traditionalism

The Essential Ananda K. Coomaraswamy (2003 world wisdom * isbn 094153246)

Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (1877-1947) (not to be mistaken with his almost equally famous son Rama Poonambalam Coomaraswamy (1929-) was a contemporary of René Guénon and ‘fellow-Traditionalist’. He was the son of a Sri Lankan father and a British mother, born in Sri Lanka, but raise in the United Kingdom and was in person and ‘philosophically’ a bridge between the East and the West. Like I said, he was a Traditionalist like Guénon, meaning that he thinks that there is one primordial Tradition from which all religions sprung. His starting-point is not (as you might expect) Hinduism, but art. As the title of this book shows, this is an anthology of the man. The book was compiled by his son Rama. The lengthy introduction by Arvind Sharma contains nice information about the time of Guénon and Coomaraswamy and some critical notes on the first.
There are 20 chapters, which are mostly articles and essays published in other books. Some of his more well-known writings can be found. Most of the texts are about art. This should be taken in a broad sense of the word. Coomaraswamy’s idea is that a work of art is made by a person who is ‘in contact’ with the ‘overworld’ and makes something usefull after a divine model. This gives a totally different conception of the term than we use today. A tea-cup is (when it is made ‘Traditionally’) a work of art and a bomb is a work of art if it does what it is made for well. Coomaraswamy does not have a very positive view of modern art and museums (also not when they collect ancient items). Nowadays art seems to be something elitaristic, only made for the artist himself and others may or may not like it, but most of all, there is no use for the ‘works of art’ of today save for putting them in a museum for the sole sake of being advertisement for the ‘artist’.
During the course of this book you will read about literacy, “Eastern Wisdom And Western Knowledge”, folklore, “The Interpretation Of Symbols” (not a practical guide btw), “What Is Civilization?”, all which chapters mostly speak about art, but you will also learn about Traditionalism; the last two chapters are “The Hindu Tradition: The Myth” and “The Hindu Tradition: Theology and Autology”.
Coomaraswamy reads easier than Guénon. He is sometimes more outspoken too. It is nice to see a similar (Traditionalism), but different (art versus esotericism) starting point. Coomaraswamy has written a few famous titles, but like Guénon his bibliography is enormous, so a “the essential” is a very good introduction.
(22/5/06 -4-)
Read quotes of Coomaraswamy here.

The Hermetic Tradition * Julius Evola (1995)

la tradizione ermetica 1931/1971

Five years ago I was asked to write an article about Julius Evola. Because of the music that I listen to, I was aware of ‘new right’ thinkers (but never read them), including Evola. I did some investigation and Evola became my first acquintance with Traditionalism. I didn’t quite grasp the implications of this way of thinking it seems when I look back to my review of that time. Now that I am rereading the book I better appreciate what Evola has done. He writes a Traditionalist book, but his Tradition is Alchemy (the Royal Art that he calls The Hermetic Tradition) and this became a Traditionalist book with an alchemical starting point, such as there are Traditionalist books with Hindu or Islamic starting points. Evola was acquinted with René Guénon who is regarded the grandfather of the Traditionalist school and Guénon did not agree with everything Evola writes, including the notion of the Hermetic sophia perennis. You can wonder if Evola can truely be regarded as a Traditionalist, but on the other hand, is Guénon the criterion for Traditionalism? Evola truely believed that that perennial knowledge was of alchemical origin and this book speaks about alchemy tracing the symbolism back to the dawn of men. A nice read, in my opinion not “among the clearest works on alchemy every written” (as the backcover suggests), but a very interesting text from a Traditional point of view. And here follows my 2001 review:

“The Hermetic Tradition” is not the first book that most people think off when thinking of Julius Evola (1898-1974). Of course his “Revolt Against The Modern World” (first published 1934, first English version in 1995) is his best-known and most controversial work. But let us not forget the many non-political books that Evola wrote in his time.
“La Tradizione Ermetica” was first published in 1931 in Bari, Italy and reprinted by the same publisher in 1948. After quite a while, Evola rewrote the book and published the new version for the first time in 1971. It was reprinted two more times in the original language. The first translation was (as with many of Evola’s books) in French in 1965. Piere Pascal was a good French friend of Evola who translated several of his works to French. France had three reprints of “La Tradition Hermetique”. Later there were two Spanish (1975 and 1979) and two German (1989 and 1990) translations/printings and it took as long as until 1994 that for the first time, this book was made available in English. This is the book subject to this review.

