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By Joel S. Kahn

Asia, Modernity, and the Pursuit of the Sacred examines numerous Europeans who, dissatisfied with western tradition and faith after global conflict I, and watching for the religious seekers of the counterculture, became to the non secular traditions of Asia for suggestion.

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Extra info for Asia, Modernity, and the Pursuit of the Sacred: Gnostics, Scholars, Mystics, and Reformers

Example text

And it is certainly true that Said himself—along with his early followers—was responsible for generalizing a quite tightly argued critique of particular—mainly Britain and French—representational regimes of the peoples and cultures of specific parts of the world—notably the Middle East and India—in a precise time period (the latter part of the nineteenth century) to other representational regimes in other places and other times. Was someone like René Guénon guilty of Orientalism in this sense? As critics like Arnason have argued, Orientalism, at least in the strong sense, hardly seems an appropriate characterization of those who had neither any particular stake in the British or French colonial enterprises in India and the Middle East, nor any sympathy for the liberal and republican civilizing mission that frequently accompanied them (Arnason 2003).

The distinction between East and West for Guénon was therefore temporal as well as geographical, more precisely a product of a temporal cycle in which the West is seen as approaching a sort of nadir. This cyclical view of time Guénon claims to derive from Hinduism, which led him to situate Europe in Hinduism’s fourth, “dark” age (KaliYuga), from which it might eventually recover. Given that according to Guénon, Hinduism preserves the Perennial Wisdom more faithfully than any other tradition, thanks largely to the survival of the caste system, studying it is merely a way of gaining access to an authentically traditional way of thinking and being that is universal as it were.

What is the “crisis” of modernity, and what needs to be done in order to put it right? Guénon’s answers are elaborated in the central chapters of The Crisis, as well as in later publications like The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times (Guénon 1953; original 1945). These and most of his other publications from the mid-1920s until his death in 1951 were concerned mainly to flesh out the Traditionalist critique of Western civilization, and the characteristics of traditional civilization that would need to be recovered to overcome it.

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