Perennialism.

The perennial philosophy states that at the heart of each authentic tradition lies One Universal, Timeless Truth that transcends all time and space.

This Truth is beyond being.

This Truth is the source of Scared Revelation.

This Truth is God.

The Perennial Philosphy

What it is

  • Perennialism, like most Truths, is simple to understand.
  • Religions come from God. All religions. They come to man in the form of sacred revelation.
  • Each religion - a descent from heaven - forms a new civilization (or a new phase in a civilization) and tradition. Tradition, then, is the transmission of this religion into all facets of life.
  • As each tradition comes from religion, and each religion comes from God, every tradition provides a path back to God.
  • This path comes from the Divine and leads one back to the Divine.
  • In the words of Ananda Coomaraswamy, these are all paths that lead to the same Summit.

What it is not

  • The perennial philosophy or perennialism is not a new age or pseudo religion of its own.
  • It is not a mishmash or amalgamation of various religions or religious traditions (that's known as syncretism).
  • It does not comprise, for instance, the mixing of Dhikr in Islam, with Buddhist meditations and the occassional going to Church.
  • This idea of mixing religions is not perennial. In fact, it is modern and an affront to any perennial wisdom and such man made blasphemies are likely to lead one astray (and in fact, have led us to modernity).

Etymology

The Perennial Philosophy has been around since the beginning of time. Whilst the exact term may not have been around, the Truth has always been there.

  • This term did not exist in Greek or Latin in the Middle Ages.
  • The exact term was first used in the 4th Century AH / 10th Century AD by the Persian philosopher Ibn Miskawayh in his book called جاويدان خرد (Jaaveedaan Khirad).
  • In the book, which is in Arabic (only the title is in Persian), he uses the term آلْحِكْمَتَ آلْخاَلِدَ (al Hikmat al Khaalida). Both the Persian and Arabic terms literally translate into Perennial Wisdom.
  • The term Philosophia Perennis likely entered the West in the 5th/6th Islamic century.
  • In 1710/11, a letter written by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz popularized the term when he was asked what philosophical school he followed. He answered that he follows the school of the perennial philosophy.
  • Later scholarship showed that Leibniz learnt this from the Italian philosopher Agostino Steuco (1497-1548), librarian at the Vatican, who spoke Arabic.
  • The term was not mentioned much after Leibniz.
  • Things changed in the early 20th century. Traditionalists, starting with Rene Guenon, began to speak of the Perennial Philosophy in French.
  • Then, after the second world war, Alduous Huxley - a British novelist - published a book called 'The Perennial Philosphy'. This hinted at the original idea, but was not an authentic understanding or exposition of the Perennial Philosophy.
  • Rene Guenon (ʿAbd al Wāḥid Yaḥyá al Mālikī al Ḥāmidī al Shādhilī), Ananda Coomaraswamy, Frithjof Schuon (`Isa Nur al-Din Ahmad al-Shādhilī al Darquwi al- `Alāwi al-Maryamī) and Seyyed Hossein Nasr write extensively on tradition and the perennial philosophy, revitalizing its real meaning. That is how it is defined on this website.

Historical Timeline

In the
the term
was used by
in
in the language
10th Century AD
Javeedaan Khirad
Ibn Miskawayh
a book called Javeedaan Khirad
Persian
10th Century AD
Al Hikmat Al Khaalida
Ibn Miskawayh
a book called Javeedaan Khirad
Arabic
15th/16th Century AD
Philosphia Perennis
Agostino Steuco
in a book
Latin
18th Century AD
Philosphia Perennis
Gottfried W Leibniz
a letter
German
Early 20th Century AD
Le Philosphia Perennis
Rene Guenon
books
French
Mid 20th Century AD
The Perennial Philosophy
Alduous Huxley
a book titled 'The Perennial Philosophy'
English

Credits and Citations

All the information on this website has been taken from various books and lectures of Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr. However, this website is in no way affiliated with him.

By extension, this implies an inclusion and extension of the writings of Rene Guenon (Abd al Wāḥid Yaḥyá al Mālikī al Ḥāmidī al Shādhilī), Ananda Coomaraswamy, Frithjof Schuon (`Isa Nur al-Din Ahmad al-Shādhilī al Darquwi al-`Alāwi al-Maryamī) and Martin Lings (Abu Bakr Sirāj Al Dīn).

By further extension, this implies an inclusion of the tradition of wisdom in Islam (and by extension Sufism / Tasawwuf), ultimately going back to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings upon him).

This further implies the Transcendent Unity of Religions and an inclusion of Abrahamic and Pre-Abrahamic wisdom, including Hinduism, Buddhism, the Native American religions, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam (this is not a comprehensive list).

In effect, this includes every tradition (which can only be) derived from religion and sacred revelation.