Traditional Metaphysics and Perennial Philosophy

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Pontifex
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Traditional Metaphysics and Perennial Philosophy

Post by Pontifex »

Hello Folks,

I'm new to Kelowna and the Castanet boards as well. I really like the organized outlook and the polite atmosphere around the forum. I read quite a few of the older posts as well and I found a lot of interesting topics.

Anyhow, the reason for this topic is the intention to connect with others who might have an interest in traditional metaphysics, perennial philosophy and esoterical/occultist related themes.

If the name of Rene Guenon, Julius Evola, Frithjof Schuon, Titus Burckhardt etc. sounds familiar and interested to discuss around, I'd love to hear (read) from you.

Cheers,
Pontifex :smt031
»I am that I am« (Exodus 3,14). In other words: I was that I was, I was that I am, I was that I will be; I am that I was, I am that I am, I am that I will be; I will be that I was; I will be that I am; I will be that I will be - completely and infinitely.
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Re: Traditional Metaphysics and Perennial Philosophy

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Frithjof Schuon: Questions and Answers


I. Spirituality

Question : You have written more than twenty books on religion and spirituality. Your first book has the title The Transcendent Unity of Religions. May I ask you how one should understand this unity?

Frithjof Schuon: Our starting point is the acknowledgment of the fact that there are diverse religions which exclude each other. This could mean that one religion is right and that all the others are false; it could mean also that all are false. In reality, it means that all are right, not in their dogmatic exclusivism, but in their unanimous inner signification, which coincides with pure metaphysics, or in other terms, with the philosophia perennis.

Q. : How can we know that this metaphysical meaning is the truth?

F.S.: The metaphysical perspective is based on intellectual intuition, which by its very nature is infallible because it is a vision by the pure intellect, whereas profane philosophy operates only with reason, hence with logical assumptions and conclusions.

Q. : This being so, what is the basis of religion?

F.S.: The religious, dogmatic or theological perspective is based on revelation; its main purpose is, not to explain the nature of things or the universal principles, but to save man from sin and damnation, and also, to establish a realistic social equilibrium.

Q. : If we have religion, which saves us, why do we also need metaphysics?

F.S.: It is because metaphysics satisfies the needs of intellectually gifted men. Metaphysical truth concerns not only our thinking, but it penetrates also our whole being; therefore it is far above philosophy in the ordinary sense of the word.

Q. : On the spiritual level, what does every human being need?

F.S.: Three things: truth, spiritual practice, morals. Pure and unveiled truth coincides with metaphysics; the religious dogmas are symbols of metaphysical truths; the deep understanding of religious symbolism is esoterism. Pure metaphysics is hidden in every religion.

Q. : And what about spiritual practice?

F.S.: Spiritual practice is essentially prayer. There are three forms of prayer: first, canonical prayer, for instance the Lord's prayer; second, personal prayer, whose best model is given by the Psalms; third, the contemplative prayer of the heart; this is mystical spirituality, which requires certain conditions. The story of the "Russian Pilgrim" offers an image of it; also Hindu texts about japa-yoga, methodical invocation.

Q. : And what about morals?

F.S.: This is, after truth and spiritual practice, the third dimension of spiritual life. On the one hand, morals mean a reasonable, healthy and generous behavior; on the other hand, it means beauty of the soul, hence intrinsic nobility. Without this quality, doctrine and spiritual practice would be fruitless.

Q. : You mentioned before intellectual intuition. Doesn't every man possess this faculty?

F.S.: Yes and no. In principle, every man is capable of intellection, for the simple reason that man is man; but in fact, intellectual intuition -- the "eye of the heart" -- is hidden under a sheet of ice, so to speak, because of the degeneration of the human species. So we may say that pure intellection is a gift and not a generally human faculty.

Q. : Is it possible to develop this higher intuition?

F.S.: There is no need to develop it. Man can be saved by faith alone. But it is evident that a very pious or contemplative person has more intuition than a worldly person.


