MBFM on Danielou, Guenon, and the Traditionalists
Comment by MBFM on Danielou and Guenon, along with the Traditionalists
23.09.09 at 7:53 am
Mircea Eliade, who became famous for his works on shamanism, was also a soft Traditionalist scholar. He had been active in Romanian Traditionalist projects and groups and after the communist take over, went into exile.
Rene Guenon’s Ph.D thesis was rejected because ”it made light of history and historical criticism’ a criticism of Guenon’s methodology that was in many ways justified. Guenon made no pretense of following the standard scholarly methods of Indology; for reasons examined later, his approach was theological rather than anthropological or sociological. For Guenon, Hinduism was a repository of spiritual truth, not the body of beliefs and practices modified over time that late 19th-century Western scholarship recognized. While this approach obviously disqualified Guenon’s work for Levi’s purposes (Sylvain Levi was Guenon’s dissertation advisor), it did not for the Roman Catholic philsopher (Jacques Maritain).’
‘Levi’s second objection to Guenon’s thesis was that it left out anything that did not fit Guenon’s theory that Hinduism could be reduced to Vedanta. Vedanta is one of six darshanas or philosophical schools of Hinduism, …for Levi and for later Indologists, therea re many varieties of Hinduism other than Vedanta; that Guenon chose to ignore these was a consequence of the context in which he had first encountered Vedanta, discussed later.
‘Levi’s third objection to the thesis was that Guenon was ‘quite ready to believe in a mystical transmission of a primal truth (un verite, primiere) that appeared to humanity in the first ages of the world’ (Ibid, page 22-23) a belief that was not acceptable within a university context, but would have been fine in a devotional context–which Ph.D work is not.
Even at the end of Guenon’s life, when he had become Muslim and lived in Egypt, ‘Guenon remained not only a universalist in his beliefs, but a Traditionalist, rather than a Muslim in his writings. There are few references to Islam in his work before 1930, and despite a slight increase in references after 1930, Islam never became an important source for him. Nor was it an important element in his reading; his private library contained some 3,000 volumes at teh time of his death, but four times as many on Hinduism as on Islam and few or perhaps none in Arabic.”
Page 77, Against the Modern World.
(This reference to Guenon’s library is also carefully footnoted by Sedgwick and takes the reader to a survey of Guenon’s library by someone who inventoried it. Sedgwick cannot rule out that some books were sold before the library was inventoried. )
(MBTF note: Guenon’s mistake was to take a devotional and personally subjective approach to his Ph.D work, in a university context that demanded an objective approach–thats the idea of a university. It shows a fragile personality unable to shift gears and attain objectivity in relation to a subject in which emotional investment runs so deep that objectivity is impossible, even when career success demands it)
And this was the author, some of whose works. Alain Danielou sought to translate into Hindi.
This is useful material: we can see how the viewpoint of Danielou (e.g. the cycles mythology of the Kali Yuga) has entered into the Traditionalist view of things, and they have bit on the hook provided by Danielou and others.
It shoudl be point out that Danielou is a little different, at least in the beginning, and focusses on a solid thesis: the Dravidian and pre-Aryan sources of Shaivism and Jainism prior to the later arrival of Hinduism.
Note that Danielou, at first, is more sophisticated than the Traditionalists, because he is not bemused by the later artificial concoction called Hinduism.
Danielou’s basis points, which should never be associated with Traditionalism, is that the Indian religious tradition shows a pre-Aryan source in Shaivism, with Jainism ambiguously trotting along in parallel, and equally ancient, far older than Buddhism.
If we can stay away from New Age bullshit, and stay with archaeology with Danielou’s hints, we can see that something like this has to be true.
If the Vedas didn’t produce yoga or tantra, then where did they come from?
Danielou unwittingly gives us a fuzzy hint.