Primordial Light

It is that universal and primordial human experience of simple wonder at the being of things to which all true philosophy is ultimately answerable.

— David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss (2013, 129)

I have lately began to believe that ancient and medieval philosophies — virtue ethics, ontological idealism, and stuff — are very often better than modern philosophies. Like primordial people had just understood things more clearly. The thinkers of the modern age have buried all that revelation under their own thoughts — rather than accepting what the reality around them gives.

This was also the view of Frithjof Schuon, a founder of the Perennialist School, with whom I have at least indirectly disagreed in this one. But past weeks I have began to see the probable reason why he thought so, when I have read writings of an Eastern Orthodox scholar David Bentley Hart. For example, Hart’s defense of Aristotelian metaphysics is quite convincing.

Unfortunately, this does not help me at all with my doctoral thesis, which is very tied to analytic philosophy.

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Few words on Griffin’s theism

Europe_a_Prophecy,_copy_D,_object_1_(Bentley_1,_Erdman_i,_Keynes_i)_British_MuseumLately, I have read David Ray Griffin’s article on process panentheism. His article, titled ”Panentheism: A Postmodern Revelation”, is published in a book called In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being: Panentheistic Reflections on God’s Presence in a Scientific World, edited by Philip Clayton and Arthur Peacocke.

According to Griffin’s view, God is not the source of everything. There have been ”chaotic events” alongside God, and the act of creation is to organize these events as a universe. Griffin says that those events are metaphysically as necessary as God, although the universe created from them is contingent. God, he says, contains the metaphysical principles, causality, and the laws of mathematics and logic, that form and sustain the universe.

Griffin says that this was also a view of many classical Christian theologians, but it was abandoned when other theologians wanted to oppose the views of Marcion, a gnostic theologian. Marcion believed that matter is evil and the cause of all evil events of the universe. As a response to his theology, Christian theologians advocated creatio ex nihilo, creation from nothing, and a view that matter cannot be evil because it is created by the benevolent God. Hermogenes, a Christian Platonist, warned theologians from adopting this view, for it would open the doors for blaming God of the existence of evil.

I am unsure in what way the belief, that God has not created that primordial event stuff, would be an answer to the problem of evil. Perhaps the answer lies in closer analysis of the nature of those necessary events. The principles guiding the natural order of things are, according to Griffin, part of God, so the evil must be in the events, not in the principles.

But is this view necessary from the point of view of evil? There are other answers to that problem, compatible with the creatio ex nihilo doctrine. Assuming that there is something else metaphysically necessary than God, seems to be in itself much more problematic view, than the problem of evil — or any other problem of theism. Rather I would sympathize the view of David Bentley Hart, Russell Stannard and Seyyed Hossein Nasr, that God is the source of existence, and choose some other explanation for evil.

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A Holy Grail in a Bookshelf

One of my scholarly interests is an esoteric philosophy called perennialism. To put it briefly, perennialism is a view that there are some profound truths that have been given to mankind by the Absolute (that can be identified, for example, as the God or Śūnyatā) either by direct divine revelation, meditative realization or natural reason in ancient times. These truths have then existed among humans inside of religious, mythological and philosophical traditions.

In Western esotericism, these profound truths are called philosophia perennis and prisca theologia. The former term was first used by a Catholic and Neo-Platonic theologian Agostino Steuco in the 16th century. In the early modern period, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz wrote about the topic, and in the 20th century Aldous Huxley wrote a book about it, The Perennial Philosophy. In Hinduism, sanātana dharma is similar term to philosophia perennis.

In the 20th century, the term perennialism was associated with a movement established by René Guénon and Frithjof Schuon and continued by Ananda Coomaraswamy and Titus Burckhardt. Guénon noticed that the esoteric movements of the modern West do not actually hold any primordial revelation or initation, so he abandoned them and rather went to look for the perennial wisdom from traditional religions. Later, Schuon cultivated his ideas further.

Frithjof Schuon used the term sophia perennis which includes philosophia perennis and religio perennis. He can be considered as the most notable perennialist thinker and author, and he originated the purely spiritual lineage of the Guénonian movement. Its most significant living thinker is an Iranian Sufi scholar, Seyyed Hossein Nasr. There is also more politically oriented branch that can be seen as a deviation from the Guénonian spiritual philosophy.

I am also under the impression that neo-Thomist philosophers, like Frederick Copleston, and New Agers also consider perennial philosophy as part of their thinking, but I have not yet looked into that. I am probably going to do that at least what comes to the neo-Thomist interpretation. The most interesting book I have so far read about perennialism is Paths to the Heart: Sufism and the Christian East (ed. James S. Cutsinger), written in Schuonian spirit.

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