II. Art

Q. : May I ask you what the role of art is in the spiritual existence of man?

F.S.: We could say that after morals, art -- in the broadest sense of the word -- is a natural and necessary dimension of the human condition. Plato said: "Beauty is the splendor of the true." So let us say that art -- including crafts -- is a projection of truth and beauty in the world of forms; it is ipso facto a projection of archetypes. And it is essentially an exteriorization in view of an interiorization; art does not mean dispersion, it means concentration, a way back to God. Every traditional civilization has created a framework of beauty: a natural, ecologically necessary surrounding for spiritual life.

Q. : What are the criteria for knowing the worth of a work of art, its level of inspiration?

F.S.: The archetypes of sacred art are celestial inspirations; all other artworks draw their inspiration from the spiritual personality of the artist. The criteria for knowing the worth of a work of art are: the content of the work, its mode of expression and its technique, its style.

Q. : Are the criteria different for various types of art: painting, sculpture, dance, music, poetry, architecture?

F.S.: No, the criteria are not different for various types of art.

Q. : With beauty, there is what one might call an ambiguous element, since it can be conducive to a worldly self inflatedness or on the contrary to a remembrance of the Divine. What is it about certain arts -- music, poetry and dance, for example -- that makes the ambiguous element more pronounced in them?

F.S.: Painting and sculpture are in a way more cerebral and objective than poetry, music and dance, which are more psychic and subjective; therefore the ambiguous element is more pronounced in these three arts.

Q. : Could one say that the Hindu notion of darshan has an application in experiencing art and beauty?

F.S.: Of course, the Hindu notion of darshan applies to any esthetic or artistic experience; but in this case it also involves mental and auditive perceptions, not only vision.

Q. : Could one say that there is a natural link between beauty in the broadest sense and esoterism?

F.S.: Yes, there is a link between beauty and esoterism, because "Beauty is the splendor of the True." Traditional art is esoteric, not exoteric. Exoterism is interested in morals, not in beauty; it even happens that exoterism can be opposed to beauty because of a moralistic prejudice.

Q. : Would it be legitimate to say that esoterism has certain rights in regard to art and beauty which transcend the limits and prohibitions laid down by the various exoterisms?

F.S.: In principle, esoterism has certain rights which transcend the prohibitions of exoterism, but in fact, esoterism can rarely make use of these rights. Nonetheless, it has occurred, for example, in the case of dervish dances or of apparently shameless Tibetan paintings.

Q. : Besides the "fine arts," there are--in Japan, for example--the art of flower arranging, the tea ceremony, even the martial arts, which are (or were originally) recognized as manifestations of a spiritual nature. How does it come about that an activity as "everyday" as preparing tea can become the vehicle of a spiritual barakah (grace)?

F.S.: The Zen arts -- like the Tea Ceremony -- crystallize certain manners of acting of the Buddha, or let us say: of Primordial Man; now the Buddha never handled a sword, but if he had, he would have done so like a Zen Master. Acting like the Buddha -- even at such a level as preparing tea -- means: to assimilate something of the Buddha-Nature; it is an open door to Enlightenment.

Q. : Modern art is not traditional. Does this mean that a modern artwork is necessarily bad?

F.S.: No, because a modern artwork -- modern in the broadest sense -- may manifest different qualities, in regard to the content as well as in regard to the treatment and also to the artist. Some traditional productions are bad, and some nontraditional productions are good.

Q. : What does art mean for the artist himself?

F.S.: By creating a noble work of art, the artist works on his own soul; in a way, he creates his own archetype. Therefore the practice of every art is a way of self-realization, in principle or also in fact. With unimportant or even negative subjects, the artist may remain intentionally unaffected, but with noble and profound subjects, he works with his very heart.


III. Primordiality

Q. : Your book The Feathered Sun reveals your interest in the American Indians. May I ask you what the stimulus of this interest or affinity is?

