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It has been said that the flaws characterizing the modern West are rationalism, materialism and sentimentalism. According to the first, reason alone brings about all knowledge; according to the second, only matter gives meaning to life; as for sentimentalism, one ought to rather speak of psychologism, besides the fact that one should not confuse a given emotivity with emotivity as such, nor wish to minimize the defects of the East by exagerrating those of the West. According to psychologism, the spiritual and the intellectual are reduced to the psychic, hence in a certain way to the infrahuman: quite paradoxically, it is some rationalists who say so.

   What is important to understand is that the "positivistic" rationalism of the West does not exclude the presence of a valid element that also pertains to reason, namely the habit of relying on reason in all the cases wherein it is normal to do so; thus of considering the nature of things rather than obeying conventional reflexes. If the Westerner — "free thinker" or not — has a tendency to "think for himself," wrongly or rightly according to the case, this is due to distant causes; the Western mind expressed itself through Plato and Aristotle before having undergone the influence of Christian fideism, and even then, and from the very outset, it could not help having recourse to the Greek philosophers. Howbeit, if finally the West had need of that messianic and dramatic religion which is Christianity, it is because the average European was an active type and an adventurer and not a contemplative like the Hindu; but the "Aryan" atavism had to resurface sooner or later, whence the Renaissance and modern rationalism. No doubt, Christianity presents elements of esoterism that make it compatible with all ethnic temperaments, but its formal structure, or its moral bearing, had to be in keeping with the fundamental temperament of the West, whether Mediterranean or Nordic.

   Let us point out here a curious analogy between Christianity and Buddhism: the former was, by its very nature, a Semitic message for the Aryan world; the latter was, also by its nature, a Hindu message for the Far East.

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The traditionalists too willingly bear Copernicus and Galileo a grudge for having destroyed the Biblical and Ptolemaic image of the world, this spiritually efficacious fabric of cosmic symbolism; they forget that man cannot be prevented from making discoveries, and that, the discovery once made, man cannot refrain from drawing the reasonable consequences.

   Clearly, the appearance of a sun that rises in the East and sets in the West is not due to chance; it is in the nature of things and offers man what he needs; in a certain sense, the objective structure of the cosmos is only the mechanism of a symbol-reality willed by Providence for the sake of man and consequently proportioned to the demands of his nature. Physical reality necessarily retains all its rights — which implies that it is symbolic in its turn — but it is traditionalism that has the last word: first of all, it does not suffice to perceive objective reality, one must also assimilate it; then, there is something seriously lacking in the science called "exact," and it is metaphysical knowledge, without which, precisely, certain realities — not perceived by "primitive" man — are not assimilable and become for man factors of disequilibrium and of degeneracy, as is proven by the ecological and cultural situation of today's world. We are thinking here, not only of astronomy or physics, but of all the sciences, including medicine; one no longer knows whither one is heading.

   There was wisdom in the medieval concept of "double truth," the theological and the rational. For there is the symbol and there is the "fact": now the understood symbol is worth infinitely more than the misunderstood fact. In the eyes of Heaven, what is "true" is what opens the door towards the Truth at once transcendent and immanent; the appearance of the rising sun has something sacred about it because it reflects the mystery of Revelation; the natural symbol is not merely an image, it is a concrete aspect of the thing symbolized, and it is in this sense that the sun seems to say to us: Adveniat Regnum tuum.

   The oscillation between symbolism and "objective reality" makes one think of that between East and West, or again, in a certain sense, of that between "faith" and "reason," or between tradition and materialistic rationalism; this question may require all sorts of qualifications and rectifications, less on the plane of principles than on that of human facts.

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In India as elsewhere in the East, fideist sentimentality combined with the meticulous and heavy Pharisaism of the "scribes," has had as an effect an irrational conventionalism that is scarcely compatible with the serenity of the Intellect, but which is counterbalanced by the quasi-limitless freedom — or let us say "essentialism" — of the yogis and yoginis. Moreover, one meets with this kind of compensation in all the religious worlds to one degree or another; notably within the framework of Sufism.

   Upon contact with traditional civilizations, the Westerner may be fascinated with aspects of beauty and greatness in the people and in the artwork, but he may also be painfully surprised by a conventionalism that does not shrink from the absurd, possibly by quite pointless cruelties. By this word we mean not the punitive cruelties that exist everywhere, nor the misdeeds of paranoid tyrants — including those of the twentieth century — but solely a gratuitous barbarism that has more or less entered into their customs. Certain Westerners may be reproached for their incomprehension of the essential and profound values of these civilizations, but they cannot be blamed for their reasonable reactions in face of the unreasonable.

   It can happen that Easterners allow themselves to be seduced by the Western world, not because the poison of modernity is contagious, but because they discover in this world psychological and moral values they are not used to; which moreover lead them to underestimate their ancestral homeland and to wish to reform it on a plane where there is nothing to reform, precisely. The rationality of Westerners — profane but efficacious at its own level — is taken for an unconditional superiority because it is unscathed by the conventionalism that complicates and weighs down the Eastern world, whereas this rationality is spiritually inoperative without the metaphysical knowledge that, for its part, is the reason for being of intelligence.

