"There are two modes of knowledge, through argument and experience. Argument brings conclusions and compels us to concede them, but it does not cause certainty nor remove doubts in order that the mind may remain at rest in truth, unless this is provided by experience."
"The mediaeval way of thinking differed fundamentally from ours as solely ideas alone were real, facts and things only in so far as they participated in the reality of ideas."
"If the spiritual advisor (murshid) be not perfect and excellent, the student (murid) wasteth his time. . . . He will seek relief in . . . doubting all that he hath heard or read; and regarding as fable the accounts of holy men who have reached truth (hakikat)."Having studied in a Jesuit seminary, the Ecole de La Flèche, Descartes believed he had received the best education available. Yet, he says, he had learned nothing he could call certain. He began his own self-education by disbelieving everything. He supposed that there could be a malignant demon that deceived his senses. Assuming without foundation that he had shed all credulity, Descartes then asserted that he possessed a true self whose reality was proved by its own experience. "I think, therefore I am," Descartes averred. And Western thought has ever since assumed that we possess an authentic self which possesses the power to force reality to reveal the truth.
"He who seeks to acquire knowledge must first know how to doubt, for intellectual doubt helps to establish the truth."
And Augustine had written:
"If I make a mistake, I conclude that I exist; for he who does not exist cannot make a mistake, so that the fact of having made a mistake is proof that I exist."
"You shall become aware, through daily practice, that what you imagine to be your self is concocted from beliefs put into you by others, and is not your self at all."
"A man knocked at a teacher's door. The teacher asked, 'Who is there?'
"Practice may change our theoretical horizon, and this in a twofold way: it may lead into new worlds and secure new powers. Knowledge we could never attain, remaining what we are, may be attainable in consequences of higher powers and a higher life, which we may morally achieve."
"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'.
"So remote . . . are these matters [concerning true knowledge] from our ordinary habits of thought, that their investigation entails, in those who would attempt to understand them, a definite preparation: a purging of the intellect. As with those who came of old to the Mysteries, purification is here the gate of knowledge. We must come to this encounter with minds cleared of prejudice and convention, must deliberately break with our inveterate habit of taking the 'visible world' for granted; our lazy assumption that somehow science is 'real' and metaphysics is not. We must pull down our own card houses--descend, as the mystics say, 'into our nothingness'--and examine for ourselves the foundations of all possible human experience, before we are in a position to criticize the buildings of the visionaries, the poets, and the saints. We must not begin to talk of the unreal world of these dreamers until we have discovered--if we can--a real world with which it may be compared."
The Perennial Tradition teaches that knowledge of reality is gained through knowledge of self. The Moslem Perennialists harked back to Muhammed's teaching: "He who knows himself knows his Lord." Ibn 'Arabi, a Spanish Perennialist, taught that ordinary persons interpret reality only in the form of their personal beliefs. Hence it is necessary to study oneself--one's beliefs, one's habits of thought, one's preconceptions--in order to gain a truer perception of reality. One way to gain insight into one's self is by studying others.
"Hence man sees in his brother something of himself that he would not see without him. For man is veiled by his own caprice. But when he sees that attribute in the other, while it is his own attribute, he sees his own defect in the other." 5
"An alienated man can become sighted if he realises that his heart is blind. He is like a sick man suffering from delirium. So long as he is prisoner to his illness he knows nothing of himself or of his sickness because delirium affects the brain and weakens it. . . . When he realizes that his heart is blind, it means that he has gained a bit of sight."
"The knowledge of mysteries is always said to be 'beyond words.' Not because that knowledge cannot be communicated, but because the mode of communication it requires is an initiatory process which leads to seeing with one's own eyes. Spiritual masters are notorious for their elusiveness; they simply will not pass the mysteries along in the form of reports. Rather, their way is to arrange for the mysteries to be learned by direct, personal understanding; they create spiritual environments in which the desired experience may flower."
Theodore Roszak. Unfinished Animal
Ordinary knowledge through sense perception and reasoning is a necessary part of human experience. But Perennialist teachers point to a higher knowledge which seekers can attain through prescribed experience.
"Understanding can be acquired only by actual participation in the reality." 8
"The extraterrestrial plasmate—which lies dormant in esoteric religious texts until ‘awakened’ by a reader—fulfills the transformative function of the logos. The transformation of perspective brought about by the logos is depicted as a symbiotic relationship in which the living word gradually reconstructs the individual, shaping him or her in such a manner that he or she can perceive the absolute reality underlying the phenomenal world." Gabriel Mckee, Pink Beams of Light from the God in the Gutter: The Science-Fictional Religion of Philip K. Dick, 2004
7 Shahabudin Suhrawardi speaks of the teacher prescribing specific remedies for the seeker's maladies. The Mystical and Visionary Treatises of Shihabuddin Yahya Suhrawardi, Translated by W.M. Thackston Jr., London: Octagon Press
8 Stewart Edward White, (1937). Across The Unknown