The Perennial Philosophy (Latin: philosophia perennis), also referred to as Perennialism, is a perspective within the philosophy of religion which views each of the world’s religious traditions as sharing a single, universal truth on which foundation all religious knowledge and doctrine has grown.
The term was popularized in more recent times by Aldous Huxley, who was profoundly influenced by Vivekanda’s Neo-Vedanta and Universalism, in his 1945 book: The Perennial Philosophy. He defined the perennial philosophy as:
[…] the metaphysic that recognizes a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds; the psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical to, divine Reality; the ethic that places man’s final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being; the thing is immemorial and universal. Rudiments of the perennial philosophy may be found among the traditional lore of primitive peoples in every region of the world, and in its fully developed forms it has a place in every one of the higher religions.
and that in the Upanishads:
The Perennial Philosophy is expressed most succinctly in the Sanskrit formula, tat tvam asi (‘That thou art’); the Atman, or immanent eternal Self, is one with Brahman, the Absolute Principle of all existence; and the last end of every human being, is to discover the fact for himself, to find out who he really is.
At the core of the Perennial Philosophy we find four fundamental doctrines.
- First: the phenomenal world of matter and of individualized consciousness–the world of things and animals and men and even gods–is the manifestation of a Divine Ground within which all partial realities have their being, and apart from which they would be non-existent.
- Second: human beings are capable not merely of knowing about the Divine Ground by inference; they can also realize its existence by a direct intuition, superior to discursive reasoning. This immediate knowledge unites the knower with that which is known.
- Third: man possesses a double nature, a phenomenal ego and an eternal Self, which is the inner man, the spirit, the spark of divinity within the soul. It is possible for a man, if he so desires, to identify himself with the spirit and therefore with the Divine Ground, which is of the same or like nature with the spirit.
- Fourth: man’s life on earth has only one end and purpose: to identify himself with his eternal Self and so to come to unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground.