Seyyed Hossein Nasr

Traditionalism, Islamic Esotericism & Environmental Ethics

Anne Marieke Schwencke 8607745 BA Thesis Religious Studies/ World’s Religion Institute of Religious Studies/ Leiden University Leiden, the Netherlands 8 June 2009

Prince Charles in speech delivered Wilton Park Seminar on the Sense of the Sacred: ‘A Sense of the Sacred: Building Bridges between Islam and the West’, 1996: I start from the belief that Islamic civilization at its best, like many of the religions of the East—Judaism, Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism—has an important message for the West in the way it has retained a more integrated and integral view of the sanctity of the world around us. I feel that we in the West could be helped to rediscover those roots of our own understanding by an appreciation of the Islamic tradition's deep respect for the timeless traditions of the natural order. I believe that process could help in the task of bringing our two faiths closer together. It could also help us in the West to rethink, and for the better, our practical stewardship of man and his environment in fields like healthcare, the natural environment and agriculture, as well as in architecture and urban planning.

1 Introduction..................................................................................................................................4 1.1 General outline.......................................................................................................................4 1.2 Research questions................................................................................................................9 1.3 Significance.........................................................................................................................10 1.4 Academic context ...............................................................................................................12 1.5 Method.................................................................................................................................12 1.6 Structure ..............................................................................................................................14 2 Seyyed Hossein Nasr.................................................................................................................15 2.1 The Scholar of Islam, Philosopher......................................................................................15 2.2 The Environmentalist..........................................................................................................17 3 Man and Nature: The Spiritual Crisis of Modern Man.............................................................20 3.1 Introduction..........................................................................................................................20 3.2 Environmental Crisis ..........................................................................................................21 3.3 Critique of Modernity .........................................................................................................22 3.4 Traditional metaphysics ......................................................................................................26 3.5 Solving the Crisis: Religion as the Master Key..................................................................35 3.6 From Worldview to Practice...............................................................................................37 4 Traditionalism, Perennial philosophy and Esotericism............................................................41 4.1 Introduction..........................................................................................................................41 4.2 Traditionalism......................................................................................................................42 4.3 Perennial Philosophy...........................................................................................................45 4.4 Western Esotericism............................................................................................................47 4.5 Traditionalism and Islam.....................................................................................................51 5 Traditional Islam, Sufism..........................................................................................................52 5.1 Introduction..........................................................................................................................52 5.2 Traditional Islam..................................................................................................................52 5.3 Sufism, Islamic mysticism..................................................................................................57 5.4 Spiritual Practice..................................................................................................................61 5.5 Islamic esotericism .............................................................................................................63 5.6 Islamic Environmental Ethics ............................................................................................66 5.7 Discussion............................................................................................................................71 6 Circles of influence....................................................................................................................74 6.1 Introduction..........................................................................................................................74 6.2 Traditionalist network.........................................................................................................76 6.3 New Age Environmentalism...............................................................................................89 6.4 Esotericism and environmentalism ....................................................................................95 6.5 Islamic Environmentalism...................................................................................................98 7 Conclusion...............................................................................................................................105 Bibliography..............................................................................................................................113

4 A Common Word. Lynn. B. AM Schwencke. For whatever reason. Having lived and worked in the US most of his life. Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. his 1965 essay was published in the US a few months before Lynn White Jr’s famous thesis about the ‘historical roots of our ecological crisis’2. (eds). Nasr was certainly one of the first to approach the topic from an Islamic perspective. Also see the entry ‘White. 2008. in: Taylor. Islam within the context of modernity. 2008. New York: Continuum. 10 March 1967. Seyyed Hossein Nasr (b. He is also known to be one of the leading figures behind the recent A Common Word initiative aiming towards constructive dialogue with the Catholic Church4. New York: Continuum.1 Introduction 1. 2 volumes. he was also one of the first to draw attention to the spiritual dimensions of the ecological crisis in the West. Leiden University. B. Nasr was possibly advocating a less popular view.e. his message never received the response Lynn White’s thesis had triggered in the West. moving away from religion. In fact. 3 Fakhry. science and the sacred’ and is cited widely by Muslims and non-Muslims alike.acommonword. if not the ‘founding father’ of Islamic environmentalism and is said to have laid the ‘foundations for the current discussions on Islam and the environment’1. He is presented as one. i. p1203-1207. Nasr is said to be ‘the best known contemporary Iranian philosopher … who has written extensively on Islamic cosmology. 2009 11/09/2009 4/116 . ‘The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis’ in: Science 155:3767. Indeed. return to authentic religion. 2 volumes. Whereas White was attributing the roots of the crisis to Christianity and was instrumental in the collective cultural trend. A History of Islamic Philosophy. Nasr is mostly known for his historical work about Islamic philosophy. M. p322. comparative religion and his more ‘perennial’ work about ‘knowledge. See: www. mysticism and metaphysics and is widely respected in academic circles’3. 1933).1 General outline Anyone with an interest in Islamic perspectives on ecological issues is likely to come across the name of the Iranian-American scholar of Islam and comparative religion. Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. Lynn’. (eds). Nasr has written and lectured unabatedly and consistently about the topic. 2 This thesis links the ‘ethos of medieval Christianity to the emergence of […] an exploitative attitude towards nature in the Western World’. Nasr’s ecological views appear to have largely gone unnoticed and have only been picked up fairly recently. Original title: White. 1 Entry: ‘Seyyed Hossein Nasr’ in: Taylor. Although. 2005.

Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth century. and will need to be excavated from its now often forgotten heritages. Sedgwick. has a particular essential role to play in the contemporary world. 1998. ‘Perennial philosophy’. Religious Pluralism in Christian and Islamic Philosophy. Widiyanto. (eds). Nasr is proposing that the modern world needs to rediscover traditional principles and knowledge about nature and the cosmos. which is strongly related to (western) currents of thought that have been labelled as ‘western esotericism’. The Thought of John Hick and Seyyed Hossein Nasr. S. 2004. his views about religion. and as such Islam has something essential to offer to the West. 2 volumes. a systematic analysis of his ecological views appears to be lacking as yet. We will see how concepts of ‘religion’. stressing the ‘inherent unity of all religions’. Richmond: Curzon Press. Prince Charles’ words. gnostic or theosophical philosophy. the reception of Nasr’s work on science in Indonesia. the Islamic perspective on the environmental crisis and Islamic environmental ethics. The inner dimension of Sufism is a type of neo-platonic. ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’ are central to his argument. MA thesis Leiden University. Islam and environmental ethics’. New York: Oxford University Press. Each of these categories are highly problematic in an academic sense and need careful definition. These cosmologies are to be found at the heart of all authentic traditions or religions. and the relation of us humans within it. Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. ‘Islam’. 5 Aslan. reverberate strongly with Nasr’s views in this respect. In fact. Nasr believes. Leiden University. 2005. ‘Islam and eco-justice’. Seyyed Hossein Nasr on Science and the Reception of his Ideas in Indonesia. Nasr argues. New York: Continuum. quoted at the start of this thesis. A large part of this thesis will therefore focus on Nasr’s understanding of ‘Islamic tradition’. 2009 11/09/2009 5/116 . B..Several books about Nasr have seen the light in recent years discussing and criticising. their environments. We will see how his conception of traditional cosmologies can be contextualised as ‘traditionalism’ or ‘perennial philosophy’. Adnan. 2008. mystical. pluralism and interfaith dialogue and his involvement with Traditionalism5. This thesis is to be seen as a first attempt to analyse and contextualize Nasr’s ECO-PHILOSOPHY.H’. His ecological message was picked up at the turn of the century by a circle of scholars interested in exploring the ‘relationships among human beings. Garbed in contemporary terms. 6 Taylor. M. the sense of the sacred is still kept alive. Nasr’s traditional Islam has an esoteric and exoteric. Within the secular West much of the traditional understanding was lost on the advent of ‘modernity’. References to Nasr have since been included in the seminal Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature’6. Within the world of Islam. an inner and an outer dimension. AM Schwencke. ‘traditional cosmologies’ will provide us with the only veritable and viable keys to a solution to the ecological crisis. Islam. 2005. Although these sources provide us with some insight. Entries: ‘Nasr. and the religious dimensions of life’.

but also criticism of contemporary forms of spirituality or religiosity.weforum. Nasr has lectured about the environmental crisis to widely diverse audiences. Yet. to Traditionalists. The outer dimension is orthodox in AM Schwencke. architecture and urban planning in his concept of Islam.asp? PID=697&EID=360. This strong direct connection between worldview and practice may in fact be one of the most interesting aspects of the Islamic discourse about the environment. these fields may be seen as the most direct. Muslim student associations. West Islamic World Dialogue. Alliance of Civilisations. but also provides the ‘tools’ to translate cosmology into practice or as Nasr would put it: connect the Heavens to the Earth. eco-theologians. International Monetary Fund and the World Economic Forum7. ‘regular’ Western mainstream environmental scientists. as concrete ‘translations of metaphysical cosmology into practice’. academic scholars and philosophers of religion. of philosophy. Of course. Islamic economics and Islamic reformist political theories. In fact. This forms the basis for Nasr’s Islamic environmental ethics. World Economic Forum. Global Ethics and others. entailing adherence to classical shari’ite injunctions on the levels of ritual (ibadat) as well as social practice (mu’amalat) and is firmly rooted in the Quran and Hadith.worldbank. the World Bank. Of particular interest. and many share it with him. Islam. These tools helping us to formulate the ethical norms which can be applied to environmental issues are essentially derived from the classical schools of sharia (madhab). poetry. This thesis will also explore the RECEPTION of Nasr’s ecological message. Each of these circles is worth exploring in more detail. June 2006. varying from the United Nations. an attempt will be made to contextualise Nasr’s views within the wide spectrum of contemporary Islamic ‘ideologies’. http://www3. arts. in contrast to fundamentalists. Islamized science circles. we enter a highly politicized landscape with widely varying and competing views about the application of sharia in the contemporary Leiden University. Also: see Nasr’s World Bank lecture in the context of ‘Development and Muslim Societies’ series: Discussion about the heart of Islam: http://info. with this. environmentalists and environmental policy administrators to ‘sacred’ or ‘deep ecologists’ and the mainstream public. provides a comprehensive world view. practical applications of Nasr’s Islamic worldview. Nasr includes the fruits of fourteen hundred years of Islamic culture. is Nasr’s apparent affinity with. these point towards the newly emerging disciplines of Islamic environmental law. Although his own views are general in scope and leave many questions as to its practical translation unanswered. In this thesis. 2009 11/09/2009 6/116 . sometimes 7 UNESCO programmes such as the Dialogue of Civilizations. in Nasr’s view.which can probably best be understood as a ‘non-western’ manifestation of ‘western esotericism’.

9 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). USA.regione. See: ‘San Rossore – a New Global Vision’ Background Note at: http://www. These leaders meet at San Rossore to exchange views and to forge alternative paths for building a more just and equitable world”. leaders of creative citizens movements. However. academic. Some of these are 8 According to the publicly available information: ‘San Rossore – a New Global Vision’ is an annual meeting convened by the Regional Government of Tuscany which is set up to “bring together institutional leaders at the local and regional levels. the conference programmers considered Nasr to be an exponent of ‘spirituality’. could not be verified. as well. Nasr’s thought has developed within this cultural context and it can be argued that Nasr is a product and perhaps also a contributor to the Easternization of Western (environmentalist) thought. providing us with a framework to understand this affinity of thought. has a close affinity to some contemporary forms of ‘spirituality’. Nasr’s thought. 2009 11/09/2009 7/116 . carried out within various groups and movements. On the level of practice. religious. the European Commission and various research institutes from Italy. This is interesting because it connects his thought to significant cultural changes in the West that have taken place since the sixties and that have been described eminently by the sociologist Colin Campbell in his Easternization of the West (2007). three representatives of what could be referred to as contemporary ‘spiritual’ movements.php?codice=6234 The list of attendants was drawn from the Draft Programme. there are also important differences to consider. Nasr was scheduled in a panel with an Inuit Elder speaking about ‘traditional Inuit teachings’. Evidently. literary and communications fields from Italy and other countries of the world. Whether this ambitious programme was actually realized in this form. Indeed. a Japanese Buddhist promoting spiritually inspired traditional farming and Carlo Petrini. Nasr’s work about the environmental crisis touches on a number of distinct. and leading personalities in the political. AM Schwencke. philosophical. Germany.labelled as ‘new age’ and often closely tied up with ecological discourse. and the eco-activists Vandana Shiva and Edward Goldsmith were amongst its most prominent environmentalist speakers. the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). especially its perennial and inner mystical interpretation of Islam. Nasr is proposing an ‘orthodoxy’ or ‘ortho-praxis’ that is unlikely to appeal to Western spiritual sensibilities.primapagina. we will see. We will also see how ‘new age’ thought can be related to ‘western esoteric’ currents. Al Gore. but interrelated debates and discourses. the United Kingdom and Ghana. the World Bank. A 2004 lecture delivered at a conference on Climate Change in San Rossore. The now famous climate change advocate. It was said to have been attended by an impressive number of high ranking climate officials. Italy8 is telling in this respect.toscana. the founder of the Slow Food Movement. activists and opinion leaders from the leading institutions on climate change9. Leiden University.

F.aspx? lIntEntityId=150&lIntType=0 12 Schouten. The exhibition resulted in the beautifully illustrated Spiegel van de Natuur (Mirror of Nature) edited by the Dutch scholar of Buddhism Matthijs G. Schouten12 and was financed by Staatsbosbeheer. series Crises in World Politics. especially not by non-Muslim audiences. 2005. AM Schwencke. such as the sacred and deep ecology movements and are mainly confined to the West. Two years later. Nature.magazine referred to Nasr in her 10 Other researchers have also noted similarities in the agenda’s and ideologies of certain Islamist and antiglobalist movements. who garb these concepts in distinctly Islamic terms. 11 Exhibition ‘Wereld Natuur Kunst’ in the Nieuwe Kerk (fall 2005). The Netherlands Although Nasr’s more popular work about Islam is available in the Dutch bookstores.confined to Muslim circles (in the West and the Muslim world). Western environmentalists advocating small-scale indigenous technologies.G. in December Nasr was invited to lecture about Islamic views of nature at the exhibition Religion. Part of the aim of this thesis is therefore also to explore this common ground. the editor of the environmentalist Friends of the Earth. This is in my view also the significance of analysing his thought and the reception of his thought. Morality and Modernity. but other interesting hybrids are emerging in contemporary debates.C. organic farming or ‘ecological economy’ receive a warm response within certain Islamic environmentalist circles. For instance.C. Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy. Nasr spoke about the ‘sacred’ in nature. Arts in Amsterdam in October 200511. he is not widely known. Hurst. Leiden University. A film was made by ‘Boeddhistische Omroep Stichting’ (Buddhist Broadcasting): http://www. connect Islamist concepts to radical environmentalist concepts such as ‘bioregionalism’ or ‘ecological economy’. others are secular or perhaps ‘spiritual’. Intriguing fusions of Islamist and environmentalist thought are emerging nowadays10. and a radical reform of society in line with the ‘sharia’. certain islamist reformists with a socio-political eco-activist agenda favouring the re-establishment of the caliphate. On closer analysis seemingly regionally or ideologically unrelated discourses turn out to have important points of overlap. the need to be susceptible to the beauty and truth expressed by nature and the value of religion and tradition in maintaining a healthy balance with nature. KNNV Uitgeverij/ Staatsbosbeheer. The affinity of thought between Islamic mysticism and new age spirituality was already mentioned. M. According to the outline ‘features of militant Islam are compared with global movements such as environmentalists and anti-globalists’. 2005. an Islamized monetary and economic system. 2009 11/09/2009 8/116 . In the presence of the Dutch Queen. sharing common ground or affinity of thought. Spiegel van de Natuur: het natuurbeeld in cultuurhistorisch perspectief.. Nasr’s ecological work and its reception may be one of the pivots connecting ‘parallel discourses’.buddhistmedia. such as the discourse about Islamized science. See: Devji. eco-communities.

Milieudefensie Magazine. Although she admitted not to have read any of his work. global warming. political and economic realms? Does this entail a return to an idealized past as critics are ready to assert or will new forms develop from ‘traditional’ principles? What new structures may we expect to develop? Also: What kind of Islam is Nasr promoting? How does it relate to other currents of Muslim thought? How does it relate to his Perennialist thought? Charting the full landscape of the reception of Nasr’s work. As concern the analysis of Nasr’s ideas the main guiding question is: how do religious metaphysics translate into practice? Why and how would a ‘traditional paradigm’ provide a solution to a wide range of practical problems such as energy shortage. This turned out to be an ambitious project. soon proved to be impossible. the second is more sociological. ozone layer depletion and nature conservation? What are the practical implications of the traditional paradigm when translated into the social. not least because Nasr’s influence extends into India. Reflecting on the question how religion affects the human attitude towards the earth. The first aim is of a more philosophical nature. as a crisis of values’13. identify some of the groups or people who are inspired by his ideas. Turkey and other countries of the Muslim world. she had become curious about his views. Leiden University. December 2007. Email correspondence with the editor. extending beyond the formal requirements of a ‘BA thesis’.opening commentary to a special feature on ‘Religion and Spirituality’. The intention is to rework and extend this thesis into a master or even PhD thesis in due time. Anne Marie Opmeer. and analyse to what aspects of Nasr’s work these are attracted. Research was confined to the Western English-speaking world. AM Schwencke. Malaysia.2 Research questions (1) IDEAS: systematically analyse. august 2008. she mentioned Nasr who ‘considers the ecological crisis. pollution. The aim of this BA thesis is twofold: 13 Milieudefensie Magazine. which includes Malaysia. 1. this is suggesting an emerging interest and openness to Islamic views in general and to perhaps also to Nasr’s message in particular. as well as contextualise Nasr’s eco-philosophy. 2009 11/09/2009 9/116 . (2) RECEPTION: investigate the reception of Nasr’s eco-philosophy. Pakistan. she had come across his name a number of times searching for Muslim responses to the environmental crisis. In my view.

New York: Palgrave MacMillan. I believe this topic to be significant for other. I am not speaking about an alliance between Muslim and Christian fundamentalists but a broader shared vision of the common moral problems and dilemma’s faced by all societies14. including Islam over shared issues of concern for the moral foundations of a healthy society. 2009 . and domination of the marketplace as the most powerful force upon society. social and economic injustice.1. lessening sense of community and social obligation. Many wonder how Western society can weather the challenges of the post-modern era with its massive atomization of society. 11/09/2009 10/116 AM Schwencke. energy crisis. Western counter-cultures reaching back into the eighteenth and nineteenth century (and even further back) have voiced concerns about this culture for a long time. widening income gaps. but have generally remained marginalized undercurrents. more general reasons as well. either regionally or ideologically. among competing ideas. articulately criticizing the dominant Western culture from an Islamic perspective without resorting to the kind of ‘West bashing’ that is very much in vogue in many Muslim quarters today. proposing alternative perspectives and paradigms. individualism. and this is summarized pointedly by political analyst Graham Fuller in his analysis of Political Islam: Today many Westerners are themselves uncomfortable with some of the directions that Western society is taking that they view as unhealthy. I share Fuller’s observation that many people in the West are critical about the dominant ‘Western’ culture. broadening diversification. Movements abound that search for correctives to glaring social afflictions. The Future of Political Islam. p205-206. if not chaos. Both criticize materialism. He formulates his critique from an insider perspective. having 14 Fuller. Environmental issues are vivid examples of ‘shared issues of concern’ which can function as focal points of ‘convergence’ between the secular and religious sectors of globalized societies. reductionism. food crisis. Often these counter-culture concerns are remarkably similar to the concerns voiced by many Muslims today.3 Significance What is the significance of this study focussing on the thought of one man and his philosophy only? Some of its significance was already pointed out: Nasr’s serves as a focal piont. the financial market systems. The recent financial crisis has made the media more receptive to these critical voices speculating about the root causes of the crisis. release of untrammelled individualism. In this sense no-one can be sure whether or not some kind of convergence could eventually develop between the modern Western world and religious traditions. connecting various fields of discourse that are now often taking place in separate spheres. Leiden University. G. 2003. values interests and interrelationships. Often the environmental crisis is presented as one of several interrelated crises: financial crisis. Nasr is one of these critical voices.

In fact. Religions. as ‘worldviews’ and ‘value systems’ guide human behaviour and form powerful driving forces. 11/09/2009 11/116 AM Schwencke. stresses the significance of religious environmental ethics in the introduction. I am convinced that religious environmental ethics deserve a wider we will see . A recent conference organized by the Green-Left party in the Netherlands discussed the role of ‘ethics’ in the climate change debate. But the authors leave it with the observation that ‘the construction of an environmental ethics with a global and multicultural perspective is under way’.205. http://www. Buddhism. Conference: Ethics and Politics of Climate Change.27. religious or metaphysically legitimated ethics are not popular at all among mainstream ethicists15. 2003. both in individual lives as in societies and cultures. environmental ethics has largely been a secular affair. G. Whatever the philosophical underpinnings of a particular ethical perspective. work and think from a distinctly religious 16 This report signals the following trend: ‘Numerous efforts have been made to recognize and understand the resources that different cultural traditions (such as Christianity. and do not substantially refer to religion in the pages that follow’. 15 Marcel Düwell (research director of the Ethics institute of Utrecht University. Leiden University. p. In: Environmental Ethics and International Policy (2006).. but is hardly heard by Western environmental ethicists. which was simply discarded on grounds of being ‘metaphysics’. 17 Fuller. for example. 2009 . The main argument is pragmatic: the largest part of the world’s population live. but does not work any of it out in its volume16. but hardly seem to find a significant follow-up. A 2006 UNESCO publication on Environmental Ethics and International Policy.ethicsandpoliticsofclimatechange. p. Utrecht. Challenges for Individual Rights? 23 and 24 January 2009. His voice . but refused to discuss role of religious ethics. Fuller points out that this ‘value-centred approach’ is less threatening to outsiders than an approach based on dogma or ritual. These views cannot be disregarded. Religious values do not necessarily conflict with secular value systems.] reaching out to non-Muslim members of the community to find common answers to common problems’17. The Future of Political Islam. He is a fervent critic of the ‘secular’ neglect of religious values and ethics in global debates. Confucianism and Taoism) have to offer environmental ethics’. although many in the West fear they will. Strong pleas for a reappraisal of religion in this domain can be heard occasionally. Many Muslim communities and mosques in America today are [. it can be expected that increasing numbers of Muslims will reflect on these issues from an Islamic perspective in the years to come.lived and worked in the West most of his life and having studied Western thought and culture picked up by some environmentalists. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. Many Islamic movements today ‘seek to identify common values with other faiths… religious belief stated in universal terms for people that don’t use specifically Muslim cultural vehicles’. Considering the global scope and urgency of environmental issues. Islam.

A major impetus behind the development of this subfield was the conference series on ‘Religion and Ecology’ that was organized by the Harvard Divinity School’s Center for the Study of World Religions (CSWR) from May 1996 to July 1998. Buddhism. It grew out of the seven year project orchestrated by Bron Taylor20 on The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature that ‘critically explores the relationships among human beings. 1. The analysis of Nasr’s eco-philosophy is mainly based on Nasr’s own work (literary desk research).edu/ Personal communication with the President elect of ISSRNC. and Ecology and an active forum: The Forum on Religion and Ecology. AM Schwencke. B. are still very active advocates of this academic field. Present research is published in the journal Worldviews: Global Religions. Culture. 2009 11/09/2009 12/116 . Jainism.5 Method The research underlying this thesis was carried out in two phases. which was established in 2005. 2008.research. Indigenous and Shinto. mirroring the twofold aim of concentrating on (1) the content and context of Nasr’s eco-philosophy. New York: Continuum. It resulted in the World Religions and Ecology-series on Christianity. Judaism.Nasr eco-philosophy embodies such a ‘value-centred approach’ searching for solutions to ‘common’ problems that are shared by the world’s communities.4 Academic context This thesis is written from the perspective of a relatively young academic field. Confucianism. This project aimed to explore ‘the diverse manner in which religious traditions view nature and construct symbol systems and ritual practices relating humans to nature 18’. Nasr contributed to the 1998 conference about Islamic or Muslim perspectives of the ecological issues.yale. The conference coordinators. Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. and (2) its reception. Taoism. It has a more scholarly and less ‘activist’ approach than the Forum on Religion and Ecology19. 21 Taylor. Whether he manages to bridge the contemporary Muslim and secular environmental discourses will be evaluated in the conclusion. in this instance the environmental crisis. Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim of Yale University. Hinduism. 20 Director of ISSRNC . and the religious dimensions of life’21. University of Amsterdam. 1 September 2008. Nature. Leiden University. 2 volumes. their environments. the subfield religion and ecology. which was already mentioned before. 1. This has partly grown out of the older discipline of theology of nature or eco-theology. Islam. A bibliography of his environmental work was drawn up using publications about 18 19 Forum on Religion and Ecology: http://fore. the Dutch historian Kocku von Stuckrad. and Culture (ISSRNC). (eds). Another offshoot of the Harvard project is the International Society for the Study of Religion. 2005.

I first limited myself to Nasr’s environmental work. L. exposing previously unexpected connections between groups and people. but soon moved on to read some of his other work to get a better view of his understanding of religion and Islam. commonalities between the various audiences. 2008. The theoretical framework. The Library of Living Philosophers. Auxier. 2009 11/09/2009 13/116 .com/search?q=schwencke AM Schwencke. September 12.htm. Volume XXVII. See: ‘Seyyed Hossein Nasr and the Environment: “Ecoside is suicide”’. This proved to be a laborious task. cross-references in the literature and the internet. the catalogues of library at Leiden University. http://traditionalistblog.blogspot. R. L. although eventually I was contacted by David Catherine. 2001. 23 Interview with Seyyed Hossein Nasr on 31 October 2008. This analysis was based on a search for literature about Nasr and an intensive internet search. http://www1. Leiden University.reading deeper into the subject guided by the questions arising on the way. first reading Nasr’s articles or lectures intended for an audience with no previous knowledge of his work and then .edu/faculty/sedgwick/Trad/index. Marcia Hermansen (Western Sufism). The internet is a particularly helpful tool for this type of analysis. reflecting my own professional background as an environmental policy researcher. Again the theoretical framework of ‘western esotercism’ was used to understand a particular overlap. 24 Sedgwick’s weblog Traditionalist. The second part of my research concentrated on the reception of Nasr’s philosophy.E. Another source of information was an email correspondence with some of the leading scholars of the various fields: Richard Foltz (Muslim environmentalism). Mark Sedgwick (about the traditionalist school) and David Catherine (eco-Traditionalist).Nasr22. entry a photographer slowly zooming in on his subject . The subject was approached from the outside inward.aucegypt. all of whom were very helpful. The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr.. William Stoddard (‘insider’ to the Traditionalist school).. I was also fortunate to be able to question Nasr himself during a half hour interview23. Sedgwick invited me to add a request for information on his Traditionalist blog24. Chicago and La Salle: Open Court Publishing Company.E. associated with or inspired by Nasr is probably best described as network analysis. This did not trigger much response. The analysis of the ‘networks’. The San Rossore lecture proved to be a helpful starting point. categories and concepts of ‘Western Esotericism’ were used to analyse Nasr’s philosophy. secular environmentalist audience. a Muslim Sufi ‘eco-traditionalist who draws his inspiration from Nasr’s work and fuses Islamic mystical concepts with eco-spirituality.W jr (eds). the groups and people.. 22 Bibliography of Hahn. It was intended for a non-Muslim.

Perennial Philosophy and (Western) Esotericism (Chapter 4) and then to Traditional Islam and Sufism (Chapter 5). This Chapter concludes with evaluation of Nasr’s thought within the wider spectrum of ‘types of Islam’: what kind of ‘Islam’ is actually Nasr representing? Chapter 6 is dedicated to the reception of Nasr’s environmentalist thought. Other circles are Western environmentalist movements.6 Structure The structure of this thesis is as follows: The first Chapters are dedicated to Nasr’s eco-philosophy. AM Schwencke. Muslim eco-activists with distinctly Islamist agendas. The section about the Traditionalists is worked out most extensively. ‘Islamized’ science. On reaching a conclusion in the last Chapter 7.1. Schuonian Traditionalism. What does he have in mind when discussing the environmental crisis? What causes it and what alternative is he proposing? Chapter 4 and 5 are then dedicated to the context of Nasr’s environmental thought. 2009 11/09/2009 14/116 . Various ‘circles of influence’ or audiences are identified and discussed. Islamic environmentalists. Leiden University. an Islamic Deep Ecology. Perennial Philosophy and Western Esotericism. E. leading us first into the colourful world of Traditionalism. Islamic science groups and Western Sufi-groups. we will have encountered Persian Islamic mysticism. a peculiar brand of Westernized Sufism. Prince Charles. his ecological message. spiritual ecoactivists and politicized Sufism. because Nasr can be shown to hold a prominent position within the American Traditionalist groups. It starts with a short biography in Chapter 2 introducing the protagonist of this thesis and then moves on to the content of his message in Chapter 3. F Schumacher of the influential Small is beautiful and one of the icons of the Western environmental movement.

2004 and the ‘Autobiography’ in: The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. ‘Traditionalist’. philosopher. He went on to Harvard University where he studied Geology and Geophysics. a participant of interfaith dialogue and the global ethics debates or as an advocate of an ‘alternative’ Islam. Since 1984. In 1973. Nasr moved back to Iran. hundreds of articles and lectured on topics varying from ‘traditional’ Islamic an advocate of ‘Islamized science’. a practicing Sufi mystic and teacher. graduating from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with an undergraduate degree in Physics and Mathematics. science. theology.nasrfoundation.cfm AM Schwencke. Nasr moved back to the United States. Philosopher Who is Seyyed Hossein Nasr? On the back covers of most of his books. Department of Religion. It takes more detailed biographical information to be found in other sources to build up a completer profile25. (eds) The Essential Seyyed Hossein Nasr. We will then find him to have several roles. and then completed a PhD in the History of Science and Philosophy26. some more private: as a scholar. theologian. M. He was appointed professor of philosophy at Tehran University. philosophy. metaphysics. Nasr has written more than fifty books. Bloomington: World Wisdom. Nasr is introduced to us as a ‘scholar’. specializing on Iranian esoteric philosophers and continued his education within the ‘traditional educational system’ with a number of masters (Assar. This was intended as a school for the study and dissemination of the traditional sciences. a professor of Islamic Studies and/ or comparative religion. 2001. he has held a position as a professor of Comparative Religion and Islamic studies at the George Washington University. 2009 11/09/2009 15/116 . Tabatab’i and Qazwini). The Perennial Philosophy series. an expert on Islamic science and spirituality.C. Sufism. 26 Website George Washington University. http://www. 2007. in articles or at conference lectures. Nasr founded the Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy under the patronage of the Queen of Iran.2 Seyyed Hossein Nasr 2. such as Henry Corbin and Toshihiko Izutsu. Persian 25 Biographical information may be drawn from: the website of the Nasr Foundation: http://www.html. He received his academic training in the United States. Chittick. especially Islamic philosophy and attracted distinguished scholars in the field.1 The Scholar of Islam. Having to leave Iran after the revolution in 1979. both from the East and the West. Against the Modern World. Sedgwick.gwu. Leiden University. More of this will be addressed later on. some public. After graduating. Nasr was born in Iran in 1933.

1999.H. (eds) An Anthology of Philosophy of Persia. his perspective is also distinctly comparative or as we shall see ‘perennial’.). 2000. introducing Islam or discussing its relation to modernity. Niels Bohr. His perennial or Traditionalist philosophy permeates all his work. the knowledge of God. L. 1989. http://www. Islam’s Mystical Tradition (2007) are particularly dedicated to presenting a more positive image of Islam and Sufism to non-Muslim audiences. Bosnian-Serbo-Croatian. Oxford: Oneworld. Apart from his academic work. is one of the key concepts characterizing his work. History of Islamic Philosophy. Polish. Gifford Lecturers have been recognized as pre-eminent thinkers in their respective fields. The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity (2004) and The Garden of Truth: The Vision and Promise of Sufism. S. Having just left Iran and uncertain about his future. such as Islamic Spirituality (1991)27. Urdu. Persian. addressing and comparing the other major ‘traditions’ or philosophical or metaphysical systems. Nasr. M. Albert Schweitzer and Alfred North Whitehead’. Arabic..) The Encyclopaedia of Islamic Spirituality. William James. London and New York: Routledge. Islam and the Plight of Modern Man (1975) and A Young Muslim Guide to the Modern World (1998). (eds. Lahore: Suhail Academy. Albany: State University of New York Press. 2009 11/09/2009 16/116 . History of Islamic Philosophy (1996)28. Leiden University. O. 1996. Among the many gifted lecturers are Hannah Arendt.asp?AuthorID=132 AM Schwencke. French.mysticism. It is based on a series of lectures. he remembers how ‘the actual writing of the text of the lectures …came as a gift from Heaven. The Heritage of Sufism. Japanese. Amanirazavi. Tamil. S. Reinhold Niebuhr. Werner Heisenberg. such as Traditional Islam in the Modern World (1985). His latest books. (ed. and The Heritage of Sufism (1999)30. 31 Nasr. Leaman. Max Mueller.H. Iris Murdoch. Lahore: Suhail Academy. 30 Lewisohn. the prestigious Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh32 delivered in 1981. Nasr is said to be an exponent of the ‘Traditionalist school’. 2000)29.H. He contributed to and edited several anthologies or encyclopaedias. which is part of a series on World Spirituality. other words. S.. ‘Tradition’. This marked a crucial moment in his career. but is most clearly laid out in what Nasr considers his most important philosophical work: Knowledge and the Sacred (1989)31. Dutch and others (a total of twenty-two languages). we are soon to find out. 32 The purpose of prestigious Gifford is ‘to promote and diffuse the study of Natural Theology in the widest sense of the term .).. quite a few of his publications are intended for a general public. Although Islam is central to Nasr’s work.giffordlectures. 2007 of the Routledge History of World philosophies. Many of these were translated into languages as varied as Indonesian. Etienne Gilson. An Anthology Philosophy in Persia (1999. 29 Nasr.. Knowledge and the Sacred. Islamic art and architecture to religious pluralism and modernity. (ed. The text would be able to “descend” upon me and crystallize clearly in my mind I was able to write each Chapter in a continuous flow like a running 27 28 Nasr.’ …’Since the first lecture in 1888. S.

A History of Islamic Philosophy. p27-28. to deal intellectually and philosophically in the deepest sense of the term with the tensions between east and West and tradition and modernity34. arts and the sciences within the contemporary setting. Majid Fahkry. AM Schwencke. It was already noted in the introduction that Nasr is very active in the sphere of interfaith and intercultural dialogue. 2001. Saran’. In 2000. a widely respected scholar on Islamic philosophy refers to Nasr as ‘the best known contemporary Iranian philosopher … who has written extensively on Islamic cosmology. Leiden University.2 The Environmentalist A lifelong interest in the environmental crisis is added to the many scholarly interests outlined above. 2001. to pursue the study of Western philosophy from the point of view of the Islamic intellectual tradition. in: The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr.33 Soon after. dedicating himself: to the various dimensions of traditional metaphysics.36 This public role is essential if we wish to understand the significance of Nasr and his work in our times and will be touched upon later in this thesis.featured a volume on The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. p441. mysticism and metaphysics and is widely respected in academic circles35’. the ‘series of works written on the subject of the relation between religion or ‘the sacred’ and science and nature38’. to resuscitate the whole of the Islamic intellectual tradition including Sufism. 37 Nasr. in his own words. 2009 11/09/2009 17/116 . Apart from recognition as a specialist about Islamic philosophy. 38 ‘Reply to A. The Library of Living Philosophers series – also listing names such as Dewey. Nasr also finds recognition as a philosopher. p77-78. He had been writing consistently 33 34 ‘Autobiography’ in: The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Nasr was able to continue his academic career at George Washington University. 35 Fakhry. ‘Autobiography’ in: The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Nasr’s doctoral thesis (1958) was dedicated to traditional philosophies of nature and cosmologies. M. 36 During the nineties various UNESCO programmes were involved with dialogue: Dialogue of Civilizations. philosophy. 2001. New York Oxford: Oxford University Press. Buber and Popper . 2. p322. Sartre. to discover ways of studying the history of science other than the prevalent method based upon positivism (drawing here from the many works of Pierre Duhem) and to create especially what I hold to be authentic methodology to study both Islamic science and Islamic philosophy from within. It crowns. the other sciences of nature and cosmologies than modern science. 1996.H. Religion and the Order of Nature (1996)37 is Nasr’s most recent book about the environmental crisis.river…. Alliance of Civilisations. In his own words: this is one of his ‘other major philosophical preoccupations’. S.K. Religion and the Order of Nature. This was published years later as An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines (1993). Global Ethics and others.

