The Crisis of the Modern World
It is no longer news that the Western world is in a crisis, a crisis that has spread far beyond its point of origin and become global in nature. In 1927, René Guénon responded to this crisis with the closest thing he ever wrote to a manifesto and ‘call-to-action’. The Crisis of the Modern World was his most direct and complete application of traditional metaphysical principles—particularly that of the ‘age of darkness’ preceding the end of the present world—to social criticism, surpassed only by The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, his magnum opus. In the present work Guénon ruthlessly exposes the ‘Western deviation’: its loss of tradition, its exaltation of action over knowledge, its rampant individualism and general social chaos. His response to these conditions was not ‘activist’, however, but purely intellectual, envisioning the coming together of Western intellectual leaders capable under favorable circumstances of returning the West to its traditional roots, most likely via the Catholic Church, or, under less favorable ones, of at least preserving the ‘seeds’ of Tradition for the time to come.
It is certainly no accident that so many people at the present time should be obsessed with the idea of the ‘end of the world’, but anyone wishing to appreciate the true character of the present period must possess at least a certain amount of data on the subject. We shall begin therefore by showing that its characteristic features correspond with the indications supplied from time immemorial by the traditional doctrines regarding the cyclic period of which it forms a part; and this will serve to show that what appears an anomalous is nevertheless a necessary element and an inevitable consequence of the laws governing all manifestation. However, this is not a reason for submitting passively to the confusion and obscurity which seems to be triumphing; on the contrary, it is a reason for striving to the utmost to prepare the way of escape out of the ‘dark age’, if it be not immediately at hand.
From Author’s Foreword
Table of Contents
The Dark Age—The Opposition Between East and West—Knowledge and Action—Sacred and Profane Science—Individualism—The Social Chaos—A Material Civilization—Western Encroachment—Some Conclusions
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
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.