Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Wed Jul 10, 2019 9:18 am

P. D. Ouspensky
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 7/10/19



P. D. Ouspensky
Born Pyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii
5 March 1878
Kharkov[1], Russian Empire
Died 2 October 1947 (aged 69)
Lyne Place, Surrey, England, United Kingdom
Nationality Russian

Pyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii (known in English as Peter D. Ouspensky, Пётр Демья́нович Успе́нский; 5 March 1878 – 2 October 1947),[2] was a Russian esotericist known for his expositions of the early work of the Greek-Armenian teacher of esoteric doctrine George Gurdjieff. He met Gurdjieff in Moscow in 1915, and was associated with the ideas and practices originating with Gurdjieff from then on. He taught ideas and methods based in the Gurdjieff system for 25 years in England and the United States, although he separated from Gurdjieff personally in 1924, for reasons that are explained in the last chapter of his book In Search of the Miraculous.

Ouspensky studied the Gurdjieff system directly under Gurdjieff's own supervision for a period of ten years, from 1915 to 1924. In Search of the Miraculous recounts what he learned from Gurdjieff during those years. While lecturing in London in 1924, he announced that he would continue independently the way he had begun in 1921. Some, including his close pupil Rodney Collin, say that he finally gave up the system in 1947, just before his death, but his own recorded words on the subject ("A Record of Meetings", published posthumously) do not clearly endorse this judgement.[3]

Early life

Ouspensky was born in Kharkov in 1878. In 1890, he studied at the Second Moscow Gymnasium, a government school attended by boys aged from 10 to 18. At the age of 16, he was expelled from school for painting graffiti on the wall in plain sight of a visiting inspector. From then on he was more or less on his own.[4] In 1906, he worked in the editorial office of the Moscow daily paper The Morning. In 1907 he became interested in Theosophy. In the autumn of 1913, aged 35, he journeyed to the East in search of the miraculous. He visited Theosophists in Adyar, but was forced to return to Moscow after the beginning of the Great War. In Moscow he met Gurdjieff and married Sophie Grigorievna Maximenko. He had a mistress by the name of Anna Ilinishna Butkovsky.[5]


During his years in Moscow, Ouspensky wrote for several newspapers and was particularly interested in the then-fashionable idea of the fourth dimension.[6] His first work, published in 1909, was titled The Fourth Dimension.[7] It was influenced by the ideas prevalent in the works of Charles H. Hinton,[8] which treated the fourth dimension as an extension in space.[9][10] Ouspensky treats time as a fourth dimension only indirectly in a novel he wrote titled Strange Life of Ivan Osokin[11] where he also explores the theory of eternal recurrence.

Ouspensky's second work, Tertium Organum, was published in 1912. In it he denies the ultimate reality of space and time,[12] and negates Aristotle's Logical Formula of Identification of "A is A", concluding in his "higher logic" that A is both A and not-A.[13] Unbeknown to Ouspensky, a Russian émigré by the name of Nicholas Bessarabof took a copy of Tertium Organum to America and placed it in the hands of the architect Claude Bragdon who could read Russian and was interested in the fourth dimension.[14] Tertium Organum was rendered into English by Bragdon who had incorporated his own design of the hypercube[15][16] into the Rochester Chamber of Commerce building.[17] Bragdon also published the book and the publication was such a success that it was finally taken up by Alfred A. Knopf. At the time, in the early 1920s, Ouspensky's whereabouts were unknown. Bragdon located him in Constantinople and paid him back some royalties.

Ouspensky traveled in Europe and the East — India, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Egypt — in his search for knowledge. After his return to Russia and his introduction to Gurdjieff in 1915, he spent the next few years studying with him, and supporting the founding of a school.

Prior to 1914 Ouspensky had written and published a number of articles. In 1917 he updated these articles to include "recent developments in physics" and republished them as a book in Russian entitled A New Model of the Universe.[18] The work, as reflected in its title, shows the influence of Francis Bacon and Max Müller, and has been interpreted as an attempt to reconcile ideas from natural science and religious studies with occultism in the tradition of Gurdjieff and Theosophy.[19] It was assumed that that book was lost to the Revolution's violence, but it was then republished in English (without Ouspensky's knowledge) in 1931. The work has attracted the interest of a number of philosophers and has been a widely accepted authoritative basis for a study of metaphysics.[citation needed] Ouspensky sought to exceed the limits of metaphysics with his "psychological method", which he defined as "a calibration of the tools of human understanding to derive the actual meaning of the thing itself". (paraphrasing p. 75.) According to Ouspensky: "The idea of esotericism ... holds that the very great majority of our ideas are not the product of evolution but the product of the degeneration of ideas which existed at some time or are still existing somewhere in much higher, purer and more complete forms." (p. 47) The book also provided an original discussion on the nature and expression of sexuality; among other things, he draws a distinction between erotica and pornography.[citation needed]

