The Perennial Philosophy presents a universalist interpretation of the world's religions through a comparative study of a collection of mystical writings, from both Eastern and Western philosophies. Although I have a brief understanding of the Zohar, I noticed remarkable similarities. So this led me to question the complete exclusion of the Zohar and Kabbalah from the book. Is it possible that the Zohar wasn't yet translated at the time and knowledge of Kabbalah wasn't popular?

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    The Kaballah definitely is an important piece of the history of philosophy. Concepts like Zimzum are rarely known, but made their way into the canon through e.g. Mendelssohn and Fichte (despite not being named as such). What could prove helpful is including certain concepts and how they could relate to Perennial Philosophy as well as a short sketch of what Huxley meant by that term, i.e. giving some context and showing your own efforts.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 20:17
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    @user29568: that's easily fixed - I'll add a mysticism tag next time I'm at a lap-top; unfortunately the site doesn't allow adding tags from phones. Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 21:00
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    @MoziburUllah Zohar is the author of the most famous written form of the Kabbalah, from about the 12th or 13 century.
    – user9166
    Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 23:24
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    I suggest this book: Title: Heavenly powers : unraveling the secret history of the Kabbalah, Author: Silberman, Neil Asher, 1950- Publisher:Grosset/Putnam, 1998. I spent two years on and off studying the Kabbalah. I picked up my first book on the subject only because I kept hearing about it. I never expected a connection to Western philosophy, and when I began to see signs of it, at first I thought I was losing my mind. :) While the Silberman book does not directly answer your question, I think you will find that it is a good historical introduction to the subject of Kabbalah. Good luck.
    – Gordon
    Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 2:44
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    Good question! I also tend to ignore the Kabbalah. For me it's because Kabbalism is rather opaque and muddled to an outsider when compared with other traditions. The three Abrahamic religions each have their 'perennial' or esoteric forms but they are distorted by the need for secrecy and diplomacy, and this seems especially true for Judaism. But we need just examine the Shema of the Jewish liturgy to see the direct link to the perennial world-view. .
    – user20253
    Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 12:50

1 Answer 1


Whatever the reason was it had nothing to do with availability of translations, see Huss's survey Translations of the Zohar: Historical Contexts and Ideological Frameworks. Large parts of Zohar appeared in Latin in the second volume of the highly infuential book Kabbalah Denudata (1684) by the Christian Kabbalist Knorr von Rosenroth. First English translation of excerpts from Zohar, based on Rosenroth, was published in London in 1887 by Samuel Liddel MacGregor Mathers, an English occultist and one of the founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. In 1888 US freemason Isaac Myer published a translation from the original Aramaic in Philadelphia. In the early twentieth century English translations by Nurho de Manhar (a.k.a. William Williams), also a member of The Golden Dawn, were published in the occult journal The Word. The first comprehensive French translation, by Jean de Pauly (presumably, the converted Jew, Paul Meyer), was printed in Paris by Emile Lafuma in 1906–1912. This translation attracted much attention and made Zohar well known in Europe and the US.

By 1940-s, Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy came out in 1945, there were already academic translations and commentary on Zohar available. The most notable work was due to Jewish Kabbalah scholar Gershom Scholem, namely the 1926 article Did Rabbi Moses de Leon write the Zohar, and two chapters in his 1941 book Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, where he concluded that Zohar was a pseudo-epigraphic work written by Moses de Leon. Scholem's ambivalence about the text influenced many subsequent scholars, Orthodox Jews generally view Zohar as apocryphal. Scholem wrote in 1941:

"To the streak of adventurousness which was in Moses de Leon, no less than to his genius, we owe one of the most remarkable works of Jewish literature... The author’s spiritual life is centred as it were in a more archaic layer of the mind. Again and again one is struck by the simultaneous presence of crudely primitive modes of thought and feeling and of ideas whose profound contemplative mysticism is transparent... a very remarkable personality in whom as in so many mystics, profound and naive modes of thought existed side by side."

Perhaps this influenced Huxley's decision, but this is merely speculation. Still, it does not fit very well with his focus on exalted "saints and sages" in The Perennial Philosophy:

"If one is not oneself a sage or saint, the best thing one can do, in the field of metaphysics, is to study the works of those who were, and who, because they had modified their merely human mode of being, were capable of a more than merely human kind and amount of knowledge."

  • Interesting answer and thanks for the historical context. It's a shame that it was excluded, the parallels are striking. I disagree that it does not fit very well with the "focus on exalted saints and sages," Moses de Leon would qualify as a sage.
    – user29568
    Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 7:37
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    @user29568 Perhaps, but who knows if he was "more than merely human" for Huxley's taste. His own perennial preference was Vedanta, Kabbalah's numerology is of a different mold. But as I said this is speculation, he may have had a completely different reason, or not even read Scholem. I am not aware of any Huxley's comments about Zohar.
    – Conifold
    Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 20:32
  • Huxley does often adopt a critical and condescending tone in this book, which I didn't enjoy very much. I sense that you share the same thought.
    – user29568
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 9:03

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