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Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy: Studies in Comparative Religion
Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy: Studies in Comparative Religion
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Perennial Philosophy

Price:  $23.95

ISBN:  978-1-936597-20-8
Book Size:  8.25" x 11"
# of Pages:  248
Language:  English

In order to better cope with the pressures and stresses of the current day, modern psychology is anxiously seeking to find new therapies to address the increasing disorders within the human psyche. In the process new fields of research, such as humanistic and transpersonal psychology, curiously appear to borrow more and more from the wisdom of the ages. This volume, containing eighteen articles by noteworthy expositors of the perennial philosophy such as Huston Smith, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and Frithjof Schuon, presents the spiritual psychology of the wisdom traditions as a much-needed antidote to the current impasse in modern psychology.
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More details on “Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy”

In order to better cope with the pressures and stresses of the current day, modern psychology is anxiously seeking to find new therapies to address the increasing disorders within the human psyche. In the process new fields of research, such as humanistic and transpersonal psychology, curiously appear to borrow more and more from the wisdom of the ages. This volume, containing eighteen articles by noteworthy expositors of the perennial philosophy such as Huston Smith, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and Frithjof Schuon, presents the spiritual psychology of the wisdom traditions as a much-needed antidote to the current impasse in modern psychology.

About the Author(s)

Samuel Bendeck Sotillos

Samuel Bendeck Sotillos is a Board Affiliate of the Association for Humanistic Psychology (AHP), an Advisor to the Institute of Traditional Psychology, and has worked for several years in the field of mental health, covering a broad spectrum of disorders in various psychiatric settings. He has published in numerous journals, including Sacred Web, Sophia, Parabola, Resurgence, Temenos Academy Review, and Studies in Comparative Religion.

Samuel Bendeck Sotillos is the editor of the forthcoming Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy: Studies in Comparative Religion volume.

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Reviews of “Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy” details

“… As a whole, the book makes for bracing reading and shakes up modern complacency by obliging the reader to consider a more metaphysical perspective and exploring the real meaning of sacred psychology. It would be interesting to set this up as a conference.”
— from a review by David Lorimer in Network Review

“[Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy] is more than an anthology. It is a wisely crafted collection of classic and contemporary scholarship noting that what many are seeking is what has always been, a perennial philosophy, that remains foundational. As one of the authors, Tage Lindbom, properly notes, ‘Secularization is a fish in troubled waters.’ This book claims the waters and is essential reading for all those who may have forgotten or are simply ignorant of the rich foundation provided by the perennial philosophy.”
Ralph W. Hood, Professor of Psychology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, past president of the Psychology of Religion division of the American Psychological Association, co-founder of The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion and co-author of The Psychology of Religion

“I read Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy with great interest and enthusiasm. Here is a collection of well written and well argued essays endorsing the view that traditional cultures have much more to offer the contemporary mind (as both psyche and worldview) than most contemporary psychologists realize. This book offers multiple bridges between ancient forms of wisdom and current psychological theories and diagnoses, explaining how and why traditional forms of wisdom may provide our richest source of treatments for crises in both psychological illness and spiritual alienation. I strongly recommend this book, especially for those readers interested in transpersonal psychology, metaphysical aspects of the psyche, theories of nondual consciousness, and the perennial philosophy as an integral approach to spirituality.”
—Dana Sawyer, Professor and Program Chair of Liberal Arts, Maine College of Art, author of Huston Smith: Wisdomkeeper: Living The World’s Religions

“Samuel Bendeck Sotillos has put together a compendium of 18 essays and 3 book reviews which, taken together, build a robust foundation of readings. Anyone who is interested in the intersection where psychotherapy process and spirituality meet should read Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy. With essays ranging from the esoteric to more applied, this text is thought-provoking and stimulating for any reader, a collection of thoughts from some of the great minds of the perennial philosophy.”
Craig S. Cashwell, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, ACS, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, co-editor of Integrating Spirituality and Religion Into Counseling: A Guide to Competent Practice

Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy provides an accurate critique of modern psychology and its attempts to distance from the human soul and diminish traditional spiritual worldviews and practices. This informative book attempts to reclaim the sacred psychology of the world’s wisdom traditions and reassert self-realization to its essential place in the human journey.”
Rick Johnson, Portland State University, author of Reclaiming Your Real Self and Spirituality in Counseling and Psychotherapy

