Review: False Dawn: The United Religions Initiative, Globalism and the Quest for a One-World Religion by Lee Penn
A Review by Charles Upton
[This review appeared in Findings in Metaphysic, Path and Lore by Charles Upton]
The United Religions Initiative, founded in 1995 by William E. Swing, Episcopal Bishop of California, is the most ambitious interfaith organization presently operating in the world, the most “ecumenical” in outlook, and the one which seems to have the closest ties to various “globalist” figures and organizations. In False Dawn: The United Religions Iniative, Globalism and the Quest for a One World Religion, Lee Penn provides us with a detailed history of the movement, its predecessors, its ideological confederates, its allied organizations both religious and secular, its stated goals and its implicit agendas. He has taken a penetrating look at the dynamics of globalization through the lens of contemporary religion—both the established, organized religions and the new religious movements—and the picture he presents to us is both rarely illuminating and deeply chilling.
Religious universalism is not what it used to be. When René Guénon, Ananda Coomaraswamy and Frithjof Schuon were making their profound contributions to the doctrine which has come to be known (in Schuon’s phrase) as the Transcendent Unity of Religions, the idea that all world religions were the providentially various dialects of a single language of Truth was fairly novel, shocking to many, and easily dismissed. Today it is a cliché. This is not to say that the religions are not still vigorously defending their boundaries. As globalization and a fast-shrinking world throw them into ever more violent confrontation, suspicion of universalists on the part of various religious “fundamentalists” is growing. On the other hand, religious universalism is a much more established doctrine, in worldly terms, than it was when Guénon, Coomaraswamy and Schuon were doing their groundbreaking work. And as inter-religious violence increases, it is swiftly becoming the “obvious” alternative to such violence in the minds of many, just as the dream of a One World Government is being increasingly identified with such ideals as “universal peace” and “global unity”—ideals which are uncritically accepted as both entirely possible and “quasi-absolutely” desirable by all too many well-intentioned but poorly-informed idealists.
In False Dawn, Lee Penn demonstrates, with an irresistible tide of documentation, how religious universalism is being co-opted as the “spiritual ideology” of a globalism which is both fundamentally secular (Guénon’s “anti-tradition”) and busy inventing a One World Religion with pretensions to “mysticism” and “esoterism” (Guénon’s “counter-tradition”). In Theosophy, the History of a Pseudo-Religion [Sophia Perenis, 2003], The Spiritist Fallacy [Sophia Perennis, 2004], and The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times (his prophetic masterpiece) [Sophia Perennis, 2001], René Guénon spoke cryptically of the counter-tradition and counter-initiation he saw brewing in various socially marginal but nonetheless highly influential sects and secret societies, foremost among them being the Theosophical Society, whose founders (H. P. Blavatsky and Annie Besant) openly declared their intent to destroy Christianity and “chase God from the skies”. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, Lee Penn has drawn aside the veil covering the activities of such groups, and revealed their growing interaction with the organized globalist elites. And though it has certainly changed over the years, the Theosophical Society, as an intellectual influence if not an organizing cadre, is still there. With entire justification, False Dawn could have been sub-titled “The Counter-Initiation Documented.”
The author of False Dawn has produced an astounding exposé of the United Religions Initiative which explodes more pre-conceived assumptions than any book I have ever read. The URI numbers among its supporters Ted Turner, George Soros, George W. Bush and Sun Myung Moon; in light of this, I defy anyone limited to a left-wing or right-wing ideology to see it as it actually is. The author presents ample evidence that the New Age movement has become what I like to call it a “contingency ideology” of many among the globalist elites, who have adopted and established New Age beliefs just when the movement seems to be waning on a popular level. And it gives a clear picture of how some of the globalists would like to federate all the world’s religions under a single authority, as a way of pacifying the religious “tribes” (religious fundamentalists, oppressed ethnic groups, nationalists) in the name of global unity and the New World Order. This is “McWorld” in the religious field—a “McWorld” that is busy preparing a “Jihad” of its own (this in allusion to the important book Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism are Reshaping the World, by Benjamin Barber, Ballantine Books, 1996.)
