Frithjof Schuon: Messenger of the Perennial Philosophy (Spiritual Masters: East and West)

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The extenuating circumstance for this abrupt and unintelligible denominationalism is the fact that for each religion the Prophet who founded it is the sole personification of the total, not the partial, Logos. According to the Perennialists, am I wrong? When I asked him to explain how I am incorrect in one respect, he replied: Speaking from the standpoint of the religio perennis, you are correct inasmuch as you are a Muslim for whom the Prophet Muhammad, 'alayhi's-salatu wa's-salam, is the center of your religious 'cosmos'.

It is the specific revelation which was delivered through him that is your the nourishing substance of your spiritual life; that is to say that you are concretely affected by the Qur'an and the salat more than you are by Christ or the practice of sitting zazen. In this sense what you have said is correct even for a Muslim perennialist.

In other words, it is theologically correct for a Muslim. Clearly, it would not be theologically correct for a Christian. Following from this, it is also devotionally correct, in the sense that, although one is aware that everyone has a mother who, for them, is uniquely 'Mother', yet it is natural to feel a special love and kinship for one's own mother and even consider her 'the best'.

Metaphysically speaking, all the Prophets and Messengers are one in their essence or prophetic substance, thus a distinction is meaningless here. It would be comparable to claiming that one's own mother had more the quality of 'motherhood' than any other mother. So, metaphysically what you have said is incorrect, or rather it is not relevant to the plane of metaphysical principles. Where do I even begin? One of the most important principles of Metaphysics that is often overlooked is that there is in fact one Metaphysic.

In other words, the principles that govern the orders of being are a single unified matrix. This is because Being Itself is One.


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That said, this Metaphysic has a hierarchy, a center, a quintessence, and a perfection in so far as it in the realm of relativity. Now it is one thing for someone to claim that the axis not is him and that it is this or that being, but it is another matter entirely to say that there can be no such universal axis; that there is nothing more that the relative centers or multiple domains.

All of us—both Perennialists and non-Perennialist Muslims—know and acknowledge that there are Messengers and Prophets who were the poles of salvation and fountains of wisdom to their respective communities. But, how does it escape any discerning mind that humanity is itself a community which, as a collective, also has a pole and fountainhead? How does one not see that the entire creation is as such a community which needs a center?

Are the Messengers followers of none? Have they no leader? Are they not a community? Are religions not a collective which has a perfection? There must be a sky beyond which there is no sky, and a particle that does not divide. Now, Sidi Kareem, you said: The "newness" belongs to the expression, not to the truth. An example is the metaphysical doctrine of Ibn 'Arabi which came to be known as wahdat al-wujud. When Ibn 'Arabi's works started to spread, they were met with fierce resistance, even from Sufis and not just a few of them; in fact, even today not all Sufis accept his ideas, particular in the East.

Some oppose Ibn 'Arabi and some see such metaphysical speculation as an intellectual dispersion and a distraction from the dhikr and praise of the Prophet. This is not entirely correct. Most Sufi Shaykhs judging from their written or recorded positions or what is reported from them today hold al-Shaykh al-Akbar in the highest esteem, and only warn or prohibit their murids from reading his works because of the depth and profundity therein, and the risk of misunderstanding his statements and going astray.

The idea of the transcendent unity of religions is like the belief in wahdat al-wujud, i. The comparison between the Transcendent Unity of Religions and wahdat al-wujud is faulty. The latter has orthodoxy and Sunnism as its starting point, and it does not depart from it in reality. This, I am afraid, is where we part ways. Muslims do not view the extant religions as all equal, with Islam taking is fair place among them.

Frithjof Schuon: Messenger of the Perennial Philosophy

Schuon said: Religions are like lamps of colored glass; now a lamp illuminates the dark because it is luminous and not because it is red or blue or green. On the one hand the color transmits the light, but on the other hand it falsifies it; if it is true that without a given colored lamp one would see nothing, it is just as true that visibility cannot be identified with any one color. This is what every esoterism ought to be aware of by definition, at least in principle and to the extent permitted by its knowledge of facts.

