some keywords:

ancient wisdom, resuscitation
answer to Descartes
art and literature, religious
civilization, Western
destruction of sacred knowledge
dialectical thought
doctrine of unity, at-tauhid
doctrines, ignoring
esoteric teachings, divorced
esoterism as opposed
God, power of - the sacred
God, remembrance of
greatness of man
Greek miracle
human life, achievement of
intellect, light of
intellectual life
knowing, tree modes of
knowledge, attainment of
knowledge, desacralization of
knowledge, sacred quality of
language affected, by desacr
language, link
languages, less symbolic
manifestation, cycle of
modern man, condition of
modern man, quest of
modern world
modernism - contemp. man
nature, traditional idea of
origin, celestial - tradition
Origin, man - religion
orthodoxy - tradition
orthodoxy, def
philosophia perennis
philosophy, true
Pico d Mirandola
premodern man - tradition
psychology, meaning of
reality, when reason cut off
reason - certitude
reason cut off
reason, function of
religion, binding of
religion, limit. of term
religion, resusc. term of
religion, attaining to
religions, plurality of
religious art and literature
remembrance of God
revelation, at-tauhid in
sacred - reality
sacred in religious circles
sacred viewed from profane
sacred, attraction of the
sacred, grandeur of the
sacred, meaning
sacred, rediscover
sacred, rediscovery of
sacred, related
sacred, confirming
secularization, concl. of
sophia perennis, name
tauhid - doctrine of unity
theology, substance diluted
time, qualitative aspect of
tradition - ethics
tradition - human history
tradition - modern world
tradition - perennial wisdom
tradition - religion
tradition - subject
tradition as whole cosmic sector
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tradition, goal of
tradition, implies also
tradition, not be confused with
tradition, primordial
tradition, rediscovery of
tradition, separate concept of
tradition, terms related to
tradition, to confirm the sacred
traditional thinkers - modernism
traditions, multiplicity of
truth, authority of
Truth, lived by
truth, transmission of
Western civilization
wisdom, perennial
wisdom, resuscitation of ancient

The Nature Of Sacred Knowledge
According to SH Nasr

This site quotes some of the main statements of this excellent work on that knowledge which is sacred. For a complete disposition see the book itself. This hyperlink-page gives a glimpse into the traditional outlook concerning religion and the sacred, how this precious knowledge was lost in (post-) modernity and what would be necessary for its rediscovery in order to save humanity from its downward turn.

The Questions:

Intelligence - as the instrument for the attainment of knowledge of the sacred - becomes operative only upon man's receiving of what?

ST 28: [sacred knowledge] is immediate like that of the senses but not sensous in the usual meaning of this term, thereby negating Descarte's dualism KS28-13

ST 29: In empiricism the sanctifying function of intellection has no meaning at all KS29

Sacred knowledge is not attainable through the mind but through what?

What has man to do to attain this knowledge (of the sacred)?

When does this beatic vision have to be attained?

What is (the possible) greatness of man?

Those priding themselves in being enlightened (Renaissance) denied what possibility to the mind?

What was Franz von Baader's answer to Descartes?

What did Baader's answer not make concerning the natural and the supernatural, and what did he see instead in nature?

What possible function can reason and logic have? As channels through which what can shine?

The antirationalistic philosophies of the 19th century even denied the possibility of attainment of knowledge to what?

What had Christian mysticism of the century become ?

When did the process of desacralization of knowledge in the Orient begin?

What is lamented by Plato?

What would the rediscovery of (sacred knowledge) lead to today?

Why is the 'Greek miracle' really a miracle in reverse and what did it substitute?

What was the drawback of Aristotle?

Why did Christianity at its expansion have to present itself as a way of love?

Why did Christianity a tight boundary between the supernatural and the natural?

What did medieval Christian theology exclude?

The early gnostics emphasized the gnostic character of both Christ as bestower of what - and of his message as containing what?

What did St.Thomas deny concerning knowledge ?

