These are only examples; and we do not wish to give the idea that we are making a defense of the East or of the Far East. Let us repeat: we are dealing here with general views of life, a distinction between East and West does not enter the discussion since the opposition is one of supernational and supercontinental nature. Our
Cf. Revolt Against the Modem World, pp. 120-21.
G. de Lorenzo. India e buddhismo antico, 5th ed. (Bari, 1926), p. 7.
Cf. Nukariya. The Religion of the Samurai, pp. 36-50.
own Middle Ages also knew a sacred heroism, and its history likewise shows, in majestic strokes, how a heroic cycle-whenever the corresponding vocation is present-can develop under the influence of an ascetic view of life, even when this view presents deviations, shortcomings, and limitations of considerable importance as happens in the case of Christianism. Either as detachment beyond action, or as detachment in action and for action, there exists a common tradition. We have purposely made considerable use of the term "Olympian" in order to remind those who might forget. From the ancient Mediterranean "Olympian" world, where the opposition between region of being and region of becoming, between the cycle of generation and the superworld corresponds exactly to the Indo-Aryan opposition between samsāra and nirvāna, we derive our highest heritage, that which the modem world has forgotten but which still persisted in some measure among the Germanic and Roman elements of the best of the Middle Ages. The Olympian view of life, to which every true ascetic value is intimately hound. is the highest, most original, and most Aryan of the West. It holds the symbol of all that, in a higher sense, can be called classical and aristocratic.
A return to ascetic values can, then, be conceived in two forms and in two degrees. A formation of life newly oriented toward the extrasamsāric and "sidereal" element can, in the first place, teach what real action and mastery are to all those who know only their most obscure and irrational forms. In the second place, ascesis as affirmation of pure transcendency, as detachment, not only in action, but beyond action, toward awakening, can ensure that the immobile is not overturned by the changeable, that forces of centrality, forces of the world of being are set up against forces of becoming. Nor should we think of this second process as though we had to do with the presence of guests of stone at a banquet of the agitated and fanatical. To inspire and establish, even in scattered and unknown beings, extrasamsāric forces, may be an action whose invisible effects, even on the plane of visible and historical reality, are considerably more important than many might imagine. It is Buddhist teaching that the Ariya are able to work from a distance, for the good of many, in the human sphere as well as in the "divine,"' and these spheres would be harmed by differences among the Ariya.' It is Buddhist doctrine that when the Ariya, in their disindividualized consciousness, suffuse the world with the irradiant contemplations, they can liberate forces that go out into it and act invisibly upon distant lands and destinies. We think it possible that should the course of history, in spite of appearances, not deteriorate further, this may perhaps be due, less to the efforts and direct action of groups of men and leaders of men, than to the influences proceeding, through
7. Cf., e.g., Majjh., 31.
8. Ibid., 104.
the paths of the spirit, from the secret realizations of a few nameless and remote ascetics, in Tibet or on Mount Athos, among the Zen, or in some Trappist or Carthusian cloister of Europe. To an awakened eye, to an eye capable of seeing with the sight of one on the Further Shore, these same realizations would appear as the only steady lights in the darkness, as the only peaks emerging, calm and sovereign, above the seas of mist down in the valleys.9 Every true ascetic realization becomes inevitably transformed into a support-an invisible one, but for all that nonetheless real and efficacious-for those who, on the visible plane, resist and struggle against the forces of an obscure age.
Lastly, let us say a few words about that special class of reader who is interested in "spiritualism." We have already, in our Maschera e volto dello spiritualismo contemporaneo, warned such readers against the errors and confusions that have been set afoot by many modern trends through mistaken aspirations toward the supernatural and supersensible. Should anyone seriously harbor such aspirations, he must take careful stock of such errors and confusions and, above all, not deceive himself that true realization of what lies beyond the human condition is possible without rigorous "ascetic" preparation and consolidation. Given the conditions in which the Westerner now finds himself and which we have frequently mentioned, such preparation is, today more than ever indispensable. We should then he under no illusions about the real nature of knowledge or "occult" discipline, particularly when we are dealing with what our contemporaries put forward. A doctrine, such as the one we have discussed, gives a very good idea of the possibility of an Aryan and aristocratic path beyond samsāric existence. This path will have no need of "religious" aids. dogmas, or petty moralities, and it genuinely corresponds to the will for the unconditioned. But, at the same time, this doctrine shows no less clearly the preliminary conditions for ascesis and detachment that are absolutely imperative for any enterprise of a transcendent nature. It also shows that the path of awakening-identical in its spirit with every true "initiation"-is absolutely irreconcilable with all that is implied by confused mysticism, mediumistic cults, the subconscious, visionarism, manias for occult phenomena and powers, and neopsychnoanalytical contaminations. It is well known that interested circles-either confessionalists or "illumined" in the profane and "critical" sense-rely on such spiritual deviations in their attempt to heap discredit upon the ideals and kinds of wisdom that, in one form or another, were always recognized as the culminating point of every normal and traditional civilization. To realize that, as we have indicated, there is similar content in the path announced by a figure of the dignity and grandeur of Prince Siddhattha.
