Tag: <span>Theosophical Society</span>

Appeals

Nonviolent Action: The Force of the Soul.

Featured Image: Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

2 October is the UN General Assembly-designated Day of Nonviolence chosen as 2 October is the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

U.N General Assembly

Featured Image by Basil D Soufi, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

U.N. General Assembly: Can It Provide the Needed Global Leadership?

Passive Resistance.

Mahatma Gandhi, shortly after finishing his legal studies in England, went to South Africa and began working with Indian laborers, victims of discrimination. He looked for a term understandable to a largely English-speaking population to explain his efforts. “Passive resistance” was the most widely used term and had been used by Leo Tolstoy and others.

However, Gandhi found the word “passive” misleading. There did exist a Hindu term ahinsa − a meaning non and hinsa, violence. The term was basically unknown among White South Africans, largely uninterested in Indian philosophical thought.

Leo Tolstoy

Image: Portrait of Leo Tolstoy (1887). By Ilya Repin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Leo Tolstoy: The Law of Love.

Tune with the Infinite or Fullness of Peace Power and Plenty.

Gandhi wrote to a friend from his legal studies days in England, Edward Maitland. Maitland and Anna Kingsford were the leaders of the Esoteric Christian Union and the leaders of the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society. Maitland introduced Gandhi to the writings of the American New Thought writer Ralph Waldo Trine. Trine was a New Englander and his parents named him after Emerson. His best known work from which Gandhi took the term for his actions in South Africa is In Tune with the Infinite or Fullness of Peace Power and Plenty. (1)

Edward Maitland, biographer of en:Anna Kingsford (1846–1888). By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Soul Force.

Trine uses the term “soul force” which Gandhi then used for his work in South Africa. Once back in India, Gandhi wanted an Indian rather than an English expression, and he coined the term satyagraha − holding on to truth: sat as Truth in a cosmic sense is an oft-used Hindu term while “soul” would need some explaining to Indian followers.

All of Trine’s writings contained the same message: soul force could be acquired by making oneself one with God, who was immanent, through love and service to one’s fellow men. The Christ Trine followed was one familiar to Gandhi − the supreme spiritual exemplar who showed men the way to union with their divine essence. Trine promised that the true seeker, fearless and forgetful of self-interest, will be so filled with the power of God working through him that:

“as he goes here and there, he can continually send out influences of the most potent and powerful nature that will reach the uttermost parts of the world.”

For Trine, thought was the way that a person came into tune with the Infinite. “Each is building his own world. We both build from within, and we attract from without. Thought is the force with which we build, for thoughts are forces. Like builds like and like attracts like. In the degree that thought is spiritualized does it become more subtle and powerful in its workings. This spiritualizing is in accordance with law and is within the power of all.

“Everything is first worked out in the unseen before it is manifested in the seen, in the ideal before it is realized in the real, in the spiritual before it shows forth in the material. The realm of the unseen is the realm of cause. The realm of the seen is the realm of effect. The nature of effect is always determined and conditioned by the nature of its cause.”

Thus for Mahatma Gandhi, before a nonviolent action or campaign, there was a long period of spiritual preparation of both himself and his close co-workers. Prayer, fasting, meditation were used in order to focus the force of the soul, to visualize a positive outcome and to develop harmlessness to those opposed.

Another theme which Trine stressed and which Gandhi constantly used in his efforts to build bridges between Hindus and Muslims was that there was a basic core common to all religions. Gandhi wrote:

“There is a golden thread that runs through every religion in the world. There is a golden thread that runs through the lives and the teachings of all the prophets, seers, sages, and saviours in the world’s history, through the lives of all men and women of truly great and lasting power. The great central fact of the universe is that the spirit of infinite life and power is back of all, manifests itself in and through all. This spirit of infinite life and power that is back of all is what I call God. I care not what term you may use, be it Kindly Light, Providence, the Over-Soul, Omnipotence or whatever term may be most convenient, so long as we are agreed in regard to the great central fact itself.”

Simone Panter-Brick - Gandhi

 Image: Gandhi spinning at Birla House, Mumbai, August 1942. By Kanu Gandhi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Simone Panter-Brick: Gandhi and Nationalism.

Note.

