27 avril 2005

René Guénon, Conversions, (excerpt)

[Chapter 12 of "Initiation and spiritual realization"]

The word 'conversion' can be taken in two totally different senses. Its original meaning corresponds to the Greek term METANOIA, which properly expresses a change of NOUS, or, as A.K. Coomaraswamy has said, an 'intellectual metamorphosis'. This interior transformation, indicated moreover by the Latin etymology (CUM-VERTERE), simultaneously implies both a 'gathering' or concentration of the powers of the being, and a certain 'return' by which the being passes from 'human thought' to 'divine comprehension'.

METANOIA or 'conversion' is therefore the conscious passage of the ordinary and individual mind, normally turned toward sensible things, to its superior transposition, where it is identified with the HEGEMON of Plato or the ANTARYAMI of the Hindu tradition. It is obvious that this passage is a necessary phase in every process of spiritual development. It must be understood that this development is of a purely interior order, having absolutely nothing in common with any kind of exterior and contingent change, whether arising simply from the 'moral' domain, as is too often believed today (METANOIA is even translated as 'repentance'), or from the religious and more generally exoteric domain. (1)

After the above explanations, and in order to avoid any confusion, we must now take up the common meaning of the word 'conversion', the meaning it bears constantly in contemporary language, where it designates only the exterior passage from one traditional form to another, whatever the reasons that determined the change, reasons usually completely contingent, sometimes lacking any real importance, and in any case having nothing to do with pure spirituality. Although without doubt more or less spontaneous conversions can sometimes occur, at least in appearance, they usually result from religious 'proselytism', and it goes without saying that all the objections which can be formulated against the value of 'proselytism' apply equally to its results. In short, both the 'convertor' and the 'convertee' show the same incomprehension of the profound meaning of their traditions, and their respective attitudes show only too manifestly that their intellectual horizon is likewise limited to the viewpoint of the most exclusive exoterism. (2)

Even aside from this reason of principle, but for others reason too, we have little regard for 'converts' in general, not that their sincerity should be doubted A PRIORI (for here we do not consider the all too frequent case of those motivated by some base material or sentimental interest, who really should be called 'pseudo-converts'), but first because they give proof at the very least of a rather unfortunate lack of mental stability, and then because they almost always have a tendency to the narrowest and most exaggerated 'sectarianism', either because of their own temperament, which has driven dome to pass from one extreme to another with disconcerting ease, or simply as a means of deflecting the suspicions they fear in their new milieu. Basically, 'converts' are of little interest, at least for those who look at things without any prejudice of exoteric exclusiveness and have no taste for the study of various 'psychological' curiosities. For our part, we certainly prefer not to examine them too closely.

Having said this, we must turn to a point that we have been especially wanting to discuss. People often speak of 'conversions' very inappropriately and in cases where this word, understood in the sense just given above, could never be applied, that is, the case of those who, for reasons of an esoteric and initiatic order, adopt a traditional form different from that to which they would have seem to be linked by their origin. This could be either because their native tradition furnished them with no possibility of an esoteric order, or simply because their chosen tradition, even in its exoteric form, gives them a foundation that is more appropriate to their nature, and consequently more favorable to their spiritual work. Whoever places himself at the esoteric point of view has this absolute right, against which all the arguments of the exoterists are of no avail, since by very definition this matter lies completely outside their competence. Contrary to what takes place in 'conversion', nothing here implies the attribution of the superiority of one traditional form over another. It is merely a question of what one might call reasons of spiritual expediency, which is altogether different from simple individual 'preference', and for which exterior considerations are completely insignificant. Moreover, it is of course understood that one who can legitimately act in this way must, since he is truly capable of placing himself at the esoteric point of view, be conscious, at least by virtue of a theoretical if not an effectively realized knowledge, of the essential unity of all traditions. This alone is sufficient to show that when the word 'conversion' is applied to such cases, it is meaningless and truly inconceivable. If it is asked why there are such cases, we reply that is due above all to the conditions of the present age in which, on the one hand, certain traditions have become incomplete 'from above', that is, from their esoteric side, the existence of which their 'official' representatives sometimes even go so far as to more or less formally deny; and on the other hand, it too often happens that someone is born into a milieu not in harmony with his own nature, and because not really suitable for him, does not allow his possibilities, especially of the intellectual and spiritual order, to develop in a normal manner. Certainly it is regrettable in more than one respect that things are this way, but these are the inevitable drawbacks of the present phase of the KALI-YUGA.
Besides the case of those who 'take up their abode' in a traditional form because it puts at their disposal the most adequate means for their interior work they have yet to accomplish, there is another that we must also mention. This is the case of men who, having reached a high degree of spiritual development, adopt outwardly one or another traditional form according to circumstances and for reasons of which they are the sole judges, especially since these reasons are generally those which escape the understanding of ordinary men. Because of this spiritual state they have reached, these men are beyond all forms, for whom they are only a matter of outward appearance, unable to affect or modify their inner reality in any way. Not only have they reached that understanding spoken of earlier, but they have fully realized, in its very principle, the fundamental unity of all traditions. To speak of 'conversion' in this case would be absurd. Nevertheless, this does not prevent certain people from writing seriously that Sri Ramakrishna, for example, had 'converted' to Islam during one period of his life and to Christianity during another. Nothing could be more ridiculous than such assertions, which give a rather sorry idea of the authors' mentality. For Sri Ramakrishna it was simply only a kind of 'verification' by direct experience of the validity of the different 'ways' represented by the traditions to which he temporarily assimilated himself. Is there anything in this that could closely or distantly resemble 'conversion' in any way?
Generally speaking, anyone who has an understanding of the unity of traditions, whether through a merely theoretical comprehension or through an effective realization, is necessarily for this very reason 'unconvertible' to anything whatsoever. Moreover, he is the only person who is truly so, since everyone else is always at the mercy of contingent circumstances to some degree. We cannot denounce too vigorously the equivocation that leads certain people to speak of 'conversion' where there is no trace of it, for it is important to put an end to all such nonsense widespread in the profane world, and beneath which it is not difficult to divine intentions that are clearly hostile to everything associated with esoterism.

(1) On this subject, see A.K. Coomaraswamy, 'On Being in One´s Right Mind' in WHAT IS CIVILIZATION? (Great Barrington, MA: Lindisfarne Press, 1989)

(2) In principle, there is only one really legitimate conversion, the one that consists in the connection to a tradition, whatever it may be, on the part of someone who was previously lacking any traditional attachment.

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26 avril 2005

Mihai Marinescu, Tradition in the Romanian World, (full text)

A few weeks ago I was asked by my friend Martin to write this brief presentation of the manifestations of the Tradition in Romania. In the process of developing the subject I have come to understand its great significance and the necessity to develop good communication between those interested in Traditional spirituality. The general aim of this essay is therefore to inform on the basic realities that compose our traditional perspective. As inevitably the inferior is contained in the superior, I believe that the right point to start is the sacred history and geography of this ancient land, the existence in remote times of a specific spiritual heritage of an unquestionable authenticity. Secondly, any analysis of recent traditional manifestations in Romania cannot escape the fact that they have been intimately connected to the great personality of Vasile Lovinescu, reason for which I shall try to provide the reader with a brief presentation of his spiritual profile. In the final analysis, I have thought useful to include some data of informative value, as well as a few starting points for future communication and debate.

The story of the great hyperborean migration is perhaps the most fascinant piece of Romania’s sacred history. Lovinescu’s study “Dacia Hiperboreana”[1], the first to present us with clear evidence on the existence on the territory of the former Dacia [2] of a supreme spiritual center and the process of perpetuation of a traditional doctrine, is proof for the undying spiritual chain that ties us to the Primordial Tradition. In supporting his hypothesis, Lovinescu brings into focus apparently unimportant names, facts, symbols, quotations from ancient authors, parts from romanian popular customs, songs and fairy-tales that all make up a vivid picture of a vivid Romanian tradition:

“Let us re-read these legends; let us examine again the map, with this saturnian Black Sea, hiding in its bosom the Alba Isle, placed opposite to Selina, having at its north the solar Cetatea Alba [3] and a little more at its south the lunar Selina, often called in Romania “the keys of the Black Sea” (the golden and silver keys of the sacerdotal and royal power, of the Great and Small Misteries, the keys of Ianus and Ion-Sânt-Ion); let us look at the lagoon of Letea, the Trident of the Danube, having on its handle, in “indistinction”, Tula; let us make this decisive observation, putting aside our last hesitations, that all these are placed exactly on the 45* parralel, that is rigorously at half the distance between the Pole and the Equator, and we shall be able to say paraphrasing St.Paul that “there are many things to be said and hard to explain because we understand with difficulty…” Still, it seems well settled that Dacia was the residence of the Supreme Center in a very remote period” [4].

Even if the reader may be unaccustomed with the geography of Romania and the names can be slightly different to the present ones, one look on a map is enough to identify the places mentioned in the text and their symbolism. Moving on, Lovinescu tells us about the mountains of Caliman and Caraiman [5] (the most important of them three being also called “The Throne of God” in Romanian), which are considered names for the King of the World. He identifies Zamolxis, the supreme God of the Dacians, with Brahma Nirguna [6]. Lovinescu also believes that the the name of Romania has an obvious connection with Ram, the sixth Avatârâ [7]. The foundation of Transylvania and Moldavia are seen in strictly traditional perspective and it is amazing the clarity and exactity of the references, all based on historically acknowledged data. At the end of this essay, Lovinescu points out how popular literature and customs have contributed to the deposit of traditional spirituality and makes a brief analysis of the initiatic content of the tale of “Harap Alb”, written by Ion Creanga [8]. In the whole, ”Dacia Hiperboreana” contains detailed explanation of symbols and ample associations of words and ideas that are indispensable to the overall understanding of the major themes involved.

Another study of Vasile Lovinescu that throws light upon the mythical origins of the romanian people is “O Icoana Crestina pe Columna Traiana” [9], in which an image in one of the registers of the Column is identified as representing Jesus together with supreme leaders of the Dacian spiritual hierarchy and St. John in a “sacrificial scene”, considered by the author as belonging to the masonic symbolism. Taking advantage of this context, Lovinescu points out the double role of the Roman Emperor Trajan and presents us with a traditional view of the Christian part in the becoming of the ancient world.

The sacred geography and history of Romania as seen by Lovinescu are definitely more complex than this brief account. One has to study his books in detail and even engage in personal research in order to grasp their full meaning. Given the fact that the traditional manifestations during the last decades have practically identified with the spiritual path of Vasile Lovinescu we shall try further on to set up a few lines of his life, work and influence [10].

Lovinescu was born in December 1905 in the patriarchal athmosphere of his native land of Falticeni, a place that was to have a profound impact on him and to which he often returned in seek of its peaceful and authentic climate. During his youth he not only laid the basis of a strong culture but also engaged in spiritual preoccupations that were to reach their fulfillment a few years later. In March 1936, after a period of preparation with Titus Burckhardt, he received a Sufi initiation from Frithjof Schuon, the spiritual influence that has marked his identity as “son of the moment”. In fact he remained in contact and friendship with the great Traditional thinkers of his time and especially with Guénon, with whom he was in periodical correspondence. With the aid of M. Valsan [11] he started an initiatic group (tariqah) that held secret meetings in his own house in Bucharest. After this group ceased to exist, Lovinescu continued to be a center of spiritual influence. A new group of meditations and traditional studies was born around him and two of his friends, Lucretia Andriu and Florin Mihaescu. Later including more members, “The Fraternity of Hyperion” continues to exist even today, after more than 15 years from the death of the master, enclosing the story of its members’ lives and friendship together with the dear memory of their guiding light.

After completing his work, Lovinescu retired to his native Falticeni where he would live the last moments until he made his step to eternity.

Lovinescu showed in his work a great interest in identifying and explaining the authentic traditional elements that lay in Romania’s popular manifestations. Considering perhaps that the general principles of the Traditional perspective had already been pointed out by Guénon, he chose to focus rather upon the spirituality of his land, thus fulfilling a real “restorative function” with regard to our Tradition. In “Creanga si Creanga de Aur” [12] he approaches the work of the “popular genius of the romanian people” from a strictly traditional perspective, study from which derives another interesting essay, ”Incantatia Sangelui” [13]. In “Mitul Sfâsiat” [14] he synthesizes the inner meanings of the myth and continues the analysis of the fairy tales of Petre Ispirescu. Perhaps the most difficult part of his work is constituted by his journals, an amazing reflection of his spiritual profile in which we can find invaluable considerations regarding metaphysic principles and the process of initiation.

It is important to know that Vasile Lovinescu also had in view for interpretation and comments the great masterpieces of universal literature. In “O Icoana Crestina pe Columna Traiana” he completes with interesting considerations Guénon´s “L’Ésoterisme de Dante”. His study of Shakespeare’s work has been made fruitful by the later studies of his friend Florin Mihaescu, who completed and amplified after a work of more than a decade the incipient observations made by Lovinescu. Himself an appreciated “man of the Tradition” and a gifted writer, Mr. Mihaescu has completed three volumes on Shakespeare, one of which is dedicated to the study of “Hamlet”, character of great significance for the author [15]. He also published two works of Orthodox spirituality written from two different perspectives, microcosmic and macrocosmic, that constitute a great introduction to the Orthodox doctrine: “Omul in Traditia Crestina” and “Simbol si Ortodoxie” [16].

