The Codifying of Unintelligence

Why do I think most modern academic religionists are so opposed to perennialism? Because they’re mostly relativists, and perennialists are absolutists. Or, if you prefer, because most scholars are confused as to what is truly “abstract” and what is truly “concrete”.

Look back at the post you’ve asked about (“Too Much Perennialism“), scroll down to the lines I quoted from the “external review” of my department, and take special note of the word “concreteness”, thrice repeated. An entire philosophy—empiricist in its epistemology and materialistic in its ontology—is simply taken for granted in those lines, and any objection to this philosophy is dismissed without argument; or rather it’s assumed that there can be no objection, since all Ph.D.’d people know—do they not?—that “real” things are particular, historical, and of course “concrete”?

I recently finished work on the latest title in my on-going series of new translations and editions of Schuon, namely, Logic and Transcendence. If you’d like to get a better grasp on this issue, I strongly recommend the chapter called “Abuse of the Ideas of the Concrete and the Abstract”. Here is the author’s opening summary of the problem we’re faced with in dealing with modern, and a fortiori post-modern, colleagues:

There is in modern thinking a significant abuse of the ideas of both the abstract and the concrete…. Everything that is not physically or psychologically tangible—although perfectly accessible to pure intellection—is described as being “abstract” with a more or less disparaging intention, as though it were a matter of distinguishing between dream, or even deception, and reality or healthiness of mind. Substance—that which exists of itself—is regarded as “abstract”, and the accidental as “concrete”; it is imagined that an idea of the supra-sensible is obtainable exclusively through abstraction, by prescinding from contingencies; while having a certain meaning on the logical plane, this is false at the level of direct intellection. Our certainty of the Absolute is not dependent upon a process of mental unwrapping; it is innate in our essential intelligence and can erupt into our consciousness without the aid of logical operations. If intelligence is the capacity to discern “substances” either through “accidents” or independently of them, “concretism” can only be described as a kind of philosophical codifying of unintelligence.

Actually, I’m being rather too generous to contemporary critics of perennialism in suggesting that these observations apply to them. An Aristotle may have supposed that our ideas concerning “the supra-sensible” and our “certainty of the Absolute” depend on “prescinding from contingencies” and not on “direct intellection”. But we’re a long way from Aristotle here! For the “concretists” who penned our departmental review, even if there is an Absolute, “certainty” is certainly out of bounds for the scholar.

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