1) R.W. Trine. In Tune with the Infinite (New York: Whitecombe and Tombs, 1899, 175pp.)

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

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Edward Carpenter Portraits of World Citizens.

Edward Carpenter and the Healing of Nations.

 Featured Image: Edward Carpenter (1844–1929), by Fred Holland Day (1864–1933). By F. Holland Day, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Edward Carpenter (1844-1929) whose birth anniversary we note on 29 August, was an English writer, educator and pacifist, socialist reformer. Carpenter came from a middle class intellectual family and studied at Cambridge University. As with some of his fellow students who were interested in philosophy and ideas, he was ordained in the Church of England hoping that its outlook and theology could be widened from the inside.  However, once inside, he realized that the broadening goal would take a long time.  Thus by 1874 he left the church for a new field − university extension courses − a program of night school education for the “working classes”.

Days with Walt Whitman.

Just as he was about to become a Church of England cleric in 1869, he discovered the poems of Walt Whitman which became the inspiration for his own poems as well as for an opening to a cosmic consciousness that Whitman manifested. As Carpenter wrote in Angels’ Wings “Whitman’s verse in its most successful passages, so magnificent in its effects, so democratic in feeling, so democratic in form, is more absolute in expression, more real in its content, burns brighter in the nearness of sunrise, and yet lies so near along to Nature and the innocent naivety of speech of a child, that some people are inclined to deny to it the quality of Art at all!” Whitman was his life-long model, and Carpenter spent time in the USA to be with Whitman, an experience which he recorded in a book Days with Walt Whitman.

Walt Whitman

The Laughing Philosopher: American poet Walt Whitman (1819–92). By George C. Cox (1851–1902)[1], Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Rabindranath Tagore.

Like Whitman, Carpenter was attracted to Indian philosophy and travelled to India. He became a friend of Rabindranath Tagore. His Indian travels and attraction to Indian thought he recorded in Adam’s Peak to Elephanta: Sketches in Ceylon and IndiaCarpenter kept up his interest in Indian thought through friendships in the then recently-created Theosophical Society.

Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore before 1941. By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

George Russell.

As others influenced by the Theosophical Society such as the Irish poet and agricultural reformer George Russell (best known by his pen name AE), Carpenter saw the need to improve rural life and to bring intellectual and cultural enlightenment to the rural areas. Thus he gave up formal university extension work and bought a farm which became a meeting place for discussions among many in the area − an early “back to the land movement”. He stressed using hand-made clothes, the non-killing and non-eating of animals, and the use of herbs for health.

George Russell

George William Russell. By by Cornelius Weygandt http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/19028 ==Used on== *w:en:George William Russell ==Licence== {{PD-Gutenberg}}.

The Intermediate Sex and Intermediate Types Among Primitive Folk.

He lived in a homosexual relationship with a farmer at a time when homosexuality was considered a criminal offense.  Carpenter wrote two books on homosexuality. For a long time these were the only books on the subject published by a major publisher: The Intermediate Sex and Intermediate Types Among Primitive Folk.

A New Spiritual Consciousness.

The Healing of Nations is his most important political book − a collection of essays for the most part published in newspapers and small journals written in late 1914 and early 1915 as World War I started. Carpenter had long held that a new age of fellowship was dawning in which social relations would be transformed by a new spiritual consciousness. His thinking on the outbreak of the war was close to that of Romain Roland and P. Kropotkin, both of whom he quotes at length.

Carpenter was close − though never a member − to the Independent Labour Party who’s 1914 Manifesto he quotes as its proposals were similar to his own:

” We hail our working-class comrades of every land. Across the roar of guns we send greetings to the German Socialists. They have laboured unceasingly to promote good relations with Britain, as we with Germany.  They are no enemies of ours, but faithful friends. In forcing this appalling crime upon the nations, it is the rulers, the diplomats, the militarists who have sealed their doom. In tears and blood and bitterness the greater Democracy will be born. With steadfast faith we greet the future; our cause is holy and imperishable, and the labour of our hands has not been in vain.”

