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  Frithjof Schuon on Christianity Back to the List of Slideshows
Christ Pantocrator,
from the Westminster Psalter, c. 1200 (C.E.)
slide 15 of 17

Until modern times the Christian Scriptures—Old and New Testaments—have been closed off to the majority of Christian adherents. Access to the texts has been restricted through both physical and linguistic impediments. While modern critics of religious traditions interpret this as a ploy to preserve patriarchal and oppressive authority, this could not be further from the truth, regardless of certain human abuses perpetrated over time. Instead, access to the Scriptures was restricted to those trained to interpret them, and who in turn provided these interpretations to the majority.
The role of the orthodox and inspired commentators is to intercalate in sentences, when too elliptic, the implied and unexpressed clauses, or to indicate in what way or in what sense a certain statement should be taken, besides explaining the different symbolisms, and so forth. It is the orthodox commentary and not the word-for-word meaning of the Torah that acts as law. The Torah is said to be “closed”, and the sages “open” it.… (from “Keys to the Bible”, pp. 102-103)
This is the case because the Scriptures are by their very nature esoteric and potentially dangerous to those not prepared to understand them, those who do not have “ears to hear”. This pitfall is evidenced by damage being done to the Christian tradition by literalistic fundamentalism, which—masquerading as primordial Christianity—is one of the greatest dangers currently facing that faith.
In order to understand the nature of the Bible and its meaning, it is essential to have recourse to the ideas of both symbolism and revelation; without an exact and, in the measure necessary, sufficiently profound understanding of these key ideas, the approach to the Bible remains hazardous and risks engendering grave doctrinal, psychological, and historical errors. (from “Keys to the Bible”, p. 101)
In the short essay “Keys to the Bible” Schuon provides, in outline, the hermeneutic ‘equipment’ required to plumb the esoteric depths of Scripture.
…The word-for-word meaning practically never suffices by itself and…apparent naïveties, inconsistencies, and contradictions resolve themselves in a dimension of profundity for which one must possess the key. The literal meaning is frequently a cryptic language that more often veils than reveals and that is only meant to furnish clues to truths of a cosmological, metaphysical, and mystical order.… (from “Keys to the Bible”, p. 101)
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