Friday, July 28, 2017

On the Traditionalist/Perennialist School

At one point, I studied, absorbed, and even kind of believed the teachings of an early 20th century philosophy known as Perennialism, or The Traditionalist School.  (The two are not the same, but they are interrelated, and for the purposes of this post, we will treat them the same.

The basic tenet is that all of the major religious traditions, at their best, lead to or impart knowledge of the Transcendent, commonly known as "God", even if they disagree with each other, they do so because God set it up that way.

Well the funny thing about the Traditionalist school is that it furthermore posits that to actually acquire the knowledge of that transcendent reality from the major traditions, you have to PICK ONE.  You can't smorgasboard or cherry-pick or try to learn from all of them, but you have to pick one, enter into it, and forget the rest.

Well, someone asked me if this is compatible with Christianity or not (Christianity is considered by that school as one of the major Traditions it speaks of).  I said, "Well, as far as being compatible with Christianity, 'pick one' totally is, as long as you pick Christianity. 🙂"  I continued:

As for the general idea of all the major religion traditions at their best being oriented toward the one transcendent reality/God, yes and no.  Christianity does have the idea of the "spermatikos Logos" -- the seed of the Word.  That is, that although God gave the oracles directly to the Jews, He nevertheless planted eternity, and a thirst for the Word, and even some hints in the right direction, among the nations as well, and that the heathen philosophers did their best with this, resulting in Buddhism & Taoism in the East, Aristotelianism & Platonism in the West, etc.

However, where we differ is that while the Traditionalist school teaches that you can come to knowledge of the transcendent through any of those traditions (pick one), Christianity teaches that these were and are (even including Judaism) planted and formed by God to effect the incarnation of that transcendence, that is, so that the transcendent could transcend itself, and draw creation into itself.  The philosophies of the heathen were the pinnacle of what man could achieve in his created limitedness.  To rise to the transcendent, the transcendent had to condescend to lead us upward.  None of those could accomplish that, or pull Him down (For "'Who has ascended into the heaves?', that is, to bring down Christ.")  But the Logos Himself could, and did.  Once the Logos became incarnate, the call went forth to leave the paths of (relative) ignorance, and limitedness, and unite ourselves to Him, and He, then would bring us to the Father.  The other traditions are useless, except insofar as they bring us to Him; but once we are brought to Him, we must "leave our nets" -- that is, the systems of our philosophy, by which we try to catch the substance of our lives -- "and follow me".  "So they left all, and followed Him."