Carpenter went on with his own call to action:

“Thus we have to push on with discernment. Always we have to remember that the wide, free sense of equality and kinship which lies at the root of Internationalism is the real goal. Always we have to press on towards that great and final liberation − the realization of our common humanity, the recognition of the same great soul of man slumbering under all forms in the heart of all races − the one guarantee and assurance of the advent of world peace.”

At a time when in England and France there are commemorations of the anniversaries of the 1914-1918 War, it is useful to recall that there were voices in opposition and persons like Carpenter who saw that an awareness of the spiritual dimension of each person was the basis for the healing of the nations.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Simone Panter-Brick - Gandhi Book Reviews

Simone Panter-Brick: Gandhi and Nationalism.

Featured Image: Gandhi spinning at Birla House, Mumbai, August 1942. By Kanu Gandhi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Path to Indian Independence (London: I.B. Tauris, 2012, 225pp) Simone Panter-Brick.

Simone Panter-Brick had written two earlier books on Mahatma Gandhi: Gandhi against Machiavellism: Non-violence in Politics; and Gandhi and the Middle East.

Here, in a book written just before her death; she deals with two key concepts in the thought and action of Gandhi: swaraj and dharma. Swaraj is best translated as self-realization; as in the Self-Realization Fellowship of the Indian teacher; Paramahansa Yogananda in California. “Gandhi and Swaraj” would have been a more accurate title of the book than “Nationalism”; but fewer people would have known what the book was about from such a title. As Panter-Brick points out:

“Swaraj is formed of two Sanskrit words: swa (self) and raj (rule). Thus, it can be construed either as rule over the self – the spiritual assertion of every person – or as self-rule – participation in the political affairs of the nation as citizens fully conscious of their rights and duties. For Gandhi, it was both.”

Dharma.

Dharma is a term used by Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists. Buddhists do not normally speak of their own religion as ‘Buddhism’; but usually refer to it as ‘the Dharma’ meaning truth; the law as in the sense of the natural law which sustains the universe.

Dharma in Hinduism also means order in the sense of the law of the universe; immanent but made known to humans through awakening; the basis of moral life. In a narrower sense; dharma means duty – often caste duties or loyalty to the rulers of the country; into which one has been born through the working of karma.

It is in this latter sense – the duties that Gandhi felt to the Empire – that the book develops. The book is especially useful for those of us who try to use spiritual concepts within the political field; where words take on other meanings; and can also be understood by others in different ways than intended.

Paramahansa Yogananda with his book “Autobiography of a Yogi”. Paramahansa Yogananda, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

My life is my message.

The understanding of the ways spiritual concepts are used in political life is made even more complex; in the case of Gandhi in that he was not a thinker in terms of systems; but in terms of action. “My life is my message.” Most of Mahatma Gandhi’s writings were newspaper articles reacting to specific events and letters; often in reply to letters asking specific questions.

Copies of his letters were kept by his secretary, Mahadev Desai; and make up much of the many-volume Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi’s effort at systematic writing; in particular his 1909 Hind Swaraj; was used on the eve of independence against him by those wanting to establish Pakistan saying that Hind; which Gandhi had used as an old name for India really meant Hindu; and that Gandhi saw no place for Muslims in Indian society; and deliberately overlooked any Muslim contribution to Indian civilization.

Gandhi and Mahadev Desai, at Birla House, Mumbai (7 April 1939). By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

As Panter-Brick points out:

“Gandhi’s entry into politics sprang from the firm belief that a citizen has rights and duties, and that he, as an Indian, had a duty to perform. This Indian conception of one’s life task is best expressed in the word dharma or righteous performance of one’s duty in life”.

Born into a family whose function was that of diwan, chief administrator of a princely state; both his family and he saw his dharma as that of a government administrator; probably of a larger state than Porbandar administered by his father. As the princely states were autonomous; but under the control of the British Empire; Gandhi stressed his individual duty to the British Empire. He had lost his caste standing by crossing the sea to study in England – there being a caste prohibition to crossing a large body of water.

Thus; the only dharma he had was a responsibility to the British Empire. However; dharma for Gandhi had to be considered as a self-imposed direction for duty and not imposed by tradition.

Quit India.

Thus in South Africa; he helped to create a medical corps for the English – the 1,100 strong Indian Ambulance Corps – in the 1899-1902 war against the Boers; and again for the government in the 1906 short-lived Zulu Rebellion in Natal.

