The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times
The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times is René Guénon’s most prophetic work, which only becomes more relevant with each passing year. Having seen his telling analysis of Western culture, The Crisis of the Modern World, swiftly overtaken by events, Guénon based this his final and most profound critique squarely on changeless metaphysical principles. But to unite social criticism with metaphysics is to beget eschatology, and so, whereas in Crisis Guénon foresaw the end of Western civilization, in Reign he presents us with the end of a vaster world-age, or Manvantara, that began before the dawn of history as we know it.
Guénon bases his critique on ‘abstract’ principles, but his examples are satisfyingly concrete. His chapter ‘The Degeneration of Coinage’ could easily be updated to include the transformation of money into a web of electronically-stored information, while in its treatment of the occult dangers of metallurgy ‘The Significance of Metallurgy’ points directly to our own well-founded fear of such man-made elements as plutonium. And his ‘Fissures in the Great Wall’ gives solid metaphysical grounding to our twentieth-century century demonology, including the UFO phenomenon. The Reign of Quantity presents a vision of the End Times that in no way contradicts traditional eschatologies, but is one key to their deeper meaning. Guénon sees history as a descent from Form (or Quality) toward Matter (or Quantity); but after the Reign of Quantity—modern materialism and the ‘rise of the masses’—Guénon predicts a reign of ‘inverted quality’ just before the end of the age: the triumph of the ‘counter-initiation’, the kingdom of Antichrist. This text is considered the magnum opus among Guénon’s texts of civilizational criticism, as is Symbols of Sacred Science among his studies on symbols and cosmology, and Man and His Becoming according to the Vedanta among his more purely metaphysical works.
Table of Contents
Introduction—Quality and Quantity—Materia Signata Quantitate—Measure and Manifestation—Spatial Quantity and Qualified Space—The Qualitative Determinations of Time—The Principle of Individuation—Uniformity against Unity —Ancient Crafts and Modern Industry—The Twofold Significance of Anonymity—The Illusion of Statistics—Unity and 'Simplicity'—The Hatred of Secrecy—The Postulates of Rationalism—Mechanism and Materialism—The Illusion of 'Ordinary Life'—The Degeneration of Coinage—The Solidification of the World—Scientific Mythology and Popularization—The Limits of History and Geography—From Sphere to Cube—Cain and Abel—The Significance of Metallurgy—Time changed into Space—Toward Dissolution—The Fissures in the Great Wall—Shamanism and Sorcery—Psychic Residues—The Successive Stages in Anti-Traditional Action—Deviation and Subversion—The Inversion of Symbols—Tradition and Traditionalism—Neo-Spiritualism—Contemporary Intuitionism—The Misdeeds of Psychoanalysis—The Confusion of the Psychic and the Spiritual—Pseudo-Initiation—The Deceptiveness of 'Prophecies'—From Anti-Tradition to Counter-Tradition—The Great Parody: or Spirituality Inverted—The End of a World
Many of Guénon's books, notably The Reign of Quantity, are such potent and detailed metaphysical attacks on the downward drift of Western civilization as to make all other contemporary critiques seem half-hearted by comparison.
Jacob Needleman, The Sword of Gnosis
The Reign of Quantity is a brilliantly sustained and excoriating attack on modern civilization. . . . The book is a controlled and dispassionate but devastating razing of the assumptions and values of modern science. At the same time it is an affirmation of the metaphysical and cosmological principles given expression in traditional culture and religions.
Harry Oldmeadow, author of Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy
About the Author
René Guénon (1886–1951) was one of the great luminaries of the twentieth century, whose critique of the modern world has stood fast against the shifting sands of intellectual fashion. His extensive writings, now finally available in English, are a providential treasure-trove for the modern seeker: while pointing ceaselessly to the perennial wisdom found in past cultures ranging from the Shamanistic to the Indian and Chinese, the Hellenic and Judaic, the Christian and Islamic, and including also Alchemy, Hermeticism, and other esoteric currents, they direct the reader also to the deepest level of religious praxis, emphasizing the need for affiliation with a revealed tradition even while acknowledging the final identity of all spiritual paths as they approach the summit of spiritual realization. His greatest contributions are a blindingly lucid exposition of the principles of orthodoxy and traditional metaphysics, an uncompromising critique of the deviation of modernism, and a breath-taking view of the polyvalence of traditional symbols. Implicit in these three genres, as in all Guénon's writing, is the need for personal affiliation with an orthodox tradition as a precondition for a bona fide spiritual practice that might lead, at least in principle, to the intellectual intuition of which he speaks. Little known in the English-speaking world till the recent appearance of his Collected Works in translation, Guénon has nevertheless long been recognized as a veritable criterion of truth by a vanguard of remarkable writers who evince that rare combination: intellectuality and spirituality. Regarded by leading scholars as the first truly authentic interpreter of many Eastern doctrines in the West, Guénon never tired, in face of the seemingly inexorable process of dissolution in the twentieth century, of pointing to the transcendent unity of all religious faiths and the abiding Truth that contains them all.