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Georges Méautis: “Theosophy and Theosophism” Dissects Rene Guenon’s Critique, 1922

Swiss scholar, Georges Méautis (under the pseudonym of Paul Bertrand, professor at the University of Neuchâtel and president of the “Société Suisse de Théosophie”), in 1922 wrote a response to Rene Guenon’s critique of Modern Theosophy, in Theosophy and Theosophism: Response to a Criticism of Theosophy by René Guénon (Paris: Publications Théosophiques. Trans. and Intro., Godwin, Joscelyn. FOTA Newsletter, Special Summer). In the Friends of the Theosophical Archives (FOTA), Joscelyn Godwin graced us with an Introduction on Rene Guenon in the Special Edition, Autumn 2016. An earlier rebuttal in Rebuttal of Rene Guenon also dealt with this same issue—

Perhaps it was too early for Méautis to spot the essential weakness of Guénon’s work, which was to lump together Blavatskian Theosophy—already an entity with distinct evolutionary stages—with later developments by Annie Besant and Charles W. Leadbeater that some call “Neo-Theosophy.” Méautis’s strength lies in pointing out Guénon’s selective use of available sources; by picking out the most egregious examples, he saps the whole foundation and demonstrates that Le Théosophisme, in short, is no “history.” In Leslie Price’s words, “Guénon is a case study in the misuse of archival material. He was given a dossier, but employed it not as a historian, weighing up the contents, but as a polemicist.”  (…) historians of the Traditionalist movement (if not the Traditionalists themselves) recognize how much Guénon owed to Theosophy. Richard Smoley writes, in a balanced evaluation of Guénon’s book:

Ironically, one reason for Guénon’s attitude may be that he and Blavatsky were in many ways not so far apart. In fact scholar Mark Sedgwick, whose book Against the Modern World is the best introduction to the impact of Guénon’s thought, sees Theosophy as one of Guénon’s chief influences (Sedgwick, 40–44). We have already seen that Blavatsky and Guénon agreed about the existence of a universal esoteric tradition. They both made liberal use of Sanskrit terms in expounding their ideas, and they agreed about the dangers of spiritualism, arguing that spiritualistic séances do not enable one to make contact with dead individuals but merely with their astral shells, which have been shucked off as the spirit ascends to higher planes.

To these common grounds we could add the reconciliation of religious differences through their esoteric roots; a cyclical concept of history including a former, more subtle state of matter; the encouragement of Oriental studies as giving access to a wisdom largely lost in the West; the analysis of the multiple states of the human being; and the use of symbolism, especially geometric, to explain metaphysical realities.”

— Joscelyn Godwin, Introduction.


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