The Spirit of Society

Communal spirit is a fine thing, but what we see flourishing everywhere is not that at all. The real spirit will arise anew from individuals coming to know each other, and for a time it will transform the world. All we have now is people coming together in masses. The power-possessors, the workers, the intelligentsia, they each flee together because they fear each other. Why is a man afraid? I am afraid when I am not one. They are afraid because they do not know themselves. A community of people who are afraid of the unknown in themselves! And they also feel that their outworn modes of conduct are no longer valid, that neither their religion nor their morals fit any longer.

For more than a hundred years, all that Europe has done is to study, and build factories! They know exactly how many grams of gunpowder one needs to kill a man, but they do not know how to pray, they do not even know how to be happy and content for one hour. Just look in a bar, or where the rich go to amuse themselves. Nothing serene or joyful can come from that. Out of anxiety they join up together, they are full of fear and evil, and not one of them trusts another. They cling to ideals which are not ideals anymore……. I sense that divisions and conflicts will come; they will come soon, but they will not make the world any better. Whether the factory-workers kill the owners or countries go to war, the only result will be an exchange of power-possessors. And it will not be in vain, for it will show the worthlessness of present-day ideals; there will be a clearing-out of old gods. This world, as it now is, wants to die, wants to perish- and it will.

And what will become of us? We may perish also. We too can be killed, but we cannot be eliminated. Around those of us who survive will gather the spirit of the future. The will of humanity will reappear after this period in which it was drowned by the noise of the markets and fairs of science and technology. Then we will see that the real spirit of humanity has nothing in common with present-day mass movements, states, and peoples, unions or churches. What was meant for men is written in some individuals, in you, and I. It was in Jesus, in others. When today’s communities collapse, there will be room for currents coming from such as them.

* * * * *

When I entered and closed the door of the house behind me, I felt happy. Outside there was “reality”, there were streets and houses, people and institutions, libraries and lecture halls; but here, within, were love and spirit, here the fairy tale and the dream were alive. Yet we did not live cut off from the world; in thought and in our conversations we often lived in its midst, though on another plane. We were not separated from other men by any boundaries, but by a different way of seeing. It was our task to represent an island in the world, a model or an example perhaps; in any case, in our way of living to herald a new possibility. Long solitary and isolated, I learnt companionship which could be between men who had tasted utter loneliness. Never again did I long to be at the tables of the fortunate or the feasts of the merry, never again did I feel envy or nostalgia when I watched the communal life of others. And slowly I was initiated into the secret of those who have the sign on them.

The world might consider us strange, even mad and dangerous. We were awake, or waking up, and our struggle was for an ever more complete awakening, whereas the striving and search for happiness by the others was to bind them ever more closely to their opinions, their ideals and duties, their lives and fortunes to those of the masses. There too, was striving, power and greatness. But, it seemed to us, those marked by the sign wish to go towards the new, by becoming individuals, whereas the others try to perpetuate things as they are. For them, humanity, which they also love, was something complete, which should be maintained and protected. For us, mankind was a distant goal towards which we were all going, whose image no one yet knew, whose laws were nowhere written.

We felt no anxiety about what form the future might take. Every sect, every faith already seemed dead and useless. What we felt to be our duty and destiny was that each of us should become completely himself, so faithful to the active seed within himself as to live in accord with it, so that the unknown future would find us prepared for anything it might bring.

The above is an extract from a book published at the end of the First World War. See The Kali-Yuga (2)

Much later,Réné Guenon’s The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times was published, in 1945.

See also The Age of Kali