Lee Penn’s work is so much more sophisticated, comprehensive and well-documented (over 3000 footnotes!) than the usual conservative Catholic or Evangelical anti-New Age screed that there is simply no comparison. His conservative Catholic friends were in ecstasy over it—until they read his Postscript, where he warns us against some of the authoritarian, right-wing movements within Catholicism, such as Opus Dei, Tradition, Family and Property, and the Legionaries of Christ. His “authorities” include C.S. Lewis, George Orwell, G. K. Chesterton, Nietzsche (who so clearly declared and celebrated what the “dark side” was up to), Malcolm Muggeridge, the Popes Pius X and Pius XI, J. R. R. Tolkien, and René Guénon. He has presented us with a clearly Fascist-leaning Teilhard de Chardin—Chardin the darling of the liberal Catholics!—with a rabid New Age anti-Semitism among highly influential writers both living and dead, with a psychopathic Sun Myung Moon courted (literally!) by members of the U.S. House of Representatives, with a United Religions Initiative spoken highly of by both the Dalai Lama and the Chinese Communist state-run church, funded by both liberal foundations and those with close ties to the U.S. State Department, and which includes one convicted rapist and apparently al-Qaeda-connected Muslim, the most ultra-liberal Christians imaginable, anti-Communist Moonies, Anglicans, Wiccans, Neo-Pagans etc.—an “umbrella organization” with a vengeance. The author has been able to articulate this uncommon vision because he has spent a number of years looking in a direction that few others even recognize as existing—the reason for such incomprehension being (as I like to say) that the Devil now largely defines the sides we are asked to take and the ideologies we are required to choose from. Reading his book, it’s as if we have suddenly discovered that our house has windows not only to the east and west, but to the north as well—and that the view through that north window is every bit as detailed, unified and articulate as our more familiar perspectives. It is not some hermetically-sealed world of the imagination, but a novel and indeed tremendously shocking view of the common world we inhabit—a world whose fate we share.
False Dawn is far more than an exhaustively documented history and critique of the United Religions Initiative, though it certainly is that. And it is more than just a history of the Interfaith Movement. It is, in fact, an analysis of ideology of globalism with special reference to the religious sphere. Taking the United Religions Initiative as a point of orientation, the author analyses not only the explicitly religious ideologies relating to globalization, their major patrons and spokespersons, and the organizations which exist to disseminate such ideas, but also investigates the membership and apparent agendas of highly influential secular organizations whose leaders—such as Mikhail Gorbachev and Maurice Strong (Chairman of the World Bank and close friend of George W. Bush)—have spoken well of the URI, organizations which share a similar ideological outlook. These groups include the State of the World Forum, the Earth Charter Initiative, Green Cross International, the Gorbachev Foundation, the World Future Society, the World Economic Forum, the U.N. Environmental Program, UNESCO, and the United Nations Population Fund. The author clearly demonstrates how a religious universalism with political backing, a universalism seeking political clout on a global scale, is inseparable from the push for a One World Government.
Lee Penn also demonstrates how globalization has given certain New Age teachers a worldwide pulpit, including Robert Muller (former Assistant Secretary General of the U.N.), Barbara Marx Hubbard (whose name was placed in nomination for the vice-presidency of the United States at the 1984 Democratic Convention, and who is presently a director of the World Future Society along with former U.S. Secretary of State Robert McNamara, Maurice Strong, and scholars from Georgetown University, the George Washington University and the University of Maryland), Avon Mattison, Corrine McLaughlin, Gordon Davidson, and probably the best-selling New Age teacher as of this writing, Neale Donald Walsch, author of the absurd and highly popular Conversations with God and its sequels. The reader will no doubt be interested to learn that, according to Walsch, Hitler went to heaven (because he didn’t really hurt anyone; he just sent all those Jews to a better place, seeing that death is better than life), and that Barbara Marx Hubbard’s “spirit guide” (who claims to be Jesus Christ) has called for the extermination of one-third to one-half of the earth’s population. And Lee Penn exhaustively traces the history of the New Age movement to H. P. Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society, and more directly to mid-20th century Theosophist Alice A. Bailey, founder of the Lucis Trust, who is spoken highly of by many of the New Age teachers listed above—and who herself (along with Barbara Marx Hubbard) spoke highly of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a “spiritual initiation” for the earth! He also demonstrates the seminal influence of heterodox Catholic priest, author and paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin on the same sinister constellation of ideas.
