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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Schuon's "connection with Islam" not "absolutely essential"?

A correspondent has drawn my attention to an interesting article, and asked an interesting question.

The article is Renaud Fabbri, "The Milk of the Virgin: The Prophet, the Saint and the Sage," which appeared in Sacred Web 20 (Winter 2007). It is available directly from the Bloomington "World Wisdom" website. Given this, it certainly does not contradict the current consensus of the Bloomington community.
 
The central argument of the article is that Schuon should be "understood neither as the founder of a new religion (a prophet in the classical sense of the word) nor as a Muslim saint, but as a universal sage." The article disagrees with my analysis (in Against the Modern World) that Schuon progressively moved away from a starting point in Sufi Islam as "typically modernist and psychological" in its assumption that Schuon's positions evolved. In fact, argues Fabbri, there was "a progressive unveiling" of what had always been there. "The growing emphasis of the late Schuon on primordiality and universality did not represent a deviation but corresponded to a final, yet perfectly natural crystallization revealing that, to some degree, Schuon's connection with Islam was not absolutely essential." In fact, the "undeniable connection of Schuon with Islam did not mean however that his message was intrinsically Islamic."

The difference between Fabbri and myself is partly about timing and partly about method. Fabbri and I seem to agree on how Schuon was seen and saw himself at the end. The question is whether this position evolved, or was always there. The method of the historian assumes that nothing is pre-ordained, and everything develops, to some extent by chance. Fabbri's method assumes the contrary.

Now to the question:
As a Muslim (but by no means an 'aalim/scholar), I am surprised that, in spite of works like yours and other recent ones which shed more light on Schuon's beliefs and practices, there has than been so little response from traditional Islamic spiritual authorities as to the standing of Schuon as a Shadhili "Shaykh" and the Maryamiyyah as a Shadhili "tariqah". It now seems there is little doubt as to how Schuon viewed his function and message; articles such as Rennaud Fabbri's "The Milk of the Virgin: the Prophet, the Sage, and the Sage" emphasise that, due to Schuon's "supra-confessional" starting point and standing, it would be a mistake to confine the Schuonian message and function within Islam and subject to the Islamic criteria for judging orthodox Shaikhs and Tariqahs. To me the Perennialists' writings that have appeared after Schuon's death effectively place Schuon's "religio perennis/pure esoterism" beyond the criteria and authority of Islam/traditional sufism and basically ask us to accept whatever Schuon said ultimately on the basis of his own authority (or, for the Perennialists, the authority of the "Intellect"). Such being the case, where is the response of traditional Islam/Sufism? Is it because Schuon's/Pernnialist writings have not been translated into Islamic languages and therefore generally not known? Or is it that Pernnialism is/was not taken that seriously in such circles and thought not worth responding to?
I think the answer to this may come in two parts. One part is that "traditional" Muslims, in contrast to Salafi Muslims, are very cautious indeed when it comes to takfir, to charges of heresy that potentially have the effect of excommunication. This is partly because of numerous hadith warning against this, partly because of adab, partly because of reluctance to cause fitna--and partly precisely because of Salafi enthusiasm for takfir.

The second part of the answer is that one has to make a distinction between the Bloomington community and the Maryamiyya as a whole. In Schuon's lifetime, Bloomington was more universalist than the worldwide Maryamiyya, which was more Sufi and Islamic, but the authority of the figure of Schuon kept these two trends from producing a split, rather as the authority of the figure of Tito kept Yugoslavia together. Since Schuon's death there seems to have been a clear split--I say "seems" because I have not researched this properly. What are best known today are not the universalist Bloomington positions but the Islamic positions. The universalist Bloomington positions are so universalist that they need not concern Muslims, any more than the positions of--say--the Mormons need concern Muslims. And, given the split, the Islamic positions can be--and are--taken separately.

Whether this is as it should be is another question, and one that is not really the business of this blog.

50 comments:

Abdalnur said...

Or in other words: Schuon was indeed a Schuonist.
Have you ever even heard about the conflict between Mihail Vâlsan and Frithjof Schuon?

Mark Sedgwick said...

In response to Abdalnur: if at the time of the conflict with Vâlsan Schuon had been as "Schuonian" as Renaud Fabbri is now, there would have been no conflict, as everything would have been clear...

Anonymous said...

Hello Mark!

Many thanks for taking the time to respond to my question relating to Fabbri's article. I do take your point about the split between Bloomington and the other Maryamiyyah. Indeed, in this lecture :"Seyyed Hossein Nasr in the Context of the Perennilaist School" (http://www.sophia-perennis.com/SHN%20et%20F.Schuon.pdf), which was apparently given at a conference in SH Nasr's honour in Washington D.C in 2001 (the author is not given, but I'm guessing it may be Patrick Laude), the split is alluded to but glossed over as a difference of perspective of the Schuonian message. Certainly the writings of people like Martin Lings and SH Nasr have, to date, given the Maryamiyyah an appearance of an organic development of traditional Sufi Islam. However, I do believe that, as knowledge of Schuon's own true position vis-a-vis Islam becomes more widespread, the position of SH Nasr and M Lings will also necessarily come to be questioned (at least as traditional Shuyukh of an Islamic Tariqah or having the authority to speak "from within" on matters pertaining to Islamic spirituality). When the person from whom you have taken your bay'ah, and who constantly appears in your writings as your final intellectual and spiritual authority, claims to have been born with a special knowledge that exempted him from the ordinances of the Sharia'h and also believes that Satan has "widely succeeded" in taking over Islam from within (among many other seriously questionable beliefs and practices within the context of Sunni Islam), then to continue to play the role (and have the status) of a traditional Islamic Sufi authority becomes less tenable. To my knowledge, neither Lings nor Nasr has ever in his published work questioned any aspect of Schuon's personality or work (quite the contrary, in fact!). I realise this discussion may be going out of the scope of your blog, but thanks anyway for listening!

p.s. I don't know what you think about the 2001 lecture I referred to above, but after reading it I distinctly got the impression that the author's message was that, despite a lifetime spent in Schuon's company and studying his works, Nasr really didn't "get" his master's message...all the more surprising that such a lecture was given at an event to honour SH Nasr!

Anonymous said...

According to Plutarch, there are “not different [gods] for different peoples, not non-Greek and Greek, not southern and northern [gods]; but just as sun and moon and earth and sea [are] common to all [men], though they are called by different names by different peoples, so of the Reason (Logos) that orders all things, and of one Providence that also directs powers ordained to serve under her for all [purposes], have different honors and titles been made according to their laws by different [nations]. And there are consecrated symbols, some obscure ones and others more plain, guiding the intelligence towards the mysteries of the gods, [though] not without risk; for some going entirely astray have stepped into superstitions, while others, shunning superstition as a quagmire, have unwittingly fallen into atheism as down a precipice.”

The forms, as Guenon says, are just guides to the formless truth (Satya) which is beyond any distinction of time, space, or person.

Exoteric exclusivism is a dastardly diversion away from the real sacred truth, and only reflects the narrow-minded consciousness of religious bigots who are only concerned with political conquests and moralism. Radical Islam, as well as all exoteric exclusivisms of whatever religion, must be rejected as a disgusting perversion.

Anonymous said...

