In recent decades the writings of French metaphysician Rene Guenon (1886-1951) have been quietly gaining more adherents in the Middle East, Asia and the Balkans. Guenon is one of the few Western spiritual thinkers to attract the attention of contemporary Muslim thinkers, although his influence is largely confined to non-political, esoterically-inclined members of the faith.
Iran Book News Agency has announced that Guenon’s 1924 work East and West has been translated into Farsi, and will be published by Porsesh. In this work, Guenon is sharply critical of the modern West, and the decline of authentic spirituality within it, and seeks to reorient it toward the East. Guenon later realized that he had held a somewhat unrealistic view of the East. Many of his criticism are pertinent to the Middle East and to the political Islamic (Islamist) movement today.
Guenon began his spiritual journey exploring the occult world of Paris, although he was later sharply critical of its movements, especially Theosophy, an influential movement founded by Mme. Helena Blavatsky, who had helped to bolster India’s burgeoning anti-colonial movement.
Although Guenon retained a deep respect for the fraternity of Freemasonry — which he believed to be the only possibility for authentic spiritual initiation in the West — he considered most spiritual movements to be “counter-initiatic”, and, as such, as spreading false, modern ideas under the guise of authentic spirituality. Guenon briefly flirted with traditional Catholicism but later converted to, or “moved into”, Islam. He took the name Abd al-Wahid Yahya and moved to Cairo in 1930, spending the rest of his life in the Middle Eastern city.
Through his writings, Guenon provided the basis for the Traditionalist movement, which believes that the great religions were ordained by God, and, as such, not only share essential points of reference, but also represent a primordial or “perennial” Tradition of authentic initiatic spirituality.
Although little known today, Guenon’s writings have proved highly influential. Several political and spiritual thinkers have drawn deeply from Guenon, including Aleksandr Dugin, a Russian geo-political theorist and “Eurasianist” whose own work has considerable influence on the Kremlin, and Britain’s Prince Charles. The prince is closely allied to the modern Traditionalist movement, and has published articles in its journals. His book, Harmony: A New Way of Looking at the World, draws on the world’s esoteric traditions to address the crisis of the modern world, although he does not specifically mention Guenon in it.