“There is no more unpopular concept today than hierarchy. In most people’s vocabulary it means no more or less than ‘established, therefore, arbitrary power.'” Modernity has a distaste for hierarchy, as if it has become synonymous with oppression and antithetical to ‘democracy’. And so the modern revolutionist desires to liberate himself from the dictates of what he perceives to be an arbitrary authority.
No doubt history has produced hierarchies that confer power and status on people unequally, and that this power has often been abused. “And when in a particular place and time it became degenerate, it stood as the worst form of idolatry. Instead of functioning as a transparent symbol of the Hierarchy of Being, it became a counterfeit of that Hierarchy, a veil over the face of spiritual realities.”
The question of how to prevent hierarchies from becoming brutal, despotic regimes is a most serious one, but trying to solve the problem of unjust authority by attacking hierarchy per se is erroneous, even dangerous. Dangerous because the degeneration of the concept of hierarchy in the modern mind results in a false image of reality.
“In both the Old Testament and the Koran, the prime symbol of such falsification of spiritual hierarchy is the Pharaoh of Egypt. According to the Koran, the Pharaoh literally believed he was God—and this is exactly what happens when an elaborate royal or ecclesiastical structure begins to worship its own knowledge and magnificence instead of the God it exists to serve. True hierarchy, like the ladder in Jacob’s dream upon which angels were constantly ascending and descending, is there to provide an ongoing ‘two-way communication’, so to speak, between manifest existence and its transcendent Source. The universe itself is just such a hierarchy.”
Hierarchy is integral to the nature of Being. For the ancients, social hierarchies provided a concrete image and reminder of the true ontological hierarchy, the Great Chain of Being.
True hierarchy unifies. Unification is an ordering. Order brings about harmony, allowing the parts to function together as an integrated whole.
Inverted, false hierarchies are a symptom of social dysfunction. To be fully human is to exist in wholeness, yet, the mechanics of the Kali Yuga, the Age of Confusion, sow discord and disorder…”the world of evil is a chaotic world.”
“In other words, there is a hierarchy of the real. The manifold world of our everyday experience is real with a relative reality that is, on its own level, unquestionable; but this relative reality has its being within and because of the absolute Reality, which, on account of the incommensurable otherness of its eternal nature, we can never hope to describe, even though it is possible for us to directly apprehend it.” – Aldous Huxely, The Perennial Philosophy
“Moses, by God’s grace and power, was called to ascend Mt. Sinai, symbol of the Hierarchy of Being, to receive the Torah. Those who denied the reality of that Hierarchy, who wanted to relate to God through His Immanence alone while denying His Transcendence, remained below to worship the Golden Calf.”
Source: Charles Upton, The System of Antichrist, pp. 94-5
“That is sacred which in the first place is attached to the transcendent order, secondly, possesses the character of absolute certainty and, thirdly, eludes the comprehension and control of the ordinary human mind. Imagine a tree whose leaves, having no kind of direct knowledge about the root, hold a discussion about whether or not a root exists and what its form is if it does: if a voice then came from the root telling them that the root does exist and what its form is, that message would be sacred. The sacred is the presence of the center in the periphery, of the immutable in the moving; dignity is essentially an expression of it, for in dignity too the center manifests outwardly; the heart is revealed in gestures. The sacred introduces a quality of the absolute into relativities and confers on perishable things a texture of eternity.” — Frithjof Schuon, Understanding Islam
To deny the root is to deny the sacred, to alienate oneself from oneself, to separate oneself from the universe, to be cast out into the barren deserts of time and space.
Tradition: Know thyself (to actualize one’s given nature; to become what one essentially is; to remember; to reconnect with a principle that is beyond the contingent events of time and space)
Modernity: Construct thyself (to be deprived of one’s essence; to become what one is not; to forget; to degenerate into materialism)
The traditional worldview seeks to harmonize human will with Nature, without intermediary.
The modern worldview seeks to dominate Nature through the intermediary of technology and other gods.
“What then is the sacred in relation to the world? It is the interference of the uncreate in the created, of the eternal in time, of the infinite in space, of the supraformal in forms; it is the mysterious introduction into one realm of existence of a presence which in reality contains and transcends that realm and could cause it to burst asunder in a sort of divine explosion. The sacred is the incommensurable, the transcendent, hidden within a fragile form belonging to this world; it has its own precise rules, its terrible aspects and its merciful qualities; moreover any violation of the sacred, even in art, has incalculable repercussions. Intrinsically the sacred is inviolable, and so much so that any attempted violation recoils on the head of the violator.” — Frithjof Schuon, Language of the Self
Desacrelization ultimately leads to destruction.
Man’s role is crucial in the actualization of the sacred.
Source: Title from Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion: The Significance of Religious Myth, Symbolism, and Ritual within Life and Culture (1961), translated from the French by William R. Trask, [first published in German as Das Heilige und das Profane (1957).
“Most ‘intellectuals’, to speak without euphemism, are not intelligent enough to understand writers like Saint Anselm or Saint Thomas Aquinas, that is to say to understand them in depth and to find there evidence of God. The darkening of our world – whether we mean the West properly so called or its ramifications in the East and elsewhere – appears patently in the fact that an extreme mental dexterity goes hand in hand with a no less excessive intellectual superficiality; it has become habitual to treat concepts as if they were playthings of the mind, committing one to nothing, in other words everything is touched on and nothing is assimilated; ideas no longer bite into the intelligence, which slides over concepts without taking time to really grasp them. The modern mind moves ‘on the surface’, all the time playing with mental images, while not knowing their possibilities and role; whereas the traditional mind proceeds in depth, whence come doctrines, which may seem dogmatist, but are fully sufficient and effectual for those who know what a doctrine is. Twentieth century man has lost the sense of repose and contemplation; living on husks, he no longer knows what fruit is like.”
Source: Frithjof Schuon, Stations of Wisdom, pp.x-xi