“Samuel Bendeck Sotillos does an admirable job of gathering authoritative Western commentators and scholars of the perennial philosophy and bringing their insights to bear on the interface between spiritual wisdom and Western psychology. This anthology gives valuable historical and philosophical context to the current movement to develop genuinely nondual approaches to psychotherapy.”
Stephan Bodian, MFT, licensed psychotherapist, former editor-in-chief of Yoga Journal, author of Beyond Mindfulness

Psychology & the Perennial Philosophy: Studies in Comparative Religion gathers articles by René Guénon, Tage Lindbom, and others and provides a satisfying blend of psychology and analysis of spiritual tradition and wisdom, gathering essays written by representatives of the perennialist school. It offers a challenging blend of insights into psychology and mystical spiritual traditions, explaining how modern psychology lost touch with its spiritual roots and providing a fine synthesis of spiritual and psychological observations. The result is a fine recommendation for any interested in comparative religious studies.”
— from a review in California Bookwatch, a publication of Midwest Book Reviews

“A necessary and bracing critique of the assumptions and limitations of contemporary Western psychology, this generous volume is also a passionate call and learned guide towards a truer perspective that embraces man's spiritual nature.”
Gabor Maté, M.D., and author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

“I am very happy that you are engaged in this project and I think that it can help to clear the atmosphere which is now very vague, confused, and cloudy. I honor and I am happy with the project. ”
—Huston Smith, Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, Syracuse University, author of The World’s Religions

“Knowing the nature of the mind is perhaps the most difficult undertaking, especially in today’s world. To comprehend the nature of mind one needs to turn to the domain of religion and spirituality. Yet the truth of the mind and its complexity cannot explicitly be defined in words. Inner or transcendent wisdom sees the mind’s own nature without the duality of the seer. Suchness (tathatā) of mind is only experiential and not expressible. The words used to describe thought are themselves a product of thought, which is conditioned and limited. Thus, differences and contradictions are unavoidable. Therefore, a comparative study of different viewpoints and commentaries is immensely important to awaken the inner intelligence to see the mind as it is. Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy: Studies in Comparative Religion edited by Samuel Bendeck Sotillos is an outstanding effort in this direction.”
—Samdhong Rinpoche, former Prime Minister (Kalon Tripa) of the Tibetan Government-in-exile, author of Uncompromising Truth for a Compromised World: Tibetan Buddhism and Today’s World

“This book is a collection of essays primarily written by distinguished representatives of the perennialist school, or adherents of the philosophia perennis et universalis. As a psychologist, I find the case made for the spiritual and broader dimensions of psychology in the work enlightening and cogent. As a traditionalist Greek Orthodox believer, I do not adhere to many of the tenets of the religio perennis. Nonetheless, there are many fascinating ideas and views in these essays from which Orthodox thinkers can draw inspiration, including an essay on consciousness by Philip Sherrard, whom they will know from his work on The Philokalia. The volume offers a challenging intellectual adventure that I recommend to any open-minded and thoughtful student of psychology and mystical spiritual traditions.”
—Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna, Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, author of A Guide to Orthodox Psychotherapy: The Science, Theology, and Spiritual Practice Behind It and Its Clinical Application

“There is no better source than this unsurpassed work for someone seeking knowledge of the why, when, where, what, and how present-day psychology lost touch with its origins. I humbly express my gratitude for this hidden treasure of wisdom and wholeheartedly endorse it for whoever is searching, as I had been, for an answer to: Who am I?”
—Laleh Bakhtiar, President of the Institute of Traditional Psychology and author of Sufi: Expressions of the Mystic Quest

“This book is an anthology of great writings on a supremely fascinating and complex subject: what are the nature and the significance of the human psyche within the framework of perennial wisdom? Answers are sought in the writings of prestigious authors from various fields: comparative religion, philosophy, transpersonal psychology, the study of psychedelics. This is an impressive work, and most useful for helping readers to become aware of their implicit assumptions, and perhaps to challenge them.”
—Piero Ferrucci, author of Beauty and the Soul

“The rise of psychology has impacted the study and practice of spirituality, the experiences and attitudes relevant to ultimate human values that transcend ordinary behavior. Each chapter of this remarkable book demonstrates this interaction in a unique and provocative way. But rather than using psychology to reduce and ‘psychologize’ spiritual topics, its authors demonstrate how directives from the spiritual traditions can enhance and even illuminate the enduring importance of psychology in the 21st century.”
—Stanley Krippner, Saybrook University, co-author of Spiritual Dimensions of Healing

