In this reissue, in Huxley's centenary year, he quotes from Chinese Taoists, from followers of Buddha and Mohammed, from the Brahmin scriptures and ...Show synopsisIn this reissue, in Huxley's centenary year, he quotes from Chinese Taoists, from followers of Buddha and Mohammed, from the Brahmin scriptures and from Christian mystics such as St John of the Cross to illustrate his belief in a universal truth. Beneath the revelations of all the great world religions, the teachings of the wise and the holy of all faiths and the mystical experiences of every race and age, Huxley believed there was a basic unity of belief which is the closest approximation mankind can make to truth and ultimate reality.Hide synopsis
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In a globally integrated world where the nightly news catalogues religious and cultural conflicts, one might get the impression that differences matter more than commonalities. This book provides one of the classic statements to the contrary.
Huxley revisits core religious texts and draws a series of shared insights about an array of spiritual issues. These issues are in turn woven together in a coherent tapestry that comprises a system of idea termed the Perennial Philosophy.
Religion's origins reside with the direct experience of the divine, available to all people in all places and historical periods. The experience of the divine is beyond words, beyond even thought, and is an upwelling from all creation in all those who make the commitment to listen. From these insights come a series of implications which Huxley convincingly supports with quotes from foundational texts and spiritual gurus from many traditions around the world. Where religious leaders and militant followers often focus on hierarchies, difference and conflict, the Perennial Philosophy levels the field for all before the divine and points us in the direction of love and compassion.
For those who want to get beyond theological minutiae of true believers who think words are sufficient grounds for privileging one belief system over another, this book is an excellent introductory corrective.
This is an astonishing book, both a beautiful ecumenical overview of the spiritual life and a first-rate anthology of passages from spiritual writings from all traditions. The overview is organized in a persuasive and illuminating way, beginning with psychology and moving to ethics and metaphysics, ending with general advice for practice. The anthology collates the passages according to theme (as the overview progresses) and contains some of the best writing I have ever seen. (Especially excellent were the passages from the 17th century mystics usually overlooked.) Written by A Huxley, it goes without saying that it is wonderfully clear and full of incisive observations.
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.
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