Knowledge and the Sacred (1989)42 and its sequel The Need for a Sacred Science (1993)43..revivingtheislamicspirit. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. he addressed the ‘environmental sector’ at the San Rossore conference already mentioned in the introduction. The Need for a Sacred Science. focussing on various religions. This related to Hamza Yusuf.oregonstate. The Islamic perspective is also worked out in it. Denny. Man and Nature: the Spiritual Crisis of Modern Man . The Encounter of Man and Nature: The Spiritual Crisis of Modern Man. 1987. the Contemporary Islamic World.html.C.. when Nasr published his first book on the 39 A bibliography of (part of) these article and lectures is included as an appendix. as we will see later on. Revival Series: http://www. Cambridge.. A. F. as well47. AM Schwencke. These works are general and comparative in scope. etc. 44 Nasr. 43 Chapter 9 ‘Sacred Science and the Environmental Crisis: An Islamic Perspective’. 2003. S. London: Allan and Unwin. 47 Public lecture ‘Faith and the Environment’ 17 May 2008. Knowledge and the Sacred. Reprinted as Man and Nature (1987).com (october 2008). S. for example he was asked to address an audience of ‘deep ecologists’ and ‘eco-spirituals’ at the ‘Nature and the Sacred: A Fierce Green Fire’ conference at Oregon University45. In: . an American convert to Islam. 1968.H. references in other publications. 41 Nasr. 45 Conference on Nature and the Sacred ‘A Fierce Green Fire’. 42 Chapter 6: ‘Cosmos as Theophany’ in: Nasr. R. This was collected from various sources: Bibliography The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr (till 1999). Albany: State University of New York Press. S.H. The latter contains a Chapter on the Islamic perspective and was later reworked as a contribution to Harvard Divinity School series on Religion and Ecology mentioned in the introduction: Islam and Ecology: a Bestowed Trust (2003)44. but also in several other publications: in Sufi Essays (1972) focussing on the Sufi perspective on the ecological crisis. new edition: London: Unwin and Hyman and Harper-Collins. S. Baharuddin. Chicago: ABC International Group. London: Unwin Paperbacks. October 2004 http://springcreek. Nasr is frequently invited to lecture about the subject. Accessed at nature_sacred/index.about this topic since end of the sixties39. To this day. who is also active in the Common Word initiative.H.thefreelibrary. his Rockefeller Series Lectures were published as The Encounter of Man and Nature (1968)40 and reprinted later as: Man and Nature: the Spiritual Crisis of Modern Man (1987)41. 2009 11/09/2009 18/116 . 46 ‘The Islamic perspective on the environmental crisis: Seyyed Hossein Nasr in conversation with Muzaffar Iqbal’. ‘Islam.H. Of more recent date. we can mention a conversation about the environmental crisis between Nasr and Muzaffar Iqbal intended for specifically Muslim audiences. which is generally recognized as the first book to really bring environmental issues to the forefront of public attention had only recently been published. In 1966. 40 Nasr. In that same year. Rachel Carson’s influential Silent Spring (1962). S. the internet. Leiden University. 1993.46 Nasr can be found addressing many other audiences. (eds).. Islam and Ecology: A Bestowed Trust.. and the Environmental Crisis’ in: Foltz. Albany: State University of New York Press. In 2004. 1989. Iqbal is an active proponent of Islamized science. 1997.H. 1990. It is important to note that Nasr was amongst the first league of people in the West to draw attention to the environmental crisis.

has always been for me a foretaste of paradisal beatitude50. I saw the blind development of modern industry as a cancer in the body of nature…which would finally lead to the destruction of the harmony and balance of the natural world and of its ‘death’ in the form that we knew it49. My own concern with issues of the environmental crisis goes back to the early 1950s and my student days at M. 48 49 ‘Reply to Giovanni Monastra’. 2003. whose real causes were spiritual. to running streams. I had a special love for nature in her many forms. 51 ‘Reply to Giovanni Monastra’. R. 2009 11/09/2009 19/116 . This experience of the close connection existing between ‘nature’ and ‘paradise’ is at the core of his environmental thought. The immediate experience of virgin nature. 2001.subject. It made him conclude that: The environmental crisis is primarily a result of an inner spiritual crisis of modern man and the darkening of the soul within man who then projects this darkness upon the environment and destroys its balance and harmony51. Always sensitive to the beauty of nature. 2001.516 AM Schwencke. looming on the horizon. The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. p. 2001. Islam and Ecology: A Bestowed Trust. L. I used to walk alone. that ‘the environmental crisis was in fact the result of a spiritual crisis within the soul of modern man and not simply a result of bad engineering’48. …I was led to foresee a major environmental crisis. Silent Spring confirmed his ‘intuition of an impending disaster’ and inspired him to ‘seek the causes of this situation’ realizing. while in his early twenties.T. trees and animals. I will attempt to clarify in the next chapters.85-86. Leiden University. which have always exercised a magical power on me. not spoiled by human intrusion. From my childhood years …. of the area inside the beltway from the relatively unhindered countryside beyond that brought home to me the fact that something was basically wrong in our relationship to nature. p28. when he witnessed the destruction of large pristine forest areas. like Thoreau. to flowers. in: The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. p. from mountain peaks. ecologically speaking. and Harvard University. (eds).516 Foltz. p. 50 ‘An Intellectual Autobiography’ in: Hahn.C (eds). around Walden Pond when the natural scenery of the area was still well preserved.E. in: The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr.I. What Nasr means with this. It was the construction of Route 128 around Boston and the consequent separation. sandy beaches and even rocks and earth. He first came to realize that something was wrong in the fifties. placid lakes. to the vast starry nights of the Iranian plateau where heaven seems to descend to the earthly realm.

traditional knowledge about nature. the ‘real’ root causes behind the environmental crisis? What alternatives does he have in mind? What kind of solutions does he propose? What role does ‘religion’ have to play? What is his agenda? 52 Nasr. The opening paragraph of Religion and the Order of Nature (1996) is cited here at some length. even if the mode of destruction of the order of nature by the two groups is both quantitatively and qualitatively different. New York Oxford. What exactly is his message? What is the line of his argumentation? What are in his view. 11/09/2009 20/116 AM Schwencke.H. … The environmental crisis now encompasses the entire Earth. 1996. It contains all the elements that mark his argument: an almost compassionate sense of urgency about the severity of the environmental crisis (the earth is ‘bleeding’). comparative study of the earths’. 2009 . The world of nature is being desecrated and destroyed in an unprecedented manner globally by both those who secularized the world about them and developed a science and technology capable of destroying nature on an unimaginable scale and by those who still live within a religious universe. the crucial role of religion as a solution to the crisis i. the lack of ‘harmony with Heaven’ as the true nature of the crisis. science and technology developed by a secularized humanity as the main causes and also. ‘Secular modernity’ is contrasted to ‘traditional religious cosmology and metaphysics’ as the cause and solution to the crisis respectively. p. because it characterizes Nasr’s eco-philosophy or ‘ecological message’ so well. although the destruction of the sacred quality of nature by modern man dominated by a secularist perspective is entirely responsible for this catastrophe. S. the vast majority of the human species … still lives within a worldview dominated by religion. Strangely enough.1 Introduction The Earth is bleeding from wounds inflicted upon it by a humanity no longer in harmony with Heaven and therefore in constant strife with the terrestrial environment. 52. In this Chapter we will analyse Nasr’s ‘ecological message’. Leiden University. The role of religion in the solution of the existing crisis between man and nature is therefore crucial … A need exists to develop a path across religious frontiers without destroying the significance of religion itself and to carry out a comparative study of the “Earths” of various religions….3 Man and Nature: The Spiritual Crisis of Modern Man 3.e. Oxford University Press. Religion and the Order of Nature.3.

57 Interview with Nasr by Spanish journal Agenda Viva. p12. refers to a ‘state that is not normal. pollution of the oceans. water (october 2008). (3) a suggested route towards a solution: a transformation of our world view. in: Sophia. There need be no mistake. Modern Man and the Environmental Crisis’ in: Sophia. His argumentation contains five distinct parts: (1) an assessment of the reality and urgency of the environmental crisis. This includes the ‘inner environment’ of our bodies. to neglect the great threat facing humanity as a result of what modern man has done and continues to do to the natural environment54. The Journal of Traditional Studies. Leiden University. he explained in one of his interviews. which is also threatened by the pollution entering our food chain. This is complemented with references to his other work. (4) the alternative ‘traditional’ worldview and (5) the means to achieve such a transformation or paradigm change. it outlines the main arguments53. 10. Ecocide is also suicide.thefreelibrary. 2004. destruction of forests and coral reefs etc. number 2.2 Environmental Crisis For Nasr the ‘environmental crisis’ includes the whole range of problems that are generally categorized under the ‘environment’: the extinction of species. The ‘environmental crisis’ is essentially a crisis in the relation between human beings and nature. soil. October 2006. If we destroy 53 The San Rossore Lecture was printed as ‘Man and Nature: Quest for a Renewed Understanding’ in: Sophia.This part is based on Nasr’s general (or Perennialist) ‘environmental’ message intended for Muslim and non-Muslim audiences. as far as Nasr is concerned: humanity as whole has taken a suicidal turn. vol. (2) a critique of modernity. 2004. With ‘environment’ Nasr means ‘nature’ or ‘virgin nature’ which he defines as ‘all that is not made by human beings nor affected by human activities’57. 2009 11/09/2009 21/116 . these are all symptoms of one and the same phenomenon: the destruction of the balance and harmony of the natural world. ‘Crisis’. global warming or climate change. The reality and urgency of these problems is evident to Nasr. even for the ideologues of linear human progress and indefinite economic development and the few scientists that they can muster to support them. The San Rossore lecture is taken as the starting point and blueprint for the analysis. p5-6. The consequence of the environmental crisis can now be observed everywhere for those who have eyes to see. winter 2004. 2006. and it becomes ever more difficult. 54 San Rossore lecture. 56 ‘The Islamic perspective on the environmental crisis: Seyyed Hossein Nasr in conversation with Muzaffar Iqbal’. p5-14. that is dangerous and in disequilibrium56’. volume 12. Accessed at www.55 In his view. number 2. We have created a civilization that is in such a state of disequilibrium with the natural environment that if one takes the longer view one can assert that this civilization is itself the greatest weapon of mass destruction. 3. AM Schwencke. 55 Sophia. printed as ‘Traditional Man.

However. governments and various institutions in the past few decades. This is a view that in due time. the very foundation of our existence. the modern paradigm had come to replace the ‘traditional’ medieval Christian paradigm62. such as ‘better environmental engineering. Leiden University. Volume 10. Nasr warns us. What is wrong with our worldview and how should it change? 3. The initiatives and environmental action that have been taken by individuals. Meticulously tracing the historical development of modern Western philosophical thought in several of his books. if we want to avert catastrophe. Nasr has come to share with many of our contemporaries. social group or individual more important and urgent than the protection of the earth which is our home and the home of all terrestrial creatures. gradually. p.14 61 Sophia 2004. Number 2.14 Sophia 2004. Nasr indicates how. in Nasr’s view. 2009 11/09/2009 22/116 . directed at the root causes of the crisis is necessary. conservation practices and the like are all laudable and important’.14 60 Sophia 2004. is the worldview that has come to dominate and form Western modern civilization: the ‘modern paradigm’. But all the efforts can only at best give humanity more time – before a major catastrophe strikes’59. Al Gore with his Inconvenient Truth being the most recent to receive a global audience. these initiatives will only slow down the destructive trends. we will ultimately destroy ourselves: ‘Ecoside is suicide58’. 62 The analysis of the historical developments building up to the contemporary dominant worldviews of ‘modernity’ takes up a significant part of Religion and the Order of Nature and Knowledge and the Sacred. The accent is mine. … Our worldview has to change. p. thinking that nature is simply a passive entity with which we can do what we will. Radical action.3 Critique of Modernity The root cause of the environmental crisis. p. p. one must look beyond today’s prevalent worldview and seek within the perennial wisdom of humanity for an understanding of what it means to be human61. Nasr is suggesting. Because I wish to focus on his argumentation as a whole I choose not to expand on this important aspect of his AM Schwencke. creation of environmental ethics.8. … We have raped nature with unprecedented ferocity during the past few centuries. 58 59 Sophia. 2004.nature. We are like sleepwalkers walking on the edge of a precipice. But that is no more than a Promethean dream that is now turning in a nightmare60. This has resulted in a ‘spiritual crisis of modern man’. To wake up from that dream of forgetfulness that we associate with ordinary life and to break away from that paradigm that has precipitated the greatest natural crisis in human history. ‘There is no external task in this world before any government. To find a veritable solution to the problem at hand.

and Nasr spent a large part of his life attempting to counter it. Although Nasr acknowledges the enormous variety and diversity of thoughts. (2) the reductionist or limited materialistic view of reality and nature. 2009 11/09/2009 23/116 . positivist. Religion and the Order of Nature. as autonomous. With ‘spiritual crisis’ he means: the limited view of reality. from DNA to quantum physics. AM Schwencke. man came to see himself as the centre of the universe. materialist. See: Chapter 3 ‘Philosophy and the Misdeed of Philosophy’ in Nasr.H. the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. Leiden University. are seen as having developed out of concrete historical and social contexts and can work. a general disregard of the spiritual dimensions of reality.Watershed moments marking this gradual transformation were the Renaissance Humanism. he points out that one particular paradigm – the modern ‘scientistic’ paradigm . S. Western man gradually came to think of himself. military-. 1996. Oxford University Press. This enabled mankind to unravel some of the earth’s greatest mysteries. of nature and the divine realities in a manner that radically differed from the worldviews of premodern times and societies. The worldview presented to us by modern science provides us with no more than a limited. Nasr does not reject these fruits of Western civilisation. S. All laws and regulations are manmade. as ‘Promethean Man’.became the main driving force behind the developments in the Western world in the past three to four centuries. neither does he reject modern science and technology as such. Powerful societies emerged with strong political and financial institutions. ‘Scientism’ is based on two fundamental errors: (1) a disregard of the deeper nature of man and (2) a disregard of the sacred reality of nature. The modern view only accepts constraints to human behaviour that are imposed by human kind on itself. Knowledge and the Sacred. ICT technology and bio-engineering. This view is fundamentally flawed.. currents. resulting in the development of powerful technologies such as space-. rational and anthropocentric (or human centred). reductionist. The modern worldview is secular. New York Oxford. cultures and movements that together make up ‘Western culture’. First. Also: Chapter 1 ‘Knowledge and its Desacralization’ in: Nasr. high living standards (at least in the Western world) and laudable ethical guidelines protecting individual human rights. What he does reject is the ‘scientistic’ claim to absolute knowledge. Albany: State University of New York Press. particularistic view of reality.H. 1989. It is also at the heart of the ‘spiritual crisis’. Two aspects of the modern paradigm are essentially problematic according to Nasr: (1) the absolutization of the human state (anthropocentrism). it does not accept revealed or Divine Law. The ‘modern’ view of nature – nature as a great machine – fuelled the development of modern science.

In Nasr’s view. p. as a purely terrestrial being without responsibility towards either God or creation. Nasr.therefore be altered over time. Second. The modern paradigm views human beings 63 64 Interview Agenda Viva.biocentric. while failing to emphasize human responsibilities. ‘impervious to the spiritual dimension of nature.were developed to answer this question. Modern science also reduced the human being – his human consciousness. Various approaches . Volume 10. 2009 11/09/2009 24/116 . No2.29. why is this ‘scientistic’ worldview problematic and why should this cause the environmental crisis? The direct cause of the crisis is the present economic system. Sophia. by reducing nature to mere ‘quantity and mechanical relationships’. Why should we care at all? This fundamental question is at the heart of all environmental ethics and it has been subject of intense debate amongst environmental ethicists for years. The economic system as institutionalized greed Now. but also the rights of the rest of creation. a human is no more (and no less) than flesh and bones. Since the Renaissance and the seventeenth century. In this view.7 AM Schwencke. Number 2. p. man came to neglect his responsibilities towards and ultimately his dependency on the rest of creation.7 65 Sophia. ecocentric. nature lost its inherent meaning or significance. in Sophia. and which has in fact brought about the destruction of the balance and harmony of the natural environment’66. The sacred reality of nature was cast aside and nature came to be seen in purely quantitative and mechanical terms63. 2004. we will see. 2004. Vol 12. which in Nasr’s view is a ‘system of institutionalized greed’ manifesting itself in the ‘rampant consumerism’ we are witnessing everywhere today. Leiden University. Volume 10. but he had little concern for the innate rights of God’s creatures64. p. not to speak of spiritual reality65’. p. Man has come to see himself as master of his own destiny and of the world. The science developing out of this materialistic worldview was based on ‘control and domination of nature’. there is no inherent or God-given reason why humans would take on responsibility for the earth’s creatures. 2006. will propose a God-centred or theocentric approach. modern man came to envisage himself. Volume 10. Man increasingly neglected not only the rights of God. Number 2. 2004. a complex machine having evolved from matter into singular cells into apes and eventually humans. hormones and DNA structure. a bundle of electric currents and neural synapses. psychic and even spiritual abilities to ‘material’ reality. Number 2. nature has become to be a kind of ‘machine or quantity in motion.11 66 Sophia. bereft of any qualities. In the modern secular worldview.

but as an informed engagement with modernity71’ Nasr shares this critical assessment of modern life with many others. Happiness became identified with the acquisition of things and ascetism came to be seen as “sin”. We will see how Nasr draws his inspiration from Western environmentalism later.E.W. Since the Industrial revolution ‘the inner spiritual crisis became ever more projected outwardly’ as a crisis in nature70. (eds) The Essential Seyyed Hossein Nasr. W. on trying to do everything possible to attach the soul more and more to the world and on making a vice out of what for religion has always been a virtue. Nasr is said ‘to challenge the assumptions and values of the modern world and of the modern scientistic philosophy’. especially the passion of greed intensified by the creation of false needs. 2004. No2. the practice of the virtue of contentment. large parts of the environmental or anti-globalist movements of the nineties share similar views. ‘Preface’ in: The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. This crisis is driven by the modern economic system appealing to the human passions. Jr. L. The modern outlook is based on fanning the fire of greed and covetousness. that is to keep a certain distance and detachment from the world. which are not really needs but wants. More recently. Bloomington: World Wisdom. Volume 10.’. consumerism is the direct cause. but underlying this most visible cause is the root cause: a worldview that fundamentally disregards the spiritual realities.31-32. 2009 11/09/2009 25/116 . Vol 12. in other words a certain amount of ascetism68. S. in: Chittick. ‘material needs’ and their drive for ‘acquisition of things’. The perennial Philosophy series.C. pxvii AM Schwencke. 69 Sophia. Leiden University. So. 2004. Auxier. 2007.H. also colouring most of his other. This is in opposition to the view which religions have espoused over the millennia. defined solely by material criteria.. Volume 10. p7 70 Interview Agenda Viva. The modern economic system and the resulting environmental destruction are the outward manifestations of the modernist worldview or ‘scientism’. R. in Sophia. 2006. p29 71 Hahn. an economic system evolved which in essence is fuelled by the ‘appeal to the passion of greed’. p. of being content with what one has.E. It is but one step away from the rampant consumerism which is creating never ending desires soon turned into needs for material goods. ‘Religion and the Environmental ‘flesh and bones’ and as ‘economic animals’67. Yet. From this view. nonenvironmental work. L. Number 2. This type of criticism has been voiced in the West from the onset of the Industrial Revolution. that is. first by the Romantic movements of the nineteenth century. Number 2. these desires having to be satisfied by the resources in a finite world69.7 Nasr. Nasr also shares his modernist critique with many of the reformist. to surface again a century later in the counterculture era of the seventies. modernist and fundamentalist thinkers of the 67 68 Sophia. ‘not as a pure reaction against modernity. Nasr’s critique of modernity is very central to his thought. 2001. Stone. p.

‘religion’ has a very central role to play in solving the environmental crisis. … Traditional paradigms are religious in essence and therefore. What is left of ‘religion’ now has lost its vital connection with the inner perennial or millennial wisdom. Leiden University. of what nature is. of man’s position within the ‘greater scheme of things’. 2004. It is also essential that the Western spiritual tradition concerning nature be revived. can and must play a most important role. This knowledge is lying dormant within our ‘traditions’. We need a sacred science. it makes sense to call for a radical transformation of this paradigm. The real tragedy.. a reductionist and ‘truncated’ vision of reality.. 3. With the concept of ‘sacred science’ we have landed at the heart of Nasr’s philosophy. The term ‘sacred science’ refers to timeless and universal knowledge – or perennial wisdom . of reality’ and also about nature had always been part of the great religions of the world. p. all in their traditional forms. about the ‘Earth’. new metaphysical and cosmological doctrines. not a new discovery. as well as religion.6.4 Traditional metaphysics Considering the fundamental flaws of the prevalent modernistic worldview. Sophia. ‘has always been evident to a large extent in the life of traditional societies over the ages’72. according to Nasr. We also need a new philosophy of nature which cannot be but the perennial philosophy of nature reformulated in contemporary terms. this radical transformation requires.that is 72 73 Sophia. which’.Muslim world. of our understanding of what it means to be human. 2004. Knowledge about the ‘truth’. philosophy and mysticism. What is needed now a new ‘greater vision’. Nasr asserts. whilst those of other traditions need to be reformulated before they too become forgotten as the Western tradition was forgotten73. In this task the non-Western religions. This will be discussed in the next Chapters. from the primal ones to Islam and historically speaking those within. Essential truths about the nature of reality were once expressed in traditional systems of thought.12. 11/09/2009 26/116 AM Schwencke. our cultural heritages. Nasr passionately pleads for a critical re-examination of our collective worldview. 2009 . what humanity needs is a renewed understanding of the perennial knowledge about nature. but this was forgotten by modern man. the time has come to rediscover this ‘traditional wisdom’. p. according to Nasr. So. but the rediscovery of our relation to nature. ‘Paradoxically. is that religion and therefore also knowledge of the truth was pushed out of modern society. This criticism is also an essential characteristic of the traditionalist outlook. We need to redevelop and discover this ‘sacred science of the order of nature’. art. The modernist paradigm has left humanity with partial knowledge.

when discussing Perennial philosophy and Traditionalism. all other aspects of reality are ‘reflections’ of this divine order. The second principle concerns the ‘hierarchical order of reality’. 2004. The Great Chain of Being. Leiden University. divine Truth or – if you will God – exists. angelic and ultimately divine realms . human. psychological and spiritual laws. Lovejoy. animal. a ‘great chain of being75’. The physical world – which we as humans can perceive and know through our senses or by empirical observation is only one of many levels of reality. (4) the inherent unity of existence and (5) the central position of man. (3) a universe governed by ‘cosmic laws’. Reality consists of hierarchically ordered ‘levels of existence’ . Authentic religions also reflect this one reality. Nasr is proposing a God-centred worldview. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. The (post)modern paradigm is said ‘to cast all absolutes aside’.11. This reality is ‘ordered’ – a third principle . as through the back door. In the other domains these laws may be less obvious. On a material level this is evident: the law of gravity forces an apple to fall down and the science of physics is founded on the existence of these physical laws.the material. AM Schwencke. but also the 74 75 Sophia. it reasserts the absolutization of man without further question74.12. p. challenging the anthropocentric view of the modern paradigm. This is not self-evident to the post-modern mind that is trained to be suspicious of all absolute truth claims.through western history.each subsequent level reflecting the divine more perfectly. It is used in a work by A. all share a common core and a few distinct principles. This Divine or Ultimate Reality is the centre of the universe. yet. we will discuss in the next Chapter. Absolute. What Nasr means with this. which is Divine.rooted in the ‘sacred’ or the divine order of reality. ‘The physical world is related to God by levels of reality which transcend the physical world itself and which constitute the various stages of the cosmic hierarchy’76. Despite the enormous diversity. 1913. The first and central principle concerns the existence of ‘one objective and absolute reality’. Lovejoy traced the concept of this type of idea – of a hierarchical interconnected worldview . 2009 11/09/2009 27/116 . 2004. The term ‘Great Chain of Being’ is occasionally used by Nasr. 76 Sophia. it is an objective reality. The universe is a cosmic hierarchy. Nasr points out with irony. Religion and the Order of Nature is an attempt to uncover this perennial and sacred knowledge about nature that can be found at the ‘core’ of all authentic religions (‘comparative study of the Earths’). Central principles Traditional knowledge systems are characterized by five principles: (1) the existence of one divine absolute truth. (2) the hierarchical order of the universe. the sense that each level is governed by laws and principles: physical. O. ‘at the same time.

Humans are created to develop from the lower towards the higher levels. This is a fifth principle of traditional metaphysics. in their deepest teachings. and despite important formal differences. psyche/ soul and spirit – is perceived as reflecting the various levels of the cosmic hierarchy: his body is part of the physical realm.12. 1996. Man and nature are more intimately connected than modern man can ever conceive: … we are woven into the intricate web of life in a manner that cannot be reduced to simple quantitative and material relationships77. her life our life and her destruction our destruction. AM Schwencke. his psyche is subject to psychological laws and his spirit to spiritual laws. As reflections of the one divine reality. 2004. Man is a being with ‘power to dominate and even destroy the world of nature81’. p.H.he will never be able to walk through a brick wall. 79 Nasr. However. Within this hierarchical ‘vertically ordered’. Ultimately. spiritual realities are governed by cosmic laws. p. man holds a central position. 81 Sophia. man is a being with ‘relative rights’ and with ‘responsibilities’ towards creation. p. not only physically. Religion and the Order of Nature. 2004.11. We can and must rediscover this vision of nature as an enchanted reality to which we are related. but man’s powers are limited by the laws governing the universe. as the connection between the divine realms above and the terrestrial realms below. intellectually and spiritually78.24-25. 2004. relate the order of nature to the order within human beings. but also psychologically. despite this pivotal role.his body. The fourth principle concerns the ‘inherent unity of existence’. Man is viewed ‘as the axis of this world’80’. which is the Origin of both man and nature79. In religious terms: man was created in God’s image as His vicegerent. interconnected and enchanted universe. All religions. p. chemically and biologically. all other levels of reality are interconnected and interrelated.. The limbs of nature are our limbs. S. p. man is not absolute. 80 Sophia.psychological. and that man. His body is subject to physical laws . An example is the karmic law of cause and effect. a bridge between ‘Heaven and Earth’.12. as the reflection of the Divine qualities. Leiden University. More importantly. The micro-cosmos of man and macro-cosmos of the universe are interrelated.11. 2004. If we regain our understanding of what man truly is. the constitution of man . Sophia. and envisage both orders as bearing the imprint of Divine reality. although a reflection of the Absolute and created to reach the Absolute. lives in this world as a being with relative 77 78 Sophia. 2009 11/09/2009 28/116 . his psyche or soul is part of the ‘imaginal realms’ and his spirit is part of the higher spiritual realms that ultimately reach out to the divine. we come to realize that only the Ultimate or Heaven [red: God] is absolute. There is an ‘inherent unity in all existence’.

nation or religion to embrace not only all of humanity but also all of nature83. disequilibrium. In the physical domain these are clear examples of the laws of cause and effect ruling our actions. Transgression of these laws creates disequilibrium.e. also affecting our relation to nature. tribe. within the traditional worldview morality.this freedom is limited by the laws governing the universe. to speak of the sanctity of 82 83 Sophia 2004. Implications This traditional worldview as outlined here has some important implications. Morality. If not. An effective environmental ethics can only be founded in this metaphysical moral order. But this ‘karmic’ law applies in other realms as well. yet is very central to Nasr’s traditionalist thought. self-control and discipline’. trained to separate morality from factual reality. Freedom must be combined with ‘restraint and responsibility. and this is what needs to be re-realized. It is this sense of moral restraint and responsibility that is currently lacking. according to Nasr. Ethics and Divine law First. re-affirmed and relearned through study of traditional knowledge and through spiritual training. Sophia 2004. The moral dimension is introduced to the argument by acknowledging or ‘asserting’ that man’s freedom is inherently limited by its cosmic laws. and our responsibilities become extended to boundaries beyond our family. ethics– as a blueprint for correct human behaviour.11. Our rights are limited by accepting the rights of other beings. but he will need to accept the rebound i. p. but – and this is essential .10. 11/09/2009 29/116 AM Schwencke. This aspect may be difficult to grasp for the modern mind. As such he cannot dominate and destroy his surrounding in the name of the absoluteness of the human state and man’s so-called ‘needs’82. Man is born with free will. What we are witnessing today with the environmental crisis is in essence a situation of a disturbed balance and disequilibrium caused by the modern contempt or ignorance of these laws. of the true ‘order of nature’. Man is free to pollute the oceans. this leads to chaos. Leiden University. it destroys the cosmic harmony. that poisoned food will affect his health and might even destroy him. 2009 . p. As human beings we need to respect these laws.rights which are combined with responsibilities. One of the great tragedies is that the dominant paradigm has divorced ethics from metaphysics and cosmology so that within this framework. and the divine laws or ‘order of reality’ are interconnected.

‘These traditional virtues which have allowed countless generations to live in equilibrium with the world around them. To Nasr. Nasr does not discuss in detail in his publications. subjectivism or poetry – not a position grounded in objective knowledge. 2004. the inner drive to gain more and more things. with their hearts and souls. if not all traditional religious systems have presented a blueprint for this self-development. p. And even within one religious system diverging views have co-existed about the interpretation of Divine law. a ‘spiritual and ethical archetype or prototype of the Perfect Man’. ‘In traditional societies human laws were considered cosmic laws’ and. is inherent to the consumerism that is fuelling the economic system. 2004. were at the 84 85 Sophia. Sophia. discipline and self control’. Nasr emphasizes. Nasr points out. 2009 . These virtues are as essential for mankind to reach the divine. p10-11. for Hindu culture this would entail re-establishing the laws of Manu including its caste and the ethically immoral character of the destruction of the sacred is viewed as mere sentimentality. What precise ‘form’ this would take. for Islamic cultures this would entail re-establishing a sharia based law. This will work out differently for different civilizations. We need to rediscover the worldview within which the cosmic dimension of ethics will once again become a reality and in which human beings will be able to extend. Leiden University. Its methods enabled man to control the ‘passionate ego’ and acquire the vital ‘virtues of contentment.know what ‘divine law’ is? How and in what form will these be expressed in human societies? Even traditional societies have developed various types of systems based on ‘divine’ law. Man is born imperfect and is destined to perfect his character and soul. as well as to all human beings beyond our tribe.10. 11/09/2009 30/116 AM Schwencke. traditional systems stress the importance and necessity of human development. nation. as we will see in the next Chapter. the ethical concerns to non-human beings. ‘this profound nexus between human and cosmic law must be reasserted’85. This drive. How can we – as humans . Many. civilization or religion84. as these are to live in harmony with nature. The value of ‘contentment’ for example is pivotal as a means to curb greed. as well as the spiritual training to achieve this goal of perfection. Spiritual development: the Perfect Man Secondly. ethics and divine law are closely related. although his publications intended for Islamic audiences touch on this issue. I would like to point out the potentially profound implications of this type of assertion. ultimately to reach out towards the divine.

Leiden University. all traditional religions affirm the sacred quality of nature. as it is within the modern secular worldview. which is fulfilment of our real inner needs: spiritual realization. our efforts should be directed towards the soul’s ultimate goal. This is related by what Nasr refers to as the ‘misdirecting of the yearning of the soul’. others as Mother. AM Schwencke. technology and economic development. Now we are left with a ‘centerless soul seeking the Infinite in the multiplicity of nature’. our environment. Man is created to seek the ‘Absolute and the Infinite’. Some have spoken of the earth as an angel. human beings have realized that nature is not a dead aggregate of elements some of which possess life. with the result that it transforms the order of nature into the chaos and ugliness we observe so painfully today in so many parts of the globe and which bear the mark of modern man’s activities. When the divine is denied. S. p. The Essential Seyyed Hossein Nasr. 2009 11/09/2009 31/116 . Nature is not the grand machine. Rather. which leaves upon the environment the traces of its unending tinkering with nature and production of gadgets and products resulting ….H. fuelling the tremendous progress that was made the past few centuries in the ‘material sphere’.H. Therefore. which is ‘really at the heart of the environmental crisis’87. S.. never satisfied with what he has on the material plane. without. Our true destiny and freedom is of a spiritual nature.272. 86 Nasr. This also works the other way around: a disturbed balance in the inner state of man is creating havoc in the outer world. Spiritual creativity is replaced by inventive genius. nor the mere commodity and source of raw materials as the modernist believes. its vertical dimension. seeing nature as sacred or having spiritual qualities. Religion and the Order of Nature. ‘Religion and the Environmental Crisis’. directing an unending source of energy to the natural world. S. 1996. 33. and the mystics of all climes. in: Chittick (eds). 88 Nasr.same time conceived as ways of perfecting the soul. …. Sacred nature Another important implication of the traditional paradigm concerns the ‘sacred quality’ of nature. of science.272. as steps to perfection of human existence’86. falling into the error of pantheism. yet also resulting in large scale destruction of the material world. Since time immemorial. have seen nature as a theophany. 87 Nasr. 1996... ever-growing wastelands…. p. 88. The ‘direction of arrow of progress’ was changed from that of progress in the sense of the ‘soul journeying to God’ to purely material progress. perfecting the inner state of man will also affect man’s relation to his outer world: inner harmony is reflecting in outer harmony. man turns to the material world for his infinite thirst. Its powerful creative energies are then directed towards the material world. to search for God. the ‘yearning and search within the human soul nevertheless continue’. p.H. Religion and the Order of Nature. the quantity in motion.

Nature has become ‘desacralized. the cosmos itself can assist man to transcend the cosmos91. 91 Nasr. S. even if this end transcends the outward forms of nature. and biologically. Modern or ‘profane’ man has lost his ‘sense of the sacred’ and has become blind to the deeper spiritual realities that are manifested in the beauties of virgin nature. Leiden University. S. p. A sage will see the ‘trees of paradise in beholding a forest and in contemplating the vision of a sublime mountain peak he will see the sacred mountain at the centre of the cosmos itself90’. 2004. 1996. or as certain Sufis have said. but by realizing that nature is inherently sacred. What is needed is a rediscovery or ‘remembrance’ of the sacred quality of nature. 92 Sophia. 2009 11/09/2009 32/116 . we need to rediscover the science of nature’s symbolism. Interestingly.65. 1996. This is a great loss. sacred nature can only be achieved through an inner transformation within man. Aided by the religious knowledge of the order of nature. We can and must rediscover this vision of nature as an enchanted reality to which we are related. This language of this book of nature is inherently symbolic and to unravel its mysteries. Even if destined for the invisible world of the Spirit. human beings need to learn from the order of nature.11 Nasr. emptied of the sacred’. inner development 89 90 Sophia 2004. The ‘face of nature’ is a theophany. It is an ancient idea now being reconsidered under the name of Gaia theory89.but rather they have perceived that it is alive in itself with its own harmony and rhythm of life.285. pointing towards the divine realm. Religion and the Order of Nature. p. not only physically. this rediscovery of enchanted. intellectually and spiritually.H. and the message of different religions concerning the order only enriches the message that is to be heard and results in the recollection of forgotten truths by a particular human collectivity. p. Nature needs to be ‘resacralized’. intellectually and spiritually. The order of nature speaks to human beings deepest needs and their final end. Spiritual training. The cosmos is like a book ‘in the sense that each of its phenomena possesses a meaning beyond and within the outward form’. but also psychologically. man will be able to reawaken the inner ‘sense for the sacred’. not by declaring it sacred. We must regain a knowledge of nature beyond the confines of a quantitative science without denying what has been discovered in the quantitative and material realm92. according to Nasr. p. We have now forgotten the language and cannot understand the message it contains anymore.12. Nature is the ‘theatre of divine creativity and presence’. AM Schwencke. Religion and the Order of Nature. not least because human beings can learn from nature: ‘the earth is man’s teacher and man can learn from the order of nature not only quantitatively but also morally. its phenomena are the signs of God.H. a manifestation or reflection of the divine order. chemically.