There has been raised a question: why did Lovinescu choose the Islamic path and not one inside his own Tradition? Well, even if Orthodoxy as revealed by the Son of God Himself could have been considered more directly connected to God, the possibilities for initiation were few and confined to monasticism and therefore the Islamic Sufism was much more accessible for direct initiation. It is interesting to know that Orthodox Isihasm enjoyed a revigoration after the war, through the russian priest Ioan Kulighin, who transmitted his blessing both to priests and members of the eso-exoteric group “Rugul Aprins” [17], without being able to exert much influence (in 1958 it was forbidded by the Communist regime). Thus, this initiatic path has also dissapeared.

There are many Romanian intellectuals that have, at least at one moment in their lives, been influenced by the Traditional perspective. People like Roxana Cristian, Dan Stanca, Radu Vasiliu (all three members of Lovinescu’s “inner circle”), the philosopher Andrei Plesu, the writer Alexandru Paleologu or the professor André Scrima all bear in their work and thought the profound mark of the Tradition. The famous historian of religions Mircea Eliade has also shown interest in the writings of Guénon during his youth. Still, even if he had the possibilities to follow the road further towards full spiritual accomplishment, he seems to have chosen the glamour of a brilliant universitary career instead. Yet, in one of his last volumes, he recognized to some extent the merits of Guénon and settled things from an entirely new perspective [18].

The national currrent of admiration for our past that could encourage an authentic traditional revival in the 30s finally proved to be a “traditionalist” one, with strong nationalist and therefore political implications [19]. Many people abroad are now interested in the personality of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, initiator and promoter of “Legiunea Arhanghelului Mihail”, fascist movement that is considered to have laid on a set of ideas of a spiritual nature. The truth is that even if at the beginning the organization seems to have had a legitimate doctrine, the methods of achieving the desired goals soon degenerated into violence and disorder. Thus, the originary ideas were lost making way for sheer anarchy and political oportunism, outcome that can hardly be considered traditional or spiritual and therefore does not make the object of this essay.

Although not entirely lacking, the present perspectives for initiation in Romania are unclear [20]. Guénon warned that the Dacian tradition has died, the possibility of the existence of hermits in the mountains is remote and the Isihasm is in a state of somnolence (even if survivors of “Rugul Aprins” are still alive). The balance of effective initiatic acts is therefore negative.

A few words should be said about the publications of a Traditional character that are publicly available in Romania. The most important initiative belongs to Florin Mihaescu, Roxana Cristian and Dan Stanca, who have founded a small publishing house, ROSMARIN, with the primary purpose of printing the work of Vasile Lovinescu, so many years in the shadow of communist oppression. Faithful to its original intent, ROSMARIN has restricted its area of interest only to include books of a Traditional character. Besides achieving its important goal (seven books of V. Lovinescu have first appeared in the last five years completing thus his entire work), ROSMARIN has also published a Romanian edition of Guénon’s “Le Roi du Monde”, two books by Ernst Junger, the studies of Florin Mihaescu, Dan Stanca, Roxana Cristian and other traditional writings. These books are all available in Romania through order by mail [21]. Besides Rosmarin, there have been translated at “Humanitas” (perhaps the largest publishing house in Romania): Guénon’s “Le Regne de la Quantité et les Signes des Temps”, ”Symboles Fondamentaux de la Science Sacrée” and “La Crise du Monde Moderne”; “De l’Unité Transcendante des Religions” and “Comprendre l’Islam” of Frithjof Schuon; Evola’s “La Tradizione Ermetica” and “Metafisica del Sesso” and “Alchimie” by Titus Burckhardt. Guénon´s “L’homme et son devenir selon le Vedanta” and “Hindouisme et Boudhisme” of Ananda Coomaraswamy also appeared.
After all that has been said I think the present account has completed its meaning. Inevitably some things have been said better than others and people that should have been mentioned may have been left aside. Given the advanced state of disorder that marks the modern times, one needs more than mere tenacity to make his way through and therefore we need as many lights as possible to make the road clearer, to help us pass the important gates. I hope this presentation be one of these lights.

“In moments of depression I think about the fact that at each gate there is an angel and that this soldier-angel is faithful to his direction; he won’t let you pass unless you say the password; still, you can only find out the password once you have passed the gate. Unsolvable situation. But the password is exactly the feeling of what is beyond the gate and when we get it, we are already with the essential part of our being beyond.” [22]


[1] Ed. ROSMARIN, Bucuresti, 1996.

[2] The ancient land of the dacians, the forerunners of the romanians, conquered by the Romans after the campaigns of 101-102 and 105-106.

[3] “The White Fortress”.

[4] Vasile Lovinescu, “Dacia Hiperboreana”, Bucuresti, ROSMARIN, 1996.

[5] In literal translation “The King of the Sky”.

[6] “The supreme Dacian God is nameless, above all qualification” (Strabo).

[7] Lovinescu notes that besides the “Emperor Ram” from the romanian mythology, there are lots of places in nowadays Romania that remind us of this name: “Rama, Ramna, Râmnic, Râmeşti, Rima, Rigmani, Roman, Romlia, Rams, Rum, Armeneasca, Armenis, Ormeni, Ramsca, Ramscani, etc.” (V.Lovinescu, op.cit.).

[8] The word Creanga means in Romanian “bough” and has as a synonym “Ram”. The connection is obvious. To this classic author of Romanian literature Lovinescu has dedicated a separate study of great interest.

[9] Ed. Cartea Romaneasca, Bucuresti, 1996 – in translation “A Christian Icon on the Column of Trajan”.

[10] For this account of the life of our great spiritual I have used the volume “Vasile Lovinescu si Functiunea Traditionala”, ROSMARIN, Bucuresti, 1998 (in translation “Vasile Lovinescu and the Traditional Function”) made up by Florin Mihaescu and Roxana Cristian,to whom I am very thankful.

[11] Another romanian traditional thinker and writer that, together with Mihail Avramescu, has been deeply involved in manifestations of a traditional character outside Romania.

[12] ROSMARIN, Bucuresti, 1996 – in translation “Creanga and the Golden Bough”.

[13] Ed. Institutul European, Bucuresti, 1999 – in translation “The Incantation of Blood”.

[14] Ed. Institutul European, Bucuresti, 1999 – in translation “The Torn Myth”.

[15] “Shakespeare si Teatrul Initiatic”, “Hamlet, printul melancoliei” and “Shakespeare si tragediile iubirii”, ROSMARIN, Bucuresti.

[16] In translation “Man Inside the Christian Tradition”, ”Symbol and Orthodoxy”.

[17] On this subject there has been published in Romania André Scrima’s “Timpul Rugului Aprins”.

[18] “Occultism, Witchcraft and Cultural Fashions” (1976)

[19] Acc. to Florin Mihaescu and Roxana Cristian, “Vasile Lovinescu si Functiunea Traditionala”.

[20] ibid.

[21] For more information please contact ROSMARIN, Str. Mihaila Radu 8, sector 2, Bucuresti 71432, Romania or Str. Tg. Neamt nr.16, Bl. D4, sc. C, ap. 23, sector 6, Bucuresti 77486, Romania.

[22] Vasile Lovinescu, “Meditatii, Simboluri, Rituri”, ROSMARIN, Bucuresti, 1997.

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Julius Evola, American "Civilization"

[Just one observation before the lection: Evola's America is like Guénon's Orient, less geographical than conceptual. Nowadays, more and more, there is a little bit of America everywhere, and the real Orient is hard to find. - R.I.]

The recently deceased John Dewey was applauded by the American press as the most representative figure of American civilization. This is quite right. His theories are entirely representative of the vision of man and life which is the premise of Americanism and its «democracy».

The essence of such theories is this: that everyone can become what he wants to, within the limits of the technological means at his disposal. Equally, a person is not what he is from his true nature and there is no real difference between people, only differences in qualifications. According to this theory anyone can be anyone he wants to be if he knows how to train himself.

This is obviously the case with the «self-made man»; in a society which has lost all sense of tradition the notion of personal aggrandizement will extend into every aspect of human existence, reinforcing the egalitarian doctrine of pure democracy. If the basis of such ideas is accepted, then all natural diversity has to be
abandoned. Each person can presume to possess the potential of everyone else and the terms «superior» and «inferior» lose their meaning; every notion of distance and respect loses meaning; all life-styles are open to all. To all organic conceptions of life Americans oppose a mechanistic conception. In a society which has
«started from scratch», everything has the characteristic of being fabricated. In American society appearances are masks not faces. At the same time, proponents of the American way of life are hostile to personality.

The Americans' «open-mindedness», which is sometimes cited in their favor, is the other side of their interior formlessness. The same goes for their «individualism». Individualism and personality are not the same: the one belongs to the formless world of quantity, the other to the world of quality and hierarchy. The Americans are the living refutation of the Cartesian axiom, «I think, therefore I am»: Americans do not think, yet they are. The American «mind», puerile and primitive, lacks characteristic form and is therefore open to every kind of standardization.

In a superior civilization, as, for example, that of the Indo-Aryans, the being who is without a characteristic form or caste (in the original meaning of the word), not even that of servant or shudra, would emerge as a pariah. In this respect America is a society of pariahs. There is a role for pariahs. It is to be subjected to beings whose form and internal laws are precisely defined. Instead the modern pariahs seek to become dominant themselves and to exercise their dominion over all the world.

There is a popular notion about the United States that it is a «young nation» with a «great future before it». Apparent American defects are then described as the «faults of youth» or 'growing pains». It is not difficult to see that the myth of «progress» plays a large part in this judgment. According to the idea that everything new is good, America has a privileged role to play among civilized nations. In the First World War the United States intervened in the role of «the civilized world» par excellence. The «most evolved» nation had not only a right
but a duty to interfere in the destinies of other peoples.

The structure of history is, however, cyclical not evolutionary. It is far from being the case that the most recent civilizations are necessarily «superior». They may be, in fact, senile and decadent. There is a necessary correspondence between the most advanced stages of a historical cycle and the most primitive. America is the
final stage of modern Europe. Guenon called the United States «the far West», in the novel sense that the United States represents the reductio ad absurdum of the negative and the most senile aspects of Western civilization.

What in Europe exist in diluted form are magnified and concentrated in the United States whereby they are revealed as the symptoms of disintegration and cultural and human regression. The American mentality can only be interpreted as an example of regression, which shows itself in the mental atrophy towards all higher interests
and incomprehension of higher sensibility. The American mind has limited horizons, one conscribed to everything which is immediate and simplistic, with the inevitable consequence that everything is made banal, basic and leveled down until it is deprived of all spiritual life. Life itself in American terms is entirely mechanistic.

The sense of «I» in America belongs entirely to the physical level of existence. The typical American neither has spiritual dilemmas nor complications: he is a «natural» joiner and conformist.

The primitive American mind can only superficially be compared to a young mind. The American mind is a feature of the regressive society to which I have already referred.

American Morality

The much-vaunted sex appeal of American women is drawn from films, reviews and pin-ups, and is in large print fictitious. A recent medical survey in the United States showed that 75 per cent of young American women are without strong sexual feeling and instead of satisfying their libido they seek pleasure narcissistically in
exhibitionism, vanity and the cult of fitness and health in a sterile sense.

American girls have «no hang-ups about sex»; they are «easy going» for the man who sees the whole sexual process as something in isolation thereby making it uninteresting and matter-of-fact, which, at such a level, it is meant to be. Thus, after she has been taken to the cinema or a dance, it is something like American good manners for the girl to let herself be kissed — this doesn't mean anything. American women are characteristically frigid and materialistic. The man who «has
his way» with an American girl is under a material obligation to her. The woman has granted a material favor. In cases of divorce American law overwhelmingly favors the woman. American women will divorce readily enough when they see a better bargain. It is frequently the case in America that a woman will be married to one man but
already «engaged» to a future husband, the man she plans to marry after a profitable divorce.

«Our» American Media

Americanization in Europe is widespread and evident. In Italy it is a phenomenon which is rapidly developing in these post-war years and is considered by most people, if not enthusiastically, at least as something natural. Some time ago I wrote that of the two great dangers confronting Europe - Americanism and Communism - the first is the more insidious. Communism cannot be a danger other than in the brutal and catastrophic form of a direct seizure of power by communists. On the other hand Americanization gains ground by a process of gradual infiltration, effecting modifications of mentalities and customs which seem inoffensive in themselves but which end in a fundamental perversion and degradation against which it is impossible to fight other than within oneself.

It is precisely with respect to such internal opposition that most Italians seem weak. Forgetting their own cultural inheritance they readily turn to the United States as something akin to the parent guide of the world.

Whoever wants to be modern has to measure himself according to the American standard. It is pitiable to witness a European country so debase itself. Veneration for America has nothing to do with a cultured interest in the way other people live. On the contrary, servility towards the United States leads one to think that there is no other way of life worth considering on the same level as the American one.
Our radio service is Americanized. Without any criterion of superior and inferior it just follows the fashionable themes of the moment and markets what is considered «acceptable» — acceptable, that is, to the most Americanized
section of the public, which is to say the most degenerate. The rest of us are dragged along in its wake. Even the style of presentation on radio has become Americanized. «Who, after listening to an American radio program, can suppress a shudder when he considers that the only way of escaping communism is by becoming Americanized?»

Those are not the words of an outsider but of an American sociologist, James Burnham, professor at the University of Princeton. Such a judgment from an American should make Italian radio programmers blush for shame.

The consequence of the «do your own thing» democracy is the intoxication of the greater part of the population which is not capable of discriminating for itself, which, when not guided by a power and an ideal, all too easily loses sense of its own identity.

