February 16, 2006

Perennial Philosophy

The term "Perennial Philosophy" was coined by Leibniz, but popularized by Aldous Huxley, according to whom it pertains to a primary concern "with the one, divine Reality substantial to the manifold world of things and lives and minds. But the nature of this one Reality is such that it cannot be directly or immediately apprehended except by those who have chosen to fulfill certain conditions, making themselves loving, pure in heart, and poor in spirit." In the spirit of Aldous Huxley, this page explores Eastern and Western traditions of mysticism and religion. I would welcome any comments, questions, suggestions, advice, or e-mail correspondence. Simply e-mail me at NEW: Link pages for Blaise Pascal, Aldous Huxley, Nicholas Berdyaev, Carl Gustav Jung, Joseph Campbell, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Martin Buber, William James, James Hillman, Paul Tillich, Karl Jaspers, Rollo May, Gabriel Marcel, Mircea Eliade, and William Blake (See below).
Excerpt from F.C. Happold (1970), "Perennial Philosophy":
What is mysticism? The word 'mystic' has its origin in the Greek mysteries. A mystic was one who had been initiated into these mysteries, through which he had gained an esoteric knowledge of divine things and been 'reborn into eternity.' His object was to break through the world of history and time into that of eternity and timelessness. The method was through initiation ceremonies of the sort so vividly described by the Latin writer, Apuleius, in The Golden Ass. Through the mysteries the initiated entered into something holy and numinous, a secret wisdom about which it was unlawful for him to speak. The word 'mystery' (mysterion) comes from the Greek verb muo, to shut or close the lips or eyes....
In the course of time the word [mysticism] came to an extended, indeed a different meaning. In that syncretism of Greek and Oriental philosophy which occurred in the centuries immediately preceeding the birth of Christ, known as Neoplatonism, it came to mean a particular sort of approach to the whole problem of reality, in which the intellectual, and more especially the intuitive, faculties came into play. As a result of the fusion of Christian and Neoplatonist ideas in the early centuries of the Christian era, a system of so-called mystical theology came into existence, which was one of the main foundations of Christian mysticism.
To speak more generally, mysticism has its fount in what is the raw material of all religion and is also the inspiration of much of philosophy, poetry, art, and music, a consciousness of a beyond, of something which, though it is interwoven with it, is not of the external world of material phenomena, of an unseen over and above the seen. In the developed mystic this consciousness is present in an intense and highly specialized form.
The mystical element enters into the commoner forms of religious experience when religious feeling surpasses its rational content, that is, when the hidden, non-rational, unconscious elements predominate and determine the emotional life and the intellectual attitude. In the true mystic there is an extension of normal consciousness, a release of latent powers and a widening of vision, so that aspects of truth unplumbed by the rational intellect are revealed to him. Both in feeling and thought he apprehends an immanence of the temporal in the eternal and the eternal in the temporal. In the religious mystic there is a direct experience of the Presence of God. Though he may not be able to describe it in words, though he may not be able to logically demonstrate its validity, to the mystic his experience is fully and absolutely valid and is surrounded with complete certainty.

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