Perennial Philosophy

We are all longing, I think, for a politics that transcends left and right, a new science that embraces the interior and the exterior, and a new spirituality that recognises the universal nature of spiritual experience.

I wrote a few days ago on Integral Stages, meticulously mapped by Ken Wilber, and based on empirical research by experts in their fields -the idea behind the stages being that consciousness evolves through a series of distinct worldviews each of which results in new perspectives, values, concerns. At each stage we are literally looking at the world through a different and more encompassing lens and seeing a more complex but more inclusive picture.

It is surely apparent when we consider the culture wars is that many of us hold worldviews that are no longer fit for purpose and that we desperately need better lenses with which to view the world. We can no longer look at the world through a binary left/right politics and hope to solve the many problems we face as a species at this crucial time.  For every problem, it seems, is a result of clashing worldviews that are only partially true and inadequate to the challenges of our time.

The answer is a raising of consciousness and I believe the Integral perspective is the best map we have for doing so. It helps us transcend and include what we have learned in previous stages and the degree of our transcendence is evidenced by the scope of our inclusion as we evolve. And so we co-crate our own evolution.

I was talking to an old friend the other day who was lamenting the fact that nobody goes to church anymore as if that in itself were the answer to all our political problems. She seemed to balk at people who called themselves ‘spiritual but not religious’ as if they had somehow been afraid to commit and had no real interest in the sacred. It’s not true that people who are spiritual are not interest in truth. Quite the opposite. Many young people and older people too that I know tend to spend longer in spiritual practices than traditional church goers.

But it’s getting back to laying the blame on the opposition, whoever it is. Whilst were scapegoating something else, it means we don’t need to take any personal responsibility for the problems we see. It might be quite a different thing to consider why young people are not identifying with a particular religious tradition and how the empty churches might bring an opportunity to address the real problem, that these traditions have lost touch with the real world.

One of the greatest mystics and thinkers of the 20th century, Bede Griffiths, an English Benedictine monk said that one of the Greatest needs of humanity today is to transcend the cultural limitations of the great religions and to find a wisdom , a philosophy, which can reconcile their differences and reveal the unity which underlies all the diversities. This has been called the “perennial philosophy” the eternal wisdom which has been revealed in a different way in each religion, and with different metaphors and vocabulary.

The Perennial Philosophy, a term made famous by Aldous Huxley refers to the transcendental essence of the great religions and has at its core non-duality. The basic principles of it are that Spirit exists and it exists within. there is a divine reality inherent in the world of things. There is a longing in the human soul, a natural capacity for this Divine Reality, and in fact it is the goal of all existence to be united with it.

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