Beyond the Postmodern Outlook: A Traditional Approach
by Arthur Schechter
It is no secret that our lives are ruled by countless diversions. Many of us are severely limited in our inner lives by an inability to sustain or direct our attention. Our focus is constantly broken, drawn back and forth by media that fracture what little silence remains in our world and practically prohibit contemplation. Our slavish devotion to news feeds and content streams has, at the same time, effectively abolished true solitude in an attempt to vaccinate against loneliness. Yet we hardly find ourselves able to relate to one another in person, practically ceasing to function in one another’s company without the constant mediation and displacement our devices offer This is to say nothing of the despair which befalls no small few when we are alone, off the grid.
The world of higher education reflects this dynamic in many ways. Foremost among these is a looming sense of aimlessness which threatens to overtake us. To numb this feeling, we thrust ourselves into ceaseless activity, rely on ever greater specialization in our fields of interest, and draw on the superficial sense of purpose which stems from possible “applications” of our areas of study. Save Philosophy and so-called Pure Mathematics, almost every discipline has been utterly reworked, if not invented, to gear itself toward a practical end. In the event of such disciplines as History and English, the methodologies themselves require of us virtues which likewise spell employability (“critical thinking,” for instance, not far from “problem solving”), and as such are at least friendly to the professional sphere.
However, a unifying principle behind the “education” offered us is missing. In the vaguest possible sense, we feel that we are aiding “progress.” What exactly this means is fundamentally unclear, but the notion that we are improving matters in the world is comforting. While we relish the fleeting feeling of usefulness, an open-endedness ultimately predominates both our studies and our leisure. We find ourselves noncommittally approaching what ought to be a crucial, formative process which would involve us completely. We treat what ought to be an inner pursuit as a tentative obligation to society, whose ultimate outcome is uncertain. Without a doubt it is geared to us as such. Unsurprisingly, we pursue selfish gratification in our spare time to numb the sense of dread which plagues the undisciplined in idle moments. Oftentimes, the sincerity with which we pursue pleasure outsrips our thirst for knowledge.
There is a precarious balance here; many of us meet a minimum standard of scholastic excellence only to compensate for the guilt we feel at our otherwise shameless indulgence in diversion. Without our studies, we would surely descend into a hedonistic oblivion. Still others among us would be consumed utterly by our research if not for the temporary incapacitation offered us by our personalized chemical and digital escapes.
There is a false dichotomy between work and play that hides the truth of the matter from us in plain sight. Both the time in which we receive instruction and the free time afforded us shape our inner lives, and in fact do little else. We are not saving the world or mitigating the stress of doing so when we study or relax. We are always learning how to think and how not to think, whether or not we are being taught. We are becoming who we are in this process, and yet it is not necessary to our success that we keep this in mind. Thus one may become an expert engineer, researcher, analyst, or even educator merely by internalizing certain facts, but never once looking within.
Etymologically, the word “school” derives from the Greek schole, meaning “leisure.” Traced back to its Egyptian roots, education was understood classically as a formative process that was all-encompassing. Sacred symbolism, music, mathematics and (to a certain extent) logic formed a cohesive whole. The metaphysical doctrines imparted to the initiate were to be practiced in contemplation and daily life. Self restraint and meditative stillness were paramount, along with the integration of a rich semiotic network of archetypes which reflected both the structure of the universe and the mind. If practiced properly, a transformation in consciousness would take place, liberating the student from the senses which, if left to themselves, testify to a world made of objects separated in space and time. The individual strives to emulate the saints and sages, working tirelessly to master to senses. To succeed is to become like Imhotep, Kaires, Pythagoras, or Plato, incapable of error in word and deed. This is only possible if the senses no longer restrict the heart and the intellect. The two then unite to allow the student to glimpse the face of the divine, both within and without, in waking life from moment to moment.
Such education, known as therapeiua, is the origin of Greek philosophia. Though the intended outcome of both was perfection and immortality, it seems likely that this practice (except perhaps in rare cases) entailed lifelong dedication, an unending pursuit of union with all things and with the divine.
It seems only natural, examining the origins of philosophia, that instruction and personal exploration should go together. The injunction to know cannot be fulfilled through memorization and the recall of facts. True knowledge is of both the body and the mind. It can be approached in countless ways and requires of the student a tireless search for meaning, both in the world and within themselves; time set aside for teaching merely sets the stage for real learning, for the student to pursue the deepest possible integration of the truths conveyed to them. On the other hand, the aimless, disorganized transmission of mere information which we are offered today is only half of the picture. We attend class as if “on the clock,” our curricula constructed arbitrarily in order to fit our schedules and meet our interests rather than to balance our lives. Such an education cannot, then, promise to produce anything other than aimless, disorganized individuals armed merely with particular thought patterns. Since we bring the fruits of our “labor” home to our leisure and vice versa, they resemble each other.
