The Perennial Philosophy—A Golden Thread of Awakening

May 25

By Guest Bloggers, Lee and Steven Hager

In our world, nothing stays the same for very long. We’re taught to rely on the advice of experts, but their opinions seem to change with the breeze. If you knew that something had remained unchanged for over two thousand years and had continued to help people find the peace and joy they were seeking for that entire time, would you be curious?

The perennial philosophy is a golden thread of spiritual thought that can be found in virtually all cultures and time periods. It’s a group of harmonious spiritual concepts that are free of dogma and ritual. It’s been a part of so-called “primitive” and pagan belief systems as well as the mystical branches of nearly every organized religion.

The concept of an “eternal philosophy” that incorporates universal spiritual truths and exists free of human influence has intrigued philosophers for hundreds of years.  In the West, it’s been thought of as a “philosophy of harmony” or a “universal religion” that remains untainted by sectarian views. In the East, it’s been thought of as Sanatana Dharma (eternal law) or Manava Dharma (religion of man). In 1945 Aldous Huxley wrote the aptly titled Perennial Philosophy, which outlines the universal truths that have continued to crop up in spiritual thought worldwide.

The perennial philosophy is not a formula for enlightenment, but its simple concepts have encouraged countless seekers to reach spiritual mastery. Although the perennial philosophy has far more to offer, here are four of its most basic and helpful concepts:

  • There is a Divine Ground that permeates the universe. The world we think we see is a temporary projection that originates from that Divine Ground
  • A change in consciousness is required to become aware of, and experience, the Divine Ground.
  • Everyone has the ability to experience the Divine.
  • Experiencing the Divine is life’s highest purpose.

Simply put: Life-giving intelligence permeates everything in existence. This intelligence wants to be known and can be known.

Most of us have been taught that spiritual mastery is a nearly impossible goal, but the perennial philosophy does not agree. No secrets, methods, formulas or spiritual practices are involved, and none are necessary to experience the Divine.  Knowing the Divine does require a shift in our awareness, but everyone is capable of making that shift. How do we shift our awareness? Huxley pointed out that successful spiritual seekers have all shared a mindset that includes these features:

  • “Pure in heart.”  This does not mean we need to “clean up our act.” It refers to our motives. A pure heart is looking for a connection with the Divine for the sheer joy of that connection.  A pure heart isn’t asking for material blessings.
  • “Poor in spirit.” This has nothing to do with poverty. It means that we understand that the world can make us rich, but it can never enrich us. We’re poor in spirit when we understand that our life will be empty until we have a direct connection with the Divine.
  • “Empty hands.” Seekers with empty hands are willing to let go of all mental conditioning, preconceived notions and the desire for a particular outcome. They are willing to be instructed by the Divine instead of trying to fit the Divine into their own belief system.

These qualities are free and available to everyone, no matter what our circumstances might be. Most of us have been taught that we can learn about God by taking in information, but there is no need for us to be satisfied with that.

Spiritual masters have never been interested in learning “about” the Divine; instead, they expect to “know” the Divine through personal experience. You don’t have to become a spiritual master before you can experience the Divine, in fact, it works the opposite way. As you open yourself to the experience, you grow spiritually. The perennial philosophy tells us this is not only possible, it’s our highest purpose.  Best of all, experiencing the Divine is the beginning of a life of fearlessness that you can enjoy.

Know by your own direct experience that the Divine within you is the Divine in all—Shankara ______________________________________________________________________________

Lee and Steven Hager are the authors of The Beginning of Fearlessness: Quantum Prodigal Son, a spiritual quest and scientific adventure based on Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, quantum physics and the gnostic gospels. Their blog features articles on oneness, spiritual awakening, quantum physics, the gnostic gospels and the direct, personal experience of the Divine.


Why Forgive?

Apr 20

David Beale, a long time spiritual friend from Perth, Australia, has a brilliant and penetrating mind. Years ago, he offered a wonderful analogy for understanding forgiveness:

The yin-yang, though symbolic, does sum up the harmony that averages to nothing when taken over a wide enough viewpoint. …. A hurricane that goes in both directions may in sequential time do lots of damage yet the net average is No Wind ….

David went on to note that to forgive, we must have a sense of both:

  1. It does not matter because it can and does add up to nothing; and
  2. In this physical life, we have an obligation to change both ourselves and the elements of disorder so that they balance and no longer bother us, “allowing us to enjoy our temporal existence with minimal disruption and maximum joy …. we are individuals growing in a limited environment so as to better enjoy a less limited environment. Forgiveness is part of the less-limited environment. (Emphasis supplied.)

