What About Neglected Traditions?

By Charles Upton

The Traditionalist School once embraced Hindu members, including Ananda K. Coomaraswamy and A. K. Saran; a prominent Buddhist member, Marco Pallis; and an element of Judaism through Leo Schaya (although Schaya himself was a Muslim), through his book The Universal Meaning of the Kabbalah [Sophia Perennis] and his important article “The Eliatic Function” which appeared in Studies in Comparative Religion. But who are the Hindu, the Muslim, the Jewish Traditionalists/Perennialists of today?

For the Buddhists, certainly John Paraskevopoulos, whose book Call of the Infinite, the Way of Shin Buddhism, was recently published by Sophia Perennis; and World Wisdom Books brought out a wonderful anthology entitled The Essential Vedanta, edited by Eliot Deutsch and Rohit Dalva, who certainly seem sympathetic to the Traditionalist perspective. In addition, Sophia Perennis has been privileged to publish the authorized version of The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi. In The Language of the Self, Frithjof Schuon said of him: “In Sri Ramana Maharshi, one meets again the ancient and eternal India”.

The major Traditionalists also seem to have pretty much neglected the Eastern Orthodox contemplative tradition known as Hesychasm, the basis of the spirituality of Mt. Athos and the closest thing in Christianity to Sufism. Guénon, Coomaraswamy and Schuon largely ignored it, though Luc Benoist and Philip Sherrard did what they could to make up for this lack. The American Eastern Orthodox priest Seraphim Rose was greatly influenced by René Guénon, and contemporary Orthodox priest Fr. John Chryssavgis has been published by World Wisdom Books, though some would say that he is a bit too much of a modernist to be considered a Traditionalist in Guénon’s and Schuon’ s sense. In any case, we are safe in saying that the great metaphysical riches of Dionysius the Aeropagite, Maximos the Confessor, Simeon the New Theologian, Gregory Palamas, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazienzen and many other lights of equal radiance among the Greek Fathers have not yet been given the treatment the deserve in the Traditionalist world.

As for the Roman Catholic Church, the Traditionalist line used to be essentially sede vaccantist (i.e., based on the belief that all the popes since Pius XII have been invalid), or at least willing to lament the serious damage done to the Church by the Second Vatican Council—but we have heard little of this lament since the death of Rama P. Coomaraswamy in 2006, whose The Destruction of the Christian Tradition [World Wisdom Books, 2006] and The Problems with the Other Sacraments Apart from the New Mass [Sophia Perennis, 2010]—sequel to The Problems with the New Mass [Tambra Publications, 1990] remain classics of Traditional Catholicism, though the Traditional Catholics themselves are by and large not open to Traditionalism/Perennialism; they have other pressing duties that demand all their attention, their stamina, and their faith. And the fact is that as far as we can see, only Rama Coomaraswamy among all the Traditionalists since Guénon and Pallis (though we should perhaps add Martin Lings to the list) was able to remain entirely true to a single tradition, defending it without quarter, and still honestly count himself a Perennialist.

What other traditional Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Traditional Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians are presently open to the Traditionalist/Perennialist worldview (among Traditional Catholics only Miguel de Portugal comes immediately to mind), or might conceivably be so in the future—by which I mean: actively opposed to syncretism and the worldly and politicized interfaith movement, but nonetheless willing and able to dialogue with authorities from other traditions than their own on the level that Frithjof Schuon termed “esoteric ecumenism”, as well as to recognize and stand against not only the general secularism of the times, but also those powerful and organized forces dedicated to infiltrating, co-opting and perverting the world religions under the guise of sympathy and patronage?

Any ideas?

19 Responses to “What About Neglected Traditions?”

  1. I believe one of the reasons there are less Jewish, Hindu and I suppose Taoist or Zoroastrian, and so forth, Traditionalists than there are Muslim or Christian ones is partly due to the fact that, rightly or wrongly, the former are seen as less or even basically non- accessible to those who now coming to Traditionalism and who have not been brought up in a Tradition.