Ouspensky's lectures in London were attended by such literary figures as Aldous Huxley, T. S. Eliot, Gerald Heard and other writers, journalists and doctors. His influence on the literary scene of the 1920s and 1930s as well as on the Russian avant-garde was immense but still very little known.[20] It was said of Ouspensky that, though nonreligious, he had one prayer: not to become famous during his lifetime.

Later life

Ouspensky's grave at the Holy Trinity Church in Lyne, Surrey, England, photographed in 2013

After the Bolshevik revolution, Ouspensky travelled to London by way of Istanbul. In London, a number of eminent people became interested in his work. Lady Rothermere, wife of Harold Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere, the press magnate, was willing to promote Tertium Organum. The influential intellectual and editor A. R. Orage became deeply interested in Ouspensky's ideas and promoted their discussion in various circles. Prominent theosophist and editor G. R. S. Mead became interested in his ideas on the fourth dimension.

By order of the British government, Gurdjieff was not allowed to settle in London. Gurdjieff eventually went to France with a considerable sum of money raised by Ouspensky and his friends, and settled down near Paris at the Prieuré in Fontainebleau-Avon.[21] It was during this time, after Gurdjieff founded his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in France, that Ouspensky came to the conclusion that he was no longer able to understand his former teacher and made a decision to discontinue association with him. He set up his own organisation, The Society for the Study of Normal Psychology, which is now known as The Study Society.[22]

Ouspensky wrote about Gurdjieff's teachings in a book originally entitled Fragments of an Unknown Teaching, published posthumously in 1947 under the title In Search of the Miraculous. While this volume has been criticized by some of those who have followed Gurdjieff's teachings as only a partial representation of the totality of his ideas, it provides what is probably the most concise explanation of the material that was included. This is in sharp contrast to the writings of Gurdjieff himself, such as Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson, where the ideas and precepts of Gurdjieff's teachings are found very deeply veiled in allegory. Initially, Ouspensky had intended this book to be published only if Beelzebub's Tales were not published. But after his death, Mme Ouspensky showed its draft to Gurdjieff who praised its accuracy and permitted its publication.

Ouspensky died in Lyne Place, Surrey, in 1947. Shortly after his death, The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution was published, together with In Search of the Miraculous. A facsimile edition of In Search of the Miraculous was published in 2004 by Paul H. Crompton Ltd. London. Transcripts of some of his lectures were published under the title of The Fourth Way in 1957; largely a collection of question and answer sessions, the book details important concepts, both introductory and advanced, for students of these teachings.

Ouspensky's papers are held at Yale University Library's Manuscripts and Archives department.


After Ouspensky broke away from Gurdjieff, he taught the "Fourth Way", as he understood it, to his independent groups.

Fourth Way

Gurdjieff proposed that there are three ways of self-development generally known in esoteric circles. These are the Way of the Fakir, dealing exclusively with the physical body, the Way of the Monk, dealing with the emotions, and the Way of the Yogi, dealing with the mind. What is common about the three ways is that they demand complete seclusion from the world. According to Gurdjieff, there is a Fourth Way which does not demand its followers to abandon the world. The work of self-development takes place right in the midst of ordinary life. Gurdjieff called his system a school of the Fourth Way where a person learns to work in harmony with his physical body, emotions and mind. Ouspensky picked up this idea and continued his own school along this line.[23]

Ouspensky made the term "Fourth Way" and its use central to his own teaching of the ideas of Gurdjieff. He greatly focused on Fourth Way schools and their existence throughout history.