The Industrial Order in America

In his classic study of capitalism Werner Sombart summarized the late capitalist phase in the adage Fiat producto, pareat homo. In its extreme form capitalism is a system in which a man's value is estimated solely in terms of the production of merchandise and the invention of the means of production. Socialist doctrines grew out of a reaction to the lack of human consideration in this system.
A new phase has begun in the United States where there has been an upsurge of interest in so-called labor relations. In appearance it would seem to signify an improvement: in reality this is a deleterious phenomenon.

The entrepreneurs and employers have come to realize the importance of the «human factor» in a productive economy, and that it is a mistake to ignore the individual involved in industry: his motives, his feelings, his working day life. Thus, a whole school of study of human relations in industry has grown up, based on behaviorism.
Studies like Human Relations in Industry by B. Gardner and G. Moore have supplied a minute analysis of the behavior of employees and their motivations with the precise aim of defining the best means to obviate all factors that can hinder the maximization of production. Some studies certainly don't come from the shop floor but
from the management, abetted by specialists from various colleges. The sociological investigations go as far as analyzing the employee's social ambience. This kind of study has a practical purpose: the maintenance of the psychological contentment of the employee is as important as the physical. In cases in which a worker is tied to
a monotonous job which doesn't demand a great deal of concentration, the studies will draw attention to the «danger» that his mind may tend to wander in a way that may eventually reflect badly on his attitude towards the job. The private lives of employees are not forgotten — hence the increase in so-called personnel counseling.
Specialists are called in to dispel anxiety, psychological disturbances and non-adaptation «complexes», even to the point of giving advice in relation to the most personal matters. A frankly psycho-analytic technique and one much used is to make the subject «talk freely» and put the results obtainable by this «catharsis» into relief.

None of this is concerned with the spiritual betterment of human beings or any real human problems, such as a European would understand them in this «age of economics». On the other side of the Iron Curtain man is treated as a beast of burden and his obedience is maintained by terror and famine. In the United States man is also seen
as just a factor of labor and consumption, and no aspect of his interior life is neglected and every factor of his existence is drawn to the same end. In the «Land of the Free», through every medium, man is told he has reached a degree of happiness hitherto undreamed of. He forgets who he is, where he came from, and basks in the

American «Democracy» in Industry

There is a significant and growing discrepancy in the United States between the shibboleths of the prevailing political ideology and the effective economic structures of the nation. A large part of studies of the subject is played by the 'morphology of business». Studies corroborate the impression that American business is a long way from the type of organization which corresponds to the democratic ideal of U.S. propaganda. American businesses have a «pyramid» structure. They constitute at the top an articulate hierarchy. The big businesses are run in the
same way as government ministries and are organized along similar lines. They have coordinating and controlling bodies which separate the business leaders from the mass of employees. Rather than becoming more flexible in a social sense the «managerial elite» (Burnham) is becoming more autocratic than ever — something not unrelated to American foreign policy.

This is the end of yet another American illusion. America: the «land of opportunity», where every possibility is there for the person who can grasp it, a land where anyone can rise from rags to riches. At first there was the «open frontier» for all to ride out across. That closed and the new «open frontier» was the sky, the limitless potential of industry and commerce. As Gardner, Moore and many others have shown, this too is no longer limitless, and the opportunities are thinning out. Given the ever increasing specialization of labor in the productive
process and the increasing emphasis on «qualifications», what used to seem obvious to Americans — that their children would «go further» than they would — is for many people no longer obvious at all. Thus it is that in the so-called political democracy of the United States, the force and the power in the land, that is to say the industry and the economy, are becoming ever more self-evidently undemocratic. The problem then is: should reality be made to fit ideology or vice-versa? Until recently the overwhelming demand has been for the former course of action; the cry goes out for a return to the «real America» of unfettered enterprise and the individual free of central government control. Nevertheless, there are also those who would prefer to limit democracy in order to adapt political theory to commercial reality. If the mask of American «democracy» were thereby removed, it would become clear to what extent «democracy» in America (and elsewhere) is only the instrument of an oligarchy which pursues a method of «indirect action», assuring the possibility of abuse and deception on a large scale of those many who accept a hierarchical system because they think it is justly such. This dilemma of «democracy» in the United States may one day give place to some interesting developments.

(from Il Conciliatore, no. 10, 1971; translated from the German edition in Deutsche Stimme, no. 8, 1998)

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24 avril 2005

Bibliographie de l'exégèse guénonienne

* * *, “La Passion Guénon”, in Figaro littéraire, 17 mai 2001.

* * *, René Guénon, L’Age d’Homme, 1997.

* * *, René Guénon et l'Actualité de la Pensée Traditionnelle, Actes du Colloque international (Cerisy-La Salle, 13-20 juillet 1973), Arché.

* * *, Spécial René Guénon, Etudes Traditionnelles, Collection «Fac-similés», août-novembre 1951.

Aa. Vv., René Guénon, Sear.

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Anonyme, Doctrine de la non-dualité (Advaita-vāda) et le Christianisme, Dervy-Livres, Paris, 1982. Préface de Jean Tourniac.

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Amelio, “L'ermetismo kremmerziano tra ostilità zelote, influenze evoliane e guénoniane, fede evoluzionista e... debolezze umane”, in Politica Romana, n. 5/1998-1999.

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Batache, Eddy, Surréalisme et Tradition, Éditions Traditionnelles.

Boulet, Noële Maurice-Denis, “L’ésotériste René Guénon. Souvenirs et jugements”, La Pensée catholique, 1962, nos 77, 78, 79 et 90.

Chacornac, Paul, La vie simple de René Guénon, Etudes Traditionnelles, 2000.

Charbonneau-Lassay, Louis, Le Bestiaire du Christ, Archè, Milan 1974, reprint 1994.

Charbonneau-Lassay, Louis, L'ésotérisme de quelques symboles géométriques chrétiens, Éditions Traditionnelles.

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Chenique, François, Le Yoga spirituel de saint François d’Assise, Dervy-Livres, Paris, 1978.

Cognetti, Giuseppe, L'Arca Perduta. Tradizione e Critica del Moderno in René Guénon, Pontecorboli.

Collard, Pierre, “René Guénon et la religion musulmane”, in Renaissance traditionnelle, janv. 1977.

Cologne, Daniel, Julius Evola, René Guénon et le Christianisme, Paris, Pardes, 1978.

Cuttat, Jacques-Albert, Expérience chrétienne et spirituelle orientale, DDB, Paris, 1967.

Daniélou, Jean, Essais sur le mystère de l’histoire, Paris, Seuil.

D'Anna, Nuccio, René Guénon e le Forme della Tradizione, Il Cerchio.

De Giorgio, Guido, Instant et l'eternité et autres textes sur la tradition. La fonction de l'école. Extraits du Journal de Havis De Giorgio, Arché.

Deguy, Michel, «Guénon et la “science sacrée”», dans la Nouvelle Revue Française, avril 1963, 11e année, no 124, p. 702.

Duguet, Roger, Autour de la Tiare, Nouvelles Éditions Latines, Paris.

Evola, Julius, Un Maestro dei Tempi Moderni: René Guénon, Fondazione Evola.

Fenili, Piero, “René Guénon e la Reincarnazione”, in Politica Romana, N. 3/1996.

Finck-Bernard, Jeannine, L’apport spirituel de René Guénon, Dervy, coll. Le Cercle des philosophes, 2002.

Gattegno, David, Guénon: qui suis-je?, Pardès, Puiseaux.

Geay, Patrick, Hermès trahi: Impostures philosophiques et néospiritualismes selon René Guénon, Dervy, coll. Divers Dervy, 1996.

Geay, Patrick, Mystères et significations du Temple maçonnique, Dervy, Paris, 2000.

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Gilis, Charles-André, Les sept Étendards du Califat, Éditions Traditionnelles.

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Gilis, Charles-André, «La fonction d'Abraham et l'Occident: René Guénon et l'Emir Abd el-Kader», in Règle d'Abraham, n° 1.

Gilis, Charles-André, Introduction à l'Enseignement et au Mystère de René Guénon.

Grossato, Alessandro, Psychologie (attribué à René Guénon), Archè.

Hapel, Bruno, René Guénon & l’archéomètre, Maisnie Tredaniel, 1996.

Hapel, Bruno, René Guénon et l’esprit de l’Inde, Guy Trédaniel, 1998.

Hapel, Bruno, René Guénon et le Roi du Monde, Guy Trédaniel, Paris, 2001.

James, Marie-France, Ésotérisme et Christianisme autour de René Guénon, Nouvelles Éditions Latines, Paris, 1981.

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Laurant, Jean-Paul, “Réflexions sur Guénon, l’histoire et l’absolu”, in Cahiers de l’homme esprit, 1973.

Le Roux, Françoise et Guyonvarc'h, Christian-Jacques, Les Druides, Éditions Ouest-France, Rennes.

Luz, Frédéric (éditeur), La Gnose chrétienne, La Place Royale, Gaillac.

Luz, Frédéric, Le Soufre et l'Encens, enquête sur les églises parallèles et les évêques dissidents, La Place Royale, Gaillac.

Manara, G., Parasites de l’œuvre de Guénon, Studi Tradizionali, Turin.

Maritain, Jacques, Le Paysan de Garonne, DDB, Paris, 1967.

Matgioi, La Voie métaphysique, Éditions Traditionnelles, Paris.

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Maxence, Jean-Luc, René Guénon, le Philosophe invisible, Presses de la Renaissance, Paris, 2001.

Mercier, Raymond, Clartés Métaphysiques, Éditions Traditionnelles, Paris.

Méroz, Lucien, René Guénon ou la Sagesse initiatique, Paris, Plon, 1962.

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Oldmeadow, Harry, Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy, Sri Lanka Institute of Traditional Studies, 2000.

Pacilio, Massimo, Conoscenza Tradizionale e Sapere Profano. René Guénon Critico delle Scienze Moderne.

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Reyor, Jean, Sur la route des Maîtres maçons, Éditions Traditionnelles, Paris.

Robin, Jean, Hitler, l'Élu du Dragon, Guy Trédaniel, Paris.

Robin, Jean, René Guénon, la dernière chance de l’Occident, Guy Trédaniel, 1990.

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Schuon, Frithiof, Considerazioni sull'Opera di René Guénon, Settimo Sigillo.

Sérant, Paul, René Guénon, Courrier du Livre, coll. Symbolisme, 1993.

Sherrard, Philip, Lineaments of a Sacred Tradition, mai ales chap.3 "Christianity and the Metaphysics of Logic". Alvin Moore critică acest capitol într-un număr din Sophia.

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Tourniac, Jean, Présence de René Guénon, t. 2: "La Maçonnerie templière et le messsage traditionnel", Soleil Natal, Étampes.

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Tourniac, Jean, Symbolisme maçonnique et Tradition chrétienne, Dervy-Livres, Paris, 1982.

Tristan, Frederick (éd.), La Franc-maçonnerie: documents fondateurs, Cahier de l'Herne 62, Éditions de l'Herne, Paris.

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Vâlsan, Michel, L'Islam et la fonction de René Guénon, Les Éditions de l'Œuvre, Paris.

Vivenza, Jean-Marc, Dictionnaire René Guénon, Le Mercure Dauphinois, 1998.

Vona, Piero di, Evola-Guénon-De Giorgio, Sear.

Vona, Piero di, René Guénon contro l'Occidente, Il Cerchio.

Vona, Piero di, René Guénon e la Metafisica, Sear.

Zoccatelli, Pier-Luigi et Salzani, Stefano, Hermétisme et emblématique du Christ dans la vie et dans l'œuvre de Louis Charbonneau-Lassay (1871-1946), Archè, Milan et Paris.

Zoccatelli, Pier-Luigi, Le Lièvre qui Rumine. Autour de René Guénon, Louis Charbonneau-Lassay et la Fraternité du Paraclet. Avec des documents inédits, Arché.

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Notes sur René Guénon dans les dictionnaires et les encyclopédies

* * *, Dictionnaire des sociétés secrètes en Occident, sous la dir. de Pierre Mariel, C.A.L., 1971.

* * *, Dictionnaire Robert des noms propres.

* * *, Grand dictionnaire encyclopédique Larousse.

* * *, Encyclopédie Hachette, reprise sur Yahoo.

* * *, Dictionnaire des intellectuels français, sous la dir. de Jacques Julliard et Michel Winock, Seuil.

* * *, Les Maîtres spirituels, de Patrick Ravignant et Pierre Mariel, C.A.L., 1972.

* * *, L'Occultisme, EDMA, Le Livre de Poche.

Bouchet, Christian, B.A.-Ba de l'occultisme, Pardès.

Delahoutre, Michel, Dictionnaire des religions, sous la dir. de Paul Poupard, P.U.F.

Hutin, Serge, l'Encyclopedia Universalis, à l'article "Ésotérisme".

Labzine, Alexandre, Dictionnaire des auteurs, Bouquins.

James, M.-F, Ésotérisme, occultisme, franc-maçonnerie et christianisme aux XIXe et XXe siècles, N.E.L., 1981.

Lamarque, Philippe, Les Grands Maîtres des Sciences occultes, Trajectoire, 2001.

Laurant, Jean-Pierre, Dictionnaire critique de l'ésotérisme, sous la dir. de Jean Servier, P.U.F.

