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Every Branch in Me
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Every Branch in Me: Essays on the Meaning of Man
Every Branch in Me: Essays on the Meaning of Man
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Author(s): 
Subjects(s): 
Comparative Religion
Metaphysics

Price:  $19.95

ISBN:  0-941532-39-9
Book Size:  6" × 9"
# of Pages:  368
Language:  English



Description

Every Branch in Me: Essays on the Meaning of Man is a collection of articles by leading perennialist authors that are unified by a single theme: nothing that is properly human can be separated from the intrinsically spiritual nature of man. The subject matter of this book, therefore, may be termed "spiritual anthropology." The specific topics are diverse, touching upon many important aspects of human experience, including the meaning of work, the role of laughter in spiritual life, relying upon God during a time of illness, the spiritual significance of clothing and the importance of seeking a spiritual guide. All of these essays, however, affirm with a single voice that man may only truly exist in relation to God's Being, and that at his center man possesses a nature which is "theomorphic" (that is, in the image of God).

Contributors include:

Frithjof Schuon, Titus Burckhardt, Thomas Yellowtail, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, James Cutsinger, William Stoddart, Brian Keeble, Patrick Laude, Gray Henry, Mark Perry, Lillian Stavely, and others.

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Detailed Description of Every Branch in Me

Every Branch in Me: Essays on the Meaning of Man is a collection of articles by leading perennialist authors that are unified by a single theme: nothing that is properly human can be separated from the intrinsically spiritual nature of man. The subject matter of this book, therefore, may be termed "spiritual anthropology." The specific topics are diverse, touching upon many important aspects of human experience, including the meaning of work, the role of laughter in spiritual life, relying upon God during a time of illness, the spiritual significance of clothing and the importance of seeking a spiritual guide. All of these essays, however, affirm with a single voice that man may only truly exist in relation to God's Being, and that at his center man possesses a nature which is "theomorphic" (that is, in the image of God).

What is the vocation of man? What is the meaning of his life on earth? Like timeless streams flowing down a mountain, these questions seem to have no beginning and no end. In the early morning hours and late at night they echoed in the minds of our ancestors; and they will whisper in the minds of our descendants. Profound questions which concern the deepest nature of man touch upon the very foundation of thought, and throughout the centuries man has never stopped seeking answers. Perhaps, to paraphrase Rumi, within our deepest asking is the answer.

Every Branch in Me: Essays on the Meaning of Man is a collection of articles by leading perennialist authors that are unified by a single theme: nothing that is properly human can be separated from the intrinsically spiritual nature of man. The subject matter of this book, therefore, may be termed "spiritual anthropology." The specific topics are diverse, touching upon many important aspects of human experience, including the meaning of work, the role of laughter in spiritual life, relying upon God during a time of illness, the spiritual significance of clothing and the importance of seeking a spiritual guide. All of these essays, however, affirm with a single voice that man may only truly exist in relation to God's Being, and that at his center man possesses a nature which is theomorphic.

The contents of this book offer a genuinely spiritual antidote to the impasses of despair and nihilism which are the final outcomes of the secular and relativist ideologies of our time. This book is a fountain of light and a window into the wisdom of the saints. On the whole, this book professes a rigorously sacred world-view which links the meaning of man to the Reality of God, forming one of the most compelling restorations of serious metaphysical thought in the last one hundred years.

Contributors include:

Frithjof Schuon, Titus Burckhardt, Thomas Yellowtail, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, James Cutsinger, William Stoddart, Brian Keeble, Patrick Laude, Gray Henry, Mark Perry, Lillian Stavely, and others.


About the Author(s)

Barry McDonald


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Reviews of Every Branch in Me

Every Branch In Me: Essays on the Meaning of Man is an anthology of profound, thought-provoking essays that search for the essence and purpose of existence in human life itself. Regarding various religious teachings, modern history, and philosophical dilemmas with evenhanded scrutiny, essays such as "The Role of Culture in Education" and "The Survival of Civilization" stretch the boundaries of commonly held wisdom in search of a deeper unifying truth. Every Branch In Me is an impressive compilation and highly recommended reading for students of religion, philosophy, and metaphysics."

