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Full text of "The Perennial Philospy"

THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 



By Aldous Huxley 

* 

Novels 

TIME MUST HAVE A STOP 
AFTER MANY A SUMMER 

EYELESS IN GAZA 

BRAVE NEW WORLD 

POINT COUNTER POINT 

THOSE BARREN LEAVES 

ANTIC HAY 
CROME YELLOW 

Biography 

GREY EMINENCE 

Short Stories 

BRIEF CANDLES 

TWO OR THREE GRACES 

LITTLE MEXICAN 

MORTAL COILS 

LIMBO 

Essays and Belles Lettres 

SCIENCE, LIBERTY AND PEACE 

THE ART OF SEEING 

ENDS AND MEANS 

MUSIC AT NIGHT 

VULGARITY IN LITERATURE 

DO WHAT YOU WILL 

PROPER STUDIES 

JESTING PILATE 

ALONG THE ROAD 

ON THE MARGIN 

TEXTS AND PRETEXTS 

BEYOND THE MEXIQUE BAY 

THE OLIVE TREE 

Poetry 

THE CICADAS 

LEDA 

Drama 
THE WORLD OF LIGHT 



Chat to & Wmdus 



ALDOUS HUXLEY 

The Perennial 
Philosophy 




194? 

Chatto & Windus 

LONDON 



PUBLISHED BY 

Chatto & Windus 

LONDON 

* 

Oxford University Press 
TORONTO 



Applications regarding translation rights in any 

work by Aldous Huxley should be addressed 

to Chatto & Windus, 40 William IV Street, 

London, W.C. 2 



FIRST PUBLISHED 1946 

SECOND IMPRESSION 1947 

PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN 

IN COMPLETE CONFORMITY WITH 

THE AUTHORIZED ECONOMY STANDARDS 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



Contents 

Introduction page i 

Chapter i That Art Thou 7 

ii The Nature of the Ground 29 

in Personality, Sanctity, Divine Incarnation 45 

iv God in the World 69 

v Charity 95 

vi Mortification, Non-Attachment, Right 

Livelihood 113 

vii Truth 145 

vin Religion and Temperament 168 

ix Self-Knowledge 185 

x Grace and Free Will 190 

xi Good and Evil 202 

xn Time and Eternity 212 

xin Salvation, Deliverance, Enlightenment 230 

xiv Immortality and Survival 242 

xv Silence 247 

xvi Prayer 251 

xvn Suffering 260 

xvm Faith 268 

xix God is not mocked 273 



vi THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

Chapter xx Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum page 279 

xxi Idolatry 287 

xxn Emotionalism 292 

xxni The Miraculous 298 

xxiv Ritual, Symbol, Sacrament 301 

xxv Spiritual Exercises 314 

xxvi Perseverance and Regularity 334 

xxvn Contemplation, Action and Social Utility 337 

Bibliography 346 

Index 353 



Acknowledgments 



For permission to use the following selections, grateful 
acknowledgment and thanks are extended to the following 
authors and publishers : 

George Allen & Unwin Ltd.: MONKEY and THE WAY AND 
ITS POWER, translated by Arthur Waley; LETTERS, by 
Spinoza. 

Burns, Oates & Washbourne Ltd. : THE CLOUD OF UNKNOW- 
ING, edited by McCann ; THE WORKS OF ST. JOHN OF THE 
CROSS, translated by Allison Piers. 

Cambridge University Press: STUDIES IN ISLAMIC MYSTICISM, 
by R. A. Nicholson. 

/. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.: ADORNMENT OF THE SPIRITUAL 

MARRIAGE, by Ruysbroeck, translated by Winschenk 
Dom. 

P. J. and A. E. Dobell: CENTURIES OF MEDITATION, by 
Thomas Traherne. 

Dwight Goddard Estate: A BUDDHIST BIBLE, by Dwight 
Goddard. 

Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd. : MASNAVI, by Jalal- 
uddin Rumi, translated by Whinfield. 

Longmans, Green & Co. Ltd.: THE SPIRIT OF ST. FRANCIS 
DE SALES, by Jean Pierre Camus, translated by Lear; 
CATHERINE OF SIENA, by Johannes Jorgensen. 

Macmillan & Co. Ltd.: THEOLOGIA GERMANICA, translated 
by Winkworth; THE SPIRITUAL REFORMERS, by Rufus 
Jones; MYSTICISM EAST AND WEST, by Rudolph Otto; 
ONE HUNDRED POEMS OF KABiR, by Rabindranath Tagore. 

John Murray and Mr. Lionel Giles : MUSINGS OF A CHINESE 
MYSTIC, from THE WISDOM OF THE EAST series, trans- 
lated by Herbert Giles. 

vii 



viii THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

Oxford University Press and Harvard University Press: THE 
TRANSFORMATION OF NATURE IN ART, by Amanda K. 
Coomaraswamy. 

Oxford University Press and The Pali Text Society: THE 
PATH OF PURITY, by Buddhaghosha. 

Oxford University Press: THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD, 
translated by Dr. Evans- Wentz. 

Paramananda and the publishers of BHAGAVAD-GITA. 

George Routledge & Sons Ltd.: STUDIES IN THE LANKAVATARA 
SUTRA, by Suzuki. 

Skeed & Ward Ltd.: THE MYSTICAL THEOLOGY OF ST. 
BERNARD, by Etienne Gilson. 

The Society far Promoting Christian Knowledge: DIONYSIUS 
THE AREOPAGITE, translated b^ C. E. Rolt. 

John M. Watkins: WORKS OF MEISTER ECKHART, translated 
by Evans; THE CREST-JEWEL OF WISDOM, by Shankara, 
translated by Charles Johnston. 



INTRODUCTION 

PHILOSOPHIA PERENNIS the phrase was coined 
JL by Leibniz ; but the thing the metaphysic that recognizes 
a divine Reality 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 trans- 
cendent Ground of all being the thing is immemorial and uni- 
versal. Rudiments of the Perennial Philosophy may be found 
among the traditionary lore of primitive peoples in every 
region of the world, and in its fully developed forms it has a 
place in every one of the higher religions. A version of this 
Highest Common Factor in all preceding and subsequent theo- 
logies was first committed to writing more than twenty-five 
centuries ago, and since that time the inexhaustible theme has 
been treated again and again, from the standpoint of every 
religious tradition and in all the principal languages of Asia 
and Europe. In the pages that follow I have brought together 
a number of selections from these writings, chosen mainly for 
their significance because they effectively illustrated some 
particular point in the general system of the Perennial Philo- 
sophy but also for their intrinsic beauty and memorableness. 
These selections are arranged under various heads and em- 
bedded, so to speak, in a commentary of my own, designed to 
illustrate and connect, to develop and, where necessary, to 
elucidate. 

Knowledge is a function of being. When there is a change 
in the being of the knower, there is a corresponding change in 
the nature and amount of knowing. For example, the being of 
a child is transformed by growth and education into that of a 
man ; among the results of this transformation is a revolution- 
ary change in the way of knowing and the amount and character 
of the things known. As the individual grows up, his know- 
ledge becomes more conceptual and systematic in form, and its 



2 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

factual, utilitarian content is enormously increased. But these 
gains are offset by a certain deterioration in the quality of im- 
mediate apprehension, a blunting and a loss of intuitive power. 
Or consider the change in his being which the scientist is able 
to induce mechanically by means of his instruments. Equipped 
with a spectroscope and a sixty-inch reflector an astronomer 
becomes, so far as eyesight is concerned, a superhuman crea- 
ture; and, as we should naturally expect, the knowledge pos- 
sessed by this superhuman creature is very different, both in 
quantity and quality, from that which can be acquired by a star- 
gazer with unmodified, merely human eyes. 

Nor are changes in the knower's physiological or intellectual 
being the only ones to affect his knowledge. What we know 
depends also on what, as moral beings, we choose to make our- 
selves. * Practice,' in the words of William James, ' may change 
our theoretical horizon, and this in a twofold way : it may lead 
into new worlds and secure new powers. Knowledge we could 
never attain, remaining what we are, may be attainable in 
consequence of higher powers and a higher life, which we 
may morally achieve.' To put the matter more succinctly, 
* Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.' And the 
same idea has been expressed by the Sufi poet, Jalal-uddin 
Rumi, in terms of a scientific metaphor : ' The astrolabe of the 
mysteries of God is love.' 

This book, I repeat, is an anthology of the Perennial Philo- 
sophy ; but, though an anthology, it contains but few extracts 
from the writings of professional men of letters and, though 
illustrating a philosophy, hardly anything from the professional 
philosophers. The reason for this is very simple. The Peren- 
nial Philosophy is primarily concerned with the one, divine 
Reality substantial to the manifold world of things and lives 
and minds. But the nature of this one Reality is such that it 
cannot be directly and immediately apprehended except by 
those who have chosen to fulfil certain conditions, making 
themselves loving, pure in heart, and poor in spirit. Why 
should this be so ? We do not know. It is just one of those 
facts which we have to accept, whether we like them or not and 



INTRODUCTION 3 

however implausible and unlikely they may seem. Nothing in 
our everyday experience gives us any reason for supposing that 
water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen; and yet when we 
subject water to certain rather drastic treatments, the nature of 
its constituent elements becomes manifest. Similarly, nothing 
in our everyday experience gives us much reason for supposing 
that the mind of the average sensual man has, as one of its con- 
stituents, something resembling, or identical with, the Reality 
substantial to the manifold world; and yet, when that mind is 
subjected to certain rather drastic treatments, the divine ele- 
ment, of which it is in part at least composed, becomes mani- 
fest, not only to the mind itself, but also, by its reflection in 
external behaviour, to other minds. It is only by making 
physical experiments that we can discover the intimate nature 
of matter and its potentialities. And it is only by making 
psychological and moral experiments that we can discover the 
intimate nature of mind and its potentialities. In the ordinary 
circumstances of average sensual life these potentialities of the 
mind remain latent and unmanifested. If we would realize 
them, we must fulfil certain conditions and obey certain rules, 
which experience has shown empirically to be valid. 

In regard to few professional philosophers and men of letters 
is there any evidence that they did very much in the way of 
fulfilling the necessary conditions of direct spiritual knowledge. 
When poets or metaphysicians talk about the subject matter of 
the Perennial Philosophy, it is generally at second hand. But 
in every age there have been some men and women who chose 
to fulfil the conditions upon which alone, as a matter of brute 
empirical fact, such immediate knowledge can be had; and of 
these a few have left accounts of the Reality they were thus 
enabled to apprehend and have tried to relate, in one compre- 
hensive system of thought, the given facts of this experience 
with the given facts of their other experiences. To such first- 
hand exponents of the Perennial Philosophy those who knew 
them have generally given the name of 'saint' or 'prophet/ 
' sage ' or ' enlightened one/ And it is mainly to these, because 
there is good reason for supposing that they knew what they 



4 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

were talking about, and not to the professional philosophers or 
men of letters, that I have gone for my selections. 

In India two classes of scripture are recognized : the Shruti, 
or inspired writings which are their own authority, since they 
are the product of immediate insight into ultimate Reality ; and 
the Smriti, which are based upon the Shruti and from them 
derive such authority as they have. ' The Shruti,' in Shankara's 
words, 'depends upon direct perception. The Smriti plays a 
part analogous to induction, since, like induction, it derives its 
authority from an authority other than itself.' This book, then, 
is an anthology, with explanatory comments, of passages drawn 
from the Shruti and Smriti of many times and places. Unfor- 
tunately, familiarity with traditionally hallowed writings tends 
to breed, not indeed contempt, but something which, for prac- 
tical purposes, is almost as bad namely a kind of reverential 
insensibility, a stupor of the spirit, an inward deafness to the 
meaning of the sacred words. For this reason, when selecting 
material to illustrate the doctrines of the Perennial Philosophy, 
as they were formulated in the West, I have gone almost always 
to sources other than the Bible. This Christian Smriti, from 
which I have drawn, is based upon the Shruti of the canonical 
books, but has the great advantage of being less well known 
and therefore more vivid and, so to say, more audible than they 
are. Moreover, much of this Smriti is the work of genuinely 
saintly men and women, who have qualified themselves to 
know at first hand what they are talking about. Consequently 
it may be regarded as being itself a form of inspired and self- 
validating Shruti and this in a much higher degree than many 
of the writings now included in the Biblical canon. 

In recent years a number of attempts have been made to 
work out a system of empirical theology. But in spite of the 
subtlety and intellectual power of such writers as Sorley, 
Oman and Tennant, the effort has met with only a partial suc- 
cess. Even in the hands of its ablest exponents empirical theo- 
logy is not particularly convincing. The reason, it seems to 
me, must be sought in the fact that the empirical theologians 
have confined their attention more or less exclusively to the 



INTRODUCTION 5 

experience of those whom the theologians of an older school 
called 'the unregenerate' that is to say, the experience of 
people who have not gone very far in fulfilling the necessary 
conditions of spiritual knowledge. But it is a fact, confirmed 
and re-confirmed during two or three thousand years of reli- 
gious history, that the ultimate Reality is not clearly and 
immediately apprehended, except by those who have made 
themselves loving, pure in heart and poor in spirit. This being 
so, it is hardly surprising that a theology based upon the experi- 
ence of nice, ordinary, unregenerate people should carry so 
little conviction. This kind of empirical theology is on pre- 
cisely the same footing as an empirical astronomy, based upon 
the experience of naked-eye observers. With the unaided eye 
a small, faint smudge can be detected in the constellation of 
Orion, and doubtless an imposing cosmological theory could 
be based upon the observation of this smudge. But no amount 
of such theorizing, however ingenious, could ever tell us as 
much about the galactic and extra-galactic nebulae as can direct 
acquaintance by means of a good telescope, camera and spectro- 
scope. Analogously, no amount of theorizing about such hints 
as may be darkly glimpsed within the ordinary, unregenerate 
experience of the manifold world can tell us as much about 
divine Reality as can be directly apprehended by a mind in a 
state of detachment, charity and humility. Natural science is 
empirical ; but it does not confine itself to the experience of 
human beings in their merely human and unmodified condi- 
tion. Why empirical theologians should feel themselves 
obliged to submit to this handicap, goodness only knows. 
And of course, so long as they confine empirical experience 
within these all too human limits, they are doomed to the per- 
petual stultification of their best efforts. From the material 
they have chosen to consider, no mind, however brilliantly 
gifted, can infer more than a set of possibilities or, at the very 
best, specious probabilities. The self-validating certainty of 
direct awareness cannot in the very nature of things be 
achieved except by those equipped with the moral 'astrolabe 
of God's mysteries/ If one is not oneself a sage or saint, the 



6 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

best thing one can do, in the field of metaphysics, is to study 
the works of those who were, and who, because they had modi- 
fied their merely human mode of being, were capable of a more 
than merely human kind and amount of knowledge. 



Chapter i 
THAT ART THOU 

IN studying the Perennial Philosophy we can begin either at 
the bottom, with practice and morality; or at the top, with a 
consideration of metaphysical truths ; or, finally, in the middle, 
at the focal point where mind and matter, action and thought 
have their meeting place in human psychology. 

The lower gate is that preferred by strictly practical teachers 
men who, like Gautama Buddha, have no use for speculation 
and whose primary concern is to put out in men's hearts the 
hideous fires of greed, resentment and infatuation. Through 
the upper gate go those whose vocation it is to think and specu- 
late the born philosophers and theologians. The middle gate 
gives entrance to the exponents of what has been called * spir- 
itual religion* the devout contemplatives of India, the Sufis 
of Islam, the Catholic mystics of the later Middle Ages, and, 
in the Protestant tradition, such men as Denk and Franck and 
Castellio, as Everard and John Smith and the first Quakers and 
William Law. 

It is through this central door, and just because it is central, 
that we shall make our entry into the subject matter of this 
book. The psychology of the Perennial Philosophy has its 
source in metaphysics and issues logically in a characteristic 
way of life and system of ethics. Starting from this mid-point 
of doctrine, it is easy for the mind to move in either direction. 

In the present section we shall confine our attention to but a 
single feature of this traditional psychology the most import- 
ant, the most emphatically insisted upon by all exponents of the 
Perennial Philosophy and, we may add, the least psychological. 
For the doctrine that is to be illustrated in this section belongs 
to autology rather than psychology to the science, not of the 
personal ego, but of that eternal Self in the depth of particular, 
individualized selves, and identical with, or at least akin to, the 



8 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

divine Ground. Based upon the direct experience of those who 
have fulfilled the necessary conditions of such knowledge, this 
teaching is expressed most succinctly in the Sanskrit formula, 
tat tvam asi ('That art thou') ; the Atman, or immanent eter- 
nal Self, is one with Brahman, the Absolute Principle of all 
existence ; and the last end of every human being is to discover 
the fact for himself, to find out Who he really is. 

The more God is in all things, the more He is outside them. The 
more He is within, the more without. 

Eckhart 

Only the transcendent, the completely other, can be immanent 
without being modified by the becoming of that in which it 
dwells. The Perennial Philosophy teaches that it is desirable 
and indeed necessary to know the spiritual Ground of things, 
not only within the soul, but also outside in the world and, 
beyond world and soul, in its transcendent otherness 'in 
heaven.' 

Though GOD is everywhere present, yet He is only present to 
thee in the deepest and most central part of thy soul. The natural 
senses cannot possess God or unite thee to Him; nay, thy 
inward faculties of understanding, will and memory can only 
reach after God, but cannot be the place of His habitation in thee. 
But there is a root or depth of thee from whence all these facul- 
ties come forth, as lines from a centre, or as branches from the 
body of the tree. This depth is called the centre, the fund or 
bottom of the soul. This depth is the unity, the eternity I 
had almost said the infinity of thy soul ; for it is so infinite 
that nothing can satisfy it or give it rest but the infinity of God. 

William Law 

This extract seems to contradict what was said above ; but the 
contradiction is not a real one. God within and God without 
these are two abstract notions, which can be entertained by 
the understanding and expressed in words. But the facts to 
which these notions refer cannot be realized and experienced 



THAT ART THOU 9 

except in ' the deepest and most central part of the soul/ And 
this is true no less of God without than of God within. But 
though the two abstract notions have to be realized (to use a 
spatial metaphor) in the same place, the intrinsic nature of the 
realization of God within is qualitatively different from that of 
the realization of God without, and each in turn is different 
from that of the realization of the Ground as simultaneously 
within and without as the Self of the perceiver and at the 
same time (in the words of the Bhagavad-Gita) as 'That by 
which all this world is pervaded.' 

When Svetaketu was twelve years old he was sent to a teacher, 
with whom he studied until he was twenty-four. After learning 
all the Vedas, he returned home full of conceit in the belief that 
he was consummately well educated, and very censorious. 

His father said to him, ' Svetaketu, my child, you who are so 
full of your learning and so censorious, have you asked for that 
knowledge by which we hear the unbearable, by which we per- 
ceive what cannot be perceived and know what cannot be known ? ' 

'What is that knowledge, sir?' asked Svetaketu. 

His father replied, 'As by knowing one lump of clay all that 
is made of clay is known, the difference being only in name, but 
the truth being that all is clay so, my child, is that knowledge, 
knowing which we know all.' 

' But surely these venerable teachers of mine are ignorant of 
this knowledge; for if they possessed it they would have im- 
parted it to me. Do you, sir, therefore give me that knowledge.' 

' So be it,' said the father. . . . And he said, ' Bring me a fruit of 
the nyagrodha tree.' 

'Here is one, sir.' 

'Break it.' 

'It is broken, sir.' 

'What do you see there?' 

c Some seeds, sir, exceedingly small.' 

' Break one of these.' 

'It is broken, sir.' 

'What do you see there?' 



io THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

'Nothing at all.' 

The father said, 'My son, that subtle essence which you do not 
perceive there in that very essence stands the being of the huge 
nyagrodha tree. In that which is the subtle essence all that exists 
has its self. That is the True, that is the Self, and thou, Svetaketu, 
art That.' 

'Pray, sir/ said the son, 'tell me more/ 

'Be it so, my child,' the father replied; and he said, 'Place 
this salt in water, and come to me tomorrow morning.' 

The son did as he was told. 

Next morning the father said, ' Bring me the salt which you put 
in the water.' 

The son looked for it, but could not find it; for the salt, of 
course, had dissolved. 

The father said, ' Taste some of the water from the surface of 
the vessel. How is it?' 

'Salty.' 

' Taste some from the middle. How is it ? ' 

'Salty.' 

'Taste some from the bottom. How is it?' 

'Salty.' 

The father said, 'Throw the water away and then come back 
to me again/ 

The son did so ; but the salt was not lost, for salt exists for 
ever. 

Then the father said, 'Here likewise in this body of yours, 
my son, you do not perceive the True; but there in fact it is. 
In that which is the subtle essence, all that exists has its self. That 
is the True, that is the Self, and thou, Svetaketu, art That/ 

From the Chandogya Upanishad 

The man who wishes to know the 'That' which is 'thou' 
may set to work in any one of three ways. He may begin by 
looking inwards into his own particular thou and, by a process 
of 'dying to self self in reasoning, self in willing, self in feel- 
ing come at last to a knowledge of the Self, the Kingdom of 
God that is within. Or else he may begin with the tkous exist- 



THAT ART THOU n 

ing outside himself, and may try to realize their essential unity 
with God and, through God, with one another and with his 
own being. Or, finally (and this is doubtless the best way), he 
may seek to approach the ultimate That both from within and 
from without, so that he comes to realize God experimentally 
as at once the principle of his own thou and of all other thous, 
animate and inanimate. The completely illuminated human 
being knows, with Law, that God ' is present in the deepest and 
most central part of his own soul'; but he is also and at the 
same time one of those who, in the words of Plotinus, 

see all things, not in process of becoming, but in Being, and see 
themselves in the other. Each being contains in itself the whole 
intelligible world. Therefore All is everywhere. Each is there 
All, and All is each. Man as he now is has ceased to be the All. 
But when he ceases to be an individual, he raises himself again 
and penetrates the whole world. 

It is from the more or less obscure intuition of the oneness that 
is the ground and principle of all multiplicity that philosophy 
takes its source. And not alone philosophy, but natural science 
as well. All science, in Meyerson's phrase, is the reduction of 
multiplicities to identities. Divining the One within and be- 
yond the many, we find an intrinsic plausibility in any explana- 
tion of the diverse in terms of a single principle. 

The philosophy of the Upanishads reappears, developed and 
enriched, in the Bhagavad-Gita and was finally systematized, in 
the ninth century of our era, by Shankara. Shankara's teaching 
(simultaneously theoretical and practical, as is that of all true 
exponents of the Perennial Philosophy) is summarized in his 
versified treatise, Viveka-Chudamani ('The Crest- Jewel of 
Wisdom'). All the following passages are taken from this 
conveniently brief and untechnical work. 

The Atman is that by which the universe is pervaded, but which 
nothing pervades; which causes all things to shine, but which 
all things cannot make to shine. . . . 



12 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

The nature of the one Reality must be known by one's own clear 
spiritual perception; it cannot be known through a pandit 
(learned man). Similarly the form of the moon can only be 
known through one's own eyes. How can it be known through 
others ? 

Who but the Atman is capable of removing the bonds of igno- 
rance, passion and self-interested action ? . . . 

Liberation cannot be achieved except by the perception of the 
identity of the individual spirit with the universal Spirit. It can 
be achieved neither by Yoga (physical training), nor by Sankhya 
(speculative philosophy), nor by the practice of religious cere- 
monies, nor by mere learning. . . . 

Disease is not cured by pronouncing the name of medicine, but 
by taking medicine. Deliverance is not achieved by repeating the 
word ' Brahman,' but by directly experiencing Brahman. . . . 

The Atman is the Witness of die individual mind and its opera- 
tions. It is absolute knowledge. . . . 

The wise man is one who understands that the essence of 
Brahman and of Atman is Pure Consciousness, and who realizes 
their absolute identity. The identity of Brahman and Atman is 
affirmed in hundreds of sacred texts. . . . 

Caste, creed, family and lineage do not exist in Brahman. Brah- 
man has neither name nor form, transcends merit and demerit, is 
beyond time, space and the objects of sense-experience. Such is 
Brahman, and ' thou art That.' Meditate upon this truth within 
your consciousness. 

Supreme, beyond the power of speech to express, Brahman may 
yet be apprehended by the eye of pure illumination. Pure, abso- 
lute and eternal Reality such is Brahman, and 'thou art That.' 
Meditate upon this truth within your consciousness. . . . 



THAT ART THOU 13 

Though One, Brahman is the cause of the many. There is no 
other cause. And yet Brahman is independent of the law of 
causation. Such is Brahman, and ' thou art That.' Meditate upon 
this truth within your consciousness. . . . 

The truth of Brahman may be understood intellectually. But 
(even in those who so understand) the desire for personal separ- 
ateness is deep-rooted and powerful, for it exists from beginning- 
less time. It creates the notion, 'I am the actor, I am he who 
experiences.' This notion is the cause of bondage to conditional 
existence, birth and death. It can be removed only by the earnest 
effort to live constantly in union with Brahman. By the sages, 
the eradication of this notion and the craving for personal separ- 
ateness is called Liberation. 

It is ignorance that causes us to identify ourselves with the body, 
the ego, the senses, or anything that is not the Atman. He is a 
wise man who overcomes this ignorance by devotion to the 
Atman. . . . 

When a man follows the way of the world, or the way of the flesh, 
or the way of tradition (i.e. when he believes in religious rites and 
the letter of the scriptures, as though they were intrinsically 
sacred), knowledge of Reality cannot arise in him. 

The wise say that this threefold way is like an' iron chain, binding 
the feet of him who aspires to escape from the prison-house of 
this world. He who frees himself from the chain achieves De- 
liverance. 

Shankara 

In the Taoist formulations of the Perennial Philosophy there is 
an insistence, no less forcible than in the Upanishads, the Gita 
and the writings of Shankara, upon the universal immanence of 
the transcendent spiritual Ground of all existence. What fol- 
lows is an extract from one of the great classics of Taoist litera- 
ture, the Book of Chuang Tzu, most of which seems to have 



i 4 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

been written around the turn of the fourth and third cen- 
turies B.C. 

Do not ask whether the Principle is in this or in that; it is in 
all beings. It is on this account that we apply to it the epithets of 
supreme, universal, total. ... It has ordained that all things should 
be limited, but is Itself unlimited, infinite. As to what pertains to 
manifestation, the Principle causes the succession of its phases, 
but is not this succession. It is the author of causes and effects, 
but is not the causes and effects. It is the author of condensations 
and dissipations (birth and death, changes of state), but is not 
itself condensations and dissipations. All proceeds from It and 
is under its influence. It is in all things, but is not identical with 
beings, for it is neither differentiated nor limited. 

Chuang T%u 

From Taoism we pass to that Mahayana Buddhism which, in the 
Far East, came to be so closely associated with Taoism, bor- 
rowing and bestowing until the two came at last to be fused in 
what is known as Zen. The Lankavatara Sutra, from which the 
following extract is taken, was the scripture which the founder 
of Zen Buddhism expressly recommended to his first disciples. 

Those who vainly reason without understanding the truth are 
lost in the jungle of the Vijnanas (the various forms of relative 
knowledge), running about here and there and trying to justify 
their view of ego-substance. 

The self realized in your inmost consciousness appears in its 
purity; this is the Tathagata-garbha (literally, Buddha-womb), 
which is not the realm of those given over to mere reasoning. . . . 

Pure in its own nature and free from the category of finite and 
infinite, Universal Mind is the undefiled Buddha-womb, which is 
wrongly apprehended by sentient beings. 

Lankavatara Sutra 

One Nature, perfect and pervading, circulates in all natures, 
One Reality, all-comprehensive, contains within itself all realities. 
The one Moon reflects itself wherever there is a sheet of water, 



THAT ART THOU 15 

And all the moons in the waters are embraced within the one 

Moon. 
The Dharma-body '(the Absolute) of all the Buddhas enters into 

my own being. 

And my own being is found in union with theirs. . . . 
The Inner Light is beyond praise and blame; 
Like space it knows no boundaries, 
Yet it is even here, within us, ever retaining its serenity and 

fullness. 

It is only when you hunt for it that you lose it; 
You cannot take hold of it, but equally you cannot get rid of it, 
And while you can do neither, it goes on its own way. 
You remain silent and it speaks; you speak, and it is dumb; 
The great gate of charity is wide open, with no obstacles before it. 

Ywig-chia Ta-shih 

I am not competent, nor is this the place to discuss the doc- 
trinal differences between Buddhism and Hinduism. Let it 
suffice to point out that, when he insisted that human beings 
are by nature 'non-Atman/ the Buddha was evidently speak- 
ing about the personal self and not the universal Self. The 
Brahman controversialists, who appear in certain of the Pali 
scriptures, never so much as mention the Vedanta doctrine of 
the identity of Atman and Godhead and the non-identity of 
ego and Atman. What they maintain and Gautama denies is 
the substantial nature and eternal persistence of the individual 
psyche. 'As an unintelligent man seeks for the abode of music 
in the body of the lute, so does he look for a soul within the 
skandhas (the material and psychic aggregates, of which the 
individual mind-body is composed).' About the existence of 
the Atman that is Brahman, as about most other metaphysical 
matters, the Buddha declines to speak, on the ground that such 
discussions do not tend to edification or spiritual progress 
among the members of a monastic order, such as he had 
founded. But though it has its dangers, though it may become 
the most absorbing, because the most serious and noblest, of 
distractions, metaphysical thinking is unavoidable and finally 



16 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

necessary. Even the Hinayanists found this, and the later 
Mahayanists were to develop, in connection with the practice 
of their religion, a splendid and imposing system of cosmo- 
logical, ethical and psychological thought. This system was 
based upon the postulates of a strict idealism and professed to 
dispense with the idea of God. But moral and spiritual experi- 
ence was too strong for philosophical theory, and under the 
inspiration of direct experience, the writers of the Mahayana 
sutras found themselves using all their ingenuity to explain why 
the Tathagata and the Bodhisattvas display an infinite charity 
towards beings that do not really exist. At the same time they 
stretched the framework of subjective idealism so as to make 
room for Universal Mind ; qualified the idea of soullessness 
with the doctrine that, if purified, the individual mind can 
identify itself with the Universal Mind or Buddha-womb ; and, 
while maintaining godlessness, asserted that this realizable Uni- 
versal Mind is the inner consciousness of the eternal Buddha 
and that the Buddha-mind is associated with 'a great com- 
passionate heart' which desires the liberation of every sentient 
being and bestows divine grace on all who make a serious effort 
to achieve man's final end. In a word, despite their inaus- 
picious vocabulary, the best of the Mahayana sutras contain an 
authentic formulation of the Perennial Philosophy a formula- 
tion which in some respects (as we shall see when we come to 
the section, 'God in the World') is more complete than any 
other. 

In India, as in Persia, Mohammedan thought came to be 
enriched by the doctrine that God is immanent as well as 
transcendent, while to Mohammedan practice were added the 
moral disciplines and ' spiritual exercises,' by means of which 
the soul is prepared for contemplation or the unitive know- 
ledge of the Godhead. It is a significant historical fact that the 
poet-saint Kabir is claimed as a co-religionist both by Moslems 
and Hindus. The politics of those whose goal is beyond time 
are always pacific; it is the idolaters of past and future, of 
reactionary memory and Utopian dream, who do the perse- 
cuting and make the wars. 



THAT ART THOU 17 

Behold but One in all things; it is the second that leads you 
astray. 

Kabir 

That this insight into the nature of things and the origin of 
good and evil is not confined exclusively to the saint, but is 
recognized obscurely by every human being, is proved by the 
very structure of our language. For language, as Richard 
Trench pointed out long ago, is often ' wis"er, not merely than 
the vulgar, but even than the wisest of those who speak it. 
Sometimes it locks up truths which were once well known, but 
have been forgotten. In other cases it holds the germs of 
truths which, though they were never plainly discerned, the 
genius of its framers caught a glimpse of in a happy moment of 
divination.' For example, how significant it is that in the Indo- 
European languages, as Darmsteter has pointed out, the root 
meaning ' two ' should connote badness. The Greek prefix dys- 
(as in dyspepsia) and the Latin dis- (as in dishonourable) are 
both derived from 'duo.' The cognate bis- gives a pejorative 
sense to such modern French words as bevue ('blunder/ liter- 
ally 'two-sight 5 ). Traces of that 'second which leads you 
astray' can be found in 'dubious,' 'doubt' and Zweifel for to 
doubt is to be double-minded. Bunyan has his Mr. Facing- 
both-ways, and modern American slang its ' two-timers.' Ob- 
scurely and unconsciously wise, our language confirms the 
findings of the mystics and proclaims the essential badness of 
division a word, incidentally, in which our old enemy 'two* 
makes another decisive appearance. 

Here it may be remarked that the cult of unity on the politi- 
cal level is only an idolatrous ersat^ for the genuine religion of 
unity on the personal and spiritual levels. Totalitarian regimes 
justify their existence by means of a philosophy of political 
monism, according to which the state is God on earth, unifica- 
tion under the heel of the divine state is salvation, and all 
means to such unification, however intrinsically wicked, are 
right and may be used without scruple. This political monism 
leads in practice to excessive privilege and power for the few 



r8 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

and oppression for the many, to discontent at home and war 
abroad. But excessive privilege and power are standing tempt- 
ations to pride, greed, vanity and cruelty; oppression results 
in fear and envy; war breeds hatred, misery and despair. All 
such negative emotions are fatal to the spiritual life. Only the 
pure in heart and poor in spirit can come to the unitive know- 
ledge of God. Hence, the attempt to impose more unity upon 
societies than their individual members are ready for makes it 
psychologically almost impossible for those individuals to 
realize their unity with the divine Ground and with one 
another. 

Among the Christians and the Sufis, to whose writings we 
now return, the concern is primarily with the human mind and 
its divine essence. 

My Me is God, nor do I recognize any other Me except my God 
Himself. 

St. Catherine of Genoa 

In those respects in which the soul is unlike God, it is also unlike 
itself. 

St. Bernard 

I went from God to God, until they cried from me in me, ' O' 
thoul!' 

Bayazid of Bis tun 

Two of the recorded anecdotes about this Sufi saint deserve to 
be quoted here. 'When Bayazid was asked how old he was, 
he replied, "Four years." They said, "How can that be?" 
He answered, "I have been veiled from God by the world for 
seventy years, but I have seen Him during the last four years. 
The period during which one is veiled does not belong to one's 
life.'" On another occasion someone knocked at the saint's 
door and cried, 'Is Bayazid here?' Bayazid answered, 'Is 
anybody here except God?' 



THAT ART THOU 19 

To gauge the soul we must gauge it with God, for the Ground of 
God and the Ground of the Soul are one and the same. 

Eckhart 

The spirit possesses God essentially in naked nature, and God 
the spirit. 

Ruysbroeck 

For though she sink all sinking in the oneness of divinity, she 
never touches bottom. For it is of the very essence of the soul 
that she is powerless to plumb the depths of her creator. And 
here one cannot speak of the soul any more, for she has lost her 
nature yonder in the oneness of divine essence. There she is no 
more called soul, but is called immeasurable being. 

Eckhart 

The knower and the known are one. Simple people imagine that 
they should see God, as if He stood there and they here. This 
is not so. God and I, we are one in knowledge. 

Eckhart 

'I live, yet not I, but Christ in me.' Or perhaps it might be 
more accurate to use the verb transitively and say, 'I live, yet 
not I; for it is the Logos who lives me 9 lives me as an actor 
lives his part. In such a case, of course, the actor is always 
infinitely superior to the role. Where real life is concerned, 
there are no Shakespearean characters^ there are only Addi- 
sonian Catos or, more often, grotesque Monsieur Perrichons 
and Charley's Aunts mistaking themselves for Julius Caesar 
or the Prince of Denmark. But by a merciful dispensation it 
is always in the power of every dramatis persona to get his 
low, stupid lines pronounced and supernaturally transfigured 
by the divine equivalent of a Garrick. 

O my God, how does it happen in this poor old world that Thou 
art so great and yet nobody finds Thee, that Thou callest so 
loudly and nobody hears Thee, that Thou art so near and nobody 



20 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

feels Thee, that Thou givest Thyself to everybody and nobody 
knows Thy name? Men flee from Thee and say they cannot 
find Thee; they turn their backs and say they cannot see Thee; 
they stop their ears and say they cannot hear Thee. 

Hans Denk 



Between the Catholic mystics of the fourteenth and fifteenth, 
centuries and the Quakers of the seventeenth there yawns a 
wide gap of time made hideous, so far as religion is concerned, 
with interdenominational wars and persecutions. But the gulf 
was bridged by a succession of men, whom Rufus Jones, in 
the only accessible English work devoted to their lives and 
teachings, has called the ' Spiritual Reformers. 5 Denk, Franck, 
Castellio, Weigel, Everard, the Cambridge Platonists in spite 
of the murdering and the madness, the apostolic succession 
remains unbroken. The truths that had been spoken in the 
Theologia Germanica that book which Luther professed to 
love so much and from which, if we may judge from his 
career, he learned so singularly little were being uttered once 
again by Englishmen during the Civil War and under the 
Cromwellian dictatorship. The mystical tradition, perpetuated 
by the Protestant Spiritual Reformers, had become diffused, 
as it were, in the religious atmosphere of the time when 
George Fox had his first great 'opening' and knew by direct 
experience : 

that Every Man was enlightened by the Divine Light of Christ, 
and I saw it shine through all ; And that they that believed in it 
came out of Condemnation and came to the Light of Life, and 
became the Children of it; And that they that hated it and did 
not believe in it, were condemned by it, though they made a 
profession of Christ. This I saw in the pure Openings of Light, 
without the help of any Man, neither did I then know where to 
find it in the Scriptures, though afterwards, searching the Scrip- 
tures, I found it. 

From Fox's Journal 



THAT ART THOU 21 

The doctrine of the Inner Light achieved a clearer formu- 
lation in the writings of the second generation of Quakers. 
* There is,' wrote William Penn, 'something nearer to us than 
Scriptures, to wit, the Word in the heart from which all Scrip- 
tures come.' And a little later Robert Barclay sought to ex- 
plain the direct experience of tat tvam asi in terms of an 
Augustinian theology that had, of course, to be considerably 
stretched and trimmed before it could fit the facts. Man, he 
declared in his famous theses, is a fallen being, incapable of 
good, unless united to the Divine Light. This Divine Light is 
Christ within the human soul, and is as universal as the seed 
of sin. All men, heathen as well as Christian, are endowed 
with the Inward Light, even though they may know nothing 
of the outward history of Christ's life. Justification is for those 
who do not resist the Inner Light and so permit of a new 
birth of holiness within them. 

Goodness needeth not to enter into the soul, for it is there 
already, only it is un perceived. 

Theologia Germanica 

When the Ten Thousand things are viewed in their oneness, we 
return to the Origin and remain where we have always been. 

Sen T'sen 

It is because we don't know Who we are, because we are 
unaware that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us, that we 
behave in the generally silly, the often insane, the sometimes 
criminal ways that are so characteristically human. We are 
saved, we are liberated and enlightened, by perceiving the 
hitherto unperceived good that is already within us, by return- 
ing to our eternal Ground and remaining where, without 
knowing it, we have always been. Plato speaks in the same 
sense when he says, in the Republic, that * the virtue of wis- 
dom more than anything else contains a divine element which 
always remains.' And in the Theaetetus he makes the point, 
so frequently insisted upon by those who have practised spirit- 



22 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

ual religion, that it is only by becoming Godlike that we can 
know God and to become Godlike is to identify ourselves 
with the divine element which in fact constitutes our essential 
nature, but of which, in our mainly voluntary ignorance, we 
choose to remain unaware. 

They are on the way to truth who apprehend God by means of 
the divine, Light by the light. 

Philo 

Philo was the exponent of the Hellenistic Mystery Religion 
which grew up, as Professor Goodenough has shown, among 
the Jews of the Dispersion, between about 200 B.C. and 100 A.D. 
Reinterpreting the Pentateuch in terms of a metaphysical system 
derived from Platonism, Neo-Pythagoreanism and Stoicism, 
Philo transformed the wholly transcendental and almost 
anthropomorphically personal God of the Old Testament into 
the immanent-transcendent Absolute Mind of the Perennial 
Philosophy. But even from the orthodox scribes and Pharisees 
of that momentous century which witnessed, along with the 
dissemination of Philo's doctrines, the first beginnings of 
Christianity and the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem, 
even from the guardians of the Law we hear significantly 
mystical utterances. Hillel, the great rabbi whose teachings 
on humility and the love of God and man read like an earlier, 
cruder version of some of the Gospel sermons, is reported to 
have spoken these words to an assemblage in the courts of the 
Temple. ' If I am here ' (it is Jehovah who is speaking through 
the mouth of his prophet). ' everyone is here. If I am not here, 
no one is here.' 

The Beloved is all in all; the lover merely veils Him; 
The Beloved is all that lives, the lover a dead thing. 

Jalal-uddin Rumi 

There is a spirit in the soul, untouched by time and flesh, flowing 
from the Spirit, remaining in the Spirit, itself wholly spiritual. In 



THAT ART THOU 23 

this principle is God, ever verdant, ever flowering in all the joy 
and glory of His actual Self. Sometimes I have called this prin- 
ciple the Tabernacle of the soul, sometimes a spiritual Light, anon 
I say it is a Spark. But now I say that it is more exalted over this 
and that than the heavens are exalted above the earth. So now I 
name it in a nobler fashion. ... It is free of all names and void 
of all- forms. It is one and simple, as God is one and simple, and 
no man can in any wise behold it. 

Eckhart 

Crude formulations of some of the doctrines of the Peren- 
nial Philosophy are to be found in the thought-systems of the 
uncivilized and so-called primitive peoples of the world. 
Among the Maoris, for example, every human being is re- 
garded as a compound of four elements a divine eternal 
principle, known as the toiora; an ego, which disappears at 
death; a ghost-shadow, or psyche, which survives death; and 
finally a body. Among the Oglala Indians the divine element 
is called the sican, and this is regarded as identical with the ton, 
or divine essence of the world. Other elements of the self are 
the nagi, or personality, and niya, or vital soul. After death 
the sican is reunited with the divine Ground of all things, the 
nagi survives in the ghost world of psychic phenomena and 
the niya disappears into the material universe. 

In regard to no twentieth-century 'primitive' society can we 
rule out the possibility of influence by, or borrowing from, 
some higher culture. Consequently, we have no right to argue 
from the present to the past. Because many contemporary 
savages have an esoteric philosophy that is monotheistic with 
a monotheism that is sometimes of the 'That art thou' variety, 
we are not entitled to infer offhand that neolithic or palaeolithic 
men held similar views. 

More legitimate and more intrinsically plausible are the 
inferences that may be drawn from what we know about our 
own physiology and psychology. We know that human minds 
have proved themselves capable of everything from imbecility 
to Quantum Theory, from Mein Kampfand sadism to the 



24 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

sanctity of Philip Neri, from metaphysics to crossword puzzles, 
power politics and the Missa Solemnis. We also know that 
human minds are in some way associated with human brains, 
and we have fairly good reasons for supposing that there have 
been no considerable changes in the size and conformation of 
human brains for a good many thousands of years. Conse- 
quently it seems justifiable to infer that human minds- in the 
remote past were capable of as many and as various kinds and 
degrees of activity as are minds at the present time. 

It is, however, certain that many activities undertaken by 
some minds at the present time were not, in the remote past, 
undertaken by any minds at all. For this there are several 
obvious reasons. Certain thoughts are practically unthinkable 
except in terms of an appropriate language and within the 
framework of an appropriate system of classification. Where 
these necessary instruments do not exist, the thoughts in ques- 
tion are not expressed and not even conceived. Nor is this all : 
the incentive to develop the instruments of certain kinds of 
thinking is not always present. For long periods of history 
and prehistory it would seem that men and women, though 
perfectly capable of doing so, did not wish to pay attention to 
problems which their descendants found absorbingly interest- 
ing. For example, there is no reason to suppose that, between 
the thirteenth century and the twentieth, the human mind 
underwent any kind of evolutionary change, comparable to 
the change, let us say, in the physical structure of the horse's 
foot during an incomparably longer span of geological time. 
What happened was that men turned their attention from cer- 
tain aspects of reality to certain other aspects. The result, 
among other things, was the development of the natural 
sciences. Our perceptions and our understanding are directed, 
in large measure, by our will. We are aware of, and we think 
about, the things which, for one reason or another, we want 
to see and understand. Where there's a will there is always an 
intellectual way. The capacities of the human mind are almost 
indefinitely great. Whatever we will to do, whether it be to 
come to the unitive knowledge of the Godhead, or to manu- 



THAT ART THOU 25 

facture self-propelled flame-throwers that we are able to do, 
provided always that the willing be sufficiently intense and 
sustained. It is clear that many of the things to which modern 
men have chosen to pay attention were ignored by their pre- 
decessors. Consequently the very means for thinking clearly 
and fruitfully about those things remained uninvented, not 
merely during prehistoric times, but even to the opening of the 
modern era. 

The lack of a suitable vocabulary and an adequate frame of 
reference, and the absence of any strong and sustained desire to 
invent these necessary instruments of thought here are two 
sufficient reasons why so many of the almost endless potential- 
ities of the human mind remained for so long unactualized. 
Another and, on its own level, equally cogent reason is this : 
much of the world's most original and fruitful thinking is done 
by people of poor physique and of a thoroughly unpractical 
turn of mind. Because this is so, and because the value of pure 
thought, whether analytical or integral, has everywhere been 
more or less clearly recognized, provision was and still is made 
by every civilized society for giving thinkers a measure of 
protection from the ordinary strains and stresses of social life. 
The hermitage, the monastery, the college, the academy and 
the research laboratory; the begging bowl, the endowment, 
patronage and the grant of taxpayers' money such are the 
principal devices that have been used by actives to conserve 
that rare bird, the religious, philosophical, artistic or scientific 
contemplative. In many primitive societies conditions are 
hard and there is no surplus wealth. The born contemplative 
has to face the struggle for existence and social predominance 
without protection. The result, in most cases, is that he either 
dies young or is too desperately busy merely keeping alive to 
be able to devote his attention to anything else. When this 
happens the prevailing philosophy will be that of the hardy, 
extraverted man of action. 

All this sheds some light dim, it is true, and merely infer- 
ential on the problem of the perennialness of the Perennial 
Philosophy. In India the scriptures were regarded, not as 



26 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

revelations made at some given moment of history, but as 
eternal gospels, existent from everlasting to everlasting, inas- 
much as coeval with man, or for that matter with any other 
kind of corporeal or incorporeal being possessed of reason. 
A similar point of view is expressed by Aristotle, who regards 
the fundamental truths of religion as everlasting and inde- 
structible. There have been ascents and falls, periods (literally 
'roads around' or cycles) of progress and regress; but the 
great fact of God as the First Mover of a universe which 
partakes of his divinity has always been recognized. In the 
light of what we know about prehistoric man (and what we 
know amounts to nothing more than a few chipped stones, 
some paintings, drawings and sculptures) and of what we may 
legitimately infer from other, better documented fields of 
knowledge, what are we to think of these traditional doctrines ? 
My own view is that they may be true. We know that born 
contemplatives in the realm both of analytic and of integral 
thought have turned up in fair numbers and at frequent inter- 
vals during recorded history. There is therefore every reason 
to suppose that they turned up before history was recorded. 
That many of these people died young or were uiiable to exer- 
cise their talents is certain. But a few of them must have sur- 
vived. In this context it is highly significant that, among many 
contemporary primitives, two thought-patterns are found 
an exoteric pattern for the unphilosophic many and an esoteric 
pattern (often monotheistic, with a belief in a God not merely 
of power, but of goodness and wisdom) for the initiated few. 
There is no reason to suppose that circumstances were any 
harder for prehistoric men than they are for many contempor- 
ary savages. But if an esoteric monotheism of the kind that 
seems to come natural to the born thinker is possible in modern 
savage societies, the majority of whose members accept the sort 
of polytheistic philosophy that seems to come natural to men 
of action, a similar esoteric doctrine might have been current 
in prehistoric societies. True, the modern esoteric doctrines 
may have been derived from higher cultures. But the signifi- 
cant fact remains that, if so derived, they yet had a meaning for 



THAT ART THOU 27 

certain members of the primitive society and were considered 
valuable enough to be carefully preserved. We have seen that 
many thoughts are unthinkable apart from an appropriate 
vocabulary and frame of reference. But the fundamental ideas 
of the Perennial Philosophy can be formulated in a very simple 
vocabulary, and the experiences to which the ideas refer can 
and indeed must be had immediately and apart from any 
vocabulary whatsoever. Strange openings and theophanies are 
granted to quite small children, who are often profoundly and 
permanently affected by these experiences. We have no reason 
to suppose that what happens now to persons with small 
vocabularies did not happen in remote antiquity. In the 
modern world (as Vaughan and Traherne and Wordsworth, 
among others, have told us) the child tends to grow out of his 
direct awareness of the one Ground of things ; for the habit 
of analytical thought is fatal to the intuitions of integral think- 
ing, whether on the 'psychic* or the spiritual level. Psychic 
preoccupations may be and often are a major obstacle in the 
way of genuine spirituality. In primitive societies now (and, 
presumably, in the remote past) there is much preoccupation 
with, and a widespread talent for, psychic thinking. But a 
few people may have worked their way through psychic into 
genuinely spiritual experience just as, even in modern indus- 
trialized societies, a few people work their way out of the 
prevailing preoccupation with matter and through the prevail- 
ing habits of analytical thought into the direct experience of 
the spiritual Ground of things. 

Such, then, very briefly are the reasons for supposing that 
the historical traditions of oriental and our own classical 
antiquity may be true. It is interesting to find that at least one 
distinguished contemporary ethnologist is in agreement with 
Aristotle and the Vedantists. 'Orthodox ethnology,' writes 
Dr. Paul Radin in his Primitive Man as Philosopher, 'has been 
nothing but an enthusiastic and quite uncritical attempt to 
apply the Darwinian theory of evolution to the facts of social 
experience.' And he adds that 'no progress in ethnology will 
be achieved until scholars rid themselves once and for all of 



28 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

y 

the curious notion that everything possesses a history; until 
they realize that certain ideas and certain concepts are as 
ultimate for man, as a social being, as specific physiological 
reactions are ultimate for him, as a biological being.' Among 
these ultimate concepts, in Dr. Radin's view, is that of mono- 
theism. Such monotheism is often no more than the recog- 
nition of a single dark and numinous Power ruling the world. 
But it may sometimes be genuinely ethical and spiritual. 

The nineteenth century's mania for history and prophetic 
Utopianism tended to blind the eyes of even its acutest thinkers 
to the timeless facts of eternity. Thus we find T. H. Green 
writing of mystical union as though it were an evolutionary 
process and not, as all the evidence seems to show, a state 
which man, as man, has always had it in his power to realize. 
* An animal organism, which has its history in time, gradually 
becomes the vehicle of an eternally complete consciousness, 
which in itself can have no history, but a history of the process 
by which the animal organism becomes its vehicle.' But in 
actual fact it is only in regard to peripheral knowledge that 
there has been a genuine historical development. Without 
much lapse of time and much accumulation of skills and infor- 
mation, there can be but an imperfect knowledge of the 
material world. But direct awareness of the ' eternally complete 
consciousness,' which is the ground of the material world, is 
a possibility occasionally actualized by some human beings 
at almost any stage of their own personal development, from 
childhood to old age, and at any period of the race's history. 



Chapter 2 
THE NATURE OF THE GROUND 

OUR starting point has been the psychological doctrine, 
'That art thou/ The question that now quite naturally 
presents itself is a metaphysical one: What is the That to 
which the thou can discover itself to be akin ? 

To this the fully developed Perennial Philosophy has at all 
times and in all places given fundamentally the same answer. 
The divine Ground of all existence is a spiritual Absolute, 
ineffable in terms of discursive thought, but (in certain circum- 
stances) susceptible of being directly experienced and realized 
by the human being. This Absolute is the God-without-form 
of Hindu and Christian mystical phraseology. The last end of 
man, the ultimate reason for human existence, is unitive know- 
ledge of the divine Ground the knowledge that can come 
only to those who are prepared to 'die to self and so make 
room, as it were, for God. Out of any given generation of 
men and women very few will achieve the final end of human 
existence; but the opportunity for coming to unitive know- 
ledge will, in one way or another, continually be offered until 
all sentient beings realize Who in fact they are. 

The Absolute Ground of all existence has a personal aspect. 
The activity of Brahman is Isvara, and Isvara is further mani- 
fested in the Hindu Trinity and, at a more distant remove, in 
the other deities or angels of the Indian pantheon. Analo- 
gously, for Christian mystics, the ineffable, attributeless God- 
head is manifested in a Trinity of Persons, of whom it is 
possible to predicate such human attributes as goodness, wis- 
dom, mercy and love, but in a supereminent degree. 

Finally there is an incarnation of God in a human being, 
who possesses the same qualities of character as the personal 
God, but who exhibits them under the limitations necessarily 

imposed by confinement within a material body born into the 

20 



3 o THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

world at a given moment of time. For Christians there has been 
and, ex hypothesi, can be but one such divine incarnation; for 
Indians there can be and have been many. In Christendom as 
well as in the East, contemplatives who follow the path of 
devotion conceive of, and indeed directly perceive, the incarna- 
tion as a constantly renewed fact of experience. Christ is for 
ever being begotten within the soul by the Father, and the play 
of Krishna is the pseudo-historical symbol of an everlasting 
truth of psychology and metaphysics the fact that, in 
relation to God, the personal soul is always feminine and 
passive. 

Mahayana Buddhism teaches these same metaphysical doc- 
trines in terms of the 'Three Bodies' of Buddha the absolute 
Dharmakaya, known also as the Primordial Buddha, or Mind, 
or the Clear Light of the Void ; the Sambhogakaya, corre- 
sponding to Isvara or the personal God of Judaism, Christian- 
ity and Islam ; and finally the Nirmanakaya, the material body, 
in which the Logos is incarnated upon earth as a living, histor- 
ical Buddha. 

Among the Sufis, Al Haqq, the Real, seems to be thought 
of as the abyss of Godhead underlying the personal Allah, 
while the Prophet is taken out of history and regarded as the 
incarnation of the Logos. 

Some idea of the inexhaustible richness of the divine nature 
can be obtained by analysing, word by word, the invocation 
with which the Lord's Prayer begins ' Our Father who art in 
heaven.' God is ours ours in the same intimate sense that our 
consciousness and life are ours. But as well as immanently 
ours, God is also transcendently the personal Father, who loves 
his creatures and to whom love and allegiance are owed by 
them in return. 'Our Father who art' : when we come to 
consider the verb in isolation, we perceive that the immanent- 
transcendent personal God is also the immanent-transcendent 
One, the essence and principle of all existence. And finally 
God's being is 'in heaven'; the divine nature is other than, 
and incommensurable with, the nature of the creatures in whom 
God is immanent. That is why we can attain to the unitive 



THE NATURE OF THE GROUND 31 

knowledge of God only when we become in some measure 
Godlike, only when we permit God's kingdom to come by 
making our own creaturely kingdom go. 

God may be worshipped and contemplated in any of his 
aspects. But to persist in worshipping only one aspect to the 
exclusion of all the rest is to run into grave spiritual peril. 
Thus, if we approach God with the preconceived idea that He 
is exclusively the personal, transcendental, all-powerful ruler of 
the world, we run the risk of becoming entangled in a religion 
of rites, propitiatory sacrifices (sometimes of the most horrible 
nature) and legalistic observances. Inevitably so ; for if God 
is an unapproachable potentate out there, giving mysterious 
orders, this kind of religion is entirely appropriate to the cosmic 
situation. 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 consciousness. 

Things are a great deal better when the transcendent, omni- 
potent personal God is regarded as also a loving Father. The 
sincere worship of such a God changes character as well as 
conduct, and does something to modify consciousness. But 
the complete transformation of consciousness, which is 'en- 
lightenment/ 'deliverance,' 'salvation,' comes only when God 
is thought of as the Perennial Philosophy affirms Him to be 
immanent as well as transcendent, supra-personal as well as 
personal and when religious practices are adapted to this 
conception. 

When God is regarded as exclusively immanent, legalism 
and external practices are abandoned and there is a concentra- 
tion on the Inner Light. The dangers now are quietism and 
antinomianism, a partial modification of consciousness that is 
useless or even harmful, because it is not accompanied by the 
transformation of character which is the necessary prerequi- 
site of a total, complete and spiritually fruitful transformation 
of consciousness. 

Finally it is possible to think of God as an exclusively supra- 
personal being. For many persons this conception is too 
'philosophical' to provide an adequate motive for doing any- 



32 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

thing practical about their beliefs. Hence, for them, it is of 
no value. 

It would be a mistake, of course, to suppose that people who 
worship one aspect of God to the exclusion of all the rest must 
inevitably run into the different kinds of trouble described 
above. If they are not too stubborn in their ready-made 
beliefs, if they submit with docility to what happens to them 
in the process of worshipping, the God who is both immanent 
and transcendent, personal and more than personal, may reveal 
Himself to them in his fullness. Nevertheless, the fact remains 
that it is easier for us to reach our goal if we are not handi- 
capped by a set of erroneous or inadequate beliefs about the 
right way to get there and the nature of what we are looking for. 

Who is God ? I can think of no better answer than. He who is. 
Nothing is more appropriate to the eternity which God is. If you 
call God good, or great, or blessed, or wise, or anything else of 
this sort, it is included in these words, namely, He is. 

St. Bernard 

The purpose of all words is to illustrate the meaning of an object. 
When they are heard, they should enable the hearer to understand 
this meaning, and this according to the four categories of sub- 
stance, of activity, of quality and of relationship. For example, 
cow and horse belong to the category of substance. He cooks or he 
prays belongs to the category of activity. White and black belong 
to the category of quality. Having money or possessing cows belongs 
to the category of relationship. Now there is no class of substance 
to which the Brahman belongs, no common genus. It cannot 
therefore be denoted by words which, like 'being' in the ordinary 
sense, signify a category of things. Nor can it be denoted by 
quality, for it is without qualities; nor yet by activity, because it 
is without activity 'at rest, without parts or activity,' according 
to the Scriptures. Neither can it be denoted by relationship, for 
it is 'without a second' and is not the object of anything but its 
own self. Therefore it cannot be defined by word or idea ; as the 
Scripture says, it is the One 'before whom words recoil/ 

Shankara 



THE NATURE OF THE GROUND 33 

It was from the Nameless that Heaven and Earth sprang; 

The named is but the mother that rears the ten thousand creatures, 

each after its kind. 
Truly, ' Only he that rids himself forever of desire can see the 

Secret Essences.' 

He that has never rid himself of desire can see only the Outcomes. 

Lao T^u 

One of the greatest favours bestowed on the soul transiently in 
this life is to enable it to see so distinctly and to feel so profoundly 
that it cannot comprehend God at all. These souls are herein 
somewhat like the saints in heaven, where they who know Him 
most perfectly perceive most clearly that He is infinitely incom- 
prehensible; for those who have the less clear vision do not 
perceive so clearly as do these others how greatly He transcends 
their vision. 

St. John of the Cross 

When I came out of the Godhead into multiplicity, then all things 
proclaimed, * There is a God' (the personal Creator). Now this 
cannot make me blessed, for hereby I realize myself as creature. 
But in the breaking through I am more than all creatures; I am 
neither God nor creature ; I am that which I was and shall re- 
main, now and for ever more. There I receive a thrust which 
carries me above all angels. By this thrust I become so rich that 
God is not sufficient for me, in so far as He is only God in his 
divine works. For in thus breaking through, I perceive what God 
and I are in common. There I am what I was. There I neither 
increase nor decrease. For there I am the immovable which moves 
all things. Here man has won again what he is eternally and ever 
shall be. Here God is received into the soul. 

Eckhart 

The Godhead gave all things up to God. The Godhead is poor, 
naked and empty as though it were not; it has not, wills not, 
wants not, works not, gets not. It is God who has the treasure 
and the bride in him, the Godhead is as void as though it were not. 

Eckhart 



34 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

We can understand something of what lies beyond our 
experience by considering analogous cases lying within our 
experience. Thus, the relations subsisting between the world 
and God and between God and the Godhead seem to be 
analogous, in some measure at least, to those that hold 
between the body (with its environment) and the psyche, and 
between the psyche and the spirit. In the light of what we 
know about the second and what we know is not, unfor- 
tunately, very much we may be able to form some not too 
hopelessly inadequate notions about the first. 

Mind affects its body in four ways subconsciously, through 
that unbelievably subtle physiological intelligence, which 
Driesch hypostatized under the name of the entelechy ; con- 
sciously, by deliberate acts of will ; subconsciously again, by 
the reaction upon the physical organism of emotional states 
having nothing to do with the organs or processes reacted 
upon; and, either consciously or subconsciously, in certain 
'supernormal' manifestations. Outside the body matter can 
be influenced by the mind in two ways first, by means of the 
body, and second, by a ' supernormal' process, recently studied 
under laboratory conditions and described as ' the PK effect.' 
Similarly, the mind can establish relations with other minds 
either indirectly, by willing its body to undertake symbolic 
activities, such as speech or writing; or 'supernormally,' by 
the direct approach of mind-reading, telepathy, extra-sensory 
perception. 

Let us now consider these relationships a little more closely. 
In some fields the physiological intelligence works on its own 
initiative, as when it directs the never-ceasing processes of 
breathing, say, or assimilation. In others it acts at the behest 
of the conscious mind, as when we will to accomplish some 
action, but do not and cannot will the muscular, glandular, 
nervous and vascular means to the desired end. The appar- 
ently simple act of mimicry well illustrates the extraordinary 
nature of the feats performed by the physiological intelligence. 
When a parrot (making use, let us remember, of the beak, 
tongue and throat of a bird) imitates the sounds produced by 



THE NATURE OF THE GROUND 35 

the lips, teeth, palate and vocal cords of a man articulating 
words, what precisely happens? Responding in some as yet 
entirely uncomprehended way to the conscious mind's desire 
to imitate some remembered or immediately perceived event, 
the physiological intelligence sets in motion large numbers 
of muscles, co-ordinating their efforts with such exquisite skill 
that the result is a more or less perfect copy of the original* 
Working on its own level, the conscious mind not merely of 
a parrot, but of the most highly gifted of human beings, 
would find itself completely baffled by a problem of com- 
parable complexity. 

As an example of the third way in which our minds affect 
matter, we may cite the all-too-familiar phenomenon of 'nerv- 
ous indigestion.' In certain persons symptoms of dyspepsia 
make their appearance when the conscious mind is troubled by 
such negative emotions as fear, envy, anger or hatred. These 
emotions are directed towards events or persons in the outer 
environment; but in some way or other they adversely affect 
the physiological intelligence and this derangement results, 
among other things, in 'nervous indigestion/ From tuber- 
culosis and gastric ulcer to heart disease and even dental caries, 
numerous physical ailments have been found to be closely 
correlated with certain undesirable states of the conscious 
mind. Conversely, every physician knows that a calm and 
cheerful patient is much more likely to recover than one who 
is agitated and depressed. 

Finally we come to such occurrences as faith healing and 
levitation occurrences 'supernormally' strange, but never- 
theless attested by masses of evidence which it is hard to 
discount completely. Precisely how faith cures diseases 
(whether at Lourdes or in the hypnotist's consulting room), or 
how St. Joseph of Cupertino was able to ignore the laws of 
gravitation, we do not know. (But let us remember that we 
are no less ignorant of the way in which minds and bodies are 
related in the most ordinary of everyday activities.) In the 
same way we are unable to form any idea of the modus operandi 
of what Professor Rhine has called the PK effect. Neverthe* 



36 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

less the fact that the fall of dice can be influenced by the mental 
states of certain individuals seems now to have been estab- 
lished beyond the possibility of doubt. And if the PK effect 
can be demonstrated in the laboratory and measured by statis- 
tical methods, then, obviously, the intrinsic credibility of the 
scattered anecdotal evidence for the direct influence of mind 
upon matter, not merely within the body, but outside in the 
external world, is thereby notably increased. The same is true 
of extra-sensory perception. Apparent examples of it are con- 
stantly turning up in ordinary life. But science is almost 
impotent to cope with the particular case, the isolated instance. 
Promoting their methodological ineptitude to the rank of a 
criterion of truth, dogmatic scientists have often branded 
everything beyond the pale of their limited competence as 
unreal and even impossible. But when tests for ESP can be 
repeated under standardized conditions, the subject comes 
under the jurisdiction of the law of probabilities and achieves 
(in the teeth of what passionate opposition !) a measure of 
scientific respectability. 

Such, very baldly and briefly, are the most important things 
we know about mind in regard to its capacity to influence 
matter. From this modest knowledge about ourselves, what 
are we entitled to conclude in regard to the divine object of 
our nearly total ignorance ? 

First, as to creation : if a human mind can directly influence 
matter not merely within, but even outside its body, then a 
divine mind, immanent in the universe or transcendent to it, 
may be presumed to be capable of imposing forms upon a 
pre-existing chaos of formless matter, or even, perhaps, of 
thinking substance as well as forms into existence. 

Once created or divinely informed, the universe has to be 
sustained. The necessity for a continuous re-creation of the 
world becomes manifest, according to Descartes, 'when we 
consider the nature of time, or the duration of things ; for this 
is of such a kind that its parts are not mutually dependent and 
never co-existent; and, accordingly, from the fact that we are 
now it does not necessarily follow that we shall be a moment 



THE NATURE OF THE GROUND 37 

afterwards, unless some cause, viz. that which first produced 
us, shall, as it were, continually reproduce us, that is, conserve 
us.' Herewe seem to have something analogous, on the cosmic 
level, to that physiological intelligence which, in men and the 
lower animals, unsleepingly performs the task of seeing that 
bodies behave as they should. Indeed, the physiological intel- 
ligence may plausibly be regarded as, a special aspect of the 
general re-creating Logos. In Chinese phraseology it is the 
Tao as it manifests itself on the level of living bodies. 

The bodies of human beings are affected by the good or bad 
states of their minds. Analogously, the existence at the heart 
of things of a divine serenity and goodwill may be regarded as 
one of the reasons why the world's sickness, though chronic, 
has not proved fatal. And if, in die psychic universe, there 
should be other and more than human consciousnesses ob- 
sessed by thoughts of evil and egotism and rebellion, this 
would account, perhaps, for some of the quite extravagant 
and improbable wickedness of human behaviour. 

The acts willed by our minds are accomplished either 
through the instrumentality of the physiological intelligence 
and the body, or, very exceptionally, and to a limited extent, 
by direct supernormal means of the PK variety. Analogously 
the physical situations willed by a divine Providence may be 
arranged by the perpetually creating Mind that sustains the 
universe in which case Providence will appear to do its work 
by wholly natural means; or else, very exceptionally, the 
divine Mind may act directly on the universe from the out- 
side, as it were in which case the workings of Providence 
and the gifts of grace will appear to be miraculous. Similarly, 
the divine Mind may choose to communicate with finite minds 
either by manipulating the world of men and things in ways 
which the particular mind to be reached at that moment will 
find meaningful; or else there may be direct communication 
by something resembling thought transference. 

In Eckhart's phrase, God, the creator and perpetual re- 
creator of the world, 'becomes and disbecomes/ In other 
words He is, to some extent at least, in time. A temporal God 



38 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

might have the nature of the traditional Hebrew God of the 
Old Testament; or He might be a limited deity of the kind 
described by certain philosophical theologians of the present 
century; or alternatively He might be an emergent God, start- 
ing unspiritually at Alpha and becoming gradually more divine 
as the aeons rolled on towards some hypothetical Omega. 
(Why the movement should be towards more and better 
rather than less and worse, upwards rather than downwards 
or in undulations, onwards rather than round and round, one 
really doesn't know. There seems to be no reason why a God 
who is exclusively temporal a God who merely becomes and 
is ungrounded in eternity should not be as completely at the 
mercy of time as is the individual mind apart from the spirit. 
A God who becomes is a God who also disbecomes, and it is 
the disbecoming which may ultimately prevail, so that the last 
state of emergent deity may be worse than the first.) 

The ground in which the multifarious and time-bound 
psyche is rooted is a simple, timeless awareness. By making 
ourselves pure in heart and poor in spirit we can discover and 
be identified with this awareness. In the spirit we not only 
have, but are, the unitive knowledge of the divine Ground. 

Analogously, God in time is grounded in the eternal now 
of the modeless Godhead. It is in the Godhead that things, 
lives and minds have their being; it is through God that they 
have their becoming a becoming whose goal and purpose is 
to return to the eternity of the Ground. 

Meanwhile, I beseech you by the eternal and imperishable truth, 
and by my soul, consider ; grasp the unheard-of. God and God- 
head are as distinct as heaven and earth. Heaven stands a thou- 
sand miles above the earth, and even so the Godhead is above 
God. God becomes and disbecomes. Whoever understands 
this preaching, I wish him well. But even if nobody had been 
here, I must still have preached this to the poor-box. 

Eckhan 

Like St. Augustine, Eckhart was to some extent the victim of 



THE NATURE OF THE GROUND 39 

his own literary talents. Le style cest Vhomme. No doubt. 
But the converse is also partly true. L'homme c'est le style. 
Because we have a gift for writing in a certain way, we find 
ourselves, in some sort, becoming our way of writing. We 
mould ourselves in the likeness of our particular brand of 
eloquence. Eckhart was one of the inventors of German prose, 
and he was tempted by his new-found mastery of forceful 
expression to commit himself to extreme positionsto be 
doctrinally the image of his powerful and over-emphatic sen- 
tences. A statement like the foregoing would lead one to 
believe that he despised what the Vedantists call the 'lower 
knowledge' of Brahman, not as the Absolute Ground of all 
things, but as the personal God. In reality he, like the Vedan- 
tists, accepts the lower knowledge as genuine knowledge and 
regards devotion to the personal God as the best preparation 
for the unitive knowledge of the Godhead. Another point to 
remember is that the attributeless Godhead of Vedanta, of 
Mahayana Buddhism, of Christian and Sufi mysticism is the 
Ground of all the qualities possessed by the personal God and 
the Incarnation. ' God is not good, I am good,' says Eckhart 
in his violent and excessive way. What he really meant was, 
'I am just humanly good; God is supereminently good ; the 
Godhead w, and his "isness" (istigkeit^ in Eckhart's German) 
contains goodness, love, wisdom and all the rest in their 
essence and principle.' In consequence, the Godhead is never, 
for the exponent of the Perennial Philosophy, the mere Abso- 
lute of academic metaphysics, but something more purely 
perfect, more reverently to be adored than even the personal 
God or his human incarnation a Being towards whom it is 
possible to feel the most intense devotion and in relation to 
whom it is necessary (if one is to come to that unitive know- 
ledge which is man's final end) to practise a discipline more 
arduous and unremitting than any imposed by ecclesiastical 
authority. 

There is a distinction and differentiation, according to our reason, 
between God and the Godhead, between action and rest. The 



40 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

fruitful nature of the Persons ever worketh in a living differentia- 
tion. But the simple Being of God, according to the nature 
thereof, is an eternal Rest of God and of all created things. 

Ruysbroeck 

(In the Reality unitively known by the mystic), we can speak no 
more of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, nor of any creature, but 
only one Being, which is the very substance of the Divine Per- 
sons. There were we all one before our creation, for this is our 
super-essence. There the Godhead is in simple essence without 
activity. 

Ruysbroeck 

The holy light of faith is so pure that, compared with it, par- 
ticular lights are but impurities ; and even ideas of the saints, of 
the Blessed Virgin, and the sight of Jesus Christ in his humanity 
are impediments in the way of the sight of God in His purity. 

J. J. Olier 

Coming as it does from a devout Catholic of the Counter- 
Reformation, this statement may seem somewhat startling. 
But we must remember that Olier (who was a man of saintly 
life and one of the most influential religious teachers of the 
seventeenth century) is speaking here about a state of con- 
sciousness, to which few people ever come. To those on the 
ordinary levels of being he recommends other modes of know- 
ledge. One of his penitents, for example, was advised to read, 
as a corrective to St. John of the Cross and other exponents 
of pure mystical theology, St. Gertrude's revelations of the 
incarnate and even physiological aspects of the deity. In 
Olier's opinion, as in that of most directors of souls, whether 
Catholic or Indian, it was mere folly to recommend the wor- 
ship of God-without-form to persons who are in a condition to 
understand only the personal and the incarnate aspects of the 
divine Ground. This is a perfectly sensible attitude, and we 
are justified in adopting a policy in accordance with it pro- 
vided always that we clearly remember that its adoption may 



THE NATURE OF THE GROUND 41 

be attended by certain spiritual dangers and disadvantages. 
The nature of these dangers and disadvantages will be illus- 
trated and discussed in another section. For the present it will 
suffice to quote the warning words of Philo : 'He who thinks 
that God has any quality and is not the One, injures not God, 
but himself.' 

Thou must love God as not-God, not-Spirit, not-person, not- 
image, but as He is, a sheer, pure absolute One, sundered from 
all two-ness, and in whom we must eternally sink from nothing- 
ness to nothingness. 

Eckhart 

What Eckhart describes as the pure One, the absolute not- 
God in whom we must sink from nothingness to nothingness 
is called in Mahayana Buddhism the Clear Light of the Void. 
What follows is part of a formula addressed by the Tibetan 
priest to a person in the act of death. 

O nobly born, the time has now come for thee to seek the Path. 
Thy breathing is about to cease. In the past thy teacher hath set 
thee face to face with the Clear Light; and now thou art about 
to experience it in its Reality in the Bar do state (the * intermediate 
state* immediately following death, in which the soul is judged 
or rather judges itself by choosing, in accord with the character 
formed during its life on earth, what sort of an after-life it shall 
have). In this Bardo state all things are like the cloudless sky, 
and the naked, immaculate Intellect is like unto a translucent void 
without circumference or centre. At this moment know thou 
thyself and abide in that state. I, too, at this time, am setting thee 
face to face. 

The Tibetan Book of the Dead 

Going back further into the past, we find in one of the earliest 
Upanishads the classical description of the Absolute One as a 
Super-Essential No-Thing. 



42 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

The significance of Brahman is expressed by neti neti (not so, not 
so) ; for beyond this, that you say it is not so, there is nothing 
further. Its name, however, is 'the Reality of reality.' That is 
to say, the senses are real, and the Brahman is their Reality. 

Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad 

In other words, there is a hierarchy of the real. The manifold 
world of our everyday experience is real with a relative reality 
that is, on its own level, unquestionable; but this relative 
reality has its being within and because of the absolute Real- 
ity, which, on account of the incommensurable otherness of 
its eternal nature, we can never hope to describe, even though 
it is possible for us directly to apprehend it. 

The extract which follows next is of great historical signifi- 
cance, since it was mainly through the 'Mystical Theology' 
and the 'Divine Names' of the fifth-century author who wrote 
under the name of Dionysius the Areopagite that mediaeval 
Christendom established contact with Neoplatonism and thus, 
at several removes, with the metaphysical thought and disci- 
pline of India. In the ninth century Scbtus Erigena translated 
the two books into Latin, and from that time forth their 
influence upon the philosophical speculations and the reli- 
gious life of the West was wide, deep and beneficent. It was 
to the authority of the Areopagite that the Christian expo- 
nents of the Perennial Philosophy appealed, whenever they 
were menaced (and they were always being menaced) by those 
whose primary interest was in ritual, legalism and ecclesiastical 
organization. And because Dionysius was mistakenly identi- 
fied with St. Paul's first Athenian convert, his authority was 
regarded as all but apostolic ; therefore, according to the rules 
of the Catholic game, the appeal to it could not lightly be 
dismissed, even by those to whom the books meant less than 
nothing. In spite of their maddening eccentricity, the men and 
women who followed the Dionysian path had to be tolerated. 
And once left free to produce the fruits of the spirit, a num- 
ber of them arrived at such a conspicuous degree of sanctity 
that it became impossible even for the heads of the Spanish 



THE NATURE OF THE GROUND 43 

Inquisition to condemn the tree from which such fruits had 
sprung. 