Laurant, Jean-Pierre, Dictionnaire de la Franc-Maçonnerie, sous la dir. de Daniel Ligou, P.U.F.

Laurant, Jean-Pierre, Encyclopédie de la Franc-Maçonnerie, Pochothèque.

Laurant, Jean-Pierre, Encyclopédie philosophique universelle, P.U.F.

Masson, Hervé, Dictionnaire des sciences occultes, de l'ésotérisme et des arts divinatoires, Sand.

Morienval, J., Encyclopédie Catholicisme hier-aujourd'hui-demain, sous la dir. de G. Jacquemet, du clergé de Paris, Letouzey, 1962.

Nataf, André, Les maîtres de l'occultisme, Bordas.

Riffard, P., Esotérisme, Bouquins.

Soula, Pierre, Dictionnaire des philosophes, sous la dir. de Denis Huismans, P.U.F.

Varenne, Jean, Histoire des religions, sous la dir. d'H.-Ch. Puech, La Pléiade.

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Traditionalist Thinkers


Abellio, Raymond
Almqvist, Kurt


Bâ, Amadou Hampâté
Bakar, Osman
Baudrillard, Jean
Benoist, Alain de
Benoist, Luc
Biès, Jean
Bolton, Robert
Borella, Jean
Brown, Joseph Epes
Burcea, Marius Cristian
Burckhardt, Titus
Burke, Edmund


Chacornac, Paul
Chénique, François
Chittick, William C.
Chodkiewicz, Michel
Cologne, Daniel
Coomaraswamy, Ananda K.
Coomaraswamy, Rama
Cooper, Jean C.
Corbin, Henry
Cristian, Roxana
Critchlow, Keith
Cunha, C. da
Cutsinger, James S.


Daniélou, Jean
Danner, Victor
Daudet, Léon
DeMallie, Raymond
Dumezil, Georges


Eaton, Charles LeGai
Eliade, Mircea
Evola, Julius


Faivre, Antoine
Fernando, Ranjit
Fitzgerald, Michael Oren
Frémond, Olivier de


Georgel, Gaston
Ghenţie-Tinney, Silvia
Ghiondea, Teodoru
Glass, Marty
Godwin, Joscelyn
Gonzales, Fédérico
Grigore, George
Grison, Pierre
Guénon, René


Hani, Jean
Herlihy, John Ahmed


Istrati, Marilena


Jünger, Ernost


Koyré, Alexandre


Laurant, Jean-Pierre
Levy, Jean
Lindbom, Tage
Lings, Martin
Lovinescu, Vasile


Maharshi, Ramana
Maistre, Joseph de
Maritain, Jacques
Massignon, Louis
Mihăiescu, Florin
Mishima, Yukio
Molnar, Thomas
Moynihan, Michael
Murata, Sachiko


Nasr, Seyyed Hossein
Nasr, Vali Reza
Needleman, Jacob
Neihardt, John
Northbourne, Lord


O’Brien, Kathleen


Paleologu, Alexandru
Pallis, Marco
Pascu, Ana
Pasquier, Roger du
Patapievici, Horia-Roman
Perry, Whitall N.
Pleşu, Andrei
Ponte, Giovanni
Postolache, Traian
Pucel, Victor


Reyor, Jean
Robin, Jean


Sachiko, Murata
Schaya, Léo
Schmitt, Carl
Schuon, Frithjof
Schwarz, Martin
Scrima, Andrei
Séd, Nicolas
Sherrard, Phillip
Smith, Huston
Smith, Wolfgang
Spengler, Oswald
Stanca, Dan
Steltenkamp, Michael
Stéphane, Abbé Henri
Stoddart, William
Sunic, Tomislav


Tamaş, Mircea
Tourniac, Jean


Upton, Charles
Upton, Jennifer Doane


Vallin, Georges
Vasileanu, Marius
Vasiliu, Radu
Vâlsan, Michel
Versluis, Arthur
Vişan, Tiberiu Ioan (Pr.)


Weil, Simone


Yellowtail, Thomas


Zolla, Ellemira

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René Guénon, Saint Bernard (1090-1153), (texte intégral)

Parmi les grandes figures du moyen âge, il en est peu dont l’étude soit plus propre que celle de saint Bernard à dissiper certains préjugés chers à l’esprit moderne. Qu’y a-t-il, en effet, de plus déconcertant pour celui-ci que de voir un pur contemplatif, qui a toujours voulu être et demeurer tel, appelé à jouer un rôle prépondérant dans la conduite des affaires de l’Église et de l’État, et réussissant souvent là où avait échoué toute la prudence des politiques et des diplomates de profession ? Quoi de plus surprenant et même de plus paradoxal, suivant la façon ordinaire de juger les choses, qu’un mystique qui n’éprouve que du dédain pour ce qu’il appelle « les arguties de Platon et les finesses d’Aristote », et qui triomphe cependant sans peine des plus subtils dialecticiens de son temps ? Toute la vie de saint Bernard pourrait sembler destinée à montrer, par un exemple éclatant, qu’il existe, pour résoudre les problèmes de l’ordre intellectuel et même de l’ordre pratique, des moyens tout autres que ceux qu’on s’est habitué depuis trop longtemps à considérer comme seuls efficaces, sans doute parce qu’ils sont seuls à la portée d’une sagesse purement humaine, qui n’est pas même l’ombre de la vraie sagesse. Cette vie apparaît ainsi en quelque sorte comme une réfutation anticipée de ces erreurs, opposées en apparence, mais en réalité solidaires, que sont le rationalisme et le pragmatisme; et, en même temps, elle confond et renverse, pour qui l’examine impartialement, toutes les idées préconçues des historiens « scientistes » qui estiment avec Renan que « la négation du surnaturel forme l’essence même de la critique », ce que nous admettons d’ailleurs bien volontiers, mais parce que nous voyons dans cette incompatibilité tout le contraire de ce qu’ils y voient, la condamnation de la « critique » elle-même, et non point celle du surnaturel. En vérité, quelles leçons pourraient, à notre époque, être plus profitables que celles-là ?

* * *

Bernard naquit en 1090 à Fontaines-lès-Dijon; ses parents appartenaient à la haute noblesse de la Bourgogne, et, si nous notons ce fait, c’est qu’il nous paraît que quelques traits de sa vie et de sa doctrine, dont nous aurons à parler dans la suite, peuvent jusqu’à un certain point être rattachés à cette origine. Nous ne voulons pas seulement dire qu’il est possible d’expliquer par là l’ardeur parfois belliqueuse de son zèle, ou la violence qu’il apporta à maintes reprises dans les polémiques où il fut entraîné, et qui était d’ailleurs toute de surface, car la bonté et la douceur faisaient incontestablement le fond de son caractère. Ce à quoi nous entendons surtout faire allusion, ce sont ses rapports avec les institutions et l’idéal chevaleresques, auxquels, du reste, il faut toujours accorder une grande importance si l’on veut comprendre les événements et l’esprit même du moyen âge.

C’est vers sa vingtième année que Bernard conçut le projet de se retirer du monde; et il réussit en peu de temps à faire partager ses vues à tous ses frères, à quelques-uns de ses proches et à un certain nombre de ses amis. Dans ce premier apostolat, sa force de persuasion était telle, en dépit de sa jeunesse, que bientôt « il devint, dit son biographe, la terreur des mères et des épouses; les amis redoutaient de le voir aborder leurs amis ». Il y a déjà là quelque chose d’extraordinaire, et il serait assurément insuffisant d’invoquer la puissance du « génie », au sens profane de ce mot, pour expliquer une semblable influence. Ne vaut-il pas mieux y reconnaître l’action de la grâce divine qui, pénétrant en quelque sorte toute la personne de l’apôtre et rayonnant au dehors par sa surabondance, se communiquait à travers lui comme par un canal, suivant la comparaison que lui-même emploiera plus tard en l’appliquant à la Sainte Vierge, et que l’on peut aussi, en en restreignant plus ou moins la portée, appliquer à tous les saints ?

C’est donc accompagné d’une trentaine de jeunes gens que Bernard, en 1112, entra au monastère de Cîteaux, qu’il avait choisi en raison de la rigueur avec laquelle y était observée la règle, rigueur contrastant avec le relâchement qui s’était introduit dans toutes les autres branches de l’Ordre bénédictin. Trois ans plus tard, ses supérieurs n’hésitaient pas à lui confier, malgré son inexpérience et sa santé chancelante, la conduite de douze religieux qui allaient fonder une nouvelle abbaye, celle de Clairvaux, qu’il devait gouverner jusqu’à sa mort, repoussant toujours les honneurs et les dignités qui s’offriraient si souvent à lui au cours de sa carrière. Le renom de Clairvaux ne tarda pas à s’étendre au loin, et le développement que cette abbaye acquit bientôt fut vraiment prodigieux : quand mourut son fondateur, elle abritait, dit-on, environ sept cents moines, et elle avait donné naissance à plus de soixante nouveaux monastères.

Le soin que Bernard apporta à l’administration de Clairvaux, réglant lui-même jusqu’aux plus minutieux détails de la vie courante, la part qu’il prit à la direction de l’Ordre cistercien, comme chef d’une de ses premières abbayes, l’habileté et le succès de ses interventions pour aplanir les difficultés qui surgissaient fréquemment avec des Ordres rivaux, tout cela eût déjà suffi à prouver que ce qu’on appelle le sens pratique peut fort bien s’allier parfois à la plus haute spiritualité. Il y avait là plus qu’il n’en eût fallu pour absorber toute l’activité d’un homme ordinaire; et pourtant Bernard allait bientôt voir s’ouvrir devant lui un tout autre champ d’action, bien malgré lui d’ailleurs, car il ne redouta jamais rien tant que d’être obligé de sortir de son cloître pour se mêler aux affaires du monde extérieur, dont il avait cru pouvoir s’isoler à tout jamais pour se livrer entièrement à l’ascèse et à la contemplation, sans que rien vînt le distraire de ce qui était à ses yeux, selon la parole évangélique, « la seule chose nécessaire ». En cela, il s’était grandement trompé; mais toutes les « distractions », au sens étymologique, auxquelles il ne put se soustraire et dont il lui arriva de se plaindre avec quelque amertume, ne l’empêchèrent point d’atteindre aux sommets de la vie mystique. Cela est fort remarquable; ce qui ne l’est pas moins, c’est que, malgré toute son humilité et tous les efforts qu’il fit pour demeurer dans l’ombre, on fit appel à sa collaboration dans toutes les affaires importantes, et que, bien qu’il ne fût rien au regard du monde, tous, y compris les plus hauts dignitaires civils et ecclésiastiques, s’inclinèrent toujours spontanément devant son autorité toute spirituelle; et nous ne savons si cela est plus à la louange du saint ou à celle de l’époque où il vécut. Quel contraste entre notre temps et celui où un simple moine pouvait, par le seul rayonnement de ses vertus éminentes, devenir en quelque sorte le centre de l’Europe et de la Chrétienté, l’arbitre incontesté de tous les conflits où l’intérêt public était en jeu, tant dans l’ordre politique que dans l’ordre religieux, le juge des maîtres les plus réputés de la philosophie et de la théologie, le restaurateur de l’unité de l’Église, le médiateur entre la Papauté et l’Empire, et voir enfin des armées de plusieurs centaines de mille hommes se lever à sa prédication !

Bernard avait commencé de bonne heure à dénoncer le luxe dans lequel vivaient alors la plupart des membres du clergé séculier et même les moines de certaines abbayes; ses remontrances avaient provoqué des conversions retentissantes, parmi lesquelles celle de Suger, l’illustre abbé de Saint-Denis, qui, sans porter encore le titre de premier ministre du roi de France, en remplissait déjà les fonctions. C’est cette conversion qui fit connaître à la cour le nom de l’abbé de Clairvaux, qu’on y considéra, semble-t-il, avec un respect mêlé de crainte, parce qu’on voyait en lui l’adversaire irréductible de tous les abus et de toutes les injustices; et bientôt, en effet, on le vit intervenir dans les conflits qui avaient éclaté entre Louis le Gros et divers évêques, et protester hautement contre les empiètements du pouvoir civil sur les droits de l’Église. À vrai dire, il ne s’agissait encore là que d’affaires purement locales, intéressant seulement tel monastère ou tel diocèse; mais, en 1130, il survint des événements d’une tout autre gravité, qui mirent en péril l’Église tout entière, divisée par le schisme de l’antipape Anaclet II, et c’est à cette occasion que le renom de Bernard devait se répandre dans toute la Chrétienté.

