Roots of the Human Condition (The Writings of Frihjof Schuon)

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9780941532372: Roots of the Human Condition (The Writings of Frihjof Schuon)

Applies the principle of universal and perennial metaphysics to spiritual and moral life.

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About the Author:

Philosopher and metaphysician, poet and artist, Frithjof Schuon (1907-1998) is world-renowned in the field of Comparative Religion and is known as the pre-eminent exponent of the Perennial Philosophy. He was born in Basel, Switzerland, of German parents. He went to Paris as a young man, where he studied for a few years before undertaking a number of trips to North Africa, the Near East, and India in order to contact spiritual authorities and witness traditional cultures. Following WWII, he accepted an invitation to travel to the American West, where he lived for several months among the Plains Indians, in whom he had always had a deep interest. He spent his mature life writing more than twenty books of essays comprising a spiritual message of solar magnitude. The dominant theme, or principle, of Schuon's writings was foreshadowed in his early encounter with a marabout who had accompanied some members of his Senegalese village to Basel for the purpose of demonstrating their African culture. When the young Schuon talked with him, the venerable old man drew a circle with radii on the ground and explained: "God is in the center, all paths lead to Him." This metaphysical truth is the leitmotif of all Schuon's writings, beginning with his first book, the title of which: The Transcendent Unity of Religions is very indicative in this respect.

Schuon has written more than 20 books, as well as having been a regular contributor to leading journals on comparative religion in both Europe and America for over 50 years. His writings have been translated into over a dozen languages, and have been consistently featured and reviewed in a wide range of scholarly and philosophical publications around the world, respected by both scholars and spiritual authorities.

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The following excerpt is taken from the beginning of the first chapter of Roots of the Human Condition:

On Intelligence

Intelligence is the perception of a reality, and a fortiori the perception of the Real as such. It is ipso facto discernment between the Real and the unreal—or the less real—first in the principial, absolute or "vertical" sense, and then in the existential, relative or "horizontal" sense. More specifically, the "horizontal" or cosmic dimension is the domain of reason and of the temptation of rationalism, whereas the "vertical" or metacosmic dimension is that of the intellect, of intellection and of unitive contemplation. And let us recall that among all earthly creatures man alone possesses a vertical posture, which indicates the "vertical" potentiality of the spirit and thereby man's reason for being.(1)

It is necessary to distinguish in the human spirit between functions and aptitudes: in the first category, which is the more fundamental, we shall distinguish between discrimination and contemplation,(2) and then between analysis and synthesis;(3) in the second category, we shall distinguish between an intelligence that is theoretical and another that is practical,(4) and then between one that is spontaneous and another that is reactive, or again between an intelligence that is constructive and another that is critical.(5) From an entirely different standpoint, it is necessary to distinguish between a cognitive faculty that is merely potential, another that is virtual and a third that is effective: the first pertains to all men, thus also to the most limited; the second concerns men who are uninformed but capable of learning; the third coincides with knowledge.

It is only too evident that mental effort does not automatically give rise to the perception of the real; the most capable mind may be the vehicle of the grossest error. The paradoxical phenomenon of even a "brilliant" intelligence being the vehicle of error is explained first of all by the possibility of a mental operation that is exclusively "horizontal," hence lacking all awareness of "vertical" relationships; however, the definition "intelligence" still applies, because there is still a discernment between something essential and something secondary, or between a cause and an effect. A decisive factor in the phenomenon of "intelligent error" is plainly the intervention of an extra intellectual element, such as sentimentality or passion; the exclusivism of "horizontality" creates a void that the irrational necessarily comes to fill. It should be noted that "horizontality" is not always the negation of the supernatural; it may also be the case of a believer whose intellectual intuition remains latent, this being precisely what constitutes the "obscure merit of faith"; in such a case one may, without absurdity, speak of devotional and moral "verticality."

Transformist evolutionism offers a patent example of "horizontality" in the domain of the natural sciences, owing to the fact that it puts a biological evolution of "ascending" degrees in place of a cosmogonic emanation of "descending" degrees.(6) Similarly, modern philosophers —mutatis mutandis—replace metaphysical causality with "physical" and empirical causalities, which no doubt demands intelligence, but one that is purely cerebral.