First, notion should be made of the way Evola used the expression “Hermetic Tradition”. For him it was a synomymous term to “alchemy”, but not in the way of the predecessor of modern science. Evola’s preface starts with the following lines: “In the present work we shall use the expression “hermetic tradition” in a special sence that the Middle Ages and the Renaissance gave it. It will not refer to the ancient Greco-Egyptian cult of Hermes, nor will it refer solely to the teachings comprising the Alexandrian texts of the Corpus Hermeticum. In the particular sence we shall use it, hermeticism is directly concerned with the alchemical tradition, and it is the hermetico-alchemical tradition that will be the object of our study.” Furtheron Evola says: “we must draw attention to the error of those historians of science who want to reduce alchemy to mere chemistry in an infantile and mythological stage.”

The book is a fairly thin one (only just more than 200 pages) partioned in two parts and 51 short chapters. It is not as much a book about Hermeticism, but a Hermetic book. Many traditional ideas pass the revue, symbols and teachings are explained and indeed Evola managed to make things pretty clear. In contradiction to nowadays books about Hermeticism, there are only a handfull of quotes from the “Corpus Hermeticum” and I don’t think Evola quoted the “Asclepius” (for example) even once. Books and writers that are quoted a lot are Agrippa and especially his “De Occulta Philosophia” (1533); Jacob Boehme, in particular “Aurora” (17th cent); Valentine’s “Bibliotheca Chemica Curiosa” (1702); Berthelot’s “Collection des anciens alchimestes grecques” (1887) and “La chimie au moyen-Í¢ge” (1893), but also a great many other books, modern and traditional, western and eastern.

All in all a nice little book. I didn’t find too much new things, but at least a couple and some different visions of some symbolism and teachings. The translation is well-done and quite easy to read and based on the 1971 first publishing of the new edition of this book.
(10/11/01)
Read quotes of Evola here.

Tyr 1 (magazine) * Johua Buckley & Michael Moynihan (editors) (2002 ultra publishing * isbn 0972029206 / issn 15389413)

I bought the second volume of this book/magazine in 2004 when I was in Seattle. I had been in doubt before doing so. The articles didn’t seem too interesting and the cd just alright. I am glad that I bought it, because the articles proved very interesting and the cd very good. Then I was in doubt whether or not to buy the first 2002 volume. When I finally decided to do so, I found out that it is no longer available and hard to get second hand, at least, in Europe. In the end I bought a second hand copy via Amazon.com for (I believe) $ 25,- including shipping, coming close to the new price. I already noticed that the prices can go way up. When I write this, Amazon has only one second hand copy for the price of $ 95,03!! Everyone in doubt, I can advise to get your copy, but look around to avoid paying incredible prices.

The first volume is a little bit thinner than the second one (286 pages) and has no cd. The cd in the second volume was a brilliant marketing stunt by the way, because it seems that every kid around, suddenly became a “radical traditionalist” like the editors of Tyr. There are some nice articles in Tyr 1. After a nice preface, an alright article of Stephen Edred Flowers about ‘integral culture’ follows. Collin Cleary then writes about Knowing the Gods, an article in which the writer shows himself very “Traditionalistic”. He sure has some points, but I don’t agree with him everywhere. Alain de Benoist has interviewed Georges Dumézil a long time ago and an English translation can be found in Tyr. There are articles about Northern mythology, such as Steve Pollington on Odin/Wodan, and Moynihan with a very well written article about the figure of Hagen and the Nibelungenlied. Alby Stone follows the footsteps of Dumézil, noone else than Joscelyn Godwin writes about Evola and there are less interesting articles about the Goddes Zisa, mountaineering and Herman Lönns. After an interview with Ian Read, Collin Cleary has a lengthy article about the 1960’ies TV-seriers The Prisoner. This name is smacked around my ears way too often but Cleary lit a burning desire in my to watch it! The journal closes off with (mostly lengthy) book- and musicreviews with not the most typical titles. So my conclusion can only be that this journal is surely worth a read and I advise you to be quick if you don’t have a copy of either volume. Since we now live in 2006 and the previous volumes are of 2002 and 2004, I can only hope that volume 3 will see the light of day soon.
(6/8/06 -4-)
Read quotes from Tyr here.