Profane man. and saintly men of Persia – in a beautiful valley in the Alborz Mountain outside Tehran. We [I. p. AM Schwencke. Apparently. However. the spiritually untrained person. Suddenly the ambience changed and something became eclipsed. Nasr. It was as if in a traditional Muslim household a strange man would suddenly enter the home and the women would quickly put on their veils to hide their beauty from the gaze of the stranger. 1996. individuals who do not pray and have no inner communion with nature. is generally blind to this dimension of reality. To the reader. the connection between man and nature is a two-way process: if man’s soul darkens. Two city people with a non-traditional outlook and presence appeared around the bend of the river beside which we were walking. these personal observations are a breath of fresh air compared to the generally abstract texts. S. however.H. Nasr is suggesting that nature ‘responds’ – as if it were alive . his very presence on earth 93 94 ‘hiding. Religion and the Order of Nature. were to appear. the entire ambience would change and nature would suddenly hide her spiritual aspect. The resacralization of nature is not possible without an awaking by us human beings as to who we are and what we are doing in the world93. People who see the light of God within themselves also see it reflected in the realm of nature. n30. Nature cannot even exist without man. so does nature’s. Nasr] recall many years ago walking one early morning with ‘Allamah Tabatabai – one of the great traditional philosophers. nature further deteriorates. What Nasr means with this ‘sacred quality’ of nature is possibly best conveyed by anecdote. spiritual figures. In a few minutes this is exactly what happened. Nasr is pointing towards the existence of a ‘spiritual presence’ that can be experienced by those who are spiritually trained and that have become perceptive to this presence. We had all just prayed the morning prayers and there was a strong sense of spiritual presence in the whole idyllic natural ambience.292. Leiden University. p. becoming eclipsed’ in the presence of the profane man. he is also pointing to another aspect of this enchanted nature that expresses an even deeper ‘esoteric truth’. In the anecdote above. Ultimately man is a ‘source of grace for nature. referring back to man’s central position within the great ‘chain of being’. Nature hides her most intimate beauty from them94. Religion and the Order of Nature. 1996. In his autobiography he explains his reservations which are related to his dedication to transmitting timeless and objective truths which transcend personal subjective experience.286. The master said that if one or two ‘profane’ people from the city. In his work Nasr very seldom conveys his personal experiences.and spiritual realization are therefore also necessary conditions to regain our ‘sense of the sacred’.H. 2009 11/09/2009 33/116 . As the humanity becomes more ‘profane’ and more blind to the sacred dimensions of nature. The master smiled and said this is what happened when those who are strangers (… that is literally not part of the intimate family) enter into the precinct of nature. S. Nasr is suggesting that the environmental crisis – the eclipse of nature is caused by the eclipse of the soul of modern man.

He is given the power to rule over nature. 2007. but also the capability to destroy it… His actions have cosmic consequences’96.. Leiden University. No2. and as such re-establish balance with the cosmic order. Hindu. there are ‘esoteric. the Eucharist. The Essential Seyyed Hossein Nasr.H. 2007. Buddhist or Native American rites. p. the ritual dimension of religions are called into play. 2006. conscious of the fact that he will probably lose 95 96 Spanish interview Agenda Viva. p29. Rituals ‘re-connect the earth with higher levels of reality. Curbing consumerism by emphasizing the virtues of contentment. p278. 98 Nasr. 97 Interview Agenda Viva. S.H.H. Man is a channel of grace (or baraka) and light for the natural order. To re-establish the cosmic balance and harmony. 2007. this seems absurd. p36. with the vertical axis of existence’. From a modern point of view. the five daily prayers of Muslims. The world can well do without ‘modern man’. of course. spiritual or angelic levels of reality and balance is lost98’. discipline and self control is relatively easy to understand. Religion and the Order of Nature. ‘Religion and the Environmental Crisis’. the higher levels of the cosmic hierarchies and ultimately God without this ritualized relationship with the natural world’ 99. in Sophia. S.34-36. 1996. S. That is why his responsibility is so grave. we cut nature off from the immediate principles of nature. such as the central rite of Christianity. 2006. Once we consider ‘nature as purely material. 2009 11/09/2009 34/116 . Nasr takes this line of thought much further: nature cannot exist without man. Nasr claims in a Spanish interview97. The Essential Seyyed Hossein Nasr. he concludes. but the divinely ordained traditional rites do. Nasr. Ritual in establishing cosmic harmony Nasr takes the implications of the close interconnection between man and nature a few steps further.H. he does not go into any further detail here. AM Schwencke. in: Chittick (eds).. Unfortunately. which are the psychic. but not without ‘man in his perennial reality’.36-38 100 Nasr. S. However. Nasr is readily admits that this is ‘much more difficult to understand for the modern mind-set100’ and he does not discuss this aspect when addressing the San Rossore Conference on Climate Change.enabled and still enables nature to breath the air of the spiritual world95’.. The Essential Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Not all rituals holds this power. ‘Religion and the Environmental Crisis’. p. in: Sophia.. 99 Nasr. It is a form of virtue ethics. Nasr goes so far as to say that ‘it is impossible for a human collectivity to live in harmony with nature. cosmological and metaphysical reasons’ behind this intricate interrelationship. Yet. in: Chittick (eds). Vol 12. This intricate connection between the inner state of man and outer nature is not self-evident. in: Chittick (eds). ‘Religion and the Environmental Crisis’.

our actions will continue to be misdirected. p278-282. Religion and the Order of Nature. A renewed consciousness of its underlying principles will help humanity re-establish comic and therefore also environmental harmony. 3. its doctrinal. The Key of Traditional Knowledge Regaining knowledge of the principles underlying the true order of reality is a first step toward a solution. The Essential Seyyed Hossein Nasr. in: Chittick (eds). n2 103 Religion and the Order of Nature.34-36. p. p. The Key of Religious Environmental ethics 101 Nasr.. Leiden University.H. Religion .much of his audience. where alone solutions can be found103’. If we remain unconscious of this order. Nasr. n2 AM Schwencke. ‘Religion and the Environmental Crisis’. this ritual aspect is particularly emphasized. S. His aim. p. 2007. Nasr’s Religion an the Order of Nature is dedicated to identifying these basic principles. 102 Religion and the Order of Nature. which may therefore be seen as the master key. in Religion and the Order of Nature101 and an article written for a traditionalist audience. This knowledge can be found at the heart of the major religious traditions. but also practical ‘in the sense of trying to provide one key among others to understand better the deeper dimensions of the current environmental crisis and hence to seek a solution on a level. 1996. the modernist paradigm.H. Yet.25. is not only academic. 1996.5 Solving the Crisis: Religion as the Master Key Convinced that the environmental crisis finds its root causes in a fundamentally thwarted view of reality.has a cardinal and central role to play. We need ‘turn to more than one tradition to bring out an understanding of the relation between religion and the order of nature on a global scale at a time when the threat to the natural order is also global 102’. Nasr proposes an alternative worldview that is based on ‘traditional’ religious metaphysics reformulated in contemporary terms. misguided and will continue to create chaos. 1996. 2009 11/09/2009 35/116 .25. Nasr is offering mankind several keys to a solution: (1) The Key of Traditional Knowledge (2) The Key of Religious Environmental ethics (3) The Key of Spiritual training and Ritual All of these keys are provided by religion. practice and ritual dimensions .

The Key of Spiritual Training and Ritual In addition to knowledge and ethics. considering that most of the world’s population is religious. which is necessarily of a religious nature. Re-establishment of a religious ethical dimension within environmental ethics is therefore an absolute necessity. 2007. not so greedy and so forth? No force in the world today. condition and control the lower passions of their 104 Nasr. Michael with his lance? How are we going to stop people from wanting more and more if not through the power of the Spirit made accessible through religion? [. that the lance of the Spirit alone is able to kill that dragon.A viable environmental ethics needs to be grounded in a ‘moral order’. The Essential Seyyed Hossein Nasr. redirect the economic systems and re-establish harmony with the environment. discipline and self control (virtue-ethics). with no more than rational arguments. ‘Religion and the Environmental Crisis’. 2007. as if this would have any effect whatsoever upon the environmental crisis104’. Without an absolute ‘Archimedean point’ around which our moral universes revolve. that is the passionate soul. the lower soul within us. Leiden University.] How are you going to be able. p10. he adds pragmatically. Nasr believes. p30. ‘ethics lose all foundation’. AM Schwencke. to be less covetous.. in: Chittick (eds). S. 2009 11/09/2009 36/116 .H. of course. ‘Religion and the Environmental Crisis’. the strong practical prejudice against religious ethics is one of the greatest impediments to the solution of the environmental crisis.H. one of which is. to tell people to use less. ‘Most Western intellectuals seem to think about environmental issues. St. On a practical level. has the power to do that unless it be sheer physical coercion106. We rarely think of that issue today.. On a deeper level. Michael’s slaying of the dragon with his lance has many meanings. as if everyone were an agnostic following a secular philosophy.. religions also provide us with the techniques and means to attain the spiritual values and inner ‘state of perfection’ The religions have had thousands of years to deal with the slaying of the passionate ego. it will be ‘difficult to create an environmental ethics that will appeal to men and women in the same way that religious ethics have appealed to people of faith over the ages?’105 Nasr is promoting an environmental ethic that is God-centred (theocentric) and based on the spiritual virtues of contentment. 106 Nasr. Religious systems provide us with time-honoured techniques and accumulated experience of thousands of years that enable humans to train. In addition. But where is St. In Nasr’s view. this will curb consumerism. S. in: Chittick (eds). p33. 2004. this will help mankind to redirect the powerful energies of the soul away from the world of ‘things’ back upwards towards the divine. or what in Sufism is called nafs. The Essential Seyyed Hossein Nasr. 105 Sophia. except religion. the inner dragon to use the symbol used in so many traditions. and so they seek to develop a rational environmental ethics.

the lower soul within us. Only religion can ‘slay the inner dragon’ or what in Sufism is called nafs. 11/09/2009 37/116 AM Schwencke. Others have challenged this claim before.12 Diamond. arts and sciences107. 2004. J. In fact. p. Some essential premises underpin this conviction: (1) traditional societies lived in harmony with its surroundings and (2) the structure of these societies is a direct manifestation of a traditional worldview and set of core principles. 3. the economic and financial systems? Nasr is convinced that the rediscovery of the traditional core principles and importantly living accordingly will help humanity as a whole to regain a healthy balance with nature. 2009 . It is more or less presented a self-evident truth. 2006. It can be criticized on several points. New York. it is unfortunate that Nasr does not elaborate on this point in his publications. A single divine reality is the origin of all the millennial religions that have governed human life over the ages and have created the traditional civilizations with their sacred laws. pollution control. the passionate ego. Collapse (2006)108 seriously questions this assertion. spiritual training is pivotal for developing the necessary faculties that will help us regain our ‘sense of the sacred’. by which institutions and at what levels? What environmental ethics does he have in mind? What are its implications for environmental policy or legislation? What are its consequences for countering climate change. By re-establishing these principles and reorganising our contemporary societies accordingly. Collapse... going to be translated into practice? What do we . Nasr appears to believe that this will result in a renewed collective life style that is in harmony and balance with nature.6 From Worldview to Practice Having identified the keys provided by the ‘traditional’ paradigm. does a direct correspondence between societal structure and the dominant worldview and ethics exist? The gap between worldview and 107 108 modernised humanity – have to actually do in practical term to solve the present crisis? What agenda does Nasr have in mind? Who has to take action. Considering its importance in the argument. where and when? What policies need to be developed. of which ‘greed is the most persistent vice’. preservation of species or on a larger scale of human organisation? What are the implications for the structure of our society. social institutions. Leiden University. energy conservation. For example: were traditional societies more in balance with its surrounding nature? A recent publication by Jared Diamond tracing the causes of collapse of early civilizations. Moreover. Secondly. religions are seen as the primary driving forces behind these civilizations.

in: Taylor. Baird’. 111 ‘The Islamic perspective on the environmental crisis: Seyyed Hossein Nasr in conversation with Muzaffar Iqbal’. This opens up to ardent academic debates among sociologists. Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. This inevitably leads to the question of practical form: What ‘forms’ can these principles be expected to take on in a post-modern context? This issue was already touched on when discussing ethics and divine law.htm. Nasr is 109 For the distinction between ethics and action see ‘Calicott. Nasr refers to these groups: There is a movement going on today on the basis of creating awareness from above and thereby influencing ordinary farmers. and the Schumacher School in Devon.thefreelibrary. AM Schwencke. In his interview with Muzaffar Iqbal. Again I would like to point out that Nasr’s agenda can have strong political and social implications. This is a response to criticism of the Traditionalist perspective by Dr. Accessed at www. England can be given as examples. Thirdly. etc. 110 Upton. 2005. 112 Transcript of the interview with Seyyed Hossein Nasr on 31 October 2008. The implications of reestablishing the traditional metaphysical model on a practical level. all models also proposed by certain Western (April 2009). B. Nasr leaves to be worked out by others. On this level we in the Muslim world need to learn what is going on in the West and to some extent in India and even China111. scholars of comparative religion and touches upon heated polemics about Orientalism. As I said. In our interview. can societies be characterized by its core principles? Underlying this view is a concept of societies as distinctive ‘entities’ with certain ‘essential’ qualities. p.252-253. J. We will discuss some of this later. ‘What is a Traditionalist”? Some Clarifications’.com/info/doc/esotrad/legenehausen. 2 volumes. Leiden University. 2009 11/09/2009 38/116 . accessed at: http://religioscope. 2008. ethics and action has been debated among environmental philosophers and many others109. Some of this will be addressed when discussing Nasr’s understanding of Islam. Hajj Muhammad Legenhausen ‘Why I am not a Traditionalist’. (eds).practice. He does point in a certain directions in various interviews: he clearly favours ‘traditional’ small-scale technologies. accessed Sacred Web: www. but will also have to largely leave these aside. Nasr is pleading for a radical restructuring of society centred on the proposed traditional principles. farming methods and eco-village type communities. New York: Continuum. Charles. historians. Most of Nasr’s work is focussed on the intellectual understanding of the The journal Resurgence published in England. Nasr confirms that he is primarily concerned with the ‘greater vision: ‘You cannot have effective environmental laws without having a greater vision of nature’112.sacredweb. Some critics accuse Nasr of envisaging a return to a medieval feudal society110. builders. the attempts to build environmentally sound villages that preserve traditional agriculture and traditional architecture use much less energy than modern villages and towns. the ‘metaphysical and cosmological dimensions of the environmental crisis.

We are masters over nature only on the condition that we are respecting the rights of all creatures. the… few who have already experienced satori that is illumination in Buddhism. Nobody thought of that. with wisdom and we are […] not masters of it . I believe that the process whereby a few influence the many is the normal state of things. Newton. are nations like you: Umma. Respect.. and not the other way around as others believe’. ‘Worldviews have the power to change social and economic conditions. Ibid. one has to work on oneself first. Not to talk of Christ and the Prophet of Islam. ‘People have to reform themselves. Often these changes are brought about by only a few people ‘who have the power to influence the many’. a key term in Islamic thought that applies also to birds and crawling creatures. They are an Umma. At that time nobody was aware that one of the foundations of the Western worldview was a mechanistic view of nature. before they can reform the world’. He points out that in the seventeenth century ‘just a few. And to have this sense that the whole of nature is impregnated with meaning. Many people flee from reforming themselves. [The view’s of] Plato and Platonism continue right to our own day. is not confined to an 113 114 Ibid. . A spiritually awakened elite will trigger and effectuate the radical transformation that is needed to save our planet. AM Schwencke. a dozen people’. This is the mistake of Marxism and many other –isms of the late history. which would end up in destroying nature. One has to cultivate in oneself a sense of respect for other creatures.convinced that worldviews are the primary driving forces behind any substantial societal change. Nasr makes a clear distinction between the ‘elite’ and the ‘masses’. forty years ago. As the Qur’an says: The animals that creep of the earth. but the ‘fruits of it are widespread’ affecting the culture and civilizations at large. This is a central aspect of my thought115. I was one of the first to predict that. In Japan. 115 Ibid. This ‘process of the few influencing the many’ is therefore the main mechanism behind the translation of worldview into practice. is very small. Kepler and others. Only an elite. on gardening. But the effect of Zen on Japanese culture and upon. at cost of trying to reform the world. with presence. This ‘caught on and from top down and transformed the worldview of Western civilisation’. they have their due114. 2009 11/09/2009 39/116 .. Leiden University. can be expected to fully enter the spiritual Path. Nobody thought of that in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. proposed a new physics. such as Galileo. But as far as the environment is concerned. the fact its view on nature. These will inspire people to follow the spiritual path of inner development. and the great religions113. for the fact that they have their right. earth that fly with their wings. on flowering and so on and so on..

but the spiritual message went through literature to everybody. Religion is also the primary key for realizing a transformation of the worldviews and life styles amongst the ‘masses’. in: Chittick (eds). The whole of Persian literature is imbued with Sufism. 116 117 Ibid. It is within the whole culture of Japan. Nasr. Considering that the vast majority of people of the world still are religious. like great Christian saints. The Essential Seyyed Hossein Nasr. In Islam. What about the non-religious masses of the West? The Western world is vibrant with all sorts of groups and movements combining spirituality with an ecological agenda. the ulama. a few are chosen. ‘Religion and the Environmental Crisis. I am a Persian myself. Some of these also refer to ‘traditional or indigenous’ cultures as examples of sustainable living. Nasr emphasizes that the only ethics acceptable to the vast majority of people in the world is a ‘religious ethics’. as Christ said. something emanates from them to the whole of society116. if the chosen really fulfil their function. AM Schwencke. If not religion. partly by drawing on the ‘fear of God’ and ‘punishment in the afterlife’ as a motivating force for the masses. We will have to look at Nasr’s understanding of Islam and Islamic environmentalism first. to get a better view of the practical implications of some of his ideas. S. For the Islamic world. We will see that Nasr is critical of this type of movements.elite. where there were only a few. p.. So although many are called. This will be discussed in Chapter 6.H. 2009 11/09/2009 40/116 . We will first delve into Nasr’s understanding of Tradition and Islam. 38-39. we have let’s say the great Sufis like Jallauddin Rumi and so. he envisages an important role for the traditional religious scholars. Leiden University. What these claim to be ‘science’ is really ‘New Age pseudo-science of the cosmos117’. however. then what else can motivate the vast majority to curb the consumerist trend? ‘No force in the world can do that except religion’.

Many of Nasr’s publications and lectures share this generalist or as we shall see ‘Perennialist’ perspective. In the next Chapter. We have also seen that ‘Islamic tradition’ and the Islamic perspective on the environmental crisis has had Nasr’s specific attention from the start. and will also help us to understand the affinity of thought with certain Western environmentalist groups and 118 Entry: ‘Seyyed Hossein Nasr’ in: Taylor. Perennial philosophy and Esotericism 4. Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. New York: Continuum. we will have to address the context of his propositions first. and specifically Nasr’s understanding of ‘religion’ and ‘Islam’. in the sense that his environmental work was aiming at a ‘general’ mainly Western audience. Leiden University. like the audience of the San Rossore conference. I will introduce the concept of ‘esotericism’ as defined by a specialist on this field Antoine Faivre. researchers and environmentalists with an interest in environmental issues but with no specific religious background. 2005. Not only has Islamic civilization brought forth an extremely rich body of traditional knowledge . B. We will therefore make an interesting journey. Nasr is also known as an ‘Islamic’ environmentalist.[…] Widely cited by both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. passing by an intriguing twentieth century undercurrent of Western thought referred to as ‘Traditionalism’. before we can move on to ‘traditional(ist) Islam’ and what Nasr considers to be the heart of Islam: Islamic mysticism or Sufism. or ‘Perennial Philosophy’. legalistic reflective thought about nature. 2009 11/09/2009 41/116 . Islam is also still a vibrant and living force in large parts of the world.4 Traditionalism. (eds). This will help us characterize Nasr’s type of thought. we will discuss the Islamic environmental teachings as envisaged by Nasr. In this Chapter. Nasr is convinced that Islam has an important role to play in solving today’s crisis.philosophy. The perspective was ‘generalist’. Some have even come to see him as the ‘founding father of Islamic environmentalism’ considering him … …to be one of the most significant contemporary Iranian philosophers.1 Introduction The previous Chapter introduced us to Nasr’s ‘ecological philosophy’. This consisted of government officials. theology. Reconnecting with the Islamic traditions may prove to be a powerful force to motivate Muslims towards more sustainable life styles and practices. scientific. As such he is considered by many as the “founding father” of contemporary Islamic environmentalism118. To be able to do this properly. 2 volumes. AM Schwencke. Nasr’s thought has provided the foundation for much of the current discussion on Islam and the environment. 2008. Yet.

the ijazah system. It may also designate groups who adhere to local Islamic culture or ‘traditions’.2 Traditionalism Nasr regularly refers to himself as a ‘traditionalist’119 and anyone who is introduced to his work will soon find him classified as a ‘traditionalist’. referring to a ‘strong preference for recourse to tradition as the primary source of authority’120. It has also institutionalized the “connection” with these generations with the isnad system of transmission of hadith. Guénon’s and Schuon’s work and started to contribute regularly to a number of European journals. 121 Biography of the website of the Nasr foundation. within the context of Islamic studies a ‘traditionalist’ may mean various things. as well as theoretical knowledge. Within historical Islam research. Nasr can certainly be classified as a traditionalist. Martin Lings and Marco Pallis. the philosophia perennis and the traditional writings of Frithjof Schuon with their singular emphasis on the need for the practice of a spiritual discipline. The word ‘traditionalist’. collections of sayings and deeds attributed to the Prophet. is highly problematic and it needs a careful and mindful definition to avoid misunderstanding and misrepresentation. etc. This brings us to completely different grounds. www. During this journey. Réné Guénon (1886-1951) and Frithjof Schuon (1907-98) and (of somewhat later date) of Titus Burckhardt. who are more generally called ‘traditionalist’ in the world of Islam. Nasr’s traditionalism is associated with a particular school of thought. Nasr’s work cannot be understood properly if its Traditionalist foundation is not acknowledged. Leiden University. William Graham argues this case in his article on Traditionalism in Islam. which included Nasr. For example. his view of ‘tradition’ is different from others.philosophies. however. sometimes spelled as ‘Traditionalist’. This group eventually became known by the academic community as the ‘Traditionalist school’. In this sense. In this sense traditionalism is “a facet of Islamic religion”. However. Some argue that ‘traditionalism’ is an important facet of Islam as a whole. because it is based on a paradigm that emphasizes the life and practice (Sunna) of the “pious” generations. A traditionalist is “a person’s or group’s strong preference for recourse to tradition as the primary source of authority” (498). According to one of Nasr’s biographies. here meaning the Hadith.nasrfoundation. that were especially instrumental in determining the course of his intellectual and spiritual life’121. that of ‘Traditionalism’. Traditionalism (also ‘perennial philosophy’) refers to a Western ‘school of thought’ that is based on the work of Ananda Coomaraswamy (1877-1947). were inspired by Coomeraswamy’s. it may serve to identify a group of people highly valuing the Traditions. ‘it was the discovery of traditional metaphysics. 2009 11/09/2009 42/116 . we will keep our main question in mind: how does this all relate to Nasr’s ecological message? 4. In the fifties and sixties of the last century a number of AM Schwencke. Characteristic of their work is a critical stance 119 120 Nasr Foundation.

The Traditionalists are. Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy (2000) 122. The term ‘tradition’ indicates both the ‘revelation’. by the same token ensure its spiritual efficacy123.viii. The great world’s religions are all manifestations of this transcendent unity. Shrilanka Institute of Traditional Studies. 2000. We will discuss this group in more detail in Chapter 6 of this thesis. committed to the explication of the philosophia perennis which lies at the heart of the diverse religions and behind the manifold forms of the world’s different traditions. All these ‘traditions’ are expressions or reflections of one ‘Primordial Tradition’. Islam on the Qur’an and so on. the ‘traditionalist agenda’ was to demonstrate the ‘common metaphysical basis of all religions’ or the philosophia perennis. According to Traditionalist understanding ‘authentic’ or ‘integral’ religions are founded on a ‘revelation’ that was intended for a specific human community at a specific moment in time.towards modernity and a strong appreciation of traditional metaphysics. K. Transcendent Unity of Religions The central doctrine is that of ‘the transcendent unity of religions’. 2000. The Taoists ad the 122 Oldmeadow. Beyond all its diversity and ‘multiplicity’. 2009 11/09/2009 43/116 . by definition. Having a shared divine origin. ‘The Traditionalist Approach to Religion’..21. one eternal and unchanging or ‘perennial’ Truth which may be found at heart of all religions. which ‘constituted original or archetypal man’s primal spiritual and intellectual heritage received through direct revelation when Heaven and earth were still “united”’124. Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy. 123 Oldmeadow. Shrilanka Institute of Traditional Studies.. Leiden University. arts and architecture of the various cultures and civilizations. in the form of its metaphysics. According to a particularly lucid source about this school. meaning that ultimately all traditional authentic religions are expressions of one absolute Reality. K. all traditions reflect a ‘remarkable unanimity of views concerning the meaning of human life and the fundamental dimensions of human thought in world as far apart as those of the Eskimos and the Australian Aborigines. The Essential Seyyed Hossein Nasr. p. AM Schwencke.. S. there is a ‘transcendent unity’. Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy. Christianity was founded on the revelation of Christ. social systems. cosmology. and the ‘unfolding and development’ of that message in space and time. in the core these share common perennial grounds. in: Chittick (eds). p. 124 Nasr.H. cosmology and philosophy as expounded in the various religious traditions. philosophy. Although these take on different forms. At the same time they are dedicated to the preservation and illumination of the traditional forms which give each religious heritage its raison d’etre and guarantee its formal integrity and. theology.

We have already seen how Nasr is very critical about New Age movements and their pseudo science. S. otherwise esotericism will become occultism. i. Traditionalists assert. an ‘organ of the soul’. It involves a higher level mode of understanding or contemplation. Most Traditionalists are highly critical of ‘occultist’ or modern hybrid and eclectic forms of spirituality. It is the Absolute and Infinite from which issues goodness. doctrine and practice. the esoteric dimensions refer to their inner significance and meaning. although they share a common core. or the ‘eye of the heart’ which is a specific human faculty. 125 Nasr. not is consciousness limited to the everyday level of awareness of the men and women of present day humanity. It may help us understand why religions. Perennialist literature is replete with highly abstract terminology.. Exoteric and Orthodoxy in practice An essential feature of Traditionalist thought concerns religious ‘orthodoxy’ of doctrines and rituals. 126 Nasr. and that means adherence to the doctrines and practice as expounded by the religious orthodoxy of only one religion126. like the rays of the sun that of necessity emanate from it. This is different from discursive thought which is generally associated with the intellect. Humans need to follow one of the paths ‘that God has chosen for us’. Esoteric. ‘Religion and the Environmental Crisis’ in: Chittick. Traditionalists warn us that this should not lead us to believe that we can pick and choose at will from the various religions. S. meaning one of the paths that were laid out by the ‘integral and authentic’ religions. p. By contrast.Muslims’125. ‘The Traditionalist Approach to Religion’. the concrete religious practice and doctrines. Although many roads lead up the ‘cosmic mountain towards the one truth’. are not all the same. as some critics might assert. In fact. 23. who attempt to explain the Traditionalist approach to religion: According to the philosophia perennis reality is not exhausted by the psychophysical world in which human beings usually function.e.H. Ultimate reality is beyond all determination and limitation. The ‘orthodoxy’ is concerned with the exoteric dimensions of religion. The Essential Seyyed Hossein Nasr.. An example of this is provided by Nasr himself. it is possible to develop a theology or ‘metaphysics’ (a ‘vision of reality’) of comparative religion. It often lacks precise definition and proves difficult to access for uninitiated readers (like myself). The Traditionalists stress that ‘there can be no esotericism without orthodox exotericism’. structure. the religions as expressed in the reality of everyday life are different in form. The Truth of the perennial wisdom can be experienced by the ‘intellect’. 29 AM Schwencke.H. in: Chittick (eds). ‘There is no way of reaching the spirit without choosing a path’. p. Leiden University. 2009 11/09/2009 44/116 . Therefore. This distinction between esoteric and exoteric is central to Traditionalist thought. The Essential Seyyed Hossein Nasr.

the existence of a sacred science and primordial Truth. we will see how this eco-traditionalist view is also taken up by some of the Traditionalists. the term perennial philosophy can be traced back to sixteenth century Vatican librarian Agostino Steucho. who published De Perenni Philosophia in 1540. We would need to enter a specialized theological discourse to get a better grasp of the Traditionalist tenets and doctrines. we have already seen a general outline of some of the main concepts and principles in Chapter 3 when discussing Nasr’s ecological philosophy. practice and law. … Religion itself as an Idea in the Platonic sense [subsists] in the Divine Intellect in its trans-historical reality. Leiden University.underlying all religions as a common ground is not unique to the Traditionalists. The Traditionalist metaphysics are more complicated than can be rehearsed here. ‘the concept of one ancient philosophy and theology going back to paradise …has its roots in late antiquity. S. Also relevant is the strict adherence to orthodoxy.127. According to a specialist on this subject. .… The Principle can be envisaged as the Pure Object but also as the Pure Subject or the Supreme ‘I’ in which case ordinary consciousness is then seen as an outward envelope of the Supreme Self rather than the descent of the Supreme reality into lower realm of the universal hierarchy.. the concept has more ancient roots. a hierarchically ordered universe. It has its archetype in the Divine Intellect and possesses levels of meaning and reality like the cosmos itself. However. especially with the 127 Nasr. Wilhelm Smidt-Biggemann.21. the unity of existence. going back to the Latin and Greek Church fathers and the philosophical theology of Philo of Alexandria. p. In Chapter 6. ‘The Traditionalist Approach to Religion’. 2009 11/09/2009 45/116 .Religion is not only the faith and practices of a particular human collectivity which happens to be the recipient of a particular religious message. in this case applied to the environmental crisis. All religions are not the same and adherence to one of the established orthodox religions is essential. in: Chittick (eds). AM Schwencke. …It is a reality of Divine origin. For those interested in the subject Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy (2000) is recommended. Essential for our understanding is the idea of ‘transcendent unity of all religions’ which is behind Nasr’s conviction that the study of various traditions may help us to uncover a ‘sacred science’ of the order of nature. The Essential Seyyed Hossein Nasr.. Yet. a central position of man.H. It encompasses the belief in a divine centre. meaning adherence to religious doctrines. 4. a close interrelationship between man and nature on all levels of reality. This philosophy can be classified as a distinctly ‘Traditionalist’ or ‘Perennialist’ approach. In fact.3 Perennial Philosophy The idea of a perennial philosophy – a timeless truth .

Plato. K. 131 Huxley. New York: 1970. International Archives of the History of Ideas. It entailed a re-appreciation of Neo-Platonism and Hermeticism. Marsilo Ficino and Giovanni Pico dela Mirandola and ‘in their footsteps’. Medieval and Early Modern Thought. Jezus and so on. 132 Oldmeadow. Gurdjieff. and more recently the spectrum of contemporary spiritual or ‘esoteric’ movements flirting with the idea of the unity of all religions. This type of movements and philosophies are considered as ‘pseudo. Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy. In the seventeenth century perennial philosophy was embraced by Leibniz and later – although in a different guise . These are ‘self-sufficient and 128 Schmidt-Biggeman. Jezus and others. Shrilanka Institute of Traditional Studies.Christian church fathers. to be renewed by the great sages such as Enlightenment icons as Lessing. It was considered to first have been expounded by the great Hermes Trismegistos. Harper&Row. Philosophia Perennis: Historical Outlines of Western Spirituality in Ancient. anthroposophists. The Perennial Philosophy. Leiden University. The crucial difference with the Traditionalists is marked by the role and function of religion. but is critical about the humanist interpretation by the Renaissance philosophers such as Ficino and Pico. Voltaire and others129. p173: ‘This new understanding of freedom meant essentially independence from the sacred world of medieval Christianity and its cosmic order and not freedom from the limitations of the ego and the bonds of material existence…. Nasr is even more critical about the ‘occult’ movements that developed in the nineteenth and twentieth century. 129 In this era the idea of a Primordial Tradition was extremely popular. 2009 11/09/2009 46/116 . In the Renaissance the idea was adopted by Nicholas of Cusa. A good deal of misunderstanding has been sponsored by the notion that all those thinkers and groups which espouse some kind of ‘perennial philosophy’ can be gathered under this insignia: theosophists. starting with Zoroaster.. Agostino Steuco. 2000.. which is generally considered as flawed by the Traditionalists131.or counter traditions’. Orpheus. ‘authentic’ religions are based on revelation.’. Gurdjieffians. Plato. S. which are part of the heritage of authentic Western traditions. W. For Traditionalists. Most people today will know the term ‘Perennial Philosophy’ from the bestselling Perennial Philosophy by Aldous Huxley. neo-Hindu universalists. It often entailed a belief that the perennial wisdom was expounded by a series of great sages. syncretists.. Dordrecht: Springer. Hermes. Nasr clearly appreciates the worldview of Neo-Platonism and Western Hermeticism. who in his view were instrumental in developing a new notion of freedom. 1996. p131.H... which in effect forms at the root of the contemporary crisis130. neo-Deists. and occultists are all herder together with traditionalists like Coomeraswany and Schuon to rub shoulders under this philosophical canopy132. pseudo-mystical romantics. and was newly adopted by the Florentine philosopher Giovanni Pico dela Mirandola who called it philosophia prisca’128. Religion and the Order of Nature. 130 Nasr. A. p158-159 AM Schwencke. such as Blavatsky’s Theosophy. the ‘innate freedom of man from all constraints’. the Order of the Golden Dawn etc. 2004.

according to Faivre. there can be no compromise as concerns the outer ‘exoteric’ forms of revealed religious practice.. Esotericism. p16.1728-1729. Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy.145 136 Antoine Faivre held the first chair for ‘History of esotericism and Mystical Current in Modern and Contemporary Europe’ (Sorbonne. concluding that: ‘Indeed. More importantly. Oldmeadow summarizes it concisely. Paris). Nasr. although Traditionalists may be considered as expositors of a ‘Perennial philosophy’ . 2000. Leiden University. we have to embark on a tour which leads us into a world demarcated by the concept of ‘Western esotericism’ by one of the greatest pioneers of the study of is one of their central concepts . adherence to the injunctions of the religion is an absolute necessity. donations (zakat). AM Schwencke. is central in every religion. while inwardly it contains the truth as such in its teachings whatever the limitations of its forms may be. According to Nasr. 2009 11/09/2009 47/116 . Only each religion emphasises a certain aspect of this relationship. a yearly fast at Ramadan.144. 2 volumes. Allan&Unwin. Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy. K. . ‘Orthodoxy’ i.. 2005. the question of religious forms provides the acid test for separating the traditionalists from other so-called perennial philosophers whose hackles are likely to rise at the mere mention of words like “dogmas” or “orthodoxy”’ 135. p. nature and humankind137’. Antoine Faivre136. and so is the Muslim Traditionalist. 2008. 1975. B. 2000. This French scholar developed a definition of ‘Western esotericism’ that not only proves helpful to us here in categorizing Nasr’s thought. So. but will also help us bridge the gap between Nasr’s philosophy and New Age or ‘modern religiosity and spirituality’ of several contemporary environmental movements . possible134.4 Western Esotericism For a fuller understanding of Traditionalist and Perennialist philosophies. 4. It is therefore worthwhile to bring it to our attention. pilgrimage to Mecca. including the social injunctions. He described this ‘distinct form of 133 134 Oldmeadow. p. 135 Oldmeadow. five daily prayers.their philosophy should not be confused with other ‘perennial philosophies’ that go under the same name. New York: Continuum. should be defined ‘systematically as a certain worldview or as a means to conceptualize cosmos. meaning he (or she) will adhere to the sharia’ite injunctions i. etc. That is why to have lived any religion fully is to have lived all religions and there is nothing more meaningless or even pernicious than to create a syncretism from various religions with a claim to universality while in reality one is doing nothing less than destroying the revealed forms which alone make the attachment of man to God. K. K. p.. Islam and the Realities of Islam. S.e.H.entirely adequate in providing all things needful to the civilisations in which they have appeared133’. A Christian Traditionalist is necessarily orthodox. ‘Western esotericism’ in: Taylor. Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. The relation between man and God …. the pillars of faith. 137 Stuckrad.

each part of the visible and invisible universe is connected and every single part mirrors one of the others in a symbolic way. This is either a sociological characteristic indicating the necessity of being introduced to a spiritual tradition or the legitimatization of authority or “authenticity” by means of an age old chain of masters. 3) Imagination and Mediation … it implies the possibility of mediation between the higher and the lower worlds. In this view. I will quote the summary of the definition given by Kocku von Stuckrad in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature138: 1) Doctrine of correspondences.1728-1729. four of which are crucial for esotericism and two depending on the context. p. 6) Transmission of esoteric teachings from master to disciple. which according to Faivre entailed a 138 Ibid. 11/09/2009 48/116 AM Schwencke. the beginning of ‘Western esotericism’ is marked by the Neo-platonic and Hermetic revival of fifteenth century Europe.. But correspondences may also exist between nature (or the cosmos). being revealed like the Bible itself. which is the key to understanding medieval. Imagination is not only a form of clear concentration necessary for magical rituals but was also depicted in early modern times as a particular “organ of the soul” which can establish a cognitive and visionary relationship with the intermediate world. there exist obvious or veiled correspondences between the different layers of the material and immaterial world (e.thought’ in terms of six characteristics. as it is of magic since ancient and renaissance times. Considering its importance of this definition to this study. two other characteristics are applicable: 5) Praxis of concordance alludes to the frequent attempt to display the commonalities between two or more – ideally even all – different traditions. This is also an assumption of a particular branch of the Western philosophy of nature. Historically. 4) Experience of Transmutation: This denotes the process of personal initiation on a spiritual path. In addition. following the well known principle of “Microcosm. Prominent examples are the belief in a prisca theologia (old theology) or a philosophia perennis (eternal philosophy) that captured the imagination of medieval and Renaissance scholars. by the way of ritual and symbolic performance or through revelatory agents like angels or intermediate spirits. and early modern talk of the “book of Nature”. Macrocosm”. the human body or planets on the other). Nature and scripture are believed to be in harmony. The correspondences take the form of two different approaches to reality.g between planets on the one hand and metals. 2009 . 2) The doctrine of living nature conceptualizes the universe as a dynamic system in which all interconnected parts are animated. Leiden University. either through a social event or as a private change of status. history and revealed texts.

