By René Guénon
Except from The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times
HOWEVER far the ” solidification ” of the sensible world may have gone, it can never be carried so far as to turn the world into a ” closed system ” such as is imagined by the materialists. The very nature of things sets limits to ” solidification ” and the more nearly those limits are approached the more unstable is the corresponding state of affairs; in actual fact, as we have seen, the point corresponding to a maximum of ” solidification ” has already been passed, and the impression that the world is a ” closed system ” can only from now onwards become more and more illusory and inadequate to the reality. ” Fissures ” have been mentioned previously as being the paths whereby certain destructive forces are already entering, and must continue to enter ever more freely; according to traditional symbolism these ” fissures ” occur in the ” Great Wall ” which surrounds the world and protects it from the intrusion of maleficent influences coming from the inferior subtle domain.116 In order that this symbolism may be fully understood in all its aspects, it is important to note that a wall acts both as a protection and as a limitation: in a sense therefore it can be said to have both advantages and inconveniences; but in so far as its principal purpose is to ensure an adequate defence against attacks coming from below, the advantages are incomparably the more important, for it is on the whole more useful to anyone who happens to be enclosed within its perimeter to be kept out of reach of what is below, than it is to be continuously exposed to the ravages of the enemy, or worse still to a more or less complete destruction. In any case, 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, as already explained, since 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, on the contrary, only beneficient influences can come that way; the ” fissures ” occur only at the base, and therefore in the actual protective wall itself, and the inferior forces which 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. Thus the world is exposed defenceless to all the attacks of its enemies, the more so because, the present-day mentality being what it is, the dangers which threaten it are wholly unperceived.
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,117 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, in accordance with what was said earlier on the subject, and at least in certain connections, which the ” guardians of the hidden treasure ” and with the smiths of the ” subterranean fire”, who have, it may be recalled, an exceedingly maleficent aspect; in all such symbolisms the same kind of ” infra-corporeal ” subtle influences are really always involved.118 If the truth be told, 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 (sister and wife of Fo-hi, who is said to have reigned jointly with him) melted stones of five colours in order to repair a tear in the sky made by a giant ” (apparently, though it is not made quite clear, the tear was situated on the terrestrial horizon) ; and this took place at a period not more than a few centuries after the beginning of the Kali-Yuga.
Nevertheless, although the Kali-Yuga as a whole is intrinsically a period of obscuration, so that ” fissures ” have been possible ever since it 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 none the less necessary to maintain a constant 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 modern times, the part that can be defined as being characteristically mechanistic and materialistic, in which the ” closed system ” alluded to was most nearly realized, 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 which 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 ” ?
But that is not all: what has been said so far covers so to speak only the negative side of the growing difficulties encountered by all attempts to oppose the intrusion of maleficent influences, among these difficulties is a sort of inertia resulting from the general ignorance of such matters, and from ” survivals ” of the materialistic mentality and of the outlook it engenders; this inertia may endure longer than it otherwise would because the outlook in question has become more or less instinctive in the moderns and is now incorporated in their very nature. Of course a majority of ” spiritualists ” and even of ” traditionalists “, or of people who call themselves such, are in fact quite as materialistic as other people when matters of this kind are in question, so that the situation is made even more irremediable by the fact that those who. most sincerely want to combat the modern spirit are almost all unwittingly affected by it, and all their efforts are therefore condemned to remain without any appreciable result; for these are matters in which good-will is far from being sufficient; effective knowledge is needed as well, indeed it is more needed than anything else. But effective knowledge is the very thing that is made impossible by the influence of the modern spirit with all its limitations, even in the case of those who might have some intellectual capabilities of the required kind if conditions were less abnormal.
But apart from all these negative elements, the difficulties now under review have an aspect which can be called positive, and it may be taken to include everything in our world as we know it actively favourable to the intervention of subtle influences of an inferior kind, whether its work be done consciously or unconsciously. The logical sequence here would be to consider in the first place the more or less ” determining ” part played by the actual agents of the whole modern deviation, since the intervention of inferior influences really represents a new phase in the said deviation, and fits in exactly with the sequence of the ” plan ” by which it is brought about; it would clearly be necessary to seek in some such direction for the conscious auxiliaries of the maleficent forces; nevertheless the extent to which they are individually conscious of what they are doing may actually differ greatly in particular cases. As for the other auxiliaries, those who act in good faith and, because they know nothing of the true nature of the forces involved (thanks to the recently mentioned influence of the modern spirit) they are never anything but mere dupes, though this does not prevent their activity from being proportional to their sincerity and to their blindness; these auxiliaries are already virtually numberless, and they can be placed .in many categories, ranging from the ingenuous adherents of all sorts of ” neo-spiritualist ” organizations to the ” intuitionist ” philosophers, by way of the ” metapsychic ” scientists and the psychologists of the more recent schools. This matter need not be pursued any farther for the moment, for to do so would be to anticipate what will come later; in the meantime some examples must be given of some of the ways in which ” fissures ” can actually be brought about, also of the ” supports ” which the inferior order of subtle or psychic influences (for the terms ” subtle ” and ” psychic ” applied to a domain are for present purposes synonymous) are able to find in the cosmic environment itself, to assist them in bringing their action to bear on the human world and to enable them to propagate themselves therein.