Have they ever claimed to be The Absolute Light?

Frithjof Schuon: Messenger of the Perennial Philosophy

Another site: With all my respect for Shaykh Abdal Hakeem, but Schuon will not give you a better understanding of theology but it will add confusion to confusion. Much of what Schuon has to say about tradition, metaphysics, caste, race and primordial man is taken from nineteenth century German philosophy and the Symbolic movement of the twenties and thirties in which he grew up. The symbolist movement, which influenced his father, had a romantic attachment to the esoteric and the primordial man. The symbolists were scavengers of India, China, Islam and other non Western cultures and developed an eclectic philosophy which was a mish mash of all cultures and religions.

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Schuon thinking is based on Gnosticism, Occultism, the Hermetic corpus, Pythagoreanism, neo-Platonism, the Hindu believe in reincarnation, karma, the cyclic time, the Kabbala and some religious trappings of Christianity. Schuon ushered this lethal brew into Islam and Sufism with predictable consequences. His critique of Kant, is not even a shadow to the new grounds achieved by phenomenology and later by Heidegger. He simply replaced rational metaphysics for occultist methaphysics -Heidegger will say is the same-. He was an impostor, which used cultist tricks and devices and his self-given Shaykhdom which he acquired in a dream to manipulate and control his own people.

Having said this, Schuon was a great influence to many gullible individuals of a generation now in their fifties and sixties who were in search for knowledge and to most of the modern perennialists particularly: Seyyed Hossein Nasser and Marting Lings. The problem, Tazkiyya, is that this people roam in our Muslim arenas as if they are the true picture of Islam. They mingle with us while in fact they have different beliefs. Also, it is undeniable that certain of their books have created a very favourable impression of Islam and Sufism in the eyes of Westerners and also western-educated Muslims.

On the other hand, serious issues arise when comparing Perennialist positions with orthodox Muslim beliefs and accepting the Maryamiyyah as an orthodox Shadhili Tariqah. In their writings, they do not distinguish between the status of the Quran and the scriptures of other religions and appear to consider them all to have the same authority.

This is contrasted with the message of Schuon and Guenon, which is universal as stated by Lings. Based on the above, I think the writings of the Perennialists and their understanding of Islam and orthodox Tasawwuf need to be carefully scrutinised before arriving at any conclusions about their status as Islamic spiritual authorities.

However, I then realised the implications of Perennialism and its incompatability with pure Islam and Tasawwuf. Some examples are below.

Although I have also heard people say that Martin Lings had a different position to Guenon and Schuon, I did not see anything he wrote in which he differed from his two predecessors in the fundamentals of Perennialism, i. Lings stated that it was one of the requirements of Schuon for his diciples which included Lings himself as one of the staunchest and most loyal that they love all religions equally. SH Nasr He has openly defended the right of Christians to believe in the doctrine of the Trinity and constantly and consistently in his books potrayed Schuon as a great spiritual authority with a function not limited only to Islam.

Can the above sayings and beliefs be attributed to traditional Shuyukh or mureeds of the Shadhili school? So, based on the above, on the one hand I rejected Perennialism, but on the other hand there were these beautifully written books by authors whom I had admired and who I believed had deepened my understanding of Islamic spirituality. A question then occurred to me: if the basis of everything these authors view religion through including Islam is Perennialism, and I fully reject Perennialism, then is the Islam they see and talk about in their books the same as the one I was born into and exemplified in the works and personalities of the great Sufis down the ages?

Unfortunately, I could not find any easy answers to such questions. If Perennialism is to be rejected how can someone whose basis of being in, understanding, and explaining Islam is the same Perennialism be portrayed as some kind of Wali?

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Frithjof Schuon-extended interview on metaphysics,religion and poetry

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