René Guénon

A biographical note

René Guénon was born in Blois, France, on 15 November 1886 and passed away in Cairo, Egypt, on 7 January 1951. Although well known in French intellectual circles since the early inter-war years, his works at first remained almost unknown in the rest of Europe and the world. It is only since the 1940s that serious translations of the more important works have begun to appear in several countries, such as England, Italy, Spain, and Argentina.

He felt it necessary to put into words the teachings he brought to light and his thought, in order to rebut the attacks and insinuations that were directed against him from many directions. To call this thought ‘his’ is a figure of speech only, as it was profound beyond any distinction of subject and object, and would conform to no current ‘label’ or system of classification.

He was in fact no ‘orientalist’, although the spiritual East held no secrets for him. Nor was he a ‘philosopher’, however much he clothed his thought in a rational language that ensured his position as a writer of exceptional clarity and power. Nor yet was he an ‘occultist’ (being referred to as one vexed him immeasurably), even though subjects forbidden by the limited horizon of modern science often flowed from his pen. One can deduce from his works that he would perhaps have accepted being described as a ‘metaphysician’, if this word is not also one of those which evoke in people images too false to be used without precaution.

There is no doubt, however, that Guénon has been, in this final phase of Kali-Yuga that humanity is at  present living through, one of the most accurate interpreters of traditional doctrines. His work is of such breadth that it can only be compared with that of such intellectual and spiritual giants as were Shankaracharya or Mohiyud-Din ibn-Arabi.

Rene Guénon, only son of Jean – Baptiste Guénon, an architect, and Ann-Leontine Jolly, spent his childhood and early adolescence at Blois receiving his early education from a maternal aunt who was a school teacher. This was followed by a period at the school of Notre-Dame des Aydes, an institution run by religious teachers. In 1902 he moved to College Augustin-Thierry, gaining his bachelier the following year in Lettres-Philosophie. In 1904 he left for Paris, where he studied higher mathematics at the College Rollin. Around 1906 he gave up his academic course due, it is said, to his delicate health.

The interruption of his academic studies was followed by a period rich in encounters and productive of writings. In 1909 he founded La Gnose [Gnosis], a periodical in which appeared the outlines of some of his more important future books; Symbolism of the Cross, Man and his Becoming according to Vedanta, and Principles of Infinitesimal Calculus. In 1910 he made the acquaintance of the Swedish painter John-Gustaf Agelii, who had entered Islam in 1897 under the name of Abdul Hadi, and had been initiated into Tasawwuf (Islamic Spiritual Path) by Sheikh Abder-Rahman Elish el-Kebir, RA.

La Gnose ceased publication in February 1912. On 11 July the same year Guénon married Miss Berthe Loury in Blois and, still in the same year, entered Islam under the name of Abd-ul-Waheed Yahya, RA. Some time during 1913-14 he met a Hindu, Swami Narad Mani, who provided him with a dossier on the Theosophical Society. It was no doubt this material, at least in part, which he used to assemble a penetrating critique of that organization entitled Theosophy, a History of a Pseudo-Religion. During the year 1915 to 1919 he held a job as teacher at College Saint-Germain-en-Laye, lived a while at Blois, and was lecturer in philosophy at Setif in Algeria. From there he returned to Blois and hence to Paris.

His first two books, A General Introduction to Hindu Doctrines and Theosophy, , a History of a Pseudo-Religion appeared in 1921, followed in 1923 by The Spiritualist Error. In 1924 (and until 1929), he gave courses in philosophy at the College Saint-Louis. Also in 1924 he chaired a meeting bringing together Ferdinand Ossendowski (Polish author of a book of his own travels in Mongolia and Tibet which had excited a great deal of interest a few years earlier), Gonzague True, Rene Grousset, and Jacques Maritain. East and West appeared in 1924.

In 1925 he was associated with the Catholic periodical Regnabit [‘He will reign’], edited by Father Anizan, to whom he had been introduced by the archeologist Louis Charbonneau-Lassay of Loudun; this association lasted until 1927. Two more books, Man and his Becoming and the Esoterism of Dante, appeared in 1925, followed in 1927 by two more: Lord of the World and The Crisis of the Modern World.

Guénon’s wife died on 15 January 1928. in the same year he began an association with the periodical La Voile d’Isis [The Veil of Isis], which in 1933 changed its title to Etudes Traditionelles [Studies in Tradition]. In 1929 he published two more books: Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power and the short study Saint Bernard.