In short, there is no need for forgiveness and yet every need for forgiveness. What in the world do I mean by that paradoxical statement?

In what sense is there no need for forgiveness?

Each of us physical human beings births onto this planet with limited perspectives, limited bodies, physical needs for food, water, and shelter, and emotional needs for love and belonging. Baby Mary cries because she is hungry or cold or has a bubble of air in her belly. Her perspective is limited to her own immediate needs. She doesn’t understand that Mommy may be exhausted from cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, and caring for her brothers and sisters. She knows nothing about the sixteen hours per day that Daddy spends in a coal mine to provide a few dollars to buy rice and beans. Maybe she doesn’t even know she is hungry or cold or needs to burp. She just knows she hurts. She cries because that is all she knows how to do. She has done the best she knows how with the limited resources she has. Mommy is doing the best she knows how. So is Daddy. There is no need to forgive any of them, even though they live in desperate poverty and pain. They are all doing the best they can with the resources they have.

In what sense is there every need for forgiveness?

As Mary matures through youth and adulthood, the pain continues to gnaw at her gut. Now she notices that not everyone is hungry or cold or without shelter. As she becomes aware of her external world, her pain turns to anger. She may resent those who have more food and better shelter. She may blame her parents for their lack of education or the fact that they haven’t always been able to respond to her needs. She may come to hate other children whose parents can afford to buy them nice clothes. Her boyfriend may leave her for another woman, betraying her trust. Her internal pain and external anger may generalize to labeling all men liars and cheats, even though she has had personal experiences with only one or a few. Worst of all, she may hate herself because she feels powerless.

Pain and anger are simply different forms of the same energy. Pain is negative energy directed inward. Anger is negative energy directed outward. It doesn’t really matter where the negative energy is directed. The challenge for each and every one of us is how to release the negative energy and transform it into positive energy, or at least into neutral, detached awareness.

Mary’s adult condition is the human condition that Buddhists call “suffering.” Suffering is not necessary and can be released. At this point in Mary’s life, there is every need to release suffering. There is every need for forgiveness.

Forgiveness is one of many spiritual tools we’ve been given to transform our pain and anger into deep, personal, inner peace.

Why forgive? Certainly not because the other person deserves it. In their own misery, desperation, and low self-esteem, they may have done horrible, ugly things that felt like knives through our hearts. Perhaps they lied because they were ashamed to tell the truth. Perhaps they murdered. Perhaps they committed adultery or stole our physical possessions. Perhaps they were simply not present in their relationships with us.

Their actions were certainly not functional. We do need to pay attention to how others treat us and conduct themselves in their relationships with us. If we don’t notice what others do and how it makes us feel, we haven’t learned the relationship lessons we were intended to learn.

However, we never change the relationship by changing the other person. We change the relationship by changing ourselves.

Why then forgive? We forgive for ourselves. We forgive because forgiveness releases our own pain and anger, changes our relationship dynamics, and allows us to move forward in freedom and joy.

Holding onto pain, anger, and blame destroys each and every one of us. It makes us sick. It keeps us stuck. Anyone stuck in this negative energy and unable to let it go will eventually kill themselves as well as all the loving relationships that surround them and could support them. Being stuck in negative energy condemns you to a life lived in hell (using Christian words) or a life of suffering (using Buddhist words).

So why do we forgive? We forgive to shift our own energy from hell to heaven (Christian terminology). We forgive to release our own suffering (Buddhist terminology).

First, we forgive ourselves, knowing that we did the best we could with the resources we had. Then, we forgive others, knowing they did the same. Forgiveness does not mean staying in abusive, dysfunctional relationships. If we learn the lessons our pain and anger have taught us, we move out of abusive, dysfunctional relationships and seek out relationships that support us. When the abuser no longer has a victim, the abuse stops.

Why Intention Matters

Sep 26

You’re starving. You skipped breakfast to sleep late and get to work on time. It’s 11 a.m. A co-worker offers you a doughnut. Do you eat it? Or do you say, “No, thanks.”

What you do depends on your conscious intention. (Please notice. The doughnut does not change.)

Do you want to satiate your hunger? Then, of course, you eat the doughnut. It’s perfect.

Or ….

Do you want to lose weight, increase your energy, fit into slimmer clothing, and feel healthy and relaxed? Then you don’t eat the doughnut.

Or …

Do you want to satiate your hunger and be healthy? Then you pull out your green drink and sip on that instead.

