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Whitall Perry’s life and work
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Whitall Perry
Whitall  Perry
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Biography of Whitall Perry

Perry was born near Boston in 1920. His early intellectual interests included Platonism and Vedanta and he traveled extensively in the Middle and Far East both before and after World War II with a brief interlude of study at Harvard University. He was one of several Harvard students who came under Coomaraswamy's influence in the 1940s. Between 1946 and 1952 Perry and his wife lived in Egypt, at which time he developed close ties with René Guénon , after whose death he moved with his family to Switzerland. He was already a close associate of Frithjof Schuon with whom he returned to the United States in 1980.

Ananda Coomaraswamy once expressed the view that the time was ripe for someone well-versed in the world's great religious traditions and fluent in several languages to compile an encyclopedic anthology drawing together the spiritual wisdom of the ages in a single volume. This task was to be accomplished by Whitall Perry whose seventeen-year labor bore fruit in A Treasury of Traditional Wisdom (1971). This is a work of singular importance. In his Introduction Perry invites the reader to enter upon a spiritual journey.

Thousands of quotations have been woven into an immense tapestry whose threads have been drawn from all the major religious and esoteric traditions. Each section of the book is introduced with a concise and acute commentary, usually referring to the works of Guénon , Coomaraswamy , and Schuon to whom Perry acknowledges a debt of "profound gratitude" and "whose several roles," Perry tells us, "have been altogether indispensable in the formation of this work." It would, of course, be impossible to uncover every manifestation of the Primordial Wisdom in all its plenitude, but Perry has surely come close to such an ideal...

Perry is the author of several books including Gurdjieff in the Light of Tradition (1978), a work commissioned by the Editor of Studies in Comparative Religion to help dispel the miasma of confusion that surrounds the Armenian thaumaturge. Recently he has published The Widening Breach: Evolutionism in the Mirror of Cosmology (1995) and Challenges to a Secular Society (1996), the latter a collection of essays on subjects such as drug-induced "mysticism," reincarnation doctrines, psychotherapy, modern "guru" figures, Shakespeare, cosmology and psychology. Perry has also written many articles including, "Reincarnation: New Flesh on Old Bones" which was published in the journal Studies in Comparative Religion. However, A Treasury Of Traditional Wisdom remains his most well known publication and it is arguably one of the most important works in the traditionalist canon. He died in 2005.

(Excerpted and edited from Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy by Harry Oldmeadow


Whitall Perry’s Writings Online
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The last of Whitall Perry's three-part study of Gurdjieff, using historical sources and Gurdjieff's own writings. Perry's analysis and commentary are very much from the Traditionalist/Perennialist perspective, from which he concludes, regarding Gurdjieff's legacy and impact: "For the reader who desires to see [Gurdjieff] in a clear light, the whole matter hinges on metaphysical discernment—even if aesthetic discernment alone should suffice. In order to situate Gurdjieff and his movement, the one and only question the seeker has to resolve is whether or not God is Omnipotent. If the answer is in the affirmative, then Gurdjieff and his hosts are doomed."
Gurdjieff in the Light of Tradition (Part 3)Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 8, No. 4. (Autumn, 1974)Perry, Whitall Comparative Religion, History, Modernism, Spiritual Life, Tradition
Gurdjieff in the Light of Tradition (Part 2)Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 9, No. 1. (Winter, 1975)Perry, Whitall Comparative Religion, History, Modernism, Spiritual Life, Tradition
Gurdjieff in the Light of Tradition (Part 1)Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 8, No. 4. (Autumn, 1974)Perry, Whitall Comparative Religion, History, Modernism, Spiritual Life, Tradition
Alan Watts considered himself for a time to be among the contemporaries of Schuon, Guénon, and other exponents of the Perennial Philosphy, but later disassociated himself from the movement. In this article, Whitall N. Perry delivers a thorough critique of the perspective outlined in Watts’ book, Beyond Theology, linking his ideas to those of J. Krishnamurti, also known as Alcyone. In the course of this discussions he highlights several key differences between traditional metaphysics and the form of spirituality referred to by Watts as “Godmanship.” He concludes by listing the common characteristics found among all such “spokesmen for a New Religion”.
Anti-Theology and the Riddles of AlcyoneStudies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 6, No. 3. (Summer, 1972)Perry, Whitall Book Review, Cosmology, Metaphysics, Modernism, Perennial Philosophy, Tradition
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