For the most part, False Dawn reveals the core beliefs and shared agendas of the globalist wing of the Interfaith Movement in the words of its own spokespersons and publications. The massive amount of data the author has brought together may seem daunting at first to some readers, but it ultimately carries the day by its own weight, its outrageous audacity, and its ominous consistency. It is precisely this relentless documentation which finally convinces.
Given that secular ideologies, whether of the Left or the Right, have lost a great deal of the cultural force they possessed for most of the 20th century—postmodernity being notoriously suspicious of “overarching paradigms”—part of the burden of providing us with “the big picture” has fallen, or fallen back, on the organized religions, as well as on the myths and aspirations of various new religious movements. And even though religion, in essence, is better able to offer an all-encompassing worldview worth living by than any secular ideology, the partial collapse of secular ideologies in favor of this or that religious perspective has in effect “ideologized” the religions, narrowing their scope, shrinking their ontological vision, and dragging theology and morality (not to mention metaphysics) in the direction of propaganda and social action. (Renegade Traditionalist and Fascist fellow-traveler Baron Julius Evola heralded this degeneration when he falsely claimed that the kshatriya [warrior] initiation is higher than the brahmanic [priestly or sacerdotal] one—in other words, that action is higher than the contemplation.) For this reason, no social analysis that fails to take religious myth and dogma as seriously as it does any secular ideology will be capable of making sense out of the contemporary scene. And for those who understand that religion is not political or historical in essence, that it is a door to higher realities, a way of perfecting the human form and fulfilling the human trust, a clear understanding of the contemporary corruption and co-optation of the religious traditions is of vital importance, since without it they may be led to confuse the eternal form of the revelation they are struggling to live by with its own degenerate caricature. Both secular social analysts working to define the influence of religion on contemporary events, and religious believers trying to understand what is happening to their traditions, will find in False Dawn an indispensable aid—one that has arrived not a day too soon.
Furthermore, I believe that this book has something to say to the Traditionalist School in particular. It is my impression that “Traditionalist social analysis” desperately needs to be updated, now that Ortega y Gasset’s “revolt of the masses” is largely a thing of the past, having been replaced—in the west at least—by Christopher Lasch’s “revolt of the elites,” the title of his final book, in which Lasch shows how it is now the masses who are relatively traditional, while the elites tend to be anti-traditional and progressive—notwithstanding the skill of people like George W. Bush in playing the role of “traditional conservative” and “American patriot” when it suits their purposes. We don’t really have to be warned, again, against socialism, the “leveling” vulgarity of democracy and the tyranny of the machine, so much as we need to understand how traditional metaphysics and esoterism themselves could be perverted and co-opted by the coming globalist regime. Those identified with Traditionalism are familiar with worldly incomprehension and ridicule; they are used to being ignored. But in view of recent developments, one wonders how ready they are to deal with worldly acceptance, enthusiastic incomprehension, and the danger of ultimate co-optation, given that certain key globalist leaders are presently on the lookout for articulate religious universalists; they are Now Hiring.
To be validated, to be accepted, to be heard by the world of men and affairs, after so long an exile, could prove for some a formidable temptation. This is not to say that the Traditionalist worldview, comprising the Perennial Wisdom plus a critique of the post-modern world in light of this Wisdom, is of no relevance in these times. Indeed, taken in its widest definition, it is possibly the one worldview which allows us to make entire sense of them. But according to its own principles, it cannot be of use to collectively organized humanity in these latter days, at least in uncorrupted form. Its use is and will be to give individuals a conceptual and, God willing, a spiritually practical way out of the Babylon of these latter days: “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, that ye receive not of her plagues” [Apocalypse 18:4]. Thus it can never be a mass movement while maintaining its true nature—God help us if it ever becomes one! It would be better characterized as an “underground railroad,” a network of guides and safe houses designed to lead “freedmen” out of The World and into a quality of both earthly and transcendent human life which is no longer identified with that World. Whether or not those few who are attracted to the Traditionalist worldview constitute a spiritual “elite,” it is at least certain that, given their spiritual and intellectual constitution, they cannot be saved without it.