Midwest Book Review



"In one of his many masterly essays, "No Activity Without Truth", Frithjof Schuon observes, "That which is lacking in the present world is a profound knowledge of the nature of things; the fundamental truths are always there, but they do not impose themselves…on those unwilling to listen." (from The Sword of Gnosis, ed. J. Needleman, 1974, p28.) Every Branch in Me is an anthology of essays, written from a perennialist perspective which seeks to reaffirm that "profound knowledge" of which the contemporary world remains so wilfully ignorant. This book is addressed not only to readers already familiar with the magisterial work of such figures as René Guénon, Ananda Coomaraswamy and Schuon, but also to those many people who sense the intellectual and spiritual sterility of the modern worldview but who are yet to discover the wellsprings of tradition.

The governing theme which knits together these diverse essays is the true nature of man's vocation. Nothing is more characteristic of modernity than the reductionistic and one-dimensional "definitions" of man which abound in the contemporary world, especially in the domains of sociology, psychology, and a rationalistic philosophy, not to mention the disastrous effects of a totalitarian evolutionism which so tyrannizes the modern mentality. As E.F. Schumacher remarked many years ago, "Nothing is more conducive to the brutalisation of the modern world than the launching, in the name of science, of wrongful and degraded definitions of man, such as 'the naked ape'" (A Guide for the Perplexed, 1977, p31). Needless to say, the fabrication of dehumanising social forms on the external plane depends on our assent to thought-forms which deny or distort our real nature.

The various authors assembled in Every Branch in Me seek to remind us of the human vocation wherein is to be found the deepest purpose and meaning of life, one which confers both dignity and responsibility. To put the matter in the spiritual vocabulary of the Occidental traditions one can say that the grandeur of the human condition derives from our opportunity to realise that we are truly the sons and daughters of God, that we are made in His Image, that we might attain sanctity and become conduits through which God's grace flows into the world around us. Furthermore, as the editor of this volume reminds us, nothing that properly belongs to the human domain can be divorced from the life of the spirit. To put the same point slightly differently one might say that there is no human experience, no human situation, which is without a spiritual dimension and without spiritual possibilities—a verity of which the traditional worlds of both East and West were ever mindful and of which the contemporary world is ever forgetful.

Following a lucid and eloquent introduction by the editor, Every Branch in Me opens with a decisive essay by Frithjof Schuon, "To Have a Center" (taken from the book of the same title, 1990). Many readers will already be familiar with Schuon's peerless expositions of metaphysical principles and religious doctrines. However, this essay is of peculiar significance as it is one of the few places where Schuon directly confronts some of the grotesqueries of modern, European "high culture". Within the context of what he elsewhere calls "a spiritual anthropology" (elaborated more fully in a later contribution to this anthology), Schuon exposes the profane and often Promethean pretensions of artists and "intellectuals" who have succumbed to the bogus philosophies and ideologies of modernity. The productions of post-medieval culture are, all too often, like so many luxuriant outgrowths of colourful but poisonous plants proliferating in the febrile hothouse of humanistic individualism. Discerning both the grandeur and the pathos of their ambitions, Schuon explains the tragic deflection from the human vocation of such figures as Beethoven, Wagner, Rodin, Nietzsche, Gaugin and Dostoevsky. Without denying their very considerable subjective resources and without ignoring the fact that they were sometimes "the bearers of incontestable values" (p14), Schuon shows how a humanistic culture, insofar as it has an ideological and pseudo-religious function, is rooted in a fundamental ignorance—of God's nature because it denies Him primacy, and of man who now usurps the position of God ("man is the measure of all things").

Schuon's reflections on 19th century bourgeois culture, marked on one side by a petty and "horizontal" mediocrity and on the other by a hubristic decadence, if one may so describe it, are followed by Thomas Yellowtail's ruminations on the destruction of a culture as fas removed as imaginable from both the mediocre and the decadent. The extirpation of the Plains Indians' culture, pervaded by that sense of the sacred which marks all traditional civilizations, comprises one of the most ignominious vandalisms of modern times. The fate of the Indians themselves, so tragic and so poignant, reminds us of the destruction of traditional cultures all over the globe as the juggernaut of modernity crashes onwards. However, Chief Yellowtail's central purpose is not to sit in judgement of the perpetrators of these crimes but to reaffirm, in the inimitable idiom of the Indians, those spiritual values and principles which informed Indian life and which contrast so starkly with those of the modern secularized, industrialized and urbanized world. As Yellowtail states so directly, "Modern civilization has no understanding of sacred matters. Everything is backwards." (p31.) This theme is taken up again in a later essay also concerned with the spiritual economy of the Indians, "On Being Human" by Joseph Epes Brown.

