Podcast no. 19
Interview with Charles Upton, Part 1"/>
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Podcast no. 19
Interview with Charles Upton, Part 1

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Greg Johnson and Michael Polignano interview Traditionalist author Charles Upton on his most recent book, Vectors of the Counter-Initiation: The Course and Destiny of Inverted Spirituality (San Raphael, Cal.: Sophia Perennis, 2012).

 

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33 Comments

  1. Dominion
    Posted August 27, 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Very good interview from a Traditionalist who has connections to some of the ‘big names’ in the school of thought. It’s also a good perspective from someone not associated with Traditionalist-minded political movements.

    I find that this interview reveals a bit of a gap between the ‘political’ Traditionalists and the nonpolitical ones who truthfully make up most of the people working on real Traditionalist philosophy, metaphysics and religion-focused thought rather than thinking about the political order. It’s an unfortunate trend among the true Right that many consider how to be able to establish the Imperium without first focusing on the inner change that individuals must make. It is only when this change comes, and when networking begins to take place among those individuals and groups doing so, that the seeds of a new order begin to emerge, and the process of actually getting to an Imperium can take centuries, making the detailed considerations being done now a bit premature.

    There also seem to be some stark differences in those Traditionalists who consider a more Brahman-style supreme reality (I count myself among these, considering the impersonal supreme reality to be partially manifested in our experienced universe), and those, such as Upton, who appear to believe in a literal deity (if not full theism, then perhaps panentheism). Schuon and many of the modern academic Traditionalists seem to fall into this latter group, whereas Evola would appear to belong to the former. The latter group also seem to be more mindful of sticking to traditional religious modes of worship, while the former is more willing to search through the tomes of Crowley, and it seems even Lovecraftian groups for hints of truth. I myself am more skeptically minded, and am inclined to dismiss at least 95% of magical practices as total fantasy, and another 4% as partially so. Perhaps some of the practices engaged in by the Ur group may be of use, but Upton’s Traditionalism would seem to reject even these. Collin Cleary, Stephen Flowers, and others willing to look into European and especially Germanic and Nordic paganism would seem to be even more on the outs with this line of thinking. It is clear that Traditionalists must continue to dialogue among each other, and realize that there is by no means full agreement on anything in our school. Fortunately, a philosophy remembering transcendent unity and the principle that “there are as many paths as there are those walking them” may make this possible.

    By the way, I also did a little research into the Mandeans and they appear to be of interest, having kept their gnostic doctrines secret til this very day.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted August 27, 2012 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      I agree that there are many interesting differences within the Traditionalist world. You have identified them quite precisely. I look forward to more discussions like this one. I really must thank and praise Charles Upton for his generosity of spirit and courage to talk Traditionalism with more political Traditionalists like me. I think you will find part two of the interview, which will go up Saturday, even more interesting.

      • Donnacha
        Posted August 28, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

        Greg,

        I’ve greatly enjoyed this, and look forward to listening to the second part.

        Perhaps you’d consider interviewing Gwendolyn Toynton or another of the contributors to Primordial Traditions magazine? She has been criticised (in measured tones) by Mr. Upton for her belief that ancient Hellenic or Northern European “paganisms” can be revived as viable spiritual traditions. I’d be interested to hear her (or her colleague’s) thoughts on such matters as the providential nature of the revealed religions…

        • Greg Johnson
          Posted August 28, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

          Good suggestion. I just messaged her with an invitation. Thanks

    • Posted August 27, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

      Dominion, your post seems to suggest that your own understanding of traditionalism is flawed.

      “There also seem to be some stark differences in those Traditionalists who consider a more Brahman-style supreme reality (I count myself among these, considering the impersonal supreme reality to be partially manifested in our experienced universe), and those, such as Upton, who appear to believe in a literal deity (if not full theism, then perhaps panentheism). Schuon and many of the modern academic Traditionalists seem to fall into this latter group, whereas Evola would appear to belong to the former. The latter group also seem to be more mindful of sticking to traditional religious modes of worship, while the former is more willing to search through the tomes of Crowley, and it seems even Lovecraftian groups for hints of truth.”

      The founder of traditionalism as a school was Rene Guenon. Guenon was a practicing Muslim who lived the last 20 years of his life in Egypt. Therefore it seems highly unlikely to me that Guenon did not believe in a deity (Allah), even if he saw Allah as just one manifestation of the transcendental truth. Evola is often given a great deal of weight by people in our circles, but the fact is that he was a rogue, if an interesting one, who stands outside the greater world of traditionalist thought. This is not to dismiss him, but it’s not really correct to discuss him in the same terms as the others. He also, however, was quite contemptuous of “designer” and New Age religions in which people select and reject elements of belief as they please.

      Guenon also emphasized time and again in his work that one should practice the tenets and rituals of one’s religion with great seriousness, and not disregard the exoteric in favor of the esoteric. Therefore traditionalism, in essence, always emphasizes traditional modes of worship. As for Crowley, ALL traditionalists, including Evola, rejected his work as counter-traditional. They certainly would have nothing to do with “Lovecraftian groups,” since this falls into the area of invented religion. Evola’s Ur Group did attempt to revive something like “traditionalist occultism,” but this was in Evola’s youth, before his philosophy was fully developed and it’s also true that most other traditionalists would see this as counter-traditional.

      “Collin Cleary, Stephen Flowers, and others willing to look into European and especially Germanic and Nordic paganism would seem to be even more on the outs with this line of thinking. It is clear that Traditionalists must continue to dialogue among each other, and realize that there is by no means full agreement on anything in our school. Fortunately, a philosophy remembering transcendent unity and the principle that “there are as many paths as there are those walking them” may make this possible.”

      People like Flowers have their merits, but they are in no way traditionalists. All traditionalists are universal in their agreement that a tradition, once the initiatic chain is broken as it has with the ancient European religions, is dead and cannot be revived. See Evola’s essay “Against the Neo-Pagans,” which Upton mentions in this interview and which is posted at this site. This is one point on which there most definitely is agreement among all the segments of the school.

