Sunday, October 16, 2011

Aldous Huxley: On the Perennial Philosophy and the Ground of Being

" . . . (T)here is a hierarchy of the real. The manifold world of our everyday existence is real with a relative reality that is, on its own level, unquestionable; but this relative reality has its being within and because of the absolute Reality, which, on account of the incommensurable otherness of its eternal nature, we can never hope to describe, even though it is possible for us directly to apprehend it."

-- Aldous Huxley --
("The Perennial Philosophy," page 33.)
Just to the extent that we mistake our "relative reality" with "absolute Reality" do we suffer. That is the nature of samsara, the unawakened life. Our identification with the unawakened "self" of our normal, workaday consciousness obscures the consciousness of the true "Self" which is co-extant with the Ground of Being. The object of the Buddha's 'Eight-Fold Path to the End of Suffering' - the fourth of the Four Noble Truths - is, like all true spiritual teachings, to bring us to a unitive knowledge of this Ground of Being.

In his Introduction to "The Song of God," a translation of the Bhagavad Gita by his frineds Christopher Isherwood and Swami Prabhavananda, the polymath author and philosopher, Aldous Huxley, outlines "the Perennial Philosophy" underlying the world's great spiritual traditions, a philosophy which points to our ability to realize the ineffable Ground of Being.
"At the core of the Perennial Philosophy," Huxley observes, "we find four fundamental doctrines."
"First: the phenomenal world of matter and 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 beginning, 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 come to unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground."
 "Direct knowledge of the Ground (of Being) cannot be had except by union," Huxley notes, "and union can be achieved only by the annihilation of the self-regarding ego, which is the barrier separating the "thou" from the "That.""  The ego, or smaller "self" is, thus, the face and identity of the "relative reality" which obscures our higher consciousness, while "the Self" of the divine "Ground of Being" is the higher consciousness which enables us to experience (although not describe) true "Reality."

"Thou art that," we read over and over again in the Upanishads, and in other Scriptures. "Tat tvat asi."

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