Rabbi Rami, my Religious Studies professor, introduces me to a lot of the ideas that I mention on this blog. Whenever he mentions a concept or an intriguing view on religion I jot it down so that I may research and digest it at a later time. One of my favorite concepts that he has mentioned in both of my Religious Studies classes thus far is on Perennial philosophy or the Perennial Religion. He explained it using this illustration I sketched into my notes.
One of the proponents of the Perennial Religion was Frithjof Schuon, "a Swiss philosopher, metaphysician and author of numerous books on religion and spirituality." Perennialism in a nutshell is the concept that at the core of our religions we share the same universal truths although we appear to differ on the surface. Professor Shapiro used Schuon's illustration of a glacier with three peaks coming out of the water representing Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Above the water represents the everyday religious beliefs, traditions, and rituals of the believers of their respected religions. Below the water is the esoteric traditions that all three attempt to use to gain an inwardly closeness with God through direct experience. Each of them have "technologies" and teachings that guide the spiritual traveler towards a closer communion with the Divine: Judaism with Kabbalah; in Christianity it's usually called Mysticism; and Sufism in Islam. These mystical disciplines use breathing, repetitive chanting, and other techniques to help them enter into a trance-like state. It is in this state that they experience God on a very personal level. I honestly don't know much about Mysticism and I can not say if any of this is even close to what they practice, but the results are their main focus; a communion or conscious awareness of an ultimate reality beyond that which is taught in mainstream religions. As you strip away layers of the ego you reach the soul level in which an awareness of the universal spiritual truths is revealed to the traveler.
As I said earlier Mysticism is an area of religion that, although interesting, is very foggy for me. What truly intrigues me is the graph itself. Even though these three bicker and peck at each other they do share a common belief, goal, and spiritual truth in the mystery that is found along the journey towards the Divine. If we can't descend below the deep waters of our shared spirituality then maybe we can work towards lighting lamps between the peaks above the surface so that we may see and understand each other. Instead of stripping away layers of the ego maybe we can begin by stripping away the layers of hatred and ignorance that divide us and let our inner soul/light/love shine out.
33"No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. 34Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. 36Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you."