Green Drink

Green Drink

Now, of course, having a green drink may require a few other changes such as setting the conscious intention to prepare one and consciously setting aside the time to do it.

Do you set conscious intentions about what you want to bring into your life? Or are you living such a chaotic lifestyle that you’re functioning on autopilot?


… for just one moment, and notice what’s going on, both inside you and outside of you. Is your body tense? Does your back hurt? Do you have a headache?

Are you in an environment full of loud noise, critical people, and people who don’t do what they say they’ll do?

Ouch! Pay attention. Is this fun? Do you want to keep all this soul clutter in your life?

If not, start thinking about what you can change. You don’t directly change what’s going on around you. You change what’s going on inside of  you. That’s where your power lies.

What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What are your resources? What can you do differently that will move you forward toward health, energy, enthusiasm and peace?

Consciously use your power of conscious intention and be amazed at the huge personal shift it brings into your life!

Can You Choose What You Want to See?

May 14

Old Hag or Young Woman?

A friend recently commented, “I wanted to believe I could choose what I wanted to see, what thoughts would be in my head, what emotions would be in my heart, and bring them into my life. It didn’t work. The people starved, were trafficked, raped, and plundered.”

Sometimes choosing what you want to see works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

You can never will yourself to see something that isn’t there. “Choosing what you want to see” does not mean hiding your head in the sand, nor does it mean ignoring your thoughts and emotions. Far better to be honest, see what you see, think what you think, feel what you feel, and stay open to receiving more information and clarity. Prayer and meditation help you stay open.

“Choosing what you want to see” does work when you’re looking at a half full or half empty glass or at an optical illusion such as the young woman or old hag. What’s out there doesn’t change. What changes is the way your mind structures what is out there. Hindus call it “maya” and strive to “pierce the veil of illusion”. This means you either experience awareness and oneness with no mental structuring or learn to mentally structure in many different creative ways. Sometimes you do one; sometimes the other. It all depends on your needs of the moment and the needs of those around you.

My friend made an observation based on his personal perceptions – an observation he couldn’t, wouldn’t, perhaps even shouldn’t release. But wouldn’t it have been more useful to ask an action question?

  • If you experience something you don’t like, what are you going to do to change it?
  • What realistically do you have the power to do?
  • If you are feeling mentally and emotionally drained by what you see, can you do anything other than let the tears flow and be kind to yourself?
  • If you are so full of rage that you are about to become violent, can you save your own sanity and move out of the relationship?
  • If all your human support systems have deserted you, do you have the courage and perseverance to move forward alone?
  • Can you choose to believe there is an energy out there much bigger than all of us that will support you in mysterious and unexpected ways when you ask for help?

When I lived in a country other than my native land, I told my landlord that I needed to stay in his rental home until my own home was built. He agreed. We signed a lease giving him no rights of termination as long as I paid the rent and took care of the property. Under the law of my native land, I could have stayed forever.

After two years, my landlord sent me an email saying he had found another tenant who would pay more money and give him a three-year lease. Could I meet those terms?

The short answer was “No.”

While I might have paid more money, I couldn’t in good faith enter into a three-year lease. I expected to move into my own home within six months.

My landlord then gave me notice, commenting he was sure I would understand. Business was business.

Was I angry? I was livid. Did I pursue my legal rights in that adopted country in every way possible? You bet.

I talked with local friends. I talked with the local District Attorney. I talked with my own lawyer. They all said the same thing. Under the law of my adopted country, I had to move.

What if I didn’t move and forced the landlord to evict me?

I would just get a judgment against me. That’s not a good thing for someone living in another country by sufferance of their laws.

I had explored every possible avenue for asserting my moral and ethical rights. I had no legal rights or societal support. I moved out as quickly as I could so I didn’t have to pay the landlord any more money. I also let everyone in the neighborhood know exactly what he’d done.

There was nothing beyond what I’d already done that I could do. I shifted my focus, released everything, and let the Universe take over.

My landlord had breached his contract with me. Suddenly and without warning, his new tenants breached their contract with him. That house sat empty for eighteen months with not a penny going into my landlord’s pocket.

You can call this co-creation. Together, my landlord, his new tenant, the Universe and I created the end result.

You can call it the Law of Attraction. My landlord became the recipient of exactly the same treatment he had given me.

You can call it Karma. My landlord’s action in breaching our agreement and evicting me shaped his future experience of having his own new lease broken and not having any tenant at all.

Always give yourself permission to dance your own dance of consciousness. You’ll be amazed at the dynamics that evolve with those around you and the opening perspectives and enlightenment you’ll co-create and receive.