Are all religions basically the same?
The Perennial Philosophy is the title of a book by Aldous Huxley (1945), but it’s an idea that’s been around for a long time. It says that all religion is based on an original experience of oneness. In all its different varieties, from Protestantism to Hinduism, religion is an ineffable, inexpressible experience of one divine reality in which we all share. Not only do we all worship the same God, but we all seek to reach the one reality beyond all appearances. Most don’t succeed, a few do, and we should follow and learn from these few, who are sometimes called saints, or bodhisattvas. We are God, as the perennialists put it, in the sense that we know God only by becoming one with him.*
Christian mysticism frequently expresses this ideal.
My Me is God, nor do I recognize any other Me except my God Himself. (Saint Catherine of Genoa, in Haught).
God became man in order to make me God; therefore I want to be changed completely into pure God. (Saint Catherine of Genoa, in Haught)
In those respects in which the soul is unlike God, it is also unlike itself. (Saint Bernard)
The goal of life?
The ultimate reason for human existence, says Huxley, is “unitive knowledge of the divine Ground.” I’m not quite sure what this means, but what Huxley says it that this knowledge is available only to those who are prepared to die to the self in order to make room for God (p21).
What happens to the living? And to life? What happens to the hungry and the poor? It seems as if they hardly matter, that the goal of human existence is essentially and profoundly self-centered. Huxley says not one word about dying to the self in order to better care for others. That’s not what Huxley is about.
One can see this more clearly in a book he wrote almost ten years later, The Doors of Perception, an account of his experiences taking the hallucinogenic drug, mescaline.