1996. inbetween type: bound to be still too religious for fully secular mentalities. produced a twofold result: a secularization of the cosmos at the expense of the sense of the sacred and on the other hand a revival of magia in the sense of a participatory philosophy of nature.e. A. considering Nasr’s efforts to contrast ‘secular modernity’ to ‘Traditional paradigms’. W. This development of New Age Religions is traced and analysed in Hanegraaff’s seminal work New Age Religions and Western Culture – Esotericism in the Mirror of secular Thought (1996). both developed religious theories. as attempts to ‘reformulate traditional beliefs in modern terms’. The discovery of nature as an organic and lawful domain worthy of attention in its own right. of Esotericism as defined by Faivre. New Age is characterized by Hanegraaff as a ‘secularized’ form of ‘esotericism’. Nasr’s thought.408 AM Schwencke. This both Christian theology and esotericism have their traditionalist conservatives and their liberal minded modernists. In doing so. In fact. eventually re-emerged as ‘New Age’ religion of the eighties and nineties of the twentieth century. considering his dedication to the Islamic tradition. It is a question of debate whether Nasr’s Traditionalist 139 140 References to: Faivre. a ‘reaction to the ‘mechanisation of the image of the world’139. I suggest we can classify Nasr’s Traditionalist philosophy as a manifestation of a non-secularized version of ‘Western Esotericism’ i. Considering the resemblances with the Traditionalist doctrines. In the case of esotericism specifically the former group rejects occultism as a perversion (such as for instance Guénon)140. speculations and practices of a new. Under influence of secularisation both Christian theology and esotericism attempted to ‘update traditional tenets and present them as relevant to the secular world’. According to the Dutch scholar Wouter Hanegraaff. of course also needs to be analysed within an Islamic framework. could actually be taken to characterize Nasr’s work. 2009 11/09/2009 49/116 . the subtitle of Hanegraaff’s work.‘reconstitution of a traditional cosmology’. Traditionalism and its particular understanding of perennial philosophy need to be evaluated within this larger context of movements and streams of thought developing in the Western world under the banner of Faivre’s ‘Western Esotericism’. Leiden University. Both can be defined as ‘products of a clash of worldviews’. a counter-current against the ‘secularisation of the cosmos’. yet too secular for those who wish to defend tradition against latter day contaminations. p. In my opinion. Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought. Esotericism’ and ‘Renaissance Hermeticism’ Hanegraaff. this current later developed into two distinct streams: Occultism (such as Blavatsky’s theosophy) and Romanticism in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. ‘Ancient and medieval Sources’. Leiden: Brill. Occultism which has a stronger affinity to modern science than Romanticism. New Age Religions and Western Culture – Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought.

If this is the case.). p. S. esoterical or ‘gnostic’ currents and have proposed various theories to explain this phenomenon141. Only Corbin is mentioned.67 AM Schwencke. p. alongside the major religious structure. 144 Nasr. although trained in the West. Nasr himself. These were all Europeans and have been criticized for their attempts to ‘construct’ a Westernized interpretation of Islam. Leiden: Brill. 1996. The outcome of this situation is that it forms a cluster of religious communities that have one feature in common: a similar minor religion that is contained within them.462 143 There is little reference to the Traditionalists contributions to exposing Islamic spirituality in Hanegraaff’s work. it remained difficult for Westerners living in the late 19th century to achieve an adequate and balanced perspective on Hinduism or Buddhism as they actually functioned in their own cultural context’142. He is convinced that Frithjof Schuon has ‘placed for the Western public the most inward aspect of the Islamic message’144 and has not ‘constructed’ an Islam to fit his European sensibilities. ‘Gnosticism. Can the same be said of the twentieth century early Traditionalists. had also studied with some of the greatest masters of Persian mystical and philosophical traditions. Platvoet (eds.258-271.. Leiden University. W. Can it be said that he is ‘constructing’ a westernized version of Islam’? Some critics assert that he does. but as a rule they adjust to the religious system by which they are absorbed. New Age Religions and Western Culture – Esotericism in the Mirror of secular Thought..all three belong to the type of religious movement that crosses over ethnic. Other scholars have also noted the apparent ‘universality’ of mystical. Knowledge and the Sacred.268-270.H. reading or projecting ‘Western concepts’ onto Oriental traditions. some of whom were instrumental in opening up the Islamic terrain of ‘esotericism’ to the West143 and who had also influenced Nasr: Schuon.understanding of Islam – which will be discussed shortly . rather like the linguistic term 'Sprachbund'. J. Modern Societies & the Science of Religions (NUMEN Bookseries 95). magic and mysticism [here: esotericism]. 142 Hanegraaff. Hanegraaff points out that the nineteenth century understanding of Oriental religions were ‘consistently idealized and adapted to Western conditions’. We will first have to discuss the type of Islam Nasr has in 141 Shaul Shaked.A. 2009 11/09/2009 50/116 . Guénon and Burckhardt. why refer to a distinctly ‘Western’ category of Esotericism? Why not introduce a more universal category of ‘Esotericism’? Perennialists will argue that ‘esotericism’ is in fact the ‘inner heart’ of all authentic religions and as such universal. One may speak here of a large area of religious affinity. an Israeli scholar of religion discussed this phenomenon from a slightly different perspective. 1989. religious and cultural boundaries.can be classified as a form of ‘Western Esotericism’. One of the major points of criticism that Perennialists tend to attract concerns this question universality and perennial wisdom: does it exist at all? Some suggest that the alleged ‘universal wisdom’ it is a construction of the Western mind. Nasr is aware of these debates and responds to these allegations. p.. p. in contrast to a structural or genetic kinship between religions’. …We can talk of a whole complex of ideas that is not peculiar to a given religion. as we shall see. In spite of widespread interest in the Orient. Leiden 2002. but is shared by more than one community. Wiegers.G. In: ‘The Science of religion in Israel’ in: G. Religious ideas are notoriously capable of travelling from one culture to another. Albany: State University of New York Press.

L. as we will discuss later when analysing contemporary Traditionalist networks (Chapter 7). 2001. one of the main expositors of traditional Islam and Sufism in the West with whom I have been in close relationship during the past forty years. p. a Muslim by birth. the Alawiyya. We will see how Nasr is related to Schuon in many other ways as well. others less. which was later to become the Maryamiyya.E.5 Traditionalism and Islam Interestingly. Nasr. Leiden University.K. Titus Burkhardt and Martin Lings. Several branches grew out of this foundation. This distinctly Islamic dimension of Traditionalism is not always recognized. Some were to emphasize Islam more. most of the first exponents of Traditionalism were scholars of Islam and often also converts to Islam: Réné Guénon.40-41. Titus Burckhardt. We will see that his Islamic ‘esoteric’ doctrines show remarkable resemblances with the ‘Esotericism’ as defined by Faivre. Schuon was the first to establish a Western branch of a Sufi order. with whom I remained closely associated until his death in 1998. The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. 4.mind. Guénon became a respected Egyptian sheikh for example. 2009 . and Martin Lings. who influenced my thought in numerous ways especially in the fields of traditional cosmology and the traditional philosophy of art. (eds). In his autobiography Nasr articulates the significance of these men to his intellectual formation: Important were my meetings from 1957 onward in Europe with the outstanding representatives of the perennial philosophy and tradition in Europe at that time. was influenced in particular by Frithjof Schuon and his ‘Perennialist’ understanding of Islam. Frithjof Schuon. 145 An Intellectual Autobiography’ in: Hahn. Marco Pallis who introduced me to the metaphysics of Tibetan Buddhism. 11/09/2009 51/116 AM Schwencke. including first and foremost the incomparable metaphysician Frithjof Schuon. Coomaraswamy on my intellectual formation145. I can hardly overemphasize the influence of these figures along with René Guénon and A.

1985. E. particularly in the Schuon lineage. 2001. ‘Islam and Ideology: Towards a Typology’ in: International Journal of Middle East Studies.1 Introduction Nasr dedicated the largest part of his life to the study of the ‘Islamic tradition’ and Sufism. Although somewhat dated. There are nearly as many labels as there are Muslims. 148 Nasr. Ideas of what Islam is are fervently discussed by Muslims and non-Muslims alike and a wide spectrum of positions – from to conservative. in his own words. 2009 11/09/2009 52/116 . his typology still proves to be helpful and I will use it at the end of this Chapter when attempting to position Nasr’s understanding of Islam within the wider spectrum of contemporary Islamic thought.2 Traditional Islam Nasr’s Traditional Islam in the Modern World (1985) opens with a definition of ‘traditional Islam’148: ‘Traditional Islam’ is the Islam lived for centuries by theologians and jurists. ’we cannot avoid labels if we are to talk about things.. it is first and foremost rooted in classical ‘traditional’ Islamic scholarship. not only intellectually but also existentially146’. W. Yet. p. intensely diverse positions. Leiden University. (eds). no3. Numerous typologies have been developed in an attempt to label the multi-varied. fundamentalist to modernist. L. but as Nasr will emphasize. on the other hand. by Sufis and simple people of faith throughout the Islamic world. p. theologically and philosophically. AM Schwencke. by philosophers and scientists. but also ideologically. Shepard. by artists and poets. vol.H.307-335. We will not enter this hornet’s nest extensively here. It has also been a living practice to him. and we certainly cannot begin to make sense of an area as vast and complex as the modern Muslim world unless we can analyse its manifold phenomena into a manageable number of categories with suitable designations.40-41. 5. he ‘embraced Sufism. to quote the scholar William Shepard. Traditional Islam in the Modern World. S. from secular Marxist to liberal – can be distinguished. Sufism 5. august 1987. The world of Islam is wide and varied. It is not a question of whether we use labels.. The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr.19. but how we use them147’. during the fourteen centuries of Islamic history – the 146 147 ‘An Intellectual Autobiography’ in: Hahn.5 Traditional Islam. not only geographically. Nasr’s understanding of Islam is firmly rooted in Traditionalism.E. This book can be considered a continuation of two earlier studies on traditional Islamic views that are in confrontation with the modern world: Islam and the Plight of Modern Man and Islamic Life and Thought. ever since. taken in by Muslims in the various parts of the world.

‘Traditional Islam’ accepts150: (1) the Qur’an as the Word of God and its traditional commentaries (tafsir). Both fundamentalists and modernists bypass the ‘numerous schools of thought.H. because Nasr immediately positions his understanding of Islam within the contemporary discourses about what Islam is. Nasr considers both Shi’ite and Sunni sources and interpretations as part of ‘traditional Islam’. In his view. and who strive after a pristine form Islam reflecting the practice (Sunna) of the Prophet or the Rightly Guided Caliphs. all belong to a single Islamic tradition. or rather one ‘Islamic universe’ which is centred on the concept of unity (tawhid). the variety of schools of thought. Ibid. Interestingly. legal schools. Hadith and Sharia’. ijma and ihtihsan. Leiden University. ‘Traditional Islam’ to Nasr. of both the Sunni and the Shi’i world and the traditional Hadith scholarship151 and (3) the Sharia as the Divine Law. Islam is: 149 150 Nasr. denying the ‘possibility of revelation. philosophy. who call for a return to the origins of Islam. Traditional Islam in the Modern World. orthodoxy and heterodoxy’ that. from the Atlantic to the Pacific149. 2009 11/09/2009 53/116 . p. but only according to the classical legal principles of qiyas.14-15 151 Hadith are the ‘sayings and deeds’ that are attributed to the prophet Muhammad. according to Nasr. Ibid. Nor is it a ‘modernist’ re-interpretation of Islam in the light of the humanistic and rationalistic or (worse in his eyes) Marxist trends of Western thought. Islam is not the idealized interpretation of Islam striven after by ‘fundamentalists’. He is pointing towards a longstanding and heated debate between Muslim scholars and western academic scholars. (2) the orthodox collections of Hadith. here taken to include all the fruits of fourteen hundred years of Islamic civilization. viii. who adhere to the historical-critical method. is a living practice. S. Closely following the tenets of classical Islamic scholarship Nasr emphasizes that ‘all morality is derived from these three sources: Qur’an.. This is significant. architecture. spanning the complete Islamic intellectual tradition in all its manifestations. oral transmission or direct knowledge’. 1985. p. With ‘Sharia’ he refers to that body of legal rulings as these were understood and interpreted over the centuries and as these had crystallized in the classical schools of law (madhab). Despite this immense diversity. there is only one ‘Islam’. arts.p12 AM Schwencke. juridical and theological interpretations. its theology. to the pure message of the Qur’an and to the teachings of the Prophet. what characterizes ‘traditional Islam’ is its enormous diversity and richness. In fact. Interpretation or application of the Law to new situations is possible (ijtihad). Nasr contrasts traditional Hadith scholarship with western historical Hadith-criticism. sects.Islam which is in fact still followed by the vast majority of Muslims..

He may therefore be expected to have an opinion about the Wilayat-i faqih doctrine of Khomeini that is explicitly theological-political. and certainly in the years afterwards. social. Nasr emphasizes that the esoteric dimension of Islam is not opposed to. can be made to emanate this ‘presence’. R. as well as the injunctions relating to social. Nasr was closely involved with many of the keyplayers of the Iranian revolution. S. This is the inner or esoteric dimension or ‘heart’ of the Islamic revelation. because it is the ‘crystallisation of the inner dimension or spirituality in visible and audible form’.. Traditional Islam in the Modern World. Leiden University.More time is needed before the consequences of the concept of the Wilayat-I faqih and its application in the political domain can be evaluated…. Stone. According to himself. political and economic dimensions of traditional Islam? This topic is interesting for several reasons. economical and social dimensions of the environmental crisis153. he had kept his distance from politics in the years building up to the revolution. political and economic life. Nasr. ‘Reply to Lucian Stone’ in: Hahn. but he was acutely aware of the developments. p. In his ‘Perennialist’ expositions Nasr did not work out any of the specific forms of these ‘traditional’ societal structures. p827. 2001. when created according to the principles as revealed by the Qur’an. Islamic art is as ‘significant to the survival of religion as the sharia’. In conformity with Traditionalist thought and with the synthesis of orthodoxy and mysticism proposed by the medieval scholar Al-Ghazzali (d. Auxier. L. He discusses this in his reply to Lucian Stone. ‘… this is a very sensitive subject as far as the present situation in Iran and contemporary interpretations of Shi’ism are concerned.H. alms giving and a pilgrimage to Mecca. Social and political dimensions What about the social. S. and whose trunk and branches constitute that body of tradition that has grown from those roots over some fourteen centuries in nearly every inhabited quarter of the globe152. Jr. political and economic structures of the societies. L. AM Schwencke.a ‘single tree of Divine origin whose roots are the Qur’an and the Hadith. ‘Preface’ in: The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. meaning the ritual and legal obligations.E. We have seen how Nasr is promoting the ‘traditional paradigm’. both of the Imperial Court and of religious scholars. Art forms.. Sufism is an inextricable part of this Islamic universe. dietary rules and others. but rather complementary to the outer exoteric dimensions of Islam.’. but ‘presence’ or Barakah as well. Religion does not only possess and express Truth.11-12 His political views are also interesting for other reasons. 2009 11/09/2009 54/116 .. Orthodoxy of doctrine and practice is an inextricable part of Islam as Nasr understands it.H. a yearly fast.E. .1111). 1985. such as prayer. it is meant to be an alternative to the in his view dysfunctional modern worldview.. but the most important one concerns the inherent and inevitable political. The question is: is he more specific about the social and political implications of traditional Islam? 152 153 Nasr. A transformation of the collective paradigm – he believes will eventually result in a transformation of the judicial. A Muslim will therefore have to adhere to the ritual obligations.W.

E. Possibly.. This is unfortunate considering the potential radical implications of his ‘vision’. Traditional Islam in the Modern World. in the hope of installing another Abu Bakr or Umar. It is propagated as a social ideal by quite a few 154 155 Nasr. Al-Ghazzali. Abu’l Hasan Al-Shadhili and Ahmad Sirhindi. Traditional Islam in the Modern World. S. a variety of political structures is possible154.828. this ‘ideal’ may take on different forms.H. ‘Preface’ in: The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Economics needs to be ‘wedded to morality preserving personal human contacts and trust between individuals’.17. S.H. Stone. Most important is that: Under no condition does it [reform] seek to destroy what remains of traditional Islamic institutions. We have also seen this emphasis on the influence and efficacy of a small spiritually enlightened elite on society as a whole in Chapter 3. nor fundamentalist political theories. 157 Nasr refers to the ‘great saints and sages Abd Al-Qadir Al-Jilani.E. Leiden University.17. he is more explicit in some of his other work.H. Clearly. 2001. ‘Reply to Lucian Stone’ in: Hahn.. Unfortunately. the general aim for Muslim societies is to create a ‘more Islamic order’ based on traditional Islamic institutions. Nasr does not favour Islamized European revolutionary. as opposed to ‘impersonal and grandiose organizations’. such as the sultanate. Rather he emphasizes the value of the in-built constraints of the traditional institutions. 1985. but meanwhile settling for some sort of dictatorship. his whose absence no form of government can be perfect. However.In Traditional Islam in the Modern World (1985).W. Moreover. Nasr. S.. for instance may accept traditional institutions such as ‘the caliphate or in its absence. even though they are presented as authentic Islamic forms of government155. L. 2009 11/09/2009 55/116 . Nasr does not work out any of these crude outlines of a ‘traditional’ Islamic socio-political theory. believing that the final authority belongs to the Twelfth Imam. social life will need to reflect ‘sharia’ite institutions such as the family. He stresses the need for societies to be ‘revived from within’. R.17 AM Schwencke. which is instigated by ‘renewers' (mujaddid)157’.H. The Sunni. Traditional Islam in his view ‘rejects in its political aspects all the ideological and revolutionary concepts that grew out of nineteenth century European thought’156. Nasr points in certain directions. 1985. Traditional Islam in the Modern World. 156 Nasr.. 1985. For Shi’ites. such dictatorships are usually outwardly based on external forms of political institutions derived from the French revolution and other upheavals of European history. which developed over the centuries in the light of the teachings of the sharia and the needs of the community’. The concept of the caliphate in itself is politically volatile. Auxier. S. In a traditional Muslim society. village and local urban quarters’ and generally a ‘social fabric based on bonds created by religion’. which are controlled by political restraints. p. p. An ideal civilisation is directed at ‘preserving what is sacred’. In: Nasr.. other political institutions. L. Jr. p. p. calling on the traditional image of socio-political revival. As for the political domain.

Stone.E. The Future of Political Islam. Stone. 158 Fuller. Nasr points out that he is not a religious scholar and as such is not qualified to work out shari’ite injunctions: ‘Vis-à-vis the Sharia.. Nasr replies: If I were to say that Islam has nothing to do with the political realm and is in principle apolitical.. my duty has been first of all to live according to it and secondly to point out its significance and meaning without giving juridical edicts for which by training I am not qualified’160. 2003. L. Shi’ite debates about the role of government.H. Auxier. have gained a sharp edge ever since Khomeini developed his Wiliyat-i Faqih doctrine. Nasr seems to take for granted that Muslim societies will necessarily need to be grounded on the precepts of ‘traditional Islam’. 2001. ‘Reply to Lucian Stone’ in: Hahn.H. ‘Preface’ in: The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. along with spiritual and intellectual teachings. then I certainly would not be opening the door to any form of secularism. Jr. The practical implications in the sphere of politics. 2001. then I would certainly open the door for secularism.. economics or shari’ite law are left to be worked out by others. 159 This is a deviation from traditional Shi’ism according to Nasr. endowing political power on the class of religious scholars159. Auxier. institutions.H. As concerns sharia. L. p829.W.E.contemporary political Islamists158.. ‘Reply to Lucian Stone’ in: Hahn.E. which encompasses all of life and applies to the socio-political as well as the personal realm.W. Muslim societies have never been exclusively Muslim. But if I were to say that Islam possesses a Sharia. 2009 11/09/2009 56/116 . Leiden University. S.E. S.E. Jr.. 160 Nasr. A categorization of various political ideologies is presented in p. as we have also noted in Chapter 3. p830 161 Nasr. and that I accept all these dimensions but will concern myself primarily with the intellectual and spiritual dimensions. ‘Preface’ in: The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. of course. In Chapter 6 on ‘Muslim Environmentalism’.. p829. Jr. policies and politics. S.E.125-131. Auxier.. Criticized for his apolitical approach. we will see how the Islamic eco-activist Fazlun Khalid fuses the caliphate-ideal with environmentalist ideals of small-scale communities. Stone.. Graham E. many of its inhabitants were Christians or otherwise. R. L. ‘Preface’ in: The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. L. L. intercultural world very few countries are determined by one specific religious ‘universe’. The question of course is: is this self-evident? In our globalizing. Apart from this. if there ever were any. R. Nasr is concerned with the overall paradigm: the ‘metaphysics’ behind the structures. L. 2001.W. R. What criteria is he proposing to identify a country to be ‘Muslim’? What about the non-Muslims in these societies? What about Muslims living in non-Muslim countries? What aspects of a ‘traditional Islamic paradigm’ should be taken to guide overall societal reform? Generally. My position is the second and not the first161. ‘Reply to Lucian Stone’ in: Hahn. This does not mean that traditional Islam is apolitical.47-51 en p. AM Schwencke. Nasr.

Generally Nasr keeps his distance from politics, firstly because of his ‘personal attraction to prime philosophy and natural philosophy, rather than philosophy dealing with law, society, and politics’, but secondly also because of the ‘personal need to stand above the din of political contention’, implicitly alluding to the 1979 Revolution and the repercussions of this to his personal life162. Yet, even so, his political activities have increased since September 11, 2001. He has been actively promoting an ‘alternative Islam’, an ‘antidote’ to both modernist and fundamentalist interpretations of Islam. He is dedicated to ‘explaining the authentic teachings of Islam ’in a manner acceptable to mainstream Islamic thought and comprehensible to the general Western public’. His recent The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values of Humanity (2004) is written to this end163. He is also actively involved in various interfaith and dialogue projects, such as A Common Word. This aspect of his life and work we will have to leave aside in this thesis. 5.3 Sufism, Islamic mysticism

Sufism or Islamic mysticism is the ‘esoteric or inward dimension of Islam164’. The German scholar of Islam, Anne Marie Schimmel defines Sufism in her monumental Mystical Dimensions of Islam as ‘an interiorizaton of Islam, a personal experience of the central mystery of Islam which is the Oneness of God (tawhid). It entails a life of loving devotion, with immediate (unmediated) knowledge derived directly from God’165. Yet, Sufism is more than an inner path. Institutionalized forms of mysticism, such as the Sufi brotherhoods (tariqa’s) that are organized around a Sufi master, have played a vital role within traditional Islamic societies. Although contested by fundamentalist groups, Sufi inspired movements are still important social and political forces within Islamic societies166. It cannot be the aim to enter this vast and intriguing world of Sufism here. We will limit ourselves to Nasr’s understanding of Sufism. We have seen how he is promoting the path of inner development as a means of curbing consumerism (the lower passions of man) and as a means to regain our ‘sense of the sacred’. Considering the great diversity of outlooks, views, practices within the world of Sufism, what kind of Sufism is Nasr promoting? What kind of spiritual practice does he adhere to? And more significantly, does this affect his ecological views or visa versa? With these questions we are

It would take more research to discuss Nasr’s position during and after the Revolution. The main problem was probably related his close associating with the Imperial court at the time. 163 Nasr, S.H. The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity, New York: HaperCollins, 2004. p. xiii. 164 Definition provided by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, in: Chittick, The Essential Seyyed Hossein Nasr, p.74. 165 Schimmel, A.M., Mystical Dimensions of Islam, 1975, p.3-5. 166 In Senegal it is estimated that more than 60% of the population is in someway linked to one of the brotherhoods. Egypt, the only country with a registration, counts as many as 6 million Sufi’s, % of the population. As related by Pierre Lory at the Honours Class, Leiden University, 11 april 2008.
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entering another domain, which is closely related to the Traditionalist school’ and traditional Islam, but that also opens up a vast new landscape of Sufism. The best entrance to Nasr’s understanding of Sufism is probably his recent The Garden of Truth: The Vision and Promise of Sufism, Islam’s Mystical Tradition (2007) which he considers as ‘the fruit of over fifty years of both scholarly study of and existential participation in Sufism’167. Nasr intended it to be an introduction to Sufism for the general public, presenting the inner teachings of Sufism from within, ‘as did the authorities of old but in a manner accessible to the present day serious Western seeker or Western-educated Muslim seeker….168’. The Garden of Truth outlines the metaphysical foundations of Sufism: the meaning and significance of human existence, the meaning of knowledge and truth (Gnosis), love, devotion and beauty. It specifies the spiritual ethics as a guide to human action and introduces some of the spiritual practices and techniques that help to achieve the aspired ‘unity with the Divine’. Sufism is the ‘Islamic spiritual path that, makes it possible for us to reach the ‘Here and Now… the ever present gateway to the Divine’. It possess a key that can open the door to our inner levels of existence and allows us to know who we are, what we are doing here, and where we should be going. It also makes possible knowledge and love of God at the highest level….It is one of the most complete, well preserved and accessible of spiritual paths in our world169’. Nasr’s Sufism is distinctly Islamic, it is an Islamic spiritual path which is deeply rooted in the Islamic tradition and is founded firmly on the Divine Law or Sharia. Nasr is therefore critical about pseudo-Sufi masters and movements that have disassociated themselves from Islam, such as Gurdjieff, Inyat Khan and Idris Shah, and uncompromising as concerns Muslim ‘orthodox’ practice. ‘While beginning with the Sharia as the basis of the religious life, [Sufism] seeks to take a further step toward that Truth (haqīqah) which is also the source of Sharia’170. The exposition of Sufi metaphysics strongly resembles the Perennialist metaphysics of the Traditionalist school171. ‘The message of Sufism is ‘perennial’, Nasr emphasizes, because ‘… as long as we are human, the question that each individual faces is: “Who am I?” The response of

Nasr. S.H., The Garden of Truth: The Vision and Promise of Sufism, Islam’s Mystical Tradition, HarperCollins, 2007. p.xiv. 168 Ibid., p. xiii. 169 Ibid., p.141. 170 Ibid., , p.5. 171 Interestingly, Nasr does not refer to any of the Traditionalist doctrines explicitly, although the book contains many implicit references to Schuon and other traditionalists and Schuon, Burckhardt and Guenon are mentioned in the appendix as the ‘foremost authorities on traditional metaphysics and perennial philosophy’. Their publications are central to the bibliography. I suspect this somewhat ‘hidden’ Traditionalist influence is related to some of the controversies that have come to be attached to Traditionalism and Perennialism in the Muslim world. I will discuss some of this towards the end of this Chapter and in Chapter 6.
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Sufism to this perennial question resonates today as it has always done for those whose ears are sensitive to its call and who yearn for illuminative knowledge’172. Doctrinal Sufism and the Irfan tradition A central aspect of the Sufi path is the ‘way of knowledge’, to Nasr meaning: ‘illuminative or gnostic knowledge which can only be fully realized by spiritual practice173’. Nasr introduces the term ‘doctrinal or theoretical Sufism’ (al-tasawwuf al-‘ilmi in Arabic; ‘irfān-I nazari in Persian) or Gnosis (al-ma’rifah in Arabic and ‘Irfān in Persian), which he considers to be the metaphysical framework underlying Sufism. This is presenting ‘those in search of Truth’ with a ‘map of the structure of reality and the road that is to be followed to transcend the cosmic labyrinth’174. He identifies this with the philosophia perennis, the Supreme or Sacred Science (scientia sacra), the timeless wisdom and contrasts this with ‘practical Sufism (al-tasawwuf al‘amalī)’ or the spiritual practice. This is both Primordial Tradition and a living historical tradition. The father and founder of the historical tradition of theoretical gnosis or doctrinal Sufism is the thirteenth century Andalusian master Ibn Arabi (Muhyi al-Din Ibn Arabi: d1224)175. The Shaykh al-Akbar (‘the greatest master’) was the first to draw a ‘full map’ of Sufi metaphysics or gnosis, the crystallization of the doctrinal aspects of earlier Sufism. His work greatly influenced later Sufism in various parts of the Muslim world176. One could say with the possible exception of al-Ghazzali, there is no single intellectual figure more influential than Ibn Arabi during the last eight centuries of Islamic history177. Agreeing with Nasr, Schimmel emphasizes that Ibn Arabi’s influence can hardly be overrated: ‘His writings constitute the apex of mystical theories’. She also classifies his type of Sufism as ‘gnostic’, also using the word ‘theosophical’. ‘The Gnostic type strives for a deeper knowledge of God, attempting to know the structure of His universe, often resulting in complex mystical172

Nasr. S.H., The Garden of Truth: The Vision and Promise of Sufism, Islam’s Mystical Tradition, HarperCollins, 2007. p.6. 173 Ibid., p.32. 174 Ibid, p.33 175 In the appendix to The Garden of Truth, Nasr charts the historical ‘tradition of theoretical Sufism and Gnosis’ tracing its spiritual and intellectual lineage back to Ibn Arabi. Appendix 2: The Tradition of theoretical Sufism and Gnosis’ in: Nasr. S.H., The Garden of Truth: The Vision and Promise of Sufism, Islam’s Mystical Tradition, HarperCollins, 2007. p. 210-234. It is shortened version of an article of: Nasr, S.H. ‘Theoretical Gnosis and Doctrinal Sufism and Their Significance Today’ in: Transcendent Philosophy 1, 2000, p.1-36. 176 See: Nasr, S.H. ‘Theoretical Gnosis and Doctrinal Sufism and Their Significance Today’ in: Transcendent Philosophy 1, 2000, p.1-36 177 Nasr, S.H., Garden of Truth, 2007. p. 210.
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theosophical interpretations of religion with influences of Gnosticism. which Nasr clearly identifies with the Traditionalist doctrines. AM Schwencke. Islamic Mysticism Contested: Thirteen Centuries of Controversies and Polemics.philosophical. This is what is called the doctrine of the “transcendent unity or oneness of being”. Two of Nasr’s personal teachers stand in this tradition: Kazim Assar (d1975) and Allamah Tabataba’i (d1983). which is also the heart of the message of the Qur’an. With this. 1999. p. Mystical Dimensions of Islam. This single reality manifests all the levels of existence through reflections of its Selfdetermination upon what he and others call the mirror of nothingness. The oral tradition based on Ibn ‘Arabian teachings was also kept alive by the twentieth-century Sufi master of the Maghrib. I believe. Brill. In Persia. Shaykh al-Alawi. who is said to have initiated Schuon into the Alawiya order and is therefore also linked with Nasr as we will see later on. …which is he hallmark of his school and of much of Sufism in general. is a renowned specialist on Ibn Arabi. 2007. A. I would like to quote Nasr at some length about what he considers central to Ibn Arabi’s doctrinal teachings: The central teaching … concerns the doctrine of unity. for example. which have been subject of heated disputes in Muslim quarters for centuries180. But for [Ibn Arabi] the assertion of this unity means not only that God is one but that ultimately reality is one. The Persian tradition of ‘Irfan is related. 265-266. Ibn ‘Arabi also discusses the 178 Schimmel. 181 Schimmel. Hermeticism and Neo-Platonic thought’178.185.H. B. Considering the centrality of Ibn Arabi to Nasr’s own philosophy and views.M. interpretations of his work vary greatly attributing this to the fact that various historical influences ‘make Ibn Arabi’s work look very complicated181’. his work is permeated by an Akbarian or Ibn ‘Arabian spirit. p. The Traditionalist Titus Burkhardt ‘opened the door for the understanding of Ibn Arabi in the West’ with his French translation of the Bezels of Wisdom and William Chittick. Nasr traced the influence of the ‘Akbarian current’ in later Sufism in various parts of the world. yet also distinct to the seventeenth century Transcendent Theosophy or Philosophy (al-hikmat al-muta’liyya) of Mulla Sadra or Sadr alDin Shirazi (d1640). According to Schimmel. Mystical Dimensions of Islam. 179 Nasr. This confronts us with the problematic issue of the interpretation of Ibn Arabi’s ‘theosophical’ doctrines. a student and a close associate of Nasr. 180 Jong F. 1975. Schimmel qualifies Seyyed Hossein Nasr as a modern mystic. Although he does not explicitly confess to any specific doctrine or practice (in the Garden of Truth or elsewhere). Radtke. we have landed at the heart of Nasr’s spirituality and his understanding of traditional Sufism. S. ed. the ‘Irfan tradition developed in the fourteenth century as a Persian synthesis of Ibn Arabian and Shi’ite Gnosis179. A. Interestingly. Leiden University.263-264. Everything in the cosmos is the result of this reflection or theophany (tajallī). p. 2009 11/09/2009 60/116 . Garden of Truth.

