As Forum readers know, tradition has been a focus of ours here at the Center. So it’s with interest that we saw a new book from Oxford on the subject, Traditionalism: The Radical Project for Restoring Sacred Order, by historian Mark Aarhus (Aarhus). It looks very interesting, indeed. But the description on the Oxford website is a bit puzzling in one respect. As examples of the major proponents of traditionalism it gives René Guénon, Julius Evola, and Frithjof Schuon, along with Steve Bannon. Burke? Oakeshott? Kirk? At least in the English-speaking world, those names are a lot more prominent. Maybe the book discusses them, too. Anyway, here’s the description:
From a leading expert comes an intellectual history and analysis of Traditionalism, one of the least known and most influential philosophies that continues to impact politics today
Traditionalism is a shadowy philosophy that has influenced much of the twentieth century and beyond: from the far-right to the environmental movement, from Sufi shaykhs and their followers to Trump advisor and right-wing provocateur Steve Bannon. It is a worldview that rejects modernity and instead turns to mystical truth and tradition as its guide.
Mark Sedgwick, one of the world’s leading scholars of Traditionalism, presents a major new analysis, pulling back the curtain on the foundations of Traditionalist philosophy, its major proponents–René Guénon, Julius Evola, and Frithjof Schuon–and their thought. One of Traditionalism’s fundamental pillars is perennialism, the idea that beneath all the different forms of religion there lies one single timeless and esoteric tradition. A second is the view that everything is getting worse, rather than better, over time, leading to the Traditionalist critique of modernity. Sedgwick details Traditionalism’s unique ideas about self-realization, religion, politics, and many other spheres.
Traditionalism provides an expansive guide to this important school of thought–one that is little-known and even less understood–and shows how pervasive these ideas have become.