The simple, absolute and immutable mysteries of divine Truth 
are hidden in the super-luminous darkness of that silence which 
revealeth in secret. For this darkness, though of deepest obscur- 
ity, is yet radiantly clear; and, though beyond touch and sight, 
it more than fills our unseeing minds with splendours of trans- 
cendent beauty. . . . We long exceedingly to dwell in this trans- 
lucent darkness and, through not seeing and not knowing, to see 
Him who is beyond both vision and knowledge by the very 
fact of neither seeing Him nor knowing Him. For this is truly to 
see and to know and, through the abandonment of all things, to 
praise Him who is beyond and above all things. For this is not 
unlike the art of those who carve a life-like image from stone : 
removing from around it all that impedes clear vision of the 
latent form, revealing its hidden beauty solely by taking away. 
For it is, as I believe, more fitting to praise Him by taking away 
than by ascription ; for we ascribe attributes to Him, when we 
start from universals and come down through the intermediate to 
the particulars. But here we take away all things from Him going 
up from particulars to universals, that we may know openly the 
unknowable, which is hidden in and under all things that may be 
known. And we behold that darkness beyond being, concealed 
under all natural light. 

Dionysius the Areopagite 

The world as it appears to common sense consists of an 
indefinite number of successive and presumably causally con- 
nected events, involving an indefinite number of separate, 
individual things, lives and thoughts, the whole constituting 
a presumably orderly cosmos. It is in order to describe, discuss 
and manage this common-sense universe that human languages 
have been developed. 

Whenever, for any reason, we wish to think of the world, 
not as it appears to common sense, but as a continuum, we 
find that our traditional syntax and vocabulary are quite inade- 



44 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

quate. Mathematicians have therefore been compelled to invent 
radically new symbol-systems for this express purpose. But 
the divine Ground of all existence is not merely a continuum, 
it is also out of time, and different, not merely in degree, but in 
kind from the worlds to which traditional language and the 
languages of mathematics are adequate. Hence, in all exposi- 
tions of the Perennial Philosophy, the frequency of paradox, 
of verbal extravagance, sometimes even of seeming blasphemy. 
Nobody has yet invented a Spiritual Calculus, in terms of 
which we may talk coherently about the divine Ground and of 
the world conceived as its manifestation. For the present, 
therefore, we must be patient with the linguistic eccentricities 
of those who are compelled to describe one order of experience 
in terms of a symbol-system, whose relevance is to the facts of 
another and quite different order. 

So far, then, as a fully adequate expression of the Perennial 
Philosophy is concerned, there exists a problem in semantics 
that is finally insoluble. The fact is one which must be steadily 
borne in mind by all who read its formulations. Only in this 
way shall we be able to understand even remotely what is being 
talked about. Consider, for example, those negative definitions 
of the transcendent and immanent Ground of being. In state- 
ments such as Eckhart's, God is equated with nothing. And 
in a certain sense the equation is exact; for God is certainly no 
thing. In the phrase used by Scotus Erigena God is not a 
what; He is a That. In other words, the Ground can be 
denoted as being there, but not defined as having qualities. 
This means that discursive knowledge about the Ground is not 
merely, like all inferential knowledge, a thing at one remove, 
or even at several removes, from the reality of immediate 
acquaintance; it is and, because of the very nature of our 
language and our standard patterns of thought, it must be, 
paradoxical knowledge. Direct knowledge of the Ground 
cannot be had except by union, and union can be achieved 
only by the annihilation of the self-regarding ego, which is 
the barrier separating the 'thou' from the 'That/ 



Chapter 3 

PERSONALITY, SANCTITY, DIVINE 
INCARNATION 

TN English, words of Latin origin tend to carry overtones of 
JL intellectual, moral and aesthetic 'classiness' overtones 
which are not carried, as a rule, by their Anglo-Saxon equiva- 
lents. 'Maternal,' for instance, means the same as 'motherly,' 
'intoxicated' as 'drunk' but with what subtly important 
shades of difference ! And when Shakespeare needed a name 
for a comic character, it was Sir Toby Belch that he chose, 
not Cavalier Tobias Eructation. 

The word 'personality' is derived from the Latin, and its 
upper partials are in the highest degree respectable. For some 
odd philological reason, the Saxon equivalent of 'personality' 
is hardly ever used. Which is a pity. For if it were used 
used as currently as 'belch' is used for 'eructation' would 
people make such a reverential fuss about the thing connoted 
as certain English-speaking philosophers, moralists and theo- 
logians have recently done? 'Personality,' we are constantly 
being assured, is the highest form of reality with which we are 
acquainted. But surely people would think twice about mak- 
ing or accepting this affirmation if, instead of 'personality,' 
the word employed had been its Teutonic synonym, 'selfness.' 
For 'selfness,' though it means precisely the same, carries none 
of the high-class overtones that go with 'personality.' On the 
contrary, its primary meaning comes to us embedded, as it 
were, in discords, like the note of a cracked bell. For, as all 
exponents of the Perennial Philosophy have constantly in- 
sisted, man's obsessive consciousness of, and insistence on 
being, a separate self is the final and most formidable obstacle 
to the unitive knowledge of God. To be a self is, for them, the 
original sin, and to die to self, in feeling, will and intellect, is 
the final and all-inclusive virtue. It is die memory of these 

45 



46 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

utterances that calls up the unfavourable overtones with which 
the word 'selfness' is associated. The all too favourable over- 
tones of 'personality* are evoked in part by its intrinsically 
solemn Latinity, but also by reminiscences of what has been 
said about the * persons ' of the Trinity. But the persons of the 
Trinity have nothing in common with the flesh-and-blood per- 
sons of our everyday acquaintance nothing, that is to say, 
except that indwelling Spirit, with which we ought and are 
intended to identify ourselves, but which most of us prefer to 
ignore in favour of our separate selfness. That this God- 
eclipsing and anti-spiritual selfness should have been given 
the same name as is applied to the God who is a Spirit, is, to 
say the least of it, unfortunate. Like all such mistakes it is 
probably, in some obscure and subconscious way, voluntary 
and purposeful. We love our selfness ; we want to be justified 
in our love ; therefore we christen it with the same name as is 
applied by theologians to Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

But now thou askest me how thou mayest destroy this naked 
knowing and feeling of thine own being. For peradventure thou 
thinkest that if it were destroyed, all other hindrances were de- 
stroyed ; and if thou thinkest thus, thou thinkest right truly. But 
to this I answer thee and I say, that without a full special grace 
full freely given by God, and also a full according ableness on thy 
part to receive this grace, this naked knowing and feeling of thy 
being may in nowise be destroyed. And this ableness is nought 
else but a strong and a deep ghostly sorrow. ... All men have 
matter of sorrow; but most specially he feeleth matter of sorrow 
that knoweth and feeleth that he is. All other sorrows in com- 
parison to this be but as it were game to earnest. For he may 
make sorrow earnestly that knoweth and feeleth not only what 
he is, but that he is. And whoso felt never this sorrow, let him 
make sorrow; for he hath never yet felt perfect sorrow. This 
sorrow, when it is had, cleanseth the soul, not only of sin, but 
also of pain that it hath deserved for sin ; and also it maketh a 
soul able to receive that joy, the which reave th from a man all 
knowing and feeling of his being. 



PERSONALITY, SANCTITY, INCARNATION 47 

This sorrow, if it be truly conceived, is full of holy desire; and 
else a man might never in this life abide it or bear it. For were it 
not that a soul were somewhat fed with a manner of comfort by 
his right working, he should not be able to bear that pain that he 
hath by the knowing and feeling of his being. For as oft as he 
would have a true knowing and a feeling of his God in purity of 
spirit (as it may be here), and then feeleth that he may not for he 
findeth evermore his knowing and his feeling as it were occupied 
and filled with a foul stinking lump of himself, the which must 
always be hated and despised and forsaken, if he shall be God's 
perfect disciple, taught by Himself in the mount of perfection 
so oft he goeth nigh mad for sorrow. . . . 

This sorrow and this desire must every soul have and feel in 
itself (either in this manner or in another), as God vouchsafed! to 
teach his ghostly disciples according to his good will and their ac- 
cording ableness in body and in soul, in degree and disposition, 
ere the time be that they may perfectly be oned unto God in 
perfect charity such as may be had here, if God vouchsafed!. 

The Cloud of Unknowing 

What is the nature of this * stinking lump' of selfness or per- 
sonality, which has to be so passionately repented of and so 
completely died to, before there can be any 'true knowing of 
God in purity of spirit ' ? The most meagre and non-committal 
hypothesis is that of Hume. 'Mankind/ he says, 'are nothing 
but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which suc- 
ceed each other with an inconceivable rapidity and are in a 
perpetual flux and movement/ An almost identical answer is 
given by the Buddhists, whose doctrine of anatta is the denial 
of any permanent soul, existing behind the flux of experience 
and the various psycho-physical skandhas (closely correspond- 
ing to Hume's 'bundles'), which constitute the more enduring 
elements of personality. Hume and the Buddhists give a suffi- 
ciently realistic description of selfness in action ; but they fail 
to explain how or why the bundles ever became bundles. Did 
their constituent atoms of experience come together of their 
own accord ? And, if so, why, or by what means, and within 



48 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

what kind of a non-spatial universe? To give a plausible 
answer to these questions in terms ofanatta is so difficult that 
we are forced to abandon the doctrine in favour of the notion 
that, behind the flux and within the bundles, there exists some 
kind of permanent soul, by which experience is organized and 
which in turn makes use of that organized experience to become 
a particular and unique personality. This is the view of the 
orthodox Hinduism, from which Buddhist thought parted com- 
pany, and of almost all European thought from before the time 
of Aristotle to the present day. But whereas most contem- 
porary thinkers make an attempt to describe human nature in 
terms of a dichotomy of interacting psyche and physique, or an 
inseparable wholeness of these two elements within particular 
embodied selves, all the exponents of the Perennial Philosophy 
make, in one form or another, the affirmation that man is a 
kind of trinity composed of body, psyche and spirit. Selfness 
or personality is a product of the first two elements. The third 
element (that quidquid increatum et increabile, as Eckhart called 
it) is akin to, or even identical with, the divine Spirit that is 
the Ground of all being. Man's final end, the purpose of his 
existence, is to love, know and be united with the immanent 
and transcendent Godhead. And this identification of self with 
spiritual not-self can be achieved only by * dying to 5 selfness 
and living to spirit. 

What could begin to deny self, if there were not something in 
man different from self? 

William Law 

What is man ? An angel, an animal, a void, a world, a nothing 
surrounded by God, indigent of God, capable of God, filled with 
God, if it so desires. 

Btntll* 

The separate creaturely life, as opposed to life in union with God, 
is only a life of various appetites, hungers and wants, and cannot 
possibly be anything else. God Himself cannot make a creature 



PERSONALITY, SANCTITY, INCARNATION 49 

to be in itself, or in its own nature, anything else but a state of 
emptiness. The highest life that is natural and creaturely can go 
no higher than this; it can only be a bare capacity for goodness 
and cannot possibly be a good and happy life but by the life of 
God dwelling in and in union with it. And this is the twofold 
life that, of all necessity, must be united in every good and perfect 
and happy creature. 

William Law 

The Scriptures say of human beings that there is an outward man 
and along with him an inner man. 

To the outward man belong those things that depend on the 
soul, but are connected with the flesh and are blended with it, and 
the co-operative functions of the several members, such as the 
eye, the ear, the tongue, the hand and so on. 

The Scripture speaks of all this as the old man, the earthy man, 
the outward person, the enemy, the servant. 

Within us all is the other person, the inner man, whom the 
Scripture calls the new man, the heavenly man, the young person, 
the friend, the aristocrat. 

Eckhart 

The seed of God is in us. Given an intelligent and hard-working 
farmer, it will thrive and grow up to God, whose seed it is ; and 
accordingly its fruits will be God-nature. Pear seeds grow into 
pear trees, nut seeds into nut trees, and God seed into God. 

Eckhart 

The will is free and we are at liberty to identify our being 
either exclusively with our selfness and its interests, regarded 
as independent of indwelling Spirit and transcendent Godhead 
(in which case we shall be passively damned or actively fiend- 
ish), or exclusively with the divine within us and without (in 
which case we shall be saints), or finally with self at one 
moment or in one context and with spiritual not-self at other 
moments and in other contexts (in which case we shall be 
average citizens, too theocentric to be wholly lost, and too 

D 



50 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

egocentric to achieve enlightenment and a total deliverance). 
Since human craving can never be satisfied except by the unitive 
knowledge of God and since the mind-body is capable of an 
enormous variety of experiences, we are free to identify our- 
selves with an almost infinite number of possible objects with 
the pleasures of gluttony, for example, or intemperance, or 
sensuality; with money, power or fame; with our family, 
regarded as a possession or actually an extension and projec- 
tion of our own selfness ; with our goods and chattels, our 
hobbies, our collections; with our artistic or scientific talents; 
with some favourite branch of knowledge, some fascinating 
'special subject'; with our professions, our political parties, 
our churches ; with our pains and illnesses ; with our memories 
of success or misfortune, our hopes, fears and schemes for the 
future ; and finally with the eternal Reality within which and 
by which all the rest has its being. And we are free, of course, 
to identify ourselves with more than one of these things simul- 
taneously or in succession. Hence the quite astonishingly im- 
probable combination of traits making up a complex person- 
ality. Thus a man can be at once the craftiest of politicians and 
the dupe of his own verbiage, can have a passion for brandy 
and money, and an equal passion for the poetry of George 
Meredith and under-age girls and his mother, for horse-racing 
and detective stories and the good of his country the whole 
accompanied by a sneaking fear of hell-fire, a hatred of Spinoza 
and an unblemished record for Sunday church-going. A per- 
son born with one kind of psycho-physical constitution will be 
tempted to identify himself with one set of interests and 
passions, while a person with another kind of temperament will 
be tempted to make very different identifications. But these 
temptations (though extremely powerful, if the constitutional 
bias is strongly marked) do not have to be succumbed to; 
people can and do resist them, can and do refuse to identify 
themselves with what it would be all too easy and natural for 
them to be; can and do become better and quite other than 
their own selves. In this context the following brief article on 
'How Men Behave in Crisis' (published in a recent issue of 



PERSONALITY, SANCTITY, INCARNATION 51 

Harper's Magazine) is highly significant. 'A young psychi- 
atrist, who went as a medical observer on five combat missions 
of the Eighth Air Force in England, says that in times of great 
stress and danger men are likely to react quite uniformly, even 
though under normal circumstances they differ widely in per- 
sonality. He went on one mission, during which the 6-17 
plane and crew were so severely damaged that survival seemed 
impossible. He had already studied the " on the ground" per- 
sonalities of the crew and had found that they represented a 
great diversity of human types. Of their behaviour in crisis 
he reported : 

' " Their reactions were remarkably alike. During the violent 
combat and in the acute emergencies that arose during it, they 
were all quietly precise on the interphone and decisive in 
action. The tail gunner, right waist gunner and navigator were 
severely wounded early in the fight, but all three kept at their 
duties efficiently and without cessation. The burden of emer- 
gency work fell on the pilot, engineer and ball turret gunner, 
and all functioned with rapidity, skilful effectiveness and no 
lost motion. The burden of the decisions, during, but par- 
ticularly after the combat, rested essentially on the pilot and, 
in secondary details, on the co-pilot and bombardier. The 
decisions, arrived at with care and speed, were unquestioned 
once they were made, and proved excellent. In the period 
when disaster was momentarily expected, the alternative plans 
of action were made clearly and with no thought other than 
the safety of the entire crew. All at this point were quiet, 
unobtrusively cheerful and ready for anything. There was at 
no time paralysis, panic, unclear thinking, faulty or confused 
judgment, or self-seeking in any one of them. 

* " One could not possibly have inferred from their behaviour 
that this one was a man of unstable moods and that that one 
was a shy, quiet, introspective man. They all became out- 
wardly calm, precise in thought and rapid in action. 

* " Such action is typical of a crew who know intimately what 
fear is, so that they can use, without being distracted by, its 
physiological concomitants ; who are well trained, so that they 



ji THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

can direct their action with clarity; and who have all the more 
than personal trust inherent in a unified team/" 

We see then that, when the crisis came, each of these young 
men forgot the particular personality which he had built up 
out of the elements provided by his heredity and the environ- 
ment in which he had grown up ; that one resisted the normally 
irresistible temptation to identify himself with his mood of 
the moment, another the temptation to identify himself with 
his private day-dreams, and so on with the rest; and that all 
of them behaved in the same strikingly similar and wholly 
admirable way. It was as though the crisis and the preliminary 
training for crisis had lifted them out of their divergent per- 
sonalities and raised them to the same higher level. 

Sometimes crisis alone, without any preparatory training, 
is sufficient to make a man forget to be his customary self and 
become, for the time being, something quite different. Thus 
the most unlikely people will, under the influence of disaster, 
temporarily turn into heroes, martyrs, selfless labourers for the 
good of their fellows. Very often, too, the proximity of death 
produces similar results. For example, Samuel Johnson be- 
haved in one way during almost the whole of his life and in 
quite another way during his last illness. The fascinatingly 
complex personality, in which six generations of Boswellians 
have taken so much delight the learned boor and glutton, 
the kind-hearted bully, the superstitious intellectual, the con- 
vinced Christian who was a fetishist, the courageous man who 
was terrified of death became, while he was actually dying, 
simple, single, serene and God-centred. 

Paradoxical as it may seem, it is, for very many persons, 
much easier to behave selflessly in time of crisis than it is when 
life is taking its normal course in undisturbed tranquillity. 
When the going is easy, there is nothing to make us forget our 
precious selfness, nothing (except our own will to mortifica- 
tion and the knowledge of God) to distract our minds from 
the distractions with which we have chosen to be identified; 
we are at perfect liberty to wallow in our personality to our 
heart's content. And how we wallow ! It is for this reason 



PERSONALITY, SANCTITY, INCARNATION 53 

that all the masters of the spiritual life insist so strongly upon 
the importance of little things. 

God requires a faithful fulfilment of the merest trifle given us to 
do, rather than the most ardent aspiration to things to which we 
are not called. 

St. Franfois de Sales 

There is no one in the world who cannot arrive without difficulty 
at the most eminent perfection by fulfilling with love obscure and 
common duties. 

/. P. de Caussade 

Some people measure the worth of good actions only by their 
natural qualities or their difficulty, giving the preference to what 
is conspicuous or brilliant. Such men forget that Christian 
virtues, which are God's inspirations, should be viewed from the 
side of grace, not that of nature. The dignity and difficulty of a 
good action certainly affects what is technically called its acci- 
dental worth, but all its essential worth comes from love alone. 

Jean Pierre Camus 
(quoting St. Franfois de Sales) 

The saint is one who knows that every moment of our human 
life is a moment of crisis; for at every moment we are called 
upon to make an all-important decision to choose between 
the way that leads to death and spiritual darkness and the way 
that leads towards light and life ; between interests exclusively 
temporal and the eternal order; between our personal will, or 
the will of some projection of our personality, and the will of 
God. In order to fit himself to deal with the emergencies of 
his way of life, the saint undertakes appropriate training of 
mind and body, just as the soldier does. But whereas the objec- 
tives of military training are limited and very simple, namely, 
to make men courageous, cool-headed and co-operatively effi- 
cient in the business of killing other men, with whom, person- 
ally, they have no quarrel, the objectives of spiritual training 



54 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

are much less narrowly specialized. Here the aim is primarily 
to bring human beings to a state in which, because there are 
no longer any God-eclipsing obstacles between themselves and 
Reality, they are able to be aware continuously of the divine 
Ground of their own and all other beings ; secondarily, as a 
means to this end, to meet all, even the most trivial circum- 
stances of daily living, without malice, greed, self-assertion or 
voluntary ignorance, but consistently with love and under- 
standing. Because its objectives are not limited, because, for 
the lover of God, every moment is a moment of crisis, spiritual 
training is incomparably more difficult and searching than 
military training. There are many good soldiers, few 
saints. 

We have seen that, in critical emergencies, soldiers specifi- 
cally trained to cope with that kind of thing tend to forget the 
inborn and acquired idiosyncrasies with which they normally 
identify their being and, transcending selfness, to behave in the 
same, one-pointed, better-than-personal way. What is true of 
soldiers is also true of saints, but with this important difference 
that the aim of spiritual training is to make people become 
selfless in every circumstance of life, while the aim of military 
training is to make them selfless only in certain very special 
circumstances and in relation to only certain classes of human 
beings. This could not be otherwise ; for all that we are and 
will and do depends, in the last analysis, upon what we believe 
the Nature of Things to be. The philosophy that rationalizes 
power politics and justifies war and military training is always 
(whatever the official religion of the politicians and war makers) 
some wildly unrealistic doctrine of national, racial or ideo- 
logical idolatry, having, as its inevitable corollaries, the 
notions of Herrenvolk and 'the lesser breeds without the 
Law.' 

The biographies of the saints testify unequivocally to the 
fact that spiritual training leads to a transcendence of personal- 
ity, not merely in the special circumstances of battle, but in all 
circumstances and in relation to all creatures, so that the saint 
'loves his enemies' or, if he is a Buddhist, does not even recog- 



PERSONALITY, SANCTITY, INCARNATION 55 

nize the existence of enemies, but treats all sentient beings, 
sub-human as well as human, with the same compassion and 
disinterested goodwill. Those who win through to the unitive 
knowledge of God set out upon their course from the most 
diverse starting points. One is a man, another a woman ; one 
a born active, another a born contemplative. No two of them 
inherit the same temperament and physical constitution, and 
their lives are passed in material, moral and intellectual environ- 
ments that are profoundly dissimilar. Nevertheless, in so far as 
they are saints, in so far as they possess the unitive knowledge 
that makes them 'perfect as their Father which is in heaven is 
perfect, 3 they are all astonishingly alike. Their actions are 
uniformly selfless and they are constantly recollected, so that 
at every moment they know who they are and what is their 
true relation to the universe and its spiritual Ground. Of even 
plain average people it may be said that their name is Legion 
much more so of exceptionally complex personalities, who 
identify themselves with a wide diversity of moods, cravings 
and opinions. Saints, on the contrary, are neither double- 
minded nor half-hearted, but single and, however great their 
intellectual gifts, profoundly simple. The multiplicity of 
Legion has given place to one-pointedness not to any of 
those evil one-pointednesses of ambition or covetousness, or 
lust for power and fame, not even to any of the nobler, but 
still all too human one-pointednesses of art, scholarship and 
science, regarded as ends in themselves, but to the supreme, 
more than human one-pointedness that is the very being of 
those souls who consciously and consistently pursue man's 
final end, the knowledge of eternal Reality. In one of the Pali 
scriptures there is a significant anecdote about the Brahman 
Drona who, 'seeing the Blessed One sitting at the foot of a 
tree, asked him, "Are you a deva?" And the Exalted One 
answered, "I am not." "Are you a ganJharva?" "I am 
not." "Areyouayafo^z?" "I am not." "Are you a man?" 
" I am not a man." On the Brahman asking what he might be, 
the Blessed One replied, "Those evil influences, those cravings, 
whose non-destruction would have individualized me as a 



56 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

deva,) agand/iarva, zyaksha (three types of supernatural being), 
or a man, I have completely annihilated. Know therefore that 
I am Buddha." 5 

Here we may remark in passing that it is only the one- 
pointed who are truly capable of worshipping one God. 
Monotheism as a theory can be entertained even by a person 
whose name is Legion. But when it comes to passing from 
theory to practice, from discursive knowledge about to imme- 
diate acquaintance with the one God, there cannot be mono- 
theism except wherp there is singleness of heart. Knowledge 
is in the knower according to the mode of the knower. Where 
the knower is poly-psychic the universe he knows by imme- 
diate experience is polytheistic. The Buddha declined to make 
any statement in regard to the ultimate divine Reality. All 
he would talk about was nirvana^ which is the name of the 
experience that comes to the totally selfless and one-pointed. 
To this same experience others have given the name of union 
with Brahman, with Al Haqq, with the immanent and tran- 
scendent Godhead. Maintaining, in this matter, the attitude 
of a strict operationalist, the Buddha would speak only of the 
spiritual experience, not of the metaphysical entity presumed 
by the theologians of other religions, as also of later Buddhism, 
to be the object and (since in contemplation the knower, the 
known and the knowledge are all one) at the same time the 
subject and substance of that experience. 

When a man lacks discrimination, his will wanders in all direc- 
tions, after innumerable aims. Those who lack discrimination 
may quote the letter of the scripture ; but they are really denying 
its inner truth. They are full of worldly desires and hungry for 
the rewards of heaven. They use beautiful figures of speech; 
they teach elaborate rituals, which are supposed to obtain pleasure 
and power for those who practise them. But, actually, they 
understand nothing except the law of Karma that chains men to 
rebirth. 

Those whose discrimination is stolen away by such talk grow 
deeply attached to pleasure and power. And so they are unable 



PERSONALITY, SANCTITY, INCARNATION 57 

to develop that one-pointed concentration of the will, which leads 
a man to absorption in God. 

Bhagavad-Gita 

Among the cultivated and mentally active, hagiography is now 
a very unpopular form of literature. The fact is not at all sur- 
prising. The cultivated and the mentally active have an in- 
satiable appetite for novelty, diversity and distraction. But the 
saints, however commanding their talents and whatever the 
nature of their professional activities, are all incessantly pre- 
occupied with only one subject spiritual Reality and the 
means by which they and their fellows can come to the unitive 
knowledge of that Reality. And as for their actions these are 
as monotonously uniform as their thoughts ; for in all circum- 
stances they behave selflessly, patiently and with indefatigable 
charity. No wonder, then, if the biographies of such men and 
women remain unread. For one well-educated person who 
knows anything about William Law there are two or three 
hundred who have read Bosweirs life of his younger contem- 
porary. Why? Because, until he actually lay dying, Johnson 
indulged himself in the most fascinating of multiple personali- 
ties ; whereas Law, for all the superiority of his talents, was 
almost absurdly simple and single-minded. Legion prefers to 
read about Legion. It is for this reason that, in die whole 
repertory of epic, drama and the novel, there are hardly any 
representations of true theocentric saints. 

O Friend, hope for Him whilst you live, know whilst you live, 
understand whilst you live ; for in life deliverance abides. 

If your bonds be not broken whilst living, what hope of deliver- 
ance in death ? 

It is but an empty dream that the soul shall have union with Him 
because it has passed from the body; 

If He is found now, He is found then ; 

If not, we do but go to dwell in the City of Death. 

Kabir 

This figure in the form of a sun (the description is of the engraved 



j8 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

frontispiece to the first edition of The Rule of Perfection) repre- 
sents the will of God. The faces placed here in the sun represent 
souls living in the divine will. These faces are arranged in three 
concentric circles, showing the three degrees of this divine will. 
The first or outermost degree signifies the souls of the active life ; 
the second, those of the life of contemplation; the third, those of 
the life of supereminence. Outside the first circle are many tools, 
such as pincers and hammers, denoting the active life. But round 
the second circle we have placed nothing at all, in order to signify 
that in this kind of contemplative life, without any other specula- 
tions or practices, one must follow the leading of the will of God. 
The tools are on the ground and in shadow, inasmuch as outward 
works are in themselves full of darkness. These tools, however, 
are touched by a ray of the sun, to show that works may be 
enlightened and illuminated by the will of God. 

The light of the divine will shines but little on the faces of the 
first circle ; much more on those of the second ; while those of 
the third or innermost circle are resplendent. The features of the 
first show up most clearly ; the second, less; the third, hardly at 
all. This signifies that the souls of the first degree are much in 
themselves; those of the second degree are less in themselves and 
more in God ; those in the third degree are almost nothing in 
themselves and all in God, absorbed in his essential will. All 
these faces have their eyes fixed on the will of God. 

Benet ofCanfield 

It is in virtue of his absorption in God and just because he has 
not identified his being with the inborn and acquired elements 
of his private personality, that the saint is able to exercise his 
entirely non-coercive and therefore entirely beneficent in- 
fluence on individuals and even on whole societies. Or, to be 
more accurate, it is because he has purged himself of selfness 
that divine Reality is able to use him as a channel of grace and 
power. *I live, yet not I, but Christ the eternal Logos 
liveth in me.' True of the saint, this must a fortiori be true of 
the Avatar, or incarnation of God. If, in so far as he was a 
saint, St. Paul was 'not I/ then certainly Christ was 'not P; 



PERSONALITY, SANCTITY, INCARNATION 59 

and to talk, as so many liberal churchmen now do, of worship- 
ping 'the personality of Jesus/ is an absurdity. For, obvi- 
ously, had Jesus remained content merely to have a person- 
ality, like the rest of us, he would never have exercised the 
kind of influence which in fact he did exercise, and it would 
never have occurred to anyone to regard him as a divine 
incarnation and to identify him with the Logos. That he 
came to be thought of as the Christ was due to the fact that 
he had passed beyond selfness and had become the bodily and 
mental conduit through which a more than personal, super- 
natural life flowed down into the world. 

Souls which have come to the unitive knowledge of God 
are, in Benet of Canfield's phrase, 'almost nothing in them- 
selves and all in God.' This vanishing residue of selfness per- 
sists because, in some slight measure, they still identify their 
being with some innate psycho-physical idiosyncrasy, some 
acquired habit of thought or feeling, some convention or un- 
analysed prejudice current in the social environment. Jesus 
was almost wholly absorbed in the essential will of God ; but 
in spite of this, he may have retained some elements of self- 
ness. To what extent there was any T associated with the 
more-than-personal, divine 'Not-I,' it is very difficult, on the 
basis of the existing evidence, to judge. For example, did Jesus 
interpret his experience of divine Reality and his own spon- 
taneous inferences from that experience in terms of those fascin- 
ating apocalyptic notions current in contemporary Jewish 
circles ? Some eminent scholars have argued that the doctrine 
of the world's imminent dissolution was the central core of his 
teaching. Others, equally learned, have held that it was attri- 
buted to him by the authors of the Synoptic Gospels, and that 
Jesus himself did not identify his experience and his theo- 
logical thinking with locally popular opinions. Which party 
is right? Goodness knows. On this subject, as on so many 
others, the existing evidence does not permit of a certain and 
unambiguous answer. 

The moral of all this is plain. The quantity and quality of 
the surviving biographical documents are such that we have 



6o THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

no means of knowing what the residual personality of Jesus 
was really like. But if the Gospels tell us very little about the 
'P which was Jesus, they make up for this deficiency by telling 
us inferentially, in the parables and discourses, a good deal 
about the spiritual 'not-I,' whose manifest presence in the 
mortal man was the reason why his disciples called him the 
Christ and identified him with the eternal Logos. 

The biography of a saint or avatar is valuable only in so far 
as it throws light upon the means by which in the circum- 
stances of a particular human life, the T was purged away 
so as to make room for the divine 'not-I.' The authors of the 
Synoptic Gospels did not choose to write such a biography, 
and no amount of textual criticism or ingenious surmise can 
call it into existence. In the course of the last hundred years 
an enormous sum of energy has been expended on the attempt 
to make documents yield more evidence than in fact they con- 
tain. However regrettable may be the Synoptists' lack of 
interest in biography, and whatever objections may be raised 
against the theologies of Paul and John, there can still be no 
doubt that their instinct was essentially sound. Each in his 
own way wrote about the eternal 'not-P of Christ rather than 
the historical T; each in his own way stressed that element 
in the life of Jesus, in which, because it is more-than-personal, 
all persons can participate. (The nature of selfness is such 
that one person cannot be a part of another person. A self 
can contain or be contained by something that is either less 
or more than a self, it can never contain or be contained by 
a self.) 

The doctrine that God can be incarnated in human form 
is found in most of the principal historic expositions of the 
Perennial Philosophy in Hinduism, in Mahayana Buddhism, 
in Christianity and in the Mohammedanism of the Sufis, by 
whom the Prophet was equated with the eternal Logos. 

When goodness grows weak, 
When evil increases, 
I make myself a body. 



PERSONALITY, SANCTITY, INCARNATION 61 

In every age I come back 
To deliver the holy, 
To destroy the sin of the sinner, 
To establish righteousness. 

He who knows the nature 
Of my task and my holy birth 
Is not reborn 

When he leaves this body; 
He comes to Me. 

Flying from fear, 

From lust and anger, 

He hides in Me, 

His refuge and safety. 

Burnt clean in the blaze of my being, 

In Me many find home. 

Bhagavad-Gita 

Then the Blessed One spoke and said: 'Know, Vasetha, that 
from time to time a Tathagata is born into the world, a fully 
Enlightened One, blessed and worthy, abounding in wisdom and 
goodness, happy with knowledge of the worlds, unsurpassed as a 
guide to erring mortals, a teacher of gods and men, a Blessed 
Buddha. He thoroughly understands this universe, as though he 
saw it face to face. . . . The Truth does he proclaim both in its 
letter and in its spirit, lovely in its origin, lovely in its progress, 
lovely in its consummation. A higher life doth he make known 
in all its purity and in all its perfectness. 

Tevigga Sutta 

Krishna is an incarnation of Brahman, Gautama Buddha of 
what the Mahayanists called the Dharmakaya, Suchness, Mind, 
the spiritual Ground of all being. The Christian doctrine of 
the incarnation of the Godhead in human form differs from that 
of India and the Far East inasmuch as it affirms that there has 
been and can be only one Avatar. 



62 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

What we do depends in large measure upon what we think, 
and if what we do is evil, there is good empirical reason for 
supposing that our thought-patterns are inadequate to material, 
mental or spiritual reality. Because Christians believed that 
there had been only one Avatar, Christian history has been dis- 
graced by more and bloodier crusades, interdenominational 
wars, persecutions and proselytizing imperialism than has the 
history of Hinduism and Buddhism. Absurd and idolatrous 
doctrines, affirming the quasi-divine nature of sovereign states 
and their rulers, have led oriental, no less than Western, peoples 
into innumerable political wars; but because they have not 
believed in an exclusive revelation at one sole instant of time, 
or in the quasi-divinity of an ecclesiastical organization, oriental 
peoples have kept remarkably clear of the mass murder for 
religion's sake, which has been so dreadfully frequent in Chris- 
tendom. And while, in this important respect, the level of 
public morality has been lower in the West than in the East, 
the levels of exceptional sanctity and of ordinary individual 
morality have not, so far as one can judge from the available 
evidence, been any higher. If the tree is indeed known by its 
fruits, Christianity's departure from the norm of the Perennial 
Philosophy would seem to be philosophically unjustifiable. 

The Logos passes out of eternity into time for no other 
purpose than to assist the beings, whose bodily form he takes, 
to pass out of time into eternity. If the Avatar's appearance 
upon the stage of history is enormously important, this is due 
to the fact that by his teaching he points out, and by his being 
a channel of grace and divine power he actually is, the mejns 
by which human beings may transcend the limitations of his- 
tory. The author of the Fourth Gospel affirms that the Word 
became flesh; but in another passage he adds that the flesh 
profiteth nothing nothing, that is to say, in itself, but a great 
deal, of course, as a means to the union with immanent and 
transcendent Spirit. In this context it is very interesting to 
consider the development of Buddhism. ' Under the forms of 
religious or mystical imagery,' writes R. E. Johnston in his 
Buddhist China^ * the Mahayana expresses the universal, whereas 



PERSONALITY, SANCTITY, INCARNATION 63 

Hinayana cannot set itself free from the domination of histor- 
ical fact.' In the words of an eminent orientalist, Ananda K. 
Coomaraswamy, 'The Mahayanist believer is warned pre- 
cisely as the worshipper of Krishna is warned in the Vaishna- 
vite scriptures that the Krishna Lila is not a history, but a 
process for ever unfolded in the heart of man that matters of 
historical fact are without religious significance' (except, we 
should add, in so far as they point to or themselves constitute 
the means whether remote or proximate, whether political, 
ethical or spiritual by which men may come to deliverance 
from selfness and the temporal order.) 

In the West, the mystics went some way towards liberating 
Christianity from its unfortunate servitude to historic fact (or, 
to be more accurate, to those various mixtures of contemporary 
record with subsequent inference and phantasy, which have, at 
different epochs, been accepted as historic fact). From the 
writings of Eckhart, Tauler and Ruysbroeck, of Boehme, 
William Law and the Quakers, it would be possible to extract 
a spiritualized and universalized Christianity, whose narratives 
should refer, not to history as it was, or as someone afterwards 
thought it ought to be, but to ' processes forever unfolded in 
the heart of man.' But unfortunately the influence of the 
mystics was never powerful enough to bring about a radical 
Mahayanist revolution in the West. In spite of them, Chris- 
tianity has remained a religion in which the pure Perennial 
Philosophy has been overlaid, now more, now less, by an 
idolatrous preoccupation with events and things in time 
events and things regarded not merely as useful means, but as 
ends, intrinsically sacred and indeed divine. Moreover, such 
improvements on history as were made in the course of cen- 
turies were, most imprudently, treated as though they them- 
selves were a part of history a procedure which put a power- 
ful weapon into the hands of Protestant and, later, of Rational- 
ist controversialists. How much wiser it would have been to 
admit the perfectly avowable fact that, when the sternness of 
Christ the Judge had been unduly emphasized, men and women 
felt the need of personifying the divine compassion in a new 



64 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

form, with the result that the figure of the Virgin, mediatrix 
to the mediator, came into increased prominence. And when, 
in course of time, the Queen of Heaven was felt to be too awe- 
inspiring, compassion was re-personified in the homely figure 
of St. Joseph, who thus became mediator to the mediatrix to 
the mediator. In exactly the same way Buddhist worshippers 
felt that the historic Sakyamuni, with his insistence on recol- 
lectedness, discrimination and a total dying to self as the prin- 
cipal means of liberation, was too stern and too intellectual. 
The result was that the love and compassion which Sakyamuni 
had also inculcated came to be personified in Buddhas such as 
Amida and Maitreya divine characters completely removed 
from history, inasmuch as their temporal career was situated 
somewhere in the distant past or distant future. Here it may 
be remarked that the vast numbers of Buddhas and Bodhis- 
attvas, of whom the Mahayanist theologians speak, are com- 
mensurate with the vastness of their cosmology. Time, for 
them, is beginningless, and the innumerable universes, every 
one of them supporting sentient beings of every possible 
variety, are born, evolve, decay and die, only to repeat the 
same cycle again and again, until the final inconceivably 
remote consummation, when every sentient being in all the 
worlds shall have won to deliverance out of time into eternal 
Suchness or Buddhahood. This cosmological background to 
Buddhism has affinities with the world picture of modern 
astronomy especially with that version of it offered in the 
recently published theory of Dr. Weiszacker regarding the 
formation of planets. If the Weiszacker hypothesis is correct, 
the production of a planetary system would be a normal epi- 
sode in the life of every star. There are forty thousand million 
stars in our own galactic system alone, and beyond our galaxy 
other galaxies, indefinitely. If, as we have no choice but to 
believe, spiritual laws governing consciousness are uniform 
throughout the whole planet-bearing and presumably life- 
supporting universe, then certainly there is plenty of room, and 
at the same time, no doubt, the most agonizing and desperate 
need, for those innumerable redemptive incarnations of Such- 



PERSONALITY, SANCTITY, INCARNATION 65 

ness, upon whose shining multitudes the Mahayanists love to 
dwell. 

For my part, I think the chief reason which prompted the invis- 
ible God to become visible in the flesh and to hold converse with 
men was to lead carnal men, who are only able to love carnally, 
to the healthful love of his flesh, and afterwards, little by little, to 
spiritual love. 

St. Bernard 

St. Bernard's doctrine of 'the carnal love of Christ' has been 
admirably summed up by Professor Etienne Gilson in his book, 
The Mystical Theology of St. Bernard. 'Knowledge of self 
already expanded into social carnal love of the neighbour, so 
like oneself in misery, is now a second time expanded into a 
carnal love of Christ, the model of compassion, since for our 
salvation He has become the Man of Sorrows. Here then is the 
place occupied in Cistercian mysticism by the meditation on the 
visible Humanity of Christ. It is but a beginning, but an 
absolutely necessary beginning Charity, of course, is essen- 
tially spiritual, and a love of this kind can be no more than its 
first moment. It is too much bound up with the senses, unless 
we know how to make use of it with prudence, and to lean on 
it only as something to be surpassed. In expressing himself 
thus, Bernard merely codified the teachings of his own experi- 
ence ; for we have it from him that he was much given to the 
practice of this sensitive love at the outset of his "conversion"; 
later on he was to consider it an advance to have passed beyond 
it ; not, that is to say, to have forgotten it, but to have added 
another, which outweighs it as the rational and spiritual out- 
weigh the carnal. Nevertheless, this beginning is already a 
summit. 

' This sensitive affection for Christ was always presented by 
St. Bernard as love of a relatively inferior order. It is so pre- 
cisely on account of its sensitive character, for charity is of a 
purely spiritual essence. In right the soul should be able to 
enter directly into union, in virtue of its spiritual powers, with 



66 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

a God Who is pure spirit. The Incarnation, moreover, should 
be regarded as one of the consequences of man's transgression, 
so that love for the Person of Christ is, as a matter of fact, 
bound up with the history of a fall which need not, and should 
not, have happened. St. Bernard furthermore, and in several 
places, notes that this affection cannot stand safely alone, but 
needs to be supported by what he calls "science." He had 
examples before him of the deviations into which even the 
most ardent devotion can fall, when it is not allied with, and 
ruled by, a sane theology.' 

Can the many fantastic and mutually incompatible theories 
of expiation and atonement, which have been grafted on to the 
Christian doctrine of divine incarnation, be regarded as indis- 
pensable elements in a 'sane theology'? I find it difficult to 
imagine how anyone who has looked into a history of these 
notions, as expounded, for example, by the author of the Epistle 
to the Hebrews, by Athanasius and Augustine, by Anselm and 
Luther, by Calvin and Grotius, can plausibly answer this ques- 
tion in the affirmative. In the present context, it will be enough 
to call attention to one of the bitterest of all the bitter ironies 
of history. For the Christ of the Gospels, lawyers seemed 
further from the Kingdom of Heaven, more hopelessly imper- 
vious to Reality, than almost any other class of human beings 
except the rich. But Christian theology, especially that of the 
Western churches, was the product of minds imbued with 
Jewish and Roman legalism. In all too many instances the 
immediate insights of the Avatar and the theocentric saint were 
rationalized into a system, not by philosophers, but by specu- 
lative barristers and metaphysical jurists. Why should what 
Abbot John Chapman calls 'the problem of reconciling (not 
merely uniting) Mysticism and Christianity' be so extremely 
difficult? Simply because so much Roman and Protestant 
thinking was done by those very lawyers whom Christ re- 
garded as being peculiarly incapable of understanding the true 
Nature of Things. * The Abbot (Chapman is apparently refer- 
ring to Abbot Marmion) says St. John of the Cross is like a 
sponge full of Christianity. You can squeeze it all out, and the 



PERSONALITY, SANCTITY, INCARNATION 67 

full mystical theory (in other words, the pure Perennial Philo- 
sophy) remains. Consequently for fifteen years or so I hated 
St. John of the Cross and called him a Buddhist. I loved St. 
Teresa and read her over and over again. She is first a Chris- 
tian, only secondarily a mystic. Then I found I had wasted 
fifteen years, so far as prayer was concerned/ 

Now see the meaning of these two sayings of Christ's. The one, 
'No man cometh unto the Father but by me,' that is through my 
life. The other saying, 'No man cometh unto me except the 
Father draw him* ; that is, he does not take my life upon him and 
follow after me, except he is moved and drawn of my Father, that 
is, of the Simple and Perfect Good, of which St. Paul saith, 
'When that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall 
be done away/ 

Theologia Germanica 

In other words, there must be imitation of Christ before there 
can be identification with the Father; and there must be essen- 
tial identity or likeness between the human spirit and the God 
who is Spirit in order that the idea of imitating the earthly 
behaviour of the incarnate Godhead should ever cross any- 
body's mind. Christian theologians speak of the possibility of 
' deification,' but deny that there is identity of substance between 
spiritual Reality and the human spirit. In Vedanta and Maha- 
yana Buddhism, as also among the Sufis, spirit and Spirit are 
held to be the same substance; Atman is Brahman; That art 
thou. 

When not enlightened, Buddhas are no other than ordinary 
beings; when there is enlightenment, ordinary beings at once 
turn into Buddhas. 

Hid Neng 

Every human being can thus become an Avatar by adoption, 
but not by his unaided efforts. He must be shown the way, 
and he must be aided by divine grace. That men and women 



68 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

may be thus instructed and helped, the Godhead assumes the 
form of an ordinary human being, who has to earn deliverance 
and enlightenment in the way that is prescribed by the divine 
Nature of Things namely, by charity, by a total dying to self 
and a total, one-pointed awareness. Thus enlightened, the 
Avatar can reveal the way of enlightenment to others and 
help them actually to become what they already potentially 
are. Tel quen Lui-meme enfin Veternitt le change. And of 
course the eternity which transforms us into Ourselves is not 
the experience of mere persistence after bodily death. There 
will be no experience of timeless Reality then, unless there 
is the same or a similar knowledge within the world of time 
and matter. By precept and by example, the Avatar teaches 
that this transforming knowledge is possible, that all sentient 
beings are called to it and that, sooner or later, in one way 
or another, all must finally come to it. 



Chapter 4 
GOD IN THE WORLD 

'HPHAT art thou': 'Behold but One in all things' God 
X within and God without. There is a way to Reality in 
and through the soul, and there is a way to Reality in and 
through the world. Whether the ultimate goal can be reached 
by following either of these ways to the exclusion of the other 
is to be doubted. The third, best and hardest way is that which 
leads to the divine Ground simultaneously in the perceiver and 
in that which is perceived. 

The Mind is no other than the Buddha, and Buddha is no other 
than sentient being. When Mind assumes the form of a sentient 
being, it has suffered no decrease ; when it has become a Buddha, 
it has added nothing to itself. 

Huang-Po 

All creatures have existed eternally in the divine essence, as in 
their exemplar. So far as they conform to the divine idea, all 
beings were, before their creation, one thing with the essence of 
God. (God creates into time what was and is in eternity.) Eter- 
nally, all creatures are God in God. ... So far as they are in God, 
they are the same life, the same essence, the same power, the same 
One, and nothing less. 

Suso 

The image of God is found essentially and personally in all man- 
kind. Each possesses it whole, entire and undivided, and all 
together not more than one alone. In this way we are all one, 
intimately united in our eternal image, which is the image of God 
and the source in us of all our life. Our created essence and our 
life are attached to it without mediation as to their eternal cause. 

Ruysbroeck 

69 



When is a man in mere understanding ? I answer, ' When a man 
sees one thing separated from another.' And when is a man 
above mere understanding? That I can tell you : ' When a man 
sees All in all, then a man stands beyond mere understanding/ 

Eckhart 

There are four kinds of Dhyana (spiritual disciplines). What are 
these four ? They are, first, the Dhyana practised by the igno- 
rant; second, the Dhyana devoted to the examination of mean- 
ing; third, the Dhyana with Suchness for its object; fourth, the 
Dhyana of the Tathagatas (Buddhas). 

What is meant by the Dhyana practised by the ignorant ? It is 
the one resorted to by the Yogins who exercise themselves in the 
disciplines of Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas (contemplatives and 
'solitary Buddhas' of the Hinayana school), who perceiving that 
there is no ego substance, that the body is a shadow and a skeleton 
which is transient, impure and full of suffering, persistently cling 
to these notions, which are regarded as just so and not otherwise, 
and who, starting from them, advance by stages until they reach 
the cessation, where there are no thoughts. This is called the 
Dhyana practised by the ignorant. 

What then is the Dhyana devoted to the examination of mean- 
ing? It is the one practised by those who, having gone beyond 
the egolessness of things, beyond individuality and generality, 
beyond the untenability of such ideas as 'self,' ' other* and 'both/ 
which are held by the philosophers, proceed to examine and fol- 
low up the meaning of the various aspects of Bodhisattvahood. 
This is the Dhyana devoted to the examination of meaning. 



When followers of Zen fail to go beyond the world of their senses 
and thoughts, all their doings and movements are of no signifi- 
cance. But when the senses and thoughts are annihilated, all the 
passages to Universal Mind are blocked, and no entrance then 
becomes possible. The original Mind is to be recognized along 
with the working of the senses and thoughts only it does not 
belong to them, nor yet is it independent of them. Do not build 
up your views upon your senses and thoughts, do not base your 
understanding upon your senses and thoughts ; but at the same 
time do not seek the Mind away from your senses and thoughts, 
do not try to grasp Reality by rejecting your senses and thoughts. 
When you are neither attached to, nor detached from, them, then 
you enjoy your perfect unobstructed freedom, then you have 
your seat of enlightenment. 

Huang-Po 

Every individual being, from the atom up to the most highly 
organized of living bodies and the most exalted of finite minds, 
may be thought of, in Rene Guenon's phrase, as a point where 
a ray of the primordial Godhead meets one of the differenti- 
ated, creaturely emanations of that same Godhead's creative 
energy. The creature, as creature, may be very far from God, 
in the sense that it lacks the intelligence to discover the nature 
of the divine Ground of its being. But the creature in its 



72 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

eternal essence as the meeting place of creatureliness and 
primordial Godhead is one of the infinite number of points 
where divine Reality is wholly and eternally present. Because 
of this, rational beings can come to the unitive knowledge of 
the divine Ground, non-rational and inanimate beings may 
reveal to rational beings the fullness of God's presence within 
their material forms. The poet's or the painter's vision of the 
divine in nature, the worshipper's awareness of a holy presence 
in the sacrament, symbol or image these are not entirely sub- 
jective. True, such perceptions cannot be had by all per- 
ceivers, for knowledge is a function of being; but the thing 
known is independent of the mode and nature of the knower. 
What the poet and painter see, and try to record for us, is 
actually there, waiting to be apprehended by anyone who has 
the right kind of faculties. Similarly, in the image or the sacra- 
mental object the divine Ground is wholly present. Faith and 
devotion prepare the worshipper's mind for perceiving the ray 
of Godhead at its point of intersection with the particular 
fragment of matter before him. Incidentally, by being wor- 
shipped, such symbols become the centres of a field offeree. 
The longings, emotions and imaginations of those who kneel 
and, for generations, have knelt before the shrine create, as it 
were, an enduring vortex in the psychic medium, so that the 
image lives with a secondary, inferior divine life projected on 
to it by its worshippers, as well as with the primary divine life 
which, in common with all other animate and inanimate beings, 
it possesses in virtue of its relation to the divine Ground. The 
religious experience of sacramentalists and image worshippers 
may be perfectly genuine and objective ; but it is not always 
or necessarily an experience of God or the Godhead. It may 
be, and perhaps in most cases it actually is, an experience of 
the field of force generated by the minds of past and present 
worshippers and projected on to the sacramental object where 
it sticks, so to speak, in a condition of what may be called 
second-hand objectivity, waiting to be perceived by minds 
suitably attuned to it. How desirable this kind of experience 
really is will have to be discussed in another section. All that 



GOD IN THE WORLD 73 

need be said here is that the iconoclast's contempt for sacra- 
ments and symbols, as being nothing but mummery with 
stocks and stones, is quite unjustified. 

The workmen still in doubt what course to take. 
Whether I'd best a saint or hog-trough make, 
After debate resolved me for a saint; 
And so famed Loyola I represent. 

The all too Protestant satirist forgot that God is in the hog- 
trough no less than in the conventionally sacred image. 'Lift 
the stone and you will find me/ affirms the best known of 
the Oxyrhinchus Logia of Jesus, ' cleave the wood, and I am 
there.' Those who have personally and immediately realized 
the truth of this saying and, along with it, the truth of 
Brahmanism's 'That art thou' are wholly delivered. 

The Sravaka (literally 'hearer,' the name given by Mahayana 
Buddhists to contemplatives of the Hinayana school) fails to per- 
ceive that Mind, as it is in itself, has no stages, no causation. 
Disciplining himself in the cause, he has attained the result and 
abides in the samadhi (contemplation) of Emptiness for ever so 
many aeons. However enlightened in this way, the Sravaka is 
not at all on the right track. From the point of view of the 
Bodhisattva, this is like suffering the torture of hell. The Sravaka 
has buried himself in Emptiness and does not know how to get 
out of his quiet contemplation, for he has no insight into the 
Buddha-nature itself. 

Mo Tsu 

When Enlightenment is perfected, a Bodhisattva is free from the 
bondage of things, but does not seek to be delivered from things. 
Samsara (the world of becoming) is not hated by him, nor is 
Nirvana loved. When perfect Enlightenment shines, it is neither 
bondage nor deliverance. 

Prunabuddha-sutra 



74 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

The touch of Earth is always reinvigorating to the son of Earth, 
even when he seeks a supraphysical Knowledge. It may even be 
said that the supraphysical can only be really mastered in its full- 
ness to its heights we can always reach when we keep our feet 
firmly on the physical. 'Earth is His footing/ says the Upani- 
shad, whenever it images the Self that manifests in the universe. 

Sri Aurobtndo 

'To its heights we can always come/ For those of us who 
are still splashing about in the lower ooze, the phrase has a 
rather ironical ring. Nevertheless, in the light of even the most 
distant acquaintance with the heights and the fullness, it is pos- 
sible to understand what its author means. To discover the 
Kingdom of God exclusively within oneself is easier than to 
discover it, not only there, but also in the outer world of minds 
and things and living creatures. It is easier because the heights 
within reveal themselves to those who are ready to exclude 
from their purview all that lies without. And though this 
exclusion may be a painful and mortificatory process, the fact 
remains that it is less arduous than the process of inclusion, by 
which we come to know the fullness as well as the heights of 
spiritual life. Where there is exclusive concentration on the 
heights within, temptations and distractions are avoided and 
there is a general denial and suppression. But when the hope is 
to know God inclusively to realize the divine Ground in the 
world as well as in the soul, temptations and distractions must 
not be avoided, but submitted to and used as opportunities 
for advance ; there must be no suppression of outward- turning 
activities, but a transformation of them so that they become 
sacramental. Mortification becomes more searching and more 
subtle; there is need of unsleeping awareness and, on the 
levels of thought, feeling and conduct, the constant exercise 
of something like an artist's tact and taste. 

It is in the literature of Mahayana and especially of Zen 
Buddhism that we find the best account of the psychology of 
the man for whom samsara and nirvana, time and eternity, 
are one and the same. More systematically perhaps than any 



GOD IN THE WORLD 75 

other religion, the Buddhism of the Far East teaches the way 
to spiritual Knowledge in its fullness as well as in its heights, 
in and through the world as well as in and through the soul. 
In this context we may point to a highly significant fact, which 
is that the incomparable landscape painting of China and Japan 
was essentially a religious art, inspired by Taoism and Zen 
Buddhism ; in Europe, on the contrary, landscape painting and 
the poetry of 'nature worship' were secular arts which arose 
when Christianity was in decline, and derived little or no 
inspiration from Christian ideals. 

'Blind, deaf, dumb! 

Infinitely beyond the reach of imaginative contrivances ! ' 
In these lines Seccho has swept everything away for you what 
you see together with what you do not see, what you hear to- 
gether with what you do not hear, and what you talk about 
together with what you cannot talk about. All these are com- 
pletely brushed off, and you attain the life of the blind, deaf and 
dumb. Here all your imaginations, contrivances and calculations 
are once and for all put an end to ; they are no more made use of. 
This is where lies the highest point of Zen, this is where we have 
true blindness, true deafness and true dumbness, each in its artless 
and effectless aspect. 

'Above the heavens and below the heavens! 

How ludicrous, how disheartening ! ' 

Here Seccho lifts up with one hand and with the other puts down. 
Tell me what he finds to be ludicrous, what he finds to be dis- 
heartening. It is ludicrous that this dumb person is not dumb 
after all, that this deaf person is not after all deaf; it is dishearten- 
ing that the one who is not at all blind is blind for all that, and 
that the one who is not at all deaf is deaf for all that. 

'Li-lou does not know how to discriminate right colour.' 
Li-lou lived in the reign of the Emperor Huang. He is said to 
have been able to distinguish the point of a soft hair at a distance 
of one hundred paces. His eyesight was extraordinary. When 
the Emperor Huang took a pleasure cruise on the River Ch'ih, he 
dropped his precious jewel in the water and made Li fetch it up. 



76 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

But he failed. The Emperor made Ch'ih-kou search for it; but 
he also failed to find it. Later Hsiang-wang was ordered to get 
it, and he got it. Hence, 

'When Hsiang-wang goes down, the precious gem shines 

most brilliantly; 
But where Li-lou walks about, the waves rise even to the 

sky.' 

When we come to these higher spheres, even the eyes of Li-lou 
are incapable of discriminating the right colour. 

'How can Shih-kuang recognize the mysterious tune?' 
Shih-kuang was the son of Ching-kuang of Chin in the province 
of Chiang under the Chou dynasty. His other name was Tzu- 
yeh. He could thoroughly distinguish the five sounds and the 
six notes; he could even hear the ants fighting on the other side 
of a hill. When Chin and Ch'u were at war, Shih-kuang could 
tell, just by softly fingering the strings of his lute, that the engage- 
ment would surely be unfavourable for Ch'u. In spite of his 
extraordinary sensitiveness Seccho declares that he is unable to 
recognize the mysterious time. After all, one who is not at all 
deaf is really deaf. The most exquisite note in the higher spheres 
is beyond the hearing of Shih-kuang. Says Seccho, I am not 
going to be a Li-lou, nor a Shih-kuang ; for 

'What life can compare with this? Sitting quietly by the 

window, 
I watch the leaves fall and the flowers bloom, as the seasons 

come and go.' 

When one reaches this stage of realization, seeing is no-seeing, 
hearing is no-hearing, preaching is no-preaching. When hungry 
one eats, when tired one sleeps. Let the leaves fall, let the flowers 
bloom as they like. When the leaves fall, I know it is the autumn ; 
when the flowers bloom, I know it is the spring. 

Having swept everything clean before you, Seccho now opens 
a passage-way, saying : 

' Do you understand, or not ? 
An iron bar without a hole ! ' 

He has done all he could for you ; he is exhausted only able to 
turn round and present you with this iron bar without a hole. It 



GOD IN THE WORLD 77 

is a most significant expression. Look and see with your own 
eyes ! If you hesitate, you miss the mark for ever. 

Yengo (the author of this commentary) now raised his staff 
and said, 'Do you see?' He then struck his chair and said, 'Do 
you hear?' Coming down from the chair, he said, 'Was any- 
thing talked about?' 

What precisely is the significance of that iron bar without a 
hole ? I do not pretend to know. Zen has always specialized 
in nonsense as a means of stimulating the mind to go forward 
to that which is beyond sense ; so perhaps the point of the 
bar resides precisely in its pointlessness and in our disturbed, 
bewildered reaction to that pointlessness. 

In the root divine Wisdom is all-Brahman ; in the stem she is all- 
Illusion; in the flower she is all- World; and in the fruit, all- 
Liberation. 

Tantra Tattva 

The Sravakas and the Pratyekabuddhas, when they reach the 
eighth stage of the Bodhisattva's discipline, become so intoxi- 
cated with the bliss of mental tranquillity that they fail to realize 
that the visible world is nothing but the Mind. They are still in 
the realm of individuation ; their insight is not yet pure. The 
Bodhisattvas, on the other hand, are alive to their original vows, 
flowing out of the all-embracing love that is in their hearts. They 
do not enter into Nirvana (as a state separate from the world of 
becoming) ; they know that the visible world is nothing but a 
manifestation of Mind itself. 

Condensed from the Lankavatara Sutra 

A conscious being alone understands what is meant bj^saaoftgU 
To those not endowed with consciousness the moyiftg ^f@if^ 

ligible. 
If you exercise yourself in the practice of eeni\f vonr mind 

unmoved, 
The immovable you gain is 



7 8 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

If you are desirous for the truly immovable, 

The immovable is in the moving itself, 

And this immovable is the truly immovable one. 

There is no seed of Buddhahood where there is no consciousness. 

Mark well how varied are the aspects of the immovable one, 

And know that the first reality is immovable. 

Only when this reality is attained 

Is the true working of Suchness understood. 

Hui Neng 

These phrases about the unmoving first mover remind one of 
Aristotle. But between Aristotle and the exponents of the 
Perennial Philosophy within the great religious traditions there 
is this vast difference : Aristotle is primarily concerned with 
cosmology, the Perennial Philosophers are primarily con- 
cerned with liberation and enlightenment : Aristotle is content 
to know about the unmoving mover, from the outside and 
theoretically; the aim of the Perennial Philosophers is to 
become directly aware of it, to know it unitively, so that they 
and others may actually become the unmoving One. This 
unitive knowledge can be knowledge in the heights, or know- 
ledge in the fullness, or knowledge simultaneously in the 
heights and the fullness. Spiritual knowledge exclusively in 
the heights of the soul was rejected by Mahayana Buddhism as 
inadequate. The similar rejection of quietism within the Chris- 
tian tradition will be touched upon in the section, ' Contempla- 
tion and Action/ Meanwhile it is interesting to find that the 
problem which aroused such acrimonious debate throughout 
seventeenth-century Europe had arisen for the Buddhists at a 
considerably earlier epoch. But whereas in Catholic Europe 
the outcome of the battle over Molinos, Mme Guyon and 
Fenelon was to all intents and purposes the extinction of 
mysticism for the best part of two centuries, in Asia the two 
parties were tolerant enough to agree to differ. Hinayana 
spirituality continued to explore the heights within, while the 
Mahayanist masters held up the ideal not of the Arhat, but of 



GOD IN THE WORLD 79 

the Bodhisattva, and pointed the way to spiritual knowledge 
in its fullness as well as in its heights. What follows is a 
poetical account, by a Zen saint of the eighteenth century, of 
the state of those who have realized the Zen ideal. 

Abiding with the non-particular which is in particulars, 
Going or returning, they remain for ever unmoved. 
Taking hold of the not-thought which lies in thoughts, 
In their every act they hear the voice of Truth. 
How boundless the sky of contemplation ! 
How transparent the moonlight of the four-fold Wisdom ! 
As the Truth reveals itself in its eternal tranquillity, 
This very earth is the Lotus-Land of Purity, 
And this body is the body of the Buddha. 

Hakuin 

Nature's intent is neither food, nor drink, nor clothing, nor com- 
fort, nor anything else from which God is left out. Whether 
you like it or not, whether you know it or not, secretly Nature 
seeks and hunts and tries to ferret out the track in which God 
may be found. 

Eckhart 

Any flea as it is in God is nobler than the highest of the angels in 
himself. 

Eckhart 

My inner man relishes things not as creatures but as the gift of 
God. But to my innermost man they savour not of God's gift, 
but of ever and aye. 

Eckhart 

Pigs eat acorns, but neither consider the sun that gave them life, 
nor the influence of the heavens by which they were nourished, 
nor the very root of the tree from whence they came. 

Thomas Traherne 



8o THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

Your enjoyment of the world is never right till every morning 
you awake in Heaven ; see yourself in your Father's palace; and 
look upon the skies, the earth and the air as celestial joys ; having 
such a reverend esteem of all, as if you were among the Angels. 
The bride of a monarch, in her husband's chamber, hath no 
such causes of delight as you. 

You never enjoy the world aright till the sea itself floweth in 
your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned 
with the stars ; and perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the 
whole world, and more than so, because men are in it who are 
every one sole heirs as well as you. Till you can sing and rejoice 
and delight in God, as misers do in gold, and kings in sceptres, 
you can never enjoy the world. 

Till your spirit filleth the whole world, and the stars are your 
jewels; till you are as familiar with the ways of God in all ages 
as with your walk and table; till you are intimately acquainted 
with that shady nothing out of which the world was made ; till 
you love men so as to desire their happiness with a thirst equal 
to the zeal of your own ; till you delight in God for being good 
to all; you never enjoy the world. Till you more feel it than 
your private estate, and are more present in the hemisphere, con- 
sidering the glories and the beauties there, than in your own 
house; till you remember how lately you were made, and how 
wonderful it was when you came into it; and more rejoice 
in the palace of your glory than if it had been made today 
morning. 

Yet further, you never enjoyed the world aright, till you so love 
the beauty of enjoying it, that you are covetous and earnest to 
persuade others to enjoy it. And so perfectly hate the abominable 
corruption of men in despising it that you had rather suffer the 
flames of hell than willingly be guilty of their error. 

The world is a mirror of Infinite Beauty, yet no man sees it. It 
is a Temple of Majesty, yet no man regards it. It is a region of 
Light and Peace, did not men disquiet it. It is the Paradise of 
God. It is more to man since he is fallen than it was before. It 
is the place of Angels and the Gate of Heaven. When Jacob 
waked out of his dream, he said, God is here, and I wist it not. 



GOD IN THE WORLD 81 

How dreadful is this place ! This is none other than the House of 
God and the Gate of Heaven. 

Thomas Traherne 

Before going on to discuss the means whereby it is possible 
to come to the fullness as well as the height of spiritual know- 
ledge, let us briefly consider the experience of those who have 
been privileged to 'behold the One in all things,' but have 
made no efforts to perceive it within themselves. A great deal 
of interesting material on this subject may be found in Buck's 
Cosmic Consciousness. All that need be said here is that such 
'cosmic consciousness' may come unsought and is in the 
nature of what Catholic theologians call a 'gratuitous grace.' 
One may have a gratuitous grace (the power of healing, for 
example, or foreknowledge) while in a state of mortal sin, and 
the gift is neither necessary to, nor sufficient for, salvation. At 
the best such sudden accessions of 'cosmic consciousness' as 
are described by Buck are merely unusual invitations to further 
personal effort in the direction of the inner height as well as 
the external fullness of knowledge. In a great many cases the 
invitation is not accepted; the gift is prized for the ecstatic 
pleasure it brings; its coming is remembered nostalgically 
and, if the recipient happens to be a poet, written about with 
eloquence as Byron, for example, wrote in a splendid passage 
of Childe Harold, as Wordsworth wrote in Tintern Abbey and 
The Prelude. In these matters no human being may presume 
to pass definitive judgment upon another human being; but it 
is at least permissible to say that, on the basis of the biograph- 
ical evidence, there is no reason to suppose that either Words- 
worth or Byron ever seriously did anything about the theo- 
phanies they described; nor is there any evidence that these 
theophanies were of themselves sufficient to transform their 
characters. That enormous egotism, to which De Quincey 
and Keats and Haydon bear witness, seems to have remained 
with Wordsworth to the end. And Byron was as fascinatingly 
and tragi-comically Byronic after he had beheld the One in 
all things as he was before. 

F 



82 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

In this context it is interesting to compare Wordsworth with 
another great nature lover and man of letters, St. Bernard. 
'Let Nature be your teacher/ says the first; and he goes on 
to affirm that 

One impulse from the vernal wood 
Will tell you more of man, 
Of moral evil and of good, 
Than all the sages can. 

St. Bernard speaks in what seems a similar strain. 'What I 
know of the divine sciences and Holy Scripture, I learnt in 
woods and fields. I have had no other masters than the 
beeches and the oaks.' And in another of his letters he says : 
'Listen to a man of experience: thou wilt learn more in the 
woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach thee more 
than thou canst acquire from the mouth of a magister.' The 
phrases are similar; but their inner significance is very differ- 
ent. In Augustine's language, God alone is to be enjoyed ; 
creatures are not to be enjoyed but used used with love and 
compassion and a wondering, detached appreciation, as means 
to the knowledge of that which may be enjoyed. Wordsworth, 
like almost all other literary Nature-worshippers, preaches the 
enjoyment of creatures rather than their use for the attainment 
of spiritual ends a use which, as we shall see, entails much 
self-discipline for the user. For Bernard it goes without saying 
that his correspondents are actively practising this self-discipline 
and that Nature, though loved and heeded as a teacher, is only 
being used as a means to God, not enjoyed as though she were 
God. The beauty of flowers and landscape is not merely to be 
relished as one 'wanders lonely as a cloud' about the country- 
side, is not merely to be pleasurably remembered when one is 
lying 'in vacant or in pensive mood' on the sofa in the library, 
after tea. The reaction must be a little more strenuous and 
purposeful. 'Here, my brothers,' says an ancient Buddhist 
author, 'are the roots of trees, here are empty places; medi- 
tate/ The truth is, of course, that the world is only for those 



GOD IN THE WORLD 83 

who have deserved it; for, in Philo's words, 'even though a 
man may be incapable of making himself worthy of the creator 
of the cosmos, yet he ought to try to make himself worthy of 
the cosmos. He ought to transform himself from being a man 
into the nature of the cosmos and become, if one may say so, 
a little cosmos.' For those who have not deserved the world, 
either by making themselves worthy of its creator (that is to 
say, by non-attachment and a total self-naughting), or, less 
arduously, by making themselves worthy of the cosmos (by 
bringing order and a measure of unity to the manifold con- 
fusion of undisciplined human personality), the world is, 
spiritually speaking, a very dangerous place. 

That nirvana and samsara are one is a fact about the nature 
of the universe ; but it is a fact which cannot be fully realized 
or directly experienced, except by souls far advanced in spiritu- 
ality. For ordinary, nice, unregenerate people to accept this 
truth by hearsay, and to act upon it in practice, is merely to 
court disaster. All the dismal story of antinomianism is there 
to warn us of what happens when men and women make 
practical applications of a merely intellectual and unrealized 
theory that all is God and God is all. And hardly less depress- 
ing than the spectacle of antinomianism is that of the earnestly 
respectable 'well-rounded life' of good citizens who do their 
best to live sacramentally, but don't in fact have any direct 
acquaintance with that for which the sacramental activity 
really stands. Dr. Oman, in his The Natural and the Super- 
natural, writes at length on the theme that 'reconciliation to 
the evanescent is revelation of the eternal'; and in a recent 
volume, Science, Religion and the Future, Canon Raven applauds 
Dr. Oman for having stated the principles of a theology in 
which there could be no ultimate antithesis between nature and 
grace, science and religion, in which, indeed, the worlds of the 
scientist and the theologian are seen to be one and the same. 
All this is in full accord with Taoism and Zen Buddhism and 
with such Christian teachings as St. Augustine's Ama et fac 
quod vis and Father Lallemant's advice to theocentric con- 
templatives to go out and act in the world, since their actions 



84 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

are the only ones capable of doing any real good to the world. 
But what neither Dr. Oman nor Canon Raven makes suffi- 
ciently clear is that nature and grace, samsara and nirvana, 
perpetual perishing and eternity, are really and experientially 
one only to persons who have fulfilled certain conditions. Fac 
quod vis in the temporal world but only when you have learnt 
the infinitely difficult art of loving God with all your mind and 
heart and your neighbour as yourself. If you haven't learnt 
this lesson, you will either be an antinomian eccentric or 
criminal or else a respectable well-rounded-lifer, who has left 
himself no time to understand either nature or grace. The 
Gospels are perfectly clear about the process by which, and by 
which alone, a man may gain the right to live in the world as 
though he were at home in it : he must make a total denial of 
selfhood, submit to a complete and absolute mortification. At 
one period of his career, Jesus himself seems to have under- 
taken austerities, not merely of the mind, but of the body. 
There is the record of his forty days' fast and his statement, 
evidently drawn from personal experience, that some demons 
cannot be cast out except by those who have fasted much as 
well as prayed. (The Cure d'Ars, whose knowledge of 
miracles and corporal penance was based on personal experi- 
ence, insists on the close correlation between severe bodily 
austerities and the power to get petitionary prayer answered 
in ways that are sometimes supernormal.) The Pharisees 
reproached Jesus because he 'came eating and drinking,' and 
associated with 'publicans and sinners' ; they ignored, or were 
unaware of, the fact that this apparently worldly prophet had 
at one time rivalled the physical austerities of John the Baptist 
and was practising the spiritual mortifications which he con- 
sistently preached. The pattern of Jesus' life is essentially 
similar to that of the ideal sage, whose career is traced in the 
' Oxherding Pictures,' so popular among Zen Buddhists. The 
wild ox, symbolizing the unregenerate self, is caught, made 
to change its direction, then tamed and gradually transformed 
from black to white. Regeneration goes so far that for a time 
the ox is completely lost, so that nothing remains to be pic- 



GOD IN THE WORLD 85 

tured but the full-orbed moon, symbolizing Mind, Suchness, 
the Ground. But this is not the final stage. In the end, the 
herdsman comes back to the world of men, riding on the back 
of his ox. Because he now loves, loves to the extent of being 
identified with the divine object of his love, he can do what he 
likes ; for what he likes is what the Nature of Things likes. 
He is found in company with wine-bibbers and butchers; he 
and they are all converted into Buddhas. For him, there is 
complete reconciliation to the evanescent and, through that 
reconciliation, revelation of the eternal. But for nice ordinary 
unregenerate people the only reconciliation to the evanescent 
is that of indulged passions, of distractions submitted to and 
enjoyed. To tell such persons that evanescence and eternity 
are the same, and not immediately to qualify the statement, is 
positively fatal for, in practice, they are not the same except 
to the saint; and there is no record that anybody ever came 
to sanctity who did not, at the outset of his or her career, 
behave as if evanescence and eternity, nature and grace, were 
profoundly different and in many respects incompatible. As 
always, the path of spirituality is a knife-edge between abysses. 
On one side is the danger of mere rejection and escape, on 
the other the danger of mere acceptance and the enjoyment of 
things which should only be used as instruments or symbols. 
The versified caption which accompanies the last of the ' Ox- 
herding Pictures' runs as follows: 

Even beyond the ultimate limits there extends a passage-way, 

By which he comes back to the six realms of existence. 

Every worldly affair is now a Buddhist work, 

And wherever he goes he finds his home air. 

Like a gem he stands out even in the mud, 

Like pure gold he shines even in the furnace. 

Along the endless road (of birth and death) he 

unto himself. 
In all circumstances he moves tranquil and 



The means wherebv man's final end is to ibnfttainechwSlI x l5i 



86 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

described and illustrated at length in the section on 'Mortifica- 
tion and Non-attachment.' This section, however, is mainly 
concerned with the disciplining of the will. But the disci- 
plining of the will must have as its accompaniment a no less 
thorough disciplining of the consciousness. There has to be 
a conversion, sudden or otherwise, not merely of the heart, 
but also of the senses and of the perceiving mind. What fol- 
lows is a brief account of this metanoia, as the Greeks called it, 
this total and radical 'change of mind.' 

It is in the Indian and Far Eastern formulations of the 
Perennial Philosophy that this subject is most systematically 
treated. What is prescribed is a process of conscious discrimin- 
ation between the personal self and the Self that is identical 
with Brahman, between the individual ego and the Buddha- 
womb or Universal Mind. The result of this discrimination 
is a more or less sudden and complete 'revulsion' of conscious- 
ness, and the realization of a state of * no-mind/ which may be 
described as the freedom from perceptual and intellectual 
attachment to the ego-principle. This state of 'no-mind' 
exists, as it were, on a knife-edge between the carelessness of 
the average sensual man and the strained over-eagerness of the 
zealot for salvation. To achieve it, one must walk delicately 
and, to maintain it, must learn to combine the most intense 
alertness with a tranquil and self-denying passivity, the most 
indomitable determination with a perfect submission to the 
leadings of the spirit. 'When no-mind is sought after by a 
mind,' says Huang-Po, ' that is making it a particular object of 
thought. There is only testimony of silence; it goes beyond 
thinking.' In other words, we, as separate individuals, must 
not try to think it, but rather permit ourselves to be thought 
by it. Similarly, in the Diamond Sutra we read that if a 
Bodhisattva, in his attempt to realize Suchness, 'retains the 
thought of an ego, a person, a separate being, or a soul, he is 
no longer a Bodhisattva.' Al-Ghazzali, the philosopher of 
Sufism, also stresses the need for intellectual humbleness and 
docility. 'If the thought that he is effaced from self occurs to 
one who is in fana (a term roughly corresponding to Zen's 



GOD IN THE WORLD 87 

"no-mind," or mushin\ that is a defect. The highest state is to 
be effaced from effacement.' There is an ecstatic effacement- 
from-effacement in the interior heights of the Atman-Brahman; 
and there is another, more comprehensive effacement-from- 
effacement, not only in the inner heights, but also in and 
through the world, in the waking, everyday knowledge of God 
in his fullness. 

A man must become truly poor and as free from his own crea- 
turely will as he was when he was born. And I tell you, by the 
eternal truth, that so long as you desire to fulfil the will of God 
and have any hankering after eternity and God, for just so long 
you are not truly poor. He alone has true spiritual poverty who 
wills nothing, knows nothing, desires nothing. 