ST39a: Cutting reason from certitude (by the movement of nominalism) KS39co

ST39b: Nominalism helped to eclipse the type of sacred knowledge which every religion needs if it is to be total and complete and able to cater to the mental and intellectual needs of all its followers. KS39-19

Why did the very process of resuscitation of ancient wisdom (in the 'renaissance') result in further weakening of traditional Christian intellectuality?

What was (in the process of the loss of ancient wisdom) separated from each other?

Descates appealed to what - as a new basis for certain knowledge?

Descates did not refer to the divine 'I' but to what?

What do gnostics call the divine 'I' - the divine Self ?

ST42: rationalism = the most intelligent way of being unintelligent. KS42

What characterizes the whole dialectical thought process in the 19th century?

How was the program (of positivism or analytical philosophy) to completely destroy the sacred quality of knowledge ?

The result of the destruction of the sacred quality of knowledge was not philosophy but what?

ST43b: Only the like can know the like. KS43u

What happened to the subjects studied by secularized reason?

What only could the profane point of view observe?

What has been the quest of typical modern man ?

In the domain of thought itself, what has been failed to distinguish between (concerning wisdom and philosophy)?

What labels are used to destroy or ignore doctrines?

What is one of the most important tasks (which must be achieved) in the modern world ?

ST45: The secularization of the cosmos was also related to the secularization of reason. KS45 o

What happens to reality, to time, to history when reason is cut off from its root in the permanent?

ST: Time rather than eternity became the source of all things KS45-5

ST: Ideas, rather than being considered as true or false in themselves were relegated completely to the domain of historical change and considered significant only as historical events KS45 u

The destruction of the qualitative aspect of time is the result of what?

Why did the desacralization of knowledge affect language, too?

Why have European languages become less symbolic and more unidimensional?

What traditional idea of nature did Galileo still accept?

On what reflected the secularization of language of the cosmic text (nature),too ?

What link of languages broke down?

With what experiences are everyday-languages filled?

What has to be done against the desacralization of language?

Why are we left in a world of compartmentalization *) where there is no wholeness?

*) Compartmentalization: a world in which there is no wholeness KS48+13

Why could the light of the Intellect not be completely eclipsed?

What has happened in Western civilization to both knowledge and the world?

What has the modern world also lost when depleted of the sacred?

To what has the re(dis)covery of tradition made access possible ?

How long have human beings lived by (that) Truth?

Why did normal humanities - premodern man - have no sense of a separate concept of tradition?

Instead of having a sense of a separate concept of tradition, of what were they aware?

What is made possible at the end of a cycle of manifestation ?

What has taken place concerning tradition during this last stage of human history?

What is one of the remarkable aspects of intellectual life in this century?

What should not be confused with tradition?

Which terms are related to tradition, though not identical with it?

ST67: Tradition is like a living presence, which leaves its imprint, but is not reducible to that imprint. KS67-6

Tradition can be written words or what (upon souls)?

Def: tradition: truths or principles of divine origin revealed or unveiled to mankind KS68+1

And (tradition is) a whole cosmic sector through various figures envisaged as messengers, prophets ... the Logos, along with what?

Tradition ( in its more universal sense) can considered as to include what?

Tradition ( in its essential sense) can considered as what principles ?

Tradition: = what character of truths?

Tradition is not a childish, outmoded mythology, but what?

Tradition, like religion is at once truth and what?

Tradition concerns the subject which knows and the subject which is ...?

Tradition is inextricably related to what?

Tradition - perennial wisdom, which lies where?

What has been considered the crowning achievement of human life in earlier epochs?

What is 'sophia perennis' called in Islam (and in Hinduism) ?

Of what did Pico della Mirandola emphasize the idea of continuity ?

What did Stenco assert concerning the origin of wisdom?

How is it possible to attain to this true religion or philosophy (which has existed from the beginning of human history)?

Tradition contains a sense of truth which is both of divine origin and perpetuated throughout a major cycle of human history through what?

Tradition also implies what?

ST: Philosophia perennis is part of the Islamic tradition KS71-13

Islam does not only see the doctrine of at-tauhid - the doctrine of unity - as the essence of its own message, but also as ?

