Related Essays

Platonic Dialectic

Higher Reason

Preparatory Study

      Perennialist teachers never attempt to concoct suppositious definitions of Transcendent Reality. However, they recognize that the meditative and discursive dimensions of Higher Consciousness--Higher Reason--enable them to gain an effective understanding of Transcendent Reality. As they awaken their dormant powers of ascent, they develop an awareness of their primordial endowment of unity with Higher Consciousness. Perennialist practices and exercises enable initiates to achieve contemplative understanding of Divinity's transcendence of all terrestrial qualities. This is only somewhat similar to the "neti-neti path" of Buddhism and Hinduism.

"Knowledge that the Eternal is not divided from him is the cause of freedom from the world, whereby the Eternal, the secondless bliss, is gained by the awakened. Therefore one should perfectly know that the Eternal and the Self are not divided."

Shankara, The Crest Jewel of Wisdom

              Perennialists see Reality not as something they try to capture within their linguistic or conceptual nets, but as the Mysterious appearing, emerging, growing from within Itself, being released out of the All into existence. They do not see beings as things to be represented in the consciousness of an ego-centered human subject in the forms of inner-psychic pictures or concepts, but as things revealing themselves directly to human experience.

      Only humans who are deeply moved by awe and who remain in a state of reverence do not fall prey to the will-to-grasp-and-dominate the Reality which shows itself to them. They remain all ears and eyes for the summons of the awe-inspiring phenomena. Awe-inspired persons do not want to get hold of or possess what they revere, with the aid of their intellectual concepts.

      They seek only to get themselves into the frame of mind appropriate to the revered Transcendent Reality--one which renders them open to Its summons and makes their vision clear for Divinity's beckonings. They know that if they manage to comply effectually with the phenomenon worthy of their awe they may catch sight of its entire truth. And thus they will have succeeded also in releasing themselves from the chaos of all delusions.

The Nature of Higher Reason

      In this essay, we're exploring the various aspects of Higher Reason:

  • How Higher Reason differs from commonplace reason or intellect

  • The supra-rational and supersensible elements of Higher Reason as explicated by such Perennialist teachers as Dionysius the Areopagite, Plotinus, and Proclus

  • How the dialectical element within Higher Reason retains its importance in Perennialist thought and practice

      It's of great significance that within the Perennial Tradition both the meditative and discursive aspects of Higher Reason are emphasized as of equal importance. The meditative, unitive, apophatic 1 aspects of Higher Reason became a major focus of Western philosophy and theology when the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite were introduced into the West in the sixth century C.E. Many philosophers and mystics found his writings to be of great worth in understanding deity; so much so that his writings came to be venerated as inspired.

"For this is truly to see and to know and, through the abandonment of all things, to praise Him who is beyond and above all things. For this is not unlike the art of those who carve a life-like image from stone; removing from around it all that impedes clear vision of the latent form, revealing its hidden beauty solely by taking away. For it is, as I believe, more fitting to praise Him by taking away than by ascription; for we ascribe attributes to Him, when we start from universals and come down through the intermediate to the particulars. But here we take away all things from Him going up from particulars to universals, that we may know openly the unknowable, which is hidden in and under all things that may be known. And we behold that darkness beyond being, concealed under all natural light."

Dionysius the Areopagite

      Dionysius the Areopagite was the disciple of Paul mentioned in Acts 17:34. In other words, he was what we call an esoteric Christian. His writings had the status of apostolic authority until the 19th century when presumptuous scholastics tried to show that the writings bearing his name were "forgeries," written about 500 C.E. Their only basis for this theory was that the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite appeared to have been influenced by the Athenian Neoplatonic school of Proclus (they evidently never considered that Proclus could have been influenced by Dionysius the Areopagite--the other way round).

      Following the debasement of Jesus' original teachings into ecclesiastical, sacerdotal monstrosities titled the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Holy Roman Church, and the Protestant Church, most Christian theologians proclaimed that true knowledge of Divinity comes through revelation, natural theology, and negative theology. Taking such authoritarians 2 as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Augustine, and Aquinas as their chief apologists, Christianity focused on revealed truth (as revealed to the dogmatists), on natural theology (as pontificated by such as Augustine and Aquinas), and their perversion of negative theology or Via Negativa (Latin for "Negative Way"). Christian negative theology was a claim that one can achieve knowledge of divinity only by stating what God is not (apophasis), rather than by asserting what God is. This counterfeit claim was merely a part of the ecclesiastical despotism and depravity that characterized--and continues to characterize--orthodox Christianity.

