Tag Archives: Rene Guenon

The Great Triad – René Guénon (1991)

I was rereading some works of Guénon and there were several reverences to this book that I did not have. I could quickly get a cheap copy of it, so this is a title to add to my Guénon library. Most other books are published by Sophia Perennis, but this time I got a Quinta Essentia book.

As the cover of this version suggests, there is quite some ‘Chinese information’ in this book. The symbol is called Wang and the three horizontal lines Guénon connects to heaven, man and earth, the vertical line connects the three. Hence: a triad. There are many more references to (ancient) Chinese philosophy in this book.

Of course there are even more references to other traditions. Guénon went out for all different kinds of triads, such as the alchemical sulphur, mercury and salt; the Christian spiritus, anima, corpus and of course the Hindu Triratna. read more

Studies In Freemasonry & The Compagnonnage * René Guenon (1964/2004)

For quite some time I had wanted to read this book, but for some reason I never got to it. Would the book make clear how Guénon looked at Freemasonry in earlier days (as one of the two genuine initiatic organisations (both in the title of the present work) of the West) and in later days (the chain has been broken)? Unfortunately, it does not. The book also does not say much about Guénon’s views on Freemasonry in general, nor explanations of its doctrines by a man who claimed to be a true initiate/esotericist.
As with most books of Guénon, “Studies In…” is a compilation of articles that he wrote in different journals. These publications span a period from 1910 to 1951 and are not presented chronologically. What shows the ambiguous relation of Guénon towards his subject, is that the essays published are from both pro- and anti-Masonic publications.

So what is in the book? The last part consists of book reviews, mostly of French titles. In these reviews Guénon often portrays his superior knowledge of the subject in comparison to the authors of the books. Here and there an interesting peak into the thought of Guénon is given, but I find the book reviews not overtly interesting. The same goes for a range of articles about Martines de Pasqually, his “Ordre de Chevaliers Maçons Élus Coëns de l’Univers” and related topics. Here and there Guénon shows why he thinks De Pasqually was an initiate of a lower order and how he sees the relation to higher initiates, but these essays are mostly about a group that was perhaps Masonically related, but not Freemasonry per se. Actually I can say about the same about most of the other articles. They are about 18/19th century Freemasonry and mostly about experiments on the occultic field and the like.

A few essays make a good read for current Freemasons and people interested in Guénon’s views, such as “Masonic orthodoxy”, “The Masonic high grades” (both written in 1910 when Guénon was 26!!) and “Feminine initiations and craft initiations” (1948) since these shed a completely different light on the questions post than the answers that you usually hear.
Not the ultimate sourcebook about Freemasonry and the Compagnonnage. The book even does not answer all questions about the relation and views of Guénon to and on the subject. Still it is an interesting book to read, since Guénon seems to be a bit ‘lighter’ than what we are used to of him and here and there he is remarkably open.

For Guénon’s real or alledges dealings with Freemasonry, there are a whole lot of theories to be found on the world wide web.
1964 Éditions Traditionelles, 2004 Sophia Perennis; isbn 0900588888

The Symbolism Of The Cross * René Guénon (1931/1962)

Again a compilation of lectures and articles by René Guénon compiled in a book. Originally this book was published under the title Le Symbolisme De La Croix in 1931. The first English translation was published in 1962, but I have the fourth revised edition of 2001. I actually bought this thin book (150 pages) waiting for another book of Guénon that took longer to get. I liked the idea of a book by Guénon about symbolism rather than his more ‘philosophical’ works and that also makes this book a step up the other one that by now is in my possession as well.
It is quite amazing how deep the author went into the symbolism of the cross. The book is not just about the symbol, but Guénon writes about directions of space, opposites, states of being, the serpent and what not. You get the idea, this book is not about a sign made up of two stripes, but about a symbol. Especially in the first half of the book this is very intesting and in general Guénon sheds light on sides of the symbol that I would have never thought of. This is not a book to learn about Guénon, his ideas and Traditionalism, but it does form an aspect of the matter the man dealt with of course.
2001 Sophia Perennis, isbn 0900588659

Man And His Becoming According To The Vedanta * René Guénon (1925)

l'Homme et son devenir selon la VedÍ nta

I ran into an old English translation (1958) of l’Homme et son devenir selon la Vêdânta. Books of Guénon are never easy literature, but this fifth book is all about Metaphysics, not the way of thinking of the Western man. The first part of the book is mostly about the most ancient traditions of Hinduism and its conceptions. The last part of the book is the second part of the title. Even though this is a small book (185 pages), it took me a while to get through. At some points I can easily follow Guénon, but at other times my thinking is obviously too Western for easy understanding what the man tries to say. Therefor this little book is not only “probably the best account of the Vedanta in any European language” (according to Ananda Coomaraswamy), but also a nice way to train that other way of thinking.
1925 les éditions traditionelles; 1958 noonday; 2001 sophia perennis (isbn 0900588616)

Introduction To The Study Of The Hindu Doctrines * René Guénon (2004)

Guenon Hindu Doctrines

introduction générale Í  l’étude des doctrines hindoues (1921)