Nous n’avons pas à retracer ici l’histoire du schisme dans tous ses détails : les cardinaux, partagés en deux factions rivales, avalent élu successivement Innocent II et Anaclet II; le premier, contraint de s’enfuir de Rome, ne désespéra pas de son droit et en appela à l’Église universelle. C’est la France qui répondit la première; au concile convoqué par le roi à Étampes, Bernard parut, dit son biographe, « comme un véritable envoyé de Dieu », au milieu des évêques et des seigneurs réunis; tous suivirent son avis sur la question soumise à leur examen et reconnurent la validité de l’élection d’Innocent II. Celui-ci se trouvait alors sur le sol français, et c’est à l’abbaye de Cluny que Suger vint lui annoncer la décision du concile; il parcourut les principaux diocèses et fut partout accueilli avec enthousiasme; ce mouvement allait entraîner l’adhésion de presque toute la Chrétienté. L’abbé de Clairvaux se rendit auprès du roi d’Angleterre et triompha promptement de ses hésitations; peut-être eut-il aussi une part, au moins indirecte, dans la reconnaissance d’Innocent II par le roi Lothaire et le clergé allemand. Il alla ensuite en Aquitaine pour combattre l’influence de l’évêque Gérard d’Angoulême, partisan d’Anaclet II; mais c’est seulement au cours d’un second voyage dans cette région, en 1135, qu’il devait réussir à y détruire le schisme en opérant la conversion du comte de Poitiers. Dans l’intervalle, il avait dû se rendre en Italie, appelé par Innocent II qui y était retourné avec l’appui de Lothaire, mais qui était arrêté par des difficultés imprévues, dues à l’hostilité de Pise et de Gênes; il fallait trouver un accommodement entre les deux cités rivales et le leur faire accepter; c’est Bernard qui fut chargé de cette mission difficile, et il s’en acquitta avec le plus merveilleux succès. Innocent put enfin rentrer dans Rome, mais Anaclet demeura retranché dans Saint-Pierre dont il fut impossible de s’emparer; Lothaire, couronné empereur à Saint-Jean de Latran, se retira bientôt avec son armée; après son départ, l’antipape reprit l’offensive, et le pontife légitime dut s’enfuir de nouveau et se réfugier à Pise.

L’abbé de Clairvaux, qui était rentré dans son cloître, apprit ces nouvelles avec consternation; peu après lui parvint le bruit de l’activité déployée par Roger, roi de Sicile, pour gagner toute l’Italie à la cause d’Anaclet, en même temps que pour y assurer sa propre suprématie. Bernard écrivit aussitôt aux habitants de Pise et de Gênes pour les encourager à demeurer fidèles à Innocent; mais cette fidélité ne constituait qu’un bien faible appui, et, pour reconquérir Rome, c’était de l’Allemagne seule qu’on pouvait espérer un secours efficace. Malheureusement, l’Empire était toujours en proie à la division, et Lothaire ne pouvait retourner en Italie avant d’avoir assuré la paix dans son propre pays. Bernard partit pour l’Allemagne et travailla à la réconciliation des Hohenstaufen avec l’empereur; là encore, ses efforts furent couronnés de succès; il en vit consacrer l’heureuse issue à la diète de Bamberg, qu’il quitta ensuite pour se rendre au concile qu’Innocent II avait convoqué à Pise. À cette occasion, il eut à adresser des remontrances à Louis le Gros, qui s’était opposé au départ des évêques de son royaume; la défense fut levée, et les principaux membres du clergé français purent répondre à l’appel du chef de l’Église. Bernard fut l’âme du concile; dans l’intervalle des séances, raconte un historien du temps, sa porte était assiégée par ceux qui avaient quelque affaire grave à traiter, comme si cet humble moine eût eu le pouvoir de trancher à son gré toutes les questions ecclésiastiques. Délégué ensuite à Milan pour ramener cette ville à Innocent II et à Lothaire, il s’y vit acclamer par le clergé et les fidèles qui, dans une manifestation spontanée d’enthousiasme, voulurent faire de lui leur archevêque, et il eut la plus grande peine à se soustraire à cet honneur. Il n’aspirait qu’à retourner à son monastère; il y rentra en effet, mais ce ne fut pas pour longtemps.

Dès le début de l’année 1136, Bernard dut abandonner encore une fois sa solitude pour venir, conformément au désir du pape, rejoindre en Italie l’armée allemande, commandée par le duc Henri de Bavière, gendre de l’empereur. La mésintelligence avait éclaté entre celui-ci et Innocent II; Henri, peu soucieux des droits de l’Église, affectait en toutes circonstances de ne s’occuper que des intérêts de l’État. Aussi l’abbé de Clairvaux eut-il fort à faire pour rétablir la concorde entre les deux pouvoirs et concilier leurs prétentions rivales, notamment dans certaines questions d’investitures, où il paraît avoir joué constamment un rôle de modérateur. Cependant, Lothaire, qui avait pris lui-même le commandement de l’armée, soumit toute l’Italie méridionale; mais il eut le tort de repousser les propositions de paix du roi de Sicile, qui ne tarda pas à prendre sa revanche, mettant tout à feu et à sang. Bernard n’hésita pas alors à se présenter au camp de Roger, qui accueillit fort mal ses paroles de paix, et à qui il prédit une défaite qui se produisit en effet; puis, s’attachant à ses pas, il le rejoignit à Salerne et s’efforça de le détourner du schisme dans lequel l’ambition l’avait jeté. Roger consentit à entendre contradictoirement les partisans d’Innocent et d’Anaclet, mais, tout en paraissant conduire l’enquête avec impartialité, il ne chercha qu’à gagner du temps et refusa de prendre une décision; du moins ce débat eut-il pour heureux résultat d’amener la conversion d’un des principaux auteurs du schisme, le cardinal Pierre de Pise, que Bernard ramena avec lui auprès d’Innocent II. Cette conversion portait sans délai un coup terrible à la cause de l’antipape; Bernard sut en profiter et à Rome même, par sa parole ardente et convaincue, il parvint en quelques jours à détacher du parti d’Anaclet la plupart des dissidents. Cela se passait en 1137, vers l’époque des fêtes de Noël; un mois plus tard, Anaclet mourait subitement. Quelques-uns des cardinaux les plus engagés dans le schisme élurent un nouvel antipape sous le nom de Victor IV; mais leur résistance ne pouvait durer longtemps, et, le jour de l’octave de la Pentecôte, tous firent leur soumission; dès la semaine suivante, l’abbé de Clairvaux reprenait le chemin de son monastère.

Ce résumé très rapide suffit pour donner une idée de ce qu’on pourrait appeler l’activité politique de saint Bernard, qui, d’ailleurs, ne s’arrêta pas là : de 1140 à 1144, il eut à protester contre l’immixtion abusive du roi Louis le Jeune dans des élections épiscopales, puis à intervenir dans un grave conflit entre ce même roi et le comte Thibaut de Champagne; mais il serait fastidieux de s’étendre sur ces divers événements. En somme, on peut dire que la conduite de Bernard fut toujours déterminée par les mêmes intentions : défendre le droit, combattre l’injustice, et, peut-être par-dessus tout, maintenir l’unité dans le monde chrétien. C’est cette préoccupation constante de l’unité qui l’anime dans sa lutte contre le schisme; c’est elle encore qui lui fait entreprendre, en 1145, un voyage dans le Languedoc pour ramener à l’Église les hérétiques néo-manichéens qui commençaient à se répandre dans cette contrée. Il semble qu’il ait eu sans cesse présente à la pensée cette parole de l’Évangile : « Qu’ils soient tous un, comme mon Père et moi nous sommes un. »

Cependant, l’abbé de Clairvaux n’avait pas seulement à lutter dans le domaine politique, mais aussi dans le domaine intellectuel, où ses triomphes ne furent pas moins éclatants, puisqu’ils furent marqués par la condamnation de deux adversaires éminents, Abélard et Gilbert de la Porrée. Le premier s’était acquis, par son enseignement et par ses écrits, la réputation d’un dialecticien des plus habiles; il abusait même de la dialectique, car, au lieu de n’y voir que ce qu’elle est réellement, un simple moyen pour parvenir à la connaissance de la vérité, il la regardait presque comme une fin en elle-même, ce qui aboutissait naturellement à une sorte de verbalisme. Il semble aussi qu’il y ait eu chez lui, soit dans la méthode, soit pour le fond même des idées, une recherche de l’originalité qui le rapproche quelque peu des philosophes modernes; et, à une époque où l’individualisme était chose à peu près inconnue, ce défaut ne pouvait risquer de passer pour une qualité comme il arrive de nos jours. Aussi certains s’inquiétèrent-ils bientôt de ces nouveautés, qui ne tendaient à rien moins qu’à établir une véritable confusion entre le domaine de la raison et celui de la foi; ce n’est pas qu’Abélard fût à proprement parler un rationaliste comme on l’a parfois prétendu, car, en réalité, il n’y eut pas de rationalistes avant Descartes; mais il ne sut pas faire la distinction entre ce qui relève de la raison et ce qui lui est supérieur, entre la philosophie profane et la sagesse sacrée, entre le savoir purement humain et la connaissance transcendante, et là est la racine de toutes ses erreurs. N’alla-t-il pas jusqu’à soutenir que les philosophes et les dialecticiens jouissent d’une inspiration habituelle qui serait comparable à l’inspiration surnaturelle des prophètes ? On comprend sans peine que saint Bernard, lorsqu’on appela son attention sur de semblables théories, se soit élevé contre elles avec force et même avec un certain emportement, et aussi qu’il ait reproché amèrement à leur auteur d’avoir enseigné que la foi n’était qu’une simple opinion. La controverse entre ces deux hommes si différents, commencée dans des entretiens particuliers, eut bientôt un immense retentissement dans les écoles et les monastères; Abélard, confiant dans son habileté à manier le raisonnement, demanda à l’archevêque de Sens de réunir un concile devant lequel il se justifierait publiquement, car il pensait bien conduire la discussion de telle sorte qu’elle tournerait aisément à la confusion de son adversaire. Les choses se passèrent tout autrement : l’abbé de Clairvaux, en effet, ne concevait le concile que comme un tribunal devant lequel le théologien suspect comparaîtrait en accusé; dans une séance préparatoire, il produisit les ouvrages d’Abélard et en tira les propositions les plus téméraires, dont il prouva l’hétérodoxie; le lendemain, l’auteur ayant été introduit, il le somma, après avoir énoncé ces propositions, de les rétracter ou de les justifier. Abélard, pressentant dès lors une condamnation, n’attendit pas le jugement du concile et déclara aussitôt qu’il en appelait à la cour de Rome; le procès n’en suivit pas moins son cours, et, dès que la condamnation fut prononcée, Bernard écrivit à Innocent II et aux cardinaux des lettres d’une éloquence pressante, si bien que, six semaines plus tard, la sentence était confirmée à Rome. Abélard n’avait plus qu’à se soumettre; il se réfugia à Cluny, auprès de Pierre le Vénérable, qui lui ménagea une entrevue avec l’abbé de Clairvaux et parvint à les réconcilier.

Le concile de Sens eut lieu en 1140; en 1147, Bernard obtint de même, au concile de Reims, la condamnation des erreurs de Gilbert de la Porrée, évêque de Poitiers, concernant le mystère de la Trinité; ces erreurs provenaient de ce que leur auteur appliquait à Dieu la distinction réelle de l’essence et de l’existence, qui n’est applicable qu’aux êtres créés. Gilbert se rétracta d’ailleurs sans difficulté; aussi fut-il simplement défendu de lire ou de transcrire son ouvrage avant qu’il n’eût été corrigé; son autorité, à part les points particuliers qui étaient en cause, n’en fut pas atteinte, et sa doctrine demeura en grand crédit dans les écoles pendant tout le moyen âge.

Deux ans avant cette dernière affaire, l’abbé de Clairvaux avait eu la joie de voir monter sur le trône pontifical un de ses anciens moines, Bernard de Pise, qui prit le nom d’Eugène III, et qui continua toujours à entretenir avec lui les plus affectueuses relations; c’est ce nouveau pape qui, presque dès le début de son règne, le chargea de prêcher la seconde croisade. Jusque là, la Terre Sainte n’avait tenu, en apparence tout au moins, qu’une assez faible place dans les préoccupations de saint Bernard; ce serait pourtant une erreur de croire qu’il fût demeuré entièrement étranger à ce qui s’y passait, et la preuve en est dans un fait sur lequel, d’ordinaire, on insiste beaucoup moins qu’il ne conviendrait, et dont la portée réelle est beaucoup plus considérable que nos contemporains ne paraissent le soupçonner. Nous voulons parler de la part qu’il avait prise à la constitution de l’Ordre du Temple, le premier des Ordres militaires par la date et par l’importance, celui qui allait servir de modèle à tous les autres.

C’est en 1128, dix ans environ après sa fondation, que cet Ordre reçut sa règle au concile de Troyes, et c’est Bernard qui, en qualité de secrétaire du concile, fut chargé de la rédiger, ou tout au moins d’en tracer les premiers linéaments, car il semble que ce n’est qu’un peu plus tard qu’il fut appelé à la compléter, et qu’il n’en acheva la rédaction définitive qu’en 1131. Il commenta ensuite cette règle dans le traité De laude novae militiae, où il exposa en termes d’une magnifique éloquence la mission et l’idéal de la chevalerie chrétienne, de ce qu’il appelait la « milice de Dieu ». Ces rapports de l’abbé de Clairvaux avec l’Ordre du Temple, que les historiens modernes ne regardent que comme un épisode assez secondaire de sa vie, avaient assurément une tout autre importance aux yeux des hommes du moyen âge; et nous avons eu l’occasion de montrer ailleurs qu’ils constituent sans doute la raison pour laquelle Dante devait choisir saint Bernard pour son guide dans les ultimes cercles du Paradis.