Compared with what education can do under certain circumstances which might be called “Traditional,” an ethical obligation all but announces itself, for us to rethink our pursuits in terms of a genuine love of knowledge. What is it, then, that prevents us from placing today’s forms of “higher learning” in the context of their origins? Nothing above is exaggerated or invented: primary and secondary sources throughout history illustrate the world of classical Philosophy for us clearly, in no uncertain terms. (For a detailed account of this vibrant lineage of philosophia as sacred quest, equally attested among the ancient Greeks themselves, and their chroniclers writing throughout history until the 18th century, let the reader consult Algis Uzdavinys’ Philosophy as a Rite of Rebirth from Ancient Egypt to Neoplatonism).
Our affliction is a very selective form of superstition that allows us complete liberty to imagine, reason and argue, so long as our speculations do not contradict a certain sense of uniqueness to which we, as recipients of Liberal Arts educations, have become accustomed. We may diagnose ourselves at this juncture with a case of “false consciousness,” or “ideological thinking.”
Borrowing from Marxist theory, “ideology” here refers to a complex network of acceptable axioms and sites of exclusion in thought born of a political situation, which of themselves are completely arbitrary. Perhaps the reader is familiar with the critique which befalls proponents of the “free market.” Here, the notion that “a rising tide lifts all ships” expresses an axiom, however false, which attempts to rationalize the priority placed on the success of private individuals. Ideological thinking, seeking here to preserve the “freedom” of “individuals,” then rejects out of hand otherwise proven means of ensuring economic stability and prosperity if they rely at all on collective ownership or government regulation.
For subjects of such an individualistic persuasion, clear thinking about communities becomes impossible. In exactly the same way, many intellectuals cannot seem to think clearly about the past. We tacitly assume that there has never been a finer education available to the human mind than the one we receive today. This assumption, agreeable as it is groundless, is evidence of an enduring belief in progress, and along with it the fiction of civilization. For our purposes, higher education is thought of as a gift of our “civilization” which has accumulated all the virtues of “past civilizations” by the magic of progress. In this way, the most rational people who live closest to the future are seen to be the most qualified to solve the world’s problems and pull its other, less fortunate inhabitants out of the past.
Of course, to state these assumptions explicitly would invite mockery today. Yet, in order to be considered educated, it was once necessary to see the world in this way, until quite recently in fact. Such propositions of course mean nothing; they merely legitimize acts of aggression and exploitation by the “civilized” upon the inhabitants of the rest of the world and our shared natural environment, in the name of “progress.” Yet if we observe our own situation within the halls of academia, it seems that this thinking has not undergone any meaningful change at all, nor has a healthy alternative view of the past (or the people who appear to think and live “primitively”) replaced it: ideology has simply gone underground, as it so often tends to do. The sites of exclusion it establishes still persist: a better world cannot be suggested to exist anywhere but the future. And if the issue is pressed, our instructors proudly inform us that we have surpassed the belief in progress. Such flawed thinking belongs to the past, we are told, now that we know better, and this should strike us as very suspicious indeed.
If traced to their roots, “progress” and “civilization” are the watchwords of the conquering West, marking the colonial epoch of world history with a sense of exceptionalist triumphalism. To address this directly is uncomfortable, as the two words still carry positive connotations. If we are permitted an unbiased view, however, it is not long before the Western uniqueness they represent suddenly takes on a very unpleasant appearance. We see two harmful delusions which, alongside physicalist materialism, express a kind of sickness and spiritual instability to which no other human society in history has ever been party. Yet without these notions, we would have to reexamine completely what is meant by “education,” and what we ought to expect from it. For exactly this reason, thinkers who dissent along these lines are marginalized within the academic establishment, to such a degree that any generative contributions their work may offer are dismissed along with them.
But such a critique goes hand in hand with a holistic view that affirms instead a sense of unity the world, and enjoins students, as seekers, to cultivate an understanding of the sacred and glimpse this unity within themselves. Proceeding along these lines, we are suddenly permitted to accept the spiritual practices of all tribes and nations as uniquely beautiful human expressions of connectedness with the world, in fact indispensable guidelines for holistic living which demand our respect and careful attention.
