Disclosure of High Knowledge through Perennialist Art

Perennialist Art   Adaptation Creation As Power   Creative Inspiration
Language and Human Evolution Triumph Of Civilization   Language and Poetry   Literary Sensibility

The Perennial Tradition is the hidden secret of human re-birth through initiation which has been transmitted through all the world's authentic mystical systems. Teachers such as Hermes, Plato, Jesus, Rumi, Francis of Assisi, Shakespearre and Shakespeare reformulated and reintroduced this single stream of esoteric wisdom in succeeding generations. This unitary line of teaching is adapted to the specific needs of the people of each historic era.

     Following the death of the original teacher, unenlightened disciples codify the teachings, which become largely fossilized and useless--as in the case of organized religions. But certain other followers of the teacher, who understand the genuine teachings and processes, preserve and transmit the Perennialist legacy. These genuine teachers disclose the Perennial Tradition through, among other elements, specially designed art objects.

Thales      Contemporary progressive scientists 1 have come to the same hypothesis as that of early philosophers such as Thales: that the basic element of our universe is energy. The most fundamental constituents are described as particles/waves, since neither aspect is accurate by itself. In sub-atomic physics these are conceived of not as "things" but as foci of energy. Physical form is the result of specific frequencies, energy vibration rates. Specific materials subjected to particular frequencies assume distinguishing forms.

     As an example, to the right are four image patterns as photographed through a microscope. We would assume that the images are of four different substances, since their forms (patterns) are so different. Actually, these are images of the same substance--oil of turpentine--subjected to four different sound frequencies. Physical form is the response of any entity to energy frequency; it is the aspect of frequency apprehensible by our senses.

     Scientist Hans Jenny has created an entire new field, named cymatics, for the study of wave forms. We are at present unable to explain why different kinds of materials subjected to specific sound frequencies assume specific patterns and shapes. But cymatics may provide answers in the future.

     All entities in our empirical world, then, are composed of energy frequencies. Our five senses are constructed to pick up data in the form of visual, aural, tactile, olfactory, and taste wavelengths (energy frequencies). Our brain then interprets this wavelength data and responds in a specific manner. All empirical entities are vibratory energy fields which produce direct or indirect effects in other entities: persons, things, or events.

     From one aspect, the Perennial Tradition is arcane knowledge as to how to produce specific responses in persons, objects, and events through specially designed stimuli. The distinguishing feature of Perennialist art (specially designed stimuli) is its power to produce psychic upheaval in a prepared mind and transport that mind to a higher dimension.

      I am using the term "Perennialist art" to include the conscious production or arrangement of words, sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that enables a person to understand and participate in a higher state of consciousness.

     Within the term "Perennialist art" I include those specially created instances of literature (prose and poetry), drama (including screenplays), painting, sculpture, architecture, music, dance, exercises, or illustration (including illustrated books and Web sites) which possess the distinguishing quality of empowering a readied recipient to gain a higher state of awareness.

     The Perennial Tradition possesses an actual technology for helping people develop higher states of consciousness. Books, stories, poems, plays, paintings, music compositions, architectural monuments, and exercises within the Perennial Tradition contain carefully designed elements which act on the person's psyche (personality and mind) to produce precise effects. Responses vary according to the capabilities of different recipients and with a single recipient who returns to the stimuli over a period of time.

"A work of art, bad or good is a complex vibratory system. . .

"Accomplished artists know instinctively that their creations conform to law: consider Beethoven's famous statement, made while working on the later quartets, that 'music is a higher revelation than philosophy'. 2   But they do not understand the precise nature of these laws. They arrive at mastery only through intense discipline, innate sensitivity and a long period of trial and error. There is little they can pass on to pupils or disciples. Only technique can be passed on, never 'genius'. But in ancient civilisations, a class of initiates had precise knowledge of harmonic laws. They knew how to manipulate them to create the precise effect they wanted. And they wrote this knowledge into architecture, art, music, paintings, rituals and incenses, producing Gothic cathedrals, vast Hindu temples, all the marvels of Egypt and many other sacred works that even today, in ruins, produce a powerful effect upon us. This effect is produced because these men knew exactly what they were doing and why they were dong it: it was done entirely through a complex sensory manipulation."

