Joaquín Alabaicín - Interview with Rama P. Coomaraswamy - Joaquín Albaicín

RAMA P. COOMARASWAMY

Interviewed by Joaquín Albaicín

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Letra y Espíritu n. 17 (Barcelona, May 2003)

[español]

Priest of Mass in Latin and facing the altar, his correspondence with Mother Theresa of Calcutta (available in his web-page: www.coomaraswamy-catholic-writings-com) is an eloquent testimony of how two believers deeply committed with their faith faced from opposed options a dramatic moment of the history of the Church. From his verb condemned by Rome sprouted as firing and lapidary book as The Problems of the New Mass. Executor and compiler of his father´s works, translator into English of Guénon's The Spiritist Error, surgeon, psychiatrist and exorcist, he does not fear neither refuse qualifications as "integrist" or "sedevacantist". In the last Christmas, Rama P. Coomaraswamy kindly accepted to give answer to our questionnaire.

s      I've read here and there about your travel to India with Marco Pallis when both were young. What was the main purpose of the trip?

>      For Marco Pallis it was to once again be in touch with his Buddhist roots. For myself, it was in expectation of my father's retirement and his intended return to India to eventually take sanyasa.

s      In his letters, your father gave to you indications regarding how to become a full member of the Hindu tradition. How was that belonging to a Brahman family did you finally embraced the Christian path instead of the Hindu one?

>      I grew up in Haridwar, one of the Holy Cities of India, and lived for years during my youth as an orthodox Hindu. Having been invested with the yajñopavita or sacred tread, I can state that since the Hindu view point I am a dvija or a "twice born". But after my father's death I returned to America, where my mother was essentially alone. As it was impossible for me to live as a Hindu in America at that time, and as living without any traditional affiliation was in my mind to live on an animal level, I entered Catholicism which I found completely compatible with my Hindu outlook.

s       Can we speak about any author who had continued your father's work as ambassador of Philosophia Perennis -a term if not coined, certainly got back by him- in nowadays India?

>      There are many authors who speak on Philosophia Perennis, such as Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Frithjof Schuon, Martin Lings, A. K. Saran... The list is quite long. Since you ask specifically in India, one would have to say that such individuals who live in the Sanatana Dharma exist, but do not necessarily write. The Kanchi Guru, for example, comes to my mind.

s      Contrary to Jerusalem, Benares remains a peaceful place. Does the Hindu tradition retain enough force to face successfully the Last Days global crisis?

>      I'm not sure that India is so free of the kind of chaos occurring in the Middle East. Consider the current spate of Hindu-Muslim riots. Benares may at this time be quiet, but the country is by no means free of conflict.

s      Of course, I am aware of the current penetration of modernism in latter-days India. I just intended to remark the powerful Sign of the Times apparently "embodied" by Jerusalem present situation. The present Indian reality -seen on the spot as well as since the West- does not transmit to me the apocalyptic feeling that Jerusalem does.

>      I agree that the situation in Jerusalem is more apocalyptic than what is going on elsewhere, but nevertheless the same forces are at play throughout the world and in India one sees terrible signs. Watching television in New Delhi, there were constant reports of children being abducted, of wives being murdered for their dowries, and of the desacralization of life in general. Apart from this the fighting between fundamentalist Hindus and Moslems is breaking out everywhere. What makes Jerusalem more apocalyptic is the risk of war with nuclear bombs and the fundamentalist Islamic reaction against the non-Christian west.

s      How do your remember your father?

>      I remember my father as a most saintly man an learn from him every day.

s      And how do you remember René Guénon?

>      I have no specific memories belonging to René Guénon's private sphere. At the time of my visit I was 18 and really not involved in traditional issues, doing little more than meet him briefly. Marco Pallis spent the day talking with him. I do remember... the radio blaring in his home, and I was quite surprised at this.

s      Thank you for the clarification, since some sources quote you as having been more directly involved in Guénon's turning point regarding Buddhism. For example, according to Chacornac you also contributed collecting sources along with Marco Pallis. By the way, how was that a radio seemed striking to you? Why?