The Traditionalist School is a little known group of thinkers whose work has largely been suppressed for the very ideological reasons outlined above. They claim to represent a primordial wisdom at the core of all the world’s religions, which, for the student seeking guidance and purpose in life, is a very promising notion.
Briefly stated, they claim that Truth is one, though its expressions appear separate in creation, and are as many as the world’s languages. In this view, the sole purpose of humanity is the remembrance, celebration and magnification of the sacred, the means to which cannot be reduced to written doctrine, and must be transmitted from master to student, and from generation to generation. Forgetfulness of this fact has ruinous consequences, and Modernity is the product of an unparalleled aberrance from this norm, its focal point the geographical West.
René Guénon, a Sufi Master, metaphysician and founder of the Traditionalist School, outlines much of the above in his 1941 East and West. This work narrates the past half millennium as a (European) fit of intellectual devolution whose culminating expression is colonial brutality, made possible only by a radically insensate un-spirituality. Therein, he confidently states that indefinite progress is impossible. Following along, we learn that the word civilization is hardly three hundred years old, its current definition less than two hundred. Moreover, he claims, the West has lost any sense of true "intelligence," placing value only upon thought which serves as a "means for acting upon matter," and mistaking the strictures of logic for moral guidelines. Thus we have lost the ability to express any encounters with the “supersensible” world and “supra-rational” wisdom. Modern Westerners then come to view people of the East and Global South as superstitious, barbarous and irrational precisely because their connection to the divine, he claims, is largely intact. The Western inability to interpret the behaviors and practices of those with inner lives less fractured than our own seems to be the chief source of rationalistic intolerance and suspicion.
Students familiar with the postmodern canon will notice certain undeniable parallels between Guénon’s argument and that of a certain landmark work of the Post-Colonial school with which they are quite familiar. Namely, the “study” of the East cannot be unbiased because of the political investments which mediate encounters between the West and its Colonies (whether former or current). Orientalism tends toward wholly inaccurate representations of the East as a romanticized or caricatured Other, and this misunderstanding is in part caused by, and in part reinforces, the power relations of colonialism. Finally, various claims on the part of Westerners to know the “essence” of a people are far from neutral, and indirectly legitimize oppression on the grounds of knowledge which is “rational” and therefore supposedly superior.
This is the thesis of Edward Said’s 1978 work Orientalism, serving as the general model for acceptable critique of Western colonialism, globally conceived. What are we to make of this peculiar accord between authors of diametrically opposed temperament and style, separated by decades at the time of their writing? While it is not the intention of this work to undermine the validity of Orientalism, Guenon’s approach neatly comprises its key claims which appear rather limited by comparison. Said’s conclusion is a fairly meek one: that representations of the East are not politically neutral. As early as 1920, on the other hand, in his Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrine, Guénon accuses his contemporaries of working with no other goal in mind than to “civilize,” studying Hinduism in particular only to gain sufficient “intelligence” to dissuade the people of India from their superstitious ways and convince them to accept superior Western “civilization.”
Said, and scholars like him, tend to offer an interpretive scheme of largely abstract relations, without so much as a suggestion as to a root cause of the dehumanizing colonial tendencies of the West. In light of this, many of us are quite skeptical of Postolonial Theory’s ability to address the crises which now beset the “developing” world more than ever. It must be stressed that, while they condemn the actions of colonialist aggressors and lament the consequences, these postmodern intellectuals are unable to openly and roundly critique the Western mentality which stokes the very initiative driving secular globalism. Rather, their humanitarian concern is brought to the fore and their critique ultimately says nothing to contradict the narratives encouraging the eradication of traditional cultures and motivating the domination of the world’s peoples. It is, moreover, quite telling that any line of inquiry which even tentatively suggests a critique of Modernity can only be brought home to the academy by way of deconstructive methodologies which, taken to their conclusion, not only dismiss the validity of metaphysics but question the possibility of meaning itself. It is almost as if the ideology behind Western modernity is so deeply entrenched that its critique cannot take place until the ability of all people to make meaning has been safely belittled.
Postcolonial thinkers are not at fault; poststructural and postmodern strains of discourse analysis are the only tools at their disposal. They are beholden to share in the assumptions of such postmodern thinkers as Jacques Derrida, Jean-Francois Lyotard, and Michel Foucault. This much many of us share in common with them, as students in the Liberal Arts today.
