basis of our lives are profoundly flawed, unsound, and subject to collapse. Rene Guenon: “It is impossible in any way to separate knowledge from the process by which it is acquired.” The intelligence that is now held in high esteem is of the lowest order — regardless of how many corporate global policy institute think-tanks these modern era PhD priests are ensconced within.
True knowledge consists in 'identification'...
Guenon: “…for all true knowledge essentially consists in identification with its object.” This is the traditional ancient way of immersing consciousness to reach wisdom knowledge and is precisely what the shamans still today practice. In the west and spreading around the globe, this process of intense identification is overlooked and “…they admit nothing higher than rational or discursive knowledge, which is necessarily indirect and imperfect, being…reflected knowledge.” One is reminded of Plato’s shadows in a cave being taken as real.
This ‘lower type of knowledge’ has become more and more valued ‘only insofar as it can be made to serve immediate practical ends.’ Our modern western culture has become absorbed and obsessed with action, scientific and mathematical theories that produce profitable results, and have denied everything that lies beyond the grasp of their own limited five-sense perception. These servants of the corporatist scions are blind to the fact that acts thus disconnected from metaphysical truth degenerate — “from the absence of any principle, into an agitation as vain as it is sterile.”
We are lost in what Guenon back in 1942 called “dispersion in multiplicity, and in a multiplicity that is no longer unified by consciousness of any higher principle.” This external multiplicity is merely the temporal ‘appearance’ generated by the eternal Real, the One substratum beneath all appearances. And yet the best and seemingly the most intelligent are consumed in its quantitative analysis, a bottomless pit of frantic change for its own sake and profit.
Guenon: “…in daily life, as in scientific ideas, it is analysis [of external multiplicity] driven to an extreme, endless subdivision, a veritable disintegration of human activity in all the orders.” Nothing is of value that cannot generate profit, while the wisdom that is born from silent contemplation is ridiculed. Thus we live in an intellectual environment suffused in “the inaptitude for synthesis and the incapacity for any sort of concentration.”
This incessant frantic descent into ever increasing multiplicity and complexity is, as Rene Guenon says, the result of “a pretended intuition modelled on the ceaseless flux of things of the senses, far from being able to serve as an instrument for obtaining true knowledge, represents in reality the dissolution of all possible knowledge.”
An intelligence that has been disconnected from the immutable imperishable substratum that lies beneath ‘the curtain of each atom’ [Mahmud Shabistari's Sufi poem] is necessarily precariously unstable and inclined to collapse. Without metaphysical wisdom, each temporal ‘fix’ our elitist servant PhD’s come up with will only lead us closer to the final moments of this Kali Yuga.
Rene Guenon would not have been surprised to witness our current predicament. Guenon offers us one last profound comfort in the final sentence of his brilliant ‘The Reign of Quantity’: “…it can be said in all truth that the ‘end of a world’ never is and never can be anything but the end of an illusion.”
Guénon begins with the premise that the modern world as we know it corresponds exactly to the period of Kali Yuga (or Dark Age) in Hindu cosmology, similar to the Iron Age in Western traditional doctrine, a time when the forces of matter reign supreme and spirituality has been thoroughly eclipsed. In fact, history itself is a gradual process of declining spirituality and "progressive materialization", so that at the last phase of the human cycle (or the darkest of the Dark Age), mankind shall witness the abundance of material prosperity as has never been witnessed before, while simultaneously impoverished spiritually and utterly divorced from true intellectuality and hence truth itself.
Intellectually, this decline is especially evident in science and philosophy. Philosophy - `love' of wisdom - became wisdom unto itself; `physics' - the science of `nature' in its totality - became a science that deals with only a portion of nature; astrology degraded into astronomy; alchemy degenerated into chemistry; and all that was once meaningful and bound to truth transcending the domain of matter and the world of sensible experience is reduced to bare facts bereft of truth, meaning and purpose. It is no wonder that the modern man today feels alienated from the world, from each other and from himself. The ancient sciences were invariably bound to metaphysical principles found in the world's great religions, made possible by the eminently religious and theocentric character of the earlier people. Truth for them is one, just as God is One. The different orders and aspects of Reality are but reflections of this same, single and universal truth. Whichever angle the truth is approached, contradictions only appear at the surface so that `specialization' would eventually lead to the convergence of the various disciplines, which explains why the ancients were so adept at mastering several different branches of knowledge at the same time, insofar as mastery of certain basic laws underlying all of reality permits their application to many different domains.
Modernity by contrast, is built upon the spirit of opposition to religion (think of the Renaissance, Reformation and the Enlightenment) and therefore hostility to metaphysics and truth. Once the ultimate Truth is denied, the ground is cleared for the manufacture of many different "truths", tending naturally towards relativism and nihilism that are so prevalent in today's world. Indeed, relativism is the logical outcome of rationalism, this in turn being the result of humanism and individualism, which of course, is the "determining cause of the present decline of the West." Descartes' rationalism, instead of raising man to transcend himself towards truth, seeks to drag truth down to the "purely relative and human faculty" of rational thought. The mental outlook that made this possible is materialism, "a conception according to which nothing else exists but matter and its derivatives." Now this is significant even symbolically, for matter is essentially multiplicity and division, hence the source of strife and conflict.
This decadence even manifests itself in the social order - from the separation of religion from the state, the triumph of mediocrity over the wise (democracy), the spread of `mass education' (which compromises the uniqueness of each individual) to the rise of the cult of `originality' in the intellectual domain, for whom it is better to create a new error than repeat an old truth. All this are but manifestations of the same catastrophe - neglect of spirituality, hence the loss of unity.
Materialism is also tied to Western domination. The East has been traditionally religious, but in the face of (material) challenge and encroachment by the modern West, is now compelled to adopt the materialistic worldview to compete in this profane realm and in this regard, its religious past is certainly no guide. Where else would they seek guidance and `light', if not from the very civilization in which materialism organically springed forth? This is in fact how the present age fits neatly into that last phase of Kali Yuga as Guénon understands it, namely that the darkness of materialism will ultimately bring the whole world into its dominion (long before `globalization' and `end of history' became common lingo), marking finally the end of an era, i.e. the end of a human cycle, or Manvantara, where `the wheel stops turning.' This is when chaos, conflict and strife will erupt as never before, a time known in Christianity as the reign of the Antichrist and in Islam as the era of Dajjal.
There is a way out - for the establishment of a spiritual elite to lead the masses out of this darkness. This elite necessarily has to operate covertly, like a secret puppeteer when others could not see the strings, for the masses have become deeply entrenched in their materialism, which continuously creates in them more artificial needs for materiality than it can satisfy. In the West, the only institution capable of bringing about this change is the Catholic Church, which alone is in possession of the sacred traditional doctrine of Christianity. Yet even then, Guenon remains skeptical and calls for the Western world to summon aid from what modicum of true spirituality is left in the East, unadulterated by the `modernized' outlook that is fast making headways throughout the Orient.
Those who seek a spiritual order in their lives should be intrigued by Guenon's prescriptions for modern man