      I am currently at work on an essay for CC that will discuss these issues. I don’t wish to squelch dialogue, but at the same time, when people use the term “traditionalism,” they need to know what this term actually means. It doesn’t refer to just any form of or attitude toward spirituality. It is inherently deeply conservative.

      • Dominion
        Posted August 27, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

        I agree that Guenon almost certainly believed in a literal deity. A note on Guenon’s position in Traditionalism, though: it’s obviously the case that Guenon established the modern movement which we can call “Traditionalism”. There seems to be a tendency in the school, however, to elevate him beyond his position, and make his views a sort of be-all and end-all. It’s important to remember that Guenon, though obviously a remarkable mind and intellect, was not a prophet and did not consider himself to be inventing a new school or being the bearer of received divine truth.

        If we look at Hinduism’s Advaita Vedanta school (which to my knowledge most if not all Traditionalists consider valid), it has a very reduced roll for the personal God compared to Islam. God (Ishavra) and devotion to him become, for lack of a better term, a rung on the ladder to liberation, at which point the distinction between God and the initiate and devotee ceases to exist. The Traditionalist Eastern Orthodox author James Cutsinger has a talk entitled “The Noble Lie” on the subject of exoteric religious doctrine, available on youtube, in which he addresses the issue very well. Personally, I would ask the question, if God is not in fact the supreme reality, then is he as fundamental as he would be for the ‘exoteric’ theist? Buddhism (which Guenon rejected, but most other Traditionalists, including Schuon, accept as valid) has little use for the concept at all, especially in the Theravada Southern School. Personally, I have also generally found the “theistic” arguments for God’s existence to be rather lacking. My view (and I am aware I would be on the outs with most Traditionalists here) is that God is a meme or archetype which is useful in devotional approaches to initiation, but has not been essential for all paths (see Cutsinger’s talk).

        I mentioned the Lovecraftian cults in reference to the essay on them recently published on CC. To clarify, I would not consider any of them Traditional in nature, and what truth there is in them would be “accidental” not “received”. That said, I think Traditionalists would be in error to ignore truth when it appears outside of the valid lines of initiation, if only for the perspective they may bring. I am familiar with Evola’s essay and found it extremely helpful in developing my view on the relationship between neopaganism and Tradition. I am not aware, however, of Evola at any point repudiating his Ur-group activities or for that matter commenting much at all on them in his later life. If you know of such commentary I’d be very glad to see it. I also await your essay.

      • Posted August 28, 2012 at 2:36 am | Permalink

        In response to Dominion:

        “I agree that Guenon almost certainly believed in a literal deity. A note on Guenon’s position in Traditionalism, though: it’s obviously the case that Guenon established the modern movement which we can call “Traditionalism”. There seems to be a tendency in the school, however, to elevate him beyond his position, and make his views a sort of be-all and end-all.”

        It is normal, in a school of thought, to base the premises of that school on its authorities. Guenon remains one of the most important traditionalists, and therefore is referenced a lot. I disagree, however, that he is “elevated beyond his position” (what title does he hold, for that matter?) – Evolians accept Evola’s authority on every issue, and many have never read a single page of Guenon. Likewise, followers of Schuon tend to take his word above all others. If you think Guenon is over-emphasized, that’s fine, but all it suggests to me is that you’re following some other authority (and perhaps that authority is yourself).

        “If we look at Hinduism’s Advaita Vedanta school (which to my knowledge most if not all Traditionalists consider valid), it has a very reduced roll for the personal God compared to Islam. God (Ishavra) and devotion to him become, for lack of a better term, a rung on the ladder to liberation, at which point the distinction between God and the initiate and devotee ceases to exist… Buddhism (which Guenon rejected, but most other Traditionalists, including Schuon, accept as valid) has little use for the concept at all, especially in the Theravada Southern School.”

        I would certainly not presume to question the validity of either Advaita Vedanta or Buddhism. I just took issue with what you wrote in your original post about there being an original concept of traditionalism, which was impersonal in nature, which was somehow displaced by a later traditionalism that emphasized a personalized deity. I described Guenon’s views since he came BEFORE Evola, yet you made it sound as if Evola’s views were the original position of traditionalism, which later became distorted. This isn’t the way it evolved. I would say, however, that the later traditionalists have tended to stress Islam much more strongly than other religions. Guenon himself, while a Muslim, wrote very little about it. One will find much more about Advaita Vedanta or Christianity in Guenon than about Islam. So there was a shift, but I wouldn’t say the issue is impersonalism vs. personalism.

        Also, Guenon originally regarded Buddhism as nothing more than a Hindu heresy, but later in life, Ananda Coomaraswamy corrected his view on this.

        “Personally, I have also generally found the “theistic” arguments for God’s existence to be rather lacking.”

        In traditionalism, both are accepted.

        “It’s important to remember that Guenon, though obviously a remarkable mind and intellect, was not a prophet and did not consider himself to be inventing a new school or being the bearer of received divine truth.”

        That is true. However, there’s a difference between prophecy and metaphysics.

        “I mentioned the Lovecraftian cults in reference to the essay on them recently published on CC. To clarify, I would not consider any of them Traditional in nature, and what truth there is in them would be “accidental” not “received”. That said, I think Traditionalists would be in error to ignore truth when it appears outside of the valid lines of initiation, if only for the perspective they may bring.”

        That sounds well and good, but then how is one to determine what is valid and what is simply invented? I may think something in Aleister Crowley sounds nice, but simply because I am attracted to it doesn’t put it on an equal platform with traditional sources.

        “I am familiar with Evola’s essay and found it extremely helpful in developing my view on the relationship between neopaganism and Tradition. I am not aware, however, of Evola at any point repudiating his Ur-group activities or for that matter commenting much at all on them in his later life. If you know of such commentary I’d be very glad to see it.”

        He never repudiated it. However, he devotes an entire chapter to the Ur Group in his last major work, “The Path of Cinnabar,” and I think it is fairly evident in it that he viewed his occult activities as an earlier stage in his development which was superseded by traditionalism.

        “I also await your essay.”

        It will be done soon.

    • Posted August 28, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      Chiming In….