One of the most authoritative critics of modern science and scientism has been Titus Burckhardt and it is altogether appropriate that his contribution to Every Branch in Me should concern one of the most insidious forms of scientism intruding into a field in which it has no competence, thereby serving only to sow more seeds of confusion. One refers to the pretensions of a quasi-"scientific" psychology to "explain" the life of the spirit. In "Modern Psychology" Burckhardt shows how the theories of Carl Jung actually comprise a case of "psychism"—that confusion of spiritual realities and psychic phantasmagoria which was so ruthlessly exposed in Guénon's Reign of Quantity (1945). Burckhardt's critique of Jungian psychologism is followed by Seyyed Hossein Nasr's more wide-ranging arraignment of modern science which is contrasted with the sacra scientia of traditional civilisations. Many readers will already be familiar with the work of Professor Nasr, not only a leading Islamicist but a pre-eminent historian of science and a guiding light in the often confused debate about the "ecological crisis". Scientism, this time in the guise of evolutionism (hand-in-hand with its social accomplice, the pseudo-myth of Progress), is also the target of Huston's Smith's essay, ""Hope, Yes; Progress, No".

The limited compass of a book review precludes any detailed commentary on all of the nineteen essays on offer here. But Every Branch in Me is full of treasures. One might mention Marco Pallis' fascinating reflections on "the significance of human attire" in "Do Clothes Make the Man?" or Lord Northbourne's sobering meditations on "The Survival of Civilization". Two subjects which have hitherto commanded only limited treatment by traditionalist authors concern education and work, addressed here by William Stoddart and Brian Keeble respectively. (One might note in passing that one of the most illuminating of all commentators on these subjects was Ananda Coomaraswamy who is not represented in this particular anthology.) Another essay which deserves the attention of a much wider Western audience is James Cutsinger's arresting piece on the "problem" of religious pluralism, written from a Christian perspective and using both Patristic and Schuonian explications of the doctrine of Christ's "two natures" as a platform for reviewing Christian exclusivism. Many Christian folk of good will, exposed to the accumulated weight of centuries of a misdirected exclusivism, would derive immeasurable profit from this essay which affirms Christianity as one amongst many integral religious traditions.

Most of the authors mentioned above are, in varying degree, widely known by readers already familiar with the traditional outlook and with the implacable opposition to modernistic ideologies which is the inevitable corollary to any real understanding of those principles and values vehicled by traditional forms. Whilst no one will question the pre-eminence of such exponents of the traditional perspective as Schuon, Burckhardt and Nasr, it is particularly pleasing to see the work of less well-known authors represented in this volume. Some, like the Swedish philosophers Kurt Almquist and Tage Lindblom, belonged to the same generation as Schuon and Burckhardt, whilst Gray Henry, Patrick Laude, Mark Perry and [others] represent a younger generation of scholars and seekers who strive to carry on the work of such illustrious predecessors. Lilian Stavely (born circa 1878) was the author of The Golden Fountain, a recondite mystical work; it is good to find in this anthology an extract from her spiritual autobiography, The Prodigal Returns.

Every Branch in Me does not present itself as any kind of compendium; it does not seek to give us a representative sample of teachings taken from the world's major religious traditions. Nonetheless, one cannot help observing that the Eastern traditions are only lightly represented. True, there are a good few passing references to the East, but one would have been grateful for some more extended considerations of Oriental teachings about the human vocation. By way of illustrating the point one might adduce Coomaraswamy's profoundly important essay on "The Bugbear of Democracy, Freedom and Equality" as the kind of piece which might usefully have complemented the material in this anthology, sitting comfortably alongside such essays as Jean Louis Michon's "The Vocation of Man According to the Koran". (Coomaraswamy's essay can be found in The Bugbear of Literacy, 1979.) Given the burgeoning Western interest in the traditions of the East, especially Buddhism, a contribution on the Buddhist understanding of "that state hard to attain" (the human realm) might also have served a useful purpose. But one does not want to resort to the well-worn stratagem of reviewers who are more concerned with what is not done than with what is actually in front of them. Nor should the various remarks above about the spiritual impoverishment of modernity be allowed to suggest that the intent of this anthology is essentially negative. The follies of modern thought, foregrounded in several essays, are only discussed in order to clear away those prejudices which obscure traditional teachings. The sovereign purpose of this anthology, as the editor reminds us, is to reawaken a sense of man's sacred vocation and thus to immunize us against "the despair and nihilism which are the final outcomes of the secular and relativist ideologies of our time" (pxi).