Hello again Mark,

A final point (promise!)-and I'll keep it short. Regarding your comment about Muslims not needing to be concerned about the Bloomingtom Universalists, I would tend to agree. However, I did notice on the same site as the 2001 lecture on SH Nasr referred to in my previous post the text of a lecture by Patrick Laude in Indonesia given at the International Conference of Islamic Scholars in 2008. Going by the Introduction to his book "Pathways to an Inner Islam..." (parts of which can be accessed on google books), I believe Mr Laude is a Bloomington Universalist and I find it interesting that he would be invited to give a lecture at such a conference (or indeed feel the need to go to such a forum). Maybe Muslims need not concern themselves with the Perennialists, but will the Perennialists leave them alone...??!!

Omar said...

Do you know if the "Islamic" branch of Maryamiyya under Nasr has ever critisized Schuons deviation? I have read Nasrs internal papers on Tariqah and they are full of praise for Schuon. Maybe Nasr feel the whole thing is embarrassing. But how long can Schuons real self be hidden from Muslims? Especiellay now with the Internet. Unless Nasr renounces or at least questions Schuon Muslims won't take him seriously. And if he does, then what about his authority as a shaykh, that he got from Schuon?

Anonymous said...

Dear Omar,

I think you've hit the nail on the head. When you've (i.e. Nasr) described Schuon as the "cosmic intellect itself impregnated by the energy of divine grace surveying the whole of the reality surrounding man and elucidating all the concerns of human existence in the light of sacred knowledge", it can be somewhat difficult to backtrack! The world of the internet indeed makes it difficult to maintain different faces for different audiences. I do marvel sometimes at Nasr's intellectual flexibility when he can portray himself as a traditional Muslim while at the same time defending the right of Christians to believe in the Trinity (see http://www.al-islam.org/al-tawhid/pluralism2.htm)!

Anonymous said...

The following anonymous comment has been edited by Mark Sedgwick to remove repetition of allegations of incompetence and gratuitous distortion in Against the Modern World made originally in Studies in Comparative Religion. Deletions have been indicated by “[—].”

[—] It is true that Schuon did observe Native American ceremonies, but a Muslim is allowed to mingle with other cultures and religions. He did, however, continue to practice the Islamic prayers until his death. Muslims have also studied other religions throughout history including Hinduism. If Schuon was interested in other religions and cultures this was a personal preference and interest that did not compromise his Islam or his tariqah, except for those who wanted to see him and his message as purely universal and above forms. This problem surrounds a number of orthodox Sufi shaykhs in the West whose disciples sometimes try to practice Sufism without the Shari'ah. I would recommend that interested readers complement their knowledge of Schuon with the writings of those who knew him best. See, for example:

Seyyed Hossein Nasr, "Frithjof Schuon and the Islamic Tradition, Sophia, vol. 5, no. 1.

Martin Lings, "How Did I Come to Put First Things First?" in A Return to the Spirit.

[—] Schuon was concerned with all religions and he does have some admirers who want to distance him from Islam, but his spiritual life was rooted in Islamic Law and Sufism. Nasr and Lings would argue that for Schuon Islam was essential, but that Allah was quintessential. Moreover, Schuon knew that God is inaccessible without religion and his religion of choice was Islam. It is also worth noting that he wrote more books on Islam than any other subject, including:

Understanding Islam
Dimensions of Islam
Islam and the Perennial Philosophy
Sufism: Veil and Quintessence
Christianity/Islam: Perspectives on Esoteric Ecumenism

One may not agree with all of his formulations but a number of important Muslims scholars have appreciated his contributions, including S.H. Nasr, M. Lings, Titus Burckhardt, Charles Le Gai Eaton, Jean-Louis Michon, Shaykh 'Ali Gomaa, Feisal Abdul Rauf, Khaled Abou El Fadl, and the famous scholar of Islamic Studies Annemarie Schimmel. [—] Moreover, Islam is bound to look differently in the West than it does in the Arab world, just as Persian or Indonesian Islam varies and sometimes make use of Zoroastrian, Greek, Hindu and Buddhist symbols and doctrines to explain Islam.

God knows best.
[—][—]

Concerning Abdalnur initial question,[—]:

[—] As Jean-Baptiste Aymard and Patrick Laude have written:

What many of Schuon’s detractors do not know is that several years later, in 1958, Michel Vâlsan went to Lausanne and, in a gesture of superb humility, apologized for everything that had happened, and suggested reintegrating his group with Schuon’s. Though touched by the offer, Schuon declined, for, as he wrote, he “did not want to reap what (Sidi Mustafa) had sown” and did not wish to have under his authority men who were integrally Guénonian and somewhat hesitant with regard to his own perspective.” (letter to Leo Schaya, September 3, 1958) -Jean-Baptiste Aymard and Patrick Laude, Frithjof Schuon: Life and Teachings (SUNY Press, 2004), p. 33. [—]

Omar said...

Muslims don't have any problem with studying other religions or even using other religions terminology when expressing ideas. The problem with Schuon was not lingistic, the problem was that he seemed to degrade the Quran, the final and universal revelation according to Islam, putting it at a lesser level than his principles. For the Muslim the Quran is the highest authority and all principles are dervied from it.

Anonymous said...

A further comment from another anonymous poster, edited by Mark Sedgwick to remove a section which might perhaps be inflammatory. Deletions have been indicated by “[—].”

To Anonymous above posting in defence of Schuon's Islamic credentials:

Could it not also be argued (and more convincingly in my view) the other way that Schuon's Muslim admirers were/are trying to show him to be more Muslim than he actually was or wanted to be? (precisely why some Muslims are so desperate to claim Schuon is also an interesting question)

As to some of your specific comments:

"It is true that Schuon did observe Native American ceremonies, but a Muslim is allowed to mingle with other cultures and religions."

I think perhaps you mean a Muslim is allowed to meet with people of other religions, which of course is undeniably true. But is a Muslim allowed to [—]? Is a Muslim allowed to [—]? Is a Muslim allowed to [—]? Is this the behaviour of a Shadhili Shaykh? or even of a "normal" Muslim? Do any of the four Sunni madhhabs allow such acts? Can such a person be said to be "rooted in Islamic Law and Sufism"?

No doubt Schuon wrote many books on Islam, but the essential question is how authentic and authoritative are his views for Muslims? (after all many non-Muslims have also written books on Islam, as well as many heteredox Muslims).

Did Nasr and Lings know Schuon "better" than his disciples at Bloomington with whom he spent the last 20 odd years of his life and who observed his daily practices? In any event, neither Nasr nor Lings have contradicted or taken issue with any of the things written by Schuon's more universalist "admirers". In fact they usually endorse them by writing forewords and/or appearing in the "Acknowledgment" section receiving thanks!

As for Islam being "essential" for Schuon, I'm not privy to what Nasr and Lings would have said, but in Schuon's own words: "I have had since my youth a particular interest in Advaita Vedanta...Since I could not find this method...in Europe...I had to look elsewhere...and since Islam de facto contains this method in Sufism, I finally decided to look for a Sufi master; the outer form did not matter to me." Hardly sounds like Islam being essential to him; in fact it wasn't even his first choice!

[—]

Anonymous said...

Omar,
I can see how this can be a problem. I think the key here is that Schuon sees his or other sages’ intellectual vision (based on the aql or ayn al-qalb) as the subjective complement of Revelation. Even if we state that our principles are based on the Quran (Hadith, ijma, etc.) alone, we each must accept that authority and knowledge through our own faculties of discernment and not only because our fathers told us to. Moreover, the Quran is “an ocean without shore” and many a Sufi or philosopher has seen in its literal and esoteric meanings virtually everything that Schuon has said in one form or another. I would argue that Schuon does not contradict the Quran, but only a limited understanding of it. Schuon knew that one cannot approach God except through His Word, but he also emphasized that God has spoken many times. Be that as it may, only following a particular manifestation of the Word will due for our salvation and spiritual life, which is why the Quran is relatively-Absolute in relation to other Books but Absolute for Muslims.

