”While 19th century materialism closed the mind of man to what is above him
20th century psychology opened it to what is below him.” René Guenon

Tradition Betrayed

The False Prophets Of Modernism

By Professor Harry Oldmeadow15

Edit. Omar K Neusser


A rigorously objective refutation of modernist doctrines of Nietzsche, Darwin, Freud and Marx, as seen from the perspective of the Unchanging Tradition.

- modern mythologies obscure the Real
- a Hindu prophesy from ~ 1000 AD about the modern times:
  ”In those days it will be wealth that confers distinction.”

Modernism is: anti-traditional, progressive, humanistic, rationalist, materialist, experimental, individualist, egalitarian, free-thinking and intensely sentimental.

Four characteristics of modernism acc. to SH Nasr:
- anthropomorphism16, and by extension secularism,
- evolutionist progressivism,
- the absence of any sense of the sacred,
- an unrelieved ignorance of metaphysical principles.

* (the attribution of human characteristics or behaviour to God, animal, or object.)

Below a 85% correct transcript of the speech. Not everything was transcribed verbatim. Numbers refer to the YT-instances of the lecture.

René Guénon:
”While 19th century materialism closed the mind of man to what is above him – 20th century psychology opened it to what is below him.”
René Guenon

The transcript

01. Intro - The Crisis of Modernity

‘Some people may reproach us with lack of reticence, but we would ask what reticence is shown by philosophers17 who shamelessly slash at the wisdom of countless centuries?’19

”Let us start with a recognition that there is indeed a fundamental crisis in the modern world and that its root causes are spiritual. The crisis itself can hardly be disputed. Some of the symptoms:

▷ ecological catastrophe, a material sign of the rupture between Heaven and Earth;
▷ a rampant materialism and consumerism, signifying a surrender to the illusion that man can live by bread alone;
▷ the genocidal extirpation of traditional cultures by the careering juggernauts of ‘modernisation’;
▷ political barbarities on an almost unimaginable scale;
▷ social discord, endemic violence and dislocations of unprecedented proportions;
▷ widespread alienation, ennui and a sense of spiritual sterility amidst the frenetic confusion and din of modern life;
▷ a religious landscape dominated by internecine and inter-religious strife and by the emergence of aggressive fundamentalisms in both East and West;
▷ the loss of any sense of the sacred, even among those who remain committed to religious forms, many of whom have retreated into a simplistic and credulous religious literalism or into a vacuous and ‘horizontal’ liberalism where ‘anything goes’.” 20

Quote from the Hindu text Vishnu Parana:
- Riches and piety will diminish daily, until the world will be corrupted.
- In those days it will be wealth that confers distinction.
- Passion will be the sole reason for the union between the sexes,
- Lies will be the only method of success in business.
- Women will be the objects merely of sensual gratification,
- The earth will be valued only for its mineral treasures,
- Dishonesty will be the universal means of subsistence,
- A simple ablution will be regarded as sufficient purification.
- The observances of casts, laws and institutions will no longer be enforced in the Dark Age.
- And the ceremonies prescribed by the Vedas will be neglected.
- Women will obey only their whims and will be infatuated with pleasure,
- Man will presumptuously regard themselves as the equal of Brahmins.1

02. A Definition of Modernism

Modernism: That cluster of habits of mind, of assumptions, of attitudes, of values which prevail in the modern world. We can trace the pedigree2 of these ideas back at least to the "Renaissance."3 and trace their development through some of the events and movements4, particular the scientific world of Renaissance, the Reformation, the scientific revolution of the 17th century, the industrial revolutions, the political revolutions, the so-called triumph of democracy...

