Kali Can You Hear Me?
The Contemporary Relevance of Rene Guenon's "The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times"
I just made the mistake of re-reading Rene Guenon’s The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times (1945) and I feel the pressing need to talk about it — particularly in relationship to the Artificial Intelligence revolution, as well as my time with three Kogi (an indigenous culture from the Sierra Nevadas mountains in Colombia) last week at the PAUA Conference in Paris.
I remember feeling exactly this way after I read the book before: That Guenon, with his almost mathematical approach to metaphysics, is essentially, embarrassingly, on target. I remember feeling this same sense of vaguely claustrophobic impossibility — that the most important things everyone needs to know can not even be shared or understood properly by more than the tiniest handful of people.
I wish everyone would take a few days off to read The Reign of Quantity. Then we might organize massive online discussion groups on it, confront the metaphysical disaster we are in, and then, with open minds and hearts, try to set things right.
The Reign of Quantity, alas, is written in a very arch, complex style (Guenon never met a semicolon he didn’t like) which helps to make it inaccessible to most people. Also, the vast majority would neither have the context nor the level of interest to understand what Guenon is raving on about. In fact, much of what Guenon says about the end of the cycle and the approaching termination of our civilization makes more sense today than it did decades or even a few years ago. And it was perfectly clear back then.
For those who have never heard of him, Guenon (1886 - 1951) is one of the main thinkers of the Traditionalist movement that included Sufi philosophy Frithjof Schuon and the imperious magus Julius Evola (author of a book in a very similar vein, Revolt Against the Modern World, and favorite thinker of the Alt Right). Guenon was a French intellectual who got interested in esoteric topics, joining the Martinists (an 18th Century esoteric cult), the Universal Gnostic Church, and other such groups. Eventually he was initiated into the Shadhili order, a 13th Century Sufi group, founded in Egypt, where Guenon lived for two decades until his death. I am reviewing his work for my current seminar on the Western hermetic tradition, Secret Histories and Spiritual Revolutions.
Let me try to summarize the main ideas in Guenon’s book: He believes that modern civilization represents degeneration rather than progress — but this corruption and decay is, ultimately, part of great cosmic cycles. Our age of degeneration is the culmination of the Kali Yuga, the final cycle of four “World Ages,” the last one before total dissolution and recreation, as described in Vedic thought.
Modern society has fixated on ultimately meaningless quantities and pointless technologies that draw us further and further away from qualitative dimensions of being and experience. This approach to reality has created a total “enframing” of reality (to use a concept from Heidegger) which is almost airtight and from which it is very difficult to escape. Many of our society’s ideas and beliefs are the mirror-image opposite of what was considered normal in a traditional society. The Kogi, for example, find our world to be incomprehensible and insane. They cannot understand why we don’t see nature as precious, or recognize the qualitative and sacred dimension of particular trees, rocks, caves, and animals.
Guenon notes that, at least since the Seventeenth Century, the West’s focus on materialism created “fissures” that allowed demonic and destructive astral forces to break into our world. Traditionally, the human world is protected by a barrier — a “Great Wall” — that repels most malevolent influences. The focus on materialism was part of a greater process through which the world became more solidified and dense: Human consciousness influences and transforms the world itself, Guenon argues (and I would agree). As we became increasingly materialistic and mechanistic in our beliefs, our world densified and hardened to mesh with our conception of it. When most of humanity was still aligned with tradition, their prayers and ritual practices helped to maintain this shield, which is now too weak to prevent invasion
Increasingly, today, reductive materialism is recognized by many as deficient. This has been demonstrated by experiments in physics, which now recognizes the centrality of consciousness in the manifestation of reality. Unfortunately, today, our rejection of materialism mainly happens in a context with no access to spiritual wisdom, initiatory knowledge, and the primordial tradition. This leads modern people, in their confusion, to embrace ambiguous psychic and “spiritualist” ideas that are not actually spiritual. These psychic / “spiritualist” currents can provide more of an opening for the malevolent entities, further opening the fissures and hastening the end of this world.
All of this, Guenon believes, is part of a deliberate “counter-initiation1” or an “anti-tradition” that was devised by beings from the lower worlds, allied with humans. This plan has unfolded over many centuries, if not millennia. (As I explored in Quetzalcoatl Returns, I see the phenomenon of Grey Alien abductions as a literal / allegorical expression of this dangerous situation, with the Greys a form of infra-dimensional goblin, rather than enlightened ETs).
That’s the basic gist. I thought I would now examine some quotes from Guenon and try to unpack them a bit, providing some context from our contemporary world and experience, and hopefully imparting something of the flavor of his work.