This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

A vitalizing knowledge

We have carefully distinguished between tradition and convention, but another clarification might be helpful.

Some writers appreciate the traditional doctrine but then go on to insist that, although it contains profound truth, this truth is obscured today so that no one understands it. Tradition is respected, but only as something forgotten, even by those who practice and maintain it. It comes to be seen as knowledge poured out long ago and now doomed to become an incomprehensible collection of odd statements that even believers must accept ‘on faith’ or as ‘articles of belief’, and not as something actually comprehended by anyone.

This view, promoted by Rene Guenon with respect to Christianity, must be discarded as untenable in the face of the evidence, and although we hate to use weak comparisons, we could say that for a living tradition it is as if the ‘inspiration’ that led to the writing of the scriptures never subsided and is maintained perpetually through a real apprehension of the ‘living doctrine’ thanks to the religious authority whose role is to preserve this knowledge.

Such would be the view of a Hindu or Buddhist, although in the Western world it is perhaps only the Catholics who can grasp this, since they have retained the notion of a living, supra-individual, perpetually unfolding doctrine, preserved by a priestly class for the benefit of all. Moreover, the horror displayed by Protestants at the idea of ‘developments’ in doctrine is evidence of their incomprehension of a tradition that is alive but invisible, preferring instead their English-language scriptures, which are visible but long-since deceased. In a way, we could also say that for Protestants, the Bible itself is a ‘superstition,’ since without the living tradition to authorize it and preserve its meaning, it becomes merely words on paper, a grimoire for the untrained to interpret and invoke at random.

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