Perennialism and the “Christian Right”

I generally don’t comment on the comments that appear on this weblog, but the opinion recently expressed in connection with “A Balancing Act” by someone calling himself “Faust”—I’ll resist speculating as to the implications, intended or not, of that name—calls for some response.

“Faust”, who says he is a perennialist, claims that “traditional condemnations of homosexuality may well fall into the category of the ‘human margin'”. But surely this is an abuse of perennialist, or at least Schuonian, terminology. After all it is Schuon himself who gave us this phrase—in a chapter by that name in his book Form and Substance in the Religions (also printed in In the Face of the Absolute). A quick glance at this chapter should be enough to make clear my concern.

“The divine influence,” Schuon writes, “is total only for Scripture … and it allows for a ‘human margin’ where it exerts itself only in an indirect fashion” (Form and Substance [World Wisdom, 2002], p. 201). But of course it is Scripture precisely which forbids the practice of sodomy: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination” (Lev. 20:13); “Men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet” (Rom. 1:27). Other such Biblical texts could obviously be cited.

A critic might quibble, I suppose, that the second passage—coming as it does from one of Saint Paul’s Epistles—is a matter of smriti, not shruti, and that while “divinely inspired”, it is so only “to the second degree” (p. 224). Schuon, however, would be quick to counter such a move in this case, for as he rightly points out the Apostle is very careful to distinguish between the counsel he offers when “not under the influence of the Paraclete” (p. 225) and the commands he gives in the Name of the Lord. In the text from Romans, there is no indication whatsoever that Saint Paul is speaking in his own voice alone; and as for the passage from Leviticus, Schuon leaves no room for doubt: “The Mosaic Law has been given for all of time, right until the end of the world; nothing can be added to it, nothing taken away. This is the thesis of Judaism, and it is irrefutable” (p. 227).

“Faust” worries about “siding with the conservative Christian right”. But as far as I can tell there is nothing especially “right-wing” about Christians and Jews—or Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists for that matter—who insist upon remaining faithful to these and other such Scriptural precepts, unless one wishes to argue that all traditionalists are ipso facto “right-wing”, which “Faust” seems at some pains to insist is not the case.

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