It might be said that the structure of Every Branch in Me is polyphonic: various melodies and motifs recur throughout, with each being inflected in new and different ways but always sustaining the central theme. The editor is to be commended on not only the selection of materials but their arrangement. Like all of the books produced by World Wisdom, this one has been meticulously and attractively produced.

Every Branch in Me is a most welcome addition to the library of perennialist works; indeed, it is the most significant anthology of its kind since The Sword of Gnosis appeared more than twenty-five years ago. It will return some readers to the sources from which these essays are taken while for others it will serve as an introduction to those riches which are to be found in the spiritual treasuries of the world's great religions. World Wisdom intends to publish a series of companion volumes on related themes, a development which we can await with the keenest anticipation. It is but rarely that one is able to review a book with unqualified enthusiasm—but here is one such occasion. It is the heartfelt wish of this reviewer that Every Branch in Me will find the widest possible audience. The contemporary world stands in the most urgent need of that timeless wisdom which these authors have sought to re-express in a way which, even in these dark and troubled times, is accessible and intelligible. In so doing they offer us some signposts along the path we must travel if we are to be true to our human vocation."

—Harry Oldmeadow, La Trobe University Bendigo, and author of Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy



"I commend this anthology, and each essay included, for its diversity and, at the same time, its coherent unity. In our time of terrorism, war, disease, poverty, and spiritual malaise, there are still (and will always be) beacons of light to an absolute and everlasting truth.…The writers whose works are collected in this book strive to uphold this beacon of light, as their sacred duty. But the beacon they uphold is nothing of their own invention or discovery. It is the one beacon that shines on all of humanity from the religious traditions given to mankind out of God's grace and mercy. The readers of this journal, and those of the publications from World Wisdom Books, are few in number. The beacon of light shown in these writings will not be amplified by the mass media. But for those whose destiny it is to find this Beacon, it exists; and God willing, they will find it."

Darrell Blakeway, Sophia





Table of Contents for Every Branch in Me


Preface

  1. To Have a Center
    Frithjof Schuon

  2. Loss of Our Traditional Values
    Thomas Yellowtail

  3. Modern Psychology
    Titus Burckhardt

  4. Man in the Universe
    Seyyed Hossein Nasr

  5. Lucifer
    Tage Lindbom

  6. The Mystery of the Two Natures
    James Cutsinger

  7. Do Clothes Make the Man?
    Marco Pallis

  8. Holy Fools
    Patrick Laude

  9. Work and the Sacred
    Brian Keeble

  10. The Role of Culture in Education
    William Stoddart

  11. Every Branch in Me
    Kurt Almqvist

  12. On Being Human
    Joseph Brown

  13. The Vocation of Man According to the Koran
    Jean-Louis Michon

  14. The Forbidden Door
    Mark Perry

  15. Even at Night the Sun is There
    Gray Henry

  16. Outline of a Spiritual Anthropology
    Frithjof Schuon

  17. The Prodigal Returns
    Lilian Staveley

  18. Hope, Yes; Progress, No
    Huston Smith

  19. The Survival of Civilization
    Lord Northbourne
Acknowledgments

Biographies of Contributors

Index



Excerpts from Every Branch in Me

The following excerpt is taken from the beginning of one of the last essays in the anthology Every Branch in Me: Essays on the Meaning of Man ,.
The essay was written by the eminent author Huston Smith:

Hope, Yes; Progress, No


I no longer desired a better world, because I was thinking of creation as a whole: and in the light of this more balanced discernment, I had come to see that higher things are better than the lower, but that the sum of all creation is better than the higher things alone.
—St. Augustine, Confessions, VII, xiii, 19


I only pass on to others what [has been] passed on to me. If there is any lack of learning in my writing, any obscurity of expression or superficial treatment, you may feel sure that it is in such places that I am most original.
—St. Bellarmine