>      The changing of Guenon's attitude towards Buddhism was a result of the efforts of my father and Marco Pallis. I had nothing to do with it. The reason the music struck me was that the radio was blaring out modernist Egyptian music of poor taste and this seemed incompatible with who and what Guenon was. It was like the blaring of radio in Indian bazzars.

s      Your father passed away before the break of Guénon/Schuon controversial. Had he lived enough to get acquainted of it, which would have been -in your opinion- his position?

>      I think he would have avoided any involvement in such a controversy.

s      In the appendix included in your father's Selected Letters you wrote on Schuon as "standing between and above Guénon and Coomaraswamy. Nevertheless, you bitterly denounced in recent times the apparent decomposition and breakdown -according to some persons- of his circle and teachings.

>      I retain the greatest respect for Schuon's writings and I think it incorrect to say I "bitterly denounced" anything. There were things I disagreed with. The issues are complex and there is little point in going over them now. I am most grateful to Schuon for many things, for the truths I have learned and continue learning from him.

s      Well, I asked because you were -at least, nominally- the typist of a file... bitter, to say the least. I also disagree with the sensationalist way the subject was handled by some people. And well, you did not reply to my question. Do you consider Schuon "between and above" Guénon and your father?

>      I don't consider Schuon as between and above Guénon and my father. I think that Guénon, Schuon and my father expounded the Philosophia Perennis - each in their own way. None of them are without minor errors, but the errors are not important. Instead of stressing the differences between, for example, Guénon and my father, one should see the similarities in thought. The differences were minor. They are not in competition with each other but delineate different aspects of the subject. If you like, they had different functions.

s      Your work and friendship with Mother Theresa.

>      I have worked with Mother Theresa both in India and New York. In fact, I operated on her when she was in New York and I have at one time taken care of her sisters medically. I have the greatest respect for her.

s      How is that Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, P do never speak about the Holy Grail, about Prester John, not even about the Three Kings?

>      While I cannot speak for the Anglican and Protestant authorities, I can assure you that Catholic and Orthodox do speak about these things, and certainly about the Three Kings.

s      Yes, articles dealing with the Holy Grail, Prester John and or the Three Magi can be found in the Catholic Encyclopedia, but they are merely historicist writings. Spanish Catholic priests do never mention the Holy Grail or Prester John in their sermons, and as far as I know the authorities do neither do in encyclicals or public writings and statements. The Catholic official view on the Three Magi is: "They were good hearted people anticipating the future conversion to Christendom of their brothers-in-paganism"... Regarding the Orthodox, I have certainly not found not even a single article on the subject. I want to mean deep, doctrinal articles, not the typical Christmas tale. Could you quote any concrete source? Please take in mind that I ask for priests, not lay fidels.

>      I think there are many sermons by the saints on the Three Magi and the gifts they brought - gold frankincense and myrrh. I cannot say of any discussion on Prester John by the saints. With regard to the Holy Grail, and indeed the entire Arthurian cycle, this is an example of the absorption into Christianity of Celtic beliefs and practices. Several of my father's articles (such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight) deal with the symbolic nature of the Arthurian tales. We are of course all meant to set out on the quest for the Holy Grail (said to be the chalice brought to England by the Apostle James and initially safeguarded at Glastonbury. Lancelot was not able to achieve the grail because of the impurity of his life, but Percival was able to cross the perilous bridge. I am not surprised that priests rarely if ever speak of these things as by en large they don't know their own Catholic theology and the whole idea of a "quest" is foreign to many of them.

s      Which circumstances led you to join Mon. Lefèbvre´s movement?

>      While I taught Ecclesiastical History in a Lefèbvre seminary for five years, I was never a member of the Lefèbvre movement -or more precisely, when it became clear that Lefèbvre wished to compromise with modernist Rome, I severed my connections with them.

s      May I know your personal remembrance of him?

