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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sami Yusuf now a Traditionalist

Guest post by Neon Knight

English Muslim singer Sami Yusuf is now a Traditionalist, and almost certainly a disciple of Seyyed Hossein Nasr.

Yusuf, a million-selling artist who regularly fills football stadiums in the Middle East, performed a benefit concert for Nasr's Foundation for Traditional Studies and has collaborated with him on "Songs of the Way," a musical tribute to Nasr which features the latter reading his poetry on six of its twelve tracks. In an interesting interview, Yusuf discusses his Traditionalism. On his website, he describes "Songs of the Way" as follows:
The inspiration that animates this work, its life and soul, is the poetry of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, for it expresses timeless Truth and a life devoted to attaining it. The dimensions of this personal yet universal message evoke a diversity of responses, of spiritual states and perspectives, expressed in the Songs of the Way. The yearning lament of the kamanche and the ney, the interiorizing fervor of flamenco guitar, and the nobility of the classical Middle Eastern Sufi style all express human responses to a Divinity that transcends us. They call us to remember the Sacred within us, and ultimately, like everything beautiful, manifest aspects of Divinity Itself. And amid these tones there is the voice, the sound closest to our heart, which soars to evoke the cadence that we heard before the world was born.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

More on Bannon and Evola

There has recently been a lot of linking of the names of Julius Evola and Steve Bannon, encouraged by an article in the New York Times on February 10, 2017 by Jason Horowitz, "Steve Bannon Cited Italian Thinker Who Inspired Fascists." In this aticle, Horowitz was careful not to identify Bannon as an Evolian, despite his referfence to Evola, but other journalists have been less careful.

One of the most interesting articles since Horowitz's piece has been Alastair Crooke's "Letting Russia Be Russia," published on March 17, 2017 on Consortiumnews. Crooke discusses Dugin, Evola and Bannon, and lists ways in which Bannon's 2010 film Generation Zero reflects Traditionalist views. "I do not know whether Bannon or Trump have read Evola," concludes Crooke, "but his sprit, and that of other Radical Traditionalists, has certainly permeated the thinking of the Alt-Right circles in which both men have been moving." That, I think, is a fair assessment.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

The Philosophy of Wine

A new book by the Hungarian essayist Béla Hamvas (1897-1968) is now available in English translation. The Philosophy of Wine, written in 1945, has been published by Media Kiadó in Budapest, finely printed and bound.

Hamvas was primarily a literary figure, but was also a Traditionalist, introducing Guénon and Evola to certain Hungarian circles during the interwar period. His Scientia Sacra (1943-44) is his most Traditionalist work.

The Philosophy of Wine is the only work by a Traditionalist I have yet read that has made me laugh aloud. Traditionalists tend to treat serious topics seriously, but Hamvas uses humor, and uses it well. Wine, he explains in the book's introduction, actually stands for the divine, and philosophy for metaphysics, but a book about the metaphysics of the divine would not go down well, so he has written about wine instead. And the book is indeed about wine, and the pull-out map of wine regions in Hungary is very useful. But the book is not only about wine. It is also about modernity and esotericism and the One, and it is an attack on modernity's representatives--atheists and scientists--and also on pietists and puritans. A puritan, Hamvas explains, is "a pietist turned terrorist," a phrase that must have carried special meaning as Communist puritans tightened their grip over Hungary, forcing Hamvas out of literary life into a job as a warehouseman.

The strength of The Philosophy of Wine is its humor and its elegance. It is an extended essay with short chapters. It also advances an interesting idea at a theoretical level, however: that "the golden age is not a historical period but a condition."

The Philosophy of Wine is available from Bookline for 2,550 HUF ($9) plus postage.

My thanks to JM for providing me with a copy of the translation and of related material.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Albert Gleizes and Traditionalism

My attention has been drawn to an interesting new article on the relationship with Traditionalism of the French Cubist painter Albert Gleizes (1881-1953). Witten by the painter and scholar Peter Brooke, it is entitled "Albert Gleizes, Coomaraswamy and 'Tradition,'" and is available here.

Brooke starts with a general discussion of Gleizes and Traditionalism, including the split in Gleizes' following between pro- and anti-Traditionalist factions that resulted in two rival artistic journals, L'Atelier de la rose (Traditionalist) and Zodiaque (Catholic). He then asks (a) what Guénon saw in Gleizes, (b) what Coomaraswamy saw in Gleizes, and (c) what Gleizes saw in Guénon and Coomaraswamy.

