The Meaning of Tradition

musareadingIt is important to understand exactly what is meant by the word “traditional” in the context of metaphysical Traditionalism and hence as used by Chelouranyans.

René Guénon clearly lays down the meaning of tradition in the true sense. He is deeply critical of that modern “traditionalism” which is mere sentimental attachment to the past and he essentially dismisses the realistic art of the Renaissance and everything beyond it as untraditional. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy dismisses modern music, meaning not “pop” music or atonal music, but the Western well-tempered scale used in Western music from the time of Bach. As he says, from a truly Traditional musical point of view, “the pianoforte is out of tune by definition”.

Now to a certain extent it may be said that Miss Alice Trent restored to some degree the “soft” traditionalism criticized by Guénon with her advocacy of things like Art-Neo (pre-Eclipse) Kinema, but she was fully aware of the distinctions drawn by Guénon and other Traditionalists, and fully in agreement with them. Late-Rajasic “tradition” is not in any sense Traditional according to the “strong” usage of the word (i.e. the product of a Sattwic society). It is clearly the product of a late-Rajasic society.

Miss Trent did not advocate or encourage confusion between the two senses of tradition. The value of things like up-to date kinematics is that they have a small, vestigial (and “blind” – i.e. it is completely unaware of the intellectual basis) residue of tradition. Small as this is it is of great value to beings who know only the post-modern (i.e. Tamasic) diseased culture of the post-Eclipse period. She also advocates Art Neo which was a very late Rajasic innovation and to some extent a “blind” reaction against early Tamasic aesthetic (or dysesthetic) movements.

If by “tradition” we are meaning attachment (however vestigial) to real Tradition, as opposed to a sentimental valuing of (very relative) “oldness” for its own sake (which was so rightly criticized by Guénon) – then we have to say that certain anime are considerably more traditional than any West Tellurian 1930s kinema in the sense that they retain consciously a considerable amount of authentically, metaphysically traditional thought, while even the “nicest” 1930s kinematic is, in its conscious ideology, thoroughly substantialist.

This is not to say that even the best anime is devoid of faults (any more than the best 1930s kinematic is – though the faults in each case are different). But it does indeed have a great deal to offer, assuming we are not judging it on criteria of mere “oldness” or imagining ourselves too “grown-up” to benefit from it.

Kawaii, like Art Neo, is an innovation. In terms of mere time it is a later innovation than Art Neo. in terms of tradition it may in some senses be “earlier” in that it comes out of a society much less historically imbedded in Rajasic modernism.

We also have to bear in mind that simplistic formulae like “tradition = good” are not in themselves valuable. Traditional Tellurian patriarchal societies in the full and proper sense of the word (i.e. Sattwic societies) were not “good”. They practiced torture and the killing of their own kind (as, of course, do modern ones). They were often harsh in the extreme and cruel. Of course, they had many good elements too, but to imagine they were “good” because they were traditional is to confuse two different criteria.

In many ways we might argue Kawaii both carries elements of an innovative racination (like that of Art Neo) with a distinctive softening of patriarchal harshness, which was much needed in Japan as in other Tellurian cultures. Let us not forget that patriarchy itself, even in its most Traditional forms, is a revolt against the older, purer, cleaner and kinder feminine tradition.

Without pressing any of these points too hard, I would just like to indicate that the question is far more complex than “old = traditional = good”. “Old” does not equal traditional and traditional does not necessarily equal good. Innovation does not necessarily equal “bad” (as Art Neo demonstrates). The whole question is much more complex than one that can be settled by reference to clocks and calendars.

This explanation was given in the context of a forum discussion on innocence, elegance, and kawaii which may be found here.