      I wouldn’t characterize Schuon as an “academic Traditionalist”, though some of his followers are. And neither Schuon nor myself are strictly theists or panentheists. Schuon repeatedly emphasizes, in many books, that the Absolute in its Essence is strictly formless and transpersonal, “Beyond Being”, Nirguna Brahman, Godhead, al-Dhat, while the God of the Theists, “Pure Being”, Saguna Brahman, Allah, is like the first intelligible manifestation or hypostasis of that Absolute. In my book KNOWINGS, in a dialogue with Robert Bolton, I more-or-less take the side of the Advaita Vedanta as against Bolton’s strict personal theism. The point I like to make is that when Jesus said “None come to the Father but through Me”, one of the things He meant is that Nirguna Brahman cannot be realized if we simply “skip” Saguna Brahman; even Sri Ramana Mararshi, the premier modern jnani whose “Self” or “Atman” or “Witness” is none other than Nirguna Brahman, wrote devotional hyms to God, Saguna Brahman. If we attempt to realize the Absolute directly without first relating to it’s “human” face, that Absolute will remain abstract; we will have no way to relate to It in our humanity. And this is true even in Buddhism, which has no Personal God, outside (perhaps) of the Sambhoga-kaya, the imaginal Buddha; the guru or roshi, as the human presence of Buddhahood, without whom the realization of samyak-sambhodi is next to impossible, fulfills this function. If we try to relate to the Absolute while totally rejecting the personal God, this is tantamount to seeing God as passive and ourselves as active; this is also the precise point where the Promethean/Magical
      way begins to replace the Traditional spiritual Path, thus opening the door to Counter-Initiation. The Personal God can certainly be transcended — when we transcend our own human character-
      istics by “dying before we die” — but He cannot be ignored or rejected; to do so is to deny our own humanity. This is the pitfall that many modern non-Traditional “esoterists” fall into.

      The Schuonians tend to dismiss Evola because “he placed the kshatriya initiation above the brahmanic initiation”, as if that were that. He certainly has that tendency, and insofar as he manifests it I agree with Schuon. But the article “Against the Neo-Pagans” (which I love) that appears on your website shows a different doctrine, or at least a difference nuance. And Rama Coomaraswamy, in THE PROBLEMS WITH THE OTHER SACRAMENTS APART FROM THE NEW MASS (which I edited) was willing to quote a fairly long passage from Evola.

      • Jaego Scorzne
        Posted August 28, 2012 at 9:49 am | Permalink

        White Nationalism is a “fighting faith” and quite naturally and rightly gravitates towards Evola and the Ksyatria outlook and initiation. Is it higher? Not in essence, but for us here and now – it is what we need. After all, it is the Men Against Time who make the institutions and lifestyles of Men Above Time possible.

        In the Middle Ages, the Muslims were persecuting and enslaving Hindus on pilgramage. The Shaivite Holy Men came out of their caves and took up arms against the Muslims in defence of the pilgrims. This is flexibility – one of the signs of Real Life. These warrior orders were know as astravadins or weapon carriers as opposted to the shastravadins or scripture carriers. They still exist in seed form – in case they are ever needed again.

      • Posted August 28, 2012 at 11:27 am | Permalink

        Jaego, it’s a nice thought, but if Pakistan were to invade India, it wouldn’t need the 80-pound, five-foot sannyasis and brahmacharis to come out of their “caves” (although most of them are in the cities, these days) and attack the tanks and bombers. India has about 120 nuclear weapons for that eventuality.

        Also, I don’t view White Nationalism as a “faith” – it’s an ideology. Faith is another matter.

        One may be drawn to Evola more than Guenon or Schuon – that’s up to the individual. But Evola’s idea that the kshatriyas were higher than the brahmanas doesn’t hold water, as Coomaraswamy pointed out. Still, as you said, we may need kshatriyas today, but few in the movement seem to have the ability to live in any way approximate to the kshatriya ideal. Listening to black metal and perhaps having a knife or a Mini-14 in your closet while otherwise living a completely ordinary, modern, amoral, bourgeois life doesn’t constitute a kshatriya lifestyle or activity. (I’m not accusing you of this, but this does seem to be a common phenomenon in our circles.)

      • Dominion
        Posted August 28, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for your response, and this is also a reply to John’s comments:

        Thank you for clarifying the role of God (Saguna Brahman) as the “personalized Absolute”. My question would simply be if this personalized absolute is the same to the Traditionalist as God is to the exoteric believer. A personalization of the supreme reality being a necessary step is something I can see, even if through an imaginal Buddha or Guru. But if this Buddha or this Guru may play a similar role to what God plays to the Orthodox Christian or Muslim, then is God real in the same sense as is meant by the exoteric believer. Perhaps a way to state it would be, if the atheist were able to refute all arguments for the existence of the theistic creator God, would he have refuted Traditionalism and its metaphysics?

        As someone who came upon Traditionalism with no belief in a personal creator God, I don’t think they have. On the contrary, the atheist can likely come to agreement that, being material beings with material brains, our egos are ever changing and there is nothing permanent about them. Indeed, our ego has not existed and will not exist for most of eternity. The only truly eternal thing is the Supreme Reality, the highest dimension of existence, the form we cannot know and only a small probabilistic section of which is manifested in our universe. Thus, the one who wishes to realize his true and permanent Self can do nought but overcome the temporary ego and develop an identification with this Supreme Reality, of which ‘he’ is in fact only a manifestation. This sounds uncannily Traditionalist to me.

  2. Peter
    Posted August 27, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    For many years we have been bombarded with Islamic propaganda claiming that Islam civilised Europe. The claim doesn’t stand up to close examination. The Islamic world subjected Europe to four-and-a-half centuries of slaughter and slave-raiding before the Crusaders launched a counter-attack. During those four-and-a-half centuries Islamic art and science did indeed overtake Europe, but that was the reward of keeping Europe blockaded. As soon as the blockade was broken Europe rapidly overtook Islam. Today’s Moslems claim credit for ending a Dark Age that was the product of their own ferocity. It was disappointing to hear a ‘Traditionalist’ who has fallen for their lies and half-truths.

