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Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism
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Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism
Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism
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Author(s): 
Subjects(s): 
Comparative Religion
Metaphysics

Price:  $17.00

ISBN:  0-941532-27-5
Book Size:  5 1/2" x 8 1/2"
# of Pages:  232
Language:  English



Description

“Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism serves as a near complete expression of Schuon’s thought. This book is distinctive in presenting, in one volume, what might be called the three hallmarks of Schuon’s writings. In clear and distinct order, he writes on cosmology and metaphysical principles, on the esoteric and exoteric expression of these principles in the various religious traditions, and on the trials and ultimate transformation of human nature.”
—from the foreword by Bruce K. Hanson

Those familiar with Schuon’s writings will know that this transformation involves not only certitude of thought and serenity of mind, but also certitude and serenity of heart. Whether the subject is intellectual, religious, moral or aesthetic, the aim is ultimately a quasi-existential assimilation of certitude that is reflected in man’s centrality, his total and integral nature.

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Detailed Description of Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism

“Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism serves as a near complete expression of Schuon’s thought. This book is distinctive in presenting, in one volume, what might be called the three hallmarks of Schuon’s writings. In clear and distinct order, he writes on cosmology and metaphysical principles, on the esoteric and exoteric expression of these principles in the various religious traditions, and on the trials and ultimate transformation of human nature.”
—From the foreword by Bruce K. Hanson)

Those familiar with Schuon’s writings will know that this transformation involves not only certitude of thought and serenity of mind, but also certitude and serenity of heart. Whether the subject is intellectual, religious, moral or aesthetic, the aim is ultimately a quasi-existential assimilation of certitude that is reflected in man’s centrality, his total and integral nature.


About the Author(s)

Frithjof Schuon

Frithjof Schuon (1907-1998) is best known as the foremost spokesman of the “Traditionalist” or “Perennialist” school and as a philosopher in the metaphysical current of Shankara and Plato. He wrote more than two dozen books on metaphysical, spiritual, artistic, and ethnic themes and was a regular contributor to journals on comparative religion in both Europe and America. Schuon’s writings have been consistently featured and reviewed in a wide range of scholarly and philosophical publications around the world, respected by both scholars and spiritual authorities. Besides his prose writings, Schuon was also a prolific poet (see a listing of Schuon's poetry books) and a gifted painter of images that always portrayed the beauty and power of the divine, and the nobility and virtue of primordial humanity.

World Wisdom features a series titled "The Writings of Frithjof Schuon", which includes many new editions of classic books by Schuon in new translations and with additional materials. Our online Library contains many articles and poems written by Frithjof Schuon, allowing readers to see a representative sample of his remarkable body of work.

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Bruce K. Hanson

Bruce Hanson is a professor of philosophy and religion at Fullerton college. His major area of academic interest has been in the area of mystical experience and comparative religion. He has written several reviews for the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, the biographical entry for Huston Smith in the Dictionary of American Philosophy, and presented several papers on teaching religion. He wrote an enlightening foreword to Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism .

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Reviews of Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism

"Once again one reaches for superlatives. This book is not for everyone, for it is metaphysically demanding. But for those who thinkphilosophically it constitutes a kind of Principia Metaphysica, setting forth the principles of being with almost mathematical economy andprecision. The author reveals himself again as the most comprehensiveand architectonic metaphysician of our century."
—Huston Smith,Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion, Emeritus, Syracuse University




"The highest praise that I can offer concerning the writings of Frithjof Schuon is that they are worthy of their subject matter—the teachings of the great spiritual traditions. Whether one's views are supported or challenged by these writings, any serious person will feel grateful to be confronted by such a generously discerning intellect andto witness the emergence of authentic contemplative thought in this darkening time."
—Jacob Needleman, Dept. of Philosophy, San Francisco State University



"The prolific pen of Frithjof Schuon has produced another stimulating work . . . From the history of religion, so often trivialized by the routine accumulation of data, Schuon proposes a spiritual epistemology capable of facing both Transcendence and Immanence. The author goes so far as to demand in the researcher truth and holiness. Few authors have stressed this theme so persuasively as has Frithjof Schuon in a genuinely spiritual opus."
—P. Joseph Cahill, Chairman,Dept. of Religious Studies, University of Alberta



"This book is a veritable summa of traditional doctrines at the heart of which stands metaphysics. It is in a sense a synthesis of the works of theauthor written over the past half-century and casts a light of exceptional intensity upon complex metaphysical issues, various facets of man's inner life and the spiritual significance of existence itself inrelation to the Supreme Principle."
—S. H. Nasr, University Professor ofIslamic Studies, George Washington University



