His father was a native of southern Germany , while his mother came from an Alsatian family. Schuon lived in Basel and attended school there until the untimely death of his father, after which his mother returned with her two young sons to her family in nearby Mulhouse , France , where Schuon was obliged to become a French citizen. Having received his earliest training in German, he received his later education in French and thus mastered both languages early in life. There he worked as a textile designer and began to study Arabic in the local mosque school.
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His father was a native of southern Germany , while his mother came from an Alsatian family. Schuon lived in Basel and attended school there until the untimely death of his father, after which his mother returned with her two young sons to her family in nearby Mulhouse , France , where Schuon was obliged to become a French citizen. Having received his earliest training in German, he received his later education in French and thus mastered both languages early in life.
There he worked as a textile designer and began to study Arabic in the local mosque school. Living in Paris also brought the opportunity to be exposed to various forms of traditional art to a much greater degree than before, especially the arts of Asia with which he had had a deep affinity since his youth.
It was then that he met the celebrated Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi and was initiated into his order. His main reason for seeking the blessings of Shaykh Al-Alawi being exactly the attachment to an orthodox master and Saint. After having served in the French army, and having been made a prisoner by the Germans, he sought asylum in Switzerland, which gave him Swiss nationality and was to be his home for forty years.
In he married, his wife being a German Swiss with a French education who, besides having interests in religion and metaphysics, was also a gifted painter. Having received his education in France, Schuon has written all his major works in French, which began to appear in English translation in Eliot wrote: "I have met with no more impressive work in the comparative study of Oriental and Occidental religion. In and again in , they journeyed to the American West at the invitation of friends among the Sioux and Crow American Indians.
In the company of their Native American friends, they visited various Plains tribes and had the opportunity to witness many aspects of their sacred traditions. Years later they were similarly adopted by the Crow medicine man and Sun Dance chief, Thomas Yellowtail. Other travels have included journeys to Andalusia , Morocco, and a visit in to the reputed home of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus. Through his many books and articles, Schuon became known as a spiritual teacher and leader of the Traditionalist School.
During his years in Switzerland he regularly received visits from well-known religious scholars and thinkers of the East. As a result, his teachings and paintings show a particular Marian presence. When asked by one of his disciples about the reason for this choice of name, Schuon replied: "It is not we who have chosen her; it is she who has chosen us.
The first years in Bloomington saw the publication of some of his most important late works: From the Divine to the Human, To Have a Center, Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism and others.
Schuon was deeply attracted to the Native American traditions. In the autumn of , Schuon and his wife met with Thomas Yellowtail in Paris. The future Sun Dance Chief was making a dance tour. In his autobiography, Schuon explained how, after Yellowtail had performed a special rite, he had a visionary dream revealing to him certain aspects of the Plain Indian symbolism.
Thomas Yellowtail remained his intimate friend till his death in , visiting him every year after his settlement in Bloomington. A preliminary investigation was begun, but the chief prosecutor eventually concluded that there was no proof, noting that the plaintiff was of extremely dubious character who had been previously condemned for making false statements in another similar affair in California. Orientalist Ananda Coomaraswamy and Swiss art historian Titus Burckhardt also became prominent advocates of this point of view.
Every religion has, besides its literal meaning, an esoteric dimension, which is essential, primordial and universal. 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.
Maya is not only the cosmic illusion: from a higher standpoint, Maya is also the Infinite, the Divine Relativity or else the feminine aspect mahashakti of the Supreme Principle. Said differently, being the Absolute, Beyond-Being is also the Sovereign Good Agathon , that by its nature desires to communicate itself through the projection of Maya. The whole manifestation from the first Being Ishvara to matter Prakriti , the lower degree of reality, is indeed the projection of the Supreme Principle Brahman.
The personal God, considered as the creative cause of the world, is only relatively Absolute, a first determination of Beyond-Being, at the summit of Maya. The Supreme Principle is not only Beyond-Being. It is also the Supreme Self Atman and in its innermost essence, the Intellect buddhi that is the ray of Consciousness shining down, the axial refraction of Atma within Maya. Human beings must know the "Truth". Knowing the Truth, they must then will the "Good" and concentrate on it.
These two aspects correspond to the metaphysical doctrine and the spiritual method. Knowing the Truth and willing the Good, human beings must finally love "Beauty" in their own soul through virtue, but also in "Nature".
In this respect Schuon has insisted on the importance for the authentic spiritual seeker to be aware of what he called the "metaphysical transparency of phenomena".
He explained the forms of the spiritual practices as they have been manifested in various traditional universes. In particular, he wrote on the Invocation of the Divine Name dhikr , Japa - Yoga , the Prayer of the Heart , considered by Hindus as the best and most providential means of realization at the end of the Kali Yuga.
As has been noted by the Hindu saint Ramakrishna , the secret of the invocatory path is that God and his Name are one. Schuon explained that esoterism displays two aspects, one being an extension of exoterism and the other one independent of exoterism; for if it be true that the form "is" in a certain way the essence, the essence on the contrary is by no means totally expressed by a single form; the drop is water, but water is not the drop.
This second aspect is called "quintessential esoterism" for it is not limited or expressed totally by one single form or theological school and, above all, by a particular religious form as such. Schuon notes that the essence of relativism is found in the idea that we never escape from human subjectivity whilst its expounders seem to remain unaware of the fact that relativism is therefore also deprived of any objectivity.
Schuon further notes that the Freudian assertion that rationality is merely a hypocritical guise for a repressed animal drive results in the very assertion itself being devoid of worth as it is itself a rational judgment.