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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 22 June 1964

One should not reproach a science for not being what it does not want to be or for not providing what it does not want to provide. In this respect one should not criticize modern chemistry insofar as it studies the phenomena it intends to study, for on its limited plane it remains within adequation and is not exceeding its strengths; nor can one blame it for remaining within the strictly human perspective in relation to matter, for it need not go beyond this point, and indeed no physical science needs to do so.

This last point is of capital importance, and it allows me to mention the following: the universe of an insect does not interest us, for this perspective is peripheral whereas ours is central, so that all we need to know is that lower perspectives exist; our perspective must contain that of the insect and even that of the plant in a certain manner. As for the world of an angel, this perspective differs from ours only insofar as the angel does not intervene in human affairs; in itself it is derived from the universal essences—which no sensible man will attempt to “imagine”—but when it is correlated with the human world the angelic perspective makes itself human; the angel sees us as we see each other when he has a reason to look at us; and on the same level he sees the universe as we see it.

Since “limitation” does not mean “falsehood”, the specific limitation of the human state is completely separate from the question of scientific errors. For one of two things: either we are God, and then we are aware of pure and total Reality, or else we are not God, and then our vision of things is limited, as is the object of our vision; a cosmic science “at the level of God” would be an absurdity. Nonetheless the possibility of adequation exists at our level: if we say that two plus two equals four, this is true; if we say that two plus two equals five, this is false, and the abyss between the two assertions is absolute. Either I know what is behind me, or I do not; if I know there is a tree five meters behind me, my science is adequate for what it intends to include; the question of the metaphysical meaning of the tree or the “horizontal” limitation of all knowledge is irrelevant; and if I believe my tree is the only tree there is or if I deny that it can flower when in fact it can, then it is not my momentary and concrete science of the tree that is false but the hypothesis I pinned to it; this is more or less what happens with modern science. Therefore, when it comes to determining the value of a given opinion of this science, there is no need at all to resort to the argument of the ontological limitation of the human mind, for traditional men also give their sciences an objective scope; all we need to know is whether in fact modern science is wrong on the plane it is studying or whether any of its claims are unwarranted.

Modern science is only partially wrong on the plane of physical facts; on the other hand it is totally wrong on higher planes and in its principles. It is wrong in its negations and in the false principles derived from them, then in the erroneous hypotheses deduced from these principles, and finally in the monstrous effects this science produces as a result of its initial Prometheanism. But it is right about many physical data and even about some psychological facts, and indeed it is impossible for this not to be so, given the law of compensations; in other words it is impossible for modern men not to be right on certain points where ancient men were wrong; this is even part of the mechanism of degeneration. What is decisive in favor of the ancients or traditional men in general, however, is that they are right about all the spiritually essential points.

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