Perennialist allegories 1 are teaching stories which divulge 2 transcendent 3 knowledge to initiates (advanced students). Perennialist teachers use allegories to divulge knowledge in a specialized manner: meanings, information, concepts, and inter-relationships are adumbrated, intimated, or foreshadowed in specially devised communications that require the recipient (student, reader, viewer, hearer) to decipher and grasp the knowledge relative to her intellectual and spiritual capabilities.
| "So Jesus taught the masses his message through the use of teaching stories [allegories], through which their minds could comprehend at whatever level they were. He did not speak to the people in general at all without using allegories, although in private he divulged the esoteric meaning of his teachings to his disciples." |
The recipient must first of all allow the working hypothesis that there may be a higher level of being operative in Perennialist allegories. We must approach them from the point of view that they may be documents created by persons with higher technical knowledge: an ancient yet still irreplaceable method of arranging and transmitting a knowledge which cannot be conveyed in any other way.
| "All sacred writings contain an outer and an inner meaning. Behind the literal words lies another range of meaning, another form of knowledge. According to an old-age tradition, Man once was in touch with this inner knowledge and inner meaning. There are many stories in the Old Testament which convey another knowledge, a meaning quite different from the literal sense of the words. . . . And in the Gospels the parable is used in a similar way."|
The Perennial Tradition possesses an actual technology for helping people develop higher states of consciousness. Perennialist books, essays, and allegories contain carefully designed elements which act on the recipient's psyche (personality and mind) to produce precisely designated effects. The prescribed results differ according to the capabilities of various recipients and with a single reader who returns to the material over a period of time. Our scholastic predispositions lead us to look at a book, essay, or allegory as a simple collection of words expressing ideas. It's difficult for us to conceive of a genuine science contained in books and teachings which would be capable of producing evolutionary transformations in human beings.To experience rebirth means to evolve to a higher level of understanding. This can only be achieved by new knowledge, gnosis, and by practicing this new understanding. The gnosis or knowledge which gives man this possibility of evolving is sometimes called Truth and at other times called the Word. It is not ordinary truth or knowledge; it is knowledge about this further evolutionary step which man can take.
We find it easy to acknowledge that technical knowledge can be conveyed through a mathematical formula or a scientific textbook, but we aren't aware that Perennialist books, essays, and allegories possess an equally "technical" meaning and power. As with a mathematical formula or a scientific textbook, such elements can only be understood by a person who has taken the time and effort to study the underlying knowledge--for example, physics.
"The Neoplatonists regarded myths as mystical-historical allegories whose inner meanings were disclosed through philosophic discipline." W. T. S. Thackara, "Plato's Myths and the Mystery Tradition"
We're conditioned to regard Perennialist books and essays as nothing more than theories or conjectures, and Perennialist allegories as simply amusing tales. Generally, such conditioning in itself is sufficient to prevent us from making any serious study of Perennialist books, essays, or stories as vehicles for Higher Teaching. This human tendency to regard anything as of use to us only on a lower level than it does operate, prevents any genuine study.
to humankind is in part contained in these Perennialist allegories. The allegory form, however primitive or old-fashioned it may seem, is in fact the only--or the best--form in which certain teachings can be captured, preserved, and transmitted. These allegories are conscious works of art, carefully designed technological artifacts devised by savants who knew exactly what they were doing, for the use of later Perennialist teachers and initiates who know exactly what can be done with them.
Perennialist allegories can only be created and used by teachers and initiates who genuinely have attained Higher Knowledge.
False teachers concoct books, essays, and allegories which they claim possess astounding powers. And indeed they do contain the capacity to waste a great deal of a person's time and the ability to turn heedless victims into disciples and brain-dead imbeciles.
Possessing a technical spiritual force, Perennialist allegories require a knowledgeable person experienced and skilled in triggering the interactions of the constitutive elements to operate effectively.
It's necessary for us to realize that the most ancient and most important knowledge available
a counterfeit teacher
(click on the image above)
"And must there not be some art which will effect conversion in the easiest and quickest manner; not implanting the faculty of discernment, for that exists already, but has been turned in the wrong direction, and is looking away from the truth?" Plato, The Myth of the Cave, Commonwealth VII
Part of the "technology" of Perennialist allegories is that they require a conventional thinker to attain the understanding that if he's looking for Higher Truth contained within a hidden teaching, it may be concealed in a form that would be the last which he would consider to be applicable to his search.
Perennialist allegories contain forgotten knowledge. We of the present time are like people whose technology has fallen into disuse, making it necessary for us to rediscover the devices and information used by our ancestors as we become fitted for this lost knowledge.
We have to realize that since we're dealing with a form of knowledge which is specifically constructed to act in a certain way under certain conditions, those conditions must be present if we're to be able to use Perennialist allegories effectively. A major purpose of this essay is to provide some of the conditions required for effective utilization of Perennialist allegories. This is absolutely essential because there are categories of effective function of Perennialist allegories in ranges which an ordinary person has not yet experienced, perhaps not yet heard of, perhaps even cannot perceive or even coherently discuss, until certain basic information-gathering and discerning processes have taken place in his mind.
Maurice Nicole's The New Man
In his book The New Man, Maurice Nicoll views Perennialist teaching material, especially the New Testament, as conveying a higher meaning than the literal words they contain. Esoteric truth must be seen by a person with his inner organs of cognition. Cast in ordinary words and images, the higher, concealed, inner, or esoteric meanings can only be discerned by the Higher Understanding. A person's literal understanding of Jesus's teachings is insufficient for grasping the higher, esoteric, secret meanings.
"Higher knowledge, higher meaning, if it falls on the ordinary level of understanding, will either seem nonsense, or it will be wrongly understood. . . . Higher meaning can only be given to those who are close to grasping it rightly. This is one reason why all sacred writings--that is, writings that are designed to convey more than the literal sense of the words must be concealed, as it were, by an outer wrapping. It is not a question of misleading people but a question of preventing this higher meaning from falling in the wrong place, on lower meaning, and thereby having its finer significance destroyed. People sometimes imagine they can understand anything, once they are told it. But this is quite wrong. The development of the understanding, the seeing of differences, is a long process."
"Knowledge is a function of being. When there is a change in the being of the knower, there is a corresponding change in the nature and amount of knowing. For example, the being of a child is transformed by growth and education into that of a man; among the results of this transformation is a revolutionary change in the way of knowing and the amount and character of the things known." Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy
All Perennialist teachings convey higher knowledge through the use of allegories or parables. The ordinary meaning of the allegory or parable encourages a person to consider if there is a higher meaning and to see if she can discern what this is. The ordinary meaning works on the mind to lift it to a higher level of comprehension. Perennialist allegories are transforming instruments which prepare a person's mind to understand higher meaning.
"The Gospels speak mainly of a possible inner evolution called 're-birth.' This is their central idea. . . The Gospels teach that a man living on this earth is capable of undergoing a definite inner evolution if he comes in contact with definite teaching on this subject.
"The Gospels are from beginning to end all about this possible self-evolution. They are psychological documents. They are about the psychology of this possible inner development--that is, about what a man must think, feel, and do in order to reach a new level of understanding."
A part of this teaching about rebirth to a new being is the idea that man internally is a seed capable of a definite growth--if he dies to being a seed. Thus, as we are we are incomplete. Jesus's esoteric teaching says that man is capable of a second birth. However, this re-birth or second birth belongs to the inner aspect of man, not to man as he seems to be in himself, a materialistic body living on earth.
"The esoteric teaching about knowledge and being refers to the fact that knowledge cannot be understood unless there is a corresponding development of being. A man may know a great deal and understand nothing because his being is not equal to his knowledge."
In this essay, we're examining Perennialist allegories, distinguishing these explicitly from myths. 4 From before the time of Plato, myths had been viewed in diverse terms: as stories divulging knowledge of the divine or as irrational fantasies. Plato demanded that any poetic element--including myths--should portray divinity as moral, not as immoral as in Homer's poetic myths. Undiscerning readers of Plato have concluded that he was antagonistic toward all poetry. But as Ernst Cassirer made clear: "We cannot think of Plato as being personally an enemy of poetry. He is the greatest poet who has appeared in the history of philosophy."
Throughout human history the mythic form of writing has been used by scoundrels to create cultural delusions and hoaxes to condition the minds of the heedless. Beginning in the eighteenth century and continuing into the present time, ruthless capitalists created false myths by which to brainwash and enslave the minds of many unthinking persons.
| "To all the thinkers of the eighteenth century, myth was a barbarous thing--a strange and uncouth mass of confused ideas and gross superstitions. Between myth and philosophy there could be no point of contact. Myth ends where philosophy begins--darkness gives way to the rising sun. Even to look back at it would be to renounce mankind's intellectual progress."|
| "Allegories should be taught as allegories, myths as myths, and miracles as poetic fancies. To teach superstitions as truths is a most terrible thing. The child-mind accepts and believes them, and only through great pain and perhaps tragedy can he be in after-years relieved of them. In fact, men will fight for a superstition quite as quickly as for a living truth - often more so, since a superstition is so intangible you can not get at it to refute it, but truth is a point of view, and so is changeable." |
Perennialist teaching material and processes include:
The unique process of Perennialist teaching through allegory involves:
Plato used allegory to teach and transform his readers. As with all elements in the terrestrial world, the use that is made of allegories is the key. Hyponoia--allegories with deeper meanings deposited under the literal surface--have a noetic character: the reader or listener has to think his way across a semantic bridge, beyond which lies a realm of transcendent knowledge. Plato's allegories are highly advanced devices through which we are enabled to ascend to a higher consciousness.
Plato's use of allegory is so extraordinary that we have to work assiduously to grasp its deeper meaning and effect. The transformative elements of Plato's allegorical wizardry appear within the narrative of his dialogues, so it's easy to overlook them if we're not attuned to their characteristics and effects.
In Plato's Statesman, the main character of the Dialogue, a "divine philosopher" called the Stranger from Elea, affirms that "all these allegories, and ten thousand others which are still more wonderful, have a common origin." This origin, he says, was humankind's teachers who in the Golden Age transmitted the first revelation of cosmic and human beginnings, as well as the "teachings of the Creator and Father" about the right conduct of life (269-74).
In the Statesman (268-74) and Critias (109-10), Plato indicates that over the centuries understanding and use of Perennialist allegories had degenerated considerably: many had been forgotten, the meanings and concepts had been changed, some stories had been literalized, misinterpretations were believed to be true, and human ignorance had so distorted the allegories that they no longer fulfilled their original purpose.
Through a series of exercises, we'll experience the mystery and power of Perennialist allegories by focusing on Plato's Allegory of the Cave.
| Exercise 1: Review the Allegory of the Cave and explore its meaning.|
Exercise 2: View the video to the right
Exercise 3: Cave elements
Exercise 4: Alternate version
Exercise 5: Alternate version
Exercise 6: Alternate image
In the Perennial Tradition "esoteric" refers to knowledge available only to a narrow circle of advanced or specially trained people. "Esotericism" involves an additional requisite element of initiation.
Such knowledge may be kept secret not through the deliberate intention of its protectors, but by its very nature. For example, esoteric knowledge may be accessible (of interest to and understandable by) only to those with the necessary intellectual, moral, and spiritual capabilities.
| "Esoteric knowledge can be given only to those who seek, only to those who have been seeking it with a certain amount of consciousness, that is, with an understanding of how it differs from ordinary knowledge and how it can be found. . ."|
As we've seen above, Perennialist allegories require an illumined teacher who implants transcendent knowledge in a technically constructed story that divulges esoteric information to advanced students--initiates.
| "The occult is what is hidden. But not to everyone. Wherever there is something hidden, there is necessarily someone who knows. Nor is the occult something that is merely ignored. It has, by implication, been concealed, by some agent and to some purpose, to all except those same inevitable knowers. Thus to ignore the occult would be folly, the equivalent, in parabolic terms, of failing to submit a bid on the Pearl of Great Price.|
"The occult is doubly occult: it is a hidden knowledge of hidden truths or powers. These latter were concealed, it is agreed, by the Maker of Truths who appears to have been generally reluctant to cast his Pearl before swine, while those who possess them are careful to keep a close guard on their treasure. Indeed, in many societies those 'knowers,' who everywhere and always constitute an elite, banded together in guilds and brotherhoods to stand guard over the extremely useful and valuable knowledge that was theirs." 6
1 Allegory (note how the definition of allegory requires an understanding of metaphor and metaphor requires an understanding of analogy):
- The expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of knowledge concerning human existence
- The veiled presentation, especially in a figurative story, parable, or narrative, of a meaning metaphorically implied, but not expressly stated
- The expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence
- A prolonged metaphor
Metaphor: Use of a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea in place of another by way of suggesting a likeness or analogy between them
Analogy: A relation of likeness between two things, consisting in the resemblance not of the things themselves but of two or more attributes, circumstances, or effects
2 Divulge: To disclose or reveal a confidence, a secret, or a quantity of unknown
information; Perennialists teachers make their esoteric teachings available only
to tested initiates and divulge secret knowledge only as an advanced student
becomes capable of using, safeguarding, and preserving this higher knowledge.
3 Transcendent: Being above and independent of the terrestrial domain;
preeminent or supreme; surpassing, extending beyond, or lying beyond
the limits of ordinary experience or knowledge
4 Myth: A usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explains a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon; a thing having only an imaginary or unverifiable existence; an ill-founded belief held uncritically especially by an interested group
Plato included some myths in his writings, but these were positive in nature and partook more of the nature of allegory.
5 Cassirer, "The Myth of the State" (the essay by this title, not the book)
6 Francis E. Peters, "Hermes and Harran: The Roots of Arabic-Islamic Occultism," Intellectual Studies on Islam
- Scams and Spurious Interpretations:
"The Cave Allegory as a Useful Tool in the Business World," an essay available for only $87.60
The "decisive result of the interpretation of the cave allegory ... [is] the insight that the question concerning the essence of truth as unhiddenness must be transformed into the question concerning untruth" (p. 92), that is, "that untruth belongs to the essence of truth" (p. 226).
Martin Heidegger, The Essence of Truth: On Plato's Cave Allegory and Theaetetus
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