Eckhart 



The Perfect Way knows no difficulties, 
Except that it refuses to make preferences. 
Only when freed from hate and love 
Does it reveal itself fully and without disguise. 

A tenth of an inch's difference, 

And heaven and earth are set apart. 

If you wish to see it before your own eyes, 

Have no fixed thoughts either for or against it. 

To set up what you like against what you dislike 
This is the disease of the mind. 

When the deep meaning of the Way is not understood, 
Peace of mind is disturbed to no purpose. . . . 

Pursue not the outer entanglements, 
Dwell not in the inner void ; 
Be serene in the oneness of things, 
And dualism vanishes of itself. 



88 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

When you strive to gain quiescence by stopping motion, 
The quiescence so gained is ever in motion. 
So long as you tarry in such dualism, 
How can you realize oneness ? 

And when oneness is not thoroughly grasped. 
Loss is sustained in two ways : 
The denying of external reality is the assertion of it. 
And the assertion of Emptiness (the Absolute) is the denying 
of it. . . . 

Transformations going on in the empty world that confronts us 
Appear to be real because of Ignorance. 
Do not strive to seek after the True, 
Only cease to cherish opinions. 

The two exist because of the One ; 

But hold not even to this One. 

When a mind is not disturbed, 

The ten thousand things offer no offence. . . . 

If an eye never falls asleep, 

All dreams will cease of themselves ; 

If the Mind retains its absoluteness, 

The ten thousand things are of one substance. 

When the deep mystery of one Suchness is fathomed, 
All of a sudden we forget the external entanglements ; 
When the ten thousand things are viewed in their oneness, 
We return to the origin and remain where we have always 
been. . . . 

One in all, 

All in One 

If only this is realized, 

No more worry about not being perfect ! 



GOD IN THE WORLD 89 

When Mind and each believing mind are not divided, 
And undivided are each believing mind and Mind, 
This is where words fail, 
For it is not of the past, present or future. 

The Third Patriarch of Zen 

Do what you are doing now, suffer what you are suffering now; 
to do all this with holiness, nothing need be changed but your 
hearts. Sanctity consists in willing what happens to us by God's 
order. 

dc Caussade 

The seventeenth-century Frenchman's vocabulary is very dif- 
ferent from that of the seventh-century Chinaman's. But the 
advice they give is fundamentally similar. Conformity to the 
will of God, submission, docility to the leadings of the Holy 
Ghost in practice, if not verbally, these are the same as con- 
formity to the Perfect Way, refusing to have preferences and 
cherish opinions, keeping the eyes open so that dreams may 
cease and Truth reveal itself. 

The world inhabited by ordinary, nice, unregenerate people 
is mainly dull (so dull that they have to distract their minds 
from being aware of it by all sorts of artificial 'amusements'), 
sometimes briefly and intensely pleasurable, occasionally or 
quite often disagreeable and even agonizing. For those who 
have deserved the world by making themselves fit to see God 
within it as well as within their own souls, it wears a very 
different aspect. 

The corn was orient and immortal wheat, which never should be 
reaped, nor was ever sown. I thought it had stood from ever- 
lasting to everlasting. The dust and stones of the street were as 
precious as gold. The gates at first were the end of the world. 
The green trees, when I saw them first through one of the gates, 
transported and ravished me ; their sweetness and unusual beauty 
made my heart to leap, and almost mad with ecstasy, they were 
such strange and wonderful things. The Men 1 O what vener- 



the light of the day, and something infinite behind everything 
appeared; which talked with my expectation and moved my 
desire. The city seemed to stand in Eden, or to be built in 
Heaven. The streets were mine, the temple was mine, the people 
were mine, their clothes and gold and silver were mine, as much 
as their sparkling eyes, fair skins and ruddy faces. The skies 
were mine, and so were the sun and moon and stars, and all the 
world was mine; and I the only spectator and enjoyer of it. . . . 
And so it was that with much ado I was corrupted and made to 
learn the dirty devices of the world. Which now I unlearn, and 
become as it were a little child again, that I may enter into the 
Kingdom of God. 

Thomas Traherne 

Therefore I give you still another thought, which is yet purer and 
more spiritual : In the Kingdom of Heaven all is in all, all is one, 
and all is ours. 

Eckhart 

The doctrine that God is in the world has an important prac- 
tical corollary the sacredness of Nature, and the sinfulness 
and folly of man's overweening efforts to be her master rather 
than her intelligently docile collaborator. Sub-human lives and 
even things are to be treated with respect and understanding, 
not brutally oppressed to serve our human ends. 

The ruler of the Southern Ocean was Shu, the ruler of the 
Northern Ocean was Hu, and the ruler of the Centre was Chaos. 
Shu and Hu were continually meeting in the land of Chaos, who 
treated them very well. They consulted together how they 



GOD IN THE WORLD 9* 

might repay his kindness, and said : 'Men all have seven orifices 
for the purpose of seeing, hearing, eating and breathing, while 
this ruler alone has not a single one. Let us try to make them for 
him/ Accordingly they dug one orifice in him every day. At 
the end of seven days Chaos died. 

Chuong T%u 

In this delicately comic parable Chaos is Nature in the state of 
wu-wei non-assertion or equilibrium. Shu and Hu are the 
living images of those busy persons who thought they would 
improve on Nature by turning dry prairies into wheat fields, 
and produced deserts ; who proudly proclaimed the Conquest 
of the Air, and then discovered that they had defeated civiliza- 
tion ; who chopped down vast forests to provide the newsprint 
demanded by that universal literacy which was to make the 
world safe for intelligence and democracy, and got wholesale 
erosion, pulp magazines and the organs of Fascist, Com- 
munist, capitalist and nationalist propaganda. In brief, Shu 
and Hu are devotees of the apocalyptic religion of Inevitable 
Progress, and their creed is that the Kingdom of Heaven is 
outside you, and in the future. Chuang Tzu, on the other 
hand, like all good Taoists, has no desire to bully Nature into 
subserving ill-considered temporal ends, at variance with the 
final end of men as formulated in the Perennial Philosophy. 
His wish is to work with Nature, so as to produce material and 
social conditions in which individuals may realize Tao on every 
level from the physiological up to the spiritual. 

Compared with that of the Taoists and Far Eastern Bud- 
dhists, the Christian attitude towards Nature has been curiously 
insensitive and often downright domineering and violent. Tak- 
ing their cue from an unfortunate remark in Genesis, Catholic 
moralists have regarded animals as mere things which men do 
right to exploit for their own ends. Like landscape painting, the 
humanitarian movement in Europe was an almost completely 
secular affair. In the Far East both were essentially religious. 

The Greeks believed that hubris was always followed by 
nemesis, that if you went too far you would get a knock on the 



92 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

head to remind you that the gods will not tolerate insolence 
on the part of mortal men. In the sphere of human relations, 
the modern mind understands the doctrine of hubris and regards 
it as mainly true. We wish pride to have a fall, and we see 
that very often it does fall. 

To have too much power over one's fellows, to be too rich, 
too violent, too ambitious all this invites punishment, and 
in the long run, we notice, punishment of one sort or another 
duly comes. But the Greeks did not stop there. Because they 
regarded Nature as in some way divine, they felt that it had 
to be respected and they were convinced that a hubristic lack 
of respect for Nature would be punished by avenging nemesis. 
In 'The Persians,' Aeschylus gives the reasons the ultimate, 
metaphysical reasons for the barbarians' defeat. Xerxes was 
punished for two offences overweening imperialism directed 
against the Athenians, and overweening imperialism directed 
against Nature. He tried to enslave his fellow-men, and he 
tried to enslave the sea, by building a bridge across the 
Hellespont. 

Atossa. From shore to shore he bridged the Hellespont. 
Ghost of Darius. What, could he chain the mighty Bosphorus ? 
Atossa. Even so, some god assisting his design. 
Ghost of Darius. Some god of power to cloud his better sense. 

Today we recognize and condemn the first kind of imperialism ; 
but most of us ignore the existence and even the very possi- 
bility of the second. And yet the author of Erewhon was cer- 
tainly not a fool, and now that we are paying the appalling 
price for our much touted 'conquest of Nature 5 his book seems 
more than ever topical. And Butler was not the only nine- 
teenth-century sceptic in regard to Inevitable Progress. A 
generation or more before him, Alfred de Vigny was writing 
about the new technological marvel of his days, the steam 
engine writing in a tone very different from the enthusiastic 
roarings and trumpetings of his great contemporary, Victor 
Hugo. 



GOD IN THE WORLD 93 

Sur le taureau defer, quifume^ souffle et beugle? 
L'homme est monte trap tot. Nul ne connatt encor 
Quels or ages en luiporte ce rude aveugle, 
Et le gat voyageur lui livre son tresor. 

And a little later in the same poem he adds : 

Tous se sont dit : * Allans J mats aucun nest le maitre 
D'un dragon mugissant quun savant a fait naitre. 
Nous nous sommes joues a plus fort que nous tous. 

Looking backwards across the carnage and the devastation, we 
can see that Vigny was perfectly right. None of those gay 
travellers, of whom Victor Hugo was the most vociferously 
eloquent, had the faintest notion where that first, funny little 
Puffing Billy was taking them. Or rather they had a very clear 
notion, but it happened to be entirely false. For they were 
convinced that Puffing Billy was hauling them at full speed 
towards universal peace and the brotherhood of man; while 
the newspapers which they were so proud of being able to read, 
as the train rumbled along towards its Utopian destination not 
more than fifty years or so away, were the guarantee that 
liberty and reason would soon be everywhere triumphant. 
Puffing Billy has now turned into a four-motored bomber 
loaded with white phosphorus and high explosives, and the free 
press is everywhere the servant of its advertisers, of a pressure 
group, or of the government. And yet, for some inexplicable 
reason, the travellers (now far from gay) still hold fast to the 
religion of Inevitable Progress which is, in the last analysis, 
the hope and faith (in the teeth of all human experience) that 
one can get something for nothing. How much saner and 
more realistic is the Greek view that every victory has to be 
paid for, and that, for some victories, the price exacted is so 
high that it outweighs any advantage that may be obtained ! 
Modern man no longer regards Nature as being in any sense 
divine and feels perfectly free to behave towards her as an over- 
weening conqueror and tyrant. The spoils of recent techno- 



94 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

logical imperialism have been enormous; but meanwhile 
nemesis has seen to it that we get our kicks as well as half- 
pence. For example, has the ability to travel in twelve hours 
from New York to Los Angeles given more pleasure to the 
human race than the dropping of bombs and fire has given 
pain ? There is no known method of computing the amount 
of felicity or goodness in the world at large. What is obvious, 
however, is that the advantages accruing from recent techno- 
logical advances or, in Greek phraseology, from recent acts 
of hubris directed against Nature are generally accompanied 
by corresponding disadvantages, that gains in one direction 
entail losses in other directions, and that we never get some- 
thing except for something. Whether the net result of these 
elaborate credit and debit operations is a genuine Progress in 
virtue, happiness, charity and intelligence is something we can 
never definitely determine. It is because the reality of Progress 
can never be determined that the nineteenth and twentieth cen- 
turies have had to treat it as an article of religious faith. To the 
exponents of the Perennial Philosophy, the question whether 
Progress is inevitable or even real is not a matter of primary 
importance. For them, the important thing is that individual 
men and women should come to the unitive knowledge of the 
divine Ground, and what interests them in regard to the social 
environment is not its progressiveness or non-progressiveness 
(whatever those terms may mean), but the degree to which it 
helps or hinders individuals in their advance towards man's 
final end. 



Chapter 5 
CHARITY 

He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. 

z John iv 

By love may He be gotten and holden, but by thought never. 

The Cloud of Unknowing 

Whosoever studies to reach contemplation (i.e. unitive know- 
ledge) should begin by searchmgly enquiring of himself how 
much he loves. For love is the motive power of the mind 
(machina mentis) , which draws it out of the world and raises it 
on high. 

St. Gregory the Great 

The astrolabe of the mysteries of God is love. 

Jalal-uddin Rumi 

Heavens, deal so still ! 
Let the superfluous and lust-dieted man 
That slaves your ordinance, that will not see 
Because he doth not feel, feel your power quickly. 

Shakespeare 

Love is infallible ; it has no errors, for all errors are the want of 
love. 

William Law 

"\V7~E can only love what we know, and we can never know 
W completely what we do not love. Love is a mode of 
knowledge, and when the love is sufficiently disinterested and 
sufficiently intense, the knowledge becomes unitive knowledge 
and so takes on the quality of infallibility. Where there is no 
disinterested love (or, more briefly,* no charity), there is only 

95 



96 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

biased self-love, and consequently only a partial and distorted 
knowledge both of the self and of the world of things, lives, 
minds and spirit outside the self. The lust-dieted man 'slaves 
the ordinances of Heaven' that is to say, he subordinates the 
laws of Nature and the spirit to his own cravings. The result 
is that 'he does not feel' and therefore makes himself incapable 
of knowledge. His ignorance is ultimately voluntary; if he 
cannot see, it is because 'he will not see.' Such voluntary 
ignorance inevitably has its negative reward. Nemesis follows 
hubris sometimes in a spectacular way, as when the self- 
blinded man (Macbeth, Othello, Lear) falls into the trap which 
his own ambition or possessiveness or petulant vanity has pre- 
pared for him ; sometimes in a less obvious way, as in the cases 
where power, prosperity and reputation endure to the end but 
at the cost of an ever-increasing imperviousness to grace and 
enlightenment, an ever completer inability to escape, now or 
hereafter, from the stifling prison of selfness and separateness. 
How profound can be the spiritual ignorance by which such 
'enslavers of Heaven's ordinances' are punished is indicated by 
the behaviour of Cardinal Richelieu on his death-bed. The 
priest who attended him urged the great man to prepare his 
soul for its coming ordeal by forgiving all his enemies. 'I 
have never had any enemies,' the Cardinal replied with the 
calm sincerity of an ignorance which long years of intrigue 
and avarice and ambition had rendered as absolute as had 
been his political power, 'save only those of the State.' Like 
Napoleon, but in a different way, he was 'feeling heaven's 
power,' because he had refused to feel charity and therefore 
refused to know the whole truth about his own soul or 
anything else. 

Here on earth the love of God is better than the knowledge of 
God, while it is better to know inferior things than to love them. 
By knowing them we raise them, in a way, to our intelligence, 
whereas by loving them we stoop towards them and may become 
subservient to them, as the miser to his gold. 

St. Thomas Aquinas (paraphrased) 



CHARITY 97 

This remark seems, at first sight, to be incompatible with what 
precedes it. But in reality St. Thomas is merely distinguishing 
between the various forms of love and knowledge. It is better 
to love-know God than just to know about God, without love, 
through the reading of a treatise on theology. Gold, on the 
other hand, should never be known with the miser's love, or 
rather concupiscence, but either abstractly, as the scientific 
investigator knows it, or else with the disinterested love-know- 
ledge of the artist in metal, or of the spectator, who love-knows 
the goldsmith's work, not for its cash value, not for the sake of 
possessing it, but just because it is beautiful. And the same 
applies to all created things, lives and minds. It is bad to love- 
know them with self-centred attachment and cupidity; it is 
somewhat better to know them with scientific dispassion; it is 
best to supplement abstract knowledge-without-cupidity with 
true disinterested love-knowledge, having the quality of aes- 
thetic delight, or of charity, or of both combined. 

We make an idol of truth itself; for truth apart from charity is 
not God, but his image and idol, which we must neither love nor 
worship. 

Pascal 

By a kind of philological accident (which is probably no acci- 
dent at all, but one of the more subtle expressions of man's 
deep-seated will to ignorance and spiritual darkness), the word 
'charity' has come, in modern English, to be synonymous with 
'almsgiving,' and is almost never used in its original sense, as 
signifying the highest and most divine form of love. Owing 
to this impoverishment of our, at the best of times, very in- 
adequate vocabulary of psychological and spiritual terms, the 
word 'love' has had to assume an added burden. ' God is love/ 
we repeat glibly, and that we must 'love our neighbours as our- 
selves' ; but 'love,' unfortunately, stands for everything from 
what happens when, on the screen, two close-ups rapturously 
collide to what happens when a John Woolman or a Peter 
Claver feels a concern about Negro slaves, because they are 



9 B THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

temples of the Holy Spirit from what happens when crowds 
shout and sing and wave flags in the Spon-Palast or the Red 
Square to what happens when a solitary contemplative becomes 
absorbed in the prayer of simple regard. Ambiguity in vocab- 
ulary leads to confusion of thought ; and, in this matter of love, 
confusion of thought admirably serves the purpose of an un- 
regenerate and divided human nature that is determined to 
make the best of both worlds to say that it is serving God, 
while in fact it is serving Mammon, Mars or Priapus. 

Systematically or in brief aphorism and parable, the masters 
of the spiritual life have described the nature of true charity 
and have distinguished it from the other, lower forms of love. 
Let us consider its principal characteristics in order. First, 
charity is disinterested, seeking no reward, nor allowing itself 
to be diminished by any return of evil for its good. God is to 
be loved for Himself, not for his gifts, and persons and things 
are to be loved for God's sake, because they are temples of the 
Holy Ghost. Moreover, since charity is disinterested, it must 
of necessity be universal. 



Love seeks no cause beyond itself and no fruit ; it is its own fruit, 
its own enjoyment. I love because I love; I love in order that I 
may love ---- Of all the motions and affections of the soul, love is 
the only one by means of which the creature, though not on equal 
terms, is able to treat with the Creator and to give back some- 
thing resembling what has been given to it. ... When God loves, 
He only desires to be loved, knowing that love will render all 
those who love Him happy. 

St. Bernard 



For as love has no by-ends, wills nothing but its own increase, so 
everything is as oil to its flame; it must have that which it wills 
and cannot be disappointed, because everything (including un- 
kindness on the part of those loved) naturally helps it to live in 
its own way and to bring forth its own work. 

William Law 



CHARITY 99 

Those who speak ill of me are really my good friends. 
When, being slandered, I cherish neither enmity nor preference, 
There grows within me the power of love and humility, which is 
born of the Unborn. 

Kung-chia Ta-shih 

Some people want to see God with their eyes as they see a cow, 
and to love Him as they love their cow for the milk and cheese 
and profit it brings them. This is how it is with people who love 
God for the sake of outward wealth or inward comfort. They do 
not rightly love God, when they love Him for their own advan- 
tage. Indeed, I tell you the truth, any object you have in your 
mind, however good, will be a barrier between you and the 
inmost Truth. 

Eckhart 

A beggar, Lord, I ask of Thee 

More than a thousand kings could ask. 

Each one wants something, which he asks of Thee. 

I come to ask Thee to give me Thyself. 

Ansari of Herat 

I will have nothing to do with a love which would be for God or 
in God. This is a love which pure love cannot abide; for pure 
love is God Himself. 

St. Catherine of Genoa 

As a mother, even at the risk of her own life, protects her son, her 
only son, so let there be good will without measure between all 
beings. Let good will without measure prevail in the whole 
world, above, below, around, unstinted, unmixed with any feel- 
ing of differing or opposing interests. If a man remain steadfastly 
in this state of mind all the time he is awake, then is come to pass 
the saying, 'Even in this world holiness has been found.' 

Metta Sutta 

Learn to look with an equal eye upon all beings, seeing the one 
Self in all. 

Srimad Bhagavatam 



ioo THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

The second distinguishing mark of charity is that, unlike the 
lower forms of love, it is not an emotion. It begins as an act 
of the will and is consummated as a purely spiritual awareness, 
a unitive love-knowledge of the essence of its object. 

Let everyone understand that real love of God does not consist in 
tear-shedding, nor in that sweetness and tenderness for which 
usually we long, just because they console us, but in serving God 
in justice, fortitude of soul and humility. 

St. Teresa 

The worth of love does not consist in high feelings, but in detach- 
ment, in patience under all trials for the sake of God whom we 
love. 

St. John of the Cross 

By love I do not mean any natural tenderness, which is more or 
less in people according to their constitution ; but I mean a larger 
principle of the soul, founded in reason and piety, which makes 
us tender, kind and gentle to all our fellow creatures as creatures 
of God, and for his sake. 

William Law 

The nature of charity, or the love-knowledge of God, is defined 
by Shankara, the great Vedantist saint and philosopher of the 
ninth century, in the thirty-second couplet of his Viveka- 
Chudamani. 

Among the instruments of emancipation the supreme is devotion. 
Contemplation of the true form of the real Self (the Atman which 
is identical with Brahman) is said to be devotion. 

In other words, the highest form of the love of God is an im- 
mediate spiritual intuition, by which 'knower, known and 
knowledge are made one.' The means to, and earlier stages of, 
this supreme love-knowledge of Spirit by spirit are described 
by Shankara in the preceding verses of his philosophical poem, 



CHARITY 101 

and consist in acts of a will directed towards the denial of self- 
ness in thought, feeling and action, towards desirelessness and 
non-attachment or (to use the corresponding Christian term) 
'holy indifference/ towards a cheerful acceptance of affliction, 
without self-pity and without thought of returning evil for 
evil, and finally towards unsleeping and one-pointed mindful- 
ness of the Godhead who is at once transcendent and, because 
transcendent, immanent in every soul. 

It is plain that no distinct object whatever that pleases the will can 
be God ; and, for that reason, if the will is to be united with Him, 
it must empty itself, cast away every disorderly affection of the 
desire, every satisfaction it may distinctly have, high and low, 
temporal and spiritual, so that, purified and cleansed from all 
unruly satisfactions, joys and desires, it may be wholly occupied, 
with all its affections, in loving God. For if the will can in any 
way comprehend God and be united with Him, it cannot be 
through any capacity of the desire, but only by love ; and as all 
the delight, sweetness and joy, of which the will is sensible, is not 
love, it follows that none of these pleasing impressions can be the 
adequate means of uniting the will to God. These adequate 
means consist in an act of the will. And because an act of the 
will is quite distinct from feeling, it is by an act that the will is 
united with God and rests in Him; that act is love. This union 
is never wrought by feeling or exertion of the desire; for these 
remain in the soul as aims and ends. It is only as motives of love 
that feelings can be of service, if the will is bent on going onwards, 
and for nothing else. . . . 

He, then, is very unwise who, when sweetness and spiritual 
delight fail him, thinks for that reason that God has abandoned 
him ; and when he finds them again, rejoices and is glad, thinking 
that he has in that way come to possess God. 

More unwise still is he who goes about seeking for sweetness in 
God, rejoices in it, and dwells upon it; for in so doing he is not 
seeking after God with the will grounded in the emptiness of 
faith and charity, but only in spiritual sweetness and delight, 
which is a created thing, following herein in his own will and 



102 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

fond pleasure. ... It is impossible for the will to attain to the 
sweetness and bliss of the divine union otherwise than in detach- 
ment, in refusing to the desire every pleasure in the things of 
heaven and earth. 

St. John of the Cross 

Love (the sensible love of the emotions) does not unify. True, it 
unites in act ; but it does not unite in essence. 

Eckhart 

The reason why sensible love even of the highest object cannot 
unite the soul to its divine Ground in spiritual essence is that, 
like all other emotions of the heart, sensible love intensifies that 
selfness, which is the final obstacle in the way of such union. 
'The damned are in eternal movement without any mixture of 
rest; we mortals, who are yet in this pilgrimage, have now 
movement, now rest Only God has repose without move- 
ment/ Consequently it is only if we abide in the peace of God 
that passes all understanding that we can abide in the know- 
ledge and love of God. And to the peace that passes under- 
standing we have to go by way of the humble and very ordi- 
nary peace which can be understood by everybody peace 
between nations and within them (for wars and violent revo- 
lutions have the effect of more or less totally eclipsing God 
for the majority of those involved in them) ; peace between 
individuals and within the individual soul (for personal 
quarrels and private fears, loves, hates, ambitions and distrac- 
tions are, in their petty way, no less fatal to the develop- 
ment of the spiritual life than are the greater calamities). We 
have to will the peace that it is within our power to get for 
ourselves and others, in order that we may be fit to receive 
that other peace, which is a fruit of the Spirit and the con- 
dition, as St. Paul implied, of the unitive knowledge-love 
of God. 

It is by means of tranquillity of mind that you are able to trans- 
mute this false mind of death and rebirth into the clear Intuitive 



CHARITY 103 

Mind and, by so doing, to realize the primal and enlightening 
Essence of Mind, You should make this your starting point for 
spiritual practices. Having harmonized your starting point with 
your goal, you will be able by right practice to attain your true 
end of perfect Enlightenment. 

If you wish to tranquillize your mind and restore its original 
purity, you must proceed as you would do if you were purifying 
a jar of muddy water. You first let it stand, until the sediment 
setdes at the bottom, when the water will become clear, which 
corresponds with the state of the mind before it was troubled by 
defiling passions. Then you carefully strain off the pure water. 
. . . When the mind becomes tranquillized and concentrated into 
perfect unity, then all things will be seen, not in their separate- 
ness, but in their unity, wherein there is no place for the passions 
to enter, and which is in full conformity with the mysterious and 
indescribable purity of Nirvana. 

Surangama Sutra 

This identity out of the One into the One and with the One 
is the source and fountainhead and breaking forth of glowing 
Love. 

Eckhart 

Spiritual progress, as we have had occasion to discover in several 
other contexts, is always spiral and reciprocal. Peace from dis- 
tractions and emotional agitations is the way to charity; and 
charity, or unitive love-knowledge, is the way to the higher 
peace of God. And the same is true of humility, which is the 
third characteristic mark of charity. Humility is a necessary 
condition of the highest form of love, and the highest form of 
love makes possible the consummation of humility in a total 
self-naughting. 

Would you become a pilgrim on the road of Love ? 
The first condition is that you make yourself humble as dust and 
ashes. 

Ans&ri of Herat 



jo 4 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

I have but one word to say to you concerning love for your 
neighbour, namely that nothing save humility can mould you to 
it; nothing but the consciousness of your own weakness can 
make you indulgent and pitiful to that of others. You will 
answer, I quite understand that humility should produce for- 
bearance towards others, but how am I first to acquire humility ? 
Two things combined will bring that about; you must never 
separate them. The first is contemplation of the deep gulf, 
whence God's all-powerful hand has drawn you out, and over 
which He ever holds you, so to say, suspended. The second is 
the presence of that all-penetrating God. It is only in beholding 
and loving God that we can learn forgetfulness of self, measure 
duly the nothingness which has dazzled us, and accustom our- 
selves thankfully to decrease beneath that great Majesty which 
absorbs all things. Love God and you will be humble; love 
God and you will throw off the love of self; love God and you 
will love all that He gives you to love for love of Him. 

Ftnelon 

Feelings, as we have seen, may be of service as motives of 
charity; but charity as charity has its beginning in the will 
will to peace and humility in oneself, will to patience and kind- 
ness towards one's fellow-creatures, will to that disinterested 
love of God which 'asks nothing and refuses nothing.' But 
the will can be strengthened by exercise and confirmed by 
perseverance. This is very clearly brought out in the follow- 
ing record delightful for its Boswellian vividness of a con- 
versation between the young Bishop of Belley and his beloved 
friend and master, Francis de Sales. 

I once asked the Bishop of Geneva what one must do to attain 
perfection. * You must love God with all your heart,' he answered, 
'and your neighbour as yourself/ 

'I did not ask wherein perfection lies,' I rejoined, 'but how to 
attain it.' ' Charity,' he said again, * that is both the means and 
the end, the only way by which we can reach that perfection 



CHARITY 105 

which is, after all, but Charity itself. . . . Just as the soul is the 
life of the body, so charity is the life of the soul.' 

' I know all that,' I said. ' But I want to know how one is to love 
God with all one's heart and one's neighbour as oneself.' 

But again he answered, 'We must love God with all our 
hearts, and our neighbour as ourselves.' 

'I am no further than I was,' I replied. 'Tell me how to 
acquire such love.' 

' The best way, the shortest and easiest way of loving God with 
all one's heart is to love Him wholly and heartily ! ' 

He would give no other answer. At last, however, the Bishop 
said, 'There are many besides you who want me to tell them of 
methods and systems and secret ways of becoming perfect, and I 
can only tell them that the sole secret is a hearty love of God, and 
the only way of attaining that love is by loving. You learn to 
speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to 
work by working ; and just so you learn to love God and man by 
loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive 
themselves. If you want to love God, go on loving Him more 
and more. Begin as a mere apprentice, and the very power of 
love will lead you on to become a master in the art. Those who 
have made most progress will continually press on, never believ- 
ing themselves to have reached their end ; for charity should go 
on increasing until we draw our last breath.' 

Jean Pierre Camus 

The passage from what St. Bernard calls the 'carnal love* of 
the sacred humanity to the spiritual love of the Godhead, from 
the emotional love that can only unite lover and beloved in act 
to the perfect charity which unifies them in spiritual substance, 
is reflected in religious practice as the passage from meditation, 
discursive and affective, to infused contemplation. All Chris- 
tian writers insist that the spiritual love of the Godhead is 
superior to the carnal love of the humanity, which serves as 
introduction and means to man's final end in unitive love- 
knowledge of the divine Ground ; but all insist no less strongly 
that carnal love is a necessary introduction and an indispensable 



io6 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

means. Oriental writers would agree that this is true for many 
persons, but not for all, since there are some born contem- 
platives who are able to 'harmonize their starting point with 
their goal' and to embark directly upon the Yoga of Know- 
ledge. It is from the point of view of the born contemplative 
that the greatest of Taoist philosophers writes in the following 
passage. 

Those men who in a special way regard Heaven as Father and 
have, as it were, a personal love for it, how much more should 
they love what is above Heaven as Father! Other men in a 
special way regard their rulers as better than themselves and they, 
as it were, personally die for them. How much more should they 
die for what is truer than a ruler ! When the springs dry up, the 
fish are all together on dry land. They then moisten each other 
with their dampness and keep each other wet with their slime. 
But this is not to be compared with forgetting each other in a 
river or lake. 

Chuang T^u 

The slime of personal afnd emotional love is remotely similar 
to the water of the Godhead's spiritual being, but of inferior 
quality and (precisely because the love is emotional and there- 
fore personal) of insufficient quantity. Having, by their volun- 
tary ignorance, wrong-doing and wrong being, caused the 
divine springs to dry up, human beings can do something to 
mitigate the horrors of their situation by 4 keeping one another 
wet with their slime.' But there can be no happiness or safety 
in time and no deliverance into eternity, until they give up 
thinking that slime is enough and, by abandoning themselves 
to what is in fact their element, call back the eternal waters. 
To those who seek first the Kingdom of God, all the rest will 
be added. From those who, like the modern idolaters of pro- 
gress, seek first all the rest in the expectation that (after the 
harnessing of atomic power and the next revolution but three) 
the Kingdom of God will be added, everything will be taken 
away. And yet we continue to trust in progress, to regard 



CHARITY 107 

personal slime as the highest form of spiritual moisture and to 
prefer an agonizing and impossible existence on dry land to 
love, joy and peace in our native ocean. 

The sect of lovers is distinct from all others; 
Lovers have a religion and a faith all their own. 

Jalal-uddin Rumi 

The soul lives by that which it loves rather than in the body 
which it animates. For it has not its life in the body, but rather 
gives it to the body and lives in that which it loves. 

St. John of the Cross 

Temperance is love surrendering itself wholly to Him who is its 
object; courage is love bearing all things gladly for the sake of 
Him who is its object; justice is love serving only Him who is 
its object, and therefore rightly ruling ; prudence is love making 
wise distinctions between what hinders and what helps itself. 

St. Augustine 

The distinguishing marks of charity are disinterestedness, 
tranquillity and humility. But where there is disinterestedness 
there is neither greed for personal advantage nor fear for per- 
sonal loss or punishment; where there is tranquillity, there is 
neither craving nor aversion, but a steady will to conform to 
the divine Tao or Logos on every level of existence and a 
steady awareness of the divine Suchness and what should be 
one's own relations to it; and where there is humility there is 
no censoriousness and no glorification of the ego or any pro- 
jected alter-ego at the expense of others, who are recognized as 
having the same weaknesses and faults, but also the same cap- 
acity for transcending them in the unitive knowledge of God, 
as one has oneself. From all this it follows that charity is the 
root and substance of morality, and that where there is little 
charity there will be much avoidable evil. All this has been 
summed up in Augustine's formula: 'Love, and do what you 
like.' Among the later elaborations of the Augustinian theme 



io8 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

we may cite the following from the writings of John Everard, 
one of those spiritually minded seventeenth-century divines 
whose teachings fell on die deaf ears of warring factions and, 
when the revolution and the military dictatorship were at an 
end, on the even deafer ears of Restoration clergymen and 
their successors in the Augustan age. (Just how deaf those ears 
could be we may judge by what Swift wrote of his beloved and 
morally perfect Houyhnhnms. The subject matter of their 
conversations, as of their poetry, consisted of such things as 
'friendship and benevolence, the visible operations of nature 
or ancient traditions; the bounds and limits of virtue, the 
unerring rules of reason/ Never once do the ideas of God, or 
charity, or deliverance engage their minds. Which shows 
sufficiently clearly what the Dean of St. Patrick's thought of 
the religion by which he made his money.) 

Turn the man loose who has found the living Guide within him, 
and then let him neglect the outward if he can ! Just as you 
would say to a man who loves his wife with all tenderness, "You 
are at liberty to beat her, hurt her or kill her, if you want to/ 

John Everard 

From this it follows that, where there is charity, there can be 
no coercion. 

God forces no one, for love cannot compel, and God's service, 
therefore, is a thing of perfect freedom. 

Hans Denk 

But just because it cannot compel, charity has a kind of author- 
ity, a non-coercive power, by means of which it defends itself 
and gets its beneficent will done in the world not always, of 
course, not inevitably or automatically (for individuals and, 
still more, organizations can be impenetrably armoured against 
divine influence), but in a surprisingly large number of cases. 



CHARITY 109 

Heaven arms with pity those whom it would not see destroyed. 

Lao T%u 

'He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me* in 
those who harbour such thoughts hatred will never cease. 

'He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me' 
in those who do not harbour such thoughts hatred will cease. 

For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time this is an 
old rule. 

Dhammapada 

Our present economic, social and international arrangements 
are based, in large measure, upon organized lovelessness. We 
begin by lacking charity towards Nature, so that instead of 
trying to co-operate with Tao or the Logos on the inanimate 
and sub-human levels, we try to dominate and exploit, we waste 
the earth's mineral resources, ruin its soil, ravage its forests, 
pour filth into its rivers and poisonous fumes into its air. From 
lovelessness in relation to Nature we advance to lovelessness in 
relation to art a lovelessness so extreme that we have effec- 
tively killed all the fundamental or useful arts and set up various 
kinds of mass-production by machines in their place. And of 
course this lovelessness in regard to art is at the same time a 
lovelessness in regard to the human beings who have to per- 
form the fool-proof and grace-proof tasks imposed by our 
mechanical art-surrogates and by the interminable paper work 
connected with mass-production and mass-distribution. With 
mass-production and mass-distribution go mass-financing, and 
the three have conspired to expropriate ever-increasing num- 
bers of small owners of land and productive equipment, thus 
reducing the sum of freedom among the majority and increas- 
ing the power of a minority to exercise a coercive control over 
the lives of their fellows. This coercively controlling minority 
is composed of private capitalists or governmental bureaucrats 
or of both classes of bosses acting in collaboration and, of 
course, the coercive and therefore essentially loveless nature of 
the control remains the same, whether the bosses call them- 



no THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

selves ' company directors * or * civil servants.' The only differ- 
ence between these two kinds of oligarchical rulers is that the 
first derive more of their power from wealth than from posi- 
tion within a conventionally respected hierarchy, while the 
second derive more power from position than from wealth. 
Upon this fairly uniform groundwork of loveless relationships 
are imposed others, which vary widely from one society to 
another, according to local conditions and local habits of 
thought and feeling. Here are a few examples : contempt and 
exploitation of coloured minorities living among white majori- 
ties, or of coloured majorities governed by minorities of white 
imperialists ; hatred of Jews, Catholics, Freemasons or of any 
other minority whose language, habits, appearance or religion 
happens to differ from those of the local majority. And the 
crowning superstructure of uncharity is the organized loveless- 
ness of the relations between state and sovereign state a love- 
lessness that expresses itself in the axiomatic assumption that 
it is right and natural for national organizations to behave like 
thieves and murderers, armed to the teeth and ready, at the 
first favourable opportunity, to steal and kill. (Just how 
axiomatic is this assumption about the nature of nationhood 
is shown by the history of Central America. So long as the 
arbitrarily delimited territories of Central America were called 
provinces of the Spanish colonial empire, there was peace 
between their inhabitants. But early in the nineteenth century 
the various administrative districts of the Spanish empire 
broke from their allegiance to the 'mother country' and de- 
cided to become nations on the European model. Result: 
they immediately went to war with one another. Why? 
Because, by definition, a sovereign national state is an organ- 
ization that has the right and duty to coerce its members to 
steal and kill on the largest possible scale.) 

'Lead us not into temptation' must be the guiding principle 
of all social organization, and the temptations to be guarded 
against and, so far as possible, eliminated by means of appro- 
priate economic and political arrangements are temptations 
against charity, that is to say, against the disinterested love of 



CHARITY in 

God, Nature and man. First, the dissemination and general 
acceptance of any form of the Perennial Philosophy will do 
something to preserve men and women from the temptation 
to idolatrous worship of things in time church-worship, 
state-worship, revolutionary future-worship, humanistic self- 
worship, all of them essentially and necessarily opposed to 
charity. Next come decentralization, widespread private 
ownership of land and the means of production on a small 
scale, discouragement of monopoly by state or corporation, 
division of economic and political power (the only guarantee, 
as Lord Acton was never tired of insisting, of civil liberty 
under law). These social rearrangements would do much to 
prevent ambitious individuals, organizations and governments 
from being led into the temptation of behaving tyrannously; 
while co-operatives, democratically controlled professional 
organizations and town meetings would deliver the masses of 
the people from the temptation of making their decentralized 
individualism too rugged. But of course none of these intrinsi- 
cally desirable reforms can possibly be carried out, so long as 
it is thought right and natural that sovereign states should 
prepare to make war on one another. For modern war cannot 
be waged except by countries with an over-developed capital 
goods industry ; countries in which economic power is wielded 
either by the state or by a few monopolistic corporations which 
it is easy to tax and, if necessary, temporarily to nationalize ; 
countries where the labouring masses, being without property, 
are rootless, easily transferable from one place to another, 
highly regimented by factory discipline. Any decentralized 
society of free, uncoerced small owners, with a properly 
balanced economy must, in a war-making world such as ours, 
be at the mercy of one whose production is highly mechanized 
and centralized, whose people are without property and there- 
fore easily coercible, and whose economy is lop-sided. This is 
why the one desire of industrially undeveloped countries like 
Mexico and China is to become like Germany, or England, or 
the United States. So long as the organized lovelessness of 
war and preparation for war remains, there can be no mitiga- 



in THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

tion, on any large, nation-wide or world-wide scale, of the 
organized lovelessness of our economic and political relation- 
ships. War and preparation for war are standing temptations 
to make the present bad, God-eclipsing arrangements of society 
progressively worse as technology becomes progressively more 
efficient. 



Chapter 6 

MORTIFICATION, NON-ATTACHMENT, 
RIGHT LIVELIHOOD 

This treasure of the Kingdom of God has been hidden by time 
and multiplicity and the soul's own works, or briefly by its 
creaturely nature. But in the measure that the soul can separate 
itself from this multiplicity, to that extent it reveals within itself 
the Kingdom of God. Here the soul and the Godhead are one. 

Eckhart 

U R kingdom go ' is the necessary and unavoidable corol- 
ry of 'Thy kingdom come.' For the more there is of 
self, the less there is of God. The divine eternal fullness of life 
can be gained only by those who have deliberately lost the 
partial, separative life of craving and self-interest, of ego- 
centric thinking, feeling, wishing and acting. Mortification or 
deliberate dying to self is inculcated with an uncompromising 
firmness in the canonical writings of Christianity, Hinduism, 
Buddhism and most of the other major and minor religions of 
the world, and by every theocentric saint and spiritual reformer 
who has ever lived out and expounded the principles of the 
Perennial Philosophy. But this 'self-naughting' is never (at 
least by anyone who knows what he is talking about) regarded 
as an end in itself. It possesses merely an instrumental value, 
as the indispensable means to something else. In the words of 
one whom we have often had occasion to cite in earlier sections, 
it is necessary for all of us to ' learn the true nature and worth 
of all self-denials and mortifications.' 

As to their nature, considered in themselves, they have nothing 
of goodness or holiness, nor are any real part of our sanctification, 
they are not the true food or nourishment of the Divine Life in 
our souls, they have no quickening, sanctifying power in them; 

TJ 113 



n 4 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

their only worth consists in this, that they remove .the impedi- 
ments of holiness, break down that which stands between God 
and us, and make way for the quickening, sanctifying spirit of 
God to operate on our souls, which operation of God is the one 
only thing that can raise the Divine Life in the soul, or help it to 

the smallest degree of real holiness or spiritual life Hence we 

may learn the reason why many people not only lose the benefit, 
but are even the worse for all their mortifications. It is because 
they mistake the whole nature and worth of them. They practise 
them for their own sakes, as things good in themselves; they 
think them to be real parts of holiness, and so rest in them and 
look no further, but grow full of self-esteem and self-admiration 
for their own progress in them. This makes them self-sufficient, 
morose, severe judges of all those that fall short of their mortifi- 
cations. And thus their self-denials do only that for them which 
indulgences do for other people : they withstand and hinder the 
operation of God upon their souls, and instead of being really 
self-denials, they strengthen and keep up the kingdom of self. 

William Law 



The rout and destruction of the passions, while a good, is not the 
ultimate good ; the discovery of Wisdom is the surpassing good. 
When this is found, all the people will sing. 

Philo 



Living in religion (as I can speak by experience) if one is not in a 
right course of prayer and other exercises between God and our 
soul, one's nature groweth much worse than ever it would have 
been, if one had lived in the world. For pride and self-love, 
which are rooted in the soul by sin, find means to strengthen 
themselves exceedingly in religion, if the soul is not in a course 
that may teach her and procure her true humility. For by the 
corrections and contradictions of the will (which cannot be 
avoided by any living in a religious community) I find my heart 
grown, as I may say, as hard as a stone; and nothing would 
have been able to soften it but by being put into a course of 



MORTIFICATION, NON-ATTACHMENT 115 

prayer, by which the soul tendeth towards God and learneth of 
Him the lesson of truly humbling herself, 

Dame Gertrude More 

Once, when I was grumbling over being obliged to eat meat and 
do no penance, I heard it said that sometimes there was more of 
self-love than desire of penance in such sorrow. 

St. Teresa 

That the mortified are, in some respects, often much worse 
than the unmortified is a commonplace of history, fiction and 
descriptive psychology. Thus, the Puritan may practise all the 
cardinal virtues prudence, fortitude, temperance and chastity 
and yet remain a thoroughly bad man ; for, in all too many 
cases, these virtues of his are accompanied by, and indeed 
causally connected with, the sins of pride, envy, chronic anger 
and an uncharitableness pushed sometimes to the level of active 
cruelty. Mistaking the means for the end, the Puritan has 
fancied himself holy because he is stoically austere. But stoical 
austerity is merely the exaltation of the more creditable side of 
the ego at the expense of the less creditable. Holiness, on the 
contrary, is the total denial of the separative self, in its credit- 
able no less than its discreditable aspects, and the abandonment 
of the will to God. To the extent that there is attachment to 
'I,' 'me,' 'mine/ there is no attachment to, and therefore no 
unitiye knowledge of, the divine Ground. Mortification has to 
be carried to the pitch of non-attachment or (in the phrase of 
St. Fran$ois de Sales) 'holy indifference'; otherwise it merely 
transfers self-will from one channel to another, not merely 
without decrease in the total volume of that self-will, but some- 
times with an actual increase. As usual, the corruption of the 
best is the worst. The difference between the mortified but 
still proud and self-centred stoic and the unmortified hedonist 
consists in this : the latter, being flabby, shiftless and at heart 
rather ashamed of himself, lacks the energy and the motive to 
do much harm except to his own body, mind and spirit; the 
former, because he has all the secondary virtues and looks 



ii6 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

down on those who are not like himself, is morally equipped 
to wish and to be able to do harm on the very largest scale and 
with a perfectly untroubled conscience. These are obvious 
facts ; and yet, in the current religious jargon of our day the 
word 'immoral' is reserved almost exclusively for the carnally 
self-indulgent. The covetous and the ambitious, the respect- 
able toughs and those who cloak their lust for power and place 
under the right sort of idealistic cant, are not merely unblamed ; 
they are even held up as models of virtue and godliness. The 
representatives of the organized churches begin by putting 
haloes on die heads of the people who do most to make wars 
and revolutions, then go on, rather plaintively, to wonder why 
the world should be in such a mess. 

Mortification is not, as many people seem to imagine, a 
matter, primarily, of severe physical austerities. It is possible 
that, for certain persons in certain circumstances, the practice of 
severe physical austerities may prove helpful in advance towards 
man's final end. In most cases, however, it would seem that 
what is gained by such austerities is not liberation, but some- 
thing quite different the achievement of 'psychic' powers. 
The ability to get petitionary prayer answered, die power to 
heal and work other miracles, the knack of looking into the 
future or into other people's minds these, it would seem, are 
often related in some kind of causal connection with fasting, 
watching and the self-infliction of pain. Most of the great 
theocentric saints and spiritual teachers have admitted the exist- 
ence of supernormal powers, only, however, to deplore them. 
To think that such Siddhis, as the Indians call them, have any- 
thing to do with liberation is, they say, a dangerous illusion. 
These things are either irrelevant to the main issue of life, or, 
if too much prized and attended to, an obstacle in die way of 
spiritual advance. Nor are these the only objections to physical 
austerities. Carried to extremes, they may be dangerous to 
health and without health the steady persistence of effort re- 
quired by the spiritual life is very difficult of achievement. And 
being difficult, painful and generally conspicuous, physical aus- 
terities are a standing temptation to vanity and the competitive 



MORTIFICATION, NON-ATTACHMENT 117 

spirit of record breaking. ' When thou didst give thyself up to 
physical mortification, thou wast great, thou wast admired.' 
So writes Suso of his own experiences experiences which led 
him, just as Gautama Buddha had been led many centuries 
before, to give up his course of bodily penance. And St. 
Teresa remarks how much easier it is to impose great penances 
upon oneself than to suffer in patience, charity and humbleness 
the ordinary everyday crosses of family life (which did not pre- 
vent her, incidentally, from practising, to the very day of her 
death, the most excruciating forms of self-torture. Whether 
these austerities really helped her to come to the unitive know- 
ledge of God, or whether they were prized and persisted in 
because of the psychic powers they helped to develop, there is 
no means of determining.) 

Our dear Saint (Francois de Sales) disapproved of immoderate 
fasting. He used to say that the spirit could not endure the body 
when overfed, but that, if underfed, the body could not endure 
the spirit. 

Jean Pierre Camus 



When the will, the moment it feels any joy in sensible things rises 
upwards in that joy to God, and when sensible things move it to 
pray, it should not neglect them, it should make use of them for 
so holy an exercise; because sensible things, in these conditions, 
subserve the end for which God created them, namely to be 
occasions for making Him better known and loved. 

St. John of the Cross 

He who is not conscious of liberty of spirit among the things of 
sense and sweetness things which should serve as motives to 
prayer and whose will rests and feeds upon them, ought to 
abstain from the use of them ; for to him they are a hindrance on 
the road to God. 

St. John of the Cross 



n8 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

One man may declare that he cannot fast; but can he declare 
that he cannot love God ? Another may affirm that he cannot 
preserve virginity or sell all his goods in order to give the price 
to the poor; but can he tell me that he cannot love his enemies? 
All that is necessary is to look into one's own heart ; for what 
God asks of us is not found at a great distance. 

St. Jerome 

Anybody who wishes to do so can get all, and indeed more than 
all, the mortification he wants out of the incidents of ordinary, 
day-to-day living, without ever resorting to harsh bodily 
penance. Here are the rules laid down by the author of Holy 
Wisdom for Dame Gertrude More. 



First, that she should do all that belonged to her to do by any 
law, human or Divine. Secondly, that she was to refrain from 
doing those things that were forbidden her by human or Divine 
Law, or by Divine inspiration. Thirdly, that she should bear 
with as much patience or resignation as possible all crosses and 
contradictions to her natural will, which were inflicted by the hand 
of God. Such, for instance, were aridities, temptations, afflic- 
tions or bodily pain, sickness and infirmity; or again, the loss 
of friends or want of necessaries and comforts. All this was to be 
endured patiently, whether the crosses came direct from God or 
by means of His creatures. . . . These indeed were mortifications 
enough for Dame Gertrude, or for any other soul, and there 
was no need for anyone to advise or impose others. 

Augustine Baker 

To sum up, that mortification is the best which results in the 
elimination of self-will, self-interest, self-centred thinking, 
wishing and imagining. Extreme physical austerities are not 
likely to achieve this kind of mortification. But the acceptance 
of what happens to us (apart, of course, from our own sins) in 
the course of daily living is likely to produce this result. If 
specific exercises in self-denial are undertaken, they should 



MORTIFICATION, NON-ATTACHMENT u 9 

be inconspicuous, non-competitive and uninjurious to health. 
Thus, in the matter of diet, most people will find it sufficiently 
mortifying to refrain from eating all the things which the 
experts in nutrition condemn as unwholesome. And where 
social relations are concerned, self-denial should take the form, 
not of showy acts of would-be humility, but of control of the 
tongue and the moods in refraining from saying anything 
uncharitable or merely frivolous (which means, in practice, 
refraining from about fifty per cent, of ordinary conversation), 
and in behaving calmly and with quiet cheerfulness when 
external circumstances or the state of our bodies predisposes 
us to anxiety, gloom or an excessive elation. 

When a man practises charity in order to be reborn in heaven, or 
for fame, or reward, or from fear, such charity can obtain no pure 
effect. 

Sutra on the Distinction and Protection of the Dharma 

When Prince Wen Wang was on a tour of inspection in Tsang, 
he saw an old man fishing. But his fishing was not real fishing, 
for he did not fish in order to catch fish, but to amuse himself. 
So Wen Wang wished to employ him in the administration 
of government, but feared lest his own ministers, uncles and 
brothers might object. On the other hand, if he let the old man 
go, he could not bear to think of the people being deprived of 

such an influence. 

Chuang T%u 

God, if I worship Thee in fear of hell, burn me in hell. And if I 
worship Thee in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise; 
but if I worship Thee for Thine own sake, withhold not Thine 

everlasting Beauty. 

Rabi'a 

Rabi'a, the Sufi woman-saint, speaks, thinks and feels in terms 
of devotional theism ; the Buddhist theologian, in terms of im- 



no THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

personal moral Law; the Chinese philosopher, with character- 
istic humour, in terms of politics ; but all three insist on the need 
for non-attachment to self-interest insist on it as strongly as 
does Christ when he reproaches the Pharisees for their ego- 
centric piety, as does the Krishna of the Bhagavad-Gita when 
he tells Arjuna to do his divinely ordained duty without per- 
sonal craving for, or fear of, the fruits of his actions. 

St. Ignatius Loyola was once asked what his feelings would be if 
the Pope were to suppress the Company of Jesus. 'A quarter of 
an hour of prayer/ he answered, ' and I should think no more 
about it.' 

This is, perhaps, the most difficult of all mortifications to 
achieve a 'holy indifference' to the temporal success or failure 
of the cause to which one has devoted one's best energies. If 
it triumphs, well and good ; and if it meets defeat, that also 
is well and good, if only in ways that, to a limited and time- 
bound mind, are here and now entirely incomprehensible. 

By a man without passions I mean one who does not permit good 
or evil to disturb his inward economy, but rather falls in with 
what happens and does not add to the sum of his mortality. 

Chuang T^u 

The fitting disposition for union with God is not that the soul 
should understand, feel, taste or imagine anything on the subject 
of the nature of God, or any other thing whatever, but should 
remain in that pureness and love which is perfect resignation and 
complete detachment from all things for God alone. 

St. John of the Cross 

Disquietude is always vanity, because it serves no good. Yes, 
even if the whole world were thrown into confusion and all 
things in it, disquietude on that account would be vanity. 

St. John of the Cross 



MORTIFICATION, NON-ATTACHMENT 121 

Sufficient not only unto the day, but also unto the place, is the 
evil thereof. Agitation over happenings which we are power- 
less to modify, either because they have not yet occurred, or 
else are occurring at an inaccessible distance from us, achieves 
nothing beyond the inoculation of here and now with the 
remote or anticipated evil that is the object of our distress. 
Listening four or five times a day to newscasters and com- 
mentators, reading the morning papers and all the weeklies and 
monthlies nowadays, this is described as ' taking an intelligent 
interest in politics. 5 St. John of the Cross would have called 
it indulgence in idle curiosity and the cultivation of disquietude 
for disquietude's sake. 

I want very little, and what I do want I have very little wish for. 
I have hardly any desires, but if I were to be born again, I should 
have none at all. We should ask nothing and refuse nothing, but 
leave ourselves in the arms of divine Providence without wasting 
time in any desire, except to will what God wills of us. 

St. Franfois de Sales 

Push far enough towards the Void, 

Hold fast enough to Quietness, 

And of the ten thousand things none but can be worked on by you. 

I have beheld them, whither they go back. 

See, all things howsoever they flourish 

Return to the root from which they grew. 

This return to the Root is called Quietness; 

Quietness is called submission to Fate ; 

What has submitted to Fate becomes part of the always-so ; 

To know the always-so is to be illumined ; 

Not to know it means to go blindly to disaster. 

Lao T%u 

I wish I could join the 'Solitaries' (on Caldey Island), instead of 
being Superior and having to write books. But I don't wish to 
have what I wish, of course. 

Abbot John Chapman 



izi THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

We must not wish anything other than what happens from 
moment to moment, all the while, however, exercising ourselves 
in goodness. 

St. Catherine of Genoa 

In the practice of mortification as in most other fields, advance 
is along a knife-edge. On one side lurks the Scylla of ego- 
centric austerity, on the other the Charybdis of an uncaring 
quietism. The holy indifference inculcated by the exponents 
of the Perennial Philosophy is neither stoicism nor mere pas- 
sivity. It is rather an active resignation. Self-will is renounced, 
not that there may be a total holiday from willing, but that the 
divine will may use the mortified mind and body as its instru- 
ment for good. Or we may say, with Kabir, that 'the devout 
seeker is he who mingles in his heart the double currents of 
love and detachment, like the mingling of the streams of 
Ganges and Jumna.' Until we put an end to particular attach- 
ments, there can be no love of God with the whole heart, mind 
and strength and no universal charity towards all creatures for 
God's sake. Hence the hard sayings in the Gospels about the 
need to renounce exclusive family ties. And if the Son of Man 
has nowhere to lay his head, if the Tathagata and the Bodhi- 
sattvas 'have their thoughts awakened to the nature of Reality 
without abiding in anything whatever,' this is because a truly 
Godlike love which, like the sun, shines equally upon the just 
and the unjust, is impossible to a mind imprisoned in private 
preferences and aversions. 

The soul that is attached to anything, however much good there 
may be in it, will not arrive at the liberty of divine union. For 
whether it be a strong wire rope or a slender and delicate thread 
that holds the bird, it matters not, if it really holds it fast; for, 
until the cord be broken, the bird cannot fly. So the soul, held 
by the bonds of human affections, however slight they may be, 
cannot, while they last, make its way to God. 

St. John of the Cross 



MORTIFICATION, NON-ATTACHMENT 123 

There are some who are newly delivered from their sins and so, 
though they are resolved to love God, they are still novices and 
apprentices, soft and weak. . . . They love a number of super- 
fluous, vain and dangerous things at the same time as Our Lord. 
Though they love God above all things, they yet continue to take 
pleasure in many things which they do not love according to God, 
but besides Him things such as slight inordinations in word, 
gesture, clothing, pastimes and frivolities. 

St. Franfois de Sales 

There are souls who have made some progress in divine love, and 
have cut off" all the love they had for dangerous things ; yet they 
still have dangerous and superfluous loves, because they love 
what God wills them to love, but with excess and too tender and 
passionate a love. . . . The love of our relations, friends and bene- 
factors is itself according to God, but we may love them exces- 
sively ; as also our vocations, however spiritual they be ; and our 
devotional exercises (which we should yet love very greatly) may 
be loved inordinately, when we set them above obedience and the 
more general good, or care for them as an end, when they are 
only means. 

St. Franfois de Sales 

The goods of God, which are beyond all measure, can only be 
contained in an empty and solitary heart. 

St. John of the Cross 

Suppose a boat is crossing a river and another boat, an empty one, 
is about to collide with it. Even an irritable man would not lose 
his temper. But suppose there was someone in the second boat. 
Then the occupant of the first would shout to him to keep clear. 
And if he did not hear the first time, nor even when called to three 
times, bad language would inevitably follow. In the first case 
there was no anger, in the second there was because in the first 
case the boat was empty, in the second it was occupied. And so 
it is with man. If he could only pass empty through life, who 
would be able to injure him ? 

Chuang TIU 



i2 4 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

When the heart weeps for what it has lost, the spirit laughs for 
what it has found. 

Anonymous Sufi Aphorism 

It is by losing the egocentric life that we save the hitherto latent 
and undiscovered life which, in the spiritual part of our being, 
we share with the divine Ground. This new-found life is 
'more abundant' than the other, and of a different and higher 
kind. Its possession is liberation into the eternal, and liberation 
is beatitude. Necessarily so ; for the Brahman, who is one with 
the Atman, is not only Being and Knowledge, but also Bliss, 
and, after Love and Peace, the final fruit of the Spirit is Joy. 
Mortification is painful, but that pain is one of the pre-condi- 
tions of blessedness. This fact of spiritual experience is some- 
times obscured by the language in which it is described. Thus, 
when Christ says that the Kingdom of Heaven cannot be 
entered except by those who are as little children, we are apt 
to forget (so touching are the images evoked by the simple 
phrase) that a man cannot become childlike unless he chooses 
to undertake the most strenuous and searching course of self- 
denial. In practice the command to become as little children 
is identical with the command to lose one's life. As Traherne 
makes clear in the beautiful passage quoted in the section on 
* God in the World,' one cannot know created Nature in all its 
essentially sacred beauty, unless one first unlearns the, dirty 
devices of adult humanity. Seen through the dung-coloured 
spectacles of self-interest, the universe looks singularly like a 
dung-heap ; and as, through long wearing, the spectacles have 
grown on to the eyeballs, the process of 'cleansing the doors 
of perception' is often, at any rate in the earlier stages of the 
spiritual life, painfully like a surgical operation. Later on, it 
is true, even self-naughting may be suffused with the joy of 
the Spirit. On this point the following passage from the 
fourteenth-century Scale of Perfection is illuminating. 

Many a man hath the virtues of humility, patience and charity 
towards his neighbours, only in the reason and will, and hath no 



MORTIFICATION, NON-ATTACHMENT i2f 

spiritual delight nor love in them; for ofttimes he feeleth grudg- 
ing, heaviness and bitterness for to do them, but yet nevertheless 
he doth them, but 'tis only by stirring of reason for dread of God, 
This man hath these virtues in reason and will, but not the love 
of them in affection. But when, by the grace of Jesus and by 
ghostly and bodily exercise, reason is turned into light and will 
into love, then hath he virtues in affection ; for he hath so gnawn 
on the bitter bark or shell of the nut that at length he hath broken 
it and now feeds on the kernel ; that is to say, the virtues which 
were first heavy for to practise are now turned into a very delight 
and savour. 

Walter Hilton 

As long as I am this or that, or have this or that, I am not all 
things and I have not all things. Become pure till you neither 
are nor have either this or that; then you are omnipresent and, 
being neither this nor that, are all things. 

Eckhart 

The point so dramatically emphasized by Eckhart in these lines 
is one that has often been made by the moralists and psycho- 
logists of the spiritual life. It is only when we have renounced 
our preoccupation with 'I,' 'me,' 'mine' that we can truly 
possess the world in which we live. Everything is ours, pro- 
vided that we regard nothing as our property. And not only 
is everything ours ; it is also everybody else's. 

True love in this differs from dross and clay, 
That to divide is not to take away. 

There can be no complete communism except in the goods of 
the spirit and, to some extent also, of the mind, and only when 
such goods are possessed by men and women in a state of non- 
attachment and self-denial. Some degree of mortification, it 
should be noted, is an indispensable prerequisite for the crea- 
tion and enjoyment even of merely intellectual and aesthetic 
goods. Those who choose the profession of artist, philo- 
sopher or man of science, choose, in many cases, a fife of 



n6 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

poverty and unrewarded hard work. But these are by no 
means the only mortifications they have to undertake. When 
he looks at the world, the artist must deny his ordinary human 
tendency to think of things in utilitarian, self-regarding terms. 
Similarly, the critical philosopher must mortify his common 
sense, while the research worker must steadfastly resist the 
temptations to over-simplify and think conventionally, and 
must make himself docile to the leadings of mysterious Fact. 
And what is true of the creators of aesthetic and intellectual 
goods is also true of the enjoyers of such goods, when created. 
That these mortifications are by no means trifling has been 
shown again and again in the course of history. One thinks, 
for example, of the intellectually mortified Socrates and the 
hemlock with which his unmodified compatriots rewarded 
him. One thinks of the heroic efforts that had to be made by 
Galileo and his contemporaries to break with the Aristotelian 
convention of thought, and the no less heroic efforts that have 
to be made today by any scientist who believes that there is 
more in the universe than can be discovered by employing the 
time-hallowed recipes of Descartes. Such mortifications have 
their reward in a state of consciousness that corresponds, on 
a lower level, to spiritual beatitude. The artist and the 
philosopher and the man of science are also artists knows the 
bliss of aesthetic contemplation, discovery and non-attached 
possession. 

The goods of the intellect, the emotions and the imagination 
are real goods; but they are not the final good, and when we 
treat them as ends in themselves, we fall into idolatry. Morti- 
fication of will, desire and action is not enough ; there must 
also be mortification in the fields of knowing, thinking, feeling 
and fancying. 

Man's intellectual faculties are by the Fall in a much worse state 
than his animal appetites and want a much greater self-denial. 
And when own will, own understanding and own imagination 
have their natural strength indulged and gratified, and are made 
seemingly rich and honourable with the treasures acquired from 



MORTIFICATION, NON-ATTACHMENT 127 

a study of the Belles Lettres^ they will just as much help poor 
fallen man to be like-minded with* Christ as the art of cookery, 
well and duly studied, will help a professor of the Gospel to the 
spirit and practice of Christian abstinence. 

William Law 

Because it was German and spelt with a K, Kultur was an 
object, during the First World War, of derisive contempt. All 
this has now been changed. In Russia, Literature, Art and 
Science have become the three persons of a new humanistic 
Trinity. Nor is the cult of Culture confined to the Soviet 
Union. It is practised by a majority of intellectuals in the 
capitalist democracies. Clever, hard-boiled journalists, who 
write about everything else with the condescending cynicism 
of people who know all about God, Man and the Universe, 
and have seen through the whole absurd caboodle, fairly fall 
over themselves when it comes to Culture. With an earnest- 
ness and enthusiasm that are, in the circumstances, unutter- 
ably ludicrous, they invite us to share their positively religious 
emotions in the face of High Art, as represented by the latest 
murals or civic centres ; they insist that so long as Mrs. X goes 
on writing her inimitable novels and Mr. Y his more than 
Coleridgean criticism, the world, in spite of all appearances to 
the contrary, makes sense. The same over-valuation of Culture, 
the same belief that Art and Literature are ends in themselves 
and can flourish in isolation from a reasonable and realistic 
philosophy of life, have even invaded the schools and colleges. 
Among 'advanced' educationists there are many people who 
seem to think that all will be well so long as adolescents are 
permitted to 'express themselves,' and small children are en- 
couraged to be 'creative' in the art class. But, alas, plasticine 
and self-expression will not solve the problems of education. 
Nor will technology and vocational guidance ; nor the classics 
and the Hundred Best Books. The following criticisms of 
education were made more than two and a half centuries ago ; 
but they are as relevant today as they were in the seventeenth 
century. 



128 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

He knoweth nothing as he ought to know, who thinks he know- 
eth anything without seeing its place and the manner how it 
relateth to God, angels and men, and to all the creatures in earth, 
heaven and hell, time and eternity. 

Thomas Traherne 

Nevertheless some things were defective too (at Oxford under 
the Commonwealth). There was never a tutor that did professly 
teach Felicity, though that be the mistress of all the other sciences. 
Nor did any of us study these things but as aliens, which we 
ought to have studied as our own enjoyments. We studied to 
inform our knowledge, but knew not for what end we studied. 
And for lack of aiming at a certain end, we erred in the manner. 

Thomas Traherne 

In Traherne's vocabulary 'felicity' means 'beatitude,' which is 
identical in practice with liberation, which, in its turn, is the 
unitive knowledge of God in the heights within and in the 
fullness without as well as within. 

What follows is an account of the intellectual mortifications 
which must be practised by those whose primary concern is with 
the knowledge of the Godhead in the interior heights of the 
soul. 

Happy is the man who, by continually effacing all images and 
through introversion and the lifting up of his mind to God, at last 
forgets and leaves behind all such hindrances. For by such means 
only, he operates inwardly, with his naked, pure, simple intellect 
and affections, about the most pure and simple object, God. 
Therefore see that thy whole exercise about God within thee 
may depend wholly and only on that naked intellect, affection 
and will. For indeed, this exercise cannot be discharged by any 
bodily organ, or by the external senses, but only by that which 
constitutes the essence of man understanding and love. If, 
therefore, thou desirest a safe stair and short path to arrive at the 
end of true bliss, then, with an intent mind, earnestly desire and 
aspire after continual cleanness of heart and purity of mind. Add 



MORTIFICATION, NON-ATTACHMENT 129 

to this a constant calm and tranquillity of the senses, and a recol- 
lecting of the affections of the heart, continually fixing them 
above. Work to simplify the heart, that being immovable and 
at peace from any invading vain phantasms, thou mayest always 
stand fast in the Lord within thee, to that degree as if thy soul 
had already entered the always present now of eternity that is, 
the state of the deity. To mount to God is to enter into oneself. 
For he who so mounts and enters and goes above and beyond 
himself, he truly mounts up to God. The mind must then raise 
itself above itself and say, 'He who above all I need is above all I 
know.' And so carried into the darkness of the mind, gathering 
itself into that all-sufficient good, it learns to stay at home and 
with its whole affection it cleaves and becomes habitually fixed 
in the supreme good within. Thus continue, until thou becomest 
immutable and dost arrive at that true life which is God Himself, 
perpetually, without any vicissitude of space or time, reposing in 
that inward quiet and secret mansion of the deity. 

Albertus Magnus (?) 

Some men love knowledge and discernment as the best and most 
excellent of all things. Behold, then knowledge and discernment 
come to be loved more than that which is discerned ; for the false 
natural light loveth its knowledge and powers, which are itself, 
more than what is known. And were it possible that this false 
natural light should understand the simple Truth, as it is in God 
and in truth, it still would not lose its own property, that is, 
it could not depart from itself and its own things. 

Theologia Germanica 

The relationship between moral action and spiritual knowledge 
is circular, as it were, and reciprocal. Selfless behaviour makes 
possible an accession of knowledge, and the accession of know- 
ledge makes possible the performance of further and more 
genuinely selfless actions, which in their turn enhance the 
agent's capacity for knowing. And so on, if all goes well and 
there is perfect docility and obedience, indefinitely. The pro- 
cess is summed up in a few lines of the Maitrayana Upanishad, 



i 3 o THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

A man undertakes right action (which includes, of course, right 
recollectedness and right meditation), and this enables him to 
catch a glimpse of the Self that underlies his separate individual- 
ity. 'Having seen his own self as the Self, he becomes selfless 
(and therefore acts selflessly) and in virtue of selflessness he is 
to be conceived as unconditioned. This is the highest mystery, 
betokening emancipation; through selflessness he has no part 
in pleasure or pain (in other words, he enters a state of non- 
attachment or holy indifference), but achieves absoluteness* (or 
as Albertus Magnus phrases it, 'becomes immutable and arrives 
at that true life which is God Himself). 

When mortification is perfect, its most characteristic fruit is 
simplicity. 

A simple heart will love all that is most precious on earth, hus- 
band or wife, parent or child, brother or friend, without marring 
its singleness; external things will have no attraction save inas- 
much as they lead souls to Him; all exaggeration or unreality, 
affectation and falsehood must pass away from such a one, as the 
dews dry up before the sunshine. The single motive is to please 
God, and hence arises total indifference as to what others say and 
think, so that words and actions are perfectly simple and natural, 
as in his sight only. Such Christian simplicity is the very perfec- 
tion of interior life God, his will and pleasure, its sole object. 

N. Grou 

And here is a more extended account of the matter by one of 
the greatest masters of psychological analysis. 

In the world, when people call anyone simple, they generally 
mean a foolish, ignorant, credulous person. But real simplicity, 
so far from being foolish, is almost sublime. All good men like 
and admire it, are conscious of sinning against it, observe it in 
others and know what it involves; and yet they could not pre- 
cisely define it. I should say that simplicity is an uprightness of 
soul which prevents self-consciousness. It is not the same as 
sincerity, which is a much humbler virtue. Many people are sin- 



MORTIFICATION, NON-ATTACHMENT 131 

cere who are not simple. They say nothing but what they believe 
to be true, and do not aim at appearing anything but what they 
are. But they are for ever thinking about themselves, weighing 
their every word and thought, and dwelling upon themselves in 
apprehension of having done too much or too little. These 
people are sincere but they are not simple. They are not at their 
ease with others, nor others with them. There is nothing easy, 
frank, unrestrained or natural about them. One feels that 
one would like less admirable people better, who were not 
so stiff. 

To be absorbed in the world around and never turn a thought 
within, as is the blind condition of some who are carried away by 
what is pleasant and tangible, is one extreme as opposed to sim- 
plicity. And to be self-absorbed in all matters, whether it be 
duty to God or man, is the other extreme, which makes a person 
wise in his own conceit reserved, self-conscious, uneasy at the 
least thing which disturbs his inward self-complacency. Such 
false wisdom, in spite of its solemnity, is hardly less vain and 
foolish than the folly of those who plunge headlong into worldly 
pleasures. The one is intoxicated by his outward surroundings, 
the other by what he believes himself to be doing inwardly; but 
both are in a state of intoxication, and the last is a worse state 
than the first, because it seems to be wise, though it is not really, 
and so people do not try to be cured. Real simplicity lies in a 
juste milieu equally free from thoughtlessness and affectation, in 
which the soul is not overwhelmed by externals, so as to be 
unable to reflect, nor yet given up to the endless refinements, 
which self-consciousness induces. That soul which looks where 
it is going without losing time arguing over every step, or 
looking back perpetually, possesses true simplicity. Such 
simplicity is indeed a great treasure. How shall we attain 
to it? I would give all I possess for it; it is the costly pearl 
of Holy Scripture. 

The first step, then, is for the soul to put away outward things 
and look within so as to know its own real interest; so far all is 
right and natural ; thus much is only a wise self-love, which seeks 
to avoid the intoxication of the world. 



i 3 2 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

In the next step the soul must add the contemplation of God, 
whom it fears, to that of self. This is a faint approach to the real 
wisdom, but the soul is still greatly self-absorbed : it is not satis- 
fied with fearing God; it wants to be certain that it does fear 
Him and fears lest it fear Him not, going round in a perpetual 
circle of self-consciousness. All this restless dwelling on self is 
very far from the peace and freedom of real love ; but that is yet 
in the distance; the soul must needs go through a season of 
trial, and were it suddenly plunged into a state of rest, it would 
not know how to use it. 

The third step is that, ceasing from a restless self-contempla- 
tion, the soul begins to dwell upon God instead, and by degrees 
forgets itself in Him. It becomes full of Him and ceases to feed 
upon self. Such a soul is not blinded to its own faults or indif- 
ferent to its own errors ; it is more conscious of them than ever, 
and increased light shows them in plainer form, but this self- 
knowledge comes from God, and therefore it is not restless or 
uneasy. 

Fenelon 

How admirably acute and subtle this is ! One of the most 
extraordinary, because most gratuitous, pieces of twentieth- 
century vanity is the assumption that nobody knew anything 
about psychology before the days of Freud. But the real truth 
is that most modern psychologists understand human beings 
less well than did the ablest of their predecessors. Fenelon and 
La Rochefoucauld knew all about the surface rationalization of 
deep, discreditable motives in the subconscious, and were fully 
aware that sexuality and the will to power were, all too often, 
the effective forces at work under the polite mask of thepersona. 
Machiavelli had drawn Pareto's distinction between 'residues' 
and 'derivations' between the real, self-interested motives for 
political action and the fancy theories, principles and ideals in 
terms of which such action is explained and justified to the 
credulous public. Like Buddha's and St. Augustine's, Pascal's 
view of human virtue and rationality could not have been more 
realistically low. But all these men, even La Rochefoucauld, 



MORTIFICATION, NON-ATTACHMENT 133 

even Machiavelli, were aware of certain facts which twentieth- 
century psychologists have chosen to ignore the fact that 
human nature is tripartite, consisting of a spirit as well as of a 
mind and body; the fact that we live on the border-line 
between two worlds, the temporal and the eternal, the physical- 
vital-human and the divine; the fact that, though nothing in 
himself, man is 'a nothing surrounded by God, indigent of 
God, capable of God and filled with God, if he so desires/ 

The Christian simplicity, of which Grou and Fenelon write, 
is the same thing as the virtue so much admired by Lao Tzu 
and his successors. According to these Chinese sages, personal 
sins and social maladjustments are all due to the fact that men 
have separated themselves from their divine source and live 
according to their own will and notions, not according to Tao 
which is the Great Way, the Logos, the Nature of Things, 
as it manifests itself on every plane from the physical, up 
through the animal and the mental, to the spiritual. Enlighten- 
ment comes when we give up self-will and make ourselves 
docile to the workings of Tag in the world around us and in 
our own bodies, minds and spirits. Sometimes the Taoist 
philosophers write as though they believed in Rousseau's Noble 
Savage, and (being Chinese and therefore much more con- 
cerned with the concrete and the practical than with the merely 
speculative) they are fond of prescribing methods by which 
rulers may reduce the complexity of civilization and so preserve 
their subjects from the corrupting influences of man-made and 
therefore Tao-eclipsing conventions of thought, feeling and 
action. But the rulers who are to perform this task for the 
masses must themselves be sages ; and to become a sage, one 
must get rid of all the rigidities of unregenerate adulthood and 
become again as a little child. For only that which is soft and 
docile is truly alive ; that which conquers and outlives every- 
thing is that which adapts itself to everything, that which 
always seeks the lowest place not the hard rock, but the 
water that wears away the everlasting hills. The simplicity and 
spontaneity of the perfect sage are the fruits of mortification 
mortification of the will and, by recollectedness and medita- 



i 3 4 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

tion, of the mind. Only the most highly disciplined artist can 
recapture, on a higher level, the spontaneity of the child with 
its first paint-box. Nothing is more difficult than to be 
simple. 

'May I ask/ said Yen Hui, 'in what consists the fasting of the 
heart?' 

'Cultivate unity,' replied Confucius. 'You do your hearing, 
not with your ears, but with your mind ; not with your mind, but 
with your very soul. But let the hearing stop with the ears. 
Let the working of the mind stop with itself. Then the soul will 
be a negative existence, passively responsive to externals. In such 
a negative existence, only Tao can abide. And that negative 
state is the fasting of the heart.' 

'Then,' said Yen Hui, 'the reason I could not get the use of 
this method is my own individuality. If I could get the use of it, 
my individuality would have gone. Is this what you mean by 
the negative state?' 

'Exactly so,' replied the Master. 'Let me tell you. If you can 
enter the domain of this prince (a bad ruler whom Yen Hui was 
ambitious to reform) without offending his amour propre, cheer- 
ful if he hears you, passive if he does not; without science, with- 
out drugs, simply living there in a state of complete indifference 
you will be near success. . . . Look at that window. Through 
it an empty room becomes bright with scenery; but the land- 
scape stops outside. In this sense you may use your ears and 
eyes to communicate within, but shut out all wisdom (in the 
sense of conventional, copybook maxims) from your mind. This 
is the method for regenerating all creation.' 

