Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Herald of Perennialism (1987)

The following is a statement that we generated as a result of the work at the Institute for Perennial Studies back in 1987. It was released as a broadside or poster on parchment style paper with graphic illustrations and was quite a handsome frame-able document. Unfortunately, only a few copies have survived so far as I know. There may be more floating about somewhere.

This critique holds up pretty well and was the catalyst for any number of people and groups who incorporated elements of the perennialist proposal into their thinking.

It was not the only piece we published but it did encapsulate some of the broad ideas. I will flesh out more of the raw thinking on this issue and demonstrate how the critique was used by me to analyze cultural data as I was able to refine the process.


We seek the re-evaluation of culture based on a perennial wisdom which emphasizes harmony and integration with nature and views humanity as a spiritual entity within Creation. This perennial wisdom was the axis of human culture for all but the last 250 years when a positivist model stressing Cartesian dualism began to gain ascendancy by exaggerating the separation of people from nature through the powers of abstraction. This new program led the way to extreme industrialism and the redistribution of wealth towards an urban elite and the bureaucrats that serve them and away from the traditional rural culture that was close to the land. The result of the potent but shortsighted worldview that evolved from this change has been to glorify complex organization, to disconnect people from the regenerative power of nature, to stifle a more productive style of learning based on renewal, and to dislocate human needs in favor of technological priorities. Consequently in a mere two and a half centuries this program that exaggerates abstraction, and promotes exploitation and expedience at the expense of serving the requirements of balance has brought to humanity the modern era of holocaust, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, ecological degradation, and an alienated culture which produces dependent, poorly adjusted people.

In light of our present situation we feel that a reappraisal of a perennial wisdom is necessary. This can be done by defining the elements of philosophy of perennialism. In the process of doing this we hope to create a dialogue among interested people which will lend to the creation of a vocabulary and paradigm capable of communicating knowledge about the deep relationship between God, people, and values. We feel that this work will activate a positive consensus towards a more productive use of human institutions. Having done this we believe that perennialism could be implemented by a wide spectrum of individuals and groups leading to a new and healthier culture. This in turn can facilitate the growth of o global kinship based on a deeper wisdom.

copyright: 1987 D. Reif, C. Klemaier

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