The Perennial Philosophy

The Perennial Philosophy  written by Aldous Huxley

The Perennial Philosophy

Aldous Huxley

“This highest common factor in all preceding and subsequent theologies was first committed to writing more than twenty-five centuries ago . . .”

Aldous Huxley’s classic The Perennial Philosophy, first published in 1945, remains an important book for all who have chosen the path described in this book, as well as for those who simply wish to know more about it.

What is this path? As we understand Perennial Philosophy, it is not a system of thinking but rather a way of thinking, a way of believing. At rock bottom it holds that we each have the capacity within our own souls for direct communion with the Divine. This idea is found in the earliest sacred texts known to humankind and has endured throughout the centuries without interruption. It has flowed from its beginnings in the Far East through Greek, Roman and Renaissance thought and into English Romanticism. It was at the heart of the Transcendentalist movement at the start of the New World and of the spiritual movements that have followed in its footsteps since.

The idea at the core of Perennial Philosophy has never enjoyed mass popularity. After all, if we in fact need no intermediary for a relationship with God, what would be the role of religions? As one of the Christian mystics in Huxley book, the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, said, for those who decide to devote themselves entirely to a private personal faith and to contemplation, “family and friends descend upon them in a storm of criticism severely reproving them for their idleness.” As Huxley makes clear on every page of his book, a serious commitment to contemplation is anything but idleness.

Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy is, as he describes it, an anthology. And yet because of his commentary throughout, it is so much more. Gathered together under such topics as “God in the World,” “Charity,” “Truth,” “Silence,” “Prayer,” “Suffering,” “Faith” are excerpts from the selected writings of saints and sages. Those chosen, Huxley explains, are those who possess direct knowledge of the capabilities of the soul. “It is they who, dying to themselves, become capable of perpetual inspiration and so are made the instruments through which divine grace is mediated.” Included are such diverse names as Al-Ghazzali, Sri Aurobindo, Jacob Boehme, Buddha, Jean Pierre Camus, Chuang Tzu, George Fox, Hui Neng, St. John of the Cross, Lao Tzu, William Law, Nicholas of Cusa, Saint Augustine, Saint Paul, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Catherine of Sienna, Chuang Tzu, and many more.

Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy remains significant because of the perspective and the inspiration it brings to those who seek a deep spiritual life outside the walls of established religions.

The Gleam of Light Team

The Perennial Philosophy
Aldous Huxley
1945, Harper & Brothers Publishers

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