In 1930 Guenon left France for Egypt, where he settled permanently in Cairo and where in 1934 he married the daughter of Sheikh Muhammed Ibrahim, RA, who bore him four children (two sons and two daughters), the last of them born posthumously. All his other works were written during his sojourn in Egypt from 1930 to 1951, the year of his passing away at the age of 65. Over this period he published The Symbolism of the Cross (1931), The Many States of Being (1932), Oriental Metaphysics (1939), The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times (1945), Perspectives of Initiation, Principles of Infinitesimal Calculus, and The Great Triad (1946).

Since his death a number of books have been published collating articles by Guénon that were never assimilated into the books he wrote himself in his ‘major’ works. These have been put together according to the criteria of their various editors. Initiation and Spiritual Realization appeared in 1953, intended by the compiler as a sequel to “Perspectives on Initiation”. 1954 saw Perspectives on Christian Esoterism; 1962 Fundamental Symbols of the Sacred Science; and 1964, Studies on Freemasonry and Knight-Companionage, an anthology of almost all of Guenon’s writings on Free Masonry and its symbols published in the periodical Etudes Traditionelles. In 1967 appeared Studies on Hinduism, followed by Traditional Forms and Cosmic Cycles in 1970, Reviews and Perspectives on Islamic and Taoist Esoterism in 1973, and Miscellany in 1976.

We have made few adjustments to the original biography of René Guénon, which was personally sent to us by one of the most prolific translators of the works of René Guénon, who passed away in 2005. He along with a selected group of companions discovered the works of René Guénon during their College time in Torino, Italy, towards the end of WWII. It appears that few of those students had personal meetings with René Guénon in Cairo, Egypt. When time was ripe René Guénon was influential to send to Torino, Italy, another French-born converted personality, who entered Islam and tasawwuf and was selected as a Pir of the Shadzilyte order after six years of intense training. Towards the end of the fifties the work of this Pir and those original students produced a tariqat having an extremely low profile in a city like Torino where there is a proliferation of heterodox and fake secret societies, spiritualists, black magic practitioners and Satanists with a countless number per week of spiritualist evocations and black-magic-ceremonies. The tariqat represented the light (nur) of Allah SWT in this sinister scenario and the mujahida (strive in the path of Allah SWT) of this Pir produced its fruits even conquering the control of a Free-Masonic Lodge in the very conservative and bigotry-affected Free Masonry of Turin. This effort was in complete respect and direction of René Guénon concepts of re-establishing a spiritual elite in the West, since the West had been hijacked its spiritual sources by the stubborn politics of the Vatican and its followers. But the master piece of the collective work produced by the interaction of the hidden members of the tariqat and the hidden members of the Free-Masonic Lodge was the production of the Rivista di Studi Tradizionali (RST) which started its activity in 1963 and was closed in 2004, covering almost a luster. A luster when the light of knowledge was deposed in the West in the indeed magic town of Torino. We had the greatest fortune of our life to enjoy companionship and friendship with several members of the Lodge and the tariqat, without knowing who was belonging to what, but that was not essential. The essential was the light of knowledge pouring by each of those wonderful personalities. It was like reviving in the little microcosmic world where those exceptional personalities where operating the legend of King Arthur and his knights, the Holy Grail was at grasp in a town where all sort of self-accredited pseudo-savants where stubbornly finding the Holy Grail in a statue erected in front of a Church in one of the most beautiful squares (Piazza Gran Madre) of Torino. Unluckily we had only the opportunity to breath some of the essence emanating by those personalities when by Allah’s Will the terrestrial life of the Pir was taken back and he, RA, passed away. His passing away marked the start of a black period which evolved gradually in divisions and reciprocal accusations of two factions. Division is the work of Satan-rageem and refusal of accepting the direction of a Pir, even at his last breath on this earth amounts to disobedience to Allah SWT, which is the work of Iblis turned into Satan-rageem. Fortunately we passed that period far from those fightings and in us remains the memory of the acme of the activity of the group that produced the RST. To René Guénon and those personalities we feel a debit that is so close to that we feel to our Spiritual Master, HHH Pir Karam Shah Al-Azhari, RA, who did not hesitate to give his hands to our sinful hands transforming a conglomerate of dirt into a grain of powder in the path of Allah SWT. We have been nick-named “Pir of Italy” by HHH Pir Amin ul Hasnat Shah Sahab, may Allah Almighty be always satisfied with him, but we confess our feeling of being “Mr. Nobody” in front of the personality and work of that Pir of Turin and his righteous disciples (namely those who obeyed him after his passing away) who have left anyhow a legacy in the path of Allah SWT for those who search Truth. Their papers on the RST are masterpieces and clear marks for those who want to thread the path of Haqiqah. It is for this reason that we feel tremendously indebted to René Guénon and his sacrifice in writing on Metaphysics for all his terrestrial life. The Pir of Torino and those who contributed to the RST showed to everyone contacting them an uncommon love and charitable affection to the amount that everyone felt engrossed and enriched by their company. Their was a type of love and affection estrange to the Western mind and to our personal mind of those days particularly. 