. p40-41. S. On the basis of these two doctrines. and my childhood experiences had all added up to convince me that there was an oral tradition of wisdom (hikmah) that could only be learned at the feet of traditional masters185. such as Schuon and Burckhardt. 2007. The human being. Assar and Tabataba’i Nasr positions within the Perzian Akbarian tradition of ‘Irfan. S. Only then can it become a luminous presence that transforms the whole being’183. he explicates the meaning of the imaginal world and its realty within us related to the power of creative imagination which is so important in spiritual life182. Two of them. both male and female.doctrine of human nature in this context. 2000. Years of study of Islamic and European medieval philosophy in the West. Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba’i (d1983). who is called by Ibn Arabi the Universal or Perfect Man (al-insān as-kāmil). This will always need to be combined with spiritual practice: ‘It seems to begin with the mind. p. 216. contains potentially all levels of existence within and is the mirror in which God contemplates Himself. the ‘Perfect Man’ (al-insān al-kāmil). in: Library of Living Philosophers. 2007. astrology. Ibn Arabi develops an elaborate cosmology. S.. 185 Ibid. 182 183 Nasr. is contained potentially in every human being. ‘Intellectual autobiography’. epistemology. p. but for its full understanding it must be combined with practice….H. but is actualized only within the being of the prophets and the great saints of not only Islam. 184 Nasr. the cosmos as a multileveled reflection or theophany (tajillī) can also be found in Religion and the Order of Nature in Nasr’s discussions of the Islamic perspective of the order of nature. What ‘practice’ does Nars adhere to himself? Although dedicated to exposing the metaphysical foundations of the Islamic mystical traditions. and the other so-alled occult sciences on the basis of the metaphysical principles that he elucidates.H. To Nasr these doctrines underlie ‘authentic’ Islamic spirituality. Concepts such as that of tawhid. but all authentic religions. wahdat al-wujūd (‘Unity of Being’). His ‘intellectual autobiography’ provides us with only a few clues184.. 5. Nasr. Furthermore. or spiritual practice. Leiden University. my direct encounter with the great expositors of traditional doctrines.4 Spiritual Practice Doctrinal or theoretical dimension of Sufism is only one dimension of the spiritual life. Garden of Truth. He even deals with the inner meaning of alchemy. AM Schwencke.H.. Nasr rarely writes about his personal spirituality. doctrines about the power of language and symbolism. 2009 11/09/2009 61/116 . The reality of this archetypal human being. eschatology.33. Garden of Truth. Sayyid Abu’l-Hasan Qazwini. Here he mentions that he had studied for several years with the traditional masters Sayyid Muhammad Kazim Assar (d1975). walaya (‘sanctity’). and prophetology – all bound together by the doctrine of wahdat al-wujud. sacred psychology.

This originally Sunni order was transformed under the influence of Schuon into a more ‘perennial’ order transcending sectarian divides and accommodating both European converts. S. Al-Alawi is evidently still close to his heart.H. K. Vol. with a form of Sufism that was linked to the spiritual lineage of Algerian master Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi (1869-1934) and Shaykh Isa Nur al-Din Ahmad’. Those years were crucial to my whole intellectual and spiritual life. 189 Nasr. 5. 1961. Against the Modern World. Interestingly.H. Originally published in Sophia.. The Essential Sophia. 1999. p40-41 See: Nasr. S.. It was at this time that my intellectual and philosophical orientation received its final and enduring formation and I embraced Sufism not only intellectually but also existentially in a form linked to the Mahgrib and more particularly to the spiritual lineage of the great Algerian master Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi and Shaykh Isa Nur al-Din Ahmad. The order was later to become the Maryamiyya. Vol. ‘which alone guarantees traditional continuity in Sufism’.H. 5. O’Brien. 2006.260. intellectual certitude. Nasr. AM Schwencke. It probably explains Nasr’s efforts in this article to secure the initiatic chain. 2006. the harmonious wedding of ‘logic and transcendence’. No1. No1.H. Vol. O’Brien.Also: Segdwick. The Essential Sophia.. It requires other sources to make this connection with the Traditionalists189. which is suggested by the fact that Nasr dedicated his The Heart of Islam to ‘the Sacred and Enduring Presence of Shaykh Ahmad ibn Mustafa alShadhili al-Alawi.. who initiated Nasr into the Alawiyya order in 1957190. 186 187 Ibid. World Wisdom.H. 5. K. K. p.. had introduced this master to a western audience188. ‘Frithjof Schuon and the Islamic Tradition’ in: Nasr. and intellectual lucidity and rigor combined with love for truth and beauty186. ‘Theoretical Gnosis and Doctrinal Sufism and Their Significance Today’ in: Transcendent Philosophy 1. This is essential. 2006.. No1. ‘Frithjof Schuon and the Islamic Tradition’ in: Nasr. 190 This cannot be confirmed by any of my sources. because it was most probably Schuon himself. but also led to the discovery of inner illumination. O’Brien. Nasr does not mention in his autobiography that Shaykh Isa Nur al-Din Ahmad is Frithjof Schuon’s Islamic name. Martin Lings. World Wisdom. In 1961. 2000. 1999. 1974. Nasr links Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi to the Ibn Arabian tradition that developed in the Mahreb187. World Wisdom. M. Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Leiden University.H. A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century: Sheikh Ahmad al-Alawi. note 2. as well as the shi’ite Nasr.. These intellectual and existential experiences not only rooted my mind and soul for the rest of my life in the world of tradition. S.. S. such as Burkhardt. M. ‘Frithjof Schuon and the Islamic Tradition’ in: Nasr. S. S. 2004 and Nasr. and faith. S. 1999. p1-36 188 Lings.Nasr relates how he found his ‘intellectual and spiritual homeland in the summers of 1957 and 1958 in Morocco. 2009 11/09/2009 62/116 .H. Originally published in Sophia. The Essential Sophia. another Traditionalist. but this appears plausible (see part II). Originally published in Sophia..

Very little information is given about the Alawiyya order in Nasr’s own discussions of Sufism. It is hardly mentioned in The Garden of Truth. A complete Chapter could be dedicated to this intriguing tale and some of it will be discussed in Chapter 6. 5.5 Islamic esotericism

Recalling the concept of ‘Western Esotericism’ that was introduced in Chapter 3, the references made by Schimmel to Gnosticism, Hermeticism and Neo-Platonic thought are highly significant. I would like to suggest that the concepts, doctrines as introduced by Nasr, as well as his practice can be classified as ‘Western Esotericism’ in the sense as defined by Antoine Faivre. In fact, Nasr himself conflates the Traditionalist doctrines, which I have already classified as Esotericism, with Doctrinal or Gnostic Sufism. The doctrines of correspondences, living nature, imagination and mediation and the experience of personal initiation- the five central features of ‘Western Esotericism’ - are part of the type of Sufism that is expounded by Nasr. It takes more to substantiate this claim, but would like to classify Nasr’s understanding of Sufism accordingly. One of the most striking parallels, of course, is the orthodox Islamic prophetology, shared by Sunnis and Shi’is. Nasr refers to it occasionally, although hardly in his environmental work. It is an essential part of Ibn Arabian thought. It claims that all the prophets - from Adam, Noah to Moses, Jesus and ultimately Muhammad - have all expounded One Divine timeless and universal (perennial) Truth to humanity. The crucial difference with contemporary Western Perennialists is the Islamic claim that Islam has abrogated all previous revelations; it is the most perfect exposition of ‘Perennial wisdom’. Muhammad is the last and the Seal of the Prophets191. Nasr position about ‘Islam’ as the seal and abrogation of all previous authentic religions is not made explicit in the work I have read. This would need further research. Generally, his appreciation of other authentic religions does not suggest a claim of superiority of Islam. Persian Nationalism or Confessional Esotericism? I would like to point out a few other aspects at this point. These are not well researched, but are related to some questions that came up when being confronted with Nasr’s expositions of theoretical or Gnostic Sufism. What is the most interesting about these expositions is perhaps what is left out. For example, Nasr does not relate the Ibn Arabian tradition, the Shi’ite Gnostic

See for example: Keller, Nuh Ha Mim, ‘On the validity of all religions in the thought of Ibn Al-Arabi and Emir ‘Abd al_Qasir: a letter to ‘Abd al-Martin’, 1996. Also: Neusser, Omar K, ‘On the Common Eternal principles, And That Islam resigns, Living Islam (accessed: . and Mere Islam, Islam and Perennial Philosophy (
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currents and its synthesis in what he calls the Irfan tradition, to another major Persian philosophical school, the School of Illumination or Ishraq tradition of Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi (d1191), the shayk al Ishraq192. This is surprising, considering that in his younger years Nasr worked on the critical editions of the complete Persian works of Suhrawardi and wrote a book about Ibn Sina, Suhrawardi and Ibn Arabi, The Three Muslim Sages (1963), the most widely translated of all his work193 To Suhrawardi, Ishraqi philosophy is the only authentic actualization of the ‘perennial philosophy’ of mankind, which is thought to have its origin in the divine revelations received by the Prophet Idris (Hermes) and was transmitted via two separate channels: Egyptian-Greek and ancient Iranian194. Considering its close affinity to Traditionalist perennial philosophy, it is odd that Nasr does not discuss its relation to the Persian ‘Akbarian’ traditions. I can only guess at his reasons195. One of these could be related to Surhrawardi’s controversial interpretation of history, which has become politicized within the framework of Persian ‘sacred nationalism’, and an equally politicized view of the Orient as the abode of light and the Occident as the abode of darkness. Such views are increasingly heard within the Iranian Ni’matu’llahi order of Javad Nurbaksh196. Possibly Nasr wishes to distance himself from this ‘nationalist’ debate. Although he has dedicated his life to the exposition of ‘Persian mysticism’ and has close contacts with Ni’matu’llahi197, I have not found any direct allusions to Persian nationalism in Nasr’s work. Even so, Nasr has been severely criticized for what some consider ‘confessional esotericism’ or ‘Islamic apologetics’, a ‘means to promote a personal or ethnic or religious chauvinistic agenda’198. Accusations of biased historicism or even a ‘Nasr School on Persian Philosophy’

Nasr discusses it, considering it the most important encounter between Sufism and philosophy in Islam, but does not relate it to the Irfan explicitly in the appendix of the Garden of Truth or in his article. Nasr, S.H, Garden of Truth, 2007. p185; Nasr, S.H. ‘Theoretical Gnosis and Doctrinal Sufism and Their Significance Today’ in: Transcendent Philosophy 1, 2000, p.1-36. 193 In fact, Nasr is taken as the main source of information for an entry on the Ishraqiyya in the Encyclopedia of Religion. Izutzu, Toshihiko, ‘Ishraqiyya’ in: Encyclopedia of Religion, second edition, p.4552-4556. Izutzu translated Three Muslim Sages into Japanese and was instrumental in introducing Nasr to a Japanese public. . 194 The Iranian branch was represented in ancient Iran by the mythical priest kings Kayumarth, Faridun, and Kay Khusraw. See ‘Ishraiyya’ in: Encylopdia of Religion. 195 It could be related to the same divergence of views that affected his relationship with Henry Corbin, a close associate at the Imperial Academy and a specialist of Suhrawardi’s philosophy. Nasr and Corbin disagreed about the essence of the ‘imaginal consciousness’, the world of archetypal or symbolic images. Corbin connected these views with Jungian psychology, which Nasr opposed. 196 See the discussion about the ‘Perzianization of Sufism’ by Leonard Lewisohn in his article ‘Persion Sufism in the contemporary west: reflections on the Ni’imatu’llahi diaspora’ in: Malik, J, Hinnells, J, Sufism in the West, Londin, New York: Routledge, 2006. 197 This is indicated for example by the fact that Nasr has written a foreword to a book about Nurbaksh. They have also collaborated in the Heritage of Sufism series edited by Lewissohn. Lewisohn, L. (ed.), The Heritage of Sufism, Oxford: Oneworld, 1999. 198 Dimitri Gutas of Yale University writes: ‘An outgrowth of this approach [of confessional esotericism], which has become increasingly popular in the last 20 years (as it follows the rise of religious fundamentalism in both
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can be heard elsewhere199. Nasr responds to this criticism on several occasions, explaining how he perceives the relationship between Western scholarship and its ‘historical criticism’ and traditional Islamic scholarship.200 Whether this criticism is legitimate, we will have to leave aside here. Another interesting aspect I would like to point out is the strong resonance between Ismaili doctrines and Nasr’s interpretations of Islam and mysticism. Some have suggested that Nasr has an Ismaili background, which is said to be the source of some controversy in Turkey201. Nasr’s sympathy for Ismaili doctrines is clearly visible in his expositions about this subject. In An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia (2005) Nasr outlines Ismaili and ‘Hermetico-Pythagorean philosophies’ referring to these as ‘philosophy understood in its traditional and time honoured sense’, associated with the ‘esoteric (batini) truths of religion’. In his mind these are authentic manifestations of the Timeless perennial wisdom. The Rasa’il Ikhwan as-Safa (Treatises of the Brethren of Purity) is of particular interest. It is one of the central scriptures to the Ismailis and is highlighted by Nasr in several of his publications202. What is of particular interest in the Treatises is not only their assertion of the esoteric nature of true philosophy, grades of initiation, and degrees of knowledge and the wedding between philosophy and spiritual realization combined with moral rectitude so characteristic of Ismailite philosophy in general, but their clear exposition of Islamic Pythagoreanism and Hermeticism203. Nasr also points out how one of the treatises of the Ikhwan as-Safa ‘The Debate between Man and the Animals’ is particularly relevant in the light of the environmental crisis. This treatise has also been highlighted by several other Muslim environmentalists as an illustration of Islamic ecological thought204. At a time when man is usurping the rights of other creatures and destroying the natural environment on the assumption of his absolute rights over creation, the philosophical arguments provided by the Ikhwan concerning the rights of animals are of incredible
the Islamic world and the West), is the view that Islamic philosophy, theology, and mysticism are closely related and that their common inspiration and origins are to be found in the Qur’an and hadith. This approach which can be called Islamic apologetics is taken by a number of Muslim scholars, foremost among whom is Seyyed Hossein Nasr’. In: Gutas, D.,‘The Study of Arabic Philosophy in the Twentieth Century, an essay on the historiography of Arabic Philosophy’, in: British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, (2002, p.29(1), 5-25. 199 John Walbridge, The Wisdom of the Mystic East: Suhrawardi and Platonic Orientalism, 2001. 200 Nasr, S.H. ‘Introduction’ in: Encyclopeadia of Islamic Spirituality, volume One Foundations, 2000. 201 Edis, T., An Illusion of Harmony, Science and Religion in Islam, New York: Prometheus Books, 2007. p.34. Edis: ‘Nasr’s Ismaili Shii background is usually a more weighty reason for controversy than any of the scientific deficiencies of his views’. Edis states this as a matter of fact. I have not found any references within the English literature to confirm this. 202 S.H. Nasr., An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines, Albany: State University of New York Press, revised edition 1993. First edition 1964. 203 Nasr, S.H., Amanirazavi, M. (eds) An Anthology of Philosophy of Persia, 2005. p.11 204 For example, the Malaysian scholar Adi Setia who will be discussed in Chapter 6.
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how does this relate to Nasr’s environmental philosophy? What environmental ethics does he have in mind? In line with the Traditionalist approach. M.6 Islamic Environmental Ethics Having discussed the outlines of traditional Islam and of Sufism.. Islamic sources and teachings on the environment can be derived form the Qur’an. but also from other texts such as on Islamic ethics. 2005. the second the inner dimension. He believes the traditional world of Islam has access to ‘powerful and persuasive spiritual teachings about the natural world and the relation of human beings to it’ and to ‘concrete directives for human action’. Harvard University Press.timeliness and display an ‘ecological philosophy’ that is of the greatest significance for the formulation of an Islamic philosophy of the environment and a response to the current environmental crisis205. Qur’an: The Qur’an specifies the status of the cosmos as well as human beings. 5. the Hadith and the Sharia206. Also the Islamic arts.. Nasr points out. literature. p. Leiden University. Amanirazavi. A more in-depth analysis of Nasr’s views regarding the Ismailis will need to be left for other occasions. (eds) An Anthology of Philosophy of Persia. meaning that the natural phenomena and the verses of the Qur’an are all signs 205 206 Nasr. the Contemporary Islamic World.H. revived and disseminated among the public. 2009 11/09/2009 66/116 . The main schools on theology (kalam) have not paid much attention to a ‘theology of nature’. two perspectives can be distinguished. The cosmos is God’s first primordial revelation and therefore the signs of God can be found in virgin nature everywhere. S. 2003. the Hadith and Sharia. Classical Islamic thought refers to the cosmic Qur’an. as complementary to the scriptural Qur’an. landscaping and urban design contain many profound teachings. architecture.85-105 AM Schwencke. and the Environmental Crisis’ in: Islam and Ecology: A Bestowed Trust. Most of this work still needs to be done. Islamic Environmental Practice Nasr’s environmental ethics are first of all rooted in his understanding of ‘traditional Islam’. but Nasr points out the rich traditions about nature in Islamic philosophy. but in the Harvard series Islam and Ecology: A Bestowed Trust (2003) he presents some of the outlines of an Islamic environmental ethics as can be extracted from the three sources of Islam: the Qur’an. p.H.11. Sufism and Islamic science. Nasr. S. These teachings need to be rediscovered. ‘Islam. The first concerns the outer dimensions of Islamic practice.

It is a ‘source of spiritual presence and a source for understanding and contemplating divine wisdom’. Therefore nature reflects both the wisdom (hikma) and the will of God (irada). Like the Qur’an. It is closely related to the concept of ‘order’ that we have encountered in the first Chapter. wasteful consumerism and excessive amassing of wealth. The Prophet is said to have encouraged the planting of trees. and grazing lands) as public rather than private property. 207 208 Ibid. Each being is owned its ‘due according to its nature’. creation is perceived as sacred. entailing both responsibility and respecting of the rights (or due) of all creatures. right. loved animals. banned destroying vegetation and pollution of water resources. Another important Qur’anic concept highlighted by Nasr. Natural phenomena are ‘more than mere facts’. just treatment of animals and various economic injunctions. Our need for nature is not only to feed and shelter our physical bodies. established protected areas for natural life. such as opposition to usury. forests. In the Qur’an. it is the effect of a Divine creative act. law and due’. Grace or baraka flows through the arteries and veins of the universe. Sharia: The Divine Law or the Sharia contains many injunctions that deal with the natural environment. Leiden University. p96. Hadith: The books of Hadith are replete with sayings and deeds of the Prophet.of God (ayat): We shall show them our signs upon the horizons and within themselves until it becomes manifest unto them that it is Truth (Qur’an 41:53)207. ‘Human beings have to respect and pay what is due to each creature’. opposed wastefulness and needless destruction of nature based on greed or avarice and emphasized cleanliness. which means ‘truth. Nature is not intended by God for our use only. is haqq. Nasr stresses. they are ‘primarily symbols related to the states of being of a ‘noumenal’ higher reality…. Nasr mentions the management of communal resources (water. 2009 . where everything and every being has its own God-given position within the ‘great chain of being’. Nasr points out. It is there to reflect the creative Power of God. The Sharia contains both ‘concrete laws and principles for the regulations needed to confront the environmental crisis’.. nature has inner levels of meaning and significance. This is extremely important. Pickthall translation Ibid. Human beings are created as channels of grace for the cosmic ambience around them208. p96 11/09/2009 67/116 AM Schwencke. reality. but above all to nurture our souls.. Humans are both servants of God (‘ abd) and vicegerents of God (khalifat Allah).

And I have been the reviver of traditional Islam. 2003. Biographical information of Waleed AlAnsary at www. O. Nasr for a complete list of his students working on this subject . considering himself the ‘reviver of traditional Islam’ and of traditional Islamic environmental a ban on ‘usury’ for example. for Nasr the overall view is central. He utilizes general concepts of Islamic law. Considering that the contemporary global economic and financial systems are predominantly driven by accumulation of wealth and interest on capital. an Egyptian American specialized in the Human Sciences and Economics. And it is traditional Islam that provides this vision of nature. a responsibility. Charitable foundations (waqf) could also used to finance environmental protection. Abd-ar Rahman. Although they say there prayers five times a day and they are very pious Muslims. Its interesting how both these modernist movements in the Islamic world and the so called Reformist movements like Wahhabism and things like that. That is what I have always tried to speak about211. 2009 11/09/2009 68/116 . rather than secular environmental laws. Nasr does not work out the details of any of these injunctions. such as the fundamental unity of ethics and law in Islam. (eds). has enormous ‘structural’ and systemic effects. You cannot have environmental laws without having a great vision of nature. ‘The Basis for a Discipline of Islamic Environmental Law’ in: Foltz. the attitude of reverence (taqwa) and its completion in compassion and beneficial works (rahmat and ihsan) and the stewardship imposed upon man (khalifa) as a trust. which as a distinctive branch of knowledge is ‘receiving ever greater attention by contemporary Muslim jurists’.html . [The environmental law] is only part of it. for reasons probably similar to those discussed earlier. In Islam and Ecology (2003) he outlines the basis for a discipline of Islamic Law in Llewelyn. neither does he specify the implications for the social. Another is the Nigerian Ali Ahmad. 209 For example by Waleed Al-Ansaary. AM Schwencke. 211 Edited transcript of the taped telephone interview with Seyyed Hossein Nasr on 31 October 2008. This has not been published as far as I know. Legal instrument that can be extracted from these sources and that may serve for environmental protection are for example inviolable zones (harim) to protect common land or protected areas (hima) to protect unowned land reserved for the common good. The potential transformative power of his Islamic environmental teachings should not be underestimated. Some of his students and other scholars are presently working on these environmental injunctions of Sharia. His dissertation The Spiritual Significance of Jīhād in the Islamic Approach to Markets and the Environment was completed in 2006.cas. He discusses its fundamental principles. have no respect for nature whatsoever. Discussing Islamic jurisprudence he highlights the ‘ultimate objectives’ of Islamic law (maqasid).209. He is said to serve as an advisor to the grand mufti of Leiden University. This field is definitely worth examining much further. Othman Abd-ar-Rahman Llewelyn’s contribution to Islam and Ecology (2003) gives a good insight into the emergent discipline of Islamic Shari’ite Environmental Law210. such as maqasid or ‘ultimate objectives’ to develop specific environmental injunctions. 210 Llewelyn is convert to Islam now living and working in Saudi Arabia on nature conservation.D student of Nasr. political or economic order. presently professor in Islamic Law in Nigeria and involved in research into the human rights situation of Nigerian sharia law I did not ask Dr. Islam and Ecology. the unity of creation (tawhid). As we have concluded before. and a Ph.because Muslims will more readily accept these shari’ite injunctions. according to Llewelyn.

[But as an example. must be formulated and expressed in terms that are comprehensible to contemporary Muslims. according to Sharia – you should not pull the tail of dogs in the street or something like that. like those of marriage. An Islamic understanding of the natural environment and humanity’s relation to it. much of it. Divine Law. Sharia is not applied perfectly in any Islamic country. there are many. that will have an effect. like the water of mountains and so forth. And of course. 2009 . This is a kind of opposition to we have called consumerism today. still to the Islamic world are accorded to it. [].. of polluting the water. by something much deeper is going on. has very important prescriptions concerning our treatment of the world of nature. If the preacher speaks about that every Friday. Nasr explained his views about the function and role of Divine law. And that sharia. that will have an impact. divorce. it is applied to a great deal and theoretically. Secondly. Leiden University. That is the Ideal Law. Therefore. this is public domain. all devout Muslims believe that this is the Law by which they should live. I have not worked too much on that. and so forth on the individual level. but they theoretically believe that. it is never perfectly applied.. or molest animals.In the interview of October 2008212. because there is to be divine law. from peasant to philosopher. The Muslim world needs to criticize the ‘stifling’ scientistic view of reality and demonstrate why it is opposed to the authentic Islamic and more generally religious point of view. cosmological aspect of it. according to Divine Law . Nasr regularly stipulates the important role of the traditional scholars. economic functions. also presenting some concrete examples: First of all: there is Divine Law. Consumerism has just crashed in the United States. In Islam and Ecology stipulates some urgent ‘concrete actions on the earthly plane’. I have always been interested in the theoretical and metaphysical. But as human beings being imperfect. 212 Ibid. those that are believers can be made to do a lot of things. Some of my students have done a PhD with me on that issue. many injunctions within sharia. Anyway that is my view. Referring to the injunctions derived from classical (ie traditional) sharia law: There are certain laws that are now in Islamic society.]. His recommendations are intended for the Muslim world and are summarized here. which is Divine Law. the Sharia. consider water:] Some of this cannot be privatized. which are based on international law.] Many people are trying to adjust again with cosmetics to cure it. European law [.[. But nevertheless. the Ulama in countering the environmental crisis. Theoretically… and they do.. there very strict injunction given about treatment of animals. 11/09/2009 69/116 AM Schwencke. of the cutting of trees. most important of all: not living with excessive material things. It translates into human life and life on earth through the Divine Law in Islam. But it is always there and some of it.

The Garden of Truth outlined the Islamic spiritual Path that Nasr envisages. Nasr concludes. we have found to largely overlap with Nasr’s expositions of the Islamic doctrines in Religion and the Order of Nature. and the Environmental Crisis’ in: Islam and Ecology: A Bestowed Trust. Harvard University Press.H. The inner dimension: path of Sufism The other solutions that Nasr had presented to us. ‘that this awakening takes place through proactive human effort and not as a consequence of the rude awakening resulting from ecological disasters’214. Yet. which we identified to be inspired by a traditionalist interpretation of Ibn Arabi. the Contemporary Islamic World. Unfortunately. and they can also help the Western world to regain and recollect its own forgotten tradition concerning the role of human beings in Gods’ creation213. What is certain that first of all. 2003. human beings and nature …all constitute a clarion call for this awakening from this dangerous dream of scientism and humanity’s selfish conquest of nature. 2009 11/09/2009 70/116 . These recommendations are intended for the Muslim world. This should include the traditional schools or madrasa’s and the training of the religious scholars. p. Second the authentic Islamic view must be resuscitated with rigor and clarity and without compromise. The solution at the present moment lies for most part with individuals and small groups which can expand in the future. Leiden University. Those who can awaken must be made to open their eyes and to realize that the modern world is walking on the edge of a precipice and needs only to take another forward step to face its own perdition. the environmental crisis must be recognized in its spiritual and religious depth as well as its outward effects. ethics or practice. S. the Sufi metaphysics as expounded here. ‘Islam. These strongly echo the more general 213 Nasr.. Governments should encourage religious scholars and the media to increase environmental awareness. The Garden of Truth hardly refers to the environmental crisis. some Western. the ulama.104 214 Ibid..- Courses on the environment need to be introduced at all levels of education to train the future leaders of Islamic society. They can help set Muslims again on the correct path to a harmonious modus vivendi with nature. The Islamic teachings about God.104 AM Schwencke. Indigenous or ‘alternative’ technologies need to be promoted. p. we can take this as an indication that he does not expect his readers to take an interest in the topic. were the Keys of Traditional Knowledge and Spiritual training and Ritual. Perhaps. ‘Let us hope’. if in conformity with Islamic norms. Awareness leads to further awareness. Non-governmental organisations need to expand in the Islamic world. Nasr does not stipulate any concrete actions for the Western world or for Muslims living in the West. nor does it explicate any specific ecological Sufi-doctrines. others may be specifically Islamic such as the waqf funds (religious endowments).

does spiritual presence (walaya) in ‘virgin nature’ have a particular role to play in the spiritual training. 2001. about the efficacy and function of the spiritual elite: In Islamic esoteric doctrines there are also elaborations of concerning the spiritual hierarchy that sustains the visible universe and the power of walaya. traditional and neotraditional ideological orientations. p. In practice this also entails the belief that God places saintly men on the Earth. but now dressed in a Sufi garb. As an example. which governs the world invisibly.‘Perennialist’ message we have discussed in Chapter 2. but nowhere – as far as I know .281 ‘Autobiography’ in: The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. etc.does he work out this nature dimension of spiritual ‘practice’216. radical. western social and political concepts. What about concrete spiritual ritual and practices? Is there a specific ecological dimension to the rituals and prayers? Nasr largely leaves us in the dark about this part. For instance. recitation of the Divine Names. a power without which the order of nature would turn into chaos and the world would flounder. Islamic principles are generally justified by re-interpretations of presumably ‘authentic’ sources aligning these to modern. Perhaps the ritual dimensions of orthodox Islamic practice (the exoteric forms) are sufficient in themselves? We remember how Nasr has pointed out the importance of orthodox ritual in re-establishing balance and upholding the order. For secularists.H. in addition to the divinely ordained practices. For modernists. 215 216 Nasr. Shepard distinguishes between five general orientations: secular. 11/09/2009 71/116 AM Schwencke. orthodoxy also allows for other practices. dancing. Islam has no role to play in public life. modernist. Islam is the basis of private as well as public life. He ranks them according to their response to ‘modernity’ and according to its tendency to view Islam as ‘a total way of life’ (a guide to social action and public legislation). p. Leiden University. Numerous schools and masters have developed very distinct practices and spiritual techniques..85. Religion and the Order of Nature. 2009 . 5. who through their presence and practice (rituals and prayers) uphold the social order and also preserve the order of nature215.7 Discussion How can we evaluate Nasr’s understanding of Islam? What ‘labels’ can we use to orient his position in the complicated world of Islam? The typology introduced by William Shepard proved to be helpful in this respect. involving nature retreats for example. in the prayers (dhikr) or in these retreats? Are disciples trained to ‘sense the sacred’ in virgin nature? What methods are used? Are certain symbols or images invoked to re-establish a harmonious relationship with nature? Love of virgin nature is obviously very central to Nasr’s life. Yet. usually translated as ‘sanctity’ in Sufism. S.

Nasr’s understanding of Islam is closely related to the ‘Traditionalist’ perception of religion as expounded by Frithjof Schuon.. However. as well as reformists and modernists. Nasr promotes an all-inclusive view of Islam. endorse the all-encompassing nature of Islam and stress the need to put sharia into practice. 2009 11/09/2009 72/116 . since the twentieth century Sufism has come under attack by fundamentalists. I will leave this issue aside here. Neo-traditionalists ‘selectively accept the benefits of modernity. and at the same time value the depth and complexity of the past Islamic traditions as represented by the learning of the ulama and the wisdom of the Sufi sheikhs’217. I will point out at some of the issues that have triggered (or will trigger) debate. It may make him unacceptable to some Muslim quarters. august 1987. no3. this view is controversial218. ‘writers as Nasr and Martin Lings are best seen as neotraditionalists’. We will not be able to deal with this rich history of antagonism between the religious scholars and mystics. although it can be argued that Nasr is proposing a radical Islamist agenda as well. Adherence to a traditional ‘orthodox’ practice is a central feature of their doctrines. Hadith and Sharia. Nasr is politically active attempting to promote the Sunni-Shi’ite dialogue in the US. Leiden University. E. Sufism has been a disputed aspect of Islam since its inception.307-335. including Sunni.Radical Islamists or fundamentalists reject this modernism. At the same time. AM Schwencke. advocating adherence to the exoteric injunctions drawn from the Qur’an. p. Shi’ite and other sources under the umbrella of traditional Islam. His networks – as we will see in part II – me be interpreted to suggest that. which is perceived as being distinct from Western practice.19. According to Shepard and I tend to agree with him. It is characterized by a strong political and social activism. it also propagates the inner or esoteric dimension of Islam. the Sufi path which is universal in its core. Considering the widespread antagonism between Sunni and Shi’ites. This is relevant as concerns the reception of his ideas. W. custom and habits. a Shi’ite affiliation that is to be distinguished form the more mainstream Twelver Shi’ism. although it is generally said that some kind of synthesis between theology and mysticism was established in the twelfth century with Al-Gazalli’s theology. 217 Shepard. He contrast these to ‘traditionalists’ who are not affected by modernism as deeply and generally live their lives in according to a mix of Islamic and local cultural norms. ‘Islam and Ideology: Towards a Typology’ in: International Journal of Middle East Studies. Although it is impossible to deal with this subject extensively. 218 In several sources it is suggested that Nasr has an Ismai’li background. Traditional Islam is therefore conservative and orthodox in its practice. This particular understanding of Islam is certain to attract criticism from various directions. Secondly. Firstly. They wish to adhere to ‘authentic’ Islamic practice. Significantly. vol.

even within the world of Sufism. which is the last of the In the Islamic world. Koningsveld.shtml 222 Nasr. And That Islam resigns. The older religions. as are many the other traditions that Nasr values so Judaism and Christianity are all expositions of one primordial Truth but these have been abrogated by the message of Islam. A Case Study’. ‘Trial of Thought: Modern Inquisition in Egypt. Nuh Ha Mim.html) . Leiden University. In the West. S. Also: Neusser. his message is becoming more politicized221. New York: HarperCollins.S. The Study of Religion and the Training of Muslim Clergy in Europe: Academic and Religious Freedom in the 21th century. 1996. such as This is America. Nasr is emphasizing the role of Sufism as a central link between the spiritual traditions of Islam and the West. These can be accessed at. singing. Leiden: Leiden University Press. 2007. ‘On the Common Eternal principles. Nasr’s ‘Perennialist’ and ‘universalist’ interpretations of religion may be cause of controversy. Omar Sufism is the most powerful antidote to the religious radicalism called fundamentalism as well as the most important source for responding to the challenges posed for Islam by modernism. Nasr has been actively promoting ‘traditional Islam’ as an alternative to both fundamentalist and modernist Islam. Living Islam (accessed: http://www.publicradio. In recent years. 223 Ibid. and Mere Islam. W. in 1978 the Egyptian parliament decided to burn Ibn Arabi’s books.. dancing. Fourthly. hearing Muslim voices. Abu. irrational and one of the major sources behind the stagnation of Muslim civilization. Islamic philosophy and science are also criticized by hardliner literalist fundamentalists as being non-Islamic ‘accretions’. P. it is the most accessible means for understanding Islam in its essential reality222.).. 2009 11/09/2009 73/116 . Islamic scholars uphold the superiority of Islam. Sufism is a powerful and present force in the Islamic world exhibiting a dazzling variety of order. For example. 219 Zayd. Sufism. ‘On the validity of all religions in the thought of Ibn Al-Arabi and Emir ‘Abd al_Qasir: a letter to ‘Abd al-Martin’.: http://video. The Garden of Truth. pxvi. and Speaking of Faith. sheikhs. 220 See for example: Keller. Modernists consider Sufism as a primitive.html) 221 Nasr expounded his views about this at a World Bank lecture and in various talk shows. However. In this sense. Islam and Perennial Philosophy (http://www. Van (ed. p. The Vision and Promise of Islam’s Mystical Tradition. Even so. such as saint veneration. arguing that these represented an un-Islamic form of philosophy219. doctrines and practices. pointing out the many points of historical contact and cross cultural influences223.B. 2008. Traditionalist Perennial philosophy is generally rejected by Sunni religious scholars220 and controversies that came to surround Schuon in the nineties have made matters worse. AM Schwencke.Fundamentalists disapprove of some of the excessive forms of Sufi practice. magical practices. Nasr. in: Drees.

and the variety of his audiences do not allow for any quick at some points felt like looking at the surface of a pond. Sufi sheikhs and Sufi movements. binyaqzan@gmail. eco-psychologists. Who is inspired by his writings and lectures? Who responds to his message? Who are his audiences? The sheer number. AM Schwencke.blogspot. an intriguing blog of a Green Sufi224. historians. all starting in different places.php?/archives/1188-Een-kijkje-in-mijn-esoterische-keuken. tracing the effect of a handful of stones thrown into it. scholars of Weblog Pakistani Sufi: http://pakisufiarts. 224 225 Weblog Green Sufi: http://cyclewalabanda. Having discussed and contextualized Nasr’s eco-philosophy. and other private blogs of fans in Turkey. Apart from writing about Islamic Numerous circles spread out at different points. 2009 11/09/2009 74/116 . we will now attempt to evaluate the reception of his ideas.html 226 Weblog Kamal Essabane on the website Wij Blijven Hier (We are staying here): http://www. He has also provided countless lectures across the globe. Pakistan.wijblijvenhier. addressing largely varying audiences. Malaysia and the Netherlands226. sacred or deep ecologists. This was pointed out by Adam . we will change our perspective and follow a more sociological approach. Malaysian Muslim scientists. Leiden University. http://shnasr.htm. a Pakistani psychedelic Sufi225. 228 These seminars and lectures are currently being compiled by one of his students. Buddhist spiritual farmers and an American general from British and Jordanian princes. It is only one man throwing the stones. Trying to assess the reception of his ideas. India. Nasr has lectured as a University professor in the US for years. Muslim Islamist eco-activist. influencing several generations of students of comparative religion and Islamic leading to Islamic scientists.theamericanmuslim. Nasr has become a mystical or spiritual teacher himself. References to his work turned up at quite unexpected places. The environmental issue was one of his regular seminars228. Several websites of American Muslim organisations contain references to Nasr’s environmental work227. influencing an unknown number of students.6 Circles of influence 6. Muslim youth struggling with modernity.html 227 The American Muslim (TAM): http://www. the scope. struggling with a muddled view of Islam. but the circles are many and spread out widely. inspired Muslim converts.1 Introduction In this last Chapter.blogspot.

www. 232 These lectures are not intended for theologians exclusively. the environmentalists. In the first stages of my (re)search. Indonesia. Turkey. 230 The volume of Living Philosophers Library includes a complete abridged bibliography of Nasr’s corpus. as is suggested by the 1981 Gifford lectures on ‘natural theology’232. 2009 11/09/2009 75/116 . historian and scientists. including Nasr in the Islamic world. p835-964 231 This conclusion is based on a search for reviews of Nasr’s environmental work in the online periodicals archive at Leiden University. I will concentrate on only several of these circles: the contemporary Traditionalist network(s). In: Hahn. ‘Bibliography in: The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. L. ideologies and debates.giffordlectures. with different key representatives. for example do not appear to show much interest in this aspect of Nasr’s work 231. These are: (1) Nasr’s ‘academic’ network of scholars of religion and Islam. having contemplated this surface for a while. (3) theologians. The academic community and philosophers. the journals and publishing houses. histories. This bibliography was complemented by a list of the more recent publications that was provided by Nasr (October 2008). each opened up to a different world.Yet. In this Chapter. attempting to assess the span of Nasr’s influence. I was soon to find out that Nasr’s influence extends into India. as is suggested by various publications229 and the numerous translations of his work230. AM Schwencke. When examining these circles. These and the other circles are each worth examining in-depth. Pakistan. Some preliminary work has already been done. Auxier. when preparing this thesis and this is pointing out some extremely interesting areas for further research. 229 A study by the American Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars assesses the influence of American Muslim intellectuals. It also includes the translations of his work. both non-Muslim and Muslim. legal specialists. Stone. What interests me in particular is the significance of the ecological issue to these networks and their interrelationships. a few major ‘circles of influence’ or networks emerged. an analysis of the full bibliography. 2001.. I had deliberately cast my nets wide. L. Not all of these networks respond to Nasr’s environmental work.W. Eco-theologians appear to have taken note of this work. from 1958 until the year 2000. MA thesis Leiden University. Jr. The reception of Nasr’s ideas about science in Indonesia was analysed Widiyanto. (4) Traditionalists. (2) philosophers of religion. Islamization of science-groups and the Sufis.E. but also for philosophers. (5) environmentalists. 2005. Also see Chapter 2. Seyyed Hossein Nasr on Science and the Reception of his Ideas in Indonesia. (6) interfaith groups (Muslim-Christian and Shi’ite-Sunni). Charting all these circles would entail moving into unknown and to me un-accessible territory. Is the interest in this issue unique to Nasr or does he share his perspective on ‘sacred nature’ with others? What aspects of Nasr’s work are picked up and can we understand why? My aim of course is to substantiate my intuition that certain Muslim circles share a common ground with Western environmentalist circles. R. and beyond. (7) Islamization of science-groups and (8) Sufis. Leiden University. Malaysia.E.

