“Hard” and “Soft” Traditionalism

I have mentioned Mark Sedgwick’s distinction between “hard” and “soft” traditionalism. In order for it to be of real value for other purposes than his (in other respects somewhat dubious) historiographical one, however, his definition of “soft” traditionalism needs to be replaced by another one.

For Sedgwick, the “hard” traditionalists are the original and most important figures of the “school”, Guénon, Schuon, and a few others. The “soft” traditionalists are those, like Mircea Eliade and Huston Smith, who while decisively inspired by the “hard” traditionalists, do not make reference to them in their own works, and somehow even seek to play down the influence received; and whose works are not, like those of Guénon and Schuon, published by the specifically traditionalist publishers.

I suggest a “soft” traditionalist be defined rather as one who, on the one hand, has a somewhat less strict conception of the “primordial Tradition” than does Guénon, and on the other, has a different relation to, and to a certain extent accepts, the partial truths of modernity, a possible “alternative” modernity that is compatible with the looser concept of tradition. Such a “soft” traditionalist will have no problems with citing Guénon and Schuon and their “hard” followers.

The question of publishers I find irrelevant for this purpose of definition.  I doubt that the specifically traditionalist publishers are reluctant to publish “soft” traditionalists in my sense, and I think they have already published “soft” traditionalists in Sedgwick’s sense. The main editions of Guénon’s works are the Gallimard ones, and in Sweden, Tage Lindbom’s equally “hard” traditionalist works were published by the non-traditionalist Norstedts, and later Norma; the English translations were published by Mercer University Press and Eerdmans.

Perennialistiskt minimum

Mark Sedgwick on Sylvain Lévi’s Criticism of Guénon’s Thesis

Traditionalism and Academia

(See the Contents and References pages for more traditionalism-related posts.)

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All original writing and photography © Jan Olof Bengtsson

"A Self-realized being cannot help benefiting the world. His very existence is the highest good."
Ramana Maharshi