Dès 1145, Louis VII avait formé le projet d’aller au secours des principautés latines d’Orient, menacées par l’émir d’Alep; mais l’opposition de ses conseillers l’avait contraint à en ajourner la réalisation, et la décision définitive avait été remise à une assemblée plénière qui devait se tenir à Vézelay pendant les fêtes de Pâques de l’année suivante. Eugène III, retenu en Italie par une révolution suscitée à Rome par Arnaud de Brescia, chargea l’abbé de Clairvaux de le remplacer à cette assemblée; Bernard, après avoir donné lecture de la bulle qui conviait la France à la croisade, prononça un discours qui dut être, à en juger par l’effet qu’il produisit, la plus grande action oratoire de sa vie; tous les assistants se précipitèrent pour recevoir la croix de ses mains. Encouragé par ce succès, Bernard parcourut les villes et les provinces, prêchant partout la croisade avec un zèle infatigable; là où il ne pouvait se rendre en personne, il adressait des lettres non moins éloquentes que ses discours. Il passa ensuite en Allemagne, où sa prédication eut les mêmes résultats qu’en France; l’empereur Conrad, après avoir résisté quelque temps, dut céder à son influence et s’enrôler dans la croisade. Vers le milieu de l’année 1147, les armées française et allemande se mettaient en marche pour cette grande expédition, qui, en dépit de leur formidable apparence, allait aboutir à un désastre. Les causes de cet échec furent multiples; les principales semblent être la trahison des Grecs et le défaut d’entente entre les divers chefs de la croisade; mais certains cherchèrent, fort injustement, à en rejeter la responsabilité sur l’abbé de Clairvaux. Celui-ci dut écrire une véritable apologie de sa conduite, qui était en même temps une justification de l’action de la Providence, montrant que les malheurs survenus n’étaient imputables qu’aux fautes des chrétiens, et qu’ainsi « les promesses de Dieu restaient intactes, car elles ne prescrivent pas contre les droits de sa justice »; cette apologie est contenue dans le livre De Consideratione, adressé à Eugène III, livre qui est comme le testament de saint Bernard et qui contient notamment ses vues sur les devoirs de la papauté. D’ailleurs, tous ne se laissaient pas aller au découragement, et Suger conçut bientôt le projet d’une nouvelle croisade, dont l’abbé de Clairvaux lui-même devait être le chef; mais la mort du grand ministre de Louis VII en arrêta l’exécution. Saint Bernard mourut lui-même peu après, en 1153, et ses dernières lettres témoignent qu’il se préoccupa jusqu’au bout de la délivrance de la Terre Sainte.

Si le but immédiat de la croisade n’avait pas été atteint, doit-on dire pour cela qu’une telle expédition était entièrement inutile et que les efforts de saint Bernard avaient été dépensés en pure perte ? Nous ne le croyons pas, malgré ce que peuvent en penser les historiens qui s’en tiennent aux apparences extérieures, et il y avait à ces grands mouvements du moyen âge, d’un caractère politique et religieux tout à la fois, des raisons plus profondes, dont l’une, la seule que nous voulions noter ici, était de maintenir dans la Chrétienté une vive conscience de son unité. La Chrétienté était identique à la civilisation occidentale, fondée alors sur des bases essentiellement traditionnelles, comme l’est toute civilisation normale, et qui allait atteindre son apogée au XIIIe siècle; la perte de ce caractère traditionnel devait nécessairement suivre la rupture de l’unité même de la Chrétienté. Cette rupture, qui fut accomplie dans le domaine religieux par la Réforme, le fut dans le domaine politique par l’instauration des nationalités, précédée de la destruction du régime féodal; et l’on peut dire, à ce dernier point de vue, que celui qui porta les premiers coups à l’édifice grandiose de la Chrétienté médiévale fut Philippe le Bel, celui-là même qui, par une coïncidence qui n’a assurément rien de fortuit, détruisit l’Ordre du Temple, s’attaquant par là directement à l’oeuvre même de saint Bernard.

Au cours de tous ses voyages, saint Bernard appuya constamment sa prédication par de nombreuses guérisons miraculeuses, qui étaient pour la foule comme des signes visibles de sa mission; ces faits ont été rapportés par des témoins oculaires, mais lui-même n’en parlait que peu volontiers. Peut-être cette réserve lui était-elle imposée par son extrême modestie; mais sans doute aussi n’attribuait-il à ces miracles qu’une importance secondaire, les considérant seulement comme une concession accordée par la miséricorde divine à la faiblesse de la foi chez la plupart des hommes, conformément à la parole du Christ : « Heureux ceux qui croiront sans avoir vu. » Cette attitude s’accorderait avec le dédain qu’il manifeste en général pour tous les moyens extérieurs et sensibles, tels que la pompe des cérémonies et l’ornementation des églises; on a même pu lui reprocher, avec quelque apparence de vérité, de n’avoir eu que du mépris pour l’art religieux. Ceux qui formulent cette critique oublient cependant une distinction nécessaire, celle qu’il établit lui-même entre ce qu’il appelle l’architecture épiscopale et l’architecture monastique : c’est cette dernière seulement qui doit avoir l’austérité qu’il préconise; ce n’est qu’aux religieux et à ceux qui suivent le chemin de la perfection qu’il interdit le « culte des idoles », c’est-à-dire des formes, dont il proclame au contraire l’utilité, comme moyen d’éducation, pour les simples et les imparfaits. S’il a protesté contre l’abus des figures dépourvues de signification et n’ayant qu’une valeur purement ornementale, il n’a pu vouloir, comme on l’a prétendu faussement, proscrire le symbolisme de l’art architectural, alors que lui-même en faisait dans ses sermons un très fréquent usage.

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La doctrine de saint Bernard est essentiellement mystique; par là, nous entendons qu’il envisage surtout les choses divines sous l’aspect de l’amour, qu’il serait d’ailleurs erroné d’interpréter ici dans un sens simplement affectif comme le font les modernes psychologues. Comme beaucoup de grands mystiques, il fut spécialement attiré par le Cantique des Cantiques, qu’il commenta dans de nombreux sermons, formant une série qui se poursuit à travers presque toute sa carrière; et ce commentaire, qui demeura toujours inachevé, décrit tous les degrés de l’amour divin, jusqu’à la paix suprême à laquelle l’âme parvient dans l’extase. L’état extatique, tel qu’il le comprend et qu’il l’a certainement éprouvé, est une sorte de mort aux choses de ce monde; avec les images sensibles, tout sentiment naturel a disparu; tout est pur et spirituel dans l’âme elle-même comme dans son amour. Ce mysticisme devait naturellement se refléter dans les traités dogmatiques de saint Bernard; le titre de l’un des principaux, De diligendo Deo, montre en effet suffisamment quelle place y tient l’amour; mais on aurait tort de croire que ce soit au détriment de la véritable intellectualité. Si l’abbé de Clairvaux voulut toujours demeurer étranger aux vaines subtilités de l’école, c’est qu’il n’avait nul besoin des laborieux artifices de la dialectique; il résolvait d’un seul coup les questions les plus ardues, parce qu’il ne procédait pas par une longue série d’opérations discursives; ce que les philosophes s’efforcent d’atteindre par une voie détournée et comme par tâtonnement, il y parvenait immédiatement, par l’intuition intellectuelle sans laquelle nulle métaphysique réelle n’est possible, et hors de laquelle on ne peut saisir qu’une ombre de la Vérité.

Un dernier trait de la physionomie de saint Bernard, qu’il est essentiel de signaler encore, c’est la place éminente que tient, dans sa vie et dans ses oeuvres, le culte de la Sainte Vierge, et qui a donné lieu à toute une floraison de légendes, qui sont peut-être ce par quoi il est demeuré le plus populaire. Il aimait à donner à la Sainte Vierge le titre de Notre-Dame, dont l’usage s’est généralisé depuis son époque, et sans doute en grande partie grâce à son influence; c’est qu’il était, comme on l’a dit, un véritable « chevalier de Marie », et qu’il la regardait vraiment comme sa « dame », au sens chevaleresque de ce mot. Si l’on rapproche ce fait du rôle que joue l’amour dans sa doctrine, et qu’il jouait aussi, sous des formes plus ou moins symboliques, dans les conceptions propres aux Ordres de chevalerie, on comprendra facilement pourquoi nous avons pris soin de mentionner ses origines familiales. Devenu moine, il demeura toujours chevalier comme l’étaient tous ceux de sa race; et, par là même, on peut dire qu’il était en quelque sorte prédestiné à jouer, comme il le fit en tant de circonstances, le rôle d’intermédiaire, de conciliateur et d’arbitre entre le pouvoir religieux et le pouvoir politique, parce qu’il y avait dans sa personne comme une participation à la nature de l’un et de l’autre. Moine et chevalier tout ensemble, ces deux caractères étaient ceux des membres de la « milice de Dieu », de l’Ordre du Temple; ils étaient aussi, et tout d’abord, ceux de l’auteur de leur règle, du grand saint qu’on a appelé le dernier des Pères de l’Église, et en qui certains veulent voir, non sans quelque raison, le prototype de Galaad, le chevalier idéal et sans tache, le héros victorieux de la « Queste du Saint Graal ».

Publié dans La vie et les oeuvres de quelques grands saints,
Librairie de France, s. d.

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22 avril 2005

Biography of Titus Burckhardt (1908-1984)

Titus Burckhardt, a German Swiss, was of the “traditionalist” or “perennialist” 20th century school of thought, devoting his life to the study of wisdom and tradition. A major voice of philosophia perennis, he was highly articulate in the realms of existentialism, psychoanalysis and sociology, and an exponent of universal truth in metaphysics, cosmology and traditional art. He wrote in German and in French, with a profound simplicity of expression.

Titus Burckhardt was born in 1908 into a patrician family of Basle (though his birthplace was in Florence). His father was Carl Burckhardt, a sculptor. His great-uncle was the art historian Jacob Burckhardt. Frithjof Schuon grew up in Basle at the same time, and Titus and Frithjof spent their early schooldays together, closely aligned in intellect and spirit. Burckhardt attended several art schools in Switzerland and Italy. He thereafter went to Morocco “to seek what the West had lost”. In his years there, he learned Arabic, and studied Sufi classics in their original. (Later, he translated Ibn `Arabi, Jili, and Shaikh Mulay al-`Arabi al-Darqawi.) Burckhardt developed a deep and vast knowledge of Islamic art and civilization.
He was the artistic director of the Urs Graf Publishing House of Lausanne and Olten. Here he produced exceptional illuminated manuscripts for publication, and directed a series of volumes entitled Stätten des Geistes (Homesteads of the Spirit). His book, Fez, City of Islam, was part of this series. In 1972, Burckhardt was commissioned by UNESCO make an inventory of the architectural heritage of Fez, which had been placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. To conserve the old city, he recommended a masterplan to safeguard and rehabilitate Fez. In the following three years he was the cultural consultant of an interdisciplinary, multinational team of city planners, architects, restorers, and other specialists, to implement an overall master plan for the city of Fez.
Burckhardt actively participated in the two Festivals of the World of Islam held in London in the 1970’s, and directed the major exhibitions of Islamic Art at the Hayward Gallery in 1976. His monumental efforts and numerous published works were instrumental in the establishment of graduate programs in Islamic art and architecture as distinct academic fields in universities around the world, and no less contributed to the establishment of the major galleries of Islamic art in many museums throughout the world.
He died in Lausanne in 1984.
In all of his writings, Titus Burckhardt intimately touched on science and art, piety and tradition, beauty and truth. His quest for the Beautiful was a defining of the science of beauty, a spiritual quest, a search for Truth.
Much of Burckhardt’s writings are in traditional cosmology, which he called the “handmade of metaphysics”. In Alchemy, Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul (1960), he presented alchemy as the expression of a spiritual psychology and as an intellectual and symbolic support for contemplation and realization. He brought science and art together into an integral relationship and showed the importance of ‘the science of the properties of things’ (`ilm khawass al-ashya’) in understanding how traditional art transforms the natural objects and materials. For example, he wrote “In the spiritual order, alchemy is none other than the art of transmuting bodily consciousness into spirit: ‘body must be made spirit’, say the alchemists, ‘for spirit to become body’. By analogy one can say of Muslim architecture that it transforms stone into light which, in its turn, is transformed into crystals.” [Art of Islam, p. 211]
What is Islamic art and architecture? Why is Islamic art in fact Islamic? Titus Burckhardt answered these questions as no one had ever done before him. He lectured and wrote profusely on the topic. For him, the primary rules of art are that 1) the form of an object, its general form as well as its decoration, must correspond to its purpose, and 2) the aesthetic effect of a work should be obtained with a minimum of elements. Burckhardt wrote about the metaphysics of art, and saw the “form” of art as arising from the revelation which encompasses a civilization, and the “matter” of art as the techniques, materials and methods which the civilization employs, and demonstrated that Islamic art’s “form” flows from the Qur’anic revelation and that the source and principles of Islamic art arise from the inner dimensions of the Noble Qur’an. His intimate familiarity with the Qur’an and his vast knowledge of the significance of iconic art enabled him to explain why Islamic art could not be iconic, and why it could however be the locus of Divine Presence without being iconic.
In his essay, “Degrees of Symbolism in Islamic Art” Burckhardt said “the whole world is the symbol of God – to the extent that it does not claim to be other than it is…There is here a whole science whose theme is the reintegration of the multiple in the one, which implies, amongst other things, a union of time and space, a union that is reflected in forms such as that of the muqarnas (in architecture, the spatial forms known as stalactites) which, properly speaking is a rhythmical articulation of space. Among the symbols of unity – and it is always a question of ontological unity within the cosmos, and not of transcendent unity as such – the profoundest and clearest is that of light, which the Muslim artist knows how to capture, filter, and crystallize in a thousand different ways.”
“The ornamental art of the Alhambra is a science, and in order to appreciate it fully it is necessary to know its underlying principles. One of its elements is the arabesque, which is developed in an almost unlimited variety of ways. It is not merely a substitute for figurative art, which is forbidden by Islamic law, for, apart from the fact that this law is diversely interpreted, the arabesque, with its rhythmic repetition serves quite a different artistic purpose than does pictorial art. It does not seek to capture the eye to lead it into an imagined world, but, on the contrary, liberates it from all preoccupations of the mind, rather like the view of flowing water, fields waving in the wind, falling snow or rising flames. It does not transmit any specific ideas, but a state of being, which is at once repose and inner rhythm...the purest simile for the manifestation of divine reality (al-hakika), which is the center throughout, in each creature, and in each cosmos, without any being or any thing being able to claim to be in its sole reflection, creating an unending reflection of centers in each other. The “unity of being” (wahdat al-wudjud), however, is expressed in tow different ways in these “spiders webs of God” – by being woven from one single band, and in the way they radiate from many identical centers.”[ Moorish Culture in Spain, p.206]
Burckhardt revealed the spiritual significance of Islamic art. He advocated that the highest meaning of all Islamic art is always the Unity, and showed how it reveals and leads to the principial Unity, and as well as how it reflects the mystery of the manifestation of the One in the many, and the multiplicity in that Unity. Titus Burckhardt has been described by Syed Hossein Nasr as a noble scholar who “saw that the true goal of traditional art is to aid us to become ourselves, once again, works of art, to return to our fitrah or the primordial nature we still bear deep within the substance of our being, that primordial nature which is the ultimate work of art created by the Supreme Artisan, the Sani` without the realization of whose Reality there would be no sina`ah or art worthy of the name.” [“The Vision of Titus Ibrahim Burckhardt”]

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21 avril 2005

Titus Burckhardt, Alchimia – semnificaţia ei şi imaginea despre lume, (note de lectura)

Traducere din limba franceză de Luana Schidu. Versiunea românească apărută la Humanitas, 1998. Versiunea franceză apărută la Archè, Milan, 1974.

