Greetings of Peace. This blog contains selections from my correspondence and other sources on a variety of subjects related to religion, philosophy, and spirituality. I hope that they may be of benefit to the interested reader. Concerning the title of the blog, read this entry.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Need for a Traditional Framework

The subject of gnosticism aside, this question is essentially concerned with whether or not a formal expression of esoterism can exist outside of a traditional exoteric framework. I think that my own position was implicit in my remarks in the initial post of this discussion but at this juncture I would like to make reference to the thoughts of someone more qualified than myself. The Buddhist scholar Marco Pallis, has related the following:

“… the primary necessity for a traditional basis for a spiritual life must … be stressed in unequivocal terms; an esoterism in vacuo is not to be thought of, if only from the fact that man is not pure Intellect, but is also both mind and body the several faculties of which, because they are relatively external themselves, require correspondingly external means for their ordering. This insistence on the ‘discipline of form’ is a great stumbling-block to the modernist mentality, and not least so when that mentality is imbued with pseudo-esoteric pretentions. Therefore it provides, over and above its own correctness, one of the earliest means for testing the true character of a man’s aspiration …”

To answer your question more directly, it not possible to conceive of a formal esoteric organization or movement outside of a traditional orthodox religion, because it would have no external supports within which to function. If exoterism is the outer symbol, esoterism is the inner meaning or reality of that symbol. Due to the fact that man is not pure spirit and intelligence only, but also body and soul, he still needs the formal dimension of religion within which to function and actualize the non-formal dimensions. Frithjof Schuon wrote that the truth demands of us all that we are. We might add that this is so because it engages all that we are. There is one final quote from Marco Pallis that I believe impresses upon us more fully the need for and significance of tradition. He wrote,

“… it might be asked which is preferable, that a man be regularly attached to an orthodox tradition while holding some erroneous opinions or that he hold correct views while remaining outside any actual traditional framework? To such a question the answer must be, unequivocably, that regular attachment is in itself worth more than any individual opinion for the simple reason that thoughts, whether sound or mistaken, belong ‘to the side of man’ whereas a traditional doctrine, as deriving from a revelation, belongs ‘to the side of God’ – this without mentioning the ‘means of Grace’ which accompany the doctrine with a view to its realization and for which there exists no human counterpart whatsoever. Between the two positions the distance is incommensurable …”

1 comment:

  1. Salamu 'alaikum,
    wow that made so much sense! I do so many things I can't explain - being traditional in my preferences is only one of many.

    Thank you for the post.