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Frithjof Schuon

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A Resource On Frithjof Schuon's Life & Teachings

Extract from a letter from Frithjof Schuon dated 1 May 1940.

Regarding primordial man, I do not think he either laughed or wept, for his psychism was neither as developed nor therefore as exteriorized as that of fallen man; primordial man was much closer to the state of prajnā, or rather samādhi, which means that everything in him was reabsorbed into a certain state of beatific indifferentiation; laughter is only a kind of fallen and vulgar fragment of this beatitude, intensified as a result of outwardness; the physical manifestation of laughter stems from the same source.

What I mean is that there is no primordial laughter, at least not in the sense in which you seem to understand it. It goes without saying of course that to the extent a thing is positive it has a primordial prototype, but this prototype can be markedly different from what is derived from it. Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani says that the Name of Allāh dispels all sadness from the heart of man, but he does not say that this Name makes one laugh. I willingly gave up my sadness when God removed it from me. But let no one speak to me of gaiety!

I believe I mentioned to you in my last letter that I have always noticed that vulgar people love above all what makes them laugh, and they flee what is serious; outside their work they seek lighthearted things, abhorring all that is gravity and dignity and all that evokes pain or death. I am surprised I am writing this to you, for it seems to me so obvious. In your article you mentioned several saints who spent the better part of their life laughing and jesting. This is plausible only if their attitude was paradoxical and intentional, as with the malāmatiyah; but we are dealing then with an example of asceticism, and this contradicts your interpretation.

I would never think of criticizing spontaneous and unassuming gaiety, provided it is not incompatible with dignity; such gaiety is a question of temperament and thus in itself something neutral. But once gaiety is established as a matter of principle, I do condemn it because it then ceases to be unassuming; it loses its spontaneity and becomes pretentious; it opens the door to stupidity while including a kind of self-sufficiency, which is paralyzing with regard to spirituality even when it is more or less unconscious. Far be it from me to criticize your gaiety as long as it does not harm your path.

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