Anonymous,
I think that some of what Schuon has been accused of is true but often misunderstood, while most of it is false. Moreover, most people do not know which parts are true and which parts are false. Further, I do not think we have adequate evidence on most of the problematic allegations to cast anathema on Schuon.

If a Muslim wears western, Indian, or Malay-Indonesian clothing, or observes a Catholic Mass or other traditional ceremonies, this does not take them outside of the fold of Islam, unless he receives Baptism or takes the Eucharist (after which he can of course repent). As I understand it, most of the time Schuon wore traditional Islamic clothing and always prayed his salat. Some of his new disciples in Bloomington did become too attracted to the Native American tradition because of Schuon’s interest in it, but his lifelong, advanced disciples—those he left his teachings and tariqah to—continued to faithfully practice Islam in their shaykh’s footsteps. A Muslim can practice hatha yoga, the martial arts, or observe a Native American rite, so long as he doesn’t participate in their central rites. Let us remember that most Persian Muslims celebrate Nowruz, many Indonesian Muslims have plays with Hindu figures from the Mahabharata, and many western Muslims celebrate Christmas with their families, for example. This is not religious syncretism, but warm celebrations from our inherited cultures and religions.

As I see it, Schuon’s acceptance of all revealed religions in principle does not contradict his practice of Islam or belief in the shahadah and the tenets of faith. Clearly, most Muslims believe that pre-Islamic religions were abrogated with the descent of the Quran, and that non-Muslims can only be saved by the Mercy of God or their ignorance of Islam, but not through their “abrogated” religion. However, this is not the only opinion in Islam as Hallaj, Rumi, Ibn ‘Arabi, the Amir ‘Abd al-Qadir, and others have indicated. It is a rare and esoteric teaching in pre-modern Islam, but it is not absent, as any scholar or well read student of Sufism will tell you. Schuon did love Advaita Vedanta, but knew he could not practice this form. There should be nothing strange about a Muslim loving a pre-Islamic teaching or religion, which is simply another form of islam (submission). Moreover, religion is a means to an end and not the end itself. We should not create an idol out of our Islam, which smacks of the tribal exclusivism or religious nationalism that the some Jews are condemned of in the Holy Quran.

Anonymous said...

Re Annonymous (March 5, 1:23 pm)

In the Islamic context, the beliefs and conduct (aqaa'id and a'maal) of a person who claims to be a Sufi Shaykh are of necessity scrutinised. It may be that details of Schuon's allegedly controversial conduct may continue to be successfully surpressed. However, as more and more of his writings become more widely known (including his unpublished "texts"), let's see if traditional Islamic Sufi authorities carefully study and evaluate Schoun's key concepts such as the "religio perennis" and "pure esoterism", which apparently are not even a part of their surrounding "exoterism" but rather "quasi-independent". Will such concepts be accepted as a legitmate part of orthodox Sufi doctrine? What if the same Sufis that accept Hallaj, Rumi and Ibn al Arabi reject Schuon? Even if they do, the Perennialists seem to have their defence already prepared as apparently most of historical Sufism is only "average esoterism" and in any event the "religio perennis" admits of no higher authority than its own(and to which access is reserved for Schuon and his school). For a Muslim reading Schuon, the fundamental question to ask is whether Schuon is advancing profound insights into Islamic spirtiuality based on genuine spititual realisation or merely using his personal ideas of Islam as one of many elements to fit into his own (superior) worldview?

Anonymous said...

“In the Islamic context, the beliefs and conduct (aqaa'id and a'maal) of a person who claims to be a Sufi Shaykh are of necessity scrutinized.”

This is fine, but one had better have good evidence before one levels the kind of allegations that some have about Schuon. Otherwise, the accuser is guilty is calumny and has violated the Shari’ah.

“Will such concepts be accepted as a legitmate part of orthodox Sufi doctrine? What if the same Sufis that accept Hallaj, Rumi and Ibn al Arabi reject Schuon?”

Leading scholars from Al-Azhar have accepted Guénon and Schuon as well as their formulations, including ‘Abd al-Halim Mahmud and ‘Ali Gomaa. ‘Allamah Tabataba’i also seems to have studied Hindu, Taoist and Christian texts with Nasr. There are not very many Muslims who accept Hallaj, Rumi and Ibn ‘Arabi, but those who do read and understand them should be more inclined to accept Schuon and his positions. However, I do not expect Schuon to be universally accepted by Muslims, but I do think that people in the West will continue to be drawn to Islam because of Schuon’s books, as well as those by Lings and Nasr. Even those well-known Muslims who do not agree with the perennial philosophy, such as Nuh Hah Mim Keller as Hamza Yusuf became interested in Islam after reading the books of Nasr and Lings. It is ironic that the tolerant and intelligent presentation of Islam, as a religion among other religions, is more successful at bringing people to Islam than a “Islam is the only way to salvation” approach, which mirrors Catholic and Protestant missionary attitudes that is as ineffective as it is unintelligent. So many people never hear about Islam or Christianity in the world, who cannot be doomed to perdition or meaningless lives where their salvation lies in their ignorance. Their beliefs and actions continue to have present and posthumous consequences according to the Divine doctrines and laws that govern their religion and community.

“For a Muslim reading Schuon, the fundamental question to ask is whether Schuon is advancing profound insights into Islamic spirtiuality based on genuine spititual realisation or merely using his personal ideas of Islam as one of many elements to fit into his own (superior) worldview?”
First, I would state that the religio or sophia perennis is not Schuon’s personal worldview, because diverse metaphysical and theological doctrines exist, the multiplicity of religions exists, and their essential unity has been asserted in Islamic history and in other religions, as well as in the writings of Guénon and Coomaraswamy before Schuon. From my point of view, this understanding can coexist with the exclusive practice of Islam and Sufism alone for Muslims. Schuon does write from a universal vantage point for people of all religions who are confused regarding apparently mutually exclusive truth claims in the religions and the errors of modernism. He also illuminates the inner and outer teachings of Islam and other religions, and one may or may not find keys that are helpful in his writings. I think that a Muslim can attain the highest levels of salvation and sanctity without ever reading Schuon or acknowledging his existence. However, the mark of a realized soul is not assuming that someone is guilty of this or that without adequate evidence.

Anonymous said...

In traditional Islamic Sufism, the Perfect Shaykh (Shaykh Kaamil), represents the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his everyday gestures and sayings are keenly observed by the whole community to obtain learnings and barakah (blessings). If Schuon's followers come clean about all the facts regarding his life (including his marriages, paintings and 'primordial' gatherings) then people will have a chance to judge for themselves.

The boxer Muhammad Ali first came to Islam after contact with the Elijah Muhammad. Maulana Muhammad Ali and Zafrullah Khan produced translations of the Quran read by many non Muslims. Does this establish the orthodoxy of the Nation of Islam and the Ahmadiyyah?

"First, I would state that the religio or sophia perennis is not Schuon’s personal worldview,"

I would state that it is. Let's see which view prevails in the future.

Anonymous said...