    • Dear John,

      You are right that Hinduism, Taoism and Zoroastrianism are not very accessible to people in the West, for different reasons. (Does Taoism really exist any more outside of cosmological sciences like feng shui?) Buddhism IS accessible, but so many American Buddhists seem to no longer think of themselves as following a religion, so why should they dialogue with “believers”? I guess what I’m really asking is: who are the saints? From ANY religion? (They have no website, apparently; I googled “saint.com” and came up with the Saint Machinery Corporation.)
      There are sometimes unexpected and privileged moments when two people who have been deeply formed by their own different traditions can come together, and suddenly understand each other; but words may not be the most important result of such meetings. And to seek such understanding in the politicized, propagandized, watered-down world of present-day Interfaith is a dead end; like the song says, “I know a heartache when I see one”. When Inter is more important than Faith, faith is destroyed.

      I suppose that I posted what posts I did on this website because I long for the companionship of spiritually deep people, and a good intellectual understanding of traditional metaphysics may (or may not) be a sign of that kind of depth. But it all gets to be a little like computer dating
      ….maybe we should run a talk line instead of a blog….

      But I hope we can share at least the spiritual intent that God will be pleased to let us encounter the Hidden Saints of the latter days, whether or not we recognoze them,

      ~~ Charles

  2. As for the paucity of Daoism and Confucianism in perennialist literature, there is one additional explanation – Perennialist generalisations about religions are often wrong when it comes to Chinese traditions.

    For instance, several schools of Daoism, such as Quanzhen, are explicitly syncretic. The founders of Quanzhen explicitly selected classics from all Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism to lay the foundation for their faith. Daoist magic also readily makes use of Buddhist symbols.

    Another example – while some perennialists believe that rituals are revealed to humans by God, Confucian scriptures teach explicitly that rituals are man-made. (More or less – there is a gray area here.)

    The poster contended that Daoism is no longer existent outside fengshui. This is NOT true. The Daoist revival is going well. So many old institutions have been restored. We also have plans to evangelise to other parts of the world…

  3. Dear Justice&Mercy,

    Ah! Great! One shoots one’s mouth off partly in hopes of being corrected. Please provide us (if you are inclined to) with reading lists and links on the Taoist revival (and excuse my passe spelling).

    Western scholars, at least of the former Traditionalist generations and earlier, have tended to concentrate on “philosophical” Taoism — Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu etc., as well as the I Ching — for much the same reason that the West studied Zen Buddhism to the exclusion of much more widespread schools such as Shen, though the dissemination of the Vajrayana has done much to break down this prejudice.

    As for the origin of rituals, it is spiritually possible for the angel Gabriel, acting under the command of Allah, to reveal directly to Muhammad the form of the Muslim salat, and the fact that this form was practiced as well by the Prophet Abraham. It is also possible for sages with a deep knowledge of cosmological and metaphysical principles to apply this knowledge to the design of spiritually effective rituals. In either case, true spiritual knowledge comes from beyond the ego, which means that it transcends the ACQUIRED knowledge based upon memory, though it may — or rather, must — secondarily make use of acquired knowledge in order to provide a vehicle in this world for inspired or direct knowledge. The Qur’an was transmitted directly to Muhammad from Allah, sometimes
    through the mediation of Gabriel, but “the clear Arabic tongue” already existed, transmitted from generation to human generation via collective human memory. The Abrahamic religions know the Absolute Principle as an “unlimited Person”, the dharmic religions more as a Principle per se, and Taoism (please correct me if I’m wrong) as “the Way things are and the Way they change”, as well as something that cannot be totally defined in terms of things as they are or as they change. Suffice it to say that spiritual knowledge is not something we contrive; it offers itself to us by the simple fact that whether or not WE are, IT is, and comes only when we abandon contrivances. Whether this is experienced as the voice of an Unlimited Person to a chosen human recipient or the natural and inevitable dawning of What Is to those who quest to know It, it nonetheless comes, like all true knowledge, from beyond the ego, beyond what we already know. It is not “made up” strictly on the basis of already-known materials, though it is certainly INVENTED in the sense of something that is “blown into us like a wind”, which is what the word “invented” means, etymologically at least.

    What do you think of the Traditionalist notion that Confucianism is the “exoterism”, and Taoism the “esoterism” of Chinese religion (Buddhism excluded)?

    As for what is called syncretism, it may be contrived, “natural”, or anything in between. Cha’an drew much from Taoism, but no Traditionalist would think of it as “syncretism” in the negative sense.

