on 11 October 2011
The late Martin Lings, or as we should really address this great sage, Shaykh Abu Bakr Siraj Ad-Din, may God bless his soul as a Seal of Remembrance, pinpoints with a devastating accuracy the malignant distemper underlying the deviation of the modern world and analyses its discontents with sure perception in this slim treasure of a tome: this is an especially valuable work in that the Shaykh dispassionately and fearlessly casts the light of traditional intellectuality and knowledge upon the false idols to which modern man, in his dis-grace and confusion, grovels in disorientated abjection, most particularly the concept of evolutionism, the questioning of which provokes such hysterical touchiness in the West precisely because it provides the fallacious basis for the agenda of the so-called 'Enlightenment', the mirage of 'universal progress'(and by unspoken implication, of the innate superiority of Western secular modernity, rationalism and materialism over all other world-views). Lings' analyses of the evolutionist error are measured and profoundly insightful (and he also makes it abundantly clear that fundamentalist literalism - itself a reaction to and indavertent side-product of modernity - regarding 'creationism' itself helps to bolster the mendacious dogmas of 'progressivism' and the illusions of the Darwinian pseudo-mythos). The Shaykh instead clarifies the traditional teachings concerning the transcendent Unity, God, as source and ground all existence, the Fall of Man, the Four Ages of time, suggesting how the brainwashing which constitutes contemporary education, so misleading and damaging to developing minds, could be countered via elements of a traditional pedagogy which would afford at least some glimmerings of man's centrality as the image of God and thus go some way to restoring the lost sense of man's spiritual dignity as the vice-regal and axial being within the creation. Lings expounds upon the true nature of man with concision and acuity, treating such subjects as the wheel of Samsara and even touching upon such matters as traditional physiognomy along the way. In 'The Political Extreme', exploring the decline and confusion of the castes in their successive ascendency, the illusory 'solutions' and political ideologies of the modern world, reductionist creeds of materialism and horizontality, are examined and found entirely wanting. Lings has a real gift for conveying key elements of Traditional spiritual and esoteric doctrine and at the same time warns the bewildered humanity of this degenerate age against the various pseudo-esoteric manifestations which are actively seeking to mislead and which are incapable of offering any real truth to the contemporary world. This book is at one and the same time an inspired exposition of traditional wisdom, a grave warning to a world poised upon the edge of the abyss and a sure guide for those who wish to discern between the myriad delusions by which we are beset and the immutable norm of the Divine Reality (Al-Haqq) to which we are timelessly summoned to conform ourselves in attraction to, and submission to, the Will of Heaven. A superb work whose vital message, grounded in the Religio Perennis and illustrated by the teachings of classical Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and traditional Christianity, was never more timely. This is essential reading for the sincere seeker.
I greatly admire the writings of Rene Guenon, Schuon and Burckhard and was very impressed with the biography of the Prophet Muhammad by Martin Lings I do however feel that he like G Eaton lacks the same insight as the above mentioned 3 authors with regards to religion and society.
While Guenon and Schuon concentrate on a study of religion and its regression in the modern world, Burckhard and Nasr on the spiritual aspect of art and the world around us Lings and Eaton seem to look into the social and political climate of the time and here they are to say the least lacking.
This book is a perfect example. While its aim is noble and simple enough, that our ancestors had a much stronger concept of religion, through history we are moving more and more away from God and and even though doomsday theories have come and gone continuously throughout history they were more deeply felt in the past as people then were much 'closer to God'
Yes, we can argue against modern ideologies such as communism (as Lings and Eaton have done almost to the point of a personal crusade) And argue that is is "The lowest ebb which a government can sink" In regards to its distance from religion and thus, distance from God but to then argue as Lings does on page 42 that "Franco re-established a principled autocracy. That is, a Christian kingdom with himself as regent, thus saving his country from a communist dictatorship" Shows a remarkable ignorance of Spanish history.
Lings may well produce a theory of the world regressing (in opposite to modern theories of progress which is in fact Guenon's theory) but to describe Franco's Spain as some kind of 'noble Christian kingdom' is just nonsense. The fact that he could even put such words to print shows something of an insult to the intelligence of the reader.
Much of the book then is just a reproduction of Guenon and Shuons works followed by the apparitions at Fatima and the Prophecy of the Popes (something which was recently revived with the coming of the current pope) While his interpretations of the prophecy of the Popes is interesting as are his notes on the apparitions at Fatima they really cover nothing new. I must say, I was disappointed by this book because I thought it lacked depth.
For writing on the study of religion especially eastern religion look to the works of Guenon or Schuon. For the spiritual aspect of Islam look to Nasr (or Islam and the destiny of Man by Eaton) For writings on Christian art look to Burckhard.
I cant imagine that someone with an interest in such subjects will not have previously read the Prophecy of the Popes or about Fatima and the mere fact that he/she is reading such books show they are more than aware that there is a spiritual crisis in the world and within themselves. What they are looking for is what to do about it. This book I feel, does not give any answers.