There are, however, forms of religious or “spiritual” universalism that have always had a worldly goal in mind: the supplanting of the revealed religious traditions with a universal, syncretistic religion which will be the basis of a new “highly evolved” spiritual culture; this culture will be global in reach, and form the basis of a New Age forhumanity. Dreams of a spiritual New Age were foreshadowed in the teachings of such figures as Joachim da Fiore [c. 1135-1202] with his idea of the Age of the Holy Spirit which is to follow the Age of the Father (the Old Testament) and the Age of the Son (the New Testament), as well as in certain worldly interpretations of the Ismaili Shi’ite doctrine that the Great Resurrection has already taken place, thus abrogating the Muslim shari‘ah. Similar dreams re-surfaced during the Protestant Reformation, when even Jacob Boehme felt that he was living in a new spiritual age for humanity. Lee Penn traces the modern resurgence of such ideas to the Parliament of World Religions in 1893, where Swami Vivekananda preached his own version of religious universalism to a dazzled audience, and shows how they have always been central to the doctrines and aspirations of the Theosophical Society, whose influence on many contemporary New Age teachers he abundantly documents.
The Traditionalist School has always taken great care (until recently) to distinguish itself from the kind of anti-traditional universalism preached by Madam Blavatsky, or Aldous Huxley, or Alan Watts. The speed of globalization, however, as well as the difficulty in defining its exact outlines and ideology, have led some writers who are at least sympathetic to the Traditionalist outlook, such as Enes Cariç, to treat it as if it promised to be a “new age” of inter-religious amity and dialogue, like Hellenistic Alexandria or Muslim Andalusia, in which the Traditionalist enterprise could well play a leading part. False Dawn demonstrates just how wrong this belief is. Globalization has already been fully infiltrated by the anti-traditional universalists, one of whose apparent agendas is to limit or actually prohibit religious proselytization, under some future global federation of religions, as a means to prevent inter-religious violence, looking on proselytization as the religious equivalent of one nation violating the borders of another. In such an atmosphere, the Traditionalists are much more likely to be co-opted than understood. URI founder Bishop William Swing, in his book The Coming United Religions [Co-Nexus Press, 1998], has even quoted from Huston Smith’s introduction to Schuon’s The Transcendent Unity of Religions, drawing from it the “lesson” that those who see all religions as various expression of the One Truth are the “esoterists,” while those who hold to the exclusive truth of one religion are the “exoterists.” According to him, the whole mass of anti-traditional, New Age or neo-Pagan or ultra-liberal religious syncretists, subscribers to the popular cliché version of religious universalism, are “esoterists” in Schuon’s sense of the word! He is unaware that Schuon balanced his universalism by teaching that the revealed religions are providential in their uniqueness and variety. Schuon says:
Every religion by definition wants to be the best, and “must want” to be the best, as a whole and also as regards its constitutive elements; this is only natural, so to speak, or rather “supernaturally natural”….religious oppositions cannot but be, not only because forms exclude one another….but because, in the case of religions, each form vehicles an element of absoluteness that constitutes the justification for its existence; now the absolute does not tolerate otherness nor, with all the more reason, plurality….To say form is to say exclusion of possibilities, whence the necessity for those excluded to become realized in other forms…. [Christianity/Islam: Essays in Esoteric Ecumenism: World Wisdom Books, 1985; p.151]
False Dawn should alert the Traditionalist School not to be unwittingly led astray by their own cosmopolitanism into making common cause with the agents, no longer clandestine but now publicly visible and active, of Guénon’s “counter-initiation.” It is much too late in the day for the Traditionalists to imagine they might one day have the power to influence the course of history. Their true role is to save souls, to define precisely how those who have seen beyond religious exclusivism can walk the Spiritual Path without betraying Tradition, either by attempting to travel the Path as self-determined freelances, or by falling in with the anti-traditional universalists.