   The possibility of allowing himself to be seduced a priori, not by the material superiority of the West but by a certain quite natural rationality of the Western man, is a phenomenon far more likely with the Orientals of the white race than with those of the yellow race;* given that the Far Easterner is himself naturally rational and consequently more closed to sentimental conventionalism in some respects. The Far Easterner could reproach the Easterner of the white race with being a "dreamer," whereas the white, for his part, could reproach the yellow man for being too "down to earth"; a rather symbolic and — to say the least — approximative manner of expressing a certain difference of racial psychology. There could be no question here of superiority and inferiority, and in such a complex and subtle matter one would search in vain for a solution at once simple and perfectly adequate. Be that as it may, in speaking of people of the yellow race, it is above all the Chinese and the Japanese we have in mind, without excluding analogous peoples, such as the Koreans; the case of the Siamese and the Malays is no doubt different, especially since they are culturally close either to India or to Islam.

   To return to the root of the matter: it can be said that the modern West is "deviated" whereas the traditional East is "decadent"; nonetheless, the Western man possesses certain qualities, despite — and in some cases as a result of — the erring ways of his ambience; the Eastern man, for his part, vehicles the treasures of his tradition, despite the inevitable decadence of the world that is his. It could also be said that the Westerner is reasonable — relatively, of course — on the plane of contingencies but that he forgets the Essential, whereas the Easterner is more or less unreasonable as regards the accidental while living under the spell of the Absolute; or again, that the former looks at the mechanism of things, and the latter at their divine intentions; be that as it may, let us remember that man was created free, and let us guard against a hasty and unrealistic schematicism. The author of these lines is a European who accepted metaphysics from the time of his adolescence, and with joy, without ever feeling in himself a "Western" heredity that would be opposed to the demands of his vocation; et Pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.

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If the Easterner, by the fact of his traditionalism, were the totally superior man that some have imagined, he would not modernize himself with a zeal so excessive and so surprising on his part; conversely, if the Westerner, by the fact of his modernity, were a man to be reeducated from top to bottom, he would not be interested in Eastern art and spirituality, sometimes with extravagance, but often also with the discernment and sensitivity of intellectually sound persons, disposed to being taught. The problem — or the solution — is not a reform of the West by the East, it is a reform of the entire world by the Truth as such; and this is not possible without an intervention of the Most High, in which we ought to participate on our level; for "Heaven helps those who help themselves."

   A general circumstance that must not be lost sight of is that we are in the "iron age," the "dark age," the kali yuga, or even at the end — particularly disgraced — of that age foreseen by all the traditional doctrines; now this period affects all of humanity, and profoundly so, such that there is no cause for assuming that decadence is only on one side and perfection only on the other.

   But even if the East were not included in the kali yuga, we could not help but note that it is not a unity, which is to say that it is made up of very different worlds. The question then arises: which East is supposed to come to the aid of the West, to reeducate and save it? We are alluding here to a controversial opinion that is quite far from serving the sacred cause of the philosophia perennis.

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As regards the question of Western rationality, which we mentioned above, the following must be taken into account: the "critical mind," if one may so express it, developed in a world where everything is called into question and where intelligence is continually forced into a state of self-defense; whereas the East has been able to slumber in the shade of the sacred and of the conventional, in the security of a religious universe without fissures.

   In the West, such disciplines as the "science of religions" and "textual criticism," whatever their errors of principle, benefit from extenuating circumstances, given the irrefutable documentary evidence; so that certain hypotheses may be valid, despite the falseness of their context.

   In short: we reject rationalism not because of its possibly plausible criticisms of humanized religion, but because of its negation of the divine kernel of the phenomenon of religion; a negation that essentially implies the negation of intellectual intuition, thus of that immanent Divine Presence which is the Intellect. The basic error of systematized rationality — by the way, it is wrong to attribute this ideology to the great Greeks — is to put fallible reasoning in place of infallible intellection; as if the rational faculty were the whole of Intelligence and even the only Intelligence.

   In the order of reactions against rationalism, or simply of survivals of the Pythagorean mind, it is worth mentioning the ancient "theosophy," which was manifested — sparingly but authentically — up until the nineteenth century; on the one hand by reconciling "believing" and "knowing," and on the other hand by reacting against the luciferianism of reason diverted from its normal functions.

   In an altogether opposite order of things, let us take note of that suicide of reason — or "esoterism of stupidity" — which is existentialism in all its forms; it is the incapacity to think erected into a philosophy. Positivistic and democratic rationalism had to come to that.

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The West possessed the perspective of Knowledge — "Philosophy" — through Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus; if in the final analysis it had need of Christianity, this is because it did not know the perspective of Love, except in the Mysteries; it needed a religion that offered Love in a form appropriate to its temperament. Let us recall that the rationality of the Ancients seriously lacked charity, and that the rationality we know and acknowledge in our day is on the whole a Christianized rationality, even among unbelievers.

   India presents, with the Shaivite and Shankarian Vedanta, the summit of the philosophia perennis; it also has its path of Love, namely Vaishnavite and Krishnaite Bhaikti, so that it had no need, as did Europe, of a religious message possibly coming from without. Let us add that the Hindu genius — and spiritual genius in general — comprises two poles: discernment and contemplation; now it is the latter which predominates with the majority of people; it predominates a priori in Bhakti, the Path of Love, whereas discernment — culminating in the consciousness of the "Supreme Identity" — flourishes in Jnana, the Path of Knowledge.

   As regards the coexistence of "faith" and "reason," Islam presents — in religious but also esoteric mode — an equilibrium between the two poles, and this in a certain sense is its reason for being; which precisely implies a metaphysical opening for the gnostic: the "knower through Allah."

   A significant phenomenon of Providence is the meeting, on the soil of India, of Brahmanism and Islam: thus of the Sanatana Dharma, the oldest of the great Revelations, and of Islam, which closes the cycle of the manifestations of the Word.


* Translator's note: the author, like all European writers, means by "Orientals" all the peoples of Asia, not only the yellow peoples.