This is the first book that Guénon wrote, he was 35 years at the time, yet, it already has Guénon’s scornful writing style. The larger part of the book hardly lives up to the title. It is more an exposition of metaphysics with many references to other-than-Hindu Eastern religions including Chinese and near-Eastern. This is interesting in itself, but it takes to the short part three that you will learn something about Hindu doctrines and here Guénon actually only writes about the Darshanas. The book is closed with harsh attacks on Western scholars on oriental religions, Western mentality in general and “pseudo esotericists” dealing with Eastern doctrines such as the Theosophical Society. Introduction To The Study Of The Hindu Doctrines is even for a Guénon book not an easy read. He writes very lengthy, indirect and in the for him typical tone. This book does indeed makes much of a basis for his later “Traditionalist” writings and learns you a bit on Hinduism and how it is portrayed in the West and I always enjoy the writer’s criticism on the West, so it is not really a bad buy.
-2-
Read quotes of Guénon here.

Initiation & Spiritual Realization * René Guénon (2004)

initiation et réalisation spirituelle 1952

On his deathbed, Guénon gave instructions for a compilation of articles that together would form a good supplement to the book Aperçus sur l’Initiation (Perspective on Initiation). That book was the first that I read of Guénon and is it one of the most difficult and most difficult to read. Now none of Guénon’s book are easy to read and I have also often said that Guénon is very good at saying what is not ‘it’, the preface of Initiation & Spiritual Realization promises a more practical and in depth book. Very promising indeed! I can tell you, this book still is no guideline or manual for those wanting to walk the path of “initiation and spiritual realization”, Guénon remained Guénon. On the other hand, it is also true that of all his books (that I have read so far), this is the most practical book and is also the one book in which the writer vaguely hints towards what ‘it’ is. You will read about gurus and upagurus, tue and false spiritual teachers, iniatic affiliation, the sacred and the profane, the initiatic degrees, the necessity of traditional exotericism and much, much more. There are 32 chapters/essays (in 208 pages). In most texts Guénon (further) explains very specific concepts that are misunderstood. Still, you really have to read between the lines to make the information of practical use. In this book Guénon does dive into the deep and the reader that is ready for it, will probably find this his most ‘workable’ book. I would advice to no start with this book if you never read Guénon though. The Crisis of the Modern World is a better starter, maybe The King of the World and then perhaps a book such as this one.
(28/4/07 -4-)
Read quotes of Guénon here.

The King Of The World * René Guénon (2004)

le roi du monde 1927

This is one of the earlier books by Guénon and a thin one too. Only just over 100 pages and I read it in not even two hours. This may be due to the fact that I read an unpublished Dutch translation, but also it seems to me that this book is written in a much easier style than for example The Reign Of Quanity & The Sign Of Times. This book may be a good first title to read of this famous French “traditionalist”. Guéon starts with mentioning books by Ferdinand Ossendowski and Saint-Yves d’Alveydre which speak about the subterranean kingdom called Agarttha and the ‘king of the world’ ruling it. This is the starting point of 12 chapters with comparative symbology about for example “Shekinah and Metatron”, the Grail, “Melki-Tsedeq”, Luz, “The Omphalos and Sacred Stones”, to work towards “names and symbolic representations of spiritual centers” and “location of spiritual centers”. The King Of The World doesn’t have the negative tone of other of Guénon’s works, but also not the frequent and clear referrals to ‘the crisis of the modern world’ and the ‘sophia perennis’, but of course, these are also present. So in my opinion with this short book you will get a nice idea (and maybe even a ‘light version’) of what the writings of Guénon are about. Informative, written from a very distinct starting point and with information from a wide variety of religions and traditions.
(14/4/06 -4-)
Read quotes of Guénon here.
2004 sophia perennis * isbn 0900588543

The Crisis Of The Modern World * René Guénon (2004)

la crise du monde moderne 1927

This is not only Guénon’s most famous book, but also the first one that you have to read of him. It is only 116 pages, it is written (especially in the first half) very clearly without too much of his extensive sidepaths and descriptions (he does fall back on this a bit in the second half though). The book is clear of structure, gives the writer’s Traditional views quite clearly and even works towards a chapter with solutions of the “Crisis Of The Modern World”.
There are nine chapters, starting with “The Dark Age”. This does not refer to the Middle Ages, but to our own day and time, the “Kali Yuga” in which especially the Western part of mankind has drifted away from the ‘Primordial Tradition’ and fallen into an a-religious and extremely materialistic worldview. There is an obvious “Opposition Between East And West”, but I am happy for Guénon that he didn’t live to see the situation of nowadays with the ‘booming economies’ of the East. The Western man has lost its ability to understand the true mind of the East (and its own Traditional mind) and the difference between sacred and profane. This leads to “Individualism”, not in the meaning “living alone”, but especially in the meaning of seeing nothing higher than than the self. “The Social Chaos” and “Material Civilization” have their effect on the East to (“Western Encroachment”), because the West forcefully spreads its ideology (I can’t help thinking of the current situation in the near East when reading this), but also because economics have awakened the worst in some Eastern people. Guénon ends with “Some Conclusions” even with something vaguely referring to a ‘solution’. He is of the opinion that there are no links with the Primordial Tradition in the West save for the Catholic Church. The West should reinstall (with the help of the East) an “intellectual” (and this means the “higher intellect”) “elite” who will reform the Catholic Church (‘innerly’, not outerly) and bring back the Traditional spirit into the West.
I do not agree with everything that Guénon has to say, but in most cases he is very right and this little book is the perfect introduction to his thinking and the “Traditionalist School” and brings enough food for thought.
2004 sophia perennis * isbn 0900588241