The Traditionalist School taught me (or perhaps it would be better to say “the lesson I drew from Traditionalism”) was to preach the Transcendent Unity of Religions to militant religious exclusivists—not that they are likely to listen—and the need for commitment to a single religious tradition to promiscuous spiritual ecumenists—not that they are likely to listen, either. But I, at least, will be listening. God willing, I will heed the warning not to make an idol either out of my own religious tradition (Islam) or out of the kind of universal “generic” metaphysics some have drawn from the writings of theTraditionalist masters. If God is no more than “the God of the Christians” or “the God of the Muslims” then He has been degraded from the Absolute Reality to a simple tribal deity. Christianity and Islam and Judaism and Hinduism are true not because the God they worship is the God of Christianity or of Islam or of Judaism or of Hinduism, but because He is the Living God, the Reality Who transcends all of these, His Self-manifestations. But this realization in itself does not constitute an effective spiritual Path. The entire use of the doctrine of the Transcendent Unity of Religions is to help us understand God as transcending all forms, both cultural and natural, while manifesting Himself (in Mercy or in Wrath) by means of them, thus preventing us from worshipping the forms of our chosen religion in the place of God. Any effective spiritual Path, however, must be supported by these very religious forms, seen in their “metaphysical transparency”. Though all true and revealed religions spring from the same divine Root, the nourishing fruit of this tree grows on the branches, not the trunk.
In the days of Schuon, Guénon and Coomaraswamy, the times required a concentraon the first of the above two “sermons.” But our own time is very different. Only now can we say that the threat of a spurious religious universalism with real social power behind it has begun to equal that of the various militant religious exclusivisms. Alongside the ego of the religious fanatic, we must now place the ego of the religious universalist, who takes the Transcendent Unity of Religions, whether or not he calls it by that name, in an entirely horizontal manner, as if it meant no more than “since all religions are expressions of the same Truth, one religion is just as good as another—and an amalgam of the religions is even better, because each religion has part of the truth; when they are all united, then we will have the whole truth.” As Seyyed Hossein Nasr has written:
….people search in these ecumenical movements for a common denominator which, in certain instances, sacrifices divinely ordained qualitative differences for the sake of a purely human and often quantitative egalitarianism. In such cases the so-called “ecumenical” forces in question are no more than a concealed form of the secularism and humanism which gripped the West at the time of the Renaissance and which in their own turn caused religious divisions within Christianity. This type of ecumenism, whose hidden motive is much more worldly than religious, goes hand in hand with the kind of charity that is willing to forego the love of God for the love of the neighbor and in fact insists upon the love of the neighbor in spite of a total lack of love for God and the Transcendent. The mentality which advocates this kind of “charity” affords one more example of the loss of the transcendent dimension and the reduction of all things to the purely worldly. It is yet another manifestation of the secular character of modernism which in this case has penetrated into the supreme Christian virtue of charity and, to the extent that it has been successful, has deprived this virtue of any spiritual significance…. It would be less harmful to oppose other religions, as has been done by so many religious authorities throughout history, than to be willing to destroy essential aspects of one’s own religion in order to reach a common denominator with another group of men who are asked to undergo the same losses. To say the least, a league of religions could not guarantee religious peace, any more than the League of Nations guaranteed political peace. [Seyyed Hossein Nasr, preface to Shi’ite Islam by ‘Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba’i: SUNY, 1977; pp. 5-6]
Closely allied to this kind of false “exoteric” universalist who espouses a worldly ecumenism is the false “esoteric” universalist who believes that metaphysics can be a spiritual Path in itself, independent of any commitment to a traditional religious way, and whose non-traditional metaphysics (which may have been abstracted from the revealed religions, but are no longer effectively connected with any of them) are a great source of pride to him. He sees these generic metaphysics as transcending and superceding the religious traditions themselves, which he views as “good enough for simple believers” or “good enough for mere bhaktas,” but in no way good enough for metaphysically sophisticated jñanis such as himself. He forgets both that true jñana is as far beyond the mental understanding of metaphysical principles as it is beyond religious sentimentality, and that the Transcendent Unity of Religions, once grasped, is actually a fairly elementary concept, for all the difficulty it presents to religious literalists; it in no way constitutes the final or even the penultimate content of jñanic realization. [NOTE: Jñana, in Hinduism, is the path to God through spiritual knowledge, just as bhakti is the path to Him through love. Jñana is roughly synonymous, in Islamic Sufism, with the Arabic ma‘rifa, and, in Eastern Orthodox Christianity, with the Greek gnosis or theoria.]
