The Thinking 

The Traditionalism of René Guenon

January 8, 2013


THE latest issue of Praesidium features an essay by Thomas F. Bertonneau on René Guenon, the French reactionary who died in 1951. Mr. Bertonneau’s article provides an excellent overview of the writings of a man who attacked “the stultifying massiveness of modern society, with its conformism on an unprecedented scale.” In the Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, Guenon saw the glorification of quantity over quality as fundamental to the modern obsession with equality. Mr. Bertonneau writes:

The “Reign of Quantity” requires that its constituency live unconnected with any past in a kind of perpetual present, on the multiplying distractions of which the untutored mind remains stupidly fixed.  Guénon remarks how industry fills life with things, objects and devices, which monopolize attention, and which assimilate individuals to the pattern of the consumer.  In our own time the variety and fascination – and the idiocy – of these things have only increased.  The trend toward “materialization” thus converges with the trend toward mental stultification and, in the stultifying vocabulary of modern politics, “democracy.”  Having abolished the normal and the traditional, modernity offers counterfeits in the form of “pseudo-religion,” “pseudo-nature,” and even “pseudo-comfort.”  Thus the modern regimes organize “civic or lay ‘pseudo-rites’ that… provide the ‘masses’ with a purely human substitute for real religious rites.” [cont.]

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