(Continued from Part 2.)
I’d like to conclude our look at the Perennial Philosophy with three views of it: that of the religious organizer Annie Besant, the Master Hilarion, and the scholar Aldous Huxley.
This Divine Wisdom is spoken of as the Wisdom, the Gnosis, the Theosophia, and some, in different ages of the world, have so desired to emphasize their belief in this unity of religions that they have preferred the eclectic name of Theosophist to any narrower designation. (1)
The main spiritual verities of religion may be summarized thus:
i. [There is] one eternal infinite cognizable real Existence.
ii. From That, the manifested God [unfolds] from unity to duality, from duality to trinity.
iii. From the manifested Trinity many spiritual Intelligences [guide] the cosmic order.
iv. Man [is] a reflection of the manifested God and therefore a trinity fundamentally, his inner real self being eternal, one with the Self of the universe.
v. His evolution [proceeds] by repeated incarnations, into which he is drawn by desire, and from which he is set free by knowledge and sacrifice, becoming divine in potency as he had ever been divine in latency. (2)
The Master Hilarion
The soul of a man is immortal, and its future is the future of a thing whose growth and splendor have no limit.
The principle which gives life dwells in us and without us, is undying and eternally beneficent, is not heard or seen or smelt, but is perceived by the man who desires perception.
Each man is his own absolute lawgiver, the dispenser of glory or gloom to himself, the decreer of his life, his reward, his punishment. (3)
Philosophia perennis — the phrase was coined by Leibniz; but the thing — the metaphysic that recognizes a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds; the psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, even identical with, divine Reality; the ethic that places man’s final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being — the thing is immemorial and universal.
Rudminents of the Perennial Philosophy may be found among the traditionary lore of primitive peoples in every region of the world, and in its fully developed forms it has a place in every one of the higher religions. A version of this Highest Common Factor in all preceding and subsequent theologies was first committed to writing more than twenty-five centuries ago, and since that time the inexhaustible theme has been treated again and again, from the standpoint of every religious tradition and in all the principle languages of Asia and Europe. (3)
In Vedanta and Hebrew prophecy, in the Tao Teh King and the Platonic dialogues, in the Gospel according to St. John and Mahayana theology, in Plotinus and the Areopagite, among the Persian Sufis and the Christian mystics of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance — the Perennial Philosophy has spoken almost all the languages of Asia and Europe and has made use of the terminology and traditions of every one of the higher religions. …
The records left by those who have known [the pure state described by the Perennial Philosophy] make it abundantly clear that all of them, whether Hindu, Buddhist, Hebrew, Taoist, Christian or Mohammedan, were attempting to describe the same essentially indescribable Fact. (4)
At the core of the Perennial Philosophy we find four fundamental doctrines.
First: the phenomenal world of matter and of individualized consciousness — the world of things and animals and men and even gods — is the manifestation of a Divine Ground within which all partial realities have their being, and apart from which they would be nonexistent.
Second: human beings are capable not merely of knowing about the Divine Ground by inference; they can also realize its existence by a direct intuition, superior to discursive reasoning. This immediate knowledge unites the knower with that which is known.
Third: man possesses a double nature, a phenomenal ego and an eternal Self, which is the inner man, the spirit, the spark of divinity within the soul. It is possible for a man, if he so desires, to identify himself with the spirit and therefore with the Divine Ground, which is of the same or like nature with the spirit.
Fourth: man’s life on earth has only one end and purpose: to identify himself with his eternal Self and so to come to intuitive knowledge of the Divine Ground. (6)
(1) Annie Besant, Esoteric Christianity. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1953; c1901, 6.
(2) Besant, The Ancient Wisdom. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972; c1897 5-6.
(3) The Master Hilarion, channelling through Mabel Collins, The Idyll of the White Lotus. Wheaton, IL: Re Quest, 1974; c1952, 114.
(4) Aldous Huxley in The Perennial Philosophy. New York, etc.: Harper and Row, 1970; c1944, vii.
(5) Huxley, “Introduction” to Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, trans., Bhagavad-Gita. The Song of God. New York and Scarborough: New American Library, 1972; c1944, 11-2.
(6) Huxley in “Introduction” to BG, 13.