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and West, Vol. 35, No. 1, (Jan., 1985), pp. 87-90 Published by: University of Hawai'i Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1398683 Accessed: 22/07/2008 16:28
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Comment and Discussion
Seyyed Hossein Nasr Response to Thomas Dean's review of Knowledge and the Sacred For the sake of clarifyingcertainbasic questionsconcerningtraditionaldoctrinesor thephilosophia to perennis,I findit necessary providea responseto the reviewby Professor ThomasDean of my Knowledge the Sacred.The review and as a wholedisplaysclearlythe chasmthat separates traditional the pointof view fromthe modernone and the problemscreatedas a resultof identifying tradition as simplyanother"ism"or school amongothersin the modernworld.In doctrineswhichI havesoughtto presentin this reality,however,the traditional book cannotunderany conditionbe reducedto simplyone modernphilosophical schoolamongothers.Nor can it be usedto serveas gristfor the mill of that acrobaticswhich is usuallycalledintellectualactivity type of moderncerebral but which has nothing to do with the "intellect."The traditionaldoctrines cannotenterinto dialoguewiththe antitraditional worldin orderto reachsome kind of intermediate more than can the sacredcompromise compromiseany itselfwiththesecular withoutceasingto be thesacred.Tradition onlypresent can itself as an alternativeto the modern world while using the contemporary mediumto present eternalmessagein a language its whichthe present-day world can comprehend. It is thisbasicdistinction between traditional the antitraditional the the and or sacredand the profanethat Dr. Dean does not seemto take into consideration. He writesof Heidegger he "allowed that new'sayings' Being,freshdisclosures of of transcendence the sacred,to speakto us fromthefutureof our tradition." and In the traditional this withthatof a prophetor perspective, functionis identified an avataror of a sagewho functionswithina universesanctified a revelation by or "divinedescent."Who was Heideggerto allownew "sayings"of Being?Or becausehe wasnot an avataror prophet, "newsayings" the are perhaps precisely of becomingratherthan Being soon to fall into the categoryof the "sayings" outmodedand out of date as one philosophicalschool replacesanotherin the Westwith the rapidityof the passingof decades. Comingto specificpoints of my book, Dr. Dean writesthat I considerthe in processof desacralization the West to have begunwith the Greeksand that therefore "theentiremainstream Westerntradition,even beforethe modern of to period,is fundamentally inadequate redressthe situation."Dr. Dean forgets theeventsfollowingtheGreeks,namely,the adventof the Christian religionand the Christianization the West which I emphasizedso much. This event not of of only stoppedthe processof the desacralization knowledgebut allowedthe West to process a veritabletraditionalcivilization and its own intellectual the tradition,whichwould certainlybe capableof redressing presentday situation if it had not been eclipsed by the paganismof the Renaissanceand its aftermath the little that remained it been put to restin recentdecades. and of Dr. Dean criticizesmy nontemporalinterpretation the sacred as being of
becauseI placepriority thepast.Thiscriticism to take in fails implicitly temporal into consideration fact that the EternalMomentis itself above all tempothe ralitywhilebeingthe ever-present Moment,but for us who live in the temporal it is the Originwhichis identified with that EternalMoment,while all process manifestation a represents fall from that Originfor those who exist withinthe downwardprocessof the cycle of manifestation question.That Momentis in also the End,but an Endwhichis not the resultof gradualgrowthfrom but an echo and "repetition" the Origin.The flow of a cycle of manifestation as is of naturallydownwardas is the fall of a rock from a height. To mistake my of of identification the Originwithperfection my emphasizing "priority the and thepast"withthe "implicit of reality" to overlookthe is temporal interpretation basicmetaphysical of manifestation. law I am accused of drawing"strands"from certain religions to defend the traditional solutionto the multiplicity religiousforms.To call the inneror of esotericdimension religiona "strand" to misunderstand verynatureof is the of esoterism. The inneror esotericdimensionof religionis not an externalcomwith the exoteric.It is ratherlike the ponentor strandthat is then intertwined marrowof the bone or the blood of a livingbody whichfeeds the whole body of inwardlywithoutbeing itself visible.Althoughthe veritableunderstanding anotherreligionor ecumenism its truesensecan only occurat the levelof the in and esoteric,it affectsthewholereligion notjust a partof it as if theesotericwere had a "strand." theesotericdimension Western If of Christianity survived simply to this day, the appreciation the traditionalview of other religionswould of surely have been differentfrom what one observesin the West today. This assertionis trueeven if Christianity presentsa specialcase of an eso-exoterism withouta distinctlymarkedesotericdimension,as one finds in Judaismand with Islam.If the esotericperspective alien to those who identifythemselves is or only the exoteric dimensionof Judaismand Christianity, Islam for that matter,this fact does not invalidateeither its truth or its applicability.The withformswhichexclude exotericdimension religionis by natureconcerned of andwhichcan open themselves otherformsonly at the expenseof endangerto of The and ingtheirwholeness integrity. tragicconsequence so muchof moder ecumenism the wholenessand integrityof the religiouslife bearswitnessto for this fact. Onlythe esotericcan comprehend innerrealityof otherworldsof the the sacredform withoutendangering formalexotericworld of which it is the esotericdimension. Dr. Dean writesthatwhenI statethatreligiousformsarerelative,I implicate Firstof all, theone relativity formulations. therelativity myownmetaphysical of of formulations the doesnot necessarily theother.Secondly, metaphysical imply whichI writearenot "myown,"in whichcase they wouldbe the resultsof one are formulations pointsof subjectivity amongothers.Thirdly,all metaphysical reference the intellectionof a truth to which they allude but which they for neither contain in a monopolistic sense nor exhaust. To mistake even the
traditional doctrineof the Absolutefor the AbsoluteItselfwouldbe to mistake traditional for metaphysics modernphilosophy,whichit is not. WhenI say the lanesoteric"alone"I do not, in fact, absolutizeone particular metaphysical but but esoterism such.Thereis only one metaphysic manytraditional as guage languagesthroughwhich it is expressedand many religionswith irreducible scienceof the differences whichnevertheless containin theirheartthat supreme Real. The multiplicityof universesof sacred forms allows neverthelessthe of possibility dialoguebetweenthem. But preciselybecausethat which is most of is this important the questionof truthand not expediency, multiplicity forms withinwhichdialogueis possibleexcludesthose philosophies whichnegatethe of primacyof the sacredand the plenarymanifestations the Logos that constitutethe variousreligions. To the questionwhetherit is fair or accurateto assertthat "everyexoteric claims,by definition,to be the only trueand legitimateone," I can perspective answerthat it is theoretically only possibleeven on the exotericlevel to respect the religionof others.But one'sown formalreligiousworldcontinuesto possess legitimacyin an absoluteand finalway withoutwhich one would not practice one's religion. As for the "excessiverhetoric"of the traditionalwriters,it must be remembered that their oppositionis not againstthe West but only the modem Westand,in fact,modernism wherever maybe. If theirtone appears it excessive, it is becausewe live in a worldin whichdiplomacyoften prevailsover truthfulness, a worldwhichwhile so sharplycriticalof everything opposedto it never turnsthe sharpedge of its supposedly facultiesupon itself. hypercritical I haveassessed attemptsof the modernWestto understand otherreligions the but negatively, I havetakenthese attemptsseriouslyand have made a studyof them.Thatis whatI am askingfor, the traditional point of view in place of the concerted"conspiracy silence"that has gone on for years.I do not wish to of have "feelingsat havingbeen passedover" considered,for the questionis not that of feelings.What I wish is to have the point of view presented this and in similarbooks to be considered the lightof its intellectual even scholarly in and meritsratherthanto be passedover in silence.
As for scientia sacra being "the only true position," my claim is not that a particular expression of scientia sacra is the only true position but that scientia'
sacraitselfdoeshold theuniquekey.It is remarkable throughout review how the and its verbal expressionsare identifiedwhile traditionallyevery knowledge
formulation of the scientia sacra provides the occasion for the intellection of a
whichin itselfandas realizedknowledge ineffable. Primordial is The knowledge as of Tradition, asserted Huston Smith,providesthe key for the attainment by thisknowledge doctrines whichthemselves symbolic,butit does not are through of thatit becomessimplyone acceptthe relativization the truthin sucha manner Traditionis opposed amongmany "isms"in a worldof contendingrelativities. to Gadamer's "fusionof horizons."It does not expectthe disclosure any new of
truthsfromsucha fusion.Rather,it seeksto providethe keys to enableman to understand thesehorizonsin the exceptionalsituationin whichhe is forcedto not only the horizonof his own worldbut also the horizonsof alien gaze upon universes. Thereis, however,no ultimatetruthin thesehorizonswhichdid not existat thebeginning, the Originwhichcausedthe genesisof the manyworlds at whosehorizonssurround and whichwe are able to contemplate us across the boundaries our own particular of world. Finally, Dr. Dean states that "the Heideggerian readingof that history of the Nasr's,whereasNasr'sreadingdoes not comprehend Being'comprehends' truthof Heidegger's I wouldcertainly thatmy reading does not ontology." agree the comprehend "truth"of Heidegger's ontology, althoughit does point to its But falsehoodfor thosewho understand sharethe traditional and perspective. I mine mustemphasize Heidegger's doesnot comprehend that certainly "reading" the presenceof certain elements in him which resembletraditional despite teachings,for were his "reading"to comprehendthe traditionaldoctrine of Being,it wouldsimplyceaseto exist in its presentform. In fact had the light of and theywouldnot Beingevershineduponthe worldof Heidegger his followers, seekto deconstruct Westerntraditionbut to dismantlethat wall of opacity the which has veiled to an ever greaterdegree the Westerntraditionsince the Renaissance whenthe mainstream Western of civilizationpartedwaysfromthe millenialtraditions mankind. of
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