Primordial Traditions Compendium 2009 * Gwendolyn Toynton (ed.) (2009)

Primordial Traditions Compendium 2009Primordial Traditions is a periodical that I did not know. They have collected their best articles from 2005 to 2009, most of which are by the hand of editor Gwendolyn Toynton. As the title suggests, this publication takes a Traditionalistic starting point and since “the term Primordial Tradition is utilized to describe a system of spiritual thought and metaphysical truths that overarches all the other religions and esoteric traditions of humanity” this book covers a wide variety of subjects, going from Hinduism and Buddhism, to Mithraism and Islam to “paganism” and of course Traditionalism. The editor does not seem to have exactly my idea of this “primordial tradition” when she says that: “Both the idea of the Primordial Tradition and the philosophia perennis attempt to establish common factors amongst different traditions, with the goal of producing a superior gnosis or level of wisdom than that which would have been obtained by the study of a single religion.” This sounds like that the primordial tradition can be created/obtained by cross-studying myth and religion while in my idea it stems from the Divine Source and is thus, per se, not ‘obtainable’. Some articles do not really seem Traditionalistic to me, Toynton seems to have a preference for far Eastern religion about which she writes articles about uncommon subjects. This is interesting in itself, but these peculiarities are, in my opinion, not seen in other cultures, so where is the Traditionalism? Also none of the articles is really good, most of them are interesting in subject and sometimes in angle of approach, but besides a few nice hints to think over or look for, I find this book more entertaining than studious. Several articles, moreover, contain ideas and statements that I disagree with and also there is an Evolian (stress on the second function) approach that I do not share. Inspite of all my critique, the Primordial Traditions Compendium is a nice read for people with an interest in comparitive myth and religion and people with an interest in far Eastern (especialy Tantric) traditions.
2009 Twin Serpents ltd. isbn 1905524323

4 comments

  1. I actually found this book quite enjoyable – you are right that the subjects are quite obscure but this I think adds to the work rather than detracts from it. Most of the information on Tantra and Eastern material is not easily obtainable, and I suspect this work is written from an academic perspective (the intellectual current which many ‘Traditionalists’ seem to abhor). Quite frankly I think its time Traditionalism updated its knowledge base and it was nice to see it pulling itself out of the 1920s for once! I get tired of reading the same old take on Guenon over and over again…

    1. Victor, I agree with you that Traditionalistic literature tends to be the same. What I wanted to say is that I do not really see the use of writing about a specific and obscure subject under the monicker of Traditionalism while it is not to be found in other traditions. I could write about cars and call it Traditionalistic because I happen to have that view. The material is interesting for sure, but I find it strange under the banner used. I have my doubts about the “academic perspective”, in fact, I would have liked the articles to be more scholarly… I am not so sure about the “knowledge base” that you refer to. Everything we can investigate is so far from the Source that by just cross-studying the Primordial Tradition cannot be ‘proven’. In my view Traditionalism is a way of thinking or a working hypothesis (but of course it is no hypothesis for me) and not a system that needs to be underbuilt or proven to anyone. In my view, the best that can happen under Traditionalists is that they will investigate (new) subjects from their starting point, like my “Traditionalistic Asatru” article. Traditionalism is hardly a subject to be studied itself anymore, but it should be a basis for all kinds of other (exoteric) religions and traditions.

  2. I se what your saying here – I think the problem here is the term ‘Traditionalism’ itself. It’s a bit like the ‘New Age’ label (but in some ways opposite) in that it isn’t really a single Tradition but rather a collection of different Traditions adhering to their own cultural/spiritual beliefs. If you look at it from this perspective then there is really no option but to study religions in distinct catergories, which the book does. If they were all studied in conjunction throughout the book, essentially it would boil down to something akin to Unitarian Universalism, which is something I don’t agree with. In regards to the Traditionalist ‘knowledge base’ I simply meant that a lot of sources frequently quoted by Traditionalists have been discredited. The sources here (if one looks at the footnotes) are at least current titles, most of which originate from university publications. My point here is that the sources can be cross-checked to verify the content.

    1. I see, we disagree on the term. In my view we are not talking about “a collection of different Traditions adhering to their own cultural/spiritual beliefs” (as Toynton does too), but the Primordial Tradition from which all these religions sprang. Cross-studying traditions can be helpfull to expand ones ideas and personal religion. I certainly do not mean to say that some hotchpotch of all religions should be created, I just hope my religion will become deeper and more meaningfull. But as for Traditionalism, I do not see it as a goal, it is the basis of my thinking. It cannot be studied (can we know God?), but it can be enlightening to read or write about things from this perspective. Besides, many people interested in the Traditionalistic ideas seem to forget that Guénon was essentially an esotericist, not a scholar in comparitive religion. The only possible way to tie yourself to the Primordial Tradition, in his and my view, is to be initiated into a regular esoteric order (and realise that initiation), not rational study. Traditionalism has become a popular term for many things that in my eyes have but vaguely to do with the ideas of Guénon. It is mostly comparitive religion a bit larger than then Indo-European branch, some anti-modernism and conservative politics. All good and well of course, I am no Freemason and need something to do in my free time!

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