Din Epoca Luminilor şi până în zilele noastre, s-a considerat în mod greşit că alchimia este forma primitivă a chimiei moderne. Totuşi, Marea Operă descrisă de alchimişti se situa pe cu totul alt plan.
Alchimia a fost o doctrină transmisă de la maestru la discipol şi ale cărei trăsături generale, atât cât le putem judeca după descrierile simbolice, sunt în mare măsură aceleaşi din Antichitate până în epoca modernă, din Occident până în Extremul Orient.
Originea alchimiei pare să fie mijlocul primului mileniu î.Hr., chiar de la începutul epocii fierului.
Aurul şi argintul erau metale sacre, înainte de a deveni măsura tuturor schimburilor comerciale; ele sunt reflexele terestre ale Soarelui şi Lunii, şi prin aceasta ale tuturor realităţilor minţii şi sufletului aflate în raport cu cuplul ceresc.
Interesul alchimiştilor pentru aur trebuie privit în cadrul interesului pentru sacru. De altminteri, în societăţile tradiţionale metalurgia aurului avea un regim special, sacerdotal.
Alchimia nu este fără pericole: „În particular, extragerea metalelor nobile din minerale impure, prin utilizarea unor elemente solvente şi de purificare precum mercurul şi antimoniul în conjuncţie cu focul, se efectuează în mod inevitabil împotriva forţelor întunecate şi haotice ale naturii; tot astfel, realizarea argintului interior sau a aurului interior – în puritatea şi luminozitatea lor imuabile – necesită stăpânirea tuturor tendinţelor obscure şi iraţionale ale sufletului.” (p. 11)
Cel care a răspândit alchimia în Europa este Hermes Trismegistos (Cel de Trei Ori Mare). Termenul alchimia provine din arabul al-kimiya, care se presupune că provine din egipteanul kême (pământ negru). Este posibil să provină şi din grecescul χυμα (chyma) – fuziune sau topire.
Corpus Hermeticum, care cuprinde toate textele atribuite lui Hermes-Toth, ni s-a transmis în greacă.
Tabula Smaragdina este tabla legii artei alchimice.
În alchimie par să coexiste două curente: alchimia artizanală şi alchimia mistică.
Alchimia a pătruns în creştinism, unde piatra filozofală care transformă metalele obişnuite în argint sau aur este un simbol al lui Christos. În islam alchimia a fost privită ca o moştenire a profeţilor dinainte (Hermes Trismegistul este identificat cu Enoh-Idrīs. Alchimia a asimilat de altminteri doctrina islamică a unicităţii fiinţei – wahdat al-wujūd.
În secolul VIII d.Chr. Jābir ibn Hayyān, discipol al celui de-al şaselea imam şiit Ja’far aç-Cādiq, a întemeiat o adevărată şcoală de alchimie, devenind garanţia adevăratei tradiţii alchimice. În secolul XIII, un italian sau catalan va semna cu Geber un tratat cunoscut sub numele de Summa Perfectionis.
Renaşterea a adus în Occident o sumedenie de manuscrise greceşti. O bună parte dintre ele au fost tipărite, astfel încât se consideră că secolul XVII a fost culmea gândirii hermetice europene. Cauzele declinului acestui curent: dezvoltarea gândirii europene de factură raţionalistă, orientarea misticismului creştin pe baze exclusiv sentimentale, tendinţele agnostice ale Reformei.
Paracelsus numeşte medicina derivată din alchimie: spagirică (traducere greacă a solve et coagula – a diviza şi a uni).
Sub nici o formă nu se poate considera alchimia ca fiind o religie suficientă sieşi sau un păgânism ascuns. Alchimia a fost considerată o artă, chiar ars regia, sau arta transmutaţiilor sufletului.
„Plumbul reprezintă starea haotică, «confuză» şi lipsită de forţă a metalului sau a omului interior, în timp ce aurul - «lumină solidificată» şi «soare terestru» - exprimă deopotrivă perfecţiunea metalului şi perfecţiunea umană.” (p. 20) Pentru alchimişti metalele nu sunt decât etape intermediare perfecţiunii, care este aurul. Iar finalitatea alchimiei este redobândirea nobleţii primordiale, adamice, a fiinţei umane. Alchimia insistă asupra practicii rugăciunii, dar nu îşi însuşeşte o structură teologică. Ea tratează purificarea sufletului ca o ştiinţă a naturii, dintr-o perspectivă cosmologică: „[…] cosmologia alchimică e în mod esenţial o doctrină a fiinţei, o ontologie. Simbolul metalurgic nu e o simplă formulă, o descriere aproximativă a procesului interior; ca orice simbol adevărat, el este un fel de revelaţie.” (p. 23) Nu mai puţin, alchimia corespunde unei căi a cunoaşterii, şi nu unei căi a iubirii. Esenţa misticismului, ca şi a alchimiei, scapă gândirii raţionaliste.
Alchimia cere o inteligenţă mult peste medie şi o dispoziţie sufletească, în lipsa cărora practicarea unei asemenea arte poate prezenta pericole deloc neglijabile. Textele alchimice s-au redactat după un cod care este lizibil celor pregătiţi pentru ştiinţa sacră. Geber spunea: „Magisterium-ul nostru nu trebuie tratat în termeni care să fie cu totul de neînţeles; după cum nu trebuie explicat nici atât de limpede încât să fie pe înţelesul tuturor. Îl voi preda deci în aşa fel, încât să nu fie nicidecum ascuns Înţelepţilor; cu toate că va fi îndeajuns de neclar pentru minţile mediocre; dar celor proşti sau nebuni le declar că nu vor putea înţelege nimic.”
Alchimiştii insistă asupra faptului că cel mai mare obstacol în calea realizării operei lor este cupiditatea şi avariţia. Acest viciu este pentru arta lor ceea ce este orgoliul pentru „Calea iubirii” şi iluzia sinelui pentru „Calea cunoaşterii”. Obligaţia impusă discipolilor lui Hermes de a căuta transformarea elementelor numai pentru a veni în ajutorul săracilor seamănă cu jurământul budist de a nu căuta iluminarea supremă decât în vederea mântuirilor tuturor creaturilor. Ca multe alte demersuri de sacralizare a omului, şi alchimia necesită o iniţiere.
Cheia de boltă a gândirii alchimice este corespondenţa dintre macrocosm şi microcosmos. Subiecţii sunt polarizări mai mult sau mai puţin directe ori indirecte ale unui singur subiect universal, Spiritul sau Intelectul. Dar Intelectul Universal transcende polaritatea subiect-obiect, fiind el însuşi obiectul propriei cunoaşteri.
Al-kawnu ins ānun kabīr wal-l-insānu kawnun saghīr = universul este un mare om, iar omul este un mic univers.
Într-un anume sens, în om Intelectul este Dumnezeu, oglinda lui cosmică cea mai desăvârşită. Anumiţi teologi ca Albert cel Mare au putut vedea în Corpus Hermeticum o sămânţă precreştină a doctrinei Logosului (doctrina ioanită a transcendenţei Intelectului).
Unitatea transcendentă este coincidenţa subiectului cu obiectul.
Ştiinţe moderne vs. Ştiinţa Tradiţională: „Pentru ştiinţa modernă, «adevărurile» (sau legile generale) – fără de care experienţa singură n-ar fi decât nisip mişcător – nu sunt decât descrierile schematice ale aparenţelor, ale «abstracţiilor» utile, dar totdeauna provizorii, pe când pentru ştiinţa tradiţională adevăr nu este decât expresia sau «condensarea», într-o formă accesibilă raţiunii, a unei posibilităţi conţinute dinainte în Intelectul universal. Căci tot ceea ce apare, mai mult sau mai puţin efemer, în existenţă îşi are modelul sau «arhetipul» în Intelectul universal.” (p. 37)
Tradiţia menţionează şapte metale: aur, argint, cupru, cositor, fier, plumb şi argint viu.
Ştiinţa modernă disecă lucrurile, cu scopul de a-şi asigura posesiunea şi stăpânirea acestora în propriul lor plan. Scopul ei este, înainte de toate, tehnic. Raţionalismul a rămas la credinţa că analiza materială şi cantitativă va face posibilă descoperirea adevăratei naturi a lucrurilor.
„Dacă cunoaşterea ştiinţifică ar fi în concordanţă cu o interpretare spirituală a aparenţelor, am putea vedea, în abandonările succesive ale tuturor sistemelor pe care le putem numi închise, dovada că o concepţie asupra lumii, oricare ar fi ea, nu e nimic mai mult decât o imagine sau o reflexie şi că prin urmare ea nu poate avea un caracter absolut.” (p. 50)
Există două modalităţi de abordare a lumii: „Una, determinată de curiozitatea ştiinţifică, se dezbate în inepuizabila diversitate a aparenţelor şi, în măsura în care acumulează experienţele, devine ea însăşi multiplă şi dezmembrată. Cealaltă caută centrul spiritual care este în acelaşi timp cel al omului şi cel al lucrurilor, bazându-se pe caracterul simbolic al aparenţelor, pentru a contempla realităţile imuabile conţinute în Intelect. Viziunea cea mai desăvârşită de care e în stare omul e simplă, în sensul că bogăţia sa interioară nu se lasă tradusă într-o diversitate conceptuală.” (p. 51-52)
Descartes a privat spiritul de dimensiunea universală, de prezenţa lui cosmică şi imanentă, reducându-l la simpla gândire şi raţiunea discursivă. După el spiritul şi materia sunt două realităţi distincte care se întâlnesc într-un singur punct: creierul uman. Or, în philosophia perennis, spiritul şi materia erau doi poli indisociabili, activul şi pasivul existenţei. Abia pentru omul modern materia a devenit masă inertă, opusă spiritului.
În gândirea tradiţională materia avea şi un aspect calitativ. De asemenea, numerele au fost privite în doctrina pitagoreică drept aspecte ale calităţii şi expresie a arhetipurilor.
aç-çūrat al-ilāhiyah – forma lui Dumnezeu (forma Dei);
Cele patru elemente alchimice indivizibile: apa, aerul, focul şi pământul. A nu se confunda cu reprezentările lor materiale. Un al cincilea, eterul, este quinta essentia. Pământul are o tendinţă descendentă datorită greutăţii sale. Apa este şi ea grea, dar are o tendinţă de extindere. Aerul se ridică şi se extinde concomitent, în timp ce focul are o mişcare exclusiv ascendentă. Pecetea lui Solomon reprezintă sinteza tuturor elementelor, şi deci unirea contrariilor.  reprezintă focul,  reprezintă apa,  reprezintă aerul în timp ce  reprezintă pământul. Sulful reprezintă caracterul activ (focul) iar mercurul caracterul pasiv (apa).
Corespondenţele dintre planete şi metale:
Soare = aur
Luna = argint
Mercur = argint viu
Venus = cupru
Marte = fier
Jupiter = cositor
Saturn = plumb
Pentru unii alchimişti elenişti electrumul ţine loc argintului viu.
Proverb arab: „Frumuseţea bărbatului se află în spiritul lui, iar spiritul femeii se află în frumuseţea ei.”
Cheia operei alchimice este simbolul lui mercur (o semilună aşezată peste un cerc, acesta din urmă aşezat peste o cruce). Atât acest simbol, cât şi metalul care îi corespunde, este expresia materiei prime ca suport al tuturor formelor.
După chinezi, Soarele este yang încremenit, în timp ce Luna este yin încremenit.
„Orice domeniu conţine ceea ce putem numi un centru sau un vârf calitativ în care se revelează, în modul cel mai direct şi mai desăvârşit, prototipul sau principiul care determină întregul domeniu. Aşa este aurul între metale, nestemata între pietre, trandafirul sau lotusul în domeniul florilor, leul între patrupede, vulturul pentru păsări şi omul pentru toate făpturile vii de pe pământ.” (p. 77)
În Oul hermetic se află şarpele Uroboros, care îşi devorează propria coadă, imagine a Naturii neeliberate sau a Materiei încă informe. Trei flori se deschid din acest ou: floarea roşie a aurului, floarea albă a argintului şi, între ele, floarea albastră a Înţelepţilor. Deasupra, Soarele şi Luna şi, între ei, steaua lui „Mercur filozofic”.
Alchimiştii descriu adesea scopul operei lor ca fiind „volatilizarea solidului şi solidificarea volatilului” sau ca „spiritualizarea corpului şi corporeificarea spiritului”.
al-qalb = (ar.) inima;
al-insān al-kāmil = (ar.) omul universal;
al-himmah = (ar.) facultatea de decizie;
al-wahm = (ar.) imaginaţia activă;
al-khiyāl = (ar) imaginaţia pasivă;
al-fikr = (ar.) gândirea analitică;
al-ruhr = (ar.) facultatea de mişcare corporală;
Planeta Saturn corespunde raţiunii. Planeta Jupiter este în comun cu facultatea de decizie. Curajul corespunde lui Marte. Venus este în legătură cu imaginaţia pasivă. Mercur este prototipul gândirii analitice. Luna este legată de facultatea de generare şi mişcare corporală.
Mai există şi o ordine a clasificării planetelor după case, a căror distribuţie în zodiac avea sens deplin cu 2000 de ani înainte de Hristos, în zodiacul originar. Fiecare planetă are două case, o casă la dreapta, sau masculină, şi o casă la stânga, sau feminină. Soarele şi Luna fac excepţie: primul guvernează jumătatea masculină a zodiacului, cealaltă jumătatea feminină. La bază se află Saturn. Mai sus este Jupiter. Mai sus: Marte. Mais sus: Venus. Urmează Mercur. În sfârşit, Soarele şi Luna ocupă poziţiile opuse, în vârful zodiacului. Mitul alchimic al Regelui-Aur care trebuie să fie ucis şi înmormântat, pentru a se trezi din nou la viaţă, apoi a urca prin cele şapte regimuri şi a atinge slava deplină, nu este altceva decât o ilustrare a acestui simbolism astrologic.
După Jābir, patru procedee guvernează opera alchimistului: purificarea substanţelor, topirea lor, coagularea şi în cele din urmă sinteza lor.
Diferenţe între alchimie şi chimie: „Deşi cunoştinţele analitice de care dispune chimia modernă lipseau alchimiei practice, aceasta discernea cu mai multă acuitate aspectele calitative ale materiei şi ale metamorfozelor acesteia. În această privinţă, metodele ei erau extrem de subtile şi este posibil ca ele să permită accesul la «straturi» ale concretului care rămân necunoscute ştiinţei moderne. Natura are infinit de multe faţete.” (p. 89)
Cele patru calităţi fundamentale: caldul, recele, umedul şi uscatul.