  3. Colin Laney
    Posted August 27, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Saw this reply to Upton at his site sophiaperennis.com, thought it applicable here.

    “Charles, a God who grants and removes dispensations to religions is, on principle, not the highest or ineffable God.

    Perception of that God arises from the acme of both rationalism and introception. His beneficence flows outward unceasingly. The God you are proposing is a conflation of myth and rationality.

    Take care in your argument that Greco-Roman and Egyptian religion, et al, just “died.” You’re well aware that they didn’t just “die.” They were murdered, or an attempt was made to murder them, by the very Abrahamic religions you now propose as the true recipient of their dispensation. This renders any suggestion of that dispensation a complicity in murder or, at least, an attempt to fence stolen jewelry (‘despoiling the Egyptians’).

    I agree with you  pertinent to the dangers of force-fusing distinct traditions. Sadly, no one was there to alert the Church Fathers who ingested Neoplatonism. Now it sits inside Abrahamism, a wooden horse in the square, awaiting nightfall.

    Finally, I do think it bad form to name your site after Sophia then steer your readers away from the Great Goddess.”

    • Dominion
      Posted August 27, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      The problem with viewing Christianity as a purely “Abrahamic” faith is that it did, as you describe, get infused with European philosophy, spirituality and values. The laying on of hands transmitted through the Bishop in the Roman church took on a form very similar to an aristocracy (of cardinals) and even includes a shadow of the Sacred King of Tradition in the Pope! In the Holy Roman Empire, this role was played by the Emperor, especially during the Ghibelline era. The Crusaders marching under the cross, the patron saints of worker’s guilds, the conquering warrior Christ who says “In hoc signo vinces” as well as “turn the other cheek, pray for those who persecute you”, and the faith which made up more than a millennium of our history cannot simply be dismissed as a “wooden horse”. The faith which came from the wastelands of Galilee was taken into the European soul and birthed anew, and this is the Traditional faith which Guenon and Evola see embodied in the middle ages.

    • Posted August 27, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      From a traditionalist perspective, regardless of whether the native European religions were “murdered” or not (which seems a difficult position to defend, considering that European peoples abandoned their Heathen beliefs voluntarily), the question is moot at this point. They are dead traditions.

  4. Demosthenes
    Posted August 27, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCponm17qQQ Charles Upton’s “ad” for Vectors of the Counter-Initiation

  5. UFASP
    Posted August 28, 2012 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    Certainly, this was a fascinating interview and Charles Upton is to be commended for conversing with a movement of sorts that he seems to basically disagree with in principle to some degree.

    That takes some character.

    I’m perhaps a bit out of my depth, but these are some brief thoughts that came to mind right from the get-go.

    I realize this is not the crux of the matter, but I find it odd how, on the one hand, he finds “spiritual” distinctions to be so important (such as the distinction between exoteric vs. exo-esoteric or “inter-faith” vs. Traditionalism itself), yet right off the bat he says how he feels no better about Hitler or Mussolini than he does about Mao, Stalin, or Pol Pot even though there was a pretty significant difference as far as millions of people were concerned. That type of conflating is just vulgar, with all due respect. Yet, the Traditionalists want us to be nuanced about desert stories and history-based religion (like the Abrahamic faiths).

    Secondly, compassion can clearly be a vice if it’s not moderated by prudence. I suppose that the response to that may be that “compassion” without prudence is not really compassion (a la the unity of virtue theory which I find to be unsatisfactory and problematic). But then we’re just getting into semantics, I think. So that particular criticism of Evola sans more qualification strikes me as lacking unless it can be shown not to rely so heavily on what may just be a linguistic quibble. Again, perhaps there is more to be explained. I’m just reacting to what I heard during the interview.

    He also describes how after his dissolution with the left, he went “up” instead of “right” or something to that effect. (He was “apolitical on principle.”) Well, I fail to see how these are exclusive options if life is viewed as a proper totality of mind and body (but then I’m not a Platonic thinker, really). I just think PRINCIPLE implies some sort of direct action of sorts. Obviously I’m not saying anything revolutionary here, but I think these tendencies mark the beginning of the mind/body splits we see within Western thinking.

    I’m moved by the ideas that tend towards evaluating the world through that which our own experience seems to show us; nature erases those who are not willing to act on their spirituality– to engage the world fully. (This has basically been my beef with Guenon and Stoic philosophers even if their criticisms of crass materialism ring very true.) In other words, the spiritual cocooners and worldy ascetics seem to me to be a dead-end for humanity as far as the material world around us is concerned. (That being, the only one we know in any concrete way.) Their prescription for living, from my vantage point, is that it’s better we sit on our hands than be “right wing ‘extremists’.” I’ve just never been sold, there. And I can’t help but think there’s a little modern thinking itself that is creeping up and using Platonic metaphysics as a Trojan horse. Certainly almost all ancient thinking is “right wing” to modern man.

    I respect the Traditionalist sense of awe and reverence for life and their aesthetic sense of beauty; but at the same time, I always get the uneasy feeling that they don’t value what they should value in an appropriate manner. With all due respect, I feel as though a tough owning up to what needs to be owned up to is never addressed in favor of highfalutin Rationalism– that for some reason, detached intellect is just self-evidently superior in every way; I just can’t help feeling as though such mental cocooning downplays the importance of being intrepid in a way that actually unites mind and body and actually moves nature– that moves nature in a way that makes CC and VoR and TOO and (hopefully) real change (all of that “lowly” telluric, political stuff) even possible.

    The people who have their feet glued to the ground and who are asking themselves really tough questions that will get one excluded from faculty wine parties– the people who are willing to proceed past the “taboo” signs and endure the ridicule instead of being safe and abstract are the ones asking the adult questions. Such “ugly” and “right wing” questions, like it or not, have to be decided by humanity one way or another and such questioners have thus, always won me over over the people who begin to sound a bit priestly and abstract and moralistic.

    After all, Platonic thinkers themselves wish to have an environment for themselves in which they can write their books and contemplate Tradition yet they seem withdrawn from the very processes which must give rise for them to be able to do this or they seem critical of any approach that involves getting up off of a chair and putting down a book and picking up something else.