“Erudite, nuanced, complex, a thinking-feeling-sensing-intuitive person’s text on the spiritual truths of all times, Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy helps uplift our contemporary discourse and thus inspires real spiritual aspiration as well as edifying the intellect and clarifying our shared, current understandings of the perennial truths. I hope many will benefit from and enjoy this much-needed work.”
—Stuart Sovatsky, California Institute for Integral Studies, co-president of the Association for Transpersonal Psychology (ATP), author of Words from the Soul: Time, East/West Spirituality, and Psychotherapeutic Narrative

“The work at hand is a thinking and debating man’s delight. If you have any interest at all in attempting to include an educated and enlightened view of man’s higher functions in your purview of the world, you will learn from and enjoy this collection of essays. If you already have some knowledge in this area, brace yourself: you may see some of your favorites sharply criticized. A thought-provoking work.”
—Bruce W. Scotton, University of California, San Francisco, co-editor of Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology

“This book, superbly edited by Samuel Bendeck Sotillos, is a masterful critique of the field of psychology and its loss of the sacred ground in which it once was rooted. It offers depth psychologists an opportunity to contemplate timeless truths echoed through the centuries by perennial philosophers who have always claimed psyche is subordinate to Spirit. Although ignored in depth psychology’s early years due to prejudice and lack of understanding, this is a message today’s psychotherapists must take seriously. Human beings need a deeper and wider transpersonal vision of who and what we are, which the saints and sages of the world’s spiritual traditions have always pointed to. In psychotherapy with a therapist committed to such a vision, patients penetrate into their unconscious depths and not infrequently awaken to the Ground of all Being. Their suffering itself occurred because they had turned away from Spirit. Above all, this volume passionately calls upon depth psychology to remember its origin in the perennial wisdom at the core of the great religions. There is something of a polemic in these pages. It deserves to be considered by depth psychologists of all persuasions.”
—Bryan Wittine, Transpersonal psychologist and Jungian psychoanalyst

“This book is rich and stimulating and provides us with a much-needed discussion of modern psychology and the perennial philosophy, and also has many implications for the practice of psychotherapy. As psychotherapists, do we approach our clients from an orientation that applies ‘cookie cutter’ solutions to their humanity, or do we recognize the individual as unique and as the spiritual being he or she is? This book challenges us to profoundly examine what we believe psychotherapy is and to examine our hidden assumptions about human beings, assumptions that we bring into the therapy room.”
—Ann Gila, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (Palo Alto), co-author of Psychosynthesis: A Psychology of the Spirit

“This anthology from Samuel Bendeck Sotillos is a must reference for anyone who is interested in psychology and its relationship to spirituality, and in developing an inclusive dialogue between disciplines that favor an integral outlook on the person and his or her potential. Selections in this anthology will inspire us to reexamine the metaphysical underpinnings of psychology, and remind us how important it is to rise above science’s attempt to reduce the human being to an epistemic object.”
Sangeetha Menon, National Institute of Advanced Studies (Bangalore, India), Board Member of the International Transpersonal Association (ITA), author of The Beyond Experience: Consciousness in Bhagavad Gita

Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy is a collection of essays on human nature and spirituality by authors of varied backgrounds. The chapters therein contain all the major elements and concepts related to the facets of the religious traditions of the world. This comprehensive text is timely and relevant. This book will expand our understanding of the diversity of the spiritual traditions and their relationship to psychology and will provide an integrative framework for doing so. Readers and researchers will recognize and apply key concepts and principles in ways that will not only create bridges between these disciplines but will also enhance their understanding of what is spiritual psychology. This is a good text for any course on spirituality, philosophy, or psychology.”
—Akbar Husain, Aligarh Muslim University (India), Board Member of the International Transpersonal Association (ITA), author of Spiritual Psychology and Islamic Psychology: Emergence of a New Field

“The Perennial Philosophy knows what human beings truly are, Psychology does not. That’s the bottom line. The reductive, insulting definitions of the latter, and of modernity across the board, are here brilliantly exposed, and the truth of the Wisdom Tradition celebrated. In these masterfully selected essays, the terms of the confrontation are brilliantly illuminated. Sotillos has assembled the definitive, long overdue challenge to Psychology’s claim. Thorough and relentless, these essays demonstrate with finality that Psychology itself is a form of mental disorder, fundamental, painful and tragic, and the Perennial Philosophy our only hope of recovery.”
—Marty Glass, author of YUGA: An Anatomy of Our Fate, A Companion to Spiritual Practice

