Against Perennial Philosophy
Editor's Note: In this essay, Jason Reza Jorjani makes a convincing case against perennial philosophy, which tends to promote a static, anti-philosophical approach to truth.
If the New Right is to become the intellectual and spiritual vanguard of the Indo-European world, we archeo-futurists must recognize that the very idea of Sophia Perennis – which can be traced to Medieval Iran – is fundamentally anti-philosophical, and that the likes of Evola and Guenon were terribly wrong to legitimate Islam.
Recently the think tank of the Iranian Renaissance organization to which I belong asked me to give a presentation on whether, or to what extent, anything worthy of the name “Philosophy” transpired in Iran during the so-called ‘Islamic Golden Age.’ Although talks within the think tank are usually confidential and despite the particularly controversial content of this presentation, originally entitled “Where is the Iranian Hegel?”, the moderator of our sessions apparently considered it so educational that the decision was made to post it publicly. Since the cat is more or less out of the bag on this, I see no harm in sharing with you a heavily redacted portion of this presentation that has profound significance for the ideological structure of the New Right movement.
You see, in the course of preparing for this presentation, something that I had long suspected came into crystal clear focus for me: “Perennial Philosophy” is not Philosophy at all. In fact, it is fundamentally anti-philosophical. In particular, the attempt on the part of traditionalist thinkers such as Julius Evola and René Guénon to claim that there is an Islamic Philosophy that is one expression of the Sophia Perennis is neither historically grounded nor conceptually sound. To the extent that there was ever anything approaching Philosophy within an Islamic context, its epicenter would have been Greater Iran. Although principle texts were forcibly written in Arabic, under the dominion of the Caliphate, nearly all of the thinkers of this so-called ‘Golden Age’ were Persians – in other words, ethnic Aryans. What becomes clear when you take a closer look at this period is the extent to which the Islamic conquest straightjacketed the once promising Indo-European genius of Iran.
Although Christianity was overall destructive of European civilization, and cause for a major retardation of European science and culture, there are two major structural factors that make Christianity different from Islam in a way that allowed for a kind of Reformation that created the atmosphere where a Hegel and Nietzsche were possible, a kind of Reformation that did not and cannot ever take place in Islam.
First, there is the internal incoherence of the Gospels and their incompatibility with key parts of the Old Testament. These books were written over the course of hundreds of years by tens of different authors, and the resulting contradictions in turn required an even larger group of people to constantly engage in different interpretations of the scripture in an effort to make some sense out of it. This makes Christianity much more flexible than Islam, the scripture of which was composed by only one man, is relatively more internally consistent, and claims not to be amenable to any change whatsoever.
Second, this man, namely Muhammad, was also the founder of a political state and the Quran is in essence a legal constitution. By comparison, in the Gospels we see an emphasis on the separation of Church and State as well as the rejection of the use of force to propagate the message of Christ. Of course, in actual fact many Christians did subsequently use force to spread their faith, but at least those in the Reformation who insisted on personal conscience had both Christ’s pacifism and his secularism to lean on in order to oppose the politics of the Catholic Church.
The fact that Islamic scripture is relatively internally consistent, at least with respect to law, that it is repeatedly and explicitly made clear nothing in the Quran can change, that the Quran establishes a form of government and renders separation of religion from state impossible, that the Quran justifies Jihad and that Muhammad himself used force to spread the religion – all of these factors make a Reformation of the kind that took place in Europe impossible within a Muslim country.