Recently, I have seen some chalked messages left by your group dedicated to opposing to the Traditionalist Youth Network. Unfortunately, it appears as if this new group bent on “stopping racism and xenophobia” does not seem to be acquainted with any of the members of our organization, or even seem to be familiar with the Philosophy of Perennial Traditionalism.
The mislabeling of our organization as a “hate group” by the southern poverty law center and the our portrayal last semester in the Indiana Daily Student newspaper has left many believing that we are armed and ready white power skinheads. So on behalf of the rest of the Traditionalist Youth Network at Indiana University, I write you this open letter in hopes that our two organizations can begin dialogue. With a spirit of dialogue, we hope to both clear up misconceptions about our organization and any answer any criticisms that remain.
Our group is open to anyone of any background, any race, sex, creed, or nationality. One does not have to agree with doctrines of the Traditionalist school of thought to join us; one only has to have an interest in studying Traditionalist thought.
The Traditionalist Youth Network is not a neo-Nazi organization, nor are we the Ku Klux Klan, American Nazi Party, or any other so-called “third position” organizations. Our organization does not promote racial hatred, sexism, or any form of bigotry. Nor do we advocate violence or illegal activity of any kind. We do not endorse White Supremacy, Jim Crow laws, or any other kind of discrimination towards anyone based on religion, race, or sexual orientation. We do not advocate violence of any kind, nor do we believe that minorities should be excluded from campus, let alone this country.
Our organization is primarily concerned with promoting the philosophy of Traditionalism. That is to say, we believe in studying and appropriating the insights of the little-known yet highly influential 20th century academic renegades into our lives. A question I received from a member of the Students Against Intolerance group was “what is a Traditionalist? It can mean anything.” The kind of Traditionalism we advocate is the Traditionalism with a capital T. Traditionalism, spelled intentionally with a capital T, is the philosophy elaborated on by luminaries such as Rene Guenon, Ananda Coomarswamy, Julius Evola, and Frithjof Schuon.
These aforementioned thinkers are considered to be the primary representatives of this obscure school of thought. A number of other names include Martin Lings, Wolfgang Smith, Rama Coomarswamy, Titus Burkhout, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Aleksandr Dugin, and many others. We are also students of luminaries like G.K. Chesterton, Francis Parker Yockey, Alfred North Whitehead and Martin Heidegger. None of these aforementioned thinkers were members of the Traditionalist school, but their philosophies are similar.
An important distinction must be made between Tradition with a capital T and tradition with a lower case t. Tradition with a capital T signifies the intuitive mystical sciences which are the bedrock of all traditional civilization. Meister Eckhart, Ibn Arabi, and Adi Shankara in their own day wrote prolifically against the moral decay of their own cultures and respective civilizations. We believe in the transcendental unity of religion and civilization. Besides the 20th century traditionalists, our inspiration comes from Mystics of almost every tradition who have asserted the universality of their mystical path.
What are the “intuitive mystical sciences” you ask? They are the realms of being that are accessed by individuals who choose the path of asceticism and transcendence. While the human condition differs across the globe, what unites the world’s religions is the belief in higher realms of reality outside our own. The mystics of all of the world’s traditions travel the same hierarchical path until they stand face to face with God himself, and achieve a simultaneous annihilation of the ego, and a spiritual renewal.
In Christianity this doctrine is known as Theosis and comes from a statement by Christ when he tells his disciples that we must all take up our own crosses and follow him. In Islam this doctrine is known as the Marifa, which comes from a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad, where God says that the slave who draws near to him becomes the hand which he walks, eyes which he sees, and foot which he strikes. In Hinduism this doctrine is known as Moksha, whereas in Buddhism, it is known as Nirvana.
Shayke Al-Akhbar Ibn Arabi calls this the “Al-Insan Al-Kamil” or universal man, who has mastered all the states of reality and now has become the most fully developed individual. We believe in the distinction between the esoteric and the exoteric, we believe that the transcendental nature of humankind is expressed in its beauty and diversity. We believe and respect the religious traditions of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Shinto, Taoists, and Amerindians. Of course, such a description here does not even scratch the surface. For a more thorough explanation, we recommend Transcendental Unity of Religions written by Frithjof Schuon. The article “Mysticism” by William Stoddard, which can be found in the anthology The Underlying Religion, would also be of interest.
