Swami Vivekananda                           

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Prophets of the new India



them. The Government kept a strict watch over the 
Mission, but it continued to preach its ideal of social service ; 
it publicly reproved all sectarian and vengeful spirit, 'and 
even condemned selfish patriotism, pointing out that eventu- 
ally it led to degradation and ruin. It replied alike to the 
accusations of the patriots and the suspicions of the govern- 
ment by these words of Vivekananda, which it inscribed 
on the covers of its publications : " The national ideals 
of India are Renunciation and Service. Intensify her in 
those channels and the rest will take care of itself." 
Nevertheless, the struggle grew more bitter. According 
to their usual tactics of compromising all independent 
spirits, the revolutionary agitators used portions of the 
religious and philosophical publications of the Mission in 
a twisted form. In spite of its public declaration in April, 
1914, the Governing Committee of Bengal in its Report 
of 1915 accused the Mission and its founders of having 
been the first instigators of Indian nationalism. 
And in 1916 the first Governor of Bengal, N. D. Car- 
michael, although he sympathized with Ramakrishna's 
work, announced publicly that terrorists were becoming 
members of the order in order to achieve their ends with more 
ease ; nothing more was needed for the dissolution of the 
Mission. Fortunately devoted English and American friends 
in high places came forward and warmly supported its 
defence in a long Memoir of January 22, 1917, so that 
the danger was averted, 
It has been seen that, like Gandhi, the Ramakrishna 
Mission absolutely repudiates violence in politics. But it 
is remarkable that the violent have more than once invoked 
it, despite its protestations : a thing that I believe they 
have never dreamed of doing in the case of Gandhi. And 
yet Ramakrishna's followers, more absolutely than Gandhi, 
reject all compromise, not only with certain forms of politics, 
but with them all. 
This seeming paradox comes from the individual charac- 
ter. ... I might almost say from the temperament of 
Vivekananda, their Master. His fighting and ardent Ksha- 
triya nature appears even in his renunciation and Ahimsa 
" He used to say that the Vedanta may be professed 
J>y a coward, but it could be put into practice only by 
the most stout-hearted. The Vedanta was strong meat 
for weak stomachs. One of his favourite illustrations used 
to be that the doctrine of non-resistance necessarily in- 
volved the capacity and ability to resist and a conscious 
refraining from having recourse to resistance. If a strong 
man, he used to say, deliberately refrained from making 
use of his strength against either a rash or weak opponent, 
then he could legitimately claim higher motives for his 
action. If, on the other hand, there was no obvious superi- 
ority of strength or the strength really lay on the side of 
his opponent, then the absence of the use of strength 
naturally raised the suspicion of cowardice. He used to 
say that that was the real essence of the advice by Sri 
Krishna to Arjuna." 
And talking to Sister Nivedita in 1898 he said : 
" I preach only the Upanishads. And of the Upanishads, 
it is only that one idea strength. The quintessence of Vedas 
and Vedanta and all, lies in that one word. Buddha's 
teaching was Non-Resistance or Non-Injury. But I think 
this a better way of teaching the same thing. For behind 
that Non-Injury lay dreadful weakness. It is weakness 
that conceives the idea of resistance. I do not think of 
punishing or escaping from a drop of sea-spray. It is 
nothing to me. Yet to the mosquito it would be serious. 
Now I would make all injury like that. Strength and 
fearlessness. My own ideal is that giant of a saint whom 
they killed in the Mutiny, and who broke his silence, 
when stabbed to the heart, to say ' And thou also art 
He ! ' " 
Here we can recognize Gandhi's conception : a Non- 
Resistance in name, that is in reality the most potent of 
Resistances, a N on- Acceptation, only fit for spiritual heroes. 
There is no place in it for cowards. . . . 7 But if, in practice, 
7 The temperament of a born fighter like Vivekananda could 
only have arrived at this heroic ideal of Non-Acceptation without 
violence, by violating his own nature. And he did not attain to 
it without a long struggle. 
Even in 1898 before the pilgrimage to the cave of Amarnath, 
which produced a moral revolution in him, when he was asked : 
11 What should we do when we see the strong oppress the weak ? " 
He replied : 
Gandhi's ideal is akin to that of Vivekananda, to whafc 
passionate heights Vivekananda carried it. With Gandhi 
all things are moderated, calm and constant. With Vive- 
kananda everything is a paroxysm, of pride, of faith, or 
of love. Beneath each of his words can be felt the brazier 
of the burning Atman the Soul-God. It is then easy to 
understand that exalted revolutionary individualism has 
wished to use these flames in social incendiarism, and 
this is a danger that the wise successors of the great 
Swami, who have charge of his heritage, have often had 
to avoid. 
Further the tenacious and unwavering moderation of 
Gandhi's action is mixed up with politics, and sometimes 
becomes their leader, but Vivekananda's heroic passion 
(that of Krishna in battle) rejects politics of all kinds, so 
that the followers of Ramakrishna have kept themselves 
aloof from the campaigns of Gandhi. 
It is regrettable that the name, the example and the 
words of Vivekananda have not been invoked as often 
as I could have wished in the innumerable writings of 
Gandhi and his disciples. 8 The two movements, although 
independent of each other and each going its own way, 
" Why, thrash the strong, of course." 
On another occasion he said : 
" Even forgiveness, if weak and passive, is not true : fight is 
better. Forgive when you could bring (if you wished) legions of 
angels to an easy victory/' (That is to say, forgive when you are 
the stronger.) 
Another asked him: 
" Swami ji, ought one to seek an opportunity of death in defence 
of right, or ought one to learn never to react ? " 
" I am for no reaction," replied the Swami slowly, and after a 
long pause added, " for Sannyasins. Self-defence for the house- 
(Cf. Life of Vivekananda, 1915 edition, Vol. Ill, p. 279.) 
But on January 30, 1921, Gandhi went on a pilgrimage with his 
wife and several of his lieutenants (Pandit Motilal Nehru, Mulana 
Muhammed Ali, etc.) to the sanctuary of Belur for the anniversary 
festival of Vivekananda's birth ; and from the balcony of his room 
declared to the people his veneration for the great Hindu, whose 
word had lighted in him the flame of love for India. 
OnjMarch|i4, 1929, Gandhi presided at Rangoon over the festival 
of the Ramakrishna Sevashrama, in honour of the 94th anniver- 
sary of Ramakrishna. And while the followers of Ramakrishna 
have none the less the same object. They may be found 
side by side in the task of service devoted to public well- 
being; and both of them though with different tactics 
follow the great design the national unity of the whole 
of India. The one advances to the great day by his 
patient Non-Co-operation struggles the other by peaceful 
but irresistible universal Co-operation. Take for example 
the tragic question of Untouchability. The Ramakrishna 
Mission does not conduct a Crusade against it like Gandhi, 
but better still, denies it according to the words of Vive- 
kananda, that I have just quoted : " It is weakness which 
conceives the idea of resistance." 
" We think/ 1 Swami Ashokananda wrote to me, " that 
a rear attack is better than a frontal one. We invite 
people of all classes, beliefs and races, to all our festivals, 
and we sit and eat together, even Christians. In our 
Ashrams we do not keep any distinction of caste, either 
among the permanent residents or among visitors. Quite 
recently at Trivandium, the capital of the Hindu state of 
Travancore, notorious for its extreme orthodoxy and its 
obstinate maintenance of untouchability, all the Brahmin 
and non-Brahmin castes sat together to take their meals 
on the occasion of the opening of our new monastery in 
that town ; and no social objection was raised. It is by 
indirect methods that we try to put an end to the evil, 
and we think that thus we can avoid a great deal of irrita- 
tion and opposition.' 1 
And so, while the great liberal Hindu sects like the 
Brahmo Samaj, the Prathana Samaj, etc., storm ortho- 
doxy from the front, with the result that, having broken 
their bridges behind them, they find themselves separated 
saluted in Him the realization of Ramakrishna's ideal in a life 
of action, Gandhi paid a beautiful tribute to the Ramakrishna 
Mission : 
" Wherever I go," he said, " the followers of Ramakrishna invite 
me to meet them ; I feel that their blessings go ^ith me. Their 
rescue works are spread over India. There is no point where they 
are not established on a large or a small scale. I pray God that 
they will grow, and that to them will be united all who are pure 
and who love India. " 
After him his Mohammedan lieutenant, Maulana Muhammed Ah, 
extolled Vivekananda. 
from the mass of their people, and partially rejected by 
the mother Church, so that their reforms are lost .upon 
it the Ramakrishna Mission believes in never losing con- 
tact with the Hindu rank and file ; it remains within the 
bosom of the Church and of society, and from thence carries 
out reforms for the benefit of the whole community. There 
is nothing aggressive or iconoclastic, nothing to wound like 
that attitude of Protestant rigidity, which, although armed 
with reason, has too often torn the universe by schism. 
Keep within the Catholic fold, but maintain a patient and 
humanized reason, so that you cany out reform from within, 
and never from without. 
" Our idea," Swami Ashokananda wrote in another place, 
"is to awaken the higher conscience of Hinduism. That 
done, all necessary reforms will follow automatically." 
The results already achieved speak volumes for these 
tactics. For example the amelioration of the condition of 
women has been vigorously pursued by the Brahmo Samaj, 
their self-constituted and chivalrous champion. But the 
suggested reforms have often been too radical and their 
means too heterodox. " Vivekananda said that the new 
ought to be a development rather than a condemnation 
and rejection of the old. . . . The female institutions of 
the Ramakrishna Mission combining all that is best in 
Hinduism and the West, are to-day considered models of 
what the education of women ought to be." It is the 
same with regard to service of the lower classes, but I 
have already emphasized this point sufficiently and need 
not return to it. The excellent effect of a spirit that weds 
the new to the old has been also felt in the renaissance 
of Indian culture, to which other powerful elements have 
contributed, such as the glorious influence of the Tagores 
and their school at Shantiniketan. But it must never be 
forgotten that Vivekananda and his devoted Western dis- 
ciple, Sister Nivedita, were their predecessors ; and that 
the great current of popular Hindu education began with 
Vivekananda's return to Colombo. Vivekananda was in- 
dignant that the Indian Scriptures, the Upanishads, Gita, 
Vedanta, etc., were practically unknown to the people, 
and reserved for the learned. To-day Bengal is flooded 
with translations of the Sacred Writings in the vernacular 
, and with commentaries upon them. The Ramakrishna 
schools have spread a knowledge of them throughout 
Nevertheless (and this is the most beautiful character- 
istic of the movement) the Indian national renaissance is 
not accompanied, as is the general rule, by a sentiment 
of hostility or superiority towards the alien. On the con- 
trary : it holds out the hand of fellowship to the West. 
The followers of Sri Ramakrishna admit Westerners, not 
only into their sanctuaries but into their ranks (an un- 
heard of thing in India) into their holy order of Sannyasins, 
and have insisted on their reception on an equal footing 
by all, even by the orthodox monks. Moreover the latter, 
the orthodox Sannyasins who in their hundreds of thousands 
exercise a constant influence on the Hindu masses, have 
gradually adopted the ways and the ideas of Ramakrishna's 
followers, to whom they were at first opposed, and whom 
they accused of heresy. Finally the hereditary Order of 
Ramakrishna and Vivekananda has made it a rule never 
to take anything into the world that makes for division, 
but only what makes for union. 
" Its sole object/' it was said at the public meeting of 
the Extraordinary General Convention of the Mission in 
1926, " is to bring about harmony and co-operation between 
the beliefs and doctrines of the whole of humanity" to 
reconcile religions among themselves and to free reason 
to reconcile classes and nations to found the brotherhood 
of all men and all peoples. 
And further, because the Ramakrishna Mission is per- 
meated with a belief in the quasi-identity of the Macrocosm 
and the Microcosm, of the universal Self and the individual 
Self because it knows that no reform can be deep and 
lasting in a society unless it is first rooted in an inner 
reformation of the individual soul it is on the formation 
of the universal man that it expends its greatest care. It 
seeks to create a new human type, wherein the highest 
powers, at present scattered and fragmentary, and the 
diverse and complementary energies of man shall be com- 
binedthe heights of intelligence towering above the clouds, 
the sacred wood of love, and the rivers of action. The great 
Rhythm of the soul beats from Pole to Pole, from intense 
concentration to : " Seid umschlungen, Mttlionem \ " 9 with, 
its universal appeal. As it is possible in spite of diffi- 
culties to attain this ideal in the case of a single man,' the 
Ramakrishna Mission is trying to realize the same ideal in 
its Universal Church the symbol of its Master "his Math, 
which represents the physical body of Ramakrishna." 10 
Here we can see the rhythm of history repeating itself. 
To European Christians such a dream recalls that of the 
Church of Christ. The two are sisters. And if a man 
wishes to study the dream that is nineteen hundred years 
old, he would do better, instead of looking for it in books 
that perish, to listen at the breast of the other to its young 
heart-beats. There is no question of comparison between 
the two figures of the Man-Gods. The elder will always 
have the privilege over the younger on account of the 
crown of thorns and the spear-thrust upon the Cross, while 
the younger will always have an irresistible attraction on 
account of his happy smile in the midst of agonizing suffer- 
ing. Neither can yield anything to the other in grace and 
power, in divinity of heart and universality. But is it not 
true that the scrupulous historian of the Eternal Gospel, 
who writes at its dictation, always finds that at each of 
its new editions, the Gospel has grown with humanity ? 
f The Ode to Joy of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. 
10 Vivekananda. 
PERHAPS it may be useful for European readers to 
include a sketch of the progress of Indian thought 
during the period separating the death of Vivekananda 
from the advent of Gandhi as the moral dictator of his 
nation. It will then be easier to allot to each of the two 
leaders the two " Judges of Israel " his proper place and 
to form a better appreciation of the continuity of their 
The Indian nationalist movement smouldered for a long 
time until Vivekananda's breath blew the ashes into flame, 
and erupted violently three years after his death in 1905. 1 
The occasion was Lord Curzon's 2 partition of the ancient 
Province of Bengal into two divisions, of which one, Western 
Bengal, was united to Assam. This was a death blow aimed 
at the brain and the heart of India ; for Bengal was her 
most keenly alive Province and the one from whose intelli- 
gence and attachment to her great past British supremacy 
had most to fear : and the whole of Bengal was effected. 
Before the measure was carried into effect the Bengal 
leaders on August 7, 1905, decided upon a general boycott 
of British goods, by way of protest. They were obeyed 
1 Cf . the excellent work of one of the most intelligent and ener- 
getic leaders of India nationalism, who has just fallen a victim 
to his cause, Lajput Rai, Gandhi's friend, and one who honoured 
us also with his friendship Young India, the Nationalist Movement, 
New York, Huebsch, 1917. 
1 Ren6 Grousset (The Awakening of Asia, Plon, 1924) clearly 
depicts the inauspicious part played by Lord Curzon. He it was 
who engineered the defeat of Russia by Japan, and Japan's victory 
had a tremendous repercussion throughout Asia. The Russian 
Revolution of 1905 was a second lesson of fate. It taught India 
497 KK 
with enthusiasm. Amid cries of " Swadeshi," goods manu- 
factured in India were opposed to English products^ and- 
it was further decided to found a national university. 
Lord Curzon persisted in his course and on October 16 
Bengal was divided. 
It revolted. In a few months the face of the country 
was changed. Press, gallery, temples, theatres, literature, 
all became national. Everywhere the song was heard, that 
has since become so famous : " Bande mataram " (Hail, 
Motherland !), G. K. Gokhale, the only member of the Indian 
National Congress 8 except the President Dadabhai, to wield 
uncontested authority and whose influence upon Gandhi the 
latter hats since respectfully acknowledged, organized The 
Servants of India Society " with the object of forming 
national missionaries for the service of India." 
