In the “Introduction” to Frithjof Schuon: Messenger of the Perennial Philosophy, Michael O. Fitgerald cites Schuon’s wife Catherine:
[Schuon’s] function in the world is really to bring people
back to practice their religion . . . to bring them back to a path that leads to God. . . . [M]any people have gone back and practiced their religion very seriously after having read his books. He wants to help us to go back to where we belong.
I was very moved by this not the least because Schuon’s life, from what I can gather, was a beautiful one, also because his gift to others is just what’s needed at this historical juncture, and finally because I felt kinship with him at the very moment when I read this from his wife.
For at the risk of sounding proud, I’d say that, in my own modest way, that I have sought, over the past 11 years, to do something similar: to get others ‘to the trailhead’ (as I’ve been saying recently).
In my own case, I use a Trojan Horse strategy: we begin by inquiring into the sticky conflicts that arise in the domain of ordinary life (work, relationships, pleasures). In so doing, two things happen. The first is that these matters ultimately get sorted out over some years. The second–and more important one–is that one gets the hang of leading a more examined life. That is, one starts to have facility in examining one’s life on own’s one. The crux is that the examined life naturally leads–if taken far enough–back to spirituality and religion. To mysticism, in fact.
Evidently, Schuon was quite fortunate in that his students were already “ripe” enough to be interested in nondual metaphysics from the start. This, however, is hardly true for many Westerners who, nonetheless, are primed to reflect upon the shape and substance of their lives from the standpoint of philosophical discourse.
How, then, is the transition from the examined life to the religious or spiritual life effected? The way I put the ‘pivot point’ is by saying, “You are now on the path of self-knowledge.” And this path naturally moves, given enough time, rigor, and doggedness, from the self to the Self–from the conditioned to the Unconditioned, from manifestation to Principle. By this means and over the course of a number of years, conversation partners are indeed brought to “a path that leads to God.”
For me, I confess, ‘twould be nice if the path to get another to the trailhead were not so long, windy, and precarious, but so it is when the starting point is secular modernity, with its penchant for scientific materialism. An impoverished time like ours calls for patience and discernment. Much like Schuon, I want to “help us to go back to where we belong.”