December 05, 2006

Islamicised neoplatonism

Plotinus' teachings were to exert an influence not only on later Neoplatonists and Gnostics, but on the Islamic world too. This happened quite by accident. An Arabic translation of a section of Plotinus, padded out with his student Porphyry's commentary, appeared, titled the Theology of Aristotle [10]. Since the medieval islamic thinkers thought very highly of Aristotle, this work exerted a strong formative influence on Islamic philosophical thought.
Thus, whereas Neoplatonism is no longer respected in the West, except as an intellectual curiosity or historical movement, the same is most definitely not the case with the intelligent and the mystic Moslem. An Islamicised neoplatonism has retained its popularity among progressive philosophers down to the present day. Indeed, anyone who reads the works of Frithjof Schuon, the important contemporary Sufi-inspired theologian and Traditionalist, will notice the strongly Plotinian bent to his metaphysics...
There was however something of a Neoplatonic influence in the early New Paradigm movement of the late 70's and 80's, due to the Islamic connection; specifically the writings of the Traditionalist and neo-Sufi Frithjof Schuon and others who have been influenced by him, such as the scholar of comparative religions Huston Smith and the Transpersonal Psychologist Ken Wilber, the latter still a foremost theorist in the New Paradigm and serious alternative spirituality movement...
Traditionalism is a Sufi/Islam-inspired [but not orthodox Sufism or Islam, despite claims to the contrary - see Sedgwick 1999 Traditionalist Sufism ] neo-esotericist movement that was founded by the French scholar Rene Guenon (1886-1951). The term "Tradition" refers to the central idea that the great Faiths all derive from a single Primordial Tradition, which itself is directly inspired as on-going Revelation from the Transcendental source. This is in keeping with the Islamic belief that "God has sent a prophet (or Messenger) to every people" All the Great Religions and are therefore merely different expressions of the same Divine Logos, and hence are all equally valid spiritual paths to Salvation. Traditionalism therefore is concerned with the abiding inner or esoteric Truth or Principle that it understands to be at the heart of the various exoteric religious Traditions.
Other Traditionalists include Guenon's student Frithjof Schuon, Titus Burkhardt, Martin Lings, art historian and philosopher Ananda K Coomaraswamy, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, the Egyptologist R.A. Schwaller deLubicz, and a number of others. Thinkers sympathetic to the Traditionalist view include mythographer Joseph Campbell and Mircea Eliade, scholar of comparative religions Huston Smith, Indianologist Alain Danielou, E.F. Schumacher, and Prince Charles. Guénon had a low opinion of modernity which he believed had degenerated from or corrupted the Divine Revelation and authentic spiritual civilization, and other Traditionalists and Traditionalist-supporters tend to share this view. Kheper Home

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