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Our community is devoted to the discussion of Tradition, a term that has been most adequately defined by Seyyed Hossein Nasr as "truths or principles of a divine origin revealed or unveiled to mankind and, in fact, a whole cosmic sector through various figures envisaged as messengers, prophets, avataras, the Logos or other transmitting agencies, along with all the ramifications and applications of these principles in different realms including law and social structure, art, symbolism, the sciences, and embracing of course Supreme Knowledge along with the means for its attainment."

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 Post subject: God as Transcendent Reality
PostPosted: August 31st, 2009, 7:15 pm 
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Greetings and peace,

As a a new student of the perennial philosophy, I was hoping some of you could help me concerning the best point of departure for experiencing and contemplating God in this day and age, and thereby practicing religion as such.

I find it particularly striking how variable the perspectives of God each religious tradition has adopted, according to the contemporary climate of each place - i.e. the 'non-theism' of the Void in Buddhism, arising out of a time where the plethora of man-made gods had reached an apex in absurdity, or the Oneness of Allah reemphasized at a time where idol worship had replaced largely, if not entirely, traditional Semitic practice.

Seeking God as Transcendent Reality, or Supreme Principle feels apt, in an age where man is ecstatically scouting the ends of the universe with technologies on a such a scale, far greater than ever historically imagined. Therefore the longing for a Personal God, I feel, has lost efficacy for many people in this age of modernism, as people have become more receptive to seemingly absolute, empirical facts (such as mathematics). The path to salvation via a loving and caring Creator (just as a Creator God in the wake of Evolutionist theories has lost efficacy in the Modern West, and even arguably within mainstream Christianity) appears to be less appropriate.

Arguing the existence of God as Ultimate Reality feels to me, a viable point of religious embarkment. It is clear, especially to the modern intelligentsia that consciousness, as perceived through our five senses is entirely subjective. My opinion of a piece of music may be that it is pleasant to the ear, where as another person may perceive it as noise. If you extend this idea to solid objects, the point is put more strongly. My perception of the colour red and the colour blue may in truth be opposite to how you see them; my blue may appear your red, and your red my blue. Neither of us would be considered colour blind, for both would associate the seen colour with the same name - either "red" or "blue", or another adjective altogether.

Empiricism here proves itself to be ineffective in laying claims to reality, for Reality cannot be subjective: it must be Absolute. There cannot be two absolutes, or in other words two realities. One could negate the existence of reality as such, but must thereby must negate the reality of one self, a concept that even a solipsist would be anxious to adopt.

If the former is taken to heart then there is, by logical deduction, an Absolute Principle that must underly all sensory manifestation, outside the realm of ordinary consciousness and into the realm of the unseen (al-Ghaib). Whether access to this domain is possible would become a debatable issue, but the traditionalists would say that the heart is the only 'organ' whereby we may achieve such a perception.

As I am a Muslim by belief and practice, I perceive God to be both Transcendent and Immanent, yet I felt a need to formalize a means (that ultimately works for me) in beginning a serious study of religion. Is this point presented a valid way for perceiving God, or have a taken a misstep in my deduction?

Thank you and salaam,

Luth


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 Post subject: Re: God as Transcendent Reality
PostPosted: September 1st, 2009, 12:33 am 
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Salam Luth,

"Whether access to this domain is possible would become a debatable issue, but the traditionalists would say that the heart is the only 'organ' whereby we may achieve such a perception."

The response given by the Traditionalist is quite right and should render any debate on the issue void. As the buddhi, intellectus, and aql would attest.

In terms of perceiving God, ultimately only God can know God, and 'perception' of God at its highest level is done by Intellectual intuition, brought about by Spiritual practice. Nevertheless, man can perceive God outside of this but not in the ultimate sense (of 'becoming' God, consumed by the fire), either a priori or a posteriori. As you said, "Arguing the existence of God as Ultimate Reality feels to me, a viable point of religious embarkment", this is true, but it must always be remembered that there isn't only one way to remember God, some might start from that point and come to know God, whilst others may start from that point and still not know God at all, due to an excess of rationalism. Which brings me to my next point, questions of correct epistemology are also very important in knowing God in the world in which we live. One must have at least some sort of appreciation for legitimate modes of knowing outside of the monopoly of rationalism especially in its overtly hostile usage in the modern world if one is to know God.

Another important aspect is understanding of the Nature of God, it wouldn't be a far cry from the truth to assert that most of agnostic and atheistic thought is due to its lack of understanding about the nature of the Divine Reality. The Supreme Principle is the angle of which we should work, and when we do this (as I have personally found), all answers are given, and all confusions and doubts completely obliterated. Take for example the question of evil, and its relation to the Infinitude of Allah.