Shrilanka Institute of Traditional Studies. socio.2 Traditionalist network The first and most significant network to analyse is the Traditionalist circle. The other source is Marc Sedgwick’s Against the Modern World (2004)234 charting the in his words ‘secret intellectual history of the twentieth century’.com . 2000. It presents an overview of the Traditionalist historical landscape from an is also highly informative: http://www1.6. to identify as ‘Traditionalist’. This Chapter is based on two: Kenneth Oldmeadow’s Traditionalism: Religion in the light of Perennial Philosophy (2000)233. It is doubtful whether this could be classified as an outsider perspective on traditionalist history..aucegypt. 2004). edited by Antoine Faivre and Jacob Sedgwick’s research is controversial. Forgotten Truth: The Primordial Tradition by Huston Smith (Harper. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (SUNY. Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy by Harry Oldmeadow (Sri Lanka Institute of Traditional Studies. this is not the first history of Traditionalism. in the sense that it was severely criticized by a number of Traditionalists and some of its claims are contested236. which is not surprising considering the centrality of ‘Traditionalist’ philosophy in his own thought. According to him. “Rene Guénon and the Traditionalist School” in Modern Esoteric Spirituality (Crossroad. groups with little or no relationship with the Traditionalism of Guénon. 234 Sedgwick. 2004. Sedgwick is accused of a personal vendetta against the traditionalists. Evola and Dugin are controversial figures in European history. I have complemented these sources with my own findings and sources. Sedgwick’s weblog Traditionalist. Leiden University. Coomaraswamy and Schuon. This list mainly refers to work of other ‘traditionalists’. 1976). M. apparently inspired by the ambiguities of research done partly on the internet. Quinn Jr. This review is extremely critical of Sedgwick’s work. being a disappointed Muslim convert. Frithjof Schuon. Mircea Eliade (1907-1986). l992). A short history The groups presently associated with Nasr. Sedgwick traced the footsteps of a number of people who were inspired by the ‘founding fathers’ of Traditionalism. and for ‘its tendency to.htm 235 Sedgwick’s claim to be the first to chart this history is contested by several traditionalists. AM Schwencke. It 233 Oldmeadow. p3 237 Website Studies in Comparative religion: www. Also the online article by Charles Upton. Mircea Eliade is a well-known scholar of comparative religion. grew out of the group of authors writing for the journal Studies of Comparative Religion. and has an almost aggressive undertone. According to Michael Fitzgerald.historical or outsider perspective235. See Review of Against the Modern World by Michael Fitzgerald on: Sacred Web www. Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the secret intellectual history of the twentieth century. which presents an objective insider view to us. Oldmeadow is also a regular contributor to the Traditionalist media. The Only Tradition by William W. a contemporary traditionalist. 2000). Journeys East: 20th Century Western Encounters with Eastern Religious Traditions by Harry Oldmeadow (World Wisdom.studiesincomparativereligion. K.sacredweb. 1997). linked to either anti-democratic forces in Post-Soviet Russia or political terror in Italy. Jean Borella’s essay entitled. Réné Guénon. ‘What is a traditionalist? Some Clarifications’. Seyyed Hossein Nasr and three others: Baron Julius Evola (1896/8-1974). The Traditionalist networks are described in several sources. the seven ‘most important traditionalists’ are: Ananda Coomaraswamy. This is the most central of Nasr’s networks. 236 Sedgwick was criticized for casting his nets too wide. and Alexander Dugin (1962-). the ‘first English journal on traditional studies’237. Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy. 2009 11/09/2009 76/116 .com.

com. 239 Other well known scholars in the field of religious studies are: Gershom Scholem on Jewish mystical tradition. such as Gershom Scholem. Spain. and on authors such as Dante. as an outlet for Perennialist writings242. Hermeticism and Platonism. Keith Critchlow and Brian Keeble. In 1990 the Temenos Academy was launched. Sri Lanka and Peru. Frithjof Schuon. In the eighties. The others are from the USA (4).1998). Other groups are based in France. Titus Burckhardt. Charles Le Gai Eaton.temenosacademy. In the United States.was established in 1963 and was devoted to ´the exposition of the teachings. Yeats and Wordsworth241. Ficino. were new to the scene. Harhang Jahanpour and Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Interestingly. Henry Corbin. Fellows with a specific Islamic focus are: Martin Lings (d. three quarters of whom are academic scholars specialized in religious studies. 2009 11/09/2009 77/116 . The website includes the biographies of nearly seventy authors and 150 contributors. Half of the fellows are UK citizens. Lectures were . some names from the initial group. Ireland (1). including Nasr and a relatively large group of other well-known scholars of Islamic traditions. William Chittick. 242 The website of World Wisdom Books is a particularly valuable source of information. Tom Cheetham. Martin Lings. several groups grew from this base. Australia (2).and are still being .organized on topics as varied as mysticism. Contemporary groups in the UK and US In the UK in 1980 four scholars launched 241 Temenos is still active and provides a platform for more than thirty fellows. the publishing house World Wisdom Book was established. See for a full list: www. Iran (1) and Russia (1). together with the traditional arts and sciences which have sprung from those religions238´. Michel Valsan. the other two. Canada and Australia. Jean-Louis Michon. spiritual methods. This Truth. India (2). 240 Temenos Academy website: http://www. Blake. Nearly forty scholars contributed articles on a regular basis. offering ‘education in philosophy and the arts of the sacred traditions of East and West’. Shelley.the learning of imagination’240. and 238 Website Studies in Comparative religion under ‘History First 25 years (1963-1987): www. arts. the United States. Bede Griffith on Christian traditions and Joscelyn Godwin on the western esoteric 243 ‘The Library of Perennial Philosophy is dedicated to the exposition of the timeless Truth underlying the diverse religions. often referred to as the Sophia Perennis—or perennial Wisdom—finds its AM Schwencke. such as Réné Guénon. Leiden University. Nasr is most closely associated with those in the UK. This still exists and has a stronger Schuonian bias than Temenos243. 239. comparative religion.worldwisdom. a journal devoted to the ‘Arts of the Imagination’. Hindu or Buddhist doctrines. Anne Marie Schimmel and Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Wisdom Books website: www. the Iranian scholars Ghomsei and Muhammad Reza Juzi. The scholar and poet Kathleen Raine and the Christian scholar Philip Sherrard had both contributed to the Studies of Comparative Religion. architecture or literature. who are specialists in architecture and arts. Italy. symbolism. and other facets of the religious traditions of the world.studiesincomparativereligion. intended as a ‘teaching organisation dedicated to the perennial philosophy . also in 1980.

246 One of these is Fons Vitae which was established in 1997 and is ‘devoted to making available works from the world’s great spiritual traditions’.org . Bruce Lawrence and several other specialists in other traditions.Henry Corbin are conspicuously missing on the authors’ list244. L.Chapter 8: America. Auxier. Saudi Arabia). Gisela Webb.traditional-studies. p50. 2001. Rumours of the events elicited ridicule by a re-known opponent to Nasr’s views. possibly because some of them had found other platforms..E. ‘The Foundation for Traditional Studies seeks to contribute toward the achievement of such understanding not through dilution of religious or cultural AM Schwencke. Huston Smith. It is a continuation of publishing begun by Quinta Essentia (since 1979) and the Islamic Texts Society.worldwisdom. Turab (Amman. Another outlet KAZI distributions is particularly dedicated to the Islamic tradition. They hold different opinions about the importance and relevance of the work of the psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung. In addition Fons Vitae distributes titles from other publishers such as The Foundation of Traditional Studies. See: www. Ziauddin Sardar. December 1993.eranosfoundation. Stone. 2004. Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation. Editorial Advisory Board: Chittick. Schuon was charged of child molesting and ritual abuse. Chapter 7: Maryamiyya’p 147-159. perennial philosophy and its relation to the spiritual development of the Self and gathered at the Annual Eranos Conferences in Switzerland245. also affecting the more Islamic Maryamiyya members. and moved away from the original Islamic groups. p33-36. ‘ World Wisdom Books website: www. One is more ‘Perennialist’ with a stronger emphasis on Native American traditions. Prince Ghazi bin Muhhamad. symbolism. rather than eclectic ‘Perennialism’. Nasr is most closely affiliated to this group. Alan Godlas. Needleman. And other ‘non-traditionalist’ specialists on Islam scholars such as William Graham. Jr. L. for example favoured a more Jungian psycho-analytical approach emphasizing mythology. ‘A Man for all Seasons’ in: Impact International. p162-177. but are relevant because some writers within this scene. 245 See Eranos Foundation: www. expression in the revealed Scriptures as well as the writings of the great sages and the artistic creations of the traditional worlds.. two distinct strands appear to have developed. Reza Shah Kazemi.. Major outlets of this strand are: the Foundation of Traditional Studies and its journal Sophia: the Journal of Traditional Studies248. This is mainly centred on the Iverness Farm Community which was founded by Schuon in 1980247. Within the AngloSaxon world several other outlets are dedicated to traditional studies246. Cutsinger. in line with Schuon’s interests later in life. rather than Islamic traditions. 2009 11/09/2009 78/116 . In his autobiography to the Living Philosophers Library Nasr states: ‘like other traditionalists. substituting the collective unconscious for the Divine Treasury which is the source of all veritable symbols’. ‘Autobiography’ in: Hahn. Nasr.fonsvitae. Within the American groups that are inspired by esoteric and magical traditions. such as Temenos fellow Tom Cheetham have picked up on the ecological issue. James Morris.W. I believe that Jung did not at all understand the transcendent and spiritual nature of myths and symbols which he psychologized. R. In the nineties Iverness Farm became involved in a controversy centred on alleged improper secret ‘primordial gatherings’ and ‘sacred nudity’. These developments of Schuon’s tariqa Maryamiyya are related by Marc Sedgwick in Against the Modern 244 Corbin and Nasr have been close associates for years. @@ 247 This community was founded by Schuon when he moved to the United States in 1980. Murata. affecting his reputation in the Muslim world.E. World Wisdom. It emphasized Primordial Traditions and was inspired by Native American rituals. Also: Sardar. See ‘Schuon and the Alwais’p 83-93. The Perennial Philosophy provides the intellectual principles capable of explaining both the formal contradictions and the underlying unity of the great religions. ‘Preface’ in: The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. The other group is more closely related to the ‘early’ Islamic Schuon emphasizing ‘tradition’ and ‘orthodoxy’. Jordan) and others. Scholars inspired by Corbin. Leiden University. These groups are generally not classified as traditionalist. 248 Foundation for Traditional Studies: www. Although the charges were dropped later. these rumours still surround Schuon and his Iverness community. Dar Nun (Riyadh.

edu. Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy. they frequently refer to or commend writings by others in the traditionalist school252. They form a group of about forty to fifty people. Presumably quite a traditions until one arrives at a pale common Islam and American Indian traditions. but rather through preserving and strengthening the traditions which have been transmitted through the ages and which have so much to teach contemporary society. They contribute to the same journals. with specialisations in ‘traditions’ such as Christianity. Coomaraswamy and Schuon. which are often centred on interfaith and intercultural dialogue. Auxier. most of whom are academic scholars specializing in the fields of religious studies and comparative religion. 249 Sacred Web: www. Algis Uzdavinys. 51 253 Michon is a traditionalist French scholar who specializes in Islam in North Africa. AM Schwencke. What binds these scholars and writers is their philosophy. Other scholars who are not ‘traditionalist’. many of the same names reappeared in each of these . Joseph Lumbard. There is no ‘coherent organization of Traditionalists’251. principles and themes. Shrilanka Institute of Traditional Studies. Rodney Blackhusrts. Patrick Laude and James Morris.E. Klaus Klostermaier. James Cutsinger. Reza Shah Kazemi. 1921). Islamic art. This programmatic ‘mission statement’ may be considered to reflect traditionalist ambitions. Patrick Laude.sacredweb. 252 Oldmeadow. Waleed El-Ansary.. Bakar and Mahmutçehajíc were students or close associates of Nasr in his Iranian period. Martin Lings.E. Canadian or Australian universities. Eliezer Segal. Charles le Gai Eaton (b. Nasr clearly stands in the lineage of the Islamic Traditionalists: Frithjof Schuon. R. L. combining and relating the contributors of these various media. 2001. 251 As is noted by the conference reporter of the 2006 Traditionalist conference. Mateus Soares de Azevedo. 254 Chittick. but rather are specialists in a tradition: Alan Godlas. Recently. In the words of Oldmeadows: ‘they share philosophical assumptions and adhere to a specific understanding of perennial philosophy. they all acknowledge a debt to the work of Guénon. Jr.W. Timothy Scott. Patricia Reynaud.and the Canadian based Journal Sacred Web: the Journal of Tradition and Modernity249. A few are specialized in Western esoteric tradition. Buddhism. K. a certain pattern emerged. all re-known scholars within their fields. Temenos also has a few Iranian fellows. Titus Burkhardt. Harry Oldmeadows. Roger Sworder. Stone. philosophy. they translate. ‘Preface’ in: The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Rusmir Mahmutçehajíc254. By systematically listing. and Sufism and worked with Nasr on the Encyclopaedia of Islamic Spirituality. John Penwill. Hinduism. Arvind Sharma. Their works are shot through with the same ideas. Sachiko Murata. but many of these names are closely connected to the other outlets. Jean-Pierre Lafouge. 2000. a new traditionalist journal Eye of the Heart was launched by La Trobe University in Australia which has a more distinct academic focus250. David Burell. review and preface each others’ 250 Eye of the Heart: www. Peter Kingsley. metaphysics. Pierre Lory. Renaud Fabbri. Jean Louis Michon253 and the younger scholars William Chittick. L. Member on the Editorial board also contributing to other Traditionalist media: Timothy Scott. arts or literature. p. 2009 11/09/2009 79/116 . p37. Arthur Versluis. Murata. The solidarity of the group is evident not only in the substance of their writings but in several superficial and more immediately obvious ways. John Herlihy and Jane Fatima Casewit. Most are based at American. Leiden University. Autobiography’ in: Hahn. Patric Laude. Nasr is not on this list.

He is a Research Associate at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in and two royal connections: the Jordanian Prince Ghazi bin Muhammed who is very active within the sphere of interfaith dialogue (A Common Word)258 and Prince Charles. the discourses of Imam ‘Ali.asp?ID=135&type=auth 258 Prince Ghazi bin Muhammed. The Religions of Man. Other names that are closely connected to Nasr who are of a ‘younger generation’: Harry Oldmeadows.wordpress. In his a personal envoy and special adviser to H. Prince Turki Al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia. The Prince of Wales. This work is appreciated by the Ismaili community (see: Blog Ismaili Mail http://ismailimail. Dr. 1976. William Stoddard and bestselling author on world religions Huston Smith255 who are all more ‘perennialists’.psta. He was a close protégé of Martin Lings (who passed away in 2005) and contributed regularly to most of the traditionalist journals. who has his roots in the Russian-Turkish Caucasus region can be found at: Beacon of Knowledge Conference: http://www. Nasr has lectured at this school several times about Islamic Arts and is closely associated with Critchlow260. Joseph Lumbard. H. and advisor to Royal Hashemite Court of Jordan for Interfaith 259 The Princes School of Traditional Arts: website: www. Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed of Jordan and Raja Zarith Sofiah of Johore. also regular contributors. Leiden University. Harper. There are strong connections between the Prince’s School and various courts in the Muslim world: Queen Rania of Jordan. His degrees include International Relations and Politics at Sussex and Exeter 260 Critchlow attended the Beacon of Knowledge conference in 2001. Shah-Kazemi is also the founding editor of the Islamic World Report. although very few promote this openly. the Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatzo).com/ 257 Reza Shah-Kazemi is one of the ‘world's leading traditionalists/perennialists’. Malaysia. Ibrahim Kalin and Osman Bakar.iis. Other close associates to Nasr are James Cutsinger. Huston Smith appears to be particularly dedicated to Nasr. 2009 11/09/2009 80/116 . He has also written a distinctly traditionalist book: Forgotten Truth: The Primordial Recently he published an annotated translation of Nahj al-Balagha. He acted as a consultant to the Institute for Policy Research in Kuala Lampur. are also related to another one of Nasr’s networks: the Islamic Science circles.few of these scholars are converts to Islam.M. According to the website of Sacred Web: www. and a PhD in Comparative Religion from the University of Kent in 1994. A biography of Caner Dagli. 256 Caner Dagli is one of Nasr’s students. Caner Dagli256. Waleed El-Ansary and a rising star within the Traditionalist circles Reza Shah Kazemi257. which is related to Osman Bakar. New York: Harper Colophon Books. Within this ‘sacred web’ circle we also find bestselling author Karen Armstrong. 255 Smith. Prince Charles is also the patron of the Temenos Academy and of The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts259 of which Temenos founder Keith Critchlow is director and that is dedicated to traditional Islamic art in particular. In a recent publication. 1958. King Abdullah II and (part-time) Associate Professor of Islamic Philosophy at Aal al-Bayt University in Jordan. Source: World Wisdom biography and the Institute of Ismaili Studies: http://www. according to World Wisdom.sacredweb. the spirituality of Imam ‘Ali is an expression of the universal wisdom Hikma which is at the root of all Sufi tariqa’s and as such transcends Sunni and Shi’ite boundaries. 2007. The Essential Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Malaysia. He has written the preface of the Anthology of Nasr’s work: Chittick (eds).org.beaconofknowledge. AM Schwencke.

An Illusion of Harmony. Edis: ‘Nasr’s Ismaili Shii background is usually a more weighty reason for controversy than any of the scientific deficiencies of his views’. January 2007. 84-88. I have not found any references within the English literature to confirm this.aspx?ID=185). as is exemplified by a recent World Wisdom title: The Betrayal of Tradition: The Spiritual Crisis of Modernity (2005). the quarterly journal of the Edmonton Theosophical Society. Ali Lakhani convened a conference on ‘Tradition in the Modern World’ at the University of Alberta in their agenda or programmatic approach. Interesting is the apparently strong presence of the Ismaili community at this conference262. without sharing the traditionalist philosophy. fall/ winter 2006. including ‘many of the Ismaili community and local Muslim community and some traditional Christians’. The traditionalists are particularly committed to promoting the traditional paradigm as a viable alternative to the modern paradigm. Some are specialists in a specific field.apart from a shared philosophy . 2007.. 10 (2006). number 2. ‘Conference on Tradition in the Modern World’. Influence 261 On September 2006. Their message is inextricably linked with a criticism of modernity.worldwisdom. Science and Religion in Islam. but I have not seen this. 2009 11/09/2009 81/116 . was published in Fohat. World Wisdom also distributes a DVD about the Sacred Web Conference (http://www. but also included meetings with many aspiring students of Tradition. Sacred Web editor M. the strong resonance between Ismailite doctrines and Nasr’s interpretations of Islam and mysticism was already noted. 263 Edis. Source: Sedgwick’s Traditionalist Blog. Leiden University. in: Sophia. volume 12. Darrell. fall/ winter 2006. Blakeway. members of the local Ismaili community and leading some of the Muslim attendees in private devotions261. Peru. Canada. What distinguishes the ‘traditionalist’ scholars from other scholars in these academic fields . ideas. Darrell. "Traditionalism in Edmonton" by John Robert Colombo. This anthology contains essays of many of the authors that are most active within the networks. p34. principles and specific approach to religion as is inspired by the traditionalist founding fathers (mostly Schuon). 262 According to the conference strength and compassion at this conference. In Chapter 5. The first of this kind was organised in August 2005 in Lima. volume 12. approximately five hundred had registered for this conference. he is described in almost exalted terms as ‘having inherited the role as the leading living exponent of Tradition in the modern world’. Another account of the conference. New York: Prometheus Books. Nasr is highly respected within these circles. T. [Nasr’s] mandate for preserving the light of Tradition was carried out with dedication. in: Sophia. number 2. Edis states this as a matter of fact. Report by Blakeway. pp. His effort were not limited to his appearances on the stage of this conference. AM Schwencke. ‘Conference on Tradition in the Modern World’. In the report of a 2006 Traditionalist conference.Not all of the contributors to the Traditionalist media can be classified as ‘traditionalist’. some have also suggested that Nasr has an Ismailite background263.

fall/ winter 2006. Bakar. Muslims in the United States: Identity. Lumbard and Enes Karic . volume 12. I would suggest that this influence is greater than that. Nasr has a particularly prominent role in this process as is indicated by the fact that he and Mustafa Ceric were asked to speak on behalf 264 Blakeway. Other well-known and influential public figures in this project are: Mustafa Ceric.E.Nasr. Ibrahim Kalin and Joseph Lumbard. Faghfoory. and has contributed Chapters to such publications as the Encyclopedia of Modern Middle East. It is said ‘not to manifest itself in the quantitative realm. Datuk Jamaluddin Mansor. He is a lecturer at the George Washington University and research fellow at the Institute of Ismai‘li Studies in London where he is conducting research on Shi‘i and Sufi commentaries on the Qur’an. the Jordanian Prince Ghazi bin Muhammed. John Esposito. 268 For an example of their role in public policy: Bakar. A list of scholars can be found on the website. Many. the most significant activity of the Traditionalist’. He has translated Man and Nature into Persian. Quite a few of Nasr’s academic colleagues are closely related to the Traditionalist networks. Ingrid Mattson. has been a visiting scholar at the University of California-Los Angeles.How influential is this group of Traditionalist scholars? According Traditionalists themselves this influence is ‘below the surface of public events’.islamicamagazine. H. Dr. Understanding Sufism and its Potential Role in US Policy. He is regularly consulted by policymakers and media. 2009 11/09/2009 82/116 . formerly professor of history at the University of Tehran. A well known specialist of Islam John Esposito is not a traditionalist. 267 Muhammad H. but in the qualitative realms’264. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Nyang. He has published numerous essays and book reviews. and An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia. Interesting also is the active involvement of many of these people . Leiden University. Kalin. Nasr. Many of these are also closely involved with the A Common Word initiative. Darrell.beaconofknowledge. the Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World. in: Sophia. Abdalzaiz Altwajiri. Studies . This was established to ‘broaden perspectives on (traditional) Islam’ ‘while strengthening cross-cultural relations between Muslims and their neighbours through discussion and thoughtful debate on the most pressing issues of our time’269. Conference Seyyed Hossein Nasr: A Beacon of Knowledge: http://www. Sulayman. Sheikh Habib Ali Al-Jifri. Abdallah Schleiffer. Innovation. 265 A valuable source about his academic network is the conference that was organized in his honour in 2001. Many of the scholars of Islam in Nasr’s academic network are actively involved in interfaith and intercultural dialogue or are consulted as public policy advisors265. Influence. Islamic Manuscripts Specialist at Princeton the recently relaunched magazine Islamica (Magazine). but is closely associated with Nasr’s academic network266. Jane Smith in: Strum. 2003. His translation of the Kernel of the Kernel (on Sufism) by ‘Allamah Sayyid Mohammad Husayn Tabatabai’ is in press at the State University of New York Press. number 2. Z. p200. 2005. proceedings of conferences by the Division of U. and at the Library of Congress. Anwar Ibrahim (Malaysia). March 2004. Trying to assess the influence ‘is very much the task of trying to measure the influence of prayer. 269 Islamica www. translated several books. The Nixon Center. H. P.. Godlas in: Baran. ‘Conference on Tradition in the Modern World’.S. Mohammed Faghfoory267 or Sulayman Nyang268. but not all are also active contributors to the Traditionalist 266 As exemplified by their attendance at the Beacon of Knowledge conference in 2001. such as Osman AM Schwencke. And Faghfoory.

. these writers can be seen to represent a distinctly Traditionalist philosophy of Nature. Religion and the Order of Nature. and it was published by World Wisdom Books. Lord Northbourne and Philip Sherrard were obviously his most specific mentors. As far as the ecological/environmentalist aspect is concerned. Man and the Rape of Nature. This network would need to be analysed in more detail. which is still very active today. S. His work The Rape of Man and Nature (1987) is discussed extensively by Nasr in Religion and the Order of Nature272. eds. 2008.’ I can certainly confirm that the background to Nasr's views is almost solely the Traditionalist or Perennialist school. WorldWisdom. a regular contributor to the Studies in Comparative Religion and one of the Temenos founders. Of the Land & the Spirit. J. James. and I particularly recommend a posthumous collection of the latter's most important writings edited by his son. p228.. and subsequently also with the contemporary ecological crisis. email date 28 October. Golgonooza Press. Lord Northbourne had been writing about ecological issues twenty-five years before Rachel Carson published her Silent Spring (1962) and Nasr his Encounter of Nature (1968). aiming at the promotion and certification of organic food and farming. we may find a relatively small group of Traditionalists who share Nasr’s concern for the metaphysics of nature. Leiden University.Lindisfarne Press. In fact. of which René Guénon and Frithjof Schuon were the founders. 1996. He was amongst the first in the United Kingdom to actively propagate (and use the term) ‘organic farming’ and was involved with the foundation of the ‘Soil Association’ in 1946. the Essential Lord Northbourne on Religion & Ecology.A. In America it was published as The Eclips of Man and Nature. both Sherrard and Lord Northbourne were sources of inspiration to Nasr Personal communication. C. I knew both Philip Sherrard and Lord Northbourne. with which you are familiar’ 271 Biography of Philip Sherrard at World Wisdom and Journal of Comparative Religion. Apart from these two.H. or as what could perhaps be called ‘EcoTraditionalism’ or ‘Traditionalist ecology’. This is entitled Of the Land and the Spirit. one of the founders of Temenos and Lord Charles Northbourne (1896-1982)270. 270 According to William Stoddard. 2009 11/09/2009 83/116 . 273 Fitzgerald.of the Muslim representatives. 1987.. 272 Sherrard. the fifth Lord Northbourne.. AM Schwencke. 1987. Traditionalist nature philosophy Returning to the main topic of this thesis. p201-205 and n54. Philip Sherrard. P. His writings on a ‘holistic approach to ecology’ were recently collected and published by World Wisdom as Of the Land & the Spirit273. Two of the other first generation traditionalists to actively write about ‘nature’ from a traditionalist perspective were: Philip Sherrard (1922-1995). does Nasr share his particular outlook on the ecological crisis with Traditionalist writers? Have traditionalists picked up on his message? Somewhat hidden within the larger Perennialist Library. Nasr was definitely one of the first to write about these issues. but it all suggests that Nasr is part of a group with considerable political influence. is a specialist of the Eastern Orthodox Church and a ‘leading voice in situating modern attitudes and behaviours regarding the environment within a Christian framework271’. in: Nasr.

Sacred Web 2 1998. Oren Lyons (American Indian). the present Dalai Lama is also included.C Cooper (Taoism). James Barr (Buddhism). Catherine. Moore. Some of these writings were collected by World Wisdom in the 2003 publication Seeing God Everywhere: Essays about Nature and the Sacred (2003). Arthur Versluis (Christian esotericism. Hindu Advaita Vedanta. One is Schuonian and is very similar to Nasr’s message. Leo Schaya (Judaism). Sacrifice and the Preservation of the Environment in Native American Belief. a specialist in Christian Esotericism and American Indian culture is well-known in eco-theological circles274. Other writers about nature or ‘ecology’ are: Harry Oldmeadow276. centring on a Jungian psychological symbolist approach. Larking. where he has lectured in Philosophy and Religious Studies at La Trobe University for the past 278 Oldmeadow. who currently serves as theological advisor to the Ecumenical Patriarch on environmental issues 281 Cheetham. Davies and Richtscheid and especially Temenos fellow Tom Cheetham in Green Man. Esoteric Dimensions of Deep Ecology. 2009 11/09/2009 84/116 .theabodeofpeace. Kenneth. James. Blackhirst’s article "Rudolf Steiner. “Signposts to the suprasensible”: Notes on Frithjof Schuon’s understanding of “Nature”.com/online_articles/sw6_oldmeadow.other first generation traditionalists also wrote about ‘nature’ occasionally from various traditional perspectives: Arthur Versluis. and the religious understanding of nature frequently citing from Nasr’s ‘ecological’ work. Interestingly. Alvin . This anthology can be considered as representing the ‘traditionalist’ philosophy of nature275. Paul Davies. Wendall Berry279 and John Chryssavgis280 (at World Wisdom). Joseph Epes Brown (American Indian culture) and J. Dr. Mahayan Buddhism). Kathleen Raine (Temenos. 280 John Chryssavgis is specialist on Church fathers and orthodox spirituality. Another is more Corbinian. the web site of Dr Abdu Razzaq Black: http://www.SUNY Series in Western Esoteric Traditions. poetry). The Abode of Peace. 1996. 2005. 274 275 Nasr discusses his views in Religion and the Order of Nature. American Indian). Blackhirst is a regular contributor to journals such as Sacred Web. Man and God. Green Man. Dr. Earth Angel: The Prophetic Tradition and the Battle for the Soul of the World (2005)281 can be categorized in this lineage. Accessed: www. poet and American professor of English.sacredweb. Reza Shah Kazemi (Islam) .html. Sacred Web 17 2006. Earth Angel: The Prophetic Tradition and the Battle for the Soul of the World. Nasr and Reza Shah Kazemi both voice the Islamic perspective. ‘Sign Posts to the Supra-sensible: notes on Schuon’s understanding of Nature’ in: Sacred Web 6 winter 2000. Oldmeadow.P Shastri (Vedanta). Sacred Web 2 1998. farmer. Sacred Web 6 2000. Sacred Web 6 2000. K. Anthroposophy and Tradition" can be found in The Betrayal of Tradition: Essays on the Spiritual crisis of Modernity. The Translucence of the Eternal: Religious Understandings of the Natural Order. Davies Paul. Jr. Alvin Moore Jr. H. 279 Wendall Berry is a traditionalist with a Christian background. two major perspectives on ‘nature’ and ‘ecology’ can be deduced from these writings. Nature. Oldmeadow K. p205 It includes essays of Toshihiko Izutzu (Islamic Sufism. The editors seem particularly dedicated to bring out the ‘ecological’ writings of the Frithjof Schuon and Titus Burckhardt. Australia. Imaginal Ecology. Kevin Richtscheid and James Larking278 (all in Sacred Web). Sacred Web 17 2006. Richtscheid Kevin. Wendall Berry (Christianity) and Kenneth Oldmeadow (Traditionalism). 276 Oldmeadow also dedicated two articles in Sacred Web to Schuon’s understanding of nature.. 277 Rodney Blackhirst lives in Bendigo. Leiden University. David Catherine (in Eye of the Heart). Rodney Blackhirst277. edited by Harry Oldmeadow. AM Schwencke. conservationist. T. A contribution by Tenzin Gyatso.

Vandana Shiva and Edward Goldsmith. Leiden University. 283 Personal communication William Stoddard. AM Schwencke. In this sense. Shiva and Goldsmith may be considered as the links that connects 282 Personal communication Mark Sedgwick. but it is still very important for them. William Stoddard has recently written a concise and interesting summary of the central doctrines of Traditionalist thought. A series of lectures was dedicated to the subject and was later collected and printed as A Sacred Trust – Ecology and Spiritual Vision (2002). his eco-philosophy is shared by a larger group of Traditionalists. all three find their inspiration in traditional worldviews. a reflection of Divine qualities. One of first hour Traditionalist. the ecological perspective can hardly be considered to be a central doctrine of Traditionalist thought.The first. It seeks a solution through reasserting the Divine as the centre of existence. 2008. 2009 11/09/2009 85/116 . the traditionalists' vision of things is. Although not ‘Traditionalist’ in the Schuonian sense. William Stoddard summarises the general position as follows: inevitably. who was one of the first to write about the issue. All the natural phenomena are the signs of God: ‘God can be seen everywhere’ and can also be known through contemplation of nature. The traditionalist perspective is centred on the understanding of nature as a Divine theophany. email 28 October 2008. Kumar. the environmental crisis is seen as a symptom of a fundamentally flawed modernity and a lost sense for the sacred. Remembring in a World of Forgetting: Thoughts on Tradition and Postmodernism. in my opinion. Alternatively. Some of these will have found their inspiration in Nasr’s work. In fact. The strong concurrence with Nasr’s ecological position is evident. Obviously. he could be considered the leading exponent of Eco-Traditionalism. I might well have missed something there’. Three of the contributors have strong roots in the environmental movement: Satish Kumar. Clearly. the Schuonian traditionalist perspective on nature and the environmental crisis is characterized by a pessimistic view about modernity. the metaphysical foundation specifying man’s relation to nature. ethics and spiritual techniques of the great traditions (whereas the Corbinians focus more on self development). ethics and methods. Whether it is of marginal interest or more major interest to him is something that you will have to tell me. it is easily missed282. to Nasr the issue is more central to his thought. Bloomington: World Wisdom. an indispensable support or guarantee for sound ecology283. it is not exactly central. email 19 June 2008: ‘You should perhaps conclude that it [the environmental issue] is of only marginal interest to me. Nasr also found his inspiration in the writings of the early Traditionalist (particularly Schuon). by means of the doctrines. The ecological issue also found a receptive audience within the UK Temenos circles. and of only marginal interest to the main lines of development in the Traditionalist movement that I focused on in my book. Traditions are seen as offering a comprehensive worldview. However. …Their fundamental viewpoint and adherence to universal metaphysical principles provide an unshakable and unchangeable philosophical basis for all ecology. In this sense.