>      I found him quite charming in many ways, but also a man who was unwilling to discuss anything on a serious basis with his priests. He demanded obedience without any opportunity to discuss the issues. I say this as the priests with whom I was associated with when teaching at the seminary wished to discuss with him his demand that they use the Mass and Breviary of John XXIII and he simply refused to discuss it, demanding that they obey him. This led them to leave the society.

s      Do you believe in the possibility of a future Church/Masonry reconciliation?

>       Not with the traditional Church. It more or less exists in the post-conciliar Church.

s      May we know your reasons to refuse or underestimate the possibility? Don't you consider Masonry as a traditional chain in itself, regardless the deviations detected in many of its branches?

>      As for Masonry, I think Guenon was always looking for a pattern in Christianity that paralleled the sharia and haqiqa distinction in Islam. Such does not exist in Christianity where there is more a "sliding scale" of esoterism. Again, the articles of Marco Pallis on the veil which were published in Sophia deal with this topic in a very clear manner. As for Masonry, I consider all forms to be false and part of the counter-initiation.

s      I´d like to know your view -and that of the traditional Catholic Church- on those Rose-Croix initiatic lineages that -according to Guénon- left the Western World to seek refuge in "the East" in XVIIth century and if do you think possible the survival of some lineage of Christian hermetists until nowadays? I don't have in mind a Fulcanelli, but rather a Louis Cattiaux. I know that you find problematic the existence of esoterism and exoterism as separated domains within the Christian tradition. But then, how to explain such examples?

>      I do not think the Rose-Croix is a valid organization from the traditional point of view. It is important as a Catholic never to step outside the bounds of sound doctrine and true faith and such organizations have been condemned both by Guenon and traditional writers, as well as the Church.

s      Well I was thinking rather of the diffusors of Fama Fraternitatis, The Alchemic Weddings of Christian Rosenkreutz... That's to say, of Rose-Croix, non the further and modern Rosicrucians.

>      As to initiatic groups retiring to the East, this was one of Guénon's theories. All these things seem to me to be speculations. Guénon also said salvation would come from the West. What is important is for Catholics to be Catholic. This is quite difficult as it requires study and effort, but there is nothing going on in the world today that prevents anyone from being Catholic in the fullest sense of the word.

s      Does the traditional Catholic Church share the same view of the Roman one about the "obligation" of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and so on to become converted to Christendom?

>      This requires a complex answer which takes in consideration the problem of invincible ignorance and the matter of salvation outside of the Church, which is always possible, but only through the graces that come from the Divine Word or Logos.

s      May we speak about a counter-initiatic action led by the Roman Catholic Church?

>      I think it clear that the activities of the post-conciliar Church fulfill all the criteria of what Guénon would call the counter-initiation.

s      Yoga practiced by Christian priests. Helpful tool or dangerous deviation?

>      I discuss this in one of the papers on my web page. I think priests getting involved with yoga are being silly.

s      Some religious authorities (Orthodox priest Seraphim Rose) and authors attached to Philosophia Perennis (Charles Upton) uphold the theory of UFOs as demons. Do you share this view?

>      While I like Seraphim Rose's writings, I think it unfortunate that he didn't really understand Guénon or my father. I am rather inclined to agree with Charles Upton about UFOs.

s      Western World and Muslim World. Is it unavoidable the crash?

>      If by Western World you mean the non-Christian western world, it is bound to clash with a genuine Islamic world. The Moslems who go in for suicide bombing - understandable as such acts might be in view of the situation in the middle east - such are not the acts of a believing Moslem because the Koran forbids the killing of innocent people, especially women and children, to say nothing of fellow Muslims. In a sense what is involved is a struggle between two power structures all done in the name of religion or democracy. There is a very good discussion of this in a recent book titled Paths to the Hearth, Sufism and the Christian East, published by World Wisdom Books in Bloomington (Indiana).

s      Is there a real link spiritism/diabolic possession?

