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A Biographical Approach

At the beginning of the twentieth century the Schuon family, of Germanic origin but of Valaisan stock, had been living in Basel for some years. Paul Schuon, whose parents were Swabian, first emigrated to Alsace, after it had become German in 1870, following the Franco-Prussian war. There he married Margarete Boehler, who was Alsatian on her mother’s side, but whose father was originally from the Rhineland. They had two sons. The first, Erich, born on April 26, 1906, was to become many years later a Trappist monk under the name Father Gall. The second, Frithjof, was born on June 18, 1907. A violinist and a professor at the Basel Conservatory, Paul Schuon had formed a friendship during a concert he gave in Oslo with a ship’s captain named Frithjof Thorsen; it was to the remembrance of this friendship that his second son owed his unusual name from the land of fjords. (…)

[From Frithjof Schuon, Life and Teachings, by Jean-Baptiste Aymard and Patrick Laude, State University of New York Press, Albany, 2004. This chapter was available on February 18, 2021, as a pdf, on the State University of New York Press website (https://www.sunypress.edu/pdf/60994.pdf).]

“To Have a Center”, article by Frithjof Schuon

To be normal is to be homogeneous, and to be homogeneous is to have a center. A normal man is one whose tendencies are, if not altogether uniform, at least concordant—that is to say, sufficiently concordant to convey that decisive center which we may call the sense of the Absolute or the love of God. The tendency towards the Absolute, for which we are made, is difficult to realize in a heterogeneous soul—a soul lacking a center, precisely, and by that fact contrary to its reason for being. Such a soul is a priori a ‘house divided against itself’, thus destined to collapse, eschatologically speaking (…)

[Article available on February 18, 2021 on the World Wisdom Books website.]

“The Demiurge in North American Mythology”, article by Frithjof Schuon

In all the variants of North American mythology there appears a sort of demiurge below the Supreme Spirit or Great Mystery, who is both beneficent and terrible and who functions as both an initiatic hero and a buffoon—even a demon. We find the same characteristics in Hermes, Hercules, Prometheus, Epimetheus, and Pandora, and in Nordic mythology in Loki—half-god and half-giant, at once the enemy and friend of the other divinities—as well as in the terrible Susano-wo-no-Mikoto of the Japanese pantheon, who is spirit of the tempest and in some ways the princeps huius mundi. There seems to be no mythology from which the jesting or mischievous demigod is wholly absent, but it is perhaps in the mythology of the North American Indians that this figure has attracted the most attention on the part of ethnologists and missionaries; indeed Nanabozho or Minabozho of the Algonquins has come to be regarded as a typical example of the kind of divinity in question (…)

[Article available on February 18, 2021 on the World Wisdom Books website.]

“The Delivered One and the Divine Image”, by Frithjof Schuon

Iconoclasm is not a new phenomenon in India: from the beginning of modern times there have been Hindus—or supposed Hindus—who no longer wished to understand the true role of their sacred images; it seems that a serious consideration of this issue is often eclipsed by a concern to escape superficial and humiliating or even insulting accusations and to conform to a moralism that is all the more oppressive for being insuperably conventional. We are not thinking here of those who fully adopt a traditional perspective that excludes images in the name of a particular mental approach to the Absolute, such as the perspective of Islam; Muslim objections to images are certainly not justifiable directly or objectively—that is, from the Hindu point of view—but they are justified indirectly or subjectively insofar as they are linked to a spiritual attitude of “abstraction”; when this attitude is fully conscious, the “temple of idols”—to use the words of Ibn Arabi—may symbolize a “heart” sheltering the divine realities (…)

[Article available on February 18, 2021 on the World Wisdom Books website.]

“Some Observations on a Problem of the Afterlife”, by Frithjof Schuon

The great revelations are at one and the same time, in varying degrees, both total and fragmentary: total by reason of their absolute content or their esoterism and fragmentary by reason of their particular symbolism or their exoterism; but even this exoterism always contains elements which make it possible to reconstitute the total truth. In Islam, for example, one of these elements is the idea, expressed in various ways, of the relativity — or non-eternity — of Paradise and Hell. The Koran mentions the blessed and the damned as abiding respectively in Paradise and Hell “so long as the heavens and the earth endure, except as thy Lord wisheth.” The everlastingness in question is thus doubly relative. (…)

[Article available on February 18, 2021 on the World Wisdom Books website.]