    I’m also skeptical of the notion that religion (at least among the average person as opposed to the people running these institutions) has really degenerated all that much; its significance in many ways seems to have always been one of identity and distinction for John Doe. I believe much of the spiritual significance and the ordering that comes from it as an institution is an elitist pre-occupation. But I suppose I’m weary of idealizing the past too much which I think Traditionalists do.

    Incidentally, it’s probably to the extent that he was such a rogue among the Traditionalist thinkers that I find Evola so invigorating.

    Again, in all humility, I suppose I don’t understand Traditionalism as a whole that well (but I do think I grasp the gist of it in principle). That being said, I am persuaded by a criticism of it that can be applied to Platonic thinking in general when it gets carried away in its own abstractions so as to not allow one to lift a finger.

    I respect Traditionalist metaphysicians as complete thinkers (in a sense), but I will always tend more towards Aristotle over Plato and this interview reaffirms why that is for me. I guess I am just incapable of being a religious thinker even if I consider myself to be spiritual. But I would like to say that I appreciate knowledgeable men like Charles Upton who are willing to engage “fringe” circles in order to educate people who are interested in Traditionalism. It’s also a feather in the cap of CC that they were able to secure such an interview. Despite my rant, I enjoyed this interview and did learn a lot from it. Thank you.

    • Posted August 28, 2012 at 3:00 am | Permalink

      Dear UFASP,

      “I realize this is not the crux of the matter, but I find it odd how, on the one hand, he finds “spiritual” distinctions to be so important (such as the distinction between exoteric vs. exo-esoteric or “inter-faith” vs. Traditionalism itself), yet right off the bat he says how he feels no better about Hitler or Mussolini than he does about Mao, Stalin, or Pol Pot even though there was a pretty significant difference as far as millions of people were concerned. That type of conflating is just vulgar, with all due respect. Yet, the Traditionalists want us to be nuanced about desert stories and history-based religion (like the Abrahamic faiths).”

      A traditionalist generally sees all politics as vulgar, whether they are of the Left or the Right. Also, what religion is not “history-based”?

      “I’m moved by the ideas that tend towards evaluating the world through that which our own experience seems to show us; nature erases those who are not willing to act on their spirituality– to engage the world fully.”

      That’s not really born out by history. Leaders and empires come and go, but there are religions which have stood the test of time for millennia. From the standpoint of Tradition, some are meant for the life of action, but others are meant for the contemplative life, others for some other type of work. This was hierarchy, which, in democratic modern times, we have forgotten, attempting to apply one model to everyone.

      “(This has basically been my beef with Guenon and Stoic philosophers even if their criticisms of crass materialism ring very true.) In other words, the spiritual cocooners and worldy ascetics seem to me to be a dead-end for humanity as far as the material world around us is concerned.”

      It might be, if everyone lived their life that way. I’m not aware of any tradition that teaches total withdrawal from the world for all its followers, however.

      “(That being, the only one we know in any concrete way.) Their prescription for living, from my vantage point, is that it’s better we sit on our hands than be “right wing ‘extremists’.” I’ve just never been sold, there.”

      Under liberal capitalism, you’re free to buy or not buy whatever you wish.

      “Certainly almost all ancient thinking is “right wing” to modern man.”

      True.

      “I respect the Traditionalist sense of awe and reverence for life and their aesthetic sense of beauty;”

      I’m not sure that’s the crux of traditionalism, but OK.

      “but at the same time, I always get the uneasy feeling that they don’t value what they should value in an appropriate manner. With all due respect, I feel as though a tough owning up to what needs to be owned up to is never addressed in favor of highfalutin Rationalism– that for some reason, detached intellect is just self-evidently superior in every way;”

      It is, since intellect is what sets us apart from animals and dead matter. However, that doesn’t relieve men from carrying out their duties, which involve being active in the world. Again, as I said above, I know of no religion that teaches everyone to go and meditate in a cave for the rest of their lives.

      “I just can’t help feeling as though such mental cocooning downplays the importance of being intrepid in a way that actually unites mind and body and actually moves nature– that moves nature in a way that makes CC and VoR and TOO and (hopefully) real change (all of that “lowly” telluric, political stuff) even possible.”

      I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive. Action without belief, and an understanding of the true nature of reality which can only be got from metaphysics, is just as flawed as sitting in meditation while the house burns down around you.

      “The people who have their feet glued to the ground and who are asking themselves really tough questions that will get one excluded from faculty wine parties–”

      Are you critiquing traditionalists or academics? They’re not always the same. And most traditionalists wouldn’t drink wine.

      “the people who are willing to proceed past the “taboo” signs and endure the ridicule instead of being safe and abstract are the ones asking the adult questions.”

      So questions of belief, God, morality and such are immature questions for you?

      “After all, Platonic thinkers themselves wish to have an environment for themselves in which they can write their books and contemplate Tradition yet they seem withdrawn from the very processes which must give rise for them to be able to do this or they seem critical of any approach that involves getting up off of a chair and putting down a book and picking up something else.”

      Can you cite some specific examples? I don’t know of any traditionalist who has been critical of action. One simply has to have the appropriate attitude toward action – which is that, in this age, it is likely to fail, if it is political in nature. But that doesn’t invalidate the need for doing it.

      “I’m also skeptical of the notion that religion (at least among the average person as opposed to the people running these institutions) has really degenerated all that much; its significance in many ways seems to have always been one of identity and distinction for John Doe.”

      That may be true, at the lower levels. But they don’t embody the essence of the Tradition. Traditionalism is an elitist doctrine.

      “I believe much of the spiritual significance and the ordering that comes from it as an institution is an elitist pre-occupation.”

      Is that bad?

      “But I suppose I’m weary of idealizing the past too much which I think Traditionalists do.”

      The past was better, but it is also impossible to recreate, so we have to work with what we have.

      “Incidentally, it’s probably to the extent that he was such a rogue among the Traditionalist thinkers that I find Evola so invigorating.”

