The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times

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The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times
Le règne de la quantité et les signes des temps.jpg
Cover of the first edition
Author René Guénon
Original title Le Règne de la quantité et les signes des temps
Translator 1953: Lord Northbourne
Country France
Language French
Subjects Materialism, civilization, scientism, Idea of Progress
Published 1945 (in French)
1953: Luzac
1972: Penguin Metaphysical Library
2001: Sophia Perennis
Pages 363 (Penguin)
284 (Sophia Perennis)
ISBN 0-900588-67-5 (paperback edition)
ISBN 0-900588-68-3 (hardcover edition)

The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times (French: Le Règne de la quantité et les signes des temps) is a book by René Guénon first published in 1945. The book purports to give a comprehensive explanation, based on tradition, of the cyclical conditions that led to the modern world in general and to the Second World War in particular. The book was published with the support of Jean Paulhan from Gallimard, who created a collection exclusively dedicated to the "Tradition" in order to publish Guénon. The book, corresponded to the mood of the public in the immediate post-war period. It was such a success that it was sold out within two months of publication and subsequently had to be quickly reissued twice.


History according to Guénon[edit]

For Guénon, History is only the reflection of a vast cosmic process taking its source in a metaphysical dimension (according to his metaphysical doctrine). From the traditionalist perspective, Time is a purely contingent notion of the manifested world. It has been pointed out by several authors[1][2][3] that such a conception of History is radically different from that of Hegel who on the contrary locks his in the sphere of time. More precisely, as Georges Vallin explains, in Hegel's thought, the timeless mystery of non-duality, of the "coincidence of opposites" found in Guénon, is replaced by "a time-based dialectic of thesis and antithesis". For Vallin, this notion of confinement in time of the human condition, in opposition to the "metaphysical perspective" of Guénon, continued with the conception exposed by Martin Heidegger in Being and Time. For Guénon, such a confinement of History in Time, cut off from any transcendent reality, takes on a satanic dimension that explains the fall of the modern world.[4][5]

Charles Upton (poet) writes that :

in the Reign of Quantity, Guénon sees history in terms of the Hindu concept of the manvantara, the cycle of manifestation composed of Golden, Silver, Bronze and Iron ages; [...] This cycle is an inevitable descent from the pole of Essence (or forma) toward the pole of Substance (or materia). [...] Essence is qualitative while substance is quantitative; As the cycle progresses or descends, the very nature of time and space changes.[...] In earlier stages, time is relatively eternal, as the cycle moves on, however, time begins to take over and accelerate, but this constant acceleration of time can't go on forever. Time, the "devourer" ends by devouring itself. At the end of time, Time will be changed into space again. [...] This ultimate timeless point is simultaneously the end of the cycle of manifestation and the beginning of the next.[...] Before this ultimate transformation, in the latter days of the present cycle certain final developments must take place. Since quantity has particularly to do with matter, the Reign of quantity must also be the reign of materialism. The age of miracles ceases, the world becomes less permeable to the influences of the higher planes of reality. [6]

John Griffin also writes that:

Guénon claims that essence is qualitative while the substance of our specific world (materia secunda) is quantitative (materia signata quantitate). [7]

And Lee Penn that :

Guénon then reaches an ultimate Eschatological conclusion and warns against the omni present materialism and artificial egalitarianism of the west, seen as symptoms of terminal illness.[8]

Reception[edit]

After the publication of the book two new movements, communism and existentialism, started to dominate and inform the minds of the intellectual elite in France.

More recently; Jacob Needleman, in The Sword of Gnosis says:

"Many of Guénon's books, notably The Reign of Quantity, are such potent and detailed metaphysical attacks on the downward drift of Western civilization as to make all other contemporary critiques seem half-hearted by comparison."

Harry Oldmeadow, author of Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy:

"The Reign of Quantity is a brilliantly sustained and excoriating attack on modern civilization [...] The book is a controlled and dispassionate but devastating razing of the assumptions and values of modern science. At the same time it is an affirmation of the metaphysical and cosmological principles given expression in traditional culture and religions."[9]

Translations[edit]

There are complete translations of Le règne de la quantité in a number of languages: English, Italian, Spanish, and Turkish.[10] Walter James, 4th Baron Northbourne being among the translators for the 1953 English version.[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]