Signs of the times revisited

We do not know what is going on, in our own times, and we cannot know. What we imagine to be important, may not be, and vice versa. There are several obvious reasons for this, plus one less obvious but rather more substantial.

First, there is so much going on, in so many places, to so many persons; who could follow it all? Imagine a novel with more than seven billion characters and sub-plots, in the present chapter alone. That is why we settle for cheap blurbs, written by publicists who can’t have read the book, either.

Second, we know less about the past — “another country” — which each plot depends upon, but where all the (former) characters had minds attuned to environmental realities quite different from ours.

Third, we know nothing at all about the future (“know not the hour”), and therefore cannot see where all the sub-plots are leading. If we could see some temporal distance, we could know much more about the present; we could clarify many problems of interpretation.

Fourth, and least obviously, we cannot know anything (except by Revelation) about what is going on beyond our own dimensions of Space and Time — about events in other worlds, in dimensions beyond ours, which may nevertheless interact with diurnal events in our worldly dimensions. This may sound scientifictive, but gentle reader must remember I am a religious nutjob, not an extraterrestrial, and must therefore be referring to “spiritual events” including that War in Heaven about which we were anciently told. Saint Michael the Archangel is, after all, apprehended by this world only on its own dimensional levels. For all we don’t know, we are soldiers in one sector, of one battle, within a vastly greater Cosmic Campaign.

After the Second World War (on this planet), René Guénon wrote a book entitled, Le Règne de la Quantité et les Signes des Temps (“The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times”). It was a smash-hit bestseller among people picking up the pieces of France, which then became an international bestseller in translations. This was probably because the learned but articulate Guénon wrote of this mysterious fourth realm. He makes an attempt to view the cycles of history, including the satanic elements, from what is in fact the traditional perspective (traditional in all human cultures), wherein qualities, not quantities, are the focus of attention. His post-War version of the philosophia perennis differs radically from the other modern imitations, from Hegel through Heidegger to the latest post-post-deconstructionalism, whose cyclical systems are assumed to occur strictly within Time.

Yet Guénon is dealing with the fate of civilizations, uphill and down, in their circular “progress” from ages of “myth” to ages of “science” and back — Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Iron Ages: in that order. He warns (as did the Old Testament prophets) against the murderous glibness of our post-Ironic time in which, as it were, the price of everything is accounted, but the value of nothing is discerned.

Guénon’s hot fashionable book was in immediate competition with others in France, and elsewhere, back there in 1945. On the Left, the alternative sages were Marxist and Existentialist; on the Right, the sirens of bourgeois democracy and Free Trade. But there was nothing to choose between Left and Right, for all partook in the Reign of Quantity. Every one of these draughtsmen of grand visions was, essentially, painting by numbers.

Dead now, for nearly seventy years, this Catholic-raised Guénon was a heretic and gnostic. This is not an accusation: he embraced these things openly, and as a sometime cult-follower of Egyptian Sufis, took the name Abd al-Wāḥid Yaḥyā. He dabbled in Hinduism, too; Taoism; Theosophy; Masonic rituals; and any esoterica he encountered. Famously, he befriended Jacques Maritain, but it should be added that Maritain tried to get all Guénon’s works placed on the Catholic Index Librorum Prohibitorum. (Those were the days before, in effect, that Index was itself placed on the Index.)

I condemn Guénon utterly, of course; though also affectionately. But I also condemn (lovingly) the failure of our contemporary Church, to teach laymen and now even her own priests her traditional doctrine — that we are all participants in a Cosmic War, and cannot begin to understand our battlefront position until we grasp that there is indeed a War going on. It is by walking away from this crucial responsibility that she has made the world safe for gnosticism and heresy, socialism, and so much other trash. Too, a world in which all we ever ask is for the latest figures.