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Center for Action and Contemplation

What We Are Looking For Is Doing the Looking

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Perennial Tradition

What We Are Looking For Is Doing the Looking
Wednesday, November 23, 2016

I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath moves through,
listen to this music. —
Hafiz (c. 1320-1389) [1]

Aldous Huxley’s definition of “the perennial philosophy” is an adequate definition of my own understanding of the same:

The metaphysic that recognizes a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds; the psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical with, divine Reality, and the ethic that places man’s [sic] final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being. This is immemorial and universal. [2]

Thus, the Perennial Tradition says that there is a capacity, a similarity, and a desire for divine reality inside all humans. What we seek is what we are, which is exactly why Jesus says that we will find it (see Matthew 7:7-8). The Perennial Tradition invariably concludes that you initially cannot see what you are looking for because what you are looking for is doing the looking. The seeker becomes the seen. God is never an object to be found or possessed as we find other objects, but the One who shares our own deepest subjectivity—or our “self.” Merely physical things can be known subject to object; spiritual knowing is to know things subject to subject, center to center (see 1 Corinthians 2:10-13). This is how the soul knows. Not surprisingly, the soul recognizes soul in whatever it sees: soil, waters, trees, animals, and fellow humans. Only such a depth of seeing can enter into a fruitful and mutual exchange with God. To objectify God in any way is not to know God.

I believe the Christ is the archetypal True Self offered to history, where matter and spirit finally operate as one, where divine and human are held in one container, where the psychic and the physical are two sides of the same coin, and “where there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female” (Galatians 3:28). The Christ Self fully allows and enjoys the human-divine exchange. The small self thinks about whether it could be true and usually ends up saying no.

David Benner writes in CAC’s journal Oneing:

The moral of the Perennial Wisdom Tradition is, “Don’t settle for less than the truth of your Christ-self.” The ego-self, with which we are all familiar, is a small cramped place when compared with the spaciousness of our true self-in-Christ. This is the self that is not only at one within itself; it is at one with the world, and with all others who share it as their world. It is, therefore, one with Ultimate Reality. [3]

Gateway to Silence:
All truth is one.

[1] Shams-ud-din Muhammad Hafiz, “The Christ’s Breath,” Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West, rendered by Daniel Ladinsky (Penguin Compass: 2002), 153.
[2] Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy (New York: HarperCollins, 1994), vi.
[3] David G. Benner, “Ancient Wisdom for Contemporary Living,” “The Perennial Tradition,” Oneing, Vol. 1, No. 1 (CAC: 2013), 28. (This issue of Oneing, a limited edition publication, is no longer available in print; however, the eBook is available from Amazon and iTunes. Explore additional issues of Oneing at

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), xii-xiii.

Image credit: Tree with visible roots in Kiental, between Herrsching and Andechs, Germany,
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