Insights into Islamic Esoterism and Taoism
This small volume brings together a number of Guénon’s early articles relating to Sufism (tasawwuf), or Islamic esoterism. A later article, ‘Islamic Esoterism’, has also been included, since it articulates so well the particularities of initiation in Islam by defining the fundamental elements of tasawwuf: shari’ah, tariqah, haqiqah. The first constitutes the necessary fundamental exoteric basis; the second, the Way and its means; the third, the goal or final result. In the other chapters, Guénon expresses with his usual synthetic clarity what tawhid and faqr are, and gives examples of traditional sciences, relating angelology to the Arabic alphabet, and chirology to the science of letters (‘ilm al-huruf). A number of book and article reviews give further insights into Islamic cosmology. Some may feel that the essay ‘Taoism and Confucianism’ here included has little relevance to Sufism and Islam. However, such writers as Toshihiko Izutsu and Sachiko Murata have drawn many parallels between the two traditions. Confucianism, concentrating on social and interpersonal norms, functions as a kind of shari’ah in the context of Chinese religion, while Taoism, like Sufism, is precisely the esoteric Way.
Table of Contents
Islamic Esoterism—The Shell and The Kernel:Al Qishr wa al-Lobb—At-Tawhid—Al-Faqr—Ar-Ruh—Notes on Angelic Number Symbolism in the Arabic Alphabet—The Science of Hand-Reading in Sufism—The Influence of Islamic Civilization in the West—Creation and Manifestation—Taoism and Confucianism—Reviews
René Guénon is without doubt one of the colossal figures of the century, whose fame only increases with the passing of days.
Seyyed Hossein Nasr, author of Islamic Art and Spirituality
If during the last century or so there has been even some slight revival of awareness in the Western world of what is meant by metaphysics and metaphysical tradition, the credit for it must go above all to Guénon. At a time when the confusion into which modern Western thought had fallen was such that it threatened to obliterate the few remaining traces of genuine spiritual knowledge from the minds and hearts of his contemporaries, Guénon, virtually single-handed, took it upon himself to reaffirm the values and principles which, he recognized, constitute the only sound basis for the living of a human life with dignity and purpose or for the formation of a civilization worthy of the name.
Philip Sherrard, Christianity: Lineaments of a Sacred Tradition