Chuang T%u 

Mortification may be regarded, in this context, as the process of 
study, by which we learn at last to have unstudied reactions to 
events reactions in harmony with Tao, Suchness, the Will of 
God. Those who have made themselves docile to the divine 
Nature of Things, those who respond to circumstances, not 
with craving and aversion, but with the love that permits them 



MORTIFICATION, NON-ATTACHMENT 135 

to do spontaneously what they like ; those who can truthfully 
say, Not I, but God in me such men and women are com- 
pared by the exponents of the Perennial Philosophy to children, 
to fools and simpletons, even sometimes, as in the following 
passage, to drunkards. 

A drunken man who falls out of a cart, though he may suffer, 
does not die. His bones are the same as other people's ; but he 
meets his accident in a different way. His spirit is in a condition 
of security. He is not conscious of riding in the cart; neither is 
he conscious of falling out of it. Ideas of life, death, fear and the 
like cannot penetrate his breast; and so he does not suffer from 
contact with objective existence. If such security is to be got 
from wine, how much more is it to be got from God ? 

Chuang T^u 

It is by long obedience and hard work that the artist comes to 
unforced spontaneity and consummate mastery. Knowing that 
he can never create anything on his own account, out of the top 
layers, so to speak, of his personal consciousness, he submits 
obediently to the workings of 'inspiration* ; and knowing that 
the medium in which he works has its own self-nature, which 
must not be ignored or violently overriden, he makes himself 
its patient servant and, in this way, achieves perfect freedom 
of expression. But life is also an art, and the man who would 
become a consummate artist in living must follow, on all the 
levels of his being, the same procedure as that by which the 
painter or the sculptor or any other craftsman comes to his own 
more limited perfection. 

Prince Hui's cook was cutting up a bullock. Every blow of his 
knife, every heave of his shoulders, every tread of his foot, 
every whshh of rent flesh, every chhk of the chopper, was in 
perfect harmony rhythmical like the Dance of the Mulberry 
Grove, simultaneous like the chords of the Ching Shou. 
' Well done ! ' cried the Prince. ' Yours is skill indeed/ 



136 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

'Sire,' replied the cook, 'I have always devoted myself to Tao. 
It is better than skill. When I first began to cut up bullocks, I 
saw before me simply whole bullocks. After three years' practice 
I saw no more whole animals. And now I work with my mind 
and not with my eye. When my senses bid me stop, but my 
mind urges me on, I fall back upon eternal principles. I follow 
such openings or cavities as there may be, according to the 
natural constitution of the animal. I do not attempt to cut 
through joints, still less through large bones. 

'A good cook changes his chopper once a year because he 
cuts. An ordinary cook, once a month because he hacks. But 
I have had this chopper nineteen years, and though I have cut up 
many thousands of bullocks, its edge is as if fresh from the whet- 
stone. For at the joints there are always interstices, and the edge 
of a chopper being without thickness, it remains only to insert 
that which is without thickness into such an interstice. By these 
means the interstice will be enlarged, and the blade will find 
plenty of room. It is thus that I have kept my chopper for nine- 
teen years, as though fresh from the whetstone. 

'Nevertheless, when I come upon a hard part, where the blade 
meets with a difficulty, I am all caution. I fix my eyes on it. I 
stay my hand, and gently apply the blade, until with a kwah the 
part yields like earth crumbling to the ground. Then I withdraw 
the blade and stand up and look around ; and at last I wipe my 
chopper and put it carefully away.' 

'Bravo!' cried the Prince. 'From the words of this cook I 
have learnt how to take care of my life/ 

Chuang T^u 

In the first seven branches of his Eightfold Path the Buddha 
describes the conditions that must be fulfilled by anyone who 
desires to come to that right contemplation which is the eighth 
and final branch. The fulfilment of these conditions entails the 
undertaking of a course of the most searching and comprehen- 
sive mortification mortification of intellect and will, craving 
and emotion, thought, speech, action and, finally, means of 
livelihood. Certain professions are more or less completely 



MORTIFICATION, NON-ATTACHMENT 137 

incompatible with the achievement of man's final end; and 
there are certain ways of making a living which do so much 
physical and, above all, so much moral, intellectual and spiritual 
harm that, even if they could be practised in a non-attached 
spirit (which is generally impossible), they would still have to 
be eschewed by anyone dedicated to the task of liberating, not 
only himself, but others. The exponents of the Perennial Philo- 
sophy are not content to avoid and forbid the practice of crim- 
inal professions, such as brothel-keeping, forgery, racketeering 
and the like; they also avoid themselves, and warn others 
against, a number of ways of livelihood commonly regarded 
as legitimate. Thus, in many Buddhist societies, the manu- 
facture of arms, the concoction of intoxicating liquors and the 
wholesale purveying of butcher's meat were not, as in con- 
temporary Christendom, rewarded by wealth, peerages and 
political influence ; they were deplored as businesses which, it 
was thought, made it particularly difficult for their practi- 
tioners and for other members of the communities in which 
they were practised to achieve enlightenment and liberation. 
Similarly, in mediaeval Europe, Christians were forbidden to 
make a living by the taking of interest on money or by corner- 
ing the market. As Tawney and others have shown, it was 
only after the Reformation that coupon-clipping, usury and 
gambling in stocks and commodities became respectable and 
received ecclesiastical approval. 

For the Quakers, soldiering was and is a form of wrong 
livelihood war being, in their eyes, anti-Christian, not so 
much because it causes suffering as because it propagates 
hatred, puts a premium on fraud and cruelty, infects whole 
societies with anger, fear, pride and uncharitableness. Such 
passions eclipse the Inner Light, and therefore the wars by 
which they are aroused and intensified must be regarded, what- 
ever their immediate political outcome, as crusades to make 
the world safe for spiritual darkness. 

It has been found, as a matter of experience, that it is 
dangerous to lay down detailed and inflexible rules for right 
livelihood dangerous, because most people see no reason for 



138 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

being righteous overmuch and consequently respond to the 
imposition of too rigid a code by hypocrisy or open rebellion. 
In the Christian tradition, for example, a distinction is made 
between the precepts, which are binding on all and sundry, 
and the counsels of perfection, binding only upon those who 
feel drawn towards a total renunciation of 'the world.' The 
precepts include the ordinary moral code and the command- 
ment to love God with all one's heart, strength and mind, and 
one's neighbour as oneself. Some of those who make a serious 
effort to obey this last and greatest commandment find that 
they cannot do so whole-heartedly unless they follow the coun- 
sels and sever all connections with the world. Nevertheless it 
is possible for men and women to achieve that 'perfection,' 
which is deliverance into the unitive knowledge of God, with- 
out abandoning the married state and without selling all they 
have and giving the price to the poor. Effective poverty (pos- 
sessing no money) is by no means always affective poverty 
(being indifferent to money). One man may be poor, but 
desperately concerned with what money can buy, full of 
cravings, envy and bitter .self-pity. Another may have money, 
but no attachment to money or the things, powers and privi- 
leges that money can buy. ' Evangelical poverty ' is a combina- 
tion of effective with affective poverty; but a genuine poverty 
of spirit is possible even in those who are not effectively poor. 
It will be seen, then, that the problems of right livelihood, in 
so far as they lie outside the jurisdiction of the common moral 
code, are strictly personal. The way in which any individual 
problem presents itself and the nature of the appropriate solu- 
tion depend upon the degree of knowledge, moral sensibility 
and spiritual insight achieved by the individual concerned. 
For this reason no universally applicable rules can be formu- 
lated except in the most general terms. 'Here are my three 
treasures,' says Lao Tzu. ' Guard and keep them ! The first 
is pity, the second frugality, the third refusal to be foremost 
of all things under heaven.' And when Jesus is asked by a 
stranger to settle a dispute between himself and his brother 
over an inheritance, he refuses (since he does not know the 



MORTIFICATION, NON-ATTACHMENT 139 

circumstances) to be a judge in the case and merely utters a 
general warning against covetousness. 

Ga-San instructed his adherents one day: 'Those who speak 
against killing, and who desire to spare the lives of all conscious 
beings, are right. It is good to protect even animals and insects. 
But what about those persons who kill time, what about those 
who destroy wealth, and those who murder the economy of their 
society? We should not overlook them. Again, what of the 
one who preaches without enlightenment? He is killing 
Buddhism.' 

From * One Hundred and One Zen Stories 9 

Once the noble Ibrahim, as he sat on his throne, 

Heard a clamour and noise of cries on the roof, 

Also heavy footsteps on the roof of his palace. 

He said to himself, 'Whose heavy feet are these?' 

He shouted from the window, 'Who goes there?' 

The guards, filled with confusion, bowed their heads, saying, 

'It is we, going the rounds in search.' 

He said, 'What seek ye?' They said, 'Our camels.' 

He said, 'Who ever searched for camels on a housetop?' 

They said, 'We follow thy example, 

Who seekest union with God, while sitting on a throne.' 

Jalal-uddin Rumi 

Of all social, moral and spiritual problems that of power is the 
most chronically urgent and the most difficult of solution. 
Craving for power is not a vice of the body, consequently 
knows none of the limitations imposed by a tired or satiated 
physiology upon gluttony, intemperance and lust. Growing 
with every successive satisfaction, the appetite for power can 
manifest itself indefinitely, without interruption by bodily 
fatigue or sickness. Moreover, the nature of society is such 
that the higher a man climbs in the political, economic or reli- 
gious hierarchy, the greater are his opportunities and resources 
for exercising power. But climbing the hierarchical ladder is 
ordinarily a slow process, and the ambitious rarely reach the 



i 4 o THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

top till they are well advanced in life. The older he grows, the 
more chances does the power lover have for indulging his 
besetting sin, the more continuously is he subjected to tempta- 
tions and the more glamorous do those temptations become. 
In this respect his situation is profoundly different from that 
of the debauchee. The latter may never voluntarily leave his 
vices, but at least, as he advances in years, he finds his vices 
leaving him; the former neither leaves his vices nor is left by 
them. Instead of bringing to the power lover a merciful respite 
from his addictions, old age is apt to intensify them by making 
it easier for him to satisfy his cravings on a larger scale and in 
a more spectacular way. That is why, in Acton's words, ' all 
great men are bad.' Can we therefore be surprised if political 
action, undertaken, in all too many cases, not for the public 
good, but solely or at least primarily to gratify the power lusts 
of bad men, should prove so often either self-stultifying or 
downright disastrous ? 

'L'etat cest moi* says the tyrant; and this is true, of course, 
not only of the autocrat at the apex of the pyramid, but of all 
the members of the ruling minority through whom he governs 
and who are, in fact, the real rulers of the nation. Moreover, 
so long as the policy which gratifies the power lusts of the 
ruling class is successful, and so long as the price of success is 
not too high, even the masses of the ruled will feel that the state 
is themselves a vast and splendid projection of the individ- 
ual's intrinsically insignificant ego. The little man can satisfy 
his lust for power vicariously through the activities of the 
imperialistic state, just as the big man does; the difference 
between them is one of degree, not of kind. 

No infallible method for controlling the political manifesta- 
tions of the lust for power has ever been devised. Since power 
is of its very essence indefinitely expansive, it cannot be 
checked except by colliding with another power. Hence, any 
society that values liberty, in the sense of government by law 
rather than by class interest or personal decree, must see to it 
that the power of its rulers is divided. National unity means 
national servitude to a single man and his supporting oli- 



MORTIFICATION, NON-ATTACHMENT 141 

garchy. Organized and balanced disunity is the necessary con- 
dition of liberty. His Majesty's Loyal Opposition is the 
loyalest, because the -most genuinely useful section of any 
liberty-loving community. Furthermore, since the appetite 
for power is purely mental and therefore insatiable and im- 
pervious to disease or old age, no community that values 
liberty can afford to give its rulers long tenures of office. The 
Carthusian Order, which was 'never reformed because never 
deformed/ owed its long immunity from corruption to the fact 
that its abbots were elected for periods of only a single year. 
In ancient Rome the amount of liberty under law was in inverse 
ratio to the length of the magistrates' terms of office. These 
rules for controlling the lust for power are very easy to formu- 
late, but very difficult, as history shows, to enforce in practice. 
They are particularly difficult to enforce at a period like the 
present, when time-hallowed political machinery is being 
rendered obsolete by rapid technological change and when 
the salutary principle of organized and balanced disunity 
requires to be embodied in new and more appropriate 
institutions. 

Acton, the learned Catholic historian, was of opinion that all 
great men are bad ; Rumi, the Persian poet and mystic, thought 
that to seek for union with God while occupying a throne was 
an undertaking hardly less senseless than looking for camels 
among the chimney-pots. A slightly more optimistic note is 
sounded by St. Frangois de Sales, whose views on the matter 
were recorded by his Boswellizing disciple, the young Bishop 
ofBelley. 

* Mon PereJ I said one day, 'how is it possible for those who are 
themselves high in office to practise the virtue of obedience ?* 

Frangois de Sales replied, ' They have greater and more excel- 
lent ways of doing so than their inferiors/ 

As I did not understand this reply, he went on to say, ' Those 
who are bound by obedience are usually subject to one superior 
only. . . . But those who are themselves superiors have a wider 
field for obedience, even while they command ; for if they bear 



i 4 2 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

in mind that it is God who has placed them over other men, and 
gives them the rule they have, they will exercise it out of obedi- 
ence to God, and thus, even while commanding, they will obey. 
Moreover, there is no position so high but that it is subject to a 
spiritual superior in what concerns the conscience and the soul. 
But there is a yet higher point of obedience to which all superiors 
may aspire, even that to which St. Paul alludes, when he says, 
"Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant 
unto all." It is by such universal obedience to everyone that we 
become "all things to all men"; and serving everyone for Our 
Lord's sake, we esteem all to be our superiors.' 

In accordance with this rule, I have often observed how Fran- 
gois de Sales treated everyone, even the most insignificant persons 
who approached him, as though he were the inferior, never 
repulsing anyone, never refusing to enter into conversation, to 
speak or to listen, never betraying the slightest sign of weariness, 
impatience and annoyance, however importunate or ill-timed the 
interruption. To those who asked him why he thus wasted his 
time his constant reply was, 'It is God's will; it is what He 
requires of me ; what more need I ask ? While I am doing this, 
I am not required to do anything else. God's Holy Will is the 
centre from which all we do must radiate ; all else is mere weari- 
ness and excitement/ 

Jean Pierre Camus 

We see, then, that a 'great man' can be good good enough 
even to aspire to unitive knowledge of the divine Ground 
provided that, while exercising power, he fulfils two condi- 
tions. First, he must deny himself all the personal advantages 
of power and must practise the patience and recollectedness 
without which there cannot be love either of man or God. 
And, second, he must realize that the accident of possessing 
temporal power does not give him spiritual authority, which 
belongs only to those seers, living or dead, who have achieved 
a direct insight into the Nature of Things. A society, in which 
the boss is mad enough to believe himself a prophet, is a society 
doomed to destruction. A viable society is one in which those 



MORTIFICATION, NON-ATTACHMENT 143 

who have qualified themselves to see indicate the goals to be 
aimed at, while those whose business it is to rule respect the 
authority and listen to the advice of the seers. In theory, at 
least, all this was well understood in India and, until the Refor- 
mation, in Europe, where 'no position was so high but that it 
was subject to a spiritual superior in what concerned the con- 
science and the soul.' Unfortunately the churches tried to 
make the best of both worlds to combine spiritual authority 
with temporal power, wielded either directly or at one remove, 
from behind the throne. But spiritual authority can be exer- 
cised only by those who are perfectly disinterested and whose 
motives are therefore above suspicion. An ecclesiastical organi- 
zation may call itself the Mystical Body of Christ; but if its 
prelates are slave-holders and the rulers of states, as they were 
in the past, or if the corporation is a large-scale capitalist, as is 
the case today, no titles, however honorific, can conceal the fact 
that, when it passes judgment, it does so as an interested party 
with some political or economic axe to grind. True, in matters 
which do not directly concern the temporal powers of the cor- 
poration, individual churchmen can be, and have actually 
proved themselves, perfectly disinterested consequently can 
possess, and have possessed, genuine spiritual authority. St. 
Philip Neri's is a case in point. Possessing absolutely no 
temporal power, he yet exercised a prodigious influence over 
sixteenth-century Europe. But for that influence, it may be 
doubted whether the efforts of the Council of Trent to reform 
the Roman church from within would have met with much 
success. 

In actual practice how many great men have ever fulfilled, 
or are ever likely to fulfil, the conditions which alone render 
power innocuous to the ruler as well as to the ruled ? Obvi- 
ously, very few. Except by saints, the problem of 
finally insoluble. 'But since genuine self-government is' 
sible only in very small groups, societies on a national or -sj 
national scale will always be ruled by oligarchij^j^irforities 
whose members come to power because they&a^a lust 
power. This means that the problem of 



144 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

arise and, since it cannot be solved except by people like Fran- 
ois de Sales, will always make trouble. And this, in its turn, 
means that we cannot expect the large-scale societies of the 
future to be much better than were the societies of the past 
during the brief periods when they were at their best. 



Chapter 7 
TRUTH 

Why dost thou prate of God ? Whatever thou sayest of Him is 
untrue. 

Eckhart 

IN religious literature the word 'truth' is used indiscrimin- 
ately in at least three distinct and very different senses. Thus, 
it is sometimes treated as a synonym for 'fact/ as when it is 
affirmed that God is Truth meaning that He is the primordial 
Reality. But this is clearly not the meaning of the word in such 
a phrase as 'worshipping God in spirit and in truth/ Here, it 
is obvious, 'truth' signifies direct apprehension of spiritual 
Fact, as opposed to second-hand knowledge about Reality, 
formulated in sentences and accepted on authority or because 
an argument from previously granted postulates was logically 
convincing. And finally there is the more ordinary meaning 
of the word, as in such a sentence as, 'This statement is the 
truth/ where we mean to assert that the verbal symbols of 
which the statement is composed correspond to the facts to 
which it refers. When Eckhart writes that 'whatever thou 
sayest of God is untrue,' he is not affirming that all theological 
statements are false. In so far as there can be any correspond- 
ence between human symbols and divine Fact, some theo- 
logical statements are as true as it is possible for us to make 
them. Himself a theologian, Eckhart would certainly have 
admitted this. But besides being a theologian, Eckhart was a 
mystic. And being a mystic, he understood very vividly what 
the modern semanticist is so busily (and, also, so unsuccess- 
fully) trying to drum into contemporary minds namely, that 
words are not the same as things and that a knowledge of 
words about facts is in no sense equivalent to a direct and 
immediate apprehension of the facts themselves. What Eck- 

v 145 



146 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

hart actually asserts is this : whatever one may say about God 
can never in any circumstances be the 'truth' in the first two 
meanings of that much abused and ambiguous word. By 
implication St. Thomas Aquinas was saying exactly the same 
thing when, after his experience of infused contemplation, he 
refused to go on with his theological work, declaring that 
everything he had written up to that time was as mere straw 
compared with the immediate knowledge, which had been 
vouchsafed to him. Two hundred years earlier, in Bagdad, 
the great Mohammedan theologian, Al-Ghazzali, had similarly 
turned from the consideration of truths about God to the 
contemplation and direct apprehension of Truth-the-Fact, 
from the purely intellectual discipline of the philosophers to 
the moral and spiritual discipline of the Sufis. 

The moral of all this is obvious. Whenever we hear or read 
about 'truth,' we should always pause long enough to ask our- 
selves in which of the three senses listed above the word is, at 
the moment, being used. By taking this simple precaution (and 
to take it is a genuinely virtuous act of intellectual honesty) 
we shall save ourselves a great deal of disturbing and quite 
unnecessary mental confusion. 

Wishing to entice the blind, 

The Buddha playfully let words escape from his golden mouth; 
Heaven and earth are filled, ever since, with entangling briars. 

Dai-o Kokushi 

There is nothing true anywhere, 

The True is nowhere to be found. 

If you say you see the True, 

This seeing is not the true one. 

When the True is left to itself, 

There is nothing false in it, for it is Mind itself. 

When Mind in itself is not liberated from the false, 

There is nothing true ; nowhere is the True to be found. 

Hui Neng 



TRUTH 147 

The truth indeed has never been preached by the Buddha, seeing 
that one has to realize it within oneself. 

Sutralamkara 

The further one travels, the less one knows. 

Lao T^u 

'Listen to this ! ' shouted Monkey. 'After all the trouble we had 
getting here from China, and after you specially ordered that we 
were to be given the scriptures, Ananda and Kasyapa made a 
fraudulent delivery of goods. They gave us blank copies to take 
away; I ask you, what is the good of that to us?' 

' You needn't shout,' said the Buddha, smiling. ' ... As a matter 
of fact, it is such blank scrolls as these that are the true scriptures. 
But I quite see that the people of China are too foolish and igno- 
rant to believe this, so there is nothing for it but to give them 
copies with some writing on.' 

Wu Ch'eng-ln 

The philosophers indeed are clever enough, but wanting in 

wisdom ; 

As to the others, they are either ignorant or puerile ! 
They take an empty fist as containing something real and the 

pointing finger as the object pointed at. 
Because the finger is adhered to as though it were the Moon, all 

their efforts are lost. 

Yoka Datshi 

What is known as the teaching of the Buddha is not the teaching 
of the Buddha. 

Diamond Sutra 

'What is the ultimate teaching of Buddhism?' 
'You won't understand it until you have it.' 



The subject matter of the Perennial Philosophy is the nature 
of eternal, spiritual Reality; but the language in which it must 
be formulated was developed for the purpose of dealing with 



148 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

phenomena in time. That is why, in all these formulations, we 
find an element of paradox. The nature of Truth-the-Fact 
cannot be described by means of verbal symbols that do not 
adequately correspond to it. At best it can be hinted at in 
terms of non sequiturs and contradictions. 

To these unavoidable paradoxes some spiritual writers Have 
chosen to add deliberate and calculated enormities of language 
hard sayings, exaggerations, ironic or humorous extrava- 
gances, designed to startle and shock the reader out of that self- 
satisfied complacency which is the original sin of the intellect. 
Of this second kind of paradox the masters of Taoism and Zen 
Buddhism were particularly fond. The latter, indeed, made 
use of paralogisms and even of nonsense as a device for ' taking 
the kingdom of heaven by violence. 5 Aspirants to the life of 
perfection were encouraged to practise discursive meditation 
on some completely non-logical formula. The result was a 
kind of reductio ad absurdum of the whole self-centred and 
world-centred discursive process, a sudden breaking through 
from 'reason' (in the language of scholastic philosophy) to 
intuitive 'intellect,' capable of a genuine insight into the divine 
Ground of all being. This method strikes us as odd and 
eccentric : but the fact remains that it worked to the extent of 
producing in many persons the final metanoia, or transforma- 
tion of consciousness and character. 

Zen's use of almost comic extravagance to emphasize the 
philosophic truths it regarded as most important is well illus- 
trated in the first of the extracts cited above. We are not 
intended seriously to imagine that an Avatar preaches in order 
to play a practical joke on tjie human race. But meanwhile 
what the author has succeeded in doing is to startle us out of 
our habitual complacency about the home-made verbal uni- 
verse in which we normally do most of our living. Words are 
not facts, and still less are they the primordial Fact. If we take 
them too seriously, we shall lose our way in a forest of en- 
tangling briars. But if, on the contrary, we don't take them 
seriously enough, we shall still remain unaware that there is a 
way to lose or a goal to be reached. If the Enlightened did not 



TRUTH 149 

preach, there would be no deliverance for anyone. But because 
human minds and human languages are what they are, this 
necessary and indispensable preaching is beset with dangers. 
The history of all the religions is similar in one important 
respect; some of their adherents are enlightened and delivered, 
because they have chosen to react appropriately to the words 
which the founders have let fall ; others achieve a partial salva- 
tion by reacting with partial appropriateness ; yet others harm 
themselves and their fellows by reacting with a total inap- 
propriateness either ignoring the words altogether or, more 
often, taking them too seriously and treating them as though 
they were identical with the Fact to which they refer. 

That words are at once indispensable and, in many cases, 
fatal has been recognized by all the exponents of the Perennial 
Philosophy. Thus, Jesus spoke of himself as bringing into the 
world something even worse than briars a sword. St. Paul* 
distinguished between the letter that kills and the spirit that 
gives life. And throughout the centuries that followed, the 
masters of Christian spirituality have found it necessary to 
harp again and again upon a theme which has never been out- 
dated because homo loquax^ the talking animal, is still as naively 
delighted by his chief accomplishment, still as helplessly the 
victim of his own words, as he was when the Tower of Babel 
was being built. Recent years have seen the publication of 
numerous works on semantics and of an ocean of nationalistic, 
racialistic and militaristic propaganda. Never have so many 
capable writers warned mankind against the dangers of wrong 
speech and never have words been used more recklessly by 
politicians or taken more seriously by the public. The fact is 
surely proof enough that, under changing forms, the old 
problems remain what they always were urgent, unsolved 
and, to all appearances, insoluble. 

All that the imagination can imagine and the reason conceive and 
understand in this life is not, and cannot be, a proximate means 
of union with God. 

St. John of the Cross 



150 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

Jejune and barren speculations may unfold the plicatures of 
Truth's garment, but they cannot discover her lovely face. 

John Smith, the Platonist 

In all faces is shown the Face of faces, veiled and in a riddle. 
Howbeit, unveiled it is not seen, until, above all faces, a man 
enter into a certain secret and mystic silence, where there is no 
knowing or concept of a face. This mist, cloud, darkness or 
ignorance, into which he that seeketh thy Face entereth, when he 
goeth beyond all knowledge or concept, is the state below which 
thy Face cannot be found, except veiled ; but that very darkness 
revealeth thy Face to be there beyond all veils. Hence I observe 
how needful it is for me to enter into the darkness and to admit 
the coincidence of opposites, beyond all the grasp of reason, and 
there to seek the Truth, where impossibility meeteth us. 

Nicholas ofCusa 

As the Godhead is nameless, and all naming is alien to Him, so 
also the soul is nameless ; for it is here the same as God. 

Eckhart 

God being, as He is, inaccessible, do not rest in the consideration 
of objects perceptible to the senses and comprehended by the 
understanding. This is to be content with what is less than God ; 
so doing, you will destroy the energy of the soul, which is 
necessary for walking with Him. 

St. John of the Cross 

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 flesh, can 
be any otherwise knowable in you or by you but by their own 
existence and manifestation in you. And all pretended know- 
ledge of any of these things, beyond and without this self- 
evident sensibility of their birth within you, is only such know- 
ledge of them as the blind man hath of the light that hath never 
entered into him. 

William Law 



TRUTH 151 

What follows is a summary by an eminent scholar of the 
Indian doctrines concerningy'mz/za, the liberating knowledge of 
Brahman or the divine Ground. 

Jnana is eternal, is general, is necessary and is not a personal 
knowledge of this man or that man. It is there, as knowledge 
in the Atman itself, and lies there hidden under all avidya (igno- 
rance) irremovable, though it may be obscured, unprovable, be- 
cause self-evident, needing no proof, because itself giving to all 
proof the ground of possibility. These sentences come near to 
Eckhart's 'knowledge' and to the teaching of Augustine on the 
Eternal Truth in the soul which, itself immediately certain, is the 
ground of all certainty and is a possession, not of A or B, but of 
'the soul/ 

RudolfOtto 

The science of aesthetics is not the same as, nor even a proxi- 
mate means to, the practice and appreciation of the arts. How 
can one learn to have an eye for pictures, or to become a good 
painter? Certainly not by reading Benedetto Croce. One 
learns to paint by painting, and one learns to appreciate pictures 
by going to picture galleries and looking at them. 

But this is not to say that Croce and his fellows have wasted 
their time. We should be grateful to them for their labours in 
building up a system of thought, by means of which the imme- 
diately apprehended significance and value of art can be assessed 
in the light of general knowledge, related to other facts of 
experience and, in this way and to this extent, 'explained/ 

What is true of aesthetics is also true of theology. Theo- 
logical speculation is valuable in so far as it enables those who 
have had immediate experience of various aspects of God to 
form intelligible ideas about the nature of the divine Ground, 
and of their own experience of the Ground in relation to other 
experiences. And when a coherent system of theology has 
been worked out, it is useful in so far as it convinces those who 
study it that there is nothing inherently self-contradictory about 
the postulate of the divine Ground and that, for those who are 



152 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

ready to fulfil certain conditions, the postulate may become a 
realized Fact. In no circumstances, however, can the study of 
theology or the mind's assent to theological propositions take 
the place of what Law calls 'the birth of God within.' For 
theory is not practice, and words are not the things for which 
they stand. 

Theology as we know it has been formed by the great -mystics, 
especially St. Augustine and St. Thomas. Plenty of other great 
theologians especially St. Gregory and St. Bernard, even down 
to Suarez would not have had such insight without mystic 
super-knowledge. 

Abbot John Chapman 

Against this we must set Dr. Tennant's view namely, that 
religious experience is something real and unique, but does not 
add anything to the experiencer's knowledge of ultimate Real- 
ity and must always be interpreted in terms of an idea of God 
derived from other sources. A study of the facts would suggest 
that both these opinions are to some degree correct. The facts 
of mystical insight (together with the facts of what is taken to 
be historic revelation) are rationalized in terms of general 
knowledge and become the basis of a theology. And, recipro- 
cally, an existing theology in terms of general knowledge exer- 
cises a profound influence upon those who have undertaken 
the spiritual life, causing them, if it is low, to be content with a 
low form of experience, if it is high, to reject as inadequate the 
experience of any form of reality having characteristics incom- 
patible with those of the God described in the books. Thus 
mystics make theology, and theology makes mystics. 

A person who gives assent to untrue dogma, or who pays all 
his attention and allegiance to one true dogma in a compre- 
hensive system, while neglecting the others (as many Chris- 
tians concentrate exclusively on the humanity of the Second 
Person of the Trinity and ignore the Father and the Holy 
Ghost), runs the risk of limiting in advance his direcj appre- 
hension of Reality. In religion as in natural science, experience 



TRUTH 153 

is determined only by experience. It is fatal to prejudge it, to 
compel it to fit the mould imposed by a theory which either 
does not correspond to the facts at all, or corresponds to only 
some of the facts. * Do not strive to seek after the true,' writes 
a Zen master, 'only cease to cherish opinions.' There is only 
one way to cure the results of belief in a false or incomplete 
theology and it is the same as the only known way of passing 
from belief in even the truest theology to knowledge or 
primordial Fact selflessness, docility, openness to the datum 
of Eternity. Opinions are things which we make and can 
therefore understand, formulate and argue about. But 'to rest 
in the consideration of objects perceptible to the sense or com- 
prehended by the understanding is to be content,' in the words 
of St. John of the Cross, ' with what is less than God.' Unitive 
knowledge of God is possible only to those who 'have ceased 
to cherish opinions' even opinions that are as true as it is 
possible for verbalized abstractions to be. 

Up then, noble soul! Put on thy jumping shoes which are 
intellect and love, and overleap the worship of thy mental 
powers, overleap thine understanding and spring into the heart 
of God, into his hiddenness where thou art hidden from all 
creatures. 

Eckhart 

With the lamp of word and discrimination one must go beyond 
word and discrimination and enter upon the path of realization. 

Lankavatara Sutra 

The word 'intellect' is used by Eckhart in the scholastic sense 
of immediate intuition. 'Intellect and reason,' says Aquinas, 
'are not two powers, but distinct as the perfect from the im- 
perfect. . . . The intellect means, an intimate penetration of 
truth ; the reason, enquiry and discourse.' It is by following, 
and then abandoning, the rational and emotional path of 'word 
and discrimination* that one is enabled to enter upon the 



154 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

intellectual or intuitive 'path of realization.' And yet, in spite 
of the warnings pronounced by those who, through selfless- 
ness, have passed from letter to spirit and from theory to 
immediate knowledge, the organized Christian churches have 
persisted in the fatal habit of mistaking means for ends. The 
verbal statements of theology's more or less adequate ration- 
alizations of experience have been taken too seriously and 
treated with the reverence that is due only to the Fact they are 
intended to describe. It has been fancied that souls are saved 
if assent is given to what is locally regarded as the correct 
formula, lost if it is withheld. The two words, filioque, may 
not have been the sole cause of the schism between the Eastern 
and Western churches ; but they were unquestionably the pre- 
text and casus belli. 

The over- valuation of words and formulae may be regarded 
as a special case of that over-valuation of the things of time, 
which is so fatally characteristic of historic Christianity. To 
know Truth-as-Fact and to know it unitively, 'in spirit and in 
truth-as-immediate-apprehension' this is deliverance, in this 
'standeth our eternal life.' To be familiar with the verbalized 
truths, which symbolically correspond to Truth-as-Fact in so 
far as it can be known in, or inferred from, truth-as-immediate- 
apprehension, or truth-as-historic-revelation this is not salva- 
tion, but merely the study of a special branch of philosophy. 
Even the most ordinary experience of a thing or event in time 
can never be fully or adequately described in words. The 
experience of seeing the sky or having neuralgia is incom- 
municable; the best we can do is to say 'blue' or 'pain,' in the 
hope that those who hear us may have had experiences similar 
to our own and so be able to supply their own version of the 
meaning. God, however, is not a thing or event in time, and 
the time-bound words which cannot do justice even to tem- 
poral matters are even more inadequate to the intrinsic nature 
and our own unitive experience of that which belongs to an 
incommensurably different order. To suppose that people can 
be saved by studying and giving assent to formulae is like sup- 
posing that one can get to Timbuctoo by poring over a map 



TRUTH 155 

of Africa. Maps are symbols, and even the best of them are 
inaccurate and imperfect symbols. But to anyone who really 
wants to reach a given destination, a map is indispensably use- 
ful as indicating the direction in which the traveller should set 
out and the roads which he must take. 

In later Buddhist philosophy words are regarded as one of 
the prime determining factors in the creative evolution of 
human beings. In this philosophy five categories of being are 
recognized Name, Appearance, Discrimination, Right Know- 
ledge, Suchness. The first three are related for evil, the last two 
for good. Appearances are discriminated by the sense organs, 
then reified by naming, so that words are taken for things and 
symbols are used as the measure of reality. According to this 
view, language is a main source of the sense of separateness and 
the blasphemous idea of individual self-sufficiency, with their 
inevitable corollaries of greed, envy, lust for power, anger and 
cruelty. And from these evil passions there springs the neces- 
sity of an indefinitely protracted and repeated separate existence 
under the same, self-perpetuated conditions of craving and in- 
fatuation. The only escape is through a creative act of the will, 
assisted by Buddha-grace, leading through selflessness to Right 
Knowledge, which consists, among other things, in a proper 
appraisal of Names, Appearances and Discrimination. In and 
through Right Knowledge, one emerges from the infatuating 
delusion of 'I,' 'me,' 'mine,' and, resisting the temptation to 
deny the world in a state of premature and one-sided ecstasy, or 
to affirm it by living like the average sensual man, one comes at 
last to the transfiguring awareness that samsara and nirvana are 
one, to the unitive apprehension of pure Suchness the ulti- 
mate Ground, which can only be indicated, never adequately 
described in verbal symbols. 

In connection with the Mahayanist view that words play an 
important and even creative part in the evolution of unregener- 
ate human nature, we may mention Hume's arguments against 
the reality of causation. These arguments start from the postu- 
late that all events are 'loose and separate' from one another 
and proceed with faultless logic to a conclusion that makes com- 



156 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

plete nonsense of all organized thought or purposive action. 
The fallacy, as Professor Stout has pointed out, lies in the pre- 
liminary postulate. And when we ask ourselves what it was 
that induced Hume to make this odd and quite unrealistic 
assumption that events are 'loose and separate,' we see that his 
only reason for flying in the face of immediate experience was 
the fact that things and happenings are symbolically repre- 
sented in our thought by nouns, verbs and adjectives, and that 
these words are, in effect, 'loose and separate* from one another 
in a way which the events and things they stand for quite obvi- 
ously are not. Taking words as the measure of things, instead 
of using things as the measure of words, Hume imposed the 
discrete and, so to sxy^pointilliste pattern of language upon the 
continuum of actual experience with the impossibly paradox- 
ical results with which we are all familiar. Most human beings 
are not philosophers and care not at all for consistency in 
thought or action. Thus, in some circumstances they take it 
for granted that events are not 'loose and separate,' but co- 
exist or follow one another within the organized and organ- 
izing field of a cosmic whole. But on other occasions, where 
the opposite view is more nearly in accord with their passions 
or interests, they adopt, all unconsciously, the Humian position 
and treat events as though they were as independent of one 
another and the rest of the world as the words by which they 
are symbolized. This is generally true of all occurrences in- 
volving 'I,' 'me,' 'mine.' Reifying the 'loose and separate' 
names, we regard the things as also loose and separate not 
subject to law, not involved in the network of relationships, 
by which in fact they are so obviously bound up with their 
physical, social and spiritual environment. We regard as absurd 
the idea that there is no causal process in nature and no organic 
connection between events and things in the lives of other 
people ; but at the same time we accept as axiomatic the notion 
that our own sacred ego is 'loose and separate' from the uni- 
verse, a law unto itself above the moral dharma and even, in 
many respects, above the natural law of causality. Both in 
Buddhism and Catholicism, monks and nuns were encouraged 



TRUTH 157 

to avoid the personal pronoun and to speak of themselves in 
terms of circumlocutions that clearly indicated their real rela- 
tionship with the cosmic reality and their fellow-creatures. 
The precaution was a wise one. Our responses to familiar 
words are conditioned reflexes. By changing the stimulus, we 
can do something to change the response. No Pavlov bell, no 
salivation; no harping on words like 'me' and 'mine/ no 
purely automatic and unreflecting egotism. When a monk 
speaks of himself, not as 'I,' but as 'this sinner' or 'this un- 
profitable servant,' he tends to stop taking his 'loose and 
separate' selfhood for granted, and makes himself aware of his 
real, organic relationship with God and his neighbours. 

In practice words are used for other purposes than for 
making statements about facts. Very often they are used 
rhetorically, in order to arouse the passions and direct the will 
towards some course of action regarded as desirable. And 
sometimes, too, they are used poetically that is to say, they 
are used in such a way that, besides making a statement about 
real or imaginary things and events, and besides appealing 
rhetorically to the will and the passions, they cause the reader 
to be aware that they are beautiful. Beauty in art or nature is 
a matter of relationships between things not in themselves 
intrinsically beautiful. There is nothing beautiful, for example, 
about the vocables 'time,' or 'syllable.' But when they are 
used in such a phrase as 'to the last syllable of recorded time,' 
the relationship between the sound of the component words, 
between our ideas of the things for which they stand, and 
between the overtones of association with which each word 
and the phrase as a whole are charged, is apprehended, by a 
direct and immediate intuition, as being beautiful. 

About the rhetorical use of words nothing much need be 
said. There is rhetoric for good causes and there is rhetoric 
for bad causes rhetoric which is tolerably true to facts as well 
as emotionally moving, and rhetoric which is unconsciously or 
deliberately a lie. To learn to discriminate between the differ- 
ent kinds of rhetoric is an essential part of intellectual morality ; 
and intellectual morality is as necessary a pre-condition of the 



158 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

spiritual life as is the control of the will and the guard of heart 
and tongue. 

We have now to consider a more difficult problem. How 
should the poetical use of words be related to the life of the 
spirit? (And, 'of course, what applies to the poetical use of 
words applies equally to the pictorial use of pigments, the 
musical use of sounds, the sculptural use of clay or stone in 
a word, to all the arts.) 

'Beauty is truth, truth beauty.' But unfortunately Keats 
failed to specify in which of its principal meanings he was 
using the word ' truth.' Some critics have assumed that he was 
using it in the third of the senses listed at the opening of this 
section, and have therefore dismissed the aphorism as non- 
sensical. Zn+ H 2 SO 4 = ZnSO 4 + H 2 . This is a truth in the third 
sense of the word and, manifestly, this truth is not identical 
with beauty. But no less manifestly Keats was not talking 
about this kind of 'truth.' He was using the word primarily 
in its first sense, as a synonym for ' fact,' and secondarily with 
the significance attached to it in the Johannine phrase, 'to wor- 
ship God in truth.' His sentence, therefore, carries two mean- 
ings. 'Beauty is the Primordial Fact, and the Primordial Fact 
is Beauty, the principle of all particular beauties ' ; and ' Beauty 
is an immediate experience, and this immediate experience is 
identical with Beauty-as-Principle, Beauty-as-Primordial- 
Fact.' The first of these statements is fully in accord with the 
doctrines of the Perennial Philosophy. Among the trinities 
in which the ineffable One makes itself manifest is the trinity 
of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. We perceive beauty 
in the harmonious intervals between the parts of a whole. In 
this context the divine Ground might be paradoxically defined 
as Pure Interval, independent of what is separated and har- 
monized within the totality. 

With Keats's statement in its secondary meaning the ex- 
ponents of the Perennial Philosophy would certainly disagree. 
The experience of beauty in art or in nature may be qualita- 
tively akin to the immediate, unitive experience of the divine 
Ground or Godhead ; but it is not the same as that experience, 



TRUTH 159 

and the particular beauty-fact experienced, though partaking 
in some sort of the divine nature, is at several removes from 
the Godhead. The poet, the nature lover, the aesthete are 
granted apprehensions of Reality analogous to those vouch- 
safed to the selfless contemplative ; but because they have not 
troubled to make themselves perfectly selfless, they are in- 
capable of knowing the divine Beauty in its fullness, as it is in 
itself. The poet is born with the capacity of arranging words 
in such a way that something of the quality of the graces and 
inspirations he has received can make itself felt to other human 
beings in the white spaces, so to speak, between the lines of 
his verse. This is a great and precious gift; but if the poet 
remains content with his gift, if he persists in worshipping the 
beauty in art and nature without going on to make himself 
capable, through selflessness, of apprehending Beauty as it is 
in the divine Ground, then he is only an idolater. True, his 
idolatry is among the highest of which human beings are 
capable ; but an idolatry, none the less, it remains. 

The experience of beauty is pure, self-manifested, compounded 
equally of joy and consciousness, free from admixture of any 
other perception, the very twin brother of mystical experience, 
and the very life of it is supersensuous wonder. ... It is enjoyed 
by those who are competent thereto, in identity, just as the form 
of God is itself the joy with which it is recognized. 

Visvanatha 

What follows is the last composition of a Zen nun, who had 
been in her youth a great beauty and an accomplished poetess. 

Sixty-six times have these eyes beheld the changing scenes of 

Autumn. 

I have said enough about moonlight, 
Ask me no more. 

Only listen to the voice of pines and cedars, when no wind stirs. 

Ryo-Nen 



i6o THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

The silence under windless trees is what Mallarme would call 
a creux neont musician. But whereas the music for which die 
poet listened was merely aesthetic and imaginative, it was to 
pure Suchness that the self-naughted contemplative was laying 
herself open. 'Be still and know that I am God/ 

This truth is to be lived, it is not to be merely pronounced with 

the mouth. ... 

There is really nothing to argue about in this teaching ; 
Any arguing is sure to go against the intent of it. 
Doctrines given up to controversy and argumentation lead of 

themselves to birth and death. 

Hui Neng 

Away, then, with the fictions and workings of discursive reason, 
either for or against Christianity ! They are only the wanton 
spirit of the mind, whilst ignorant of God and insensible of its 
own nature and condition. Death and life are the only things 
in question; life is God living and working in the soul; death 
is the soul living and working according to the sense and reason 
of bestial flesh and blood. Both this life and this death are of 
their own growth, growing from their own seed within us, not 
as busy reason talks and directs, but as the heart turns either 
to the one or to the other. 

William Law 

Can I explain the Friend to one for whom He is no Friend ? 

Jalal-uddin Rumi 

When a mother cries to her sucking babe, * Come, O son, I am 

thy mother ! ' 

Does the child answer, ' O mother, show a proof 
That I shall find comfort in taking thy milk'? 

Jalal-uddin Rumi 

Great truths do not take hold of the hearts of the masses. And 
now, as all the world is in error, how shall I, though I know 



TRUTH 161 

the true path, how shall I guide ? If I know that I cannot succeed 
and yet try to force success, this would be but another source of 
error. Better then to desist and strive no more. But if I do not 
strive, who will ? 

Chuang T%u 

Between the horns of Chuang Tzu's dilemma there is no 
way but that of love, peace and joy. Only those who manifest 
their possession, in however small a measure, of the fruits of 
the Spirit can persuade others that the life of the spirit is worth 
living. Argument and controversy are almost useless; in 
many cases, indeed, they are positively harmful. But this, of 
course, is a thing that clever men with a gift for syllogisms and 
sarcasm find it peculiarly hard to admit. Milton, no doubt, 
genuinely believed that he was working for truth, righteous- 
ness and the glory of God by exploding in torrents of learned 
scurrility against the enemies of his favourite dictator and his 
favourite brand of nonconformity. In actual fact, of course, 
he and the other controversialists of the sixteenth and seven- 
teenth centuries did nothing but harm to the cause of true 
religion, for which, on one side or the other, they fought with 
an equal learning and ingenuity and with the same foul- 
mouthed intemperance of language. The successive contro- 
versies went on, with occasional lucid intervals, for about two 
hundred years Papists arguing with anti-Papists, Protestants 
with other Protestants, Jesuits with Quietists and Jansenists. 
When the noise finally died down, Christianity (which, like 
any other religion, can survive only if it manifests the fruits of 
the Spirit) was all but dead; the real religion of most educated 
Europeans was now nationalistic idolatry. During the eight- 
eenth century this change to idolatry seemed (after the atroci- 
ties committed in the name of Christianity by Wallenstein and 
Tilly) to be a change for the better. This was because the 
ruling classes were determined that the horrors of the wars of 
religion should not be repeated and therefore deliberately 
tempered power politics with gentlemanliness. , Symptoms of 
gentlemanliness can still be observed in the Napoleonic and 



162 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

Crimean wars. But the national Molochs were steadily devour- 
ing the eighteenth-century ideal. During the First and Second 
World Wars we have witnessed the total elimination of die 
old checks and self-restraints. The consequences of political 
idolatry now display themselves without the smallest mitiga- 
tion either of humanistic honour and etiquette or of trans- 
cendental religion. By its internecine quarrels over words, 
forms of organization, money and power, historic Christianity 
consummated the work of self-destruction, to which its exces- 
sive preoccupation with things in time had from die first so 
tragically committed it. 

Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment ; 
Cleverness is mere opinion, bewilderment is intuition. 

Jalal-uddin Rumi 

Reason is like an officer when the King appears ; 
The officer then loses his power and hides himself. 
Reason is the shadow cast by God ; God is the sun. 

Jalal-uddin Rumi 

Non-rational creatures do not look before or after, but live in 
the animal eternity of a perpetual present; instinct is their 
animal grace and constant inspiration; and they are never 
tempted to live otherwise than in accord with their own animal 
dharma, or immanent law. Thanks to his reasoning powers 
and to the instrument of reason, language, man (in his merely 
human condition) lives nostalgically, apprehensively and hope- 
fully in the past and future as well as in the present ; has no 
instincts to tell him what to do ; must rely on personal clever- 
ness, rather than on inspiration from the divine Nature of 
Things; finds himself in a condition of chronic civil war 
between passion and prudence and, on a higher level of aware- 
ness and ethical sensibility, between egotism and dawning 
spirituality. But this 'wearisome condition of humanity' is 
the indispensable prerequisite of enlightenment and deliver- 



TRUTH 163 

ance. Man must live in time in order to be able to advance 
into eternity, no longer on the animal, but on the spiritual level ; 
he must be conscious of himself as a separate ego in order to be 
able consciously to transcend separate selfhood; he must do 
battle with the lower self in older that he may become identi- 
fied with that higher Self within him, which is akin to the 
divine Not-Self; and finally he must make use of his cleverness 
in order to pass beyond cleverness to the intellectual vision of 
Truth, the immediate, unitive knowledge of the divine Ground. 
Reason and its works 'are not and cannot be a proximate 
means of union with God.' The proximate means is 'intellect,' 
in the scholastic sense of the word, or spirit. In the last 
analysis the use and purpose of reason is to create the internal 
and external conditions favourable to its own transfiguration 
by and into spirit. It is the lamp by which it finds the way to 
go beyond itself. We see, then, that as a means to a proximate 
means to an End, discursive reasoning is of enormous value. 
But if, in our pride and madness, we treat it as a proximate 
means to the divine End (as so many religious people have 
done and still do), or if, denying the existence of an eternal 
End, we regard it as at once the means to Progress and its ever- 
receding goal in time, cleverness becomes the enemy, a source 
of spiritual blindness, moral evil and social disaster. At no 
period in history has cleverness been so highly valued or, in 
certain directions, so widely and efficiently trained as at the 
present time. And at no time have intellectual vision and 
spirituality been less esteemed, or the End to which they are 
proximate means less widely and less earnestly r "jght for. 
Because technology advances, we fancy *V v'fre are making 
corresponding progress all along v * lint; because we have 
considerable power over inanimate nature, we are convinced 
that we are the self-sufficient masters of our fate and captains 
of our souls ; and because cleverness has given us technology 
and power, we believe, in spite of all the evidence to the con- 
trary, that we have only to go on being yet cleverer in a yet 
more systematic way to achieve social order, international 
peace and personal happiness. 



164 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

In Wu Ch'eng-en's extraordinary masterpiece (so admirably 
translated by Mr. Arthur Waley) there is an episode, at once 
comical and profound, in which Monkey (who, in the allegory, 
is the incarnation of human cleverness) gets to heaven and 
there causes so much trouble that at last Buddha has to be 
called in to deal with him. It ends in the following passage : 

Til have a wager with you,' said Buddha. 'If you are really so 
clever, jump off the palm of my right hand. If you succeed, I'll 
tell the Jade Emperor to come and live with me in the Western 
Paradise, and you shall have his throne without more ado. But 
if you fail, you shall go back to earth and do penance there for 
many a kalpa before you come back to me with your talk.' 

'This Buddha,' Monkey thought to himself, 'is a perfect fool. 
I can jump a hundred and eight thousand leagues, while his palm 
cannot be as much as eight inches across. How could I fail to 
jump clear of it?' 

'You're sure you're in a position to do this for me?' he asked. 

' Of course I am,' said Buddha. 

He stretched out his right hand, which looked about the size of 
a lotus leaf. Monkey put his cudgel behind his ear, and leapt with 
all his might. ' That's all right,' he said to himself. ' I'm right off 
it now.' He was whizzing so fast that he was almost invisible, 
and Buddha, watching him with the eye of wisdom, saw a mere 
whirligig shoot along. 

Monkey came at last to five pink pillars, sticking up into the 
air. ' This is the end of the World,' said Monkey to himself. 
'All I have got to do is to go back to Buddha and claim my for- 
feit. The Thfone.is mine.' 

' Wait a minute,' ne said presently, ' I'd better just leave a record 
of some kind, in case I have trouble with Buddha.' He plucked a 
hair and blew on it with magic breath, crying 'Change!' It 
changed at once into a writing brush charged with heavy ink, and 
at the base of the central pillar he wrote, ' The Great Sage Equal to 
Heaven reached this place.' Then, to mark his disrespect, he 
relieved nature at the bottom of the first pillar, and somersaulted 
back to where he had come from. Standing on Buddha's palm, 



TRUTH 165 

he said, 'Well, I've gone and come back. You can go and tell 
the Jade Emperor to hand over the palaces of Heaven.' 

'You stinking ape/ said Buddha, 'you've been on the palm of 
my hand all the time.' 

'You're quite mistaken,' said Monkey. 'I got to the end of 
the World, where I saw five flesh-coloured pillars sticking up into 
the sky. I wrote something on one of them. I'll take you there 
and show you, if you like.' 

'No need for that,' said Buddha. 'Just look down.' 

Monkey peered down with his fiery, steely eyes, and there at 
the base of the middle finger of Buddha's hand he saw written the 
words, 'The Great Sage Equal to Heaven reached this place,' and 
from the fork between the thumb and first finger came a smell of 
monkey's urine. 

From Monkey 

And so, having triumphantly urinated on the proffered hand 
of Wisdom, the Monkey within us turns back and, full of a 
bumptious confidence in his own omnipotence, sets out to re- 
fashion the world of men and things into something nearer to 
his heart's desire. Sometimes his intentions are good, some- 
times consciously bad. But, whatever the intentions may be, 
the results of action undertaken by even the most brilliant 
cleverness, when it is unenlightened by the divine Nature of 
Things, unsubordinated to the Spirit, afe generally evil. That 
this has always been clearly understood by humanity at large 
is proved by the usages of language. 'Cunning' and 'canny' 
are equivalent to ' knowing,' and all three adjectives pass a more 
or less unfavourable moral judgment on those to whom they 
are applied. 'Conceit' is just 'concept'; but what a man's 
mind conceives most clearly is the supreme value of his own 
ego. ' Shrewd,' which is the participial form of ' shrew,' mean- 
ing malicious, and is connected with 'beshrew,' to curse, is 
now applied, by way of rather dubious compliment, to astute 
business men and attorneys. Wizards are so called because 
they are wise wise, of course, in the sense that, in American 
slang, a 'wise guy' is wise. Conversely, an idiot was once 



166 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

popularly known as an innocent. ' This use of innocent/ says 
Richard Trench, 'assumes that to hurt and harm is the chief 
employment, towards which men turn their intellectual powers ; 
that where they are wise, they are oftenest wise to do evil. 5 
Meanwhile it goes without saying that cleverness and accumu- 
lated knowledge are indispensable, but always as means to 
proximate means, and never as proximate means or, what is 
even worse, as ends in themselves. Quid facer et eruditio sine 
dilecticne ? says St. Bernard. Inflaret. Quid^ absque eruditione 
dilectio? Erraret. What would learning do without love? 
It would puff up. And love without learning? It would go 
astray. 

Such as men themselves are, such will God Himself seem to them 
to be. 

John Smith, the Platonlst 

Men's minds perceive second causes, 

But only prophets perceive the action of the First Cause. 

Jalal-uddin Rumi 

The amount and kind of knowledge we acquire depends first 
upon the will and, second, upon our psycho-physical constitu- 
tion and the modifications imposed upon it by environment 
and our own choice. Thus, Professor Burkitt has pointed out 
that, where technological discovery is concerned 'man's desire 
has been the important factor. Once something is definitely 
wanted, again and again it has been produced in an extremely 

short time Conversely, nothing will teach the Bushmen of 

South Africa to plant and herd. They have no desire to do so.' 
The same is true in regard to ethical and spiritual discoveries. 
'You are as holy as you wish to be/ was the motto given by 
Ruysbroeck to the students who came to visit him. And he 
might have added, 'You can therefore know as much of Reality 
as you wish to know* for knowledge is in the knower accord- 
ing to the mode of the knower, and the mode of the knower is, 
in certain all-important respects, within the knower's control. 



TRUTH 167 

Liberating knowledge of God comes to the pure in heart and 
poor in spirit ; and though such purity and poverty are enor- 
mously difficult of achievement, they are nevertheless possible 
to all. 

She said, moreover, that if one would attain to purity of mind it 
was necessary to abstain altogether from any judgment on one's 
neighbour and from all empty talk about his conduct. In crea- 
tures one should always seek only for the will of God. With 
great force she said : * For no reason whatever should one judge 
the actions of creatures or their motives. Even when we see that 
it is an actual sin, we ought not to pass judgment on it, but have 
holy and sincere compassion and offer it up to God with humble 
and devout prayer/ 

From the Testament of St. Catherine of Siena, 
written down by Tommaso di Petra 

This total abstention from judgment upon one's fellows is only 
one of the conditions of inward purity. The others have already 
been described in the section on 'Mortification.' 

Learning consists in adding to one's stock day by day. The 
practice of Tao consists in subtracting day by day : subtracting 
and yet again subtracting until one has reached inactivity. 

Lao T%u 

It is the inactivity of self-will and ego-centred cleverness that 
makes possible the activity within the emptied and purified soul 
of the eternal Suchness. And when eternity is known in the 
heights within, it is also known in the fullness of experience, 
outside in the world. 

Didst thou ever descry a glorious eternity in a winged moment 
of time ? Didst thou ever see a bright infinite in the narrow point 
of an object? Then thou knowest what spirit means the spire- 
top, whither all things ascend harmoniously, where they meet and 
sit contented in an unfathomed Depth of Life. 

Peter S terry 



Chapter 8 
RELIGION AND TEMPERAMENT 

IT seems best at this point to turn back for a moment from 
ethics to psychology, where a very important problem awaits 
us a problem to which the exponents of the Perennial Philo- 
sophy have given a great deal of attention. What precisely is 
the relation between individual constitution and temperament 
on the one hand and the kind and degree of spiritual knowledge 
on the other? The materials for a comprehensively accurate 
answer to this question are not available except, perhaps, in 
the form of that incommunicable science, based upon intuition 
and long practice, that exists in .the minds of experienced 
'spiritual directors. 5 But the answer that can be given, though 
incomplete, is highly significant. 

All knowledge, as we have seen, is a function of being. Or, 
to phrase the same idea in scholastic terms, the thing known 
is in the knower according to the mode of the knower. In the 
Introduction reference was made to the effect upon knowledge 
of changes of being along what may be called its vertical axis, 
in the direction of sanctity or its opposite. But there is also 
variation in the horizontal plane. Congenitally by psycho- 
physical constitution, each one of us is born into a certain 
position on this horizontal plane. It is a vast territory, still 
imperfectly explored, a continent stretching all the way from 
imbecility to genius, from shrinking weakness to aggressive 
strength, from cruelty to Pickwickian kindliness, from self- 
revealing sociability to taciturn misanthropy and love of soli- 
tude, from an almost frantic lasciviousness to an almost un- 
tempted continence. From any point on this huge expanse of 
possible human nature an individual can move almost indefi- 
nitely up or down, towards union with the divine Ground of 
his own and all other beings, or towards the last, the infernal 
extremes of separateness and selfhood. But where horizontal 

168 



RELIGION AND TEMPERAMENT 169 

movement is concerned there is far less freedom. It is impos- 
sible for one kind of physical constitution to transform itself 
into another kind ; and the particular temperament associated 
with a given physical constitution can be modified only within 
narrow limits. With the best will in the world and the best 
social environment, all that anyone can hope to do is to make 
the best of his congenital psycho-physical make-up ; to change 
the fundamental patterns of constitution and temperament is 
beyond his power. 

In the course of the last thirty centuries many attempts have 
been made to work out a classification system in terms of 
which human differences could be measured and described. 
For example, there is the ancient Hindu method of classifying 
people according to the psycho-physico-social categories of 
caste. There are the primarily medical classifications associ- 
ated with the name of Hippocrates, classifications in terms of 
two main 'habits' the phthisic and the apoplectic or of the 
four humours (blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile) and 
the four qualities (hot, cold, moist and dry). More recently 
there have been the various physiognomic systems of the 
eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries; the crude and 
merely psychological dichotomy of introversion and extra- 
version; the more complete, but still inadequate, psycho- 
physical classifications proposed by Kretschmer, Stockard, 
Viola and others ; and finally the system, more comprehensive, 
more flexibly adequate to the complex facts than all those 
which preceded it, worked out by Dr. William Sheldon and 
his collaborators. 

In the present section our concern is with classifications of 
human differences in relation to the problems of the spiritual 
life. Traditional systems will be described and illustrated, and 
the findings of the Perennial Philosophy will be compared with 
the conclusions reached by the most recent scientific research/ 

In the West, the traditional Catholic classification of human 
beings is based upon the Gospel anecdote of Martha and Mary. 
The way of Martha is the way of salvation through action, the 
way of Mary is the way through contemplation. Following 



ITO THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

Aristotle, who in this as in many other matters was in accord 
with the Perennial Philosophy, Catholic thinkers have regarded 
contemplation (the highest term of which is the unitive know- 
ledge of the Godhead) as man's final end, and therefore have 
always held that Mary's was indeed the better way. 

Significantly enough, it is in essentially similar terms that 
Dr. Radin classifies and (by implication) evaluates primitive 
human beings in so far as they are philosophers and religious 
devotees. For him there is no doubt that the higher mono- 
theistic forms of primitive religion are created (or should one 
rather say, with Plato, discovered?} by people belonging to the 
first of the two great psycho-physical classes of human beings 
the men of thought. To those belonging to the other class, 
the men of action, is due the creation or discovery of the lower, 
unphilosophical, polytheistic kinds of religion. 

This simple dichotomy is a classification of human differ- 
ences that is valid so far as it goes. But like all such dichoto- 
mies, whether physical (like Hippocrates' division of humanity 
into those of phthisic and those of apoplectic habit) or psycho- 
logical (like Jung's classification in terms of introvert and 
extravert), this grouping of the religious into those who think 
and those who act, those who follow the way of Martha and 
those who follow the way of Mary, is inadequate to the facts. 
And of course no director of souls, no head of a religious 
organization, is ever, in actual practice, content with this all 
too simple system. Underlying the best Catholic writing on 
prayer and the best Catholic practice in the matter of recog- 
nizing vocations and assigning duties, we sense the existence 
of an implicit and unformulated classification of human differ- 
ences more complete and more realistic than the explicit 
dichotomy of action and contemplation. 

In Hindu thought the outlines of this completer and more 
adequate classification are clearly indicated. The ways leading 
to the delivering union with God are not two, but three the 
way of works, the way of knowledge and the way of devotion. 
In the Bhagavad-Gita Sri Krishna instructs Arjuna in all three 
paths liberation through action without attachment; libera- 



RELIGION AND TEMPERAMENT 171 

tion through knowledge of the Self and the Absolute Ground 
of all being with which it is identical ; and liberation through 
intense devotion to the personal God or the divine incarnation. 

Do without attachment the work you have to do ; for a man who 
does his work without attachment attains the Supreme Goal 
verily. By action alone men like Janaka attained perfection. 

But there is also the way of Mary. 

Freed from passion, fear and anger, absorbed in Me, taking refuge 
in Me, and purified by the fires of Knowledge, many have become 
one with my Being. 

And again : 

Those who have completely controlled their senses and are of 
even mind under all conditions and thus contemplate the Im- 
perishable, the Ineffable, the Unmanifest, the Omnipresent, the 
Incomprehensible, the Eternal they, devoted to the welfare of 
all beings, attain Me alone and none else. 

But the path of contemplation is not easy. 

The task of those whose minds are set on the Unmanifest is the 
more difficult ; for, to those who are in the body, the realization 
of the Unmanifest is hard. But those who consecrate all their 
actions to Me (as the personal God, or as the divine Incarnation), 
who regard Me as the supreme Goal, who worship Me and medi- 
tate upon Me with single-minded concentration for those 
whose minds are thus absorbed in Me, I become ere long the 
Saviour from the world's ocean of mortality. 

These three ways of deliverance are precisely correlated with 
the three categories, in terms of which Sheldon has worked 
out what is, without question, the best and most adequate 
classification of human differences. Human beings, he has 



172 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

shown, vary continuously between the viable extremes of a 
tri-polar system; and physical and psychological measure- 
ments can be devised, whereby any given individual may be 
accurately located in relation to the three co-ordinates. Or we 
can put the matter differently and say that any given individual 
is a mixture, in varying proportions, of three physical and 
three closely related psychological components. The strength 
of each component can be measured according to empirically 
determined procedures. To the three physical components 
Sheldon gives the names of endomorphy, mesomorphy and 
ectomorphy. The individual with a high degree of endo- 
morphy is predominantly soft and rounded and may easily 
become grossly fat. The high mesomorph is hard, big-boned 
and strong-muscled. The high ectomorph is slender and has 
small bones and stringy, weak, unemphatic muscles. The 
endomorph has a huge gut, a gut that may be more than twice 
as heavy and twice as long as that of the extreme ectomorph. 
In a real sense his or her body is built around the digestive 
tract. The centrally significant fact of mesomorphic physique, 
on the other hand, is the powerful musculature, while that of 
the ectomorph is the over-sensitive and (since the ratio of body 
surface to mass is higher in ectomorphs than in either of the 
other types) relatively unprotected nervous system. 

With endomorphic constitution is closely correlated a tem- 
peramental pattern, which Sheldon calls viscerotonia. Signifi- 
cant among the viscerotonic traits are love of food and, 
characteristically, love of eating in common ; love of comfort 
and luxury ; love of ceremoniousness ; indiscriminate amia- 
bility and love of people as such ; fear of solitude and craving 
for company; uninhibited expression of emotion; love of 
childhood, in the form of nostalgia towards one's own past 
and in an intense enjoyment of family life ; craving for affec- 
tion and social support, and need of people when in trouble. 
The temperament that is related to mesomorphy is called 
somatotonia. In this the dominating traits are love of muscular 
activity, aggressiveness and lust for power; indifference to 
pain; callousness in regard to other people's feelings ; a love 



RELIGION AND TEMPERAMENT 173 

of combat and competitiveness; a high degree of physical 
courage ; a nostalgic feeling, not for childhood, but for youth, 
the period of maximum muscular power; a need for activity 
when in trouble. 

From the foregoing descriptions it will be seen how inade- 
quate is the Jungian conception of extraversion, as a simple 
antithesis to introversion. Extraversion is not simple ; it is of 
two radically different kinds. There is the emotional, sociable 
extraversion of the viscerotonic endomorph the person who 
is always seeking company and telling everybody just what he 
feels. And there is the extraversion of the big-muscled soma- 
totonic the person who looks outward on the world as a 
place where he can exercise power, where he can bend people 
to his will and shape things to his heart's desire. One is the 
genial extraversion of the salesman, the Rotarian good mixer, 
the liberal Protestant clergyman. The other is the extraversion 
of the engineer who works off his lust for power on things, 
of the sportsman and the professional blood-and-iron soldier, 
of the ambitious business executive and politician, of the 
dictator, whether in the home or at the head of a state. 

With cerebrotonia, the temperament that is correlated with 
ectomorphic physique, we leave the genial world of Pickwick, 
the strenuously competitive world of Hotspur, and pass into 
an entirely different and somewhat disquieting kind of universe 
that of Hamlet and Ivan Karamazov. The extreme cerebro- 
tonic is the over-alert, over-sensitive introvert, who is more 
concerned with what goes on behind his eyes with the con- 
structions of thought and imagination, with the variations of 
feeling and consciousness than with that external world, to 
which, in their different ways, the viscerotonic and the soma- 
totonic pay their primary attention and allegiance. Cerebro- 
tonics have little or no desire to dominate, nor do they feel 
the viscerotonic's indiscriminate liking for people as people; 
on the contrary they want to live and let live, and their passion 
for privacy is intense. Solitary confinement, the most terrible 
punishment that can be inflicted on the soft, round, genial per- 
son, is, for the cerebrotonic, no punishment at all. For 



174 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

the ultimate horror is the boarding school and the barracks. In 
company cerebrotonics are nervous and shy, .tensely inhibited 
and unpredictably moody. (It is a significant fact that no ex- 
treme cerebrotonic has ever been a good actor or actress.) 
Cerebrotonics hate to slam doors or raise their voices, and 
suffer acutely from the unrestrained bellowing and trampling 
of the somatotonic. Their manner is restrained, and when it 
comes to expressing their feelings they are extremely reserved. 
The emotional gush of the viscerotonic strikes them as offen- 
sively shallow and even insincere, nor have they any patience 
with viscerotonic ceremoniousness and love of luxury and 
magnificence. They do not easily form habits and find it hard 
to adapt their lives to the routines which come so naturally to 
somatotonics. Owing to their over-sensitiveness, cerebrotonics 
are often extremely, almost insanely sexual; but they are 
hardly ever tempted to take to drink for alcohol, which 
heightens the natural aggressiveness of the somatotonic and 
increases the relaxed amiability of the viscerotonic, merely 
makes them feel ill and depressed. Each in his own way, the 
viscerotonic and the somatotonic are well adapted to the 
world they live in ; but the introverted cerebrotonic is in some 
sort incommensurable with the things and people and insti- 
tutions that surround him. Consequently a remarkably high 
proportion of extreme cerebrotonics fail to make good as 
normal citizens and average pillars of society. But if many 
fail, many also become abnormal on the higher side of the 
average. In universities, monasteries and research laboratories 
wherever sheltered conditions are provided for those whose 
small guts and feeble muscles do not permit them to eat or 
fight their way through the ordinary rough and tumble the 
percentage of outstandingly gifted and accomplished cerebro- 
tonics will almost always be very high. Realizing the im- 
portance of this extreme, over-evolved and scarcely viable type 
of human being, all civilizations have provided in one way or 
another for its protection. 

In the light of these descriptions we can understand more 
clearly the Bhagavad-Gita's classification of paths to salvation. 



RELIGION AND TEMPERAMENT 175 

The path of devotion is the path naturally followed by the per- 
son in whom the viscerotonic component is high. His inborn 
tendency to externalize the emotions he spontaneously feels in 
regard to persons can be disciplined and canalized, so that a 
merely animal gregariousness and a merely human kindliness 
become transformed into charity devotion to the personal 
God and universal goodwill and compassion towards all 
sentient beings. 

The path of works is for those whose extraversion is of the 
somatotonic kind, those who in all circumstances feel the need 
to 'do something/ In the unregenerate somatotonic this 
craving for action is always associated with aggressiveness, 
self-assertion and the lust for power. For the born Kshatriya, 
or warrior-ruler, the task, as Krishna explains to Arjuna, is to 
get rid of those fatal accompaniments to the love of action and 
to work without regard to the fruits of work, in a state of 
complete non-attachment to self. Which is, of course, like 
everything else, a good deal easier said than done. 

Finally, there is the way of knowledge, through the modi- 
fication of consciousness, until it ceases to be ego-centred and 
Becomes centred in and united with the divine Ground. This 
is the way to which the extreme cerebrotonic is naturally 
drawn. His special discipline consists in the mortification of 
his innate tendency towards introversion for its own sake, 
towards thought and imagination and self-analysis as ends 
in themselves rather than as means towards the ultimate tran- 
scendence of phantasy and discursive reasoning in the timeless 
act of pure intellectual intuition. 

Within the general population, as we have seen, variation is 
continuous, and in most people the three components are fairly 
evenly mixed. Those exhibiting extreme predominance of any 
one component are relatively rare. And yet, in spite of their 
rarity, it is by the thought-patterns characteristic of these ex- 
treme individuals that theology and ethics, at any rate on the 
theoretical side, have been mainly dominated. The reason for 
this is simple. Any extreme position is more uncompromis- 
ingly clear and therefore more easily recognized and understood 



I 7 6 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

than the intermediate positions, which are the natural thought- 
pattern of the person in whom the constituent components of 
personality are evenly balanced. These intermediate positions, 
it should be noted, do not in any sense contain or reconcile the 
extreme positions; they are merely other thought-patterns 
added to the list of possible systems. The construction of an 
all-embracing system of metaphysics, ethics and psychology is 
a task that can never be accomplished by any single individual, 
for the sufficient reason that he is an individual with one par- 
ticular kind of constitution and temperament and therefore 
capable of knowing only according to the mode of his own 
being. Hence the advantages inherent in what may be called 
the anthological approach to truth. 

The Sanskrit dharma one of the key words in Indian 
formulations of the Perennial Philosophy has two principal 
meanings. The dharma of an individual is, first of all, his 
essential nature, the intrinsic law of his being and develop- 
ment. But dharma also signifies the law of righteousness and 
piety. The implications of this double meaning are clear : a 
man's duty, how he ought to live, what he ought to believe 
and what he ought to do about his beliefs these things are 
conditioned by his essential nature, his constitution and tem- 
perament. Going a good deal further than do the Catholics, 
with their doctrine of vocations, the Indians admit the right 
of individuals with different dharmas to worship different 
aspects or conceptions of the divine. Hence the almost total 
absence, among Hindus and Buddhists, of bloody persecutions, 
religious wars and proselytizing imperialism. 

It should, however, be remarked that, within its own ecclesi- 
astical fold, Catholicism has been almost as tolerant as Hindu- 
ism and Mahayana Buddhism. Nominally one, each of these 
religions consists, in fact, of a number of very different reli- 
gions, covering the whole gamut of thought and behaviour 
from fetishism, through polytheism, through legalistic mono- 
theism, through devotion to the sacred humanity of the Avatar, 
to the profession of the Perennial Philosophy and the practice 
of a purely spiritual religion that seeks the unitive knowledge 



RELIGION AND TEMPERAMENT 177 

of the Absolute Godhead. These tolerated religions- within-a- 
religion are not, of course, regarded as equally valuable or 
equally true. To worship polytheistically may be one's dharma ; 
nevertheless the fact remains that man's final end is the unitive 
knowledge of the Godhead, and all the historical formulations 
of the Perennial Philosophy are agreed that every human being 
ought, and perhaps in some way or other actually will, achieve 
that end. 'All souls,' writes Father Garrigou-Lagrange, 're- 
ceive a general remote call to the mystical life ; and if all were 
faithful in avoiding, as they should, not merely mortal but 
venial sin, if they were, each according to his condition, docile 
to the Holy Ghost, and if they lived long enough, a day would 
come when they would receive the proximate and efficacious 
vocation to a high perfection and to the mystical life properly 
so called.' With this statement Hindu and Buddhist theo- 
logians would probably agree ; but they would add that every 
soul will in fact eventually attain this 'high perfection.' All 
are called, but in any given generation few are chosen, because 
few choose themselves. But the series of conscious existences, 
corporeal or incorporeal, is indefinitely long; there is therefore 
time and opportunity for everyone to learn the necessary 
lessons. Moreover, there will always be helpers. For periodi- 
cally there are 'descents' of the Godhead into physical form; 
and at all times there are future Buddhas ready, on the threshold 
of reunion with the Intelligible Light, to renounce the bliss of 
immediate liberation in order to return as saviours and teachers 
again and again into the world of suffering and time and evil, 
until at last every sentient being shall have been delivered into 
eternity. 

The practical consequences of this doctrine are clear enough. 
The lower forms of religion, whether emotional, active or 
intellectual, are never to be accepted as final. True, each of 
them comes naturally to persons of a certain kind Q 
tion and temperament; but the dharma or dutjr of j 
individual is not to remain complacently fix6^i^^r 
religion that happens to suit him ; it is raftnst ft> transcend 
not by impossibly denying the modes 

M 




i 7 8 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

and feeling that are natural to him, but by making use of them, 
so that by means of nature he may pass beyond nature. Thus 
the introvert uses 'discrimination* (in the Indian phrase), and 
so learns to distinguish the mental activities of the ego from 
the principial consciousness of the Self, which is akin to, or 
identical with, the divine Ground. The emotional extravert 
learns to 'hate his father and mother' (in other words, to give 
up his selfish attachment to the pleasures of indiscriminately 
loving and being loved), concentrates his devotion on the per- 
sonal or incarnate aspect of God, and comes at last to love the 
Absolute Godhead by an act, no longer of feeling, but of will 
illuminated by knowledge. And finally there is that other kind 
of extravert, whose concern is not with the pleasures of giving 
or receiving affection, but with the satisfaction of his lust for 
power over things, events and persons. Using his own nature 
to transcend his own nature, he must follow the path laid down 
in the Bhagavad-Gita for the bewildered Arjuna the path of 
work without attachment to the fruits of work, the path of 
what St. Franjois de Sales calls 'holy indifference,' the path 
that leads through the forgetting of self to the discovery of 
the Self. 