    The Tao Te Ching and the Chuang Tzu present their brand of Taoism as aloof from the social agendas of Confucianism, yet Chinese civilization certainly “syncretized” them. How can this be done today? In particular, how can Confucianism take root, except as a sort of “literary” revival, or a cult effectively without a viable social matrix, in a China that enforces the one-child-per-family rule? The Taoism of the I Ching and traditional Confucianism seem to me entirely patriarchal; how can they take root in a non-patriarchal civilization, in either China or the west? I’m not saying they can’t….but in a world such as ours, which seems to be descending in many ways into a renewed chaos of “warlords”, gangs, terrorist networks and warring states based on the weakening and fragmentation of many national states, Confucianism would seem to face challenges in some ways similar to those confronted by Kung Fu-Tse himself: to revive the family, re-establish it as the model and
    seed of a greater social order, and to revive “human-heartedness” itself in the face of a deepening and spreading barbarism that seems poised to reduce the masses to a truly sub-human level. And how can the contemplative withdrawal from the world of the realized Taoist sage support this need to re-weave the fabric of human society, rather than undermining it or simply becoming irrelevant to it? Can “non-doing” really effect what all our “doing” seems unable to accomplish?

    I’m eager to hear more from you on these matters.

    Charles Upton

  4. Dear Charles Upton,

    Thank you for your detailed reply. I can’t go into details at the moment, but I’ll write a brief response.

    First, about the earlier generation of perennialists – I haven’t read much of their work, and so I can’t make an informed judgment. However, I have made a cursory reading of Guenon’s treatise on the Triad. I’m deeply impressed by Guenon’s understanding of the Chinese tradition. It’s really amazing – That short booklet has so much stuff which blows away most Chinese authors by comparison. Plus, Guenon is clearly well-read on the Chinese Classics – His grasp thereof surpasses many sinologists.

    He apparently had some connection to religious Daoism (which shows in his booklet too). However, he didn’t go into detail.

    I agree with you about rituals.

    As for Guenon’s exoteric and esoteric division – I do not entirely agree. Historically, religious Daoism (e.g. the Celestial Masters) was very much influenced by Han Dynasty Confucianism. The division between Daoism and Confucianism came far later than most people think. (See “Daoism, The Enduring Tradition” by Russell Kirkland. That book, by the way, is the best introduction to Daoism I have ever read, compared to both Chinese and English material.)

    Speaking of syncretism – This is where I really disagree with perennialists. This is because most perennialists are decidedly against the New Age, but if you look at Daoism as it was historically practised, it was actually very similar to the New Age. There are so many sects of Daoism – Some sects are really old, while others are very recent. How can one arbitrarily divide religions into orthodox religions and heterodox religions? The fact is that when a sect is new, everyone will say it is heterodox, but then it becomes orthodox with time.

    Also, perennialists are against the “cafeteria-styled” approach to religions. However, in traditional Chinese society, most people did pick and choose aspects from the Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism according to their needs. It was never required that one subscribed to one religion only. If you look at modern Buddhism, e.g. Chin Kung’s ministry of Pureland Buddhism, you see him readily promoting Daoist and Confucian teachings as a part of his Buddhist ministry.

    The fact is, if you take the word “tradition” in its conventional sense and not the perennialist sense, then syncretism is deeply traditional. Invention and experiment are also traditional. I think a balance between innovation and tradition is needed rather than being opposed to innovation completely.

    As for reviving Confucianism…There is a movement to do this, e.g. the full manifestation of Confucianism, including religious rituals, rather than just literary or philosophical inquiry. However, as you’ve said, there is no viable social matrix. The reasons are really complex, and I can’t go into details at the moment. The real problem is that with the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, institutional Confucianism collapsed with it. As a result, we are starting from scratch. Furthermore, even though the government promotes Confucianism, it regards Confucianism as a secular philosophy, which adds to the confusion.