John Anthony West, Serpent In the Sky: the High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt

      Our scholastic predispositions lead us to look at a book, for example, as a simple collection of words expressing ideas. It is difficult for us to conceive of a genuine science contained in Perennialist books which would be capable of producing evolutionary transformations in human beings.

     Within the Perennialist Tradition, the seeker's path to knowledge is through illuminating experience prescribed by an external or inner teacher. The true teacher's approach to knowledge is the very opposite of that developed by some of the seventeenth and eighteenth century thinkers such as Francis Bacon. Bacon's conception of knowledge was to force nature to yield its secrets. The Perennial Tradition teaches that knowledge comes from preparing oneself to discern what is to be perceived in nature--the apparent and the hidden.

"It might be said that the scientific approach has most often been: 'I shall make this phenomenon yield its secrets', while the Sufic attitude is: 'Let the real truth, whatever it may be, be revealed to me'.

"The former is the 'heroic' mode: attempting something with insufficient knowledge, the latter the 'self-evolution' mode: fitting oneself to perceive that which is to be perceived."

Idries Shah, The Commanding Self

Transmission of the Perennial Tradition through Artistic Stimuli

     To illustrate how Perennialist teachers create transformative stimuli to facilitate a higher state of consciousness in initiates, we'll examine two mysterious periods when the Perennial Tradition produced astounding artistic monuments:

  • The golden age of Egypt

  • The age of cathedral builders in twelfth century Europe

     Examination of specific phenomena always produces results concomitant with the investigator's capabilities and belief system. With such investigators of ancient Egypt as John Taylor and Charles Piazzi Smyth, Egyptology degenerated into biblical exegesis and apologetics, since both believed in the literal truth of the Bible. It took a person such as R.W. Schwaller de Lubicz [1887-1961 CE] with his intuition of a deeper significance within Egyptian civilization, to cast light on the transformative aspects of Egyptian art of all genres.

"By interpreting the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs as symbolic carriers of a hermetic message, de Lubicz [1887-1961 CE] discovered in Egypt the earliest known source of a Sacred Science which forms the basis of what has come to be known as the Perennial Philosophy, fragments of which have been kept alive among the Gnostics, Sufis, Cabalists, Rosicrucians, and Masons, but primarily by a series of enlightened and clairvoyant masters." 3
     Perennialist masters of all eras have been able to transmit the secrets of initiatory rebirth through specially designed stimuli such as books or monuments in such a way that prepared seekers apprehended the arcane knowledge while the merely inquisitive passed over the stimuli as uninteresting or inferior.

"Since the phonetic values of Egyptian hieroglyphs were discovered by Champollion at the beginning of the last [nineteenth] century, the writings of the Egyptians have been interpreted by Egyptologists with as little understanding of the thoughts and beliefs expressed in them as have modern academic teachers of English understood the hermetic philosophy enshrined in Shakespeare. As it happens, the data are the same in both." . . .

"To de Lubicz this duality of Egyptian hieroglyphs made it possible for the priests to address the people at large with one message while addressing initiates with another, just as with the works attributed to the Lance-Wielder from Stratford-on-Avon one could address the pit with an overt and innocuous message and yet perpetuate the politically dangerous perennial wisdom by addressing the Crown and the Privy Council in language sufficiently hermetic to avoid the Tower or axe." 4

"Myth can be used as a vehicle for handing down solid knowledge independently from the degree of insight of the people who do the actual telling of the stories. . . In ancient times, moreover, it allowed the members of the archaic 'brain trust' to 'talk shop' unaffected by the presence of laymen. The danger of giving something away was practically nil."

Georgio de Santilana and Hertha von Dochend, Hamlet's Mill

     After nearly two decades of studying Egyptian civilization, primarily on site at the Temple of Luxor, Schwaller de Lubicz was able to point to a higher form of knowledge embodied in Egyptian art forms. De Lubicz noted something very peculiar about Egyptian civilization: it appeared to be a legacy, not a development; Egyptian knowledge seems to have been complete from the very beginning.

