One of the most popular and most influential books amongst and upon spiritual seekers in the past century has been Aldous Huxley’s “The Perennial Philosophy”.
“The man who wishes to know the “that” which is “thou” may set to work in any one of three ways.
He may begin by looking inwards into his own particular thou and, by a process of “dying to self” — self in reasoning, self in willing, self in feeling — come at last to knowledge of the self, the kingdom of the self, the kingdom of God that is within.
Or else he may begin with the thous existing outside himself, and may try to realize their essential unity with God and, through God, with one another and with his own being.
Or, finally (and this is doubtless the best way), he may seek to approach the ultimate That both from within and from without, so that he comes to realize God experimentally as at once the principle of his own thou and of all other thous, animate and inanimate.”
― Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy
In synthesizing the views of mystical traditions from around the world and throughout history, Huxley presupposes the existence of “God” or some sort of “divine ground” of existence.
The marketplace of ideas
Throughout my decades of travel and living across the planet – one thing has become clear to me:
Everyone believes what they believe.
And they believe it whole-heartedly.
That is – they believe in their doctrines, dogma and religions with all of their hearts, and – with the best of intentions.
- The Pentecostal Christian who has been “slain in the spirit”
- The Hindu who has felt himself melted into the Atta or universal consciousness
- The cultural Buddhist who has meditated and has seen the Deva and Brahma planes
- The New Ager who was “astral” projected into other worlds or lives
And what do all of these people have in common?
For all of them – their experiences were subjectively true but not objectively testable or verifiable.
The human mind, and the human psycho-physical complex holds the remarkable ability to manufacture what it needs in order to feel better, more at ease, and less stressed.
And – it has the capacity not only to manufacture any type of subjective experience, but – to blur and even erase the lines between subjectivity and objectivity.
These mainstream religions, philosophies, and worldviews from which Huxley drew all suggest that some Soul, Self, Ego or Atman exists which is permanent, everlasting and absolutely exists, and that – this stuff is the immovable, unchangeable substance of which the material world – the world of which your life is made up.
You are told that this soul or self in man is the thinker of thoughts, the feeler of sensations and the receiver of rewards and punishments for all it’s actions – whether good or bad.
The Way Of The Sage stands unique in the history of thought in denying the existence of such a self, soul or atman.
These beliefs are false and have no corresponding reality and they produce harmful thoughts of “me” and “mine”, selfish desire, craving, attachment, hatred, ill will, conceit, pride, egoism and other problems.
The belief in the self is the source of all problems and trouble in the world from personal conflicts to wars between nations.
To be direct – all of the evil in the world can be traced to this false view.
So – what is the source of this illusion?
This false view which is the source of all evil?
Two ideas are psychologically deep-rooted in man:
“For self-protection man has created gods, on whom he depends on for his own protection, safety and security – just as a child depends on its parents.
For self-preservation man has dreamed up the notion of an immortal soul, or atman – which will live eternally.
In his ignorance, weakness, fear and desire – man needs these two things to comfort himself.
So he holds on to them deeply and fanatically…” – Walpola Rahula
Generally speaking – all of these beliefs in supernatural phenomenon and other-worldly destinations at the end of life can be reduced to two basic functions or needs of the human psycho-physical complex:
- The desire for safety and security
- The desire for continuity of existence
These ideas are so deep-rooted in man that he will refuse to listen to, nor does he want to understand any teaching against them.
The Way Of The Sage does not support this ignorance, weakness, fear and desire, but – aims at making man enlightened by removing and destroying them. Striking at their very root.
A Prima Facia Case
In order for a way of thinking and a way of living to be useful – it must be self-evident and it must be practically applicable in the present moment – the place and time where you exist NOW.
When laid out in front of you, its meaning should be instantly clear.
If you have to study it to understand it – someone is probably trying to pull something over on you.
Similarly – metaphysics in general are not the arena of the Sage.
Whether or not something is ultimately true – is irrelevant to whether it’s useful to know.
In the Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta, The Buddha said:
“It’s just as if a man were wounded with an arrow thickly smeared with poison.
His friends & companions, kinsmen & relatives would provide him with a surgeon, and the man would say, ‘I won’t have this arrow removed until I know whether the man who wounded me was a noble warrior, a priest, a merchant, or a worker.’
He would say, ‘I won’t have this arrow removed until I know the given name & clan name of the man who wounded me…
until I know whether he was tall, medium, or short…
until I know whether he was dark, ruddy-brown, or golden-colored…
until I know his home village, town, or city…
until I know whether the bow with which I was wounded was a long bow or a crossbow…
until I know whether the bowstring with which I was wounded was fiber, bamboo threads, sinew, hemp, or bark…
until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was wild or cultivated…
until I know whether the feathers of the shaft with which I was wounded were those of a vulture, a stork, a hawk, a peacock, or another bird…
until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was bound with the sinew of an ox, a water buffalo, a langur, or a monkey.’
He would say, ‘I won’t have this arrow removed until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was that of a common arrow, a curved arrow, a barbed, a calf-toothed, or an oleander arrow.’
The man would die and those things would still remain unknown to him.”
Life is too short…
If we spend it in endless metaphysical speculation that does not bring us any closer to the truth, or to changing the quality of our lives or our world.
“Do nothing that is of no use”
― Miyamoto Musashi, The Book Of Five Rings
All truth is based upon partial and incomplete perspectives, so worrying about whether or not something is “true” or not is a waste of time.
It is better to consider whether something is useful to believe and whether it is useful in a specific context or situation than whether it is “true”.
In order for any philosophy or belief system to be useful, it must be simple, and it must cut quickly and deeply to the roots of the biggest problems.
A philosophy of life must be practical in application.
You must be able to use it, right now in order to improve the quality of your life, right now.
“Vain is the word of a philosopher which does no heal any suffering of man.
For just as there is no profit in medicine if it does not expel the diseases of the body, so there is no profit in philosophy either, if it does not expel the suffering of the mind.”
The culimation of 2,000 years of mutually co-dependent thought
Throughout this book – I will refer both to my own experiences and ideas, and to the sources of those ideas.
Those sources, in general are the perennial philosophy embedded in Theravada or Southern Buddhism, certain tendencies of Greek philosophy, and Taoism.
Now – this is in contrast to the “perennial philosophy” as written about by Aldous Huxley.
In fact – it is exactly the opposite.
Huxley’s perennial philosophy was that of the self.
And that tendency has certainly existed along with The Way Of The Sage – which denies such theories.
In fact –
There have always been TWO perennial philosophies running through human culture, based on two very different concepts of how to live your life:
- Devotional surrender
The first, devotional surrender – is the basis of most modern and ancient religions.
It is the seizing upon of those base instincts and fears of survival and safety that all humans suffer from by opportunists, in order to control, make subservient, weaken and exploit the masses of humans who never perceive themselves as anything other than the illusion – created by biology in order to bring comfort in an uncomfortable world.
The Way Of Sage The differs from existing schools of thought in a fundamental sense:
- It is purpose is practical application.
- It is not a mystical, emotional or “spiritual” enterprise.
- It’s a tool that you can use to become a better person.
In this work – I will lay out the basis of an alternative “perennial philosophy”.
One that is not based upon ignorance, superstition, fear or weakness but which is grounded in objective reality and practical application.
The tactics of the sage
The summum bonum (supreme ideal) of the sage is a combination of Four qualities.
- Moral insight and virtue
- Self-control and control of your mind
- Wisdom or insight
- Living in accord with reality
The ultimate end result of these tactics is happiness.