The Only Tradition

By William W. Quinn Jr.

Subjects: Comparative Religion
Series: SUNY series in Western Esoteric Traditions
Paperback : 9780791432143, 404 pages, February 1997
Hardcover : 9780791432136, 404 pages, February 1997

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Table of contents




Part I Background and Premises

Chapter 1 Introductory

Chapter 2 The Tradition

Ananda K. Coomaraswamy

René Guénon

Tradition as the Philosophia Perennis

Metaphysics versus Religious Studies and the Social Sciences

Chapter 3 Hermeneutics of The Tradition

Esotericism in World Religions


"Knowing" and "Knowing About"

Integrity of Traditions and "Religious Esperanto"

Chapter 4 Forums of the Traditional Perspective



North America


One Universal Forum

The Individuals Influenced

Chapter 5 The Complexio Oppositorum of Quantity and Quality

The Nature of Quantity

The Nature of Quality

Interrelationship of Quantity and Quality

Quality and the Tradition

Notes to Part I

Part II Principles and Parallels

Chapter 6 The Philosophia Perennis

The Concept of Philosophia Perennis in Modem Philosophy

The Term Philosophia Perennis in Western Philosophy

The Meaning of Philosophia Perennis in Modem Philosophy

Philosophia Perennis: Modem Philosophy and the Traditional Perspective

Chapter 7 Theosophia

Section I: Theosophia Antiqua

The Concept

The Term

Historical Succession of Theosophists and Theosophic Expression

Section II: Modem Theosophy

Coomaraswamy and Modem Theosophy

Guénon and Modem Theosophy

Chapter 8 The First Principles

The. Absolute and the One



Polarity, Duality, Coincidentia Oppositorum

Cause and Effect


Notes to Part II

Part III Traditional Culture

Chapter 9 Primitive Traditional Culture

Primary Considerations

Chauvinistic Perspective of Primitive Culture

Magnanimous Perspective of Primitive Culture

Traditional Perspective of Primitive Culture

Chapter 10 Developed Traditional Culture

Developed Metaphysics

Social Structure

Arts and Crafts

Work and Play

The Principle of Fusion in Traditional Culture

Anomalous Elements in Traditional Culture

Chapter 11 Primitive and Developed Traditional Culture Compared


"Degree" of Development and Periodic Manifestation

Fundamental Dissimilarities

Fundamental Similarities

Medieval Christendom (1100-1400)

Developed Metaphysics

Social Structure

Arts and Crafts

Work and Play


Notes to Part III


Chapter 12 Introductory

Chapter 13 Losses and Gains of the Western Worldview

Loss of the Sacred, Gain of the Secular

Loss of Value, Gain of the Mean

Loss of Art and Vocation, Gain of Reproduction and Industry

Loss of Metaphysics, Gain of Materialism

Loss of Integrity, Gain of Diversity

Chapter 14 Cultural Effects of Modernity

A Montage of Rotten Bases

Mass Neurosis

Terminological and Educational Confusion


Pollution: Geographic and Cultural

Chapter 15 The "Solution" to the Vicissitudes of Modernity

Technologic Soteriology: The Great Chimera

The Traditional Solution

Planetization: Consciousness and Culture

A Traditional Planetary Culture: Novus Ordo Seclorum

Notes to Part IV

Appendix A

Tradition: Definitions and Usages

Appendix B


Appendix C


Appendix D

Methodology (or Ethnomethodology)

Notes to Appendices



Examines the first principles of the perennial philosophy or ancient wisdom tradition as expressed in the writings of its great exponents, Rene Guenon and Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, and offers a critique of the West from the standpoint of traditional principles.


The Only Tradition examines the first principles of the perennial philosophy or ancient wisdom tradition as expressed in the writings of René Guénon and Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, and the current breakdown of value, meaning, and culture in the West due to the decline of these principles since the thirteenth century. The book further focuses on the relationship or reciprocity between the first principles and Western and Eastern culture, and discusses the future development of a homogenous, worldwide system of belief that would restore value and meaning to people's lives.

Quinn argues for a return to the first principles inherent in the perennial philosophy, which constitute the sacred primordial Tradition and which inform all the world's great religious traditions. His book makes an excellent introduction to this powerful current of European esoteric thought—primordial tradition.

William W. Quinn, Jr. is an attorney with the firm of Shea and Wilks in Phoenix, Arizona.


"I cannot recall reading as clear a statement of the perennial philosophy, nor one as solidly based on empirical research, as I have read in this book. The topic of 'primordial tradition' or 'perennial philosophy' is important in the area of the history of religions, and there are precious few books that deal with it in a sympathetic and yet critical way. Coomaraswamy is mentioned often and honorably in religious studies literature without telling us much about why. Guénon usually is idolized or vilified, if he is acknowledged at all. Books such as Quinn's, that treat these influential figures honestly and fairly but with an open and critical eye, fill a real need." — James Burnell Robinson, University of Northern Iowa