My thanks to SJ for drawing my attention to this article.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Arktos's Jorjani attacks perennialism

Ever since its launch in 2010, Arktos has been one of the major platforms for Traditionalist writings. But now its new editor-in-chief, Jason Reza Jorjani (born 1981, pictured), an American who describes himself as of Persian and Northern European descent, has published "Against Perennial Philosophy" (AltRight.com, October 21, 2016), in which he identified Traditionalism as the "greatest enemy."

The original basis of Arktos was that while there was wide agreement in certain circles that "that something has gone terribly wrong with the modern world," there were differences about whether the problem was political, sociological, spiritual or metaphysical, and consequent "internal squabbles." Arktos therefore sought to provide useful resources for what it called "the subculture of anti-modernity," not to "seek consistency." Its initial offerings, some of which it published itself and some of which it resold, included books by Frithjof Schuon, Ananda Coomaraswamy and John Michell, as well as Julius Evola, Alain de Benoist and Carl Schmitt. Since 2010, Arktos has commissioned and published English translations of Evola and Dugin, and carries works by both Benoist and the other leading author of the French New Right, Guillaume Faye. It sells most of the authors on Amazon's "top ten" list (see post here).

In his "Against Perennial Philosophy," a version of a lecture given to an American group called "Iranian Renaissance," Jorjani concludes that
Our greatest enemy in this venture [an Iranian renaissance] is not Islam, but the Traditionalist mentality of Javidan Kherad [Persian: eternal wisdom] or “Perennial Philosophy” that cannot tolerate fundamental uncertainty and honest intellectual conflict. This Javidan Kherad, which Leibniz imported into the West and Guénon later elaborated and used to legitimate Islam, has its origins in a false reconstruction of Sassanian culture on the basis of an Islamic-Mongol mentality that is truly going to be the death of us if we do not have the courage to free ourselves from it.
Jorjani certainly knows his Traditionalist history. Not only does he know about Javidan Kherad and the role played by Leibniz as well as by Guénon, but in his article he also refers to the Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and even Peter Lamborn Wilson (Hakim Bey).

Leaving aside possible reconstructions of Sassanian culture, Jorjani's argument is in many ways a classic one. "Revolutionary scientific and sociopolitical breakthroughs" require brilliant thinkers and freedom of thought, and brilliant thinkers are Aryan (which of course includes the Iranians, but not the Arabs), and the enemies of freedom of thought are the Abrahamic revelations and the problem that "if a society believes that there is an eternal, unchanging Wisdom that can be definitively attained... then that society will never see... scientific and political revolutions." If Christianity is preferable to Islam, that is because it is more incoherent, and so less powerful as "an eternal, unchanging Wisdom." In pitting Aryan Iranians against non-Aryan Arabs, Jorjani is following an argument that was developed in the nineteenth century and never became as problematic in Iran as it did in the post-Nazi West. In identifying Christianity as an obstacle to free thought, he is following many people, including Evola. In placing Islam in front of Christianity as an enemy, he is following Guillaume Faye--and abandoning Traditionalism.

That Jorjani is an anti-perennialist may have implications for the future of Arktos, though Arktos's original editor in chief, John B. Morgan (born 1973), notes in a comment to an earlier version of this post that "Arktos has always been a collective venture, and is subject to the decisions made by its Board and by its shareholders." According to Morgan, who remains on the board of Artktos, there is no intention to change the broad direction noted above. It also has wider implications. Jorjani has recently teamed up with Richard Spencer (born 1978) of the the National Policy Institute and, most famously, of the controversial 2016 post-election rally at which he controversially declared "Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!" Spencer was mentioned sympathetically in "An Establishment Conservative’s Guide To The Alt-Right" on Breitbartpreviously edited by President Trump's powerful advisor Steve Bannon. Some have therefore associated Bannon with Traditionalism, pointing out that Spencer was married to Nina Kouprianova, the Russian-born translator of Dugin into English, and that Bannon has one one occasion referred to Dugin and Evola (see post here). But Bannon's association with Spencer is so weak as to be non-existent, and Jorjani is now identified not with Traditionalism but with an understanding of Islam as the enemy. Spencer is no longer married to Kouprianova.

Corrections: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Richard Spencer writes for Breitbart. The Spencer who write for Breitbart is Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch, not Richard Spencer of the NPI. The earlier version also suggested that the appointment of Jorjani might have been responsible for a change in the direction of Arktos, a suggestion against which John B. Morgan argues in a comment to this post, and which I have therefore withdrawn.