That was the historic moment, which has all too soon 
been allowed to fade into oblivion of Rabindranath Tagore. 
It marked the pinnacle of his political action and of his 
popularity. He condemned the timidity of the Congress 
in " begging " f or a Constitution from its English masters, 
boldly proclaimed Swaraj (Home Rule), ignored the British 
Government and strove to create a National Indian Govern- 
ment to take its place. An indefatigable orator, his wonder- 
ful eloquence was heard on all sides. Unfortunately too 
few echoes have reached our ears, for most of his speeches 
were extempore and few have been preserved. 4 He also 
wrote poems and national songs, which became immediately 
popular and were passed from mouth to mouth among the 
ardent youth of his countrymen. Lastly he sought to 
develop native industries and national education, and de- 
voted all his personal resources to those objects. But when 
the independence movement took on a violent character, 
The National Indian Congress was assembled for the first time 
in 1885. Until about 1900 the moderate loyalists of the shade of 
Dadabhai Nacroji had had the ascendancy. During the following 
years the struggle became very tense between the radicals and th'e 
moderates. After December, 1907, the real leader of Indian opinion 
was the Radical Tilak (1855-1920) who appealed openly to national 
revolution. Some particulars of Dadabhai, Gokhale and Tilak may 
be found in my Life of Mahatma Gandhi. 
4 .They have been published in a pamphlet, Greater India, Ganesan, 
the poet left it and retired to Shantiniketan. He was " a 
.lost leader " ; and Indian nationalists have never forgiven 
Another personality the greatest after him thrown 
into the limelight by the independence movement, was his 
young friend, Aurobindo Ghose. He was the real intellec- 
tual heir of Vivekananda. He had just completed a brilliant 
education at Cambridge. Very learned, brought up in 
the classical culture of Europe, he was in the service of 
the Gaekwar of Baroda. He gave up his lucrative post 
and accepted for a very modest stipend the headship of 
the National College at Calcutta. His aim was to mould 
the character of Bengal youth by uniting education closely 
to the religion, politics and life of the nation. Under his 
inspiration, combined with that of Tagore, colleges and 
national schools rose against Lord Curzon. On all sides 
societies and gymnasiums were formed, where young Ben- 
galis practised sports and fencing as an answer to the out- 
rageous criticisms of English writers like Macaulay and 
Kipling. Numbers of newspapers in Bengal and English, 
inspired by Aurobindo and his friends, kept up the agitation. 
As the boycott continued, Lord Curzon sent troops to 
Barisal in Western Bengal, but in spite of violent language 
India did not depart from passive resistance until 1907. 
The patriots allowed themselves to be prosecuted and im- 
prisoned amid the applause of the nation but without 
coming to blows. The sudden deportation of Lajput Rai 
without any previous charge or condemnation in May set 
fire to the train. The first shot was fired in December, 
1907, the first bomb thrown in April or May, 1908. ^ The 
Lieutenant Governor of Bengal was attacked three times. 
The new Viceroy of India, Lord Minto, was attacked in 
November, 1909, at Ahmedabad. The Political Secretary 
of Lord Morley, the Secretary of State for India, was killed 
in London. Strikes, sabotage, destruction of railways 
pillaging of gunsmiths' shops, violence of all kinds incre; 
The British Government redoubled its repressive measi 
Within a few months practically all the nationalist " 
had been thrown into prison, Aurobindo was +* 
conspiracy, and Tilak condemned to six years' d( 
to Burma. 1908 and 1909 saw the fever at it 
The two subsequent years were marked by a deceptive 
calm ; King George V visited India in December, 1911,, 
and appeared to agree to a re-establishment of the admin-' 
istrative unity of Bengal. But in December, 1912, a new 
attempt, more serious than any of the former ones, greeted 
the first entry of the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, into Delhi, 
the ancient and new capital of Bengal. Lord Hardinge 
was wounded, several of his suite were killed, and the 
murderer eluded all efforts to trace him, in spite of an 
enormous sum placed upon his head. 1912 and 1913 saw 
the revolutionary movements in full swing. The World 
War created a diversion and brought about a calculated 
but insincere rapprochement between the Government of 
the Empire and India. Under the growing influence of 
Gandhi, who had just returned from South Africa, India 
trusted its promises only too well and bitter disillusion was 
the result, as is well known. There followed the powerful 
Passive Resistance campaign inaugurated by Gandhi. 
But according to the definite statement of Lajput Rai, 
one of the chief leaders of the period before 1914, the ele- 
ments of religious thought associated with and leavening 
the national Awakening were as follows : 
Whatever the complexion of the nationalist parties 
whether they supported terrorist means, or organized 
rebellion, or patient and constructive preparation for Indian 
Home Rule, they were all represented in the great religious 
groups; the Arya Samaj, the Brahmo Samaj, the Rama- 
krishna Mission, the disciples of Kali, Neo Vedantists or 
Deists or Theists. All believed that their first duty of 
worship was to their Mother Country, the symbol of the 
Supreme Mother of the universe. And this is one of the 
most striking phenomena in the immense sea of nationalism, 
which flooded humanity during the ten years preceding the 
World War. There has been a childish desire to ascribe it 
to individual or local causes, when without a shadow of 
doubt for those capable of judging things in their entirety, 
it was a simultaneous feverish hour when the whole great 
tree of Humanity grew and expanded. But it is only 
natufal that our limited intelligence in each country should 
have mistaken its cosmic significance and interpreted it 
ea^h according to its own selfishly limited point of view. 
It is not in the least surprising that in India the for- 
.midable flame of collective religious hallucination possessing 
her three hundred million men, should have immediately 
taken the form of the country. Mother India, sung in the 
Indian Marseillaise by Bankin Chandra, the Rouget de 
Lisle of Bengal, is the Mother, Kali, reincarnated in the 
body of the Nation. 
It may easily be imagined that Vivekananda's Neo-Vedan- 
tism, magnifying as it does the power of the Soul and its 
essential union with God, spread like burning alcohol in 
the veins of his intoxicated nation. " To these two classes," 
Lajput Rai declared explicitly, " to the Vedantists and to 
the worshippers of the Mother belong the majority of Bengal 
nationalists." The similarity of their belief, and their per- 
sonal disinterestedness, had no check on the extreme violence 
of their political action. On the contrary 1 These sancti- 
fied their violent acts. It is always so when religion is 
united to politics. " All individual licence of thought and 
action was excused in the struggle, for the simple reason that 
the saviours of the nation were like fakirs and sannyasins, 
above all law." 
And is it to be wondered at that Vivekananda's name 
should have been mixed up with these political violences 
in all sincerity despite his formal condemnation of politics 
when Brahmos belonging to the Brahmo Samaj, the 
church of reason and moderate theism, were to be found 
in the ranks of the assassins ! 
The British Government was therefore not altogether 
wrong at that time to keep a close wa,tch over religious 
organizations, although the official directors of those organ- 
izations were opposed to violence and worked for the slow 
and lawful evolution of the nation towards the common 
end : the independence of India. 
* * * 
It is an undoubted fact that the Neo-Vedantism of Vive- 
kananda 5 materially contributed to this evolution. Lajput 
8 We have seen above that it was in his capacity of patriot that 
Vivekananda influenced Gandhi (who is moreover no metaphysician 
and has little curiosity about mental research). When from the 
balcony of Belur, Gandhi rendered public homage to his great fore- 
Rai attributes to him the honour of creating a new spirit 
of national tolerance, so that since his death Indian patriots 
have gradually freed themselves from their ancient 'pre- 
judices of caste and family. 
The most noble representative of this great Neo-Vedantic 
spirit was and still is Aurobindo Ghose, the foremost of 
Indian thinkers, from whom intellectual and religious India 
is awaiting a new revelation. 
At the period I am considering, he was the voice of 
Vivekananda risen from the pyre. He had the same con- 
ception of the identity of India's national ideal and her 
spiritual mission, and the same universal hope. Nothing 
was farther from his thoughts than a gross nationalism, 
whose aim was the purely political supremacy of his people 
confined within a proud and narrow " parochial life " (as 
Aurobindo expressed it) . His nation was to be the servant 
of humanity ; and the first duty of the nation was to work 
for the unity of humanity not by force of arms, but by 
the force of the spirit. And the very essence of this force 
is spirituality in the form of energy, called religious, but 
in as widely different a sense as possible from all confession 
in the profound Self and its reserves of eternity, the Atman. 
No nation has had such age-long knowledge and free access 
to it as India. Her real mission then should be to lead 
the rest of humanity to it. 
" An awakening of the real Self of a nation is the con- 
dition of national greatness. The supreme Indian idea of 
the Unity of all men in God, and the realization of this 
idea, outwardly and inwardly, in social relation and in 
the structure of society, are destined to govern all progress 
of the human kind. India can, if she wishes, lead the 
Such language sounds strangely different from that of 
our European politicians. But is it really so ? Does it 
not differ (I am speaking of those loyal souls in the West 
who are working for the co-operation of all the forces 
of civilization) only in that it has taken one step further 
in its intensity of faith in the common cause ; the United 
runner, his actual words were that " the reading of Vivekananda's 
books had increased his patriotism." (Communicated by the Rama- 
krishna Mission.) 
States of humanity ? Our European thinkers are too timid 
to dare to assert the God hidden in man, the Eternal who 
is the support and living reason for the very existence of 
Humanity, an unstable and hollow entity without Him. 
The old political leader of the Bengal revolt, who is 
now one of the greatest thinkers of modern India, has 
realized the most complete synthesis achieved up to the 
present between the genius of the West and of the East. 
In 1910 he retired from politics 8 although he has not 
severed his connection with the political freedom of his 
country ; but he feels that she is certain to obtain it and 
therefore has no further use for him. He believes that 
he serves India better by turning his energies to a deepening 
of her wisdom and science, and he has devoted the con- 
centration of his vast mind to reconquering the use of the 
rusty "key" of the spirit, which is destined, according to 
his belief, to open to humanity new fields of knowledge 
and power. 7 He was brought up on modern science and 
the wisdom of the Hindu Scriptures he is their daring 
interpreter in India to-day he speaks and writes Sanskrit, 
From his retirement since 1910 at Pondicherry, whither he fled 
to escape the political persecution of England, Aurobindo Ghose 
published during the World War a review of the greatest import- 
ance (unfortunately difficult to procure to-day) Arya, a Review of 
Philosophical Synthesis. A French edition of the first year appeared 
(from August 15, 1914), under the collaboration of Paul and Mirra 
Richard. In it Aurobindo Ghose published his chief works : " The 
Divine Life " and " The Synthesis of the Yogas." (I note in pass- 
ing that this last work rests from first to last on Vivekananda's 
authority.) At the same time he gave learned and original inter- 
pretations of the Hindu Scriptures, the discussion of which we 
must leave to Sanskrit scholars, while at the same time he bore 
unequivocal witness to their philosophic depth and fascination : 
" The Secret of the Veda." Two volumes of his Essays on the Gita 
have just appeared (1928) and have aroused animated discussion 
in India. 
7 " India possesses in its past, a little rusty and out of use, the 
key to the progress of humanity. It is to this side that I am now 
turning my energies, rather than towards mediocre politics. Hence 
the reason for my withdrawal. I believe in the necessity for tapasya 
(a life of meditation and concentration) in silence for education and 
self-knowledge and for the unloosing of spiritual energies. Our 
ancestors used these means under different forms ; for they axe 
the best for becoming an efficient worker in the great hours of the 
world/ 1 (Interview at Madras, 1917.) 
503 ., 
Greek, Latin, English, French and German, and at this 
very moment he is engaged in bringing a new message 
to his people, the result of eighteen years' meditation. He 
is seeking to harmonize the spiritual strivings of India 
and the activities of the West, and in pursuance of that 
aim he is training all the forces of the spirit towards an 
ascendancy of action. The West with its customary opinion 
of the East as passive, static, ataraxic, will be astonished 
to see in a little while an India who will outstrip her -in 
the madness of progress and upward advance. If, like 
Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and Ghose she withdraws her- 
self for a space into the profundities of thought, it is only 
to gain fresh impetus for the next forward leap. Auro- 
bindo Ghose is fired with an unparalleled faith in the limit- 
less powers of the soul and of human progress. His accepta- 
tion of the material and scientific conquests of Europe is 
complete, but he regards them not as the end but as the 
beginning ; he wishes to see India outstrip the field by the 
use of the same methods. 8 For he believes that " humanity 
is on the point of enlarging its domain by new knowledge, 
new powers, new capacities, such as will create a revolution 
in human life as great as did the physical sciences of the 
nineteenth century." 
This is to be achieved by the methodical and deliberate 
incorporation of intuition in integral science as the enlight- 
ener and quartermaster of the mind, to which logical reason 
acts as the rank and file that makes victory certain. There 
will no longer be a break in the continuity between the 
divine Unity and aspiring man ! The question of renounc- 
ing illusory Nature to be free in God will no longer exist. 
Complete freedom will be attained by a joyful acceptation, 
espousal, and subjugation of integral Nature. There will 
be no renunciation, no constriction. With all our energies 
" The past ought to be sacred to us, but the future still more 
so ... The thought of India must come forth from the school 
of philosophy and renew contact with life. The spirituality of 
India, emerging from the cave and the temple, must adapt itself 
to new forms and set its hand to the world." There follows the 
phrase quoted above about the belief in the imminent enlargement 
of the field of humanity, in the next revolution to be accomplished 
in human Life, and the " rusty key " of India, which is to open 
the door to the new progress. (Interview at Madras.) 
in their infinite multiplicity and with open eyes we shall 
embrace life as a whole, cosmic Joy, from the heart of the 
achieved Unity of the serene and unattached Being. God 
works in and through man, and in Him liberated men 
become body and soul " canals of action in this world." 9 
Hence the most complete knowledge is being fused to 
the most intense action by religious, wise and heroic India 
now in process of being resuscitated. The last of the great 
Rishis holds in his outstretched hands the bow of Creative 
Impulse. It is an uninterrupted tide flowing from the 
most distant yesterdays to the most distant tomorrows. 
The whole spiritual life of history is one : The One that 
advances. ... 
" Usha (the Dawn) follows to the goal of those that are 
passing on beyond. She is the first in the eternal succession 
of the dawns that are coming Usha widens, bringing out 
that which lives, awakening that which was dead. . . . 
What scope is hers when she harmonizes with the dawns 
that shone out before those that now must shine ! She 
desires the ancient mornings and fulfils their light ; pro- 
jecting forwards her illumination she enters into communion 
with the rest that are to come." 10 
We are beginning to perceive the meaning of the pro- 
digious curve of the human Spirit throughout three cen- 
turies from the Aufklarung of the eighteenth century 
its emancipation from the too narrow confines of ancient 
classical synthesis by the weapon of negative and revolution- 
ary critical rationalism, the sublime flight of experimental 
and positive science in the nineteenth century with its 
colossal hopes and fabulous promises its partial bank- 
ruptcy at the end of the nineteenth century the seismic 
upheavals of the beginning of the twentieth century, shaking 
the whole edifice of the spirit to its foundations the insta- 
bility of scientific laws that evolve and vary like humanity 
" The Synthesis of the Yogas " (Arya Review, December 15, 
1914). Aurobindo depended largely on this character of action 
in his new commentaries on the Gita. (Essays on the Gita, 3 Vols., 
1921-28, Calcutta.) 