The Red Indians -- and especially the Indians of the Plains -- have much in common with the Japanese samurai, who very often practiced Zen spirituality; morally and aesthetically speaking, the Plains Indians were one of the most fascinating peoples of the world. It was the great mistake of the 19th century to distinguish only between "civilized people" and "savages"; there are distinctions which are far more real and important, for it is obvious that "civilization" in the ordinary sense is not the highest value of mankind, and also that the term "savage" is not suitable to the Indians. What makes the value of a man is neither his mundane culture nor his practical or inventive intelligence, but his attitude in the face of the Absolute; and he who has the sense of the Absolute never forgets the relationship between man and virgin Nature, because Nature is our origin, our natural homeland and a most transparent Message of God. For the Arab historian Ibn Khaldun, the very condition of a realistic civilization is the equilibrium between Bedouins and city dwellers, which means between nomads and sedentaries; between the healthy children of Nature and the representatives of elaborated cultural values.

Q. : Your art books The Feathered Sun and especially Images of Primordial and Mystic Beauty deal with the mystery of sacred nudity. Could you explain in a few words the meaning of this perspective?

F.S.: Sacred nudity -- which plays an important role not only with the Hindus but also with the Red Indians -- is based on the analogical correspondence between the "outmost" and the "inmost": the body is then seen as the "heart exteriorized," and the heart for its part "absorbs" as it were the bodily projection; "extremes meet." It is said, in India, that nudity favors the irradiation of spiritual influences; and also that feminine nudity in particular manifests Lakshmi and consequently has a beneficial effect on the surroundings. In an altogether general way, nudity expresses -- and virtually actualizes -- a return to the essence, the origin, the archetype, thus to the celestial state: "And it is for this that, naked, I dance," as Lalla Yogishvari, the great Kashmiri saint, said after having found the Divine Self in her heart. To be sure, in nudity there is a de facto ambiguity because of the passional nature of man; but there is not only the passional nature, there is also the gift of contemplativity which can neutralize it, as is precisely the case with "sacred nudity"; similarly, there is not only the seduction of appearances, there is also the metaphysical transparency of phenomena which permits one to perceive the archetypal essence through the sensory experience. St. Nonnos, when he beheld St. Pelagia entering the baptismal pool naked, praised God for having put into human beauty not only an occasion of fall, but also an occasion of rising towards God.


IV. Message

Q. : What would be your message for the average man?

F.S.: Prayer. To be a human being means to be connected with God. Life has no meaning without this. Prayer and beauty, of course; for we live among forms and not in a cloud. Beauty of soul first, and then beauty of symbols around us.

Q. : You have spoken of metaphysics. May I ask you what the main content of this perennial wisdom is?

F.S.: Metaphysics means essentially: discernment between the Real and the apparent, or the illusory; in Vedantic terms: Atma and Maya ; the Divine and the cosmic. Metaphysics is concerned also with the roots of Maya in Atma,-- this is the Divine Personification, the creating and revealing God -- and then with the projection of Atma into Maya -- this means everything that is positive or good in the world. And this is essential: metaphysical knowledge requires intellectual, psychic and moral assimilation; discernment requires concentration, contemplation and union. Therefore metaphysical theory is not a philosophy in the modern sense of the word; it is essentially sacred. The sense of the sacred is an indispensable qualification for metaphysical realization, as it is for every spiritual way. For the Red Indian, as also for the Hindu, everything in nature is sacred; this, modern man has to learn, because it is a question of ecology in the broadest' sense of the word. What is needed first, is prayer; and then: back to Nature! One could object that it is too late; now, each person is responsible for what he or she does -- not for what others do -- because each one stands before God and can do what is requested for his immortal soul. The first step back to Nature is dignity; dignity of forms and of behavior; this creates the climate in which prayers feel at home, because dignity partakes of the immutable Truth.


