Contra Mundum: Joseph de Maistre & The Birth Of Tradition – Thomas Isham (2017)
“Before René Guénon, there was Joseph de Maistre”.
I have known the name of De Maistre (1753-1821), probably because of the few references to him by the mentioned Guénon. I ran into this biography and decided to learn a bit more about the country-mate of Guénon.
The author makes many comparisons between the two men who were similar in several regards, but also different. Both were Catholics, went around in the ‘occult scenes’ of their time, joined Freemasonry and both revolted against the modern world of their ages.
De Maistre lived before, during and after the French Revolution (1789) and his Catholic orthodoxy did not like the direction France headed. He took a fierce stance with sharp polemics giving him the name of a gloomy thinker. Isham shows that De Maistre was nothing of that sort.
In spite of being a Catholic in difficult times, De Maistre -as mentioned- also explored other directions of thinking and knowing. Ironically, he was an active Freemason and Freemasonry was accused of being one of the major causes of the anticlerical sides of the French Revolution. In De Maistre’s life we see that things are not that black and white. Like he disapproved of a large part of society’s new worldview, he did of a part of Freemasonry.
Isham mostly focuses on De Maistre’s life. He compares ideas often to those of Guénon, but after finishing the little book (154 pages) I really cannot say much about De Maistre’s thinking. He appears to have been more philosophical (and perhaps theological) than the more esoteric Guénon, but that is about it.
According to Isham De Maistre is hardly known outside France. Some of his works are available in English by now. Isham thinks he remains a relevant political and religious thinker and a precursor to Traditionalism, so this biography may introduce him to more potential readers.
2017 Sophia Perennis, isbn 1621382508