On his return to India at the start of the First World War; he had tried to recruit Indians to serve in the British Army. He failed in his efforts as individuals; who were not already members of military castes felt no dharmic duties to serve the Empire.

Gandhi’s sense of duty to serve the state of his birth ultimately gave way; when the British Raj was too slow to react favourably to Indian nationalism, granting too little, too late. Moreover; Gandhi was surrounded by Indians in the Indian National Congress; who had never felt any dharmic duty to the British Empire. They wanted to rule India without the British. They had in their hearts the slogan; which they did not use publicly until 1942 “Quit India”

Gandhi’s Vision of Swaraj.

As Judith Brown; another specialist on Gandhi’s thought, writes on the evolution of Gandhi’s vision of swaraj :

“that was to be markedly at odds with the vision of political independence held by most of his colleagues in the Indian National Congress and the country at large. For him, swaraj was not a matter of Indians ejecting the British and stepping into their shoes and seats of power…It was a great enterprise of moral regeneration of a whole people and a transformation of their society, a righting of the wrongs and weaknesses that made colonialism rule possible, and ultimately a transformation of the processes of governance.” (1)

Home Rule.

Gandhi long hoped for Home Rule, Indian independence within what later became the Commonwealth; that is, national government with foreign policy set by consensus of all the member states having a Home Rule status. He had translated into English himself his Hind Swaraj giving the title Indian Home Rule. India had been accepted as a member of the League of Nations although not independent nor having Home Rule status. In fact, the Aga Khan; considered to be an Indian; had been President of the League of Nations Assembly.

For most leaders in the Indian National Congress; it was not foreign policy which mattered but; “who ran things on the ground” in India. The Indian National Congress took advantage of every possibility to extend its control at the local level. Thus; Congress was ready when the Government of India Act was passed in the British Parliament in 1935; to take power through elections set for 1937 down to the provincial level of governance.

Stanley Bruce chairing the League of Nations Council in 1936. Joachim von Ribbentrop is addressing the council. By Commonwealth of Australia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

You might read: The League of Nations and its unused Peace Army.

Create a Political Vacuum.

From 1937 until 1940; Congress controlled the internal affairs of India; gaining experience in administration that would have paved a smooth road for governing the country at Independence in 1947.

However; at the outbreak of the Second World War; the Congress High Command instructed all its provincial governments to resign in protest at the Viceroy’s declaration of war on Germany; without consulting with the people of India. (Hitler; of course, had consulted no one before attacking Poland).

The immediate result was to create a political vacuum; into which Muhammad Ali Jinnah; also a British-educated lawyer and President of the Muslim League; stepped. Jinnah was aware that London badly needed some show of loyalty in its major imperial possession; and presented himself along with a vague concept of “two nations” – one Hindu; the other Muslim and the need for a “Pakistan” for the Muslim population. (2)

 Mohammad Ali Jinnah – Founder and 1st Governor General of Pakistan (1876-1948). By Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of Pakistan., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Quit India.

Congress formulated a “Quit India” Campaign of immediate independence for India. Japanese troops were in Burma on the frontier of India. Along with the Japanese; there was a fairly strong contingent of Indian soldiers; who had been captured in Europe by the Germans and then sent to Asia to help the Japanese. These Indian troops were led by the Bengali leader Subhas Chandra Bose; who had played an important role in Congress politics and was a close friend of Jawaharlal Nehru. The British took the Quit India Campaign as a sign of treason in wartime and jailed much of the Congress leadership until June 1945 when the war was over in Europe.

The days of the Empire were limited.

With the end of the Second World War; events speeded up. In 1945, 1st Viscount Wavell; who had been military Commander-in-Chief in India during the war was named Viceroy. Wavell knew the situation well enough to understand that the days of the Empire were limited. He called for an interim government that would be based on a combination of Hindu and Muslim leaders: Jawaharlal Nehru was Prime Minister, Vallabhbhai Patel, the organizational strong man of Congress at Interior, and Liaquat Ali Khan, Jinnah’s deputy, at Finance.

