My discussion of the issues involved with “choosing a religion” has been published on Gornahoor. This essay is intended for people who have read René Guénon and understand his concept of “Tradition”.
Posted: January 19th, 2013 | Tradition | 6 Comments »
This essay also contains some thoughts on Schuon, although I only read excerpts of his work before writing it. My initial reaction to Schuon was severely negative:
He seemed to be one of the “comparative religionists” picking and choosing as he saw fit. I now think I understand a little better what he was trying to accomplish. He essentially used the comparative religious project as an invitation to Tradition, so that members of those groups might discover previously misunderstood truths worth preserving. For someone like me who rejected that project from the start it was easy to misread him.
I found your essay interesting and useful. I am still struggling with
this question of ‘which religion?’
I am a 27-year-old Englishman of predominantly European stock. I was
baptised in the Church of England, though my family has never been
very religious – a church only for baptisms, weddings and funerals
sort of family. Despite that I have always been interested in
religions and traditional cultures. In my mid-teens I reacted against
dormant Christianity, though I didn’t become an atheist. I thought
about becoming a Neopagan or getting involved with an Eastern
religion, but the former ultimately felt awkward and there were no
local groups for the latter.
During my undergraduate degree (Philosophy with Japanese) I first tried to
answer the ‘which religion’ question with the Quakers, partially
because I learned of some Quaker ancestors. I was also reading a lot
of Wilberian Integral stuff at the time. Some of the Quakers
impressed me in how they seemed to live in accordance with their
principles; they were honest, plain spoken etc. Some of the elder
Friends gave the impression of wisdom, though I found most of those
of baby boomer age and younger unpalatably hippyish. This was in line
with the Integralist snootiness towards egalitarian baby boomers,
which they categorise as being at the sub-integral level called
‘green meme’. I attended a few of the meetings in the local meeting
house, but mostly I would sit with an elderly Quaker who was a
retired academic philosopher. He was something of an authority on
Whitehead, who was one of the few philosophers that had any resonance
for me on the course. In fact this man was open to perennialism, but
cautioned me of the cultural barrier in other religions like
Buddhism. I had a year studying abroad in Tokyo, where I had a few
encounters with Buddhist monks and visited various shrines, though my
Japanese was not (and sadly still is not) good enough to get involved
in anything substantial.
Back in England I attended a Tibetan Buddhist group until the end of my
degree. There were some uncomfortable elements with this group,
though not so much a culture barrier as certain cultish aspects. When
I returned home I left Tibetan Buddhism behind. Around this time I
stumbled onto Alain de Benoist’s On Being A Pagan, and through that discovered Guenon, Evola and perennialism/traditionalism. I found the idea of a cycle of ages far more satisfying than the Integralist evolutionary notions and finally
moved on from that.
During my Masters In 2011 I decided to try my
closest ethnic religion/tradition, based on reading Gornahoor and other
sources. I read a lot of material on Catholicism and Orthodoxy; from
the reading Orthodoxy was the more appealing, but the nearest
Orthodox church was quite far so I attended Mass at the local
Catholic church and socialised with the various types of
Christian in the town. It was rewarding in a number of ways, but
regretfully I did not feel enough ‘at home’ and with my perspective
influenced more by ‘perennialism/ traditionalism’ than a belief in
Christianity I felt rather like an imposter.
Back home again with the question still unanswered. As I feel an easier
affinity for ‘pagan’ material than Abrahamic, though I take the
criticisms of Neopaganism from the likes of Cologero, Evola, Upton
etc. seriously, I decided to read Plato and Plotinus. I attended a
few lectures of the Temenos academy (founded by the traditionalist
poet Kathleen Raine) and met with some Platonists who were in the
same sort of ‘tradition’ as Thomas Taylor. I have also attended some
Zen Buddhist meditation sessions. My situation in the past year or so
has made it difficult to attend these things; not much money and my
home is in an out of the way place. My present approach has become a
largely non-religious private self-discipline (involving among other things: studying
Japanese, reading metaphysics, a controlled diet), somewhere along the lines of ‘Riding the Tiger’. This has actually been somewhat satisfying, but my reaction to your essay reminds me that the question has not gone away.
Have you chosen one of the four options, Avery?
You have done much more than me on the Western side. I lived in Japanese Buddhist temples for several months, after which I worked as a “chaplain’s assistant” to unite the “religious groups” of my university in their shared commitment to “social justice”. This involved administrating a Mass with the most liberal Catholic priest imaginable–a man who had hand-knit vestments covered in socialist logos–and making an excuse to skip the Mass for Womanpriests, which I did not understand doctrinally at that time but avoided out of pure instinct. This was my unfortunate encounter with the “Catholic tradition”! Orthodox Christianity was not present at my university.
I was guided to Japan because there is work here, and I still felt there was something I could find. We will see where I end up two years from now. In any case, I wanted to remind people to remember the Christian tradition, and not to discard it outright because of its high level of pollution in late modernity.
I encountered some ‘Marxist Catholics’ during my Masters. One had the Soviet national anthem as their ring tone…
As you put it in the comments on Gornahoor, I am ‘fed up with sentiment’. This is certainly something I find off-putting in Christianity.
Cologero mentioned ‘unresolvable sterile discussions’. I recognise the need to develop one’s intellectual intuition — I’d love to find and undertake a reliable practice for doing so. Practice is generally far more appealing to me than reading an endless number of books. I’ve done some martial arts in the past and plan to start again when I can.
I have a TEFL qualification as was expecting to return to Japan not too long after my undergraduate degree, but life hasn’t gone that way. I am still quite a Japanophile. I’ve only had a few quick looks at your blog in the past, but will try to follow you more regularly — I’m very interested in your experiences as a ‘traditionalist’ in Japan.
I am not sure how literally to take the doctrine of the four ages, but my impression is that Tradition in its current forms can’t be ‘saved’. It can only appear again someday in (a) new form(s). In the meantime, deciding what to do with ones inclination to Tradition will continue to be a challenge.
Have you read the Hagakure? There’s a bit in it which I often remember when thinking about these issues:
“It is said that what is called “the spirit of an age” is something to which one cannot return. That this spirit gradually dissipates is due to the world’s coming to an end. For this reason, although one would like to change today’s world back to the spirit of one hundred years or more ago, it cannot be done. Thus it is important to make the best out of every generation.”
Are you under the same suspicion I am that in post 1001 Cologero is going to reveal that everything was a joke from the start?
Cologero is a really obtuse person but comparing what he writes about to his sources should make it clear that he’s no comedian.
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