Lord Northbourne tried to sum up what all of these modern attitudes and values comprised, 7:28 and came up with this list of adjectives: Modernism is antitraditional, progressive, humanistic, rationalist, materialist, experimental, individualist, egalitarian, free thinking and intensely sentimental.21

Four marks of modernism5
- anthropomorphism, and by extension secularism,
- evolutionist progressivism,
- the absence of any sense of the sacred
- an unrelieved ignorance of metaphysical principles

Little wonder, then, that when Mahatma Ghandi when asked what he thought about Western civilization:
”I think it would be a good idea.” 8.18

René Guénon: the modern mentality is dominated by pseudo -mythologies,
they don’t disclose the Real, but actually hide, obscure it. 9.00

A whole cluster of interrelated pseudo-mythologies, ... but they are really one pseudo-mythology. 9:45

03. Four modern thinkers:

- Darwin
- Marx
- Freud
- Nietsche

03.1 Darwin

Consider what is being proposed:
It’s being proposed that a stone can turn into Mozart.
That from inert matter through all sorts of mystical process consciousness emerges from non-consciousness. This is the most fantastic idea and flies into the face of all traditional teachings. ...

Human kind & all other creatures are the product not of an ascent of inert matter, but of a descent from a celestial realm. 11:07
- a preposterous notion that consciousness & life can emerge from dead matter6
- a notion that one species can turn into another

A F Schuhmacher: it makes as much sense to call human beings ’trousered apes’, as it does to call a dog a barking cabbage. [Nothing higher evolves] out the primeval18 slime.

"In the beginning was the Word" (Bible) metaphysic: Matter emerges from spirit, the lesser from the greater. Darwin’s theory is seductive & pernicious, it persuades us that we are NO more than biological organisms.

It offered an account how life would appear without the Creator, God. Could be left out of the picture.

Quote by Darwin 14.35, most poisonous racism, Eurocentrism:

”At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races throughout the world.”22

Quote by Shankara 8th cent. 16:20

The attempt to explain the material world without reference to the divine, is like explaining day & night without reference to the sun.

Therefore the project of modern science is doomed to fail.

03.2 Marx

Quote by Friedrich Engels: development of human history.
(It is that) first of all man needs food & shelter, ....
Evolved …explained instead of v.v. as hither to. 1800

I.e. the material forces of history determine every-thing else, incl. art, politics, law, religion.
Religion is an instrument of class struggle,
it is a sign of alienation and his ignorance from his true self.
Marx is (basically) a humanist, as well as a child of the "Enlightenment" in many other ways: the belief in science, in progress, in the perfectibility of man.

Utopianism: That all of the suffering, all the wrongs of this world, all the injustices are all the result of faulty social organization and of class struggle...19:00

Once man’s minds are gripped by the idea that a perfect world is possible, then almost anything can be justified.
Trotzky, when asked about the 6 million dead in the Russian civil war: Regrettable, but a small price to pay for the revolution.

03.3 Freud

"The moment a man questions the meaning and the value of life, he is sick. Since objectively neither has any existence."

Pathological, hysterical against religion14

Art, philosophy and religion are the great enemies of science.7

3 final massive, fatal blows against religion acc. to Freud - Copernican cosmology - Darwinian evolutionism - Freudian psychoanalysis

By showing how religion originated from the helplessness of children and by tracing its contents to the survival into maturity of the wishes and needs of childhood.

I.e. religion is a kind of prolongation of childish neurosis, complexes, 2250 insecurities… And obviously sth which a healthy, well adjusted adult should dispense with.

"The psychological imposture:"8 It is the tendency to reduce everything to psychological factors, and to call into question - not only what is intellectual or spiritual - the first being related to truth, and the second to life in and by truth, but also the human spirit as such, and thereby its capacity of adequation and still more evidently its inward illimitation and its transcendence. 23:26

(In reality all of the above ideas are) one theory in different modes of expression: they are all based on the same premise of modernity: Of the triumph of science, of progress, of evolution, and a whole set of ideas which people take for granted, which seem to be part of the air we breathe, which seem to be natural. But really if you stand back and look at them, they are actually quite extraordinary (as example regarding modernism…)

Modernism is based on the idea, that everything, all people, everywhere, all over the globe throughout all the centuries, what all those people have said about the nature of reality is wrong.

The only people who [ got it right ], who know how things really are, is this very small group of Western European intellectuals of the last 300 years.

