Saturday, July 17, 2010

Is there a perennial philosophy?

The Perennial Philosophy is one of the primary foundations of Wilber's integral theory - and it's also one of the most criticized parts of his model. The Guardian UK, back in May, offered the question of whether or not the perennial philosophy is real to several thinkers and published several responses.

Is there a perennial philosophy?

Is there an eternal truth that we keep on discovering – whether it's a 'divine reality' or something less godlike?

The Buddha statue near Delhi airport

Photograph: Gethin Chamberlain

Many thinkers have identified common strands in systems of thought and religions through the ages. In 1945 Aldous Huxley wrote of a perennial philosophy "that recognises a divine reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds; the psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical with, divine reality; the ethic that places man's final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent ground of all being". He said that it could be found in both "traditional lore" and the "higher religions", in every era.

Was Huxley right? Is there an eternal truth, that we keep on discovering – whether it's a "divine reality" or something better formulated in another way? And if so, what is its nature – is it outside us? Is it simply an aspect of the way our brains are wired?

Monday's response

Julian Baggini: The only way you can identify points of convergence in religion and philosophy is to make them so general as to be vacuous

Thursday's response

Bruce Chilton: A focus on perception was both the strength and the weakness of Huxley's approach to religion

Saturday's response

Mark Vernon: It's easy to see the appeal of the perennial philosophy. But it falsely reduces human experience to an undifferentiated whole

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