http://www.frithjof-schuon.com/interview.htm
»I am that I am« (Exodus 3,14). In other words: I was that I was, I was that I am, I was that I will be; I am that I was, I am that I am, I am that I will be; I will be that I was; I will be that I am; I will be that I will be - completely and infinitely.
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Re: Traditional Metaphysics and Perennial Philosophy

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Pontifex wrote:Frithjof Schuon: Questions and Answers

Q. : How can we know that this metaphysical meaning is the truth?

F.S.: The metaphysical perspective is based on intellectual intuition, which by its very nature is infallible because it is a vision by the pure intellect, whereas profane philosophy operates only with reason, hence with logical assumptions and conclusions.

Q. : If we have religion, which saves us, why do we also need metaphysics?

F.S.: It is because metaphysics satisfies the needs of intellectually gifted men. Metaphysical truth concerns not only our thinking, but it penetrates also our whole being; therefore it is far above philosophy in the ordinary sense of the word.

Q. : You mentioned before intellectual intuition. Doesn't every man possess this faculty?

F.S.: Yes and no. In principle, every man is capable of intellection, for the simple reason that man is man; but in fact, intellectual intuition -- the "eye of the heart" -- is hidden under a sheet of ice, so to speak, because of the degeneration of the human species. So we may say that pure intellection is a gift and not a generally human faculty.

Q. : Is it possible to develop this higher intuition?

F.S.: There is no need to develop it. Man can be saved by faith alone. But it is evident that a very pious or contemplative person has more intuition than a worldly person.

Q. : You have spoken of metaphysics. May I ask you what the main content of this perennial wisdom is?

F.S.: Metaphysics means essentially: discernment between the Real and the apparent, or the illusory; in Vedantic terms: Atma and Maya ; the Divine and the cosmic. Metaphysics is concerned also with the roots of Maya in Atma,-- this is the Divine Personification, the creating and revealing God -- and then with the projection of Atma into Maya -- this means everything that is positive or good in the world. And this is essential: metaphysical knowledge requires intellectual, psychic and moral assimilation; discernment requires concentration, contemplation and union. Therefore metaphysical theory is not a philosophy in the modern sense of the word; it is essentially sacred. The sense of the sacred is an indispensable qualification for metaphysical realization, as it is for every spiritual way.

http://www.frithjof-schuon.com/interview.htm


Firstly, welcome to the boards, Pontifex.

I had a quick scoot around the weblink you provided and I must say that I was very impressed with the paintings by Frithjof-Shuon -- beautiful!
:sunshine:

However, his ramblings struck me as desperate cries from a tormented man ..... desperately trying to reconcile the evident fallibility of his own intellect. His solution(and others) : to convince others via his books that belief in metaphysics is the domain of "intellectually gifted men". Ironically there are some folks around here who are also fighting their own little battles with the logic and reason demons. No doubt we shall hear from them soon enough ........................... :smt064

One thing that I found quite odd, was the apparent anonymity of the person spoon-feeding the 'questions' to Frithjof-Shuon. It struck me as a tad ....... erm, staged! Well, I suppose that would be the safe thing to do given the irrationality of his [strikethrough]philosophies[/strikethrough], er, I mean ....... 'metaphysical truth'. Funny how Frithjof-Shuon is quick to regard metaphysical 'truth' as "far above" philosophy. It sounds to me as though this man totally missed the point during his lifetime by trying to transcend philosophy with his own brand of philosophy, just to make the puzzle pieces fit. Anthropological universal may be evident across cultures for the most part, but on an individual scale it cannot hold water. Philosophy has it's merits of course, but sometimes people can become too bogged-down in it all as they can't see the woods for the trees. At times like that they should simply step back and use logic and reason to get through.

True enlightenment need not be all that complicated.
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Re: Traditional Metaphysics and Perennial Philosophy

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Thanks for untangling that. It's a bit dense.
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Re: Traditional Metaphysics and Perennial Philosophy

Post by Pontifex »

Hello Born_again,

Thanks for the kind welcoming words.