9. We may here call to mind the words of the Atharva Veda (12.1.1): "The great truth, the powerful order (rta), the initiation, the ascesis, the rite and the sacrifice sustain the earth."
the Buddha-and that this path, even if only in distant and varied reflections. is now related to the faith of more than four hundred million followers-such a realization should he enough to forestall any attempt by such shortsighted or malicious individuals to cause error and confusion of thought.
In the opposite field, we must say something in particular about two currents: the one, followed by those who, though themselves Orientals, apply themselves to "adapting" ideas of the ancient traditions in their own way and to popularizing them in the West; and the other, which aims at introducing the concept of a new "modem initiation."
The first case brings to mind the Hindu parable of a man who, when surrounded by water in a drenching rainstorm, made a great effort to draw some up from a muddy well. As far as the Oriental traditions go, or rather, the various Oriental forms of the one tradition, the situation we have to deal with is different from that existing in the West. Even in the case of transcendent wisdom there exist ancient texts, for the most part translated and available to all, where we can find, in a purer and more complete form, all that such people would vulgarize and reduce, at best, to an emasculated reflection of the original. Anyone who can lay his hands on the Buddhist texts or the Bhagavadgītā or the yoga and Vedānta texts should be able calmly to close the doors on these modem publishers and commentators and adaptors, leaving himself only the serious task of study and achievement. But, the true reason for the success of such new expositions is to he found where they are the most accommodating, least rigid, least severe, most vague, and ready to come to easy terms with the prejudices and weaknesses of the modem world. Let everyone have the courage to look deeply into himself and to see what it s that he really wants.
The second current differs from the first in that it makes no attempt to adapt or spread a kind of wisdom that is either ancient or Oriental. On the contrary it maintains that such forms of knowledge are unsuitable for the man of today who requires an altogether modern kind of "initiation." This is based upon evolutionism applied to affairs of the spirit. An evolutionary development of the world and of humanity is assumed, and it is thought that even the spirit should conform to this law and follow this development. There is no trace of such an idea in the teachings of any school of wisdom. The world is what it is, samsāra, said the Indo-Aryans; κύκλος της γενέσεως, an eternal cycle of generation, said the ancient Greeks. And in samsāra there is no "evolution," there is no beginning and there is no end. By "going" one does not reach the "end of the world." The direction in which we may find awakening and liberation, the direction of initiation, is vertical and has nothing to do with the course of history.
Certainly, the condition of modern man is very different from that of ancient
man-and in the course of this study we have repeatedly emphasized this fact. A "fall" or a "descent" has taken place, which is in no way a happening in an evolutional scheme, designed to produce, in a "happy ending," something higher than ever existed before. If this fall has any significance, it is that it shows the terrible power of the liberty of the spirit that can design and bring about even its own negation. There-fore the only thing to do is to admit that the ancient teachings cannot he used today without due consideration, and modem man must apply himself to a thankless task of reintegration: he must take himself back spiritually to the state of mind that has, always and everywhere, been the point of departure of a way that is essentially unique. There is no room for a "modem initiation" in a specific sense; by definition all that is modern is the contradiction of anything to do with initiation.
If, when we speak of "modem initiation" we wish to claim for it the characteristics of a "spiritual science," of a discipline that is as clear and exact as regards the supersensible world and the instruments of inward development as modem science is in regard to its own field and instruments, then we must show where in this respect it does more than simply state the problem.
It is, rather to traditional doctrines such as the one that we have laid before him in the present book, that the reader who is attracted by true spirituality should turn, to understand what a "spiritual science" really is: these doctrines will teach him the clarity of pure knowledge, divorced from all forms of visionary "clairvoyance," joined to a spiritual sovereignty, and to the will to break not only the human bond, but the bond formed by any other "world." Modem man has not only to fight against materialism, but must also defend himself from the snares and allures of false supernaturalism. His defense will be firm and effective only if he is capable of returning to the origins, of assimilating the ancient traditions, and then of relying upon the ascesis to carry out the task of reestablishing his inner condition. For it is through this that these traditions will reveal to him their deepest and perennially real content and show him, step by step, the path. In conclusion, we would like to repeat the ancient Roman augural formula: quod bonum faustumque sit. We would, that is to say, count it as most fortunate if this further modest contribution of ours to the understanding of premodern spirituality were to serve someone as something more than a simple reading. Only then could we repeat the formula of the Ariya: katam karaniyam-"done is what was to he done."