“If Schuon's followers come clean about all the facts...”
Schuon has two published books of his paintings which are there for anyone to see. The primordial gatherings are an admittedly obscure phenomenon. It is my understanding that these were not a part of his tariqah, but ceremonies from a neighboring tribe that Schuon and some members observed. 
Some of his followers did then become too immersed in these rites and did indeed err. Schuon, however, always insisted in Islamic orthodoxy and orthopraxy which were central in his spiritual life and those he gave authority to (He left nothing to those who emphasized the Native American tradition). In terms of other critiques leveled against Schuon, I think it is important to stress that we cannot verify all of this and therefore should not assume that it is true, nor assume the worst. If you insist on the Shari’ah then you should also follow it as well. Even if some of what Schuon painted and said appears to contradict Islamic sexual ethics, one should keep in mind that Ibn ‘Arabi, Rumi and his father, and many others Sufis, wrote poetry which appears to be erotic, but is actually a description of spiritual realities. Obviously this can be abused, but Schuon shows no trace of this in his life, and may have even been prone to celibacy as some have told me. Currently modern scholars are trying to cast a shadow over the relationship between Rumi and Shams, as well as the life of Ramakrishna (and even the prophets!). These accusations are pernicious and show a great misunderstanding of the positive and Platonic symbolism of love and union.

“...Does this establish the orthodoxy of the Nation of Islam and the Ahmadiyyah?”

Schuon never claimed to be a prophet or a messenger and openly critiques those modern spiritual groups that raise their leaders to the level a prophet, messiah, or avatar, nor is their a trace of this in his writings or the writings of his lifelong disciples. If you prefer to see him in a negative light that is your business. One simply wishes to see some evidence if he does actually resemble the figures and groups you cited, by claiming prophethood for himself or anyone after the Prophet of Islam.

"First, I would state that the religio or sophia perennis is not Schuon’s personal worldview,"

I would state that it is. Let's see which view prevails in the future.

Schuon defines the religio perennis as,
“discernment between the Real and the illusory, and a unifying and permanent concentration on the Real.” (Light on the Ancient Worlds, p. 137)
The Quran in fact states, “We have never sent a messenger before thee [Muhammad] except that We revealed to him saying, ‘There is no god but I, so worship me.’” (21:25)

Islam is seen in the Quran as the essential message of all prophets. The Quran also refers to the din al-fitrah and din al-hanif (primordial religion) of Adam, Abraham and some Arabs. Suhrawardi speaks of the hikmat al-laduniyyah (divine wisdom) and hikmat al-‘atiqah (ancient wisdom), which he traced back to Hermes or Idris through ancient Greek and Persian sages, and then Muslims. Ibn Miskawayh uses the term al-hikmat al-khalidah or javidan kherad, which are Arabic and Persian translations of perennial wisdom, for a well-known title of one of his books. One cannot argue whether or not expressions of perennial wisdom or the perennial philosophy existed before Schuon, because they evidently did. One can only argue whether or not these are relevant for the world after the descent of the Quran. Considering that, by the Will of God, the Quran and the Sunnah have not been universally witnessed by humanity, I would argue that the ethical and spiritual teachings of other religions are relevant for other communities. I would also argue that Muslims can learn from the Psalms, Gospel, Bhagavad-Gita, or Tao te Ching, ‘seeking knowledge even unto China,’ keeping in mind that final revelation is the Quran and the Seal of the prophets is the Prophet of Islam.

Anonymous said...

Re Annoymous at 6:32 am

Before one can even begin to mention Schuon's paintings in the same breath as Rumi's or Ibn Arabi's poetry as a genuine expression of Islamic spirituality, one has to first ask what is the level of acceptance/appreciation of Schuon's artistic creations (including his unpublished "highly-esoteric" ones) by traditional Sufi Shaykhs, ulama and the Muslim community as a whole. I for one would be very interested in the reaction of publishing houses (the ones that publish Sufi-related works) in the Islamic world if requested to publish his icons as the output of a contemporary Shadhili Shaikh.

The point regarding the Ahmadiyyah and the Nation of Islam was meant to illustrate the fact that mentioning the various books certain Westerners you admire may have read before coming to Islam is not in itself a guarantee of the orthodoxy of such books or their authors.

As regards the "religio perennis", the issue I wished to raise was the doctrinal acceptability within traditional Islam of Schuon's claim that this was basically an independent realm somehow both within and above a religious "form" (and present in all "orthodox" religious "forms") and the consequences in terms of practice for those who have access to this realm. This also relates to the whole question of how Schuon defines "exoterism" and esoterism". For me at least a convincing response to such questions is not something like "well, that's just way it is because Schuon and the Perennialists said so."

Anonymous said...

"The primordial gatherings are an admittedly obscure phenomenon. It is my understanding that these were not a part of his tariqah, but ceremonies from a neighboring tribe that Schuon and some members observed."

There are no intact Native American communities anywhere close enough to Bloomington to be called "neighboring." Furthermore, if it's claimed that any tribe in North America practiced ceremonies like those imputed to Schuon's group, I think the claim would have astonished (say) Joseph Epes Brown.

Rodger Cunningham

Anonymous said...

A further comment on the statement:

"The primordial gatherings are an admittedly obscure phenomenon. It is my understanding that these were not a part of his tariqah, but ceremonies from a neighboring tribe that Schuon and some members observed."

There seems no reason for them to remain "obscure" as we are not talking about something that happened centuries ago, but rather only a few years ago and with many/most of the actual participants seemingly alive and well. In view of the speculation around these events, it would seem the obvious thing to do would be to come out and give a straightforward account of what happened. That no one (from the still faithful followers of Schuon) has done so to date leads to the conclusion that the Schuon group itself prefers obscurity to clarity-at least on this issue.

Also, assuming the accounts (and photographic evidence) that have come out are even somewhat accurate, then whether or not they "were part of his tariqah" is irrelevant as a traditional Sufi Shaikh should exemplify meticulous attention to the Shariah in all aspects of his life.

Anonymous said...

"Also, assuming the accounts (and photographic evidence) that have come out are even somewhat accurate, then whether or not they "were part of his tariqah" is irrelevant as a traditional Sufi Shaikh should exemplify meticulous attention to the Shariah in all aspects of his life."

The gatherings that I initially had in mind were those meetings with various Native American tribes from Iowa, South Dakota, and Montana that Schuon observed. These were not neighboring tribes as I mistakenly wrote.

If there is good evidence (photographs, accounts, etc.) of Schuon's participation in the gatherings in Bloomington then it should be brought forward, instead of assuming that all of the hearsay and conflicting reports are true. We do know that the most malicious allegations leveled against Schuon were retracted by the initial accuser, and that many of the other allegations rest on this person's accounts. To what degree Schuon participated in these gatherings remains entirely unclear. Nor do we know exactly what these gatherings consisted of. Was it simply demonstrations of various forms of traditional dance? Whatever the case may be, I think the accusers should get all of the facts straight before impugning the reputation and actions of an elderly and now deceased man who dedicated himself to the Sacred, and according to the vast majority of those who knew him was a virtuous and honest person. Even if Schuon did participate in various forms of Native American dancing, I am not convinced that this contradicts being a good Muslim and a Sufi shaykh. There are serious shaykhs were practice and even teach hatha yoga, the martial arts, various forms of pre-Islamic Persian or Indian music, etc. There are limits that should be observed when encountering other religious forms, but I am not convinced that Schuon crossed them, especially as they concern the central or sacramental forms of the tradition in question. Of course, some Sufis have a much stricter view of things. One thing I think we should be strict about is not committing calumny, which means that we only state what can be proven about someone. In any case, I have freely admitted that Schuon showed a great interest in the Native American tradition (and other religions), yet most here seem unable to admit that he had even a marginal connection to Islam.