I have no problem accepting your criticism towards Frithjof Schuon's thoughts. I'm glad you like his art. After all, he was, admiteddly, just another mortal being with flaws and mistakes on his own.
On the other side, looking at the issue based on a personal critique of one metaphysician is a dead end.

Your observation is correct, the questions are staged. This is not an "honest" interview, but more like a conversation to introduce some very basic concepts about the metaphysical traditionality.
Frithjof Schuon had a particularly religious approach, while other authors tapped into this from a different angle.
Now, when it comes to the actual terminology, there's a wide range of alternatives how to call this thing,"traditional metaphysics". Often, it is found as "perennial philosophy" or simply "perennialism". The emphasis is on the timeless nature of this wisdom-knowledge and the importance that it is beyond the "physical". Metaphysics has been terribly misused in the Western world, nowdays marking all kind of New Ager woo-hoo/voo-doo stuff, from crystal magic to reiki and so on. When I use the term Metaphysics, I mean the original Greek idea of "ta meta ta physica", which is referring to everything that is "beyond the physical" or more precizely everything that is "beyond manisfestation". This is why most of the stuff that is marked as metaphysical in the modern world will likely to be mysticism or occultism (let it be any kind of "magic") and has nothing to do with the metaphysical traditionality.

At the same time, traditional metaphysics, even if we call it perennial philosophy is beyond the wordly branch of science we normally tag as philosophy. The difference is that philosophy is focused on the mind and actions/inter-relations of the mind with a great emphasis on the reason/reasoning, while metaphysics includes sort of "non-reasonal" studies as well, like ontology or theology and so on. The rationality and the importance of the mind in not significant in metaphysics. Rene Guenon for example was not a great supporter of philosophy while at the same time he wrote some philosophy related works.

Traditional metaphysics is focused on the universal truth, wisdom and knowledge that is the foundation of all religions of the world and consequently related to all cultures, sciences, politics, arts etc. It is also a way to penetrate right into the core realities of all these disciplines instead of getting lost in the incredibly inflated profanized sciences. In the 20th century there was a tendency to relate all importance to one particular science (say, a biologist claimed that the final truth of the universe is to be found in biology etc.), while recently sciences are headed toward an integration to tackle the big stuff. This is like inventing the Spanish Wax- integrated thinking was and is the basis of metaphysical traditionality and practiced for thousands of years;true, mostly in Eastern disciplines (Hinduism, Buddhism etc.).

You say, "True enlightenment need not be all that complicated".

I think true enlightment is beyond the impossible at this age and it is not a question of complexity but the true ability of realization. The globalized, physically destroyed world is barely providing anything more than the basics of survival and that's the stage where we are now. When the only thing that matters is the "economy" and people don't realize that this is the most insignificant thing to effectively change our reality, than even the notion of enlightement is ridiculous.

I used to say, we're living in a post-civilized world, on the ruins of a destroyed nature/environment and the ruins of past civilizations. Fighting for resources (oil, water, food) is the sign that we're close to the end of a cycle and likely to see the final involution in the upcoming decades/centuries.
»I am that I am« (Exodus 3,14). In other words: I was that I was, I was that I am, I was that I will be; I am that I was, I am that I am, I am that I will be; I will be that I was; I will be that I am; I will be that I will be - completely and infinitely.
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Re: Traditional Metaphysics and Perennial Philosophy

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Hi Pontifex. Let's hope you are not a flash-in-the-pan visitor, i.e. based on the merits of your posts I'm hoping you will stick around. I do enjoy 'discovery'.
I have a Celebration of Life to attend shortly, so forgive me if I'm succinct.

Pontifex wrote:Your observation is correct, the questions are staged. This is not an "honest" interview, but more like a conversation to introduce some very basic concepts about the metaphysical traditionality.
Thanks for clearing that up.