But nevertheless, nobody can tell you your method of perceiving God is incorrect, as there are many methods in this plane of relativity. But to answer your question directly, to really know God, to perceive Him, on a level beyond knowing and perceiving itself, you must become consumed by the Fire. That is, to annihilate the false self within you, for the Supreme Self to take his place on the Throne of your Heart. So the best point of departure with regards to this, is Tassawuf. Outside of this, philosophy and theology are also legitimate, but wont led to perception in the Ultimate sense, unless it is say Illuminationist or Isfahani philosophy, which emphasize spiritual realization.

And Allah Hu Alim

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When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living Father.

Jesus Christ (AS), from the Gospel of Thomas (log.3)


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 Post subject: Re: God as Transcendent Reality
PostPosted: September 1st, 2009, 2:43 am 
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Bahram wrote:
In terms of perceiving God, ultimately only God can know God, and 'perception' of God at its highest level is done by Intellectual intuition, brought about by Spiritual practice. Nevertheless, man can perceive God outside of this but not in the ultimate sense (of 'becoming' God, consumed by the fire), either a priori or a posteriori.

Greetings of Peace,

My post is a bit of a digression from Iharoon's thread, but Bahram's excellent post captured, in the quotation above, a particular thought I was churning a few days ago when asked to describe the writing and perspective of Guenon vis-a-vis Schuon. I had some difficulty then formulating my thoughts on the matter; then it became clear to me as I recalled something said about Guenon, possible by S. H. Nasr, that Guenon was "more of an intellectual function than a man." It became clear to me what was 'lacking' in Guenon that was 'made up for' in Schuon: precisely the human element as it relates to the Supernal. While reading Guenon one is struck by the intellectual power operating through him, but he speaks rarely about virtues not directly related to what one might call intellectual virtue. In Bahram's comment above he captures this idea: that there is a relationship with God that has a dualist character, and another deeper relationship that is non-dualist; slowly the former becomes akin to the later as one ripens on the spiritual path, but rarely is it a case of an all-encompassing non-dualism from start to finish, nor need it be since man still retains the human form and the traces of an individuated consciousness that 'pre-dates' the Fall. Again, these thoughts are part of a different line of inquiry; all the same I felt beholden to share them. I pray everyone is keeping well.


--Adam

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"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10)


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 Post subject: Re: God as Transcendent Reality
PostPosted: September 4th, 2009, 1:53 am 
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lharoon wrote:
As a a new student of the perennial philosophy, I was hoping some of you could help me concerning the best point of departure for experiencing and contemplating God in this day and age, and thereby practicing religion as such ... I felt a need to formalize a means (that ultimately works for me) in beginning a serious study of religion.

Greetings of Peace. You raise some interesting questions and I thank you for proposing them for our consideration. To answer your first question, I would say that from the perspective of the perennial philosophy which is concerned with timeless truths, or more simply Truth as such, the means of contemplating and experiencing God do not change. What was a valid point of departure in previous ages remains valid in the present age just as those religions which are universal in nature, that is, providentially destined to traverse cultural boundaries and civilizations, may be practiced at any time and under any conditions.

What the passage of time and changing circumstances have brought about are not new dimensions of religion but rather an increase in personal obstacles resulting from what Rene Guenon referred to as the solidification of the world. I think it is true to say that in general it is more difficult to practice religion today than in previous times and conditions, a fact that is reflected in the compensatory simplification of religious observances in primordial traditions such as Hinduism and that of the Native Americans as well as the formal simplicity of the final Revelation of Islam.

The consideration of the best point of departure is determined a priori by both your vocation, which determines which religion you follow, and your temperament, which determines how you approach it, whether primarily through an emphasis of fear, love, or knowledge of God. It is also a common perspective among sages of various traditions as well as the prevailing view of the traditionalists that the most suitable spiritual support of the present age is methodical invocation or the repetition of God's Name.

Most people who are attracted to the perennial philosophy seem to possess a temperament which inclines them to approach God through knowledge and your reflections seem to demonstrate a similar inclination. It is necessary, however, to more clearly define what kind of knowledge may ultimately lead to such an approach. There are two statements that I feel particularly illustrate your perspective. You wrote,

Quote:
... the longing for a Personal God, I feel, has lost efficacy for many people in this age of modernism ... Arguing the existence of God as Ultimate Reality feels to me, a viable point of religious embarkment.

What this says to me about you is that you incline more toward religious knowledge as opposed to religious devotion. In moving away from devotionalism, however, I would strongly caution against positing rationalism in its place as is the inevitable result of mistaking rational argumentation or "Arguing the existence of God" for gnosis. Reason can serve as a legitimate point of departure once it has been purged of the aforementioned obstacles such as the philosophical and scientific ideologies that you have mentioned. In order to lend itself in support of gnosis, however, it cannot rely solely upon logical deduction rooted in subjective experience. Reason instead requires recourse to the complementary sources of objective knowledge, revelation and intellection, and the operative support of the intellect is not thinking but virtue.

Concerning this last point I would like to relate a teaching of Shaykh Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani who said, "My brothers and sisters, I did not arrive in union with Allah by staying awake all night in worship, by staying aware all day fasting, or by staying engrossed learning knowledge! Rather, I arrived at union with Allah by generosity and humility and letting my breast be at peace."

