Crisis of the Modern World Revisited

Five years ago we wrote an article inspired by the René Guénon 1927 essay, Crisis of the Modern World.

René Guenon Revisited 2020: Soul Prepared for ResurrectionEven two years ago (2018), it was impossible to forecast the extent of the somnambulism that has swept over the world. The René Guénon essay is a work of unparalleled prophetic genius. It is best studied and carefully considered in full.

This, from Chapter One, ‘The Dark Age’, is of vital significance to the path of Esoteric Thelema:

“Since that time [6000 years ago], the truths which were formerly within reach of all have become more and more hidden and inaccessible; those who possess them grow fewer and fewer, and although the treasure of ‘non-human’ (that is, supra-human) wisdom that was prior to all the ages can never be lost, it nevertheless becomes enveloped in more and more impenetrable veils, which hide it from men’s sight and make it extremely difficult to discover. This is why we find everywhere, under various symbols, the same theme of something that has been lost—at least to all appearances and as far as the outer world is concerned—and that those who aspire to true knowledge must rediscover; but it is also said that what is thus hidden will become visible again at the end of the cycle, which, because of the continuity binding all things together, will coincide with the beginning of a new cycle.”

—René Guénon

We give below Guénon’s concluding two pages, which were addressed directly to Initiates, and to those on the knowledge path.


Truth triumphs over all

A warning must be addressed to those who, because of their capacity for a higher understanding, if not because of the degree of knowledge to which they have actually attained, seem destined to become elements of a possible elite. There is no doubt that the force of modernism, which is truly diabolic in every sense of the word, strives by every means in its power to prevent these elements, today isolated and scattered, from achieving the cohesion that is necessary if they are to exert any real influence on the general mentality. It is therefore for those who have already more or less completely become aware of the end toward which their efforts should be directed to stand firm against whatever difficulties may arise in their path and threaten to turn them aside. Those who have not yet reached the point beyond which an infallible guidance makes it henceforth impossible to stray from the true path always remain in danger of the most serious deviations; they need to display the utmost prudence; we would even say that prudence should be carried to the point of distrust, for the adversary, who up to this point has not yet been definitively overcome, can assume the most varied, and at times the most unexpected, disguises.

“It can happen that those who think they have escaped from modern materialism fall prey to things that, while seemingly opposed to it, are really of the same order; and, in view of the turn of mind of modern Westerners, a special warning needs to be uttered against the attraction that more or less extraordinary phenomena may hold for them; it is this attraction that is to a large extent responsible for all the errors of neo-spiritualism, and it is to be foreseen that the dangers it represents will grow even worse, for the forces of darkness, which keep alive the present confusion, find in it one of their most potent instruments.”

It is even probable that we are not very far from the time referred to by the prophecy of the Gospel to which we have already alluded elsewhere: ‘For false Christs and false prophets shall arise, and shall show signs and wonders to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.’

The elect (‘the chosen’) are the elite in the fullness of its meaning, according to the sense in which we have invariably used the word: those who, by virtue of the inner realisation they have achieved, can no longer be seduced; but this is not the case with those who, as yet, possess only the possibilities of knowledge, and who are therefore, properly speaking, only the ‘called’; and this is why the Gospels say that “many are called, but few are chosen”.

“We are entering upon a period when it will be extremely difficult to separate the grain from the chaff and carry out effectively what theologians call the ‘discerning of spirits’, both because of the general confusion manifesting itself in intensified and ever more varied forms, and also because of the want of true knowledge on the part of those whose normal function should be to guide the rest, but who today only too often are no more than blind guides.”

