The underlying religion

The underlying religion: An introduction to the perennial philosophy.


‘‘There is…one sole religion and one sole worship for all beings endowed with
understanding, and this is presupposed through a variety of rites’’ – Nicholas
of Cusa


Due to the pivotal function of the perennial philosophy within both transpersonal and humanistic psychology this volume will be of paramount interest to researchers and practitioners and belongs in every library of transpersonal and humanistic psychology.
This recent anthology was compiled by Clinton Minnaar and the late Dr. Martin Lings (1909–2005), one of the leading perennialist authors of the XXth century, who was the Keeper of Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Books at the British Museum.
This anthology is organized into seven themes, each theme having its corresponding essays:


I. ‘TRADITION AND MODERNITY’, describes the hiatus that divides the sacred orientation of the traditional world from that of the secular and progress driven modern and post-modern world.
Nothing and nobody is any longer in the right place; men no longer recognize any effective authority in the spiritual order or any legitimate power in the temporal; the ‘‘profane’’ presume to discuss what is sacred, and to contest its character and even its existence; the inferior judges the superior, ignorance sets bounds to wisdom, error prevails over truth, the human supersedes the divine, earth overtops heaven, the individual sets the measure for all things and claims to dictate to the universe laws drawn entirely from his own relative and fallible reason. ‘‘Woe unto you, ye blind guides,’’ the Gospel says; and indeed everywhere today one sees nothing but blind leaders of the blind, who, unless restrained by some timely check, will
inevitably lead them into the abyss, there to perish with them. (pp. 317–318)

II. ‘TRADITIONAL COSMOLOGY AND MODERN SCIENCE’ underscores the implicit limitations of modern science, its failures and destructive tendencies for not receiving its directives from divine principles utilized since time immemorial in both East and West.
At the heart of the traditional sciences of the cosmos, as well as traditional anthropology, psychology, and aesthetics stands the scientia sacra which contains the principles of these sciences while being primarily concerned with the knowledge of the Principle which is both sacred knowledge and knowledge of the sacred par excellence, since the Sacred as such is none other than the Principle. (p. 117)
III. ‘METAPHYSICS’ gives a clear exposition on what is and what is not integral metaphysics according to the perennial philosophy which has nothing to do with ‘‘New Age’’ spiritualities.
[I]n truth, pure metaphysics being essentially above and beyond all form and all contingency is neither Eastern nor Western but universal. The exterior forms with which it is covered only serve the necessities of exposition, to express whatever is expressible. These forms may be Eastern or Western; but under the appearance of diversity there is always a basis of unity, at least, wherever true metaphysics exists, for the simple reason that truth is one. (p. 95)
IV. ‘SYMBOLISM’ contextualizes symbols outside the pale of modern psychology or that of the ‘‘unconscious’’ which they are commonly thought to originate rather than that of their true origin in divinis as are ‘‘archetypes’’. The answer to the question ‘What is Symbolism?’, if deeply understood, has been known to change altogether a man’s life; and it could indeed be said
that most of the problems of the modern world result from ignorance of that answer. As to the past however, there is no traditional doctrine which does not teach that this world is the world of symbols, inasmuch as it contains nothing which is not a symbol. (Lings, 1991, p. vii)
V. ‘THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY’ provides a revision and an expansion, mutatis mutandis of what has been commonly attributed and often wrongly so as the perennial philosophy or the ‘transcendent unity of religions’. It is through the perennial philosophy that true and authentic
interfaith dialogue can precede for both the differences and similarities are taken into account without compromising the integrity of each tradition. Ibn ‘Arabi writes:

My heart is capable of every form: it is a pasture for gazelles
and a convent for Christian Monks,
And idol-temple and the pilgrim’s Ka’ba [Mecca],
And the tables of the Torah and the book of the Koran:

I follow the religion of Love, whichever way his camels take;
my religion and my faith is the true religion.

(Ibn ‘Arabi, quoted in Lings & Minnaar, p. 224

VI. ‘BEAUTY’ makes it clear that it is incumbent upon anyone on a spiritual path to live within a context of beauty for spiritual support vis-a` -vis highlighting the inherent the dangers and pitfalls of not having such an integral milieu.
‘‘It is told that once Ananda, the beloved disciple of the Buddha, saluted his master and said: ‘‘Half of the holy life, O master, is friendship with the beautiful, association with the beautiful, communion with the beautiful.’’ ‘‘Say not so, Ananda, say not so!’’ the master replied. ‘‘It is not half the holy life; it is the whole of the holy life.’’ (p. 249).
VII. ‘VIRTUE AND PRAYER’ provides important notes on spiritual guidance, complementing the previous chapters dealing predominantly with that of traditional doctrine. All great spiritual experiences agree in this: there is no common measure between the means put into operation and the result. ‘‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,’’ says the Gospel. In fact, what separates man from divine Reality is but a thin partition: God is infinitely close to man, but man is infinitely far from God. This partition, for man, is a mountain; man stands in front of a mountain which he must remove with his own hands. He digs away the earth, but in vain, the mountain remains; man however goes on digging, in the name of God. And the mountain vanishes. It was never there. (p. 308)
The Afterword entitled ‘The Revival of Interest in Tradition’ written by the late perennialist Whitall N. Perry (1920–2005), provides a condensed overview of the formative figures of the perennialist or traditionalist school and their unique contributions.

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