NOTE: This was originally posted on West Coast Reactionaries, but taken down due to its short length and it being more a fancy “status update” than an article.
Rene Guenon explains in The Crisis of the Modern World,
… It is true that “philosophy” can, in itself, be understood in quite a legitimate sense, … etymologically it denotes nothing more than “love of wisdom”; it implies then, first of all, an initial disposition required for the attainment of wisdom, and, by quite natural extension of this meaning, the quest is born from this same disposition and which must lead to knowledge. It is therefore only a preliminary and preparatory stage, … towards wisdom or a degree corresponding to an inferior state of wisdom; the perversion which ensued consisted in taking this transitional stage for an end in itself and in seeking to substitute “philosophy” for wisdom, a process which implied forgetting or ignoring the true nature of the latter. Hence sprang up what can be called “profane” philosophy, that is a pretended wisdom which was purely human and therefore entirely of the rational order, and which took the place of the true, traditional, super-rational and “non-human” wisdom.
As is typical with such studies, we again see reflections of the dichotomy of “Becoming” and “Being” found manifest in historical context; here between coming to know — or wanting to know — and knowing itself; or between human knowing and divine knowing.
However, there still remained something of this true wisdom throughout the whole of antiquity, as is proved primarily be the persistence of the “mysteries,” whose essentially initiatory character is beyond dispute; and it is also true that the teachings of the philosophers themselves usually had an “exoteric” and an “esoteric” side, the latter leaving open the possibility of connection with a higher point of view, which, as a matter of fact, made itself very clearly, though perhaps incompletely, apparent some centuries later among the Alexandrians. For “profane” philosophy to effectively be constituted as such, it was necessary for exotericism alone to remain and for all esotericism purely and simply to be denied, and it is precisely to this result that the movement inaugurated by the Greeks was to lead in the modern world. …
Western man has, since time immemorial, been prone to his own matters and his own plane. He has revelled in himself and his glories, his pleasures, his desires, his excellence. As Joseph Campbell writes in Myths of Light,
At about the time that the Book of Job was being composed, Aeschylus wrote his play Prometheus Bound; the two works are almost exactly contemporary. Prometheus exemplifies an ideal in direct opposition to that personified by Job. He represents the affirmation of the human value system against the gods. He steals the gift of fire and delivers it to man; for doing so, he was pinned to a rock by Zeus, a great big fellow who could have filled Leviathan’s nose with harpoons. A little delegation comes to the titan, splayed there on the rock, with vultures daily devouring his liver, and they say, “Apologize, and he’ll let you go.”
Prometheus responds, “You tell him I despise him; let him do as he likes.” Of course, Prometheus could take it because he was a demigod himself – and he was blessed with the ability to see into the future and know how things were going to turn out – but the attitude is that of affirmation of human values against the powers of the almighty.
Look at our modern condition: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday we are with Prometheus; then, for half an hour on the Sabbath, we are with Job. The next Monday we are on a psychiatrist’s couch trying to figure out what’s going on in our psyches. The answer is that we have got two totally contrary traditions that our universities and clergies have told us can somehow be coordinated – they cannot. They are as different as Europe and the Near East.
The European traditions come from the Greek, Roman, Celtic, and German worlds. These mythologies resurged in the Middle Ages in the Arthurian tradition and then in the neoclassicism of the Renaissance. The Levantine traditions come from the Old and New Testaments and the Koran, and their characteristic is authority and Islam, which, as I have pointed out, means “submission.”
Perhaps this tendency must be conquered in the future? Subdued? Carved-back and restrained? Or, perhaps the opposite? A flurrying of mortal glory in bold — even grave — blasphemy? Food for thought.