“Orthodoxy and Intellectuality”, by Frithjof Schuon

At first sight there seems to be no connection between intellectuality and orthodoxy, for the term orthodoxy is too often taken as a synonym of “conformity,” even of “prejudice” or “mental laziness,” while intellectuality, on the contrary, appears to most of our contemporaries as “unfettered exploration” or even “creative thinking,” hence as something at the antipodes of intellectual intuition and contemplation. From our standpoint, orthodoxy is the principle of formal homogeneity proper to any authentically spiritual perspective; it is therefore an indispensable aspect of all genuine intellectuality (…)

[Article available on February 18, 2021 on the World Wisdom Books website.]

“What Sincerity Is and Is Not”, by Frithjof Schuon

How often one reads or hears it said that someone is gravely mistaken or vicious or criminal, but that he is “sincere” and is therefore “seeking God in his own way”—and other euphemisms of the sort—when what is really meant is this: there need be no fear of his making the slightest effort either for truth or for virtue. The opinion in question, which is strictly perverse, is one manifestation among others of modern subjectivism, according to which the subjective, however contingent it may be, takes precedence over what is objective, even in cases where the objective is the very reason for the subjective and thus determines its worth. (…)

[Article available on February 18, 2021 on the Studies in Comparative Religion website.]

“The Function of Relics”, by Frithjof Schuon

It is in the nature of man — since he combines the outward with the inward — to, make use of sensory supports towards the progress of his spirit or the equilibrium of his soul. These supports are either artistic, and so symbolistic and aesthetic, or theurgic; in the latter case their function is to act as the vehicle of benefic, protective, and sanctifying forces; the two types can moreover be combined. We propose to speak here of the second category, or more precisely of a particular case, that of relics, whose function indeed pertains to theurgy, at least indirectly; we say theurgy, and not magic, given that the forces that act in this case have their raison d’être and their essential source in divine Grace and not in human art. (…)

[Article available on February 18, 2021 on the Studies in Comparative Religion website.]

“Letter on Existentialism”, by Frithjof Schuon

The Western mentality has given rise to four metaphysical perspectives which are either perfect or at least satisfactory as the case may be, namely: Platonism, including Neo-Platonism; Aristotelianism; Scholasticism; Palamism.

A question: Why was Kierkegaard neither Platonist, nor Aristotelian, nor Scholastic, nor Palamite? Is it because he was a Vedantist or a Mahayanist? Certainly not. Consequence: His doctrine is null and void. The proof of this is that he rejects “organized” Christianity, hence the traditional theology which upholds it, and he does so in favour of a subjectivism which is not intellectual (for in that case he would have acknowledged objective metaphysics whose mode of expression perforce is rational and abstract) but voluntaristic and sentimental; whence comes his subjectivistic or individualistic moralism, his insistence on thinking “existentially”, his nullity from the point of view of the real and efficacious spirituality which saves (…)

[Article available on February 18, 2021 on the Studies in Comparative Religion website.]

René Guénon: Some Observations, by Frithjof Schuon

The work of René Guénon may be defined by four words: intellectuality, universality, tradition, theory.

The work is ‘intellectual’ because it concerns knowledge and because it envisages this in conformity with its nature, namely, in the light of the intellect, which is essentially supra-rational. It is ‘universal’ inasmuch as it views the different Revelations in terms of the one Truth, while adopting, as the occasion demands, the language of a particuJar tradition. Moreover, the work of Guénon is ‘traditional’ because the fundamental facts that it conveys are strictly in conformity with the teaching of the great traditions, or with one of these traditions when it is a case of one form amongst others. Finally, the work is ‘theoretical’ since it does not directly envisage spiritual realization, and it even refrains from assuming the role of a practical teaching, and from placing itself, for example, on the grounds of the teachings of a Ramakrishna. (…)

Road to the Heart, English poems by Frithjof Schuon

Freedom

Thou feelest that this earthly world is sad,
But o’er this sadness thou shouldst not lament;
Do not say that the Universe is bad.

For every earthly shadow has an end,
And endless is the hidden bliss in things;
Life may be heavy, but the soul has wings.

The double nature of this world behold:
One side is iron, and the other gold.
Thy blissful inner nature thou shouldst see,
Then thou wilt know: God made it pure and free.

[Book available on February 19, 2021 on the Archive.org website.]