The author of False Dawn was a serious Marxist in the 70’s, and is now a conservative Catholic following the Byzantine rite. Like many ex-Marxists, he embraced a basically right-wing ideology for a while, after seeing the evils and shortcomings of his former world-view, and he continues to be essentially conservative. Over the past few years, however, he seems to have come to the conclusion that to see the world in terms of either left-wing or right-wing ideology—or any ideology—is to seriously hamper one’s vision. The Left has certain evils on its radar-screen, and the sort of theory that can clearly analyze them and warn us against them. The same goes for the Right. Both, however, have their ideological blind-spots, and both—insofar as they are ignorant of metaphysics—tend to espouse what can only be called clear violations of the human form. Though the author has certainly been critical of the Left, sees the “ultimate evil” as more likely coming from a right-wing direction.
A colleague of the author who wishes to be known as Miguel de Portugal, a Catholic follower of the Virgin of Fatima, a mystic who converted to Eastern Orthodoxy in the face of the apostasy of the Novus Ordo Catholic Church, has come to the conclusion that the era in which tradition is weakened and destroyed by left-wing (oe populist) ideologies is giving way to one in which a right-wing (or elitist/authoritarian) reaction against the formless promiscuity of religious liberalism will succeed in setting up a counterfeit “tradition” to replace the real one, just as Hitler profited from the moral degeneracy of the Weimar Republic to establish his religion of blood, soil and the fuehrerprinzip. This is Lee Penn’s prediction as well. What is striking is that both reached substantially the same conclusion as René Guénon in The Reign of Quantity—and before having read him. In Guénon’s words, which Lee Penn quotes (Lee discovered him in the course of writing False Dawn):
The reign of the “counter-tradition” is in fact precisely what is known as “the reign of Antichrist”….His time will certainly no longer be the “reign of quantity,” which was itself only the end-point of the “anti-tradition”; it will on the contrary be marked, under the pretext of a false “spiritual restoration”, by a sort of reintroduction of quality in all things, but of quality inverted with respect to its normal and legitimate significance. After the “egalitarianism” of our times there will again be a visibly established hierarchy, but an inverted hierarchy, indeed a real “counter-hierarchy”, the summit of which will be occupied by the being who will in reality be situated nearer than any other being to the bottom of the “pit of Hell” [pp. 270 & 271].
It is to such developments as these that Traditionalist social criticism now needs to address itself. Basing his analysis on the changeless principles of traditional metaphysics, Guénon was able to see much further than most into the “dialectic” of the End Times. And due to the decline of secular ideologies, traditional metaphysics may in fact be the only vantage point from which the chaos and contradiction of the End Times may be clearly discerned. The internal contradiction of Marxism—and, in fact, of any “progressivist” ideology—is that it claims to provide an objective vantage point from which historical change can be viewed, while itself being subject to historical change; the yardstick by which we are to measure how high the water has risen is unreliable, since it itself is growing and/or shrinking at the same time. Those who have begun to understand how relative standards cannot objectively measure relative situations will be pushed either toward post-modernist nihilism, with its absolutization of the relative, or toward acceptance of objective standards which do not and cannot change, standards which can only be theological, and ultimately metaphysical. Yet the very need to embrace changeless standards in a world of immense and chaotic change can itself lead to great dangers, particularly the danger of falsely situating the Absolute in the embrace of the conditional—the root source of all fanaticism.
The proper use of metaphysical principles in social criticism is emphatically not as a way of establishing a changeless kingdom of Truth on the shifting sands of conditional, worldly life. Its purpose is rather to discern that Truth beyond the veils of this conditional life, as a “kingdom not of This World.” This created universe is both a veil over the Face of Truth and a tapestry of signs (the ayat) emanating from that Truth, and also leading back to It. This World, on the other hand, is God’s creation seen through the veil of the ego; it is a veil pure and simple; there is no truth in it. The ever-changing forms in which This World clothes the same basic set of temptations must be constantly tracked—not in order to control This World, but in order—God willing—to become and remain free of it. Those who fail to understand this may be shocked to find themselves branded as agents of the “counter-initiation” when the final judgment arrives—like certain groups today who claim to be following Guénon, but who in reality are no more than right-wing political extremists with no understanding of metaphysics and little real interest in it. The falsehood of the month must be investigated and analyzed, until it is precisely revealed as a novel incarnation of the same perennial falsehood; only the liberated soul, the jivanmukhta is free from this duty. If we are unwilling to undertake this kind of critical work, we may be tricked into the service of the very worldly masters we believe we have firmly repudiated, simply because they have presented themselves to us with unfamiliar faces and names. Freedom’s price, as the saying goes, is eternal vigilance; False Dawn powerfully serves the kind of vigilance without which no true freedom is possible.