     Whether this legacy of arcane knowledge came from an earlier civilization or not, the Egyptian art forms (e.g. pyramids; the Sphinx; mathematical, medical, and religious texts) point to an agency possessing higher intelligence which creatively planned, organized, and carried out its purposes over many centuries.

     Through his study of Egyptian art and architecture Schwaller de Lubicz rediscovered the wisdom of a self-perpetuating fellowship of seers, which he called "the Temple," who maintained and re-adapted a body of wisdom throughout Egypt's history, manifesting it in works of art.

The Mysterious Appearance of the Cathedral Builders

     An extraordinary group of Cathedral builders appeared in Europe in the twelfth century.

"It appears suddenly, without preamble, towards 1130 [C.E.]. In a few years it reaches its apogee, born whole and entire without experiment or miscarriage. And the extraordinary thing is that all at once it has at its disposal master craftsmen, artisans, builders, enough of them to undertake the construction of eighty huge monuments in less than a hundred years."

"One has to bear in mind that in northern France alone, at the time Chartres was being built, nearly twenty cathedrals of the same importance were under construction. . . .  And one must also remember that there cannot have been much more than fifteen million inhabitants in the whole of France." 5

     Who are these mysterious Master Builders and where did they spring from?

"Enlightened elements within Islam, probably inheriting the teaching of the later Neoplatonists, kept the flame alive; and it seems possible that it may have survived, more or less underground, in Gnostic, Hermetic and alchemical societies. In any case, it survived (or, conceivably, was reformulated afresh through direct revelation), for it surfaced in full flower in the Gothic cathedrals."

John Anthony West, Serpent In the Sky: the High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt

     One of the astounding facts about the cathedrals built by these Master Builders is that in none of the twelfth and thirteenth century architectural monuments is there a crucified Christ! This is one of myriad pieces of evidence that the cathedrals were built by a group projecting the Perennial Tradition. 6

     Expert study of the architectural structure of Chartres reveals that such elements as the crossed ogives and dolmens more than thirty meters long make of it a gigantic vibrating instrument that has a very specific effect on humans.

"From the ogive the 'creators' of Gothic went on to derive much more by a process of 'crossing' it. They found the high secret of the musical stone, the stone under tension, a secret lost when men lost the science of transporting the huge dolmen-tables.

"The crossed ogive is built on the principle of the transformation of lateral into vertical thrust. It is a sum of forces in which the vault no longer weighs down but springs upward under the lateral counterthrust of buttresses. If it is to last, the gothic monument requires perfect adjustment between weight and thrust; the weight that creates the thrust becomes itself its own negation. The activity in the stone is therefore in a state of constant tension which the art of the master builder can 'tune' like a harp-string. For a gothic cathedral is not only a musical instrument by similitude." 7

     As many other Perennialist savants have done, the Cathedral Builders deliberately wove a mystery about themselves, probably to avoid unwanted inquiry in that age of the Inquisition.

     Throughout human history, masters within the Perennial Tradition have used higher knowledge to create specially designed stimuli--art objects--which produce specific effects in initiates training in the achievement of a higher awareness. The Perennialist savants' technology of transformation involves modulating the seeker's mind and vital organs to awaken consciousness of Higher States that precede and transcend material forms.

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1 As distinguished from doctrinaire materialist scientists who maintain that our universe is composed of nothing but matter in motion.

2 Beethoven [1770-1827] was partially justified in saying that music--during his time--was "a higher revelation than philosophy." Philosophy during Beethoven's lifetime was typified by Kant [1704-1804] and Bentham [1748-1832], two of the dreariest non-philosophers who ever pretended to be followers of Plato's tradition of philosophy: the love of and the search for wisdom [philosophia]. However, had Beethoven genuinely studied Plato's philosophy, he most likely would not have felt that music was a higher revelation than philosophy.

3 John Anthony West, Serpent in the Sky: the High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt, viii

4 Ibid.

5 Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral

6 My book The Perennial Tradition, shows Jesus to have been a Perennialist master. As such, Jesus taught about the necessary rebirth into a Higher Self beyond the body. The book discusses the extra-canonical Gospel According to John in which Jesus appears in a spiritual form to John and makes clear that his crucified body is not his essence.

7 Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral