I've been reading a book called, "What Is Enlightenment?" that contains a large excerpt from The Perennial Philosophy by Aldous Huxley, who's most famous for writing "A Brave New World." My previous image of Huxley was that of a cantankerous intellectual and pessimist, and that's partly true, but not at all a fair description of this intellectual giant. Later in life, even as a professed agnostic, he became deeply interested in understanding the spiritual dimension--famously by experimenting with mind-altering drugs. But much beyond that, he surveyed all the major world religions, systems of thought, and mystical traditions and tried to sort out their commonalities, describing "the eternal Ground" beneath all of them. That's what The Perennial Philosophy refers to:
"The metaphysic that recognises 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 with, 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 traditionary 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. A version of this Highest Common Factor in all preceding and subsequent theologies was first committed to writing more than twenty-five centuries ago, and since that time the inexhaustible theme has been treated again and again, from the standpoint of every religious tradition and in all the principal languages of Asia and Europe.
If one is not oneself a sage or saint, the best thing one can do, in the field of metaphysics, is to study the works of those who were, and who, because they had modified their merely human mode of being, were capable of a more than merely human kind and amount of knowledge."That's good stuff. That's a bit of what I'm trying to do on this 40th year quest. I've found some other pithy quotes from Huxley, shared below. One final thought about Huxley: he died on Nov 22, 1963, the same day as C.S. Lewis, and of course the assassination of JFK. This was also just as the Beatles rose to prominence. I can't help but think that, had their trajectories intersected more substantially, he and John Lennon would have been best buds, not to mention sharing the same optician.
"The spiritual journey does not consist in arriving at a new destination where a person gains what he did not have, or becomes what he is not. It consists in the dissipation of one's own ignorance concerning one's self and life, and the gradual growth of that understanding which begins the spiritual awakening. The finding of God is a coming to one's self."--Aldous Huxley