Fissures in The Great Wall
René Guénon — The Signs of The Times
Materialism properly so called has already lost much ground, at least in the domain of scientific and philosophical theory, if not yet in that of the common mentality. The very notion of ‘matter’ as it existed in these theories has begun to fade away and to dissolve, for a point is reached in the gradual reduction of everything to the quantitative at which this reduction no longer leads toward ‘solidification’, and at this point there arises a desire to assimilate continuous quantity to discontinuous quantity; bodies can then no longer persist as such, but are dissolved into a sort of ‘atomic’ dust without cohesion. Correlatively to this change, the illusion of security that held sway at the time when materialism had attained its greatest influence has in the main been dissipated by the events that have taken place and the speed of their succession.
Ill-informed ‘traditionalists’ thoughtlessly rejoice at seeing modern science in its various branches escaping to some extent form the narrow limits within which its conceptions have been enclosed up till now, and taking an attitude less grossly materialistic than that maintained in the last century; they are even ready to suppose that in some way or another profane science will in the end be reunited with traditional science (of which their knowledge is minimal in extent and singularly inaccurate, being chiefly based on modern deformations and ‘counterfeits’), but this -for reasons of principle that have often been insisted on- is quite impossible. These same ‘traditionalists’ also rejoice, perhaps even more unreservedly, at seeing certain manifestations of subtle influences coming more and more into the open, but it does not occur to them to wonder what in the end may prove to be the true ‘quality’ of these influences (perhaps they do not even suspect that there is any occasion to ask such a question); and they base great hopes on what today is called ‘metaphysics’ as the key to the cure of the ills of the modern world, which they are usually content to attribute exclusively to materialism as such, this again being a rather unfortunate delusion.
What they do not see (and in this they are much more influenced than they think by the modern spirit with all the insufficiencies inherent in it) is that they are really faced with a fresh stage in the development -perfectly logical but of a logic truly ‘diabolical’- of the ‘plan’ according to which the progressive deviation of the modern world is brought about. In this ‘plan’ materialism has of course played its part, and undeniably a highly important part, but the mere negation that it represents has now become inadequate. It has given efficient service in denying to man access to possibilities of a superior order, but it has not the power to unchain the inferior forces that alone can bring to finality the work of disorder and dissolution.
The materialistic attitude, because of its inherent limitations, involves risks that are similarly limited. Its ‘thickness’, figuratively speaking, protects anyone who persists in holding to it from all subtle influences without distinctions, and confers on him a sort of immunity more or less like that of a mollusc living firmly enclosed in its shell, the materialist deriving from this immunity the impression of security previously referred to. The shell may be taken to represent the aggregate of conventionally recognized scientific conceptions and of the corresponding mental habits, together with the ‘hardening’ of the ‘psycho-physiological’ constitution of the individual which they produce.
It could be said that the period of materialism constitutes no more than a sort of preparation, predominantly theoretical, whereas the period of inferior psychism introduces a ‘pseudo-realization’ leading in exactly the opposite direction to that of true spiritual realization.
According to traditional symbolism ‘fissures’ occur in the ‘Great Wall’ that surrounds the world and protects it from the intrusion of malefic influences coming from the inferior subtle domain (In the Hindu tradition it’s the circular mountain Lokaloka which divides the ‘cosmos’ “loka” from the ‘outer darkness’ “aloka”). A walled space as such is not closed in at the top, so that communication with superior domains is not prevented, and this state of affairs is the normal one; but in the modern period the ‘shell’ with no outlet built by materialism has cut off that communication. Moreover, because the ‘descent’ has not yet come to an end, the ‘shell’ must necessarily remain intact overhead, that is, in the direction of that from which humanity need not be protected since on the contrary only beneficent influences can come that way; the ‘fissures’ occur only at the base, and therefore in the actual protective wall itself, and the inferior forces that make their way in through them meet with a much reduced resistance because under such conditions no power of a superior order can intervene in order to oppose them effectively.
In the Islamic tradition these ‘fissures’ are those by which, at the end of the cycle, the devastating hordes of Gog and Magog will force their way in (In the Hindu tradition they are the demons Koka and Vikoka, whose names are obviously similar), for they are unremitting in their efforts to invade this world; these ‘entities’ represent the inferior influences in question. They are considered as maintaining an underground existence, and are described both as giants and as dwarfs; they may thus be identified, at least in certain connections, with the ‘guardians of the hidden treasure’ and with the smiths of the ‘subterranean fire’, who have an exceedingly malefic aspect.
The attempts of these ‘entities’ to insinuate themselves into the corporeal and human world are no new thing, for they go back at least to somewhere near the beginning of the “Kali-Yuga”, a period far more remote than that of ‘classical’ antiquity, by which the horizon of profane historians is bounded. In this connection, the Chinese tradition relates in symbolical terms that ‘Niu-Koua melted stones of five colors in order to repair a tear in the sky made by a giant’. Although ‘fissures’ have been possible ever since the Kali-Yuga period of obscuration began, the degree of obscuration pervading its later phases is far from having been attained at once, and that is why ‘fissures’ could be repaired relatively easily in earlier times; it was nonetheless necessary to maintain vigilance against them, and this task was naturally among those assigned to the spiritual centres of the various traditions.
Later on there came a period when, as a consequence of the extreme ‘solidification’ of the world, these same ‘fissures’ were much less to be feared, at least temporarily; this period corresponds to the first part of the modern times, the part that can be defined as being characteristically mechanistic and materialistic, in which the ‘closed system’ alluded to was most nearly realised, at least to the extent that any such thing is actually possible.
Nowadays, that is to say in the period which can be called the second part of modern times and which has already begun, conditions are certainly very different from the conditions obtaining in all earlier periods: not only can ‘fissures’ occur more and more extensively, and be much more serious in character, because a greater proportion of the descending course of manifestation has been accomplished, but also the possibilities of repairing them are not the same as they used to be; the action of the spiritual centres has indeed become ever more enclosed, because the superior influences that they normally transmit to our world can no longer be manifested externally, since they are held back by the ‘shell’ alluded to above; and when the whole of the human and cosmic order is in such a condition, where could a means of defence possibly be found such as might be effective in any way against the ‘hordes of Gog and Magog’?
René Guénon - The Sings of the Times 1945
From chapters "Towards Dissolution" and "Fissures in The Great Wall"