Anonymous said...

" I have freely admitted that Schuon showed a great interest in the Native American tradition (and other religions), yet most here seem unable to admit that he had even a marginal connection to Islam."

I think to say that Schuon showed "a great interest" in other religions is a massive understatement and in fact misleading as regards Schuon's true position. Perennialism requires its adherents to view all religions in an equal light; to favour one over the other would expose one to the sin of "religious nationalism". Also, the point that Schuon's connection with Islam was not essential has been made by Schuon's own follower Renaud Fabbri, which was the subject of Mark's orginal post. While at first this may seem surprising for someone who is presented not only as a Muslim but as a Sufi Shaykh dispensing spiritual guidance, it is actually very consistent with Schuon's own writings and practice as Fabbri has demonstrated in his article with copious references to Schuon's published and unpublished writings. If Fabbri is dismissed as a "Bloomington universalist", then according to Martin Lings (who may for some fit the description of a more reliable "muslim" disciple of Schuon than Fabbri and one to whom he left his traiqah), neither Rene Guenon, Schuon or their disciples (which would presumably include Lings himself) actually left or rejected their previous religion Christianity and "converted" to Islam in the usual sense of the word-rather they loved and revered their previous, present and all other "intrinsically orthodox" religions equally (indeed, they were required to do so). Also, according to Lings, Guenon did not even need a path or guidance as he himself had brought a universal message for which he would choose the right enviornment, which happened to be Islam (and which, unlike the universal message of Guenon and Schuon, is "providentially" limited to a particular geography and people). Schuon himself approvingly cited Guenon's description of a person like himself being essentially "uncovertible". In addition, Schuon has in his writings effectively rejected the applicability to himself and his disciples of most of the Sunnah and given himself the right how to apply whatever of it remains acceptable in his eyes (this position, although totally unacceptable in mainstream Islam, is in fact is a logical consequence of his definition of the "religio perennis", which is independent of, and superior to, the "exoteric" religion). For Schuon, only the "religio perennis"/"sophia perennis" is essential and universal and the various religious forms as relative, so it should not really be surprising that Schuon's "connection" to a particular religious form such as Islam should not be considered essential. The last words on this point should be of Schuon: "... we are in a traditional form, which in fact—but not in principle—is Islam." How all of this fits into traditional Islam and affects Schuon's standing as a Sufi Shaykh is a different question.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to Mr. Fabbri, there are many interpretations of Schuon and his writings, some of which are more complete than others. Schuon clearly emphasized the validity of all revealed religions and their common metaphysical or esoteric heart. I do not dispute this point. What I do take issue with is the tendency to marginalize Schuon’s Islam and his insistence that all people follow a traditional form. We can just as easily say that Coleman Barks says that Rumi was a universalist and has proof from his poetry. Well, Rumi was a universalist and he was also a Muslim and a Sufi. Rumi did privilege the meaning or essence (mana) over the form (surat), but he also knew that meaning is only accessible through forms. In the same way, Schuon privileges the esoteric, the religio or sophia perennis, metaphysics, etc., but knew that the inner is complemented by the outer, that the Intellect is illuminated by Revelation, and that religion—for him Islam—contains both the esoteric and the exoteric. If for him the religio perennis is discernment between the relative and the Absolute, he saw this discernment present in Islam through the shahadah. He also adds that the religio perennis is concentration on the Absolute, which for him meant dhikr and salat. He also fasted, gave alms, studied and knew Arabic, read the Quran regularly, wore traditional Islamic dress, and decorated his home with traditional Maghribi art and aesthetics in mind, and traveled to Algeria, Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, and other Muslim countries to seek knowledge from traditional Muslim masters. If the religio perennis is primary for Schuon, this means that Allah or the Absolute is primary, but that all of the secondary aspects of religion support and lead to the realization of Allah or the Absolute. Moreover, it was Shaykh Ahmad al-‘Alawi himself who taught that his disciples should forego the extra Sunnah prayers and focus only on the obligatory five daily prayers and the dhikr. In other areas, Schuon followed the Sunnah better than most Muslims and as well as most Sufi shaykhs. If he emphasizes the Prophetic virtues as the quintessential Sunnah this is to inform the reader of the raison d’être of the Prophetic acts and utterances, and make sure that the Prophet of Islam is known primarily for his humility, generosity, and truthfulness, and not only for how long his beard was or what day he trimmed his finger nails on (Schuon did incidentally wear a full beard and emphasized the importance of the turban and other details of this kind).
I do think that Schuon could have entered any religion (save those that are inaccessible to outsiders), he chose Islam. If after entering Islam he continued to find meaning and beauty in other religions and civilizations I do not think this is a fault. Rather, it speaks to his objectivity and dispassionate nature. For some strange reason we expect converts to reject their own culture and all others and basically accept and ape the modern Arab idea of Islam, which I suggest (in most of its manifestations) is itself farther from the Prophetic Sunnah than any other Muslim ethnic group’s.

Anonymous said...

"there are many interpretations of Schuon and his writings, some of which are more complete than others."

which are "more complete" and on what basis?

"Schuon clearly emphasized the validity of all revealed religions and their common metaphysical or esoteric heart."

A subtle but significant point: this is was what Schuon and the Perennialists CONTEND/ARGUE is the case; you make it like sound like it is an established, incontrovertible fact.

"Well, Rumi was a universalist..."

Again, this is the Perennialist contention. Like many of your points, you are assuming the Perennialist position to be the only valid one. To say the least, this is not the generally accepted position in traditional Islam on Rumi.

"He also fasted, gave alms, studied and knew Arabic, read the Quran regularly, wore traditional Islamic dress, and decorated his home with traditional Maghribi art and aesthetics in mind, and traveled to Algeria, Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, and other Muslim countries to seek knowledge from traditional Muslim masters."

What was the level of Schuon's Arabic? Under which traditional Muslim masters did he study Quran, Tafsir, Hadith? Did he receive any ijazah/certification of competence in any of these fields?

"Schuon followed the Sunnah better than most Muslims and as well as most Sufi shaykhs."

On what possible basis can such a sweeping claim be made?

"For some strange reason we expect converts to reject their own culture and all others and basically accept and ape the modern Arab idea of Islam, which I suggest (in most of its manifestations) is itself farther from the Prophetic Sunnah than any other Muslim ethnic group’s."

This is a very puzzling statement. Who is the "we" you are assuming to speak on behalf of?

Decentralist said...

Am I the only one who gets tired at silly exclusivist comments? If other orthodox faiths have no validity then what is being said is God gave revelation to only one section of humanity quite late in its history.

Perennialism is the recognition of what should be obvious, that there is a higher esoterism behind all true faiths.

Certainly one doesn;'t have to be a Muslim to understand Schuon, I myself am a Christian but that is no negative. Metaphysically the Religio perennis makes perfect sense and escapes the above mentioned problem of the late, limited revelation of Islam(and Christianity and the other surviving traditions.) and of course answers the obvious modernist objection to religion that there are so many different forms why believe in Islam over Christianity or vice versa.