The Traditionalist School of thought rejects the dichotomy of the individual verses the collective that defines the modern left-right dichotomy. Instead, we believe in the overarching, all-encompassing transcendental of unity of religion and civilization. We believe that the Truth is not something which is contingent upon the whims of the masses or the so-called “collective.” Therefore, we reject, as did America’s founding fathers, the very idea of “democracy.” That is to say a mob rule. While at the same time, we reject attempts to limit and reduce an individual to itself, and that a human is simply a biological organism without purpose or meaning adrift in the cosmos.
As Rene Guenon wrote in his article generally translated as “Eastern Metaphysics,” which can also be found in The Underlying Religion, Man is so much more and so much less than what the West assumes of him. He is so much more because has within himself the potential to attain a state of supreme illumination, to have one’s essence washed away in the face of the Absolute reality. However, he is so much less, because he owns nothing, has nothing, which God does not grant him. He is so much less because his proper position is that of humility and awe before the Creator, and not that of a ruthless conqueror.
In the Traditionalist worldview, it is not race, class, or gender which is the defining attribute of civilization, it is transcendence. The Traditionalist school of thought believes that in every virtuous civilization, there is a proper hierarchy which establishes those who have the most intimate connection to the higher levels of being at the top while those who are unable to process the intuitive philosophy at the bottom. This is best illustrated, as argued by Guenon in his seminal work Introduction to the Study of Hindu Doctrines and Italian noblemen Evola in Revolt Against the Modern World, in the Caste System of India.
According to Guenon and Evola, the Caste System, was a more or less universal construct and ideal system of government. The Traditionalist school of thought sees history as a decline beginning with the so-called “renaissance.” Through a series of regressive revolts, the Caste system in the West was leveled, which has left the modern West without any proper vanguards of culture, and all but impossible means of accessing the higher levels of being.
Traditionalists are not closed-minded, black-and-white reactionaries yawning for the “return” to society which exists largely in our imagination, but we do stand opposed to moral relativism and hedonistic culture which ravages the West. We stand wholly against the dead end of moral relativism, as well as the degrading and damaging lifestyles which are propagated by modern media en masse. We are opposed to the rabid drug use and alcoholism on college campuses. We are opposed to Glamour and Cosmopolitan magazines which promote an artificial standard of beauty. We are opposed to the promiscuity which has created an epidemic of unwanted children and sexually transmitted diseases.
We believe that every human being exists as the creation of God, in the image of God, as the spiritual reflection of God’s attributes. We believe that everyone has dignity and should treat themselves with respect. We believe that the ideology of consumption (that the only thing which matters is the acquisition of material thing) is an illusion, and that in reality, the ancient mystics of Chinese Taoism, Italian Catholicism, Russian Orthodoxy, and Iranian Sufism were right when they said that happiness does not come through the accumulation of things.
To be happy is to be content, to be content is to return to the source, to achieve a state of annihilation and illumination in the face of the Absolute reality. We encourage those who are interested to read Crisis of the Modern World and its sequel, Reign of Quantity and the Signs of Times by Rene Guenon. We also recommend Looking Back on Progress by the founder of organic farming and prominent Traditionalist thinker, Lord Northbourne, excerpts of which can also be found in The Underlying Religion.
Contrary to the teachings of either Marxists or racialists, Traditionalist believe that humankind is free to pursue their own destinies. We do not believe that a human being is a slave to one’s so-called “class” or “genetic code.” We believe that Man’s destiny lies above and beyond the confines of materiality and that trying to look for Truth without a transcendental basis is impossible. Traditionalists interpret literature, art, music and culture in the way it reflects the relationship between God and man.
Traditionalists admire the architecture of Byzantium, Andalusia, Mesopotamia, and Tenochtitlan while rejecting the Modern cosmopolitan compartmentalization of humans into tiny boxes. We admire the Lakota Sundance and Naqshabandi Hadrah while we reject the lack of self-respect prevalent in public places today. For more information on this subject, we recommend the article “Religious Art, Traditional Art, and Sacred Art” written by Seyyed Hossein Nasr featured in The Essential Sophia.