Photograph, silver Dimensions:Framed: 13 1/4″ x 11″ Description:Black and white portrait photograph of Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru with hand to chinThe photograph is inscribed to President John F. Kennedy.
Historical Note:This photograph was presented to President John F. Kennedy during Prime Minister Nehru’s state visit to the United States on November 9, 1961 in Newport Rhode Island. By White House, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Mahatma Gandhi.

Mahatma Gandhi was largely on the sidelines as the administrative structures were being decided. As Panter-Brick writes:

“The Mahatma wanted to represent all Indians but not all Indians accepted that claim. He was too democratic for the autocratic princes and their vast estates. He looked too Hindu to the Muslims, too unorthodox to the Brahmins, too anti-class war to the Communists, too pro-landowner for the Socialists, and even in his party, too leftist to the right, too secular to some, too religious to others – and too non-violent to the politicians.”

Thus leadership moved to Jawaharlal Nehru; who also wanted to represent all Indians; but as Congress was over 90 percent Hindu, he was seen as a Hindu spokesman with Ali Jinnah for the Muslims.

Studio photograph of Mahatma Gandhi, London, 1931.Elliott & Fry (see [1]), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Jawaharlal Nehru.

Jawaharlal Nehru had been brought into Indian politics by his father, Motilal Nehru; an important lawyer and an early Indian Congress leader in the 1890s. Motilal, interested in spirituality; was a member of the Theosophical Society and a close co-worker with the Theosophical President; Annie Besant, and her Home Rule efforts. Motilal felt that his son needed a Western education to be able to play a real role in Indian politics.

Thus; he sent Jawaharlal to be educated in secondary school and university in England. The separation resulted in that Motilal and Jawaharlal had distant father-son relations; and Motilal passed on few of his spiritual interests to his son.

Jawaharlal and Gandhi developed much of a father-son relation; Gandhi serving as the replacement for the distant Motilal and Gandhi; who had bad relations with his own children; saw Jawaharlal as his son and heir.

Annie Besant, half-length portrait, seated, facing slightly right, clad in the style of the Aesthetic Dress movement (1887). By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Congress Party.

Jawaharlal Nehru was basically a secular thinker; but who understood the need to make a religious appeal to the Hindu base of the Congress Party. As Nehru wrote:

“Sacralisation of the national movement? I used to be troubled sometimes at the growth of this religious element in our politics, but I know well that there was something else in it, something which supplied a deep inner craving of human beings.”

The “deep inner craving” seemed to express itself by Hindus and Muslims each wanting to govern without the other. Suaraj came to two states; with no spiritual transformation of the leaders. We have had since ‘nationalism’ in its narrowest sense; with wars between India and Pakistan; and the division from Pakistan of East Bengal; become Bangladesh.

Never in South Asian history did so few divide so many, so murderously.

Partition was imposed from above by the British; but no Indian leaders proposed forms of association; which would have provided autonomy without division. Some ideas of an Indian confederation were suggested; but the details had not been worked out. So division seemed to be the only solution. As has been said “Never in South Asian history did so few divide so many, so murderously.” Gandhi boycotted the celebrations of Independence held among riots, massacres and refugee flows. Over a million were killed in a short time; and there were some 18 million refugees and exchanges of population.

Thus; we see the importance of discussing and finding a consensus on the structures of a state. There were no Federalist Papers debates at the time of Indian Independence. Demands for the creation of Pakistan may have been a political move rather than a “final status” demand on the part of Ali Jinnah. Administrative structures may seem dull in contrast to the ideology of political independence; and the righting of social evils. But as Gandhi and Nationalism points out well; without clear understanding of the type of state desired and broadly acceptable; the door was open to religious chauvinists and their simplified divisions.

Notes.

1) See Richard L. Johnson (Ed). Gandhi’s Experiments with Truth (Oxford: Lexington, 2006)
2) For a good biography see Stanley Wolpert Jinnah of Pakistan(Oxford University Press, 1984). Wolpert is also a biographer of Gandhi, see his Gandhi’s Passion: The Life and Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi (Oxford University Press, 2001)

Rene Wadlow, President of the Association of World Citizens.  

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Roberto Assagioli Rapprochement of Cultures.

