traditionalism

The Essential Titus Burckhardt (2003)

Titus Burckhardt (1908-1984) was a Swiss “perennialist” art historian, advisor to UNESCO and an active writer. Numerous works in a great variety of languages came from his desk. Also did he write on many different subjects. In “The Essential Titus Burckhardt” the editor William Stoddart tried to show the various sides of Burckhardt. The texts in this volume go from almost theological expositions to reports of Burckhardt’s many travels and much in between. The subjects varry from alchemy to ‘Amerindian’ sundances, evolution and Julius Evola’s Riding the Tiger. Indeed, the author had a broad interest and during his life made friends all over the world.
The book is divided in seven parts each of which is divided in different chapters. The parts have titles such as “Traditional and Modern Science”, “Sacred Art and the Expression of Truth”, “Alchemy” and “Evocations of Traditional Maroccan Life”. An interesting and varried book of an interesting writer with a nicely personal writing style and critical but constructive ideas.
2003 world wisdom, isbn 0941532364

Understanding Islam * Frithjof Schuon (1976/2011)

This is the first ebook that I bought. I bought an ereader to read all those PDFs that I have on my computer, but when I noticed that there are also ebooks that I want to read and the prices are better than I thought and I was looking for a Traditionalist title anyway, I got myself this famous book by Frithjof Schuon (1907-1998). The book was initially written in French (“Comprendre l’Islam” 1976), has been published in English before, but in 2011 became available in a new English translation and was expanded with letters and other short writings of Schuon. I must say that I am relatively happy ‘reading e’. When there is a note, I can read it in a popup without having to page to the notes and even when a note is too long for the popup, the jumping to the note and back to where I was reading goes with one click. The ereader keeps track of where I am in which book as well, so I can read several books without having to finish each of them first and the dictionary function is great. I was afraid that reviewing an ebook would be a pain, because when reviewing a book, I am constantly flipping through it which is not ‘doable’ on the ereader, but the software that I need to put books on the device, also acts like a reader and on the computer navigation goes well enough. I guess that the choice between buying a physical book and a digital one will be the question if I want to put it in my library for referential purposes.
In any case, in his preface Schuon says that he did not want to write another book about what Muslims believe, but why. Perhaps this is why I am not really sure if I understand Islam better after reading this book. The book reads more like a Traditionalistic work (of course Schuon was a Traditionalist and Muslim) and a deeply religious one, making cross-references to other religions and speaking about Muslim concepts, but it is not like he sets out to explain these concepts. It is more like a long text in which those different concepts are touched upon in the light of the larger story. “Understanding Islam” certainly is a great book if you want to read a religious work of a Traditionalist, but perhaps there are better books to answer your questions about the religion of Islam. The remark: “A masterpiece of comparative religion” (Islamic Quarterly about the book) descries what I mean. Of course, since the book is about Islam afterall, you will learn about it, but just different from what I expected I guess.
2011 World Wisdom, isbn 0941532240

Luvah Journal 1/1 and 1/3

I read volumes 1/1 and 1/3 so short after eachother that I decided to make a combined review. I am glad that I (accidentally) first read volume 1/2. Volume 1/1 seems more Platonic and 1/3 more focussed on poetry than on Traditionalism. Volume 1/2 certainly is the more interesting of the three that are now available. Not that the other two do not contain interesting articles though. Farasha Euker’s opening article is a nice ‘against the modern world’ piece of writing and 1/3 contains an interesting text on Iamblichus (and, less interestingly, Ostad Elahi) also by Euker. I am not much for philosophy, especially not on the academic level, but Euker makes Iamblichus worth looking at. Both volumes futher mostly have texts about elements of writers and poets which sometimes leads to nice ideas, but which are mostly not much of my interest. Also again the last part is filled with poetry and prose.
“Luvah” remains a laudable initiative, but now that I read three volumes, I guess I would have preferred more focus on Traditionalism, religion, mythology, that sort of things. But of course something different never hurts and since the journal is free, there is no harm done when only a part of the volumes are interesting.