A very peculiar twist marks the Postmodern outlook. There exists behind it a powerful desire to alter existing power structures, perhaps even to replace them. Yet in all their analyses, critiques, and tentative prescriptions, adherents of this outlook fall quite short of offering even the slightest suggestion as to the practice of such an undertaking, what it might require of “subjects,” or how it would look if it were to occur.
Its proponents explicitly articulate a certain connection between knowledge and power on the one hand, and the influence of dominant social structures upon conventions of language and thought on the other. In this, they resemble the garden variety of Frankfurt-inspired Marxist theorists. However, the postmodern vanguard imagine themselves to depart radically from this school of “structuralists” by two key points. It seems unlikely, however, that they actually spell liberation from the delusions of the Modern West.
First, by means of post-structuralist critique, students are made to understand that language has no intrinsic stability. In a certain premodern sense, this is true: language is seen to gain its stability from a divine source which, simply put, is not “made of words,” at least in an ordinary sense. We ought to take care here to distinguish between the auspicious potential of speech and the ossifying tendencies of the written word. Speech is one of the many instruments of the Tradition; depending on conditions, the same words spoken may hold power for eons, or prove completely useless from one moment to the next, as in Ch’an (or Zen) Buddhism.
The written word, on the other hand, has a mercenary aspect, and can be twisted to motivate or excuse any number of worldly injustices. While speech can doubtless deceive in an instant, the same written words have a unique ability to misrepresent reality time and again throughout history; this is certainly what Jacques Derrida means to address by coining the term “logocentrism.” To level the playing field, he metaphorically equates all manner of creative activities to “writing.” We are enjoined to imagine “the world as text,” and those struggling for liberation as attempting to “write history.” This strikes many of us as a very narrow view indeed, one which nearly forgets that language is evidence of life; one is tempted to believe that language is defined by the manner in which it dies. The opposite of the intended outcome takes hold, and students learn to reduce language to its printable aspects; it is merely a set of rules and definitions which only lead to each other and can be employed strategically, but can never point to “Being” or “Essence.” At our most starry-eyed we think of language as simply a whimsical meta-game, but never a sacred tool.
This brings us to the second point, meant to distinguish the so-called postmodern from the modern. Students from all manner of disciplines under the umbrella of the liberal arts will no doubt be familiar with this aspect of the postmodern condition, namely the “suspicion regarding metanarratives.” We owe this terminology to Jean-François Lyotard, whose work The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge provides much of the epistemological background for the training we receive in the humanities, charged as we are to learn the practice of “discourse analysis” and the ways of “critique.”
On the face of it, Lyotard appears to have grasped something crucial. He describes a mounting climate of suspicion regarding Science, Enlightenment Reason, and Progress which seems to be overtaking the intellectual landscape. But instead of engaging any of these myths directly, Lyotard instead invents a word to describe their function. A “metanarrative” is a story about stories, and while this description per se is not inaccurate regarding such dominant modern superstitions, Lyotard ends up missing the mark. His potential critique is assimilated to the very spirit of the Modern World that René Guénon describes in East and West.
While there is a certain desire evident in Lyotard’s work to directly address the harmful delusions of indefinite progress, and perhaps by analogy, civilization, he is either unwilling or unable to do so sincerely. This failure can be ascribed to the third key feature of Modernity, the limited definition of intelligence.
According to Guénon, the modern intellect is seen to do nothing other than hatch schemes to move matter, and no mental activity truly independent of this preoccupation can ever successfully be brought home to the plane of “discourse.” This is relevant to us as participants in discourse when we recognize that, if our ideas are to be admissible, they must appear safely material in their origins, and any implicit notion of perfection they carry with them must be of the social, economic, or otherwise “evolutionary” variety. Even the most abstract, sophisticated expressions remain either thoughts about thoughts about thoughts about physical things, reactions to reactions to reactions to the senses, or some hybrid of these two lineages, some specimen of the false plurality of “knowledges.” Knowledge which cannot be demonstrated to the physical senses, or whose source lies beyond the bounds of reason, is completely inadmissible. This is a patently “civilized” outlook, whose aberrance from the norm in the history of humanity hardly bears addressing at this point.
As Lyotard claims, so we as students are taught: there is nothing but storytelling, great and small. This limited view is a materialistic one which, when faced with Religion, sees only attempts to predict, justify, or otherwise account for “things that happen.” The greater the purported scope of such a “story,” we are then told, the more dangerous it becomes, and as a direct result of this lapse in clear thinking, we deprive ourselves of the healing, centering power of religiosity as an inner affair. Simultaneously, we avoid the uncomfortable task of actually addressing the patent falsity of the most prevalent, harmful narratives at work in the modern world. Again, it is nearly as if some unseen Spirit of Modernity itself has compelled us to reject all possible alternatives before we can avail ourselves of one.