In the course of history it has often happened that one or 
other of the imperfect religions has been taken too seriously 
and regarded as good and true in itself, instead of as a means 
to the ultimate end of all religion. The effects of such mistakes 
are often disastrous. For example, many Protestant sects have 
insisted on the necessity, or at least the extreme desirability, of 
a violent conversion. But violent conversion, as Sheldon has 
pointed out, is a phenomenon confined almost exclusively to 
persons with a high degree of somatotonia. These persons are 
so intensely extraverted as to be quite unaware of what is hap- 
pening in the lower levels of their minds. If for any reason 
their attention comes to be turned inwards, the resulting self- 
knowledge, because of its novelty and strangeness, presents 
itself with the force and quality of a revelation and their 
metanoia, or change of mind, is sudden and thrilling. This 
change may be to religion, or it may be to something else 



RELIGION AND TEMPERAMENT 779 

for example, to psycho-analysis. To insist upon the necessity 
of violent conversion as the only means to salvation is about 
as sensible as it would be to insist upon the necessity of 
having a large face, heavy bones and powerful muscles. To 
those naturally subject to this kind of emotional upheaval, the 
doctrine that makes salvation dependent on conversion gives a 
complacency that is quite fatal to spiritual growth, while those 
who are incapable of it are filled with a no less fatal despair. 
Other examples of inadequate theologies based upon psycho- 
logical ignorance could easily be cited. One remembers, for 
instance, the sad case of Calvin, the cerebrotonic who took his 
own intellectual constructions so seriously that he lost all sense 
of reality, both human and spiritual. And then there is our 
liberal Protestantism, that predominantly viscerotonic heresy, 
which seems to have forgotten the very existence of the Father, 
Spirit and Logos and equates Christianity with an emotional 
attachment to Christ's humanity or (to use the currently 
popular phrase) ' the personality of Jesus,' worshipped idola- 
trously as though there were no other God. Even within all- 
comprehensive Catholicism we constantly hear complaints of 
the ignorant and self-centred directors, who impose upon the 
souls under their charge a religious dharma wholly unsuited to 
their nature with results which writers such as St. John of 
the Cross describe as wholly pernicious. We see, then, that it 
is natural for us to think of God as possessed of the qualities 
which our temperament tends to make us perceive in Him ; but 
unless nature finds a way of transcending itself by means of 
itself, we are lost. In the last analysis Philo is quite right in 
saying that those who do not conceive God purely and simply 
as the One injure, not God of course, but themselves and, 
along with themselves, their fellows. 

The way of knowledge comes most naturally to persons 
whose temperament is predominantly cerebrotonic. By this I 
do not mean that the following of this way is easy for the cere- 
brotonic. His specially besetting sins are just as difficult to 
overcome as are the sins which beset the power-loving soma- 
totonic and the extreme viscerotonic with his gluttony for food 



180 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

and comfort and social approval. Rather I mean that the idea 
that such a way exists and can be followed (either by discrimin- 
ation, or through non-attached work and one-pointed devo- 
tion) is one which spontaneously occurs to the cerebrotonic. 
At all levels of culture he is the natural monotheist ; and this 
natural monotheist, as Dr. Radin's examples of primitive theo- 
logy clearly show, is often a monotheist of the tat tvam asi, 
inner-light school. Persons committed by their temperament 
to one or other of the two kinds of extraversion are natural 
polytheists. But natural polytheists can, without much diffi- 
culty, be convinced of the theoretical superiority of mono- 
theism. The nature of human reason is such that there is an 
intrinsic plausibility about any hypothesis which seeks to 
explain the manifold in terms of unity, to reduce apparent 
multiplicity to essential identity. And from this theoretical 
monotheism the half-converted polytheist can, if he chooses, 
go on (through practices suitable to his own particular tem- 
perament) to the actual realization of the divine Ground of his 
own and all other beings. He can, I repeat, and sometimes he 
actually does. But very often he does not. There are many 
theoretical monotheists whose whole life and every action 
prove that in reality they are still what their temperament 
inclines them to be polytheists, worshippers not of the one 
God they sometimes talk about, but of the many gods, national- 
istic and technological, financial and familial, to whom in 
practice they pay all their allegiance. 

In Christian art the Saviour has almost invariably been 
represented as slender, small-boned, unemphatically muscled. 
Large, powerful Christs are a rather shocking exception to a 
very ancient rule. Of Rubens' crucifixions William Blake 
contemptuously wrote : 

I understood Christ was a carpenter 
And not a brewer's servant, my good sir. 

In a word, the traditional Jesus is thought of as a man of 
predominantly ectomorphic physique and therefore, by impli- 
cation, of predominantly cerebrotonic temperament. The 



RELIGION AND TEMPERAMENT 181 

central core of primitive Christian doctrine confirms the essen- 
tial correctness of the iconographic tradition. The religion of 
the Gospels is what we should expect from a cerebrotonic 
not, of course, from any cerebrotonic, but from one who had 
used the psycho-physical peculiarities of his own nature to 
transcend nature, who had followed his particular dharma to 
its spiritual goal. The insistence that the Kingdom of Heaven 
is within ; the ignoring of ritual ; the slightly contemptuous 
attitude towards legalism, towards the ceremonial routines of 
organized religion, towards hallowed days and places; the 
general other- worldliness ; the emphasis laid upon restraint, 
not merely of overt action, but even of desire and unexpressed 
intention ; the indifference to the splendours of material civil- 
ization and the love of poverty as one of the greatest of goods; 
the doctrine that non-attachment must be carried even into the 
sphere of family relationships and that even devotion to the 
highest goals of merely human ideals, even the righteousness of 
the Scribes and Pharisees, may be idolatrous distractions from 
the love of God all these are characteristically cerebrotonic 
ideas, such as would never have occurred spontaneously to the 
extraverted power lover or the equally extraverted viscero tonic. 

Primitive Buddhism is no less predominantly cerebrotonic 
than primitive Christianity, and so is Vedanta, the metaphysi- 
cal discipline which lies at the heart of Hinduism. Confucian- 
ism, on the contrary, is a mainly viscerotonic system familial, 
ceremonious and thoroughly this-worldly. And in Moham- 
medanism we find a system which incorporates strongly soma- 
totonic elements. Hence Islam's black record of holy wars and 
persecutions a record comparable to that of later Christian- 
ity, after that religion had so far compromised with unregener- 
ate somatotonia as to call its ecclesiastical organization 'the 
Church Militant/ 

So far as the achievement of man's final end is concerned, it 
is as much of a handicap to be an extreme cerebrotonic or an 
extreme viscerotonic as it is to be an extreme somatotonic. 
But whereas the cerebrotonic and the viscerotonic cannot do 
much harm except to themselves and those in immediate con- 



i8i THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

tact with them, the extreme somatotonic, with his native aggres- 
siveness, plays havoc with whole societies. From one point of 
view civilization may be defined as a complex of religious, legal 
and educational devices for preventing extreme somatotonics 
from doing too much mischief, and for directing their irre- 
pressible energies into socially desirable channels. Confucian- 
ism and Chinese culture have sought to achieve this end by 
inculcating filial piety, good manners and an amiably viscero- 
tonic epicureanism the whole reinforced somewhat incon- 
gruously by the cerebrotonic spirituality and restraints of 
Buddhism and classical Taoism. In India the caste system 
represents an attempt to subordinate military, political and 
financial power to spiritual authority ; and the education given 
to all classes still insists so strongly upon the fact that man's 
final end is unitive knowledge of God that even at the present 
time, even after nearly two hundred years of gradually acceler- 
ating Europeanization, successful somatotonics will, in middle 
life, give up wealth, position and power to end their days as 
humble seekers after enlightenment. In Catholic Europe, as in 
India, there was an effort to subordinate temporal power to 
spiritual authority ; but since the Church itself exercised tem- 
poral power through the agency of political prelates and mitred 
business men, the effort was never more than partially success- 
ful. After the Reformation even the pious wish to limit 
temporal power by means of spiritual authority was com- 
pletely abandoned. Henry VIII made himself, in Stubbs's 
words, ' the Pope, the whole Pope, and something more than 
the Pope, 5 and his example has been followed by most heads of 
states ever since. Power has been limited only by other 
powers, not by an appeal to first principles as interpreted by 
those who are morally and spiritually qualified to know what 
they are talking about. Meanwhile, the interest in religion has 
everywhere declined and even among believing Christians the 
Perennial Philosophy has been to a great extent replaced by a 
metaphysic of inevitable progress and an evolving God, by a 
passionate concern, not with eternity, but with future time. 
And almost suddenly, within the last quarter of a century, 



RELIGION AND TEMPERAMENT 183 

there has been consummated what Sheldon calls a 'somatotonic 
revolution,' directed against all that is characteristically cerebro- 
tonic in the theory and practice of traditional Christian culture. 
Here are a few symptoms of this somatotonic revolution. 

In traditional Christianity, as in all the great religious formu- 
lations of the Perennial Philosophy, it was axiomatic that 
contemplation is the end and purpose of action. Today the 
great majority even of professed Christians regard action 
(directed towards material and social progress) as the end, and 
analytic thought (there is no question any longer of integral 
thought, or contemplation) as the means to that end. 

In traditional Christianity, as in the other formulations of 
the Perennial Philosophy, the secret of happiness and the way 
to salvation were to be sought, not in the external environment, 
but in the individual's state of mind with regard to the environ- 
ment. Today the all-important thing is not the state of the 
mind, but the state of the environment. Happiness and moral 
progress depend, it is thought, on bigger and better gadgets 
and a higher standard of living. 

In traditional Christian education the stress was all on 
restraint; with the recent rise of the 'progressive school' it is 
all on activity and 'self-expression.' 

Traditionally Christian good manners outlawed all expres- 
sions of pleasure in the satisfaction of physical appetites. 'You 
may love a screeching owl, but you must not love a roasted 
fowl' such was the rhyme on which children were brought 
up in the nurseries of only fifty years ago. Today the young 
unceasingly proclaim how much they 'love' and 'adore' differ- 
ent kinds of food and drink ; adolescents and adults talk about 
the 'thrills' they derive from the stimulation of their sexuality. 
The popular philosophy of life has ceased to be based on the 
classics of devotion and the rules of aristocratic good breeding, 
and is now moulded by the writers of advertising copy, whose 
one idea is to persuade everybody to be as extraverted and 
uninhibitedly greedy as possible, since of course it is only the 
possessive, the restless, the distracted, who spend money on 
the things that advertisers want to sell. Technological progress 



184 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

is in part the product of the somatotonic revolution, in part the 
producer and sustainer of that revolution. The extraverted 
attention results in technological discoveries. (Significantly 
enough, a high degree of material civilization has always been 
associated with the large-scale and officially sanctioned practice 
of polytheism.) In their turn, technological discoveries have 
resulted in mass-production ; and mass-production, it is obvi- 
ous, cannot be kept going at full blast except by persuading the 
whole population to accept the somatotonic Weltanschauung 
and act accordingly. 

Like technological progress, with which it is so closely 
associated in so many ways, modern war is at once a cause and 
a result of the somatotonic revolution. Nazi education, which 
was specifically education for war, had two principal aims: 
to encourage the manifestation of somatotonia in those most 
richly endowed with that component of personality, and to 
make the rest of the population feel ashamed of its relaxed 
amiability or its inward-looking sensitiveness and tendency 
towards self-restraint and tender-mindedness. During the war 
the enemies of Nazism have been compelled, of course, to 
borrow from the Nazis' educational philosophy. All over the 
world millions of young men and even of young women are 
being systematically educated to be 'tough' and to value 
'toughness' beyond every other moral quality. With this 
system of somatotonic ethics is associated the idolatrous and 
polytheistic theology of nationalism a pseudo-religion far 
stronger at the present time for evil and division than is Chris- 
tianity, or any other monotheistic religion, for unification and 
good. In the past most societies tried systematically to dis- 
courage somatotonia. This was a measure of self-defence; 
they did not want to be physically destroyed by the power- 
loving aggressiveness of their most active minority, and they 
did not want to be spiritually blinded by an excess of extra- 
version. During the last few years all this has been changed. 
What, we may apprehensively wonder, will be the result of 
the current world-wide reversal of an immemorial social 
policy ? Time alone will show. 



Chapter 9 
SELF-KNOWLEDGE 

In other living creatures ignorance of self is nature ; in man it 
is vice. 

Boethius 

T 7ICE may be defined as a course of behaviour consented to 
V by the will and having results which are bad, primarily 
because they are God-eclipsing and, secondarily, because they 
are physically or psychologically harmful to the agent or his 
fellows. Ignorance of self is something that answers to this 
description. In its origins it is voluntary ; for by introspection 
and by listening to other people's judgments of our character 
we can all, if we so desire, come to a very shrewd understand- 
ing of our flaws and weaknesses and the real, as opposed to the 
avowed and advertised, motives of our actions. If most of us 
remain ignorant of ourselves, it is because self-knowledge is 
painful and we prefer the pleasures of illusion. As for the 
consequences of such ignorance, these are bad by every cri- 
terion, from the utilitarian to the transcendental. Bad because 
self-ignorance leads to unrealistic behaviour and so causes 
every kind of trouble for everyone concerned; and bad 
because, without self-knowledge, there can be no true humility, 
therefore no effective self-naughting, therefore no unitive 
knowledge of the divine Ground underlying the self and 
ordinarily eclipsed by it. 

The importance, the indispensable necessity, of self-know- 
ledge has been stressed by the saints and doctors of every one 
of the great religious traditions. To us in the West, the most 
familiar voice is that of Socrates. More systematically than 
Socrates the Indian exponents of the Perennial Philosophy 
harped on the same theme. There is, for example, the Buddha, 
whose discourse on 'The Setting-Up of Mindfulness' expounds 

185 



186 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

(with that positively inexorable exhaustiveness characteristic 
of the Pali scriptures) the whole art of self-knowledge in all 
its branches knowledge of one's body, one's senses, one's 
feelings, one's thoughts. This art of self-knowledge is prac- 
tised with two aims in view. The proximate aim is that 'a 
brother, as to the body, continues so to look upon the body, 
that he remains ardent, self-possessed and mindful, having 
overcome both the hankering and dejection common in the 
world. And in the same way as to feelings, thoughts and ideas, 
he so looks upon each that he remains ardent, self-possessed 
and mindful, without hankering or dejection.' Beyond and 
through this desirable psychological condition lies the final 
end of man, knowledge of that which underlies the individual- 
ized self. In their own vocabulary, Christian writers express 
the same ideas. 

A man has many skins in himself, covering the depths of his 
heart. Man knows so many things ; he does not know himself. 
Why, thirty or forty skins or hides, just like an ox's or a bear's, 
so thick and hard, cover the soul. Go into your own ground and 
learn to know yourself there. 

Eckhart 

Fools regard themselves as awake now so personal is their 
knowledge. It may be as a prince or it may be as a herdsman, but 
so cock-sure of themselves ! 

Chuang T%u 

This metaphor of waking from dreams recurs again and again 
in the various expositions of the Perennial Philosophy. In 
this context liberation might be defined as the process of 
waking up out of the nonsense, nightmares and illusory plea- 
sures of what is ordinarily called real life into the awareness 
of eternity. The ' sober certainty of waking bliss ' that won- 
derful phrase in which Milton described the experience of the 
noblest kind of music comes, I suppose, about as near as 
words can get to enlightenment and deliverance. 



SELF-KNOWLEDGE 187 

Thou (the human being) art that which is not. I am that I am. 
If thou perceivest this truth in thy soul, never shall the enemy 
deceive thee; thou shalt escape all his snares. 

St. Catherine of Siena 

Knowledge of ourselves teaches us whence we come, where we 
are and whither we are going. We come from God and we are 
in exile; and it is because our potency of affection tends towards 
God that we are aware of this state of exile. 

Ruysbroeck 

Spiritual progress is through the growing knowledge of the 
self as nothing and of the Godhead as all-embracing Reality. 
(Such knowledge, of course, is worthless if it is merely theo- 
retical; to be effective, it must be realized as an immediate, 
intuitive experience and appropriately acted upon.) Of one 
great master of the spiritual life Professor fitienne Gilson 
writes: 'The displacement of fear by Charity by way of the 
practice of humility in that consists the whole of St. Ber- 
nard's ascesis, its beginning, its development and its term.' 
Fear, worry, anxiety these form the central core of indi- 
vidualized selfhood. Fear cannot be got rid of by personal 
effort, but only by the ego's absorption in a cause greater than 
its own interests. Absorption in any cause will rid the mind of 
some of its fears ; but only absorption in the loving and know- 
ing of the divine Ground can rid it of all fear. For when the 
cause is less than the highest, the sense of fear and anxiety is 
transferred from the self to the cause as when heroic self- 
sacrifice for a loved individual or institution is accompanied 
by anxiety in regard to that for which the sacrifice is made. 
Whereas if the sacrifice is made for God, and for others for 
God's sake, there can be no fear or abiding anxiety, since 
nothing can be a menace to the divine Ground and even fail- 
ure and disaster are to be accepted as being in accord with 
the divine will. In few men and women is the love of God 
intense enough to cast out this projected fear and anxiety for 



188 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

cherished persons and institutions. The reason is to be sought 
in the fact that few men and women are humble enough to be 
capable of loving as they should. And they lack the necessary 
humility because they are without the fully realized knowledge 
of their own personal nothingness. 

Humility does not consist in hiding our talents and virtues, in 
thinking ourselves worse and more ordinary than we are, but in 
possessing a clear knowledge of all that is lacking in us and in 
not exalting ourselves for that which we have, seeing that God 
has freely given it us and that, with all His gifts, we are still of 
infinitely little importance. 

Lacordaire 



As the light grows, we see ourselves to be worse than we thought. 
We are amazed at our former blindness as we see issuing from our 
heart a whole swarm of shameful feelings, like filthy reptiles 
crawling from a hidden cave. But we must be neither amazed 
nor disturbed. We are not worse than we were; on the con- 
trary, we are better. But while our faults diminish, the light we 
see them by waxes brighter, and we are filled with horror. So 
long as there is no sign of cure, we are unaware of the depth of 
our disease ; we are in a state of blind presumption and hardness, 
the prey of self-delusion. While we go with the stream, we are 
unconscious of its rapid course ; but when we begin to stem it 
ever so little, it makes itself felt. 

Fenelon 

My daughter, build yourself two cells. First a real cell, so that 
you do not run about much and talk, unless it is needful, or you 
can do it out of love for your neighbour. Next build yourself a 
spiritual cell, which you can always take with you, and that is the 
cell of true self-knowledge; you will find there the knowledge of 
God's goodness to you. Here there are really two cells in one, 
and if you live in one you must also live in the other; otherwise 
the soul will either despair or be presumptuous. If you dwelt in 



SELF-KNOWLEDGE . 189 

self-knowledge alone, you would despair; if you dwelt in the 
knowledge of God alone, you would be tempted to presump- 
tion. One must go with the other, and thus you will reach 
perfection. 

St. Catherine of Siena 



Chapter i o 
GRACE AND FREE WILL 

DELIVERANCE is out of time into eternity, and is 
achieved by obedience and docility to the eternal Nature 
of Things. We have been given free will, in order that we 
may will our self-will out of existence and so come to live 
continuously in a 'state of grace.' All our actions must be 
directed, in the last analysis, to making ourselves passive in 
relation to the activity and the being of divine Reality. We 
are, as it were, aeolian harps, endowed with the power either 
to expose themselves to the wind of the Spirit or to shut 
themselves away from it. 

The Valley Spirit never dies. 

It is called the Mysterious Female. 

And the doorway of the Mysterious Female 

Is the base from which Heaven and Earth spring. 

It is there within us all the time. 

Draw upon it as you will, it never runs dry. 

Lao T^u 

In every exposition of the Perennial Philosophy the human 
soul is regarded as feminine in relation to the Godhead, the 
personal God and even the Order of Nature. Hubris, which is 
the original sin, consists in regarding the personal ego as self- 
sufficiently masculine in relation to the Spirit within and to 
Nature without, and in behaving accordingly. 

St. Paul drew a very useful and illuminating distinction 
between the psyche and thepneuma. But the latter word never 
achieved any degree of popularity, and the hopelessly ambigu- 
ous term, psyche, came to be used indifferently for either the 
personal consciousness or the spirit. And why, in the Western 
church, did devotional writers choose to speak of man's anima 
(which for the Romans signified the lower, animal soul) instead 

190 



GRACE AND FREE WILL 191 

of using the word traditionally reserved for the rational soul, 
namely animus? The answer, I suspect, is that they were 
anxious to stress by every means in their power the essential 
femininity of the human spirit in its relations with God. 
Pneuma, being grammatically neuter, and animus,being mascu- 
line, were felt to be less suitable than anima and psyche. Con- 
sider this concrete example ; given the structure of Greek and 
Latin, it would have been very difficult for the speakers of 
these languages to identify anything but a grammatically 
feminine soul with the heroine of the Song of Songs an 
allegorical figure who, for long centuries, played the same part 
in Christian thought and sentiment as the Gopi Maidens 
played in the theology and devotion of the Hindus. 

Take note of this fundamental truth. Everything that works in 
nature and creature, except sin, is the working of God in nature 
and creature. The creature has nothing else in its power but the 
free use of its will, and its free will hath no other power but that 
of concurring with, or resisting, the working of God in nature. 
The creature with its free will can bring nothing into being, nor 
make any alteration in the working of nature; it can only change 
its own state or place in the working of nature, and so feel or find 
something in its state that it did not feel or find before. 

William Law 

Defined in psychological terms, grace is something other 
than our self-conscious personal self, by which we are helped. 
We have experience of three kinds of such helps animal grace, 
human grace and spiritual grace. Animal grace comes when 
we are living in full accord with our own nature on the bio- 
logical level not abusing our bodies by excess, not interfering 
with the workings of our indwelling animal intelligence by 
conscious cravings and aversions, but living wholesomely and 
laying ourselves open to the 'virtue of the sun and the spirit 
of the air/ The reward of being thus in harmony with Tao 
or the Logos in its physical and physiological aspects is a 
sense of well-being, an awareness of life as good, not for any 



192 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

reason, but just because it is life. There is no question, when 
we are in a condition of animal grace, ofpropter vitam vivendi 
perdere causas; for in this state there is no distinction between 
the reasons for living and life itself. Life, like virtue, is then 
its own reward. But, of course, the fullness of animal grace is 
reserved for animals. Man's nature is such that he must live a 
self-conscious life in time, not in a blissful sub-rational eternity 
on the hither side of good and evil. Consequently animal grace 
is something that he knows only spasmodically in an occasional 
holiday from self-consciousness, or as an accompaniment to 
other states, in which life is not its own reward but has to be 
lived for a reason outside itself. 

Human grace comes to us either from persons, or from social 
groups, or from our own wishes, hopes and imaginings pro- 
jected outside ourselves and persisting somehow in the psychic 
medium in a state of what may be called second-hand objec- 
tivity. We have all had experience of the different types of 
human grace. There is, for example, tke grace which, during 
childhood, comes from mother, father, nurse or beloved teacher. 
At a later stage we experience the grace of friends ; the grace of 
men and women morally better and wiser than ourselves; the 
grace of the guru, or spiritual director. Then there is the grace 
which comes to us because of our attachment to country, 
party, church or other social organization a grace which has 
helped even the feeblest and most timid individuals to achieve 
what, without it, would have been the impossible. And finally 
there is the grace which we derive from our ideals, whether low 
or high, whether conceived of in abstract terms or bodied forth 
in imaginary personifications. To this last type, it would seem, 
belong many of the graces experienced by the pious adherents 
of the various religions. The help received by those who 
devotedly adore or pray to some personal saint, deity or Avatar 
is often, we may guess, not a genuinely spiritual grace, but a 
human grace, coming back to the worshipper from the vortex 
of psychic power set up by repeated acts (his own and other 
people's) of faith, yearning and imagination. 

Spiritual grace cannot be received continuously or in its full- 



GRACE AND FREE WILL 193 

ness, except by those who have willed away their self-will to 
the point of being able truthfully to say, 'Not I, but God in 
me.' There are, however, few people so irremediably self- 
condemned to imprisonment within their own personality as 
to be wholly incapable of receiving the graces which are from 
instant to instant being offered to every soul. By fits and 
starts most of us contrive to forget, if only partially, our pre- 
occupation with 'I,' 'me, 5 'mine,' and so become capable of 
receiving, if only partially, the graces which, in that moment, 
are being offered us. 

Spiritual grace originates from the divine Ground of all 
being, and it is given for the purpose of helping man to achieve 
his final end, which is to return out of time and selfhood to 
that Ground. It resembles animal grace in being derived from 
a source wholly other than our self-conscious, human selves ; 
indeed, it is the same thing as animal grace, but manifesting 
itself on a higher level of the ascending spiral that leads from 
matter to the Godhead. In any given instance, human grace 
may be wholly good, inasmuch as it helps the recipient in the 
task of achieving the unitive knowledge of God ; but because 
of its source in the individualized self, it is always a little sus- 
pect and, in many cases, of course, the help it gives is help 
towards the achievement of ends very different from the true 
end of our existence. 

All our goodness is a loan ; God is the owner. God works and 
his work is God. 

St. John of the Cross 

Perpetual inspiration is as necessary to the life of goodness, holi- 
ness and happiness as perpetual respiration is necessary to animal 
life. 

William Law 

Conversely, of course, the life of goodness, holiness and 
beatitude is a necessary condition of perpetual inspiration. 
The relations between action and contemplation, ethics and 



194 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

spirituality are circular and reciprocal. Each is at once cause 
and effect. 

It was when the Great Way declined that human kindness and 
morality arose. 

Lao T%u 

Chinese verbs are tenseless. This statement as to a hypo- 
thetical event in history refers at the same time to the present 
and the future. It means simply this: that with the rise of 
self-consciousness, animal grace is no longer sufficient for the 
conduct of life, and must be supplemented by conscious and 
deliberate choices between right and wrong choices which 
have to be made in the light of a clearly formulated ethical code. 
But, as the Taoist sages are never tired of repeating, codes of 
ethics and deliberate choices made by the surface will are only 
a second best. The individualized will and the superficial intel- 
ligence are to be used for the purpose of recapturing the old 
animal relation to Tao, but on a higher, spiritual level. The 
goal is perpetual inspiration from sources beyond the personal 
self; and the means are * human kindness and morality,' lead- 
ing to the charity, which is unitive knowledge of Tao, as at 
once the Ground and Logos. 

Lord, Thou hast given me my being of such a nature that it can 
continually make itself more able to receive thy grace and good- 
ness. And this power, which I have of Thee, wherein I have a 
living image of Thine almighty power, is free will. By this I can 
either enlarge or restrict my capacity for Thy grace. 

Nicholas ofCusa 

Shun asked Ch'eng, saying, ' Can one get Tao so as to have it for 

oneself?' 

'Your very body,' replied Ch'eng, 'is not your own. How 

should Tao be?' 

'If my body,' said Shun, 'is not my own, pray whose is it?' 
'It is the delegated image of God,' replied Ch'eng. 'Your life 



GRACE AND FREE WILL 195 

is not your own. It is the delegated harmony of God. Your 
individuality is not your own. It is the delegated adaptability of 
God. Your posterity is not your own. It is the delegated 
exuviae of God. You move, but know not how. You are at 
rest, but know not why. You taste, but know not the cause. 
These are the operations of God's laws. How then should you 
get Tao so as to have it for your own ?' 

Chuang T%u 

It is within my power either to serve God, or not to serve Him. 
Serving Him I add to my own good and the good of the whole 
world. Not serving Him, I forfeit my own good and deprive 
the world of that good, which was in my power to create. 

Leo Tolstoy 

God did not deprive thee of the operation of his love, but thou 
didst deprive Him of thy cooperation. God would never have 
rejected thee, if thou hadst not rejected his love. O all-good 
God, thou dost not forsake unless forsaken, thou never takest 
away thy gifts until we take away our hearts. 

St. Franfois de Sales 

Ch'ing, the chief carpenter, was carving wood into a stand for 
musical instruments. When finished, the work appeared to those 
who saw it as though of supernatural execution ; and the Prince 
of Lu asked him, saying, 'What mystery is there in your art?' 
'No mystery, Your Highness,' replied Ch'ing. 'And yet there 
is something. When I am about to make such a stand, I guard 
against any diminution of my vital power. I first reduce my mind 
to absolute quiescence. Three days in this condition, and I 
become oblivious of any reward to be gained. Five days, and 
I become oblivious of any fame to be acquired. Seven days, 
and I become unconscious of my four limbs and my physical 
frame. Then, with no thought of the Court present in my mind, 
my skill becomes concentrated, and all disturbing elements from 
without are gone. I enter some mountain forest, I search for a 
suitable tree. It contains the form required, wliich is afterwards 



196 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

elaborated. I see the stand in my mind's eye, and then set to 
work. Beyond that there is nothing. I bring my own native 
capacity into relation with that of the wood. What was sus- 
pected to be of supernatural execution in my work was due 
solely to this/ 

Chuang r%u 

The artist's inspiration may be either a human or a spiritual 
grace, or a mixture of both. High artistic achievement is im- 
possible without at least those forms of intellectual, emotional 
and physical mortification appropriate to the kind of art which 
is being practised. Over and above this course of what may be 
called professional mortification, some artists have practised the 
kind of self-naughting which is the indispensable pre-condition 
of the unitive knowledge of the divine Ground. Fra Angelico, 
for example, prepared himself for his work by means of prayer 
and meditation; and from the foregoing extract from Chuang 
Tzu we see how essentially religious (and not merely profes- 
sional) was the Taoist craftsman's approach to his art. 

Here we may remark in passing that mechanization is incom- 
patible with inspiration. The artisan could do and often did do 
a thoroughly bad job. But if, like Ch'ing, the chief carpenter, 
he cared for his art and were ready to do what was necessary 
to make himself docile to inspiration, he could and sometimes 
did do a job so good that it seemed 'as though of supernatural 
execution.' Among the many and enormous advantages of 
efficient automatic machinery is this: it is completely fool- 
proof. But every gain has to be paid for: The automatic 
machine is fool-proof; but just because it is fool-proof it is 
also grace-proof. The man who tends such a machine is 
impervious to every form of aesthetic inspiration, whether of 
human or of genuinely spiritual origin. 'Industry without art 
is brutality.' But actually Ruskin maligns the brutes. The 
industrious bird or insect is inspired, when it works, by the 
infallible animal grace of instinctby Tao as it manifests itself 
on the level immediately above the physiological. The indus- 
trial worker at his fool-proof and grace-proof machine does 



GRACE AND FREE WILL 197 

his job in a man-made universe of punctual automata a uni- 
verse that lies entirely beyond the pale of Tao on any level, 
brutal, human or spiritual. 

In this context we may mention those sudden theophanies 
which are sometimes vouchsafed to children and sometimes to 
adults, who may be poets or Philistines, learned or unsophisti- 
cated, but who have this in common, that they have done 
nothing at all to prepare for what has happened to them. 
These gratuitous graces, which have inspired much literary 
and pictorial art, some splendid and some (where inspiration 
was not seconded by native talent) pathetically inadequate, 
seem generally to belong to one or other of two main classes 
sudden and profoundly impressive perception of ultimate 
Reality as Love, Light and Bliss, and a no less impressive per- 
ception of it as dark, awe-inspiring and inscrutable Power. In 
memorable forms, Wordsworth has recorded his own experi- 
ence of both these aspects of the divine Ground. 

There was a time when meadow, grove and stream, 
The earth and every common sight, 

To me did seem 

Apparelled in celestial light. 

And so on. But that was not the only vision. 

Lustily 

I dipped my oars into the silent lake, 
And, as I rose upon the stroke, my boat 
Went heaving through the water like a swan ; 
When, from behind that craggy steep, till then 
The horizon's bound, a huge peak, black and huge, 
As if with voluntary power instinct, 
Upreared its head. I struck and struck again, 
And growing still in stature, the grim shape 
Towered up between me and the stars. . . . 

But after I had seen 
That spectacle, for many days my brain 



198 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

Worked with a dim and undetermined sense 
Of unknown modes of being; o'er my thoughts 
There hung a darkness, call it solitude, 
Or blank desertion. 

Significantly enough, it is to this second aspect of Reality that 
primitive minds seem to have been most receptive. The for- 
midable God, to whom Job at last submits, is an 'unknown 
mode of Being,' whose most characteristic creations are 
Behemoth and Leviathan. He is the sort of God who calls, 
in Kierkegaard's phrase, for ' teleological suspensions of moral- 
ity,' chiefly in the form of blood sacrifices, even human sacri- 
fices. The Hindu goddess, Kali, in her more frightful aspects, 
is another manifestation of the same unknown mode of Being. 
And by many contemporary savages the underlying Ground is 
apprehended and theologically rationalized as sheer, unmiti- 
gated Power, which has to be propitiatively worshipped and, 
if possible, turned to profitable use by means of a compulsive 
magic. 

To think of God as mere Power, and not also, at the same 
time as Power, Love and Wisdom, comes quite naturally to 
the ordinary, unregenerate human mind. Only the totally self- 
less are in a position to know experimentally that, in spite of 
everything, 'all will be well' and, in some way, already is well. 
'The philosopher who denies divine providence,' says Rumi, 
'is a stranger to the perception of the saints.' Only those who 
have the perception of the saints can know all the time and by 
immediate experience that divine Reality manifests itself as a 
Power that is loving, compassionate and wise. The rest of us 
are not yet in a spiritual position to do more than accept their 
findings on faith. If it were not for the records they have left 
behind, we should be more inclined to agree with Job and the 
primitives. 

Inspirations prevent us, and even before they are thought of make 
themselves felt; but after we have felt them it is ours either to 
consent to them, so as to second and follow their attractions, or 



GRACE AND FREE WILL 199 

else to dissent and repulse them. They make themselves felt 
without us, but they do not make us consent without us. 

St. Franfois de Sales 

Our free will can hinder the course of inspiration, and when the 
favourable gale of God's grace swells the sails of our soul, it is in 
our power to refuse consent and thereby hinder the effect of the 
wind's favour; but when our spirit sails along and makes its 
voyage prosperously, it is not we who make the gale of inspira- 
tion blow for us, nor we who make our sails swell with it, nor we 
who give motion to the ship of our heart; but we simply receive 
the gale, consent to its motion and let our ship sail under it, not 
hindering it by our resistance. 

St. Franfois de Sales 

Grace is necessary to salvation, free will equally so but grace in 
order to give salvation, free will in order to receive it. Therefore 
we should not attribute part of the good work to grace and part to 
free will; it is performed in its entirety by the common and 
inseparable action of both; entirely by grace, entirely by free 
will, but springing from the first in the second. 

St. Bernard 

St. Bernard distinguishes between volwitas communis and 
voluntas propria. Voluntas communis is common in two senses ; 
it is the will to share, and it is the will common to man and 
God. For practical purposes it is equivalent to charity. Vo- 
luntas propria is the will to get and hold for oneself, and is 
the root of all sin. In its cognitive aspect, voluntas propria is 
the same as sensum proprium^ which is one's own opinion, 
cherished because it is one's own and therefore always morally 
wrong, even though it may be theoretically correct. 

Two students from the University of Paris came to visit Ruys- 
broeck and asked him to furnish them with a short phrase or 
motto, which might serve them as a rule of life. 

Vos estis tarn sancti sicut vultis^ Ruysbroeck answered. 'You 
are as holy as you will to be/ 



200 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

God is bound to act, to pour Himself into thee as soon as He 
shall find thee ready. 

Eckhart 

The will is that which has all power; it makes heaven and it 
makes hell; for there is no hell but where the will of the creature 
is turned from God, nor any heaven but where the will of the 
creature worketh with God. 

William Law 

O man, consider thyself! Here thou standest in the earnest per- 
petual strife of good and evil ; all nature is continually at work to 
bring forth the great redemption ; the whole creation is travailing 
in pain and laborious working to be delivered from the vanity of 
time; and wilt thou be asleep ? Everything thou hearest or seest 
says nothing, shows nothing to thee but what either eternal light 
or eternal darkness has brought forth; for as day and night 
divide the whole of our time, so heaven and hell divide all our 
thoughts, words and actions. Stir which way thou wilt, do or 
design what thou wilt, thou must be an agent with the one or the 
other. Thou canst not stand still, because thou livest in the 
perpetual workings of temporal and eternal nature; if thou 
workest not with the good, the evil that is in nature carries thee 
along with it. Thou hast the height and depth of eternity in thee 
and therefore, be doing what thou wilt, either in the closet, the 
field, the shop or the church, thou art sowing that which grows 
and must be reaped in eternity. 

William Law 

God expects but one thing of you, and that is that you should 
come out of yourself in so far as you are a created being and let 
God be God in you. 

Eckhart 

For those who take pleasure in theological speculations based 
upon scriptural texts and dogmatic postulates, there are the 
thousands of pages of Catholic and Protestant controversy 



GRACE AND FREE WILL 201 

upon grace, works, faith and justification. And for students 
of comparative religion there are scholarly commentaries on 
the Bhagavad-Gita, on the works of Ramanuja and those later 
Vaishnavites, whose doctrine of grace bears a striking resem- 
blance to that of Luther; there are histories of Buddhism 
which duly trace the development of that religion from the 
Hinayanist doctrine that salvation is the fruit of strenuous 
self-help to the Mahayanist doctrine that it cannot be achieved 
without the grace of the Primordial Buddha, whose inner 
consciousness and 'great compassionate heart' constitute the 
eternal Suchness of things. For the rest of us, the foregoing 
quotations from writers within the Christian and early Taoist 
tradition provide, it seems to me, an adequate account of the 
observable facts of grace and inspiration and their relation to 
the observable facts of free will. 



Chapter 1 1 
GOOD AND EVIL 

DESIRE is the first datum of our consciousness; we are 
born into sympathy and antipathy, wishing and willing. 
Unconsciously at first, then consciously, we evaluate : ' This is 
good, that is bad.' And a little later we discover obligation. 
'This, being good, ought to be done; that, being bad, ought 
not to be done.' 

All evaluations are not equally valid. We are called upon to 
pass judgment on what our desires and dislikes affirm to be 
good or bad. Very often we discover that the verdict of the 
higher court is at variance with the decision reached so quickly 
and light-heartedly in the court of first instance. In the light 
of what we know about ourselves, our fellow-beings and the 
world at large, we discover that what at first seemed good 
may, in the long run or in the larger context, be bad ; and that 
what at first seemed bad may be a good which we feel our- 
selves under obligation to accomplish. 

When we say that a man is possessed of penetrating moral 
insight we mean that his judgment of value-claims is sound ; 
that he knows enough to be able to say what is good in the 
longest run and the largest context. When we say that a man 
has a strong moral character, we mean that he is ready to act 
upon the findings of his insight, even when these findings are 
unpleasantly or even excruciatingly at variance with his first, 
spontaneous valuations. 

In actual practice moral insight is never a strictly personal 
matter. The judge administers a system of law and is guided 
by precedent. In other words, every individual is the member 
of a community, which has a moral code based upon past find- 
ings of what in fact is good in the longer run and the wider 
context. In most circumstances most of the members of any 
given society permit themselves to be guided by the generally 

202 



GOOD AND EVIL 203 

accepted code of morals; a few reject the code, either in 
its entirety or in part ; and a few choose to live by another, 
higher and more exacting code. In Christian phraseology, 
there are the few who stubbornly persist in living in a state of 
mortal sin and antisocial lawlessness ; there are the many who 
obey the laws, make the. Precepts of Morality their guide, 
repent of mortal sins when they commit them, but do not 
make much effort to avoid venial sins ; and finally there are the 
few whose righteousness 'exceeds the righteousness of the 
scribes and Pharisees,' who are guided by the Counsels of 
Perfection and have the insight to perceive and the character 
to avoid venial sins and even imperfections. 

Philosophers and theologians have sought to establish a 
theoretical basis for the existing moral codes, by whose aid 
individual men and women pass judgment on their spon- 
taneous evaluations. From Moses to Bentham, from Epicurus 
to Calvin, from the Christian and Buddhist philosophies of 
universal love to the lunatic doctrines of nationalism and racial 
superiority the list is long and the span of thought enormously 
wide. But fortunately there is no need for us to consider these 
various theories. Our concern is only with the Perennial 
Philosophy and with the system of ethical principles which 
those who believe in that philosophy have used, when passing 
judgment on their own and other people's evaluations. The 
questions that we have to ask in this section are simple enough, 
and simple too are the answers. As always, the difficulties 
begin only when we pass from theory to practice, from ethical 
principle to particular application. 

Granted that the ground of the individual soul is akin to, or 
identical with, the divine Ground of all existence, and granted 
that this divine Ground is an ineffable Godhead that manifests 
itself as personal God or even as the incarnate Logos, what is 
the ultimate nature of good and evil, and what the true purpose 
and last end of human life ? 

The answers to these questions will be given to a great 
extent in the words of that most surprising product of the 
English eighteenth century, William Law. (How very odd 



20 4 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

our educational system is ! Students of English literature are 
forced to read the graceful journalism of Steele and Addison, 
are expected to know all about the minor novels of Defoe and 
the tiny elegances of Matthew Prior. But they can pass all 
their examinations summa cum laude without having so much 
as looked into the writings of a man who was not only a master 
of English prose, but also one of the most interesting thinkers 
of his period and one of the most endearingly saintly figures in 
the whole history of Anglicanism.) Our current neglect of 
Law is yet another of the many indications that twentieth- 
century educators have ceased to be concerned with questions 
of ultimate truth or meaning and (apart from mere vocational 
training) are interested solely in the dissemination of a root- 
less and irrelevant culture, and the fostering of the solemn 
foolery of scholarship for scholarship's sake. 

Nothing burns in hell but the self. 

Theologia Germanica 

The mind is on fire, thoughts are on fire. Mind-consciousness 
and the impressions received by the mind, and the sensations that 
arise from the impressions that the mind receives these too are 
on fire. 

And with what are they on fire? With the fire of greed, with 
the fire of resentment, with the fire of infatuation ; with birth, old 
age and death, with sorrow and lamentation, with misery and 
grief and despair they are on fire. 

From the Buddha s Fire Sermon 

If thou hast not seen the devil, look at thine own self. 

Jalal-uddin Rumi 

Your own self is your own Cain that murders your own Abel. 
For every action and motion of self has the spirit of Anti-Christ 
and murders the divine life within you. 

William Law 

The city of God is made by the love of God pushed to the con- 



GOOD AND EVIL 205 

tempt of self; the earthly city, by the love of self pushed to the 
contempt of God. 

St. Augustine 

The difference between a good and a bad man does not lie in this, 
that the one wills that which is good and the other does not, but 
solely in this, that the one concurs with the living inspiring spirit 
of God within him, and the other resists it, and can be chargeable 
with evil only because he resists it. 

William Law 

People should think less about what they ought to do and more 
about what they ought to be. If only their being were good, 
their works would shine forth brightly. Do not imagine that 
you can ground your salvation upon actions; it must rest on 
what you are. The ground upon which good character rests is 
the very same ground from which man's work derives its value, 
namely a mind wholly turned to God. Verily, if you were so 
minded, you might tread on a stone and it would be a more pious 
work than if you, simply for your own profit, were to receive the 
Body of the Lord and were wanting in spiritual detachment. 

Eckhart 

Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is. 

Bhaga vad-Gita 

It is mind which gives to things their quality, their foundation 
and their being. Whoever speaks or acts with impure mind, him 
sorrow follows, as the wheel follows the steps of the ox that draws 
the cart. 

Dhammapada 

The nature of a man's being determines the nature of his 
actions ; and the nature of his being comes to manifestation 
first of all in the mind. What he craves and thinks, what he 
believes and feels this is, so to speak, the Logos, by whose 
agency an individual's fundamental character performs its crea- 



206 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

tive acts. These acts will be beautiful and morally good if the 
being is God-centred, bad and ugly if it is centred in the per- 
sonal self. ' The stone/ says Eckhart, ' performs its work with- 
out ceasing, day and night.' For even when it is not actually 
falling the stone has weight. A man's being is his potential 
energy directed towards or away from God ; and it is by this 
potential energy that he will be judged as good or evil for it 
is possible, in the language of the Gospel, to commit adultery 
and murder in the heart, even while remaining blameless in 
action. 

Covetousness, envy, pride and wrath are the four elements of self, 
or nature, or hell, all of them inseparable from it. And die reason 
why it must be thus, and cannot be otherwise, is because the 
natural life of the creature is brought forth for the participation 
of some high supernatural good in the Creator. But it could have 
no fitness, no possible capacity to receive such good, unless it 
was in itself both an extremity of want and an extremity of desire 
for some high good. When therefore this natural life is deprived 
of or fallen from God, it can be nothing else in itself but an 
extremity of want continually desiring, and an extremity of desire 
continually wanting. And because it is that, its whole life can be 
nothing else but a plague and torment of covetousness, envy, 
pride and wrath, all which is precisely nature, self, or hell. Now 
covetousness, pride and envy are not three different things, but 
only three different names for the restless workings of one and 
the same will or desire. Wrath, which is a fourth birth from 
these three, can have no existence till one or all of these three are 
contradicted, or have something done to them that is contrary 
to their will. These four properties generate their own torment. 
They have no outward cause, nor any inward power of altering 
themselves. And therefore all self or nature must be in this state 
until some supernatural good comes into it, or gets a birth in it. 
Whilst man indeed lives among the vanities of time, his covetous- 
ness, envy, pride and wrath may be in a tolerable state, may hold 
him to a mixture of peace and trouble ; they may have at times 
their gratifications as well as their torments. But when death has 



GOOD AND EVIL 207 

put an end to the vanity of all earthly cheats, the soul that is not 
born again of the supernatural Word and Spirit of God, must find 
itself unavoidably devoured or shut up in its own insatiable, un- 
changeable, self-tormenting covetousness, envy, pride and wrath. 

William Law 

It is true that you cannot properly express the degree of your 
sinfulness; but that is because it is impossible, in this life, to 
represent sins in all their true ugliness; nor shall we ever know 
them as they really are except in the light of God. God gives to 
some souls an impression of the enormity of sin, by which He 
makes them feel that sin is incomparably greater than it seems. 
Such souls must conceive their sins as faith represents them (that 
is, as they are in themselves), but must be content to describe 
them in such human words as their mouth is able to utter. 

Charles de Condren 

Lucifer, when he stood in his natural nobility, as God had created 
him, was a pure noble creature. But when he kept to self, when 
he possessed himself and his natural nobility as a property, he fell 
and became, instead of an angel, a devil. So it is with man. If 
he remains in himself and possesses himself of his natural nobility 
as a property, he falls and becomes, instead of a man, a devil. 

The Following of Christ 

If a delicious fragrant fruit had a power of separating itself from 
the rich spirit, fine taste, smell and colour, which it receives from 
the virtue of the air and the spirit of the sun, or if it could, in the 
beginning of its growth, turn away from the sun and receive no 
virtue from it, then it would stand in its own first birth of wrath, 
sourness, bitterness, astringency, just as the devils do, who have 
turned back into their own dark root and have rejected the Light 
and Spirit of God. So that the hellish nature of a devil is nothing 
but its own first forms of life withdrawn or separated from the 
heavenly Light and Love; just as the sourness, bitterness and 
astringency of a fruit are nothing else but the first form of its vege- 
table life, before it has reached the virtue of the sun and the spirit 



208 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

of the air. And as a fruit, if it had a sensibility of itself, would be 
full of torment as soon as it was shut up in the first forms of its 
life, in its own astringency, sourness and stinging bitterness, so 
the angels, when they had turned back into these very same first 
forms of their own life, and broke off from the heavenly Light 
and Love of God, became their own hell. No hell was made for 
them, no new qualities came into them, no vengeance or pains 
from the Lord of Love fell on them; they only stood in that state 
of division and separation from the Son and Holy Spirit of God, 
which by their own motion they had made for themselves. They 
had nothing in them but what they had from God, the first forms 
of a heavenly life; but they had them in a state of self- torment, 
because they had separated them from birth of Love and Light. 

William Law 

In all the possibility of things there is and can be but one happi- 
ness and one misery. The one misery is nature and creature left 
to itself, the one happiness is the Life, the Light, the Spirit of God, 
manifested in nature and creature. This is the true meaning of 
the words of Our Lord : There is but one that is good, and that 
is God. 

William Law 

Men are not in hell because God is angry with them ; they are in 
wrath and darkness because they have done to the light, which 
infinitely flows forth from God, as that man does to the light of 
the sun, who puts out his own eyes. 

William Law 

Though the light and comfort of the outward world keeps even 
the worst of men from any constant strong sensibility of that 
wrathful, fiery, dark and self-tormenting nature that is the very 
essence of every fallen unregenerate soul, yet every man in the 
world has more or less frequent and strong intimations given him 
that so it is with him in the inmost ground of his soul. How 
many inventions are some people forced to have recourse to in 
order to keep off a certain inward uneasiness, which they are 



GOOD AND EVIL 209 

afraid of and know not whence it comes ? Alas, it is because 
there is a fallen spirit, a dark aching fire within them, which has 
never had its proper relief and is trying to discover itself and 
calling out for help at every cessation of worldly joy. 

William Law 

In the Hebrew-Christian tradition the Fall is subsequent to 
creation and is due exclusively to the egocentric use of a free 
will, which ought to have remained centred in the divine 
Ground and not in the separate selfhood. The myth of Genesis 
embodies a very important psychological truth, but falls short 
of being an entirely satisfactory symbol, because it fails to men- 
tion, much less to account for, the fact of evil and suffering in 
the non-human world. To be adequate to our experience the 
myth would have to be modified in two ways. In the first 
place, it would have to make clear that creation, the incompre- 
hensible passage from the unmanifested One into the manifest 
multiplicity of nature, from eternity into time, is not merely 
the prelude and necessary condition of the Fall ; to some extent 
it is the Fall. And in the second place, it would have to indi- 
cate that something analogous to free will may exist below the 
human level. 

That the passage from the unity of spiritual to the manifold- 
ness of temporal being is an essential part of the Fall is clearly 
stated in the Buddhist and Hindu renderings of the Perennial 
Philosophy. Pain and evil are inseparable from individual 
existence in a world of time; and, for human beings, there is 
an intensification of this inevitable pain and evil when the 
desire is turned towards the self and the many, rather than 
towards the divine Ground. To this we might speculatively 
add the opinion that perhaps even sub-human existences may 
be endowed (both individually and collectively, as kinds and 
species) with something resembling the power of choice. 
There is the extraordinary fact that 'man stands alone* that, 
so far as we can judge, every other species is a species of living 
fossils, capable only of degeneration and extinction, not of 
further evolutionary advance. In the phraseology of Scholastic 



2io THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

Aristotelianism, matter possesses an appetite for form not 
necessarily for the best form, but for form as such. Looking 
about us in the world of living things, we observe (with a 
delighted wonder, touched occasionally, it must be admitted, 
with a certain questioning dismay) the innumerable forms, 
always beautiful, often extravagantly odd and sometimes even 
sinister, in which the insatiable appetite of matter has found 
its satisfaction. Of all this living matter only that which is 
organized as human beings has succeeded in finding a form 
capable, at any rate on the mental side, of further develop- 
ment. All the rest is now locked up in forms that can only 
remain what they are or, if they change, only change for the 
worse. It looks as though, in the cosmic intelligence test, all 
living matter, except the human, had succumbed, at one time 
or another during its biological career, to the temptation of 
assuming, not the ultimately best, but the immediately most 
profitable form. By an act of something analogous to free will 
every species, except the human, has chosen the quick returns 
of specialization, the present rapture of being perfect, but per- 
fect on a low level of being. The result is that they all stand 
at the end of evolutionary blind alleys. To the initial cosmic 
Fall of creation, of multitudinous manifestation in time, they 
have added the obscurely biological equivalent of man's volun- 
tary Fall. As species, they have chosen the immediate satis- 
faction of the self rather than the capacity for reunion with the 
divine Ground. For this wrong choice, the non-human forms 
of life are punished negatively, by being debarred from real- 
izing the supreme good, to which only the unspecialized and 
therefore freer, more highly conscious human form is capable. 
But it must be remembered, of course, that the capacity for 
supreme good is achieved only at the price of becoming also 
capable of extreme evil. Animals do not suffer in so many 
ways, nor, we may feel pretty certain, to the same extent as do 
men and women. Further, they are quite innocent of that 
literally diabolic wickedness which, together with sanctity, is 
one of the distinguishing marks of the human species. 

We see then that, for the Perennial Philosophy, good is the 



GOOD AND EVIL 211 

separate self's conformity to, and finally annihilation in, the 
divine Ground which gives it being; evil, the intensification 
of separateness, the refusal to know that the Ground exists. 
This doctrine is, of course, perfectly compatible with the 
formulation of ethical principles as a series of negative and 
positive divine commandments, or even in terms of social 
utility. The crimes which are everywhere forbidden proceed 
from states of mind which are everywhere condemned as 
wrong; and these wrong states of mind are, as a matter of 
empirical fact, absolutely incompatible with that unitive know- 
ledge of die divine Ground, which, according to the Perennial 
Philosophy, is the supreme good. 



Chapter 12 
TIME AND ETERNITY 

THE universe is an everlasting succession of events; but its 
ground, according to the Perennial Philosophy, is the time- 
less now of the divine Spirit. A classical statement of the 
relationship between time and eternity may be found in the 
later chapters of the Consolations of Philosophy , where Boethius 
summarizes the conceptions of his predecessors, notably of 
Plotinus. 

It is one thing to be carried through an endless life, another thing 
to embrace the whole presence of an endless life together, which 
is manifestly proper to the divine Mind. 

The temporal world seems to emulate in part that which it can- 
not fully obtain or express, tying itself to whatever presence there 
is in this exiguous and fleeting moment a presence which, since 
it carries a certain image of that abiding Presence, gives to what- 
ever may partake of it the quality of seeming to have being. But 
because it could not stay, it undertook an infinite journey of time ; 
and so it came to pass that, by going, it continued that life, whose 
plenitude it could not comprehend by staying. 

Boethius 

Since God hath always an eternal and present state, His know- 
ledge, surpassing time's notions, remaineth in the simplicity of 
His presence and, comprehending the infinite of what is past and 
to come, considered! all things as though they were in the act of 
being accomplished. 

Boethius 

Knowledge of what is happening now does not determine the 
event. What is ordinarily called God's foreknowledge is in 
reality a timeless now-knowledge, which is compatible with the 
freedom of the human creature's will in time. 

212 



TIME AND ETERNITY 213 

The manifest world and whatever is moved in any sort take their 
causes, order and forms from the stability of the divine Mind. 
This hath determined manifold ways for doing things; which 
ways being considered in the purity of God's understanding are 
named Providence; but being referred to those things which He 
moveth and disposeth are called Fate. . . . Providence is the very 
divine Reason itself, which disposeth all things. But Fate is a 
disposition inherent in changeable things, by which Providence 
connecteth all things in their due order. For Providence equally 
embraceth all things together, though diverse, though infinite; 
but Fate puts into motion all things, distributed by places, forms 
and times; so that the unfolding of the temporal order, being 
united in the foresight of the divine Mind, is Providence, and the 
same uniting, being digested and unfolded in time, is called Fate. 
... As a workman conceiving the form of anything in his mind, 
taketh his work in hand and executeth by order of time that which 
he had simply and in a moment foreseen, so God by his Provi- 
dence disposeth whatever is to be done with simplicity and stabil- 
ity, and by Fate erTecteth by manifold ways and in the order of 
time those very things which He disposeth. ... All that is under 
Fate is also subject to Providence. But some things which are 
under Providence are above the course of Fate. For they are 
those things which, being stably fixed in virtue of their nearness 
to the first divinity, exceed the order of Fate's mobility. 

Boe thins 

The concept of a clock enfolds all succession in time. In the con- 
cept the sixth hour is not earlier than the seventh or eighth, 
although the clock never strikes the hour, save when the concept 
biddeth. 

Nicholas ofCusa 

From Hobbes onwards, the enemies of the Perennial Philo- 
sophy have denied the existence of an eternal now. According 
to these thinkers, time and change are fundamental; there is 
no other reality. Moreover, future events are completely inde- 
terminate, and even God can have no knowledge of them. 



2i 4 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

Consequently God cannot be described as Alpha and Omega 
merely as Alpha and Lambda, or whatever other intermediate 
letter of the temporal alphabet is now in process of being 
spelled out. But the anecdotal evidence collected by the Society 
for Psychical Research and the statistical evidence accumulated 
during many thousands of laboratory tests for extra-sensory 
perception point inescapably to the conclusion that even human 
minds are capable of foreknowledge. And if a finite conscious- 
ness can know what card is going to be turned up three seconds 
from now, or what shipwreck is going to take place next week, 
then there is nothing impossible or even intrinsically improb- 
able in the idea of an infinite consciousness that can know now 
events indefinitely remote in what, for us, is future time. The 
'specious present' in which human beings live may be, and 
perhaps always is, something more than a brief section of tran- 
sition from known past to unknown future, regarded, because 
of the vividness of memory, as the instant we call 'now'; it 
may and perhaps always does contain a portion of the immedi- 
ate and even of the relatively distant future. For the Godhead, 
the specious present may be precisely that interminabilis vitae 
tota simul et perpetua possessio, of which Boethius speaks. 

The existence of the eternal now is sometimes denied on the 
ground that a temporal order cannot co-exist with another 
order which is non- temporal ; and that it is impossible for a 
changing substance to be united with a changeless substance. 
This objection, it is obvious, would be valid if the non-temporal 
order were of a mechanical nature, or if the changeless sub- 
stance were possessed of spatial and material qualities. But 
according to the Perennial Philosophy, the eternal now is a 
consciousness; the divine Ground is spirit; the being of 
Brahman is chit, or knowledge. That a temporal world should 
be known and, in being known, sustained and perpetually 
created by an eternal consciousness is an idea which contains 
nothing self-contradictory. 

Finally we come to the arguments directed against those who 
have asserted that the eternal Ground can be unitively known 
by human minds. This claim is regarded as absurd because it 



TIME AND ETERNITY 215 

involves the assertion, ' At one time I am eternal, at another time 
I am in time.' But this statement is absurd only if man is a 
being of a twofold nature, capable of living on only one level. 
But if, as the exponents of the Perennial Philosophy have 
always maintained, man is not only a body and a psyche, but 
also a spirit, and if he can at will live either on the merely human 
plane or else in harmony and even in union with the divine 
Ground of his being, then the statement makes perfectly good 
sense. The body is always in time, the spirit is always timeless 
and the psyche is an amphibious creature compelled by the laws 
of man's being to associate itself to some extent with its body, 
but capable, if it so desires, of experiencing and being identified 
with its spirit and, through its spirit, with the divine Ground. 
The spirit remains always what it eternally is ; but man is so 
constituted that his psyche cannot always remain identified 
with the spirit. In the statement, 'At one time I am eternal, 
at another time I am in time,' the word 'I' stands for the 
psyche, which passes from time to eternity when it is identified 
with the spirit and passes again from eternity to time, either 
voluntarily or by involuntary necessity, when it chooses or is 
compelled to identify itself with the body. 

'The Sufi,' says Jalal-uddin Rumi, 'is the son of time 
present.' Spiritual progress is a spiral advance. We start as 
infants in the animal eternity of life in the moment, without 
anxiety for the future or regret for the past; we grow up into 
the specifically human condition of those who look before and 
after, who live to a great extent, not in the present but in 
memory and anticipation, not spontaneously but by rule and 
with prudence, in repentance and fear and hope; and we can 
continue, if we so desire, up and on in a returning sweep 
towards a point corresponding to our starting place in animal- 
ity, but incommensurably above it. Once more life is lived 
in the moment the life now, not of a sub-human creature, 
but of a being in whom charity has cast out fear, vision has 
taken the place of hope, selflessness has put a stop to the posi- 
tive egotism of complacent reminiscence and the negative 
egotism of remorse. The present moment is the only aperture 



2i6 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

through which the soul can pass out of time into eternity, 
through which grace can pass out of eternity into the soul, 
and through which charity can pass from one soul in time to 
another soul in time. That is why the Sufi and, along with 
him, every other practising exponent of the Perennial Philo- 
sophy is, or tries to be, a son of time present. 

Past and future veil God from our sight ; 

Burn up both of them with fire. How long 

Wilt thou be partitioned by these segments, like a reed ? 

So long as a reed is partitioned, it is not privy to secrets, 

Nor is it vocal in response to lip and breathing. 

Jalal-uddin Rumi 

This emptying of the memory, though the advantages of it are 
not so c great as those of the state of union, yet merely because it 
delivers souls from much sorrow, grief and sadness, besides im- 
perfections and sins, is in reality a great good. 

St. John of the Cross 

In the idealistic cosmology of Mahayana Buddhism memory 
plays the part of a rather maleficent demiurge. 'When the 
triple world is surveyed by the Bodhisattva, he perceives that 
its existence is due to memory that has been accumulated since 
the beginningless past, but wrongly interpreted ' (Lankavatara 
Sutra). The word here translated as * memory ' means literally 
'perfuming. 5 The mind-body carries with it the ineradicable 
smell of all that has been thought and done, desired and felt, 
throughout its racial and personal past. The Chinese translate 
the Sanskrit term by two symbols, signifying 'habit-energy/ 
The world is what (in our eyes) it is, because of all the con- 
sciously or unconsciously and physiologically remembered 
habits formed by our ancestors or by ourselves, either in our 
present life or in previous existences. These remembered bad 
habits cause us to believe that multiplicity is the sole reality 
and that the idea of %' 'me/ 'mine' represents the ultimate 
truth. Nirvana consists in 'seeing into the abode of reality as 



TIME AND ETERNITY 217 

it is,' and not reality quoad nos, as it seems to us. Obviously, 
this cannot be achieved so long as there is an 'us/ to which 
reality can be relative. Hence the need, stressed by every 
exponent of the Perennial Philosophy, for mortification, for 
dying to self. And this must be a mortification not only of the 
appetites, the feelings and the will, but also of the reasoning 
powers, of consciousness itself and of that which makes our 
consciousness what it is our personal memory and our in- 
herited habit-energies. To achieve complete deliverance, con- 
version from sin is not enough ; there must also be a conversion 
of the mind, aparavritti, as the Mahayanists call it, or revulsion 
in the very depths of consciousness. As the result of this 
revulsion, the habit-energies of accumulated memory are de- 
stroyed and, along with them, the sense of being a separate ego. 
Reality is no longer perceived quoad nos (for the good reason 
that there is no longer a nos to perceive it), but as it is in itself. 
In Blake's words, 'If the doors of perception were cleansed, 
everything would be seen as it is, infinite.' By those who are 
pure in heart and poor in spirit, samsara and nirvana^ appear- 
ance and reality, time and eternity are experienced as one and 
the same. 

Time is what keeps the light from reaching us. There is no 
greater obstacle to God than time. And not only time but 
temporalities, not only temporal things but temporal affections ; 
not only temporal affections but the very taint and smell of time. 

Eckhan 

Rejoice in God all the time, says St. Paul. He rejoices all the 
time who rejoices above time and free from time. Three things 
prevent a man from knowing God. The first is time, the second 
is corporeality, the third is multiplicity. That God may come in, 
these things must go out except thou have them in a higher, 
better way : multitude summed up to one in thee. 

Eckhan 

Whenever God is thought of as being wholly in time, there 



2i8 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

is a tendency to regard Him as a 'numinous' rather than a 
moral being, a God of mere unmitigated Power rather than a 
God of Power, Wisdom and Love, an inscrutable and danger- 
ous potentate to be propitiated by sacrifices, not a Spirit to be 
worshipped in spirit. All this is only natural; for time is a 
perpetual perishing and a God who is wholly in time is a God 
who destroys as fast as He creates. Nature is as incompre- 
hensibly appalling as it is lovely and bountiful. If the Divine 
does not transcend the temporal order in which it is immanent, 
and if die human spirit does not transcend its time-bound soul, 
then there is no possibility of * justifying the ways of God to 
man.' God as manifested in the universe is the irresistible 
Being who speaks to Job out of the whirlwind, and whose 
emblems are Behemoth and Leviathan, the war horse and the 
eagle. It is this same Being who is described in the apocalyptic 
eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita. ' O Supreme Spirit,' 
says Arjuna, addressing himself to the Krishna whom he now 
knows to be the incarnation of the Godhead, 'I long to see 
your Isvara-form' that is to say, his form as God of the 
world, Nature, the temporal order. Krishna answers, 'You 
shall behold the whole universe, with all things animate and 
inanimate, within this body of mine.' Arjuna's reaction to the 
revelation is one of amazement and fear. 

Ah, my God, I see all gods within your body; 
Each in his degree, the multitude of creatures ; 
See Lord Brahma seated upon his lotus, 
See all the sages and the holy serpents. 

Universal Form, I see you without limit, 
Infinite of eyes, arms, mouths and bellies 
See, and find no end, midst or beginning. 

There follows a long passage, enlarging on the omnipotence 
and all-comprehensiveness of God in his Isvara-form. Then 
the quality of the vision changes, and Arjuna realizes, with fear 



TIME AND ETERNITY 219 

and trembling, that the God of the universe is a God of 
destruction as well as of creation. 

Now with frightful tusks your mouths are gnashing, 
Flaring like the fires of Doomsday morning 
North, south, east and west seem all confounded 
Lord of devas, world's abode, have mercy ! . . . 

Swift as many rivers streaming to the ocean, 
Rush the heroes to your fiery gullets, 
Moth-like to meet the flame of their destruction. 
Headlong these plunge into you and perish. . . . 

Tell me who you are, and were from the beginning, 

You of aspect grim. O God of gods, be gracious. 

Take my homage, Lord. From me your ways are hidden. 

'Tell me who you are.' The answer is clear and unequivocal. 

I am come as Time, the waster of the peoples, 
Ready for the hour that ripens to their ruin. 

But the God who comes so terribly as Time also exists time- 
lessly as the Godhead, as Brahman, whose essence is Sat, Chit y 
Ananda^ Being, Awareness, Bliss ; and within and beyond man's 
time- tortured psyche is his spirit, 'uncreated and uncreatable/ 
as Eckhart says, the Atman which is akin to or even identical 
with Brahman. The Gita, like all other formulations of the 
Perennial Philosophy, justifies God's ways to man by affirming 
and the affirmation is based upon observation and immediate 
experience that man can, if he so desires, die to his separate 
temporal selfness and so come to union with timeless Spirit. 
It affirms, too, that the Avatar becomes incarnate in order to 
assist human beings to achieve this union. This he does in 
three ways by teaching the true doctrine in a world blinded 
by voluntary ignorance; by inviting souls to a 'carnal love* 



220 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

of his humanity, not indeed as an end in itself, but as the means 
to spiritual love-knowledge of Spirit; and finally by serving 
as a channel of grace. 

God who is Spirit can only be worshipped in spirit and for 
his own sake; but God in time is normally worshipped by 
material means with a view to achieving temporal ends. God- 
in time is manifestly the destroyer as well as the creator; and 
because this is so, it has seemed proper to worship him by 
methods which are as terrible as the destructions he himself 
inflicts. Hence, in India, the blood sacrifices to Kali, in her 
aspect as Nature-the-Destroyer ; hence those offerings of chil- 
dren to 'the Molochs,' denounced by the Hebrew prophets; 
hence the human sacrifices practised, for example, by the 
Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Druids, the Aztecs. In all 
such cases the divinity addressed was a god in time, or a per- 
sonification of Nature, which is nothing else but Time itself, 
the devourer of its own offspring; and in all cases the purpose 
of the rite was to obtain a future benefit or to avoid one of 
the enormous evils which Time and Nature for ever hold in 
store. For this it was thought to be worth while to pay a high 
price in that currency of suffering, which the Destroyer so 
evidently valued. The importance of the temporal end justified 
the use of means that were intrinsically terrible, because intrin- 
sically time-like. Sublimated traces of these ancient patterns 
of thought and behaviour are still to be found in certain 
theories of the Atonement, and in the conception of the Mass 
as a perpetually repeated sacrifice of the God-Man. 

In the modern world the gods to whom human sacrifice is 
offered are personifications, not of Nature, but of man's own, 
home-made political ideals. These, of course, all refer to events 
in time actual events in the past or the present, fancied events 
in the future. And here it should be noted that the philosophy 
which affirms the existence and the immediate realizableness of 
eternity is related to one kind of political theory and practice ; 
the philosophy which affirms that what goes on in time is the 
only reality, results in a different kind of theory and justifies 
quite another kind of political practice. This has been clearly 



TIME AND ETERNITY 211 

recognized by Marxist writers,* who point out that when 
Christianity is mainly preoccupied with events in time, it is 
a 'revolutionary religion/ and that when, under mystical 
influences, it stresses the Eternal Gospel, of which the historical 
or pseudo-historical facts recorded in Scripture are but symbols, 
it becomes politically 'static' and 'reactionary.' 

This Marxian account of the matter is somewhat over- 
simplified. It is not quite true to say that all theologies and 
philosophies whose primary concern is with time, rather than 
eternity, are necessarily revolutionary. The aim of all revolu- 
tions is to make the future radically different from and better 
than the past. But some time-obsessed philosophies are 
primarily concerned with the past, not the future, and their 
politics are entirely a matter of preserving or restoring the 
status quo and getting back to the good old days. But the 
retrospective time-worshippers have one thing in common 
with the revolutionary devotees of the bigger and better 
future ; they are prepared to use unlimited violence to achieve 
their ends. It is here that we discover the essential difference 
between the politics of eternity-philosophers and the politics 
of time-philosophers. For the latter, the ultimate good is to 
be found in the temporal world in a future, where everyone 
will be happy because all are doing and, thinking something 
either entirely new and unprecedented or, alternatively, some- 
thing old, traditional and hallowed. And because the ultimate 
good lies in time, they feel justified in making use of any 
temporal means for achieving it. The Inquisition burns and 
tortures in order to perpetuate a creed, a ritual and an ecclesi- 
astico-politico-financial organization regarded as necessary to 
men's eternal salvation. Bible-worshipping Protestants figbt 
long and savage wars, in order to make the world safe for what 
they fondly imagine to be the genuinely antique Christianity 
of apostolic times. Jacobins and Bolsheviks are ready to sacri- 
fice millions of human lives for the sake of a political and 
economic future gorgeously unlike the present. And now all 

* See, for example, Professor J. B. S. Haldane's The Marxist Philosophy and the 



222 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

Europe and most of Asia has had to be sacrificed to a crystal- 
gazer's vision of perpetual Co-Prosperity and the Thousand- 
Year Reich. From the records of history it seems to be abund- 
antly clear that most of the religions and philosophies which 
take time too seriously are correlated with political theories that 
inculcate and justify the use of large-scale violence. The only 
exceptions are those simple Epicurean faiths, in which the reac- 
tion to an all too real time is ' Eat, drink and be merry, for to- 
morrow we die/ This is not a very noble, nor even a very 
realistic kind of morality. But it seems to make a good deal 
more sense than the revolutionary ethic: 'Die (and kill), for 
tomorrow someone else will eat, drink and be merry/ In 
practice, of course, the prospect even of somebody else's future 
merriment is extremely precarious. For the process of whole- 
sale dying and killing creates material, social and psychological 
conditions that practically guarantee the revolution against the 
achievement of its beneficent ends. 

For those whose philosophy does not compel them to take 
time with an excessive seriousness the ultimate good is to be 
sought neither in the revolutionary's progressive social apoca- 
lypse, nor in the reactionary 's revived and perpetuated past, but 
in an eternal divine now which those who sufficiently desire 
this good can realize as a fact of immediate experience. The 
mere act of dying is not in itself a passport to eternity; nor can 
wholesale killing do anything to bring deliverance either to the 
slayers or the slain or their posterity. The peace that passes all 
understanding is the fruit of liberation into eternity; but in its 
ordinary eveiyday form peace is also the root of liberation. 
For where there are violent passions and compelling distrac- 
tions, this ultimate good can never be realized. That is one of 
the reasons why the policy correlated with eternity-philosophies 
is tolerant and non-violent. The other reason is that the eter- 
nity, whose realization is the ultimate good, is a kingdom of 
heaven within. Thou art That; and though That is immortal 
and impassible, the killing and torturing of individual 'thous' 
is a matter of cosmic significance, inasmuch as it interferes with 
the normal and natural relationship between individual souls 



TIME AND ETERNITY 223 

and the divine eternal Ground of all being. Every violence is, 
over and above everything else, a sacrilegious rebellion against 
the divine order. 

Passing now from theory to historical fact, we find that the 
religions, whose theology has been least preoccupied with 
events in time and most concerned with eternity, have been 
consistently the least violent and the most humane in political 
practice. Unlike early Judaism, Christianity and Moham- 
medanism (all of them obsessed with time), Hinduism and 
Buddhism have never been persecuting faiths, have preached 
almost no holy wars and have refrained from that proselytizing 
religious imperialism, which has gone hand in hand with the 
political and economic oppression of the coloured peoples. 
For four hundred years, from the beginning of the sixteenth 
century to the beginning of the twentieth, most of the Chris- 
tian nations of Europe have spent a good part of their time 
and energy in attacking, conquering and exploiting their non- 
Christian neighbours in other continents. In the course of 
these centuries many individual churchmen did their best to 
mitigate the consequences of such iniquities ; but none of the 
major Christian churches officially condemned them. The first 
collective protest against the slave system, introduced by the 
English and the Spaniards into the New World, was made in 
1688 by the Quaker Meeting of Germantown. This fact is 
highly significant. Of all Christian sects in the seventeenth 
century, the Quakers were the least obsessed with history, the 
least addicted to the idolatry of things in time. They believed 
that the inner light was in all human beings and that salvation 
came to those who lived in conformity with that light and was 
not dependent on the profession of belief in historical or 
pseudo-historical events, nor on the performance of certain 
rites, nor on the support of a particular ecclesiastical organiza- 
tion. Moreover, their eternity-philosophy preserved them from 
the materialistic apocalypticism of that progress-worship which 
in recent times has justified every kind of iniquity from war 
and revolution to sweated labour, slavery and the exploitation 
of savages and children has justified them on the ground that 



22 4 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

the supreme good is in future time and that any temporal 
means, however intrinsically horrible, may be used to achieve 
that good. Because Quaker theology was a form of eternity- 
philosophy, Quaker political theory rejected war and persecu- 
tion as means to ideal ends, denounced slavery and proclaimed 
racial equality. Members of other denominations had done 
good work for the African victims of the white man's rapacity. 
One thinks, for example, of St. Peter Claver at Cartagena. 
But this heroically charitable 'slave of the slaves' never raised 
his voice against the institution of slavery or the criminal trade 
by which it was sustained; nor, so far as the extant documents 
reveal, did he ever, like John Woolman, attempt to persuade 
the slave-owners to free their human chattels. The reason, 
presumably, was that Claver was a Jesuit, vowed to perfect 
obedience and constrained by his theology to regard a certain 
political and ecclesiastical organization as being the mystical 
body of Christ. The heads of this organization had not pro- 
nounced against slavery or the slave trade. Who was he, Pedro 
Claver, to express a thought not officially approved by his 
superiors ? 

Another practical corollary of the great historical eternity- 
philosophies, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, is a morality 
inculcating kindness to animals. Judaism and orthodox Chris- 
tianity taught that animals might be used as things, for the 
realization of man's temporal ends. Even St. Francis' attitude 
towards the brute creation was not entirely unequivocal. True, 
he converted a wolf and preached sermons to birds ; but when 
Brother Juniper hacked the feet off a living pig in order to 
satisfy a sick man's craving for fried trotters, the saint merely 
blamed his disciple's intemperate zeal in damaging a valuable 
piece of private property. It was not until the nineteenth cen- 
tury, when orthodox Christianity had lost much of its power 
over European minds, that the idea that it might be a good 
thing to behave humanely towards animals began to make 
headway. This new morality was correlated with the new 
interest in Nature, which had been stimulated by the romantic 
poets and the men of science. Because it was not founded upon 



TIME AND ETERNITY 225 

an eternity-philosophy, a doctrine of divinity dwelling in all 
living creatures, the modern movement in favour of kindness 
to animals was and is perfectly compatible with intolerance, 
persecution and systematic cruelty towards human beings. 
Young Nazis are taught to be gentle with dogs and cats, ruth- 
less with Jews. That is because Nazism is a typical time- 
philosophy, which regards the ultimate good as existing, not 
in eternity, but in the future. Jews are, ex hypothesi, obstacles 
in the way of the realization of the supreme good; dogs and 
cats are not. The rest follows logically. 