“This anthology has some of the most discerning essays and reviews on spirituality and psychology, which provide much-needed care and caution to all those engaged in bringing them together or who wish to do so in future. Therefore, it is a must-read for all those who teach, research, consult, or study in such frontier areas as transpersonal psychology, states of consciousness, mind-body relation, holistic health, Indian psychology, and so on. It will be an invaluable textbook for courses in these and other related areas. I congratulate the editor of the book.”
—Kiran Kumar K. Salagame, University of Mysore (India), Board Member of the International Transpersonal Association (ITA), author of The Psychology of Meditation: A Contextual Approach

“This issue of the journal pertaining to ‘Psychology and Perennial Philosophy’ comprises of some important papers by eminent thinkers who have made significant contributions to psychological and metaphysical studies, and the editor deserves commendations for having brought together a rich collection of enlightening wisdom. In a tripartite well-classified arrangement of ‘Critique,’ ‘Theoria,’ and ‘Praxis,’ it deals with the pitfalls of present-day psychology suffering from spiritual exhaustion and ‘value entropy’ and pleads for spiritual orientation, which is the characteristic of the Perennial Philosophy. Modern psychology, bedeviled by ‘psychologism,’ banishes spirituality and results in dehumanization. This issue of the journal calls attention to this derailment in psychology and attempts to bring it back on track by taking a holistic and integral perspective. While appreciating humanistic and transpersonal psychology, it emphasizes the need for going beyond mind and reaching to the spiritual center of our being. The human being is a body-mind complex animated and enlivened by spirit in an organic unity and therefore Cartesian-Newtonian assumptions resulting in mechanistic, reductionist, and deterministic understanding are inadequate, lopsided, and fallacious. The present scientific method is incapable of fathoming the depth of spirit, which is amenable in Yogic sādhanā. So, there has to be a creative fusion between newer Western methodologies and Eastern spiritual traditions. I congratulate the editor for this insightful collection.”
—S.R. Bhatt, Former Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, Delhi University (India), Ex-General President, Indian Philosophical Congress, co-author of Buddhist Epistemology

“Modern scientistic psychology is concerned exclusively with the egocentric domain of the total human being, excluding psychocentric and cosmocentric realms of consciousness altogether. To compensate, transpersonal psychology has ventured beyond the phenomenal self, but has not yet clearly differentiated between the cosmocentric and the psychocentric spheres, failing to take into account the crucial role and functions of the soul in the course of psychospiritual development, transformation, and integration. This collection of skillfully arranged articles by key perennialist figures makes a convincing case for inclusion of the sacred psychologies of world wisdom traditions into the study of the whole human being.”
—Bahman A.K. Shirazi, Archivist and Adjunct Faculty, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco

“One of the finest collections of essays on the Perennial Philosophy—a must-read for all psychologists who are engaged with spirituality and transpersonal psychology. The essays which critique modern psychology (including transpersonal psychology, and the framework of Carl Jung), in the light of the Perennial Philosophy are a revelation and make compelling reading. The book serves as a corrective to the excesses of modern psychology, and to this end Sotillos has done a commendable job. I for one will include the book in some of the graduate courses that I teach.”
—Suneet Varma, University of Delhi, co-editor of Foundations of Indian Psychology

“To its credit modern science by-and-large is becoming more cognizant of the essential connection between spirituality and psychological health and well-being and most of all its positive implications within the field of psychology. While there is ample data to document this in a plethora of academic journals and books, this new book Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy adds a novel contribution to the dialogue between psychology and spirituality, which captures many nuances that for the most part go unnoticed within these discussions, and last but not least, it provides a keen eye of discernment to understand this intricate relationship on a deeper level that is crucially needed. This work will be a valuable asset to students and long term mental health practitioners and professors alike who seek to better understand the relationship between psychology and spirituality.”
—Harold G. Koenig, Duke University, Director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, co-author of The Handbook of Religion and Health

“This is an interesting and meaningful collection sure to engage any student of psychology and comparative religion. Full of diverse views and thought-provoking prose.”
Dana E. King, West Virginia University, Professor and Chair, Department of Family Medicine, co-author of Handbook of Religion and Health

“This judicious assembly of essays, interviews, and book reviews, some published here for the first time, offers an outstanding overview of the perennial philosophy and its implicit critique of contemporary psychology. Whether or not one is a proponent of the perennialist viewpoint, there is much to be gained from reading this informative, historically well-grounded, and astutely critical review of the philosophy’s major representatives and its psychological interlocutors.”
David M. Wulff, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Wheaton College, author of Psychology of Religion: Classic and Contemporary

“The opening quotation from Rene Guenon’s Man and His Becoming According to Vedanta encapsulates the content and purpose of the collection of articles under discussion: ‘As for modern Western psychology, it deals only with quite a restricted portion of the human individuality, where the mental faculty is in direct relationship with the corporeal modality, and, given, the methods it employs, it is incapable of going any further. In any case the very objective which it sets before itself and which is exclusively the study of mental phenomena [of the ego], limits it strictly to the realm of the individuality, so that the state which we are now discussing [Atma or the Self] necessarily eludes its investigations.’