ST: Revelation means for islam the assertion of at-tauhid - the doctrine of unity. KS71-8

ST: All religions are seen as representatives (in different climes and languages) of the doctrine (of at-tauhid - the doctrine of unity). KS71u

How are tradition (root: transmission) and religion (root: binding) related to each other?

D: Religion is what binds man to the Origin through what?

Which limitation has the term 'religion' gained in European languages?

What has this limitation (of the term 'religion') caused religious art and literature to become?

What does the resuscitated term of religion mean? That which descends from where?

What then is religion (resuscitated term) in relation to tradition?

Is there a plurality of religions, multiplicity of traditions?

ST Tradition, primordial: From the traditional point of view the reality of the primordial tradition - and the Supreme Center is strongly confirmed, but this affirmation does not in any way decrease the authenticity or complete originality of each religion and tradition which conforms to a particular archetype,.. representing a direct manifestation from the Origin. KS74u

The authenticity or complete originality of each religion and tradition is not decreased or destroyed by the affirmation of what?

ST: To speak of tradition means (instead of rejecting the celestial origin of authentic religions and traditions) to confirm the sacred in each 'original' message from heaven KS75+2

Only that which comes from the Origin can be what?

What can be said concerning the sacred in respect to reality?

The condition of modern man:

What has lately been related to the sacred?

The relation of intellectual truth and knowledge to what has been ignored?

Why has the relationship of intellectual truth and knowledge to to the sacred been ignored?

How is the sacred viewed from the perspective of the profane world?

How is the remembrance of God seen in [our] world of forgetfulness ?

In religious circles the sacred is viewed as connected with the power of God rather than?

How is the grandeur of the sacred represented in [our] world of indifference and pettiness ?

Wisdom-perspective: what is exceptional in the modern world?

What is the most direct way of approaching the meaning of the sacred ? KS75-2

Man's sense of the sacred is none other than his sense for what?

ST The exoteric is necessary for an integral living tradition KS77c

ST sages [saints]: the greatest sages [of Christianity] ...remained faithful to the forms and exoteric teachings of their religion KS77+19

What do only a few remain aware of in this stage of human history?

From what have esoteric teachings become divorced only in the West, (possibly during the decadence of the late antiquity)?

As a result (of this divorce in the 18th cent.) esoterism has appeared as be opposed to what?

Tradition implies and is inseparable from what ?

Orthodoxy in its most universal sense is none onter than what?

The narrowing of the sense of orthodoxy happened because of the loss of what character of religion ?

The narrowing of the sense of orthodoxy is connected with the loss of what?

ST orthodoxy - tradition:

All those aberrations, imitations ( of a purely (sub-) human origin) make it impossible for man to do what?

ST: To speak of truth and of orthodoxy in the traditional context is also to speak of authority and transmission of truth KS79u

What does not and cannot play a role in the transmission and interpretation of what is by definition superhuman?

How is it to live in a traditional world?

ST: Tradition is all-embracing, ethics has no meaning outside .. tradition KS80-2

Which are the tree modes of knowing (knowledge) dealing with the principles in a traditional world (esp. Abrahamic religions)?

What is every great philosopher also to some extent ?

What trivialized the meaning of psychology in the modern West and diluted the substance of theology?

What will the adoption of elements from another tradition cause?

From where issues the unrelenting opposition of traditional thinkers to modernism?

Why is tradition opposed to modernism?

What does tradition criticize in the modern world ?

ST: tradition seeks to destroy modernism not in order to destroy contemporary man, but to save him from continuing a path whose end could not but be perdition and destruction KS85cl

The goal of tradition is not to destroy what is positive, but to remove what?

The goal of tradition is to enable Western man to do what?

With what has it become necessary to identify tradition, now - as the tragic history unfolds?

At what moment in time did a movement with in heart and soul of a number of men rediscover the sacred?

What is the logical conclusion of the process of secularization?

What has brought fore the quest for the rediscovery of the sacred?

What has modernism meant to many a contemporary man who had to face it?