Tyr 2 (magazine) * Joshua Buckley and Michael Moynihan (editors) (2004 ultra publishing * ISSN 15389413 / ISBN 0972029214)

Earlier I reviewed the <a href="“>cd that comes with issue two of the annually published magazine “Tyr”. However a magazine, Tyr also has an ISBN code and this is not for nothing. Tyr has 450 pages and is bound like a book, has the size of a book and looks like a book. Actually it is a book with articles. So here we have an American magazine about the ancient culture of Northern-Europe, in the past and nowadays, but the subject is taken widely, because there is much room for “Völkish” and nationalistic ideas as well. The editors claim to be “radical Traditionalists” in the tradition of Guénon and (particularly) Evola.
After a long introduction by the editors about the first issue and the reactions to it (because of the subjects, the magazine is pushed in the (extreme-)right corner) and similar subjects. Then there is a translation of an article by Julius Evola about “The Traditional Doctrine Of Battle And Victory” which is a nice -but rather long- read. Collin Cleary continues an article of the first issue (which I don’t have) about the gods of ancient Europe. This is a heavy philosophical article about how the gods could be part of everyday life. Next up is Alain de Benoist with “Thoughts On God” and then an interview with this Frenchman by Charles Champetier. Moynihan then has “Reflections On […] Myths Of Divine Sacrifice”, Steve Pollington writes about the “Origins of The Germanic Warband”, Nigel Pennick tells you about “Heathen Holy Places In Northern Europe”, John Matthews about giants and Christian Rätsch about “sacred plants” (drugs in ancient times). The following article is one of the more interesting: “The First Northern Renaissance” by Stephen Edred Flowers. After this you can read at lenght how the ́satrú revival was started in the USA by Stephen A. McNallen who write the article himself. Then two persons who alligned with the Nazis (either or not slavely following their ideas): Ludwig Fahrenkrog (article by Markus Wolff) and the Dutchman Herman Wirth (Joscelyn Godwin writes about “Herman Wirth On Folksong”. After all this there is an interview with Gerhard of the Austrian industrial project Allerseelen and then many book reviews with a great variety of subjects. Then musicreviews, also not restricted to one scene.
(23/11/04)
Read quotes from Tyr here.

The Betrayal of Tradition: essays on the spiritual crisis of modernity * Harry Oldmeadow (2005 world wisdom * isbn 0941532550)

The publisher World Wisdom has a “Perennial philosophy” series which contains “Traditionalistic” books. Earlier I reviewed The Essential Ananda K. Coomaraswamy. Among the series are a few titles with texts by different writers, usually ‘old’ and ‘new’ writers. For that very reason, I wanted to read one of these books and my choice fell on this title. After a nice introduction by the editor Harry Oldmeadow, Frithjof Shuon opens the first of five sections (Tradition and modernity) with an essay called No Activity without Truth. The following text by René Guénon comes from The crisis of the modern world so I already knew it. Two new writers to me complete this section, Brian Keeble and Kathleen Raine with respectively Tradition and the individual and India and the modern world.
The second section is called Perennial thruths and modern counterfeits. Rama Coomaraswamy, Karen Armstrong, Timothy Scott, M. Ali Lakhani and Rodney Blackhirst can be found here. The subjects are Ancient beliefs or modern superstitions (a great and very critical article), Faith and modernity, The logic of mystery and the necessity of faith, “Fundamentalism”: a metaphysical perspective and Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy and tradition.
The social order is the title of the third section. Of Ananda Coomaraswamy one of his “bugbears” is presented (The Bugbear of Democracy, Freedom, and Equality, a very nice text), Patrick Laude speaks about individuality, Fatima Jane Casewit about feminism and Islam (“The feminist movement in the West is centered on woman in this world and right which she is able to obtain here and now. A woman’s relationship with God and eternity are not taken into consideration.”), Roger Sworder and Dorothy Sayers about working our society and in the past and Robert Aitken gives his views on the future in a short essay.
I didn’t like the fourth section about science too much, even though two writers for whom I bought this book are in this section: Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Titus Burckhardt. The other writers are Wolfgang Smith, Theodore Roszak, Mary Midgley and the last ironic essay of Brian Coman about death is the only enjoyable piece in this section.
The last section (The destruction of traditional cultures) mostly contains short texts. Thomas Yellowtail speaks about ‘Amerindians’ and how their culture changes in the modern, American culture. Anagarika Govinda about The fate of Tibet, Cowan about dreaming, mostly in relation to Aborginals. Philip Sherrard took care off the epilogue.