“The editor of this rich volume on the question of psychology and spiritual works is academically qualified in the mental health field and a scholar in mystical literature. Briefly, the collection of articles is divided into three sections: Critique, Theoria and Praxis. There are three book reviews, two of which are respectively, evaluations on the modern spiritual authorities, Eckhart Tolle and Ken Wilber.

“There are articles by distinguished scholars and academics such as Frithjof Schuon, Titus Burckhardt, Philip Sherrard, Ananda Coomaraswamy among others. It is a judicious mixture and the editor is to be commended for the quality of contributions. It has been lovingly and intelligently put together. The Coomaraswamy article ‘On Being in One’s Right Mind’ is one I have not read before and is excellent. For purposes of this short review the focus is on the editor’s article which is central to the collection, ‘The Impasse of Modern Psychology’. Sotillos delineates the four principal schools of modern psychology, namely Behaviourism, Psychoanalysis, Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology. He presents a succinct but brilliant synopsis of their basic premises and then proceeds to show their inherent limitations in the light of the perennial philosophy. It is the first time I have read such a clear account of these major schools free of woolly jargon and needless obfuscation.

“Science is another dogma and does not control the quest for truth in all its aspects and for this discipline to declare it is the only valid instrument is simply wrong. It has affected all the disciplines in our world not just psychology, with the mechanical, deterministic and reductionist assumptions of its own discipline. In its most blatant aspect we see the science of economics define the worth of a human being in terms of how much monetarily is one worth. Sotillos writes: ‘The truth of the Absolute is not awaiting empirical or observable proof that it exists, and this is what modern psychology, and the modern and by extension the postmodern outlook as a whole, entirely fails to comprehend. The integral psychologies of the perennial philosophy, being grounded in metaphysical principles, cannot be reduced a priori to empirical or statistical data, as they lie outside the psycho-physical domain which is verified by one of the earliest sapiential traditions of this temporal cycle, known as the sanatana dharma.

“Though intellectually and technically quite demanding the effort is worth it. A rewarding book.”
The Mountain Path journal

“In Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy readers will read important critiques of classic and contemporary psychology’s understanding of the spirit and soul. The essays offer readers new to perennial philosophy an introduction to key concepts and rebuttals to objections from transpersonal and other psychological perspectives. Readers more familiar with the perspectives in this book will appreciate the blend of classic and fresh expositions in the perennial tradition.”
Michael Nielsen, Professor and Chair of Psychology, Georgia Southern University, Co-Editor, Archive for the Psychology of Religion

Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy, edited by Samuel Bendeck Sotillos, is a well-devised and stimulating anthology that provides much food for thought for therapists and mental health clinicians… It includes original and insightful pieces such as ‘‘Modern Psychology’’ by Titus Burckhardt, ‘‘The Psychological Imposture’’ by Frithjof Schuon, ‘‘The Confusion of the Psychic with the Spiritual’’ by René Guénon, ‘‘Situating the Psyche’’ by William Stoddart, ‘‘The ‘Four Forces’ of Modern Psychology and the Primordial Tradition’’ by Huston Smith, and ‘‘The Impasse of Modern Psychology’’ by Samuel Bendeck Sotillos, among yet several other essays by authors that belong in one way or another to the Perennialist school.…

“Besides exposing the limitations and contradictions of modern psychotherapies, the book points out what might be considered as the principles that underline traditional or perennial psychologies.…

“… Samuel Bendeck Sotillos made surprising and bold choices in order to offer readers an intellectually rich challenge to the psychotherapeutic world, contributions which throw light for understanding not only on the place of the psyche in the total constitution of man, but also of roads to healing its imbalances and disorders. Such contributions confront with discernment, and love for the truth, the place of man in a world where the psyche was subtracted of its spiritual substance, and in which man and women were stripped of their spiritual side—a side which this book shows it is possible to reinstate.”
Mateus Soares de Azevedo, author, translator, editor, and journalist, from a review in The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology

Table of Contents for “Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy”