Where have such persons (many a contempory man) have then felt the attraction of the sacred?


The Answers as given by the author in near-quotes:

inner illumination KS28+8

The heart, once it is purified and the 'eye of the heart' and once it is opened KS28-5

He has to brush away all accidents and return to his center which is pure conciousness and knowledge, the eternal essence which survives all change and becoming. KS29-4

Here and now through that 'spiritual death' which makes a gnostic 'a dead man walking' even in this life KS30+8

It is this possibility of unitive knowledge ,... beatic union KS30-19

The possibility of illumination by inner intellect KS30-5

cogitor, ergo cogito et sum, I am thought [by God], therefore I think and I am. KS60fn105

He did not make an absolute distinction between the natural and the supernatural, and saw in nature a reflection of the sacred, which official theology had confined strictly to the supernatural realm KS33+12

As channels through which the light of the intellect shines upon the human state and which can lead man to the precinct (area) of sacred knowledge KS33-19

even to reason KS33-9

Nearly completly emptied of intellectual and metaphysical content, becoming a passive way of love. KS34+1

It already began with the ancient Greeks KS34+13

the loss of the symbolist spirit and the emptying of the cosmos of its sacred content, the rise of rationalism as independent of intellection KS34+15

It would lead to a rediscovery of Greek wisdom, of Plato, Plotinus, ao not as simply human philosophy, but as sacred doctrines of divine inspiration to be compared much more with the Hindu darsanas than with philosophical schools as they are currently understood. KS35+11


It is a miracle in reverse because it substituted reason for the intellect and sensuous knowledge for inner illumination. KS34-10

He hid intellection in a syllogistic mode (=phrases, language used for reasoning) KS34-2

Because Christianity expanded in a world already suffering from rationalism and naturalism, which had stifled the spirit and hardened the heart as the seat of intelligence, (so it ) had to sweep aside all the 'ways of knowing' that lay before it. KS35 cu

To overcome the danger of cosmolatry ... KS35-9

The ecstatic intellect; the ecstasy resulting from intellection, along with sexual ecstasy KS36+15

Christ as bestower of wisdom and his message as an inner significance of a gnostic and esoteric nature KS36-4

He denied the possibility of the illumination of the mind by the Intellect, as he considered all knowledge as having a sensuous origin KS37+11f

Because those teachings were an externalization and profanation of what had been known and preserved secretly during the Middle Ages KS40-12

Philosophy from theology, reason from faith and mysticism from gnosis KS40-6

Neither to the Intellect as it functions in the heart of man and as the source of reason nor to revelation, but to the individual conciousness of the thinking subject. KS41cl

To his individual (therefore illusory) self KS41-16

al-Haqq - the divine Truth KS41-15

The reduction of reality to the temporal process, of being to becoming KS43+11

By either totally separating religion and the quest for the sacred from rationality and logic or by depleting both language and thought process from any significance of a metaphysical order (which may still lurk) KS43-19

Misosophy = the hatred of wisdom or antiphilosophy KS43-9

They came out to be depleted and devoid of the quality of the sacred. KS43-4

Only a profane world in which the sacred did not play a role KS43-2

'To kill the gods' and to banish the sacred from a world which has been rapidly woven into a new secularized pattern KS44+1

A sacred wisdom based upon intellection and profane philosophy KS44+11

Neoplatonic influence, pantheistic, animistic, naturalistic, monistic, even mystical in the sense of ambiguous. And Plato, Plotinus and Proclus are presented as simple philosophers as if they were professors of philosophy in some nearby university. KS44 c

The reevaluation of the Greek intellectual heritage in the light of tradition KS45+3

Reality is reduced to process, time is reduced to pure quantity, history is reduced to a process without a transcendant entelechy [=goal - reality] KS45-8

Of the turning away of man's mental faculties from man's immutable Center to the fluctuating periphery of his existence KS46+9f

It affected language, too, since formulated knowledge is inseparable from language. KS46+18

They have lost much of their inward sense of classical languages, because they have been associated with thought patterns of a unidimensional character. KS46-17