cald foc uscat
aer pământ
umed aer pământ rece

Cheia semnificaţiei spirituale a fenomenelor se găseşte într-o frază a lui Muhyi-d-Dīn ibn Arabī: „Lumea naturii este făcută dintr-o multitudine de forme care se reflectă într-o singură oglindă sau, mai degrabă, este o singură formă reflectată de nenumărate oglinzi.”
Reprezentarea simbolică a operei alchimice: Balaurul haosului sau natura neîmblânzită se odihneşte pe arborele materiei prima psihice, ale cărui rădăcini sunt înfipte în pământul materiei prima cosmice. Cei şapte sori corespund celor şapte metale, cele şapte planete şi celor şapte faze ale operei. Din soarele aflat în partea de sus a imaginii, pornesc două raze reprezentând forţa masculină şi forţa feminină. Între ele, e suspendat vulturul dublu al argintului-viu mascul-femelă. El este negru, alb, galben şi roşu, reunind astfel în el cele patru culori fundamentale ale operei. Într-un anume sens, balaurul este forma iniţială a argintului-viu, iar vulturul este forma sa finală.
Forma metalului inferior este una de coagulare, deci un obstacol, în timp ce forma metalului nobil este un simbol, o legătură directă cu Dumnezeu.
Shakespeare, piesa hermetică Furtuna.
Materia prima este substratumul pasiv al tuturor formelor, atât sensibile cât şi ideale. Ea este substanţa primă a universului şi substanţa fundamentală a sufletului. În persană i se spune gohar. În arabă – jawhar, în greceşte – ousia.
Cuvântul-cheie al alchimiştilor: V.I.T.R.I.O.L. (Visita interiora terrae; rectificando invenies occultum lapidem = Vizitează interiorul pământului; distilând vei găsi piatra ascunsă.)
În Divina Comedia, Dante o numeşte pe Sfânta Fecioară: „figlia del tuo figlio” (Paradisul, cântul 33).
Maximă alchimistă: „Arta este o imitaţie a naturii în modul ei de operare.”
ash-sheikh al-akbar = (ar.) marele maestru;
Alchimia concepe natura ca pe o forţă, nici bună, nici rea în sine. Nu însă ca pe o forţă oarbă, cum o vor vedea filosofii iluminişti. Natura are două tendinţe: una pasională, spre multiplicitate, adică spre om, şi una de la multiplicitate înapoi spre centrul spiritual. Prima este comparabilă cu Medeea, cea de-a doua cu Sophia.
În opera exterioară a alchimiei, natura este forţa motrice a tuturor transmutaţiilor, energia potenţială a lucrurilor. În alchimia interioară, ea apare ca forţa maternă care eliberează sufletul de starea lui de existenţă brută, aridă şi sterilă. Există nu mai puţin în natură o constrângere care se transmută într-un ritm cosmic. Dante numeşte acest din urmă aspect: „dragostea care mişcă Soarele şi celelalte stele”.
Avertisment: „Ca şi metodele tantrice, opera alchimică pune în mişcare o forţă naturală extraordinară, capabilă să-l distrugă pe cel care nu este apt şi nici pregătit, dar care poate ridica fiinţa înzestrată cu înţelepciune la supremaţie spirituală.” (p. 120)
Natura acţionează ca Penelopa, care pentru a-i descuraja pe peţitori deşira noaptea pânza pe care o ţesea în timpul zilei.
Alchimistul şi interacţiunea lui cu natura în timpul Operei: „Alchimistul lucrează la fel ca Natura; conform adagiului solve et coagula, el desface coagulările imperfecte ale sufletului, reducându-l la materia sa şi cristalizându-l din nou, într-o formă mai nobilă. Dar aceasta nu se poate înfăptui în acord cu Natura, printr-o mişcare naturală a sufletului care se trezeşte în cursul Operei şi face legătura dintre uman şi cosmic.” (p. 122)
Sulful corespunde polului activ, Mercurul celui pasiv. Uniunea lor este similară cuplului Yin-Yang. Sulful corespunde forţei masculine, mercurul - forţei feminine. Aurul se naşte după uniunea perfectă a celor două principii generatoare. Toate celelalte metale sunt aur imperfect, nematurat (ultimele descoperiri în domeniul fisiunii nucleare par să confirme că metalele calitativ inferioare sunt cele mai instabile; uraniul seamănă mult cu plumbul).
al-fitrah (ar.) = starea originară, nedecăzută a sufletului;
Dintre cele patru stări naturale primordiale, două îi corespund masculinului (căldura şi uscăciunea) şi două femininului (răceala şi umezeala).
Când uscăciunea Sulfului şi recele Mercurului se unesc rezultă o rigor completă a sufletului şi a corpului (înţepenirea bătrâneţii, şi pe plan moral – avariţia). Conjuncţia exclusivă a căldurii cu umiditatea (expansiunea şi disoluţia) duce la o volatilizare a forţelor (pasiunea devorantă, viciul, disiparea spiritului). Echilibrul nu se produce decât atunci când forţa expansivă a Sulfului şi puterea contractantă a Mercurului se compensează.
În medicina tradiţionalistă cele patru elemente corespund celor patru umori: aerului îi corespunde sângele, focului fierea galbenă, apei limfa şi fierea neagră pământului.
Aproape toate simbolurile care privesc Natura pornesc de la spirală sau cerc.
Folosirea simbolismului şarpelui sau a dragonului ca imagine a unei forţe cosmice se regăseşte în multe arte spirituale care, ca şi alchimia, se raportează la lumea subtilă. Reptila care se mişcă într-un ritm continuu al întregului corp este întruparea unei vibraţii subtile. Tradiţia hermetică reprezintă în acelaşi fel Natura Universală, în starea ei latentă, sub forma unei reptile încolăcite. Este şarpele Uroboros, care, încolăcindu-se în cerc, îşi muşcă propria coadă. Sub aspectul dinamic, natura este reprezentată de doi şerpi sau dragoni care se încolăcesc, în sensuri opuse, în jurul unui ax, sub forma toiagului lui Hermes. Şarpele răstignit este simbolul fixării argintului-viu.
Adagiu hermetic: „Natura ştie să învingă Natura.”
Reprezentările toiagului lui Hermes sunt deja răspândite în arta străveche irlandeză şi anglo-saxonă. În sculptura bisericilor romane această imagine este atât de răspândită şi joacă un rol atât de frapant încât este posibil să fie semnătura unor şcoli hermetice creştine.
Mercurul a mai fost numit şi menstruum (sânge matricial). El se găseşte în sânge şi în spermă, iar într-un plan mai elevat se află în inimă şi respiraţie.
Basile Valentin: „Pretutindeni unde nu există metal există Sulf, Mercur şi Sare… spirit, suflet şi corp.” (p. 147) Sarea este elementul static, neutru al ternarului.
Unirea Soarelui şi a Lunii, a Regelui şi a Reginei, este una dintre temele-cheie ale alchimiei. În Banchetul, Platon spune că fiinţa omenească avea la origine o natură androgină. Despre acest lucru vorbeşte şi căsătoria chimică (după expresia lui Basile Valentin). Într-un anume sens, este vorba de căsătoria dintre Spirit şi suflet (Spiritul fiind transcendent în raport cu sufletul).
dhkir (ar.) = amintire, memorie, pomenire;
Khawwa (ebr.) = Eva.
at-tannūr (ar.) = cuptor; de aici a derivat substantivul athanor;
Căldura arderii din athanor este şi simbol al forţei vitale cu adevărat interioare, care trebuie trezită. Maeştrii alchimici mai vorbesc despre trei focuri: un foc artificial, un foc natural şi un foc împotriva naturii. Aceasta corespunde distincţiei dintre contemplarea metodică, vibraţia sufletului pe care o provoacă şi intervenţia neaşteptată a Spiritului, descrisă ca un sulf incombustibil.
Dispreţul ascetic faţă de corp nu trebuie aplicat acestuia decât în calitatea sa de sediu al pasiunilor, şi nu caracterului său de simbol.
Renaşterea alchimiei în Europa s-a produs sub influenţa culturii islamice.
În arabă ritmul unui vers este greutatea lui: wazn.
Sfântul Iacob cel Mare, înmormântat la Compostella, este patronul alchimiştilor şi al tuturor practicanţilor artelor cosmologice.
Marea Operă are trei faze: înnegrirea (μελανοσις – gr., nigredo – lat), albirea (λευκοσις – gr., albedo – lat.) şi apoi rubificare (ιοσις – gr., rubedo – lat.). Negrul, albul şi roşul desemnează în cosmologia hindusă cele trei guna ale Prakriti. Negru corespunde lui tamas – tendinţa simbolic descendentă, albul lui sattwa – tendinţei ascensionale purificatoare şi roşu lui rajas – manifestarea însăşi.
Mica Operă:
Prima etapă (sau etapa lui Saturn) corespunde „înnegririi”, „putrezirii”, „mortificării”. Este reprezentată de un craniu, sau un mormânt. La începutul oricărei forme de realizare spirituală se află moartea, sub forma „morţii lumii”. Conştiinţa trebuie detaşată de simţuri şi îndreptată spre interior.” Materia cea mai preţioasă obţinută de alchimist este cenuşa reziduală a calcinării metalului inferior.
Cea de-a doua etapă (sau etapa lui Jupiter) este intermediară în cadrul Micii Opere. Este o etapă a sublimării conştiinţei corporale eliberate de coagulările ei.
Cea de-a treia etapă (dominată de Lună) este ajungerea la albirea completă. Este limita supremă a disoluţiei (toate posibilităţile sufleteşti au fost realizate), care trebuie urmată de o nouă coagulare.
Aceste prime trei etape corespund unei mişcări ascendente (spiritualizării trupului). Următoarele trei etape, care aparţin Marii Opere, corespund unei mişcări descendente (fixarea volatilului).
Cea de-a patra etapă (dominată de Venus). Are loc o nouă cristalizare a forţelor psiho-fizice. Alchimiştii spun despre cupru că forţa colorantă a sulfului devine vizibilă în el, dar rămâne încă înstabilă şi inferioară din cauza opoziţiei inerente la cele patru elemente.
Cea de-a cincea etapă (dominată de Marte) este martora unei coborâri active a Spiritului spre planurile inferioare ale conştiinţei umane.
Împlinirea Marii Opere este reprezentată de semnul Soarelui. Acum ceea ce nu era prezent decât în mod principial în etapele anterioare este acum manifest.

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