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  A definition of the Perennial Philosophy Back to the List of Slideshows
    
Much more can said about the kind of principial knowledge that is the goal of the Perennial Philosophy, and how human beings are capable of attaining something that is distinctly beyond the limitations of our rational minds, but this requires much more attention than we can give it here. It will have to be covered in another slideshow.

Returning to Schuon's definition, let us examine the next part of his statement that the Perennial Philosophy is the science of "fundamental and universal ontological principles." First, "ontological" applies to being. Ontology is the study of the nature of being. It answers questions such as: What does it mean to "exist"? How do things come into being? Are there categories and levels of being, and what are these?

A critical characteristic of the Perennial Philosophy is that it concerns itself with the many levels and kinds of being. These exist between the absolute Source, namely God, all the way to the very relative realms of physical and material existence. From the starting point of the Absolute, the highest level, we might say that these levels of existence "unfold." Below the realm of the Absolute, they would include angelic realms, paradisical realms, and eventually material realms.

The Perennial Philosophy states that every manifested being has its cause in a higher level of reality, and ultimately with the highest reality—God. As we ascend from the material levels of reality upward toward more and more subtle levels, we approach the "fundamental and universal ontological principles" of which Schuon wrote. They are fundamental because lower levels of reality are based upon them for their existence. They are universal because they lend existence to all created things, regardless of time, place, or level in the hierarchy of existence.

All traditional doctrines, even the beliefs of shamanistic religions, are in agreement that the universe is ordered in just such levels of existence. All traditional societies are based upon the reality of unseen and transcendent realms that lie above our own realm of existence, but which at the same time are reflected in it and determine it.

It is precisely in the hierarchy and relationships of these multiple levels of being that the Perennial Philosophy is able to demonstrate how, as Stoddart put it, "the different religions are but different languages expressing [the] one Truth."
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