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The Perennial Philosophy Paperback – January 1, 2009
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“The Perennial Philosophy is the core synthesis of religious thought that Huxley drew from mystical thinkers among the world’s great religions.” (Washington Post Book World)
“The masterpiece of all anthologies . . . Even an agnostic can read this book with joy. (New York Times)
From the Back Cover
An inspired gathering of religious writings that reveals the "divine reality" common to all faiths, collected by Aldous Huxley
"The Perennial Philosophy," Aldous Huxley writes, "may be found among the traditional lore of peoples in every region of the world, and in its fully developed forms it has a place in every one of the higher religions."
With great wit and stunning intellect—drawing on a diverse array of faiths, including Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Christian mysticism, and Islam—Huxley examines the spiritual beliefs of various religious traditions and explains how they are united by a common human yearning to experience the divine. The Perennial Philosophy includes selections from Meister Eckhart, Rumi, and Lao Tzu, as well as the Bhagavad Gita, Tibetan Book of the Dead, Diamond Sutra, and Upanishads, among many others.
- Paperback : 354 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0061724947
- ISBN-13 : 978-0061724947
- Item Weight : 9.6 ounces
- Product Dimensions : 5.31 x 0.79 x 8 inches
- Publisher : Harper Perennial Modern Classics; 6/28/09 Edition (January 1, 2009)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #19,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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This might properly be called, at least I will, the set of ultimate goals for the self, or perhaps the self-less perfection of the realization of the divine in the individual and the purpose of all human consciousness. I'm not used to speaking this way, it will take me some time to get through all of the material in this course of study, but I can feel it working on me.
Several years ago I wrote that all I care about is wisdom. This is true. But one tends to think of wisdom as an attribute of the self. The Perennial Philosophy extends that challenge beyond the self (and yet within the self) towards the human infinite. So instead of the pursuit and capture of wisdom like a trophy to put on your mantle and show off, the Perennial Philosophy explains that this is an attainment of psychic, spiritual as well as intellectual dimensions.
There's some speculation in this which is especially clunky in the dated volume which contemporaries more well versed in psychology will easily spot. Also Huxley had been taken in by claims of faith healing and ESP that should not be taken seriously, but he seems to understand this. Also the book gets a bit murky in dealing with the concepts of time vis a vis Time and Eternity. And yet the book becomes quite persuasive in describing how nations and religions and philosophies that deal with reality in progressive time rather than in eternal timelessness, inevitably make bloody violent sacrifices to time (God the destroyer of all things, in time).
Huxley presents a convincing case for the unification of purposeful thought in this volume by taking contextualized quotes from a variety of wise ancients and mystics. It puts, for me, God back where God should belong in all thought, and the discipline of finding God central in human moral purpose.
I am convinced that this is the kind of material that is central to the human experience. It clears up a lot of things.
Huxley proves brilliantly the Unity, Truth and Wisdom behind most religions. They all share a common source and ground that passes from faith, repentance and death to self into a divine nature of pure love and joy. He covers topics such as "Personality, Sanctity, Divine Incarnation, God in the World, Charity, Truth, Grace and Free Will, Good and Evil, Rituals", etc. So many important topics for one interesting in pursuing a divine path with a sincere heart toward God. Here are just a few quotes to inspire you to read this book:
"Liberation cannot be achieved except by the perception of the identity of the individual spirit with the universal spirit"
"The best that can be said for ritualistic legalism is that it improves conduct. It does little , however, to alter character and nothing of itself to modify consciousnesses"
"What could begin to deny self, if there were not something in man different from self?"
"Love seeks no cause beyond itself and no fruit; it is its own fruit, its own enjoyment."
"To the extent that there is attachment to "I", "Me" and "Mine", there is not attachment to, and therefore no unitive knowledge of, the divine ground"
"Everything is ours, provided that we regard nothing as our property"
"To find or know God in reality, by any outward proofs, or by anything but by God himself made manifest and self-evident in you, will never be your case either here or hereafter. For neither God, nor heaven, nor hell, nor the devil, nor the world, and the flesh, can be any otherwise knowable in you, or by you, but by their own existence and manifestation in you. And all pretended knowledge of any of these things, beyond or without this self-evident sensibility of their birth within you, is only such knowledge of them, as the blind man hath of that light, that never entered into him."
