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A Challenge on Perennialism

On the Kali-Yuga, Reincarnation, and Initiation


By Mateus Soares de Azevedo
On the questions of Reincarnation, the Kali-Yuga, and initiation into the
Hindu
tradition
for
Westerners,
there
have
been
some
misunderstandings. Here I intend to give an answer to these
misconceptions. It has also been said that there exists an existential
paradox in the fact that the great spokesmen of the Perennial
Philosophy acknowledge Hinduism as the most direct heritage of the
Primordial Tradition, and yet many of them practice Islamic esoterism,
or Sufism, as their personal spiritual way.
There is nothing paradoxical here, for Perennialists are not focused on
the Hindu religion in itself, or on its form, but on pure metaphysics.
Metaphysics which was clearly and inspiringly expounded through
theVednta.
It is not for nothing that Perennialist authors do not make a point of
proselytizing their own particular religious form. This, because they are
first and foremost intent on expounding the Truth, pure and universal
Truth, which can be approached through a variety of religious forms.
These forms have necessarily to be orthodox. And these revealed and
orthodox religions are, for Westerners, basically three: Christianity,
Islam, and Buddhism.
Judaism and Hinduism are religions for a specific group or groups of
people, in which one has normally to have been born inside them in
order to follow them.
Certainly that there are rare cases of people who are not Hindus by
birth who, having overcome the difficulties, have converted to this
religion, but normally one has to be born a Hindu in order to follow
Hinduism.
In spite of these rare exceptions, it is true to say that one cannot
become a Hindu, whereas one can become a Muslim (or a Christian, or
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a Buddhist), for they are universal religions, open to all manner of


peoples.
It seems that these criticisms have not understood a basic pillar of
Perennialism, and that is, the transcendent, or esoteric, unity of the
diverse religious forms in short, its supra-formalism seems not to
have been understood.
Neither Frithjof Schuon nor Ren Gunon was focused on Hinduism in
itself, but on what is universal and perennial in Hindu doctrine, that is,
Vednta or the metaphysical core. They chose Sufism, not out of any
sentimental consideration of attachment, but precisely because Sufism
offers especially favorable conditions for approaching the Religio
perennis. Just to cite one such advantage, Sufism allows for a great
latitude in the direct relationship between master and disciple, that is,
they do not have to answer to an outside and exoteric authority above
them.
Reincarnation
The Perennialist presentation of Hinduism has been considered
misleading, beginning with the question of reincarnation, since
contemporary Hindus seem to do believe in reincarnation.
Well, in order to answer this point as quickly as possible, I would invite
these critics to come to my country, Brazil, a Catholic one, and they
will immediately see that far too many contemporary Catholics here
also believe in evolution, theological progress, and many other
strange beliefs!
The fact that many contemporary Hindus believe in reincarnation
proves nothing.
According to Gunon, the idea of reincarnation is a metaphysical
impossibility, for a being cannot pass through the same order of Reality
twice.
Initiation for a Westerner
Another question is the one of initiation in Hinduism for westerners.
Ren Gunon was allegedly unfamiliar with the concrete realities
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of India, as Neo-Hinduism ignores the obstacles of castes. The point


here is that no one serious enough would take seriously neo-Hinduism.
What kind of serious criticisms is this? What will come next,
Scientology? The Reverend Moon?
Initiation in Hinduism is not for non-Hindus. Initiation is available in
Christianity and Islam.
The Kali-yuga
The last point I want to deal here is the Kali-yuga. According to a critic,
the Perennialist equation modernity = end of the Kali-yuga is nave.
An author wrote in the Canadian journal Sacred Web (N. 27) that a
tempting way of countering my objection would be to claim prophetic
insights for Gunon on the question. This is not necessary, as Gunon
himself was the first to deny such a claim.
On the contrary, one of the strong indications that the Kali-yuga is
already with us is, paradoxically, the fact that there are now people
saying that we are far away from it, even among so called
traditionalists. And this opinion against the universal testimony of
many different religious traditions.
In fact, all the traditions concur that we are presently living the end of
times, this is taught by Hinduism, which says the end of a Maha-Yuga is
the age of Kali, that is, the Kali-Yuga.
Christianity uses the term The End Times", while Islam uses The Last
Days. And Buddhism terms it Mapp, and so on and so forth.
A strong signal of the end times in which we live is precisely the
tremendous crisis that the religions are now passing through.
Catholicism has been in collapse since Vatican II (1962-65) and its
sequelae. Catholicism has been dismantled before our very eyes, and
this onslaught has been resisted only by small groups of traditionalist
Catholics scattered all over the globe. But the official church that
exhibits itself in the Vatican is clearly not traditional any more.
Traditional Islam, for its part, is being attacked without quarter by the
so called Islamic terrorists, and the fundamentalists. Buddhism is
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attacked by the forces of dissolution that are particularly present in the


world of today. If we consider the fact that, up until the middle of the XX
th. century, the religions just cited were in relatively good shape, one
can have an idea as to the nature of the phase of the Kali-yuga which
we are currently traversing. The fact that they are collapsing, they that
have Divine promises as to endure till the end, is just an indication of
the seriousness of the times we live in.
In my view, lucubrations such as these against the traditional
understanding of
Reincarnation, the Kali-Yuga, and initiation into
Hinduism, as expounded by the Gunon-Schuon school of intellectuality
and spirituality, should be rejected.

(A version of this text was published in the volume 28 of the Canadian


journal Sacred Web.)