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Quran, Porphyry and Rene Guenon: On Symbolism

Quran, Porphyry and Rene Guenon: On Symbolism
Photo: Japanese Todaiji Gigaku Mask



​'Give glad tidings unto those who believe and do deeds of piety that verily they shall have gardens of Paradise watered by flowing rivers. Whenever they are given to eat of one of the fruits thereof they say: This is that which we were given aforetime, and they were given a likeness of it.'
(Quran II, 25)
You were universal prior to this. But when, together with the universe, something was present with you, you became less by the addition; because the addition was not from truly subsisting Being, for to that you cannot add anything.
One could say, generally speaking, that the theatre is a symbol of manifestation, the illusory character of which it expresses as perfectly as it is possible. This symbolism can be envisaged either from the point of view of the actor or from that of the theatre itself. The actor is a symbol of the Self or the “inner person” manifesting himself in an indefinite series of states and modalities which may be considered as many different roles; and one must note the importance of the ancient use of the mask as an exact expression of this symbolism (2). For under the mask the actor remains himself throughout all of his roles. Likewise, the “inner person” remains “unaffected” by all of his manifesta­tions; the disappearance of the use of the mask, on the contrary, forces the actor to change his own physiognomy. However, in all cases, the actor remains fundamentally other than what he seems to be, in the same way as the “inner person” is different from the multiplicity of his manifested states. They are but the outward and changing appearances which he puts on in order to realize, throughout the various modes which befit their nature, the indefinite possibilities which he contains within himself in the sempiternal moment of non-manifestation.
(Rene Guenon)
(1) We do not say unreal; for it is quite obvious that illusion must only be considered as a lesser reality.
(2) It is relevant to note here that this mask is called in Latin persona; the “inner person” is, literally, he who hides himself under the mask of the individual.




Recommended Reading:
'The Symbolism of the Cross'
By Rene Guenon (Author), Angus Macnab (Translator)
Purchase Book:


The Symbolism of the Cross is a major doctrinal study of the central symbol of Christianity from the standpoint of the universal metaphysical tradition, the 'perennial philosophy' as it is called in the West. As Guénon points out, the cross is one of the most universal of all symbols and is far from belonging to Christianity alone. Indeed, Christians have sometimes tended to lose sight of its symbolical significance and to regard it as no more than the sign of a historical event. By restoring to the cross its full spiritual value as a symbol, but without in any way detracting from its historical importance for Christianity, Guénon has performed a task of inestimable importance which perhaps only he, with his unrivalled knowledge of the symbolic languages of both East and West, was qualified to perform. Although The Symbolism of the Cross is one of Guénon's core texts on traditional metaphysics, written in precise, nearly 'geometrical' language, vivid symbols are necessarily pressed into service as reference points-how else could the mind ascend the ladder of analogy to pure intellection? Guénon applies these doctrines more concretely elsewhere in critiquing modernity in such works as The Crisis of the Modern World and The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, and invokes them also to help explain the nature of initiation and of initiatic organizations in such works as Perspectives on Initiation and Initiation and Spiritual Realization.

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