The idea that nature is a great book to be deciphered, but for him the language of this book was no longer the sacred language of Saint Bonaventure, or Dante, associatiated with symbolic and analogical meaning, but (quantitative) mathematics. KS46-8

Upon the language of the sacred Scripture itself, which until now had been considered as a gift of God KS47+15f

The link between divine language and human language KS47-19

With experiences of triviality KS47-11

Language has to be elevated again to its symbolical and anagogical level KS47-8 ( s KS64fn141 )

Because wholeness [and holiness] has ceased to be a central concern, or is at best reduced to sentimentality KS48+14

*1) Compartmentalization: a world in which there is no wholeness KS48+13

Because God is both merciful and just. KS48-3

What has happened is the desacralization of both knowledge and the world which surrounds modern man. KS65cl

It has also lost meaning. KS65u

To that Truth by which human beings (man) have lived KS66+4

During nearly all of their terrestrial historyKS66+5

Because they - man - lived in a world impregnated with (what we now) call tradition KS66-16

Of revelation, of wisdom, of the sacred KS66-13

The recapitulation of the whole of the cycle and the creation of a synthesis which then serves as the seed for a new cycle KS66-4

The concept of tradition had to be brought forth and traditional teachings expressed in their totality KS66-1

The neglect of traditional point of view in circles whose official function is to be concerned with questions of a traditional order KS67+9

Custom, habit, inherited patterns of thought KS67co

Dharma, diin, tao KS67c

As truths engraved upon the souls of men and as subtle as the breath or even the glance of the eye KS67-4

Along with all the ramifications and applications of these principles in different realms, including law and social structure, art, symbolism, the sciences, and embracing of course Supreme Knowledge along with the means for its attainment KS68+4

Its includes the principles which bind man to Heaven and therefore religion KS68+7

As principles which are revealed from Heaven and which bind man to his Origin KS68+10

It implies truths of a superindividual character rooted in the nature of reality as such KS68co

It is a science that is terribly real KS68cl

Truth and presence KS68+16

Tradition concerns the subject which knows and the subject which is known KS68+17

Tradition is inextricably related to: revelation, religion, the sacred, the notion of orthodoxy,
And also to: the continuity and regularity of the transmission of the truth,
And also to: the exoteric and the esoteric, as well as spriritual life, science, and the arts KS68-19

At the heart of every religion, and which is none other than the Sophia KS68u

The possession of Sophia (perennial wisdom) KS68u2

Al Hikmat al-khaalidah (and sanataana dharma) KS68-3

Of wisdom which is essentially one throughout various civilizations and periods of history KS70u2

That it was of divine origin, a sacred knowledge handed by God to Adam, which was however gradually forgotten and turned into a dream ... KS70-7f

Through either the historical expression of truth in various traditions or by intellectual intuition and 'philosophical' contemplation KS71+1f

Through both transmission and renewal of the message by means of revelation KS71cl

An inner truth which lies at the heart of different sacred forms and which is unique since Truth is one KS71+18f

Also as heart of every religion KS71-9

Religion what binds men to God and to each other.
Tradition is a more general concept embracing religion in its most universal sense. KS73o

Through a message, a revelation, or a manifestation which comes from the Ultimate Reality KS73-15

It has been limited to its most outward aspects KS73-13

So depleted of the sense of the sacred and removed from tradition considered as the application of principles of a transcendent order KS73-11

Which descends from the Source in revelation, (also called) the objective manifestations of the Logos. KS73-5

Then religion is the heart of that and all-embracing order which is tradition KS73-2

From a certain point of view there is but one tradition, which is the Primordial tradition KS74+13

By the strong confirmation of the Primordial Tradition and the Supreme Center KS74-5

Can be originalKS89fn29

The sacred resides in the nature of reality itself and normal humanity has a sense for the sacred, just as it has ( a sense) for reality which one distiguishes naturally from the unreal. KS75+12

He has forgotten this natural sense of distinguishing the real from the unreal KS75co

