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The Perennial Philosophy is defined by its author as The metaphysic that recognizes a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds With great wit and stunning intellect Aldous Huxley examines the spiritual beliefs of various religious traditions and explains them in terms that are personally meaningfulAn inspired gathering of religious writings that reveals the divine reality common to all faiths collected by Aldous HuxleyThe Perennial Philosophy Aldous Huxley writes may be found among the traditional lore of peoples in every region of the world and in its fully developed forms it has a place in every one of the higher religionsWith great wit and stunning intellect—drawing on a diverse array of faiths including Zen Buddhism Hinduism Taoism Christian mysticism and Islam—Huxley examines the spiritual beliefs of various religious traditions and explains how they are united by a common human yearning to experience the divine The Perennial Philosophy includes selections from Meister Eckhart Rumi and Lao Tzu as well as the Bhagavad Gita Tibetan Book of the Dead Diamond Sutra and Upanishads among many others

10 thoughts on “The Perennial Philosophy

  1. says:

    This book redefined the way I look at religion It speaks of the philosophy which connects all religions and should be used as a way of relating to one anotherI found this particular passage uite engagingThe invention of the steam engine produced a revolution not merely in industrial techniues but also much significantly in philosophy Because machines could be made progressively and efficient Western man came to believe that men and societies would automatically register a corresponding moral and spiritual improvement Attention and allegiance came to be paid not to Eternity but to the Utopian future External circumstances came to be regarded as important that states of mind about external circumstances and the end of human life was held to be action with contemplation as a means to that end These false and historically aberrant and heretical doctrines are now systematically taught in our schools and repeated day in day out by those anonymous writers of advertising copy who than any other teachers provide European and American adults with their current philosophy of life And so effective has been the propaganda that even professing Christians accept the heresy unuestioningly and are uite unconscious of its complete incompatibility with their own or anybody else's religion Well said Hux

  2. says:

    Dear Aldous Huxley I know that you where pronounced dead a long time ago but because of this book you are a living presence in my life today Thank you Bryon

  3. says:

    To begin I must note that I am not spiritual if spirituality is taken to indicate belief in spirit to point to crystals and new agey ness and tarot and so on I also do not consider myself enlightened but I think I get on a gut level a basic idea of what that state might be like The greatest fault Huxley's book has is its attempt to force varying traditions of mysticism into one perennial philosophy The Perennialists Huxley included seem not to acknowledge the diversity of views within the mystical tradition That is a shame And yet there is a category known as the mystical to which various traditions speak It is a real category of experience and as far as I'm concerned is totally fascinating The book is mostly Huxley's commentary but a very large portion of it is uotations from various texts either mystical or interpreted as such by Huxley It is well written and as single volume accounts go a pretty good one And buried within Huxley's sometimes frustrating notion that he is capable of uncovering the esoteric truth of esoterica are some pretty excellent observations and some very good writing For instanceSamsara and Nirvana time and eternity; Nirvana and Samsara are one; for instance the path of spirituality is a knife edge between abysses; for instance 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 wisdomHuxley also does a pretty good job of explaining why mysticism is not euivalent to sticking one's head in the sand and why its denial of self separateness is not the same as the dangerous forms of collectivism and indifference to difference For instance he identifies political monism as something very different to monism in its genuine sense There is a cult of unity that is not the religion of unity but is only an idolatrous ersatz He gets at everyday ignored truths in a blunt and to me refreshing way he notes that bondage to self will is the root and principle of all evil It's often really hard to explain my interest in the mystical given that it coincides in me with much its opposite Some of it is just having been obsessed with The X Files and the esoteric in general but never having donned a tinfoil hat or purchased crystals That's not so odd in itself But mysticism? Unity with the One that is all whether you call it Brahman or the Tao or the Nature of Things or Allah or God? How can someone be interested in that but be almost anti religious and think that everything has a material explanation at some level? I think Huxley's book has helped me understand my interest in mysticism A lot of it has to do with how mysticism is not boring but very interesting as a way of perceiving the world And there is also great ethical potential in all this which is to an extent simply about a species of passivity combined with profoundly active awareness in which one is neither an unaware imbecile nor an overactive shit stirrer I almost wrote not boring as a mode of thought Except of course meditative states centredness certain experiences possible through psychedelics and so on do not necessarily revolve around thought or knowledge They do not revolve around the self around your past or your future or your dreams and desires and attitudes They revolve around the realized real something almost indescribable and I cannot describe it or pretend to that happens when one engages in contemplative practice And this practice and what happens within it are so fucking fascinating precisely because it's just something you have to do to get there and because it will dramatically affect your everyday experience of the world the saving truth has never been preached by the Buddha seeing that one has to realize it within oneself Sutralamkra There is the possibility of pure seeming awareness Awareness without the ego's involvement Experience of reality in other words without the mediation of time oriented result oriented thought This awareness is a way out of the self a way out of what David Foster Wallace has famously called our default setting in which I am and you are and everyone is at the centre of their own little universes in which one's self is what processes all incoming information Huxley says there has to be a conversion sudden or otherwise not merely of the heart but also of the senses and of the perceiving mind metanoia as the Greeks called it this total and radical 'change of mind' This change of mind is about in large part the elimination of self will self interest self centred thinking wishing and imagining Underpinning all this is an understanding of the difficulty of the transition and of its potential value At the risk of sounding like the shittiest Beatle not named Ringo imagine a world in which self interest is not merely uestionable but is blasphemy in which individual self sufficiency is a thoroughly blasphemous idea I am talking in terms of psychology That's important to emphasize Yes it's still my brain processing input But what is different in the throes of the mystical experience is that the software running from the hardware let's pretend that's a valid way of looking at it changes entirely Everything begins to look different That is still a chair but it is no longer my chair my pain my love my anger my ambition And that sort of dissociation a dangerous psychological disorder according to the DSM that great manual of the Cult of Self is but a fraction of the larger picture Freud is Fraud than ever before Jung starts to make sense in a way previously inaccessible to me The categories of Western psychology start to reveal themselves as deeply mistaken and even stupid and the Buddhist philosophers are revealed as the greatest psychologists and phenomenologists to date The issue is not with the Western psychologists' accuracy of description It is that they have an extremely narrow account of reality and of the possibilities of the human mind and make their system make sense by excluding anything out of the ordinary making it disorder and insanity To uote Huxley 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 Unfortunately we are still dragging that nonsensical baggage behind us even as we enter into a larger and comprehensive understanding of mind and brain I suspect that my meditative practice has led me to what the mystics call the divine anyway I just don't think it's divine So a large portion of what Huxley talks about here and what is central to the mystical tradition makes sense to me because I have had what counts as mystical experiences That is not to say that mystical experiences are a matter of divine contact only that there is such a thing as a mystical experience I mean that there is a sort of experience that many human beings have and have had that matches a list of criteria that makes it count as this certain sort of experience An experience that often leads to a taste of beatitude blessedness which as Huxley notes is something uite different from pleasure it depends on non attachment and selflessness therefore can be enjoyed without satiety and without revulsionAnd it is no wonder that the mystics whether Sufi Catholic Indian Japanese Chinese etc consider this experience a matter of unity with the divine For the experience is a profound alteration of consciousness a gaining of distance from the myopic obscenely self centred violently egotistical standard mode of operation of the human being And this standard mode has coloured most religious practice as well as led to our obscenely disgusting obsession with consuming and retaining material goods The mystical is a way out of what Huxley calls a certain blandly bumptious provincialism which if it did not constitute such a grave offence against charity and truth would be just uproariously funnyOf course not all those in the mystical tradition are all that concerned with God Huxley neatly steps past Orthodox Buddhist thought to focus on the spiritualist Mahayana practices for instance He ignores the possibility recognized by some that several prominent Sufi mystics come very close to denying to the divine any of the characteristics that make it properly divine The amazing thing about the mystical tradition is that it repeatedly de emphasizes and even annihilates everything bad about religious practice and belief The mystical tradition's view of God also bears so strong a resemblance to Spinoza's discussion of God that one might ask of it the same things one asks of Spinoza is he a pantheist a panentheist an atheist? After centuries of debate nobody's figured out with any certainty what Spinoza is And that's that The contemplative tradition is one that needs to be taken account of It is instead largely ignored or even bizarrely euated to the dangerous and dark forms of religious practice common among humans Why? Because it leads one to mysterious places and we want to pretend we know everything with certainty To end I'll note that the book contains some unexpected surprises including Huxley's various interesting if not in my mind accurate readings of various poems and the like Also some psychological and philosophical perspectives on mind that I had never encountered before Three of the many uotations I underlinedDo 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 PoWith the lamp of word and discrimination one must go beyond word and discrimination and enter upon the path of realization Lakavatara SutraNothing burns in hell but the self Theologia Germanica

  4. says:

    Everyone should read this book It is one of the best inspirational inuisitive philosophy texts I have ever read

  5. says:

    I first read this book when I was on a Huxley kick when I was a teenager Brave New World inspired me to read everything I could get my hands on by him Needless to say The Doors of Perception was my speed then than The Perennial PhilosophyI recently read Mike Scott's autobiography Adventures of a Waterboy and discovered that this book meant a lot to him and his spiritual life I picked up a copy at the library and felt a spark of recognition I'd read this book before but was too young and probably too Catholic to understand a word of itBut I realized that the book somehow lit an unconscious spark in me It's precepts are essentially a reiteration of the beliefs that I've developed on my own through reading the writers whom Huxley surveys Heck I've even become a member of the Unitarian Church which is largely influenced and informed by this bookI realize that this isn't so much a review as it is a self indulgent memoir the kind of thing that goes against the precepts of the book It's an ego based piece of writing But the book was a VERY necessary read for me at this point in my life So I thank Mike for yet again pointing me in the right direction the direction of healing