Now, when it comes to the actual terminology, there's a wide range of alternatives how to call this thing,"traditional metaphysics".
Tell me about it! Our own language is evolving too rapidly for our own good. I try to be faithful to the word's origins as far as possible, but oft' times that exposes me to being misunderstood in the homo-homo context. LOL done it again!!! FYI, forum user usquebaugh is our resident etymology freak.

Pontifex wrote:metaphysical in the modern world will likely to be mysticism or occultism (let it be any kind of "magic") and has nothing to do with the metaphysical traditionality.

Granted.

Pontifex wrote: The rationality and the importance of the mind in not significant in metaphysics.

The deliberate suppression of rationality does not seem to be a good way of gaining understanding to me, unless the benefits of doing so could be rationally explained.

Pontifex wrote:Traditional metaphysics is focused on the universal truth, wisdom and knowledge that is the foundation of all religions of the world and consequently related to all cultures, sciences, politics, arts etc. It is also a way to penetrate right into the core realities of all these disciplines instead of getting lost in the incredibly inflated profanized sciences.
Profanized??? Is the root...... :
profane
1. not designed or used for religious purposes; secular
2. not initiated into the inner mysteries or sacred rites
??
In that context I'll take it as a "yes".
The whole purpose in the 'quest' for a unifying theory(in science) is that once found, the human race will have the skeleton key to our universe -- and most likely beyond. That will be a profound moment in mankind's history -- the apex of human endeavour.
Of course there will be many that will have their archaic notions utterly destroyed, but such is progress.
On the plus side, those 'incredibly inflated profane sciences' will no longer require the adjective,"profane". They will simply become "sciences", or "The Science"; and they will very quickly become condensed to a size and simplicity that will have every scientist that has ever lived, rolling in their graves and kicking themselves.

Pontifex wrote:You say, "True enlightenment need not be all that complicated".

I think true enlightment is beyond the impossible at this age and it is not a question of complexity but the true ability of realization. The globalized, physically destroyed world is barely providing anything more than the basics of survival and that's the stage where we are now. When the only thing that matters is the "economy" and people don't realize that this is the most insignificant thing to effectively change our reality, than even the notion of enlightement is ridiculous.
Are you talking in the 'perennial/anthropological universal' sense? If so, I'd agree. The 'true enlightenment' that I referred to as not being all that complicated is subjective and completely unrelated--ish! Would it not make sense that to realistically achieve the 'perennial' enlightenment, individuals within each of the multiple cultures must first find subjective enlightenment, then spread a carbon-copy of it to the rest of the individuals in their particular culture, then culture to culture.....? This, I would most certainly call "beyond impossible". And further to that I would say that it would remain so regardless of any an all condition states of our planet/society.
Time has robbed me. I'm off to say my goodbyes.....

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Re: Traditional Metaphysics and Perennial Philosophy

Post by Pontifex »

An excellent conversation with Huston Smith about some topics related to perennial philosophy and much more else;

http://www.wonderhowto.com/how-to/video ... 7568/view/


:rate10:
»I am that I am« (Exodus 3,14). In other words: I was that I was, I was that I am, I was that I will be; I am that I was, I am that I am, I am that I will be; I will be that I was; I will be that I am; I will be that I will be - completely and infinitely.
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Re: Traditional Metaphysics and Perennial Philosophy

Post by katzenjammer »

I have always been interested in the nature of reality but have generally rejected religion since it is used for crass political reasons. It is interesting, however, that the scientific approach is beginning to understand “reality” in much the same way as religions. The kicker has been the peculiar and incomprehensible effects observed with particles/waves in the quantum mechanical universe which seems to depend on the observer as much as anything that might be external to the observer. Einstein showed us the intimate relation between time and space and that time is dependant only on motion. No scientist has been able identify any substance called time (or space). So if time and space and therefore matter are dependent on some observer as is shown to be the case in the quantum world, reality, then becomes dependant on consciousness. The question then becomes whose consciousness? The latest Discover magazine has an article about this subject.
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