Flowing out of the Second Vatican Council (1965) and the Perennial Tradition/Philosophy is an ever evolving ecumenical and interfaith relations within the Christian tradition. Below is a brief explanation of the Second Vatican Council and the Perennial Philosophy. As a result of the growing relationships many of the Christian Denominations developed Interfaith Ministries. Links to those ministries are provided below.
The Second Vatican Council, Nastra Actate (1965) reads, “All peoples comprise a single community and have a single origin [created by one and the same Creator God]…. And one also is their final goal: God…. The Catholic Church rejects nothing which is true and holy in these religions.” The document goes on to praise Native religion, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam as “reflecting a ray of that truth which enlightens all people.”
The Optatum Totius, also from the Second Vatican Council, states that seminarians should “base themselves on a philosophy which is perennially valid,” and the decree encourages study of the entire history of philosophy and also “recent scientific progress.”
Saint Augustine (354-430), a Doctor of the Church, wrote, “The very thing which is now called the Christian religion was not wanting among the ancients from the beginning of the human race until Christ came in the flesh. After that time, the true religion, which had always existed, began to be called Christian.” St. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Leo the Great all held similar understandings.
Aldous Huxley describes the Perennial Philosophy as the combination of a spiritual metaphysics, a recurring psychology of the human person, and an ethic at the same time:
- A metaphysic which recognizes a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds;
- A psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical to, divine Reality;
- An ethic that places man’s final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being.
The Perennial Tradition encompasses the recurring themes in all of the world’s religions and philosophies that continue to say:
- There is a Divine Reality underneath and inherent in the world of things,
- There is in the human soul a natural capacity, similarity, and longing for this Divine Reality, and
- The final goal of existence is union with this Divine Reality.
[The] perennial philosophy . . . is the gold within the sectarian dross of every great religion. —Alan Watts
United Church of Christ
National Council of the Churches of Christ
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
World Council of Churches