We shall see whether the subtleties of dialectic are of any avail in such circumstances, and whether any philosophy, even were it the best possible, can have the strength to prevent the ‘infernal powers’ from being let loose; this also is an illusion against which some people need to guard, for it is too often supposed, in ignorance of what pure intellectuality really is, that a merely philosophical knowledge, which even in the best of cases is a bare shadow of true knowledge, can put everything to rights and turn the contemporary mentality away from its deviation; in the same way, there are those who think they can find in modern science itself a means of raising themselves to the higher truths, whereas this science is in fact founded on the negation of those truths. All these illusions are so many influences leading people astray, and by their means many who sincerely desire to react against the modern outlook are reduced to impotence, since, having failed to find the essential principles without which all action is in vain, they have been swept into blind alleys from which there is no escape.

Those who will succeed in overcoming all these obstacles, and triumphing over the hostility of an environment opposed to all spirituality, will doubtless be few in number; but let it be said once more that it is not numbers that count, for we are here in a domain whose laws are quite different from those of matter.

“There is therefore no cause for despair, and, even were there no hope of achieving any visible result before the modern world collapses under some catastrophe, this would still be no valid reason for not undertaking a work whose scope extends far beyond the present time.”

Those who might be tempted to give way to despair should realise that nothing accomplished in this order can ever be lost, that confusion, error, and darkness can win the day only in appearance and in a purely ephemeral way, that all partial and transitory disequilibriums must perforce contribute toward the greater equilibrium of the whole, and that nothing can ultimately prevail against the power of truth; their motto should be the one formerly used by certain initiatic organisations of the West: Vincit Omnia Veritas.

René Guénon, Crisis of the Modern World.[1]

Guénon and the Great Work

In 1927, Guénon and a handful of others still clung to the hope, though they did not put much store in it, that esotericism could exert an influence on “the general mentality”. We now know that hypnotic techniques, misinformation and other means of coercion as applied through today’s global information networks have confused and subjugated the masses to a degree that was never before possible. Nonetheless, Guénon adhered to the first principle of the Great Work, that it must involve service to truth. How is this possible now? How can we triumph, as Guénon puts it, “over the hostility of an environment opposed to all spirituality”? We must go forward with unfailing conviction, knowing that Vincit Omnia Veritas declares spiritual reality, not temporal illusion. The oracle of Isis, given in ‘Liber 364 vel Lux Occulta’, tells us that Isis continues to pray for the soul in darkness.[2] If the soul should open to truth and hear her, then salvation is accomplished in that hour. The soul is thus prepared for resurrection.

I am the woman who gives light in darkness. I have come to lighten the darkness. I have lightened the darkness and overthrown the destroyers. Thrice times, the darkness is made light! I have prayed for all those who as yet dwell in darkness, who have hidden their faces, who have fallen and who weep. If they should only look upon me, then at last they shall know me! Then I shall raise them up. For I am the woman of whom the profane know not. I cannot speak for those who will not hear me.

We are all doomed to die as soon as we are born on this earth. Only love triumphs over all, even death. Isolationism is the absence of love. When love is entirely absent, death ensues for mind, body and soul. As for the ailments that afflict the soul, of which scientism knows nothing, these can be cured in an instant, by a word. There is nothing that can be done, though, to save those who will not hear it.


1. Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs, ‘Spell 80’.
2. The italics are ours. The spelling has been standardised (‘English UK’) and some unnecessary single quotation marks removed to restore the immediacy of the 1927 text for the modern reader.

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Psychism and the Subversion of Knowledge

We never resort to psychism. However, our curriculum contains a great deal of what can be termed ‘psychic development’, through applications of Hermetic Science. Skrying, for example, properly done, involves the quite traditional concentration on a symbol, so that a ‘flow of knowledge’ (dhyana) comes about.

Psychism and Subversion of Knowledge: the Moon‘Skrying’ means ‘seeing’, and is closely related to the Sanskrit word dharana, which means ‘concentration’ in the technical sense but literally means ‘a window’ or ‘point of view’. Rising on the planes, when correctly understood, is a form of tantra-yoga, combining the activation of the Serpent Power (Shakti) with the equivalent of mantra (words and spells) and yantra (sacred image). So long as we keep the goal in sight, which is identical to that of yoga in the real sense, we should not go too far astray.[1] There is a risk, especially when a natural facility already exists, of over-developing the psychic faculty and becoming excessively reliant on it, even to the exclusion of all else—which is a real danger. It is not intended that results of the psychic order should be given objective validity. It goes without saying that neither are such results to be counted in any way as being important or significant in the scheme of things. The psychic realm has nothing to do with the spiritual realm, as by definition that which pertains to the psyche is strictly limited to the individuality and reaches no further—a matter we shall come back to.

