07.08.19 | Perennial Philosophy

View this session on perennial philosophy as an open-ended invitation to share your own Truth. There are no wrong answers. Truth may emanate from a religious tradition but need not. The philosophical term perennial wisdom was coined some five hundred years ago to suggest all religions, underneath their seeming differences, point to the same essence (for an overview click here). Universalism opened the path outside the orthodox religions to inspire a wide assortment of metaphysical traditions from 19th century Transcendentalism to Aldous Huxley's 1945 work The Perennial Philosophy.

Highland family member Nick Urban, now attending the University of Chicago Divinity School, will join us as "lead participant" to help us sort through what this all means. We previously dealt with religion as philosophy (MM 8/20/18) by citing Dante's Circles of Hell and the Puritanical hell-fire equivalent as we addressed the battleground discussions between theists and atheists. At its core the energy animating the debate was the sometime presumptuousness of man projecting the self as divine Reality within the context of a religion sometimes reduced to a childlike (if not childish) stick-figure representation of metaphysical truth. Yet stick figures are capable of most anything, including war, in the name of literal certitude (Religious Fundamentalism, MM 10/16/17).

Let us start with the proposition that the divine, though innate in all, is beyond description and that each world religion is but an interpretation of some universal truth adapted to accommodate the psychological, intellectual, and social needs of a given culture. We are thereby open to a philosophical truth that works in harmony with religion in the exploration of an underlying unity.

We shall remain open, however, to the notion that a divine reality encompasses the "real" world and, in fact, acts to shape the world of things and lives and minds. Rudiments of the perennial philosophy may be found everywhere, from the lore of the earlier traditional cultures, to the higher religions, to the mystics. Aldous Huxley emphasized mystical experience over metaphysics. There may be more than one path to achieve the feeling of the infinite e.g. Buddhism, the Hindu mystics, or our own Joseph Campbell ("Stop reading religion as prose and start experiencing it as poetry").

Or the Transcendentalists. We have spent some quality time communing with the ghosts of Walden Pond, including that of Emerson who expressed one of the finest spiritual sentiments on transcendent consciousness: "I am God in nature; I am a weed by the wall."

Steve SmithComment