A friend has just mentioned that he’s doing a film on the perennial philosophy, which invites comment. I don’t think there is any topic I find more interesting than that.
The phrase can be traced back to Agostino Steuco (1497–1548) who used it as the title of his treatise, De perenni philosophia libri X, published in 1540. It’s more generally associated with Gottfried Leibniz and Aldous Huxley. (1)
A synonym for it is the ageless wisdom or ancient wisdom. Hinduism is actually formally called sanathana dharma or (loosely translated) eternal law. That too is a synonym.
If I were to summarize the notion in a single word, I’d say the “perennial philosophy” means the Truth. The Truth at all levels, shorn of religious doctrine, dogma and orthodoxy – the Truth of reality.
One could say that the Truth is synonymous with God. God is all there is. There is no second, no other besides God. God being all there is, God must be the Truth of reality. He/She/It is the Dreamer as well as the dream.
God created a divine drama called “Life” and so the phrase “perennial philosophy” becomes extended to take in all the ins and outs of that drama – what could be called its design features and divine processes.
When most of these are little known, we consider statements of them to be the “mysteries” of life.
Our great spiritual teachers have gotten glimpses of these mysteries and attempted to put the wordless into words. Their teachings become the basis of religions and often become misinterpreted, but originally they were attempts to describe the Truth underlying reality.
An example of a teaching that forms a part of the perennial philosophy is the Christian teaching of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. It dovetails with the Hindu teaching of Brahman, Atman and Shakti. So far we might consider that we simply have teachings of Christianity and Hinduism.
But when we say that what is being talked about here is the Transcendental (the Father, Brahman), the Phenomenal (the Holy Ghost, Shakti), and the Transcendental within the Phenomenal (the Son, the Atman), we’ve translated the particular into the general, religious teachings into the perennial philosophy that underlies them, if even only in a most tenuous way
I don’t wish to develop that teaching here. I have in other places (2) I’d like more to simply point to it to demonstrate how a specific religious teaching relates to the more general perennial philosophy. (3)
The perennial philosophy reduces the particular to the general. It takes common elements or common denominators of the Truth contained in each religion and shows how they are common to each other.
Examples of design features of life are the various bodies we inhabit, the various dimensions we exist on, the longing for liberation, the organs of our bodies that sense, breathe, support locomotion, digestion, excretion, etc.
Examples of divine processes are birth, death, reincarnation, reproduction, breathing, thinking, feeling, digestion, excretion, etc. All of these are divinely planned, administered, and altered by divine command, just as we see Ascension being altered now, according to what is often called the Mother’s Plan. (4)
Previously one had to shed the body to ascend, but not this time around. The plan of reality is being changed before our eyes. Now we can ascend with the physical body intact. The changes in the plan of Ascension reflect the dynamic aspect of life at the hands of the creative forces.
The existence of a Creator and Its creation and the relations between the two are elements of the perennial philosophy. We can see that, at the level of the perennial philosophy, we can discuss these matters. At the level of religions, many discussions are looked upon as being heresy and may not be possible.
What are design features on one dimension may not be design features on another. In the Third Dimension we give birth live but my understanding is that that isn’t a feature of some higher dimensions. New residents of the Astral Plane are often surprised to find that they have no organs of reproduction, digestion or excretion. The astral body is different than the physical body.
In the lower dimensions, all is multiplicity but as we go higher and higher in dimensionality on our road back to God, many multiple things simplify and many unsuspected areas of life, such as manifestation, bilocation, telepathic communication, etc., expand.
But all explanations of these design features and divine processes can be considered to be, not parts of one religion’s teachings only, but also parts of the perennial philosophy generally, the truth underlying all religions.
Finally, the perennial philosophy is looked to for statements of important general matters like the purpose and meaning of life. Why was life created? What are we to do in life? The answer to questions like these we’ve discussed here many times. (5)
The purpose of God’s creating life was to offer the Unknowable an opportunity to know Itself. Each time one of us realizes our true identity as God in a moment of enlightenment, God meets God.
We don’t find that purpose much discussed in church doctrine or religious dogma, but we find it front and center in discussions of the perennial philosophy, whether those discussions are to be found in the writings of the galactics or Earth’s ascended masters or the celestials, and so on.
An example of a statement of the perennial philosophy might be “Spiritual Evolution: The Divine Plan for Life,” (6) written after I finished the book The Purpose of Life is Enlightenment. I’ll repost it as a companion piece to this article and an illustration of a partial presentation of the ageless wisdom.
Thus in general the perennial philosophy refers to the body of generic truths underlying the specific teachings of the world’s religions and spiritual paths. As we face the need to create a common, cross-cultural body of statements of spiritual truth, we’ll find ourselves more and more turning to the tenets of the perennial philosophy.
(1) Huxley’s statements on the perennial philosophy are excellent and exemplified by two works: (1) Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy. New York, etc.: Harper and Row, 1970; c1944 and his introduction to Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, trans., Bhagavad-Gita. The Song of God. New York and Scarborough: New American Library, 1972; c1944.
(2) However it is developed here: “Christianity and Hinduism are One,” at http://goldenageofgaia.com/spiritual-essays/cross-cultural-spirituality/christianity-and-hinduism-are-one/ and “The One Became Two and the Two Became Three,” at http://goldenageofgaia.com/spiritual-essays/cross-cultural-spirituality/the-one-became-two-and-the-two-became-three/
(3) For another take on the situation, see “An Introduction to the Perennial Philosophy” at http://goldenageofgaia.com/spiritual-essays/back-to-the-basics-2/an-introduction-to-the-perennial-philosophy/
(4) See for instance “Transcript of Archangel Michael from An Hour with an Angel, Dec. 26, 2011,” at http://goldenageofgaia.com/the-2012-scenario/what-role-are-the-angels-playing/transcript-of-archangel-michael-from-an-hour-with-an-angel-dec-26-2011/an “Archangel Michael: Transcript of ‘An Hour with an Angel’” Dec. 12, 2011, at http://goldenageofgaia.com/2011/12/archangel-michael-transcript-of-an-hour-with-an-angel/
(5) On these matters, see the papers in the section “The Purpose of Life,” at http://goldenageofgaia.com/spiritual-essays/16244-2/