November 1999. It provides individuals and groups from across the world with the opportunity to learn on numerous levels about subjects relating to environmental and social sustainability. AM Schwencke. the importance of taboo. businesses and individuals’. See: http://www. 1995). the College seeks to offer a positive educational space which integrates the concerns of governments.F. Goldsmith expresses his appreciation for Nasr: The object of this special Millennium issue of The Ecologist is to show that these cosmic ideas figured prominently in the theology of our early mainstream religions though we have largely lost sight of them. Leiden Traditionalists and Nasr to the wider network of people that are inspired by a ‘spiritual’ albeit not necessarily a ‘traditional’ approach to the environment. such as giant dams and nuclear power' ‘Teddy Goldsmith certainly isn't easy to pin down He is full of loathing for industrial society. Vandana Shiva is a renowned eco-activist operating from the UK and India. This whole argument is summed up by Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Issue 2. that he ‘has been instrumental in everything from the setting up of the world’s first political green party to being the first to expose many of the problems associated with global development. The Indian Jain Satish Kumar (1936-) is one of the active promoters of ‘sacred ecology’ within the environmentalist movement. ‘The Godfather of Green’. special issue on Cosmic Religion. ‘‘Schumacher College is a unique international educational institution. Traditionalist publications are reviewed in Resurgence regularly and Kumar was asked to write the introduction to Seeing God Everywhere (World Wisdom) and A Sacred Trust (Temenos). 286 Of this ‘Godfather of Green’ it is said. 2009 11/09/2009 86/116 . Biotechnology and the Third World (Penang: Third World Network. Its teaching methods are inspired by the work of the Indian poet. author of a seminal book on this subject entitled Religion and the Order of Nature285. He is the editor of the environmentalist journal Resurgence Magazine and the programme director of Schumacher College. educationalist and social reformer Rabindranath Tagore.schumachercollege. dedicated to environmental and social sustainability287. NGOs.284 Edward Goldsmith (1928-) is founder of the environmentalist magazine The Ecologist. Ecology and Politics (Penang: Third World Network. or global capitalism (foremost critic for four decades) and it's another story. Although very different in style and practice. mobilizing people to take that action required to solve the rapidly worsening environmental crisis which very seriously threatens our survival on this planet. big-business driven. But ask him his views on third world debt (cancel it all immediately). Schumacher 284 Vandana Shiva is most well known for her indictment of the modern.edwardgoldsmith. 1997) and Monocultures of the Mind: Biodiversity. E. Volume 37. Only in this way can religion take the lead.’ Kingsnorth. Listen to him holding forth on the wonders of 'traditional societies'. March 2007. or the value of religion and you'd take him for a died-in-the-wool Tory. yet is determined to save it from itself. http://www. Nasr and Goldsmith clearly share a particular vision286. It must be resuscitated. 285 Goldsmith. He believes it's too late to prevent climate change. in: The Ecologist. Set on the vibrant Dartington Hall Estate in the south west of England. In a 1999 special issue on ‘Cosmic Religion’. yet has dedicated years to trying to do just that. direct action (we need more of it). an international teaching institution based in the UK. ‘Religion in the Millenium’ in: The 287 Schumacher college. E. state sponsored ‘Green revolution’ in: The Violence of the Green Revolution: Third World Agriculture.

Religion and the Order of Nature. It was E. 2000. an icon to environmentalists particularly for his expositions on Buddhist economics. in his case Buddhist and Christian.smallisbeautiful. but this expounds views that can without a doubt be marked as Perennialist or Traditionalist. F. However.F. Prince Charles One very interesting link to consider at some length is Prince Charles. E. Schumacher’s book Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered (1973) is a respected text on economics and sustainability288. Later. Recently. 290 Nasr. Schumacher worked as an economic advisor to the British Control Commission charged with rebuilding the German economy after World War II.F. He has been an active builder of bridges between Islam and the West for at least a decade. Leiden University. some of which are active in the developing countries. Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy.. Several organisations are inspired by his thought. Schumacher was also closely associated with the traditionalist ‘organic farmer’ Lord Northbourne and to the Soil Association. Clearly. there is convergence of thought between the traditionalist and the environmentalist networks centring on the Schumacher college. The title incidentally. London: Vintage. 1996. Shrilanka Institute of Traditional Studies. although he criticises the strong focus on ethics and practice. a classification system of knowledge. 1977. choices regarding modern life. traditional or perennial wisdom. at the expense of developing a comprehensive cosmology or metaphysics that can underpin these ethics290. Schumacher. Schumacher's famous book Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered (1973) reflects these insights and has guided many people to re-examine societal. S.The Schumacher College is named after the economist philosopher E. 1980. the epilogue of Small is Beautiful was added to the World Wisdom collection Science and the Myth of Progress (2003).org Reference to Nasr is made in the journal Manas (1948-1987) of the Schumacher Society (1978. 289 This is called ‘appropriate or intermediate technology’. like Kumar and Shiva. he held other prestigious positions as an economic planner and consultant. p.. 1987).211-212. Schumacher is not a Traditionalist in the strict sense. Nasr refers to Schumacher and the Schumacher College on several occasions. he is an active ‘environmentalist’ and significantly. K. the rapport between the inner life of man and the outer world of nature. More information can be found at: Schumacher Society: www. His presence in the Traditionalist circles is significant. AM Schwencke. 2009 11/09/2009 87/116 .and user-friendly technology matched to the scale of community life. His small remarkable publication A Guide for the Perplexed (1977) written shortly before his death has largely remained unnoticed291. and personal. propagating small scale technologies289. 291 Schumacher. he draws his inspiration from traditions. It is appreciated by the Traditionalists: this work is mentioned several times in Oldmeadow. A Guide for the Perplexed. Although somewhat veiled it is imbued with a clear appreciation of religion and the necessity of inner progress which is ultimately God-directed. a warm 288 E. Drawing on Christian Thomist sources Schumacher discusses the hierarchical structure of the world. Schumacher who developed many of the principles that have since come to be known as "appropriate technology": earth. F. clearly appreciating the approach on the practical level. is a clear reference to Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed but Schumacher does not mention this in his book. Source: World Wisdom Biography.H.

Prince Charles has stated his support for traditionalist views publicly on several occasions. because it so strongly accords with Nasr’s message: I start from the belief that Islamic civilization at its best. The text of his speech was subsequently published in the journal. Prince Charles is particularly committed to the environment. Sophia (Volume 3. Jainism and Buddhism—has an important message for the West in the way it has retained a more integrated and integral view of the sanctity of the world around AM Schwencke. 292 Online article at Sacred Web by Prince Charles: ‘A Sense of the Sacred: Building Bridges Between Islam and the West’ with note: “In December 1996. as well as in architecture and urban planning. … unless there is a realization in the West that some room has to be left for those spiritual and sacred elements that define what is truly The Prince of Wales made a speech at the Wilton Park Seminar on the Sense of the Sacred. This revised version of the text (with a specially-written additional paragraph) is printed in Sacred Web with the express permission of the author. Number 1.R. ‘The unbalanced nature of Globalization itself will likely cause ever greater fault lines in the relationship’. A ‘rediscovery of an integrated view of the sacred could also help us in areas of important practical activity’.princeofwales. Several of the Prince’s Charities are dedicated to the ‘responsible’ or sustainable business management294. In a particularly revealing speech in 2006. being bound to God).sacredweb. architecture and urban planning. our practical stewardship of man and his environment in fields like healthcare. ‘We are only now beginning to gauge the disastrous results of this outlook. in man's inner and outer relationship with a world which is both visible and yet invisible. such as medicine. Hinduism. H.H. but also ‘at the heart of that great divide between Islamic and Western worlds’.gov. 2009 11/09/2009 88/116 . I believe that process could help in the task of bringing our two faiths closer together. he discussed the ‘significance of the sense of the sacred for building bridges between Islam and the West 292’. the natural environment and agriculture. I will quote him at some length. like many of the religions of the East—Judaism. Leiden 293 Duchy Home Farm: www. 294 Prince’s Charities: http://princescharities. Summer 1997). and of our immense and inalienable responsibility to the whole of creation’. and indeed religious (and religion means. This is associated with the Soil Association. It could also help us in the West to rethink.supporter of the Traditionalist cause. literally. Scientific materialism lies not only at the heart of environmental destruction. Charles explains how in his opinion ‘modern materialism… is unbalanced and increasingly damaging in its long-term consequences’. See: http://www. He is an active propagator of organic farming and runs an organic farm at his Estate Duchy Home Farms293. I feel that we in the West could be helped to rediscover those roots of our own understanding by an appreciation of the Islamic tradition's deep respect for the timeless traditions of the natural order. We in the Western world seem to have lost a sense of the wholeness of our environment. and for the better. the environment.

This Chapter ends with Schuon’s vision of nature. 1996. Nasr is likely to have welcomed these statements with great enthusiasm. Surely.Our environment has suffered beyond our worst nightmares. See: Versluis. methods. S. not relating this to a wider historical context. Leiden University. Shiva. in part because of a onesided approach to economic development which. Prince Charles mentions having read Nasr’s and Lings’ work. New York&Oxford: Oxford University Pres.3 New Age Environmentalism The association between the Traditionalists with Kumar. See http://www. They share Nasr’s criticism of modernity. making him a powerful and influential channel of traditionalist thought in general and of Nasr’s environmental views in particular. In fact. but if it were it would surely reveal the influence of nineteenth century Romantic philosophies of until very recently. such as ‘American or New England Transcendentalism’ on Nasr’s thought 296. AM Schwencke.106-110. Although he may not often expose his ‘traditionalist’ sympathies publicly. Nasr alludes to its two great expositors Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1892) on several occasions. government and the general public. Nasr appreciates their solutions on a practical level which draw on ‘traditional’ resources. p. American Transcendentalism and Asian religions.html 296 The scholar Arthur Versluis wrote a profound study about American Transcendentalism. Nasr himself does not discuss these currents of thought in Religion and the Order of Nature. This is particularly relevant for his environmental views.. 1993. 2009 11/09/2009 89/116 . Goethe). appreciation of tradition and his spiritualized vision of nature. for example when remembering how he ‘used to 295 In his introduction to the Traditionalist conference in 2006. ethics. p. He is an expert on western esotericism and incidentally also amongst the first of the regular contributors to Traditionalist journals. it is highly probable that Prince Charles found his inspiration in Nasr’s work295. Religion and the Order of Nature. A book about Nasr as an environmentalist still has to be written. A. Hanegraaff also discusses the historical development of Transcendentalism New Age Religions and Western Culture. Hegel. failed to take account of the inter-relatedness of creation. etc. considering the active stance on this issue taken by Prince Charles. Schumacher and Prince Charles can be taken to demonstrate common ground between Nasr and parts of the environmental movement. American or New England Transcendentalism’ The circle of influence is wider though. pointing out that Nasr has influential friends at unexpected places. his dedication to the environmental issues has not remained unnoticed by businesses. 1996.467-470. 6. involving other movements of the diverse world of Western environmentalism. See: Nasr.sacredweb. Interestingly. His historical exposition of Western nature philosophies include various representatives of Romanticism or German Idealism (Schelling. Little thought was given to the importance of finding that "sustainable" balance which worked within the grain of Nature and understood the vital necessity of setting and respecting limits. Goldsmith.

value apart from its usefulness to human beings’300. such as the ‘deep ecology’ or ‘eco-psychology’ movements.e. S. A deep ‘ecological transformation of consciousness’ is necessary. The inherent anthropocentrism (humancenteredness) of Western philosophy and Christian religion is generally seen to be the real cause of the environmental crisis. which give rise to deep personal commitments301’. Paul Shepard and George Sessions. is clearly appreciated. which can be shown to have a strong bias for ‘spiritualized visions of virgin nature’ very similar to Nasr’s299. Deep ecology There is also affinity of thought with some contemporary environmental movements which have grown from this same root. This is often based on ‘personal experiences of a profound connection with nature and related perceptions of nature’s inherent worth and sacredness. A watershed moment in the development of the movement was the 1974 “Rights of Non-Human Nature” conference that attracted many who were to become influential in the later Deep ecology movement. expresses the idea that nature has ‘intrinsic value i. in: Taylor. In: Nasr.C (eds). 1175-1184. Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. The Garden of Truth: The Vision and Promise of Sufism. Islam and Ecology: A Bestowed Trust. B. Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. ‘The evidence of Sufism is quite evident in the work of Emerson. p. Thoreau’s mentor. Islam’s Mystical Tradition. B. The American ecologist Aldo Leopold is credited for first expressing a deep ecological worldview in his Land Ethic essay of 1948.458 AM Schwencke. 2009 11/09/2009 90/116 . Exploring this field leads us deeply into the illusive and wildly diverse world of ‘New Age religions’ and eco-spirituality. 301 Taylor. Having lived and worked in the United States most of his life. only by ‘resacralizing’ our perceptions of the natural world can we put ecosystems above narrow human interests and learn to live harmoniously with the natural world. thereby averting ecological catastrophe’. Nasr mentions this ‘remarkable phenomenon in America cultural history’ The Garden of Truth. This perspective is also called ‘eco-centrism’ or ‘biocentrism’ and has become a catchphrase for most non-anthropocentric environmental ethics. Leiden University. p. such as his long poem Sa’idi as well as in the thoughts of Thoreau (and Hawthorn)’. I can only point in a few directions here.156 299 ‘Nature Religion in the United States’.456-460. ‘Deep ecology’ for example. 2006. not least because of Emerson’s interest in Oriental religions and Sufism298.85. ... Gary Snyder.H.. 297 298 Foltz. ‘It signifies its ‘advocates’ deeply felt spiritual connections to the Earth’s living systems and the ethical obligations to protect them’. p. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Nasr’s environmental thought has developed within the context of American environmentalism. 2007. HarperCollins. p. The term was coined by the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess (b1912). R. 300 The information about ‘deep ecology’ is drawn from the Entry on ‘Deep Ecology’ in: Taylor. p. around Walden Pond when the natural scenery of the area was still well preserved297’. Bill Duval and Edward Abbey. 2008.walk alone. B. like Thoreau. such as Christopher Stone.

2009 11/09/2009 91/116 . B. and Hinduism) provide superior grounds for ecological ethics. we are issuing two Psyche and Nature issues together with a wide range of outstanding contributions from leading scholars in Jungian thought.springjournalandbooks.Deep ecology can accommodate multiple perspectives or ‘ecosophies’ (ecological philosophies) and is therefore compatible with a wide range of religious and philosophical orientations’302..557-560 305 Only a few references were found. and Anima Mundi's reaction to our doings upon the surface of the world. It is a common perception [.com/ ‘Spring Journal heeds the growing call to explore the dimension of depth in our interactions with the environment: the locales we occupy. and other relevant disciplines’.’ In this sense. … Many eco-psychologists trace the degradation of the planets to the consumeristic. In: ‘Deep Ecology’ in: Taylor.305 Traditionalists.. phenomenology. 2003. our fellow creatures (some now imperiled by failing habitats). AM Schwencke. p.. Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature.456. ecopsychology. ‘The main idea behind ecopsychology is that the human mind does not stand wholly apart from the natural world but is deeply rooted in and tangled up with it. The emerging field of eco-psychology appears to be only marginally aware of Nasr’s or Traditionalist’s work. The affinity to Nasr’s thought is not surprising considering Nasr’s concern for inner development and transformation of consciousness. many others by indigenous traditions. 304 Entry ‘Eco-psychology’ in: Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. and greater ecological wisdom than do Occidental religions303. This is a refereed journal published by the Society for Human Ecology. no2. the human psyche is a phenomenon of nature. Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. Because of the importance of this topic. the world remnant and newly invented revitalized or invented pagan traditions and religions originating in Asia (particularly Daoism. Vol 10. This may also include an appreciation of ‘traditional’ wisdom. Nasr will surely agree with this deep ecology view of the ‘sacred inherent value of nature’ and the claims that some traditions provide ‘superior grounds for ecological ethics. ego-driven Earth-alienated mode of consciousness that governs modern society’s exploitative interactions with the natural environment. Eco-psychology Another example. have picked up on the work of one of the 302 Naess and Sessions were inspired by Spinozian pantheism. an aspect of the larger psyche of nature. however. where affinity of thought may be found is ‘eco-psychology’. In 2000 an article is published by Tom Cheetham of the Corbinian eco-traditionalist lineage. Leiden University. B.. p. he can be classified as a ‘deep ecologist’.457.] that the religions of indigenous cultures. Examples of references to Nasr’s environmental work in the article ‘A Conservation Psychology with a Heart’ by Almut Beringer in: Human Ecology Review. their features and weather. Buddhism. Ecopsychology thus maintains that the pursuit of human sanity and spiritual fulfilment and environmental recovery are closely related tasks304. The Corbinian approach of Tom Cheetham is discussed in Psyche&Nature: http://www. an offshoot of the deep ecology movement which has taken a distinctly ‘inward turn’. p. Zen or other traditions. and greater ecological wisdom. 303 Taylor.

our attitude toward everything would change. who soon became a cult figure. have since come to the fore and fill much of the contemporary religious landscape. especially in America. p. p. When Theodore Roszak wrote his famous book. S. Religion and the Order of Nature. p. 309 The Islamic perspective on the environmental crisis: Seyyed Hossein Nasr in conversation with Muzaffar Iqbal’. 1996.H.driving forces behind the development of this field: cultural historian Theodore Roszak306.thefreelibrary. The Making of the Counter Culture (1969)307. He refers to these movements frequently. Leiden University. S. 307 Roszak was the director of the Ecopsychology Institute at California State University. 308 Nasr.195 AM Schwencke. rare among those in academic circles concerned with the environment’. who appealed to both Zen and American Indian traditions and the well-know writer on Oriental religions Alan Watts.H. Accessed at www. Religion and the Order of Nature. Religion and the Order of Nature. His book The Voice of the Earth: an Exploration of Ecopsychology (1992) its sequel Ecopsychology (1995) were the first major works to explore ecopsychology. written in such beautiful English. Nasr points out how New Age spirituality and environmentalism are closely related. … . Nasr regularly refers to Roszak’s earlier work Where the Wasteland End: Politics and Transcendence in Post-industrial Society (1973). 2009 11/09/2009 92/116 . Numerous other movements from those claimed to revive the ancient mystery cults of Isis and Osiris to Druidism to natural magic and sorcery and to the opting of the Shamanic religions in truncated form. During the 1970s environmentalism itself became a kind of religion and in fact nearly all of the so-called “New Age religions” have emphasized the significance of the Earth and its rediscovery as a sacred reality. he said that the pollution of the environment is an … externalization of the pollution within us. p10 (printed version) 310 Nasr. and his appeal to the ‘revival of ancient wisdom concerning nature contained in the sapiental and Gnostic dimensions of various religions308’. 1996. There is no doubt about the truth of that assertion. …These “new religions” often turned to the worship of earth as a mother-goddess.The turning of environmentalism into a religion itself and the return of the cult of the 306 Roszak's article ‘Descartes' Angel’ was included in World Wisdom book The Betrayal of Tradition (edited Harry Oldmeadow). S. Where the Wasteland Ends. Roszak is mostly known for his work on the ‘counter culture’.194 311 Nasr mentions the American poet and environmentalist Gary Snyder. which in fact echoes in many ways my book Man and Nature. ‘among which Zen played the most important role’311.H. and how this trend is accompanied by a renewed interest in the West for Oriental traditions.’ Nasr. That is why simple cosmetics and good engineering will not in themselves solve the environmental crisis309. although he does not enter these colourful worlds extensively: ‘These phenomena constitute the subject of a separate study and need to be analysed carefully310’ and I fully agree with him.225 n15. Nasr’s Criticism of New Age environmentalism Nasr is aware of what is happening in these environmentalist quarters. including ourselves in relation to (accessed October 2008).. appreciating Roszak’s ‘scathing criticism of the scientistic worldview. If we were all reinvigorated spiritually.

the cosmic correspondences between the microcosmos and the macrocosmos.H. or ‘flatland metaphysics’. rather than that the Earth is seen as a reflection of the Divine. So. They are often deprived of an integral metaphysics and cosmology that alone can provide the light necessary to understand fully such teachings and offer the essential protection from the danger of forces of dispersion and even dissolution accompanying any attempt to deal with doctrines and practices of sacred origin out of context in a fragmented fashion313. In this respect.. the transpersonal philosopher Ken Wilber. the holistic attitude toward the mind-body bi-unity with strong interest in holistic medicine. ultimately divine realms of which nature is only a part.. Generally. but only mentions certain comparisons between modern physics and Hindu and Taoist metaphysical ideas…. but neglect the higher. Eco-psychologists also reduce the human spirit is to the ‘psychological’ levels only. It is a kind of popularized version of a religious knowledge of nature314.Earth in the present day context are themselves significant in that they point to the need in the souls of human beings for the religious understanding of nature eclipsed in the West by modern science and neglected until quite recently by the mainstream religions themselves312. The Earth has been declared divine in itself. Like their secular counterparts.e. p38-39. however. Nasr’s criticism is centred on the lack of an ‘integral metaphysics and cosmology’. in: Chittick (eds).257. New Age religions reduce reality to the material level. often distorted. p. deep ecology adheres to a one-dimensional. S. ‘Religion and the Environmental Crisis. 314 Nasr. But these are taken out of context and outside the traditional framework. Leiden University. a ‘deeper’ ecology would discern that the cosmos is 312 313 Nasr. Religion and the Order of Nature.194-195 Ibid. 1996. The Tao of Physics. According to Wilber. who argues that by portraying humankind as merely ‘one strand in the web of life’. 2009 11/09/2009 93/116 .H. AM Schwencke. does not really speak of Hindu cosmology or Chinese physics. we have seen how Nasr is very critical about New Age ‘spirituality’. The Essential Seyyed Hossein Nasr. and many other features that are often fragments of traditional teachings. In essence. S. p. which he and other Traditionalists consider to be ‘truncated’ or perverted forms of traditional religions: Almost all “New Age” religions emphasize the significance of the body [i. Nasr is in agreement with another critic of deep ecology ‘New Age’ views. we have had both excavations of the earlier Western esoteric teachings about nature – usually presented in a distorted fashion – or borrowings from Oriental religions and their teachings about nature. and nature]. Deep ecologists have sacralized the Earth. neglecting of the higher orders of the ‘spirit’ and ultimately the Divine realms. Even the famous and influential book of Fritjov Capra.

Both are the major driving force behind the Forum on Religion and Ecology that grew out of the Harvard Divinity School series (see Introduction). such as Joanna Macy. Responses to Nasr’s work Some representatives or sympathisers of these eco-spiritual movements have picked up Nasr’s message. the starting point and base premise for deep ecology is the ‘inherent value of humans and non-humans alike’. 1995. Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives. and that respect and compassion are due all phenomena because they are manifestations of the divine315. 318 Entry ‘Deep Ecology’ in: Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. the ultimate foundation for this core value needs to be found at an ever deeper level. classified by some as a neo-Perennialist. World as Lover. Boston: Shambhakala. justice. Sex. They were invited to give a summer course at the Schumacher College in 2007320.oregonstate. but it does echo his concern for ritual in maintaining the balance in the universe and also remotely reminds us of the Ikhwan as-Safa’s ‘The Debate between Man and the Animals’. a ‘leading voice in movements for peace. and are active promoters of eco-spirituality and ‘sacred activism’ (or ‘deep ecology’). Boston: Shambhakala. and a safe environment. Spirituality. general systems theory.beaconofknowledge. 319 Conference Seyyed Hossein Nasr: A Beacon of Knowledge: http://www. Wilber and the Traditionalists are discussed together under the entry: ‘Perennial Philosophy’ in: Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. Interestingly many of these are also scholars of religion. and deep ecology. Some of them.hierarchically ordered in terms of complexity. p1269. Thinking Like a Mountain. Sex. 1995. For Nasr and Wilber. Leiden University. for example gathered at the 2004 conference on Nature and the Sacred ‘A Fierce Green Fire’317. Spirituality. Two other scholars have worked with Nasr on several occasions: Mary E. Ecology. is probably one of the most interesting cases to consider in our search for affinity of thought316.html. namely rooted within the Divine Absolute Reality and its manifestation in revelation. 2009 11/09/2009 94/116 . K. Joanna Macy designed a ritual called the ‘Council of All Beings’ which endeavours to get activists to see the world from a non-human perspective and to deepen the participant’s spiritual connections to nature and the political commitment to defend it318. Also: AM Schwencke. Nasr would probably disagree with these ‘non-traditional ritual inventions or pseudo-religious’ manifestations. World as Self. A scholar of Buddhism. she is the author of Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age. p458 with reference to Wilber. justice. Ken Wilber. and deep ecology’. general systems theory. and the environment and a scholar of Buddhism. As concerns ethics. a specialist on Confucianism and John Grim 319.1272. 316 Significantly. Ecology. 317 Conference on Nature and the Sacred ‘A Fierce Green Fire’ at Oregon University in October 2004: http://springcreek. 315 Entry ‘Deep Ecology’ in: Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. K. This also contains biographical information about Joanna Macy: ‘Joanna Macy is a leading voice in movements for peace. Our World and other books’. Tucker.

Western esotericism has from the beginning been characterized by an ambiguous position “in between” official religion and science. Leiden University. and more importantly that both share a common foundation. 6. Hanegraaff concluded that despite the apparent heterogeneity. The traditions based on gnosis [i. these links provide us with sufficient indication that Nasr’s work finds some response in Western environmentalist circles. Like the New Age movements. ‘a measure of coherence can be demonstrated’. particularly within the ‘New Age’ type environmentalist groups. The fundamental complaints of New Age religion about Western culture are similar to those of Western esotericism generally.There are probably more connections to consider. (2) Secondly. but what conclusions can we draw on the basis of these findings? Having studied the worldviews and beliefs of many New Age groups extensively. in fact. all the elements of 320 Course at Schumacher college: http://www. it was demonstrated that Nasr’s thought can be classified as a manifestation of (Western) esotericism. It demonstrates that Traditionalist criticism of the dominant cultural trends. Leiden: Brill.4 Esotericism and environmentalism Hanegraaff’s framework of ‘Western esotericism’ proved to be helpful when attempting to position Nasr’s thought within the wildly diverse landscape of New Age environmentalism. suggesting there is a common ground with the environmentalist New Age movements on this point. but falls back on a specific tradition: Western esotericism’321. but at this stage.dartington. W.515 AM Schwencke. Now. We have identified some points of converging thought and some connections. the New Age movement as a whole can be defined indirectly as based on a common pattern of criticism directed against dominant cultural trends. in particular of materialism and modern science is shared with contemporary New Age movements. both conclusions are relevant for this study of Nasr’s environmental thought.e. New Age Religions and Western Culture – Esotericism in the Mirror of secular Thought . In earlier Chapters. 2009 11/09/2009 95/116 . 1996. (1) 321 Hanegraaff. that of ‘(Western) esotericism’. Western esotericism] can be seen as a sort of traditional Western counter-culture and this goes a long way explaining why New Age religions expressing its own criticism of dominant Western culture by formulating alternatives derived from esotericism. p. Like the New Age movements it is critical of dualism and reductionism (even if not all the alternatives are equally successful in avoiding it) and strives for a higher synthesis most congenial to the epistemological attitude of gnosis. New Age religion formulates such criticism not at random.

e. As an Islamic traditionalist. By contrast. Leiden: Brill. 2009 11/09/2009 96/116 . We have seen some examples of this in this paragraph. p.520-521. Chapter 15 ‘The Mirror of Secular Thought’ in: Hanegraaff. W. p519. New Age religion cannot be characterized as a return to pre-Enlightenment worldviews. p. ‘flatland metaphysics’). W. as well as to fundamentalist or modernist interpretations of Islam. the new evolutionism and the new psychologies. 324 These are: the new worldview of causality (i. This leads him to summarize his conclusion about the nature of New Age movements in the following brief formula: The New Age movement is characterized by a popular Western culture criticism expressed in terms of a secularized esotericism326. New Age criticism of modern Western culture is expressed to a considerable extent on the premises of that same culture325. Leiden University. these worlds – traditional Islam as understood by Nasr and New Age movements as manifestations of ‘secularized esotericism’ can meet somewhere in between. 1996. AM Schwencke. also by means of conclusion that despite the differences. the new study of religions. 322 Hanegraaff. p411-513. New Age Religions and Western Culture – Esotericism in the Mirror of secular Thought . Leiden: Brill.. W. The heart of Islam is Islamic esotericism existing in practice. i.Enlightenment worldviews (although reformulated in contemporary terms). New Age Religions and Western Culture – Esotericism in the Mirror of secular Thought . while the New Age movements has adopted that worldview in a thoroughly secularized fashion’323. Paradoxically. a return to the pre. He is presenting it as an alternative to secularism.e. New Age Religions and Western Culture – Esotericism in the Mirror of secular Thought .519. the views diverge on a very crucial point. Leiden: Brill. according to Hanegraaff: ‘traditional esoteric alternatives to dominant cultural and religious trends were formulated in the context of an ‘enchanted worldview’. As a traditionalist. Nasr is proposing an alternative to this ‘secularized esotercism’. 323 Ibid. New Age religions are ‘secularized esotericism’: ‘Western esotericism reflected in ‘mirrors of secular thought’324. p. 325 Hanegraaff.519.520-521.New Age culture criticism would be quite acceptable to Western esotericists in earlier period322. 1996. but is to be seen as a qualitatively new syncretism of esoteric and secular elements. 326 Ibid. p. 1996. Although there is common ground. he is pleading for a re-establishment of the ‘enchanted worldview’ that characterized Western esotericism proper as defined by Faivre. I suggest.. he is proposing that this is exactly what the living tradition of Islam has to offer to the West today. There is however one fundamental distinction.

we need to broaden the scope again to be able to assess Nasr’s position within the larger Western environmental scene. nor to bump into you move around him. we end up with al sorts of disturbances [translation mine]. But are they marginal movements? It is interesting what the scholars Bron Taylor and Michael Zimmerman.Influence Having considered these convergences. there are no direct references to Nasr in the Encyclopedia’s discussions of western movements. nature religion. aiming to dominate it. and increasingly outside such subcultures. In Africa. may be through the diverse forms of environmental activism that it inspires. such as deep ecology.458-459 329 Earth Charter in Action: http://www. if an elephant crosses your path. K.458 with reference to Wilber. inspiring many to work towards a more sustainable life styles and practices. In fact you adapt to the order that is ruling [nature]. 1995. Not only is deep ecology the prevailing spirituality of bioregionalism and radical environmentalism.327 Secondly. but will be left for another time. 2009 11/09/2009 97/116 . Leiden University.earthcharterinaction. however. environmental ethics. Its greatest influence. : http://www. p. Ecology. I tend to agree with Zimmerman and Taylor. the general impression is that Nasr has not received a large response from the deep ecology movements (yet). both specialized in these movements have to say about this: Although controversial and contested. On a global level this can be illustrated with the activities of the Earth Charter involving many people of influence and which has strong spiritual overtones329. on a surface level these movements appear to be small themselves. Both are actively involved in international business networks aiming for the implementation of ‘sustainable business management’. it also undergirds the International Forum on Globalization and the Ruckus Society. A more systematic search could possibly change this first impression. 327 For example. If we break these. two organizations playing key roles in the anti-globalization protests that erupted in 1999328. Boston: Shambhakala. they represent the undercurrents having only a seemingly marginal influence on the larger dominant culture. Sex. deep ecology is an increasingly influential green spirituality and ethics that is universally recognized in environmental enclaves. Spirituality. Increasingly. ‘I want to make people conscious of the fact that we cannot manipulate nature. people in positions of power ‘admit’ to a spiritually inspired commitment to ecological and social issues and the ‘sacred’. both internally and among its proponents and its critics. You are careful not to disturb anything. action that increasingly shapes world environmental 330 TV broadcasting at IKON TV ‘Paul Rosemüller en Herman Wijffels’ 21 december 2006. As counter cultures.aspx?lIntType=2&lIntEntityId=136. A small internet search amongst a few environmentalist sites does lead to many direct references to Nasr. 328 Entry ‘Deep Ecology’ in: Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. p. That to me is the core of sustainability. Spiritualized eco-philosophies are increasingly becoming mainstream. AM Schwencke. Firstly. that we are conscious of our life styles and of the limitations of the natural order. Prince Charles and someone like the Dutch former World Bank executive Herman Wijffels330 also illustrate the case. Nasr is primarily seen as a Perennialist and as an Islamic environmentalist.

resulting in the seminal volume Islam and Ecology. although it is far from mainstream331 and not necessarily inspired by specifically ‘Islamic’ environmental ethics. ethics. a 331 ‘Although over the past ten years environmental awareness has grown among some educated Muslims. but also criticizes them for their lack of a ‘comprehensive vision’.5 Islamic Environmentalism Another circle of influence to consider is the Islamic environmentalism. Richard C. 333 Preface to Islam and Ecology. a Bestowed Trust (2003). it is still a very long way from being considered an important issue within the Islamic mainstream’ Email correspondence. Religion and the Environment: A Global Anthology (Wadsworth Thomson. Nasr and other leading scholars or activists in the field were asked to reflect on the issues of Islamic environmental theology. 2002) and two seminal volumes exploring environmental values among Muslims. There are clear indications that ‘Muslim’ environmental awareness and activism is growing throughout the Muslim world. Turkey. 2009 11/09/2009 98/116 . not only geographically – from Indonesia. Islam and Ecology: A Bestowed Trust (Harvard. 2003) and Environmentalism in the Muslim World (Nova Science. R. Pakistan. Islamic Environmental Ethicists The articulation of ‘Islamic environmental ethic’ in contemporary terms is quite new. We cannot even attempt to chart this terrain here. p. 334 Foltz edited a popular course text titled Worldviews. Iran. Leiden The conference on Islam and Ecology that was organized in May 1998 was the first of its kind. His book Animals in Islamic Tradition and Muslim Cultures (Oneworld. 2006) is the first scholarly survey of how Muslims have viewed the importance of non-human animals. assembling ‘voices from across the Islamic world speaking […] on the emerging alliance of Islam and Ecology’333. Environmentalism in the Muslim World. See: http://religion. Nasr was one of the first and it took some years for others to follow his example. September 2008. Nova Science Publishers Inc. Nigeria. and issues of population control. Malaysia. and Malaysia is presented in Foltz.html AM Schwencke. economic development and social justice. Here only some of the areas will be highlighted that are relevant for assessing the reception of Nasr’s ideas. 2005). I believe Nasr underestimates the transformative power of these contemporary forms of ‘religion’. 6. fusing Islamic concepts with Western environmentalist ideas. pvii. Most involve Western style secular policies. sharia law.concordia.. considering its vastness. Saudi Arabia to the Muslim communities of the West – but also culturally and ideologically. Foltz was one of the driving forces behind the conference (together with Fazlun Khalid)334. A growing number of publications are dedicated to this subject332. as well as initiatives in Egypt. 332 A survey of environmental publications. 2005. These point out toward some interesting developments and cultural blends. xxxiii-xxxv.Nasr appreciates the efforts of these New Age type movements on a practical level.