  5. Dear Justice&Mercy,

    Insofar as religion helps to maintain the health and stability of society, a certain kind of “syncretism” may be useful. My wife and I learned from Huston Smith, who grew up in China as the son of Christian missionaries, how Taoism, Buddhism and other religions functioned more or less as different “professions” do in our society. To solemnize a marriage, you would go to the Taoists; for healing, to the Shamans; for funeral services and prayers for the dead, to the Buddhists, etc. But when the desired end becomes the salvation of the soul—and even more so when the goal is liberation from the wheel of birth and death—the mixing of paths tends to block further progress; “too many cooks spoil the broth.” Absolute Reality is unitary, and as such requires a unified and integrated approach. The syncretism of late Greco-Roman antiquity, like that of the New Age/Neo-Pagan world
    of today, relativized and obscured the sense of a Transcendent/Immanent Absolute, thus placing human religious aspirations on a more or less psychic and worldly level, and ultimately requiring a spiritual breakthrough in the person of Jesus Christ to re-establish a living faith in, and intuition of, Absolute Reality. The same was true of the religion of Egypt in its decadence in relation to Moses, the syncretistic Paganism of the pre-Islamic Arabs in relation to Muhammad, and possibly the Tibetan Shamanistic religion of Bon in relation to Padma-Sambhava. And I can’t agree with you that religious development can be the product of “experiment”, if by that you mean “trying out this and that to see what works”. If the sense of the Absolute, and the resultant knowledge of the hierarchy of being, is not intact, stable criteria no longer exist according to which the “success” of this or that religious experiment could be accurately evaluated. Certainly religions change and influence each other, but outside of the process of religious degeneration, they only
    do so under the guidance of a spiritual Reality that transcends the visible forms of the religions in question. Every religion draws material from human tradition, and every one is influenced to some degree by the religions that surround it. However, in the case of religions of salvation or liberation established by the Transcendent Itself, these influences are subordinated to the essence of the religion in question, which will only accept outside influences that are compatible with it and reject those that are not. And when the collective human intuition of this Transcendent Reality weakens, religion descends into a morass of promiscuous syncretism which attempts—unsuccessfully—to restore the lost sense of Unity through an amalgamation of fragmentary traditions, rituals, doctrines and spiritual practices taken from anywhere and everywhere; this is pretty much where we are today.

    ~~ Charles

  6. Perennialists generally promote the “traditional sciences”. However, the historical development of “traditional sciences” clearly includes innovation and experimentation. For instance, Tibetan medicine and astrology make use of both Chinese and Indian elements. There are also reliable records of innovation and experimentation with respect to traditional Chinese medicine, divination, martial arts, and feng-shui. With respect to “traditional sciences” at least, clearly innovation and experimentation are traditional – While some elements may be revealed, other elements are discovered by humans.

    With respect to the “absolute” so to speak, how would an objective bystander determine whether one person or another has achieved the “absolute”? For many years, Rene Guenon thought that Buddhism was a deviation from Hinduism. There are also many minor faiths in the world with ancient pedigrees. Each faith claims itself to be true, while denouncing others as heresy. Therefore, when perennialists divide faiths into “orthodox” and “heterodox”, they are in fact imposing their subjective judgment. They believe in their perennialist paradigm and use this paradigm to judge other faiths. It may very well be that a faith is true, while perennialists disbelieve it because it doesn’t conform to their paradigm.

    This, I believe, is the central paradox of perennialism. While perennialists are deeply learned about religions, their understanding of religion is quite different from that of an orthodox believer in most traditional religions. For instance, I personally subscribe to Daoism. Therefore, when I evaluate other religions, my primary interest is whether they conform to Daoist teachings. As such, even though perennialists generally believe Christianity and Islam to be revelations from God, I do not believe this. I believe that both religions are contradictory to Daoism. Conversely, I believe that the New Age is often an ally.

    This would be in direct contradiction to mainstream perennialist thinking, and this is why I can never agree with perennialism.

    Returning to the subject of “experimentation and innovation” with respect to the absolute, one does find the innovation and experimentation in Chan Buddhist and Neo-Confucian teachings. For instance, Wang Yangming originally taught students to meditate. Later, finding this to be ineffective, he discouraged meditation. Or in the case of Chan Buddhism, different lineages have different methods of teaching. These methods did not originate through revelation. Instead, teachers modified and sometimes created methods based on experience. They also readily adopted symbolism from other traditions. While Neo-Confucians generally distinguished themselves from Buddhists, they readily appropriated proverbs from them.

    Perennialists generally approve of shamanism as a perennial tradition. However, if you look at accounts about shamans, including first-person accounts, then it is quite clear that shamans experiment with their techniques too.

    Basically, I find that perennialists have many assumptions based on Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. These assumptions often don’t hold true, or are at least deeply strained when applied to other traditions.

  7. Or, perhaps I should rephrase. You say, ”

    If the sense of the Absolute, and the resultant knowledge of the hierarchy of being, is not intact, stable criteria no longer exist according to which the “success” of this or that religious experiment could be accurately evaluated. Certainly religions change and influence each other, but outside of the process of religious degeneration, they only
    do so under the guidance of a spiritual Reality that transcends the visible forms of the religions in question. ”

    How would you know if a given religion has stable criteria? How would you know whether a given development has developed under the guidance of “spiritual Reality”?