With the religion of Islam and the writings of the traditionalists, I believe that you possess the ideal means of beginning a serious study and practice of religion. I hope that these comments proved useful to you and that you will continue to share your questions and observations with us throughout the course of your studies.

In Peace,
Desmond

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Be outwardly on land and inwardly at sea.
~ Shaykh Muhammad al-Būzīdī


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 Post subject: Re: God as Transcendent Reality
PostPosted: September 5th, 2009, 8:28 am 
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I would also recommend the following: Seeing God Everywhere, by Frithjof Schuon.

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When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living Father.

Jesus Christ (AS), from the Gospel of Thomas (log.3)


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 Post subject: Re: God as Transcendent Reality
PostPosted: September 17th, 2009, 3:20 pm 
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Salaam,

Thank you all for your contributions, they have been of invaluable help. I understand now what Schuon meant when he wrote, referring to a Sufi shaykh, that the want of a union with God would separate man further from the Divine Centre if this union involved the ego. It is only the Intellect that can achieve true gnosis of the Divine, which ultimately is not achieved through knowledge but via a supra-rational intuition and virtue.

It was my error to consider that a religious perspective loses efficacy through time, for orthodoxy exists as an Idea beyond the temporal. It is dependent on what background within the plain of relativity - wherein a multiplicity of Revelations and therefore perspectives of God are required for the sake of conforming to mental necessities - a person comes from, as to which perspective he chooses.

It is as Desmond says, that seekers of the perennialist school are more spiritually bent on pertaining to knowledge, but this knowledge is not of God as such, but of such and such an aspect of God, be it his Transcendence or Immanence. From the Islamic perspective, God as such can only be envisaged as Bahram says through Tasawwuf, and a "polishing of the heart".

Thank you all again,

Luth


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 Post subject: Re: God as Transcendent Reality
PostPosted: April 13th, 2010, 11:58 am 
the longing for a Personal God, I feel, has lost efficacy for many people in this age of modernism ... Arguing the existence of God as Ultimate Reality feels to me, a viable point of religious embarkment.

Arguing the existence of god in a rationalist sense is not a valid starting point for religious enquiry (although it is a worthwhile and necessary endeavour at some level ) as it is not the mind that moves anyone towards adopting a particular outlook, but the heart.
Whether acknowledged or not it is the heart that is the prime mover , even amongst those deluded types who believe themselves to have reached some kind of meaningful objectivity.(this is not possible, see logic and transcendence, where Schuon absolutely destroys such ideas or to a less sublime level Ghazzalis Incoherence of the Philosophers)
No amount of rational dialectic will convince anyone unless there is some cause which has moved the heart to the point of receptivity to the rational acceptance of god.
So it is at the level of the heart that the religious quest should embark. In fact it is at this point that It begins (or only at that point where it can begin) and also where it ends, perceived or not. The rational or intellectual level is not even in the middle it is only a point of reference for mapping ones progress in the journey of the heart.
Rationalism defeats itself; it is an unending circle of Samasara. To put it into more simplistic formula
`If you look too much into the nature of things, you become detached from them’ (Chaung tzu,i believe?)


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 Post subject: Re: God as Transcendent Reality
PostPosted: April 13th, 2010, 11:58 am 
Also I wouldn’t necessarily agree with the statement that a personal god is no longer important. I would be more inclined to say that the personal experience of god is more of preoccupation than ever before, especially if you have any experience of modern spiritual movements.
People feel that god has to reveal himself to them in personal way in order to validate himself, and if is he is unwilling (or as the agnostic/atheist might hold: unable) to do so, then he cannot be credited with existence.
The problem is that this longing is pursued/ perceived in an individualistic sense in that it is tied to the ego and the sense of self importance that is the defining characteristic of modern man. Every man feels he deserves a personal audience with god!
The irony is that this approach is completely the wrong way around.
I would say that a man who is destined for realisation actually seeks to escape from god, for it is god who guides and chooses men not men who guide themselves towards god .A true comprehension of the greatness of Allah within the soul of man, would also naturally incline him to flee from it, just as an ant would flee from the overbearing foot of man., even though ultimately it knows its death is imminent.
Those who are destined for fanah (death before dying) will feel the excruciating pain of Allah destroying bit by bit the very fabric of their very being.
Just as any man will naturally flee or try to negotiate with the angel of death when comes to take the ruh at the appointed time , so too will any man who god moves towards ,instinctively flee, then try negotiate before finally succumbing. It will not be all bright lights and beautiful angels; it will be a complete devastation as Rumi explained it.

It is only the Intellect that can achieve true gnosis of the Divine, which ultimately is not achieved through knowledge but via a supra-rational intuition and virtue.
Nothing can achieve gnosis, As Bahram said it is only god who can know himself absolutely, so to speak of gnosis as a pursuit is ultimately a delusion, and a delusion only the deluded aspire to?


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