That’s what the men in white cloaks have told us, so now we know.
(F ex) Steven Hawkins says he will come up with a grand theory of everything, explaining everything. That’s science that progress, it’s bizarre and it’s sinister.9

03.4 Nietzsche

He is a very exciting & also a very disturbing thinker. 26.20
He had quite a profound soul, but he was also demented.

Nietzsche’s legacy to the world, a kind of time bomb.
Nature is announcing the death of God. 26.45

He means that a belief in God is no longer tenable. No self-respecting intellectual can any longer believe in God. +
He also introduced an idea which only comes to its bitter fruition now: relativism: it’s run amuck10 now, post-modernism is based on the idea of relativism.

Relativism: there is no absolute truth, 27.25
There is no objective truth, there are only partial truths, only perspectives, points of view - in a nutshell.
And of course it flies into face of all traditional teachings.

04. Characteristics of Modernist Ideas

What do they share, some characteristics:

1stly - God doesn’t figure, (acc. to Marx, Freud, Nietzsche)

‘The rationalism of a frog living at the bottom of a well is to deny the existence of mountains; this is logic of a kind, perhaps, but it has nothing to do with reality.’23

Quote by Nietzsche24: The sacred book, inspiration, … are all only words for conditions under which the priest comes to power, …
[when someone says:] ’The truth exists’, this means whenever it is heard the priest is lying.11

So you see its not only an attack on religion, but on the very idea of truth. Strangely enough Nietzsche foresees that this might lead to the most appalling catastrophe.

So man takes charge…

2ndly this is an entirely horizontal, material world. No spiritual dimension, no transcendence. Everything is flattened out into the domain of matter. 30.27

3rdly These thinkers pride themselves (erroneously) of their originality: etymological: connected to the origins. = an entirely wonderful thing, but what they mean by it: cut off from the origins! Novelty, sth new, sth different. And besides they just popularized notions which were in circulation at the time.

4thly Evolutionism, progressivism, a kind of false optimism, concomitant with a contempt for the past, for tradition, for great religious founders.

5thly A degradation and an imprisonment of human kind. 32.13 These thinkers, all the luminaries of modern science we are told (all those mentioned above and all their predecessors, Copernicus, Galileo and Newton…) free us from the shackles of the past, open our minds, liberate us, allow us to be free: this is not the case.

What they are actually doing and have done is imprisoned us and degraded our understanding of what the human condition is. The human condition without dignity, without freedom, without responsibility, without all of its grandeur, …

05. Traditional Perspective - Not One-Sided

(But remember) the traditional perspective does not only see good in the past and only bad in the modern world. No doubt the modern world has its compensations: f ex here we are. 33.07

If you want to read the Upanishads, or Rumi etc. – we have got almost the entire treasury of the world’s spiritual traditions available to us, in a way that has never been the case before, this is an extraordinary privilege we have!
It’s a kind of compensation for the peculiar conditions of the like "Kali Yuga".

[Instead it’s] looking at the whole picture and realizing that on the one hand:

Therefore it’s illogical to prefer an evil which entails some good over a good which entails some evil.
”It’s on the side of tradition that the greater good lies.”13

To put things as simple as possible: it is the sense of the sacred -

It is the sense of the sacred, which is missing in the modern world.

It’s been trampled under foot, it’s been ridiculed, it’s been parodied, that’s what we need to recover: a real sense of the sacred.

06. Recovering a Real Sense of the Sacred

We always have available to us the truth in its various expressions, so we have the teachings of the great revelations, the example of the great founders, examples which cannot possibly be improved upon in any way. We have the prophets, the sages, the saints, down through the ages - and even in these later days, in the late Kali Yuga, which we are living through, there are still these remarcable exemplars: Shaykh al-Alawi, (to whom Dr. Michon referred this morning,) … Ramana Maharshi [1879-1950], Ramakrishna [1836-1886], Black Elk, Yellow Tail, or Abhishiktananda (Benediktan monk in India), Sri Ma Anandamayi (another Indian example), all over the world, there are still living in our midst saints and sages from whom we can draw inspiration, nourishment and guidance.