      That’s your prerogative. But Evola certainly wouldn’t agree with most of what you’ve written here. The gap between Evola and Guenon, at least in their basic assumptions, is not as great as many Evolians would like to believe.

      “Again, in all humility, I suppose I don’t understand Traditionalism as a whole that well (but I do think I grasp the gist of it in principle). That being said, I am persuaded by a criticism of it that can be applied to Platonic thinking in general when it gets carried away in its own abstractions so as to not allow one to lift a finger.”

      Again, for a third time, I think you’re constructing a straw-man traditionalist to demolish, since I know of no tradition which teaches that one should not engage with the surrounding world.

      • UFASP
        Posted August 28, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        Mr. Morgan,

        “A traditionalist generally sees all politics as vulgar, whether they are of the Left or the Right. Also, what religion is not “history-based”?”

        With the Abrahamic faiths, there is a greater emphasis on historical events– on Revelation.

        This is from Bryan Magee’s The Story of Philosophy:

        “Almost the first thing a Christian has to believe if he is to be a Christian at all is that certain historical events took place in the Middle East about two thousand years ago – that God came and lived on earth as a man, was crucified, and after three days rose again from the dead, and so on. In this important sense Christianity is a history-based religion: it centrally involves believing that certain things happened. The great religions of the East, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, do not share this characteristic or anything like the same extent. They too have their stories to tell about the lives their founders or their important early figures, but the defining characteristic of belonging to those religions is not believing in the truth of these stories, it is believing in the validity of the religion’s philosophical or quasi-philosophical doctrines, and trying to live in accordance with its moral precepts. This gives them a character which is altogether more “philosophical.”,” and less “historical,” than Christianity.”

        Now, I know Bryan Magee is not necessarily some expert on religion, but that distinction does not strike me as something that is off the wall or a conclusion that only a shallow liberal would arrive at. As someone who was raised Catholic himself, that distinction seems very valid (to the extent that I can evaluate of Christianity’s emphasis from such an experience).

        “That’s not really born out by history. Leaders and empires come and go, but there are religions which have stood the test of time for millennia. From the standpoint of Tradition, some are meant for the life of action, but others are meant for the contemplative life, others for some other type of work. This was hierarchy, which, in democratic modern times, we have forgotten, attempting to apply one model to everyone.”

        Fair enough. But where do you draw the line between “a life of action” and a “political life”?

        “It might be, if everyone lived their life that way. I’m not aware of any tradition that teaches total withdrawal from the world for all its followers, however.”

        I’m not necessarily trying to say that all Tradtionalists preach this passive outlook. But in reading Rene Guenon’s The Crisis of The Modern World, I found a man that was astute at criticizing materialism, but who had basically little to tell his readers other than “what a catastrophe this all is– maybe the East can save us– but I doubt it.” (That’s the taste that is one’s mouth after reading that book.) Now that may be entirely valid. But the actions of his followers (a significant chunk of Perennialist thinkers) do not seem to jibe with the sense of urgency felt among people who frequent sites like this one.

        “Under liberal capitalism, you’re free to buy or not buy whatever you wish.”

        Absolutely. No argument there.

        “I’m not sure that’s the crux of traditionalism, but OK.”

        I’m not trying to imply that that is the crux of Traditionalism. I was merely spelling out features about it that I myself identify with immediately.

        “It is, since intellect is what sets us apart from animals and dead matter.”

        I’m skeptical of the intellect’s ability to do what Rationalists (Platonics, Cartesians, Traditionalists) think it is doing. It’s not as though people have never clashed with Platonics and neo-Platonics on this point. That being said, I think Traditionalists have a respectable position. However, there is no doubt that our intellects can be just as destructive towards higher culture as they can be constructive. Since the Enlightenment, the intellect has acted like a mirage. So yes, it separates us from the animals. But it’s a tool for man (from my way of looking at things); not necessarily the springboard for any sort of “revealed truth.”

        What sets apart people from plants and animals is our relative intelligence and sense of self-awareness. (What Heidegger calls “Dasein.) But I’m skeptical of people that say, “therefore, we have Reason and can use it to arrive at truth.” That’s a whole different step aside from separating ourselves from the rest of the animal kingdom for reasons that are more self-evident to everyone.

        Incidentally, you may have guessed that my skepticism of Traditionalism is the same skepticism I have towards Christianity and Catholicism even if there are features about it that I respect.

        “However, that doesn’t relieve men from carrying out their duties, which involve being active in the world. Again, as I said above, I know of no religion that teaches everyone to go and meditate in a cave for the rest of their lives.”

        Don’t people argue about religion and what religion is saying all the time, though? In fairness, I understand that religion is not completely arbitrary. There are set rules that have been laid out (but then the interpretation of those rules always becomes a dicey matter). I’m by no means any expert on Buddhism; but if someone gathers that Buddhism taught them to “meditate in a cave for the rest of their lives,” would he be completely pulling that out of his butt? It seems to me that one has some ground for interpreting his faith in such a way. Then you have people like that ascetic priest in Dostoyevky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Now, I know some would argue that that is a perversion of Christianity but such a person certainly would have some grounds for thinking that that’s what God wanted him to do.

        My point is that religion is not laying it all out clearly for people in a way that many of their followers think it is. At the risk of sounding too much like Kierkegaard, there is more of the individual within religion than followers of it seem to be aware of.

        Religion is many things to many people because it represents an entire worldview where all sorts of room for subjective interpretation are able to take root without people even realizing it.

        “I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive. Action without belief, and an understanding of the true nature of reality which can only be got from metaphysics, is just as flawed as sitting in meditation while the house burns down around you.”

        I suppose it’s possible that the mainstream, non-Evolian Traditionalists are doing more to lay the ground work for a different world that is more attuned to their beliefs or how they think the righteous order truly is; But that doesn’t seem likely to me. Again, this all may just be ignorance on my part. At the very least, I want to play devil’s advocate.

        “Are you critiquing traditionalists or academics?”

        Heh. Fair enough. That was unfair projecting. But again, how many Traditionalists (I’m genuinely asking, this is not rhetorical) will “lower” themselves to speak about real cultural issues of significance to people who frequent CC?