History is plenty of Western personalities attracted by the East in the attempt of threading the path of spiritualism and reverting back from it because of various circumstances, indirectly confirming with their failure that “East is East and West is West” as Rudyard Kipling wrote and remarkably René Guénon remembered in his book Orient and Occident. For example René Guénon had profound admiration for Matgioi and his work but we feel he had deep sadness in considering that Matgioi after his Vietnamese experience reverted back to his original name and life of French-born, namely Messieur de Pouvoirville, confirming that Chinese Taoism is strictly correlated with the birth in the Chinese race and testifying the words of René Guénon in the posthumous book Initiation and Spiritual Realization saying “If a Western-born person feels the desire of improving his spiritual condition he has no other choice than embracing Islam”. In this simple sentence there is a very high logic. First of all Islam is the natural choice for those who are born in the West because the West heritage is from Semitic religions (Judaism and Christianity). Being the last revealed religion Islam is the most complete and alive religion made available by Allah SWT to present humanity, being HHH Muhammad, SAWS, the first and the last of the manifestations it means that Islam is the closest to the Primordial Tradition mentioned so profusely by René Guénon in his works. But being Islam so close to the Primordial Tradition makes Islam a Universal Religion without limitations of race and social class, it requires “only” the understanding of the two following concepts:
1-there is no other god than Allah SWT
2-HHH Muhammad, SAWS, is the final Messenger of Allah SWT
We deliberately have used inverted comma to the adverb “only” because that “only” is exclusively possible by the Mercy of Allah SWT because is He Who opens the heart to Islam to whom He Wants. 
To the dear visitors of this web site and these pages we recommend considering that there is no Islam if someone believes only in one of the two above points and the above points must be believed in the exact sequence given by the formula of profession of faith (Kalimah, precisely kalimah talbiyyah): <<there is no other god than Allah and MuhammadSAWS is His Messenger>>. In these dark days of humanity quite close to the end of this world many Islamic sects emphasize mostly the first part of the kalimah talbiyyah making a tremendous mistake whose consequences, unfortunately for them, will be clear to them in the Day of Judgment, when all the dead will be resurrected and standing in ranks in front of Allah SWT under a scorching sun. A Day of Reckoning when those who did not believe in their life in the unique position in front of Allah SWT of HHH Muhammad, SAWS, will be denied to share his shade and intercession. In propagating Islam the Holy Prophet, SAWS, was pledging an alliance between himself, SAWS, on behalf of Allah, SWT, and the new-born Muslim granting to him his share of shade and his power of intercession in the Day of Judgment. This pledge of alliance today is still practiced by those who enter the selected path of Haqiqah and practice tasawwuf because the hands of the Pirs in the moment of pledging alliance are the same hands of Muhammad, SAWS, in virtue of a non-interrupted chain of transmission (silsilah) of spiritual influence (barakah). 

May Allah Almighty bless HHH Muhammad, SAWS, and all the chains of his deputies, RANHUM, the awliya-Allah, RANHUM, and the righteous scholars of Islam.   
May Allah Almighty bless our most venerated HHH Pir Karam Shah Al-Azhari, RA, and his son HHH Pir Amin ul Hassnaat Shah Sahab, our sisters and brothers of tariqat (Pir-bahi) and all the ahle-sunnat-wal-jamaat.

May Allah Almighty bless the dear visitors of this web-site and save us and the dear visitors of this web site from all the evils and preserve our Islam until our last breath in this world.