Initiation and Spiritual Realization

René Guénon

Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2001.
208 pages
ISBN: 0-900588-35-7
Price: $20.95 US
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ISBN: 0-900588-42-X
Price: $35.95 US
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Initiation and Spiritual Realization is the closest thing to a work on ‘spiritual direction’ René Guénon ever wrote, touching as it does upon such vital topics as the transmission of initiatic grace, the various types and functions of the spiritual master, obstacles the aspirant is likely to encounter, different modes of contemplation, and the degrees of spiritual realization. A companion volume toPerspectives on Initiation, where Guénon had defined the nature of initiation and of the organizations qualified to transmit it, Initiation and Spiritual Realization was the first thematic collection of Guenon’s articles to appear after his death. And one doctrine expressed in this book stands out as particularly timely: that esoterism is not and cannot be a religion in itself, since to take it as such is to reduce it to an ‘alternative’ exoterism, and a heterodox one at that. Initiatic esoterism can only be legitimately and effectively practiced within the context of one of the established, revealed religions.

In Perspectives on Initiation, Guénon defined the precise nature of initiation, which is essentially the transmission by appropriate rites of a spiritual influence intended to permit a being in the human state to attain the spiritual degree designated in several Traditions as the ‘edenic state’, thence to rise to higher states, and finally to what has been called both ‘Deliverance’ and the state of ‘Supreme Identity’. Initiation and Spiritual Realization further clarifies these themes in several ways. The text falls naturally into four parts. The first examines the mental and psychological obstacles that may hinder comprehension of the initiatic point of view and the quest for initiation. The second clarifies and develops several key points concerning the nature of initiation and certain of its preconditions—one of the most commonly misunderstood being the need to conform to the essentials of a traditional exoterism. The third and in many respects most important part considers certain degrees of that spiritual realization which everything preceding it aims to make more easily understandable, and, to a certain degree, more easily accessible. And finally, the last three chapters, the real keys to both books, provide a comprehensive metaphysical account of the possibility of a total spiritual realization starting from our corporeal state, a realization that belonged by nature and function to the Divine Messengers called by the various traditions Prophet, Rasul, Bodhisattva, and Avatara.

Table of Contents

Against Vulgarization—Metaphysics and Dialectic—The Malady of Anguish—Custom Versus Tradition—Initiatic Affiliation—Spiritual Influences and 'Egregores'—The Necessity of Traditional Exoterism—Salvation and Deliverance—Ritual and Moral Points of View—The 'Glorification of Work'—The Sacred and The Profane—Conversions—Ceremonialism and Estheticism—Recent Confusions—'Intellectual Pride'—Direct Contemplation and Reflected Contemplation—Doctrine and Method—The Three Ways and The Initiatic Forms—Ascesis and Asceticism—Guru and Upaguru—True and False Spiritual Teachers—Innate Wisdom and Acquired Wisdom—Collective Initiatic Work and Spiritual 'Presence'—The Role of the Guru—On the Initiatic Degrees—Against Quietism—Apparent Madness and Hidden Wisdom—The 'Popular' Mask—The Meeting of Extremes—Is the Spirit in the Body or the Body in the Spirit?—The Two Nights—Ascending and Descending Realization—Appendices


The Collected Works of René Guénon brings together the writings of one of the greatest prophets of our time, whose voice is even more important today than when he was alive.
Huston Smith, author of The World's Religions

Guénon established the language of sacred metaphysics with a rigor, a breadth, and an intrinsic certainty such that he compels recognition as a standard of comparison for the twentieth century.
Jean Borella, from Modern Esoteric Spirituality

In the exercise of the central function of restoring the great principles of traditional metaphysic to Western awareness, this true jñanin gave proof of a universality of understanding that for centuries had had no parallel in the Western world.
Frithjof SchuonLanguage of the Self

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.