Among his students were Rodney Collin, Maurice Nicoll, Robert S de Ropp, Kenneth Walker, Remedios Varo and Dr Francis Roles.[24]


Ouspensky personally confessed the difficulties he was experiencing with "self-remembering," which has later been defined by Osho as 'witnessing'. The present phraseology in the teachings of Advaita is to be in awareness, or being aware of being aware. It is also believed to be consistent with the Buddhist practice of 'mindfulness'. The ultimate goal of each is to be always in a state of meditation even in sleep. 'Self-remembering' was a technique to which he had been introduced by Gurdjieff himself. Gurdjieff explained to him that this was the missing link to everything else. While in Russia, Ouspensky experimented with the technique with a certain degree of success, and in his lectures in London and America he emphasized the importance of its practice. The technique requires a division of attention, so that a person not only pays attention to what is going on in the exterior world but also in the interior. A.L. Volinsky, an acquaintance of Ouspensky in Russia, mentioned to him that this was what professor Wundt meant by apperception. Ouspensky disagreed and commented on how an idea so profound to him would pass unnoticed by people whom he considered intelligent. Gurdjieff explained the Rosicrucian principle that in order to bring about a result or manifestation, three things are necessary. With self-remembering and self-observation two things are present. The third one is explained by Ouspensky in his tract on Conscience: it is the non-expression of negative emotions.[25][26]


According to Beryl Pogson, author of The Work Life, "...the only real poverty is lack of self-knowledge."[27]

Published works

• The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution. Online.
• Tertium Organum: The Third Canon of Thought, a Key to the Enigmas of the World. Translated from the Russian by Nicholas Bessaraboff and Claude Bragdon. Rochester, New York: Manas Press, 1920; New York: Knopf, 1922; London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1923, 1934; 3rd American edition, New York: Knopf, 1945. Online version.
• A New Model of the Universe: Principles of the Psychological Method in Its Application to Problems of Science, Religion and Art. Translated from the Russian by R. R. Merton, under the supervision of the author. New York: Knopf, 1931; London: Routledge, 1931; 2nd revised edition, London: Routledge, 1934; New York: Knopf, 1934.
• Talks with a Devil (Russian, 1916). Tr. by Katya Petroff, edited with an introduction by J. G. Bennett. Northamptonshire: Turnstone, 1972, ISBN 0-85500-004-X(HC); New York: Knopf, 1973; York Beach: Weiser, 2000, ISBN 1-57863-164-5.
• The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution. New York: Hedgehog Press, 1950.
• Strange Life of Ivan Osokin. New York and London: Holme, 1947; London: Faber & Faber, 1948; first published in Russian as Kinemadrama (St. Petersburg, 1915). Online (Russian).
• In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1949; London: Routledge, 1947.
• In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching London, Paul H. Crompton Ltd 2010 facsimile edition of the 1949 edition, hardcover.
• The Fourth Way: A Record of Talks and Answers to Questions Based on the Teaching of G. I. Gurdjieff (Prepared under the general supervision of Sophia Ouspensky). New York: Knopf, 1957; London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1957.
• Letters from Russia, 1919 (Introduction by Fairfax Hall and epilog from In Denikin's Russia by C. E. Bechhofer). London and New York: Arkana, 1978.
• Conscience: The Search for Truth. Introduction by Merrily E. Taylor. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979.
• A Further Record: Extracts from Meetings 1928–1945. London and New York: Arkana, 1986.
• The Symbolism of the Tarot (Translated by A. L. Pogossky). New York: Dover Publications Inc., 1976. Online version.
• The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution and The Cosmology of Man's possible Evolution, a limited edition of the definitive text of his Psychological and Cosmological Lectures, 1934–1945. Agora Books, East Sussex, 1989. ISBN 1-872292-00-3.
* P. D. Ouspensky Memorial Collection, Yale University Library. Archive notes taken from meetings during 1935–1947.