  6. says:

    This is an interesting book but the style and the language are pretty difficult at least for me I think that who is into philosophy will have less problems than me to understand the languageIt doesn't talk about the dogma of the main religions Christianity Hinduism Islam Buddhism Taoism but about the philosophy and the spiritual side that are very similar if not the same This is what I like the most to see the points in common of religions and not the differences There are a lot of uotes from different holy scriptures and from the writings of saints and mystics I found them all very inspiringI recommend this book to who is interested in religions and their philosophical side but be aware that it isn't a fast or easy read

  7. says:

    I picked this book up almost two decades ago coming off a run Robert Anton Wilson and a deep interest in Eastern Philosophies particularly Taoism I had never finished the book at the time as the real life of a young adult took sway Coming back almost 20 years later this book still holds it's allureThis is not an easy book to digest and Huxley did an amazing job presenting such a succinct overview of the Perennial Philosophy drawing from so many resources it's just plain awe inspiring The excerpts from the myriad of texts were wisely chosen and fit the chapter topics and provided a jumping of point for further exploration From Zen to Christianity Buddhism to Islam Christ to Rummi and all religions and philosophies in between Huxley provides an great introduction to the underlying stream of commonality linking us all together in the greater whole of the universe A thread that has stitched the saints and prophets throughout the ages and presents us with such a simple path that is oh so difficult to follow The annihilation of self the achievement of charity and the ultimate path of existence; it is in here This book is not a light read by any means and it forces one to take a long hard look at life My hat is off to Huxley that it is Read it

  8. says:

    Huxley is referring to the perennial philosophy as those universal truths that span culture and religion He shows in this book how all of the ancient traditions implemented these truthsor didn't He is clearly very erudite and the book is full of uotes from early saints from both the East and the WestWhile much of the material is uite interesting I wondered if he didn't write the book simply to show how Christianity has 'gone wrong' His anti Christian bias is pretty obviousThis book is NOT a light read and you should only pursue it if you are really interested in this topic On the positive side this book did cause me some introspection on certain subjects and I feel like it has helped me in some of my own spiritual pursuits

  9. says:

    Huxley examines a whole host of religions from Buddhism to Catholicism and everything in between explaining what the enduring philosophy of each is and what similarities they have to one another In the end he makes the brilliant point that no matter how different each religion may be they are at their core seeking the exact same thing Anyone remotely interested in religion should read this Highly recommend

  10. says:

    I was talking to a friend about how much I hated the baggage I felt I had inherited from my loosely Christian upbringing Some kind of female guilt about sex Why I couldn't bear going to any political events because I kept seeing this oppressive good v's evil narrative So for example if I went to events organised by the Left I kept feeling I had been co opted by some church of people who believed they were the chosen ones the 'good people' who would change the world and we are in a war with the 'bad' tory peopleMy friend said that he didn't think this is the ultimate truth of most religions and told me to read this book In this book Huxley presents his version of the Perennial Philosophy It brings together writing from Christian Mystics Sufi Islam Taoism Hinduism Buddhism and Sure to some people this may be height of hippy bullshit But for me the ideas presented here that heaven and hell are not external but are within all of us resonate very deeply with me Or put slightly nicer by Rumi 'If thou has not seen the devil look at thine own self' Or in the words of William Law; The will is that which as 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 within God The book presents loads of really interesting ideas I was interested in the ideas I mention above about the nature of good and evil heaven and hell But also the nature of capitalism the violence of Christianity and Imperialism and other religions For me his presentation of the environment is also something I have been thinking about recently The idea that God is in nature It reminds me of an example that Wangari Maathai gives of Christian missionaries who went to Kenya and told the indigenous population that they were wrong for thinking that God living in the mountains Then the mountains ceased to be sacred They began to be exploitedThis will be a book I'll be drawing on and rereading for many years to come As well as having loads of incredible uotes from thinkers and movements I'll be sure to look up and read of it also has some banging analysis that Huxley makes of the time in which he was living much of which is still very relevant today I like this uote Our present economic social and international arrangement are based in large measure upon organised lovelessness We begin by lacking charity towards Nature so that instead of trying to cooperate with Tao or the Lagos on the inanimate and subhuman levels we try to dominate and exploit we waste the earth's mineral resources ruin it's soil ravage its forests pour filth in its rivers and poisonous fumes into its air Upon this fairly uniform ground work of loveless relationships are imposed others Here are some examples contempt and exploitation of coloured minorities living amount white majorities or of coloured majorities governed by minorities of white imperialists And the crowing superstructure of uncharity is the organised lovelessness of the relations between state and sovereign state a lovelessness that expresses itself in the axiomatic assumption that it is right and natural for national organisations to behave like thieves and murderers armed to the teeth and ready at the first favourable opportunity to steal and kill