.338 Most Muslim ethicists show a far greater interest in ‘human centred issues of justice and the human relationship with the divine. 2005. the establishment of a sustainable global society today cannot rely solely on the hope of a simple return to traditional Islamic norms.xi-xii. Foltz summarizes the views of the Islamic ecological advocates as follows: Islam. To the outside world. This is not surprising considering that on a ‘a global scale. we also find definite responses to Nasr’s environmental calls. R. suffering more directly from environmental degradation’. In the perspective of the Muslim thinkers environmental degradation is merely a symptom of a broader calamity that human societies are not living in accordance with Gods Will.Bestowed Trust that was published in 2003335. ‘Introduction’ in: Islam and Ecology.] that whatever the purported ecological sustainability of pre-modern Muslim societies.C.2 billion Muslims on what those traditional norms actually were339. Hussein Ghali. Environmentalism in the Muslim World. tr.. 2008 (in press). p. The volume was translated into Turkish in 2005 and Arabic in 2008336. it is because their traditional value systems and ways of life have been compromised through several centuries of Western Leiden University. [.muslimphilosophy. Arabic edition. 2003. İslam ve Ekoloji: Başedilmiş Bir Emanet.] teaches Muslims to value the natural environment as Allah’s creation and to care for it as conscientious stewards.xxxiv 339 Foltz. 337 Foltz. p. Environmentalism in the Muslim World..xi-xii. a disproportionate percentage of the world’s poor happen to be Muslim.. Al-islām wa’l-bī‘at. These are concerned with the value and nature of Western science and its relation to the ethical tenets of Islam and actively aim to develop an ‘Islamic science’ 340. if Muslims today are failing to live up to this responsibility.muslimheritage. one in which humans relate to each other and to God as they should. Islamization of Science Within other Muslim quarters. 2009 11/09/2009 99/116 . AM Schwencke. Istanbul: Oğlak Yayınları. R. 338 Foltz. and: www. according to most of them. as well as to a sub-discipline of Islamic philosophy studying the underlying principles of Islamic science. 340 ‘Islamic science’ refers to a formal academic discipline dedicated to the study of the history of science in Islamic civilisation. See for example: www. 336 Turkish edition. tr.C. These can be found in groups that are actively involved in the ongoing debates about the ‘Islamization of Science’. will be one in which environmental problems will not exist. Nurettin Elhüseyni. Foltz also notes that most existing literature on environmental values in Islam is highly apologetic in tone. Kuala Lumpur and professor in the Department of Science and Technology. [. In a just society. even if it could be proven that a genuinely Islamic society is eco-friendly and there were agreement among the world’s 1. University of Colorado and Azizan Baharuddin. 2007. His criticism is clearly also directed to Nasr: One suspects. 2005. Director of the Center for Civilizational Dialogue of the University of Malaysia. Cairo: ‘Adel al-Mu‘alam. than in the biosphere as an integral whole’. aggressive ‘Islamic creationism’ or apologetic ‘scientific’ Qur’an 335 Co-editors are: Frederick Denny.

resulting from the influence of a world of western ideas that are foreign to (January 2009). the Islamic Medical Association (IMA) and the umbrella organisation: the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Also see the websites of: Science and Religion in Islam: http://science-islam. The Centre for Islam and Science: http://www. Adi Setia of the Islamic University of Leif. New aiming to develop a knowledge that is compatible with the Islamic worldview. Malaysia. 347 Setia. including with . Nasr is actively involved in this area343. This is and amended and extended version of a paper originally presented at the International Conference on the role of Islamic States in a Globalized World. The Islamization of Science: Four Muslim Positions. Setia’s article ‘The Inner Dimension of going Green: articulating an Islamic deep-ecology’347 is an extremely interesting attempt to bridge these worlds. concerns the impact of Nasr’s work on groups and people with a more political i. June 22. Muzaffar Iqbal345 and Ziauddin Sardar346 are of particular interest in this respect.cis-ca. 2007. Le Coran et la Science (1976) was translated as The Bible. Islamist agenda. AM Schwencke. the Qur’an and Science in 1978 made Bucaille famous in the Muslim world. but there are more moderate voices to be heard in the Muslim world342. winter 2007. Coronet Books. which was sent to scholars of the major European and American universities. It was the basis of the film The Book of Signs and Bucaille was invited by Kings and heads of states. vol 5. A biography can be found on: http://www. political and economic crises of the Muslim world to an intellectual crisis.cis-ca.. Eco-Islamism: Fazlun Khalid Another interesting avenue worthy of further research. July 2007 by the Institute for Islamic Understanding (IKIM). An Illusion of Harmony. Developing an Islamic Modernity. no 2. ‘Three meanings of Islamic Science: toward Operationalizing Islamization of Science’ in: Islam&Science. Faruqi was a colleague of Nasr at Temple University in the 1980s. Leiden University. Some Islamist groups in Turkey 341 The scientific interpretation of the Qur’an or tafsir ilmi position which is presently extremely popular in the Islamic world was pioneered by the Frenchman Maurice Bucaille who claimed that modern scientific knowledge is already anticipated by the Qur’an. A. clearly echoing Nasr’s thought and also responding to Western deep-ecology philosophies. the Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers (AMSE).org/ 344 Adi Setia is professor of history and philosophy of science at the International Islamic University of Malaysia. Bucailles book La Bible. 342 Other representatives are: (1) Ziauddin Sardar who considers modern science to be in direct opposition with the Islamic worldview. Setia. Science and Religion in Islam.cis-ca. is used by the western powers to dominate the Islamic world. A. thereby seen to ‘prove’ its divine origin. In 2006 the controversial Turkish Islamic creationist Harun Yahya (Adnan Oktar) published a multicolour 800 pages glossy The Atlas of Creation. 345 Muzaffar Iqbal is the director of The Centre for Islam and Science: http://www. (2) Ismail Raji alFaruqi and the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT. especially in Malaysia. 1996. References: Review by Muzaffar Iqbal of Stenberg. science. are promoting and working out the concept of Islamic science. 2009 11/09/2009 100/116 . A remedy is therefore sought on the intellectual plane.htm 346 Ziauddin Sardar: http://www. ‘The Inner Dimension of going Green: articulating an Islamic deep-ecology’ in: Islam&Science. New York: Prometheus Books. Some of his students or closest associates.what is of interest here: a distinctly environmental dimension. Kuala . 1981) attributes the observed social. Their work may be some of the stepping stones connecting the ‘Western’ environmental debates to debates that were up till recently mainly confined to Muslim quarters. 2007 Accessed at: www. Edis. (3) Nasr’s position aiming to develop a comprehensive framework (cosmology.thefreelibrary..interpretations appear to dominate the Islamic science agenda341. a ‘sacred science’) that can integrate various scientific positions is shared with Seyed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas and Osman Bakar. 343 Nasr is involved with the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS).

1992. and Modernity: An Islamic critique of the Root Causes of Environmental Degradation’. Khalid. Leiden University. Khalid is more of a man of practice. R. social and environmental justice and rejoice in the interconnectedness and interdependencies between human beings and the circle of animals. founder director of the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES). ‘Applying Environmental Ethics’ in: Foltz.. at least. Paper presented at the Muslim Convention on Sustainable Development. p86. the extent of environmental degradation would be less. radical environmentalism and contemporary Islamist thought. Özdemir refers to work by Oğus Erdur who explored this field and identifies a distinct current of ‘Islamist environmentalism’ Oğuz Erdur. Citing Nasr in: F. p30. native species protection. 2003. focussing on ethics – here grounded in Islamic law . (eds). F. are also actively promoted by radical Islamist groups such as the Hizb ut Tahrir Hisz ut-Tahrir.C. p. for example. Environmentalism in the Muslim World. 2009 11/09/2009 101/116 . www. Khalid. Environmentalism in the Muslim World.. 349 According to Foltz who feels ‘embolded to make that assessment after six years of studying Muslim environmentalism’. While this terminology may alienate Western secular minds.. Khalid shares Nasr’s criticism of modernity and appreciation of ‘traditional Islam’.. as represented by prominent Western activists such as Noreena Hertz. AM Schwencke. Spirit and Nature. Ecology. F. Islam and Ecology. place-based activism.are said to be inspired by Nasr’s criticism of modernity and his appeal to traditional Islam. a parallel of the World Summit on Sustainable Development at Alternative monetary systems have been promoted within the environmental or anarchist movements for some decades.imase. such as a return to the caliphate and an Islamic monetary system351.and their social and political application. such as ‘bioregionalism’ and the ‘eco-village movement’ that are promoted within various social and environmental movements and that favour a small- 348 Özdemir. 350 Foltz. S. ‘Bioregionalists support local economies of scale. R.89 351 Publications by Fazlun Khalid. plants and insects that define a more than human community’. 1992.xiii. ‘Re-appropriating the ‘Green’: Islamist Environmentalism. If the traditional worldview could be implemented by Muslims. ‘Chapter 2: Turkey’ in: Foltz. With these suggestions Khalid moves deeply into the arena of ‘political Islam’ or ‘Islamism’. Elder..C. South Africa in 2002 (Accessed at www. than at present’348. in: Islam and Ecology: A Bestowed Trust. in: Encyclopaedia of Religion.C. 2005. Environmentalism in the Muslim World. Boston: Beacon Press. ‘Islam. Khalid is interesting for many reasons. as well as many Muslim minds. I. p. J. An Islamist agenda is also voiced by one of the most active ‘Islamic’ environmentalists of the Western world: the British Muslim Fazlun Khalid349. On the level of solutions. Entry ‘Bioregionalism’. Khalid. 2005. however.hizb-ut-tahrir. London: Cassell Publishers Ltd.ifees. p188-189. Nova Science Publishers Inc.’ in New Perpectives on Turkey 17 (fall 1997): 151-166. O’Brien. i.. Part of the WWF World Religions and Ecology series. In: Environmentalism in the Muslim World.e. religiously motivated political activism352.C. ‘Environmental degradation is seen as a result of a modernist-secular culture which has destroyed the sacred dimension of the world. but one of these is his relationship to Nasr to whom ‘he has turned for advice and support on many occasions over the past decade’350. 352 The Caliphate and the gold dirham model. J. His views are an extremely interesting mix of anti-globalist thought. Khalid draws parallels with ideas from the radical environmental movement. ‘Sustainable Development and Environmental Collapse: An Islamic Perspective’.org. Also see: www.

Nasr can be shown to be involved with several Islamic Sufi orders. 354 Several scholars do research in the field of contemporary manifestations of Sufism in the West. Yet. apart from a few groups that adhere to a non-Islamic Sufism355. A recent issue of Journal for Islamic Studies was dedicated to ‘Engaged Sufism’ exploring the level of activism of Sufi groups356. Marcia Hermansen of Loyola University of Chicago. Western Sufi movements do not appear to take an active interest in ecological issues354. The International Association of Sufism. 2009 11/09/2009 102/116 . Although these publications provide insight in the many Sufi There are some leads to consider though. who is also active in the Common Word initiative and Islamica Magazine. J. Engaged Sufism A circle that may be expected to show an interest in Nasr’s work are Sufi groups. She is presently working on a comprehensive overview of American Sufi movements which is intended to be published in 2011 by Oxford University Press. Although an interest in environmental issues is a contemporary Islamic deep-ecology will have to be systematically formulated by drawing upon the rich and still very much alive spiritual 353 For example: ISRA Islamic Studies & Research organisation does research on Sufi communities in America. ‘To love Every Life as Your Own: An introduction to Engaged Sufism’ in Journal for Islmaic Studies. 2006. Nasr recently delivered a public lecture ‘Faith and the Environment’ 17 May 2008 as part of the Revival Series: http://www.boulderinstitute.scale. The groups centred on the American convert. www. Leiden University. These publications refer to Nasr as a scholar of 356 Shaikh. Vol 26.ias. Nasr recently delivered a public lecture about ‘Faith and the Environment’ as part of an Islamic revival series. no concrete references to a Sufi ecological agenda could be found. generally Nasr’s environmental work appears to have remained 355 The Boulder Institute for Nature and the Human Spirit. S. She was not aware of any activity in this area. and his work is promoted by some Sufi organisations353. I could not find information about a Sufi ecological agenda.. Also interesting is a group centred on Hamza Yusuf promoting a Revival of Islam. refers to Sufism explicitly: For environmental concerns to engage the active involvement of more Muslims (especially Malaysian Muslims). The Malaysian advocate of Islamic science Adi Setia. J. for example. Also see: http://homepages. Hinnels. Kugle. have any of the contemporary Sufis taken on ‘ecology’ as part of their agenda? This does not appear to be the case. Hamza Yusuf (Mark Hanson) are interesting in this respect. decentralized and region-based approach to life opposing industrialism and globalism with its large scale institutions and bureaucracies. S. www.revivingtheislamicspirit. 2006.israinternational. Illinois. www. AM Schwencke. Sufism in the West. Hamza Yusuf is an American convert to Islam (Mark Hanson).com/ . The recently published Sufism in the West is informative Malik. Considering the centrality of Sufism in Nasr’s thought and the importance of inner development for achieving a collective transformation of worldviews. I also consulted one of the leading scholars of the field. Yusuf is also active in the A Common Word initiative and Islamica Magazine. In fact.

and to God357. Theophany and the rehabilitation of Kabbalist symbolism362 and significantly.nuradeen. 359 Catherine. It illustrates the potential of a fusion between Western deep ecology. to others. is still being developed and time will tell363. excellence.. Cutsinger. linking the Sufi sheikh Fadhlalla Haeri and his Academy of Self Knowledge to Nasr and others. which is premised on the concept and practice of ihsan. Accessed at: Living Islam http://www.development. not very educated in the ecological sense. His community is. ‘The Inner Dimension of going Green: articulating an Islamic deep-ecology’ in: Islam&Science. Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri. 363 David Catherine. founded by SFH.. 362 Of the highly controversial ‘occultist’ tradition of Dione Fortune. D. Oldmeadow. namely. generally speaking. AM Schwencke. and perfection of one's actions.livingislam. a writer-philosopher who combines knowledge and experience of the spiritual teachings of the East with a keen understanding of the West. Nature. electronic version only. Those who are ecologically aware appear to be so through secular means. Catherine’s Nature. Another indication of Sufi engagement is provided by the work of David Catherine a regular contributor to Traditionalist media who takes an active interest in environmental issues. He is a student of the Academy of Self Knowledge founded by the Iraqi scholar Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri. Alchemist. Catherine: The best contemporary model I can think of is probably that of Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri (SFH). 2007. The ASK programme (Academy of Self Knowledge). which he published online is an intriguing a ‘brewing pot’ of ideas. it is openly inspired by Nasr. sharing his analysis of ‘modern culture’ and responding to his plea for inner 360 Jungian eco-psychological symbolism inspired by Henry Corbin361. 361 See Eco-Traditionalists and Tom Cheetham of this Chapter.nuradeen. to nature.’ Fadhlalla Haeri. Website Academy of Self-Knowledge: http://askonlinecourse. whom Nasr appears to know well358. Firstly. He is no stranger to Nasr. his work points toward the existence of a Western network of Islamic Sufis. Secondly. ‘ASK is based on the teachings of its founder. vol 5.hostjava. concepts and references drawn from traditionalists in the lineage of which is what tasawwuf is all about. Rodney Blackhirst. email correspondence 26 March 2009. the beauty.psychology of the Sufis. He was raised in a family of several generations of Islamic spiritual leaders in the Holy City of Karbala. Theophany and the rehabilitation of Consciousness. eco-(trans) psychology and 357 Setia. Nasr. 2009 11/09/2009 103/116 . theories. Leiden University.html#pdf 358 Weblog Nuradeen: http://www. accessed on www. Lings. mixed with Hermetic. no 2. with respect to one's own self. Timothy Scott. also with Islamic Sufi concepts. though his ecological concern is implicit in his overall model and not particularly explicit (lesson 14 of the third module will be dedicated to "Ecology and the Environment") winter 2007.htm 360 Schuon. who wrote a foreword to Haeri’s autobiography Son of Karbala (2005). Catherine’s work is interesting for several reasons. A. inwardly and outwardly.

Firstly. Leiden University. she has been “practising Islam for over 30 years under her teacher. ethicists and academic scholars articulating an Islamic environmental ethic. She is explicitly listed alongside some of Nasr’s closest associates at KAZI distributions. Dr. These (mostly Western) scholars can be seen to work out Nasr’s vision of ‘traditional’ (exoteric) Islamic environmental sharia based teachings. his criticism of modernity and his plea to re-connect with tradition also strikes a chord with politically motivated Islamist groups or eco-activists like Khalid. Laleh Bakhtiar appears to be a close associate of Nasr. several aspects stand out. an MA in Philosophy. She is one of the few who explicitly refers to herself as being a student of Nasr. ( Here the criticism of modernity and the call to return to traditional Islam are more pronounced. who has worked on traditional psychology (and the Sufi Enneagram). probably reflecting the widespread and deeply engrained antagonism between Islamism and Sufism. According to her biography. She has a BA in History from Chatham College in Pennsylvania. Traditional Islam to these groups is predominantly based on injunctions from the Qur’an. Dr.html).Islamic mysticism as understood by Nasr. AM Schwencke. responsible for distributing Islamic publications. Seyyed Hossein Nasr”.sufienneagram. Secondly. Laleh Bakhtiar. an MA in Counseling Psychology and a Ph. Hadith and Sharia. 364 This is also suggested by the work of one of Nasr’s students. She is also a Nationally Certified Counselor. Nasr shares common ground as is also cited by other Islamic theologians. This leads to the (tentative) conclusion that the reception of Nasr’s ‘esotericist’ dimension is less pronounced in Islamic circles than amongst the Western environmentalists. Whereas this aspect of Nasr’s work was central to understand the common ground with New Age environmentalism. 2009 11/09/2009 104/116 .364 Discussion Reflecting the Islamic landscape as crudely outlined in this paragraph.D. in Educational Foundations. It also indicates that the influence of Nasr’s work must be sought in the field of (transpersonal) eco-psychology and self development. this appears not to be the case for Islamic environmentalist circles. poetry. arts and especially the esoteric dimensions of Sufism appear to be less prominent. Islamic literature.

Denying the divine centre of existence and its intricately interrelated hierarchy of realms flowing forth from it. his awareness of the spiritual dimensions of humanity and nature. 2009 11/09/2009 105/116 . In this thesis. identify some of the groups or people that are inspired by his ideas and (4) to analyse the common ground between Nasr and these groups. rationalistic. Leiden University. in opposition with. the environmental crisis is reflecting a much deeper ‘spiritual crisis’. this paradigm can only misdirect our efforts and energies and is therefore ultimately self-destructive. In its structural disregard for the higher order levels of reality – the Great Chain of Being. ‘modern man’ is left floating aimlessly in a centerless universe. but in reality only providing us with a partial. Our cultural. the ‘secular’ temper of the Western world. a respected scholar of Islam and a leading spokesperson of the emerging Islamic environmentalism.7 Conclusion This thesis explored the ideas of the American-Iranian Seyyed Hossein Nasr. reducing man to no more than an AM Schwencke. He is pleading for the reestablishment of ‘religion’ in its ‘traditional’ or orthodox forms and as such his message is at odds. materialistic and anthropocentric.need careful definition and characterization if we want to understand what he is envisaging as a solution to one of the most pressing of our contemporary problems: the environmental crisis. Nasr believes. The direct cause of the crisis is the economy. ‘Islamic’ and Esotericism’ . economical and technological development is fuelled by a worldview which is ‘modern’. In this concluding Chapter. All these terms – ‘Traditionalist’. reductionist. claiming on ‘absolute’ knowledge. work and audiences. what he believes to be a remedy to the desperate state of in-balance that humanity has created for itself in the modern industrial age. The aim of this BA thesis was: (1) to clarify Nasr’s ideas about the environmental crisis. I have attempted to clarify Nasr’s eco-philosophy. Modern man has lost his ‘sense of the sacred’. I will attempt to collect some of the disparate strings found when exploring the vast landscape of Nasr’s ideas. Traditionalist Islamic Esotericism Nasr is promoting a Traditionalist Islamic environmental ethic grounded in ‘Esotericism’. The root cause of the crisis is therefore a flawed worldview: the modern paradigm. ‘institutionalized greed’ and its resultant consumerism. In essence. (2) to contextualize these ideas within larger framework. (3) to investigate the reception of these ideas. life. truncated and deeply dysfunctional understanding of reality.

All authentic. Islam. absolute. (2) the hierarchical order of the universe. A viable ethics needs first of all to be based on awareness of this ‘order’ and secondly on values of self-control. (3) the existence of divine or cosmic laws governing all levels of reality. can be characterized as ‘Perennialism’. ‘Traditionalism’ and/ or ‘Esotericism’. discipline. Nasr believes that these core principles enable man to live in harmony with the hierarchy of existence of all levels. Hinduism. as interpreted by the key expositors of the ‘Traditionalist school’. ourselves and our relation to nature. This type of thought. to live in harmony with the outer world. Judaism and the Indian American Traditions reflect one. the blueprints of ideal human behaviour. the techniques to guide us along the path of self-development. AM Schwencke. we will have to radically change our ways and Nasr is convinced this will only happen if we change the way we view the world. but this was gradually pushed out of Western culture and is now nearly forgotten in the industrial age. Frithjof Schuon and Réné Guénon. material. I have argued. On a more profane level. Leiden University. The ‘traditional’ world view has profound implications for the way we perceive the world and ourselves and subsequently for how we live our lives. Thirdly. Re-assertion of these principles will re-align our human societies with the balance of nature. Christianity. We need to rediscover the ‘traditional’ world view to re-establish balance and harmony with nature. Ananda Coomaraswamy. (4) the inherent unity of existence and (5) the central position of man within this intricate Great Chain of Being. all beings have there rightful place within the great cosmic harmony. Our actions and our freedom as human beings is inherently limited and restrained by the existing order at all levels of existence.‘economic animal’ driven by material needs. timeless or perennial and ultimate Truth and share a common core of universal metaphysical principles. moderation and contentment. First of all. Buddhism. Real knowledge about the ‘true’ nature of existence had always been provided by the religious traditions. need to be in accordance with the divine or cosmic ‘order’ or laws. Confucianism. as well as with the means. and subsequently also with nature. Taoism. Religions provide us with knowledge. the ‘training of the soul’ will curb the consumerist ‘greed’ allowing a lifestyles that are more in harmony with the natural limits of our planet. Transgression of the laws affects not only our selves but all of creation. ethics. If we want to avoid catastrophe.i.e. ‘revealed’ religions . spiritual and ultimately Divine. 2009 11/09/2009 106/116 . Through a comparative analysis of the nature theologies of the world’s religions. this world view reasserts human responsibility towards all living beings of creation. as moral guidelines for human behaviour. psychological. Nasr identified five central principles to be at the heart of all authentic traditions: (1) the existence of one divine absolute truth.

the heart of Islam. arts and architecture. the metaphysical core common to all religions. According to Nasr. Religious leaders – although not necessarily enlightened – also have an active role to play in guiding the masses towards more sustainable life styles. poetry. centred on the divine (theocentric) and grounded in ‘revealed’ sacred knowledge about the divine order of reality (metaphysics). AM Schwencke. should not lead us to believe that all religions are the same or that we can pick and chose at will from the rich heritage of our world’s traditions. political and economical institutions. Nasr is promoting a virtue-ethics. Metaphysics in practice? Nasr is primarily concerned with the worldview. Hadith teachings about the relation between man and nature. Nasr himself is influenced by a Persian synthesis of Shi’ite gnostic and Ibn Arabi’s metaphysics. these have most clearly crystallized in the doctrines of Ibn Arabi. as well as ritual and spiritual practice aiming to realigning the soul to the higher divine orders and as such re-establish balance with nature. the Qur’an and Hadith. 2009 11/09/2009 107/116 . Traditional Islam encompasses the fruits of the fourteen hundred years of Islamic culture that grew from these roots: the theology. the ‘greater vision’ behind the social structures. of the perennial wisdom or ‘gnosis’.Religions therefore provide the master key that will lead us out of the crisis. inspiring the masses to follow. Islamic Environmental ethics The existence of a common universal core underlying all religions. sharia derived environmental law. He is convinced that a transformation of the collective paradigm will eventually also transform the social structures. These include Qu’ranic. The Islamic environmental teachings and ethics proposed by Nasr are also rooted in his understanding of traditional Islam. neither is it ‘fundamentalist’ in the sense of returning to an idealized pristine version of Islam. literature. Nasr and other Traditionalists emphasize the necessity of following only one path and of ‘orthodoxy’ in religious practice. which profoundly influenced later schools of Sufi thought. Nasr sees himself as a reviver of religion. A spiritually enlightened elite will be the vanguard of change. philosophy. Sufism is the inner or esoteric dimension of Islam. Leiden University. It is not ‘modernist’ in the sense of a radical re-interpretation of these sources in line with modern theories. Its metaphysical doctrines are authentic expressions in Nasr’s view. traditional social. science. Nasr interpretation of ‘traditional Islam’ is firmly rooted in the classical Sharia’ite injunctions derived from the ‘revealed’ sources.

Traditional Islam is presented as an ‘antidote’ to a fundamentalist. Amongst the loosely organized groups. Nasr definitely shares common ground with these ‘deep ecology’ and ‘eco-psychology movements. Satish Kumar and Vandana Shiva. Schuon or any of the other Traditionalist founding fathers.F. The British Prince Charles is a particularly interesting connection to consider.or nature philosophy’ which he sahers with several other Traditionalist writers. is concerned about AM Schwencke. Reception. 2009 11/09/2009 108/116 . Western environmentalists. What particular structures will result when this traditional paradigm is effectuated in practice? What social and political models is Nasr really proposing? He does point in a certain directions: he clearly favours ‘traditional’ indigenous small-scale technologies. The environmental crisis is not a central aspect of their work. and with contemporary representatives such as the transpersonal psychologist Ken Wilber.F. Most of the ‘Traditionalists’ are scholars of religion and part of a wider academic network of scholars closely affiliated to Nasr.Unfortunately. for example E. extremist and a secularized modernist Islam. intercultural dialogue. techniques. Schumacher and the Schumacher College of Satish Kumar. Nasr can be seen as a typical exponent of American environmentalism which grew out of the early twentieth century American Transcendentalism of Henry David Thoreau and Waldo Emerson and the spiritual ‘deep ecology’ movements of the seventies and eighties. He leaves many questions unanswered. but do not refer to Guénon. Yet. We have shown that that he shares common ground with ‘environmentalists’ in these circles. Quite a few of these scholars share Nasr’s political agenda and appear to have considerable political influence. Nasr is venerated as the ‘leading living exponent of Traditionalism’. who are inspired by the Traditionalist philosophy. the Islamization of science-groups and Sufis. These eco-Traditionalists share common ground with environmentalists. traditional farming methods or small-scale eco-village communities very similar to those proposed by. They share his appreciation of ‘tradition’ and apply traditional principles. Leiden University. Nasr’s (eco-) philosophy finds its most fertile grounds amongst the Traditionalists of the US. Although it was not explored extensively. ‘circles of influence’ This thesis also explored the reception of Nasr’s ideas within several ‘circles’: the Traditionalists. and ethics to the ecological issue. such as E. especially in the sphere of inter-religious. Islamic environmentalist. Nasr’s work can be characterized as a distinctly ‘Traditionalist eco. some of which have been discussed in this thesis. Nasr does not work out his vision in much detail. He is a sympathiser of the Traditionalist perspective. Schumacher. Edward Goldsmith.

He was one of the first to (re)formulate specifically Islamic doctrines and teachings about nature and the environment into an Islamic environmental ethic. in fact. Nasr is also cited by groups with a distinctly political or Islamist agenda. Although Nasr is a well known in various Sufi circles. in Turkey and in the UK. and particularly Turkey and Malaysia. 2009 11/09/2009 109/116 . Many Muslim writers about the environment refer to Nasr’s Islamic teachings. deep ecologists and ecopsychologists. His work has found a response within Muslim circles. He may. The British eco-activist. his environmental work has remained unnoticed. What is the common ground? To which aspect of Nasr’s work do they respond? Is there a common ground between them? AM Schwencke. Interestingly. such as the Schumacher appropriate technology. The Malaysian scholar Adi Setia. Nasr is said to be a ‘founding father’ of another major ‘circle of influence’: the Islamic environmentalism. Islamic environmental ethicists. Common ground: Counterculture Critique. Sufi groups in general do not appear to be particularly interested in environmental issues. Setia refers to Sufism as a major source of inspiration. In fact this might turn out to be the most interesting venue for further explorations. Setia derives models for sustainable living that are very similar to those proposed by Nasr and other environmentalist groups. but also in various Muslim countries such as India. These are mainly drawn to Nasr’s criticism of ‘modernity’ and his re-assertion of traditional Qur’an. A definite interest in Nasr’s environmental work is expressed by the ‘Islamization of science’ groups. mainly in the West. Hadith or sharia based Islamic environmental ethics. indigenous agricultural techniques etc. Significantly. Leiden University. For this reason I have added a quote of one of his speeches as a motto to this thesis. traditional Islam and Esotericism We have identified several types of groups who in one way or another respond to Nasr’s environmental work: Environmentalist appreciating ‘tradition’. for example outlined an Islamic environmental science guided by Islamic ethics. because he fuses radical environmentalist and Islamist concepts. The environmental crisis is generally understood as a sign of moral degradation of Western civilization. eco-communities. be one of the most influential contemporary spokespersons for Nasr’s environmentalist thought in the West. eco-Islamists and Islamic environmental scientists. Fazlun Khalid is particularly interesting.environmental issues and cultural dialogue between Islam and the West and is appreciates Nasr’s work. Nasr’s Sufi esotericism does not find a pronounced response within these circles. Pakistan. A recent translation of Man and Nature into Persian may trigger a response in Iran.

his Islamic Esotericism is attracting less response in Muslim circles. share a particular ‘type of thought’. Islam in his view has something vital to offer to the world. Is there a common ground between these groups? The first is definitely the counter-culture critique which is voiced by most environmentalists. for example has its counterparts in environmentalist literature. Having its origins in the Neo-platonic and Hermetic revival of fifteenth century Renaissance. when analysed in some detail. i. share a political agenda aimed at a radical restructuring of the social. and particularly Sufism as presented by Nasr can also be seen as manifestation of this type of pre-secularized ‘esotericism’ proper. This explains the ‘affinity of thought’ between Nasr and the New Age environmentalism.e. Both have developed from the same root. AM Schwencke. He is presenting it as an alternative to secularism. Nasr is pleading for a re-establishment of the ‘enchanted worldview’ that characterized Western esotericism proper as defined by Faivre. However. but also for helping us analyse the ‘affinity of thought’ between Nasr’s traditionalist philosophy and New Age or ‘modern religiosity and spirituality’ of several contemporary environmental movements. Traditionalist thought and Nasr’s Traditionalist interpretation of Islam and Sufism can also be categorized as a manifestation of a non-secularized version of ‘(Western) esotericism’. Nasr’s Islam is esotericism applied in contemporary practice. Nasr is rejecting the ‘secularisation’ and reductionism of the type of esotericism of the New Age religions. 2009 11/09/2009 110/116 . Quite a few of the concepts and proposals converge. before it was secularized. Muslim and non-Muslim. not only for categorizing Nasr’s thought. Leiden University. Traditional Islam. than his criticism of modernity and his Traditional Islamic ethics. He is therefore advocating a return to the pre-Enlightenment worldviews reformulated in contemporary terms. than their Western counterparts are of Muslim theories. Islamic environmentalists are generally more aware of the Western theories. Hanegraaff classifies the belief systems of New Age type modern spirituality as ‘secularized esotericism’. The Islamic ‘ban on interest’ (riba). as a Traditionalist. I suggest this field of ‘overlapping discourse’ is extremely worthy of further research. as well as to fundamentalist or modernist interpretations of Islam. moreover. ‘Western esotericism’ transformed into the Romantic and Occultist currents of the nineteenth and early twentieth century and eventually into a ‘secularized form of esotericism’ of the countercultures of the seventies and the New Age of the eighties and nineties. Interestingly though. Nasr is in fact proposing an alternative to contemporary ‘secularized’ spirituality. In my view. Using Antoine Faivre’s definition of ‘Western esotericism’. political and economic systems.The model used by the Dutch scholar Wouter Hanegraaff proved to be helpful. The eco-Islamist and radical environmentalist.

A third common ground is the ‘Esotericism’. Increasingly. Vandana Shiva. I have pointed out the Schumacher network of such figure as Satish Kumar. In my view. I believe Nasr’s Perennialism and universalism may find a more favourable response. as well as a ‘distinct type of thought’. but which is also shared by quite a few contemporary spiritually inclined environmentalists. This will affect both the ‘topics’ and ‘tone’ of these debates. has strong spiritual overtones. and also Islamic ethics as more Muslims join the environmental debates. The Future of Political Islam. A host of critical western movements are regrouping. 11/09/2009 111/116 AM Schwencke. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.The second point of convergence is found in the appreciation of ‘tradition’ – ethics. but quite a few find their inspiration in some kind of ‘tradition’. This could also result in a reassertion of distinctly religious environmental ethics. G. Significance I expect that the ‘critique of modernity’ will voiced more strongly in the years to come in international arenas. The Western secular public has an increasing open mind towards religion. I have pointed out how Nasr’s Sufism and ‘New Age’ type modern religiosity share a common historical root. the counter culture critique. the appreciation of tradition and esotericism point at the kind of ‘convergences’ between the modern Western world and religious traditions. technology. Leiden University. especially in the international environmental debates about global issues like Climate Change. including Islam over shared issues of concern’ as envisaged by Fuller in the introduction365. the Sufi mystic Rumi has been a bestseller in the United States for years. Edward Goldsmith and E.which is very characteristic of the Muslim groups. p205-206. Within Muslim circles ethical arguments generally strike a 365 Fuller. religion. etc. as can be witnessed from international human rights debates for some years. . non-Western countries or organisations are increasingly claiming a voice. and Sufism may generally count on a positive response. Although Nasr’s uncompromising orthodoxy is not likely to appeal to the typically eclectic anti-dogmatic New Age type movements.F. arts. The UN Earth Charter for example. The main significance of Nasr’s environmental work is that he is pointing these out. Not all will adhere to a specific ‘tradition’. priority and reality of the problems and acclaimed solutions. some under the banner of antiglobalism. 2009 . sometimes resulting in a different assessment of the urgency. Schumacher. Alluding to Hangeraaff’s subtitle: Nasr’s ‘esotericism’ serves as powerful mirror to secular thought. Simultaneously Islamic environmental movements are emerging. people in positions of power are ‘admitting’ to a spiritual commitment to ecological and social issues. Whereas on a global level the ‘West’ had dominated the environmental discourse until fairly recently.

we need to realize that within the debates about the environment. His interpretation of traditional Islam is formulated in direct opposition to ‘fundamentalism’ and ‘modernism’.strong cord. Moreover. Traditionalism and Sufism are all controversial in the Muslim world. from fundamentalist Islamist to secular. and are not interested in specifically Islamic interpretations. He is able to translate it into terms that are understandable to the Western secular minds. we see in him a man who has taken it on him self to address some of the most urgent issues of our times: the rise of fundamentalism. At the same time we need to be careful not to identify Nasr’s interpretations with Muslim environmentalism at large. Nasr is an eloquent expositor of both Muslim critique of the modern West. AM Schwencke. Many Muslim environmentalists are pragmatic and secular in approach. his Perennialism. the relation of religions to secular modernity and the environmental crisis. 2009 11/09/2009 112/116 . Leiden University. and of an Islamic environmental ethics. Nasr’s interpretation of Islam. Adding his lifelong opposition to modern ‘secularism’ and his concern for the environment. his Shi’i background may prove problematic for environmentalists with a specific Sunni background. For those who are. we will find the same spectrum of ideologies that presently colour the contemporary Muslim debates. Hints of polemics in this sphere were found here and there. Nasr himself does not hesitate to enter these debates though.

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