Roberto Assagioli: The Will as a Road to the…

Featured Image: Photo of Roberto Assaglioli, M.D. – Taken from the book ‘ Psychosynthesis (1965) By U3195247, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

By Rene Wadlow.

Roberto Assagioli (1888-1974) set out a path to the Higher Self with the power of the will.  Roberto Assagioli, whose birth anniversary we mark on 27 February was a close co-worker  of both Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustave Jung.  In 1910, he broke from the Freudian approach and began to develop his own psycho-spiritual model which he called psychosynthesis He was closer in approach to Jung, but as the first translator of Freud’s writings into Italian, he is often cited as the introducer of Freudian thought into Italy.

Roberto Assagioli was an Italian psychiatrist, humanist and Theosophical student of the world’s spiritual traditions. (His mother and wife were members of the Theosophical Society).

Sigmund FreudColorized painting of Sigmund Freud. By Photocolorization, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

I am what I will to be.

A short presentation of Assagioli’s view is that “I am what I will to be”.  In a sense, the individual does not have a will: rather he is a will, a directing energy, that has taken human form as an individual.  The individual will-force is in some way identical to the universal will-force.  Assagioli who had studied Asian thought highlighted the Chinese sage becoming one with the universal energy – the Tao   (1)

As the individual will starts on its path toward the Higher Self, it must drop off images of its earlier self formed by experiences, memories, feelings and images of the past.  Some of these self-images and experiences have been repressed and stored in the subconscious.  Thus in many cases, there is a first task of self-discovery of past experiences and emotions stored in the sub-conscious.  Only when this is done, can one deal with the current self-images and emotions which make up the current personality.

Carl Gustav Jung

Jung, Carl Gustav (1875-1961). By ETH Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Disidentification.

The process of dropping off current self-images Assagioli calls “disidentification”.  Disidentification is needed so that a new identity emerges, one that is capable of accepting and integrating in a harmonious synthesis all the earlier emotions, thoughts and experiences.  This is why Assagioli called his approach “psychosynthesis.” It is this fresh, new personality, which Assagioli termed the “I” that can set out on the road to develop the Higher Self.  This inner journey is not always easy. There is a progressive examination of the contents of the field of consciousness and the functions of the psyche. This involves a progressive movement through the preconscious, the subconscious and culminating with the higher concious. Assagioli writes:

Spiritual development is a long and arduous journey, an adventure through strange lands full of surprises, difficulties and even dangers.  It involves a drastic transmutation of the ‘normal’ elements of the personality, an awakening of potentialities hitherto dormant, a raising of consciousness to new realms, and a functioning along a new inner dimension.”

Along the way to the Higher Self, the will can be strengthened by what Assagioli calls “transpersonal experiences” and what  A. Maslow  calls “Peak Experiences”.  Such experiences help to stimulate the drive toward the Higher Self. However, some of these transpersonal experiences can be short-lived and ephemeral unless they are grounded through meditation and techniques of visualization of oneself as already functioning as the Higher Self.

These techniques of creating an identity as being the Higher Self is one of the outstanding features of psychosynthesis.  However, after 1936, his work became increasingly difficult both because of the growing antisemitism under Nazi German pressure on Italy and because his humanitarian activities aroused hostility from the Italian Fascist government. In 1940 he was arreested and kept in solitary confinement for a month and then kept under strict police surveillance. In 1943, he was again actively persecuted and forced to hide in remote mountain villages. He narrowly escaped twice from the Nazi soldiers who had destroyed his family’s home with dynamite.

After 1945, he increased his contacts with a wide group of spiritual thinkers from different traditions. However, his aim remained finding approaches to wholeness, realizing the full human potential, transcending contradictions and achieving enlightenment.

Notes.

1) See the chapter “The Universal Will” in his major book: Roberto Assagioli. The Act of Will (London: Wildwood House, 1974)

2) See Jean Hardy.A Psychology with a Soul (London: Routledge and Kegan Pail, 1987)

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan Rapprochement of Cultures.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888 – 1975) World Citizen.