10 Quotation from the Kutsa Angirasa Rig- Veda, inscribed by 
Aurobindo Ghose in French as the foreword of one of his chief 
works : " The Divine Life " (first number of the Arya Review, 
August 15, 1914). 
itself, the entry into play of Relativity, the invasion of 
the Subconscious, the threat to ancient rationalism and 
its transition from an attitude of attack to one of defence, 
all making it impossible for the ancient Faiths to discover 
their old foundations on the ground so undermined by 
reason, in order to begin rebuilding. . . . 
And lo ! for the benefit of mankind as a whole comes 
the promise of an age of new synthesis, where a new and 
larger rationalism, although aware of its limitations, will 
be allied to a new Science of intuition established on a 
surer basis. The combined efforts of the East and the 
West will create a new order of freer and more universal 
thought. And, as is always the way in times of plenty, 
the immediate result of this inner order will be an afflux 
of power and audacious confidence, a flame of action in- 
spiring and nourishing the spirit, a renewal of individual 
and social life. . . . 
" Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high ; 
Where knowledge is free ; 
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow 
domestic walls ; 
Where words come out from the depth of truth ; . . . 
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the 
dreary desert sand of dead habit ; 
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought 
and action. . . ." " 
There we will walk in the midst of tempests guided by 
our stars. . . . 
11 Rabindranath Tagore : Gitanjali. 
THE intuitive workings of the " religious " spirit in the 
wide sense in which I have consistently used the word 
have been insufficiently studied by modern psychological 
science in the West and too often by observers, who are them- 
selves lacking in every kind of " religious " inclination and so 
are ill equipped for its study and involuntarily prone to depre- 
ciate an inner sense they do not themselves possess. 1 
One of the best works devoted to this important subject is 
M. Ferdinand Morel's Essay on Mystic Introversion. 2 It is 
firmly founded on the principles and methods of pathological 
psycho-physiology and on the psycho-analysis of Freud, Janet, 
Jung, Bleuler, etc., and it handles the psychological study of 
several representative types of Hellenic-Christian mysticism 
with scrupulous care. His analysis of the Pseudo-Denis is 
particularly interesting ; 3 and his description of him is on the 
whole correct in spite of the fact that the author does not manage 
1 I except from this criticism several beautiful and recent essays 
rehabilitating intuition on scientific grounds more or less the off- 
spring of the dynamic " Impetus " of Bergson and the penetrating 
analysis of Edouard le Roy also of the first order. 
1 Essai sur I' Introversion mystique ; ttude psychologique de 
Pseudo-Denys I'Arfopagite et de quelques autres cas de mysticism, 
Geneva, Kundig, 1918, in 80, 338 pp. 
As far as the author is aware the term " introversion " was used 
for the first time in the sense of scientific psychology by Dr. C. G. 
Jung of Zurich. 
1 The second part of the work, devoted to " several other cases 
of mysticism, 11 is unfortunately very inferior Eastern mysticism 
(" forty centuries of Introversion " as the author says) is studied 
in a few pages from third-hand information and Christian mysti- 
cism in the West is summarized into a quite arbitrary and inadequate 
choice of types, including a number of definitely diseased people 
like Madame Guyon and Antoinette Bourignon, and superior and 
complete personalities like St. Bernard and Francis of Sales. 
They are, moreover, all mutilated by a very distorted representa- 
to free himself from his preconceived theories drawn from the 
scientific pathology of his age in his appreciation of the works 
of Denis and the conclusions he draws from them. 
Without being able within the limits of this note to enter 
into a close discussion such as his theses deserve, I should 
like, however briefly, to point out their weak spots as I see 
them and the truer interpretation that ought to be put upon 
Almost all psychologists are possessed by the theory 4 of 
Regression, which appears to have been started by Th. Ribot. 
It is undoubtedly a true one within the limited bounds of his 
psycho-pathological studies on functional disorganization, but 
it has been erroneously extended to the whole realm of the 
mind, whether abnormal or normal. 
Ribot laid down that " the psychological functions most 
rapidly attacked by disease were the most recently constituted 
ones, the last in point of time in the development of the indivi- 
dual (ontogenesis), and then reproduced on a general scale in 
the evolution of the species (phylogenesis)/ 1 Janet, Freud, and 
their followers have applied this statement to all the nervous 
affections, and from them to all the activities of the mind. 
From this it is for them only a step for us a false step, to the 
conclusion that the most recently effected operations and the 
most rapidly worn out are the highest in hierarchy, and that 
a return to the others is a retrogression in a backward sense, 
a fall of the mind. 
At the outset let us determine what is meant by " the supreme 
function " of the mind. It is what Janet calls " the function 
of the real/' and he defines it as awareness of the present, of 
present action, the enjoyment of the present. He places " dis- 
interested action and thought," which does not keep an exact 
account of present reality, on a lower level, then imaginary 
representation at the bottom of the scale, that is to say the 
tion : for the mighty elements of energy and social action which 
in the case of these great men were closely bound up with mystic 
contemplation, are taken out of the picture. 
4 With one notable exception, the fine school of educational 
psychology at Geneva, grouped round the Institute J. J. Rousseau 
and the International Bureau of Education. One of the chiefs of 
this group, Ch. Baudouin, has in these very last months protested 
against the confusion caused by the term regression, attached in- 
discriminately to all the phenomena of recoil psychologically, so 
varied and sometimes so different. (Cf. Journal of Psychology, 
Paris, November, December, 1928.) 
whole world of imagination and fancy. Freud with his custo- 
mary energy, asserts that reverie and all that emerges from it, 
is nothing but the debris of the first stage of evolution. And 
they all agree in opposing, like Bleuler, a "function of the 
unreal " akin to pure thought, to the so-called " function of 
the real/ 1 which they would term " the fine point of the soul," 
(to misuse the famous phrase of Francis of Sales by applying 
it what irony ! to the opposite extreme). 6 
Such a classification, which ascribes the highest rank to 
" interested " action and the lowest rank to concentration of 
thought, seems to me to be self-convicted in the light of simple 
practical and moral common sense. And this depreciation of 
the most indispensable operation of the active mind : the with- 
drawal into oneself, to dream, to imagine, to reason, is in danger 
of becoming a pathological aberration. The irreverent observer 
is tempted to say : " Physician, heal thyself ! " 
It seems to me that the transcendant value attributed by 
science to the idea of evolution should be taken with a pinch 
of salt. The admission of its indestructibility and universality 
without any exception, is in fact nothing more than the declar- 
ation of a continuous series (or sometimes discontinuous) of 
modifications and of differentiations in living matter. This 
biological process is not worthy to be elevated into a dogma, 
forcing us to see far above and beyond us, suspended to some 
vague " greasy pole," some equally vague mysterious supreme 
" Realization " of the living being not much less supernatural 
than the " Realization " below and behind us (or in the depths) 
presupposed by religion in its various myths of primitive Eden. 
Eventually, vital evolution would culminate in the inevitable 
extinction of the species by a process of exhaustion. How can 
we decide the exact moment when the path begins to go down 
on the further side instead of going up ? There are as many 
reasons for believing that the most important of the diverse 
operations and functions of the mind are those which disappear 
last : for they are the very foundations of Being and that 
the part so easily destroyed belongs to a superficial level of 
" A great aesthete, who is at the same time a scientist and 
a creative artist a complete man endowed with both reason 
and intuition, Edouard Monod-Herzen, has thus expressed it : 
B With quite unconscious irony a great " introvert " like Plotinus, 
sincerely pities the " extraverts," the " wanderers outside them- 
selves " (Enn. TV, III, 17), for they seem to him to have lost the 
" function of the real." 
" The effects of the Cosmos antecedent to a. given individual, 
whose substance still bears their trace, are to be distinguished, 
from the contemporary effects which set their mark upon* him 
each day. The first are his own inner property, and constitute 
his heredity. The second are his acquired property, and con- 
stitute his adaptation." 
In what way then are his " acquired properties " superior in 
hierarchical order to his " Innate possessions " ? They are only 
so in point of time. And, continues E. Monod-Herzen, " the 
actual condition of the individual results from a combination 
of the two groups of possessions/' 6 
Why should they be dissociated ? If it is to meet the exi- 
gences of scientific investigation, it is not superfluous to remark 
that by its very definition primitive or " innate possessions " 
accommodate themselves better to such dissociation than 
" acquired possessions " for the simple reason that the latter 
are posterior and necessarily presuppose what went before them. 
As Ch. Baudouin, when he was trying to correct the depre- 
catory tendencies of psycho-analysis with regard to psychological 
" phenomena of recoil/' wrote on the subject of evolution : 
" Evolution is not conceived as going from the reflex to 
instinct, from instinct to the higher psychological life, without 
appealing to successive inhibitions and their resultant intro- 
versions. At each step new inhibitions must intervene to 
prevent energy from immediately discharging itself in motive 
channels together with introversions, inward storings of energy 
until little by little thought is substituted for the inhibited 
action. . . . Thought (as John Dewey has shown) may be 
regarded as the result of suspended action, which the subject 
does not allow to proceed to its full realization. Our reasonings 
are attempts in effigy. ... It would therefore be a pity to 
confound introversion with open retrogression, since the latter 
marks a step backwards in the line of evolution " (and I 
would add that it is a retreat " without any idea of regaining 
lost ground and advancing again ") " while introversion is the 
indispensable condition of evolution and if it is a recoil, it is 
one of those recoils that render a forward thrust possible." 7 
' Science et Esthttique : Principe s de morphologic gtntrale, 1917* 
Paris, Gauthier-Villars. 
f Of. cit ;t pp. 808-09. 
This is just what I have been led to observe and what I have 
noted in the last chapter of this volume on " The Awakening of 
But let us come frankly to the case of great introversion, 
no longer in the mitigated form of normal thought but complete, 
'absolute, unmitigated, as we have been studying it in this 
volume in the case of the highest mystics. 
To pathological psychology (and M. Ferdinard Morel accepts 
these conclusions) 8 it is a return to a primary stage, to a intra- 
uterine state. And the symbolic words used to explain absorp- 
tion in the Unity by the masters of mysticism, whether of India 
or of Alexandria, or the Areopagite or the two fourteenth-century 
whirlwinds of the soul, Eckhart and Tauler : " Grund, Urgrund, 
Boden, Wurzel, Wesen ohne Wesen, Indefinite suressentidle . . . 
etc./ 1 add weight to this assumption, no less than the curious 
instinct which has given birth in Ramakrishna's India to the 
passionate worship of " the Mother, 1 ' and in Christianity to 
that of the " Virgin Mother/' 
It must be granted that we are impartial. 9 
Is it then only a similar replunging of conscious thought 
into the distant abysses of prenatal life ? For a careful study 
of mysticism establishes clearly that consciousness exists un- 
dimmed in this gigantic ascent backwards up the ladder of the 
past, compared to which Wells's Time Machine is mere child's 
play : and M. F. Morel returns to it on several occasions. 
" In the most complete introversion (that of Denis the 
Areopagite) there is no loss of consciousness, but a displacement 
of attention. . . . Ecstatic experiences remain deeply engraven 
upon those who experience them, and this wpuld not be the 
case if they were simply empty or void of meaning. . . . Con- 
India " ; " If the mystic thought of contemporary India seems to 
us, in the case of Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and Aurobindo Ghose, 
to recoil at times into the recesses of primitive evolution, it is only 
to collect itself for a further leap forward." 
The deep-seated narcisism of honest introversion is a profound 
retrogression into the bosom of the mother ; thus the individual 
epitomizes the whole development of the race." 
9 As a starting-point. But the great analysts of this intuitive 
11 ebbing " such as Ed. le Roy, show wherein the final " simplicity " 
to which they have already attained, differs from the " simplicity 
anterior to the discursive intricacy, belonging solely to the con- 
fused preintuition of a child." It is "a rich and luminous sim- 
plicity, which achieves the dispersion of analysis by surpassing and 
overcoming it. It alone is the fruit of true intuition, the state of 
inner freedom, of fusion of the pacified soul with (the Being) ^non- 
passive peace, which is action at its highest power. . . ." (" The 
Discipline of Intuition," Review Vers I' Unite, 1925, Nos. 35-6.) 
There is not one of these sayings to which Vivekananda would 
not have subscribed. 
513 LL 
sciousness is in fact something intensely mobile. When the 
exterior world has disappeared, the circle of consciousness 
contracts and seems to withdraw entirely into some unknown 
and usually ignored cortical centre. Consciousness seems to 
gather itself together, to confine itself within some unknown 
psychic pineal gland and to withdraw into a kind of centre 
wherein all organic functions and all psychic forces meet, and 
there it enjoys unity . . . nothing else." 10 
" Nothing else ? " What more do you want I There, accord- 
ing to your own admission you have an instrument for pene- 
trating to the depths of functional consciousness, of subliminal 
life and yet you do not use it in order to complete your know- 
ledge of the whole activity of the mind. You, doctors of the 
Unconscious, instead of making yourselves citizens of this 
boundless empire and possessing yourselves of it, do you ever 
enter it except as foreigners, imbued with the preconceived 
idea of the superiority of your own country and incapable of 
ridding yourselves of the need, which itself deforms your vision 
of reducing whatever you catch a glimpse of in this unknown 
world to the measure of the one already familiar to you ? n 
Think of the extraordinary interest of these striking descrip- 
tions a succession of Indian, Alexandrine and Christian mystics 
of all sects without mutual knowledge of each other have all 
with the same clarity gone through the same experiences 
the triple movement of thought, 12 and especially the " circu- 
lar movement," which they have tested thoroughly and " which 
represents exactly the psychic movement of pure and simple 
introversion, withdrawing itself from the periphery and collecting 
itself towards the centre " the mighty Stygian river that goes 
seven times round the Being, the round dance with its powerful 
attraction towards the centre, the centripetal force of the inner 
soul corresponding to that exercised in the exterior universe by 
universal gravitation ! Is it a slight thing to be able by means 
of direct perception to realize the great cosmic laws and the 
forces which govern the universe controlled by our senses? 
"E. Morel: Op. cit. t p. 112. 
11 Cf . my first note in the first volume of this work on the Physiology 
of Indian Asceticism, the yoghic descriptions of the ascent of the 
Koundalini Shakti up to the " lotus with the thousand petals," in. 
the cerebral hemispheres. 
11 The three movements : " Circular," when the thought turns 
entirely towards itself : " spiral," when it reflects and reasons in 
a discursive fashion : " in a straight line/' when it is directed 
towards the exterior. (Cf. Plotinus, Porphyry, Proclus, Hennias, 
Denis the Areopagite, etc., and F. Morel's analysis of them.) 
If a scientist maintains that such knowledge of psychic pro- 
fundities teaches us nothing about exterior realities, he really, 
though perhaps unwittingly, is obeying a prejudice of proud 
incomprehension as one-eyed as that of those religious spirit- 
ualists who set up an insurmountable barrier between spirit 
and matter. What is the " function of the real " of which 
scientific psychology claims to be the standard-bearer? And 
what is the " real " ? Is it what can be observed by extra- 
spection or by introspection like that of St. John in Raphael's 
Dispute, who gazes into the depths with his closed eyes? 
Is it " the movement in a straight line " or "in spirals " or 
" in a circle " ? There are not two realities. That which exists 
in one exists equally in the other. 14 The laws of the inner 
psychic substance are of necessity the same as those of outside 
reality. And if you succeed in reading one properly, the chances 
are that you will find the confirmation (if not, the presentiment) 
of what you have read or will read in the other. Laotse's deep 
thought that " a wheel is made up of thirty perceptible spokes, 
but it is because of the central non-perceptible void of the nave 
that it turns," leads me to think of the latest hypotheses of 
astronomical science, which claim to have discovered gulfs of 
cosmic emptiness to be the homes of the various universes. . . . 
