GUÉNON, René. Blois 15.11.1886 — Cairo 7.1.1951. French Philosopher and Author interested in Indian philosophy, rather uncritical admirer of the East. Son of an architect. Grew up in a Catholic home, school in Blois. He studied mathematics at École polytechnique in Paris, but soon switched to philosophy at Sorbonne (diploma 1916, but 1919 failed the agrégation exam). Then studied indology under Lévi, but again was dismissed. Became early interested in occultism, then in Hinduism and Sufism and adopted Islam in 1912 as ‘Abd al-Wahīd Yahyā. All the time he was eager participant in various esoteric groups, for a while also close to Catholic Neo-Thomists. In the 1920s worked as schoolteacher, but mainly concentrated on literary work. In 1930 moved permanently to Egypt.
Originally he was rather appreciated by some colleagues (Masson-Oursel, Groussent) and influencing such people as Coomaraswamy, Eliade and Daniélou, he soon turned especially more critical scholars (Renou, Filliozat) into well-deserved critics. His main point was the criticism of modern thought and science, which in his opinion can never understand or interpret India, which represents the primordial sacred tradition.
Publications: Many books – often translated into English and other languages – and articles, e.g.
– Introduction générale à l’étude des doctrines hindoues. Paris 1921 (written as a diss., but not accepted by Lévi).
– Orient et Occident. P. 1924; La crise du monde moderne. P. 1927.
– L’Homme et son devenir selon le Vedanta. 1925; Autorité spirituelle et pouvoir temporel. P. 1929.
– Études sur l’hindouisme. 285 p. P. 1968 (articles).
Sources: X. Accart, D.O.L.F.465f.; R. Lardinois, “Genesis of Louis Dumont’s Anthropology. The 1930s in France Revisited”, Orientalism and Anthropology. Pondy Papers in Social Sciences 24. Pondicherry 1997 (2001), 31-59; *P.M. Sigaud (ed.), R.G. P. 1984; Wikipedia with photo.
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