The Symbolism of the Cross

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The Symbolism of the Cross

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.


René Guénon (1886-1951) was a French metaphysician, writer, and editor who was largely responsible for laying the metaphysical groundwork for the Traditionalist or Perennialist school of thought in the early twentieth century. Guénon remains influential today for his writings on the intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy of the modern world, on symbolism, on spiritual esoterism and initiation, and on the universal truths that manifest themselves in various forms in the world’s religious traditions. His writings on Hinduism and Taoism are particularly illuminating in this latter regard.

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