perennial philosophy

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The notion of perennial philosophy (Latin: philosophia perennis) suggests the existence of a universal set of truths and values common to all peoples and cultures. The term was first used in the 16th century by Augostino Steuco

According to the tenets of the perennial philosophy, people in many cultures and eras have experienced and recorded comparable perceptions about the nature of reality, the self, the world, and the meaning and purpose of existence. These similarities point to underlying universal principles, forming the common ground of most religions. Differences among these fundamental perceptions arise from differences in human cultures and can be explained in light of such cultural conditioning. Among these perceptions are the following assertions:

  • The physical or phenomenal world is not the only reality; another non-physical reality exists. The material world is the shadow of a higher reality which cannot be grasped by the senses, but the human spirit and intellect bear testimony to it in their essence.
  • Humans mirror the nature of this two-sided reality: while the material body is subject to the physical laws of birth and death, the other aspect of human existence is not subject to decay or loss, and is identical to the intellect or spirit, which is the sine qua non of the human soul. In the modern West, this second or other reality has been frequently discounted or ignored.
  • All humans possess a capacity, however unused and thus atrophied, for intuitive perceptions of ultimate or absolute truth, and the nature of reality. This perception is the final goal of human beings, and its pursuit and flourishing are the purpose of their existence. The major religions try to (re)establish the link between the human soul and this higher and ultimate reality. This ultimate reality, in the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), is called God; God is the Absolute principle from which all existence originated and to which all existence will return. Non-theistic religions, such as Buddhism, Jainism, and Taoism, may characterize the ultimate or absolute somewhat differently than the Abrahamic religions, but the fundamental concept is the same.

These worldwide perceptions are thought to be amendable with one another and reliable in themselves because of their internal consistency and due to the similarities among them, in spite of their often independent origins.

According to Huxley, the perennial philosophy is: ""the metaphysic that recognizes 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; the thing is immemorial and universal. Rudiments of the perennial philosophy may be found among the traditional lore of primitive peoples in every region of the world, and in its fully developed forms it has a place in every one of the higher religions"" (The Perennial Philosophy, p. vii).

Wikipedia contributors, ""Perennial philosophy,"" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed February 1, 2007).