Editorial by Samuel Bendeck Sotillos
I. Critique
The Psychological Imposture
The Confusion of the Psychic and the Spiritual
Modern Psychology
Situating the Psyche
The Science of Consciousness
II. Theoria
The Not-So-Close Encounters of Western Psychology and Eastern Spirituality
The Impasse of Modern Psychology: Behaviorism, Psychoanalysis, Humanistic, and
Transpersonal Psychology in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy
The “Four Forces” of Modern Psychology and the Primordial Tradition
On Ken Wilber’s Integration of Science and Religion
The View of Selfhood in Buddhism and Modern Psychology
Profile of Unfinished Man: Unveiling a Sacred Psychology of Humanity
Drug-Induced Mysticism: The Mescalin Hypothesis
Drug-Induced Mysticism Revisited
III. Praxis
On Being in One’s Right Mind
Being Oneself
The Integration of the Soul
Some Thoughts on Soliciting and Imparting Spiritual Counsel
Book Reviews
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
Revisioning Transpersonal Theory: A Participatory Vision of Human Spirituality by Jorge N. Ferrer
Integral Psychology: Consciousness, Spirit, Psychology, Therapy by Ken Wilber
Notes on the Contributors
Note on the Editor

An Excerpt from “Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy”

The following is the “Editorial”
by editor Samuel Bendeck Sotillos that begins
Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy

“As for modern Western psychology, it deals only with quite a restricted portion of the human individuality, where the mental faculty is in direct relationship with the corporeal modality, and, given the methods it employs, it is incapable of going any further. In any case the very objective which it sets before itself and which is exclusively the study of mental phenomena [of the ego], limits it strictly to the realm of the individuality, so that the state which we are now discussing [Ātmā or the Self ] necessarily eludes its investigations.”[1]
René Guénon
“The health envisaged by the [modern] empirical psychotherapy is a freedom from particular pathological conditions; that envisaged by the other [traditional or perennial psychology] is a freedom from all conditions and predicaments. . . . Furthermore, the pursuit of the greater freedom necessarily involves that attainment of the lesser; psycho-physical health being a manifestation and consequence of spiritual wellbeing.”[2]
Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy
“There is no science of the soul [psyche] without a metaphysical basis to it and without spiritual remedies at its disposal.”[3]
Frithjof Schuon
“[The spiritual] psychology [of the perennial philosophy] does not separate the soul either from the metaphysical or from the cosmic order. The connection with the metaphysical order provides spiritual psychology with qualitative criteria such as are wholly lacking in profane [modern] psychology, which studies only the dynamic character of phenomena of the psyche and their proximate causes.”[4]
Titus Burckhardt

Without question, modern psychology has shaped and impacted the twentieth century in an unprecedented manner, though curiously this influence still appears to be unnoticed by the majority of present-day individuals. Yet the point cannot be overly emphasized that modern psychology, as a derivative and stronghold of scientific materialism, can be credited as one of the leading and contributing factors that has destabilized the spiritual and correspondingly the psychological apparatus of traditional man.[5] This point is alluded to by Sigmund Freud (1856–1939): “No, our science [of psychology] is no illusion. But an illusion it would be to suppose that what [materialistic] science cannot give us we can get elsewhere.”[6] This endemic scientism is observable throughout modern psychology. While most apparent in behaviorism and psychoanalysis, it is nonetheless also present in humanistic and transpersonal psychology, as these are both continuations and expansions of the two earlier “forces.” This influence is aptly summarized by Gill Edwards:

[Modern] science has claimed a monopoly on truth, seeing the scientific method as the only valid path towards knowledge.… [A]s recent products of their culture, modern psychology and psychotherapy were built upon the shifting sands of Cartesian-Newtonian assumptions—with devastating consequences … [and] many therapists are still clinging to the scientific tradition … and refusing to open their eyes.… [T]he old paradigm gave birth to a positivist, materialist psychology which values objectivity, rationality and empiricism.… The mechanistic, reductionist, determinist assumptions of the Cartesian-Newtonian world view are endemic in psychology and psychotherapy.[7]

The very notion of a scientific foundation underlying modern psychology has been brought into question by William James (1842-1910), a key pioneer within humanistic and transpersonal psychology, in saying that “This is no science, it is only the hope of a science.”[8] The complex events that have altered the human outlook not only of the cosmos but of man’s true identity during the Renaissance and the so-called Age of Enlightenment are often described as blows to man’s narcissism, particularly the Copernican revolution, the Darwinian revolution, and the Psychoanalytic revolution:

[T]he human individual has been successively reduced and dethroned by the discoveries of [modern] Western science—removed from his honored place in the center of the heavenly bodies by Copernicus and others, removed from his special position as king and curator of the animal kingdom by Darwin, removed even from command of his own acts by Freud and the behaviorists, thus rendered puny, insignificant, and impotent, vulnerable to further reduction with each further discovery.[9]

These pernicious fissures or “blows,” which began in the West and have since encroached upon the rest of the world via globalization, have devastated the traditional societies of both East and West, to the point where they may perhaps never recover. As René Guénon (1886–1951) has remarked: “[W]hile nineteenth century materialism closed the mind of man to what is above him, twentieth century [modern] psychology opened it to what is below him.”[10]

The destabilization of the traditional societies has led to the simultaneous desacralization of the shamanic or primordial peoples that were once everywhere, for the origin and center of traditional man is anchored in the sacred, as was the case until the post-medieval West.[11] Traditional man, who is inherently Homo religiosus or Homo spiritualis, was always and continues until this day to be contextualized within the spiritual domain.

In one manner or another all life is seen to participate in the sacred, all cultural forms express the sacred, so that inevitably within this context the lives of those peoples who live close to their sacred traditions may be called religious, and they are thus beings who are religiously human.[12]

“The problems faced by modern man,” says Seyyed Hossein Nasr (b. 1933), “all point to the same cause, namely to man’s living below his own possibilities and to the forgetfulness of who he is [in divinis].”[13] The idea of addressing the needs of the human psyche by what lies outside or rather below the spiritual domain—in isolation from the sacred principles that can provide authentic efficacy—is based on a radical misunderstanding of the unitive principles that facilitate a true and complete psychology of man. “Psychology, we must remember, is the study of the soul [psyche], therefore the discipline closest to the religious life. An authentic psychology discards none of the insights gained from spiritual disciplines.”[14]

Paradoxically, the perennial psychologies of man, which have been applied since the dawn of civilization, were in essence rejected in an ideological coup d’état by a secular and materialistic worldview that was designed and endorsed by the same tendencies that manufactured the plethora of ills that are so prevalent in this turbulent epoch: “Psychoanalysis is the disease of which it pretends to be the cure.”[15] It has been emphasized that “in a traditional society there is little or nothing that can properly be called secular,”[16] which is to say, “The fact is that every bona fide pre-modern science is rooted in an integral sapiential tradition [of the philosophia perennis].”[17] One cannot take lightly the following Promethean epigram that Freud borrowed from Virgil’s Aeneid, which speaks to the nefarious quality of a science broken away from its sacred source: “If I cannot bend the higher powers [the gods or the spiritual domain], I shall stir up Hell”[18] —signifying that if modern psychology cannot gain access to what is above or transcendent it will unleash the subterranean forces of what is below or infernal in order to access power and legitimacy. For this reason it has been affirmed that “psychotherapy stirred up a hornets’ nest of the first magnitude.”[19]

Under the hypnotic guise of modernism and postmodernism, and filled with all the technological advancements of so-called “progress,” the contemporary outlook is incapable of addressing the core symptoms or issues since it a priori excludes and even undermines the significance of the spiritual domain. It has been astutely illustrated that no matter how many attempts be made, they are doomed to fail as “the psychic cannot be treated by the psychic.”[20] What has taken the place of the spiritual psychologies of man, based on the tripartite structure of the human microcosm—Spirit/Intellect, soul, and body—is a truncated, profane psychology that only addresses the psychic and the physical while abrogating the spirit, which is at once above man and also his center, both transcendent and immanent.

That modern psychology has become a substitute for the spiritual traditions is all-too-clear given the militantly secular milieu of today’s world.[21] But what led to the undermining of the traditional civilizations of the world that were rooted in the metaphysical principles of the perennial philosophy? According to the perennial philosophy, the widespread disequilibrium and systematic dehumanization we see today are associated with the loss of authentic spiritual traditions. It can thus be confidently stated, in complete contrast to the modern and postmodern outlook, that “A civilization is integrated and healthy to the extent that it is founded on the ‘invisible’ or ‘underlying’ religion, the religio perennis.”[22]

This issue of Studies in Comparative Religion, focused on “Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy,” offers for the first time the distinctive and imperative perspective on the human psyche and the fullness of human condition in light of the timeless truths at the heart of the world’s sapiential traditions. Its intent is to reclaim the sacred psychology that was known at all times and places before the emergence of the modern world. The theme is organized under three essential rubrics: “I. Critique,” encompasses the core challenges and limitations that modern psychology in all of its schools and “forces” faces; “II. Theoria” provides further contemplations on the principial understanding of what is meant by psychology, or the “science of the soul,” when contextualized within the integral metaphysics of the perennial philosophy; “III. Praxis” presents the direct application of the plenary principles, not only for psychological health and well-being, but in its often forgotten primary function: the facilitation of self-realization in divinis, in order to know what it means to be truly human. This after all is the raison d’être for psychology in the first place.