This article is abridged from Nu Hermetica—Initiation and Metaphysical Reality [Ordo Astri books].

Psychism, on the other hand, is a very different thing, and we have always spoken out against this. Psychism is a branch of the occult that has its origins as recently as the latter part of the nineteenth century. It should be noted in passing that public knowledge of this is non-existent—for opinions are guided by ‘news’ and ‘information’ that reduces everything to the most simplistic and grossly material level. While it is obvious that mediums and even ‘gurus’ in some cases have used the tricks and illusions of stagecraft to produce their manifestations, what is not so obvious to a gullible and easily deceived public is that such exposure or debunking rests on a confusion of the psychic realm with the material realm. A psychic occurrence cannot by definition, even though it exists on the most inferior of the subtle planes, exist on the material plane, where it can be subjected to all the ‘tests’ and ‘proving’ of profane science. Those who write or speak about this with total confidence in their superior understanding in fact know absolutely nothing about the subject whatsoever, for to them the psychic realm has no existence, let alone the spiritual. The irony that these same commentators are wholly deceived by the tricks and illusions of so-called ‘science’ escapes them completely.

Psychism and Subversion: SéanceWe are not then denying the existence, relative though it is, of psychic phenomena or its effects. Psychism, which has no doubt captivated the interest of many persons that are perfectly sincere—though that is no justification in itself—admits no real knowledge. It reduces everything to the psychic level and even the infra or sub-human levels of manifestation, though it knows not the real source of its ‘visions’ and ‘spirit-guides’. Psychism is the habitual and passive resort to the lowest of the subtle levels. Its advocates frequently embrace or claim to practice many elements of the Occult Science though not understanding them at all, reducing them to their most inferior level of manifestation. The use of magical correspondences, for example, which has traditionally served to train the mind, is translated into a vague search for ‘signs’ and ‘omens’, not only in what passes for a form of magick but that is also extended into every area of life so that it becomes a matter of habit. While the person cannot coherently explain the meaning of such ‘coincidences’ they nonetheless insist on treating them as if they had some profound import.

The products of psychism are completely illusory and meaningless. There are, however, even worse and more degraded forms of psychism than those described above, such as ‘channelling’. The agents of confusion and subversion that adopt this mode will even claim that the reams of quasi-mystical gibberish they produce derive from a source of ‘higher wisdom’. It is evident that such advice comes from a source much nearer to the limited imagining of the channellers than any extraterrestrial or trans-mundane source. The banal content is invariably heavy with illiterate New Age jargon, popular clichés and faux-psychology.

Quietism is really a further form of psychism of a very low order. Although the term ‘Quietism’ fell out of use long ago, the attitude it describes has persisted and increased within the field of what now passes for spirituality.[2] Quietists also admit no knowledge but pretend, by implication, belief and behaviour, to all knowledge. They take refuge in a complete distortion of the non-action doctrine of the East, refusing to do anything at all so that all comes to them ‘miraculously’, dropping into their lap as manna from heaven, not seeing in any way that this ‘manna’ consists of nothing but flattery and vain pretensions. These will often form loose alliances with professional psychics, mediums and channellers for mutual flattery and to increase the spread of their poison to the gullible and poorly educated. In fact, the so-called education of everyone by now is no more than a matter of enforced acceptance of a profane outlook on all things, for that is even a requirement to achieve ‘qualifications’, whether at school or university level.

