About The Term “Traditional Authors” by Róbert Horváth

The following text is entirely written by Róbert Horváth and is used by permission.

The most eminent of the authors named “traditionalists” or “perennialists” are called “traditional authors” in Hungary. In this context, this latter expression should obviously be comprehended as contemporary, 20th or 21st century traditional authors.
From the spiritual perspective – since traditionality is considered here in this sense – Plutarch the priest of Delphi, Plotinus, Pico della Mirandola, Ibn al-Arabī or for example, Śańkara are obviously traditional authors. However, it is not immediately evident why and on what basis René Guénon and others are called the same.
Some may think this is only to avoid the term “traditionalists” because – as it is said – a normal person cannot be associated with any “ism” or “ists.” We do not say there is no truth in this statement, but this approach fails to grasp the essence of the issue. Indeed, there were times in history when we ourselves would have preferred to strictly avoid any form of “ism.” Today, however, in this age past any “ists” and “isms,” when due to overall spiritual indifference and sluggishness the quality of thinking is sinking to an even lower level, we should recognize that there is nothing clearly positive behind such avoidance of “isms.” We have more or less the same opinion about avoiding the use of terms ending with “ist” and “ism” based on stylistic and “aesthetic” considerations instead of intellectual ones. We would even be ready to call ourselves traditionalists if this were the only alternative to the contemporary indifference to ideas. Yet as we have already remarked, in certain cases “traditionalism” can represent an interim phase in the process of effectively reaching traditional spirituality. Not all “traditionalist” thinkers are “traditional authors” but they may become such. This is an important possibility.

Intellectual and mental commitment is an important human starting point, even if it is merely a starting point, and even if traditional authors represent much more. Therefore we are not using the term “traditional authors” only to avoid calling them “traditionalists.” Neither is it only because in Hungarian the term “traditional” is not as generic as in other languages and can be more specifically linked to “spiritual tradition,” while in other languages it may also refer to “customary tradition.” The reason why we call them so is that the most eminent 20th–21st century authors can be effectively considered as heirs and contemporary equivalents of the former traditional spiritual authors. We are not only talking about the heirs of the Platonic lineage as some may think, but mutatis mutandis also about those who under the current difficult circumstances are the contemporary heirs of the Aristotelian lineage, whose works preserve not only esoteric approaches but also the key mental, logical, dialectic qualities usually associated with Aristotle. In the following, we will present four major and five further sets of ideas to support the view that some more or less contemporary authors can be called traditional authors just as rightfully as the earlier authors mentioned above as examples.

In the past century an incredible number of writings from great spiritual traditions were translated and published, and the teachings of a large number of ancient masters became available for study. By now even teachings that were completely unknown in the West fifty years ago have become accessible to some extent. For example, works by Patrul Rinpoche were published in Hungary in recent years. Today we can hear about things worthy of more serious study even from traditions that surpass vajrayāna in terms of emphasizing radical spiritual autonomy – like dzogchen. Yet all this scarcely have any direct spiritual results. Besides the lack of adequate generic spiritual results in proportion to the weight of these subjects, spiritual results are also scarcely seen at the personal level. It is obvious that several ingredients of the teachings are missing, even if sometimes fairly correct translations exist.
In terms of spiritual results, the situation is not much better for those who have tried to turn to authentic commentators, living representatives, and masters of these teachings, seeking to relate to oral traditions as well. On the one hand we must observe that the number of authentic commentators is also extremely low today. The number of authentic representatives, of communities whose decline is at least limited, and of persons at the level of a master is even lower. The decline of traditional organisations – their transition from esoteric to exoteric – or the stagnation of their spiritual intensity should be considered, just as the fact that personal encounters that mainly take place as a result of travelling at the physical level do not necessarily represent spiritual encounters. On the other hand, even if more or less authentic transmitters, representatives, or masters of such teachings are successfully found, they do not actually take into account the defects and characteristics of the contemporary Western man when interpreting the teachings. Earlier a detailed consideration of Western characteristics could not have been an obligation for Eastern representatives even if that was what Western people would have needed. Yet for example, the words of His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse – who also commented the works of the previously mentioned Patrul Rinpoche – require further commentaries in order to avoid misinterpretations by Westerners. Due to the erosion of the meaning of words and a radical change in mentality, the meaning of countless terms used by commentators has become merely moral. Just to illustrate this with one example: when an early author or an Eastern commentator living in a relatively closed environment said “Be of good heart,” “good” here – depending on the depth of its context – should not by any means be taken in the moral sense; it does not mean “good-heartedness” but in a given case it can be a call to the disciple to consider the highest spiritual state known to him as his own centre, essence, self. Do we need a more typical example of the ambiguity of old or contemporary Eastern commentators?

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