Do you suppose that Laotse would ever have been able to 
imagine such a thought if it had not secretly contained the 
form of the universal cosmic Substance and its forgotten laws ? 
Hypothesis do you say ? Neither more nor less so than your 
most firmly established fruitful scientific hypotheses. And quite 
11 An allusion to Raphael's fresco of the Holy Sacrament in the 
Vatican known as the Dispute (or the Discussion). 
14 1 am glad to find myself here in accord with the thought of 
one of the masters of the " new Education/' Dr. Adolphe Ferriere, 
the founder-president of the International Bureau of Education in 
his monumental work : Spiritual Progress (Vol. I of Constructive 
Education, 1927, Geneva). 
" If individual reasons are reducible as to a single common 
denominator, to Reason conceived as super-individual and im- 
personal ... it is because at bottom each mind and what it is 
convenient to call nature, share the saine reality, have the same 
origin, are the issue of the same cosmic Energy " (p. 45). 
If then introspection makes it possible to go back, I do not say 
to the origin but nearer to the origin, the vital source that is one 
of the forms of universal Energy, why ignore it ? 
(Cf. in the same work of Dr. A. Ferriere, Chapter III, I, The 
Human Microcosm replies to the Macrocosm, its very title and 
basic idea correspond to the Vedantic conception explained by Vive- 
kananda in several of the most famous lectures of his Jnana-yoga.) 
logically probable : for it satisfies the strict economy of the laws 
of the universe and partakes of their natural harmony. 
But if this is true the judicious use of deep introversion opens 
to the scientist a mine of unexplored resources : for it consti- 
tutes a new method of experiment, having the advantage that 
the observer identifies himself with the object observed. . . . fyis 
6q&aa. The Plotinian identity of the seer and the thing seen. 15 
The clear intuition of Plotinus, who united in himself the 
spirit of Greek observation and Eastern introspection, has thus 
described the operation : 
" It may happen that the soul possesses a thing without 
being aware of it ; 16 it therefore possesses it better than if 
it were aware of it ; in fact when it is aware of it, it possesses 
it as a thing that is alien to it ; when on the contrary it is not 
aware of it, it is a real possession/' 17 
And that is exactly the idea that one of the greatest thinkers 
11 As a matter of fact every great scientific experimenter identi- 
fies himself more or less with the object of his experiment. It is 
an attribute of all passion, whatever its object, whether carnal or 
intellectual, that it embraces the object, and tends to infuse itself 
into it. The great physicist biologist, J. Ch. Bose, has told me 
that he feels himself becoming one with the plants that he is observ- 
ing and that now, before he begins an experiment, he pre-conceives 
their reactions within himself, and with poets and artists this is 
still more the case. I refer my reader to the chapter in this book 
on Walt Whitman. 
lf The word " knowledge " stands here for " discursive intellectual 
knowledge." It is quite evident that a superior knowledge takes 
its place : this knowledge may be called " functional," as in M. F. 
Morel, or " perfect reason " as in Plotinus who adds this comment : 
" A man only considers discursively that which he does not yet 
possess . . . Perfect reason no longer seeks ; it rests upon the 
evidence of that with which it is filled. (Enn. t III, VIII, (2), (5).) 
" Enn. t LV, IV (4). 
Cf . the analysis of intuitive thought by my contemporary French 
master Edouard le Roy : 
" It is essential that the mind . . . should free itself from all 
disuniting egoism, and be led to a ' state of docility ' analogous to 
the purification of the conscience by ascetics, an attitude of gener- 
osity resembling the workings of love that divines and understands 
because it forgets itself, because it accepts the effort of the necessary- 
transformations in order to lose itself in its object and to attain 
perfect objectivity ..." etc. 
"The Discipline of Intuition," Review Vers V Unite, 1925, Nos. 
And in conclusion : 
" The three stages in the course of intuitive thought are : 
of modern India, Aurobindo Ghose, is trying to incorporate 
.in science as I have shown in the last chapter of this 
voltfme he wishes to reintegrate generative intuition in its 
legitimate place as advance guard of the army of the spirit 
marching forward to the scientific conquest of the universe. 
Part of this great effort is rejected with the disdainful gesture 
of the exclusive rationalists, and particularly of psycho-patholo- 
gists, who throw discredit on " the standard of intellectual 
satisfaction " or, as the great Freud said with austere scorn, 
on " the principle of pleasure/' which in his eyes is that of 
" the unsuitable/' those who reject it are far less the servants 
of the " real/' as they imagine themselves to be, than of a proud 
and Puritanical faith, whose prejudices they no longer see 
because those prejudices have become second nature. There 
is no normal reason why, on the plausible hypothesis of a unity 
of substance and cosmic laws, the conquest, the full perception, 
and the " fruitio " by the mind of the logical ordering of the 
universe should not be accompanied by a feeling of sovereign 
well-being. And it would be strange if mental joy were a sign 
of error. The mistrust shown by some masters of psycho- 
analysis for the free natural play of the mind, rejoicing in its 
own possession the stigma they imprint upon it of " narcissism " 
and " auterotism " 18 betray all unconsciously a kind of per- 
verted ascetism and religious renunciation. 
They are, it is true, quite right to denounce the dangers of 
introversion, and in so doing no one will contradict them. But 
every experiment has its own dangers for the mind. Sense 
and reason itself are dangerous instruments and have to be 
constantly supervised ; and no close scientific observation is 
carried out on a tabula rasa. Whatever it is doing, the eye 
interprets before it has seen ; 19 and in the case of P. Lowell, 
1. The ' ascese ' preparatory to the renunciation of the usual 
forms of speech ; 
2. The final union of the spirit with that which started as a 
separate object from it ; 
3. The simplicity of knowledge or rather of perception when 
it has been rediscovered after passing through the dispersion of 
analysis, and going beyond and below it, but a simplicity which is 
the result of wealth and not poverty." (Ibid.) Are there not close 
analogies here to the Jnana-Yoga of India ? (Cf. Intuitive Thought 
by the same author, E. le Roy, 1925-) 
11 That is to say : the state of Narcissus who was in love with 
lf Cf. the definition of scientific hypothesis by J. Pemn, one of 
the intuitive savants of to-day, as " a form of intuitive intelligence 
the astronomer, he has never ceased to see upon the surface 
of Mars the canals his own ,eyes have put there. ... By all 
means let us continue to doubt, even alter having proof 1 My ' 
attitude is always one of profound Doubt, which is hidden in 
my cave like a strong, bitter but healthgiving tonic, for the 
use of the strong. 
But in the world of the " real "that is to say, of the " rela- 
tive " where we must needs labour and build our dwelling 
places, I maintain that the principle whereby we ought to attempt 
to satisfy the operations of the mind is that of proportion, of 
equilibrium between the diverse forces of the mind. All ten- 
dency to inclusiveness is dangerous and defective. Man has 
different and complementary means of knowledge at his dis- 
posal. 20 If it is necessary to divide them in order to probe 
with them into the depths of an object of study, synthesis 
must always be re-established afterwards. Strong personalities 
accomplish this by instinct. A great " introvert " will know how 
to be a great " extravert " at the same time. Here the example 
of Vivekananda seems to me to be conclusive. 21 Interiorization 
has never led in principle to diminution of action. The hypo- 
theses based upon the supposed social passivity of mystic India 
are entirely erroneous : here what is nothing but Ersatz is taken 
for the cause. The physical and moral devitalization of India 
during several centuries is due to quite different factors of 
climate and social economy. But we shall see with our own 
eyes that her interiorization, where the fires of her threatened 
life have taken refuge, is the principle of her national resurrec- 
tion. 12 And it will shortly appear how potent a brazier of 
action is this Atman, over which she has brooded for several 
... to divine the existence or the essential faculties of objects 
which are still beyond our consciousness, to explain the complicated 
visible by the simple invisible." (The Atoms, 1912.) 
10 In the study by Charles Baudouin already quoted, see his 
analysis of complementary instincts (the combative instinct and 
the instinct of withdrawal ; activity, passivity) and their rhythmic 
connexion. In the cases we are considering the tendencies of 
recoil and of introversion are complementary to forward impulse 
and extraversion. Together they form a system in unstable equi- 
librium which can always be tipped to one side or the other. 
11 IB it necessary to remind the reader that his example is not in 
the least unique ? The genius for action ihown by the greatest of 
mystic Christian introverts : St. Bernard, St. Theresa, St. Ignatius, 
is well known. 
11 1 refer the reader to the chapter in this volume on the 
Awakening of India and to the pages devoted to Dayananda and 
the Arya Samaj. 
thousand years. I advise the " extravert " peoples of the West 
to rediscover in the depths of themselves the same sources of 
actiye and creative " introversion." If they fail, there is not 
much hope for the future. Their gigantic technical knowledge, 
far from being a source of protection, will bring about their 
But I am not anxious. The same sources sleep in the depths 
of the soul of the West. At the last hour but one they will 
spring up anew. 
April, 1929. 
IT is one of my chief desires to see Lectureships of Compara- 
tive Eastern and Western Metaphysics and Mysticism 
founded in India and Europe. The two should be mutually 
complementary, for their work is really essential if the human 
spirit is to learn to know itself in its entirety. Its object would 
not be a kind of puerile steeple-chase seeking to establish the 
primitive chronology of each group of thought. Such research 
would be meaningless : religious historians who try only to 
discover the intellectual interdependence of systems forget the 
vital point : the knowledge that religions are not ordinary 
matters of intellectual dialectic, but facts of experience, and 
that although reason steps in afterwards to construct systems 
upon these facts, they would not hold good for an hour if they 
were not based upon the solid foundation of experience. Hence 
the facts must first be discovered and studied. I do not know 
whether any modern psycho-physiologist, armed with all the 
latest instruments of the new sciences of the soul, will be able 
to attain to a full knowledge of them one day, 1 but I am willing 
1 One of the first to attempt an objective study of them was 
William James in his famous book on Religious Experience, an 
Essay of Descriptive Psychology, which appeared in New York in 
1902 under the title : The Varieties of Religious Experience. It is 
very remarkable that by the scrupulous honesty of his intellect 
alone, this man, though not in the least gifted for the attainment 
of subliminal reality, as he himself frankly declared : " My tempera- 
ment prohibited me from almost all mystic experience " should 
have arrived at the positive statement of the objective existence of 
those very realities and should have commended them to the re- 
spect of scientists. To his efforts were added those of the learned 
Frederick W. H. Myers, who in 1886 discovered " the subliminal 
consciousness," a theory propounded in a posthumous work, later 
than that of William James : Human Personality. (Myers, like 
James, had known Vivekananda personally.) The most interesting 
part of James's book appears to be the collection of mystic wit- 
to believe it. In the meanwhile such simple observation as 
we have at our present disposal leads us to recognize the exist- 
ence of the same religious facts as the foundations of all the 
great organized religions, spread over the face of the earth 
during the march of the centuries. At the same time it is 
impossible to attribute to the mutual actions and reactions of 
peoples any appreciable effect on their productions : for their 
uprising is spontaneous ; it grows from the soil under certain 
influences in the life of humanity almost " seasonal " in their 
recurrence, like the grain that springs up in natural life with 
the return of spring. 
The first result of an objective study of Comparative Meta- 
physics and Mysticism would be to demonstrate the universality 
and perennial occurrence of the great facts of religious experience, 
their close resemblance under the diverse costumes of race and 
time, attesting to the persistent unity of the human spirit 
or rather, for it goes deeper than the spirit, which itself is obliged 
to delve for it the identity of the materials constituting hu- 
manity. 2 But before entering into any discussion of the corn- 
ness coming from his Western contemporaries, chiefly from laymen 
who were strangers to religious or metaphysical speculation, so that 
they did not try to attach to it the facts of inner experience, often 
very striking, which had come to them unawares like the fall of 
a thunderbolt (Tennyson, Ch. Kingsley, J. A. Symonds, Dr. R. M. 
Bucke, etc.) ; all unknowingly, they realized states identical with 
the characteristic Samadhis of India. Others whose natural intelli- 
gence cut them off from mysticism, found themselves led as was 
James himself, by artificial means (chloroform, ether, etc.) to an 
astounding intuition of the absolute Unity where all contraries are 
dissolved : a conception quite outside their ordinary ken. And 
with the intellectual lucidity of the West, these " amateurs " in 
ecstasy have given perfect descriptions of it. The hypothetical 
conclusions to which James arrived, testify to a rare mental freedom. 
Certain of them are the same as Vivekananda's and Gandhi's, for 
example that religions are necessarily diverse, and that their " com- 
plete meaning can only be deciphered by their universal collabora- 
tion." Others curiously enough admit a " polytheism of the Ego." 
1 That is also the conclusion to which one of the exceptionally 
religious men of the West has reached after a careful and scientific 
study of the comparative Mysticism of India and Europe : Pro- 
fessor Rudolf Otto of Marburg. Having lived for fourteen years in 
India and Japan he has devoted a whole series of remarkable works 
to Asiatic mysticism. The most important for our purpose is West- 
ocstliche Mystik-Vergkich und Unterschiedung xur Wesensdeutung 
(1926, Gotha, Leopold Klotzverlag), which takes as types the two 
mystics, Sankara and Meister Eckhart. 
His main thesis establishes the extraordinary similarity of the 
parative value of ideological structures erected by religion aiid 
metaphysics in India and Alexandria (to illustrate the point 
from the case with which we are dealing here) it is necessary 
to establish the fact that at bottom the illuminations of Philo, 
the great ecstasies of Plotinus and Porphyry, so similar to the 
samadhis of Indian yogins, were identical experiences. Hence 
we must not use the term Christianity to the exclusion of the 
other thousands of mystic experiences on whose basis it was 
built up not in one feverish birth, but by a series of births 
throughout the centuries, fresh shoots sprouting from the ancient 
tree with each spring. 
And that is, indeed, the heart of the problem. If these 
great experiences have once been established, compared and 
classified, comparative Mysticism would then and only then 
have the right to pass on to a study of systems. Systems 
exist solely to provide the mind with a means for registering 
the results of enlightenment and to classify in one complete 
and co-ordinated whole the claims of the senses, reason and 
intuition (by whatever name we may choose to call the eighth 
sense or the second reason, which those who have experienced 
it call the first). Systems, then, are a continually renewed effort 
to bring about the synthesis of what a man, a race or an epoch 
has experienced (by the use of all the various instruments at 
the disposal of knowledge). And of necessity the particular 
temperament of that man, race, or epoch is always reflected 
in each system. 
Moreover, it is intensely interesting that all kinds of minds 
morally akin, but scattered through space and time in different 
countries and different ages, know that the varieties of their 
own thought, produced by all these different temperaments, 
are simultaneously the limits and the womb of force. India 
and Europe are equally concerned to enrich themselves by a 
knowledge of all the forms developed by this same mental or 
vital power, a theme upon which each of their diverse races, 
epochs and cultures has embroidered its o^yn variations. 
Hence, to return to the subject that is occupying us here, 
I do not believe modern Indian metaphysics can remain any 
Urmotiven (the fundamental motives) of humanity's spiritual ex- 
perience, exclusive of race, age or climate. Mysticism is always 
and everywhere the same. And the profound unity of the human 
spirit is a fact. Naturally this does not exclude variations between 
different mystic personalities. But such variations are not the 
result of race, age or country. They may be found side by side 
in the same surroundings. 
longer in ignorance of Alexandrine and Christian Mysticism 
any more than our Western intellectuals can be allowed in 
future to stop short their study of the " Divine Infinity " * at 
the borders of Greece. When two types of humanity as magni- 
ficent as India and Greece have dealt with the same subject, 
it is obvious that each will have enriched it with its own par- 
ticular splendours, and that the double masterpiece will harmonize 
with the new spirit of universal humanity we are seeking to 
In these pages I can do no more than point out the way to 
the intelligence of my readers, and here in addressing myself 
especially to the Vedantists of India, I want to give them at 
least a glimpse of the characteristics wherein Mediterranean 
Mysticism and their own are alike and wherein they differ. 