Traditionalists agree with Alfred Whitehead North’s and Nicholas Maxwell’s rejection of “scientism” and belief in unfettered progress that dominates the Western world. We do not reject science or the scientific method, but we do reject attempts to reduce all forms of knowledge to the empirical. While we respect the scientific method and it’s applications towards helping us solve problems which threaten us on the home front, we also acknowledge that grander questions like purpose, meaning, ethics, and morality, and what other realms that exist outside of the physical world are outside the domain of immediate sense perception. More importantly, in the Platonic sense, materialistic science cannot give us anything other than true opinion. This reduction to try to measure everything towards the scientific method is a symptom of this decline for it has taken away wisdom from the world. For more information, we recommend again Rene Guenon’s Reign of Quantity and the Signs of Times. We also recommend Phillip Sherrard’s “Modern Science and the dehumanization of man” also featured in The Underlying Religion. We also recommend the any of the writings of prominent philosopher, mathematician and physicist Wolfgang Smith, who has been arguing for decades on the necessity of reintegrating modern science into scholastic ontology.
We believe that the modern environmental crisis is largely a product of the shift towards a materialistic world view. In place of a world which is ours to take care of it, we have a world which is easily exploitable. We look for inspiration in the indigenous communities of America who have an intimate relationship with the natural world, as well as the stewardship commanded in both the Book of Genesis and in the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. We believe that the horrors of Modernity speak for themselves in acknowledging the folly of this mode of thinking.
The Traditionalist Youth Network believes that this greed, this drive to destroy the planet, to become a so-called “self-made man” are driven by a misguided attempt to achieve paradise on earth. Humankind is dominated by the goal of achieving perfection through transcending the higher spheres of being, if we are cut off from it, we look for substitutions here on earth. We have tried to find replacements but cannot, which is why every successive generation sinks even lower.
We reject, without exception, the White Man’s Burden attitude that is at the core of neo-liberal cosmopolitan foreign policy. Something which appears fairly obvious is that the Modern liberal West believes it has the superior culture to Africans, Asians, Arabs, and Europeans. However, our spiritual leader, Rene Guenon, foreshadowed Edward Said in denouncing the theory of a linear civilization. The horror of colonialism from the 18th through the modern day 21st century was driven by the belief that humanity needed to be forcibly assimilated to fit a single mode.
While we acknowledge the hierarchical realms of being and the mysticism within all civilization is one that does not mean we believe in forcing a homogeneity or uniformity of the 6 billion denizens on this planet. We reject implicitly supremacist and culturally imperialist campaigns like “Kony 2012.” We reject the patronizing attempts to “civilize” the non-Western world. Our position is simple; it is the position close to the Founding Fathers and the first generation Traditionalists. America does not have any right nor obligation to tell those in other countries how to live. We do not support military intervention in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Uganda, Ukraine, or anywhere else on the globe. We respect the right of those in the so-called “third world” to decide for themselves how to govern their own nations.
Traditionalists believe in understanding and appreciating our cultural heritage. Understanding one’s cultural history allows one to have a sense of purpose and identity, which is a step towards the process of transcendence. More importantly, it allows us to understand how other luminaries that we can relate to also transcended and achieved a state of spiritual illumination, through the guidance of luminaries such as Homer, Dante, William Blake, and countless others.
We believe that everyone in America has a right to exist, whether working together or in self-segregated enclaves. We do not wish to see the diversity within America destroyed, rather, we wish to see it protected, and when we say protected, we literally mean it to be protected. We respect the contribution that African-Americans have made, admiring luminaries like Ralph Ellison, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin, and countless others. As our mission statement says, we are not a hate group which promotes white supremacy, rather, we seek to build bridges with students of any religious and/or racial background who is interested in learning about the Traditionalist school of thought.
So then, with this understanding, I invite you, Students against Intolerance, to come to one of our reading discussions where we discuss any number of the thinkers of the Traditionalist School.