Five Errors of the Perennial Philosophy

As someone who identifies as a Biblical Perennialist, and as a Theologian, I think it is important to address what I see as the grave errors in the raw Perennialist Philosophy, lacking in nuance, as advocated by such thinkers as Schuon, Coomaraswamy, Huxley, Guenon, and others. The following admittedly brief list encapsulates those errors.
  • Redefining Religion-Raw Perennialism requires one to redefine key theological terms and doctrines to conform to its presuppositions, rather than examining the claims of the religions on their own ground. This negatively impacts concepts of theology proper, anthropology, ontology, divine revelation, and soteriology. The doctrines of the respective religions no longer carry their orthodox and intended meanings, but the new definitions and meanings forced upon them by the respective Perennialist.
  • Universalism-The raw Perennialist is a universalist, believing that all religions are essentially the same, and all are valid and effective means of enlightenment and/or salvation. This ignores the significant contradictions of world religions. Reason tells us no two opposing truth claims can both be true. Either one is true and the other false, or both are false. When we examine world religions closely, we see significant and irreconcilable conflicts of doctrine that make it impossible to accept them all as equally valid. Yet the Perennialist does this by pointing to shared perennial truths, as if shared truth somehow means equivalency. They fail to adequately address the fact that if all traditional religions are right, then no religion is objectively wrong. If no religion is objectively wrong, then the contradictions between those world religions must themselves be somehow right as well, but the Perennialist doesn't believe that. In fact, they deny any religion has the fullness of truth, which would imply they must hold to some doctrine that isn't true. 
  • Tradition-The doctrines of each respective religion are held by their adherents in a traditional sense, with traditional meanings and implications, passed down from one generation of teachers to the next. While Perennialists claim to have a deep and abiding commitment to and respect for all religious Tradition, their Universalism and Relativism actually undermines Tradition and violates the integrity of the religions it redefines. 
  • Anti-Christian Bias-Raw Perennialism ranks Christianity very low in the order of religions. For example, Sam Harris claims it has little useful to say with regard to the human condition, while Huxley wrote that the Bible is an obstacle to human evolution. The consistent anti-Christian bias found in Perennialist literature points to a dark tendency in those who embraced it, after rejecting their own Christian upbringings, to attack that which they now view as ignorant, or as holding them back from indulging their disordered desires. For example, Huxley used the hallucinogenic drug mescaline to induce what he claimed were higher states of consciousness, when in fact they were simply the subjective hallucinations of a chemically induced madness. In fact, on his deathbed he had himself injected with LSD.
  • Subjective Experiences Taken for Empirical Evidence-Some raw Perennialists (Huxley, Wilber, Harris, etc.) claim that altered states of consciousness (primarily those brought on by hallucinogenic drugs) are equivalent to empirical data. This does violence to Faith. It reduces mystical experiences to the subjective hallucinations of the chemically altered brain, making a mockery of the mystical Traditions of religions. It also feeds into the Materialist philosophy with regard to religious experience, being seen as simply the result of brain matter stimulated by chemicals, producing a delusion or hallucination.
While the Perennial Philosophy does point out shared truths that appear repeatedly over time in the history of human religion, without a proper foundation in epistemology, and an appreciation for the uniqueness of world religions, including the exclusive claims of Christianity, it is reduced to a philosophy of Relativism. It holds nothing as absolutely true except what is commonly shared, illogically assuming any truth claims to the contrary to be patently false, especially soteriological or epistemologically exclusive claims, such as those found in Christianity and Islam. Thus, the Perennialist Philosophy, without the guidance of the objective, absolute, and exclusive divine revelation found in its fullness in the Old and New Testaments, must be rejected by the orthodox Christian, since it is this Faith that is the fullness of truth.

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