It is a paradoxical fact that an understanding which is equal to "vertical" truths does not always guarantee the integrity of "horizontal" intelligence or of the corresponding moral qualities; in such cases we are presented either with a unilateral development of speculative gifts to the detriment of operative gifts, or with an anomaly comprising a kind of scission of personality; but these are contingencies having nothing absolute about them in the face of the miracle of the intellect and of the truth. Nevertheless, metaphysical intelligence is integral and efficient only on condition that the speculative and operative dimensions be kept in balance.

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1. We must note in this context that the vertical position is also met with in certain aquatic birds, which is explained by the readily paradoxical play of Universal Possibility. In a less rigorous sense, verticality could even be attributed to all birds, in which case it would have to be recalled that birds in general manifest, hence symbolize, celestial states, although certain species, on the contrary, have a malefic yet still "supernatural" signification, by virtue of the symbolism of wings.

2. Or "conception" and "assimilation," the first function being active and as it were masculine, and the second, passive and feminine.

3. In Shingon Buddhism, one of the two fundamental diagrams (mandara, from mandala) represents the Universe with respect to analysis or unfolding, whereas the other suggests synthesis or the root; all of which shows that the functions of the human spirit lend themselves to the most important spiritual applications.

4. Or, abstract and concrete. Both of these terms, however, present the inconvenience of being improperly used: too often, one terms "abstract" that which pertains to the principial or universal order, and "concrete" all that is phenomenal; as if God were an abstraction, and as if only phenomena were realities. In the Scholastic dispute over universals, the whole question was that of knowing what was meant by a "universal," or of knowing in what manner a principial or archetypal reality was envisaged.

5. There are other modes, such as presence of mind, cleverness, cunning, but these are of an inferior level and moreover are met with in the animal kingdom as well.

6. We understand the term "emanation" in the Platonic sense: the starting point remains transcendent, hence unaffected, whereas in deist or naturalist emanationism the cause pertains to the same ontological order as the effect.

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Book Description World Wisdom Books, United States, 2005. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. ROOTS OF THE HUMAN CONDITION deals with the fundamental principles of universal and perennial metaphysics and their application on the level of spiritual and moral life. Simply put this book reveals many answers to those seekers questing for knowledge of what lies behind the reality of our world and more particularly our own human souls. The book is divided into three sections. The first deals with metaphysics and epistemology the second concerns esoterism and its interpretation of religions and the third focuses on spiritual and moral life. The reader is provided with an intellectual method-in the truest sense-with which to view the profound questions of existence. Then is shown how authentic esoterism approaches the spiritual realisation of these truths and finally is immersed in compelling considerations of human virtue the almost alchemical result of realising those truths. Schuon writes that people often seek certitude through phenomena of the external world while instead we should be seeking it in our very being. This is where his books have been leading readers for generations to a strong certitude of the realities and purpose of the world and of our own existence. In this and indeed in all his books Schuon leads readers to insights on the roots of the human condition precisely. Schuon s writings appeal to philosophers students of comparative religion and to spiritual seekers among others. ROOTS OF THE HUMAN CONDITION offers each of these an opportunity to be guided through some of the profoundest human questions by one of the greatest intellects of the 20th century. Bookseller Inventory # ANB9780941532372

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Book Description World Wisdom Books, United States, 2005. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. ROOTS OF THE HUMAN CONDITION deals with the fundamental principles of universal and perennial metaphysics and their application on the level of spiritual and moral life. Simply put this book reveals many answers to those seekers questing for knowledge of what lies behind the reality of our world and more particularly our own human souls. The book is divided into three sections. The first deals with metaphysics and epistemology the second concerns esoterism and its interpretation of religions and the third focuses on spiritual and moral life. The reader is provided with an intellectual method-in the truest sense-with which to view the profound questions of existence. Then is shown how authentic esoterism approaches the spiritual realisation of these truths and finally is immersed in compelling considerations of human virtue the almost alchemical result of realising those truths. Schuon writes that people often seek certitude through phenomena of the external world while instead we should be seeking it in our very being. This is where his books have been leading readers for generations to a strong certitude of the realities and purpose of the world and of our own existence. In this and indeed in all his books Schuon leads readers to insights on the roots of the human condition precisely. Schuon s writings appeal to philosophers students of comparative religion and to spiritual seekers among others. ROOTS OF THE HUMAN CONDITION offers each of these an opportunity to be guided through some of the profoundest human questions by one of the greatest intellects of the 20th century. Bookseller Inventory # ANB9780941532372

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