    Furthermore, is it not possible that even if the founder of a given religion is unenlightened, God can make use of the institutions he founded to guide men to salvation?

    In fact, since most longstanding religions have esoteric aspects, could this process not have applied to most of them? (E.g. They were false as originally founded. However, God made use of falsehood to teach truth.)

  8. Also, most longstanding religions have multiple sects. For instance, before the ascendancy of Theravada, other sects, such as Puggalavada, held great influence.

    Could it not be that Theravada’s success had political factors? If Puggalavada had succeeded politically and became the dominant faith in Southeast Asia, would perennialists not be singing praises to Puggalavada instead of Theravada?

    It seems to me that in every society, some humans have an aspiration toward the absolute. Some of these humans succeed in achieving it. Therefore, they make use of their cultures’ dominant religion and culture as means of teaching. It does not follow that the religion and culture made use of are true.

    • Dear Mercy & Justice:

      Absolute Reality is also Absolute Truth; falsehood, including false doctrine, does not lead to it, but only obscures it. And if falsehood ultimately teaches, it only teaches by drawing all kindred errors to itself (quarantining them, so to speak), and then allowing itself to be exposed. As Blake said, “If the Fool would persist in his folly he would become wise” and “To be in error and to be cast out is part of God’s plan”—proverbs which work fairly well as commentaries on the Qur’anic verses Allah guides aright whom He will and leads astray whom He will and Allah is the best of plotters.

      Certainly religions are conditioned by history, but they are not created by it; they descend from God in Eternity. Nonetheless God works through history too—even through “experiment”. History is the unfolding in time of what, in eternity, is a single unified form; experiment (when valid) is an “exegesis” of the God-given composition that is the created universe. To work intelligently with changing conditions requires a standpoint beyond them; when the Cha’an masters changed their tactics, they were not “experimenting” in the modern scientific sense but responding with vision and inspiration to the needs of the moment because they were not entangled in those needs. Revelation is not something blindly imposed from above, oblivious to the state of the conditional existence that must receive it; vertical revelation (descending) and vertical intellection (ascending) intersect horizontal time at every point; these are the warp and the weft of the fabric of things. Conditions are the vehicle for the Unconditioned; the Tao could be defined as “the immanent Will of God working through conditions, but not determined by them.”

      You ask, “How would you know if a given religion has stable criteria? How would you know whether a given development has developed under the guidance of ‘spiritual Reality’?…. how would an objective bystander determine whether one person or another has achieved the ‘absolute’”?

      We know such things INNATELY because we are made for objective knowledge and, as it were, composed of such knowledge. This is how we discern stable criteria, spiritual Reality, and the presence of the realized sage. But if we don’t believe in Absolute Reality—which will be hard for us to do if we live in a basically secular society without metaphysical “signposts”— then we will probably never realize It, unless It chooses to overwhelm us, like Christ did St. Paul on the road to Damascus. And only after the truth that there is an Absolute Reality has dawned upon us will questions of the nature and criteria of the spiritual path, and the particular form of the path we ourselves are called to, mean anything. Before that Reality dawns, nothing will convince us, nothing can convince us, and nothing should convince us. Faith is “the presence of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”, not a convincing demonstration or argument.

      As for the distinction made by the Traditionalists between orthodox and heterodox religious forms, certainly there is room for much difference of opinion here when it comes to accidental matters. But every orthodox form must at the very least embrace a sense of the Absolute, and a method for realizing this Absolute. And it must also let us understand that the Absolute, in relation to us, can ACT, though in Its own nature it transcends action completely. It isn’t simply some abstract idea or some passive reservoir of useful energy in relation to which WE are the active parties. And religions which have formed the basis of entire civilizations have presented good, though not absolutely conclusive, evidence of their orthodoxy by that fact. But the ultimate test of orthodoxy is the saints. Though this begs many questions, I would say that if a tradition produces true saints, then it has to be orthodox.

      The New Age, to my mind (and Neo-Paganism as well) is largely a case of Jinn-worship; the Unitary Absolute, to which the Abrahamic monotheisms provided one effective door, becomes obscured, less plausible than it once was, and that void is filled in by a general openness to the denizens of the psychic plane, good bad and indifferent. It is important to know that such “entities” do exist and can affect us, but to worship them or channel them or believe everything they tells us is not warranted. This is one reason why the New Age, in my opinion, is basically heterodox.

      If the sense of the Tao is strong, it is possible in certain contexts to work with subtle entities and forces of the psychic or animic plane; if it is weak or non-existent, contact with such forces will lead only into the pit or sorcery and psychic dissolution. Shinto, for example, has a hierarchy of kami, stretching all the way from the elemental spirit at the local shrine to Amaterasu Ōmikami, the Sun Goddess, personification of the ultimate Reality. But if this hierarchical sense breaks down, then you end up pixilated (“pixie-led”)—immersed in a world not of multiplicity-in-
      Unity and Unity-in-multiplicity, but simply of fragmentation and chaos.

      Did you ever see the book Christ, the Eternal Tao by American Eastern Orthodox monk Damascene Christiansen? Or Sufism and Taoism by Toshihiko Izutsu? You should check them out.

      As for how two religions that contradict each other can both be true, Frithjof Schuon has dealt with this seeming paradox in many of his books by his doctrine of the Transcendent Unity of Religions and his concept of the “relatively absolute”. My own rendition of this basic idea is the essay “The Nature of Ontological Perspectives” in my book Findings in Metaphysic, Path and Lore, but it’s a bit too involved to go into here.

      Charles Upton

  9. I believe our assumptions are too different to begin with.

    However, with respect to the New Age, it seems to me that perennialists see New Age as one integrated whole, when this is not the case at all.

    First, there are New Age teachers who teach about the absolute. Even teachers who do not focus on the absolute usually relate their ideas to the absolute.

    Second, I believe that many New Age teachers do good work in their experiments and innovations – For instance, in their study of herbal medicine.

    With regard to truth and falsehood, I would suggest that perennialists themselves say that all doctrines are false in the face of the absolute. I’m aware of their view that exoteric religions differ while their esoteric aspects coincide. However, I’m always amazed that they do not apply this view to certain new religions.

    With regard to revelations, I can partly agree with your view.

    With regard to your criteria of “true saints”, I believe that this is really sidelining the issue, because then the question would be, who is a “true saint”? I believe that true saints do exist. However, I do not believe that they can be discerned using perennialist criteria – Otherwise, we are just imposing another subjective point of view.

    With regard to your discussion of Shinto, I believe that virtually all religions teach an “absolute”. Suppose a religion comes with a pantheon of spirits, it is only natural to declare one spirit to be the highest God. When one spirit is declared the highest God, it is only natural to start approaching him as the absolute. This I believe is true with most New Age philosophies, too. Therefore, I don’t understand why you defend Shinto but not the New Age.

  10. Well, I’ve just read an excerpt from your book “The System of Anti-Christ”.

    This really confirms my suspicion…Perennialist metaphysics are applicable only in a Christian and Islamic context.

    For instance, even you admit that some of Guenon’s generalisations cannot apply to shamanism. However, you criticise some aspects of shamanism from a “metaphysical” standpoint.

    While I do agree that an objective realisation of the absolute exists, it seems to me that perennialist metaphysics, being a system of metaphysics, exists in the realm of relativity. Therefore, it cannot claim to be sole representative of truth, just as the exoteric aspects of religions cannot do so. Therefore, perennialist metaphysics can only be one subjective standpoint amongst many. In fact, perennialism in many ways resembles a religion.

    In fact, perennialism makes a very bold claim – It claims to understand religions better than religionists themselves. This claim should be viewed with suspicion, because perennialists are not “true saints” themselves.

    If shamanism is correct, then perennialism is wrong. If perennialism is correct, then shamanism is wrong. The same goes with Daoism, Shinto, and Confucianism. For instance, Guenon preaches against the New Age belief of the astral body. However, Daoism teaches a concept similar to the astral body. Guenon preaches against mediumship. However, Daoism teaches that mediumship can be a valuable way of gaining information about the psychic realm. In your book, you quoted an Orthodox priest to say that the concept of the astral body removes the judgment of the dead (108). However, Neo-Confucianism teaches that the realm of the death is like the realm of the living. The procession of life and death resembles the procession of day and night.

    I also don’t buy Guenon’s arguments against mediumship. For instance, he says that mediums largely reproduce their society’s mainstream viewpoint. This is sometimes true. However, this does not mean mediumship is useless. Instead, one should view the reports of mediums with a grain of salt, so that one may filter out the “clutter”.