>      Of course. With regard to the connection between new age spiritism and diabolism, this is a complex issue which would require an essay to explain. I discuss this rather thoroughly in an article on my web page. In a sentence or two, those who place their spirituality in their psyche - in their feelings and opinions as opposed to genuine intellection and revelation, expose themselves to all the influences that come from below. It is only an orthodox (true faith and sound doctrine) that can protect against this.

s       The Last Days, according to the traditional Catholic Church.

>      As the influence of the inferior forces becomes more dominant, we clearly approach the "last days" -as is predicted in all the genuine religious traditions. The various clashes are but symptoms of this departure from tradition where -on all sides- our "lusts and greed" take precedence over principles. All that is going on is symptomatic of the root causes, and of course we refuse to admit this because if we did so admit, we would be obliged to change our life and start to live by principles -the divine principles taught us by God. The End is coming soon of course -but we must live each day as if it were our last, for when we die, it is in some ways the end for us.

s       As far as I know, the sentence "the gates of hell will not prevail" is considered as referred to themselves also by the Russian Orthodox, the Syrian, the Ethiopic and the Assyrian (Nestorian) Churches. Needless to say that also by the Traditional Catholic Church! Why should we blindly take on that the Church of the Last Days will necessarily be the Catholic one, that in the Last Days the central role will be played by the Church of Rome? What about the Third Rome expected to be embodied by the Orthodox Church? Putting it in other words, why should we assume that the Catholic Church is precisely the nowadays so-termed?

>      With regard to Rome, the post-conciliar Church is a dead church. This doesn't mean the Church is dead, as there is spontaneously an underground church existing. This new church -the post-conciliar church as they name themselves, has false doctrines and false rites, while the true church -an underground church - follows true doctrine and valid rites. Catholic of course means universal. Anyone or any group can claim the title -many protestant groups say the Nicene creed. But as Athanasius said about the Arians, they have the Churches but we have the faith. As to a central role played by Rome, it is predicted that Rome will become the seat of anti-Christ.

s      John Paul II's approachs to the several Christian Churches. Any positive effects?

>      It is clear that the only valid approach to the non-Catholic Churches is to invite them to be Catholic. The present climate is one in which all doctrine is ignored so that we can all be "one" together. I am all for union, but not if it requires the sacrifice of truth.

s       Does the traditional Catholic Church take in any way inspiration for her view on the Roman one (as future throne of the Antichrist) from St. Malachias´ prophecies on the Popes? Is St. Malachias an axial reference regarding this subject? Should we regard De Gloria Olivae and In Persecutione Extrema... as true prophecies deserving of attention and interpretation, or do they stem from dubious sources?

>       The problem with prophecies is that they are wonderful in retrospect, but risky as a source to rely on before the events. I have heard the prophecies of Malachi about the future explained in a variety of ways. The issues between the traditional Church and the new and post-Conciliar Church however are quite clear and needn't depend on prophecies at all. It is of course understandable that in view of the present chaos in the Church, people look to apparitions and prophecies for guidance. However, if one adheres to sound doctrine, one will find within the teaching of the true Church and her historical actions, all the guidance necessary for one to remain truly Catholic.

s      Gates of hell will not prevail, as you hold up in your polemic article?

>      The gates of hell cannot prevail against the true Church because it is based on Truth - cf. my article on this on the web page. As Catherine Emerick said, if the true faith is only found in a single person, the Catholic Church resides in him.

Time and space run out. Many questions remain in the inkpot. We'd like to go deeper into our interviewee's display of arguments. For example, to be clarified by him on the apparent nonsense of the existence of organizations specifically counter-initiatic in a traditional field as the Catholic, where, according to him, do not properly exist initiatic organizations, but an "sliding scale" of esoterism. Shouldn't we speak about an also "sliding scale" of counter-initiation? Or which place should be assigned to an initiatic organization like Louis Charbonneau-Lassay's Divine Paraclet Brotherhood, that apparently remains out of the diagram. There will be, surely, more opportunities for talk about these and other subjects with Rama P. Coomaraswamy.