Selfishness and partiality are very inhuman and base qualities 
even in the things of this world ; but in the doctrines of religion 
they are of a baser nature. Now, this is the greatest evil that the 
division of the church has brought forth ; it raises in every com- 
munion a selfish, partial orthodoxy, which consists in courage- 
ously defending all that it has, and condemning all that it has not. 
And thus every champion is trained up in defence of their own 
truth, their own learning and their own church, and he has the 
most merit, the most honour, who likes everything, defends 
everything, among themselves, and leaves nothing uncensored in 
those that are of a different communion. Now, how can truth 
and goodness and union and religion be more struck at than by 
such defenders of it ? If you ask why the great Bishop of Meaux 
wrote so many learned books against all parts of the Reformation, 
it is because he was born in France and bred up in the bosom of 
Mother Church. Had he been born in England, had Oxford or 
Cambridge been his Alma Mater, he might have rivalled our 
great Bishop Stillingfleet, and would have wrote as many learned 
folios against the Church of Rome as he has done. And yet I will 
venture to say that if each Church could produce but one man 
apiece that had the piety of an apostle and the impartial love of 
the first Christians in the first Church at Jerusalem, that a Pro- 
testant and a Papist of this stamp would not want half a sheet of 
paper to hold their articles of union, nor be half an hour before 
they were of one religion. If, therefore, it should be said that 
churches are divided, estranged and made unfriendly to one 



226 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

another by a learning, a logic, a history, a criticism in the hands of 
partiality, it would be saying that which each particular church 
too much proves to be true. Ask why even the best amongst the 
Catholics are very shy of owning the validity of the orders of our 
Church; it is because they are afraid of removing any odium 
from the Reformation. Ask why no Protestants anywhere touch 
upon the benefit or necessity of celibacy in those who are separ- 
ated from worldly business to preach the gospel ; it is because 
that would be seeming to lessen the Roman error of not suffering 
marriage in her clergy. Ask why even the most worthy and pious 
among the clergy of the Established Church are afraid to assert 
the sufficiency of the Divine Light, the necessity of seeking only 
the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit; it is because the 
Quakers, who have broke off from the church, have made this 
doctrine their corner-stone. If we loved truth as such, if we 
sought for it for its own sake, if we loved our neighbour as our- 
selves, if we desired nothing by our religion but to be acceptable 
to God, if we equally desired the salvation of all men, if we were 
afraid of error only because of its harmful nature to us and our 
fellow-creatures, then nothing of this spirit could have any place 
in us. 

There is therefore a catholic spirit, a communion of saints in 
the love of God and all goodness, which no one can learn from 
that which is called orthodoxy in particular churches, but is only 
to be had by a total dying to all worldly views, by a pure love of 
God, and by such an unction from above as delivers the mind 
from all selfishness and makes it love truth and goodness with an 
equality of affection in every man, whether he is Christian, Jew 
or Gentile. He that would obtain this divine and catholic spirit 
in this disordered, divided state of things, and live in a divided 
part of the church without partaking of its division, must have 
these three truths deeply fixed in his mind. First, that universal 
love, which gives the whole strength of the heart to God, and 
makes us love every man as we love ourselves, is the noblest, the 
most divine, the Godlike state of the soul, and is the utmost per- 
fection to which the most perfect religion can raise us; and that 
no religion does any man any good but so far as it brings this per- 



TIME AND ETERNITY 227 

fection of love into him. This truth will show us that true ortho- 
doxy can nowhere be found but in a pure disinterested love of 
God and our neighbour. Second, that in this present divided 
state of the church, truth itself is torn and divided asunder; and 
that, therefore, he can be the only true catholic who has more of 
truth and less of error than is hedged in by any divided part. This 
truth will enable us to live in a divided part unhurt by its division, 
and keep us in a true liberty and fitness to be edified and assisted 
by all the good that we hear or see in any other part of the church. 
. . . Thirdly, he must always have in mind this great truth, that it 
is the glory of the Divine Justice to have no respect of parties or 
persons, but to stand equally disposed to that which is right and 
wrong as well in the Jew as in the Gentile. He therefore that 
would like as God likes, and condemn as God condemns, must 
have neither the eyes of the Papist nor the Protestant; he must 
like no truth the less because Ignatius Loyola or John Bunyan 
were very zealous for it, nor have the less aversion to any error, 
because Dr. Trapp or George Fox had brought it forth. 

William Law 

Dr. Trapp was the author of a religious tract entitled ' On the 
Nature, Folly, Sin and Danger of Being Righteous Overmuch/ 
One of Law's controversial pieces was an answer to this work. 

Benares is to the East, Mecca to the West; but explore your own 
heart, for there are both Rama and Allah. 

Kabir 

Like the bee gatheimg honey from different flowers, the wise 
man accepts the essence of different Scriptures and sees only the 
good in all religions. 

From the Srtmad Bhagavatam 

His Sacred Majesty the King does reverence to men of all sects, 
whether ascetics or householders, by gifts and various forms of 
reverence. His Sacred Majesty, however, cares not so much for 



2i8 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

gifts or external reverence as that there should be a growth in the 
essence of the matter in all sects. The growth of the essence of 
the matter assumes various forms, but the root of it is restraint of 
speech, to wit, a man must not do reverence to his own sect or 
disparage that of another without reason. Depreciation should 
be for specific reasons only; for the sects of other people all 
deserve reverence for one reason or another. ... He who does 
reverence to his own sect, while disparaging the sects of others 
wholly from attachment to his own, with intent to enhance the 
glory of his own sect, in reality by such conduct inflicts the 
severest injury on his own sect. Concord therefore is meritorious, 
to wit, hearkening and hearkening willingly to the Law of Piety, 
as accepted by other people. 

Edict ofAsoka 

It would be difficult, alas, to find any edict of a Christian king 
to match Asoka's. In the West the good old rule, the simple 
plan, was glorification of one's own sect, disparagement and 
even persecution of all others. Recently, however, govern- 
ments have changed their policy. Proselytizing and persecut- 
ing zeal is reserved for the political pseudo-religions, such as 
Communism, Fascism and nationalism; and unless they are 
thought to stand in the way of advance towards the temporal 
ends professed by such pseudo-religions, the various mani- 
festations of the Perennial Philosophy are treated with a 
contemptuously tolerant indifference. 

The children of God are very dear but very queer, very nice but 
very narrow. 

Sadhu Sundar Singh 

Such was the conclusion to which the most celebrated of Indian 
converts was forced after some years of association with his 
fellow Christians. There are many honourable exceptions, of 
course; but the rule even among learned Protestants and 
Catholics is a certain blandly bumptious provincialism which, 
if it did not constitute such a grave offence against charity and 



TIME AND ETERNITY 229 

truth, would be just uproariously funny, A hundred years 
ago, hardly anything was known of Sanskrit, Pali or Chinese. 
The ignorance of European scholars was sufficient reason for 
their provincialism. Today, when more or less adequate trans- 
lations are available in plenty, there is not only no reason for 
it, there is no excuse. And yet most European and American 
authors of books about religion and metaphysics write as 
though nobody had ever thought about these subjects, except 
the Jews, the Greeks and the Christians of the Mediterranean 
basin and western Europe. This display of what, in the twen- 
tieth century, is an entirely voluntary and deliberate ignorance 
is not only absurd and discreditable ; it is also socially danger- 
ous. Like any other form of imperialism, theological imperial- 
ism is a menace to permanent world peace. The reign of 
violence will never come to an end until, first, most human 
beings accept the same, true philosophy of life; until, second, 
this Perennial Philosophy is recognized as the highest factor 
common to all the world religions ; until, third, the adherents 
of every religion renounce the idolatrous time-philosophies, 
with which, in their own particular faith, the Perennial Philo- 
sophy of eternity has been overlaid ; until, fourth, there is a 
world-wide rejection of all the political pseudo-religions, which 
place man's supreme good in future time and therefore justify 
and commend the commission of every sort of present iniquity 
as a means to that end. If these conditions are not fulfilled, no 
amount of political planning, no economic blue-prints however 
ingeniously drawn, can prevent the recrudescence of war and 
revolution. 



Chapter 13 

SALVATION, DELIVERANCE, 
ENLIGHTENMENT 

OALVATION but from what? Deliverance out of 
O which particular situation into what other situation? Men 
have given many answers to these questions, and because 
human temperaments are of such profoundly different kinds, 
because social situations are so various and fashions of thought 
and feeling so compelling while they last, the answers are many 
and mutually incompatible. 

There is first of all material salvationism. In its simplest 
form this is merely the will to live expressing itself in a formu- 
lated desire to escape from circumstances that menace life. In 
practice, the effective fulfilment of such a wish depends on two 
things : the application of intelligence to particular economic 
and political problems, and the creation and maintenance of an 
atmosphere of goodwill, in which intelligence can do its work 
to the best advantage. But men are not content to be merely 
kind and clever within the limits of a concrete situation. They 
aspire to relate their actions, and the thoughts and feelings 
accompanying those actions, to general principles and a philo- 
sophy on the cosmic scale. When this directing and explana- 
tory philosophy is not the Perennial Philosophy or one of the 
historical theologies more or less closely connected with the 
Perennial Philosophy, it takes the form of a pseudo-religion, 
a system of organized idolatry. Thus, the simple wish not to 
starve, the well-founded conviction that it is very difficult to 
be good or wise or happy when one is desperately hungry, 
comes to be elaborated, under the influence of the metaphysic 
of Inevitable Progress, into prophetic Utopianism ; the desire 
to escape from oppression and exploitation comes to be ex- 
plained and guided by a belief in apocalyptic revolutionism, 
combined, not always in theory, but invariably in practice, with 

230 



SALVATION, DELIVERANCE, ENLIGHTENMENT 231 

the Moloch-worship of the nation as the highest of all goods. 
In all these cases salvation is regarded as a deliverance, by 
means of a variety of political and economic devices, out of the 
miseries and evils associated with bad material conditions into 
another set of future material conditions so much better than 
the present that, somehow or other, they will cause everybody 
to be perfectly happy, wise and virtuous. Officially promul- 
gated in all the totalitarian countries, whether of the right or 
the left, this confession of faith is still only semi-official in the 
nominally Christian world of capitalistic democracy, where it 
is drummed into the popular mind, not by the representatives 
of state or church, but by those most influential of popular 
moralists and philosophers, the writers of advertising copy (the 
only authors in all the history of literature whose works are 
read every day by every member of the population). 

In the theologies of the various religions, salvation is also 
regarded as a deliverance out of folly, evil and misery into 
happiness, goodness and wisdom. But political and economic 
means are held to be subsidiary to the cultivation of personal 
holiness, to the acquiring of personal merit and to the main- 
tenance of personal faith in some divine principle or person 
having power, in one way or another, to forgive and sanctify 
the individual soul. Moreover, the end to be achieved is not 
regarded as existing in some Utopian future period, beginning, 
say, in the twenty-second century or perhaps even a little 
earlier, if our favourite politicians remain in power and make 
the right laws ; the end exists 'in heaven/ This last phrase has 
two very different meanings. For what is probably the major- 
ity of those who profess the great historical religions, it signifies 
and has always signified a happy posthumous condition of 
indefinite personal survival, conceived of as a reward for good 
behaviour and correct belief and a compensation for the miseries 
inseparable from life in a body. But for those who, within the 
various religious traditions, have accepted the Perennial Philo- 
sophy as a theory and have done their best to live it out in prac- 
tice, * heaven* is something else. They aspire to be delivered 
out of separate selfhood in time and into eternity as realized in 



23 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

the unitive knowledge of the divine Ground. Since the Ground 
can and ought to be unitively known in the present life (whose 
ultimate end and purpose is nothing but this knowledge), 
' heaven ' is not an exclusively posthumous condition. He only 
is completely * saved* who is delivered here and now. As to 
the means to salvation, these are simultaneously ethical, intel- 
lectual and spiritual and have been summed up with admirable 
clarity and economy in the Buddha's Eightfold Path. Com- 
plete deliverance is conditional on the following : first, Right 
Belief in the all too obvious truth that the cause of pain and 
evil is craving for separative, egocentred existence, with its 
corollary that there can be no deliverance from evil, whether 
personal or collective, except by getting rid of such craving 
and the obsession of 'I,' 'me,' 'mine' ; second, Right Will, the 
will to deliver oneself and others ; third, Right Speech, directed 
by compassion and charity towards all sentient beings ; fourth, 
Right Action, with the aim of creating and maintaining peace 
and goodwill; fifth, Right Means of Livelihood, or the choice 
only of such professions as are not harmful, in their exercise, to 
any human being or, if possible, any living creature ; sixth, 
Right Effort towards Self-control; seventh, Right Attention 
or Recollectedness, to be practised in all the circumstances of 
life, so that we may never do evil by mere thoughtlessness, 
because 'we know not what we do' ; and, eighth, Right Con- 
templation, the unitive knowledge of the Ground, to which 
recollectedness and the ethical self-naughting prescribed in the 
first six branches of the Path give access. Such then are the 
means which it is within the power of the human being to 
employ in order to achieve man's final end and be ' saved.' Of 
the means which are employed by the divine Ground for help- 
ing human beings to reach their goal, the Buddha of the Pali 
scriptures (a teacher whose dislike of 'footless questions' is no 
less intense than that of the severest experimental physicist of 
the twentieth century) declines to speak. All he is prepared to 
talk about is 'sorrow and the ending of sorrow' the huge 
brute fact of pain and evil and the other, no less empirical fact 
that there is a method by which the individual can free himself 



SALVATION, DELIVERANCE, ENLIGHTENMENT 233 

from evil and do something to diminish the sum of evil in the 
world around him. It is only in Mahayana Buddhism that the 
mysteries' of grace are discussed with anything like the fullness 
of treatment accorded to the subject in the speculations of 
Hindu and especially Christian theology. The primitive, 
Hinayana teaching on deliverance is simply an elaboration of 
the Buddha's last recorded words: 'Decay is inherent in all 
component things. Work out your own salvation with dili- 
gence.' As in the well-known passage quoted below, all the 
stress is upon personal effort. 

Therefore, Ananda, be ye lamps unto yourselves, be ye a refuge 
to yourselves. Betake yourselves to no external refuge. Hold 
fast to the Truth as a lamp ; hold fast to the Truth as a refuge. 
Look not for a refuge in anyone beside yourselves. And those, 
Ananda, who either now or after I am dead shall be a lamp unto 
themselves, shall betake themselves to no external refuge, but 
holding fast to the Truth as their lamp, and holding fast to the 
Truth as their refuge, shall not look for refuge to anyone beside 
themselves it is they who shall reach the very topmost Height. 
But they must be anxious to learn. 

What follows is a passage freely translated from the Chan- 
dogya Upanishad. The truth which this little myth is meant to 
illustrate is that there are as many conceptions of salvation as 
there are degrees of spiritual knowledge and that the kind of 
liberation (or enslavement) actually achieved by any individual 
soul depends upon the extent to which that soul chooses to 
dissipate its essentially voluntary ignorance. 

That Self who is free from impurities, from old age and death, 
from grief and thirst and hunger, whose desire is true and whose 
desires come true that Self is to be sought after and enquired 
about, that Self is to be realized. 

The Devas (gods or angels) and the Asuras (demons or titans) 
both heard of this Truth. They thought : ' Let us seek after and 



2 3 4 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

realize this Self, so that we can obtain all worlds and the fulfil- 
ment of all desires/ 

Thereupon Indra from the Devas and Virochana from the 
Asuras approached Prajapati, the famous teacher. They lived 
with him as pupils for thirty- two years. Then Prajapati asked 
them : ' For what reason have you both lived here all this time ? ' 

They replied: 'We have heard that one who realizes the Self 
obtains all the worlds and all his desires. We have lived here 
because we want to be taught the Self.' 

Prajapati said to them : * The person who is seen in the eye 
that is the Self. That is immortal, that is fearless and that is 
Brahman.' 

* Sir,' enquired the disciples, ' who is seen reflected in water or 
in a mirror ? ' 

'He, the Atman,' was the reply. 'He indeed is seen in all 
these.' Then Prajapati added : 'Look at yourselves in the water, 
and whatever you do not understand, come and tell me.' 

Indra and Virochana pored over their reflections in the water, 
and when they were asked what they had seen of the Self, they 
replied: 'Sir, we see the Self; we see even the hair and 
nails.' 

Then Prajapati ordered them to put on their finest clothes and 
look again at their 'selves' in the water. This they did and when 
asked again what they had seen, they answered: 'We see the 
Self, exactly like ourselves, well adorned and in our finest 
clothes.' 

Then said Prajapati : ' The Self is indeed seen in these. That 
Self is immortal and fearless, and that is Brahman.' And the 
pupils went away, pleased at heart. 

But looking after them, Prajapati lamented thus: 'Both of 
them departed without analysing or discriminating, and without 
comprehending the true Self. Whoever follows this false doc- 
trine of the Self must perish.' 

Satisfied that he had found the Self, Virochana returned to the 
Asuras and began to teach them that the bodily self alone is to 
be worshipped, that the body alone is to be served, and that he 
who worships the ego and serves the body gains both worlds, 



SALVATION, DELIVERANCE, ENLIGHTENMENT 235 

this and the next. And this in effect is the doctrine of the 
Asuras. 

But Indra, on his way back to the Devas, realized the useless- 
ness of this knowledge. 'As this Self/ he reflected, 'seems to be 
well adorned when the body is well adorned, well dressed when 
the body is well dressed, so too will it be blind if the body is 
blind, lame if the body is lame, deformed if the body is de- 
formed. Nay more, this same Self will die when the body dies. 
I see no good in such knowledge.' So Indra returned to Praja- 
pati for further instruction. Prajapati compelled him to live 
with him for another span of thirty-two years; after which he 
began to instruct him, step by step, as it were. 

Prajapati said : 'He who moves about in dreams, enjoying and 
glorified he is the Self. That is immortal and fearless, and that 
is Brahman.' 

Pleased at heart, Indra again departed. But before he had 
rejoined the other angelic beings, he realized the uselessness of 
that knowledge also. 'True it is,' he thought within himself, 
'that this new Self is not blind if the body is blind, not lame, nor 
hurt, if the body is lame or hurt. But even in dreams the Self is 
conscious of many sufferings. So I see no good in this teaching.' 

Accordingly he went back to Prajapati for more instruction, 
and Prajapati made him live with him for thirty- two years more. 
At the end of that time Prajapati taught him thus : ' When a per- 
son is asleep, resting in perfect tranquillity, dreaming no dreams, 
then he realizes the Self. That is immortal and fearless, and that 
is Brahman.' 

Satisfied, Indra went away. But even before he had reached 
home, he felt the uselessness of this knowledge also. ' When one 
is asleep,' he thought, 'one does not know oneself as "This is I." 
One is not in fact conscious of any existence. That state is almost 
annihilation. I see no good in this knowledge either.' 

So Indra went back once again to be taught. Prajapati made 
him stay with him for five years more. At the end of that time 
Prajapati taught him the highest truth of the Self. 

'This body,' he said, 'is mortal, for ever in the clutch of death. 
But within it resides the Self, immortal, and without form. This 



236 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

Self, when associated in consciousness with the body, is subject 
to pleasure and pain ; and so long as this association continues, 
no man can find freedom from pains and pleasures. But when the 
association comes to an end, there is an end also of pain and 
pleasure. Rising above physical consciousness, knowing the Self 
as distinct from the sense-organs and the mind, knowing Him in 
his true light, one rejoices and one is free.' 

From the Chandogya Upanishad 

Having realized his own self as the Self, a man becomes selfless ; 
and in virtue of selflessness he is to be conceived as unconditioned. 
This is the highest mystery, betokening emancipation; through 
selflessness he has no part in pleasure or pain, but attains abso- 
luteness. 

Maitrayana Upanishad 

We should mark and know of a very truth that all manner of 
virtue and goodness, and even that Eternal Good, which is God 
Himself, can never make a man virtuous, good or happy so long 
as it is outside the soul, that is, so long as the man is holding con- 
verse with outward things through his senses and reason, and 
does not withdraw into himself and learn to understand his own 
life, who and what he is. 

Theologia Germanica 

Indeed, the saving truth has never been preached by the Buddha, 
seeing that one has to realize it within oneself. 

Sutralamkara 

In what does salvation consist ? Not in any historic faith or know- 
ledge of anything absent or distant, not in any variety of restraints, 
rules and methods of practising virtue, not in any formality of 
opinion about faith and works, repentance, forgiveness of sins, or 
justification and sanctification, not in any truth or righteousness 
that you can have from yourself, from the best of men and books, 
but solely and wholly from the life of God, or Christ of God, 



SALVATION, DELIVERANCE, ENLIGHTENMENT 237 

quickened and born again in you, in other words in the restoration 
and perfect union of the first twofold life in humanity. 

William Law 

Law is using here the phraseology of Boehme and those 
other 'Spiritual Reformers/ whom the orthodox Protestants, 
Lutheran, Calvinistic and Anglican, agreed (it was one of the 
very few points they were able to agree on) either to ignore or 
to persecute. But it is clear that what he and they call the new 
birth of God within the soul is essentially the same fact of 
experience as that which the Hindus, two thousand and more 
years before, described as the realization of the Self as within 
and yet transcendentally other than the individual ego. 

Not by the slothful, nor the fool, the undiscerning, is that Nir- 
vana to be reached, which is the untying of all knots. 

hi-vuttaka 

This seems sufficiently self-evident. But most of us take 
pleasure in being lazy, cannot be bothered to be constantly 
recollected and yet passionately desire to be saved from the 
results of sloth and unawareness. Consequently there has 
been a widespread wish for and belief in Saviours who will step 
into our lives, above all at the hour of their termination, and, 
like Alexander, cut the Gordian knots which we have been too 
lazy to untie. But God is not mocked. The nature of things 
is such that the unitive knowledge of the Ground which is 
contingent upon the achievement of a total selflessness cannot 
possibly be realized, even with outside help, by those who are 
not yet selfless. The salvation obtained by belief in the saving 
power of Amida, say, or Jesus is not the total deliverance 
described in the Upanishads, the Buddhist scriptures and the 
writings of the Christian mystics. It is something 
not merely in degree, but in kind. 



Talk as much philosophy as you please, worships iHktfy gods as 
you like, observe all ceremonies, sing 



238 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

number of divine beings liberation never comes, even at the 
end of a hundred aeons, without the realization of the Oneness 
of Self. 

Shankara 

This Self is not realizable by study nor even by intelligence and 
learning. The Self reveals its essence only to him who applies 
himself to the Self. He who has not given up the ways of vice, 
who cannot control himself, who is not at peace within, whose 
mind is distracted, can never realize the Self, though full of all 
the learning in the world. 

Katha Upanuhad 

Nirvana is where there is no birth, no extinction; it is seeing 
into the state of Suchness, absolutely transcending all the cate- 
gories constructed by mind; for it is the Tathagata's inner 
consciousness. 

Lankavatara Sutra 

The false or at best imperfect salvations described in the 
Chandogya Upanishad are of three kinds. There is first the 
pseudo-salvation associated with the belief that matter is the 
ultimate Reality. Virochana, the demonic being who is the 
apotheosis of power-loving, extraverted somatotonia, finds it 
perfectly natural to identify himself with his body, and he goes 
back to the other Titans to seek a purely material salvation. 
Incarnated in the present century, Virochana would have been 
an ardent Communist, Fascist or nationalist. Indra sees 
through material salvationism and is then offered dream- 
salvation, deliverance out of bodily existence into the inter- 
mediate world between matter and spirit that fascinatingly 
odd and exciting psychic universe, out of which miracles and 
foreknowledge, ' spirit communications 'and extra-sensory per- 
ceptions make their startling irruptions into ordinary life. But 
this freer kind of individualized existence is still all too personal 
and egocentric to satisfy a soul conscious of its own incom- 



SALVATION, DELIVERANCE, ENLIGHTENMENT 239 

pleteness and eager to be made whole. Indra accordingly goes 
further and is tempted to accept the undifferentiated conscious- 
ness of deep sleep, of false samadhi and quietistic trance, as the 
final deliverance. But he refuses, in Brahmananda's words, to 
mistake tamos for sattvas, sloth and sub-consciousness for poise 
and super-consciousness. And so, by discrimination, he comes 
to the realization of the Self, which is the enlightenment of the 
darkness that is ignorance and the deliverance from the mortal 
consequences of that ignorance. 

The illusory salvations, against which we are warned in the 
other extracts, are of a different kind. The emphasis here is 
upon idolatry and superstition above all the idolatrous wor- 
ship of the analytical reason and its notions, and the super- 
stitious belief in rites, dogmas and confessions of faith as being 
somehow magically efficacious in themselves. Many Christians, 
as Law implies, have been guilty of these idolatries and super- 
stitions. For them, complete deliverance into union with the 
divine Ground is impossible, either in this world or posthu- 
mously. The best they can hope for is a meritorious but still 
egocentric life in the body and some sort of happy posthu- 
mous 'longevity,' as the Chinese call it, some form of survival, 
paradisal perhaps, but still involved in time, separateness and 
multiplicity. 

The beatitude into which the enlightened soul is delivered 
is something quite different from pleasure. What, then, is its 
nature ? The quotations which follow provide at least a partial 
answer. Blessedness depends on non-attachment and selfless- 
ness, therefore can be enjoyed without satiety and without 
revulsion ; is a participation in eternity, and therefore remains 
itself without diminution or fluctuation. 



Henceforth in the real Brahman, he (the liberated spirit) becomes 
perfected and another. His fruit is the untying of bonds. With- 
out desires, he attains to bliss eternal and immeasurable, and 
therein abides. 

Maitrayana Upanlshad 



240 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

God is to be enjoyed, creatures only used as means to That which 
is to be enjoyed. 

St. dugustine 

There is this difference between spiritual and corporal pleasures, 
that corporal ones beget a desire before we have obtained them 
and, after we have obtained diem, a disgust ; but spiritual pleasures, 
on the contrary, are not cared for when we have them not, but 
are desired when we have them. 

St. Gregory the Great 

When a man is in one of these two states (beatitude or dark night 
of the soul) all is right with him, and he is as safe in hell as in 
heaven. And so long as a man is on earth, it is possible for him 
to pass often-times from the one to the other nay, even within 
the space of a day and night, and all without his own doing. But 
when a man is in neither of these two states, he holds converse 
with the creatures, and wavereth hither and thither and knoweth 
not what manner of man he is. 

Theotogia Germanica 

Much of the literature of Sufism is poetical. Sometimes this 
poetry is rather strained and extravagant, sometimes beautiful 
with a luminous simplicity, sometimes darkly and almost dis- 
quietingly enigmatic. To this last class belong the utterances 
of that Moslem saint of the tenth century, Niffari the Egyptian. 
This is what he wrote on the subject of salvation, 

God made me behold the sea, and I saw the ships sinking and the 
planks floating; then the planks too were submerged. And God 
said to me, 'Those who voyage are not saved.' And He said to 
me, 'Those who, instead of voyaging, cast themselves into the 
sea, take a risk.' And He said to me, 'Those who voyage and 
take no risk shall perish.' And He said to me, 'The surface of 
the sea is a gleam that cannot be reached. And the bottom is a 
darkness impenetrable. And between the two are great fishes, 
which are to be feared.' 



SALVATION, DELIVERANCE, ENLIGHTENMENT 141 

The allegory is fairly clear. The ships that bear the individual 
voyagers across the sea of life are sects and churches, collec- 
tions of dogmas and religious organizations. The planks which 
also sink at last are all good works falling short of total self- 
surrender and all faith less absolute than the unitive knowledge 
of God. Liberation into eternity is the result of 'throwing 
oneself into the sea' ; in the language of the Gospels, one must 
lose one's life in order to save it. But throwing oneself into 
the sea is a risky business not so risky, of course, as travelling 
in a vast Queen Mary^ fitted up with the very latest in dog- 
matic conveniences and liturgical decorations, and bound either 
for Davy Jones's locker or at best, the wrong port, but still 
quite dangerous enough. For the surface of the sea the 
divine Ground as it is manifested in the world of time and 
multiplicity gleams with a reflected radiance that can no mo're 
be seized than the image of beauty in a mirror; while the 
bottom, the Ground as it is eternally in itself, seems merely 
darkness to the analytic mind, as it peers down into the depths ; 
and when the analytic mind decides to join the will in the final 
necessary plunge into self-naughting it must run the gauntlet, 
as it sinks down, of those devouring pseudo-salvations de- 
scribed in the Chandogya Upanishad dream-salvation into 
that fascinating psychic world, where the ego still survives, but 
with a happier and more untrammelled kind of life, or else the 
sleep-salvation of false samadhi, of unity in sub-consciousness 
instead of unity in super-consciousness. 

Niffari's estimate of any individual's chances of achieving 
man's final end does not err on the side of excessive optimism. 
But then no saint or founder of a religion, no exponent of the 
Perennial Philosophy, has ever been optimistic. 'Many are 
called, but few are chosen.' Those who do not choose to be 
chosen cannot hope for anything better than some form of 
partial salvation under conditions that will permit them to 
advance towards complete deliverance. 



Chapter 14 
IMMORTALITY AND SURVIVAL 

IMMORTALITY is participation in the eternal now of the 
divine Ground; survival is persistence in one of the forms 
of time. Immortality is the result of total deliverance. Sur- 
vival is the lot of those who are partially delivered into some 
heaven, or who are not delivered at all, but find themselves, by 
the law of their own untranscended nature, compelled to choose 
some purgatorial or embodied servitude even more painful than 
the one they have just left. 

Goodness and virtue make men know and love, believe and 
delight in their immortality. When the soul is purged and en- 
lightened by true sanctity, it is more capable of those divine 
irradiations, whereby it feels itself in conjunction with God. It 
knows that almighty Love, by which it lives, is stronger than 
death. It knows that God will never forsake His own life, which 
He has quickened in the soul. Those breathings and gaspings 
after an eternal participation of Him are but the energy of His 
own breath within us. 

John Smith, the Platonist 

I have maintained ere this and I still maintain that I already pos- 
sess all that is granted to me in eternity. For God in the fullness 
of his Godhead dwells eternally in his image the soul. 

Eckhart 

Troubled or still, water is always water. What difference can 
embodiment or disembodiment make to the Liberated ? Whether 
calm or in tempest, the sameness of the Ocean suffers no change. 

Yogavasistha 

To the question * Where does the soul go, when the body dies?' 

242 



IMMORTALITY AND SURVIVAL 243 

Jacob Boehme answered: * There is no necessity for it to go 
anywhere.' 

The word Tathagata (one of the names of the Buddha) signifies 
one who does not go to anywhere and does not come from any- 
where ; and therefore is he called Tathagata (Thus-gone), holy 
and fully enlightened. 

Diamond Sutra 

Seeing Him alone, one transcends death ; there is no other way. 

Svetasvatara Upanishad 

God, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life. . . . 

Book of Common Prayer 

I died a mineral and became a plant. 

I died a plant and rose an animal. 

I died an animal and I was man. 

Why should I fear ? When was I less by dying ? 

Yet once more I shall die as man, to soar 

With the blessed angels ; but even from angelhood 

I must pass on. All except God perishes. 

When I have sacrificed my angel soul, 

I shall become that which no mind ever conceived. 

O, let me not exist ! for Non-Existence proclaims, 

'To Him we shall return.' 

Jalal-uddin Rumi 

There is a general agreement. East and West, that life in a body 
provides uniquely good opportunities for achieving salvation 
or deliverance. Catholic and Mahayana Buddhist doctrine is 
alike in insisting that the soul in its disembodied state after 
death cannot acquire merit, but merely suffers in purgatory the 
consequences of its past acts. But whereas Catholic orthodoxy 
declares that there is no possibility of progress in the next 
world, and that the degree of the soul's beatitude is determined 
solely by what it has done and thought in its earthly life, the 



244 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

eschatologists of the Orient affirm that there are certain posthu- 
mous conditions in which meritorious souls are capable of 
advancing from a heaven of happy personal survival to genuine 
immortality in union with the timeless, eternal Godhead. And, 
of course, there is also the possibility (indeed, for most indi- 
viduals, the necessity) of returning to some form of embodied 
life, in which the advance towards complete beatification, or 
deliverance through enlightenment, can be continued. Mean- 
while, the fact that one has been born in a human body is one 
of the things for which, says Shankara, one should daily give 
thanks to God. 

The spiritual creature which we are has need of a body, without 
which it could nowise attain that knowledge which it obtains as 
the only approach to those things, by knowledge of which it is 
made blessed. 

St. Bernard 

Having achieved human birth, a rare and blessed incarnation, the 
wise man, leaving all vanity to those who are vain, should strive 
to know God, and Him only, before life passes into death. 

Srimad Bhagavatam 

Good men spiritualize their bodies; bad men incarnate their 
souls. 

Benjamin Whichcote 

More precisely, good men spiritualize their mind-bodies ; bad 
men incarnate and mentalize their spirits. The completely 
spiritualized mind-body is a Tathagata, who doesn't go any- 
where when he dies, for the good reason that he is already, 
actually and consciously, where everyone has always poten- 
tially been \/ithout knowing. The person who has not, in this 
life, gone into Thusness, into the eternal principle of all states 
of being, goes at death into some particular state, either purga- 
torial or paradisal. In the Hindu scriptures and their com- 



IMMORTALITY AND SURVIVAL 245 

mentaries several different kinds of posthumous salvation are 
distinguished. The 'thus-gone* soul is completely delivered 
into complete union with the divine Ground; but it is also 
possible to achieve other kinds of mukti, or liberation, even 
while retaining a form of purified I-consciousness. The nature 
of any individual's deliverance after death depends upon three 
factors : the degree of holiness achieved by him while in the 
body, the particular aspect of the divine Reality to which he 
gave his primary allegiance, and the particular path he chose 
to follow. Similarly, in the Divine Comedy^ Paradise has its 
various circles; but whereas in the oriental eschatologies the 
saved soul can go out of even sublimated individuality, out of 
survival even in some kind of celestial time, to a complete 
deliverance into the eternal, Dante's souls remain for ever 
where (after passing through the unmeritorious sufferings of 
purgatory) they find themselves as the result of their single 
incarnation in a body. Orthodox Christian doctrine does not 
admit the possibility, either in the posthumous state or in some 
other embodiment, of any further growth towards the ultimate 
perfection of a total union with the Godhead. But in the 
Hindu and Buddhist versions of the Perennial Philosophy the 
divine mercy is matched by the divine patience: both are 
infinite. For oriental theologians there is no eternal damna- 
tion ; there are only purgatories and then an indefinite series 
of second chances to go forward towards not only man's, but 
the whole creation's final end total reunion with the Ground 
of all being. 

Preoccupation with posthumous deliverance is not one of 
the means to such deliverance, and may easily, indeed, become 
an obstacle in the way of advance towards it. There is not the 
slightest reason to suppose that ardent spiritualists are more 
likely to be saved than those who have never attended a seance 
or familiarized themselves with the literature, speculative or 
evidential. My intention here is not to add to that literature, 
but rather to give the baldest summary of what has been 
written about the subject of survival within the various 
religious traditions. 



246 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

In oriental discussions of the subject, that which survives 
death is not the personality. Buddhism accepts the doctrine of 
reincarnation; but it is not a soul that passes on (Buddhism 
denies the existence of a soul) ; it is the character. What we 
choose to make of our mental and physical constitution in the 
course of our life on earth affects the psychic medium within 
which individual minds lead a part at least of their amphibious 
existence, and this modification of the medium results, after 
the body's death, in the initiation of a new existence either in 
a heaven, or a purgatory, or another body. 

In the Vedanta cosmology there is, over and above the 
Atman or spiritual Self, identical with the divine Ground, 
something in the nature of a soul that reincarnates in a gross 
or subtle body, or manifests itself in some incorporeal state. 
This soul is not the personality of the defunct, but rather the 
particularized I-consciousness out of which a personality arises. 

Either one of these conceptions of survival is logically self- 
consistent and can be made to ' save the appearances' in other 
words, to fit the odd and obscure facts of psychical research. 
The only personalities with which we have any direct acquaint- 
ance are incarnate beings, compounds of a body and some un- 
known x. But if x plus a body equals a personality, then, 
obviously, it is impossible for x minus a body to equal the 
same thing. The apparently personal entities which psychical 
research sometimes seems to discover can only be regarded 
as temporary pseudo-personalities compounded of x and the 
medium's body. 

These two conceptions are not mutually exclusive, and sur- 
vival may be the joint product of a persistent consciousness 
and a modification of the psychic medium. If this is so, it is 
possible for a given human being to survive in more than one 
posthumous form. His 'soul' the non-personal ground and 
principle of past and future personalities may go marching 
on in one mode of being, while the traces left by his thoughts 
and volitions in the psychic medium may become the origin of 
new individualized existences, having quite other modes of 
being. 



Chapter i5 
SILENCE 

The Father uttered one Word ; that Word is His Son, and He 
utters Him for ever in everlasting silence ; and in silence the soul 
has to hear.it. 

St. John of the Cross 

The spiritual life is nothing else but the working of the Spirit of 
God within us, and therefore our own silence must be a great 
part of our preparation for it, and much speaking or delight in it 
will be often no small hindrance of that good which we can only 
have from hearing what the Spirit and voice of God speaketh 
within us. ... Rhetoric and fine language about the things of the 
spirit is a vainer babble than in other matters ; and he that thinks 
to grow in true goodness by hearing or speaking flaming words 
or striking expressions, as is now much the way of the world, 
may have a great deal of talk, but will have little of his conversa- 
tion in heaven. 

William. Law 



He who knows does not speak; 
He who speaks does not know. 

Lao 



T T N R E STR A I N E D and indiscriminate talk is morally evil 
\*J and spiritually dangerous. * But I say unto you, That 
every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account 
thereof in the day of judgment/ This may seem a very hard 
saying. And yet if we pass in review the words we have given 
vent to in the. course of the average day, we shall find that the 
greater number of them may be classified under three main 
heads : words inspired by malice and uncharitableness towards 

247 



248 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

our neighbours ; words inspired by greed, sensuality and self- 
love ; words inspired by pure imbecility and uttered without 
rhyme or reason, but merely for the sake of making a distract- 
ing noise. These are idle words ; and we shall find, if we look 
into the matter, that they tend to outnumber the words that are 
dictated by reason, charity or necessity. And if the unspoken 
words of our mind's endless, idiot monologue are counted, the 
majority for idleness becomes, for most of us, overwhelmingly 
large. 

All these idle words, the silly no less than the self-regarding 
and the uncharitable, are impediments in the way of the unitive 
knowledge of the divine Ground, a dance of dust and flies 
obscuring the inward and the outward Light. The guard of 
the tongue (which is also, of course, a guard of the mind) is 
not only one of the most difficult and searching of all mortifica- 
tions ; it is also the most fruitful. 

When the hen has laid, she must needs cackle. And what does 
she get by it? Straightway comes the chough and robs her of 
her eggs, and devours all that of which she should have brought 
forth her live birds. And just so that wicked chough, the devil, 
beareth away from the cackling anchoresses, and swalloweth up 
all the goods they have brought forth, and which ought, as birds, 
to bear them up towards heaven, if it had not been cackled. 

Modernised from the Ancren Riwle 

You cannot practise too rigid a fast from the charms of worldly 
talk. 

Fenelon 



What need of so much news from abroad, when all that concerns 
either life or death is all transacting and at work within us ? 

William Law 

My dear Mother, heed well the precepts of the saints, who have all 



SILENCE 249 

warned those who would become holy to speak little of them- 
selves and their own affairs. 

St. Franfois de Sales 
{in a letter to St. Jeanne de Chantal) 

A dog is not considered a good dog because he is a good barker. 
A man is not considered a good man because he is a good talker. 

Chuang T%u 

The dog barks; the Caravan passes. 

Arabic Proverb 

It was not from want of will that I have refrained from writing 
to you, for truly do I wish you all good; but because it seemed 
to me that enough has been said already to effect all that is need- 
ful, and that what is wanting (if indeed anything be wanting) is 
not writing or speaking whereof ordinarily there is more than 
enough but silence and work. For whereas speaking distracts, 
silence and work collect the thoughts and strengthen the spirit. 
As soon therefore as a person understands what has been said to 
him for his good, there is no further need to hear or to discuss ; 
but to set himself in earnest to practise what he has learnt with 
silence and attention, in humility, charity and contempt of self. 

St. John of the Cross 

Molinos (and doubtless he was not the first to use this classifica- 
tion) distinguished three degrees of silence silence of the 
mouth, silence of the mind and silence of the will. To refrain 
from idle talk is hard ; to quiet the gibbering of memory and 
imagination is much harder; hardest of all is to still the voices 
of craving and aversion within the will. 

The twentieth century is, among other things, the Age of 
Noise. Physical noise, mental noise and noise of desire we 
hold history's record for all of them. And no wonder; for all 
the resources of our almost miraculous technology have been 
thrown into the current assault against silence. That most 
popular and influential of all recent inventions, the radio, is 



250 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

nothing but a conduit through which pre-fabricated din can 
flow into our homes. And this din goes far deeper, of course, 
than the ear-drums. It penetrates the mind, filling it with a 
babel of distractions news items, mutually irrelevant bits of 
information, blasts of corybantic or sentimental music, con- 
tinually repeated doses of drama that bring no catharsis, but 
merely create a craving for daily or even hourly emotional 
enemas. And where, as in most countries, the broadcasting 
stations support themselves by selling time to advertisers, the 
noise is carried from the ears, through the realms of phantasy, 
knowledge and feeling to the ego's central core of wish and 
desire. Spoken or printed, broadcast over the ether or on 
wood-pulp, all advertising copy has but one purpose to pre- 
vent the will from ever achieving silence. Desirelessness is the 
condition of deliverance and illumination. The condition of 
an expanding and technologically progressive system of mass- 
production is universal craving. Advertising is the organized 
effort to extend and intensify craving to extend and intensify, 
that is to say, the workings of that force, which (as all the saints 
and teachers of all the higher religions have always taught) is 
the principal cause of suffering and wrong-doing and the 
greatest obstacle between the human soul and its divine 
Ground. 



Chapter 16 
PRAYER 

HPHE word 'prayer* is applied to at least four distinct pro- 
JL cedures petition, intercession, adoration, contemplation. 
Petition is the asking of something for ourselves. Intercession 
is the asking of something for other people. Adoration is the 
use of intellect, feeling, will and imagination in making acts 
of devotion directed towards God in his personal aspect or as 
incarnated in human form. Contemplation is that condition 
of alert passivity in which the soul lays itself open to the divine 
Ground within and without, the immanent and transcendent 
Godhead. 

Psychologically, it is all but impossible for a human being 
to practise contemplation without preparing for it by some 
kind of adoration and without feeling the need to revert at 
more or less frequent intervals to intercession and some form 
at least of petition. On the other hand, it is both possible and 
easy to practise petition apart not only from contemplation, but 
also from adoration and, in rare cases of extreme and unmiti- 
gated egotism, even from intercession. Petitionary and inter- 
cessory prayer may be used and used, what is more, with 
what would ordinarily be regarded as success without any 
but the most perfunctory and superficial reference to God in 
any of his aspects. To acquire the knack of getting his petitions 
answered, a man does not have to know or love God, or even 
to know or love the image of God in his own mind. All that 
he requires is a burning sense of the importance of his own 
ego and its desires, coupled with a firm conviction that there 
exists, out there in the universe, something not himself which 
can be wheedled or dragooned into satisfying those desires. If 
I repeat 'My will be done,' with the necessary degree of faith 
and persistency, the chances are that, sooner or later and some- 
how or other, I shall get what I want. Whether my will coin- 



261 



252 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

cides with the will of God, and whether in getting what I want 
I shall get what is spiritually, morally or even materially good 
for me, are questions which I cannot answer in advance. Only 
time and eternity will show. Meanwhile we shall be well ad- 
vised to heed the warnings of folk-lore. Those anonymous 
realists who wrote the world's fairy stories knew a great deal 
about wishes and their fulfilment. They knew, first of all, 
that in certain circumstances petitions actually get themselves 
answered; but they also knew that God is not the only 
answerer and that if one asks for something in the wrong 
spirit, it may in effect be given but given with a vengeance 
and not by a divine Giver. Getting what one wants by means 
of self-regarding petition is a form of hubris, which invites its 
condign and appropriate nemesis. Thus, the folk-lore of the 
North American Indian is full of stories about people who fast 
and pray egotistically, in order to get more than a reasonable 
man ought to have, and who, receiving what they ask for, 
thereby bring about their own downfall. From the other side 
of the world come all the tales of the men and women who 
make use of some kind of magic to get their petitions answered 
always with farcical or catastrophic consequence. Hardly 
ever do the Three Wishes of our traditional fairy lore lead to 
anything but a bad end for the successful wisher. 

Picture God as saying to you, ' My son, why is it that day by day 
you rise and pray, and genuflect, and even strike the ground with 
your forehead, nay, sometimes even shed tears, while you say to 
Me : " My Father, my God, give me wealth ! " If I were to give 
it to you, you would think yourself of some importance, you 
would fancy you had gained something very great. Because you 
asked for it, you have it. But take care to make good use of it. 
Before you had it you were humble ; now that you have begun 
to be rich you despise the poor. What kind of a good is that 
which only makes you worse? For worse you are, since you 
were bad already. And that it would make you worse you knew 
not; hence you asked it of Me. I gave it you and I proved you ; 
you have found and you are found out ! Ask of Me better 



PRAYER 253 

things than these, greater things than these. Ask of Me spiritual 
things. Ask of Me Myself.' 

St. Augustine 

Lord, I, a beggar, ask of Thee more than a thousand kings may 
ask of Thee. Each one has something he needs to ask of Thee; 

1 have come to ask Thee to give me Thyself. 

Ansari of Herat 

In the words of Aquinas, it is legitimate for us to pray for any- 
thing which it is legitimate for us to desire. There are some 
things that nobody has the right to desire such as the fruits 
of crime or wrong-doing. Other things may be legitimately 
desired by people on one level of spiritual development, but 
should not be desired (and indeed cease to be desired) by those 
on another, higher level. Thus, St. Frangois de Sales had 
reached a point where he could say, * I have hardly any desires, 
but if I were to be born again I should have none at all. We 
should ask nothing and refuse nothing, but leave ourselves in 
the arms of divine Providence without wasting time in any 
desire, except to will what God wills of us.' But meanwhile 
the third clause of the Lord's Prayer is repeated daily by mil- 
lions, who have not the slightest intention of letting any will 
be done, except their own. 

The savour of wandering in the ocean of deathless life has rid me 

of all my asking; 
As the tree is in the seed, so all diseases are in this asking. 

Kabir 

Lord, I know not what to ask of thee. Thou only knowest what 
I need. Thou lovest me better than I know how to love myself. 
Father, give to thy child that which he himself knows not how to 
ask. Smite or heal, depress me or raise me up : I adore all thy 
purposes without knowing them. I am silent; I offer myself up 
in a sacrifice ; I yield myself to Thee ; I would have no other 



254 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

desire than to accomplish thy will. Teach me to pray. Pray 
Thyself in me. 

Fenelon 

(A dervish was tempted by the devil to cease calling upon Allah, 
on the ground that Allah never answered, 'Here am I.' The 
Prophet Khadir appeared to him in a vision with a message from 
God.) 

Was it not I who summoned thee to my service ? 

Was it not I who made thee busy with my name? 

Thy calling 'Allah!' was my 'Here am I.' 

Jalal-uddin Rumi 

I pray God the Omnipotent to place us in the ranks of his 
chosen, among the number of those whom He directs to the path 
of safety; in whom He inspires fervour lest they forget Him; 
whom He cleanses from all defilement, that nothing may remain 
in them except Himself; yea, of those whom He indwells com- 
pletely, that they may adore none beside Him. 



About intercession, as about so many other subjects, it is 
William Law who writes most clearly, simply and to the point. 

By considering yourself as an advocate with God for your neigh- 
bours and acquaintances, you would never find it hard to be at 
peace with them yourself. It would be easy for you to bear with 
and forgive those, for whom you particularly implored the divine 
mercy and forgiveness. 

William Law 

Intercession is the best arbitrator of all differences, the best pro- 
moter of true friendship, the best cure and preservative against 
all unkind tempers, all angry and haughty passions. 

William Law 

\ou cannot possibly have any ill-temper, or show any unkind 



PRAYER 255 

behaviour to a man for whose welfare you are so much con- 
cerned, as to be his advocate with God in private. For you 
cannot possibly despise and ridicule that man whom your private 
prayers recommend to the love and favour of God. 

William Law 

Intercession, then, is at once the means to, and the expression 
of, the love of one's neighbour. And in the same way adora- 
tion is the means to, and the expression of, the love of God a 
love that finds its consummation in the unitive knowledge of 
the Godhead which is the fruit of contemplation. It is to these 
higher forms of communion with God that the authors of the 
following extracts refer whenever they use the word * prayer/ 

The aim and end of prayer is to revere, to recognize and to adore 
the sovereign majesty of God, through what He is in Himself 
rather than what He is in regard to us, and rather to love his 
goodness by the love of that goodness itself than for what it 
sends us. 

Bourgoing 

In prayer he (Charles de Condren) did not stop at the frontiers 
of his knowledge and his reasoning. He adored God and his 
mysteries as they are in themselves and not as he understood 
them. 

Amelote 

'What God is in Himself,' 'God and his mysteries as they are 
in themselves' the phrases have a Kantian ring. But if Kant 
was right and the Thing in itself is unknowable, Bourgoing, 
De Condren and all the other masters of the spiritual life were 
engaged in a wild-goose chase. But Kant was right only as 
regards minds that have not yet come to enlightenment and 
deliverance. To such minds Reality, whether material, psychic 
or spiritual, presents itself as it is darkened, tinged and refracted 
by the medium of their own individual natures. But in those 
who are pure in heart and poor in spirit there is no distortion 



a 5 6 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

of Reality, because there is no separate selfhood to obscure or 
refract, no painted lantern slide of intellectual beliefs and hal- 
lowed imagery to give a personal and historical colouring to 
the ' white radiance of Eternity.' For such minds, as Olier says, 
'even ideas of the saints, of the Blessed Virgin, and the sight of 
Jesus Christ in his humanity are impediments in the way of the 
sight of God in his purity/ The Thing in itself can be per- 
ceived but only by one who, in himself, is no-thing. 

By prayer I do not understand petition or supplication which, 
according to the doctrines of the schools, is exercised principally 
by the understanding, being a signification of what the pefson 
desires to receive from God. But prayer here specially meant is 
an offering and giving to God whatsoever He may justly require 
from us. 

Now prayer, in its general notion, may be defined to be an 
elevation of the mind to God, or more largely and expressly thus: 
prayer is an actuation of an intellective soul towards God, ex- 
pressing, or at least implying, an entire dependence on Him as 
the author and fountain of all good, a will and readiness to 
give Him his due, which is no less than all love, all obedience, 
adoration, glory and worship, by humbling and annihilating the 
self and all creatures in his presence; and lastly, a desire and 
intention to aspire to an union of spirit with Him. 

Hence it appears that prayer is the most perfect and most 
divine action that a rational soul is capable of. It is of all actions 
and duties the most indispensably necessary. 

Augustine Baker 

Lord, teach me to seek Thee and reveal Thyself to me when I 
seek Thee. For I cannot seek Thee except Thou teach me, nor 
find Thee except Thou reveal Thyself. Let me seek Thee in 
longing, let me long for Thee in seeking : let me find Thee in 
love and love Thee in finding. Lord, I acknowledge and I 
thank Thee that Thou hast created me in this Thine image, in 
order that I may be mindful of Thee, may conceive of Thee and 
love Thee : but that image has been so consumed and wasted away 



PRAYER 257 

by vices and obscured by the smoke of wrong-doing that it 
cannot achieve that for which it was made, except Thou renew it 
and create it anew. Is the eye of the soul darkened by its infirm- 
ity, or dazzled by Thy glory ? Surely, it is both darkened in itself 
and dazzled by Thee. Lord, this is the unapproachable light in 
which Thou dwellest. Truly I see it not, because it is too bright 
for me ; and yet whatever I see, I see through it, as the weak eye 
sees what it sees through the light of the sun, which in the sun 
itself it cannot look upon. Oh supreme and unapproachable 
light, oh holy and blessed truth, how far art Thou from me who 
am so near to Thee, how far art Thou removed from my vision, 
though I am so near to Thine! Everywhere Thou art wholly 
present, and I see Thee not. In Thee I move and in Thee I have 
my being, and cannot come to Thee, Thou art within me and 
about me, and I feel Thee not. 

St. Anselm 

Oh Lord, put no trust in me; for I shall surely fail if Thou 
uphold me not. 

St. Philip Neri 

To pretend to devotion without great humility and renunciation 
of all worldly tempers is to pretend to impossibilities. He that 
would be devout must first be humble, have a full sense of his 
own miseries and wants and the vanity of the world, and then his 
soul will be full of desire after God. A proud, or vain, or worldly- 
minded man may use a manual of prayers, but he cannot be de- 
vout, because devotion is the application of an humble heart to 
God as its only happiness. 

William Law 

The spirit, in order to work, must have all sensible images, both 
good and bad, removed. The beginner in a spiritual course com- 
mences with the use of good sensible images, and it is impossible 
to begin in a good spiritual course with the exercises of the spirit. 
. . . Those souls who have not a propensity to the interior must 
abide always in the exercises, in which sensible images are used, 



2j8 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

and these souls will find the sensible exercises very profitable to 
themselves and to others, and pleasing to God. And this is the 
way of the active life. But others, who have the propensity to the 
interior, do not always remain in the exercises of the senses, but 
after a time these will give place to the exercises of the spirit, 
which are independent of the senses and the imagination and con- 
sist simply in the elevation of the will of the intellective soul to 
God. . . . The soul elevates her will towards God, apprehended by 
the understanding as a spirit, and not as an imaginary thing, the 
human spirit in this way aspiring to a union with the Divine 
Spirit. 

Augustine Baker 

You tell me you do nothing in prayer. But what do you want 
to do in prayer except what you are doing, which is, presenting 
and representing your nothingness and misery to God ? When 
beggars expose their ulcers and their necessities to our sight, 
that is the best appeal they can make. But from what you tell 
me, you sometimes do nothing of this, but lie there like a shadow 
or a statue. They put statues in palaces simply to please the 
prince's eyes. Be content to be that in the presence of God : He 
will bring the statue to life when He pleases. 

St. Franfois de Sales 

I have come to see that I do not limit my mind enough simply to 
prayer, that I always want to do something myself in it, wherein 
I do very wrong. ... I wish most definitely to cut off and separate 
my mind from all that, and to hold it with all my strength, as 
much as I can, to the sole regard and simple unity. By allowing 
the fear of being ineffectual to enter into the state of prayer, and 
by wishing to accomplish something myself, I spoilt it all. 

St. Jeanne Chantal 

So long as you seek Buddhahood, specifically exercising yourself 
for it, there is no attainment for you. 

Yung-chia Ta-skih 



PRAYER 259 

' How does a man set himself in harmony with the Tao ? ' ' I am 
already out of harmony.' 

Shih-t'ou 

How shall I grasp it? Do not grasp it. That which remains 
when there is no more grasping is the Self. 

Panchadasi 

I order you to remain simply either in God or close to God, 
without trying to do anything there, and without asking any- 
thing of Him, unless He urges it. 

St. Franfois de Sales 

Adoration is an activity of the loving, but still separate, indi- 
viduality. Contemplation is the state of union with the divine 
Ground of all being. The highest prayer is the most passive. 
Inevitably; for the less there is of self, the more there is of 
God. That is why the path to passive or infused contempla- 
tion is so hard and, for many, so painful a passage through 
successive or simultaneous Dark Nights, in which the pilgrim 
must die to the life of sense as an end in itself, to the life of 
private and even of traditionally hallowed thinking and be- 
lieving, and finally to the deep source of all ignorance and 
evil, the life of the separate, individualized will. 



Chapter 17 
SUFFERING 

THE Godhead is impassible; for where there is perfection 
and unity, there can be no suffering. The capacity to suffer 
arises where there is imperfection, disunity and separation 
from an embracing totality; and the capacity is actualized to 
the extent that imperfection, disunity and separateness are 
accompanied by an urge towards the intensification of these 
creaturely conditions. For the individual who achieves unity 
within his own organism and union with the divine Ground, 
there is an end of suffering. The goal of creation is the return 
of all sentient beings out of separateness and that infatuating 
urge-to-separateness which results in suffering, through unitive 
knowledge, into the wholeness of eternal Reality. 

The elements which make up man produce a capacity for pain. 
The cause of pain is the craving for individual life. 
Deliverance from craving does away with pain. 
The way of deliverance is the Eightfold Path. 

The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism 

The urge-to-separateness, or craving for independent and indi- 
vidualized existence, can manifest itself on all the levels of life, 
from the merely cellular and physiological, through the instinc- 
tive, to the fully conscious. It can be the craving of a whole 
organism for an intensification of its separateness from the 
environment and the divine Ground. Or it can be the urge 
of a part within an organism for an intensification of its own 
partial life as distinct from (and consequently at the expense of) 
the life of the organism as a whole. In the first case we speak 
of impulse, passion, desire, self-will, sin; in the second, we 
describe what is happening as illness, injury, functional or 



SUFFERING 261 

organic disorder. In both cases the craving for separateness 
results in suffering, not only for the craver, but also for the 
craver's sentient environment other organisms in the exter- 
nal world, or other organs within the same organism. In one 
way suffering is entirely private ; in another, fatally contagious. 
No living creature is able to experience the suffering of another 
creature. But the craving for separateness which, sooner or 
later, directly or indirectly, results in some form of private and 
unshareable suffering for the craver, also results, sooner or 
later, directly or indirectly, in suffering (equally private and 
unshareable) for others. Suffering and moral evil have the 
same source a craving for the intensification of the separate- 
ness which is the primary datum of all creatureliness. 

It will be as well to illustrate these generalizations by a few 
examples. Let us consider first the suffering inflicted by living 
organisms on themselves and on other living organisms in the 
mere process of keeping alive. The cause of such suffering is 
the craving for individual existence, expressing itself specifi- 
cally in the form of hunger. Hunger is entirely natural a part 
of every creature's dharma. The suffering it causes alike to the 
hungry and to those who satisfy their hunger is inseparable 
from the existence of sentient creatures. The existence of sen- 
tient creatures has a goal and purpose which is ultimately the 
supreme good of every one of them. But meanwhile the suffer- 
ing of creatures remains a fact and is a necessary part of crea- 
tureliness. In so far as this is the case, creation is the beginning 
of the Fall. The consummation of the Fall takes place when 
creatures seek to intensify their separateness beyond the limits 
prescribed by the law of their being. On the biological level 
the Fall would seem to have been consummated very frequently 
during the course of evolutionary history. Every species, ex- 
cept the human, chose immediate, short-range success by means 
of specialization. But specialization always leads into blind 
alleys. It is only by remaining precariously generalized that an 
organism can advance towards that rational intelligence which 
is its compensation for not having a body and instincts per- 
fectly adapted to one particular kind of life in one particular 



i6i THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

kind of environment. Rational intelligence makes possible 
unparalleled worldly success on the one hand and, on the 
other, a further advance towards spirituality and a return, 
through unitive knowledge, to the divine Ground. 

Because the human species refrained from consummating 
the Fall on the biological level, human individuals now possess 
the momentous power of choosing either selflessness and union 
with God, or the intensification of separate selfhood in ways 
and to a degree, which are entirely beyond the ken of the lower 
animals. Their capacity for good is infinite, since they can, if 
they so desire, make room within themselves for divine Reality. 
But at the same time their capacity for evil is, not indeed in- 
finite (since evil is always ultimately self-destructive and there- 
fore temporary), but uniquely great. Hell is total separation 
from God, and the devil is the will to that separation. Being 
rational and free, human beings are capable of being diabolic. 
This is a feat which no animal can duplicate, for no animal is 
sufficiently clever, sufficiently purposeful, sufficiently strong- 
willed or sufficiently moral to be a devil. (We should note 
that, to be diabolic on the grand scale, one must, like Milton's 
Satan, exhibit in a high degree all the moral virtues, except 
only charity and wisdom.) 

Man's capacity to crave more violently than any animal for 
the intensification of his separateness results not only in moral 
evil and the sufferings which moral evil inflicts, in one way or 
another, upon the victims of evil and the perpetrators of it, but 
also in certain characteristically human derangements of the 
body. Animals suffer mainly from contagious diseases, which 
assume epidemic proportions whenever the urge to reproduc- 
tion combines with exceptionally favourable circumstances to 
produce overcrowding, and from diseases due to infestation by 
parasites. (These last are simply a special case of the sufferings 
that must inevitably arise when many species of creatures co- 
exist and can only survive at one another's expense.) Civilized 
man has been fairly successful in protecting himself against 
these plagues, but in their place he has called up a formidable 
array of degenerative diseases hardly known among the lower 



SUFFERING 163 

animals. Most of these degenerative diseases are due to the feet 
that civilized human beings do not, on any level of their being, 
live in harmony with Tao, or the divine Nature of Things. 
They love to intensify their selfhood through gluttony, there- 
fore eat the wrong food and too much of it; they inflict upon 
themselves chronic anxiety over money and, because they crave 
excitement, chronic over-stimulation; they suffer, during their 
working hours, from the chronic boredom and frustration im- 
posed by the sort of jobs that have to be done in order to satisfy 
the artificially stimulated demand for the fruits of fully mechan- 
ized mass-production. Among the consequences of these 
wrong uses of the psycho-physical organism are degenerative 
changes in particular organs, such as the heart, kidneys, 
pancreas, intestines and arteries. Asserting their partial self- 
hood in a kind of declaration of independence from the organ- 
ism as a whole, the degenerating organs cause suffering to 
themselves and their physiological environment. In exactly the 
same way the human individual asserts his own partial selfhood 
and his separateness from his neighbours, from Nature and 
from God with disastrous consequences to himself, his family, 
his friends and society in general. And, reciprocally, a dis- 
ordered society, professional group or family, living by a false 
philosophy, influences its members to assert their individual 
selfhood and separateness, just as the wrong-living and wrong- 
thinking individual influences his own organs to assert, by 
some excess or defect of function, their partial selfhood at the 
expense of the total organism. 

The effects of suffering may be morally and spiritually bad, 
neutral or good, according to the way in which the suffering is 
endured and reacted to. In other words, it may stimulate in 
the sufferer a conscious or unconscious craving for the intensi- 
fication of his separateness ; or it may leave the craving such as 
it was before the suffering; or, finally, it may mitigate it and 
so become a means for advance towards self-abandonment and 
the love and knowledge of God. Which of these three alterna- 
tives shall be realized depends, in the last analysis, upon the 
choice, This seems to be true even on die sub- 



264 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

human level. The higher animals, at any rate, often seem to 
resign themselves to pain, sickness and death with a kind of 
serene acceptance of what the divine Nature of Things has 
decreed for them. But in other cases there is panic fear and 
struggle, a frenzied resistance to those decrees. To some 
extent, at least, the embodied animal self appears to be free, 
in the face of suffering, to choose self-abandonment or self- 
assertion. For embodied human selves, this freedom of choice 
is unquestionable. The choice of self-abandonment in suffer- 
ing makes possible the reception of grace grace on the spirit- 
ual level, in the form of an accession of the love and knowledge 
of God, and grace in the mental and physiological levels, in the 
form of a diminution of fear, self-concern and even of pain. 

When we conceive the love of suffering, we lose the sensibility of 
the senses and dead, dead we will live in that garden. 

St. Catherine of Siena 

He who suffers for love does not suffer, for all suffering is forgot. 

Eckhart 

In this life there is not purgatory, but only heaven or hell ; for he 
who bears afflictions with patience has paradise, and he who does 
not has hell. 

St. Philip Neri 

Many sufferings are the immediate consequence of moral evil, 
and these cannot have any good effects upon the sufferer, so 
long as the causes of his distress are not eradicated. 

Each sin begetteth a special spiritual suffering. A suffering of 
this kind is like unto that of hell, for the more you suffer, the 
worse you become. This happeneth to sinners; the more they 
suffer through their sins, the more wicked they become; and 
they fall continually more and more into their sins in order to get 
free from their suffering. 

The Following of Christ 



SUFFERING 267 

The idea of vicarious suffering has too often been formulated 
in crudely juridical and commercial terms. A has committed 
an offence for which the law decrees a certain punishment; 
B voluntarily undergoes the punishment; justice and the law- 
giver's honour are satisfied ; consequently A may go free. Or 
else it is all a matter of debts and repayments. A owes C a sum 
which he cannot pay; B steps in with the cash and so prevents 
C from foreclosing on the mortgage. Applied to the facts of 
man's suffering and his relations to the divine Ground, these 
conceptions are neither enlightening nor edifying. The ortho- 
dox doctrine of the Atonement attributes to God character- 
istics that would be discreditable even to a human potentate, 
and its model of the universe is not the product of spiritual 
insight rationalized by philosophic reflection, but rather the 
projection of a lawyer's phantasy. But in spite of these deplor- 
able crudities in their formulation, the idea of vicarious suffer- 
ing and the other, closely related idea of the transferability of 
merit are based upon genuine facts of experience. The selfless 
and God-filled person can and does act as a channel through 
which grace is able to pass into the unfortunate being who has 
made himself impervious to the divine by the habitual craving 
for intensifications of his own separateness and selfhood. It is 
because of this that the saints are able to exercise authority, all 
the greater for being entirely non-compulsive, over their 
fellow-beings. They ' transfer merit' to those who are in need 
of it; but that which converts the victims of self-will and puts 
them on the path of liberation is not the merit of the saintly 
individual a merit that consists in his having made himself 
capable of eternal Reality, as a pipe, by being cleaned out, is 
made capable of water ; it is rather the divine charge he carries, 
the eternal Reality for which he has become the conduit. And 
similarly, in vicarious suffering, it is not the actual pains experi- 
enced by the saint which are redemptive for to believe 'that 
God is angry at sin and that his anger cannot be propitiated 
except by the offer of a certain sum of pain is to blaspheme 
against the divine Nature. No, what saves is the gift from 
beyond the temporal order, brought to those imprisoned in 



266 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

selfhood by these selfless and God-filled persons, who have 
been ready to accept suffering, in order to help their fellows. 
The Bodhisattva's vow is a promise to forgo the immediate 
fruits of enlightenment and to accept rebirth and its inevitable 
concomitants, pain and death, again and again, until such time 
as, thanks to his labours and the graces of which, being selfless, 
he is the channel, all sentient beings shall have come to final 
and complete deliverance. 

I saw a mass of matter of a dull gloomy colour between the North 
and the East, and was informed that this mass was human beings, 
in as great misery as they could be, and live; and that I was 
mixed up with them and henceforth I must not consider myself as 
a distinct or separate being. 

John Woolman 

Why must the righteous and the innocent endure undeserved 
suffering ? For anyone who conceives of human individuals as 
Hume conceived of events and things, as ' loose and separate,' 
the question admits of no acceptable answer. But, in fact, 
human individuals are not loose and separate, and the only 
reason why we think they are is our own wrongly interpreted 
self-interest. We want to 'do what we damned well like/ to 
have 'a good time' and no responsibilities. Consequently, we 
find it convenient to be misled by the inadequacies of language 
and to believe (not always, of course, but just when it suits us) 
that things, persons and events are as completely distinct and 
separate one from another as the words by means of which 
we think about them. The truth is, of course, that we are all 
organically related to God, to Nature and to our fellow-men. 
If every human being were constantly and consciously in a 
proper relationship with his divine, natural and social environ- 
ments there would be only so much suffering as Creation makes 
inevitable. But actually most human beings are chronically in 
an improper relation to God, Nature and some at least of their 
fellows. The results of these wrong relationships are mani- 
fest on the social level as wars, revolutions, exploitation and. 



SUFFERING 267 

disorder; on the natural level, as waste and exhaustion of 
irreplaceable resources ; on the biological level, as degenerative 
diseases and the deterioration of racial stocks ; on the moral 
level, as an overweening bumptiousness; and on the spiritual 
level, as blindness to divine Reality and complete ignorance 
of the reason and purpose of human existence. In such cir- 
cumstances it would be extraordinary if the innocent and 
righteous did not suffer just as it would be extraordinary if 
the innocent kidneys and the righteous heart were not to suffer 
for the sins of a licorous palate and overloaded stomach, sins, 
we may add, imposed upon those organs by the will of the 
gluttonous individual to whom they belong, as he himself 
belongs to a society which other individuals, his contem- 
poraries and predecessors, have built up into a vast and en- 
during incarnation of disorder, inflicting suffering upon its 
members and infecting them with its own ignorance and 
wickedness. The righteous man can escape suffering only by 
accepting it and passing beyond it; and he can accomplish this 
only by being converted from righteousness to total selfless- 
ness and God-centredness, by ceasing to be just a Pharisee, or 
good citizen, and becoming * perfect as your Father which is 
in heaven is perfect.' The difficulties in the way of such a 
transfiguration are, obviously, enormous. But of those who 
'speak with authority/ who has ever said that the road to 
complete deliverance was easy or the gate anything but * strait 
and narrow'? 



Chapter 18 
FAITH 

r I 1 HE word 'faith* has a variety of meanings, which it is 
-L important to distinguish. In some contexts it is used as a 
synonym for 'trust/ as when we say that we have faith in Dr. 
X's diagnostic skill or in lawyer Y's integrity. Analogous to 
this is our 'faith' in authority the belief that what certain 
persons say about certain subjects is likely, because of their 
special qualifications, to be true. On other occasions 'faith' 
stands for belief in propositions which we have not had occa- 
sion to verify for ourselves, but which we know that we could 
verify if we had the inclination, the opportunity and the neces- 
sary capacities. In this sense of the word we have ' faith,' even 
though we may never have been to Australia, that there is such 
a creature as a duck-billed platypus; we have 'faith' in the 
atomic theory, even though we may never have performed the 
experiments on which that theory rests, and be incapable of 
understanding the mathematics by which it is supported. And 
finally there is the 'faith,' which is a belief in propositions 
which we know we cannot verify, even if we should desire to 
do so propositions such as those of the Athanasian Creed or 
those which constitute the doctrine of the Immaculate Concep- 
tion. This kind of 'faith' is defined by the Scholastics as an 
act of the intellect moved to assent by the will. 

Faith in the first three senses of the word plays a very im- 
portant part, not only in the activities of everyday life, but 
even in those of pure and applied science. Credo ut intelligam 
and also, we should add, ut ogam and ut vivam. Faith is a 
pre-condition of all systematic knowing, all purposive doing 
and all decent living. Societies are held together, not primarily 
by the fear of the many for the coercive power of the few, but 
by a widespread faith in the other fellow's decency. Such a 
faith tends to create its own object, while the widespread 

268 



FAITH 269 

mutual mistrust, due, for example, to war or domestic dissen- 
sion, creates the object of mistrust. Passing now from the 
moral to the intellectual sphere, we find faith lying at the root 
of all organized thinking. Science and technology could not 
exist unless we had faith in the reliability of the universe 
unless, in Clerk Maxwell's words, we implicitly believed that 
the book of Nature is really a book and not a magazine, a 
coherent work of art and not a hodge-podge of mutually 
irrelevant snippets. To this general faith in the reasonableness 
and trustworthiness of the world the searcher after truth must 
add two kinds of special faith faith in the authority of quali- 
fied experts, sufficient to permit him to take their word for 
statements which he personally has not verified; and faith in 
his own working hypotheses, sufficient to induce him to test 
his provisional beliefs by means of appropriate action. This 
action may confirm the belief which inspired it. Alternatively 
it may bring proof that the original working hypothesis was 
ill founded, in which case it will have to be modified until it 
becomes conformable to the facts and so passes from the realm 
of faith to that of knowledge^ 

The fourth kind of faith is the thing which is commonly 
called 'religious faith.' The usage is justifiable, not because 
the other kinds of faith are not fundamental in religion just 
as they are in secular affairs, but because this willed assent to 
propositions which are known to be unverifiable occurs in 
religion, and only in religion, as a characteristic addition to 
faith as trust, faith in authority and faith in unverified but veri- 
fiable propositions. This is the kind of faith which, according 
to Christian theologians, justifies and saves. In its extreme 
and most uncompromising form, such a doctrine can be very 
dangerous. Here, for example, is a passage from one of 
Luther's letters. Esto peccator, et pecca farther , sed fortius 
crede et gaude in Chris to, qui victor est peccati, mortis et mundi. 
Peccandum est quam diu sic sumus ; vita haec non est habitatio 
justitiae. (' Be a sinner and sin strongly ; but yet more strongly 
believe and rejoice in Christ, who is the conqueror of sin, 
death and the world. So long as we are as we are, there must 



2 7 o THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

be sinning; this life is not the dwelling place of righteous- 
ness/) To the danger that faith in the doctrine of justification 
by faith may serve as an excuse for and even an invitation to 
sin must be added another danger, namely, that the faith which 
is supposed to save may be faith in propositions not merely 
unverifiable, but repugnant to reason and the moral sense, and 
entirely at variance with the findings of those who have ful- 
filled the conditions of spiritual insight into the Nature of 
Things. ' This is the acme of faith/ says Luther in his De 
Servo Arbitrio, 'to believe that God who saves so few and 
condemns so many, is merciful; that He is just who, at his 
own pleasure, has made us necessarily doomed to damnation, 
so that He seems to delight in the torture of the wretched and 
to be more deserving of hate than of love. If by any effort of 
reason I could conceive how God, who shows so much anger 
and harshness, could be merciful and just, there would be no 
need of faith/ Revelation (which, when it is genuine, is simply 
the record of the immediate experience of those who are pure 
enough in heart and poor enough in spirit to be able to see 
God) says nothing at all of these hideous doctrines, to which 
the will forces the quite naturally and rightly reluctant intel- 
lect to give assent. Such notions .are the product, not of the 
insight of saints, but of the busy phantasy of jurists, who were 
so far from having transcended selfness and the prejudices of 
education that they had the folly and presumption to interpret 
the universe in terms of the Jewish and Roman law with which 
they happened to be familiar. 'Woe unto you lawyers/ said 
Christ. The denunciation was prophetic and for all time. 

The core and spiritual heart of all the higher religions is the 
Perennial Philosophy; and the Perennial Philosophy can be 
assented to and acted upon without resort to the kind of faith 
about which Luther was writing in the foregoing passages. 
There must, of course, be faith as trust for confidence in one's 
fellows is the beginning of charity towards men, and confidence 
not only in the material, but also the moral and spiritual relia- 
bility of the universe, is the beginning of charity or love- 
knowledge in relation to God. There must also be faith in 



FAITH 271 

authority the authority of those whose selflessness has quali- 
fied them to know the spiritual Ground of all being by direct 
acquaintance as well as by report. And finally there must be 
faith in such propositions about Reality as are enunciated by 
philosophers in the light of genuine revelation propositions 
which the believer knows that he can, if he is prepared to fulfil 
the necessary conditions, verify for himself. But, so long as 
the Perennial Philosophy is accepted in its essential simplicity, 
there is no need of willed assent to propositions known in 
advance to be unverifiable. Here it is necessary to add that 
such unverifiable propositions may become verifiable to the 
extent that intense faith affects the psychic substratum and so 
creates an existence, whose derived objectivity can actually be 
discovered 'out there/ Let us, however, remember that an 
existence which derives its objectivity from the mental activity 
of those who intensely believe in it cannot possibly be the 
spiritual Ground of the world, and that a mind busily engaged 
in the voluntary and intellectual activity, which is * religious 
faith,' cannot possibly be in the state of selflessness and alert 
passivity which is the necessary condition of the unitive know- 
ledge of the Ground. That is why the Buddhists affirm that 
Moving faith leads to heaven; but obedience to the Dharma 
leads to Nirvana/ Faith in the existence and power of any 
supernatural entity which is less than ultimate spiritual Reality, 
and in any form of worship that falls short of self-naughting, 
will certainly, if the object of faith is intrinsically good, result 
in improvement of character, and probably in posthumous sur- 
vival of the improved personality under 'heavenly' conditions. 
But this personal survival within what is still the temporal 
order is not the eternal life of timeless union with the Spirit. 
This eternal life 'stands in the knowledge' of the Godhead, 
not in faith in anything less than the Godhead. 

The immortality attained through the acquisition of any objective 
condition (e.g., the condition merited through good works, 
which have been inspired by love of, and faith in, something less 
than the supreme Godhead of being united in act to what is 



272 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

worshipped) is liable to end; for it is distinctly stated in the 
Scriptures that karma is never the cause of emancipation. 