"Schuon's Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism is a wonderfully lucid and compact presentation of the core of Perennial Philosophy and Perennial Religion. Its undiluted metaphysics rings out a necessaryand inescapable challenge to contemporary understandings of humannature, rationality and spirituality. He speaks directly to our higherselves in a way that cuts through naive religious and scientistic fundamentalisms. Schuon should be required reading for all for whom philosophy and religion are vital concerns."
—Sheldon R. Isenberg, Dept.of Religion, University of Florida



"A magnificent book, which exceeds what even this master's most faithful readers have been led to expect. Schuon proves anew, by an even greater compression and irradiation of his Wisdom, how inexhaustibly beautiful is the Truth."
—James S. Cutsinger, Dept. of Religious Studies, University of South Carolina


Table of Contents for Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism

CONTENTS
    Preface

    Introduction: Epistemological Premises

    Part One: The World of Principles
  • Summary of Integral Metaphysics
  • Dimensions, Modes and Degrees of the Divine Order
  • Substance: Subject and Object
  • Creation as a Divine Quality
  • The Onto-Cosmological Chain
  • Dimensions of Omnipotence
  • Universal Eschatology

    Part Two: The World of Tradition
  • The Mystery of the Hypostatic Face
  • Outline of Religious Typologies
  • Two Esoterisms
  • Deficiencies in the World of Faith
  • Confessional Speculation: Intentions and Impasses
  • Enigma and Message of Islamic Esoterism
  • Pitfalls in the Language of Faith
  • The Irrefutable Religion

    Part Three: The World of the Soul
  • Ambiguity of the Emotional Element
  • The Psychological Imposture
  • Anonymity of the Virtues
  • Passion and Pride
  • Trials and Happiness
  • Synthesis and Conclusion



Excerpts from Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism

Preface by the Author

Throughout our works, we have dealt with the perennial religion, explicitly or implicitly, and in connection with the diverse religions which on the one hand veil it and on the other hand allow it to shine through; and we believe we have given a homogeneous and sufficient exposition of this primordial and universal Sophia, in spite of our discontinuous and sporadic manner of referring to it. But the Sophia perennis is quite evidently inexhaustible and has no natural limits, even in a systematic exposition such as the Vedânta. Moreover this systematic quality is neither an advantage nor a disadvantage; depending upon the content it can be one or the other; truth is beautiful in all its forms. In fact, there is no great doctrine that is not a system, and none that expresses itself in an exclusively systematic fashion.

As it is impossible to exhaust all that lends itself to being expressed, and as repetition in metaphysical matters cannot be a mistake — it being better to be too clear than not to be clear enough — we believed we could return to our usual theses, either to offer things we have not yet said, or to explain in a usefully new way things we have said before. If the fundamental data of a doctrine that is abstract by definition are more or less limited by the nature of things — this being the very definition of a system, since the formal elements of a regular crystal cannot be innumerable — the same does not hold true for illustrations or applications, which are without limit and whose function is to grasp better what at first glance does not seem to be sufficiently concrete.

One further remark, this time of a more or less personal order: we grew up at a time when one could still say, without blushing on account of its naivety, that two and two make four; when words still had a meaning and said what they meant to say; when one could conform to the laws of elementary logic or of common sense, without having to pass through psychology or biology, or so-called sociology, and so forth; in short, when there were still points of reference in the intellectual arsenal of men. By this we wish to point out that our way of thinking and our dialectic are deliberately out-of-date; and we know in advance, for it is only too evident, that the reader to whom we address ourselves will thank us for it.


Foreword by Bruce K. Hanson

There is a story told by the Chinese sage Mencius of a large mountain outside a city, a mountain whose original luxuriously forested state had been obscured and long since forgotten after years of logging and grazing. To look at the mountain now, people would never guess its original condition. Mencius intends this story as a metaphor for the human condition. He was telling the people that, after years of acquired conditioning, through a mindless absorption of the times, they too had forgotten their own original state.

It is precisely this recalling of each of us to our original nature that lies at the heart of religion. And it is this reminder to “become that which we are” that lies at the heart of Frithjof Schuon’s writings as well. Schuon, through more than a score of books written over more than half a century, has sought to keep alive the vision of the Sophia Perennis wherein “[O]ur soul proves God because it is proportioned to the divine Nature …. And it is in these foundations of human nature—image of the divine Nature—that the religio perennis is rooted, and with it all religion and all wisdom” (4). We humans each carry the truth and light of the Absolute within the depths of our being. And this light, Schuon points out, “reminds [each one of us] of what he is, and of what he should be since he has forgotten what he is” (82).

To speak of “becoming what we are” suggests a distinction that must be made as carefully as possible. For just as most of us confuse intensity of feeling with clarity of thought, so too do we often confuse being human and becoming human. At the level of being we are, of course, human; which is to say, every child who is born of human parents comes into the world with a human essence. But it is quite another matter to achieve our humanity in our existence; that is, to realize to the fullest degree the very promise which already is our nature. As the saying goes, there is many a slip between the cup and the lip.

Now “becoming human” is necessarily a conscious task. We don’t automatically grow into our humanity. “Man is called upon to choose,” Schuon tells us, and in fact, “the very reason for being of the human condition is to choose, and to make the right choice” (75). This certainly distinguishes us from creatures non-human. An acorn does not choose to fulfill its destiny as an oak, nor does a kitten need to find the will to embody its vocation. We humans are the creatures that can fail to become what we already are by nature; and, it might be added, we regularly do so. “[O]ne wants to be oneself without wanting to be so altogether, hence without wanting to go beyond the empirical ego and its desires” (43).

So, to become human is the religious task of humankind. Biological nature develops us only up to a certain point, and then we must individually, with great deliberation and with full consciousness, seek the rest. All great scriptures of the world are written in order to provide each of us with a description of this way to become fully human. And herein lies our salvation. As Schuon puts it, “Man is saved by conforming himself perfectly to his theomorphic nature” (104). And conversely, insofar as we are not adequately so conforming ourselves (and again, that is a matter of choice), we are becoming lost.

There is another dimension to Schuon’s writing which must be brought forward. It is this: Although we must individually, deliberately and consciously seek to become fully human, Schuon is quick to point out that it is not through our own efforts, ultimately, that we become ourselves. We are not constituted in a way able to bring off our own self-becoming. There is no pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. There is no program or method by which we can climb to heaven based solely on our own initiative. That is why all great religions in their basic scriptures stress the radical dependence of the human person upon what in Christianity is called “grace” and what the Chinese call the “energy of Tao.” It is that energy which embodies the will of Heaven. If we are to individually fulfill and express our nature, we must first recognize our radical dependence upon that Power which constituted us in the first place. As Schuon tells us, “Nothing can be accomplished without the aid of Heaven” (206). In order to become human, then, one must voluntarily undertake a specific task, a vocation, and perform that task in the continuing recognition that one is dependent for his or her growth upon that Power which constitutes him or her. It is for this reason that the object of becoming human is to become, religiously speaking, divinely human.

Now we come to the raw nerve of it all. If the human person will unconditionally make himself available to the work of that Power we call grace, grace will do the rest. Amazingly, if we devote ourselves entirely and unconditionally which is to say single-mindedly to becoming human, we must on that account become as divinely human; through our devotion, we necessarily participate in the divine life. “[M]an is a point of junction between … the outward and the inward: it is precisely in virtue of the dimension of inwardness, which opens onto the Absolute and therefore the infinite, that man is quasi-divine” (41).

Schuon doesn’t mean we become God with a capital “G.” Rather, insofar as we conform ourselves to our original nature, we participate in the divine life. As we conform ourselves to our original nature, God expresses God’s self as us. “The Spirit became flesh that the flesh might become Spirit.” And that is why we have in the Church Fathers the statement, “God became man in order that man might become god.” And if you write the last “god” with a small “g,” you will have precisely what both the Church Fathers and Schuon had in mind.

Schuon ends this book with a beautiful and profound reflection on Saint Bernard’s “I love because I love.” The deeper meaning of these words, Schuon tells us, points to the fact that “our happiness stems from what we are; we are happy to the extent that we are really and fully ourselves” (220). Just as God is love, we too are love waiting to be realized.

I must add one more thing. It is refreshing that Schuon does not enter into the many elaborate academic debates about religion and the nature of religious experience. He does not argue with the projectionists who find the source of religious experience in psychological or sociological forces, nor does he argue with the constructivists who view the various religious traditions as culturally constructed responses to a noumenal reality. And rather than encouraging us to remain academically detached, Schuon invites us to take seriously that the life of spirit is the fountain from which our scriptures have come to us, and to take seriously that we too can become explorers, trace the scriptures upstream, drink from the same waters and understand their meaning firsthand through the very source that inspired these scriptures. It is with this in mind that Frithjof Schuon speaks to us in these pages.

Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism serves as a near complete expression of Schuon’s thought. This book is distinctive in presenting, in one volume, what might be called the three hallmarks of Schuon’s writings. In clear and distinct order, he writes on cosmology and metaphysical principles, on the esoteric and exoteric expression of these principles in the various religious traditions, and on the trials and ultimate transformation of human nature. And every page is a calling to us, not merely to understand, but to become the concrete expression of what we understand.


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