Revealing Traditionalism

The preface to the second edition of Puti Absoliuta [The Ways of the Absolute] published in Absoliutnaia Rodina [Absolute Homeland] (Moscow: Arktogeia, 1999/2000).

The Ways of the Absolute was written in 1989. Its main task was presenting the foundations of Traditionalism, exhibiting how Tradition understands the most important metaphysical problems, and on what philosophical principles the sacred worldview is built. We considered the present work to be a kind of introduction to Traditionalism, as transmitting into the Russian context the main lines of such eminent modern Traditionalists as René Guénon (the founding father of this tendency), Julius Evola, etc. We pursued an altogether definite purpose, and it predetermined the topics selected, the methods of presentation, and the emphases. It was extremely important for us to at once put Traditionalist through in its proper context, and show its radical non-conformism, its rigid alternity to academic, “humanitarian” and profane philosophical trends in modern culture. Traditionalism is not a history of religions, not a philosophy, not a structural sociological analysis. It is more of an ideology or meta-ideology that is totalitarian to a considerable extent and places rather harsh demands before those who accept and profess it. Either man breaks with the totality of the worldview cliches of modernity diffused throughout his environment, completely revises his views and positions, investigates the profane genesis and then rejects them all at once in order to accept the norms of Tradition with perfect confidence and strict conviction, or he will remain essentially outside of it, outside the sacred fence, in the Eleusinian swamps of the modern world in which there is no fundamental difference between highbrow professors, philosophers, and the obedient, absolutely unreflective mass of laymen, including even those intellectuals who for “academic” reasons are interested in various “extravagant” subjects, such as theology, rituals, symbolism, traditional societies, etc.

The ambition to emphasize this aspect of Traditionalism with maximal clarity determined the structure of The Ways of the Absolute.

In the preface to the first edition of The Ways of the Absolute, we wrote the following on this matter: “‘Total Traditionalism’ arose in 20th century Europe as a special ideology standing for a complete and uncompromising return to the values of traditional, sacred civilization whose absolute negation is the modern materialist and secularized civilization – the “modern world” as such. Unlike those people who naturally belong to Tradition, the Traditionalists of the West found themselves surrounded by anti-tradition, and in order to affirm their position, they had to first and foremost reveal the elements and principles of Tradition, and declare them openly – something which would be superfluous in sacred societies and impossible in totalitarian, atheistic societies (such as communist ones, for example).”

Russian readers’ first acquaintance with the ideas of Traditionalism has, in our opinion, been quite adequate. We have succeeded in anticipating the opportunity to usurp this topic from irresponsible profane and neo-spiritualist circles.

Since the first edition of The Ways of the Absolute, the first Russian translations of the classics of Traditionalism have appeared and this trend will clearly continue. Readers can gradually, sufficiently familiarize themselves with the wholeness of the Traditionalist worldview, and then arises the new task of adequate applying such to our own tradition, to explaining what aspects of it are applicable to our reality to a full extent, and which aspects are subject to certain adjustment.

Ten years ago, the preface said: “The ideas of Guénon, whose works have hitherto been completely unknown to Russian readers, compose the foundations of this book. We have deemed it possible to avoid direct quotations of his works and chosen to freely present how we have grasped his ideas and how we have subsequently applied them in the sphere of traditional metaphysical doctrines and symbols. The present work contains a presentation of Guénon’s basic principles and concepts, whereas a detailed account of the divergences between such and our views on certain points of metaphysics would make sense only after the publication of Guénon’s main works in Russian. No matter what, it is Guénon who was and remains our spiritual guide and teacher.”

Today it can be said that this indeed happened, and in parallel to Russians’ fuller acquaintance with Guénon’s work, those aspects which were lost in the overall context of presenting the foundations of Traditionalism in The Ways of the Absolute have come to stand out. In our opinion, the gap that separates orthodox “Guenonism”, or literal adherence to Guénon’s thought in all major and minor issues, from the slightly different version of understanding metaphysical questions to which we ourselves adhere, is evermore clear. Before Guenon’s worldview became known to us in its general contours, it was premature to insist on the quality and essence of this gap, and by and large meaningless insofar as such would resemble a comparison between two unknown values. With the development of one of these values, the more prominent became the second, closely related to the first.

In The Ways of the Absolute, we based ourselves on a particular metaphysical tradition whose main lines were developed in a very closed and discrete intellectual milieu associated with such thinkers at Geydar Dzhemal, Yuri Mamleev, and Evgeniy Golovin. Having inherited from them a taste for paradoxical pivot in metaphysical intuition, we tried to combine this with orthodox Traditionalism, subjecting the latter to corrections arising out of the spirit of the above-mentioned school. The result was this book.

Intensive development of certain ideas has led the author to a whole series of new metaphysical conclusions which have been expressed in our other works, first and foremost in The Metaphysics of the Gospel.

We have decided to introduce some minor edits (mostly in the citations) in the text of this second edition of The Ways of the Absolute, since some suspicions have gradually been reborn as convictions, and certain arguments in orthodox Guénonist terms are so inadequate that we have resolved to withdraw them from the text or, in the very least, substantially correct them. Nevertheless, it is extremely important to consider the chronology of the writing and first edition of this book, as such was the first step in what was a kind of “revelation of Traditionalism.”

Translator: Jafe Arnold