[1] René Guénon, “The State of Deep Sleep or the Condition of Prājna,” in Man and His Becoming According to the Vedanta, trans. Richard C. Nicholson (New York: The Noonday Press, 1958), p. 104.

[2] Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, “On the Indian and Traditional Psychology, or rather Pneumatology,” in Coomaraswamy, Vol. 2: Selected Papers, Metaphysics, ed. Roger Lipsey (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977), p. 335.

[3] Frithjof Schuon, “The Contradiction of Relativism,” in Logic and Transcendence, trans. Peter N. Townsend (London: Perennial Books, 1984), p. 14.

[4] Titus Burckhardt, “The Branches of the Doctrine,” in Introduction to Sufi Doctrine, trans. D.M. Matheson (Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, 2008), pp. 26-27.

[5] “[P]sychoanalysis is one of those mass movements which are both a cause and consequence of spiritual decay” (Werner Kraft, quoted in Thomas Szasz, “Karl Kraus Today,” in Karl Kraus and the Soul-Doctors: A Pioneer Critic and his Criticism of Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis, p. 93).

[6] Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion, trans. and ed. James Strachey (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1989), p. 71.

[7] Gill Edwards, “Does Psychotherapy Need a Soul?” in Psychotherapy and Its Discontents, eds. Windy Dryden and Colin Feltham (Buckingham, UK: Open University Press, 1998), pp. 194-199.

[8] William James, “Psychology and Philosophy,” in Psychology: The Briefer Course (New York: Dover Publications, 2001), p. 335.

[9] George B. Leonard, “A Morning on Mt. Tam,” in The Transformation: A Guide to the Inevitable Changes in Humankind (New York: Delacorte Press, 1972), p. 12.

[10] René Guénon, quoted in Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, “The Doctrine,” in Hinduism and Buddhism (New York: Philosophical Library, 1943), p. 61.

[11] See Frithjof Schuon, “The Ancient Worlds in Perspective,” in Light on the Ancient Worlds, trans. Lord Northbourne (Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom Books, 1984), p. 7.

[12] Joseph Epes Brown, “On Being Human,” in The Spiritual Legacy of the American Indian: Commemorative Editionwith Letters While Living with Black Elk, eds. Marina Brown Weatherly, Elenita Brown, and Michael Oren Fitzgerald (Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, 2007), p. 93.

[13] Seyyed Hossein Nasr, “One Is the Spirit and Many Its Human Reflections—Thoughts on the Human Condition Today,” in The Need for a Sacred Science (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1993), p. 48.

[14] Theodore Roszak, “The Visionary Commonwealth,” in Where the Wasteland Ends: Politics and Transcendence in Postindustrial Society (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1972), p. 414.

[15] Thomas Szasz, “Kraus and Freud: Unmasking the Unmasker,” in Karl Kraus and the Soul-Doctors: A Pioneer Critic and his Criticism of Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1976), p. 24.

[16] Rama P. Coomaraswamy (ed.), The Essential Ananda K. Coomaraswamy (Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, 2004), p. 159.

[17] Wolfgang Smith, “Sophia Perennis and Modern Science,” in The Wisdom of Ancient Cosmology: Contemporary Science in Light of Tradition (Oakton, VA: Foundation for Traditional Studies, 2003), p. 21.

[18]Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo”: this motto was prefixed in Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, trans. A.A. Brill (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1913).

[19] C.G. Jung, “Psychotherapy and a Philosophy of Life,” in Essays on Contemporary Events: The Psychology of Nazism, trans. R.F.C. Hull (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989), p. 43.

[20] Titus Burckhardt, “Traditional Cosmology and Modern Science: Modern Psychology,” in Mirror of the Intellect: Essays on Traditional Science and Sacred Art, trans. and ed. William Stoddart (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1987), p. 50.

[21] “The loss of religion as Center in the world has left a hole which [modern] psychology is trying to fill” (Whitall N. Perry, “The Zodiac of the Soul: Observation on the Differences between Traditional and Empirical Psychology,” in Challenges to a Secular Society [Oakton, VA: Foundation for Traditional Studies, 1996], p. 200).

[22] Frithjof Schuon, “Religio Perennis,” in Light on the Ancient Worlds, p. 143.

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