Aquí os dejo una aclaración que me ha enviado Ferrer sobre su libro: la escribió hace ya años (la primera edición del mismo tiene ya unos diez) para sus alumnos de un seminario de doctorado sobre misticismo comparado. Perdonad que esté en inglés, amigos, pero creo que es interesante dentro del intercambio de ideas suscitado.
Some Sources of Transpersonal Perennialism
Jorge N. Ferrer
There are many forms of universalism, and not all of them fall into the problems I identified in Revisioning Transpersonal Theory. We could distinguish among: (1) ancient or primordial universalism; (2) the philosophical synthesis of the Renaissance; and (3) modern religious perennialism.
The first emerged in a “pre-interreligious encounter” era and can be found, for example, in the Hindu intuition of “sanathana dharma” (eternal religion) or the prisca theologia of the Greek pre-Platonics (like Pythagoras, Hermes, or Zoroaster). To my knowledge, no explicit claim to encompass other religious traditions can be found here.
The second is the philosophical-religious synthesis of the Renaissance, which attempted to unify Christian doctrine and certain influential trends of Greek philosophy. We can find this attempt in Philo of Alexandria, and later on in Ficino, Leibniz, Steuco, and others. To my knowledge, no explicit claim to encompass other religious traditions can be found here either, but simply a claim to be returning to an original and forgotten Truth thanks to the power of both reason and imagination.
The third-the one that was the focus of my critique-is implicitly or explicitly a meta-reading of competing religious traditions, which hides an apologetic claim for the superiority of one’s own tradition. To be sure, there are Christian versions of this move-for example, in the Christian claim that the rest of religious practitioners are “anonymous Christians”-but the sources that had a direct or indirect influence on transpersonal perennialism are the following three:
(1) Neo-Hindu, which was inaugurated with Ramohan Roy’s seminal paper, “The Universal Religion” (1823), written as a response to the Christian claim of universalism and superiority. Neo-Hinduism became popular in the West in the hands of Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda (who introduced it to Western academic and religious circles in the 1893 World Parliament of Religion).
What characterizes Neo-Hinduism is a reinterpretation of “sanathana dharma” as including and/or anticipating all religions, as well as an emphasis on religious experience (anubhava) as the basis to know the nondual truth of Atman=Brahman. This emphasis did not exist in classic Hinduism, which always emphasized the authority of the Vedas (sruti) and was highly skeptical of the epistemological reliability of spiritual experiences. The many contradictions and hidden intolerance of Neo-Hinduism are well known-for example, in their claim that Buddhism is a degeneration of Hinduism (see Halbfass’s India and Europe and Tradition and Reflection, for some of the most documented analyses of these problems).
In any event, Neo-Hindu thinkers influenced the so-called British Orientalists, such as Isherwood and Huxley, and Huxley’s popularization of perennialist ideas was in turn one of the main sources of transpersonal perennialism. The other important Neo-Hindu influence upon transpersonalism (especially upon Wilber) came through Sri Aurobindo, who added an evolutionary twist to Neo-Hindu universalism (the possible perennialism of Chaudhuri is more controversial).
(2) Traditionalist (Sufi-like) is arguably a more sophisticated perennialism than the Neo-Hindu one (especially as defended by Nasr), but prey to similar problems. In addition to my critique in Revisioning, for a lucid illustration of some of these problems, see the recent paper by Sally King [King, S. B. (2001). The philosophia perennis and the religions of the world. In L. E. Hahn, R. E. Auxier & W. Stone (Eds.), The philosophy of Seyyed Hassein Nasr (pp. 203-20). The Library of Living Philosophers, Vol. XXVIII. Chicago: Open Court.]. This school originated in the writings of Guenon and Coomaraswamy (who, by the way, was a critic of Neo-Hinduism) and was later popularized by Schuon, the intellectual mentor of both Nasr and H. Smith.
We owe to this school the distinction between esoteric and exoteric religion, as well as an emphasis on the Intellect (in contrast to experience, at least according to H. Smith) as the epistemological ground to anchor its universalist claims. Transpersonalists have ignored the intellectualist claim, but the esoteric/exoteric distinction, as well as many other traditionalist claims, tenets, and arguments heavily influenced the writings of transpersonal authors like Grof or Wilber (especially the latter).
(3) Buddhist Modernist, which can be found in the Kyoto School, the neo-vipassana movement, and, especially influential to transpersonalists, in D. T. Suzuki’s reinterpretation of satori as the universal religious experience common to all traditions. As is well known, this reinterpretation influenced Maslow’s equation of the peak-experience with a supposedly universal religious experience-another claim that entered transpersonal assumptions and interpretations.
It is this third, modern type of perennialism (from the above three sources, Neo-Hindu, Traditionalist, and Buddhist Modernist) that was the target of my criticisms in Revisioning. Essentially, I see modern (and transpersonal) perennialism as a reification of spiritual universalism consistently carried out with the (often hidden, at times perhaps even unconscious) apologetic intention of showing the ultimate superiority of one’s tradition or spiritual choice. Since in Revisioning I was addressing modern forms of perennialism (and transpersonal ones, to be more specific), I overlooked mentioning the fact that there may well be mystics across traditions that hold their universal intuitions in a different way, perhaps like the ancient ones or in the way I attempted to hold them in my book-that is, a way that fully honors the universal intuitions of other traditions without attempting to assimilate or reduce them.
In any event, I can perfectly understand how my strong emphasis on the plurality of spiritual universes and liberations may distract the reader from the fact that I simultaneously hold a “more relaxed” spiritual universalism (as I described on pp. 189-91). Thus, in a way, I could even be called a crypto-perennialist! Although Wilber and others, arguably due to deep-seated habits of absolutist/objectivist thinking, may see in my position just another system competing for supremacy in a self-contradictory fashion, I personally experience my stance more pragmatically and existentially. That is, not as a system that can be absolutely or objectively posited upon others, but as a way of approaching and engaging the diversity of traditions and religious people which can be perhaps said to be more attuned to the standpoint of Spirit without falling into reifications or self-contradictions.