I shall particularly insist on the chief monument of early Chris- 
tian Mysticism the work of the Pseudo-Denis because as it 
came from the East it possessed already the characteristics 
which it was to impose upon the metaphysical physiognomy 
of the West throughout six centuries of Christianity. 
* * * 
It is generally conceded that the Greek spirit, while eminently 
endowed for art and science, was almost a closed book to the 
idea of Infinity, and that it only accepted the idea with mis- 
trust. Although the Infinite is included in principle by Anaxi- 
mander and Anaxagoras, they give it a material character and 
stamp it with the imprint of scientific instinct. Plato, who in 
his Republic touched in passing on the conception of the Idea 
of Good, superior to being, essence and intelligence, did not 
dwell upon it and seemed to regard it merely as an idea of 
perfection and not of infinity. To Aristotle, the infinite was 
imperfect. To the Stoics, it was unreal. 4 
1 This is the title of an excellent doctorate thesis, written by 
Henri Guyot : The Divine Infinity from Philo the Jew to Phtinus, 
with an introduction on the same subject on Greek philosophy before 
Plato. (Paris, Alcan, 1906.) I have made profitable use of it. 
4 It must not be forgotten that during the Alexandrine epoch 
there was an intimate connexion between India and the Hellenic 
West. But the history of thought has not taken it into account 
and even at the present time is very insufficiently aware of it. 
Several years ago in India a society was formed to study the radia- 
tions of " greater India " and its forgotten Empire in the past. (The 
Greater India Society, President, Professor Jadunath Sarkar, the 
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta ; Honorary Secretary, 
Dr. Kalidas Nag.) Since November, 1926, it has published a regular 
It is not until we reach the first century that we find Philo, 
a Jew of Alexandria, who had been brought up in Greek thought, 
embracing it with the notion of Infinity derived from his people, 
and attempting to hold the balance between the two currents. 
The balance, however, remained an unstable one, and all through 
his life Philo oscillated between the two temperaments. In 
spite of the fact that He was indeterminate, the God of the 
Jews kept a very strong personal flavour, of which Philo's 
nostrils could not rid themselves. On the other hand his Greek 
education allowed him to analyse with rationalist precision 
those obscure powers of his prophetic people, that had brought 
them into contact with God. His theory of ecstasy, first by 
withdrawal into oneself, then by the flight of the ego and the 
total negation of the senses, reason and being itself, so that 
they might be identified with the One, is, in the main, precisely 
the same as that always practised by the Indian in the East. 
Philo eventually sketches an attempt to attach the Infinite to 
the finite by means of intermediary powers, from whence emerges 
the " second God," the Word, " the only Begotten Son of God " 
TQ&ioyovov t5ioi>), with him, perhaps unwittingly (for he never 
lost the thumb-print of his rough modellers : Jehovah) the 
Infinite of the East entered the Mediterranean world. 
A hundred facts testify to what an extent the East was 
mingled with Hellenic thought during the second century of 
our era. Let us recall only three or four of the most charac- 
teristic I Plutarch quoted Zoroaster and devoted a whole trea- 
tise to Egyptian mythology. The historian, Eusebius, was a 
witness to the interest felt in his day in Asiatic philosophies 
and religions. One of the first builders of Alexandrinism, 
Numenius, who extolled Pythagoras above all other Greeks, 
sought for the spirit of his age in the past, and believed that 
Pythagoras had spread in Greece the august wisdom of the 
Egyptians, the Magi, the Indians and the Jews. 6 Plotinus, a 
Greek of Egypt, departed with Gordian's army, in .order to 
study Persian and Indian philosophy. And although Gordian's 
death, in Mesopotamia, stopped him half-way, his intention 
Bulletin and the first number included an Essay by Dr. Kalidas 
Nag, containing a very interesting historical account of the spread 
of the Indian spirit beyond its own frontiers : " Greater India, a 
Study in Indian Internationalism." 
* Numenius, whose influence over Plotinus was of capital im- 
portance, " had directed all his efforts," says Eusebius, " towards 
a fusion of Pythagoras and Plato, while seeking for a confirmation 
of their philosophical doctrines in the religious dogmas of the 
Brahmins, the Indians, the Magi, and the Egyptians/' 
shows his intellectual kinship with the Indian spirit. 6 But at 
the same time he was in communion with the Christians. One 
of his listeners was a Doctor of the New Church, Origen ; and 
they mutually respected each other. Plotinus was not merely 
a book philosopher. He was, at the same time, a saint and a 
great yogin. His pure image, that of Ramakrishna in certain 
characteristics, 7 deserves to be more piously remembered by 
both the East and the West. 
It would be lacking in the respect his great work deserves, 
to summarize it here. But I must enumerate the most striking 
characteristics that are analogous to Indian thought. 
Plotinus' First Being, who is " before all things " (ng6 
navr&v) no less than in all that comes after him is the 
Absolute. " Absolutely infinite, indeterminate, incomprehen- 
sible/' he can only be defined by negation. " Let us take all 
things from Him, let us affirm nothing about Him, let us not 
lie by saying that there is anything in Him, but let Him simply 
He is above good and ill, act and knowledge, being and essence. 
He has neither face nor form, neither movement nor number, 
neither virtue nor feeling. We cannot even say that He wishes 
or that He does. ..." We say that He is not : we cannot 
say what He is." ... In brief Plotinus collects the whole 
litany of " Noes," so dear to the Indian mystic (and to the 
Christian), in order to express the Absolute. But without 
the self-satisfaction mingled with childish conceit that most 
men bring to it, Plotinus impregnates it always with his beautiful 
6 His theory of reincarnation bears the stamp of Indian thought. 
All actions and thoughts count. The purified and detached are 
not reborn into the corporeal, they remain in the world of the 
mind and of bliss, without reason, remembrance or speech ; their 
liberty is absolute ; they are made one with the Perfect, and are 
absorbed into It without losing themselves in It. Such bliss can 
be obtained in the present by ecstasy. 
His theory of matter and his definitions of it evoke the Hindu 
His vision of the universe, as a divine Game, where " the actors 
constantly change their costumes," where social revolutions, the 
crash of Empires, are " changes of scene and character, the tears 
and cries of the actors " is the same as the Indian. 
Above all his profound science of " deification," identification 
with God by the path of Negation is, as I shall show, one of its 
most magnificent expressions and might have come from one of 
the great Indian yogins. ,.,jv, 
7 His exquisite kindness and delicate, pure and rather childlike 
modesty, a fact that makes it very touching, and that I should 
say is more Christlike than many Christians (such as the author 
of Mystic Theology, which I shall examine later) 
" When we say," he wrote, " that He is above being, we 
do not say that He is this or that. We affirm nothing ; we 
do not give Him any name. . . . We do not try to understand 
Him :* it would in fact be laughable to try to understand that 
incomprehensible nature. But we being men, with doubts like 
the sorrows of childhood, do not know what to call Him, and 
so we try to name the Ineffable. ... He must have indulgence 
for our language. . . . Even the name of the One expresses 
no more than the negation of His plurality. . . . The problem 
must be given up, and research relapse into silence. What 
is the good of seeking when further progress is impossible ? 
... If we wish to speak of God, or to conceive Him, let us 
give up everything! (navra dyes I). When this has been 
done, (let us not add anything to Him but) let us examine 
rather whether there is still not something to be given up I 
In the path of negation has India ever said anything more 
perfect or more humble ? 
Nevertheless, it is not a question of negation. This incon- 
ceivable Absolute is the supreme and superabundant Perfection, 
whose continual expansion engenders the universe. He is sus- 
pended to it by love and He fills it entirely : for, without ever 
coming out of Himself, He is present everywhere in His entirety. 
In the effort of the human spirit to distinguish the successive 
degrees of this divine procession of worlds, the mystic Greek 
in a splendid outburst of enlightened enthusiasm salutes Intelli- 
gence as the first-born of God, the best after Him (pel dtiti), 
itself "a great God" (fc u$ pe yas), "the second God" 
(& Cctfeeoc), the first Hypostasis, which engenders the second, 
the Soul, the one and the multiple, the mother of all living 
things. There follows the unfolding of the whole world of the 
senses within the bounds whereof Matter is found, and matter 
is the last degree of being, or rather of non-being (p^fo), 
the Infinite negative, the absolute and unattained limit at the 
opposite antipodes, of the thrust of Divine Power. 
So, this Absolute, which our minds can only approach through 
negation, is affirmed in all that is. And It is in ourselves. 
It is the very basis of our being. And we can be rejoined to 
It by concentration. Yoga, the great path of divine union, 
as described by Plotinus, is a combination of jnana-yoga and 
Enneades, V, 5, 6 ; VI, 9, 4 ; VI, 8, 13, etc. 
bhakti-yoga. After a first and long stage of purification, the 
soul, as it enters the phase of contemplation, must renounce 
knowledge as a starting-point. " The soul withdraws from the 
One, and is no longer one entity when it acquires know- 
ledge. Knowledge in effect is a discourse (Actyoc), and a dis- 
course is multiplicity (rcoAAd g& 6 Aoyoc). In order to contemplate 
the first Being a man must be raised above knowledge. 
Ecstasy begins. And the door of ecstasy for the Hellenic 
spirit, always tenacious of its rights, is Beauty. Through it 
the inflamed soul soars towards the light of the Good, above 
which there is nothing. And this divine flight of the mystic 
Alexandrine is precisely the same that Beethoven has translated 
into the phrase written during the evening of his life : 
(1823.) The Beautiful to the Good. 
This description of ecstasy is like the descriptions 10 of both 
Hindus and Christians : for there is only one form of union 
with the Absolute, by whatever name the mind primarily or 
eventually seeks to clothe the Absolute. According to Plotinus, 
the Soul ought to empty itself of all form and content, of all 
evil and good, of all thought of union with That which is neither 
form, nor content, nor evil, nor good, nor thought. 11 It should 
Enn. t VI, 91 4 \ V L 9, 10. 
Cf. the analysis of intuitive thought by Ed. le Roy, quoted in 
Note I. 
10 This admirable conception drawn from the most sacred essence 
of the West with its passion for Beauty, has its source in our divine 
Plato : 
" In the domain of love/' said Socrates to the Stranger of Man- 
tineus, "to do well one must pass from the love of a beautiful 
form to the love of all beautiful forms or to physical beauty in 
general ; then from love of beautiful bodies to the love of beautiful 
souls, beautiful actions and beautiful thoughts. In this ascension 
of the spirit through moral beauty a marvellous beauty will sud- 
denly appear to him, eternal, exempt from all generation, from all 
corruption, absolutely beautiful : not consisting either in a beau- 
tiful face, nor in any body nor in any thought nor in any science ; 
not residing anywhere but in itself, whether in heaven, or on earth, 
but existing eternally in itself and for itself in its absolute and 
perfect unity." (Banquet: Summary.) 
Therein is contained a yoga of Beauty where Bhakta to a cer- 
tain extent is joined to Jnana. I do not say that it is peculiar to 
the West, for we have traces of it in India, but it is the form natural 
and dear to us above all others. 
11 Not to know but to be is also taught by the Vedanta : " To 
even empty itself of the thought of God in order to become 
one with Him. 12 When it has reached this point He appears 
within it, He is it. " It has become God or rather it is God. 18 
A centre which coincides with another centre. . . /' They are 
one. There is perfect identity. The soul has returned to itself 
(otia &v dAAo> otJcra Iv 
know/' said Vivekananda, " is to descend a step. We are It already. 
How then can we speak of knowing It ? " (Jnana-yoga : " The 
Real and the Apparent Man/') 
This is also the famous doctrine of the Docta Ignorantia, belong- 
ing to Christian mysticism : the knowledge above all knowledge. 
No man in the world has described it with such power and psycho- 
logical detail as St. John-of-the-Cross in his famous treatise on 
the Nuit Obscure the double Night : of the senses and of the 
11 " The soul ought to be without form (dvttdeov), if it wishes 
no obstacle to stop it from being filled and illuminated by the first 
Nature. (VI, 9, 7.) The first Principle, not having any difference 
in Him, is always present and we are ourselves present in Him, 
when we no longer possess anything. (VI, 9. 8.) The soul ought 
to drive out evil, good, and everything else to receive God only in 
itself. ... It will not even know that it has been joined to the 
first Principle. (VI, 9, 7.) It is no longer soul, nor intelligence, 
nor movement . . . Resemblance (6poiovOa) to God ought to be 
complete. The soul eventually does not even think of God because 
it no longer thinks . . . (VI, 7, 3, 5.) When the soul has become 
like Him, it sees Him appear all of a sudden ; separation and 
duality are no more ; both are one (h tivya)). . . . This union is 
imitated on earth by those who love and are loved and who seek 
to become one flesh. (VI, 7, 34.) " 
11 Oedv yiv6pevov pcMov de Svla. (VI, 9, 9.) 
14 Plotinus often experienced this great ecstasy, according to the 
definite testimony of Porphyry : "To him the God appeared 
who had neither form nor face, who is above intelligence. I 
myself, Porphyry, once in my life approached Him and was 
united to Him. I was seventy-eight. This union formed the 
sum total of Plotinus 1 desires. He had this divine joy four times 
while I was staying with him. What then happened was ineff- 
So it is of the greatest interest to know from the mouth of 
Plotinus himself what were his impressions during the ecstatic state. 
The most striking is the anguish of the soul as it approached Divine 
Union ; for it was unable to sustain the intensity long. " Cer- 
tainly here below each time that the soul approaches That without 
form, it shrinks, it trembles at having before it only That which 
is nothing" ^ dvdev hrf). 
And these lines remind me of the mortal terror of young Vive- 
I have said enough to awaken in every Hindu reader the 
desire to know more of this great fellow-yogin, who, in the 
last hour of Greece, in her majestic sunset, wedded Plato and 
India. In this divine marriage the male Hellenic genius, as 
he embraced the female Kirtana the inspired Bacchante im- 
posed upon her mind an ordered beauty and intelligent harmony, 
resulting in one of the most beautiful strains of spiritual music. 
And the great Christian mysticism of the first centuries was 
the firstborn of the union. 
In the following pages I shall try to paint, however imper- 
fectly, a portrait of the most beautiful type, in my opinion, 
of early Christian thought that issued from this marriage of 
East and West : Denis (Dionysius) the Areopagite. 
* * * 
I have often had occasion in the course of this book to notice 
analogies and even traces of kinship between the conceptions 
of Hindu and Christian mysticism at their highest moments. 
This likeness is the more striking as one approaches the source 
of Christianity ; 15 and I want to demonstrate it to my Eastern 
kananda during his first visits to Ramakrishna, when the enlight- 
ened Master made him aware for the first time of the dizzy contact 
with the formless Absolute. 
" The soul/' continues Plotinus (and the rest of his description 
would serve for Vivekananda's experience) returns with joy ... 
it lets itself fall until it meets some sensible object whereon to 
stop and rest . . . (VI, 9, 3, 9, 10.) 
J. A. Symonds says the same thing : " Space, time, sensation 
were quickly blotted out step by step . . . The world lost all form 
and all content. But my ego remained in the terrible emptiness, 
feeling with anguish that reality would annihilate it like a soap- 
bubble. . . . The fear of the next dissolution, the frightful con- 
viction that this moment was my last, that I had arrived at the 
edge of the abyss, at the certainty of eternal illusion, dragged me 
back from my dream. . . . The first sense that returned to me 
was that of touch. ... I was happy to have escaped the abyss. 
