Annie Besant, teacher of the Christian Wisdom Tradition, wrote:
“We approach that perennial life which bubbles up from an unseen source, and so baptises its representative with its lucent flood that human hearts cling round the Christ, and feel that they could almost more readily reject the apparent facts of history than deny that which they intuitively feel to be a vital, an essential truth of the higher life.” Esoteric Christianity, Or, The Lesser Mysteries
Stretching back to the foundations of human culture, the Wisdom Tradition (also called the Primordial Tradition or the Perennial Philosophy) is a golden thread at the center of many diverse religions, groups, teachings, and practices – including Christianity. At the heart of this Tradition are a cluster of teachings and understandings (not all of them will be found in all groups, but there are broad commonalities).
As Christians we find these core principles consistent with the mystic heart of our Tradition.
Aldous Huxley defines the Perennial Philosophy as –
- First: the phenomenal world of matter and of individualized consciousness – the world of things and animals and humans 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: humanity possesses a double nature, a phenomenal ego and an eternal Self, which is the inner person, the spirit, the spark of divinity within the soul. It is possible for a person, if s/he so desires, to identify with the spirit and therefore with the Divine Ground, which is of the same or like nature with the spirit.
- Fourth: a person’s life on earth has only one end and purpose: to identify her/himself with his/her eternal Self and so to come to unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground.
And for Huston Smith the Primordial Tradition is –
- a metaphysics maintaining that reality is arranged in tiers, with the higher levels more full of being more real than the lower ones. In other words, there are gradations of reality, a little bit like different grades of automotive oil, ranging from thick to thin;
- a philosophical psychology claiming a similarity or identity of the soul and divine Reality. We are divine, although most of us have little or no realization of it; and
- an ethics emphasizing human purpose as the discovery of our place in God, with the goal not simply knowledge but a new state of being. This means that we should be aiming at personal transformation that makes the presence of the divine a living reality, rather than simply something that we affirm intellectually.