    While I see many things valuable in the perennialist viewpoint, I feel that they cannot be taken as final authority.

    • Dear Jusrtice & Mercy (replying to your earlier post),

      Yes, our assumptions are very different.

      All doctrines, from one point of view, may be “false” in the face of the Absolute , but not all doctrines effectively orient us to the Absolute.

      Any viable path to God must be established by God. Taoism grew out of the genius of the Mongolian race, whose primordial way was and is Shamanism; according to Mircea Eliade, the Shamans of Siberia say, “we were sent to earth by God to fight demons”. As Hinduism was revealed by God to the Rishis, so Shamanism was revealed to the primordial Shamans in an age predating historical memory.

      I submit that someone who has experientially compared the Christian and Sufi ways with the New Age, as I have, will have good reason to maintain that the New Age by and large emanates from a lower level of being; the channeling of entities, even if they sometimes bring us true information, cannot be compared to the contemplation of God. You say that most New Age teachers teach the reality of the Absolute; but do they effectively orient us to It? As I see it, the attraction to “entitles” and “angels” — if not space aliens — does not serve our relationship to God, but rather replaces it. And the notion of the “spiritual evolution of the macrocosm”, the idea that we are on the verge of a new age of spiritual enlightenment on a mass level, is so wrong, so opposed to every sign and indication, as to be nearly delusional, in my humble opinion.

      If you want to a detailed refutation of a number of New Age belief systems, one that still allows that they contain elements of truth, read The System of Antichrist.


  11. Dear Mercy & Justice,

    You can’t really say that Guenon denied the existence of an astral body; in Man and his Becoming according to the Vedanta he accepts the doctrine of the koshas, the “sheaths” of the Atman, one of which (I forget which) pretty much corresponds to an astral body. And Seraphim Rose did not say that the notion of an astral body is opposed to the doctrine of post-mortem judgment, only that the pleasant feelings of lightness we encounter on the astral plane are not “heaven”, and that those who believe they are have a limited and distorted idea of what the soul undergoes after death.

    As for mediumship, Guenon was criticizing the common spiritualist idea that post-mortem existence is simply a case of having “dropped the body”, leaving the subtler aspects of the human person basically unchanged—an idea that leads to the delusion that the dead walk among us as they always did, we just can’t see them because they have no material bodies. What sometimes “walks among us” as a ghost of the departed, and is often contacted by mediums, is not that person’s spiritual essence, but something more on the order of a “psychic corpse”, to use Guenon’s term; I entirely agree with him in this. I do believe that Guenon went too far when he asserted that the dead CANNOT be contacted under any circumstances; if so, why did he tell his wife shortly before his death to leave his study just as it had been so it could function as an ongoing link between them? What he should have made clearer is that it is simply a BAD IDEA
    to contact the dead as the spiritualists were attempting. We can certainly pray for them so as to help them to deal with the difficulties of post-mortem purification, and when a Tibetan lama extends this kind of help he comes into in contact with the consciousness-principle of the departed. I remember a dream I had shortly after my father died. I saw him lying on a palate on the floor; when I approached him he said, “are you here already”? “No, I’m just dreaming” I answered. Then I tried to embrace him, but as I did so he turned into a rotting corpse. So I informed him that he was dead, and he quickly walked away. This dream illustrates how holding on to the dead or trying to call them back as the spiritualists often do produces negative consequences for both the dead and the living; our role is not to call them back but to help them move on. God may certainly allow the dead to contact US at times, for His own purposes, but for us to try and contact them, especially when it is out of mere curiosity, is a form of dangerous meddling. And certainly psychic knowledge can be gained by contacting subtle entities, but this is a dangerous practice, both because what such entities tell us is not always true—often it is simply their own opinion or view of things (especially when they try their hand at metaphysics), even if they are not deliberately fooling us—and because our capacity for subtle attention is not infinite; the more we concentrate on the ambiguities of the psychic plane, the less power of attention we will have to contemplate the certainties of the spiritual plane.

    Religions are not totally closed systems, but various perspectives on the One Truth coupled with methodologies for relating to It. And yet that Truth lends to each orthodox religion an aspect of its own absoluteness, making each effectively absolute for its followers; if this were not so, if it were taken as no more than a relative and partial fragment of the Truth, it could not lead to the Truth.