Instead, we become preoccupied with the rejection of all received wisdom whatever the cost, never pausing to honestly address the consequences which might befall the heart when irony, skepticism, and insincerity are allowed to dominate the campus and the classroom. Those of us who speak in a manner which even implies a belief in essence, reality or truth are frequently beset by ridicule. It is common for those who still cling to even vaguely religious modes of thought to have their concerned, compassionate sentiments dismissed--if not met with accusations of complicity in oppression for the very metaphysical quality of religiosity. To contradict materialism is treated as a flight from reality at best, or an attempt to deceive at worst. To honestly reject that which modern education prescribes in favor of what its ancient counterpart originally promised, is to invite rebuke. This intensively contradictory state of affairs strongly resembles the civilized drive to eradicate “superstition,” however superficially transformed it is.
Postmodern theory never actually departs from the artificially restricted view of word and world born in the last few centuries and unique to the West. It is a privileged form of discourse which ultimately reinforces Modern assumptions about knowledge, civilization, and progress. Nevertheless, as students of the liberal arts we are taught that its methodologies of critique and analysis are the only viable ways to think liberation.
It is not difficult to empathize with the emancipatory sentiment that drives the efforts of postmodern theorists and historiographers. The recognition that we utilize many of the same offices, lecture halls and seminar rooms once occupied by the architects of colonialism brings about a profound sense of guilt. It is my fear, however, one shared by many, that the desire of an “educated” minority to free the marginalized and oppressed from domination and control has been haphazardly articulated, and has had unintended consequences.
Under the auspices of deconstructive suspicion, we tend to become unwilling to accept the real, central role which remembrance of the sacred plays in communities if they are to care for their own without harming or exploiting outsiders, or their environment. Even if we are able to entertain this tentatively, our incredulity towards religion prevents us from accepting that, in order to “function,” religious “stories” must be placed beyond the reach of critique. Their inner transformative power cannot be unleashed if the “freedom” to “think another way” is forced upon their participants. Similarly, their ability to inspire generative activity cannot be tapped if we constantly seek “better” or “more efficient” strategies, made to answer to some quantitative standard which knows nothing of the aspirations in the hearts of the downtrodden.
The assumption seems to be that, if political and economic injustices are addressed without delay, matters of the heart will resolve themselves. This could not be a more confused notion. It is clear that the essence of this urgent call is fundamentally a compassionate one which seeks to alleviate suffering--but it is also an ignorant one, one which seeks to console the guilty conscience stoked among the heirs to civilization by the atrocities committed on its behalf. Proponents of Tradition submit, instead, that lasting stability and prosperity cannot come possibly about in the world if its people forget the inner peace and inner wealth which is their right by birth. As soon as they are made to overlook this simple fact, people will begin to put worldly pursuits and material power first. And it is irrelevant whether they seek their own benefit or that of others: if the pursuit is undertaken in ignorance, the only guaranteed outcome is suffering. If there is a single truth to which all the world’s religions mutually attest, it is this. Repeated attempts at “corrective adjustments” to the status quo, or even radical upheaval, so long as they are conceived materialistically, have as much success as attempts to clear the mind using thoughts. To paraphrase the Zen Master Bankei, this is like trying to wash away blood with blood.
My purpose here has not been to evaluate the validity of the Traditionalist school as a single entity, as if such a thing were possible. Nor do I care to address every viewpoint of every author dubbed Traditionalist, placing some above critique and dismissing others. Rather, I have meant to highlight its status as a complete Other to the dominant secular paradigm, despite its comparable if not superior ability to address some of the same issues with which emancipatory postmodern discourse busies itself. In so doing, the reason for its exclusion has become clear, namely the ability to demonstrate the essence of Modernity, and Postmodernism’s inseparability from it. It bears repeating: progress cannot go on indefinitely; “civilization” is a completely novel, not to mention deeply problematic, concept untranslatable into any cultural context unaffected by it; and a supra-rational intelligence which is not bound by the senses is the source of all legitimate uses of reason and language. A basic understanding in accord with the above effectively unites all people of non-modern, archaic or traditional ways of life against the dominant Western knowledge paradigm. All people who either retain or manage to reclaim even a shred of uncolonized being have at least this much in common.
