Borderline: A Traditionalist Outlook for Modern Man
A Traditionalist Outlook for Modern Man
Paperback, 234 pages
Review: N M Phoenix
Few books I have read give such a succinct survey of Traditionalism as Borderline: A Traditionalist Outlook for Modern Man by Lennart Svensson. Whether it be called Primordial Traditional, Perennialism, or Philosophia Perennis, the work by Svensson goes above and beyond what is required to flesh out its meaning. With an intimate and sincere comprehension the terms commonly found in Perennialist teachings, from West to East, is explained in lucid detail. It begins with a thorough founding in Neoplatonic knowledge and then spreads outward like branches to other important figures and teachings that expand upon its Gestaltian foundation. For the newcomer to Philosophia Perennis or a seasoned reader, Borderlines is well worth the investment.
Admittedly the title is odd and Svensson explains it well. Using the word ‘borderline’ is to signify the liminal; the meeting point between God and Man, East and West, Reason and Spirit, and so forth. The work reads like a personal conversation as he describes this meeting point, the initiation thereof, and crossing from the trending reductionist mindstate to the holistic mindstate. The first chapters he lays the foundation of Gestalt Philosophy, which he also refers to as seinphilosophie. The chapters immediately after Svensson compares and contrasts the reigning reductionism with traditional holism. Rather than seeing an object from bottom-to-top, such as a cell that develops into an organ, one sees it from top-to-bottom, the organ form of which the cell will develop into. The eyeball is a solid example, from a materialist reductionist view it is mere cause-and-effect of which eventually becomes the incredibly intricate eyeball. From the traditional holistic perspective, there is already the Gestalt form of an intricate eyeball, an order, a form of which the cells mature into. The point being is that the Perennial standpoint acknowledges a transcendent order, higher places and forms, that one aspires find or know ones place within. This is in contrast to the reductionist mindstate that only acknowledges the ‘screws and bolts’ while ignoring the grand ‘blueprint’ so to say. Svensson discusses Goethe, Sheldrake, Eriksson in others to explore these concepts. In these chapters it reads like a ‘philosophy of science’ book that is being balanced out with the holistic approach.
One cannot give a survey of Perennialism without exploring either Vedic teachings or Christian mysticism. Indeed Svensson covers both, though Christian mysticism moreso. The primary detail Svensson drives home is that within the Whole, the Order, the living Organism, each individual contains a divine spark which can be summarized as the ‘I AM’. Whether it be the Atman of Vedic teaching, or the I AM of Christian mysticism or Gnosticism, each person contains the personal divine and realization is attained by aspiring to unite with the Divine Whole, be it called God or simply the Absolute. Indeed this is the core teaching of Philosophia Perennis. Be it through active or passive approaches, this is the core heart of Tradition. Svensson draws heavily from Rudolf Steiner in his treatment of Christian mysticism, devoting two chapters to him in elaboration.
The ending chapters cover Nietzsche and a few profound poets whom portray Tradition and holistic thought. It is difficult for me to reiterate his chapter on Nietzsche, which also discusses Evola in depth, but it is certainly one of the best chapters. It ties in much of what was recently mentioned and its relevance to the teachings of both Evola and Nietzsche. Following this chapter is discussion on Södergran, T.S. Eliot, Freidrich, Swedenborg, and Jünger respectively. These were no less enjoyable chapters, and I have personally fell in love with Södergran whom I was unaware of until this work.
Borderline by Svensson is worth reading, contemplating, and applying in practice. Even weeks later I recall parts and allows me to shift how one thinks about things. It is an excellent survey of Perennialism, and is filled aplenty with writers and philosophers to further study. Think of it as a college course, or lecture, and contemplate the content. It is well worth the time and effort.