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mardi, 02 juin 2020

Traditionalism in Turkey


Tibet DIKMEN:                                                       

Traditionalism in Turkey

It is difficult to say that Traditionalism has sufficiently been discussed and spread in the Turkish intellectual sphere. Despite the fact that a majority of the important Traditionalist books have been translated into Turkish , the awareness of this phylosophical current is quite limited to a peculiar ‘elite’. Although most of the works of René Guénon, Frithjof Schuon, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Martin Lings, Titus Burckhardt and Julius Evola are still being published by ‘İnsan Yayınları’, many Turks ignore how the Traditionalist school is an active politico-philosphical movement, how the Traditionalists are connected with each other, where the large and small veins that feed them extend, and how far the vessels that extend from these range.

3115huqBuNL._SX344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgRené Guénon is naturally the first Traditionalist name to reach Turkey. The oldest document bearing his name dates back to 1938, in the heading of a newspaper article stating : «  René Guénon, the French philosopher who was lost for seven years has been finally found at the famous Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Everyone in Paris is astonished by the philosopher’s weird and curious adventure. » However, this article proves irrevelant. The intellectual works of Guénon will only reach Turkish intellectuals at the beginning of the 80’s. It began with small articles being published on a conservative magazine called ‘Ressurection’, belonging to an islamo-conservative party that was later closed down for refusing to participate in elections thrice in a row. Following this introduction, the translation of his books were lead off by Nabi Avcı, who was a column writer at Yeni Şafak newsapapers, the chief advisor of Prime Minister Erdogan in 2003, the Minister of National Education between 2013-2016 and then the Minister of Culture and Tourism until 2017. We already notice that peculiarly high placed academicians and intellectuals have tried to be the ‘precursors’ of Traditionalism in Turkey.

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Nabi Avci.

After Avcı’s translations, second editions have been published, all at ‘Insan Publishing’, under the editorship of Prof. Dr. Mahmut Erol Kılıç, also a writer at Yeni Şafak and an academician famous for his work on Ibn-Arabi and René Guénon, currently the Turkish ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia. Until very recently, we could observe that Traditionalist content was only to be found in islamo-conservative arenas such as Theology faculties. However, the anti-modern current is, as of today, living its apogee in Turkey. Many new translations are adding up and the ideas are gaining more interlocutors every day.


Mahmut Erol Kiliç.

Besides Traditionalism becoming a huge influence for active Sufi orders µ, some conservatives have began to try using Traditionalism as rigid and strong philosophy against the secular opposition.

41hyBPE8C5L.jpgAn increased effort can also be noticed in introducing the school of thought to the younger generation.  GZT ( the youth section of the Yeni Şafak newspaper we had pointed out earlier, a conservative daily newspaper known for its hardline support of president Erdogan, having close relations with the AKP regime and frequently accused of  using excessive hate speech and anti-semitism) has written a thorough and well-researched article about Traditionalism aimed at the younger generation, and has even made a 20 minute YouTube video explaining the legacy of Guénon. This ‘youth gazette’ which, along with Yeni Şafak, belongs to Albayrak Holding, a billion-dollar conglomerate involved in telecommunication, real estate, engine production, textile and paper, has also organised a live stream with Ibrahim Kalin ( the current chief advisor of president Erdogan ) where he harshly criticised modernity and recommanded the young Turkish populations to read Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s ‘Man and Nature’. New articles about Traditionalist writers appear very frequently in youth magazines of many universities ranging from Istanbul to Erzurum. We can therefore observe that, unlike in Europe where it appears as a dissident current, Traditionalism in Turkey can be found intertwined in the ruling class, the place you would least expect it.

Considering all the different factors, even if it’s unconscious and unplanned, a renaissance is happening in the conservative branch of Turkey and that is directly linked with the Traditionalist point of view. While the Sufis and religious orders tend to focus on the more passive Perennialist tangent, Julius Evola’s ‘Revolt against the Modern World’ is gaining popularity along the militarists : those who comply firmly to the motto ‘Turkey is not a country with an army, the Turkish army is an army with a country.’

The growth of Traditionalist influence has reached such an extent that, Abdul-Wahid Yahya Guénon, son of René Guénon, has been invited to Istanbul in 2015 to receive the honorary prize of ‘Special Friend’ (given to those deemed to have greatly served Islam) by a deep-rooted Sufi foundation (Kerim Vakfı). During his speech, Guénon’s son has shared some previously unheard facts about his father. The most astonishing of these was the fact that a student of Albert Einstein wrote a letter to René Guénon stating that “his professor was greatly influenced by his works on metaphysics” and that “he recommended it to his students”. Guénon’s son also stated that even though he is happy that his fathers are praised in Turkey, only 13 of his 28 books have been translated so far.

f4e1e4969b0dc2e5c01e6fb89d3b14a3.jpgLet us not omit the opposition as well. The strongest opposition to Guénon came from Zübeyir Yetik ( from Erbakan’s Milli Görüş) who consecrated a whole book on critisizing Guénon’s  esoteric and ‘suprareligious’ positions, called “Man’s supremacy and Guenonian esoterism”.

Yetik strongly affirms that “The results of the efforts to revive the "common heritage of humanity" under the name of "tradition", which is persistently brought to the agenda by Rene Guénon and his disciples, as an alternative way of salvation, cheats and stalls on this subject, and is a damage to the individual and to society”. Alongside such critics, we can also observe that Turkish freemasons are not fund of his popularity either. According to a research made by Thierry Zarcone, eventhough the Grand-Lodge of Istanbul’s library had many of Guénon’s books at disposal, they somehow deliberately ignored it and even showed dismay towards his philosophy.

31JvSjfFXNL._AC_SY400_.jpgWe can easily take notice of the growing attention towards Traditionalism, particularly with arrival of Ernst Jünger on Turkish shelves. Jünger is the most recent thinker who has entered this ongoing ‘intellectual renaissance’ and oddly enough, the first translated book was ‘Gläserne Bienen’ (Glass Bees) in 2019, followed by ‘In Stahlgewittern’ (Storms of Steel) later that year. Thus, it took 99 years for Ernst Jünger to reach a Turkish audience. We can therefore conclude that, Traditionalism is still settling and creating significant intellectual changes in different parts of the world, each in independent contexts and Turkey, is only recently but thoroughly embracing this perennial worldview.

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