I was positively surprised that there is quite some stress by the writers on the fact that us modern people forgot how to live ‘religiously’. The subtitle of the book is treated properly. Much stress too, is there on how how we see work “A. Coomaraswamy quotes A.J. Krzesinkski saying: “These workers look on labor as a necessary evil, as an opportunity to earn money which will enable them not only to supply thier essential needs, but also to treat themselves to luxuries and give free rein to their passions.” A very true statement. Quickly follows a quote of Jean Giono saying: “the workers work for forty hours a week. I would rather that they did not have to work for one hour at all, but be able to work a hundred hours doing something that interests them.” Also very present is the subject of individuality: “…the “individual” seems to have become a substitute for the sacred.” (Laude) and the uselessness of ‘important’ things of our society: “The factories are roaring more loudly than ever, turning out night and day goods that are of no conceivable value for the maintenance of life” (Sayers). The book surely gives things to think about. It is more focussed on our present day and time than “Traditionalistic” books of a few decades ago. On the other hand, I don’t have the impression that all writers included can be called “Traditionalists”, but that Oldmeadow just took their texts because they fitted in the framework. The book is a strange anthology of essays, lectures, chapters from other books, etc. There is some kind of ‘red line’ that runs throughout the book but the writers, their backgrounds and their writings are so differentiated, that you really have to consider each text itself. All in all a nice read. In a way this could be an introduction to “Traditionalistic” thinking for people not familiar with it, the book can surely be read by people who are critical about the Western society, but do not have “Traditionalistic” tendencies, and people who (like me) are in a way well-read have the possibility to read a few things by different writers.

Ontslaap Nu In Mijn Armen, Mijn Lief * Koenraad Logghe (1996)

The complete title of this booklet is Ontslaap nu in mijn armen, mijn lief – het doodsgebeuren: een heidens alternatief. The first word is a Dutch word that isn’t used very often. It is a beautifull word which means something like ‘pass away’, ‘to fall asleep’. Then the title of this booklet means ‘Pass away in my arms, my dear – the befall of death: a pagan alternative’.

The booklet is written by Koenraad Logghe of Werkgroep Traditie from Belgium. It was published by Traditie itself and can only be ordered by Traditie. I suppose that you have guessed that it is written in Dutch. As the title suggest the booklet is about dying, death, rituals, etc. in a ‘pagan perspective’. The writer starts with discribing how illness and death are hidden away in our society. Not that long ago a person died in company of his/her loved ones who knew what to do in the periode of dying and thereafter. Nowadays many people die in a hospital and special companies take care of the burial or cremation.

Then Logghe continues to explain the difference between burial and cremation, speaks about ancient burial rituals (like with the use of cromlechs or burial mounds) and how our ancestors (might have) looked at this important face of life. Then follows detailed information about the Norse/Germanic symbols around death, rituals, the different ‘souls’, heilagr, örlogr, etc., etc. This part is a very nice compilation of this information together. The second half starts with a more psychological part about how relatives experience the death of a loved one, followed by a long part with possible rituals, songs, poems, information for speeches, etc.

Ontslaap is a very nice booklet to give you ideas about how the forgotten practices around death and dying can be revived and given meaning again. Also the first half is very helpfull to get a quick idea how our ancesters actually saw this whole process and how it fitted in their worldview. A very nice little book (about 150 pages), but you will have to contact Traditie to get a copy of it.

Tussen Hamer en Staf * Koenraad Logghe (1992)

This book was published in 1992 and has been long sold out. The writer doesn’t want it republished in this form, but hopes that some day a reworked version will be available. I was lucky enough to run into a second hand copy at antiqbook.com and I think I paid more for this second hand copy than it has costed new in 1992. The book is in Dutch (eh, Flemish) and the title means “Between hammer and staff”. The subtitle of the book is “pre-Christian symbolism in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe”. (“The Netherlands is pluriel in Dutch, so the writer means Belgium and the Netherlands.) Koenraad Logghe has investigated the pagan origins of various forms of ‘folkish art’ such as on houses, rooftops, fenses, doors, gravestones, etc., etc. You will read about the dividing of the year (summer side and winter side), the world-tree or Irminsul, mother earth symbols, acre-symbols, etc. The 187 page book is stuffed with images which serve as examples for the text. This way you will get an idea of some symbolism and possibly recognise it yourself when you run into it. Reading the book you will not only get an idea of the worldview or our ancestors, but also how elements of this worldview have survived until the present day. Often people know that certain things were used by the parents or grandparents, but they forgot the meaning of such ornamentations. Logghe gives you back the key to understand this kind of expressions. A wonderfull and very handy book if you have interests in this field. Just keep checking a site such as Antiqbook.com if you want to get a copy too. Maybe you can get a copy from a libarary and photocopy it (there are 13 Dutch libraries which have it). And even more maybe, a new version will be made available some day.
ISBN 9072100425 / 9030406666