Shankara 

Karma is the causal sequence in time, from which we are 
delivered solely by 'dying to' the temporal self and becoming 
united with the eternal, which is beyond time and cause. For 
'as to the notion of a First Cause, or a Causa Sui* (to quote 
the words of an eminent theologian and philosopher, Dr. F. R. 
Tennant), 'we have, on the one hand, to bear in mind that we 
refute ourselves in trying to establish it by extension of the 
application of the causal category, for causality when univer- 
salized contains a contradiction ; and, on the other, to remem- 
ber that the ultimate Ground simply "is."' Only when the 
individual also * simply is,' by reason of his union through love- 
knowledge with the Ground, can there be any question of 
complete and eternal liberation. 



Chapter 19 
GOD IS NOT MOCKED 

Why hast thou said, 'I have sinned so mucji, 

And God in His mercy has not punished my sins'? 

How many times do I smite thee, and thou knowest not ! 

Thou art bound in my chains from head to foot. 

On thy heart is rust on rust collected 

So that thou art blind to divine mysteries. 

When a man is stubborn and follows evil practices, 

He casts dust in the eyes of his discernment. 

Old shame for sin and calling on God quit him; 

Dust five layers deep settles on his mirror, 

Rust spots begin to gnaw his iron, 

The colour of his jewel grows less and less. 

Jalal-uddin Rumi 

IF there is freedom (and even Determinists consistently act 
as if they were certain of it) and if (as everyone who has 
qualified himself to talk about the subject has always been con- 
vinced) there is a spiritual Reality, which it is the final end and 
purpose of consciousness to know; then all life is in the nature 
of an intelligence test, and the higher the level of awareness 
and the greater the potentialities of the creature, the more 
searchingly difficult will be the questions asked. For, in 
Bagehot's words, 'we could not be what we ought to be, if we 
lived in the sort of universe we should expect. ... A latent 
Providence, a confused life, an odd material world, an existence 
broken short in the midst and on a sudden, are not real diffi- 
culties, but real helps ; for they, or something like them, are 
essential conditions of a moral life in a subordinate being.' 
Because we are free, it is possible for us to answer life's questions 
either well or badly. If we answer them badly, we shall bring 
down upon ourselves self-stultification. Most often this self- 

c 273 



274 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

stultification will take subtle and not immediately detectable 
forms, as when our failure to answer properly makes it impos- 
sible for us to realize the higher potentialities of our being. 
Sometimes, on the contrary, the self-stultification is manifest 
on the physical level, and may involve not only individuals as 
individuals, but entire societies, which go down in catastrophe 
or sink more slowly into decay. The giving of correct answers 
is rewarded primarily by spiritual growth and progressive 
realization of latent potentialities, and secondarily (when cir- 
cumstances make it possible) by the adding of all the rest to 
the realized kingdom of God. Karma exists ; but its equiva- 
lence of act and award is not always obvious and material, as 
the earlier Buddhist and Hebrew writers ingenuously imagined 
that it should be. The bad man in prosperity may, all unknown 
to himself, be darkened and corroded with inward rust, while 
the good man under afflictions may be in the rewarding process 
of spiritual growth. No, God is not mocked; but also, let us 
always remember, He is not understood. 

Pero nella giusti^ia sempiUrna 

la vista che riceve vostro mondo, 

comocchio per lo mar, dentro sinterna, 
ch&, benchk dalla proda veggia il fondo, 

in pelago nol vede, e nan di meno 

I li, ma cela lui Vesser profondo. 

(* Wherefore, in the eternal justice, such sight as your earth 
receives is engulfed, like the eye in the sea ; for though by the 
shore it can see the bottom, in the ocean it cannot see it; yet 
none the less the bottom is there, but the depth hides it/) 
Love is the plummet as well as the astrolabe of God's mys- 
teries, and the pure in heart can see far down into the depths 
of the divine justice, to catch a glimpse, not indeed of the 
details of the cosmic process, but at least of its principle and 
nature. These insights permit them to say, with Juliana of 
Norwich, that all shall be well, that, in spite of time, all is well, 
and that the problem of evil has its solution in the eternity, 



GOD IS NOT MOCKED 275 

which men can, if they so desire, experience, but can never 
describe. 

But, you urge, if men sin from the necessity of their nature, they 
are excusable; you do not explain, however, what you would 
infer from this fact. Is it perhaps that God will be prevented 
from growing angry with them ? Or is it rather that they have 
deserved that blessedness which consists in the knowledge and 
love of God ? If you mean the former, I altogether agree that 
God does not grow angry and that all things happen by his 
decree. But I deny that, for this reason, all men ought to be 
happy. Surely men may be excusable and nevertheless miss 
happiness, and be tormented in many ways. A horse is excusable 
for being a horse and not a man ; but nevertheless he must needs 
be a horse and not a man. One who goes mad from the bite of a 
dog is excusable; yet it is right that he should die of suffocation. 
So, too, he who cannot rule his passions, nor hold them in check 
out of respect for the law, while he may be excusable on the 
ground of weakness, is incapable of enjoying conformity of spirit 
and knowledge and love of God; and he is lost inevitably. 

Spinoza 

Horizontally and vertically, in physical and temperamental 
kind as well as in degree of inborn ability and native goodness, 
human beings differ profoundly one from another. Why ? To 
what end and for what past causes ? * Master, who did sin, this 
man or his parents, that he was born blind?' Jesus answered, 
''Neither hath this man sinned nor his parents, but that the 
works of God should be made manifest in him. 5 The man of 
science, on the contrary, would say that the responsibility 
rested with the parents who had caused the blindness of their 
child either by having the wrong kind of genes, or by con- 
tracting some avoidable disease. Hindu or Buddhist believers 
in reincarnation according to the laws of karma (the destiny 
which, by their actions, individuals and groups of individuals 
impose upon themselves, one another and their descendants) 
would give another answer and say that, owing to what he had 



276 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

done in previous existences, the blind man had predestined 
himself to choose the sort of parents from whom he would 
have to inherit blindness. 

These three answers are not mutually incompatible. The 
parents are responsible for making the child what, by heredity 
and upbringing, he turns out to be. The soul or character 
incarnated in the child is of such a nature, owing to past 
behaviour, that it is forced to select those particular parents. 
And collaborating with the material and efficient causes is the 
final cause, the teleological pull from in front. This teleo- 
logical pull is a pull from the divine Ground of things acting 
upon that part of the timeless now, which a finite mind must 
regard as the future. Men sin and their parents sin ; but the 
works of God have to be manifested in every sentient being 
(either by exceptional ways, as in this case of supernormal 
healing, or in the ordinary course of events) have to be mani- 
fested again and again, with the infinite patience of eternity, 
until at last the creature makes itself fit for the perfect and 
consummate manifestation of unitive knowledge, of the state 
of 'not I, but God in me.' 

'Karma,' according to the Hindus, 'never dispels ignorance, 
being under the same category with it. Knowledge alone dispels 
ignorance, just as light alone dispels darkness.' 

In other words, the causal process takes place within time and 
cannot possibly result in deliverance from time. Such a deliver- 
ance can only be achieved as a consequence of the intervention 
of eternity in the temporal domain ; and eternity cannot inter- 
vene unless the individual will makes a creative act of self- 
denial, thus producing, as it were, a vacuum into which eternity 
can flow. To suppose that the causal process in time can of 
itself result in deliverance from time is like supposing that 
water will rise into a space from which the air has not been 
previously exhausted. 

The right relation between prayer and conduct is not that con- 



GOD IS NOT MOCKED 277 

duct is supremely important and prayer may help it, but that 
prayer is supremely important and conduct tests it. 

Archbishop Temple 

The aim and purpose of human life is the unitive knowledge 
of God. Among the indispensable means to that end is right 
conduct, and by the degree and kind of virtue achieved, the 
degree of liberating knowledge may be assessed and its quality 
evaluated. In a word, the tree is known by its fruits; God is 
not mocked. 

Religious beliefs and practices are certainly not the only 
factors determining the behaviour of a given society. But, no 
less certainly, they are among the determining factors. At 
least to some extent, the collective conduct of a nation is a test 
of the religion prevailing within it, a criterion by which we 
may legitimately judge the doctrinal validity of that religion 
and its practical efficiency in helping individuals to advance 
towards the goal of human existence. 

In die past the nations of Christendom persecuted in the 
name of their faith, fought religious wars and undertook cru- 
sades against infidels and heretics ; today they have ceased to 
be Christian in anything but name, and the only religion they 
profess is some brand of local idolatry, such as nationalism, 
state-worship, boss-worship and revolutionism. From these 
fruits of (among other things) historic Christianity, what infer- 
ences can we draw as to the nature of the tree ? The answer 
lias already been given in the section on 'Time and Eternity. 5 
If Christians used to be persecutors and are now no longer 
Christians, the reason is that the Perennial Philosophy incor- 
porated in their religion was overlaid by wrong beliefs that 
led inevitably, since God is never mocked, to wrong actions. 
These wrong beliefs had one element in common namely, an 
over- valuation of happenings in time and an under- valuation 
of the everlasting, timeless fact of eternity. Thus, belief in the 
supreme importance for salvation of remote historical events 
resulted in bloody disputes over the interpretation of the not 
very adequate and often conflicting records. And belief in the 



278 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

sacredness,nay, the actual divinity, of the ecclesiastico-politico- 
financial organizations, which developed after the fall of the 
Roman Empire, not only added bitterness to the all too human 
struggles for their control, but served to rationalize and 'justify 
the worst excesses of those who fought for place, wealth and 
power within and through the Church. But this is not the 
whole story. The same over-valuation of events in time, 
which once caused Christians to persecute and fight religious 
wars, led at last to a widespread indifference to a religion that, 
in spite of everything, was still in part preoccupied with eter- 
nity. But nature abhors a vacuum, and into the yawning void 
of this indifference there flowed the tide of political idolatry. 
The practical consequences of such idolatry, as we now see, 
are total war, revolution and tyranny. 

Meanwhile, on the credit side of the balance sheet, we find 
such items as the following : an immense increase in technical 
and governmental efficiency and an immense increase in scien- 
tific knowledge each of them a result of the general shift of 
Western man's attention from the eternal to the temporal 
order, first within the sphere of Christianity and then, inevi- 
tably, outside it. 



Chapter 



20 



TANTUM RELIGIO POTUIT SUADERE 
MALORUM 

Would you know whence it is that so many false spirits have 
appeared in the world, who have deceived themselves and others 
with false fire and false light, laying claim to information, illumin- 
ation and openings of the divine Life, particularly to do wonders 
under extraordinary calls from God ? It is this : they have turned 
to God without turning from themselves; would be alive to God 
before they are dead to their own nature. Now religion in the 
hands of self, or corrupt nature, serves only to discover vices 
of a worse kind than in nature left to itself. Hence are all 
the disorderly passions of religious men, which burn in a worse 
flame than passions only employed about worldly matters ; pride, 
self-exaltation, hatred and persecution, under a cloak of religious 
zeal, will sanctify actions which nature, left to itself, would be 
ashamed to own. 

William Law 



to God without turning from self the 
JL formula is absurdly simple; and yet, simple as it is, it 
explains all the follies and iniquities committed in the name of 
religion. Those who turn to God without turning from them- 
selves are tempted to evil in several characteristic and easily 
recognizable ways. They are tempted, first of all, to practise 
magical rites, by means of which they hope to compel God to 
answer their petitions and, in general, to serve their private or 
collective ends. All the ugly business of sacrifice, incantation 
and what Jesus called 'vain repetition' is a product of this wish 
to treat God as a means to indefinite self-aggrandizement, 
rather than as an end to be reached through total self-denial. 
Next, they are tempted to use the name of God to justify what 
they do in pursuit of place, power and wealth. And because 



280 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

they believe themselves to have divine justification for their 
actions, they proceed, with a good conscience, to perpetrate 
abominations, 'which nature, left to itself, would be ashamed 
to own.* Throughout recorded history an incredible sum of 
mischief has been done by ambitious idealists, self-deluded by 
their own verbiage and a lust for power into a conviction that 
they were acting for the highest good of their fellow-men. In 
the past, the justification for such wickedness was 'God' or 
'the Church,' or 'the True Faith'; today idealists kill and 
torture and exploit in the name of 'the Revolution,' 'the New 
Order,' 'the World of the Common Man,' or simply 'the 
Future.' Finally there are the temptations which arise when 
the falsely religious begin to acquire the powers which are the 
fruit of their pious and magical practices. For, let there be 
no mistake, sacrifice, incantation and 'vain repetition' actually 
do produce fruits, especially when practised in conjunction 
with physical austerities. Men who turn towards God without 
turning away from themselves do not, of course, reach God ; 
but if they devote themselves energetically enough to their 
pseudo-religion, they will get results. Some of these results 
are doubtless the product of auto-suggestion. (It was through 
'vain repetition' that Coue got his patients to cure themselves 
of their diseases.) Others are due, apparently, to that 'some- 
thing not ourselves' in the psychic medium that something 
which makes, not necessarily for righteousness, but always for 
power. Whether this something is a piece of second-hand 
objectivity, projected into the medium by the individual wor- 
shipper and his fellows and predecessors; whether it is a piece 
of first-hand objectivity, corresponding, on the psychic level, 
to the data of the material universe ; or whether it is a com- 
bination of both these things, it is impossible to determine. 
All that need be said in this place is that people who turn 
towards God without turning from themselves often seem to 
acquire a knack of getting their petitions answered and some- 
times develop considerable supernormal powers, such as those 
of psychic healing and extra-sensory perception. But, it may 
be asked : Is it necessarily a good thing to be able to get one's 



TANTUM RELIGIO POTUIT ... 281 

petitions answered in the way one wants them to be? And 
how far is it spiritually profitable to be possessed of these 
'miraculous' powers? These are questions which were con- 
sidered in the chapter on 'Prayer' and will be further discussed 
in the chapter on 'The Miraculous.' 

The Grand Augur, in his ceremonial robes, approached the 
shambles and thus addressed the pigs. 'How can you object to 
die? I shall fatten you for three months. I shall discipline my- 
self for ten days and fast for three. I shall strew fine grass and 
place you bodily upon a carved sacrificial dish. Does not this 
satisfy you?' 

Then, speaking from the pigs' point of view, he continued : 
'It is better perhaps, after all, to live on bran and escape from the 
shambles.' 

'But then,' he added, speaking from his own point of view, 
'to enjoy honour when alive, one would readily die on a war- 
shield or in the headsman's basket.' 

So he rejected the pigs' point of view and adopted his own 
point of view. In what sense, then, was he different from the 



pigs? 



Chuang Tqu 



Anyone who sacrifices anything but his own person or his own 
interests is on exactly the same level as Chuang Tzu's pigs. 
The pigs seek their own advantage inasmuch as they prefer life 
and bran to honour and the shambles; the sacrificers seek their 
own advantage inasmuch as they prefer the magical, God- 
constraining death of pigs to the death of their own passions 
and self-will. And what applies to sacrifice, applies equally to 
incantations, rituals and vain repetitions, when these are used 
(as they all too frequently are, even in the higher religions) as 
a form of compulsive magic. Rites and vain repetitions have a 
legitimate place in religion as aids to recollectedness, reminders 
of truth momentarily forgotten in the turmoil of worldly dis- 
tractions. When spoken or performed as a kind of magic, 
their use is either completely pointless; or else (and this is 



i8i THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

worse) it may have ego-enhancing results, which do not in 
any way contribute to the attainment of man's final, end. 



The vestments of Isis are variegated to represent the cosmos; 
that of Osiris is white, symbolizing the Intelligible Light beyond 
the cosmos. 

Plutarch 

So long as the symbol remains, in the worshipper's mind, firmly 
attached and instrumental to that which is symbolized, the use 
of such things as white and variegated vestments can do no 
harm. But if the symbol breaks loose, as it were, and becomes 
an end in itself, then we have, at the best, a futile aestheticism 
and sentimentality, at the worst a form of psychologically 
effective magic. 

All externals must yield to love ; for they are for the sake of love, 
and not love for them. 

Hans Denk 

Ceremonies in themselves are not sin; but whoever supposes 
that he can attain to life either by baptism or by partaking of 
bread is still in superstition. 

Hans Denk 

If you be always handling the letter of the Word, always licking 
the letter, always chewing upon that, what great thing do you ? 
No marvel you are such starvelings. 

John Everard 

While the Right Law still prevailed, innumerable were the con- 
verts who fathomed the depths of the Dharma by merely listen- 
ing to half a stanza or even to a single phrase of the Buddha's 
teaching. But as we come to the age of similitude and to these 
latter days of Buddhism, we are indeed far away from the Sage. 



TANTUM RELIGIO POTUIT .'. . 283 

People find themselves drowning in a sea of letters; they do not 
know how to get at the one substance which alone is truth. This 
was what caused the appearance of the Fathers (of Zen Bud- 
dhism) who, pointing directly at the human mind, told us to see 
here the ultimate ground of all things and thereby to attain 
Buddhahood. This is known as a special transmission outside 
the scriptural teaching. If one is endowed with superior talents 
or a special sharpness of mind, a gesture or a word will suffice to 
give one an immediate knowledge of the truth. Hence, since 
they were advocates of 'special transmission/ Ummon treated 
the (historical) Buddha with the utmost irreverence and Yakusan 
forbade his followers even to read the sutras. 

Zen is the name given to this branch of Buddhism, which 
keeps itself away from the Buddha. It is also called the mystical 
branch, because it does not adhere to the literal meaning of the 
sutras. It is for this reason that those who blindly follow the 
steps of Buddha are sure to deride Zen, while those who have no 
liking for the letter are naturally inclined towards the mystical 
approach. The followers of the two schools know how to shake 
the head at each other, but fail to realize that they are after all 
complementary. Is not Zen one of the six virtues of perfection ? 
If so, how can it conflict with the teachings of the Buddha? In 
my view, Zen is the outcome of the Buddha's teaching, and the 
mystical issues from the letters. There is no reason why a man 
should shun Zen because of the Buddha's teaching ; nor need we 
disregard the letters on account of the mystical teachings of Zen. 
. . . Students of scriptural Buddhism run the risk of becoming 
sticklers for the scriptures, the real meaning of which they fail to 
understand. By such men ultimate reality is never grasped, and 
for them Zen would mean salvation. Whereas those who study 
Zen are too apt to run into the habit of making empty talks and 
practising sophistry. They fail to understand the significance of 
letters. To save them, the study of Buddhist scriptures is recom- 
mended. It is only when these one-sided views are mutually 
corrected that there is a perfect appreciation of the Buddha's 
teaching. 

Chiang Chih-chi 



284 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

It would be hard to find a better summing up of the conclu- 
sions, to which any spiritually and psychologically realistic 
mind must sooner or later come, than the foregoing paragraphs 
written in the eleventh century by one of the masters of Zen 
Buddhism. 

The extract that follows is a moving protest against the 
crimes and follies perpetrated in the name of religion by those 
sixteenth-century Reformers who had turned to God without 
turning away from themselves and who were therefore far 
more keenly interested in the temporal aspects of historic 
Christianity the ecclesiastical organization, the logic-chop- 
ping, the letter of Scripture than in the Spirit who must be 
worshipped in spirit, the eternal Reality in the selfless know- 
ledge of whom stands man's eternal life. Its author was Sebas- 
tian Castellio, who was at one time Calvin's favourite disciple, 
but who parted company with his master when the latter 
burned Servetus for heresy against his own heresy. Fortun- 
ately Castellio was living in Basel when he made his plea for 
charity and common decency; penned in Geneva, it would 
have earned him torture and death. 

If you, illustrious Prince (the words were addressed to the Duke 
of Wiirtemberg) had informed your subjects that you were 
coming to visit them at an unnamed time, and had requested 
them to be prepared in white garments to meet you at your 
coming, what would you do if on arrival you should find that, 
instead of robing themselves in white, they had spent their time 
in violent debate about your person some insisting that you 
were in France, others that you were in Spain ; some declaring 
that you would come on horseback, others that you would come 
by chariot; some holding that you would come with great pomp 
and others that you would come without any train or following? 
And what especially would you say if they debated not only with 
words, but with blows of fist and sword strokes, and if some suc- 
ceeded in killing and destroying others who differed from them? 
'He will come on horseback/ *No, he will not; it will be by 
chariot/ 'You lie/ f I do not; you are the liar/ 'Take that' 



TANTUM RELIGIO POTUIT ... 285 

a blow with the fist. 'Take that' a sword-thrust through the 
body. Prince, what would you think of such citizens ? Christ 
asked us to put on the white robes of a pure and holy life ; but 
what occupies our thoughts? We dispute not only of the way 
to Christ, but of his relation to God the Father, of the Trinity, 
of predestination, of free will, of the nature of God, of the angels, 
of the condition of the soul after death of a multitude of 
matters that are not essential to salvation; matters, moreover, 
which can never be known until our hearts are pure; for they 
are things which must be spiritually perceived. 

Sebastian Castellio 

People always get what they ask for; the only trouble is that 
they never know, until they get it, what it actually is that they 
have asked for. Thus, Protestants might, if they had so desired, 
have followed the lead of Castellio and Denk ; but they pre- 
ferred Calvin and Luther preferred them because the doc- 
trines of justification by faith and of predestination were more 
exciting than those of the Perennial Philosophy. And not 
only more exciting, but also less exacting; for if they were 
true, one could be saved without going through that distasteful 
process of self-naughting, which is the necessary pre-condition 
of deliverance into the knowledge of eternal Reality. And not 
only less exacting, but also more satisfying to the intellectual's 
appetite for clear-cut formulae and the syllogistic demonstra- 
tions of abstract truths. Waiting on God is a bore; but what 
fun to argue, to score off opponents, to lose one's temper and 
call it 'righteous indignation,' and at last to pass from contro- 
versy to blows, from words to what St. Augustine so deli- 
ciously described as the 'benignant asperity' of persecution 
and punishment ! 

Choosing Luther and Calvin instead of the spiritual reformers 
who were their contemporaries, Protestant Europe got the kind 
of theology it liked. But it also got, along with other unantici- 
pated by-products, the Thirty Years War, capitalism and the 
first rudiments of modern Germany. 'If we wish,' Dean Inge 
has recently written, ' to find a scapegoat on whose shoulders 



286 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

we may lay the miseries which Germany has brought upon the 
world ... I am more and more convinced that the worst evil 
genius of that country is not Hitler or Bismarck or Frederick 
the Great, but Martin Luther. ... It (Lutheranism) worships a 
God who is neither just nor merciful. . . . The Law of Nature, 
which ought to be the court of appeal against unjust authority, 
is identified (by Luther) with the existing order of society, to 
which absolute obedience is due.' And so on. Right belief is 
the first branch of the Eightfold Path leading to deliverance; 
the root and primal cause of bondage is wrong belief, or ignor- 
ance an ignorance, let us remember, which is never com- 
pletely invincible, but always, in the last analysis, a matter of 
will. If we don't know, it is because we find it more con- 
venient not to know. Original ignorance is the same thing as 
original sin. 



Chapter 21 
IDOLATRY 

TO educated persons the more primitive kinds of idolatry 
have ceased to be attractive. They find it easy to resist the 
temptation to believe that particular natural objects are gods, or 
that certain symbols and images are the very forms of divine 
entities and as such must be worshipped and propitiated. True, 
much fetishistic superstition survives even today. But though 
it survives, it is not considered respectable. Like drinking and 
prostitution, the primitive forms of idolatry are tolerated, but 
not approved. Their place in the accredited hierarchy of values 
is among the lowest. 

How different is the case with the developed and more 
modern forms of idolatry ! These have achieved not merely 
survival, but the highest degree of respectability. They are 
recommended by men of science as an up-to-date substitute for 
genuine religion and by many professional religious teachers 
are equated with the worship of God. All this may be de- 
plorable ; but it is not in the least surprising. Our education 
disparages the more primitive forms of idolatry; but at the 
same time it disparages, or at the best it ignores, the Perennial 
Philosophy and the practice of spirituality. In place of mumbo- 
jumbo at the bottom and of the immanent and transcendent 
Godhead at the top, it sets up, as objects of admiration, faith 
and worship, a pantheon of strictly human ideas and ideals. 
In academic circles and among those who have been subjected 
to higher education, there are few fetishists and few devout 
contemplatives ; but the enthusiastic devotees of some form 
of political or social idolatry are as common as blackberries. 
Significantly enough, I have observed, when making use of 
university libraries, that books on spiritual religion were taken 
out much less frequently than was the case in public libraries, 

287 



288 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

patronized in the main by men and women who had not 
enjoyed the advantages, or suffered under the handicaps, of 
prolonged academic instruction. 

The many varieties of higher idolatry may be classed under 
three main heads : technological, political and moral. Techno- 
logical idolatry is the most ingenuous and primitive of the 
three; for its devotees, like those of the lower idolatry, believe 
that their redemption and liberation depend upon material 
objects in this case gadgets. Technological idolatry is the 
religion whose doctrines are promulgated, explicitly or by 
implication, in the advertisement pages of our newspapers and 
magazines the source, we may add parenthetically, from 
which millions of men, women and children in the capitalistic 
countries derive their working philosophy of life. In Soviet 
Russia too, technological idolatry was strenuously preached, 
becoming, during the years of that country's industrialization, 
a kind of state religion. So whole-hearted is the modern faith 
in technological idols that (despite all the lessons of mechanized 
warfare) it is impossible to discover in the popular thinking of 
our time any trace of the ancient and profoundly realistic doc- 
trine of hubris and inevitable nemesis. There is a very general 
belief that, where gadgets are concerned, we can get something 
for nothing can enjoy all the advantages of an elaborate, top- 
heavy and constantly advancing technology without having to 
pay for them by any compensating disadvantages. 

Only a little less ingenuous are the political idolaters. For 
the worship of redemptive gadgets these have substituted the 
worship of redemptive social and economic organizations. Im- 
pose the right kind of organizations upon human beings, and 
all their problems, from sin and unhappiness to nationalism 
and war, will automatically disappear. Most political idolaters 
are also technological idolaters and this in spite of the fact 
that the two pseudo-religions are finally incompatible, since 
technological progress at its present rate makes nonsense of 
any political blue-print, however ingeniously drawn, within a 
matter, not of generations, but of years and sometimes even of 
months. Further, the human being is, unfortunately, a crea- 



IDOLATRY 289 

ture endowed with free will ; and if, for any reason, individuals 
do not choose to make it work, even the best organization will 
not produce the results it was intended to produce. 

The moral idolaters are realists inasmuch as they see that 
gadgets and organizations are not enough to guarantee the 
triumph of virtue and the increase of happiness, and that the 
individuals who compose societies and use machines are the 
arbiters who finally determine whether there shall be decency 
in personal relationship, order or disorder in society. Material 
and organizational instruments are indispensable, and a good 
tool is preferable to a bad one. But in listless or malicious 
hands the finest instrument is either useless or a means to 
evil. 

The moralists cease to be realistic and commit idolatry inas- 
much as they worship, not God, but their own ethical ideals, 
inasmuch as they treat virtue as an end in itself and not as the 
necessary condition of the knowledge and love of God a 
knowledge and love without which that virtue will never be 
made perfect or even socially effective. 

What follows is an extract from a very remarkable letter 
written in 1836 by Thomas Arnold to his old pupil and future 
biographer, A. P. Stanley. 'Fanaticism is idolatry; and it has 
the moral evil of idolatry in it; that is, a fanatic worships 
something which is the creation of his own desire, and thus 
even his self-devotion in support of it is only an apparent self- 
devotion; for in fact it is making the parts of his nature or his 
mind, which he least values, offer sacrifice to that which he 
most values. The moral fault, as it appears to me, is the 
idolatry the setting up of some idea which is most kindred 
to our own minds, and the putting it in the place of Christ, 
who alone cannot be made an idol and inspire idolatry, because 
He combines all ideas of perfection and exhibits them in their 
just harmony and combination. Now in my own mind, by 
its natural tendency that is, taking my mind at its best 
truth and justice would be the idols I should follow; and they 
would be idols, for they would not supply all the food which 
the mind wants, and whilst worshipping them, reverence and 



290 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

humility and tenderness might very likely be forgotten. But 
Christ Himself includes at once truth and justice and all these 
other qualities too. . . . Narrow-mindedness tends to wicked- 
ness, because it does not extend its watchfulness to every part 
of our moral nature, and the neglect fosters wickedness in the 
parts so neglected.' 

As a piece of psychological analysis this is admirable. Its 
only defect is one of omission ; for it neglects to take into 
account those influxes from the eternal order into the temporal, 
which are called grace or inspiration. Grace and inspiration 
are given when, and to the extent to which, a human being 
gives up self-will and abandons himself, moment by moment, 
through constant recollectedness and non-attachment, to the 
will of God. As well as the animal and spiritual graces, whose 
source is the divine Nature of Things, there are human pseudo- 
graces such as, for example, the accessions of strength and 
virtue that follow self-devotion to some form of political or 
moral idolatry. To distinguish the true grace from the false 
is often difficult; but as time and circumstances reveal the full 
extent of their consequences on the soul, discrimination be- 
comes possible even to observers having no special gifts of 
insight. Where the grace is genuinely 'supernatural,' an 
amelioration in one aspect of the total personality is not paid 
for by atrophy or deterioration elsewhere. The virtue which 
is accompanied and perfected by the love and knowledge of 
God is something quite different from the 'righteousness of 
the scribes and Pharisees' which, for Christ, was among the 
worst of moral evils. Hardness, fanaticism, uncharitableness 
and spiritual pride these are the ordinary by-products of a 
course of stoical self-improvement by means of personal effort, 
either unassisted or, if assisted, seconded only by the pseudo- 
graces which are given when the individual devotes himself to 
the achievement of an end which is not his true end, when the 
goal is not God, but merely a magnified projection of his own 
favourite ideas or moral excellences. The idolatrous worship 
of ethical values in and for themselves defeats its own object 



IDOLATRY 291 

and defeats it not only because, as Arnold insists, there is a lack 
of all-round development, but also and above all because even 
the highest forms of moral idolatry are God-eclipsing and 
therefore guarantee the idolater against the enlightening and 
liberating knowledge of Reality. 



Chapter 22 
EMOTIONALISM, 

You have spent all your life in the belief that you are wholly 
devoted to others, and never self-seeking. Nothing so feeds self- 
conceit as this sort of internal testimony that one is quite free 
from self-love, and always generously devoted to one's neigh- 
bours. But all this devotion that seems to be for others is really 
for yourself. Your self-love reaches to the point of perpetual 
self-congratulation that you are free from it; all your sensitive- 
ness is lest you might not be fully satisfied with self; this is at the 
root of all your scruples. It is the T which makes you so keen 
and sensitive. You want God as well as man to be always satis- 
fied with you, and you want to be satisfied with yourself in all 
your dealings with God. 

Besides, you are not accustomed to be contented with a simple 
good will your self-love wants a lively emotion, a reassuring 
pleasure, some kind of charm or excitement. You are too much 
used to be guided by imagination and to suppose that your mind 
and will are inactive, unless you are conscious of their workings. 
And thus you are dependent upon a kind of excitement similar 
to that which the passions arouse, or theatrical representations. 
By dint of refinement you fall into the opposite extreme a real 
coarseness of imagination. Nothing is more opposed, not only 
to the life of faith, but also to true wisdom. There is no more 
dangerous illusion than the fancies by which people try to avoid 
illusion. It is imagination which leads us astray; and the cer- 
tainty which we seek through imagination, feeling, and taste, is 
one of the most dangerous sources from which fanaticism springs. 
This is the gulf of vanity and corruption which God would make 
you discover in your heart; you must look upon it with the calm 
and simplicity belonging to true humility. It is mere self-love to 
be inconsolable at seeing one's own imperfections ; but to stand 
face to face with them, neither flattering nor tolerating them, 

292 



EMOTIONALISM 293 

seeking to correct oneself without becoming pettish this is to 
desire what is good for its own sake, and for God's. 

Fdnelon 

A LETTER from the Archbishop of Cambrai what an 
JT1. event, what a signal honour ! Aiid yet it must have been 
with a certain trepidation that one broke the emblazoned seal. 
To ask for advice and a frank opinion of oneself from a man 
who combines the character of a saint with the talents of a 
Marcel Proust, is to ask for the severest kind of shock to one's 
self-esteem. And duly, in the most exquisitely lucid prose, the 
shock would be administered and, along with the shock, the 
spiritual antidote to its excruciating consequences. Fenelon 
never hesitated to disintegrate a correspondent's complacent 
ego ; but the disintegration was always performed with a view 
to reintegration on a higher, non-egotistic level. 

This particular letter is not only an admirable piece of 
character analysis; it also contains some very interesting re- 
marks on the subject of emotional excitement in its relation 
to the life of the spirit. 

The phrase, 'religion of experience,' has two distinct and 
mutually incompatible meanings. There is the 'experience' 
of which the Perennial Philosophy treats the direct appre- 
hension of the divine Ground in an act of intuition possible, 
in its fullness, only to the selflessly pure in heart. And there 
is the 'experience' induced by revivalist sermons, impressive 
ceremonials, or the deliberate efforts of one's own imagination. 
This 'experience' is a state of emotional excitement an excite- 
ment which may be mild and enduring or brief and epileptic- 
ally violent, which is sometimes exultant in tone and sometimes 
despairing, which expresses itself here in song and dance, there 
in uncontrollable weeping. But emotional excitement, what- 
ever its cause and whatever its nature, is always excitement of 
that individualized self, which must be died to by anyone who 
aspires to live to divine Reality. 'Experience' as emotion 
about God (the highest form of this kind of excitement) is 
incompatible with 'experience' as immediate awareness of God 



294 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

by a pure heart which has mortified even its most exalted 
emotions. That is why Fenelon, in the foregoing extract, 
insists upon the need for 'calm and simplicity/ why St. Fran- 
ois de Sales is never tired of preaching the serenity which he 
himself so consistently practised, why all the Buddhist scrip- 
tures harp on tranquillity of mind as a necessary condition of 
deliverance. The peace that passes all understanding is one of 
the fruits of the spirit. But there is also the peace that does not 
pass understanding, the humbler peace of emotional self-control 
and self-denial; this is not a fruit of the spirit, but rather one 
of its indispensable roots. 

The imperfect destroy true devotion, because they seek sensible 
sweetness in prayer. 

St. John of the Cross 

The fly that touches honey cannot use its wings ; so the soul that 
clings to spiritual sweetness ruins its freedom and hinders 
contemplation. 

St. John of the Cross 

What is true of the sweet emotions is equally true of the bitter. 
For as some people enjoy bad health, so others enjoy a bad 
conscience. Repentance is metanoia, or 'change of mind'; 
and without it there cannot be even a beginning of the spiritual 
life for the life of the spirit is incompatible with the life of 
that 'old man,' whose acts, whose thoughts, whose very exist- 
ence are the obstructing evils which have to be repented. This 
necessary change of mind is normally accompanied by sorrow 
and self-loathing. But these emotions are not to be persisted 
in and must never be allowed to become a settled habit of 
remorse. In Middle English 'remorse' is rendered, with a 
literalness which to modern readers is at once startling and 
stimulating, as 'again-bite.' In this cannibalistic encounter, 
who bites whom ? Observation and self-analysis provide the 
answer : the creditable aspects of the self bite the discreditable 
and are themselves bitten, receiving wounds that fester with 



EMOTIONALISM 295 

incurable shame and despair. But, in Fenelon's words, 'it is 
mere self-love to be inconsolable at seeing one's own imper- 
fections.' Self-reproach is painful; but the very pain is a 
reassuring proof that the self is still intact; so long as attention 
is fixed on the delinquent ego, it cannot be fixed upon God 
and the ego (which lives upon attention and dies only when 
that sustenance is withheld) cannot be dissolved in the divine 
Light. 

Eschew as though it were a hell the consideration of yourself and 
your offences. No one should ever think of these things except 
to humiliate himself and love Our Lord. It is enough to regard 
yourself in general as a sinner, even as there are many saints in 
heaven who were such. 

Charles de Condren 

Faults will turn to good, provided we use them to our own 
humiliation, without slackening in the effort to correct ourselves. 
Discouragement serves no possible purpose; it is simply the 
despair of wounded self-love. The real way of profiting by the 
humiliation of one's own faults is to face them in their true 
hideousness, without ceasing to hope in God, while hoping 
nothing from self. 

Fenelon 

Came she (Mary Magdalene) down from the height of her desire 
for God into the depth of her sinful life, and searched in the foul 
stinking fen and dunghill of her soul ? Nay, surely she did not 
do so. And why ? Because God let her know by His grace in her 
soul that she should never so bring it about. For so might she 
sooner have raised in herself an ableness to have often sinned 
than have purchased by that work any plain forgiveness of all 
her sins. 

The Cloud of Unknowing 

In the light of what has been said above, we can understand 
the peculiar spiritual dangers by which every kind of pre- 



296 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

dominantly emotional religion is always menaced. A hell-fire 
faith that uses the theatrical techniques of revivalism in order 
to stimulate remorse and induce the crisis of sudden conver- 
sion; a saviour cult that is for ever stirring up what St. 
Bernard calls the amor carnalis or fleshly love of the Avatar 
and personal God; a ritualistic mystery-religion that gener- 
ates high feelings of awe and reverence and aesthetic ecstasy 
by means of its sacraments and ceremonials, its music and its 
incense, its numinous darknesses and sacred lights in its own 
special way, each one of these runs the risk of becoming a form 
of psychological idolatry, in which God is identified with the 
ego's affective attitude towards God and finally the emotion 
becomes an end in itself, to be eagerly sought after and wor- 
shipped, as the addicts of a drug spend life in the pursuit of 
their artificial paradise. All this is obvious enough. But it 
is no less obvious that religions that make no appeal to the 
emotions have very few adherents. Moreover, when pseudo- 
religions with a strong emotional appeal make their appear- 
ance, they immediately win millions of enthusiastic devotees 
from among the masses to whom the real religions have ceased 
to have a meaning or to be a comfort. But whereas no ad- 
herent of a pseudo-religion (such as one of our current political 
idolatries, compounded of nationalism and revolutionism) can 
possibly go forward into the way of genuine spirituality, such 
a way always remains open to the adherents of even the most 
highly emotionalized varieties of genuine religion. Those who 
have actually followed this way to its end in the unitive know- 
ledge of the divine Ground constitute a very small minority of 
the total. Many are called ; but, since few choose to be chosen, 
few are chosen. The rest, say the oriental exponents of the 
Perennial Philosophy, earn themselves another chance, in cir- 
cumstances more or less propitious according to their deserts, 
to take the cosmic intelligence test. If they are 'saved,' their 
incomplete and undefinitive deliverance is into some paradisal 
state of freer personal existence, from which (directly or 
through further incarnations) they may go on to the final 
release into eternity. If they are * lost,' their ' hell ' is a temporal 



EMOTIONALISM 297 

and temporary condition of thicker darkness and more oppres- 
sive bondage to self-will, the root and principle of all evil. 

We see, then, that if it is persisted in, the way of emotional 
religion may lead, indeed, to a great good, but not to the 
greatest. But the emotional way opens into the way of unitive 
knowledge, and those who care to go on in this other way are 
well prepared for their task if they have used the emotional 
approach without succumbing to the temptations 'which have 
beset them on the way. Only the perfectly selfless and enlight- 
ened can do good that does not, in some way or other, have to 
be paid for by actual or potential evils. The religious systems 
of the world have been built up, in the main, by men and 
women who were not completely selfless or enlightened. 
Hence all religions have had their dark and even frightful 
aspects, while the good they do is rarely gratuitous, but must, 
in most cases, be paid for, either on the nail or by instalments. 
The emotion-rousing doctrines and practices, which play so 
important a part in all the world's organized religions, are no 
exception to this rule. They do good, but not gratuitously. 
The price paid varies according to the nature of the individual 
worshippers. Some of these choose to wallow in emotionalism 
and, becoming idolaters of feeling, pay for the good of their 
religion by a spiritual evil that may actually outweigh that 
good. Others resist the temptation to self-enhancement and 
go forward to the mortification of self, including the self's 
emotional side, and to the worship of God rather than of their 
own feelings and fancies about God. The further they go in 
this direction, the less they have to pay for the good which 
emotionalism brought them and which, but for emotionalism, 
most of them might never have had. 



Chapter 23 
THE MIRACULOUS 

Revelations are the aberration of faith ; they are an amusement 
that spoils simplicity in relation to God, that embarrasses the soul 
and makes it swerve from its directness in relation to God. They 
distract the soul and occupy it with other things than God. 
Special illuminations, auditions, prophecies and the rest are 
marks of weakness in a soul that cannot support the assaults of 
temptation or of anxiety about the future and God's judgment 
upon it. Prophecies are also marks of creaturely curiosity in a 
soul to whom God is indulgent and to whom, as a father to his 
importunate child, he gives a few trifling sweetmeats to satisfy 
its appetite. 

/. /. Otier 

The slightest degree of sanctifying grace is superior to a miracle, 
which is supernatural only by reason of its cause, by its mode of 
production (quoad modum), not by its intimate reality; the life 
restored to a corpse is only the natural life, low indeed in com- 
parison with that of grace. 

R. Garngou-Lagrange 

Can you walk on water? You have done no better than a straw. 
Can you fly in the air ? You have done no better than a blue- 
bottle. Conquer your heart; then you may become somebody. 

Ansari of Herat 

TH E abnormal bodily states, by which the immediate aware- 
ness of the divine Ground is often accompanied, are not, of 
course, essential parts of that experience. Many mystics, 
indeed, deplored such things as being signs, not of divine 
grace, but of the body's weakness. To levitate, to go into 
trance, to lose the use of one's senses in De Condren's words, 

298 



THE MIRACULOUS 299 

this is 'to receive the effects of God and his holy communica- 
tions in a very animal and carnal way/ 

"One ounce of sanctifying grace,' he (St. Frangois de Sales) used 
to say, *is worth more than a hundredweight of those graces 
which theologians call "gratuitous," among which is the gift of 
miracles. It is possible to receive such gifts and yet to be in 
mortal sin ; nor are they necessary to salvation.' 

Jean Pierre Camus 

The Sufis regard miracles as Veils' intervening between the 
soul and God. The masters of Hindu spirituality urge their 
disciples to pay no attention to the siddhis, or psychic powers, 
which may come to them unsought, as a by-product of one- 
pointed contemplation. The cultivation of these powers, they 
warn, distracts the soul from Reality and sets up insurmount- 
able obstacles in the way of enlightenment and deliverance. 
A similar attitude is taken by the best Buddhist teachers, and 
in one of the Pali scriptures there is an anecdote recording the 
Buddha's own characteristically dry comment on a prodigious 
feat of levitation performed by one of his disciples. 'This,' 
he said, 'will not conduce to the conversion of the uncon- 
verted, nor to the advantage of the converted.' Then he went 
back to talking about deliverance. 

Because they know nothing of spirituality and regard the 
material world and their hypotheses about it as supremely 
significant, rationalists are anxious to convince themselves and 
others that miracles do not and cannot happen. Because they 
have had experience of the spiritual life and its by-products, 
the exponents of the Perennial Philosophy are convinced that 
miracles do happen, but regard them as things of little import- 
ance, and that mainly negative and anti-spiritual. 

The miracles which at present are in greatest demand, and 
of which there is the steadiest supply, are those of psychic 
healing. In what circumstances and to what extent the power 
of psychic healing should be used has been clearly indicated 
in the Gospel: 'Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the 
palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take 



300 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

up thy bed and walk?' If one can * forgive sins,' one can 
safely use the gift of healing. But the forgiving of sins is 
possible, in its fullness, only to those who * speak with author- 
ity,' in virtue of being selfless channels of the divine Spirit. 
To these theocentric saints the ordinary, unregenerate human 
being reacts with a mixture of love and awe longing to be 
close to them and yet constrained by their very holiness to say, 
'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man/ . Such holiness makes 
holy to the extent that the sins of those who approach it are 
forgiven and they are enabled to make a new start, to face the 
consequences of their past wrong-doings (for of course the 
consequences remain) in a new spirit that makes it possible for 
them to neutralize the evil or turn it into positive good. A 
less perfect kind of forgiveness can be bestowed by those who 
are not themselves outstandingly holy, but who speak with the 
delegated authority of an institution which the sinner believes 
to be in some way a channel of supernatural grace. In this case 
the contact between unregenerate soul and divine Spirit is not 
direct, but is mediated through the sinner's imagination. 

Those who are holy in virtue of being selfless channels of 
the Spirit may practise psychic healing with perfect safety; 
for they will know which of the sick are ready to accept for- 
giveness along with the mere miracle of a bodily cure. Those 
who are not holy, but who can forgive sins in virtue of belong- 
ing to an institution which is believed to be a channel of grace, 
may also practise healing with a fair confidence that they will 
not do more harm than good. But unfortunately the knack of 
psychic healing seems in some persons to be inborn, while 
others can acquire it without acquiring the smallest degree of 
holiness. ('It is possible to receive such graces and yet be in 
mortal sin.') Such persons will use their knack indiscrimin- 
ately, either to show off or for profit. Often they produce 
spectacular cures but, lacking the power to forgive sins or 
even to understand the psychological correlates, conditions or 
causes of the symptoms they have so miraculously dispelled, 
they leave a soul empty, swept and garnished against the 
coming of seven other devils worse than the first. 



Chapter 24 
RITUAL, SYMBOL, SACRAMENT 

ASWALA: Yajnavalkya, since everything connected with the 
sacrifice is pervaded by death and is subject to death, by what 
means can the sacrificer overcome death ? 

YAJNAVALKYA : By the knowledge of the identity between the 
sacrificer, the fire and the ritual word. For the ritual word is 
indeed the sacrificer, and the ritual word is the fire, and the fire, 
which is one with Brahman, is the sacrificer. This knowledge 
leads to liberation. This knowledge leads one beyond death. 

Brtkad Aranyaka Upanlshad 

IN other words, rites, sacraments, and ceremonials are valu- 
able to the extent that they remind those who take part in 
them of the true Nature of Things, remind them of what ought 
to be and (if only they would be docile to the immanent and 
transcendent Spirit) of what actually might be their own rela- 
tion to the world and its divine Ground. Theoretically any 
ritual or sacrament is as good as any other ritual or sacrament, 
provided always that the object symbolized be in fact some 
aspect of divine Reality and that the relation between symbol 
and fact be clearly defined and constant. In the same way, one 
language is theoretically as good as another. Human experi- 
ence can be thought about as effectively in Chinese as in 
English or French. But in practice Chinese is the best lan- 
guage for those brought up in China, English for those brought 
up in England and French for those brought up in France. 
It is, of course, much easier to learn the order of a rite and to 
understand its doctrinal significance than to master the intri- 
cacies of a foreign language. Nevertheless what has been said 
of language is true, in large measure, of religious ritual. For 

persons who have been brought up to think of God by means 

soi 



302 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

of one set of symbols, it is very hard to think of Him in terms 
of other and, in their eyes, unhallowed sets of words, cere- 
monies and images. 

The Lord Buddha then warned Subhuti, saying, ' Subhuti, do not 
think that the Tathagata ever considers in his own mind : I ought 
to enunciate a system of teaching for the elucidation of the 
Dharma. You should never cherish such a thought. And why ? 
Because if any disciple harboured such a thought he would not 
only be misunderstanding the Tathagata's teaching, but he would 
be slandering him as well. Moreover, the expression "a system 
of teaching" has no meaning; for Truth (in the sense of Reality) 
cannot be cut up into pieces and arranged into a system. The 
words can only be used as a figure of speech/ 

Diamond Sutra 

But for all their inadequacy and their radical unlikeness to the 
facts to which they refer, words remain the most reliable and 
accurate of our symbols. Whenever we want to have a precise 
report of facts or ideas, we must resort to words. A ceremony, 
a carved or painted image, may convey more meanings and 
overtones of meaning in a smaller compass and with greater 
vividness than can a verbal formula ; but it is liable to convey 
them in a form that is much more vague and indefinite. One 
often meets, in modern literature, with the notion that medi- 
aeval churches were the architectural, sculptural and pictorial 
equivalents of a theological summa^ and that mediaeval wor- 
shippers who admired the works of art around them were 
thereby enlightened on the subject of doctrine. This view was 
evidently not shared by the more earnest churchmen of the 
Middle Ages. Coulton cites the utterances of preachers who 
complained that congregations were getting entirely false ideas 
of Catholicism by looking at the pictures in the churches 
instead of listening to sermons. (Similarly, in our own day the 
Catholic Indians of Central America have evolved the wildest 
heresies by brooding on the carved and painted symbols with 
which the Conquistadors filled their churches.) St. Bernard's 



RITUAL, SYMBOL, SACRAMENT 303 

objection to the richness of Cluniac architecture, sculpture and 
ceremonial was motivated by intellectual as well as strictly 
moral considerations. 'So great and marvellous a variety of 
divers forms meets the eye that one is tempted to read in the 
marbles rather than in the books, to pass the whole day looking 
at these carvings one after another rather than in meditating 
on the law of God/ It is in imageless contemplation that the 
soul comes to the unitive knowledge of Reality ; consequently, 
for those who, like St. Bernard and his Cistercians, are really 
concerned to achieve man's final end, the fewer distracting 
symbols the better. 

Most men worship the gods because they want success in their 
worldly undertakings. This kind of material success can be 
gained very quickly (by such worship), here on earth. 

Bhagavad-Gita 

Among those who are purified by their good deeds there are four 
kinds of men who worship Me : the world-weary, the seeker for 
knowledge, the seeker for happiness and the man of spiritual 
discrimination. The man of discrimination is the highest of 
these. He is continually united with Me. He devotes himself to 
Me always, and to no other. For I am very dear to that man, and 
he to Me. 

Certainly, all these are noble; 
But the man of discrimination 
I see as my very Self. 
For he alone loves Me 
Because I am Myself, 
The last and only goal 
Of his devoted heart. 

Through many a long life 
His discrimination ripens; 
He makes Me his refuge, 
Knows that Brahman is all. 
How rare are such great ones ! 



304 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

Men whose discrimination has been blunted by worldly desires, 
establish this or that ritual or cult and resort to various deities, 
according to the impulse of their inborn nature. But no matter 
what deity a devotee chooses to worship, if he has faith, I make 
his faith unwavering. Endowed with the faith I give him, he 
worships that deity and gets from it everything he prays for. In 
reality, I alone am the giver. 

But these men of small understanding pray only for what is 
transient and perishable. The worshippers of the devas will go 
to the devas. Those who worship Me will come to Me. 

Bhagavad-Gita 

If sacramental rites are constantly repeated in a spirit of faith 
and devotion, a more or less enduring effect is produced in the 
psychic medium, in which individual minds bathe and from 
which they have, so to speak, been crystallized out into per- 
sonalities more or less fully developed, according to the more 
or less perfect development of the bodies with which they are 
associated. (Of this psychic medium an eminent contempo- 
rary philosopher, Dr. C. D. Broad, has written, in an essay 
on telepathy contributed to the Proceedings of the Society for 
Psychical Research^ as follows : 'We must therefore consider 
seriously the possibility that a person's experience initiates 
more or less permanent modifications of structure or process 
in something which is neither his mind nor his brain. There 
is no reason to suppose that this substratum would be any- 
thing to which possessive adjectives, such as "mine" and 
"yours" and "his," could properly be applied, as they can 
be to minds and animated bodies. . . . Modifications which have 
been produced in the substratum by certain of M's past experi- 
ences are activated by N's present experiences or interests, and 
they become cause factors in producing or modifying N's later 
experiences.') Within this psychic medium or non-personal 
substratum of individual minds, something which we may think 
of metaphorically as a vortex persists as an independent exist- 
ence, possessing its own derived and secondary objectivity, so 
that, wherever the rites are performed, those whose faith and 



RITUAL, SYMBOL, SACRAMENT 305 

devotion are sufficiently intense actually discover something 
'out there, 5 as distinct from the subjective something in their 
own imaginations. And so long as this projected psychic 
entity is nourished by the faith and love of its worshippers, it 
will possess, not merely objectivity, but power to get people's 
prayers answered. Ultimately, of course, 'I alone am the 
giver,' in the sense that all this happens in accordance with the 
divine laws governing the universe in its psychic and spiritual, 
no less than in its material, aspects. Nevertheless, the devas 
(those imperfect forms under which, because of their own 
voluntary ignorance, men worship the divine Ground) may be 
thought of as relatively independent powers. The primitive 
notion that the gods feed on the sacrifices made to them is 
simply the crude expression of a profound truth. When their 
worship falls off, when faith and devotion lose their intensity, 
the devas sicken and finally die. Europe is full of old shrines, 
whbse saints and Virgins and relics have lost the power and 
the second-hand psychic objectivity which they once possessed. 
Thus, when Chaucer lived and wrote, the deva called Thomas 
Becket was giving to any Canterbury pilgrim, who had suffi- 
cient faith, all the boons he could ask for. This once-powerful 
deity is now stone-dead ; but there are still certain churches in 
the West, certain mosques and temples in the East, where even 
the most irreligious and un-psychic tourist cannot fail to be 
aware of some intensely * numinous' presence. It would, of 
course, be a mistake to imagine that this presence is the presence 
of that God who is a Spirit and must be worshipped in spirit; 
it is rather the psychic presence of men's thoughts and feelings 
about the particular, limited form of God, to which they have 
resorted 'according to the impulse of their inborn nature' 
thoughts and feelings projected into objectivity and haunting 
the sacred place in the same way as thoughts and feelings of 
another kind, but of equal intensity, haunt the scenes of some 
past suffering or crime. The presence in these consecrated 
buildings, the presence evoked by the performance of tradi- 
tional rites, the presence inherent in a sacramental object, name 
or formula all these are real presences, but real presences, not 



306 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

of God or the Avatar, but of something which, though it may 
reflect the ^divine Reality, is yet less and other than it. 

Dulcis Jesu memoria 
dans vera cordi gaudia : 
sed super met et omnia 
ejus dulcis praesentia. 

'Sweet is the memory of Jesus, giving true joys to the heart; 
but sweeter beyond honey and all else is his presence.' This 
opening stanza of the famous twelfth-century hymn sum- 
marizes in fifteen words the relations subsisting between ritual 
and real presence and the character of the worshipper's reaction 
to each. Systematically cultivated memoria (a thing in itself 
full of sweetness) first contributes to the evocation, then results, 
for certain souls, in the immediate apprehension of praesentia, 
which brings with it joys of a totally different and higher kind. 
This presence (whose projected objectivity is occasionally so 
complete as to be apprehensible not merely by the devout 
worshipper, but by more or less indifferent outsiders) is always 
that of tne divine being who has been previously remembered, 
Jesus here, Krishna or Amitabha Buddha there. 

The value of this practice (repetition of the name of Amitabha 
Buddha) is this. So long as one person practises his method (of 
spirituality) and another practises a different method, they coun- 
terbalance one another and their meeting is just the same as their 
not meeting. Whereas if two persons practise the same method, 
their mindfulness tends to become deeper and deeper, and they 
tend to remember each other and to develop affinities for each 
other, life after life. Moreover, whoever recites the name of 
Amitabha Buddha, whether in the present time or in future time, 
will surely see the Buddha Amitabha and never become separated 
from him. By reason of that association, just as one associating 
with a maker of perfumes becomes permeated with the same per- 
fumes, so he will become perfumed by Amitabha's compassion, 



RITUAL, SYMBOL, SACRAMENT 307 

and will become enlightened without resort to any other ex- 
pedient means. 

Surangama Sutra 

We see then that intense faith and devotion, coupled with 
perseverance by many persons in the same forms of worship or 
spiritual exercise, have a tendency to objectify the idea or 
memory which is their content and so to create, in some sort, 
a numinous real presence, which worshippers actually find 
'out there' no less, and in quite another way, than 'in here.' 
In so far as this is the case, the ritualist is perfectly correct in 
attributing to his hallowed acts and words a power which, in 
another context, would be called magical. The mantram works, 
the sacrifice really does something, the sacrament confers grace 
exopere operatoi these are, or rather may be, matters of direct 
experience, facts which anyone who chooses to fulfil the neces- 
sary conditions can verify empirically for himself. But the 
grace conferred ex opere operato is not always spiritual grace 
and the hallowed acts and formulae have a power which is not 
necessarily from God. Worshippers can, and very often do, 
get grace and power from one another and from the faith and 
devotion of their predecessors, projected into independent 
psychic existences that are hauntingly associated with certain 
places, words and acts. A great deal of ritualistic religion is 
not spirituality, but occultism, a refined and well-meaning kind 
of white magic. Now, just as there is no harm in art, say, or 
science, but a great deal of good, provided always that these 
activities are not regarded as ends, but simply as means to the 
final end of all life, so too there is no harm in white magic, but 
the possibilities of much good, so long as it is treated, not as 
true religion, but as one of the roads to true religion an 
effective way of reminding people with a certain kind of 
psycho-physical make-up that there is a God, 'in knowledge 
of whom standeth their eternal life.' If ritualistic white magic 
is regarded as being in itself true religion ; if the real presences 
it evokes are taken to*be God in Himself and not the projec- 
tions of human thoughts and feelings about God or even about 



308 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

something less than God; and if the sacramental rites are per- 
formed and attended for the sake of the Spiritual sweetness' 
experienced and the powers and advantages conferred then 
there is idolatry. This idolatry is, at its best, a very lofty and, 
in many ways, beneficent kind of religion. But the conse- 
quences of worshipping God as anything but Spirit and in any 
way except in spirit and in truth are necessarily undesirable in 
this sense that they lead only to a partial salvation and delay 
the soul's ultimate reunion with the eternal Ground. 

That very large numbers of men and women have an in- 
eradicable desire for rites and ceremonies is clearly demon- 
strated by the history of religion. Almost all the Hebrew 
prophets were opposed to ritualism. ' Rend your hearts and 
not your garments. 5 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' 'I 
hate, I despise your feasts ; I take no delight in your solemn 
assemblies.' And yet, in spite of the fact that what the 
prophets wrote was regarded as divinely inspired, the Temple 
at Jerusalem continued to be, for hundreds of years after 
their time, the centre of a religion of rites, ceremonials and 
blood sacrifice. (It may be remarked in passing that the shed- 
ding of blood, one's own or that of animals or other human 
beings, seems to be a peculiarly efficacious way of constrain- 
ing the 'occult' or psychic world to answer petitions and con- 
fer supernormal powers. If this is a fact, as from the anthropo- 
logical and antiquarian evidence it appears to be, it would 
supply yet another cogent reason for avoiding animal sacri- 
fices, savage bodily austerities and even, since thought is a 
form of action, that imaginative gloating over spilled blood 
which is so common in certain Christian circles.) What the 
Jews did in spite of their prophets, Christians have done in 
spite of Christ. The Christ of the Gospels is a preacher and 
not a dispenser of sacraments or performer of rites; he speaks 
against vain repetitions; he insists on the supreme importance 
of private worship; he has no use for sacrifices and not much 
use for the Temple. But this did not prevent historic Chris- 
tianity from going its own, all too human, way. A precisely 
similar development took place in Buddhism. For the Buddha 



RITUAL, SYMBOL, SACRAMENT 309 

of the Pali scriptures, ritual was one of the fetters holding back 
the soul from enlightenment and liberation. Nevertheless, the 
religion he founded has made full use of ceremonies, vain 
repetitions and sacramental rites. 

There would seem to be two main reasons for the observed 
developments of the historical religions. First, most people do 
not want spirituality or deliverance, but rather a religion that 
gives them emotional satisfactions, answers to prayer, super- 
normal powers and partial salvation in some sort of posthu- 
mous heaven. Second, some of those few who do desire spirit- 
uality and deliverance find that, for them, the most effective 
means to those ends are ceremonies, 'vain repetitions' and 
sacramental rites. It is by participating in these acts and utter- 
ing these formulae that they are most powerfully reminded of 
the eternal Ground of all being; it is by immersing themselves 
in the symbols that they can most easily come through to that 
which is symbolized. Every thing, event or thought is a point 
of intersection between creature and Creator, between a more 
or less distant manifestation of God and a ray, so to speak, of 
the unmanifest Godhead ; every thing, event or thought can 
therefore be made the doorway through which a soul may pass 
out of time into eternity. That is why ritualistic and sacra- 
mental religion can lead to deliverance. But at the same time 
every human being loves power and self-enhancement, and 
every hallowed ceremony, f6rm of words or sacramental rite is 
a channel through which power can flow out of the fascinating 
psychic universe into the universe of embodied selves. That 
is why ritualistic and sacramental religion can also lead away 
from deliverance. 

There is another disadvantage inherent in any system of 
organized sacramentalism, and that is that it gives to the 
priestly caste a power which it is all too natural for them to 
abuse. In a society which has been taught that salvation is 
exclusively or mainly through certain sacraments, and that 
these sacraments can be administered effectively only by a pro- 
fessional priesthood, that professional priesthood will possess 
an enormous coercive power. The possession of such power 



3 io THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

is a standing temptation to use it for individual satisfaction and 
corporate aggrandizement. To a temptation of this kind, if 
repeated often enough, most human beings who are not saints 
almost inevitably succumb. That is why Christ taught his 
disciples to pray that they should not be led into temptation. 
This is, or should be, the guiding principle of all social reform 
to organize the economic, political and social relationships 
between human beings in such a way that there shall be, for 
any given individual or group within the society, a minimum 
of temptations to covetousness, pride, cruelty and lust for 
power. Men and women being what they are, it is only by 
reducing the number and intensity of temptations that human 
societies can be, in some measure at least, delivered from evil. 
Now, the sort of temptations to which a priestly caste is exposed 
in a society that accepts a predominantly sacramental religion 
are such that none but the most saintly persons can be expected 
consistently to resist them. What happens when ministers of 
religion are led into these temptations is clearly illustrated by 
the history of the Roman Church. Because Catholic Chris- 
tianity taught a version of the Perennial Philosophy, it produced 
a succession of great saints. But because the Perennial Philo- 
sophy was overlaid with an excessive amount of sacramental- 
ism and with an idolatrous preoccupation with things in time, 
the less saintly members of its hierarchy were exposed to 
enormous and quite unnecessary* temptations and, duly suc- 
cumbing to them, launched out into persecution, simony, 
power politics, secret diplomacy, high finance and collabora- 
tion with despots. 

I very much doubt whether, since the Lord by his grace brought 
me into the faith of his dear Son, I have ever broken bread or 
drunk wine, even in the ordinary course of life, without remem- 
brance of, and some devout feeling regarding, the broken body 
and the blood-shedding of my dear Lord and Saviour. 

Stephen GrelUt 

We have seen that, when they are promoted to be the central 



RITUAL, SYMBOL, SACRAMENT 311 

core of organized religious worship, ritualism and sacramental- 
ism are by no means unmixed blessings. But that the whole of 
a man's workaday life should be transformed by him into a 
kind of continuous ritual, that every object in the world around 
him should be regarded as a symbol of the world's eternal 
Ground, that all his actions should be performed sacramentally 
this would seem to be wholly desirable. All the masters of 
the spiritual life, from the authors of the Upanishads to Socrates, 
from Buddha to St. Bernard, are agreed that without self- 
knowledge there cannot be adequate knowledge of God, that 
without a constant recollectedness there can be no complete 
deliverance. The man who has learnt to regard things as 
symbols, persons as temples of the Holy Spirit and actions as 
sacraments, is a man who has learned constantly to remind 
himself who he is, where he stands in relation to the universe 
and its Ground, how he should behave towards his fellows 
and what he must do to come to his final end. 

* Because of this indwelling of the Logos,' writes Mr, Kenneth 
Saunders in his valuable study of the Fourth Gospel, the Gita 
and the Lotus Sutra, ' all things have a reality. They are sacra- 
ments, not illusions like the phenomenal word of the Vedanta.' 
That the Logos is in things, lives and conscious minds, and 
they in the Logos, was taught much more emphatically and 
explicitly by the Vedantists than by the author of the Fourth 
Gospel; and the same idea is, of course, basic in the theology 
of Taoism, But though all things in fact exist at the inter- 
section between a divine manifestation and a ray of the unmani- 
fest Godhead, it by no means follows that everyone always 
knows that this is so. On the contrary, the vast majority of 
human beings believe that their own selfness and the objects 
around them possess a reality in themselves, wholly independ^ 
ent of the Logos. This belief leads them to identify their being 
with their sensations, cravings and private notions, and in its 
turn this self-identification with what they are not effectively 
walls them off from divine influence and the very possibility 
of deliverance. To most of us on most occasions things arc 
not symbols and actions are not sacramental; and we have to 



3 i2 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

teach ourselves, consciously and deliberately, to remember that 
they are. 

The world is imprisoned in its own activity, except when actions 
are performed as worship of God. Therefore you must perform 
every action sacramen tally (as if it wereyajna, the sacrifice that, in 
its divine Logos-essence, is identical with the Godhead to whom 
it is offered), and be free from all attachment to results. 

Bhagavad-Gita 

Precisely similar teachings are found in Christian writers, who 
recommend that persons and even things should be regarded 
as temples of the Holy Ghost and that everything done or 
suffered should be constantly 'offered to God/ 

It is hardly necessary to add that this process of conscious 
sacramentalization can be applied only to such actions as are 
not intrinsically evil. Somewhat unfortunately, the Gita was 
not originally published as an independent work, but as a theo- 
logical digression within an epic poem; and since, like most 
epics, the Mahabharata is largely concerned with the exploits 
of warriors, it is primarily in relation to warfare that the Gita's 
advice to act with non-attachment and for God's sake only is 
given. Now, war is accompanied and followed, among other 
things, by a widespread dissemination of anger and hatred, 
pride, cruelty and fear. But, it may be asked, is it possible (the 
Nature of Things being what it is) to sacramentalize actions 
whose psychological by-products are so completely God- 
eclipsing as are these passions ? The Buddha of die Pali scrip- 
tures would certainly have answered this question in the nega- 
tive. So would the Lao Tzu of the Tao Teh King. So would 
the Christ of the Synoptic Gospels. The Krishna of the Gita 
(who is also, by a kind of literary accident, the Krishna of the 
Mahabharata) gives an affirmative answer. But this affirma- 
tive answer, it should be remembered, is hedged around with 
limiting conditions. Non-attached slaughter is recommended 
only to those who are warriors by caste, and to whom warfare 
is a duty and vocation. But what is duty or dharma for the 



RITUAL, SYMBOL, SACRAMENT 313 

Kshatriya is adharma and forbidden to the Brahman; nor is it 
any part of the normal vocation or caste duty of the mercantile 
and labouring classes. Any confusion of castes, any assump- 
tion by one man of another man's vocation and duties of state, 
is always, say the Hindus, a moral evil and a menace to social 
stability. Thus, it is the business of the Brahmans to fit them- 
selves to be seers, so that they may be able to explain to their 
fellow-men the nature of the universe, of man's last end and 
of the way to liberation. When soldiers or administrators, or 
usurers, or manufacturers or workers usurp the functions of 
the Brahmans and formulate a philosophy of life in accordance 
with their variously distorted notions of the universe, then 
society is thrown into confusion. Similarly, confusion reigns 
when the Brahman, the man of non-coercive spiritual author- 
ity, assumes the coercive power of the Kshatriya, or when the 
Kshatriya's job of ruling is usurped by bankers and stock- 
jobbers, or finally when the warrior caste's dharma of fighting 
is imposed, by conscription, on Brahman, Vaisya and Sudra 
alike. The history of Europe during the later Middle Ages and 
Renaissance is largely a history of the social confusions that 
arise when large numbers of those who should be seers aban- 
don spiritual authority in favour of money and political power. 
And contemporary history is the hideous record of what 
happens when political bosses, business men or class-conscious 
proletarians assume the Brahman's function of formulating a 
philosophy of life; when usurers dictate policy and debate the 
issues of war and peace ; and when the warrior's caste duty is 
imposed on. all and sundry, regardless of psycho-physical make- 
up and vocation. 



Chapter 25 
SPIRITUAL EXERCISES 

RtTES, sacraments, ceremonies, liturgies all these belong 
to public worship. They are devices, by means of which 
the individual members of a congregation are reminded of the 
true Nature of Things and of their proper relations to one 
another, the universe and God. What ritual is to public wor- 
ship, spiritual exercises are to private devotion. They are 
devices to be used by the solitary individual when he enters 
into his closet, shuts the door and prays to his Father which 
is in secret. Like all other devices, from psalm-singing to 
Swedish exercises and from logic to internal-combustion 
engines, spiritual exercises can be used either well or badly. 
Some of those who use spiritual exercises make progress in 
the life of the spirit; others, using the same exercises, make 
no progress. To believe that their use either constitutes en- 
lightenment or guarantees it, is mere idolatry and super- 
stition. To neglect them altogether, to refuse to find out 
whether and in what way they can help in the achievement of 
our final end, is nothing but self-opinionatedness and stubborn 
obscurantism. 

St. Fran9ois de Sales used to say, 'I hear of nothing but per- 
fection on every side, so far as talk goes; but I see very few 
people who really practise it. Everybody has his own notion of 
perfection. One man thinks it lies in the cut of his clothes, 
another in fasting, a third in almsgiving, or in frequenting the 
Sacraments, in meditation, in some special gift of contemplation, 
or in extraordinary gifts or graces but they are all mistaken, as 
it seems to me, because they confuse the means, or the results, 
with the end and cause. 

' For my part, the only perfection I know of is a hearty love 
of God, and to love one's neighbour as oneself. Charity is the 

su 



SPIRITUAL EXERCISES 315 

only virtue which rightly unites us to God and man. Such union 
is our final aim and end, and all the rest is mere delusion/ 

Jean Pierre Camus 

St. Frangois himself recommended the use of spiritual exercises 
as a means to the love of God and one's neighbours, and 
affirmed that such exercises deserved to be greatly cherished; 
but this affection for the set forms and hours of mental prayer 
must never, he warned, be allowed to become excessive. To 
neglect any urgent call to charity or obedience for the sake of 
practising one's spiritual exercises would be to neglect the end 
and the proximate means for the sake of means which are not 
proximate, but at several removes from the ultimate goal. 

Spiritual exercises constitute a special class of ascetic prac- 
tices, whose purpose is, primarily, to prepare the intellect and 
emotions for those higher forms of prayer in which the soul is 
essentially passive in relation to divine Reality, and second- 
arily, by means of this self-exposure to the Light and of the 
increased self-knowledge and self-loathing resulting from it, 
to modify character. 

In the Orient the systematization of mental prayer was car- 
ried out at some unknown but certainly very early date. Both 
in India and China spiritual exercises (accompanied or pre- 
ceded by more or less elaborate physical exercises, especially 
breathing exercises) are known to have been used several cen- 
turies before the birth of Christ. In the West, the monks of 
the Thebaid spent a good part of each day in meditation as a 
means to contemplation or the unitive knowledge of God ; and 
at all periods of Christian history, more or less methodical 
mental prayer has been largely used to supplement the vocal 
praying of public and private worship. But the systematization 
of mental prayer into elaborate spiritual exercises was not 
undertaken, it would seem, until near the end of the Middle 
Ages, when reformers within the Church popularized this new 
form of spirituality in an effort to revivify a decaying monasti- 
cism and to reinforce the religious life of a laity that had been 
bewildered by the Great Schism and profoundly shocked by 



316 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

the corruption of the clergy. Among these early systematizers 
the most effective and influential were the canons of Windes- 
heim, who were in close touch with the Brethren of the 
Common Life. During the later sixteenth and early seven- 
teenth centuries spiritual exercises became, one might almost 
say, positively fashionable. The early Jesuits had shown what 
extraordinary transformations of character, what intensities of 
will and devotion, could be achieved by men systematically 
trained on the intellectual and imaginative exercises of St. 
Ignatius Loyola, and as the prestige of the Jesuits stood very 
high, at this time, in Catholic Europe, the prestige of spiritual 
exercises also stood high. Throughout the first century of the 
Counter-Reformation numerous systems of mental prayer 
(many of them, unlike the Ignatian exercises, specifically 
mystical) were composed, published and eagerly bought. 
After the Quietist controversy mysticism fell into disrepute 
and, along with mysticism, many of the once popular systems, 
which their authors had designed to assist the soul on the path 
towards contemplation. For more detailed information on 
this interesting and important subject the reader should con- 
sult Pourrat's Christian Spirituality, Bede Frost's The Art of 
Mental Prayer, Edward Leen's Progress through Mental Prayer 
and Aelfrida Tillyard's Spiritual Exercises. Here it is only 
possible to give a few characteristic specimens from the various 
religious traditions. 

Know that when you learn to lose yourself, you will reach the 
Beloved. There is no other secret to be learnt, and more than 
this is not known to me. 

Ansari of Herat 

Six hundred years later, as we have seen, St. Fra^ois de Sales 
was saying very much the same thing to young Camus and all 
the others who came to him in the ingenuous hope that he 
could reveal some easy and infallible trick for achieving the 
unitive knowledge of God. But to lose self in the Beloved 
there is no other secret. And yet the Sufis, like their Christian 



SPIRITUAL EXERCISES 317 

counterparts, made ample use of spiritual exercises not, of 
course, as ends in themselves, not even as proximate means, 
but as means to the proximate means of union with God, 
namely selfless and loving contemplation. 

For twelve years I was the smith of my soul. I put it in the 
furnace of austerity and burned it in the fire of combat, I laid it on 
the anvil of reproach and smote it with the hammer of blame 
until I made of my soul a mirror. Five years I was the mirror 
of myself and was ever polishing that mirror with divers acts of 
worship and piety. Then for a year I gazed in contemplation. 
On my waist I saw a girdle of pride and vanity and self-conceit 
and reliance on devotion and approbation of my works. I 
laboured for five years more until that girdle became worn out 
and I professed Islam anew. I looked and saw that all created 
things were dead. I pronounced four akbirs over them and 
returned from the funeral of them all, and without intrusion of 
creatures, through God's help alone, I attained unto God. 

Bayard of Bis tun 

The simplest and most widely practised form of spiritual exer- 
cise is repetition of the divine name, or of some phrase affirm- 
ing God's existence and the soul's dependence upon Him. 

And therefore, when thou purposes! thee to this work (of con- 
templation), and feelest by grace that thou art called by God, lift 
up thine heart unto God with a meek stirring of love. And mean 
God that made thee, and bought thee, and graciously called thee 
to thy degree, and receive none other thought of God. And yet 
not all these, except thou desirest; for a naked intent directed 
unto God, without any other cause than Himself, sufficeth wholly. 
And if thou desirest to have this intent lapped and folden in 
one word, so that thou mayest have better hold thereupon, take 
thee but a little word of one syllable, for so it is better than of 
two; for the shorter the word, the better it accordeth with the 
work of the spirit. And such a word is this word GOD or this 
word LOVE. Choose whichever thou wilt, or another; whatever 



3 i8 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

word thou likest best of one syllable. And fasten this word to 
thy heart that so it may never go thence for anything that 
befalleth. 

The word shall be thy shield and thy spear, whether thou 
ridest on peace or on war. With this word thou shalt beat on 
this cloud and this darkness above thee. With this word thou 
shalt smite down all manner of thought under the cloud of for- 
getting. Insomuch that, if any thought press upon thee to ask 
what thou wouldst have, answer with no more words than with 
this one word (GOD or LOVE). And if he offer of his great learn- 
ing to expound to thee that word, say to him that thou wilt have 
it all whole, and not broken nor undone. And if thou wilt hold 
fast to this purpose, be sure that that thought will no while bide. 

The Cloud of Unknowing 

In another chapter the author of the Cloud suggests that the 
word symbolizing our final end should sometimes be alter- 
nated with a word denoting our present position in relation 
to that end. The words to be repeated in this exercise are SIN 
and GOD. 

Not breaking or expounding these words with curiosity of wit, 
considering the qualities of these words, as if thou wouldst by 
that consideration increase thy devotion. I believe it should 
never be so in this case and in this work. But hold them all 
whole, these words; and mean by SIN a lump, thou knowest 
never what, none other thing but thyself. . . . And because ever 
the whiles thou livest in this wretched life, thou must always feel 
in some part this foul stinking lump of sin, as it were oned and 
congealed with the substance of thy being, therefore shalt thou 
alternately mean these two words SIN and GOD. With this 
general understanding that, if thou hadst God, then shouldst thou 
lack sin; and mightest thou lack sin, then shouldst thou have 
God. 

The Cloud of Unknowing 

The shaykh took my hand and led me into the convent. I sat 



SPIRITUAL EXERCISES 319 

down in the portico, and the shaykh picked up a book and began 
to read. As is the way of scholars, I could not help wondering 
what the book was. 