..." (One of the many contemporary witnesses quoted by William 
James, in his chapter on Mysticism in Religious Experience.) 
But a great mystic like Plotinus had hardly set foot again on 
the earth before he longed for that from which he had fled. . . . The 
deadly vertigo did not cease to attract. The soul that has once 
tasted the terrible Union yearns to find it again, and it must return 
to the Infinite. 
15 The blind fury of certain neophytes of modern literary Catholi- 
cism in the West in their denunciation of the danger of the East, 
is a fit subject for irony. They make it irrevocably the antithesis 
529 MM 
readers. They will profit by it more than those of the West ; 
for as I have already stated, they are all too ignorant of the 
marvellous treasures contained in the Christian metaphysics of 
Europe. 16 
The polemics that have been delivered round the name of 
the Areopagite whether he be called Denis or Pseudo-Denis 17 
matter little to us here, for all accounts agree that his au- 
of the West, forgetting that the whole faith they proclaim comes 
to them from the East, and that in the ritual of the first centuries, 
as decreed by Denis the Areopagite, the West is represented by 
doctors of the faith, as " the region of shades " making the cate- 
chumen " hold up his hands as a sign of anathema " and " blow 
on Satan three times." (Cf. Book of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, 
II. 2, 6.) 
lf The fault lies partly in the political conditions that interpose 
between India and Europe the thick screen of the British Empire 
with its mind more tightly closed than any other in Europe to 
suggestions of Catholic (or even Pre-Reformation Christian) mysti- 
cism, as well as to music in the profound sense of the German masters, 
the other fountain of intuition. 
17 For a thousand years this greatest master of Christian mysti- 
cism was supposed to be Denis the Anchorite, a member of the 
Athenian Areopagus at the time of St. Paul, was converted by 
him about A.D. 5, and later became Bishop of Athens : (he has 
even been identified with St. Denis of France). First Laurence 
Valla, then Erasmus, then the Reformation brutally wronging his 
legend, and being wickedly desirous of discrediting the work, which 
was sufficiently powerful to lose nothing by it, they changed the 
name of the author and tried to make him anonymous. Modern 
research seems to have agreed that the writer of these books li ved 
about 500, and that at all events, although he may have been 
earlier than that date (according to the testimony of some of his 
learned disciples in the ninth century when they revived a con- 
troversy in existence about 400, on the subject of the authenticity 
of his writings) he cannot possibly have been later than Justinian, 
who quoted him as an authority. Cf. Stiglmayr : Das Aufkommen 
der Pseudo-Dionysischen Schnften und ihr Eindrungen in die christ- 
liche Literatur bis zum Lateran-concil 649- -Feldkirch, 1895. 
Hugo Koch : Psettdo-Dionysius Areop. in seinen Beziehungen zum 
Neo-Platonismus und Mysterienwesen, 1900. 
A French translation of the Works of St. Denis the Areopagite , 
by Mgr. Darboy, Archbishop of Paris, shot in the Commune of 
1871, appeared in 1845, and was re-edited in 1887. For the benefit 
of my French readers I have used it in my quotations. 
[An English translation of The Works of St. Denis the Areopagite 
is in existence by the Rev. John Parker (1897), and, wherever 
possible, the translator has used it.] 
thentic writings fall within the period round about 532 or 533," 
and that from that date their authority became law in the 
Christian Church and was invoked by Popes, Patriarchs and 
learned Doctors in the Synods and Councils of the seventh 
and eighth centuries 19 down to the ninth century. They were 
then triumphantly installed in Paris by Charles the Bald, who 
had them translated by Scot Erigene whence they impreg- 
nated the mystic thought of the Western Church. Their power 
is attested by St. Anselm, by St. Bonaventura, and by St. 
Thomas, who wrote commentaries upon them ; the great doctors 
of the thirteenth century put them above the writings of the 
Church Fathers. In the fourteenth century the mystic furnaces 
of Meister Eckhart, and still more those of Ruysbroeck, were 
fed on their fires : again, at the time of the Italian Renaissance, 
they were the delectation of the great Christian Platonists, 
Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola ; and they continued to 
be the substance of our Berullians, our Salesians, 20 and the 
greatest mystics of the seventeenth century in France, as the 
recent works of the Abb Br^mond have shown. 
Hence, whatever the name of the architect, they form the 
monumental substructures of all Christian thought in the West 
18 On the occasion of a religious conference summoned to Con- 
stantinople by Justinian. It is also noteworthy that the writings 
of Denis were invoked by the Severian heretics. A strong argu- 
ment in then: favour is that the orthodox, from instincts of defence 
or resentment, made no attempt to throw doubt on their authenticity ! 
And from that time onwards they were invoked and paraphrased 
until they almost became " holy oracles/ 1 to use the words of the 
sacred texts. 
1 Here are some vital facts, showing then: uncontested authority 
in the Christian Church, both Eastern and Western : In the sixth 
century Denis was venerated by St. Gregory as " antiquus videlicet 
et venerabilis Pater.'' In the seventh century Pope Martin I quoted 
him textually in the Lateran Council of 640, to prove Catholic 
dogma against heresy. His works were again used at the third 
Council of Constantinople, 692, and at the second Council of Nicea. 
In the eighth century the great Eastern Father, St. John the 
Damascene, " the St. Thomas of the Greeks of the Lower Empire/' 
became his disciple. In 824 or 827 the Emperor of Constantinople, 
Michael the Lame, made a gift of his writings to Louis the Good. 
Scot Erigene, who translated them for Charles the Bald, was en- 
tirely reborn by his spirit. He infused his own ardent breath into 
it and made it into a leaven of pantheistic mysticism for the West. 
Since then Denis has been associated with all mental contests. 
w I would remind the reader that these names designate the 
French religious school of Francis of Sales, or Berulle, in the 
seventeenth century. 
during the ten most important centuries of its development. 
And they are more than that to the man who has eyes to see 
they form one of the most harmonious cathedrals that* has 
sprung from Christian thought and that still remains a living 
witness to it. 
Its singular value is that it stands just at the junction of 
the East and the West, at the exact moment when their teach- 
ings were united. 21 Whether its architect has borrowed his 
art from Alexandrine masters or whether they borrowed it 
largely from him, the result is the same for us a union of the 
highest Hellenic and the purest Christian thought a marriage 
regularly consecrated in the eyes of the Church and acknow- 
ledged by her throughout the West. 
Before tasting its fruits, I must remove from the minds of 
my readers the impression of discredit thrown over the old 
master in advance by the unfortunate word, Pseudo, which has 
in it the taint of falsehood. There is, for instance, a beautiful 
picture called a " false Rembrandt " that is still scorned, because 
the idea of false implies imitation ! But if it pleases an artist 
to hide his work under the name of somebody who never left 
any work behind him, is that any argument against his origi- 
nality ? At most the scheme might lead to a suspicion of the 
masked man's honesty. But this is less explicable after a study 
of Denis's works : for if there is one impression left by them 
it is that of the highest moral integrity ; it is unthinkable 
that so lofty a mind could have stooped to subterfuge, even 
in the interest of his faith ; and I prefer to think that after 
his death he was exploited by others. At all events and in 
spite of quite definite interpolations and retouches in the original 
11 If the date, 500, generally accepted to-day, is taken as the 
central point of Denis's career, he must have seen the end of Alex- 
andria (Proclus 410-185) and of the Nee-Platonic school of Athens 
in 529. He therefore in a sense closed the eyes of Greek Philosophy. 
It is certain at least that both arise from the common metaphysical 
depths, wherein the wealth of Platonism, early Christianity, and 
the ancient East were mingled, and that from this storehouse the 
first five centuries of our era drew with open hands. It was a 
period of universalism of thought. According to the tradition 
(based on one of his extant letters) Denis visited Egypt in his youth 
with a friend, Apollophanes, who followed the Sophist philosophy, 
and had remained a pagan. Apollophanes never forgave him for 
his conversion to Christianity, and in this letter accuses him of 
"parricide," because, as Denis explains, " I lacked filial piety in 
using against the Greeks what I had learned from the Greeks/' 
The affiliation of Greece and Christianity is here specifically 
text, the text still presents from end to end both treatises 
and letters a unity and harmony that leave in the memory 
of those who have read them an indelible impression of the 
serene face of the old master, more vivid than that left by 
many living people. aa 
The keystone of the edifice and the whole edifice itself 
the alpha and omega of the work is " Super-eminent Unity " 
" Unity the mother of all other unity." And the grandeur of 
his definitions and negations, which seek less to attain than 
to invoke It, 23 is equal and parallel to Vedantic language. . . . 
" Without reason, without understanding, without name. . . . 
Author of all things, nevertheless It is not because It surpasses 
all that is. ..." 24 Itself not being the cause of being to all, 25 
and that which is included in the same title as the Non-Being. 
Everything is reduced to this unique object, which is at 
11 It is to be regretted on behalf of Christianity that this work 
should be so difficult of access : for very few religious texts give 
a higher and at the same time more human, more compassionate 
or purer representation of Christian thought than these pages. In 
them no word of intolerance, animosity, and vain and bitter polemic, 
comes to destroy the beautiful concord of intelligence and goodness 
whether he is explaining with affectionate and broad understand- 
ing the problem of evil, and embracing all, even the worst, in the 
rays of Divine Good, or whether he is recalling a monk of malicious 
faith to meekness by telling him the admirable legend (which would 
have enchanted old Tolstoy) of Christ coming down again from 
heaven to defend a renegade about to die against one of his own 
sect, with this rebuke to the inhuman Christianity : " Strike against 
Me in future, for I am ready, even again, to suffer for the salvation 
of men." (Letter VIII.) 
18 M. Ferdinand Morel in his Essai sur I' introversion mystique 
(1918) has submitted Denis the Areopagite to a psycho-analytical 
examination, and has picked out the words he uses most frequently 
faeg (always applied to God) and avr6. They might imply the 
double impetus of returning within the self and the expansion of 
the inner Being (psycho-analysts would say : the projection of an 
introvert I). M. F. Morel further recognizes the powerful activity 
expended in great intuition, and the acuteness of regard necessary 
to explore the subconscious world. 
14 Book of Divine Names, I, i. 
" Ibid., Vol. I, p. 2, of the English translation by the Rev. John 
Parker, 1897 ed. 
" The non-being, this transcendental appellation only belongs to 
that which exists in sovereign good in a super-eminent fashion . . . 
Since the latter (the Sovereign Good) surpasses infinitely the Being, 
it follows that in a certain way non-being finds a place in Him." 
(Ibid.. IV, V.) 
the same time the unique subject. It is an intoxication of 
unity, 86 wherein intelligence without ever losing its clarity gives 
itself to the torrential flood of immense Love and its " circular " 
" Divine Love (which is the smooth flowing of the ineffable 
Unity) indicates distinctly its own unending and unbeginning, 
as it were, a sort of everlasting circle whirling round in unerring 
combination, by reason of the Good . . . and ever advancing 
and remaining and returning in the same and throughout the 
same." B7 
The whole world then is subject to divine gravitation, and 
the movement of all things is a march towards God. The 
sole aim of all conscious spirits is to " find their perfection in 
being carried to the Divine imitation . . . and, what is more 
Divine than all, in becoming a fellow- worker with God." M 
And the " imitation " may be done in an infinite number 
of ways, for " each . . . find their perfection in being carried 
to Divine imitation in their own proper degree ; " * 9 and he 
will become most like Him who " have participated in it, in 
many forms." 80 
But there are three principal ways of approach to Him. And 
each of the three may be followed in two ways, by Affirmation 
or by Negation. 
This intoxication discovers images of Unity to the spirit in 
all the words that invoke It. Hence the most daring etymologies : 
the sun, MIOC is II ooAA^;, " He who collects and maintains Him- 
self in unity," beauty, ^oA^c is xoA&o, " i cs ^ t j collect," etc. The 
spirit is truly haunted with unity. 
" Book of Divine Names, IV, 14. 
This conception of the " ring of Love," going and coming, is 
preserved in the mystic theology of the seventeenth century, which 
Henri Br6mond has analysed for us. 
It is the double " Profession " of divine Persons of the Dominican 
Chardon generation and grace. " The one is the eternal reason 
for the production of creatures and for their emergence from their 
cause. The other is the model of their return . . . And both 
together they form the circle of love, begun by God to come to 
us, begun by us to and in God. They are one production ..." 
(The Cross of Jesus, 1647.) 
And the Bemllian, Claude Sequenot, says the same (1634) : 
" We come out of God through the Creation, which is ascribed 
to the Father by the Son ; we return to Him by grace which is 
attributed to the Holy Spirit." 
11 Book of the Celestial Hierarchy, III, 2 based upon St. Paul : 
I Corinthians iii. 9. 
The Celestial Hierarchy, III, 2. ' Ibid., IV, x. 
The two affirmative ways are : 
1. By a knowledge of the qualities and attributes of God, 
attained by the symbols of the Divine Names, which " the 
divine oracles " (that is to say, the Scriptures) have provided 
for our infirmity of spirit. 
2. By the method of all that exists the created worlds: 
for God is in all creatures, and the imprint of His seal may be 
found on all matter, although the mark of the seal varies accord- 
ing to the different kinds of matter. 81 All the worlds are united 
in one river. The laws of the physical world correspond to 
the laws of the higher world. 32 It is then lawful to seek God 
under the veil of the most humble forms, for "all the streams 
of love (even animal love ; which therein finds its justifica- 
tion) 8S participate in holy Love, their unique source. 
3. But all these means that we possess, thanks to the tender- 
ness of God, who proportions His light to the weak eyes of 
humanity and " places forms and shapes around the formless 
and shapeless " and under the manifold and the complex con- 
ceals Unity, 84 are imperfect. And the other path, that of 
negation, is higher, and more worthy, 86 it is more certain, 
and goes further. 
Few there are, " even in the sacred ranks," who attain to 
the One, and yet some exist. " There are spirits among us 
called to a like grace, as far as it is possible for man. . . . They 
are those who, by the suspension of all intellectual operation, 
11 " Even matter, inasmuch as it is matter, participates in the good 
(The Book of Divine Names, II, 6, p. 214 of the French translation). 
" The Celestial Hierarchy, XIII, 3. 
" The Divine Names : Extracts from pious hymns of the for- 
tunate Hierotheus : 
" Love, whether we speak of Divine, or Angelic, or intelligent, 
or psychical, or physical, let us regard as a certain unifying and 
combining power . . . Collecting these again into one, let us say 
that it is a certain simplex power, which of itself moves to a sort 
of unifying combination from the Good, to the lowest of things 
existing, and from that again in due order, circling round again, 
through all the Good from itself, and through itself, and by itself, 
and rolling back to itself always in the same way." 
For Hierotheus, the master and friend of the Pseudo-Denis, cf. 
Langen : Die Schule des Hierotheus, 1893. 
14 The Divine Names, I, 4. 
" The Celestial Hierarchy, II, 3. 
Ibid., II, 5. " Divine things should be honoured 
" The negatives respecting things Divine are true 
mations are inharmonious." 
enter into intimate union with the ineffable light. And they 
speak of God only through negations. . . ." M 
The great path of Negation is the object of a special treatise, 
famous from medieval to modern times : The Treatise of Mystic 
Denis instructed an initiate, Timotheus, in it although he 
told him to keep the mysteries a strict secret (for their know- 
ledge is dangerous to unprepared minds). He taught him the 
entry into what he calls " Divine gloom," and which he ex- 
plained in his letters 37 as " unapproachable light/' and also into 
that " mystic ignorance," which being different from ordinary 
ignorance " in its superior sense, is a knowledge of Him, Who 
is above all known things." 