1. ... 1541013528
2. "Ouspensky Foundation". 2002. Archived from the original on 20 July 2018. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
3. Miller, Timothy (1995). America's Alternative Religions. SUNY Press. p. 260. ISBN 0-7914-2397-2.
4. Shirley, John (2004). Gurdjieff. Penguin Group. p. 111. ISBN 1-58542-287-8.
5. Moore, James (1999). Gurdjieff. Element Books Ltd. p. 73. ISBN 1-86204-606-9. The meaning of life is an eternal search.
6. Geometry of four dimensions by Henry Parker Manning
7. P. D. Ouspensky, The Fourth Dimension, Kessinger Publishing, 2005. ISBN 1-4253-4935-8.
8. Rucker, Rudolf, editor, Speculations on the Fourth Dimension: Selected Writings of Charles H. Hinton, Dover Publications Inc., 1980. ISBN 0-486-23916-0.
9. Scientific Romances by Charles Howard Hinton
10. A new era of thought by Charles Howard Hinton
11. P. D. Ouspensky, Strange Life of Ivan Osokin, Lindisfarne Books, 1947. ISBN 1-58420-005-7.
12. Ouspensky, P. D. (1912). Tertium Organum (2nd ed.). Forgotten Books. ISBN 1-60506-487-4.
13. Ouspensky, P. D. (2003). Tertium Organum. Book Tree. p. 266. ISBN 1-58509-244-4. A is both A and Not-A
14. Gary Lachman In Search of P. D. Ouspensky, p. 174, Quest Books, 2006 ISBN 978-0-8356-0848-0
15. Claude Bragdon, A Primer of Higher Space, Omen Press, Tucson, Arizona, 1972.
16. A primer of higher space (the fourth dimension) by Claude Fayette Bragdon, plates 1, 20 and 21 (following p. 24)
17. Rudolf Rucker, Geometry, Relativity and the Fourth Dimension, Dover Publications Inc., 1977, p. 2. ISBN 0-486-23400-2.
18. A New Model of the Universe: Principles of the Psychological Method in Its Application to Problems of Science, Religion and Art. Translated from the Russian by R. R. Merton, under the supervision of the author. New York: Knopf, 1931; London: Routledge, 1931; 2nd revised edition, London: Routledge, 1934; New York: Knopf, 1934.
19. Josephson-Storm, Jason (2017). The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity, and the Birth of the Human Sciences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 123. ISBN 0-226-40336-X.
20. Gary Lachman In Search of P. D. Ouspensky, pp. 177-8, Quest Books, 2006 ISBN 978-0-8356-0848-0
21. Alex Owen The Place of Enchantment, p. 232, University of Chicago Press, 2004 ISBN 978-0-226-64201-7
22. Brian Hodgkinson (2010). In Search of Truth. Shepheard-Walwyn (Publishers). ISBN 978-0-85683-276-5. External link in |title= (help) p. 34
23. Bruno de Panafieu-Jacob Needleman-George Baker-Mary Stein Gurdjieff, p. 218, Continuum International Publishing Group, 1997 ISBN 978-0-8264-1049-8
24. "1947–1960 Dr F.C. Roles: New Beginnings – Ouspensky Today". Retrieved 2017-09-12.
25. P. D. Ouspensky Conscience, p. 126, Routledge, 1979 ISBN 978-0-7100-0397-3
26. Gary Lachman In Search of P. D. Ouspensky, p. 121, Quest Books, 2006 ISBN 978-0-8356-0848-0
27. Beryl Pogson The Work Life, p. 5, 1994 ISBN 978-0-87728-809-1

Further reading

• Bob Hunter: "P.D.Ouspensky, Pioneer of the Fourth Way", Eureka Editions, 2000. [] ISBN 90-72395-32-8. Later republished as: Don't Forget: P.D. Ouspensky's Life of Self-Remembering, Bardic Press, 2006. ISBN 0-9745667-7-2.
• Cerqueiro, Daniel: "P.D.Ouspensky y su teoría Espacio-Temporal Hexadimensional". Ed.Peq.Ven. Buenos Aires 2010. ISBN 978-987-9239-20-9
• Gary Lachman: In Search of P. D. Ouspensky: The Genius in the Shadow of Gurdjieff. Quest Books, 2004, ISBN 0-8356-0840-9.
• J. H. Reyner: Ouspensky, The Unsung Genius. George Allen & Unwin, London, 1981, ISBN 0-04-294122-9.
• Colin Wilson: The Strange Life of P. D. Ouspensky. The Aquarian Press, 1993, ISBN 1-85538-079-X.
• The Study Society: The Bridge No. 12, P. D. Ouspensky Commemorative Issue.
• Gerald de Symons Beckwith (2015). Ouspensky’s Fourth Way: The story of the further development and completion of P D Ouspensky’s work by Dr Francis Roles. Starnine Media & Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-0-9931776-0-6.
• Centers~ Influences From Within: The Essential Wisdom of Mindfulness and the Fourth Way by Cheryl Shrode-Noble (2017) ISBN 1974034062

External links

• Ouspensky Today: Includes an archive of material and images celebrating Ouspensky’s life and work.
• The Ouspensky Foundation (2007, An Appreciation by James Moore; Bibliography by J. Walter Driscoll)
• Ouspensky's Historical Choreography
• Tertium Organum (full text at
• Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution (full text at
• New Model of the Universe (full text at Internet Archive)
• A Brief Discussion of Ouspensky's Thought by Michael Presley
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Wed Jul 10, 2019 9:26 am

Interview with James George
by James George
The Chronicles of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
June 27, 2003
© 2003 by James George



