Frithjof Schuon is best known as the foremost spokesman of the religio perennis and as a philosopher in the metaphysical current of Shankara and Plato. Over the past 50 years, he has written more than 20 books on metaphysical, spiritual and ethnic themes as well as having been a regular contributor to journals on comparative religion in both Europe and America. Schuon's writings have been consistently featured and reviewed in a wide range of scholarly and philosophical publications around the world, respected by both scholars and spiritual authorities.
Schuon was born in 1907 in Basle, Switzerland, of German parents. As a youth, he went to Paris, where he studied for a few years before undertaking a number of trips to North Africa, the Near East and India in order to contact spiritual authorities and witness traditional cultures. Following World War II, he accepted an invitation to travel to the American West, where he lived for several months among the Plains Indians, in whom he has always had a deep interest. Having received his education in France, Schuon has written all his major works in French, which began to appear in English translation in 1953. Of his first book, The Transcendent Unity of Religions (London, Faber & Faber) T.S. Eliot wrote: "I have met with no more impressive work in the comparative study of Oriental and Occidental religion."
The traditionalist or "perennialist" perspective began to be enunciated in the West at the beginning of the twentieth century by the French philosopher René Guénon and by the Orientalist and Harvard professor Ananda Coomaraswamy. Fundamentally, this doctrine is the Sanatana Dharma--the "eternal religion"--of Hindu Vedantists. It was formulated in the West, in particular, by Plato, by Meister Eckhart in the Christian world, and is also to be found in Islam with Sufism. Every religion has, besides its literal meaning, an esoteric dimension, which is essential, primordial and universal. This intellectual universality is one of the hallmarks of Schuon's works, and it gives rise to many fascinating insights into not only the various spiritual traditions, but also history, science and art.
The dominant theme or principle of Schuon's writings was foreshadowed in his early encounter with a Black marabout who had accompanied some members of his Senegalese village to Switzerland in order to demonstrate their culture. When the young Schuon talked with him, the venerable old man drew a circle with radii on the ground and explained: "God is in the center, all paths lead to Him."
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"The man is a living wonder; intellectually à propos religion, equally in depth and breadth, the paragon of our time. I know of no living thinker who begins to rival him..." wrote Huston Smith, of Frithjof Schuon.
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