Man must " abandon moderate negations for stronger and 
stronger ones. . . . And we may venture to deny everything 
about God in order to penetrate into this sublime ignorance," 
which is in verity sovereign knowledge. He uses the beautiful 
simile of the sculptor's chisel removing the covering of stone, 
and " bringing forth the inner form to view, freeing the hidden 
beauty by the sole process of curtailment." M 
The first task is to tear aside the veil of " sensible things." 89 
The second task is to remove the last garments, the wrappings 
of " Intelligible things." 40 
The actual words deserve to be quoted : 
" It is neither soul nor mind ; nor has imagination, or opinion, 
or reason, or conception ; neither is expressed nor conceived ; 
neither is number nor order ; nor greatness nor littleness ; 
nor equality nor inequality ; nor similarity nor dissimilarity ; 
neither is standing, nor moving ; nor at rest ; neither has 
power, nor is power nor light ; neither lives nor is life ; neither 
is essence nor eternity nor time ; neither is Its touch intelligible, 
neither is It science nor truth ; nor kingdom, nor wisdom ; 
neither one nor oneness ; neither Deity, nor Goodness ; nor is 
it Spirit according to our understanding ; nor Sonship nor 
Paternity ; nor any other thing of those known .. to us, or to 
any other existing being ; neither is It any of non-existing 
nor existing things, nor do things existing know It, as It is ; 
"Divine Nfrmes, I, 5. 
17 Letter I to Gaius Therapeutes ; Letter V to Deacon Dorotheus. 
"Mystic Theology, II. 
* Ibid., IV : " That the pre-eminent Cause of every object of 
sensible perception is none of the objects of sensible perception. 
40 Ibid., V : " That the pre-eminent Cause of every object of in- 
telligible perception is none of the objects of intelligible perception." 
nor does It know existing things, qua existing; neither is 
there expression of It, nor name, nor knowledge ; neither is Is 
darkness nor light ; nor error nor truth ; neither is there any 
definition of all of It, nor ^ny abstraction. But when making 
the predications and abstractions of things after It, we neither 
predicate nor abstract from It ; since the all-perfect and uniform 
Cause of all is both above every definition and the pre-eminence 
of Him, who is absolutely freed from all and beyond the whole, 
is also above every abstraction." 41 
Is there any religious Hindu who will not recognize in the 
intellectual intoxication of this total Negation, the Advaitic 
teachings of absolute Jnana-yoga, after it has arrived at the 
fact of realization ? 
At this point in the conquest of the Divine, the achievement 
of the " Unreasonable, the cause of all reason/' 42 the liberated 
and enlightened soul enters into the Peace and Silence of Unity. 48 
41 Cf. " Deus propter excelkntiam non immerito Nihil vocatur." 
(Scot Erigene.) 
" L' Amour Primordial n'est rien par rapport a autre chose" 
(Primordial Love is nothing in relation to anything else.) (Jacob 
" Gott ist lauter Nichts, ihn ruhrt kein Nun nach Hier." (God is 
mere nothing ; to Him belongs neither Now nor Here.) (Angelus 
Negation is not more forcibly emphasized in the famous verses 
of Sankara which Vivekananda recited to the dying Ramakrishna 
in the garden of Cossipore : 
" I am neither spirit, nor intelligence, nor the ego, nor the sub- 
stance of the spirit, 
I am neither the senses . . . nor ether, nor the earth, fire nor air, 
I am neither aversion, nor attachment, nor desire . . . 
I am neither sin, nor virtue, nor pleasure, nor pain . . . etc. 
I am Absolute Existence, Absolute Knowledge, Absolute Bliss. 
I am He, I am He. ..." (Quoted by the Prabuddha Bharata, 
March, 1929.) 
I would go so far as to say that on this occasion Hindu thought is 
less daring than Christian thought, since after each strophe of 
negation it hastens to find foothold in " Existence, Knowledge 
and Bliss," even though it is absolute, and Christian mystics, the 
descendants of Denis, make a clean sweep of everything, blotting 
out even Existence and Essence from their conception of God. 
41 " Divine Wisdom, which his excellence renders unreasonable, 
is the cause of all reason." (Divine Names, VII.) 
48 Cf. in Divine Names the beautiful Chapter XI on the Divine 
Peace that Divine Peace and Repose which the holy Justus 
calls unutterableness and immobility " marvellously active." 
That is the theme of Denis, used again and again after him by 
It does not see God, it does not know Him : " it rests there." 44 
It is deified. 45 It no longer speaks of God: it is Himself: 
" But you will find that the Word of God calls gods, both 
the Heavenly Beings above us, and the most beloved of God, 
and holy men amongst us, although the Divine Hiddenness is 
transcendentally elevated, established above all, and created 
Being can properly and wholly be said to be like unto It, except 
those intellectual and rational Beings, who are entirely and 
wholly turned to Its Oneness, as far as possible, and who elevate 
themselves incessantly to its Divine illuminations, as far as 
attainable, by their imitation of God, if I may so speak, according 
to their power, and are deemed worthy of the same divine 
name. 1 ' 
From that moment the " deified " the saint, who is united 
to God, having drunk from the source of the Divine sun, becomes 
in his turn a sun to those below. " By ordinance, and for 
Divine imitation, the relatively superior (is source) for each 
after it, by the fact, that the Divine rays are poured through 
it to that." 47 
And gradually the light spreads through all the ranks of 
the double Hierarchy of the celestial and the human, in an 
unbroken chain linking the humblest to the highest. Moreover, 
this hierarchy is reflected in each individual. ' ' Each heavenly and 
all the great Christian mystics for ten centuries in their canticle of 
" Dark Silence," similarly Suso : 
" Without knowing where, I enter into silence, 
And I dwell in ignorance, 
Above all knowledge . . . 
A place without light, an effect without a cause ..." 
(Strophes of St. John-of-the-Cross on " obscure contemplation.") 
" The silent desert of the Divinity . . . who is properly no 
being . . ." said Eckhart. 
The French seventeenth century kept pure and unadulterated 
the great motif of the " darkness " and the " silence " of God, which 
it drew from the source of the Areopagite (often quoted) ; but it 
brought to the description of the Inner Voyage all the psychological 
resources of its race and time. There is nothing more astounding 
of its kind, except the Dark Night of St. Jean-de-la-Croix than the 
pages of the Dominican Chardon (The Cross of Jesus, 1647), quoted 
by Henri Bremond, in his Metaphysique des Saints, Vol. II, pp. 59-68. 
44 Letter to Dorotheas. 
41 " (Preservation) cannot otherwise take place, except those who 
are being saved are being deified. Now the assimilation to, union 
with, God, as far as attainable, is deification." (Book of the Ecclesi- 
astic Hierarchy, I, 3.) 
4i The Celestial Hierarchy, XII, 3, and XIII, 2. 4 Ibid., XIII, 3. 
human mind has within itself its own special proof, and middle, 
and last ranks, and powers, manifested severally in due degree, 
for the aforesaid particular mythical meanings of the Hierarchical 
illuminations ... for there is nothing that is self-perfectexcept 
the really Self-Perfect and pre-eminently Perfect." ** 
This perfecting is the object of initiation, whereby souls are 
made to pass through three stages : i. Purification ; 2. Illum- 
ination ; 3. Consummation in the perfect knowledge of the 
splendours. 49 
To the first rank of the initiated belong those religious monas- 
tics, who, like the sannyasins of India, are under the vow of 
complete purification. They " remove their mind from the dis- 
traction of multiple things and precipitate themselves towards 
Divine unity and the perfection of holy love/ 1 60 Their perfect 
philosophy " is trained to the knowledge of the commandments 
whose aim is the union of man and God." 51 
But it is not necessary to belong to a privileged order to 
attain this knowledge of the Divine Unity. For It is inscribed 
in each one. " The Divine Light is always unfolded beneficially 
to the intellectual visions ; " even to those who reject it. 52 
If it is not seen, it is because man cannot see it. And the proper 
business of initiation is to teach him to see it. " Inasmuch 
as the Divine Being is source of sacred order, within which 
the holy minds regulate themselves, he, who recurs to the proper 
view of Nature, will see his proper self in what he was originally." 
He has only to contemplate himself with " unbiased eyes." 63 
Purification, symbolized by ritual ablutions, does not only con- 
cern the body and the senses ; but the spirit as well. The 
unalterable condition of realizing communion (in the sense of 
the eucharistic sacrifice) 64 is to be " purified even to the re- 
motest illusions of the soul." 65 
This word " illusions " used in such a sense is like an echo 
of the Hindu Maya. 66 I was often reminded of the latter when 
" Ibid., X, 3. 
" The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, VI, 3. 60 Ibid., VI, 3. 
81 Ibid., VI, 3. " Ibid., II, Part 3, 3. " Ibid., II, Part 3, 4. 
14 Denis gives it the mysterious name of Synaxe, <5w*f*c, mean- 
ing the act of going back to unity through absolute concentration. 
" The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, III, 10. 
But the reader, being informed to a certain extent of the 
trend of Hindu Vedantic thought, will have discovered resemblances 
at each step of my summary between the two mysticisms : The 
path of negation, the " deification " of individual souls, Christian 
sannyasins forcing themselves from multiplicity and the passionate 
return to unity, the science of divine unity, etc. 
I was reading the long and beautiful explanation of Evil, in 
the system of the Areopagite. Both use the same terms to 
deny both being and non-being : 
" Evil is non-existing ; if this be not the case, it is not 
altogether evil, nor non-existing, for the absolutely non-existing 
will be nothing, unless it should be spoken of as in the Good 
super-essentially . 67 
" Evil has neither fixity, nor identity; it is varied, indefinite, 
as if floating in subjects that do not possess immutability in 
themselves . . . Evil, as evil, is not a reality. It is not a being. 
, . . Evil as evil is nowhere. . . ." M 
Everything exists only of and through the Good, which is 
the " Super-eminent Unity." 
At every moment there is the feeling that the links with 
the East are still intact, and it is difficult to disentangle them. 
When he describes the ceremonies to be rendered to the dead, 
Denis thinks of the " loud laugh " or disdainful smile of some 
profane persons when brought face to face with rites implying 
a belief that seems to them absurd. And he alludes to the 
opposite belief in Reincarnation. But he does not treat it 
with the pitying scorn that he expects from his own opponents. 
He says with admirable forbearance that in his opinion it is wrong : 
" Some of them imagine that the souls depart into other 
bodies ; but this seems to me unjust to the bodies who have 
shared the works of holy souls, since they are unworthily de- 
prived of the divine rewards awaiting them at the end of the 
way. . . ." 
* * * 
The Areopagite uses many materials in his religious edifice 
that are to be found in the constructions of Indian thought. 
And if there is nothing to justify the view that the one has 
borrowed from the other, it must be granted that they both 
come from a common quarry. I have neither the means nor 
the desire to find out what it is. My knowledge of the human 
spirit leads me to discover it in the unity of thought and laws 
governing that spirit. The primordial instinct, the desire for 
mystic union with the Absolute that is embedded in each in- 
dividual and that urges each man towards It, has very limited 
means of expression ; and its great paths have been traced once 
and for all by the exigences and limitations of nature itself. 
67 Divine Names, IV, 19, p. 30 of the French translation. 
" Evil, to Plotinus, is merely a lesser good. And absolute Evil, 
infinite Matter, symbolized the limit of the less good, the last stage 
of the " Divine Procession." 
"Divine Names, VII, i, 2. 
Different races merely take with them over the same roads 
their different temperaments, habits and preferences. 
In my opinion what distinguishes a Christian mystic imbued 
with the Hellenic spirit from the Indian Vedantist is as follows : 
It is quite obvious that the former possesses a genius of 
imperial order, which demands good government. A harmo- 
nious and strict " Hierarchy " controls the whole edifice of the 
Areopagite. The associated elements cohere and are ordered 
with justice, prudence, and lucidity. And in that union each 
one keeps its own place and its own identity. 60 The vital 
instinct of the European is to cling to the smallest portions 
of his individuality and to desire to perpetuate them, and this 
instinct is curiously wedded to the elementary force of mystic 
gravitation which tends to lose the multiplicity of beings and 
forms in the incandescent gulf of Unity. " The Divine Peace " 
described by Denis in one of his most beautiful hymns, 61 is 
that perfect peace which ought to reign over the entire universe 
and in each individual, and which both unites and distinguishes 
all the elements that constitute the general harmony. It 
" reconciles " the diverse substances with each other and re- 
unites them without altering them, so that in their alliance 
there is neither separation nor distance, but they kept the 
integrity of their own proper sphere and do not lose their own 
nature by an admixture of contrary elements ; nothing disturbs 
either their unanimous concert or the purity of their own par- 
ticular essence. 62 
This desire to safeguard the integrity and the continuance 
of individuals even in the bosom of the absolute Being is so 
powerful in Denis's case that he justifies not only natural in- 
equality, 68 but (within Divine Peace itself) the fighting instinct 
60 This desire for order, and this majestic Hierarchy, are directly 
inspired by the " Divine Procession " (ngdeicnv) of Plotmus. 
" There is a procession between the first and the last ; and in 
this procession each keeps his own proper place. The created 
being is subordinate to the creative being. Nevertheless it remains 
similar to the Principle to which it is attached in so far as it is 
61 Divine Names, XI. 
61 Ibid., pp. 260-61 of the French translation. 
8 He only condemns inequalities " resulting from a lack of pro- 
portion. For if by inequality we wish to imply the differences that 
characterize and distinguish living beings, we should say that it is 
divine justice that keeps them, to see that disorder an4 confusion 
are not re-established in the world." (Divine Names.) 
" Goethe's saying is surpassed. Denis does not love 'injustice^' 
more than ' disorder ' disorder to him is the supreme injustice." 
that drives each individual to defend the preservation of its 
essence, 64 and even the cruelties of nature, so long as they 
correspond to the laws of types and elements. 65 
Another dominant characteristic of Christian mysticism is 
the super-eminent place it gives to Goodness and Beauty. 
This comes from its double descent noble on both sides 
from Christ and Greece. The word Beauty appears in 
the very first words of Denis. 66 Beauty is the very quality 
4 It was observed to Denis that men and things do not seem 
to lend themselves to peace that they " rejoice in diversity and 
division and would not be willingly in repose." He replied that if 
this implied that no being wished to lose his own nature, he saw 
even in this tendency a desire for peace. " For all things love to 
dwell at peace, and to be united amongst themselves, and to be 
unmoved and unfallen from themselves, and the things of them- 
selves. And the perfect Peace seeks to guard the idiosyncrasy of 
each unmoved and unconfused, by its peace-giving forethought, 
preserving everything unmoved and unconfused, both as regards 
themselves and each other, and establishes all things by a stable 
and unswerving power towards their own peace and immobility. 
And if all things in motion desire, not repose, but ever to make 
known their own proper movement, even this is an aspiration after 
the Divine Peace of the whole, which preserves all things from 
falling away of their own accord, and guards the idiosyncrasy and 
moving life of all moving things unmoved and free from falling, 
so that the things moved, being at peace amongst themselves, and 
always in the same condition, perform their own proper functions." 
(Divine Names, XL, 3 and 4, p. 262 of the French translation.) 
Peace here denotes the Spinozan tendency to persevere in being, 
and cannot be described, any more than can Spinozan Peace, as 
41 belli privatio sed virtus est quae ex animi fortitudine oritur." (A 
translation of Spinoza's thought : " Peace is not lack of war, but 
an inner virtue, which has its source in the courage of the soul.") 
