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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 28 January 1956.

In principle the universal authority of the metaphysical and initiatic traditions of Asia, which reflect the nature of things more or less directly, takes precedence—when such an alternative exists—over the generally more “theological” authority of the monotheistic religions; I say “when such an alternative exists” because there are obviously cases where there is no such alternative, in esoterism as in essential symbolism; no one can deny, however, that in Semitic doctrines the formulations and rules are usually determined by considerations of dogmatic, moral, and social opportuneness. But this cannot apply to pure Islam, that is, to the authority of its essential doctrine and fundamental symbolism; the Shahādah cannot but mean that “the world is false and Brahma is true” and “Thou are That” (tat tvam asi) or “I am Brahma” (aham Brahmāsmi); it is a pure expression of the Supreme Identity and of the unreality of the world; in the same way the other “pillars of Islam” (arqān al-Dīn), as well as such fundamental rules as dietary and artistic prohibitions, obviously constitute supports of intellection and realization, which universal metaphysics—or the “Unanimous Tradition”—can illuminate but not abolish.

When universal wisdom states that the Invocation contains and replaces all other rites, this is of decisive authority against those who would make the sharīʿah or sunnah into a kind of exclusive karma-yoga, and it even allows us to draw conclusions by analogy (qiyās, ijtihād) that most Shariites would find illicit; or again, if a given Muslim master required that we introduce every dhikr with an ablution and two rakʿāt, the universal and “antiformalist” authority of japa-yoga would take precedence over the authority of this master, at least in our case. On the other hand, if a Hindu or Buddhist master advised practicing japa before an image or issued an order for such a practice, it goes without saying that it is the authority of Islamic symbolism that would take precedence for us quite apart from any question of universality, for forms are forms, and some of them are essential and thus rejoin the universality of the spirit.

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