    And certainly Perennialism is in danger of becoming a religion, or rather a pseudo-religion; if it does not lead us more deeply into the orthodox traditions themselves, it will ultimately become a kind of heterodox cult. Its main role is simply to show us how to deal with a plurality of religions without syncretizing them into a shapeless mish-mash or fanatically choosing one and spending all our time and energy fighting other religions instead of concentrating on God and our own salvation.

    ~~ Charles

    • “I do believe that Guenon went too far when he asserted that the dead CANNOT be contacted under any circumstances; if so, why did he tell his wife shortly before his death to leave his study just as it had been so it could function as an ongoing link between them?”

      Dear Mr. Upton,

      No, in fact, the dead can never be reached. And here Guenon was referring to the real self, not the psychic residue.
      In Christianity, in cases that are reported on the real souls who actually contacted to the living by divine permission, by no means are contacted by the living, that is, the initiative is not part of our side.
      The link Guenon said could be maintained through his things I think it refers to the residue, although it is also possible that his psychic influence had attached a spiritual influence considering the possible spiritual development that can be achieved Guenon, and perhaps there can be exerted a contact from the beyond to ours, but just in this case.
      Either way something can be a link to an action, but not necessarily for communication. Perhaps Guenon only thought about leaving his influence to assistance and protection.
      What I want to emphasize is that if we are referring to a psychic influence and nothing else, no way to find the real being of the deceased. There is no way, unless one intend to do necromancy,ie guessing by a ghost, which is just that, a fictional image.
      And when could be achieved by some spiritual added, the communication does not start from our side, so even here the inability to contact the dead remains, though conditionally by the reservations made.

  12. Dear Charles, all I can say at this point (I’m still stinging from what seemed like a thousand yellowjackets today) is Thank you for your reference to miguel de Portugal! He, with his co-workers (like Lee Penn), has truly been a God-send!

  13. I find it difficult to see how so called Traditional Catholicism (TC), whether we speak about sedevacantism, sedeprivationism or conciliarism, could be an authentic interpretation of the Christian Tradition – any more than Protestantism and Old Catholicism for example.

    Frithjof Schuon, when asked, answered that the traditional form of Christianity is the “Eastern Church”. There is of course difference between Eastern doctrine (Orthodoxy) and Eastern rite (and there is also Western Rite Orthodoxy), but I believe he meant Orthodoxy, not Eastern Catholicism for example. If the Orthodox Christianity is the authentic interpretation of the Christian Tradition, Catholicism is definitely schismatic (but not necessarily heretic).

    What this means when we speak about TC? They are in schism with the Catholic Church under the Roman Papacy. So they are a schismatic sect of a schismatic church. Why should anyone believe that Traditional Catholics are closer to the truth than Papal Catholics? I have never understand this and Rama Coomaraswamy’s commitment to the Traditional Catholicism. And what I have seen, TC’s are extremely hostile toward other traditions.

    Maybe the Catholic Church has – inadvertently – distorted the Christian Tradition, but TC is not any closer to the right interpretation because they are Orthodox neither. And I would say they are even further away from the right interpretation because they quite arbitrarily, as it seems for me, decided that post-Vatican II Church is not valid anymore. What gives them more understanding about the Catholic doctrine than for the Papal Church and its Councils?

    I understand people who do not embrace the Novus Ordo Mass, but is the Tridentine Mass any better? It is just 500 years old, not older than Protestantism. If TC’s have accepted so much post-schism doctrines and practices, their decision to abandon the post-Vatican II doctrines and practices is very, very arbitrary. The case would be different if they had just nostrified the Orthodox doctrine and the pre-schism rites such as Mozarabic and Ambrosian rites.

    Yours sincerely,

    • Sorry, I of course men conclavism, not conciliarism.

  14. Dear Mr. Upton,

    do you know of Raphael (http://www.vidya-ashramvidyaorder.org)?
    He is probably from Italy, though I don’t know. In his works he masterfully describes many Variants of Tradition through the ages of man, encompassing Dante, Hermeticism, the Greek philosophers of old (Plato, Plotin), though he has a focus on “Hindu” metaphysics. I propose he is a true exponent of Tradition to the deepest core of the world. He refuses to divulge any detail on his (former) worldly life as a way of underlining that truly atman is brahman and individual experience vanishes in the light of the one.
    I propose him to be a genuine teacher in this age of darkness, which he even denies by saying that he who realizes the satva yuga lives in it.
    Are you aware of him? What is your take?

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