Traditionalism and Eschatology
By Jennifer Doane Upton
When I saw an acceptance of the spirit of this world growing upon certain Traditionalists, that started me on my quest to investigate the exact nature of the shadow that was falling over them. Their desire was, apparently, not to have to feel the enmity of the world—but no one who does not feel the enmity of the world can say that he has realized truth, in these latter days especially. To deliberately seek out the sort of suffering that marginalization brings with it is the askesis of the end times.
Eschatology deals with two ultimate things: the end of one’s individual life on earth, and the end of this world. It’s always wise to look at the world as contingent, but if one lives in the end times, the world has become dangerously contingent, fundamentally unreliable, and the forces that seek to destroy not only one’s body but also one’s soul are ferocious and all-pervasive. Rene Guenon, Martin Lings and Frithjof Schuon all spoke of the coming dissolution of this world, this cycle of manifestation, but we have heard little about this from the Traditionalist camp in recent years. I’ve heard the idea expressed among some Traditionalists that the end of the world will be easy, that we will suddenly find ourselves floating in the Golden Age. This idea does not mesh with the eschatology of any of the traditions I am familiar with. There seems to be a belief among some Traditionalists that if one is a true contemplative one will be able to live in the kind of peace that complacency brings. When Jesus speaks of the “peace that passeth understanding”, however, of the sort of peace that He gives “not as the world gives”, it’s as if he were talking about endowing his disciples with the peace of Paradise, even while in this world—and that kind of peace will only turn the world topsy-turvy; it is not compatible with the fundamentals upon which the darkness of this world is based. Particularly in the end times, there is a union of peace and war within the soul. Peace challenges one to further spiritual warfare, while spiritual warfare expands the parts of one’s soul that have the capacity to live within that peace.
But certain Traditionalists seem to be falling into a kind of complacency that has led them to value the prestige that the world can offer far more than they should. They seem quick to regard the persons of those who have worldly success instead of asking themselves where they might find serious seekers, souls with a true spiritual capacity who might be willing and able to strive in the ways of the spirit. And they have begun to relinquish their independence of thought by coveting the favors of the world. For example, they will sometimes give too much to the environmental movement, anti-traditional as it often is, because certain prestigious people associated with that movement have flattered them; they don’t seem to understand that some kinds of environmentalism exist only to serve the world’s elites. They also, in their enthusiasm to become “Perennialists” rather than Traditionalists, have in certain respects turned away from the Traditions, all of which are very difficult to follow in these latter days. One member of the Maryamiyya Tariqa I am acquainted with said that he did not accept Titus Burckhardt’s statement, from Mirror of the Intellect, that “There is no spiritual path outside the following traditions or religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism; but Hinduism is closed for those who have not been born into a Hindu caste, and Taoism is inaccessible.” Another claimed that while exoterism can be identified with Tradition, quintessential esoterism cannot. All this demonstrates that some in the Tariqa have picked up collective attitudes that are common in today’s world, the very world that is on the verge of being annihilated. I would say to them: value God, whatever the world may say; and value your own soul, with its particular destiny, in the name of God. If you do this, given your native intelligence and spiritual insight, you might yet become bright stars that shine for the pleasure of God alone, even if you are invisible to worldly eyes.