Beautiful and sweeping May 6, 2008
Aldous Huxley has always been one of my favourite writers, of non-fiction as well as fiction. The Perennial Philosophy is one of his best, a wide ranging look at Christian, Muslim and Buddhist writers (including ones that one very seldom, if ever, hears of) to make the point that the aim of religion is fundamentally to unite the individual spirit with God. This uniting takes different forms in different traditions, but its essence is always the same: the denial of self in order to better be subsumed into the vast, all-inclusive One. In all religions there is a petty, mythological streak that counteracts this search, the real point of the religious life.
The value of the book is in its scope and the author's fine ear for a beautiful turn of phrase, making it as much an anthology of inspired poetry as a guide to transcendence. It is also an introduction to great but unknown (today) thinkers like Fénelon, William Law and Meister Eckhardt.
Negatives - the book is not clearly structured, and I felt Huxley could have included even anecdotal accounts about religion/spirituality in more 'primitive' cultures, instead of focusing only on the great religions. This, to me, would have reinforced further his theme of the universality of the Perennial Philosophy.
I read the book soon after I'd waded through over 1 000 pages of Ken Wilber and it felt like diving into a pool after a long uphill walk. An anthology of what seekers after divine unity have found, by one of the very great English writers of the 20th century.