Featured Image: Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Former President of India. By White House, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

If we claim to be civilized, if we love justice, if we cherish mercy, if we are not ashamed to own the reality of the inward light, we must affirm that we are first and foremost Citizens of the World…Our planet has grown too small for parochial patriotism

S. Radhakrishnan, Philosopher and President of India (1962-1967).

The present crisis in human affairs is due to a profound crisis in human consciousness, a lapse from the organic wholeness of life.  Today, there is a crisis of perception, a widespread sense of unease concerning old forms of thinking which require that we must recreate and re-enact a vision of the world based on the elements of reverence, order, and human dignity, without which no society can be held together.”

Philosophic Consciousness.

As Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan pointed out, the next stage of human evolution is in the human psyche:

in his mind and spirit, in the emergencies of a larger understanding and awareness, in the development of a new integration of character adequate to the new age.  When he gains a philosophic consciousness and an intensity of understanding, a profound apprehension of the meaning of the whole, there will result in a more adequate social order which will influence not only individuals but peoples and nations. We have to fight for this order first in our souls, then in the world outside.”

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan repeatedly stressed the close interdependence between the need to recover the visions of the Higher Self in each person and the need to move beyond a narrow, nationalistic view of the world.

The Human Heart and the New World.

If we are to help the present society to grow organically into a world order, we must make it depend on the universal and enduring values which are implanted in the human heart that each individual is sacred, that we are born for love and not hate…We have learned to live peacefully in larger and larger units”.

The concept of a community has grown from a narrow tribal basis to the Nation-State. There is no stopping short of a world community…Thus we rejoice that there is an institution like the United Nations, for it is the symbol and hope of the new world, of the light dawning beyond the clouds, clouds piled up by our past patterns of behavior, past ways of speaking, judging, and acting which do not answer to the deep desire of the peoples of the world for peace and progress. We owe it to ourselves to find out why the light does not spread and disperse the darkness, why the sky is still clouded by fear and suspicion, hate and bitterness.”

Photo by Shinobu in Pexels.

Then you could read The United Nations: The Reflection of the World Society.

President of a State.

It is rare for a world citizen to become president of a State and even rarer to find a professional philosopher as head of State outside Plato’s Republic. Radhakrishnan was a rare individual who played an important intellectual role in three crucial periods:

  1. The revival of Indian thought in the 1920s—1930s after a long period of marginalization.
  2. The Second World War period when a new world society was being planned and when India was on the eve of becoming a fully independent State.
  3. The first years of Indian independence  and the start of the Cold War, the Korean conflict and the need to help reduce Soviet-American Cold War tensions.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born into a middle-class Brahman family in south India near Madras.  His family valued education, and he attended Christian-sponsored secondary schools and did his higher education at Madras Christian College.  During his education, he came to study classical Greek and Western thought, especially Plato, Aristotle and came to know Christian religious views.

The Hinduism.

He was confronted with Western teachers who held a low opinion of the Hinduism they saw around them but who were active in promoting Christian social action, especially in the fields of health, education, and poverty reduction. 

Madras was also the headquarters of the worldwide Theosophical Society; which agreed with the Christians that Hinduism was asleep but who felt that it could be awakened from within by its deeper values and did not have to copy the West. This was the avenue which Radhakrishnan followed, a recognition of the stagnant state of much of Indian religious thought and practice but a confidence that the answer lay in a revitalization of the best of Indian thought such as the Upanisads and the Bhagavad Gita.

This folio samples a part of verse 20, and the beginning of verse 21 from the opening chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, which is on the topic of Arjuna’s distress. By British Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Status of Indian.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan cited the status of Indian thought described by the religious reformer Sri Aurobindo; “If an ancient Indian of the time of the Upanisads, of the Buddha, or the later classical age was to be set down in modern India, he would see his race clinging to forms and shells and rags of the past and missing nine-tenths of its nobler meaning…he would be amazed by the extent of the mental poverty, the immobility, the static repetition, the cessation of science, the long sterility of art, the comparative feebleness of the creative intuition.”

Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) around the turn of the century, 1900. By Rudolf 1922, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore (1918).

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was aware of the then status quo. As he wrote “Stagnant systems, like pools, breed obnoxious growths, while flowing rivers constantly renew their waters from fresh springs of inspiration. There is nothing wrong with absorbing the culture of other peoples; only we must enhance, raise and purify the elements we take over, fuse them with the best in our own. Indian philosophy acquires a meaning and a justification for the present only if it advances and ennobles life.”

