“Meaning itself is at an end,” Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad has said, lamenting the spiritual condition of modern Britain. The Enlightenment had claimed that man, not God, was the measure of things, but now, says the British shaykh, measure itself is dead.
I myself have noticed this, though I would say that one of the most serious consequences is the disappearance of proportion. We are enraged by some minor, politically incorrect act by one group while totally ignoring far worse abuses by another. Those perplexed by this have come to believe that ideology is to blame. But ideology is consistent, and the actions of individuals, when examined, are seen to be merely self-serving. Continue reading
Over the last decade or so, in the West, we’ve heard that “all religions” teach the same truths, or that “all religions teach peace”, and so on. So convinced have we become that a Google search for the phrase returns nearly five million results.
Yet, when Western pundits, politicians, and political activists talk of a religious unity, they do not base this assumption on the idea of a gnosis at the heart of faith (at least not one that could contradict modern, “progressive” Western assumptions). In the debate in the West, neither the individual nor society as a whole is re-orientated toward the sacred in such defenses of religion, but, instead toward contemporary Western notions of rights (which are sometimes used to defend Islam — e.g., to convince us that the religion espouses modern notions of feminism, and so on — and sometimes invoked as an explanation as to why the West must intervene in the Middle East, etc).
The modern, political, conviction about the unity of religion is agnostic.
In contrast, the conviction that the religions are, in a sense, unified, by a gnosis at the heart of each is not new. It is a fundamental tenet of the Traditionalist school of esoteric thought, founded by René Guénon during the early 20th century. And it can be found, before that, in the more mystical and ecumenical beliefs of Freemasonry (a fraternity founded in London in 1717, that initiates members through rituals designed to reorient them toward the spiritual and ethical). And it can also be found in Western esotericism more broadly. Continue reading