The Perennial Philosophy

It is a popular saying now that all the great religions "really teach the same thing." What, then, is this same thing they are all teaching? Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz (1646-1716), philosopher and mathematician, inventor of calculus, called this common factor the "Perennial Philosophy," following the humanist scholar Agostino Steuco(1497 – 1548). Aldous Huxley wrote an entire book on the subject, and also gave a capsule summary of it in his introduction to the Isherwood translation of the Bhagavad-Gita:

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 unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground.

I have four observations on the Perennial Philosophy:

Some questions about the Perennial Philosophy:

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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2011