"You are as holy as you wish to be"
"if most of us remain ignorant of ourselves, it is because self-knowledge is painful and we prefer the pleasures of illusion."
"Turning to God without turning from Self"- the formula is absurdly simple; and yet, simple as it is, it explains all the follies and iniquities committed in the name of religion"
Enjoy the book!
This book should be required reading for every teacher and preacher.
Top reviews from other countries
When first published the New York Times said, "this is the most needed book in the world."
The perennial philosophy refers to the spiritual truths that underlie human existence in all cultures through all time, transmitted through Jungian archetypes, the `morphic field' and the wisdom philosophies. The term `perennial philosophy' seems to have been used first as long ago as 1540 by the Italian humanist Agostino Steuco, and then by German mathematician and philosopher G.W. Leibniz in the 18th century.
Aldous Huxley is perhaps best known for his novels, Brave New World and The Devils of Loudun, but this work is a non-fictional survey of aspects of spirituality. I cannot do better than to reproduce the author's own definition of his subject matter: `the metaphysic that recognizes a divine Reality that is 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'.
This book is a collection of writings on this enduring mystical theme, joined together by a commentary from Huxley. He compares the extracts he has chosen with the Shruti and Smriti of the Hindu religion: the Shruti depend upon direct perception of these universal truths accessed transcendentally by the sages or rishis while the Shriti are myths and tales that illustrate the moral teachings of the Shruti. The whole book is much more oriented towards the spiritual Hinduism and Buddhism of the East than the doctrinal religion of the West.
In Chapter IV, God in the World, Huxley specifically berates humankind for its lack of respect for, and its exploitation of, the natural world and endorses communing with God through Nature. Respect for the trees, rocks and streams around us that has long since disappeared from western capitalism, at least until quite recently, has remained very much alive in Chinese and Japanese society: where western religious art depicts characters from scripture, Eastern art is full of reverent nature-painting. Huxley was always a keen supporter of environmental preservation and deplored the Brave New World we were creating.
Chapter VI is about Non-Attachment and Right-Livelihood - about not letting the quest for material acquisitions and comforts and the turbulence of our daily lives disturb our equilibrium: certainly a message for our times. Huxley maintains however that the worship of Culture, for its own sake, is overblown. Novelty in the arts has become almost a god in its own right. Having said that, many writers of plays and novels indicated that they understood human psychology long before Freud.
Chapter VII deals with the issue of truth. Whatever we say of the material world can only be an approximation of truth because its essence we can never truly know. And the same is true of statements about God: Huxley records the sayings of many sages endorsing the via negative - that nothing we say of God can begin to describe the qualities of the divine.
Chapter IX on self-knowledge opens with a quote from Boethius: `In other living creatures ignorance of self is nature; in man it is vice'. This echoes Socrates' maxim: `the unexamined life is not worth living'. Many sages have told us that the greatest challenge of human life is to understand oneself.
Chapter XII is on Time and Eternity and opens with the statement: `The universe is an everlasting succession of events; but its ground . . .is the timeless now of the divine Spirit'. The extracts and commentary then elaborate on this theme.
Space prevents my summarising the themes of all 27 chapters, but this will give readers a good feel for the content and spirit of the book. One critic says the book is not about philosophy - but it is precisely that - religious philosophy. It is also criticised for not being a 'self-help' book. If after reading this you do not think about the meaning of life in general, and your own in particular, you must have read it with eyes open and mind closed.
The Phenomenon of Man by Teilhard de Chardin
Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (2006) and The Tao of Holism (2008), both published by O Books of Winchester, U.K.; and The World as Spirit published by Fairhill Publishing, Whitland, West Wales, 2011.