For Radhakrishnan, it was Rabindranath Tagore who best represented this new, flowing river, and his first book was The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore (1918). Tagore remained his ideal. While teaching philosophy at the University of Calcutta, he saw the impact of Tagore’s thought in the cultural revival of Bengal.

 Radhakrishnan’s reputation for his analysis and presentation of Indian philosophy grew, especially since many of his essays were published in Western journals. Thus in 1929, he was called to teach in one of the colleges of Oxford University, and in 1936 he was appointed to a newly created chair of Indian thought at Oxford University.

Rabindranath Tagore By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Then you could read Rabindranath Tagore: The Call of the Universal Real.

Association of World Citizens.

Thus it was in England that the second phase of his intellectual contribution began. As the clouds of the Second World War were gathering in the late 1930s, he stressed the need for a world vision, freed from the aggressive nationalism of the times. He joined the English branch of the recently formed Association of World Citizens and started meeting with thinkers who would be the creators of UNESCO such as Julian Huxley.  Radhakrishnan was to play an important role as the 1948 chairman of the Executive Council of UNESCO and in developing the UNESCO emphasis on the study of Asian culture.

Julian Huxley (12 February 1964). By Unknown authorUnknown author, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons.

Community of Spirit.

 As he said “If we are to shape a community of spirit among the people of the world which is essential for truly human society and lasting peace, we must forge bonds of international understanding.  This can be achieved by an acquaintance with the masterpieces of literature, art, and science produced in different countries.

When we are in contact with them, we are lifted from the present and immediate passions and interests and move on the mountain tops where we breathe a larger air…For out of the anguish of our times is being born a new unity of all mankind in which the free spirit of man can find peace and safety.

It is in our power to end the fears which afflict humanity and save the world from the disaster that impends.  Only we should be men of a universal cast of mind, capable of interpreting peoples to one another and developing a faith that is the only antidote to fear.  The threat to our civilization can be met only on the deeper levels of consciousness.  If we fail to overcome the discord between power and spirit, we will be destroyed by the forces which we had the knowledge to create but not the wisdom to control.”

The Independence of India.

 With the independence of India came the third and most public of Radhakrishnan’s roles.  In 1948, he was named as the first Ambassador of India to the Soviet Union then headed by Stalin (1948-1952). While he had little personal sympathy for Marxist thought, he realized that he was in a key post at a crucial time, as the Cold War was turning hot with the outbreak of war in Korea in 1950 and the possibility of war spreading to other parts of Asia. He had written a book on the relations between India and Chinese philosophy and so had a particular interest in events in China.

 Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was among the few in India who studied deeply Buddhist philosophy and tried to place the Buddha in the context of Indian thought. Thus events of Southeast Asia and the French war in Indochina were of particular concern.

The Indian Political System.

In 1952, he returned to India to become Vice-President and in 1962 became the President of India for a five-year term. In the Indian political system, executive power is in the office of the Prime Minister rather than the President. During Radhakrishnan’s political life the Prime Minister was Jawaharlal Nehru who shared many common interests but who kept a close hold on political decision making.

         Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan put his political energy into the area he knew best, the improvement of university education and the development of culture.  As a man of South India in a government dominated by people of the north, he was a symbol of national unity. As a person with deep knowledge of both Indian and Western philosophical thought, he was the model of the “meeting of East and West.” He set out his challenge to world citizens clearly “We live in an age of tensions, danger, and opportunity.  We are aware of our insufficiencies, and can remove them if we have the vision to see the goal and the courage to work for it.”

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Jawaharlal Nehru, the main campaigner of the Indian National Congress, 1951-52 elections. The poster reads ‘for a stable, secular, progressive state; VOTE CONGRESS’. By Indian National Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Notes.

 For a useful overview of his philosophical
thinking see Paul A. Schilpp (Ed). The Philosophy of Sarvepalli
Radhakrishnan (1952)

For a good picture of his bridge-building role, see S.J. Samartha Introduction to Radhakrishnan: The Man and His Thought. Dr. Samartha was Director of the program Dialogue among Living Faiths at the World Council of Churches in Geneva

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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