This last claim cannot be demonstrated to the satisfaction of a critical mentality, and to do so would be a futile exercise. Instead, the goal has been to reawaken a broader epistemic scope, and to subject the guiding assumptions of this deconstructive mentality itself to a fairly unforgiving, but not unreasonable, critique. This critique is immanent, and once latent inconsistencies in Postmodern “emancipatory” thinking have been brought out and addressed, no substantial argument remains, only a largely compassionate sentiment. This much can easily be assimilated to Traditional thinking, and provides a welcome supplement.
I wish to close by suggesting that Traditionalism is the only specimen of intellectual history in the Modern era which stands a chance at true ecological thinking, and that this above all is what unites it with the very non-Western societies and worldviews which it recognizes and esteems as properly Traditional.
Human interests of any kind are ultimately overshadowed by the great, troublesome fact of our era, that of ecological catastrophe. It has already been clearly established that if economic growth does not cease, untold further consequences for life on this planet will come to pass irreversibly. Our ability to reconcile with one another will mean little if great new swaths of our planet are to become uninhabitable.
The environmental crisis is a Modern phenomenon for which the West is uniquely to thank with its attempts to civilize, modernize, and develop the globe. What conversely unites colonized, diasporic, and indigenous peoples the world over, more than any lack of modern myopia, is a positive shared heritage of comparatively harmless, if not outright harmonious, relations with their respective ancestral soil. Countless First Nations and their African, Eurasian, and Pacific counterparts recognize the fundamental interconnectedness of life. The notion that every action has consequences for life as a whole is foreign only to those living in the so-called “Developed” world.
No degree of intellectual “sophistication” can compensate for such a radical deficit in the basic understanding of what it means to be human. The thinkers of the Traditionalist School, then, set themselves apart from their secular Western contemporaries by professing Unity and encouraging holistic thinking. We are indebted to Lord Northbourne, one such believer, for coining the term “organic farming.” In his 1940 manifesto Look to the Land, Northbourne implores his British audience to rediscover the wholeness of life in a practice of agriculture which treats the farm itself as a living thing. In this manner he anticipates many disparate scientific insights made by ecology and systems theory. But such phrasing is itself misleading: these are nothing but reinvented wheels for the secular mind which is predisposed to see a world in pieces.
Native American historian Vine Deloria writes in his 1972 work God is Red: "White America and Western industrial societies have not heard the call of either the lands or the aboriginal peoples… The lands of the planet call to humankind for redemption." But it is a redemption of sanity, not a supernatural reclamation project at the end of history. The planet itself calls to the other living species for relief. Religion cannot be kept within the bounds of sermons and scriptures. It is a force in and of itself and it calls for the integration of lands and peoples in harmonious unity.
The Traditionalist School’s most vital insight is that of Traditional Society, which René Guénon defines as a normative state of existence, in which social conventions reflect divine attributes and the human connection with the natural and the celestial realms remain unbroken and intertwined. Deloria’s expression finds accord with Guénon’s proposition, and if indeed Traditionalist thinking manages to grasp a real Edenic potential in the unique essence of every human community, this is too promising a notion to reject. For once, all praise will not be due to a white man for “discovering” such a fact. Rather, the western intellectual community at large will have an opportunity to reclaim its place within a fellowship of the spirit as old as the human race, one which respects and preserves the conditions necessary for life, placing gratitude and humility above grasping and hubris.
If only we are allowed to think as if a better world is possible, and that in many ways it is a state to which we must return, we may in fact begin to act in ways that help bring one about. But we cannot possibly accomplish this if secular delusions of promethean grandeur continue to cloud our thinking completely unchecked. The occasion is long overdue for all “people of learning” to finally reject the bizarre notion, that the demons of oppression and ignorance which beset the inhabitants of this world can be bested in a race to the future. It is in Western academies where this dangerous confusion first took hold, and it is among scholars of the same lineage that a return to sound principles must take place if terrestrial humanity as a whole is to have any hope of stability and prosperity. And if there is any significance to Tradition whatsoever, it is as plain evidence that care for future generations is the example set by the past for the present to emulate. It is only with this understanding that we stand a chance of seeing peace restored in our lifetimes, or at least secured for our children.
Arthur Schechter concentrates in Religious Studies at Brown University. When he's not doing that, he roasts coffee beans, promotes mindfulness, and insists that we understand how modernization has contorted and, to its detriment, left behind indispensable forms of thought.