And then of course there are the great traditionalists themselves, see above:
René Guénon, Coomaraswami and Schuon and Burkhard, Dr. Lings, Alvin More.

07. Two Final Quotes

René Guénon:
”Those who might be tempted to give way to despair should realize

- that nothing accomplished in this order can ever be lost, that confusion, error and darkness can win the day only apparently and in a purely ephemeral way.

- that all partial and transitory disequilibrium must per force contribute to the greater equilibrium of the whole and that nothing can ultimately prevail against the power of truth.”

Their advice should be the one which is used formally by certain initiatory organizations in the West. 38.02

’vincit omnia veritas.’
’Truth conquers all’.

Come, come, whoever you are, wanderer, worshipper, lover of living, it does not matter, ours is not a caravan of despair, come - if you have broken your vow a thousand times. Come, come yet again, come.


  1. Rest of quote:
    - The “Vaishyas” will abandon agriculture and commerce and will earn their living by certitude or by the exercise of the mechanical professions.
    - The dominant cast will be that of the “Shudras”?

  2. lineage, heritage

  3. ”Or even earlier as Dr. Nasr does in is book Man & Nature.”

  4. “which have been alluded to by the previous speakers.”

  5. summed up according to SH Nasr

  6. see f ex In The Beginning Is Consciousness

  7. acc. to Freud

  8. Phrase used by F Schuon, the following quote is also from him.

  9. As to my knowledge he hasn’t yet come up with it, last checked 2017.

  10. behaving uncontrollably and disruptively (Apple Dict.)

  11. To call the priests liars, is an encouragement and a call to deny the preaching of truth - the project “anti-authoritarianism.”

  12. Tradition

  13. Quote by F Schuon

  14. This became apparent in his controversy with Jung, when Jung had asked him, if he cannot imagine some higher power of same sort, during which Freud reacted rather hysterical, acc. to Oldmeadow.

  15. A talk given at a conference (Edmonton, October 2007) on Tradition and Modernity. The conference was held under the auspices of the journal Sacred Web.

    A pdf of the draft version of this article is [here for download].

    Dr Harry Oldmeadow is an Honorary Associate at the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce, Humanities and Social Sciences, Bendigo, Australia

    see also:
    - Harry Oldmeadow on Wikipedia
    - Some Texts by Harry Oldmeadow (themathesontrust.org)

  16. anthropomorphism: the attribution of human characteristics or behaviour to a god, animal, or object. (Apple Dict.)

  17. which is strange, as the original meaning of philosophy was: ”from Greek (philosophia) ‘love of wisdom’.” (Apple Dict.)

  18. of the earliest time in history (Apple Dict.)

  19. Quote by F Schuon, Stations of Wisdom, no date

  20. This part is verbatim

  21. Lord Northbourne, Religion in the Modern World, London: J.M. Dent, 1963, 13.

  22. quoted in M. Robinson, ‘Darwinism’, 35

  23. Quote by F Schuon, Logic and Transcendence, New York: Harper & Row, 1975, 42.

  24. Nietzsche, who understood truth as being subservient to power structure

hover for full size → fullsize: typical features of controlled demolitiontypical features of controlled demolition

- An introduction to Sh A W Yahya - René Guénon, by Omar K Neusser
- Some Texts By / Related To Seyyed Hossein Nasr, ed. Omar K Neusser

Disclaimer: First of all it is Islam that reigns (see Sura 5:3).
Traditional Islam does not accept the notion that the world-religions (and even less so any man-made belief system) would be equally valid paths to God, these are perennialist interpretations. Even so, they (their laws) still reflect some sacred truth, so they did not turn into falsehood by being abrogated. These are 2 (two) different points to be kept in mind.

• In the words of Muhyiddín Ibn `Arabi: ”The religious laws are all lights, and the law of Muhammad ﷺ among these lights is as the sun's light among the light of the stars…”

”So all paths return to look to the Prophet's path ﷺ : if the prophetic messengers had been alive in his time, they would have followed him just as their religious laws have followed his law.…” [further reading]