Mysticism: The Perennial Philosophy

I found today a book called The Perennial Philosophy, published in 1946 by Aldous Huxley (who in 1932 wrote Brave New World). It is a survey of mystical wisdom from many traditions throughout history, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and the mystic traditions of Christianity and Islam.

I’m pleased to say that this wide-ranging, wise, and scholarly work confirms my intuitions. Indeed, it’s slightly embarrassing to learn that my deep insights are in fact common knowledge, if you talk to the right people!

God (that is, “God”) is one, and God is all. Mysteriously, we have individual selves which are in some way identical with God, and yet separate. “The Godhead,” as the fundamental ground of being, is “translucent darkness,” indescribably pure, ungraspable by any human conception.”God” is also manifest, in the individual spirit of every being, from atoms to the highest complex intelligence.

It is the ultimate goal of the mystic to experience “unitive knowledge of the divine Ground,” to go back to where we already are, to leave behind being “two” and become “one.” To do this requires that the separate “I” must die. One must be kind and humble, and focus relentlessly on living in the Reality that God is above all (“transcendent”) and within all (“immanent”).

I am encouraged to learn that this impulse and this set of ideas appears and reappears throughout history. Huxley has traced the expression of mystic thought and practice through the traditions, but he is clear that the history is irrelevant. These truths are eternally true; they are who we are; they are where we come from, they are what our purpose is.

I will return to these thoughts as I assimilate them and understand them better.

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