Symbols Of Sacred Science * René Guénon (2004)

symboles fondamentaux de la science sacrée 1961

This is a book that was published post-mortem, containing 75 articles in four different periodicals between the years 1926 and 1950. I ran into this book on the internet when I was writing an article and because yet another ‘Traditionalist clue’ came to me, an interest to deep into this current deeper was awoken within me. This book by Guénon is no easy read. To start with this is the first book of Guénon that I read. Maybe a Crisis Of The Modern World may have been a better starter, but things just didn’t go that way. The book opens with a magnificent article The Reform Of The Modern Mentality from which I quote opening my article about Traditionalism. Then follow a great many chapters explaining symbols, but this sounds a bit different from what you may expect. A few chapter-titles to illustrate what I mean: “The Sacred Heart and the Legend of the Holy Grail”, “The Language of the Birds”, “The Guardians of the Holy Land”, “Some Aspects of the Symbolism of the Fish”, “The Solstitial Gates” and “The Roots of Plants”. A ‘symbol’ can be a theme from mythology, a character in a story, a ‘visual symbol’ such as the Swastika, etc. Guénon really pierces through the surface of superficial explanations giving information of a whole lot of traditions, comparing, cross-referring and putting them against the other. The writer seems to suppose that the writers of the periodicals are well-informed in different traditions, giving Islamic or Hindu terms without (much) explanation. Fortunately I didn’t run into anything that I really never heard about, but I can imagine that people who haven’t different religions and traditions much, may need some kind of reference. Two points of comment about the book is that there could have been more images. Guénon often describes a symbol, but I would have been easier to just show it. Further there are many and lenghty notes which really do not help the well-readedness. Other than that, the English is clear, but Guénon had a very peculiar way of putting things, which undoubtely broke the minds of the translations often. Symbols Of Sacred Science is a book that keeps being of use. Many symbolisms come back in different chapters. This reduces the value of the book for reference purposes a bit maybe, but on the other hand, it becomes a bit of a learning book to get in ‘the Traditionalist way of thinking’. The publisher Fons Vitae has many more translations of Guénon (and also of other Traditionalist writers). This title is supposedly Guenon’s most important symbolism book, while Symbols Of Sacred Science is his most important metaphysical book.
(18/3/06 -4-)
Read quotes of Guénon here.

sophia perennis 2004 * isbn 0900588772

Perspectives On Initiation * René Guénon (2004)

aperçus sur l’initiation 1946

In 48 short chapters, Guénon writes about (almost) every imaginable aspect of initiation. This book is very ‘Traditionalistic’ and Guénon keeps stressing the ‘authenticity’ or ‘regularity’ of initiatic movements. In the West he recognises only two: Freemasonry and the Compagnonnage (articles about both can be found in the articles-section). He is extremely strict about the ‘unbroken link’ since time immemorial and the fact that initiation is the transmission of ‘something spiritual’ (not ‘knowledge’ or ‘secret symbols’ or anything like that) that has been transmitted since the dawn of men by and to people worthy. All the rest are pseudo-esoteric groups, reversed- or counter-initiators, frauds and swindlers. Guénon is very harsch particularly to movements that were popular in his time, such as the Theosophical and Antroposophical Societies, neo-Rosicrucian movements, etc. Also he is quite critical about Freemasonry, but he thinks that Traditionalism and the elimination of ‘extras’ that were added during the course of time can save it. One thing about Guénon is that he keeps saying what is not ‘it’, what is wrong, who (however he seldom gives names or booktitles) are frauds, etc., but that (besides references to some currents, such as Freemasonry, the Compagnonnage, vague references to Islamic esoteric groups) you will not really learn what he really finds genuine and worthy. Aperçus reads in this regard a bit like Words To The Wise of Manly P. Hall (reviewed elsewhere) who wants to teach his readers how to recognise the frauds. Still chapter 5 is called “conditions for initiation”, chapter 10 “initiatic centers”, but do not expect a nice list with demands. I liked (and understood) the book better than when I first read it, and I can recommend it to anyone seriously interested in the subject or member of or looking for a so-called ‘initiatic organisation’. Aperçus is certainly no light literature and Guénon will definitely offend some people. Also he seemed to jump to conclusions a bit too rapidly, still have been very strict (not changing his conclusions easily) and not always too accurate. But of course Guénon was the primal Traditionalist, a man of massive knowledge and most of all experience so his works (and also this one) are of extremely high value.
(3/5/06 -3-)
Read quotes of Guénon here.
2004 sophia perennis * isbn 0900588322