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37 History and Symbolism The perennialist discourse is of course not without problems and critics. Historians of Islamic art and architecture have already discredited it for its essentialist tendency and lack of methodological rigor, yet their critique has largely been concerned with its perspective on art and architecture. The perennialists, as we have seen, have adopted a hermeneutical approach in their attempts to reinstate an appropriate interpretive context for understanding the metaphysical foundation of symbolism in traditional art and architecture.

7 Among the first circle of scholars who followed and contributed to the founding of the perennialist approach were Titus Burckhardt, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and Martin Lings. These are of a special significance to this study, for they have extended the perennialist approach to the study of premodern Islam and its rich artistic and architectural heritage. Their works have opened up a new horizon of understanding and provided new intellectual tools for rethinking the field’s long-established art history paradigms.

19 The universal perspective of perennial philosophy naturally deplores today’s wide emphasis on relativity and the historicity of human experience and runs counter to the prevailing views that all truths, including the religious ones, are simply the outcome of certain modes of representation and cultural construction. In Logic and Transcendence Schuon argues against relativism on the basis that such views hinge on an implicit assertion that is negated by the concept of ‘relativism’ itself. Relativism sets out to reduce every element of absoluteness to a relativity, while making a quite illogical exception in favor of this reduction itself.

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