The irrational KS75c

The relation of intellectual truth and knowledge to the sacred KS75-20

Because of the depleting of knowledge of its sacred content KS75-19

It is viewed as totally 'other'. KS75-16

As something wholly 'other' KS75-7

Rather than connected with with his wisdom KS75-6

As representing a radical 'otherness'. KS75-5

What is exceptional in the modern world is that the sapiential perspective has become so forgotten that the view of the sacred - as something completely alien to what appears as 'normal' human life has become the only view (if the sacred is accepted as a possibility at all.) KS75u

To relate it to the Immutable, to that Reality which is both unmoved Mover and Immutable KS75-2

For the Immutable and the Eternal KS76+7

Of the inner dimensions of their nature KS77u

From the tradition within whose matrix the esoteric is veritably the esoteric KS77-1

To the Christian traditionKS78+5

Orthodoxy KS78cl

None other than Truth itself and as related to the formal homogenity ('sameness') of a particular traditional universe KS78-17

Because of the loss of the multidimensional character of religion and its reduction to a single level KS78-16

With the loss of the original meaning of intellectuality and its reduction to rationalism KS78-5

There is no possibility of tradition without orthodoxy, nor of orthodoxy outside of tradition. KS79+13

To gain access to the doctrines, practices and spiritual presence, which alone enables man to go beyond his limited self and reach the entelechy [= goal of realization] which is his raison d'etre. KS79+18

Individualism, even if an extensive field is left for human elaboration and interpretation KS80co

To breathe in a universe in which man is related to a reality beyond himself, a reality from which he receives all those principles, truths, forms, attitudes, and other elements which determine the very texture of human existence KS80cl

The tree modes of knowing (knowledge) are philosophy, theology, gnosis* (or theosophy) KS81cl

Also a theologian and a metaphysician KS82+18

The disappearance of gnosis KS82-2

Great harm or even destruction KS84+3

First and foremost from their dedication to traditional truth and then from compassion and charity toward a humanity entangled in a world woven of the threads of half-truths and errors KS84cl

Because it considers the premises upon which modernism is based to wrong and false in principle. KS84-10

It criticizes the total world view, the premises, the false foundations .. KS84-3

To remove that veil of ignorance which allows the illusionay to appear as real and the negative as positive and the false as real KS85+6f

To join the rest of humanity KS85cu

With that East or Orient which belongs to the sacred geography and which is symbolic rather than literal KS86+4

When the process of secularization seemed to be reaching its logical conclusion KS93-15

93-15 It is to remove the presence of the sacred altogether from all aspects of human life and thought. KS93-14

The principle of cosmic compensation, i e the overall harmony and equilibrium of the cosmos KS93-13

The terror of nihilism and death of that which is human as a result of the effacing of the imprint of the Divinty upon the human face, the loneliness of a world from which the Spirit has been banished [although he has not really] KS93-7

At the center of their own being KS93-2

KS = Knowledge And The Sacred, Seyyed Hossein Nasr; NY. 1989
KS3+2 = page 3; row 2 from above
KS4-9 = page 4; row 9 from bottom

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Related links at our site * living islam - Islamic tradition * :

•   Knowledge And The Sacred, S H Nasr; Q / A

•   More texts by S. H. Nasr

Related links at other sites:

•   for ex.


First of all it is Islam that reigns (see Sura 5:3). Traditional Islam does not accept the notion that the world-religions (or even any other man-made belief systems) are equally valid roads to God - Allah, these are perennialist interpretations.

◊ Even so - except for elements of corruption and deviation - they still reflect some sacred truth, they did not turn into complete falsehood by being abrogated.

◊ In the words of Muhyiddín Ibn `Arabi:

”The religious laws (shara`í - of different religions) are all lights, and the law of Muhammad ( Allah bless him and give him peace ) among these lights is as the sun's light among the light of the stars…” [more]

And he wrote:
”So all paths return to look to the Prophet's path (Allah bless him and give him peace): if the prophetic messengers had been alive in his time, they would have followed him just as their religious laws have followed his law.…”

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latest update: 2017-02-14


* living Islam – Islamic Tradition *