What About Neglected Traditions?
By Charles Upton
The Traditionalist School once embraced Hindu members, including Ananda K. Coomaraswamy and A. K. Saran; a prominent Buddhist member, Marco Pallis; and an element of Judaism through Leo Schaya (although Schaya himself was a Muslim), through his book The Universal Meaning of the Kabbalah [Sophia Perennis] and his important article “The Eliatic Function” which appeared in Studies in Comparative Religion. But who are the Hindu, the Muslim, the Jewish Traditionalists/Perennialists of today?
For the Buddhists, certainly John Paraskevopoulos, whose book Call of the Infinite, the Way of Shin Buddhism, was recently published by Sophia Perennis; and World Wisdom Books brought out a wonderful anthology entitled The Essential Vedanta, edited by Eliot Deutsch and Rohit Dalva, who certainly seem sympathetic to the Traditionalist perspective. In addition, Sophia Perennis has been privileged to publish the authorized version of The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi. In The Language of the Self, Frithjof Schuon said of him: “In Sri Ramana Maharshi, one meets again the ancient and eternal India”.
The major Traditionalists also seem to have pretty much neglected the Eastern Orthodox contemplative tradition known as Hesychasm, the basis of the spirituality of Mt. Athos and the closest thing in Christianity to Sufism. Guénon, Coomaraswamy and Schuon largely ignored it, though Luc Benoist and Philip Sherrard did what they could to make up for this lack. The American Eastern Orthodox priest Seraphim Rose was greatly influenced by René Guénon, and contemporary Orthodox priest Fr. John Chryssavgis has been published by World Wisdom Books, though some would say that he is a bit too much of a modernist to be considered a Traditionalist in Guénon’s and Schuon’ s sense. In any case, we are safe in saying that the great metaphysical riches of Dionysius the Aeropagite, Maximos the Confessor, Simeon the New Theologian, Gregory Palamas, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazienzen and many other lights of equal radiance among the Greek Fathers have not yet been given the treatment the deserve in the Traditionalist world.
As for the Roman Catholic Church, the Traditionalist line used to be essentially sede vaccantist (i.e., based on the belief that all the popes since Pius XII have been invalid), or at least willing to lament the serious damage done to the Church by the Second Vatican Council—but we have heard little of this lament since the death of Rama P. Coomaraswamy in 2006, whose The Destruction of the Christian Tradition [World Wisdom Books, 2006] and The Problems with the Other Sacraments Apart from the New Mass [Sophia Perennis, 2010]—sequel to The Problems with the New Mass [Tambra Publications, 1990] remain classics of Traditional Catholicism, though the Traditional Catholics themselves are by and large not open to Traditionalism/Perennialism; they have other pressing duties that demand all their attention, their stamina, and their faith. And the fact is that as far as we can see, only Rama Coomaraswamy among all the Traditionalists since Guénon and Pallis (though we should perhaps add Martin Lings to the list) was able to remain entirely true to a single tradition, defending it without quarter, and still honestly count himself a Perennialist.
What other traditional Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Traditional Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians are presently open to the Traditionalist/Perennialist worldview (among Traditional Catholics only Miguel de Portugal comes immediately to mind), or might conceivably be so in the future—by which I mean: actively opposed to syncretism and the worldly and politicized interfaith movement, but nonetheless willing and able to dialogue with authorities from other traditions than their own on the level that Frithjof Schuon termed “esoteric ecumenism”, as well as to recognize and stand against not only the general secularism of the times, but also those powerful and organized forces dedicated to infiltrating, co-opting and perverting the world religions under the guise of sympathy and patronage?