Almost 20 years after Against The Modern World, Sedgwick thought it was time for an updated history of Traditionalism. Both books are histories of Traditionalism. Both books deal with ‘Traditionalism in practice’. Still, the books differ.
The reader gets a history of Traditionalism, of course starting with René Guénon. Well, first Sedgwick is going to tell you in what tradition Guénon can be placed, thus describing Neoplatonism, Renaissance Perennialism, etc. Then the author moves to the most eye catching element of Traditionalism: the critique on modernity.
In part II Sedgwick starts to describe what he calls “core projects” of Traditionalism. Personally I never had the idea that there ever was such a thing as “projects”. Of course some of the Traditionalist authors (or perhaps all of them) had their centres of gravity, but Sedgwick also describes projects which he had to distill from various writings.
Guénon’s “project” was “self-realization”. Schuon’s “project”, “religion” and Evola’s “project”, “politics”. Roughly spoken, perhaps indeed. Then we get other “projects” such as “art” (Coomaraswamy, still agreed), “gender” (here things become fuzzy), “nature” (mostly Nasr) and “dialogue” (Schuon, Smith). There is also a “post-Traditionalism” “project” “the radical right”.
Guénon certainly was the intellectual, critical of religion. Evola was more interested in political action. Schuon “rehabilitated religion”. In Seyyed Hosein Nasr, Schuon’s “project” was stretched and extended. Nasr was the first Traditionalist indicating environmental awareness. Schuon also had ‘followers’ in authors, scholars and religious leaders who took his “transcendent unity of religions’ to heart and who investigated different religions, comparing them, not on the abstract level of Guénon, and who brought religions together in dialogue. This is a logical outcome of Traditionalist thought, but a “project” of Traditionalism or rather the projects of individuals and groups, some of whom had an interest in Traditionalist thinking?
Like in the other book, I have the idea that Sedgwick stretches the subject to describe the influence of Traditionalism on elements of our own time and age, however indirect. Then again, Traditionalism isn’t a philosophy of the past and Traditionalist thinkers did and do influence (academic) thinking, so I guess we are just talking about a “project” of Sedgwick himself.
Shortly the ‘traditional’ Traditionalists, their lives and thought (but not as much about their lives as in the previous book) and then rapidly on to more contemporary thinkers. There is a bit too much stress on the political side of the story, but I guess also there we see a preference of the author. So you can read about Alain de Benoist, Alexandr Dugin, “alt-right”, etc. Also, more interesting to me personally, yet shorter, Nader Ardalan, a Traditionalist architect; Keith Critchlow who wrote about geometry and John Tavener, a composer; and even a little about “music scene Traditionalism“.
The book is not a crash course in Traditionalist thought, but -as mentioned- a history of that thought. It is a readable book, fairly interesting and it does touch open some new related subjects.
2023 Oxford University Press, isbn 0197683762