When my wife and I first met him, Lee was writing almost exclusively for a conservative Christian audience, in the kind of language they would readily accept. But as we shared with him our Traditionalist perspective over a period of years, it’s as if we heard him breathe an almost audible sigh of relief. It’s my impression that our presentation of Traditionalist ideas supported him in consciously accepting and expressing what he already essentially knew, and helped free him from the limitations of his conservative ideology, just as that ideology had freed him from his earlier leftist worldview—and all this without his “becoming a Traditionalist.” He remains firmly within his traditional Christian worldview and sees no need to adopt another. But certain ideological (not theological) constrictions accidental to that worldview now seem to have dropped away. I submit that this is a service the ideas of Coomaraswamy, Guénon and Schuon can perform for a certain class of intellectual in these times. Not everyone is a metaphysician, or should be, but the breath of metaphysics may still quicken and liberate the mind of a scientist, or a social critic, or an investigative reporter. Metaphysical principles may transcend “mere facts,” but facts are still the concrete presence of metaphysical principles in earthly life; anyone who disparages facts can in no way remain faithful to principles. The work of establishing facts, like the work of discerning principles, is in service to the One Truth.
In his Speculative Postscript, Lee Penn comes closer to producing a plausible socio-political scenario for the Apocalypse—which clearly must have an historical, socio-political aspect to it, even though, in essence, it is the definitive breakthrough of Eternity into time—than any writer I know; in this concluding section he brings prophesy and social criticism together in a way that is probably only possible in extremely late times. He is wise enough, however, to understand that this scenario is entirely speculative, and that the reality of the end of the age will transcend all our images and expectations. He writes:
I now begin to look over the horizon, and to speculate about the implications and sequelae of the current push for a political, social and religious New World Order.
It is not my intent to say, as a certainty, that the Apocalypse is upon is now. Still less do I intend the absurd exercise of setting the date for the Second Coming of Christ. Rather, I am arguing that if a New World Order is established (and various powerful forces are attempting to do this), the outcome will be far more complicated—with unexpected political and spiritual perils for the unwary—than most present-day traditionalists and conservative activists, commentators, visionaries, and novelists now expect.
Let’s begin by stipulating that we are in abnormal times, and have been since at least 1914. In normal times, Anglican bishops [William Swing] would uphold the doctrine and discipline of their church, and would not raise their hands during a Wiccan-led invocation of Hekate and Hermes. In normal times, billionaires [Ted Turner] would not declare themselves to be “socialists at heart,” and would not fund movements that undermine the society within which they prospered. In normal times, the ravings of Helena Blavatsky, Alice Bailey and their New Age followers would be of interest only to the physicians and ministers involved in healing the psyches and souls of these deluded people.
These are not normal times. Therefore, it is possible that, on the heels of a social, economic, or military disaster, the proponents of the New World Order—the URI and its interfaith associates, the globalist movements, and the devotees of Theosophy and the New Age movement—will have an opportunity to rebuild a shattered, disoriented world. Since some of our present-day political and spiritual leaders see themselves as midwives of radical change, we may be very close to such a forced-draft, global version of the Cultural Revolution. Abnormal times, indeed.
If there ever was a book capable of throwing light on some of the central developments of our time in both religion and politics, developments which our inadequate ideologies, as well as our simple factual ignorance, do not let most of us see, it is False Dawn. In this indispensable book Lee Penn has taken investigative journalism and social critique to the threshold of prophesy. In the words of Miguel de Portugal, “Once God has False Dawn out, whether one individual or a billion read it, it will not matter. He will not be able to be accused that such [a] soul destructive trap was not aptly covered, exposed and wisely published in a manner that would be available to one and all.” Never has there been a clearer exposition of how both worldly and religious idealism can lead to the most horrendous unintended consequences, and how the false dream of total unification on the plane of earthly life is nothing but a misapprehension and misapplication of the Unity of God, and thus the most dangerous idol ever conceived by the mind of man—the one called al-Dajjal in Islam, and in Christianity, Antichrist. Nearly eight hundred years ago Jalaluddin Rumi, as we have seen above, already well understood the futility of it.