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Paths to Transcendence: According to Shankara, Ibn Arabi & Meister Eckhart (Spiritual Masters. East and West) Paperback – March 1, 2006
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[Shah-Kazemi] analyses as `case studies' the writings of what are by general scholarly agreement understood to be the three most outstanding (if not necessarily unvaryingly orthodox) representatives of the mystical traditions of three of the world's great religions, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, from the perspective of the `Perennialist' or `Traditionalist' school in the philosophy of religion.... Shah-Kazemi's book is a very welcome addition to the study of comparative mysticism. -- Eckhart Review 2007
From the Publisher
The aim of this book is to contribute to the elucidation of an important but much neglected theme in comparative religion and mysticism: that of transcendence. More specifi cally, we intend to shed light on the meaning of transcendence both in itself and as the summit of spiritual realization; thus, both as a metaphysical principle and as a mystical attainment, our principal concern being with the concrete dimensions of the spiritual paths leading to what we shall be calling here "transcendent realization." What we wish to offer is an interpretive essay on this theme, taking as our starting point what three of the worlds greatest mystics have said or written on this subject.
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I very much recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a rigorous and yet experiential approach to religion and metaphysics.
The author knows the three subjects of investigation--the transcendental thought of Shankara from the Vedantin tradition, Ibn Arabi from Islamic tradition, and Meister Eckhart from the Christian tradition--quite thoroughly. There is more concentrated information in this book than one might get from a half dozen others on the same subject.
For those well versed in Pali Buddhism, for example, it is obvious that the mystics described here are describing the "arupa" spheres. Most likely the "dimension of infinite consciousness" and "dimension of nothingness.". In Pali Buddhism, these are not the ultimate spiritual attainments. So, Perennialism is both right and wrong. Right, in that there are definitely universal contemplative experiences. Wrong, in that it hasn't identified the ultimate spiritual attainment.
Reza Shah-Kazemi is a Research Associate at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London and one of the most preeminent contemporary Perennialist writers. Although initially written as a Doctoral Thesis, this book is dedicated to the memory of Frithjof Schuon, and presented here as a demonstration of the "transcendent unity of religions" based on a comparative study of three major figures of Hinduism, Islam and Christianity (Shankara, Ibn Arabi and Meister Eckhart) and their approach of the non-dual Absolute both at the doctrinal and practical level. Each study is divided systematically into three parts: a first one on the doctrine of the Absolute, the second one on the spiritual path and the last on the return of the God-realized man to the creatures. The book concludes on the "essential elements of communality" between the three spiritual masters. In very substantial appendices, Reza Shah-Kazemi criticizes some of the more contemporary attempts to "reduce the transcendence" by academia but also by pseudo-Perennialists such as A. Huxley.
Reza Shah-Kazemi's work is indeed both a metaphysical and erudite demonstration of such communality at the summit of the great religious traditions and a merciful response to the predominant relativism in the field of Comparative Religion. A master piece ....
Many, many sentences are more than 100 words in length. This one is a randomly selected example: "Each element negates the non-transcendent dimensions that are implicit or conceivable in one or both of the other elements: to say that the Absolute is "Reality" means that its being "never fails," in contrast the forms of things which, being modifications, are existent at one time, only to "fail" at some other time; since, however, this may imply that the Absolute is a non-conscious material cause, the the term Knowledge ..." This sentence goes on for another forty or fifty words!
Yes, even messy sentences like this one can be understood if they are carefully parsed by the reader. But, I think it is the author's job to parse his own thoughts and and then put them into a reasonably readable form.