"Knowledge of God in Christianity comes primarily through His self-revelation. An inherent limit of human knowledge is implicit in the action of revelation, for, if the human mind could through its own power access divine truths, then the need for God to reveal Himself would be obviated. In contrast with revealed theology is natural theology, which holds that human reason alone can acquire knowledge of the divine, that human understanding of God is not entirely dependent upon His self-disclosure. . . Human reason can arrive at an understanding of God through an examination of the sensible realm, and so one does not have to be a privileged member of a people who have entered into a covenant with God to learn about Truth."

Jonah Winters, "Saying Nothing about No-Thing:
Apophatic Theology in the Classical World"

      Perennialist philosophers agreed with Plato that knowledge of transcendent reality could come from both the meditative and discursive aspects of Higher Reason. They disagreed with orthodox Christianity that Divinity is self-revealing exclusively to "a chosen people" or that ordinary reason can gain knowledge of Transcendent Reality. They also disagreed with Dionysius the Areopagite that "the most divine knowledge of God . . . comes through unknowing. . ." They agreed with him that the meditative aspects of Higher Reason divulge Transcendent Reality, but they understood that the discursive aspects divulge that same Transcendent Reality in an equally genuine manner.


"He attains to the knowledge of Forms in their purity who goes to each of them with the soul alone, not allowing when in the act of meditation the intrusion or introduction of sight or any other sense in the company of reason, but with the very light of the soul in her clearness penetrates into the very light of truth in each Form. . ."

"Dialectic is the only discursive process which seeks for wisdom by anagogically uplifting our Intellectual foundations so that our Higher Self ascends to the Origin."

      Christian and non-Platonic philosophers and theologians were unable to understand the essence of dialectic, assuming that it was nothing more than debate, argument, and logical analysis. For non-Perennialist thinkers, dialectic had devolved, by the fifth century CE, into little else than sophistry and logic-chopping.

      Orthodox Christian thinkers also misinterpreted the practice of Perennialist mediation--as taught by Plato, for example. Counterfeit meditation and contemplation became a part of the depraved practice of Christian asceticism, which devolved into self-torture in such Roman Catholic pseudo-saints as Teresa of Avila.

      Little wonder that both Christian and non-Christian (pejoratively termed "pagan") thinkers began to emphasize the ascetic, revelatory, and dogmatic aspects of philosophy and theology to the exclusion of the genuine aspects of Higher Reason: dialectical interchange and Platonic meditation.

      Some contemporary scholars have erroneously assumed that all Greek and Christian thinkers came to see some flaw in discursive methods in general.

"Somewhere in the history of Greek thought there began to develop a deep suspicion of discourse, and the corresponding belief that lack of words, or silence, could convey the deepest meanings sought. Just as that which is absent in a painting can sometimes be more significant than that which is represented, so words came to be seen as directing attention to something which they themselves fail to capture. If one concedes that the non-verbal is that which words strive to communicate, that the absent is the object of the present linguistic artefacts, then the conclusion that words are injurious to the attempt to grasp it is not far away.. . The failure of reason is seen to lead to silence, and silence, through the procedure of negative theology, will come to be regarded as a positive epistemological step towards the knowledge of the transcendent."

Raoul Mortley, From Word to Silence

      Only within non-Perennialist thought did there develop a "suspicion of discourse," a feeling that "words are injurious to the attempt to grasp" reality, and a belief in "the failure of reason." Out of these feelings of impotence on the part of Non-Perennialists developed the attempt to escape into unquestioned faith in Christian orthodoxy and into submission to religious, social, economic, and political forms of despotism. This devolution has increased to the point that a majority of people in the world today are socially and intellectually illiterate, leading to their oppression and destruction by self-appointed "authorities" of all stripes.

      Perennialists realize that both the meditative and the discursive aspects of Higher Reason must be developed if humankind is to evolve beyond the plight of victimization it suffers at present. To do this we must understand the true essence of both these aspects. For example, we must comprehend what true meditation involves and how to practice dialectical interchange in its genuine form.

Perennialist Meditation

      Platonic meditation as "dying"--what became misidentified as "negative theology" in orthodox Christianity--was first delineated by Socrates in the Phaedo:

      "If we would have pure knowledge of anything we must be quit of the body--the soul in herself must behold things in themselves; and then we shall attain the wisdom which we desire, and of which we say that we are lovers. . . .

"True philosophers. . . are always occupied in the practice of dying. . . ."

"Do we believe there is such a thing as death? . . .

"Is it not the separation of soul and body? And when the soul exists in herself, and is released from the body and the body is released from the soul--death, surely, is nothing else than this?

"Just so, he replied. . . . "Then must not true existence be revealed to her [the soul] in meditation, if at all?


"And meditation is best when the mind is gathered into herself and none of these things trouble her--neither sounds nor sights nor pain nor any pleasure,--when she takes leave of the body, and has as little as possible to do with it, when she has no bodily sense or desire, but is aspiring after true being?