       Hope is indispensable to human health—to psychological health most immediately, but because man is a psychosomatic whole, to physical health as well. Situated as we are in the Middle (hence middling) World, vicissitudes are a part of the human lot: external vicissitudes (hard times), and internal vicissitudes—the “gravitational collapse” of the psyche that sucks us into depression as if it were a black hole. Against such vicissitudes hope is our prime recourse. Ascending a sheer-faced cliff, a mountaineer can lodge his pick in an overhead crevice and, chinning himself on it, advance. Hope is the psyche’s pick.
        In the primordial outlook hope is vertical, or at least transhistorical. “Vertical” here means that the fundamental change that is hoped for is an ascent of the individual soul through a medium— the world—which does not itself change substantially but provides stable rungs on which the soul can climb. Or in cases where the prospect is viewed collectively and in worldly terms—as in the Kingdom of God that is to come “on earth,” the coming age of the Maitreya Buddha, or Islam’s Day of Resurrection—it is assumed that this Kingdom will differ in kind from the history that preceded it and will be inaugurated by God’s direct if not apocalyptic intervention. In neither its individual nor its collective version is progress in the traditional sense envisioned as sociopolitical, the gradual amelioration of man’s corporate lot through his collective efforts and ingenuity.
        By contrast, the modern version of hope is emphatically historical. And its imagery is horizontal, for its eye is on an earthly future instead of the heavens. In one sense all hope is future-oriented, but that of modernity is doubly so—for mankind as a whole as well as for the individual. In fact, hope for individuals is for the most part tied to hope for history; it is on the hope that human life as a whole can be improved that hope for the individual primarily relies. If the traditional view rested its case on the fact that in boiling water bubbles rise, the modern view hopes to escalate the water itself.
        What effected this Copernican revolution in the way hope—or progress; the same thing—is conceived? Three agents.
        The first was science. Around the seventeenth century the scientific method began garnering information at an exponential rate. True, its findings pertained to physical nature only, but even so, the vista was breath-taking. Moreover, by virtue of improvements that occurred in methods of experimentation, the new understanding of nature could be proved to be true. It seemed evident, therefore, that in this one respect at least, corporate progress was being effected. Never again would mankind be as naïve as it has been regarding its habitat.
        On the heels of this progress in pure understanding came science’s utilitarian spin-off, technology. It multiplied goods, relieved drudgery, and counteracted disease. Since these are not inconsiderable benefactions and, like the findings of pure science, can be dispensed—bestowed on people, unlike character, say, which each individual must acquire for himself—it again looked as if mankind as a whole was advancing. History was getting somewhere.
        These two causes for the rise of the vision of historical progress are well known. The third reason has been less noticed because it is privative; it involved not the appearing but the vanishing of something. Science and technology would not have changed man’s outlook a fraction as much as they did had they not been reinforced by scientism. Its epistemological assumption that only the scientific method gives “news about the universe” produced the ontological conclusion that corporeal reality is the only concrete and self-sufficient reality there is. In a single stroke the mansion of being was reduced to its ground floor. The consequence for hope was obvious: if being has no upper stories, hope has no vertical prospect. If it is to go anywhere—and hope by definition implies a going of some sort—henceforth that “where” could only be forward or horizontal. The extent to which the modern doctrine of progress is the child, not of evidence as it would like to believe, but of hope’s élan—the fact that being indispensable it does spring eternal in the human breast and, in the modern world view, has no direction to flow save forward—is among the undernoted facts of intellectual history. If the ratio between evidence and hope in the idea of historical progress were to be laid squarely before us, we would be humbled in our estimate of ourselves as rational creatures.



Selection from our Library about Every Branch in Me
 TitleSourceAuthor 1Author 2Subject WW HTMLWW PDFExternal Link
The Vocation of Man According to the KoranEvery Branch in Me: Essay on the Meaning of ManMichon, Jean-Louis Islam
Combining a Socratic and a personal approach, Cutsinger looks to the writings and insights of Frithjof Schuon to examine "how in good conscience can a traditional Christian accept the idea that there is a 'transcendental unity of religions'?" The author finds answers in a deeper understanding of Christ's two natures: human and Divine.
The Mystery of the Two NaturesEvery Branch in Me: Essay on the Meaning of ManCutsinger, James Christianity, Comparative Religion, Metaphysics, Perennial Philosophy
Modern PsychologyEvery Branch in Me: Essay on the Meaning of ManBurckhardt, Titus Metaphysics
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