Luvah Journal 1/2

“Luvah” is a new Traditionalistic journal, but there is a big difference between Luvah and its sisters Sophia and Sacred Web: Luvah is not hard and expensive to get, but free to read online or to download. There are authors that have also published in the other journals that I mentioned, so Luvah is very likely supposed to be a more low-threshold publication from the same corner. There does seem to be another difference though. I have the idea that Luvah is less “hardline” (as I jokingly call it) Traditionalistic as the other publications. It was just chance that I read issue 2 first by the way. When I heard of Luvah issue 2 was already available. I downloaded both issues, put them on my tablet and when I wanted to start to read it, I could only find issue 2. Now that I finished that, I noticed that issue 3 is also available, so it is going to be something to keep up with Luvah. It being an online publication does not make it an easier read or an effortless and thin journal. What you get are 170 pages filled with six essays and 70 pages of poetry and prose (the amount of the latter also makes Luvah different from the other publications). I am mostly interested in the articles myself. They are about ecology, “Śri Ramakrishna and Muhyi al-Din ibn ‘Arabi” (a nice article of Zachary Markwith whom we have run into before), “The Dervish, Death, and Qur’anic Hermeneutics” (of the editor Farasha Euker), “Buddhist Mind, Western Literature”, “A More Poetical Character Than Satan” and … Arthur C. Clarke? Yes indeed, even this sci-fi writer is seriously treated in a Traditionalistic publication and the man actually had something to say too. The last part is filled with poems and texts about poems and poetry. Luvah makes a nice addition to the available Traditionalistic publications and being more easily available, I hope it will attract a larger audience. Click on the cover to download your own copy. Now that it seems that I will be reading more digital material, I replaced my tablet by an ereader, but reading on that device would be more easier if Luvah was also made available as ebook since scaling a PDF and paging though it is not all that easy on my ereader…

Sophia, the journal for traditional studies, volume 16, number 1 (2010)

The second Sophia that I read is also a nice one. This volume is dedicated to Huston Smith (1919-), the well-known scholar in religions that later in his life got acquainted with the Traditionalist way of thinking and found the answers that he had been looking for. This volume opens with a text by Smith and is followed by an interview with the man. Later in the volume no-one less than Harry Oldmeadow writes a lengthy biography of Smith and after this Zachary Markwith speaks about “Huston Smith’s encounter with the Islamic Tradition” and when you ready my review of Sophia 13/2 you will understand where the stress of Markwith’s article lays. Other articles are Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s thoughts on humanity in relation to nature, Islamic “mysticism” and “Christianity amidst the world religions”. Another long text is a review of two book about Frithjof Schuon followed by the review of a book about Nasr. At the end there is a review of a book about the poem “The Mystery Of Hasanaginica”. Indeed, the Sophia Journal is by and about the leading Traditionalists of today and covers a nice spectrum of subjects.
Link: Sophia Journalm isbn 9780979842979

Mímir – Journal Of North European Traditions * Gwendolyn Taunton (editor) (2011)

Only a year and a half ago I reviewed “Northern Traditions“. The series of journals edited by Gwendolyn Toynton/Taunton has since seen two other volumes. For the second issue dedicated to the Traditions of Northern Europe, Taunton came up with a better-fitting name. “Mímir” is 230 pages thick and comes as the well-printed A5 booklet that we grew used to. The essays are nicely varried. The editor contributes a nice introduction and two articles, one about “the Nornir and the concept of Fate” and one about “the berserker and the Vratya”. Two articles of myself are also included (I had to come up with a penname quickly and it became “Roy Orlogstru”). The first is an 18 page version of “Traditionalistic Asatru“, a text of a few years back. The other I named “The Primal Law” and I write about Örlogr, Heilagr, fate and a few other concepts and I put this in a Traditionalistic framework. Then I need to mention Maria Kvildhaug’s “Ritual And Initiation In The Poetic Edda” because this text completes an interesting set of articles that complement eachother (I did not know this beforehand, this is either good editing or luck of the editor). All three authors refer to Germanic initiations, Männerbünde, there are references to fate, Örlogr and all the things interesting in Northern mythology. I feel to be closer in content to Taunton than to Kvildhaug, but we all three break a lance for Northern mysteries. Other articles include an investigation of Viking presence in Northern Europe, a new translation of the sage of Gunnlaug the Worm-Tongue, an interesting investigation of the texts of Saxo Grammaticus and its sources and another article about Grammaticus by the same author. There are two articles about runes. A short text saying what runes are not, but more interesting is Juleigh Howard-Hobson’s defence of the Uthark theory. The journal closes with a lengthy review of the first five Heidnische Jahrbücher by myself.
Indeed, “Mímir” became a very nice collection of contemporary heathenry including different views in comparison to what you see more often. It sure makes a welcome addition to similar efforts such as the earlier mentioned Heidnisches Jahrbuch, the Journal For Contemporary Heathen Thought and Tyr, particularly because I found someone who likes what I write and is willing to publish it!
2012 Numen Books, isbn 978098158147