"Die while you're alive
and be absolutely dead.
Then do whatever you want:
it's all good."

Bunan (1603-1676), Japanese Zen Master

"The simple, absolute and immutable mysteries of divine Truth are hidden in the super-luminous darkness of that silence which divulgeth in secret. For this darkness, though of deepest obscurity, is yet radiantly clear; and, though beyond touch and sight, it more than fills our unseeing minds with splendours of transcendent beauty."

"We long exceedingly to dwell in this translucent darkness and, through not seeing and not knowing, to see Him who is beyond both vision and knowledge--by the very fact of neither seeing Him nor knowing Him.

Dionysius the Areopagite

"Come, my soul, depart from outward things and gather thyself together into a true interior silence, that thou mayst set out with all thy courage and bury and lose thyself in the desert of a deep contrition."


Transcending Ordinary Reason

      Perennialists recognize that both the meditative and discursive dimensions of Higher Reason involve transcendence of commonplace reason. In genuine meditation, as Plato explained, the initiate "takes leave of the body," which involves going beyond ordinary thoughts and sensations.

      Genuine meditation or contemplation involves transcending all ordinary intellectual elements, including commonplace speech. One significant approach in meditation, Perennialists teach, is the noble silence that is prepared to listen. Buddha two and a half millennia ago most impressively exemplified this noble silence for us as the only behavior worthy of Transcendent Truth.

      Similarly, dialectical interchange involves ascending above ordinary reason to Higher Reason. It's necessary to move from your ordinary state of consciousness to a higher state of consciousness.

"And so with dialectic, when a person starts on the discovery of the absolute by the light of reason only, and without any assistance of sense, and perseveres until by Higher Reason he arrives at the perception of the absolute good, he at last finds himself at the end of the intellectual world, as in the case of sight at the end of the visible."
Plato, The Commonwealth VII

       Perennialists teach that transcending ordinary reason requires:

    1. Mastering the capabilities of commonplace reason:

      • Critical thinking: forming one's personal beliefs by basing them on evidence

      • Self-awareness: developing an autonomous self capable of thinking and
        acting on its own initiative; peeling away our personal illusions, at
        whatever level we happen to be

      Time revealing Truth
      Time Revealing Truth (Move cursor over image.)

      C. Critical consciousness:

      • Going beyond merely personal development to a genuine concern for human welfare in general
      • Learning to perceive social, political, and economic injustice
      • Taking action against the oppressive elements of reality
      • Developing a commonwealth polity which allows for greater freedom and self-realization

  1. Recognizing the limitations of ordinary reason

  2. Gaining the capability of transcending commonplace reason

      It's impossible for us to ascend to the powers of Higher Reason unless we have first mastered the capabilities of ordinary reason. Unfortunately, today most persons' minds have been so decimated by the ruinous pseudo-educational institutions created by the capitalist cabal that they've lost all ability to think rationally. Serendipitously, a new book is now available that enables serious students to master these dimensions of ordinary rationality: Progressive Awareness.

Recognizing the Limitations of Ordinary Reason: An Exercise

      We can easily fool ourselves by thinking that our ordinary rational understanding of an aspect of Transcendent Reality is the same as an experiential participation in that reality through having ascended to Higher Reason. This kind of self-delusion somewhat resembles the naive assumption that an image is an object.

      The image of a pipe is not a pipe. The intellectual assumption of Higher Knowledge is not Higher Knowledge. The ordinary two-dimensional viewing of the image below is not the same as the supra-ordinary three-dimensional viewing of the image.

      The exercise embedded in this section of the essay involves your recognizing, first, that the essay itself can be experienced in either your normal state of consciousness (ordinary reason) or in a heightened state of consciousness (Higher Reason). This essay, as with all essays on this site, contains supra-rational elements that allow you to achieve understanding and personal transformation--if you carry out the latent or expressly indicated exercises appropriately. The essays constitute exercises in themselves as well as including discrete exercises.

      The transformative force of this essay cannot be fully expressed in words, but requires that you actually practice the lessons (exercises) delineated. In other words, this essay cannot be understood unless you experience it in the manner prescribed. As you read and study this essay, you're encouraged not only to think, theorize, conceptualize, ponder, imagine, or meditate about higher consciousness--but undergo, feel, sense, and physically, mentally, and spiritually experience various elements of Higher Reason.

      The power contained within this essay is conveyed by the mutual action of the words and your response. The transformative experience occurs by means of a mechanism which takes over at the point where words leave off--and you respond appropriately to apprehend the experience. Hence, while the essay has been deliberately created with the potential for enabling experiential participation in higher consciousness, the results are entirely determined by what kind of response you're able and willing to make.

