A Note on Perennialism

Let us begin with a basic dialectic:

  • Thesis: There is only one Truth which lies anterior to the sensible realm
  • Antithesis: There is not only one man or group, there are multiple men and groups with differing capabilities
  • Synthesis: Truth cannot be understood in the same way by different men and groups

Those of a perennialist persuasion are often accused of practising a sort of relativism, that because of the aforementioned antithesis is as such, that it informs the thesis. Clearly this is not the case.

There is but one reality, the Hermetic ALL, but this is perceived in diverse fashions according to how one tunes one’s radio, so to speak.

I will not explain in detail the esotericism which underpins such notions overmuch due to the simple fact that it has been done elsewhere by better men than I — and there is a reason why it can take entire volumes; not a mere paragraph in an article like this, to explain matters fully. Recommended reading includes Frithjof Schuon‘s Esoterism as Principle and as Way, most of Julius Evola‘s work on the esoteric (exampli gratia The Doctrine of Awakening, The Hermetic Tradition), and of course the famous work by Manly Hall, The Secret Teachings of All Ages — worthy of quoting regarding the superior (who we are dealing with in this article) qua Friedrich Nietzsche, and the inferior:

Of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche it has been said that his peculiar contribution to the cause of human hope was the glad tidings that God had died of pity! The outstanding features of Nietzsche’s philosophy are his doctrine of eternal recurrence and the extreme emphasis placed by him upon the will to power — a projection of Schopenhauer’s will to live. Nietzsche believed the purpose of existence to be the production of a type of all-powerful individual, designated by him the superman. This superman was the product of careful culturing, for if not separated forcibly from the mass and consecrated to the production of power, the individual would sink back to the level of the deadly mediocre. Love, Nietzsche said, should be sacrificed to the production of the superman and those only should marry who are best fitted to produce this outstanding type. Nietzsche also believed in the rule of the aristocracy, both blood and breeding being essential to the establishment of this superior type. Nietzsche’s doctrine did not liberate the masses; it rather placed over them supermen for whom their inferior brothers and sisters should be perfectly reconciled to die. Ethically and politically, the superman was a law unto himself. To those who understand the true meaning of power to be virtue, self-control, and truth, the ideality behind Nietzsche’s theory is apparent. To the superficial, however, it is a philosophy heartless and calculating, concerned solely with the survival of the fittest.

Keep in mind, dear reader, the reality of hierarchy. Let it inform your every action, for if you practise some silly universalism and “treat everyone the same” and the rest of it, your understanding of man and higher will never be clear. The principle of differentiation — of multiplicity itself; multiplicity of planes, of states, of levels, of degrees, of measure, of caste, of quality — must be realised by anyone seeking to know themselves and beyond.

However, whilst there are many men, many tribes and many times, there is one Truth. Christians perceive this to be God, and that it is only through the Love of Jesus Christ that man can redeem his sins and “come to” God, not merely “see” him as Christians would say of pagans and people of other religions. Those who do not come to Christ are then — in the view of the majority of Christians — doomed to Hell, or Limbo as demonstrated in Dante Aleghieri‘s Divine Comedy (though a couple of pagans, including Cato the Younger, are given special privilege and go beyond Limbo, at least in the mind of Aleghieri).

Purgatorio by Gustave Dore
Purgatorio by Gustave Dore

The perennialist takes a different view of course; to him what Christians see as God can also be understood in different terms which are fit for different people; and it is only those who are priests who truly know metaphysics — that which lies behind all external religion — who can appreciate esotericism. As was mentioned in the first “Paganism, Christianity and the European Soul” discussion I hosted on my YouTube channel, the concept of “godhead” equals the concept of the Christian God, the Islamic Allah, the Hermetic ALL, and the Hindu Brahman. The differences are to be found in the exoteric interpretations of these things.

Every religion has three sort of “sides” to it:

  1. The most “basic” level is the folk; for example we could mention ancient Greek farmers who genuinely believed Zeus lived atop Mount Olympia. Of course this was not the case, for if any of the more hale and hearty of the farmers decided to take a rather heroic hike, atop the mountain he would not have found the physical Zeus replete with white robes, fists crackling with thunderous energy — nor do contemporary mountaineers. Folk religion is the level of myth for the most part; stories and fables; what is now often called “religious literalism” — something our American readers likely more accustomed-to than European ones especially in the form of Young Earth creationism in the strictly physical sense.
  2. Moving “up” a tier in nuance, one might say, we find what is known as “exotericism.” This is the form in which a religion will typically represent itself in an organised manner. Go to Latin Mass and you will be — if you are not already familiar with the hidden meanings of various ceremonies — met with the standard religious practices of exoteric Catholicism. Prayer is an exoteric practice, seen as a way of communing with God, with the Absolute, which — from the esoteric perspective — has higher meaning. Organised religion is exoteric and operates as (or, as a facet of) the culture for a given group. Pagan exotericism in ancient Egypt, to pick another example, involved sacrifices which were seen as metaphysically efficacious to the priests who performed them, and as a communal, cultural event for the masses.
  3. And, as has been mentioned, we reach esotericism; the hidden, the occult, “that which cannot be seen,” or “that which is not seen, but known.” To again pick upon Christianity, the ceremonial drinking of wine and eating of bread is rather pointless beyond its symbolism; and this act symbolises the assimilation of Christ’s love — you take Christ into your very being in that act. A priest or monk does this through prayer and meditation, but the masses require something more observable, more physical, hence the distinction between caste and why you have different religious practices for priest and layman. Esoteric practice seeks to go straight to Truth, straight to the impermeable, straight to metaphysics; it is a style which punches through the riff-raff of the mundane, of the human, and is this fit for a select few. There is the well-known Hermetic maxim, “As above, so below; as below so above,” which corresponds to universal dualism. Such notions are nothing to the layman, but for the Truth-seeker, for the priest, for the initiate, such notions are beyond value as they regard the ultimate meaning of existence; of existential question and more.

Esoteric practice and understanding is initiation. Initiation into higher states. The ceremonies the ordinary observe are vastly different to the esoteric. The purpose of esoteric practice is the “realising of the unconditioned”; the state of man liberated in the highest sense from material reality. This is the ultimate aim of priesthood; coming to, though the I of the Heart, know God, the Absolute — coming to the Father, in the Christian sense.

This is something not only relegated to Christian priests, but also Sufi priests, Buddhist monks and others: for these are different formulations, fit for different races, castes and cultural histories, of the same thing for the same purpose. Hence in the chaotic age of Kali Yuga those of different races of the body may share races of the soul — I may have more in common with a traditionally-orientated Asian man than a modernly-orientated European in personality, in temperament, in essence, and that is because we are aligned in caste.

The standard accusations of relativism which are thrown are perennialists stem merely from the implicit universalism which permeates the mind of most moderns. The inability to comprehend contextuality in regard to religious tradition and spiritual understanding is certainly not nuanced by the Christian or post-Christian universalism which still underpins the remit of Western thinking; this idea that all groups, all persons, all cultures are capable of seeing things “our way” — indeed Christ commands it.

Going therefore, teach all nations; baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. ~ Matthew 28:19

We are led then to a certainly difficult position. The Traditional belief is that there can be no “one size fits all” religiousity for religions emerge to facilitate certain peoples confined to them and them alone, reflections of their innate individuality — the fact that groups are different means not only anthropologically, but spiritually as well. This is something Paul Andersen has been tackling here at West Coast Reactionaries as I have mentioned before. How then, did those like René Guénon and the other perennialists reconcile their own system — indeed Guénon converted to Sufism and his last word was allegedly “Allah.” The trouble with religious exclusivism is that every major religion — particularly monotheistic ones — claims to be “the one true religion,” and going by present trends demographically et cetera it looks like the Islamic “truth” poses a serious threat to the Christian “truth.” But, of course, just because no-one might be alive to know it does not mean it is not so. I digress… The perennialist practises perennialism, not relativism. To him there is but one Truth, Brahman, which is realised and contextualised differently for different peoples and castes according to their respective cultures and abilities.

Everything is Dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled. ~ The Kybalion.

The Magician
“As above, so below.”
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Adam

As a man among men, I can learn.

7 thoughts on “A Note on Perennialism

  1. Communion with the Absolute is all that is needed to quell the nihilism of the times. People need a firm structure which they can rely on and that is why Islam is a threat. It is the strong force which is filling the vacuum left in the West by Christianity. However Islam has never been able to conquer the West in the past. Modernity and by extension liberalism is a much greater force as it is what has led to the crumbling of the foundations of the West. I think we shall see a spring back when the shackles of liberalism come off. This process has started and can be encouraged by dissemination of perennialist thought which would unify, from the bottom up (or the top down) the soul of Europe. All that is needed is the Absolute as a light in the darkness.

    I personally come at this from a paleo-Christian perspective and it is a fitting time of the year give that the light of the world returns to us tomorrow as we remember his victory over death and the devil.

    1. Excellent comment; I couldn’t agree more. Islam is only a threat because it is allowed to be so due to the inner formlessness of Europeans. If we rekindle the Sacred Flame, so to speak, the flowers may bloom and we will enter the next Spring. I do hope I live to see and partake in this.

  2. Perennialism runs into a problem when revelation is brought into the picture. If the One True God revealed a basic outline as to how all mankind ought to reverence, then to not do so would be a rejection of Truth. All religions claiming to be the one ordained by the Most High cannot all be right; most religions hold it as a doctrine that all others are false. Of course, each may possess partial truths, but only one, or none at all, can be fully true.

    To wave off revelation as only being a part of the exoteric nature of the specific belief system would be disingenuous since it is one of the key aspects of faith with it’s own hierarchy of understanding. The Bible, for example, is understood much more in depth as you go up the “tiers”. Those at the lower end seeing it as basic stories and myths while those at the top realize the interconnectedness and necessity of all the passages within it for the whole, allowing them to have a better grasp of the Divine. But, the esoteric contained in all supposed scripture is not in agreement. So, not all religions are equal, even at their highest understanding.

    Either one is true or none are. If none are, then religion generally *is* relative and much more arbitrary than we make it out to be. If one is indeed true, then everyone should be brought into the fold. This, however, does not mean that each people must worship in the exact same way and hold the same traditions as all the others.

    That being said, Perennialism is much better than liberal nihilism.

  3. I think you are wrong when you talk about the sacrament. I think you have gone wrong because you have not read Iamblichus or Proclus. The divine Symbola or not symbols in the same way as a word can be said to signify an object.

    The sacraments are not a convenient material conceptualization of a metaphysical truth for the lay person. A priest cannot dispense with the sacraments or physical theurgy. The Eucharist is called communion because it is a real communion. The most systematic and Christian doctrine of this is in Thomas Aquinas. The error is to think divine communion should be in any way effected by the lay person’s mental conceptions of whatever is happening. There are different types of theurgy, some purely physical, some intellectual, some a mixture of both, some perhaps none of these, and many are outlined very clearly by Iamblichus in De Mysteriis Aegyptorum.

    God’s eyes art ‘ou, do not surrender perception.

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