        “They’re not always the same. And most traditionalists wouldn’t drink wine.”

        Heh. I understand.

        “So questions of belief, God, morality and such are immature questions for you?”

        Absolutely not. Nor did I imply anywhere that they were immature questions.

        I think the manner in which some people may be prone to go about answering such questions may be ineffectual, though. Ineffectual in the sense that nothing they do alters the world around them to affirm the right or wrong character of such a belief. And I don’t see how anything that is ineffectual is a good answer to those questions.

        “Can you cite some specific examples? I don’t know of any traditionalist who has been critical of action. One simply has to have the appropriate attitude toward action – which is that, in this age, it is likely to fail, if it is political in nature. But that doesn’t invalidate the need for doing it.”

        Again, I’m mainly drawing on Rene Guenon’s book, The Crisis of The Modern World. I guess I don’t have a such a view towards politics is what a lot of this comes down to.

        “That may be true, at the lower levels. But they don’t embody the essence of the Tradition. Traditionalism is an elitist doctrine.”

        Yeah, I have no problem with that. In fact, that’s what I like about it. My only point was that when people look back to “higher” ages, they are looking back on a world where a different sensibility was in control. They weren’t looking at a collection of people who had all pulled themselves up by their bootstraps to this “higher” plane. People as a whole always march mindlessly. I just think they were just marching to a drummer whose tune we (people on the right) found more aesthetically pleasing all those years ago.

        “Is that bad?” (that much of the spiritual significance and the ordering that comes from it as an institution is an elitist pre-occupation)

        Again, not at all. I was simply responding to a point Upton was making about religion degenerating among peoples into a identity marker. In that respect, I think that’s what religion has always chiefly been for the common man. Not what it is to Traditionalists. I think this point gets confused. I also don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that man interprets his faith in such a way.

        “The past was better, but it is also impossible to recreate, so we have to work with what we have.”

        Perhaps; In many ways it most definitely was. It’s very easy to get swept up in this notion or generalization given the rot of our present culture. But again, I think there is a tendency to idealize too much of the past and reject too much of modernity among this strand of thinking.

        “That’s your prerogative. But Evola certainly wouldn’t agree with most of what you’ve written here.”

        I understand. I’m not by any means an Evolian.

        “The gap between Evola and Guenon, at least in their basic assumptions, is not as great as many Evolians would like to believe.”

        This seems to contradict what Upton was saying, but okay.

        “Again, for a third time, I think you’re constructing a straw-man traditionalist to demolish, since I know of no tradition which teaches that one should not engage with the surrounding world.”

        I think this point has turned into a semantics quibble revolving around the word “engage.”

        Thanks for your response!

  6. Jaego Scorzne
    Posted August 28, 2012 at 1:21 am | Permalink

    Yes, much of Northern Europe was converted by force. And despite their valiant struggle and counter attack, they succumbed in the end.

    God may not ultimately be a Person – but it is not less than one either. Experiences of God as a Person are thus valid if only partial or preliminary. How many could ever go beyond this anyway? As if this isn’t in itself a tremendous thing… In other words, I think the noble lie idea is superificial and wrong in terms of religious experience and metaphysics. Brahma is not just a concept with no reality other than the psychological. He is real – more real and metaphysically senior to you. He is your archetype, you as you merely an examplar of Him (or Her if you prefer).

    Ramakrisna said this was the easier way: find Ishwara and He/She will take you beyond if you so desire. The Vedanta Society may be bullshit but He himself was not.

    I believe it was Lings and/or Schuon who gave the beautiful analogy of Revelation as the Tide. The various religions and traditions are the tidal pools that remain once the Tide goes out. The pools differ in size, shape, and depth but the Ocean is all “One Taste”.

  7. rhondda
    Posted August 28, 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    This has got to be the most fascinating discussion I have read for a long time. Thank you Gentlemen.

  8. Lew
    Posted August 28, 2012 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    I listened to part of it and found it interesting. This discussion is well over my head.

    If anyone cares to, can someone please explain these ideas in very basic terms taking it down to a grade school level? Start with definitions/examples of initiation/counter-initiation.

    This is what I think I “get”; this is going to sound incredibly superficial to the participants here, I’m sure, but that’s why I’m asking, to try to move a bit beyond a very thin understanding of these ideas:

    1) There is Western metaphysics: Platonic, Aristotelean, others.

    2) There are religions: Northern Euro paganism, Greco-Roman paganism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, others.

    3) There is the movement of history, the ongoing merging, commingling and intersection of ideas, customs, peoples. These are basic facts. (Ex: Constantine makes Christianity the official religion of the late empire, Christians go on to dominate Euro pagans either by force or through voluntary conversion).

    I gather that Guenon’s focus was the intersection of 1 and 2. He comes up with this idea called Tradition, and two related ideas, initiation and counter-initiation.

    4) Some parties decided (who? Freemasons, others? ) they wanted to undermine Tradition by attacking the “initiation” element that is needed to sustain Tradition. The goal was to inflict spiritual damage. The methods/approach they (who?) put in place of initiation are called counter-initiation. The impact of counter-initiation is a big part of why the West is declining.

    5) Today’s Traditionalists are trying to figure out how to undo the damage resulting from #4.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted August 28, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      Lew,

      The Traditionalist school as I understand it teaches that there is a transcendent unity of all religions, meaning that the pinnacle of all religions is a mystical union of soul and god or being. This is the peak of the mountain, and the various religions and spiritual pathways are different routes up the side of the mountain to the same goal. This is the ultimate, “vertical” teaching of traditionalism: vertical because it concerns going up, metaphysically speaking.

      The “horizontal” dimension of Traditionalism is the idea that the vertical spiritual pathway has been transmitted through Tradition that is initiatory and hierarchical. Genuine initiation passes in stages from a master to a pupil (hierarchy, grades of initiation) and brings the pupil higher and higher along the vertical dimension of initiation toward union with being.