      Similar to the image above of the teacher helping the student to practice, at this point you're encouraged to practice until you can see the pipe image above in the 3-dimensional mode. After returning to the image, practice until you achieve this non-ordinary way of seeing by following the lesson instructions which you can access by clicking on the image. Return to the image now and practice as prescribed.

    If you need assistance in learning how to view stereograms in 3-D, go here.

      If you practiced the lesson instructions effectively, you will have gained the ability to see the image in 3-D. If not, then you're continuing to experience the image in its lesser, 2-D aspect. Similarly, you can read and study this essay either in its lower aspect--merely ordinary words on an Internet document--or in its superior aspect as a transformative phenomenon.

Exercise 2: Interconnectivity and Intercommunication in Higher Reason

    Focus your attention on the image to the left, noting the various persons seated around the circular table and the large cone of energy descending into the table and then dispersed to each individual at the table.

    Imagine yourself as one of those seated around the table, in psychic connection with the others, and receiving the energy flowing down through the cone and into the table and the other participants.

    A specific recommended action is being transmitted into and through this image by the author to you. See if you receive it and can carry it out.

Creating the Actual Existence of Entities Through Developing Higher Cognition

Higher Reason Re-establishes Our Union With the Divine

   Plato's philosophy liberates us from the metaphysical ignorance in which we have placed ourselves, initiating us into the actual experience of Being and our original and essential union with the One. In Plato's teaching, philosophical knowledge and mystical-spiritual experience coincide. We become aware that our true being is that of a soul enclosed within the body and our life task is to rise from this tomb of the body and awaken to our true reality: an immortal soul.

    Plato's teachings are directed exclusively to the person's Higher Self or Soul (nous) to awaken her direct intuitive cognition (noesis) through which she can attain wisdom (sophia).

Plato's Conception of the Human Essence
Entity Aspect Kind of Apprehension
Higher Self or Soul Nous
Higher mind
Noesis direct intuitive cognition
Unmediated cognition
Higher Reason
Sophia (wisdom)
Direct spiritual, unitive understanding
Phren or Thumos
Lower mind
Dianoia: philosophical reasoning
Mathematical reasoning
Rational cognition
Gnosis or episteme:
esoteric, true knowledge
Scientific reasoning
Feelings and desires Epithumia
The emotional nature
appetites and passions
Eikasia: perception of images
Pistis: faith and a sort of psychic groping after truth
Doxa: opinion or mostly illusory knowledge

     Plato distinguished between knowledge as deduced from rational or scientific thinking (dianoia) and knowledge derived from pure reasoning (noesis). Intellectual knowledge enables us to comprehend scientific and mathematical objects, while intuitional knowledge (noesis) involves dialectical understanding of the unchangeable and eternal Forms.

"These grades of knowledge and these degrees of objective reality were described by Plato in his celebrated 'myth of the cave'. In this myth he wished to summarize all his doctrine, from a metaphysical, epistemological and ethical point of view as well as from that of mystical ascent. This is how Plato paints this marvellous picture of his, a picture which, on its own, can stimulate us to become aware of absolute Reality. In fact the 'myth' is not based on philosophical reflection but on the creative visualization of a condition or state of consciousness.

"The 'myth' is based on imaginative representations, detached from analytical thinking, and reflecting a metaphysical reality.

"By means of the 'myth', therefore, we can catch a glimpse of an 'existential state' for purposes of being. Thus this 'myth' should be meditated upon, contemplated, assimilated and experienced."

Raphael, Initiation Into the Philosophy of Plato, 1999

   Plato's philosophy involves a radical reversing of our common perception of reality and of life. Ordinarily, we take reality to consist of events and objects which we can explain through mechanistic, materialistic concepts (e.g. causality) and we consider life to consist of the pursuit of pleasure or happiness. Plato states that "true reality" can only be understood by focusing not on the external "blooming, buzzing confusion," but on our internal soul which possesses the potential of attaining spiritual awareness of True Reality: the Forms (Goodness, Justice, Beauty, Love, Commonwealth, etc.).

"If man desires a better world, if he wishes to shape positive events, he must also know how to contemplate the archetypal so as to bring the sensible world into as great a conformity with the intelligible world as possible; there he bears immense responsibility on the existential plane in which he lives. If on this plane things do not proceed as they should this is because the individual does not know how to build according to the laws of ideal harmony. . .

Man is a second demiurge whose task is to carry the intelligible into the sensible and the sensible into the intelligible plane. This world is in ruins because man wishes it so, but it could be different if he strove with humility to discover his internal Ruler, first of all, and then to contemplate what is perfect at certain levels of being."

Raphael, Initiation Into the Philosophy of Plato, 1999


1 Apophatic: of or relating to the concept that we can understand God in terms of what He is not

2 Authoritarian: Characterized by or favoring absolute obedience to authority, as against individual freedom of thought