In a previous blog post, I mentioned the concept known as “The Hierarchy of Knowledge” which had been coined and developed by the philosopher and scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr. What “The Hierarchy of Knowledge” suggests is that knowledge of an existential and phenomenological nature is ultimately superior to empirical and mundane knowledge. In turn, there are what René Guénon called the “sacred sciences” on one hand, and the “profane sciences” on the other hand. And as Guénon argued: “The profane sciences of which the modern world is so proud are really and truly only the degenerate residues of the ancient traditional sciences.” As mentioned before, Guénon assumes the role of “Godfather” and even perhaps the foremost sustainer of “perennial” and traditional thought amidst a modern ontological state and modern environment defined by meaningless and superficial change and speed. Thus, as Wael Hallaq wrote: “Reading Guénon is like dealing with a diamond in the rough.”
And if we were to extend the dichotomy even further, there is “terrestrial knowledge” on one hand, and “celestial knowledge” on the other hand. The difference between “terrestrial knowledge” and “celestial knowledge” is the difference between philosophy and revelation respectively. Once the epistemological limits of philosophy and thus “terrestrial knowledge” have been reached, the sole recourse one is left with is “celestial knowledge” and thus contemplation and revelation, which in turn remove such epistemological limits on the human intellect. And as Wael Hallaq wrote: “Progress is an endless, perpetual yearning for the ultimately unknowable.” In other words: “Don’t settle.”
Furthermore, there is an “ascending” order and “descending” order when it comes to the acquisition of both terrestrial and celestial knowledge. In some cases, individuals can ascend from terrestrial knowledge to celestial knowledge, and in other cases, individuals can descend from celestial knowledge to terrestrial knowledge. But in any case, terrestrial sciences are merely a “secondary application” of the concepts and principles found in celestial and supra-human knowledge. And as Ali Shariati suggested, the ascent from the terrestrial to the celestial equates to the ascent that is “from dust to God.”
In sum, all of the aforementioned points converge upon an underlying principle, namely, the superiority of the spiritual over the temporal. Without adherence to such a principle, chaos and disorder reigns until there is a restoration of this principle by an intellectual and spiritual elite, or “The Elect,” thus ushering in what is known as the “Great Peace,” according to Guénon. Although few in number and ignored by virtually everyone (including by members of the “elect” themselves), this “elect” will overcome temporal quantity by virtue of its spiritual quality in order to achieve the goal of ushering in this “Great Peace,” according to a number of faith traditions.
In turn, modern knowledge and modern chaos stem from a common source, namely, “a psychoepistemic disorder” to borrow from Wael Hallaq. This “psychoepistemic disorder” stems largely from the fact that the modus operandi of modernity is action without contemplation. To a large extent, action without contemplation is demonic by nature, thus the manifestation of such action into brute and physical forms such as “soulless capitalism,” as well as colonialism and global hegemony. Thus, there are detrimental effects of detaching both knowledge and action from metaphysical principles belonging to a higher intellectual order or “Hierarchy of Knowledge” which have now become manifest to everyone.