Really it is hard to see how Perennialism can be argued against when one looks at these facts and its metaphysical foundations. Obviously it shouldn't concern many average believers but one thinks seriously about these things should see its obvious truth.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the irony! An adherent of the religio perennis-a super-religion for a handful of a super-intellects; for whom Perennialism "is the recognition of what should be obvious"; who finds it "hard to see how Perennialism can be argued against"-although "its obvious truth" shouldn't really "concern average believers"...such a person "gets tired at silly exclusivist comments"???!!!

Decentralist said...

That is not an argument against the Perennialist position. It is a silly diatribe.

What metaphysical critiques of Schuon do you have? What answer to the question of why God would bestow his revelation so lately and partially? Or how to answer the obvious modernist objection why one faith is superior?

As usual the radical exclusivists have no arguments. The religio perennis is not anything new, it is an ancient ideal in many respects and is grounded in Platonism and Vedantism as well as being echoed in both Christianity and Islam, though these often forgot this. It is obvious because of the formlessness of God that truth cannot be captured by one limited human form and because of the fact there isn't even one single form that stretches across all humanity. Man possesses Intellect, man can see the unity of existence, the divine essense of which he is a part. As he has this objectivity it seems even more absurd that the religious support he should generally require should come so late and to so few. And yet you have not a single argument to add.

What I mean by not worrying average believers is to say that most don't need to recognise any affinity, it doesn't effect their faith but this is becoming less of a fact, in the West the growing knowledge of other faiths makes people question why one particular one should be true. But those who look at these issues from a higher perspective are different. We are blessed that though modernist error is so infecting the world the Lord should grant us the wisdom of other genuine faiths to bolster our own.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

It's interesting how true-believing Perennialists seem unable even to conceive of any objections to their self-proclaimed "higher perspective”.

As regards "metaphysical critiques" of Schuon, this assumes that people actually take seriously his authority to speak about such matters in the first place. Generally, the most gushing tributes to Schuon as a "metaphysical authority" have come from his own disciples (who generally omit to mention in their published reviews of Schuon's writings that they themselves have accepted Schuon as their Spiritual Master and been "initiated" at his hands into his "tariqh" - which information would certainly be relevant to a reader in deciding on the objectivity or otherwise of such opinions).

In Islam at least (a "tradition" into which Schuon "settled" and claimed authority as a Sufi "Shaikh"), speaking about higher truths primarily on the basis of certainty bestowed by visions of naked Virgins has not traditionally been taken as a sign of one's spiritual authority or increased the likelihood of one's pronouncements being given credence. The fact there is not (yet) a detailed critique of Schuon's from traditional Islam is therefore not proof of acceptance, or unanswerability, of his contentions, rather it is better explained by a similar lack of detailed critique or engagement by Muslims of the positions of, for example, the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh or the Moonies. (Admittedly, Schuon's claim to be a Shadhili Shaikh and founder of a Tariqah makes some comment unavoidable and his fundamental concept of the "transcendent unity of religions" has in fact been critiqued by some Muslims such as Nuh Ham Mim Keller Muhammad Legenhausen).

The arguments about the "religio perennis", "limited form", "formlessness", "objectivity", etc. are straight from the Perennialist canon and circular, i.e., they all amount to saying we should accept these things because Schuon said so-and what Schuon said is-consciously or unconsciously- being equated to the inviolable Truth (or the "nature of things" as the Perennialists are wont to say). It all goes back to whether one accepts the authority of the supposed "Messenger of the Religio Perennis".

As to partial, late revelations, according to Islamic doctrine, Revelations and Prophets have been sent to people from the beginning of time and the final, universal revelation for all of mankind until the end of time is Islam and Muhammad (Allah's blessings and peace be upon him) is the Universal Prophet and Messenger. Whether or not this is accepted by "modernists" or others is a choice they make-"there is no compulsion in religion"- and the final judgment is in the hands of God.

Decentralist said...

Umm there is not a single actual argument against Schuon metaphysics or the other arguments I put forward in that comment. All you do is try and use the very name Schuon and ties to him as an insult. I know enough about the Perennialists to know what you are saying is untrue, I have come across many who were not part of any Sufi tariq with him. It is quite clear that you, who hides his name, knows very little of Schuon seeing as you talk complete nonsense like him getting "visions from virgins" or whatever.

I suggest you at least learn about the subject matter you are critiquing before you do so. If you don't want to avoid looking stupid.

Anonymous said...

Dear Decentralist,

I do actually have some familiarity with Schuon's writings and those of other members of his school. However, judging by the tone of your comments, I think it would be futile to attempt to convince you that I am not just shooting arrows in the air. For what it it's worth, I do agree that any person critiquing Schoun should acquaint himself with the subject matter. I would also add that this requirement applies equally to Schuon's proponents such as yourself. As for your labelling as "complete nonense" Schuon's "getting "visions from virgins" or whatever", I suggest you may what to look into what led Schuon to name his tariqah the "Maryamiyyah" (Mark Sedgwick's book is a good place to start). I will leave the issue of who is in danger of appearing "stupid" for others to decide.

Decentralist said...

Well it is worth bearing in mind that Mark's book has been heavily criticised by Perennialists and Traditionalists as far as I have seen. This is obviously not the place to continue that discussion and though I haven't read it, from reviews I do not consider it the greatest introduction to Perennialism or Traditionalism.

Anyway none of this changes your basic lack of argument. You have offered nothing against Schuon but his being Schuon. And I think you are misrepresenting, at best, his ideas including those of the virigin.

Anonymous said...

I realise that Mark Sedgwick's book has been subject to heavy (sometime bordering on hysterical) criticism by the Perennialists and Traditionalists, but there are also more positive comments by other, non-partisan reviewers. I suppose it's up to the individual reader to make up his or her mind (if they decide to read the book, of course!).

Regardless of the above, I think you'll find it is pretty much an established and non-disputed fact that Schuon claimed to have received visions of the Virgin Mary ("Sayyidatuna Maryam" in Arabic), which led to him naming his group the "Maryamiyyah" and which also served as the inspiration for various of his paintings (if you don't trust M Sedgwick's book, you could try googling "Sir John Taverner", "Schuon", and "Mary" for an account of one of Schuon's own followers).

Also, the point of my posts has been to try and highlight the fact that Schuon "being Schuon" (i.e. his beliefs and practices) make it more and more untenable for him to be portrayed as a Sufi Shaikh within traditional Islam. Now, I also accept that this may not really matter for some people, who may have other reasons for accepting his views. Such people may include yourself, which, if it is the case, I have no quibble with. Certainly, his own followers seem to have come round to such a view:

"I am however forced to recognize that because of the imbrications of religious influences, to locate Schuon within a particular lineage or even to assign him a single religion seems to be an almost impossible task. In the eyes of his followers, the authority of the master of the Maryamiyya did not rely primarily on his connection with the North African Alawiyya, but rather on the metaphysical discernment of his writings and his personal charisma."

(R Fabbri, FRITHJOF SCHUON: THE SHINING REALM OF THE PURE INTELLECT).

As regards "metaphysical arguments", I referred in a previous post to Muslims like Nuh Ha Mim Keller, who have written on why the notion of Perennialism is not acceptable. Essentially, Islam is not one of many current and equally valid religions (or "forms" in Schuon's parlance) serving as gateways to the(higher) Religio Perennis, implying that it is a matter of indifference which religious "form" is followed. Rather, Islam itself is the final and comprehensive religion (Din) for all of mankind, and which has abrogated the previous Divinely-sent religions. This position may be unacceptable and unpalatable for different reasons both to the Pernennialist and modernist mindset, but does indicate why Schuon and the Maryamiyyah will find it difficult to find acceptance as a traditional Shadhili Sufi Shaikh and Tariqah.