      Counter-initiation basically refers to the profanation or secularization of initiatic, hierarchical organizations, using them to serve worldly ends. These sorts of secret organizations are, after all, ideal for political conspiracy, revolution, and espionage, and they are easily subverted, for if the leadership is corrupted, they can employ the lower ranks to advance entirely profane agendas without even knowing the ultimate agenda they serve. This is the case with Freemasonry and Theosophy, and Upton argues that it is also the case of the Interfaith movement today, which seeks to subordinate religion and corrupt it to serve the globalist agenda: one economy, one government, one religion, and a blended, mongrelized humanity.

      • Roissy Hater
        Posted August 29, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        Yes, the idea of counter-initiation is that the world was once ruled by sacred, initiatory bodies. This Aryan colleges were infiltrated, but not destroyed. If you wanted to take over a corporation that was doing very well in business, you could conspire to kill the CEO and hire your own people, but you would keep the business logos, contacts, and basic structure intact for your own profits.

        Thousands of years ago, some secret force infiltrated these spiritual bodies, and now utilizes initiatory symbols, esoteric motifs, and a metaphysical-theological structure for their own purposes (to use society for mercantile and occult reasons).

        Counter-initiation is world-historical, meaning that its plans are passed down through intergenerational liaisons for specific, long-term goals.

    • Avery Morrow
      Posted August 28, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      Guénon was, oddly enough, initiated by the Freemasons and regarded them as a real initiatory tradition, perhaps even the only one. The groups he attacked were the Protestants who removed the traditional element from religion, as well as the Theosophists and Mormons who claimed to be traditional but were clearly making stuff up.

      In layman’s terms, Guénon appears to be a hypocrite because he himself supported the concept of the Kingdom of Agarttha which was made up in the 19th century. Traditionalists who take Guénon to be a prophet must reconcile this by figuring out the deeper meaning of the nonsense word Agarttha. But who is to say the Mormons have no deeper meanings behind their teachings? This is a chief problem I have with him; otherwise, he was a Doctor of Modernity.

      • Greg Johnson
        Posted August 28, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

        As Upton makes clear, Guénon and Upton differ on Freemasonry, and my view of Freemasonry is close to Upton’s.

        If Guénon was duped about Agartha, that does not mean that he was wrong about Mormonism or Theosophy or Spiritualism. There are plenty of made-up religions. So he would not be surprised to find one more.

    • Jaego Scorzne
      Posted August 28, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      The Communists suceeded in puting countless priests into the Church over the years. Some of them rose to teaching positions were they could poison the well completely. Sympathetic to homosexuals and feminists, they supported both and looked the other way on questionable activities. Imagine what innocent young men aiming for the priesthood encountered when they blundered into some of these snake pits.

      Instead of formation and theology, the seminarians were given years of the higher criticism and current heretics. All that could be done to break their faith was done before they ever got around to studying Aquinas, etc.

  9. Owlbear
    Posted August 28, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Morgan, you wrote: John Morgan
    Posted August 27, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    From a traditionalist perspective, regardless of whether the native European religions were “murdered” or not (which seems a difficult position to defend, considering that European peoples abandoned their Heathen beliefs voluntarily), the question is moot at this point. They are dead traditions.

    I do not understand how such an intellectual man like you could repeat such an obvious lie. Karl murdered the Saxons, the original Romans were extinct by oriental subhumans and this is what changed the distribution of faiths in the Empire. After the Germans had been christianized they forced Christianity on the Slavs and Nordics. The only form of Christianity that was ever adopted voluntarily by Europeans – true europeans, not late-empire-oriental-lowlifes was a Gnostic form (Iro-celtic, Arian, Manichean) and this form of Christianity did not replace traditional beliefs but built a symbiosis with it (look at Norway and Iceland). Even then, most conversions were forced upon the people by its rulers, which in turn often were forced by outside powers (like, for example, when Norway had to convert from Gnosticism to Catholicism).

  10. Jaego Scorzne
    Posted August 28, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    The end of the Cycle approaches. The Wolf is at the door. We may well be back to swords by the time the Sword Age dawns. The Shaivite Militias were obviously no match for mounted Muslim Armies down in the plains. That was a matter for the Hindu Kings. But in remote forest, hill and mountain areas where they knew the land and had the cooperaton of the local people, they could make a big difference and save countless people from slavery and death at the hands of Muslim raiders. Facing armed men on their own turf is not something experienced warriors take lightly. Thus they became a deterrent to further outrages against the Pilgrims.

    The Castes had become ritualized, by birth and not quality and thus degenerate. The Brahmins hugged their secrets to their breasts turning away qualified applicants who were of the wrong caste. Thus the Ksyatrias began their own Traditions. Both Buddha and Mahavira were ksyatrias I believe. The early Buddhists didn’t seem to know the higher Vedic wisdom but only distortions of it. So they often argued against a straw man. Buddha studied with Hindu Teachers but he didn’t seem to know either. Could they have been ksyatrias as well?

    • Fourmyle of Ceres
      Posted August 28, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      Jaego Scorrzne in blockquote:
      Congratulations, and full marks, indeed, for accurately defining the key to effectiveness for us.

      So they often argued against a straw man.

      THAT represents most of the last century of White Nationalist “analysis and commentary.”

      THAT is why Counter-Currents is so important, as is the New Polaris of the Northwest Republic.

      For the first time, we are not trying to change THEM. We are trying to change ourSELVES, for the better. This is the only Path to lasting, effective, transformational victory.

  11. Reader
    Posted August 29, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Charles,

    I just started reading your book and may comment in more detail when I am done. I would like to suggest that you include an index in any future editions. It greatly eases finding material and enhances your writing’s value by making it easier for others to find what they are looking for and thus more likely to cite. It is a shame that the publisher did not include one. There is ample software to make it relatively painless.

    Also, I am curious about some relatively recent religions like Bahaism which seem tailor made for a future NWO religion. They seem to embrace multiculturalism, miscegenation, and multiracial societies. In fact, they openly advocate miscegenation and cite race as one of the world’s chief “problems.”

    • Jaego Scorzne
      Posted August 29, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      You are evidently correct. The comlete low down on the disaser that is Bahaism from Julian Lee, a White Nationalist yogi who was once a Bahai.

      http://kitab-i-aqdas.info/

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