The shaykh perceived my thoughts. 'Abu Sa'id,' he said, 'all 
the hundred and twenty-four thousand prophets were sent to 
preach one word. They bade the people say, " Allah," and devote 
themselves to Him. Those who heard this word by the ear alone 
let it go out by the other ear; but those who heard it with their 
souls imprinted it on their souls and repeated it until it pene- 
trated their hearts and souls, and their whole beings became this 
word. They were made independent of the pronunciation of the 
word; they were released from the sound of the letters. Having 
understood the spiritual meaning of this word, they became so 
absorbed in it that they were no more conscious of their own 
non-existence.' 

Abu Said 

Take a short verse of a psalm, and it shall be shield and buckler 
to you against all your foes. 

Cassian, quoting Abbot Isaac 

In India the repetition of the divine name or the mantram (a 
short devotional or doctrinal affirmation) is called japam and 
is a favourite spiritual exercise among all the sects of Hinduism 
and Buddhism. The shortest mantram is OM a spoken 
symbol that concentrates within itself the whole Vedanta philo- 
sophy* To this and other mantrams Hindus attribute a kind of 
magical power. The repetition of them is a sacramental act, 
conferring grace ex of ere operate. A similar efficacity was and 
indeed still is attributed to sacred words and formulae by Bud- 
dhists, Moslems, Jews and Christians. And, of course, just as 
traditional religious rites seem to possess the power to evoke 
the real presence of existents projected into psychic objectivity 
by the faith and devotion of generations of worshippers, so too 
long-hallowed words and phrases may become channels for 
conveying powers other and greater than those belonging to 
' the individual who happens at the moment to be pronouncing 



320 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

them. And meanwhile the constant repetition of 'this word 
GOD or this word LOVE' may, in favourable circumstances, 
have a profound effect upon the subconscious mind, inducing 
that selfless one-pointedness of will and thought and feeling, 
without which the unitive knowledge of God is impossible. 
Furthermore, it may happen that, if the word is simply re- 
peated 'all whole, and not broken up or undone' by discursive 
analysis, die Fact for which the word stands will end by pre- 
senting itself to the soul in the form of an integral intuition. 
When this happens, * the doors of the letters of this word are 
opened' (to use the language of the Sufis) and the soul passes 
through into Reality. But though all this may happen, it need 
not necessarily happen. For there is no spiritual patent medi- 
cine, no pleasant and infallible panacea for souls suffering from 
separateness and the deprivation of God. No, there is no 
guaranteed cure; and, if used improperly, the medicine of 
spiritual exercises may start a new disease or aggravate the old. 
For example, a mere mechanical repetition of the divine name 
can result in a kind of numbed stupefaction that is as much 
below analytical thought as intellectual vision is above it. And 
because the sacred word constitutes a kind of prejudgment of 
the experience induced by its repetition, this stupefaction, or 
some other abnormal state, is taken to be the immediate aware- 
ness of Reality and is idolatrously cultivated and hunted after, 
with a turning of the will towards what is supposed to be God 
before there has been a turning of it away from the self. 

The dangers which beset the practiser of japam^ who is 
insufficiently mortified and insufficiently recollected and aware, 
are encountered in the same or different forms by those who 
make use of more elaborate spiritual exercises. Intense con- 
centration on an image or idea, such as is recommended by 
many teachers, both Eastern and Western, may be very helpful 
for certain persons in certain circumstances, very harmful in 
other cases. It is helpful when the concentration results in 
such mental stillness, such a silence of intellect, will and feeling, 
that the divine Word can be uttered within the soul. It is 
harmful when the image concentrated upon becomes so hal- 



SPIRITUAL EXERCISES 321 

lucinatingly real that it is taken for objective Reality and 
idolatrously worshipped; harmful, too, when the exercise of 
concentration produces unusual psycho-physical results, in 
which the person experiencing them takes a personal pride, as 
being special graces and divine communications. Of these 
unusual psycho-physical occurrences the most ordinary are 
visions and auditions, foreknowledge, telepathy and other 
psychic powers, and the curious bodily phenomenon of intense 
heat. Many persons who practise concentration exercises 
experience this heat occasionally. A number of Christian 
saints, of whom the best known are St. Philip Neri and St. 
Catherine of Siena, have experienced it continuously. In the 
East techniques have been developed whereby the accession of 
heat resulting from intense concentration can be regulated, 
controlled and put to do useful work, such as keeping the con- 
templative warm in freezing weather. In Europe, where the 
phenomenon is not well understood, many would-be con- 
templatives have experienced this heat, and have imagined it 
to be some special divine favour, or even the experience of 
union, and being insufficiently mortified and humble, have 
fallen into idolatry and a God-eclipsing spiritual pride. 

The following passage from one of the great Mahayana 
scriptures contains a searching criticism of the kind of spiritual 
exercises prescribed by Hinayanist teachers concentration on 
symbolic objects, meditations on transience and decay (to wean 
the soul away from attachment to earthly things), on the 
different virtues which must be cultivated, on the fundamental 
doctrines of Buddhism. (Many of these exercises are described 
at length in The Path of Purity ', a book which has been trans- 
lated in full and published by the Pali Text Society. Mahayanist 
exercises are described in the Surangama Sutra, translated by 
Dwight Goddard, and in the volume on Tibetan Yoga, edited 
by Dr. Evans- Wentz.) 

In his exercise the Yogin sees (imaginatively) the form of the sun 
or moon, or something looking like a lotus, or the underworld, 
or various forms, such as sky, fire and the like. All these appear- 



jit THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

ances lead him in the way of the philosophers ; they throw him 
down into the state of Sravakahood, into the realm of the Prat- 
yekabuddhas. When all these are put aside and there is a state of 
imagelessness, then a condition in conformity with Suchness pre- 
sents itself, and the Buddhas will come together from all their 
countries and with their shining hands will touch the head of this 
benefactor. 

Lankavatara Sutra 

In other words intense concentration on any image (even if 
the image be a sacred symbol, like the lotus) or on any idea, 
from the idea of hell to the idea of some desirable virtue or 
its apotheosis in one of the divine attributes, is always con- 
centration on something produced by one's own mind. Some- 
times, in mortified and recollected persons, the art of concen- 
tration merges into the state of openness and alert passivity, 
in which true contemplation becomes possible. But sometimes 
the fact that the concentration is on a product of the concen- 
trator's own mind results in some kind of false or incomplete 
contemplation. Suchness, or the divine Ground of all being, 
reveals itself to those in whom there is no ego-centredness (nor 
even any alter-ego-centredness) either of will, imagination, 
feeling or intellect. 

I say, then, that introversion must be rejected, because extraver- 
sion must never be admitted ; but one must live continuously in 
the abyss of the divine Essence and in the nothingness of things ; 
and if at times a man finds himself separated from them (the 
divine Essence and created nothingness) he must return to them, 
not by introversion, but by annihilation. 

Benet ofCanfield 

Introversion is the process condemned in the Lankavatara 
Sutra as the way of the Yogin, the way that leads at worst to 
idolatry, at best to a partial knowledge of God in the heights 
within, never to complete knowledge in the fullness without 
as well as within, Annihilation (of which Father Benet distin- 



SPIRITUAL EXERCISES 323 

guishes two kinds, passive and active) is for the Mahayanist the 
'state of imagelessness' in contemplation and, in active life, the 
state of total non-attachment, in which eternity can be appre- 
hended within time, and samsara is known to be one with 
nirvana. 

And therefore, if thou wilt stand and not fall, cease never in thine 
intent, but beat evermore on this cloud of unknowing that is 
betwixt thee and thy God, with a sharp dart of longing love. And 
loathe to think of aught under God. And go not thence for any- 
thing that befalleth. For this only is that work that destroyeth 
the ground and the root of sin. . . . 

Yea, and what more? Weep thou never so much for sorrow 
of thy sins, or of the passion of Christ, or have thou never so 
much thought of the joys of heaven, what may it do to thee? 
Surely much good, much help, much profit, much grace will it 
get thee. But in comparison of this blind stirring of love, it is but 
little that it doth, or may do, without this. This by itself is the 
Best part of Mary, without these other. They without it profit but 
little or nought. It destroyeth not only the ground and the root 
of sin, as it may be here, but also it getteth virtues. For if it be 
truly conceived, all virtues shall be subtly and perfecdy con- 
ceived, felt and comprehended in it, without any mingling of 
thine intent. And have a man never so many virtues without it, 
all they be mingled with some crooked intent, for the which they 
be imperfect. For virtue is nought else but an ordered and 
measured affection, plainly directed unto God for Himself. 

The Cloud of Unknowing 

If exercises in concentration, repetitions of the divine name, or 
meditations on God's attributes or on imagined scenes in the 
life of saint or Avatar help those who make use of them to come 
to selflessness, openness and (to use Augustine Baker's phrase) 
that ' love of the pure divinity,' which makes possible the soul's 
union with the Godhead, then such spiritual exercises are 
wholly good and desirable. If they have other results well, 
the tree is known by its fruits. 



324 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

Benet of Canfield, the English Capuchin who wrote The 
Rule of Perfection and was the spiritual guide of Mme Acarie 
and Cardinal Berulle, hints in his treatise at a method by 
which concentration on an image may be made to lead up to 
imageless contemplation, 'blind beholding/ 'love of the pure 
divinity/ The period of mental prayer is to begin with intense 
concentration on a scene of Christ's passion; then the mind 
is, as it were, to abolish this imagination of the sacred humanity 
and to pass from it to the formless and attributeless Godhead 
which that humanity incarnates. A strikingly similar exercise 
is described in the Bar Jo Thddol or Tibetan Book of the Dead 
(a work of quite extraordinary profundity and beauty, now 
fortunately available in translation with a valuable introduction 
and notes by Dr. Evans- Wentz). 

Whosoever thy tutelary deity may be, meditate upon the form 
for much time as being apparent, yet non-existent in reality, 

like a form produced by a magician Then let the visualization 

of the tutelary deity melt away from the extremities, till nothing 
at all remaineth visible of it; and put thyself in the state of the 
Clearness and the Voidness which thou canst not conceive as 
something and abide in that state for a little while. Again medi- 
tate upon the tutelary deity ; again meditate upon the Clear Light ; 
do this alternately. Afterwards allow thine own intellect to melt 
away gradually, beginning from the extremities. 

The Tibetan Book of the Dead 

As a final summing up of the whole matter we may cite a 
sentence of Eckhart's. 'He who seeks God under settled form 
lays hold of the form, while missing the God concealed in it/ 
Here, the key word is ' settled/ It is permissible to seek God 
provisionally under a form which is from the first recognized 
as merely a symbol of Reality, and a symbol which must 
sooner or later be discarded in favour of what it stands for. 
To seek Him under a settled form settled because regarded 
as the very shape of Reality is to commit oneself to illusion 
and a kind of idolatry. 



SPIRITUAL EXERCISES 325 

The chief impediments in the way of taking up the practice 
of some form of mental prayer are ignorance of the Nature of 
Things (which has never, of course, been more abysmal than 
in this age of free compulsory education) and the absorption 
in self-interest, in positive and negative emotions connected 
with the passions and with what is technically known as a 
'good time/ And when the practice has been taken up, the 
chief impediments in the way of advance towards the goal of 
mental prayer are distractions. 

Probably all persons, even the most saintly, suffer to some 
extent from distractions. But it is obvious that a person 
who, in the intervals of mental prayer, leads a dispersed, 
unrecollected, self-centred life will have more and worse 
distractions to contend with than one who lives one- 
pointedly, never forgetting who he is and how related to the 
universe and its divine Ground. Some of the most profitable 
spiritual exercises actually make use of distractions, in such 
a way that these impediments to self-abandonment, mental 
silence and passivity in relation to God are transformed into 
means of progress. 

But first, by way of preface to the description of these exer- 
cises, it should be remarked that all teachers of the art of mental 
prayer concur in advising their pupils never to use violent 
efforts of the surface will against the distractions which arise 
in the mind during periods of recollection. The reason for 
this has been succinctly stated by Benet of Canfield in his Ride 
of Perfection. 'The more a man operates, the more he is and 
exists. And the more he is and exists, the less of God is and 
exists within him.' Every enhancement of the separate per- 
sonal self produces a corresponding diminution of that self's 
awareness of divine Reality. But any violent reaction of the 
surface will against distractions automatically enhances the 
separate, personal self and therefore reduces the individual's 
chances of coming to the knowledge and love of God. In the 
process of trying forcibly to abolish our God-eclipsing day- 
dreams, we merely deepen the darkness of our native ignorance. 
This being so, we must give up the attempt to fight distrac- 



THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

tions and find ways either of circumventing them, or of some- 
how making use of them. For example, if we have already 
achieved a certain degree of alert passivity in relation to Reality 
and distractions intervene, we can simply 'look over the 
shoulder* of the malicious and concupiscent imbecile who 
stands between us and the object of our 'simple regard.' The 
distractions now appear in the foreground of consciousness ; 
we take notice of their presence, then, lightly and gently, 
without any straining of the will, we shift the focus of atten- 
tion to Reality which we glimpse, or divine, or (by past 
experience or an act of faith) merely know about, in the back- 
ground. In many cases, this effortless shift of attention will 
cause the distractions to lose their obsessive 'thereness' and, 
for a time at least, to disappear. 

If the heart wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point 
quite gently and replace it tenderly in its Master's presence. And 
even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring 
your heart back and place it again in Our Lord's presence, though 
it went away every time you brought it back, your hour would 
be very well employed. 

St Franfois de Sales 

In this case the circumvention of distractions constitutes a 
valuable lesson in patience and perseverance. Another and 
more direct method of making use of the monkey in our heart 
is described in The Cloud of Unknowing. 

When thou feelest that thou mayest in no wise put them (dis- 
tractions) down, cower then down under them as a caitiff and a 
coward overcome in battle, and think it is but folly to strive any 
longer with them, and therefore thou yieldest thyself to God in, 
the hands of thine enemies. . . . And surely, I think, if this device 
be truly conceived, it is nought else but a true knowing and a feel- 
ing of thyself as thou art, a wretch and a filthy thing, far worse 
than nought ; the which knowing and feeling is meekness (humil- 
ity). And this meekness meriteth to have God mightily descend- 



SPIRITUAL EXERCISES 327 

ing to venge thee on thine enemies, so as to take thee up and 
cherishingly dry thy ghostly eyes, as the father doth to the child 
that is at the point to perish under the mouths of wild swine and 
mad biting bears. 

The Cloud of Unknowing 

Finally, there is the exercise, much employed in India, which 
consists in dispassionately examining the distractions as they 
arise and in tracing them back, through the memory of par- 
ticular thoughts, feelings and actions, to their origins in 
temperament and character, constitution and acquired habit. 
This procedure reveals to the soul the true reasons for its 
separation from the divine Ground of its being. It comes to 
realize that its spiritual ignorance is due to the inert recal- 
citrance or positive rebelliousness of its selfhood, and it dis- 
covers, specifically, the points where that eclipsing selfhood 
congeals, as it were, into the hardest, densest clots. Then, 
having made the resolution to do what it can, in the course of 
daily living, to rid itself of these impediments to Light, it 
quietly puts aside the thought of them and, empty, purged and 
silent, passively exposes itself to whatever it may Be that lies 
beyond and within. 

* Noverim me, noverim Te* St. Francis of Assisi used to 
repeat. Self-knowledge, leading to self-hatred and humility, 
is the condition of the love and knowledge of God. Spiritual 
exercises that make use of distractions have this great merit, 
that they increase self-knowledge. Every soul that approaches 
God must be aware of who and what it is. To practise a form 
of mental or vocal prayer that is, so to speak, above one's 
moral station is to act a lie : and the consequences of such 
lying are wrong notions about God, idolatrous worship of 
private and unrealistic phantasies and (for lack of the humility 
of self-knowledge) spiritual pride. 

It is hardly necessary to add that this method has, like every 
other, its dangers as well as its advantages. For those who 
employ it there is a standing temptation to forget the end in 
the all too squalidly personal means to become absorbed in 



328 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

a whitewashing or remorseful essay in autobiography to the 
exclusion of the pure Divinity, before whom the 'angry ape* 
played all the fantastic tricks which he now so relishingly 
remembers. 

We come now to what may be called the spiritual exercises 
of daily life. The problem, here, is simple enough how to 
keep oneself reminded, during the hours of work and recrea- 
tion, that there is a good deal more to the universe than that 
which meets the eye of one absorbed in business or pleasure? 
There is no single solution to this problem. Some kinds of 
work and recreation are so simple and unexactive that they 
permit of continuous repetition of sacred name or phrase, un- 
broken thought about divine Reality, or, what is still better, 
uninterrupted mental silence and alert passivity. Such occupa- 
tions as were the daily task of Brother Lawrence (whose 'prac- 
tice of the presence of God' has enjoyed a kind of celebrity 
in circles otherwise completely uninterested in mental prayer 
or spiritual exercises) were almost all of this simple and unexact- 
ing kind. But there are other tasks too complex to admit of 
this constant recollectedness. Thus, to quote Eckhart, *a 
celebrant of the mass who is over-intent on recollection is 
liable to make mistakes. The best way is to try to concentrate 
the mind before and afterwards, but, when saying it, to do so 
quite straightforwardly.' This advice applies to any occupa- 
tion demanding undivided attention. But undivided attention 
is seldom demanded and is with difficulty sustained for long 
periods at a stretch. There are always intervals of relaxation. 
Everyone is free to choose whether these intervals shall be 
filled with day-dreaming or with something better. 

Whoever has God in mind, simply and solely God, in all things, 
such a man carries God with him into all his works and into all 
places, and God alone does all his works. He seeks nothing but 
God, nothing seems good to him but God. He becomes one 
with God in every thought. Just as no multiplicity can dissipate 
God, so nothing can dissipate this man or make him multiple. 

Eckhart 



SPIRITUAL EXERCISES 329 

I do not mean that we ought voluntarily to put ourselves in the 
way of dissipating influences; God forbid! That would be 
tempting God and seeking danger. But such distractions as 
come in any way providentially, if met with due precaution and 
carefully guarded hours of prayer and reading, will turn to good. 
Often those things which make you sigh for solitude are more 
profitable to your humiliation and self-denial than the most utter 
solitude itself would be. ... Sometimes a stimulating book of 
devotion, a fervent meditation, a striking conversation, may 
flatter your tastes and make you feel self-satisfied and complacent, 
imagining yourself far advanced towards perfection; and by fill- 
ing you with unreal notions, be all the time swelling your pride 
and making you come from your religious exercises less tolerant 
of whatever crosses your will. I would have you hold fast to this 
simple rule : seek nothing dissipating, but bear quietly with what- 
ever God sends without your seeking it, whether of dissipation 
or interruption. It is a great delusion to seek God afar off in 
matters perhaps quite unattainable, ignoring that He is beside us 
in our daily annoyances, so long as we bear humbly and bravely 
all those which arise from the manifold imperfections of our 
neighbours and ourselves. 

Flnelon 

Consider that your life is a perpetual perishing, and lift up your 
mind to God above all whenever the clock strikes, saying, ' God, 
I adore your eternal being; I am happy that my being should 
perish every moment, so that at every moment it may render 
homage to your eternity/ 

/. /. Olier 

When you are walking alone, or elsewhere, glance at the general 
will of God, by which He wills all the works of his mercy and 
justice in heaven, on earth, under the earth, and approve, praise 
and then love that sovereign will, all holy, all just, all beautiful. 
Glance next at the special will of God, by which He loves his 
own, and works in them in divers ways, by consolation and tribu- 
lation. And then you should ponder a little, considering the 



330 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

variety of consolations, but especially of tribulations, that the 
good suffer; and then with great humility approve, praise and 
love all this will. Consider that will in your own person, in all 
the good or ill that happens to you and may happen to you, except 
sin ; then approve, praise and love all that, protesting that you 
will ever cherish, honour and adore that sovereign will, and sub- 
mitting to God's pleasure and giving Him all who are yours, 
amongst whom am I. End in a great confidence in that will, that 
it will work all good for us and our happiness. I add that, when 
you have performed this exercise two or three times in this way, 
you can shorten it, vary it and arrange it, as you find best, for it 
should often be thrust into your heart as an aspiration. 

St. Franfois de Sales 

Dwelling in the light, there is no occasion at all for stumbling, for 
all things are discovered in the light. When thou art walking 
abroad it is present with thee in thy bosom, thou needest not to 
say, Lo here, or Lo there; and as thou lyest in thy bed, it is 
present to teach thee and judge thy wandering mind, which 
wanders abroad, and thy high thoughts and imaginations, and 
makes them subject. For following thy thoughts, thou art 
quickly lost. By dwelling in this light, it will discover to thee 
the body of sin and thy corruptions and fallen estate, where thou 
art. In that light which shows thee all this, stand ; go neither 
to the right nor to the left. 

George Fox 

The extract which follows is taken from the translation by 
Waitao and Goddard of the Chinese text of The Awakening of 
Faith, by Ashvaghosha a work originally composed in San- 
skrit during the first century of our era, but of which the 
original has been lost. Ashvaghosha devotes a section of his 
treatise to the 'expedient means,' as they are called in Bud- 
dhist terminology, whereby unitive knowledge of Thusness 
may be achieved. The list of these indispensable means in- 
cludes charity and compassion towards all sentient beings, 
sub-human as well as human, self-naughting or mortification, 



SPIRITUAL EXERCISES 331 

personal devotion to the incarnations of the Absolute Buddha- 
nature, and spiritual exercises designed to free the mind from 
its infatuating desires for separateness and independent self- 
hood and so make it capable of realizing the identity of its 
own essence with the universal Essence of Mind, Of these 
various * expedient means' I will cite only the last two the 
Way of Tranquillity, and the Way of Wisdom. 

The Way of Tranquillity. The purpose of this discipline is two- 
fold : to bring to a standstill all disturbing thoughts (and all dis- 
criminating thoughts are disturbing), to quiet all engrossing 
moods and emotions, so that it will be possible to concentrate 
the mind for the purpose of meditation and realization. Secondly, 
when the mind is tranquillized by stopping all discursive think- 
ing, to practise 'reflection' or meditation, not in a discriminating, 
analytical way, but in a more intellectual way (cp. the scholastic 
distinction between reason and intellect), by realizing the mean- 
ing and significances of one's thoughts and experiences. By this 
twofold practice of 'stopping and realizing' one's faith, which has 
already been awakened, will be developed, and gradually the two 
aspects of this practice will merge into one another the mind 
perfectly tranquil, but most active in realization. In the past one 
naturally had confidence in one's faculty of discrimination 
(analytical thinking), but this is now to be eradicated and ended. 
Those who are practising 'stopping' should retire to some 
quiet place and there, sitting erect, earnesdy seek to tranquillize 
and concentrate the mind. While one may at first think of one's 
breathing, it is not wise to continue this practice very long, nor 
to let the mind rest on any particular appearances, or sights, or 
conceptions, arising from the senses, such as the primal elements 
of earth, water, fire and ether (objects on which Hinayanists were 
wont to concentrate at one stage of their spiritual training), nor 
to let it rest on any of the mind's perceptions, particularizations, 
discriminations, moods or emotions. All kinds of ideation are to 
be discarded as fast as they arise; even the notions of controlling 
and discarding are to be got rid of. One's mind should become 
like a mirror, reflecting things, but not judging them or retaining 



332 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

them. Conceptions of themselves have no substance; let them 
arise and pass away unheeded. Conceptions arising from the 
senses and lower mind will not take form of themselves, unless 
they are grasped by the attention; if they are ignored, there will 
be no appearing and no disappearing. The same is true of con- 
ditions outside the mind ; they should not be allowed to engross 
one's attention and so to hinder one's practice. The mind cannot 
be absolutely vacant, and as the thoughts arising from the senses 
and the lower mind are discarded and ignored, one must supply 
their place by right mentation. The question then arises : what 
is right mentation ? The reply is : right mentation is the realiza- 
tion of mind itself, of its pure undifferentiated Essence. When 
the mind is fixed on its pure Essence, there should be no lingering 
notions of the self, even of the self in the act of realizing, nor of 
realization as a phenomenon. . . . 

The Way of Wisdom. The purpose of this discipline is to 
bring a man into the habit of applying the insight that has come 
to him as the result of the preceding disciplines. When one is 
rising, standing, walking, doing something, stopping, one should 
constantly concentrate one's mind on the act and the doing of it, 
not on one's relation to the act, or its character or value. One 
should think: there is walking, there is stopping, there is real- 
izing; not, I am walking, I am doing this, it is a good thing, it is 
disagreeable, I am gaining merit, it is I who am realizing how 
wonderful it is. Thence come vagrant thoughts, feelings of ela- 
tion or of failure and unhappiness. Instead of all this, one should 
simply practise concentration of the mind on the act itself, under- 
standing it to be an expedient means for attaining tranquillity of 
mind, realization, insight and Wisdom ; and one should follow 
the practice in faith, willingness and gladness. After long prac- 
tice the bondage of old habits becomes weakened and disappears, 
and in its place appear confidence, satisfaction, awareness and 
tranquillity. 

What is this Way of Wisdom designed to accomplish ? There 
are three classes of conditions that hinder one from advancing 
along the path to Enlightenment. First, there are the allurements 
arising from the senses, from external conditions and from the 



SPIRITUAL EXERCISES 333 

discriminating mind. Second, there are the internal conditions of 
the mind, its thoughts, desires and mood. All these the earlier 
practices (ethical and mortificatory) are designed to eliminate. In 
the third class of impediments are placed the individual's instinc- 
tive and fundamental (and therefore most insidious and persistent) 
urges the will to live and to enjoy, the will to cherish one's 
personality, the will to propagate, which give rise to greed and 
lust, fear and anger, infatuation, pride and egotism. The prac- 
tice of the Wisdom Paramita is designed to control and eliminate 
these fundamental and instinctive hindrances. By means of it the 
mind gradually grows clearer, more luminous, more peaceful. 
Insight becomes more penetrating, faith deepens and broadens, 
until they merge into the inconceivable Samadhi of the Mind's 
Pure Essence. As one continues the practice of the Way of 
Wisdom, one yields less and less to thoughts of comfort or 
desolation ; faith becomes surer, more pervasive, beneficent and 
joyous; and fear of retrogression vanishes. But do not think 
that the consummation is to be attained easily or quickly; many 
rebirths may be necessary, many aeons may have to elapse. So 
long as doubts, unbelief, slanders, evil conduct, hindrances of 
karma, weakness of faith, pride, sloth and mental agitation per- 
sist, so long as even their shadows linger, there can be no attain- 
ment of the Samadhi of the Buddhas. But he who has attained 
to the radiance of highest Samadhi, or unitive Knowledge, will 
be able to realize, with all the Buddhas, the perfect unity of all 
sentient beings with Buddhahood's Dharmakaya. In the pure 
Dharmakaya there is no dualism, neither shadow of differen- 
tiation. All sentient beings, if only they were able to realize it, 
are already in Nirvana. The Mind's pure Essence is Highest 
Samadhi, is Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, is Prajna Paramita^ is 
Highest Perfect Wisdom. 

Ashvaghosha 



Chapter 26 
PERSEVERANCE AND REGULARITY 

He who interrupts the course of his spiritual exercises and prayer 
is like a man who allows a bird to escape from his hand ; he can 
hardly catch it again. 

St. John of the Cross 

Si volumus non redire, currendum est. (If we wish not to go back- 
wards, we must run.) 

Pelagius 

If thou shouldst say, 'It is enough, I have reached perfection,' 
all is lost. For it is the function of perfection to make one know 
one's imperfection. 

St. Augustine 

THHE Buddhists have a similar saying to the effect that, if an 
JL arhat thinks to himself that he is an arhat, that is proof 
that he is not an arhat. 

I tell you that no one can experience this birth (of God realized 
in the soul) without a mighty effort. No one can attain this birth 
unless he can withdraw his mind entirely from things. 

Eckhart 

If a sharp penance had been laid upon me, I know of none that I 
would not very often have willingly undertaken, rather than pre- 
pare myself for prayer by self-recollection. And certainly the 
violence with which Satan assailed me was so irresistible, or my 
evil habits were so strong, that I did not betake myself to prayer; 
and the sadness I felt on entering the oratory was so great that 

384 



PERSEVERANCE AND REGULARITY 335 

it required all the courage I had to force myself in. They say of 
me that my courage is not slight, and it is known that God has 
given me a courage beyond that of a woman ; but I have made a 
bad use of it. In the end Our Lord came to my relief, and when 
I had done this violence to myself, I found greater peace and joy 
than I sometimes had when I had a desire to pray. 

St. Teresa 



To one of his spiritual children our dear father (St. Frangois de 
Sales) said, ' Be patient with everyone, but above all with your- 
self. I mean, do not be disheartened by your imperfections, but 
always rise up with fresh courage. I am glad you make a fresh 
beginning daily ; there is no better means of attaining to the 
spiritual life than by continually beginning again, and never 
thinking that we have done enough. How are we to be patient 
in bearing with our neighbour's faults, if we are impatient in 
bearing with our own ? He who is fretted by his own failings 
will not correct them; all profitable correction comes from a 
calm, peaceful mind.' 

Jean Pierre Camus 



There are scarce any souls that give themselves to internal prayer 
but some time or other do find themselves in great indisposition 
thereto, having great obscurities in the mind and great insensi- 
bility in their affections, so that if imperfect souls be not well 
instructed and prepared, they will be in danger, in case that such 
contradictions of inferior nature continue long, to be dejected, 
yea, and perhaps deterred from pursuing prayer, for they will be 
apt to think that their recollections are to no purpose at all, since, 
for as much as seems to them, whatsoever they think or actuate 
towards God is a mere loss of time and of no worth at all ; and 
therefore that it would be more profitable for them to employ 
their time some other way. 

Yea, some souls there are conducted by Almighty God by no 
other way, but only by such prayer of aridity, finding no sensible 
contentment in any recollection, but, on the contrary, continual 



336 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

pain and contradiction, and yet, by a privy grace and courage 
imprinted deeply in the spirit, cease not for all that, but resolutely 
break through all difficulties and continue, the best way they can, 
their internal exercises to the great advancement of their spirit. 

Augustine Baker 



Chapter 27 

CONTEMPLATION, ACTION AND 
SOCIAL UTILITY 

IN all the historic formulations of the Perennial Philosophy 
it is axiomatic that the end of human life is contemplation, 
or the direct and intuitive awareness of God ; that action is 
the means to that end; that a society is good to the extent that 
it renders contemplation possible for its members; and that 
the existence of at least a minority of contemplatives is neces- 
sary for the well-being of any society. In the popular philo- 
sophy of our own time it goes without saying that the end of 
human life is action ; that contemplation (above all in its lower 
forms of discursive thought) is the means to that end; that a 
society is good to the extent that the actions of its members 
make for progress in technology and organization (a progress 
which is assumed to be causally related to ethical and cultural 
advance) ; and that a minority of contemplatives is perfectly 
useless and perhaps even harmful to the community which 
tolerates it. To expatiate further on the modern Weltan- 
schauung is unnecessary ; explicitly or by implication it is set 
forth on every page of the advertising sections of every news- 
paper and magazine. The extracts that follow have been 
chosen in order to illustrate the older, truer, less familiar theses 
of the Perennial Philosophy. 

Work is for the purification of the mind, not for the perception 
of Reality. The realization of Truth is brought about by dis- 
crimination, and not in the least by ten millions of acts. 

Shankara 

Now, the last end of each thing is that which is intended by the 
first author or mover of that thing; and the first author and 
mover of the universe is an intellect. Consequently, the last end 

v 887 



3 }8 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

of the universe must be the good of the intellect; and this is 
truth. Therefore truth must be the last end of the whole universe, 
and the consideration thereof must be the chief occupation of 
wisdom. And for this reason divine Wisdom, clothed in flesh, 
declares that He came into the world to make known the truth. 
. . . Moreover Aristotle defines the First Philosophy as being the 
knowledge of truth, not of any truth, but of that truth which is 
the source of all truth, of that, namely, which refers to the first 
principle of being of all things ; wherefore its truth is the prin- 
ciple of all truth, since the disposition of things is the same in 
truth as in being. 

St. Thomas Aquinas 

A thing may belong to the contemplative life in two ways, essen- 
tially or as a predisposition. . . . The moral virtues belong to the 
contemplative life as a predisposition. For the act of contempla- 
tion, in which the contemplative life essentially consists, is 
hindered both by the impetuosity of the passions and by out- 
ward disturbances. Now the moral virtues curb the impetuos- 
ity of the passions and quell the disturbance of outward occupa- 
tions. Hence moral virtues belong to the contemplative life as a 
predisposition. 

St. Thomas Aquinas 

These works (of mercy), though they be but active, yet they help 
very much, and dispose a man in the beginning to attain after- 
wards to contemplation. 

Walter Hilton 

In Buddhism, as in Vedanta and in all but the most recent forms 
of Christianity, right action is the means by which the mind is 
prepared for contemplation. The first seven branches of the 
Eightfold Path are the active, ethical preparation for unitive 
knowledge of Suchness. Only those who consistently practise 
the Four Virtuous Acts, in which all other virtues are included 
namely, the requital of hatred by love, resignation, 'holy 
indifference' or desirelessness, obedience to the dharma or 



CONTEMPLATION, ACTION, SOCIAL UTILITY 339 

Nature of Things can hope to achieve the liberating realiza- 
tion that samsara and nirvana are one, that the soul and all 
other beings have as their living principle the Intelligible 
Light or Buddha-womb. 

A question now, quite naturally, presents itself: Who is 
called to that highest form of prayer which is contemplation? 
The answer is unequivocally plain. All are called to contem- 
plation, because all are called to achieve deliverance, which is 
nothing else but the knowledge that unites the knower with 
what is known, namely the eternal Ground or Godhead. The 
oriental exponents of the Perennial Philosophy would prob- 
ably deny that everyone is called here and now; in this 
particular life, they would say, it may be to all intents and 
purposes impossible for a given individual to achieve more 
than a partial deliverance, such as personal survival in some 
kind of 'heaven,' from which there may be either an advance 
towards total liberation or else a return to those material con- 
ditions which, as all the masters of the spiritual life agree, are 
so uniquely propitious for taking the cosmic intelligence test 
that results in enlightenment. In orthodox Christianity it is 
denied that the individual soul can have more than one incarna- 
tion, or that it can make any progress in its posthumous exist- 
ence. If it goes to hell, it stays there. If it goes to purgatory, 
it merely expiates past evil doing, so as to become capable of 
the beatific vision. And when it gets to heaven, it has just so 
much of die beatific vision as its conduct during its one brief 
life on earth made it capable of, and everlastingly no more. 
Granted these postulates, it follows that, if all are called to con- 
templation, they are called to it from that particular position in 
the hierarchy of being, to which nature, nurture, free will and 
grace have conspired to assign them. In the words of an 
eminent contemporary theologian, Father Garrigou-Lagrange, 
'all souls receive a general remote call to the mystical life, and 
if all were faithful in avoiding, as they should, not only mortal 
but venial sins, if they were, each according to his condition, 
generally docile to the Holy Ghost, and if they lived long 
enough, a day would come when they would receive the proxi- 



340 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

mate and efficacious vocation to a high perfection and to the 
mystical life properly so called.' This view that the life of 
mystical contemplation is the proper and normal development 
of the 'interior life' of recollectedness and devotion to God 
is then justified by the following considerations. First, the 
principle of the two lives is the same. Second, it is only in the 
life of mystical contemplation that the interior life finds its 
consummation. Third, their end, which is eternal life, is the 
same; moreover, only the life of mystical contemplation pre- 
pares immediately and perfectly for that end. 

There are few contemplatives, because few souls are perfectly 
humble. 

The Imitation of Christ 

God does not reserve such a lofty vocation (that of mystical 
contemplation) to certain souls only; on the contrary, He is 
willing that all should embrace it. But He finds few who permit 
Him to work such sublime things for them. There are many 
who, when He sends them trials, shrink from the labour and 
refuse to bear with the dryness and mortification, instead of sub- 
mitting, as they must, with perfect patience. 

St. John of the Cross 

This assertion that all are called to contemplation seems to 
conflict with what we know about the inborn varieties of 
temperament and with the doctrine that there are at least three 
principal roads to liberation the ways of works and devotion 
as well as the way of knowledge. But the conflict is more 
apparent than real. If the ways of devotion and works lead to 
liberation, it is because they lead into the way of knowledge. 
For total deliverance comes only through unitive knowledge. 
A soul which does not go on from the ways of devotion and 
works into the way of knowledge is not totally delivered, 
but achieves at the best the incomplete salvation of 'heaven.' 
Coming now to the question of temperament, we find that, in 
effect, certain individuals are naturally drawn to lay the main 



CONTEMPLATION, ACTION, SOCIAL UTILITY 341 

doctrinal and practical emphasis in one place, certain others 
elsewhere. But though there may be born devotees, born 
workers, born contemplatives, it is nevertheless true that even 
those at the extreme limits of temperamental eccentricity are 
capable of making use of other ways than that to which they 
are naturally drawn. Given the requisite degree of obedience 
to the leadings of the Light, the born contemplative can learn 
to purify his heart by work and direct his mind by one-pointed 
adoration ; the born devotee and the born worker can learn to 
' be still and know that I am God.' Nobody need be the victim 
of his peculiar talents. Few or many, of this stamp or of that, 
they are given us to be used for the gaining of one great end. 
We have the power to choose whether to use them well or 
badly in the easier, worse way or the harder and better. 

Those ^ho are more adapted to the active life can prepare them- 
selves for contemplation in the practice of the active life, while 
those who are more adapted to the contemplative life can take 
upon themselves the works of the active life so as to become yet 
more apt for contemplation. 

St. Thomas Aquinas 

He who is strong in faith, weak in understanding, will generally 
place his confidence in good-for-nothing people and believe in 
the wrong object. He who is strong in understanding, weak in 
faith, leans towards dishonesty and is difficult to cure, like a 
disease caused by medicine. One in whom both are equal 
believes in the right object. 

He who is strong in concentration, weak in energy, is over- 
come by idleness, since concentration partakes of the nature of 
idleness. He who is strong in energy, weak in concentration, is 
overcome by distractions, since energy partakes of the nature of 
distraction. Therefore they should be made equal to one 
another, since from equality in both comes contemplation and 
ecstasy. . . . 

Mindfulness should be strong everywhere, for mindfulness 
keeps the mind away from distraction, into which it might fall, 



342 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

since faith, energy and understanding partake of the nature of 
distraction: and away from idleness, into which it might fall, 
since ^concentration partakes of the nature of idleness. 

Buddhaghosha 

At this point it is worth remarking parenthetically that God 
is by no means the only possible object of contemplation. 
There have been and still are many philosophic, aesthetic and 
scientific contemplatives. One-pointed concentration on that 
which is not the highest may become a dangerous form of 
idolatry. In a letter to Hooker, Darwin wrote that 'it is a 
cursed evil to any man to become so absorbed in any subject 
as I am in mine/ It is an evil because such one-pointedness 
may result in the more or less total atrophy of all but one side 
of the mind. Darwin himself records that in later lie he was 
unable to take the smallest interest in poetry, art or religion. 
Professionally, in relation to his chosen specialty, a man may 
be completely mature. Spiritually and sometimes even ethic- 
ally, in relation to God and his neighbours, he may be hardly 
more than a foetus. 

In cases where the one-pointed contemplation is of God 
there is also a risk that the mind's unemployed capacities may 
atrophy. The hermits of Tibet and the Thebaid were certainly 
one-pointed, but with a one-pointedness of exclusion and 
mutilation. It may be, however, that if they had been more 
truly 'docile to the Holy Ghost,' they would have come to 
understand that the one-pointedness of exclusion is at best a 
preparation for the one-pointedness of inclusion the realiza- 
tion of God in the fullness of cosmic being as well as in the in- 
terior height of the individual soul. Like the Taoist sage, they 
would at last have turned back into the world riding on their 
tamed and regenerate individuality; they would have 'come 
eating and drinking,' would have associated with 'publicans 
and sinners' or their Buddhist equivalents, 'wine-bibbers and 
butchers.' For the fully enlightened, totally liberated person, 
samsara and nirvana, time and eternity, the phenomenal and the 
Real, are essentially one. His whole life is an unsleeping and 



CONTEMPLATION, ACTION, SOCIAL UTILITY 343 

one-pointed contemplation of the Godhead in and through the 
things, lives, minds and events of the world of becoming. 
There is here no mutilation of the soul, no atrophy of any of its 
powers and capacities. Rather, there is a general enhancement 
and intensification of consciousness, and at the same time an 
extension and transfiguration. No saint has ever complained 
that absorption in God was a 'cursed evil/ 

In the beginning was the Word; behold Him to whom Mary 
listened. And the Word was made flesh; behold Him whom 
Martha served. 

St. Augustine 

God aspires us into Himself in contemplation, and then we must 
be wholly His ; but afterwards the Spirit of God expires us with- 
out, for the practice of love and good works. 

Ruysbroeck 

Action, says Aquinas, should be something added to the life of 
prayer, not something taken away from it. One of the reasons 
for this recommendation is strictly utilitarian; action that is 
'taken away from the life of prayer* is action unenlightened 
by contact with Reality, uninspired and unguided; conse- 
quently it is apt to be ineffective and even harmful. ' The sages 
of old,' says Chuang Tzu, 'first got Tao for themselves, then 
got it for others/ There can be no taking of motes out of 
other people's eyes so long as the beam in our own eye pre- 
vents us from seeing the divine Sun and working by its light. 
Speaking of those who prefer immediate action to acquiring, 
through contemplation, the power to act well, St. John of the 
Cross asks, 'What do they accomplish?* And he answers, 
Poco mas que nada^y a veces nada y y aun a veces dano ('Little 
more than nothing, and sometimes nothing at all, and some- 
times even harm'). Income must balance expenditure. This 
is necessary not merely on the economic level, but also on the 
physiological, the intellectual, the ethical and the spiritual. 
We cannot put forth physical energy unless we stoke our body 



344 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

with fuel in the form of food. We cannot hope to utter any- 
thing worth saying, unless we read and inwardly digest the 
utterances of our betters. We cannot act rightly and effectively 
unless we are in the habit of laying ourselves open to leadings 
of the divine Nature of Things. We must draw in the goods 
of eternity in order to be able to give out the goods of time. 
But the goods of eternity cannot be had except by giving up 
at least a little of our time to silently waiting for them. This 
means that the life in which ethical expenditure is balanced by 
spiritual income must be a life in which action alternates with re- 
pose, speech with alertly passive silence. Otium sanctum quaerit 
caritas veritatis ; negotium jus turn suscipit necessitas caritatis 
('The love of Truth seeks holy leisure; the necessity of love 
undertakes righteous action '). The bodies of men and animals 
are reciprocating engines, in which tension is always succeeded 
by relaxation. Even the unsleeping heart rests between beat 
and beat. There is nothing in living Nature that even distantly 
resembles man's greatest technical invention, the continuously 
revolving wheel. (It is this fact, no doubt, which accounts for 
the boredom, weariness find apathy of those who, in modern 
factories, are forced to adapt their bodily and mental move- 
ments to circular motions of mechanically uniform velocity.) 
'What a man takes in by contemplation,' says Eckhart, 'that 
he pours out in love.' The well-meaning humanist and the 
merely muscular Christian, who imagines that he can obey the 
second of the great commandments without taking time even 
to think how best he may love God with all his heart, soul and 
mind, are people engaged in the impossible task of pouring 
unceasingly from a container that is never replenished. 

Daughters of Charity ought to love prayer as the body loves the 
soul. And just as the body cannot live without the soul, so the 
soul cannot live without prayer. And in so far as a daughter 
prays as she ought to pray, she will do well. She will not walk, 
she will run in the ways of the Lord, and will be raised to a high 
degree of the love of God. 

St. Vincent de Paid 



CONTEMPLATION, ACTION, SOCIAL UTILITY 345 

Households, cities, countries and nations have enjoyed great 
happiness, when a single individual has taken heed of the Good 
and Beautiful. . . . Such men not only liberate themselves; they 
fill those they meet with a free mind. 

Phib 

Similar views are expressed by Al-Ghazzali, who regards the 
mystics not only as the ultimate source of our knowledge of 
the soul and its capacities and defects, but as the salt which 
preserves human societies from decay. 'In the time of the 
philosophers/ he writes, 'as at every other period, there existed 
some of these fervent mystics. God does not deprive this 
world of them, for they are its sustainers.' It is they who, 
dying to themselves, become capable of perpetual inspiration 
and so are made the instruments through which divine grace 
is mediated to those whose unregenerate nature is impervious 
to the delicate touches of the Spirit. 



A LIST OF RECOMMENDED BOOKS 

AL-GHAZZALI. Confessions. Translated by Claud Field (London, 
1909). 

ANSARI OF HERAT. The Invocations of Sheikh Abdullah Ansari of 
Herat. Translated by Sardar Sir Jogendra Singh (London, 
I939)- 

ATTAR. Selections. Translated by Margaret Smith (London, 
1932). 

AUGUSTINE, ST. Confessions (numerous editions). 
AUROBINDO, SRI. The Life Divine, 3 vols. (Calcutta, 1939). 
BAKER, AUGUSTINE. Holy Wisdom (London, 1876). 

BEAUSOBRE, JULIA DE. The Woman Who Could Not Die (London 
and New York, 1938). 

BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX, ST. The Steps of Humility (Cambridge, 

Mass., 1940). 

On the Love of God (New York, 1937). 
Selected Letters (London, 1904). An admirably lucid account of 

St. Bernard's thought may be found in The Mystical Doctrine 

of Saint Bernard, by Professor fitienne Gilson (London and 

New York, 1940). 

BERTOCCI, PETER A. The Empirical Argument for God in Late 
British Philosophy (Cambridge, Mass., 1938). 

Bhagavad-Gita. Among many translations of this Hindu scripture 
the best, from a literary point of view, is that of Swami 
Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood (Los Angeles, 
1944). Valuable notes, based upon the commentaries of 
Shankara, are to be found in Swami Nikhilananda's edition 
(New York, 1944), and Professor Franklin Edgerton's literal 
translation (Cambridge, Mass., 1944) is preceded by a long and 
scholarly introduction. 

BlNYON, L. The Flight of the Dragon (London, 1911). 

846 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 347 

BOEHME, JAKOB. Some good introduction is needed to the work 
of this important but difficult mystic. On the theological 
and devotional side the Danish Bishop H. L. Martensen's 
Jacob Boehme (trans., London, 1885) is recommended; or 
from a more philosophical viewpoint A. Koyre's splendid 
volume La Philosophic de Jacob Boehme (not yet translated, 
Paris, 1929) or H. H. Brinton's The Mystic Will (New York, 
1930). 

BRAHMANANDA, SWAMI. Records of his teaching and a biography 
by Swami Prabhavananda are contained in The Eternal Com- 
panion (Los Angeles, 1944). 

CAMUS, JEAN PIERRE. The Spirit of St. Francois de Sales (London, 
n.d.). 

CAUSSADE, J. P. DE. Abandonment (New York, 1887). 
Spiritual Letters, 3 vols. (London, 1937). 

CHANTAL, ST. JEANNE FRANCHISE. Selected Letters (London and 
New York, 1918). 

CHAPMAN, ABBOT JOHN. Spiritual Letters (London, 1935). 

CHUANG Tzu. Chuang T^u, Mystic, Moralist and Social Reformer. 

Translated by Herbert Giles (Shanghai, 1936). 
Musings of a Chinese Mystic (London, 1920). 
Chinese Philosophy in Classical Times. Translated by E. R. 

Hughes (London, 1943). 

The Cloud of Unknowing (with commentary by Augustine Baker). 
Edited with an introduction by Justice McCann (London, 
1924). 

COOM ARASWAMY, ANANDA K. Buddha and the Gospel of Buddhism 

(New York, 1916). 

The Transformation of Nature in Art (Cambridge, Mass., 1935). 
Hinduism and Buddhism (New York, n.d.). 

CURTIS, A. M. The Way of Silence (Burton Bradstock, Dorset, 

J 937)- 
DEUSSEN, PAUL. The Philosophy of the Upanishads (London, 1 906). 

DIONYSIUS THE AREOPAGITE. On the Divine Names and the Mys- 
tical Theology. Translated with an introduction by C. E. Rolt 
(London, 1920). 



348 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

ECKHART, MEISTER. Works, translated by C. B. Evans (London, 

1924). 

Meister Eckhart, A Modern Translation. By R. B. Blakney 
(New York, 1941). 

EVANS-WENTZ, W. Y. The Tibetan Book of the Dead (New York, 

1927). 

Tibet's Great Yogi, Milarepa (New York, 1928). 
Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines (New York, 1935). 

The Following of Christ. Unknown author, but mistakenly attri- 
buted to Tauler in the first English edition (London, 1886). 

Fox, GEORGE. Journal (London, 1911). 

FROST, BEDE. The Art of Mental Prayer (London, 1940). 
Saint John of the Cross (London, 1937). 

GARRIGOU-LAGRANGE, R. Christian Perfection and Contemplation 
(London and St. Louis, 1937). 

GODDARD, DWIGHT. A Buddhist Bible (published by the editor, 
Thetford, Maine, 1938). This volume contains translations of 
several Mahayana texts not to be found, or to be found only 
with much difficulty, elsewhere. Among these are ' The Dia- 
mond Sutra/ ' The Surangama Sutra,' ' The Lankavatara Sutra/ 
'The Awakening of Faith* and 'The Sutra of the Sixth 
Patriarch.' 

Gu^NON, RfiNlL Man and His Becoming according to the Vedanta 

(London, n.d.). 

East and West (London, 1941). 
The Crisis of the Modern World (London, 1942). 

HEARD, GERALD. The Creed of Christ (New York, 1940). 
The Code of Christ (New York, 1941). 
Preface to Prayer (New York, 1944). 

HILTON, WALTER. The Scale of Perfection (London, 1927). 

HUEGEL, FRIEDRICH VON. The Mystical Element in Religion as 
Studied in Saint Catherine of Genoa and Her Friends (London, 
1923). 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 349 

IBN TUFAIL. The Awakening of the Soul. Translated by Paul 
Bronnle (London, 1910). 

The Imitation of Christ. Whitford's translation, edited by E. J. 
Klein (New York, 1941). 

INGE, W. R. Christian Mysticism (London, 1899). 

Studies of English Mystics including William Law (London, 
1906). 

JOHN OF THE CROSS, ST. Works, 3 vols. (London, 1934-1935). 

JONES, RUFUS. Studies in Mystical Religion. 

The Spiritual Reformers in the l6th and IJ 'th Centuries (New 

York, 1914). 
The Flowering of Mysticism (New York, 1939). 

JORGENSEN, JOHANNES. Saint Catherine of Siena (London, 1938). 
JULIANA OF NORWICH. Revelations of Divine Love (London, 1917). 

LAO Tzu. There are many translations of the Tao Teh King. 
Consult and compare those of Arthur Waley in The Way and 
Its Power (London, 1933), of F. R. Hughes in Chinese Philo- 
sophy in Classical Times (Everyman's Library) and of Ch'u 
Ta-Kao (London, 1927) reprinted in The Bible of the World 
(New York, 1939). 

LAW, WILLIAM. Several modern editions of his Serious Call are 
available. But none of Law's still finer and much more 
distinctly mystical works, such as The Spirit of Prayer and 
The Spirit ofLove, have been reprinted in full in recent years. 
Long extacts from them may however be found in Stephen 
Hobhouse's Selected Mystical Writings of William Law 
(London, 1939) (a work which also contains some useful 
' Notes and Studies in the mystical theology of William Law 
and Jacob Boehme ') and in the same writer's William Law 
and Eighteenth Century Quakerism (London, 1927). Alexander 
Whyte also compiled a fine anthology, Characters and 
Characteristics of William Law (4th ed. London, 1907); 
while for the student there is Christopher Walton's extra- 
ordinary encyclopaedic collection of Notes and Materials for 
an adequate biography of William Law (London, 1856). 



350 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

LEEN, EDWARD. Progress through Mental Prayer (London, 1940). 

McKEON, RICHARD. Selections from Medieval Philosophers, 
2 vols. (New York, 1929). 

The Mirror of Simple Souls. Author unknown (London, 1927). 

NICHOLAS OF CUSA. The Idiot (San Francisco, 1940). 
The Vision of God (London and New York, 1928). 

NICHOLSON, R. The Mystics of Islam (London, 1914). 

OMAN, JOHN. The Natural and the Supernatural (London, 1938). 

OTTO, RUDOLF. India s Religion of Grace (London, 1930). 
Mysticism East and West (London, 1932). 

PATANJALI. Yoga Aphorisms. Translated with a commentary by 
Swami Vivekananda (New York, 1899). 

PLOTINUS. The Essence of Plotinus (G. H. Turnbull, New York, 
1934). A good anthology of this very important and 
voluminous mystic. 

PONNELLE, L. and L. BORDET. St. Philip Neri and the Roman 
Society of His Time (London, 1932). 

POULAIN, A. The Graces of Interior Prayer (London, 1910). 
PouRRAT, P. Christian Spirituality , 3 vols. (London, 1922). 
PRATT, J. B. The Pilgrimage of Buddhism (New York, 1928). 

QUAKERS. The Beginnings of Quakerism, by W. P. Braithwaite 
(London, 1912). See also George Fox, p. 348. 

RADHAKRISHNAN, S. The Hindu View of Life (London and New 

York, 1927). 

Indian Philosophy (London and New York, 1923-1927). 
Eastern Religions and Western Thought (New York, 1939). 

RAMAKRISHNA, SRI. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Translated 
from the Bengali narrative of *M' by Swami Nikhilananda 
(New York, 1942). 

RUMI, JALAL-UDDIN. Masnavi. Translated by E. H. Whinfield 
(London, 1898). 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 35 i 

RUYSBROECK, JAN VAN. The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage 
(London, 1916). Consult also the studies by Evelyn Underbill 
(London, 1915) and Wautier d'Aygalliers (London, 1925). 

SALES, ST. FRAN?OIS DE. Introduction to the Devout Life (numer- 
ous editions). 
Treatise on the Love of God (new edition, Westminster, Md., 

1942). 

Spiritual Conferences (London, 1868). 
See also J. P. Camus. 

The Secret of the Golden Flower. Translated from the Chinese by 
Richard Wilhelm. Commentary by Dr, C. G. Jung (London 
and New York, 1931). 

SPURGEON, CAROLINE. Mysticism in English Literature (Cam- 
bridge, 1913). 

STOCKS, J. L. Time, Cause and Eternity (London, 1938). 
STOUT, G. F. Mind and Matter (London, 1931). 

Sutra Spoken by the Sixth Patriarch, Hui Neng. Translated by 
Wung Mou-lam (Shanghai, 1930). Reprinted in A Buddhist 
Bible (Thetford, 1938). 

SUZUKI, B. L. Mahayana Buddhism (London, 1938). 

SUZUKI, D. T. Studies in Zen Buddhism (London, 1927). 
Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra (Kyoto and London, 1935). 
Manual of Zen Buddhism (Kyoto, 1935). 

TAGORE, RABINDRANATH. One Hundred Poems ofKabir (London, 
1915). 

TAULER, JOHANN. Life and Sermons (London, 1907). 
The Inner Way (London, 1909). 

Consult Inge's Christian Mysticism^ Rufus Jones's Studies in 
Mystical Religion and Pourrat's Christian Spirituality. 

TENNANT, F. R. Philosophical Theology (Cambridge, 1923). 

Theologia Germanica. Winkworth's translation (new edition, 
London, 1937). 

TILLYARD, AELFRIDA. Spiritual Exercises (London, 1927). 



352 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

TRAHERNE, THOMAS. Centuries of Meditation (London, 1908). 
Consult Thomas Traherne, A Critical Biography^ by Gladys I. 
Wade (Princeton, 1944). 

UNDERHILL, EVELYN. Mysticism (London, 1924). 
The Mystics of the Church (London, 1925). 

Upanishads. The Thirteen Principal Upanishads. Translated by 

R. E. Hume (New York, 1931). 
The Ten Principal Upanishads. Translated by Shree Purohit 

and W. B. Yeats (London, 1937). 
The Himalayas of the Soul. Translated by J. Mascaro (London, 

1938). 

WATTS, ALAN W. The Spirit of Zen (London, 1936). 

WHITNEY, JANET. John Woolman^ American Quaker (Boston, 

1942). 
Elizabeth Fry, Quaker Heroine (Boston, 1936). 



INDEX 



Abu Sa'id, 319 

Action, 53, 170, 183, 311, 343 

Acton, 140 

Adoration, 255 

Advertising, 231, 250, 337 

Aeschylus, 92 

Al-Ghazzali, 86, 146, 254 

Amelot, 255 

Ancren Riwle, The, 248 

Animals, kindness to, 224 

Ansari of Herat, 99, 103, 253, 298, 316 

Ansehh, St., 257 

Aphorism, Sufi, 124 

Aquinas, St. Thomas, 96, 146, 153, 338, 

341 

Aridity, 335 
Aristotle, 26, 27, 78 
Arnold, Thomas, 289 
Art, artist, 135, 151, 158, 195 
Ashvaghosha, 333 
Asoka, 228 

Atman, 8, 11-13, 15, 67, 151, 219 
Atonement, 66, 220, 265 
Attention, 332 
Augustine, St., 82, 83, 107, 205, 240, 

253,334,343 
Aurobindo, Sri, 74 
Avatar, 58, 6 1, 68, 148, 219 

Bagehot, W., 273 

Baker, Augustine, 118, 256, 258, 336 

Barclay, Robert, 21 

Bayazid of Bistun, 18, 317 

Beatitude, 128, 239 

Beauty, 158 

Becket, Thomas, 305 

Benet of Canfield, 58, 322, 324, 325 

Bernard, St., 18, 32, 65, 70, 82, 98, 166, 

187, 199, 244, 302 
B^rulle, 48 
Bhagavad-Gita, 9, u, 57, 61, 170, 174, 

205, 218, 303, 304, 312 
Bhagavatam, Srimad, 99, 227, 244 
Blake, W., 217 
Blood, 308 

Bodhisattva, 73, 77, 79, 266 
Body, 34 

Boehme, Jacob, 63, 237, 243 
Boethius, 185, 212, 213 



Bourgoing, 255 

Brahman, 8, 12, 13, 42, 67 

Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad, 42, 301 

Broad, C. D., 304 

Buddha, 7, 15, 56, 61, 117, 136, 146, 147, 

164, 185, 232, 299, 308, 312 
Buddha's Fire Sermon, The, 204 
Buddhaghosha, 342 
Buder, S., 92 
Byron, 81 

Camus, Jean Pierre, 53, 105, 117, 142, 

299,315,335 
Carnal love, 219 

of Christ, 65 
Cassian, 319 
Caste, 182 

Castellio, Sebastian, 7, 20, 285 
Catherine, St., of Genoa, 18, 99, 122 
Catherine, St., of Siena, 167, 187, 189, 
264 

written down by Tommaso di Petra, 

167 

Catholicism, 176 
Causation, 155 
Caussade, J. P. de, 53, 89 
Chandogya Upanishad, 10, 236 
Chantal, St. Jeanne, 258 
Chapman, Abbot John, 121, 152 
Charity, 65, 98, 100, 104, no, 119, 175, 

187, 194, 199, 270, 314 
Ch'eng-en, Wu, 147, 164 
Chiang Chih-chi, 283 
Chih-chi, Chiang, 283 
Christ, 20, 58-60, 65-67, 124, 127, 1 80, 
285, 289, 308, 310, 312 

carnal love of, 65 

following of, 207, 264 

imitation of, 340 
Chuang Tzu, 13, 14, 91, 106, 119, 120, 

123, i34-*3 6 , l6l > l8<5 I95 I9 6 

249, 281, 343 
Chudamani, Viveka, n 
Civilization, 181 
Claver, St. Peter, 224 
Cloud of Unknowing, The, 47, 295, 318, 

323, 327 

Condren, Charles de, 207, 295, 298 
Constitution and temperament, 168, 177 
. 851 



THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 



Contemplation, 105, 170, 183, 259, 303, 

3", 337, 338, 344 
Controversy, 160, 161 
Conversion, 178 
Coomaraswamy, Ananda K., 63 
Coue*, 280 

Craving, desire, 55, 96, 260 
Culture, 127 
Curd d'Ars, 84 

Daishi, Yoka, 147 
D'Ars, Cure*, 84 
Darwin, 342 

De Caussade, J. P., 53, 89 
Decentralization, in 
De Condren, Charles, 207, 295, 298 
Deliverance, liberation, 12, 13, 31, 50, 
57, 64, 106, 154, 217, 230, 245, 250 
Denk, Hans, 7, 20, 108, 282 
Descartes, 36 
Desire, 33, 87, 101, 121, 165, 202, 250, 

*S3 

Detachment, 100, 102, 120, 122 
De Vigny, Alfred, 92 
Devotion, 100, 170, 175, 257 
Dhammapada, 109, 205 
Dharma, 162, 176, 179, 181, 261, 313 
Dhyana, 70 

Diamond Sutra, 147, 243, 302 
Dionysius, the Areopagite, 42, 43 
Disease, 262 
Disquietude, 120 
Distraction, 250, 325, 329 

Eckhart, 8, 19, 23, 33, 37, 38, 41, 48, 49, 

70, 79, 8 7> 90, 99 I02 I0 3 "3> 
125, 145, 150, 153, 186, 200, 205, 
206, 217, 242, 264, 324, 329, 334, 

344 

Ectomorphy, 172 
Education, 17, 287 
Eightfold Path, 136 
Emotion, feeling, 100, 292, 296 
Endomorphy, 172 
Enlightenment, 67-68, 71, 73, 103 
Erigena, Scotus, 44 
Eternity, 38, 68, 90, 106, 162, 167, 274, 

276, 277 

Everard, John, 108, 282 
Evil, 205, 209, 211, 232, 264, 274 
Experience, 152-153* M**, 2 93 
Extraversion, 173 

Faith, 268 

Fall, the, 209, 261 



Fate, 213 

Fear, 187 

Feeling, emotion, 100, 101, 104, 292, 296 

Fe-nelon, 104, 132, 188, 248, 254, 293, 

295, 329 
Folk-lore, 252 

Following of Christ, The, 207, 264 
Foreknowledge, 214 
Form, 210, 218 
Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, The, 

260 

Fox, George, 20, 330 
Francis, St., of Assisi, 327 
Frangois de Sales, St., 53, 104, 115, 117, 

121, 123, 141, 195, 199, 249, 253, 

258,259,314-315,326,330 
Freedom, 109 

Garrigou-Lagrange, R., 177, 298, 339 

Ghazzali, Al, 86, 146, 254 

Gilson, Etienne, 187 

Gita, Bhagavad, 9, n, 57, 61, 170, 174, 

205, 218, 303, 304, 312 
Godhead, 29, 33, 38-40, 48, 49, 68, 71-72, 

101, 113, 128, 150, 158-159, 203, 

260, 271, 309, 339 
God, nature of, 29-32, 66-71, 83, 87, 97 

see especially chapters II, III and IV 
Good, 205, 210, 211, 222, 262 
Gopi maidens, 191 
Gospels, Synoptic, 60 
Grace, 81, 191, 266, 290 

gratuitous, 81 
Green, T. H., 28 
Gregory, St., the Great, 95, 240 
Grellet, Stephen, 310 
Grou, N., 130 
Gue"non, Rene", 71 

Hakuin, 79 

Healing, 299 

Hillel, 22 

Hilton, Walter, 125, 338 

Hinayana, 16, 78 

Hinayanists, 16 

Hippocrates, 169 

History, 63 

Hobbes, 213 

" How Men Behave in Crisis," 50 

Huang-Po, 69, 71, 86 

Hubris, 91, 190, 252, 288 

Hugo, Victor, 92 

Hui Neng, 67, 78, 146, 160 

Humanitarianism, 91 



INDEX 



Hume, 47, 155-156 

Humility, 103-104, 114, 185-188, 257, 
292, 340 

Idealists, 280 

Idolatrous, 17, in 

Idolatry, 17, 54, 106, m, 126, 159, 161, 

239* 277, 278, 287, 308, 324, 342 
Ignorance, 185 
Imagination, 292 
Imitation of Christ, The, 340 
Immanence, 8 
Immanent, 8, 30, 31 
Immortality, 242 
Incarnation, 29, 58-59, 66 
Incarnations, 64 
Inge, Dean, 285 
Inner Light, 21, 137, 223 
Inquisition, the, 221 
Inspiration, 135, 193, 196, 197 
Intellect, 153, 163 
Intercession, 254, 255 
Introversion, 322 
Introvert, 173 
Iti-vuttaka, 237 

James, William, 2 

Japam, 320 

Jerome, St., 118 

Jesuits, 316 

Jesus, 59, 84, 138, 149, 275 
Logia of, 73 

Jews, 308 

Jnana, 151 

Job, 198 

John, i:4,95 

John, St., of the Cross, 33, 66-67, I0 , 
102, 107, 117, 120-122, 123, 149, 
150, M3, 193, 216, 247, 249, 294, 
334, 340, 343 

Johnson, Samuel, 52, 57 

Jones, Rufus, 20 

Juliana of Norwich, 274 

Jung, C., 170 

Kabir, 17, 57, 122, 227, 253 

Karma, 56, 272, 274, 275 

Kierkegaard, S., 198 

Kindness to animals, 224 

Knowledge, i, 5, 19, 28, 31, 39, 44, 55, 
56, 68, 94, 95, 96, 107, 115, 128, 
129, 150-151, 153, 155, 166, 168, 
170-171, 175, 212, 232, 260, 275, 

3oi, 333, 339, 340 
Kokushi, Dai-o, 146 



Krishna, 61, 63 
Kung*chia Ta-shih, 99 

Lacordaire, 188 

Lallement, Father L., 83 

Landscape painting, 75 

Language, 17, 24, 147-148, *5<>, 165, 266 

Languages, 43 

Lankavatara Sutra, 14, 71, 77, 153, 238, 

322 
Lao Tzu, 33, 109, 121, 133, 138, 147, 

167, 190, 194, 247, 312 
Lawrence, Brother, 328 
Law, William, 7, 8, 48, 49, 57, 63, 95, 98, 

loo, 114, 127, 150, 152, 160, 191, 

193, 200, 203, 204, 207-209, 227, 

237, 247, 248, 254, 255, 257, 279 
Lawyers, 66, 270 
Legalism, 31, 66 
Leibniz, i 

Liberal Protestantism, 179 
Liberation, deliverance, 12, 13, 116, 124, 

128, 138, 186, 238, 301 
Liberty, 140 
Logia of Jesus, 73 
Logos, 19, 37, 58, 59, 62, 107, 109, 133, 

191,311 
Love, 2, 95-101, 103, 104, 122, 123, 153, 

282, 323, 344 
carnal, of Christ, 65 
spiritual, 65 

Loyola, St. Ignatius, 120 
Luther, 269, 285-286. 

Machinery, 196 

Magic, 307 

Magnus, Albertus, 129 

Mahayana, 16, 30, 41, 62, 67, 74, 216, 

321 

Mahayanists, 16, 63, 64, 78 
Maitrayana Upanishad, 129, 236, 239 
Mallarme, 160 

Man's final end, 94, 105, 137, 177 
Mantram, 319 
Maxwell, Clerk, 269 
Meditation, 105 
Memory, 216 
Mental prayer, 315 
Mesomorphy, 172 
Meyerson, E., 1 1 
Milton, 161 
Mind, 14, 16, 34, 69, 71, 73, 77, 87, 102, 

146, 211 

Mind and body, 34, 246 
Miracles, 299 



THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 



356 

Monkey, 165 

More, Dame Gertrude, 115, 118 

Mortification, 84, 113, 116, 125, 126, 133, 

196, 217, 248 
Mo Tsu, 73 
Mysticism, 66 

Nature, 82, 90, 91, 92, 93, 109, 124 

Nemesis, 91, 94, 96 

Neng, Hui, 67, 78, 146, 160 

Neri, St. Philip, 257, 264 

Nicholas of Cusa, 150, 194, 213 

NifTari, 240 

Nirvana, 56, 73, 74, 77, 83, 103, 216, 217, 

237, 238, 271, 333 
No-mind, 86 
Non-attachment, 120, 125, 175 

Obedience, 141 

Objections, 116 

Olier, J. J., 40, 298, 329 

Oman, Dr. J., 4, 83, 84 

One Hundred and One Zen Stories, 139 

One-pointedness, 342 

Otto, Rudolf, 151 

" Oxherding Pictures," 84 

Panchadasi, 259 

Pascal, 97 

Patience, 335 

Paul, St. Vincent de, 344 

Paul, St., 58, 60, 67, 102, 149, 190, 217 

Peace, 102, 103, 222 

Pelagius, 334 

Penn, William, 21 

Perennial Philosophy, i, 4, 7, 8, 13, 23, 
25, 27, 44, 45, 48, 60, 62, 78, 86, 91, 
94, in, 113, 122, 135, 147, 158, 
168, 190, 203, 209, 210, 213, 215, 
217, 231, 245, 270, 277, 285, 287, 

*93 3i, 337 
Personality, 45, 47, 48, 52, 60, 193, 246 

selfness, 45 
Petition, 251 

Philo, 22, 41, 83, 114, 179, 345 
Plato, 21 
Plotinus, xi 
Plutarch, 282 
Po, Huang, 69, 71, 86 
Poverty, 138 

Power, 92, 109, in, 142, 143, 309, 313 
Prayer, 115, 251,276, 343 

mental, 315 

Progress, 91, 92, 93, 94, 106, 163, 337 
Prophecy, 298 



Protestantism, liberal, 179 
Providence, 213 
Prunabuddha-sutra, 73 
Psychic, 27 

medium, 304 
Psychism, 27, 116 

Quakers, 7, 20, 137, 223, 224 
Quietism, 78 

Rabi'a, 119 

Radin, Dr. Paul, 27, 28, 170 
Raven, Canon, 83, 84 
Reality, 2-5, 12, 50, 54, 57, 69, 166 
Recollectedness, 311 
Remorse, 294 
Revolution, 221 
Rhetoric, 157, 247 
Richelieu, Cardinal, 96 
Right livelihood, 136 
Rites, 304 
Ritual, 301 

Rumi, Jalal-uddin, 2, 22, 95, 107, 139, 
160, 162, 198, 204, 215, 216, 243, 



Ruskin, 196 

Ruysbroeck, 19, 40, 69, 166, 187, 199, 

Ryo-Nen, 159 

Sacraments, 72, 73, 301, 309 

Sa'id, Abu, 319 

St. Ajnselm, 257 

St. Augustine, 66, 82, 85, 107, 205, 240, 

*53 334, 343 
St. Bernard, 18, 32, 65, 70, 82, 98, 166, 

187, 199, 244, 302 
St. Catherine of Genoa, 18, 99, 122 
St. Catherine of Siena, 167, 187, 189, 264 
written down by Tommaso di Petra, 

167 

St. Francis of Assisi, 327 
St. Francois de Sales, 53, 104, 115, 117, 

121, 123, 141, 195, 199, 249, 253, 

258, 2 59 3M-3I5, 3*6, 330 
St. Gregory the Great, 95, 240 
St. Ignatius Loyola, 120 
St. Jeanne Chantal, 258 
St. Jerome, 118 
St. John of the Cross, 33, 66-67, 100, 102, 

107, 117, 120-122, 123, 149, 150, 

153, 193, 216, 247, 249, 294, 334, 

340, 343 

St. Paul, 58, 60, 67, 102, 149, 190, 217 
St. Peter Claver, 224 



INDEX 



357 



St Philip Neri, 257, 264 

St. Teresa, 67, 100, IT?, 335 

St. Thomas Aquinas, 96, 146, 153, 338, 

34i 

St. Vincent de Paul, 344 
Saints, 54 

Sales, St. Francois de, 53, 104, 115, 117, 
121, 123, 141, 195, 199, 249, 253, 
*58, 259> 3 I 4-3i*> 3 26 > 33 
Salvation, 230, 236, 237 
Samsara, 73, 74, 83 
Saunders, Kenneth, 311 
Saviours, 236 
Scotus Erigena, 44 
Scriptures, 4, 20, 21, 25, 147, 227 
Seccho, 75 
Self, 10, 114,204-207,279 

-knowledge, 185, 188, 327 

-will, 115 

Selfness, personality, 45, 60 
Sen T'sen, 21. 
Shakespeare, 95 
Shankara, 4, u, 13, 32, 100, 238, 244, 

272, 337 

Sheldon, William, 169, 171, 172 
Shih-t'ou, 147, 259 
Shruti, 4 

Silence, 86, 247, 249, 250 
Simplicity, 130, 133 
Sin, 207, 275, 318 
Sincerity, 130 
Singh, Sadhu Sundar, 228 
Slavery, 223, 224 
Smith, John, 150, 166, 242 
Smriti, 4 

Song of Songs, 191 
Soul, 18, 19, 22, 105, 113, 122-123, 150, 

208, 242 

Specialization, 261 
Spinoza, 275 
Spirit, 46, 48, 62, 65, 67, 100, 133, 167, 

214,257 
Spiritual authority, 142, 182, 313 

exercises, 314 
Spirituality, 85 
Sterry, Peter, 167 
Stout, G. F., 156 
Suchness, 64, 88, 107 
Suffering, 260 

vicarious, 265 
Sufi, 215 

aphorism, 124 
Sufis, 7, 30, 67, 299, 316 
Sufism, 86, 240 
Superstition, 282 



Survival, 242, 245, 246 

Suso, 69, 117 

Sutra, Diamond, 147, 243, 302 

Sutralamkara, 147, 236 

Sutra, Lankavatara, 14, 71, 77, 153, 238, 

322 

Sutra, Prunabuddha, 73 
Sutra, Surangama, 103, 307 
Sutra on the Distinction and Protection 

of the Dharma, 119 
Sutta, Metta, 99 
Swift, Dean, 108 
Symbol, 282, 303, 309, 324 
Synoptic Gospels, 59 

Ta-shih, Kung-chia, 99 

Tao, 37, 133, 134, 167, 194, 263 

Taoism, 14, 311 

Taoist, 13 

Tathagata, 16, 71, 243 

Tattva, Tantra, 77 

Temperament and constitution, 166, 177 

Temple, Archbishop, 277 

Temptation, no, 310 

Tennant, F. R., 4, 152, 272 

Teresa, St., 67, 100, 115, 117, 335 

Tevigga Sutta, 61 

Theologia Germanica, 20, 21, 67, 129, 

204, 236, 240 

Theology, 66, 151, 152, 175 
Third Patriarch of Zen, The, 89 
Three Bodies, The, 30 
Tibetan Book of the Dead, 41, 324 
Time, 63, 64, 106, in, 217, 219, 277 
Tolstoy, Leo, 195 

Traherne, Thomas, 79, 8 1, 90, 124, 128 
Transcendence, 8, 30 
Transcendent, 8, 30 
Trench, Richard, 17, 166 
Trinity, 29 
Truth, 79, 88 > 8 9> 9<*, 99 I2 9> M5> M<5, 

158, 163, 302, 338 
true, 88, 146, 150, 151 
T'sen, Sen, 21 
Tsu, Mo, 73 
Tzu, Chuang, 13, 14, 91, 106, 119, 120, 

123, 134-136, 161, 186, 195, 196, 

249, 281, 343 



Upanishad, B; 

Upanishad, ~ 

Upanishad, 

Upanishad, 

Upanishad, 

Upanishadi 




129,136,139 



35 THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY 

Vedanta, 39, 67, 311, 319 Will, 24, 49, 86, 87, 101, 114, 117, 155, 
Vedantists, 39 191, 194, 199, 200, 210, 256, 286 

Vicarious suffering, 265 Woolman, John, 224, 266 

Vigny, Alfred de, 92 Words, 32, 89, 145, 148, 149, 153, 154, 
Violence, 222 155, 247, 302 

Virtue, 323, 338 Wordsworth, 81, 197 

Visvanatha, 159 Wu Ch'eng-en, 147, 164 
Viveka-Chudamani) n 

Yengo, 77 

Yogavasistha, 242 

Waley, Arthur, 164 Yung-chia Ta-shih, 15, 258 
War, iii, 137,269 

Whichcote, Benjamin, 244 Zen, 14, 71, 75, 77, 148, 159, 283 



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