Omar said...

For Muslims Islam IS the Religio Perennis, not a one of many forms containing it.

Decentralist said...

Anonymous that it simply repeating the original position you gave and not in fact dealing with the metaphysical and philosophical arguments I gave. It does not even begin to deal with the fact that if Islam is the ultimate religion then why did it come so late, to such a limited section of mankind and why it is couched in one particular culture. Islam is middle eastern, it has little connection with a Englishman like myself for instance, it is very late in human history and it didn't even have the possibility of reaching most of mankind until very recently.

And of course the modernist will be quick to point out there is little reason for accepting your faith as opposed to any other(I for one would retort, if my perennialism was taken away, that Christianity is even greater and more the premier religion than Islam.)

I have seen no hysterical Perennialist or Traditionalist reviews of Mark's book, they have all been perfectly sober to my knowledge. Certainly his book does not tally with a lot I have come across in Perennialism, for instance the likes of Evola get hardly any mention among most Perennialists.

Anonymous said...

Dear Decentralist,

If you read through some of the above posts you can find some places to look for a few more detailed Muslim responses to Perennialism if you are so inclined.

As regards religions for mankind and the status of Islam, as also pointed out above, the Islamic position is that God has always sent true guidance in the form of different religions and Messengers to all His people from the beginning of time. Islam is God's final and universal revelation until the end of time and abrogates the previous Divine messages. As regards people who rejected/did not hear the message of Islam, their ultimate fate is with God, who is Most Merciful, Most Just, and the Best of Judges. Whether you believe in this, or do not find it convincing, or choose to believe in Christianity is of course your choice. However, the view of Islam being geographically, culturally, and "mentally" limited is a Perennialist one (the necessary price to be paid by Islam to fit into Perennialism's Grand Unified Theory of religions), and is certainly not that of traditional Islam.

As regards the traditionalist/Perennialist reviews of Mark's book, maybe "hysterical" is a bit over the top, but I did feel that a lot of the criticism seemed to be ill-disguised ire that the book was not a hagiography of Schuon or written with the near-adulatory viewpoint of an "insider".

Anonymous said...

I don't know, folks. I read "Understanding Islam," very carefully and several times, and it is certainly the best and deepest book I've ever read on the subject. I really fail to see how anyone can conclude that Schuon puts the Quran--or any other Scripture below his principles. On the contrary, he is always saying that esoterism requires a traditional framework, and that metaphysical principles are the essence of Scripture--which is surely true. I think that he was obviously a great man, and that it is petty to try to find flaws in him--and besides, such people are always attacked or even crucified. But regardless of that, what counts is the truth, and both he and Guenon and the traditionalist are obviously lovers of truth and of God and defenders of traditional orthodoxy, and Schuon insists on the practice of prayer and the virtues. There is nothing wrong with any of that! The rest is of secondary importance.

Anonymous said...

To someone who has decided that Schuon was a great man and whatever he said was the truth, any contrary view will obviously be ignored or dismissed out of hand. In fact, from the Islamic perspective at least, there are very legitimate grounds to question both Schuon's "doctrine" and behaviour. In my experience, however, Schuon devotees automatically dismiss any criticism as being due to a lack of understanding of "pure metaphysics", the distinction between "esoterism" and "exoterism", the "Religio Perennis", the "relativity of forms", etc. All of these terms (as understood and defined by Schuon) are in effect treated as the revealed truth or being "in the nature of things". Even Schuon's departures from the Shariah are justified because of his exceptional "pneumatic" nature; the fact that his Tariqah was not like other Tariqahs; "to get to the kernel you need to break the husk"; and so on. It is an impregnable defence: you don't understand Schuon that is why you criticise him; if you understood him, you'd agree with him because what he says is the truth. I think the comments on this post are actually a good illustration of this point.

Anonymous said...

Mark,

Quite entertaining exchange on this topic between posters "Shuayb" and "Hayraan" on the "SunniForum" site (your blog has also been mentioned!)

http://www.sunniforum.com/forum/showthread.php?41642-Since-Hossein-Nasr-is-a-Shia-amp-Perennialist-is-there-any-reliability-in-him/page8#post486522

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous:

"To someone who has decided that Schuon was a great man and whatever he said was the truth, any contrary view will obviously be ignored or dismissed out of hand."

Hold on there, Pilgrim. You're being disrespectful. First of all, I gave my reasons for my "decision," and deciding is certainly my right, since I have a brain. You have also decided, it seems, but you don't agree. Fine. Since we've never exchanged views, you have no idea whether or not I would "obviously" ignore or dismiss you out of hand, although given your attitude at this point, I would be tempted to.

Here are some facts: impressive scholars like Martin Lings, Titus Burckhardt, S.H. Nasr, Reza Shah-Kazemi, and others haven't found "very legitimate grounds" to question Schuon's orthodoxy. And you don't give very impressive reasons to suppose that either Schuon or his supporters are mistaken. Now, if you are an Islamic scholar, kindly state your credentials, and then go on to give some serious reasons for your attack.

Incidentally, the expression, "to get to the kernel you need to break the husk," comes from Meister Eckhart, not from Schuon.

I am going to stick to my position that "Understanding Islam" is the finest book I've read on that religion. Nothing else even comes close. So I am going to suppose Schuon understood that religion a good deal better than you do. And I am happy to be in the company of people who agree and who know a good deal more than I do.

Steven said...

I am rather amazed at the level of mentality in many of these remarks concerning Schuon. I am impressed not only at the pettiness of them, but also by their foolishness and ingratitude. I personally feel that we are lucky to have these writings. Imagine if you had been living in the early 20th century without such amazing insights and syntheses. I challenge anyone to find anything like the amazing defense and elucidation of all authentic religions that is found in the traditionalists' writings, above all those of Schuon, who is universally acknowledged as the greatest of these writers. I challenge anyone able to find writings that come even close to the spiritual and metaphysical depth of these works. I found the traditionalists thanks to the fact that I was studying Eastern religions and therefore ran into Coomaraswamy's works. That is how I eventually found Guenon, Pallis, Schuon, and the others, whom Coomaraswamy said were the only ones who really understood these traditions. I challenge anyone able to match the academic and intellectual credentials of a man like Coomaraswamy.
I find many of the attitudes exhibited in these pages deeply offensive and also shameful. Some of these people grossly overestimate themselves and grossly underestimate men who greatly surpass them.

Frank said...

Re:Quite entertaining exchange on this topic between posters "Shuayb" and "Hayraan" on the "SunniForum" site (your blog has also been mentioned!)

What's entertaining about it? It's pathetic. A group of intellectual pygmies talking about what they know not.

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a degree of surprise at how people can possibly not acknowledge the intellectual and spiritual stature of Perennialists such as Schuon. Let me attempt an explanation from the point of view of a Muslim who is not a Perennialist.

The overwhelming majority of Muslims, both scholars and ordinary folk like myself, cannot accept a person who declares Christ to be God and considers himself in principle to be above the Law (the Shari’ah), while at the same time claiming to be an Islamic Spiritual Master (all of which Schuon did), to have an accurate, let alone profound, "understanding” of Islam-regardless of the “metaphysical” and “esoteric” justifications provided.

For traditional Muslims, a person’s stature is gauged by his or her closeness to God, which is reflected in the person’s beliefs and practices. In the traditional Islamic perspective, no amount of intellectual or academic credentials can compensate for fundamentally incorrect beliefs or practices.