The growth of psychism in all its forms was aided and abetted by the Theosophist movement and those influenced by it. It eventually opened the floodgates for the full onset of the anti-spiritual and anti-initiatic second level of the occult revival that took place from the 1950s and onward, replete with well publicised ‘witchcraft’ poseurs and sham Golden Dawn revivalists. The degradation was made complete by the New Age movement that emerged from the 1970s and onward. This hungrily devoured all the remnants of traditional knowledge, including various forms of Shamanism, and quickly subverted them towards wholly profane ends.

It has become increasingly difficult for our students and members—many of whom were born at a time when subversion of all previous knowledge was more or less complete—to know anything about the spiritual realm at all. It has been sealed off by the ‘plan’ that Guénon wrote of 70 years ago now.[3] By subverting all spiritual knowledge, or to put this more accurately, its symbols and doctrines, and relegating everything to the realm of the psyche, the individual and the ‘material’, a hard shell was formed across the ceiling of human intellect—and this even impacts, as Guénon has revealed in the aforementioned work, upon the cosmic and terrestrial environment. Once the sealing shut of the upper worlds is accomplished, only the psychic realm remains for refuge. Although the spiritual domain is completely out of reach of the profane—for to them it does not exist—the psychic realm can be reached and manipulated by profane governance, which is in turn controlled by the Qliphoth. The psychic plane can also be reached and manipulated by pretended ‘spiritual’ and ‘magical’ individuals and organisations.

The ways are closed off by now to most people in the world but it is still possible for an initiatic organisation to open them. So long as real initiation takes place, such an organisation is able to support further initiation. At the same time the reception of a spiritual influence makes it completely immune to the attacks made on it from the outer (or infra) darkness. However, the prospective candidates must be able to totally eradicate from their thinking all allegiance to the profane world, resisting every lure to engage in the personal, corporeal and sensual world to the exclusion of all else—for to do so only assists in closing the door to initiation ever more tightly.

Guénon’s masterwork includes a precise explanation of the incursion of the Qliphoth at the end of time. The doctrine exists in sacred traditions in most if not all cultures.[4] The incursion is made possible by fissures opening in the human artificial construct from below, whereas mankind has sealed off the ‘above’ so that no spiritual influences can neutralise the destructive power of the infernal forces. The use of the word ‘infernal’ here is meant to specifically describe the realm of the infra-corporeal or of sub-manifestation, which is to say that such agencies exist at the most inferior level possible, for any further degree would render them completely non-existent. As it is, their existence is only relative but their effect is real enough in the corporeal and psychic realms, which is the limit of their reach.

That which was implemented in our world from the spring equinox of 2020 and onward is undoubtedly the greatest deception of all time. Though it was prepared long ago, this latest phase is a vast acceleration towards the final dissolution that must come at the end of a Great Age or manvantara. Guénon is completely unique among those that have written on such matters in that he foresaw in precise detail everything that is going on in our world now, and at all levels of manifestation.[5] He was not in any way expressing what some would call a ‘personal’ point of view, as they can see nothing beyond the personal and relegate everything to that; on the contrary, Guénon’s prophetic vision was a remarkably perceptive application of initiation into traditional knowledge of a very high order.

Psychism and Subversion: Notes

1. Yoga means, in the traditional and real sense, ‘union’ and more particularly, union with God or to put it in the terms of Advaita Vedanta, realisation of Atman and Brahman.
2. ‘Spiritualism’ is another term rarely used now but which is descriptive of an anti-spiritual movement that has sought to substitute inferior forms of psychism for ‘spiritual contact’, as if there was no difference.
3. ‘Fissures in the Great Wall’ and associated chapters in The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times [Sophia Perennis].
4. The orientalist Kenneth Grant incorporated this in his writings but as with so much else he inverted the symbolism. He thus confused the spiritual with the demonic or infernal to such an extent that his followers and others influenced by the same stream have unwittingly worked on the side of self-destruction and anti-initiation.
5. See also Guénon, Crisis of the Modern World [Sophia Perennis].

From the book, Nu Hermetica—Initiation and Metaphysical Reality.
© Oliver St. John 2021

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