Sophia, the journal for traditional studies, volume 13, number 2 (2007)

Sophia, I have known about the journal for ages, but I probably never really looked at it. Perhaps only when the new issue was mentioned on a Traditionalistic forum did I realise that this is a Traditionalistic journal. More actually, all contemporary Traditionalists seem to contribute to it. My story is quite similar to that about Sacred Web! Because Sophia, contrary to Sacred Web, is available from Amazon (but they are not easy to find) sometimes for a price way below the price of the publisher, I got myself two issues. Not the most recent though, I picked two based on the tables of content. Sophia 13/2 opens with a text of his royal highness, prince of Wales (or Prince Charles) who contributes to Traditionalistic journals more often and who appears to be a productive writer on a great variety of topics. The text presented is a talk that HRH gave when he received an environmental award from the hands of Al Gore. The text is not really Traditionalistic, but HRH highness does stress the point that the earth is not for us to use and that we should start using technology to make our way of living no longer a burden to nature. Another environmental text comes from the hands of the main editor Seyyed Hossein Nasr who makes an appeal to Muslims to not slavely follow the West with destructive technology just to keep up, but to use Islam to come to a better way of living and an ‘Islamic technology’. Next up is an interview with Huston Smith (born 1919 and still going), the first and perhaps most famous scholar in comparitive religious studies. After this come the two articles that made me order this particular issue, both are about Kabbalah. The first text is about the Christian Kabbalah. Wolfgang Smith argues that the Christian version of the Kabbalah is valid (however the two initially seem incompatible) and that it even adds something to Christianity. Then Tom Black shows us that Kabbalah is more Sufi in nature than Jewish in his very nice article. Much more Islam follows with Zachary Markwith’s lengthy “Muslim Intellectuals and the Perennial Philosophy” in which Markwith shows us that Traditionalism sprang forth from Islam and is conserved within it as well and that this is due to the Quran, the Sunnah and the very Prophet Himself. The author not only presents a very nice insight into Islam, but also presents a very good introduction to Traditionalism and several of the names from the ‘school’. The last article is about Ananda Coomaraswamy and his views on art. To close the journal there are book and film reviews.
Sophia certainly is worth the money, especially because, at least from Amazon, some issues are very friendly priced and easy to get. If you are interested in Traditionalism and Traditionalism in action, Sophia is the title that you should certainly try.
2007 The Foundation For Traditional Studies, isbn 0979842913

Sacred Web 29 (2012)

I have known about Sacred Web for quite some time, but for some reason I never got myself a copy. When the latest issue was announced on the Traditional Studies forum and my eye fell on the title: “Hermetic Wisdom in Islam” I thought that it was high time to order that issue of this long running “journal of tradition and modernity”. It appears to be an expensive journal for a European. It is $ 20,- per issue plus $ 15,- shipping, also when you order more at the same time. Also the journal seems only available from the editor and not, like Sophia, through Amazon. For these $ 35,- you get a speedy delivery and a well-printed 170 page booklet on A5 format which contains six essays, two book reviews, an introduction and letters to the editor. Something that I notice when slowly rolling into more ‘serious’ Traditionalistic circles also applies to this journal, it is a highly scholarly work and most contributors are academics. There is even one article about “metaphysical order in evangelical doctrine” that is so much over my head that I have no idea what the author tries to tell me. Fortunately this only goes for this article. What we have more is often about Islamic traditions, one article opens with a spiritual biography of René Guénon and continues with gnosis and gnosticism. There is also an investigation of contemporary literature and it’s Traditionalistic background (“Blood Meridian”) and a nice example of ‘applied Traditionalism’ in an ecological essay. The most interesting piece, though, is the one that caught my attention, the article about Hermeticism and Islam. Indeed, “Sacred Web” is nicely varried and it was a nice read. I have also got two issues of “Sophia” on the way, let us see what that journal is like.
2012 Sacred Web, issn 14806584