I do recognize that for some people Islam, or any religion for that matter, is only acceptable or palatable based on a Perennialist interpretation (similar to some people only accepting Marxist or “evolutionary” interpretations of religion). They cannot bring themselves to accept the “exclusivist” claims of Islam and are much more comfortable with Perennialism’s verdict where it is duly assigned its place as one of the many valid paths to God. Apparently, conviction in the concept of Perennialism itself for these people is stronger and takes precedence over the actual beliefs of any particular religion and allows them to reject or ignore any such beliefs (including traditional ones which they profess to follow and defend as Perennialists) that do not conform to Perennialism. Schuon’s book “Understanding Islam” should actually be re-named something like “Islam: A New Perennialist Understanding,” which would at least be a more accurate and honest description of its contents and standpoint.


It is of course the right of each individual to decide which interpretation he or she follows. However, (non-Perennialist) Muslims do not accept Perennialism’s verdict regarding Islam and certainly do not consider that it stands in any need of Perennialism’s stamp of approval or validation as an “authentic” religion.

Mark Sedgwick said...

Extract from a comment left by "Occam's Razor" on Saturday July 10:

Anonymous writes

"Nor do we know exactly what these [Primordial Gatherings] consisted of. Was it simply demonstrations of various forms of traditional dance?"

NO, there are various eyewitness descriptions of Schuon's secret "primordial Gatherings"...

I regret, however, that for copyright reasons I cannot publish the description contained in the comment.

Anonymous said...

"There seems to be a degree of surprise at how people can possibly not acknowledge the intellectual and spiritual stature of Perennialists such as Schuon. Let me attempt an explanation from the point of view of a Muslim who is not a Perennialist."

Of course it's surprising. World-class Islamicists approve of Schuon's books on Islam. If you were a Moroccan born and raised, your point of view would make perfect sense. Exactly as most Christians cannot accept Islam.
Perhaps you are also unaware that "most Muslims" might not accept a great of esoteric Islam. The sufic turuq have not always had an easy time of it .

What is surprising is the degree of unintelligence on the part of Western converts to Islam, and who are intellectually lazy--too lazy to actually read and study a few books and make the effort to comprehend them; and also insufferably pig-headed and pedantic, as well as too presumptuous to realize that people of superior accomplishments to their own radically disagree with their frog-in-the-well mentality.. Is it really so hard to understand the perennialist position that there is more than one authentic revelation? The Quran speaks of many prophets throughout the ages--some known and some unknown--and says that the differences between religions will be made clear in the afterlife, and it enjoins respect for the Ahl al-Kitab. That's not good enough, however, for our Iowa or Nebraska-born Muslims.

Without wanting to go on to point out every piece of hopeless stupidity in this post, let me just conclude by observing that no perennialist ever said that Islam stood in need of their authentication. Ignorance is bliss, however, for these luminaries!

Anonymous said...

Précisions sur F. Schuon, Jean Borella et le "perrenialisme"
Si vous souhaitez avoir de plus amples informations sur les personnages cités et en particulier Schuon.

Voir http://dossierschuon.jimdo.com/

Contacter l'intervenant si ce site venait à disparaître la secte schuonienne ayant organisé une veille sur Internet est à l'affût de toute contradiction

Voyez aussi : http://www.scribd.com/doc/41215783/F...ion-de-l-Homme

Plusieurs dossiers vous attendent avec une présentation en anglais et des documents iconographiques.

Vous pouvez également contacter les auteurs du site pour avoir les documents non publiés qui sont accablants pour Schuon et Borella

Anonymous said...

By the way, one doesn't have to be an exclusivist to object to sufi sheikhs that want to rub themselves on naked women. I think it's quite clear, also, that this is an unnecessary innovation in Islam, or should at least be reserved for very close friends... hmm...

Najma Syira said...

"To my knowledge, neither Lings nor Nasr has ever in his published work questioned any aspect of Schuon's personality or work (quite the contrary, in fact!)."

I'm agree with him. That's also my concern and question. The scholars in Indonesia who r influenced by his teaching also rarely (maybe never) mentioned about his personality nor his spiritual life (only stated that he's muslim). even I must agree with Ranaud Fabbri thesis that Schuon teaching is autonomous path of spirituality. And in my opinion it's far from Islamic teaching.

I just found this blog and Thanks Mark for some valuable information in this blog. Highly appreciated.

Imran Anees said...

People like bulley Shah, Mansur al Hallaj, Schuon, Karen armstrong etc are SUFIS, but they dont belong to any organized religion. A sufi transcends the boundaries of religion and goes beyond, so he doesnt belong to any religion in particular. This is a confusion among many people. A sufi who talks about unity of all religions CANNOT be a muslim at the same time. THAts a contradiction. SUFISM is a saperate spiritual philosophy, and the people who are aware of the boundaries of religion would tell you that a SUFI doesnt belong to their religion..... I dont mix the two now, i used to be a religious muslim, but now have realised that i actually am a sufi, who doesnt belong to any particular religion. Same was the case with Schuon, he is NOT a muslim.

Anonymous said...

All of this is semantics.

Except for the issue of the moral integrity of Schuon. If there is evidence to be shown, let it be shown -

Saying "Sufism" transcends Islam, - all this is just SEMANTICS. Islam already acknowledges the ḥunafā who maintained the "Initiate Knowledge"...

Anonymous said...

Mansur Al hallaj, was a follower of the Messenger of God, the chosen one to whom belongs the original disconnection without struggle. may Allah bless him and grant him peace and his family, and Companions and his community who are disconnected from low behaviour and are attributed with the best and most noble of behaviour. The beginning in our purpose is taken from the ocean of generosity and giving, the man of the Station of the Praiseworthy, the drinking- fountain, the tied banner, our master and our lord Muhammad who was sent to every existent being, the source of knowledges and lights and the key to the safe of gifts and secrets. 'From your knowledges, the knowledge of the Tablet and of the Pen'. What is open to the gnostics of gifts and secrets is nothing but a trickle from the water of the chosen Prophet because from him the secrets have burst loose and the lights have gushed out. May Allah bless him and give him peace, and his family and his Companions.

To learn more about Mansur Al Hallaj, may Allah reward him, read his Tawasin. he was a Muslim who prayed 5 times a day. There is no transcending the religion, if a person claims that, he is on the wrong path, all the great arifs of God, have noted this. the Shari'ah (the law, which u claim to be above), is to worship Him (God), and the Tariqa (the path) is to travel to Him, and Haqiqa (reality) is to witness Him. The Shari'ah is for the correction of the outward limbs, and that leads to the Tariqa, which is the correction of the inward secret. This, in turn, leads to the Haqiqa, which is the removal of the veil and the witnessing of the loved ones on the other side of the veil. Please don't accuse the awliyah Allah (friends of God) of transcending the Shari'ah, they did no such thing. The greater knower of Allah, the beloved Habib of Allah, may Allah's peace be upon him, performed the 5 daily prayers, and you claim to transend that? Please safeguard your Iman, and may Allah keep us all on the Surat-ul-Mustaqeem, Ameen.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Sedgwik,

Here are New links for the "Dossier Schuon"

https://archive.org/search.php?query=affaire%20schuon

https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B6j5JTPxZdUwfncwRkFtb2FuaWVBOFlTREZjTmY2aWFoN2FqQS1xa0pIX0d2YjZXZFpJWlk&usp=sharing