A Critique of Modern Knowledge

In essence, we are dealing with two types of knowledge or two levels of knowledge, with one being of a ‘celestial’ or ‘primordial’ nature and the other having a ‘terrestrial’ or ‘worldly’ nature. The former is largely an outcome of intuition and contemplation and is fostered by peculiar methods and techniques, while the latter is derived largely from empirical conjecture, perception, and senses. 

Moreover, and as Wael Hallaq wrote, the latter form of knowledge – namely, terrestrial and worldly knowledge – has “structural and paradigmatic features” which can prompt “an emerging critique whose starting point is the thought structure that gave rise, among other things, to environmental crisis – crisis…that is symptomatic of a larger epistemological and therefore ethical deficit (one that stems from a structure that is designed to operate exclusively within materialist and political considerations.)” This critique “rests on a host of broader questions inevitably informed by even larger philosophical and theoretical considerations.” 

This thought structure “is now being critiqued and rejected as the source of the very crises that humanity is facing” from many angles and corners of the intellectual and spiritual world. ‘Celestial knowledge’ and the ‘transcendent’ laws and principles which are embedded in such knowledge are juxtaposed with a modernist or ‘rationalist’ perspective, and the modernist or ‘rationalist’ perspective “consciously or unconsciously” amounts to a “direct and unqualified denial of that knowledge” to borrow from René Guénon.

This denial, however, stems more from a baseless sense of “intellectual pride” and subjective feelings and sentiments rather than from rational or scientific grounds. As Guénon wrote:

“In a certain sense one could speak of pride in connection with reason because this belongs to the individual order just as sentiment does, so that between the one and the other reciprocal reactions are always possible. But how could this be so in the order of pure intellectuality, which is essentially supra-individual?”

Guénon added:

“And once it is by hypothesis a matter of esoterism, it is obvious that there can be no question of reason but only of the transcendent intellect, either directly, as in the case of true metaphysical and initiatic realization, or at least indirectly, but yet also quite real, as in the case of knowledge that is still merely theoretical, since in each case it is a question of things that reason is incapable of attaining.” 

It is in large part due to the transcendence beyond an empirical level of knowledge towards a phenomenological level of knowledge which is required as a result of the limits of reason and human intellect that the modernist or ‘rationalist’ perspectives “are always so bent” on denying esoterism and ‘celestial’ knowledge. And when we consider knowledge and its dual-faceted or two-pronged nature, we must also take ontology and being into consideration, given that knowledge and being are “the two inseparable faces of one and the same reality” to borrow from Guénon. 

One must also belabor or stress the point that ‘celestial’ knowledge is opened to the individual through a spiritual master. In the case of Rumi, for instance, the opening to ‘celestial’ knowledge was Shams Tabrizi. One must note that Rumi was an ordinary scholar and teacher before meeting Shams. But it was Shams who turned Rumi into the transcendental and worldwide figure that he is today. But in terms of the role of the spiritual master in the conferring of celestial knowledge, the reality, which Frithjof Schuon noted, is that “there is but one sole Master and that the various human supports are like emanations from Him, comparable to the rays of the sun, which communicate one and the same light and are nothing without it.” 

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