Folk Metaphysics * Charles Upton (2008)

What a wonderfull little book of the American Traditionalist Charles Upton! I thought it was time to read something from the Traditionalist corner and when browsing through the Amazon website, I ran into this Traditionalistic book about “mystical meanings in traditional folk songs & spirituals” and decided to try it. Upton proves to be a poet (student of a beat poet) and however Wikipedia lists him as a Sufi, I have the idea that he is very Christian. The author starts with a very nice introduction into his world of thought and this makes a nice introduction into Traditionalism. Also, the authors that I mostly read from that ‘school’ are much more formal and theoretical in their approaches, while Upton is very nicely ‘practical’ and personal, sometimes reminding a bit of Mircea Eliade. Upton does not write about Traditionalism, but he writes ‘Traditionalistically’. The book mentions a lot of contemporary songs and poems, some might go back to the older songs the he usually reconstructs before he gives his view on them. These views can be relatively short, or extremely lengthy, such as in the case of the Dilly Song in which Upton finds the 10 commandments that he delves into in (too) great depth. Upton has a Traditionalistic view upon folklore and the prechristian religion that some of it goes back to. On the one hand, he says that remnants remain, but on the other hand the tradition is broken and the real work can only be done through orthodox religions. In his introduction to ‘three ballads of fall and redemption’ he writes “a word on, and to, the neo-pagans”, who “certainly include the Nordic romantics of the “Goth” culture – the people who, when they think of Hyperborea, do not see the eternal spring of the Earthly Paradise, but sorcerers blasting people with magic wands and warriors cleaving skulls with battle-axes – as well as softer Celtic romanticism which has produced River Dance and Celtic Women and a lot of blurry, elvish elevator music.” I guess that goes for a large part! “I maintain that some of the Neo-Pagans seem to have missed several important points, both about the spiritual life in general and about what Paganism originally was”. Agreed!
Folk Metaphysics is filled with thought-provoking and insightfull explanations of old and contemporary poetry and song. I do not always agree with the author and his ideas about for example heathenry, but the book is a very nice read. Practical Traditionalism so to say.
1998 Sophia Perennis, isbn 9781597310772
Some quotes from this book can be found here


The Initiate #2

Well over three years ago I heard about the first “The Initiate”. However my review is quite critical, my memories about the journal are positive. I did not hear about a second issue and especially when the website became defunct and later also the publisher Integral Tradition, I no longer expected a new issue. I do not know what I was looking for a few months back, but I ran into Arktos where I noticed the second “The Initiate” on their list. The second volume has Evola on the cover (at least, I think it is Evola) and Arktos sells Varg Vikernes, Alain de Benoist, a range of radical political titles and the covers often raise an eyebrow. Where issue 1 already had quite some politics in it, my first thought about volume 2 was it might be some sort of “Radical Tradition“. Ordering the journal (together with Rûna! I finally found an easy way to get that journal) had some difficulties, but paging through it when I finally got it, dropped most of my prejudices. “The Initiate” appears to be a real and serious Traditionalistic journal. No xenophobic focus on Germanic traditions, but Hindus and Sufis and other Traditionalists that take heed of the real Tradition and not just the anti-modernistic and new-right-political tendensies of modern “traditionalism”. The opening article with its “revolt against the arm-chair Traditionalist” is one to my heart. The (too) lengthy Sufi article comparing Frithjof Schuon and Javad Nurbakhsh is interesting and thought-provoking. I am less interested in the articles about Wicca, Evola’s tiny article about witchcraft and the article about “music and magic”, but Troy Southgate’s lengthy reply to an article that featured him in the first issue and another critical letter make this second volume nicely complete. Of course I should not forget to mention music reviews (no neofolk or related for a change) and the closing “War Protocols” which manages to be both thought-provoking and very annoying. “The Initiate” #2 is a good initiative counterbalance against the growing number of pseudo-Traditionalism (however interesting in itself), that seems to be on a continuous rise. Many of the images used would benefit with better printing though.
2010 Arktos Media, isbn 9781907166051