Who Is Man, Seven Liberal Arts, and Kapleau’s Life

Welcome to our March newsletter.

We begin our selection with a wide-ranging article by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, “Who Is Man? The Perennial Answer of Islam,” drawing particular attention to man’s relation to the natural environment and to the traditional and modern understanding of “science”.

To know himself, man must come to know the “Face of God,” the reality, that determines him from on high. Neither flights into outer space nor plunges beneath the seas, nor changes of fashions and modes of outward living alter the nature of man and his situation vis-à-vis the Real… And it is a remarkable feature of the human state, that no matter where and in what condition he may be, man always finds above him the sky and the attraction which pulls him toward the Infinite and the Eternal.

• We continue with Titus Burckhardt and his masterful brief essay, “The Seven Liberal Arts and the West Door of Chartres Cathedral.”

Chartres West Door

“Everything proceeding from the profound nature of things”, writes Boethius, the great transmitter of the quadrivium, “shows the influence of the law of number; for this is the highest prototype contained in the mind of the Founder. From this are derived the four elements, the succession of the seasons, the movement of the stars, and the course of the heavens”.

• Finally, we present an evocative and instructive biography of an American Zen master, “A Pillar of Zen: Roshi Philip Kapleau”, by Rafe Martin, one of Kapleau’s dharma heirs and continuators.

Most of us were only in our early twenties, and somewhat crazed. He stood at an ancient door, held it open wide, and said to us simply, ‘Come in. Work hard. The dharma will never let you down.’