I think that Vivekananda would have subscribed to this defini- 
* Neither is the evil in irrational creatures, for if you should 
take away anger and lust and the other things which we speak of, 
and which are not absolutely evil in their own nature, the lion 
having lost his boldness and fierceness will not be a lion ... So 
the fact that nature is not destroyed is not an evil, but a destruc- 
tion of nature, weakness and failure of the natural habitudes and 
energies and powers." 
" And if all things through generation in time have their perfec- 
tion, the imperfect is not altogether contrary to universal nature." 
(Divine Names, LV, 25, pp. 64-65 of the English translation.) 
" All things are very beautiful. . . ." 
" Nothing that exists is radically devoid of all beauty." 
" Matter . . . having had its beginning from the Essentially 
of the Infinite. It is the source and the end of humanity. 67 
And Goodness to a still higher degree. It is the very source 
of Being. It is the Divine Origin. The Areopagite puts it 
in the place of the Gaurisankar of the Divine Himalayas, at 
the zenith of the Attributes of God. It is the sun, but infinitely 
more powerful. 68 From it issues everything else that is : light, 
intelligence, love, union, order, harmony, eternal life. Even 
Being, " the first of all the gifts of God/ 1 is the offspring of 
Goodness. It is the firstborn. 69 
This point of view is apparently very different from Hindu 
Mysticism, where the Absolute reigns supreme above good and 
evil. But it communicates to the Areopagite's whole thought 
a serenity, a tranquil and certain joy, without any of the tragic 
shades of a Vivekananda. 70 
But we must not deceive ourselves : the word Goodness in 
the mouth of Denis has little in common with Christian senti- 
mentalism. Neither " Divine Peace/' nor Divine Goodness, 
passes over in its scheme of things the mass of weakness, violence 
and suffering in the universe : they all go to make up its sym- 
phony ; and each dissonance, if it is in the right place, adds 
to the richness of the harmony. It does not even forbid the 
chastisement of error, if that error violates the laws inherent 
in human nature ; for nature has endowed every man with 
liberty ; " and it is not a function of Providence to destroy 
Beautiful, has throughout the whole range of matter some echoes 
of the intellectual comeliness." 
(Concerning the Celestial Hierarchy, II, 3 and 4.) 
7 " The Beautiful is the origin of all things, as a creating cause, 
both by moving the whole, and holding it together by the love of 
its own peculiar Beauty ; and end of all things, and beloved as 
final Cause (for all things exist for the sake of the Beautiful) and 
exemplary (Cause), because all things are determined according to 
It ... Yea, reason will dare to say even this, that even the non- 
existing participates in the Beautiful and Good/' (Divine Names, 
IV, 7.) 
All this part of the chapter is a hymn to Beauty. 
68 Ibid., the whole of Chapter IV. 
M Ibid., V, 5 and 6. " Absolute and infinite goodness produces 
the being as its first good action." 
70 And I recall that even Ramakrishna, who lived in a continual 
state of bliss, loving Maya as a son, was not blind to the tragic 
face of the universe, and showed on occasions the stupidity of 
characterizing God as good. He did not deny the apparent cruelty 
of nature, but he forbade any judgment of the divine will directing 
it ; and his piety bowed down before the inscrutable decrees of the 
infinite Force. 
nature. 11 71 On the contrary it must " watch " that the in- 
tegrity of each individual nature is maintained, and with it the 
integrity of the whole universe and of each of its parts. And 
that is what is meant by " universal salvation." 72 
It is clear that all these different terms : Providence, Salva- 
tion, Goodness and Peace express no shallow optimism. Their 
conception arises from an uncompromising and disillusioned 
view of nature. They demand an intrepidity of heart and 
mind, 78 not far removed from the heroism of Vivekananda, 
but better able to maintain the unshakable serenity of a great 
soul that is one with the Sovereign Unity and wedded to its 
eternal designs. 
The atmosphere in which Denis's ideas are steeped is less 
moral, in the ordinary sense, than cosmic, and its temperature 
is closer to that of Indian Mysticism than to simple Christian 
thought, which rallies round the Crucified nameless multitudes 
of the humble and oppressed. The energies are maintained by 
the impersonal command of nature's laws, which combine and 
unite the elements in all their multiplicity. But the order of 
71 " We will not admit the vain statement of the multitude, that 
Providence ought to lead us to virtue even against our will. For 
to destroy nature is not a function of Providence. Hence, as 
Providence is conservative of the nature of each, it provides for 
the free, as free ; and for the whole and individual, according to 
the wants of all and each . . . distributed proportionally to each." 
(Divine Names, IV, 33.) 
Even Plotinus's conception of Liberty has traces of it ; for he 
reproved Stoic fatalism. Man is the master of his actions. 4 ' Liberty 
is included in the plan of the universe from all eternity." (Enn., 
Ill, 3, 7, I, 255.) 
71 " Divine justice is celebrated also even as preservation of the 
whole, as preserving and guarding the excuse and order of each 
district apart from the rest." (Divine Names, VIII, 9.) 
7 * Ibid., VIII, 8. Compare his quiet reply to those who were 
astonished and grumbled that " good people are abandoned without 
redress to the vexations of the wicked." It was one of two things, 
he said, either that so-called good people set their affections upon 
worldly things, which were torn from them ; and therefore they 
were " entirely cut off " from the quality they had usurped and 
from Divine Love. Or else they really loved eternal things and 
then they ought to rejoice in all the tribulations whereby they were 
made worthy to enjoy them. 
I have already quoted his conception of Christ as the " chief of 
the athletes," leading his band into the lists " to fight for liberty." 
(The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, II, Part 3, 6.) I have compared this 
passage to words of Vivekananda. 
the Areopagite has this advantage over the Indian, that it 
partakes of the harmony of Greek reason and the Roman genius 
of imperial organization. Denis, so we feel strongly, is obliged 
to satisfy the double exigencies of the Hellenic mind, nourished 
on Eastern thought, and the evangelistic heart filled with the 
dream of the crucified Saviour. He has encircled the Christ 
with a rich halo of Alexandrine speculation, and as a result 
the fascination of the halo has in a measure eclipsed the Christ. 
The first who approached its circle of light, like John Scot 
Erigene, was blinded by it. He was the only man of his century 
to come into contact with them, and to live in long and secret 
communion with this mysterious work ; for he was almost the 
only living man of his age who understood the language in which 
it was written. He drank of the mystic draught, and from it 
he imbibed the secret, so dangerous to orthodoxy, of the freedom 
of the mind intoxicated by symbols, wherein the letter of the 
Christian faith is little by little drowned in the limitless and 
unfathomable ocean of the One. By way of Denis, Plotinus, 
Philo, the Infinite of Asia filtered through him into the religious 
soul of the West. The Church condemned him in vain during 
the thirteenth century. He flourished openly in the enchanted 
philter of the great mystics of the fourteenth century the 
most intoxicated of them, Meister Eckhart, being condemned 
by the Avignon Papacy. 
That is why it is easy to understand the caution wherewith 
the Church to-day conceals even while it honours " the Pseudo- 
Denis " that old, equivocal, obscure, uncertain and dangerous 
master/ 1 as he was called by the French historian best qualified 
to write of Western mysticism. 74 Nobody can deny that the 
judgment was correct from the orthodox point of view although 
ten centuries of orthodoxy had been nourished upon Denis ; 
and were none the worse for it I But we, who do not trouble 
about orthodoxy, who are only guided by the attraction of the 
great sources of intelligence and a common love of humanity, 
have rejoiced to discover and to show in the work of the Areo- 
pagite (to use again Ramakrishna's ingenious parable) one of 
the flights of steps leading to the reservoir with several ghats. 76 
There from one of the ghats, Hindus fetch the water they call 
74 Henri BrSraond : Historic UtUraire du sentiment religieux en 
France, VII. La Metaphysique des Saints, Vol. I, p. 158. 
71 And in the West on the other side of the Atlantic, Emerson's 
voice was an echo of Ramakrishna's : 
" All beings proceed from the same spirit, which bears different 
names, love, justice or wisdom, in its different manifestations, just 
Brahman. And from another Christians draw the water they 
call Christ. But it is always the same water. 
* * * 
To sum up : the following in my opinion are the three chief 
lessons that Hindu religious thought should be interested to 
learn, and to take from European mysticism : 
1. The architectural sense of Christian metaphysicians. I 
have just described it in the work of Denis ; and his sovereign 
art is to be found throughout the Middle Ages. The men who 
raised the cathedrals, carried into the construction of the mind 
the same genius of intelligent order and harmonious balance 
that made them the master builders of the arches linking the 
Infinite to the finite. 76 
2. The psychological science of the Christian explorers of 
the " Dark Night " of the Infinite. In it they expended a 
genius, at least equal (sometimes superior) to that which has 
since been diverted into profane literature through the theatre 
and the novel. The psychology of the mystic masters of the 
sixteenth century in Spain and the seventeenth century in 
France foreshadowed that of the classical poets ; and modern 
thinkers who imagine that they have discovered the Subconscious 
have scarcely reached the same level. It goes without saying 
that their interpretations differ. But the essential point is not 
the interpretation, the name given by the mind to what it sees 
but what it sees. The eyes of Western mysticism reached 
to the limits of the inaccessible. 
3. The formidable energies that Western mysticism uses to 
achieve Divine Union, in particular the passionate violence of 
the European accustomed to battle and action. It devoured 
Ruysbroeck, so that his Bhakti (Love) sometimes took on the 
guise of the Seven Deadly Sins : " Implacable Desire," the 
fury of mortal " Combat," the " torrent of delights," the em- 
brace of carnal possession, 77 and the colossal hunger of the 
as the Ocean receives other names when it bathes other shores. 1 ' 
(Lecture at Harvard, 1838.) 
"In this they differ from intellectual logicians who strive to 
separate the mind into compartments. And the difference between 
St. John-of-the-Cross and Calvin, who were almost contemporary, 
has often been remarked : the latter sacrificed the finite to the 
infinite, the former established at the same time the difference and 
the connexion between the two conceptions. 
" See, in the magnificent French translation by Ernest Hello 
(new edition, Perrin, 1912), extracts from De ornatu spiritalium 
nuptiarum (" concerning insatiable hunger," pp. 38-9 ; " The com- 
bat " between the spirit of God and the soul, a description of un- 
% , 
Epicurean. Similarly the " irascibilis" of Eckhart whose Soul 
being identical with God's, " cannot bear anything above it 
even. God Himself/' and so seizes Him by force. 78 
In these three directions I believe that Indian Mysticism 
might find sources of enrichment. 79 And, I believe further, 
heard of brutality and crudity, pp. 40-41 ; or again " The Meeting 
on the Mountain," pp. 54-5 ; and " the Embrace," pp. 71 et seq.) 
and from De Septem Custodiis Libellus (the description of the " tem- 
pest of love," pp. 106-11). A French reader who had been fore- 
warned would have little difficulty in recognizing in this burning 
torrent the reflected face of more than one illustrious Catholic poet 
like Claudel, who has borrowed from it. 
78 Eckhart 's third proposition was condemned by a Papal Bull. 
It declared that " man with God has created the heaven and the 
earth " and that " God can do nothing without man." In a sermon 
he enumerated the three highest virtues, ascribing " irascibilis " to 
the second place under the definition of " Violent upward aspira- 
tion." And he added that the lack of it was a sin ; " Die Seele 
kann nichts erttragen dass irgend etwas uber ihr sei. Ich glaube, sie 
kann nicht einmal das ertragen dass Gott uber ihr sei." " Thanks to 
this power," he says, " God is seized (ergreifen) by the soul." 
(P. 236-37 of the edition of Insel-Verlag, Leipzig : Meister Eck- 
hart Deutsche Predigten und Traktate, 1927.) 
79 We do not claim as do so many Western thinkers in particular 
M. Rudolf Otto, in his fine study of " Fichte and the Advaita " 
(published hi West-Ostliche Mystik, 1926) that the superiority of 
Western Mysticism is in " Lebendige Tatigkeit," in its character of 
action coupled to divine contemplation. What is the Gita but a 
heroic exaltation of action ? 
" . . . It is not enough to abstain from action to free oneself 
from the act. . . . Activity is superior to inaction. . . . The 
former carries a man away, who controls his senses by the spirit, 
and fully detached, imposes on them disciplined effort. . . . There 
is not, O son of Pritha, in the three worlds anything that I am 
bound to do, nothing in which I am lacking, nothing which I have 
to acquire, and nevertheless I dwell in action. The worlds would 
cease to exist, if I did not accomplish my work ; I would be the 
cause of universal confusion and of the end of all creatures. The 
ignorant work through attachment to the act while the wise also 
work but without attachment and simply for the good of the 
worlds ! . . ." 
These famous words, which have for so many centuries nourished 
Indian thought, are still a breviary of action and of inspiration to 
Gandhi and Aurobindo Ghose, as they were to Vivekananda. Auro- 
bindo shows in the God of the Gita not only the God who is un^ 
veiled through the consciousness of the spirit, but the God who 
moves to action, to all our struggles, all our progress, the supreme 
Master of work and sacrifice, the friend of the people who toil and 
struggle our Denis the Areopagite would say : " the chief of the 
that it is part of Vivekananda's own spirit to point them out 
to it. His great Advaitism was continually preoccupied in 
enlarging and completing his conception of Unity. He so.ught 
to annex all the energies that other races and other religions 
had used in the service of this heroic conquest. And his faith 
in the " God-Man " was so disinterested that, in order to serve 
it, he lowered his high Indian pride and his ardent patriotism 
before any people, whoever they might be, if they seemed to 
him to be striving more effectively for the common cause. 
Without really realizing the depths hidden in the mystic soul 
of the West, he had an intuition that the East might find abun- 
dant spiritual resources in the West, so that together they might 
realize complete Advaitism that is to say the religious Unity 
of the whole human family. 80 It is then under his aegis that 
I present to India this short summary of Christian Advaitism, 
from its Attic cradle in Alexandria. Over that cradle, as over 
the manger, the Star of the East came to rest. 
April, 1929. 
athletes in the lists." (Cf. Essays on the Gita, 2 Vols., 1921-28.) 
80 From a letter of Vivekananda to an Englishman, August 9, 
I ^95, recently published by the Prabuddha Bharata, February, 1929, 
I extract the following (freely condensed) : 
"... I believe firmly that there are periodic fermentations of 
religion in human society and that it is at present traversing one 
of those periods. . . . The religious fermentation spreading at 
present has this characteristic, that all the small eddies of thought 
are flowing to one single end : the vision and the search for the 
Unity of the Being. ... In India, in America, in England (the 
only countries that I know), hundreds of these movements are 
striving with each other. All represent more or less consciously 
or unconsciously Advaitic thought, the most noble philosophy of 
Unity that man has ever had. . . . Further, if anything is clear 
to me, it is that one of these movements ought to absorb all the 
rest. . . . Which should it be ? ... The group that shows the 
most intense and marked character of life. . . . One word, on 
this subject ! Yes, in truth, I love India. But each day my vision 
becomes dearer, and whether India or America or England, we 
are all the servants of that God, who by the ignorant is called 
Man. He who waters the roots does he not also water the whole 
tree ? There is only one basis for social, political or religious 
welfare : it is to know that I and my brother are ONE. This is 
jtrue for all countries and for all men. And let me tell you that 
the Westerners realize this better than the Easterners, who almost 
exhaust themselves in formulating the idea and carrying it out in 
a few individual cases. Let us work then without desire for name 
or fame or domination over others 1 ..." 
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