Danielou a Traditionalist? /2009/09/26/danielou-a-traditionalist/

Danielou a Traditionalist? (update 2018: I am no fan of guenon and the ‘traditionalists, despite the interest in Danielou)

My copy of Against The Modern World arrived yesterday afternoon by FedEx and I have been rereading it. Fascinating stuff.

Let me note a difference here between Guenon, who was keen on Vedanta, and the more knowledgeable (if sometimes wobbly) Danielou who rightly saw Vedanta as later concoction, now much favored by modernists (including Vivekananda, et al.) who need a button-holed simplification of Indian spirituality. Guenon was a bit of a New Age amateur before the fact.

Danielou is/is not labeled a Traditionalist? I don’t wish to misuse Sedgewick’s terminology. The Traditionalists are retail consumers, Danielou closer to the wholesalers. I will leave the judgment to others, but note that Danielou is a de facto ‘anti-modernist’ (unless I am mistaken), but in any case a man with a larger framework than the usual postmodern anti-modernism. I linger on this point, as noted, because the history of Indian religion, the anti-modernist red herring apart, gives many the impression of a peak in the Neolithic, after which it falls off, the age of Vedism, Buddhism, Hinduism seeming to them almost a decline!!!
That’s an illusion perhaps, but careful study of Indian religion suggests a major phase in the Neolithic, perhaps the sixth millennium. That’s a completely ordinary historical/archaeological possibility. The opponents of the Aryan migration thesis have been saying this for a long time, but failed to grasp that it has nothing to do with Aryans.
If we look at the parallel Mesopotamia it is just this era that shows the creation of great temple complexes. Religion is already an old phenomenon by the time ‘higher civilization’ takes off ca. 3000 BCE. That a similar religiouns foundation period occurred in Indian at this time can’t be ruled out.
(Note by the way that the eonic effect tends to suggest just this!)
Danielou goes further and suggests a link between Shaivism and the Dionysus cult in the West. It would take a lot of research to check this out, so I don’t know, but the point Danielou is making is the one I just made: the early millennia before the rise of higher civilization, the five millennia of the Neolithic, are the probable sources for later religion, and especially of something related to Danielou’s answer, primordial Shaivism (and Jainism).

These views are not necessarily wild. If you wonder why Catholicism reverted to goddes worship in disguise with the Virgin Mary the reason is the reversion to Neolithic type, where the first ‘catholicisms’ appeared in primitive forms. Etc… I must caution myself against speculation.

In any case, Danielou’s approach is a caution to students of Indian religion: the underground stream of Shavism is resurfacing at various points and this influences the history in ways that are puzzling if you are not aware of what is happening (e.g. why does Buddhism suddenly go tantric, etc…)

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