Excerpt from recorded interview


Although perhaps best known as a distinguished Canadian diplomat and an effective environmental and political activist, James George is first and foremost a spiritual seeker. He has been a devoted student of the Gurdjieff Work for more than fifty years and was a close disciple of the late Madame de Salzmann, one of Gurdjieff’s primary students. With her encouragement, he and his wife, Carol, explored the spiritual traditions that formed the foundation for Gurdjieff’s early training. While stationed in India, Sri Lanka, and the Middle East, the Georges met with a number of remarkable men, including Krishnamurti, Thomas Merton, Yogaswami of Sri Lanka, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh (Sufi master from Teheran), Dudjom Rinpoche, and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. This underlying interest in spirituality is the thread that runs through all of James George’s activities and accomplishments.

During the autumn months of 1968, James and Carol George hosted Trungpa Rinpoche in their home, the Canadian Embassy in Delhi. Of that period of time, Rinpoche wrote:

Returning from Bhutan through India [1968], I was delighted to meet again with His Holiness Karmapa and also His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I also made the acquaintance at this time of Mr. James George, the Canadian High Commissioner to India, and his wonderful family. Mr. George is a wise and benevolent man, an ideal statesman, who holds great respect and faith for the teachings of Buddhism. [From the Epilogue to Born In Tibet by Chögyam Trungpa, (c) 1966 by George Allen & Unwin Ltd., by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston.]

At the 2003 Kalapa Assembly, which he attended as the guest of honor, James George spoke about the importance of applying our spiritual practice to the problems facing the larger world. I met with Mr. George in his Toronto apartment in June 2003 and asked him to talk about the life and legacy of Vidyadhara the Venerable Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Here is what he had to say. -WF, October 2003


JG: Well Walter, I don’t know that I can do justice to this occasion but I’m very honoured to try, and even as we speak now, remembering Trungpa with much respect and much affection and asking his forgiveness for all the things I’ve forgotten that he told me and that you’d like to know. But some things have certainly remained very vivid and I suppose partly because I got to writing about Shambhala. His interest in Shambhala certainly sparked my interest in it. But let me go back a bit and begin at the beginning.

My wife, Carol, and I went to India in September 1967 and I think it was the next summer she was in London to drive a Land Rover back to India with our kids. I joined them part of the way on the return trip to India. In that visit to London, I think she met Trungpa for the first time – that would probably be August of 1968, or July. So it was natural that, having invited him to look us up in Delhi when he got back to India, he did, and in fact lived with us for most of that autumn, I think, from October through December 1968. The culmination of that visit was a beautiful pilgrimage we made as a family with Trungpa and I think Tendzin Parsons was also on that pilgrimage. Using our Land Rover, we went camping through all the Buddhist holy places in northern India, southern Nepal, Lumbini, Benares, Bodhgaya, and so on. It was a great time to be with him, and he of course made it very vivid, since I think it was in some cases, the first time he was able to visit these places.

It was, I think, during that visit in the fall of 1968 that Trungpa began to speak a little about Shambhala and Gesar of Ling and I, as I’ve written, asked him to describe what he was able to tell me about Shambhala. He pulled out his mirror – a metal disk mirror that he wore on a cord around his neck – and started to look into it with deep concentration and describe Shambhala, just as if he was looking out the window. It was very vivid and it got me researching Shambhala in a more serious way with a view to perhaps publishing something. Eventually I produced an article called Searching for Shambhala, which was published in Search: Journey on the Inner Path, edited by Jean Sulzberger. I had sent it to Trungpa in 1976 to see if I was allowed to publish this material and he gave his permission. In this article, I was exploring whether Shambhala was an allegory or a real place or both. And since that’s already published and on record, I don’t need to speak more about that perhaps.

Trungpa, at that time, was not certain what he should be doing on this mission. I think it was a few months later in the early part of 1969 that he decided to team up with Akong Rinpoche at Samye Ling in Scotland [ed. note: Samye Ling was founded in 1967.] and when he came to say goodbye to us before setting forth for Scotland and Samye Ling, I said to him, “You know, perhaps it’s out of place to say this to you, but I see Samye Ling and Scotland as much too small for what you’re going to be bringing to the West. You’re going to have to wind up in America somewhere, because that’s the big country.” Even at that time, the lamas were telling us that the dharma is now in the West and when we would ask them what they meant, they would say “America.” So I said to Trungpa, “Maybe your role is to bring the dharma to America and this would be a tremendous awakening, devoutly to be wished.” And in due course, I guess that’s what happened, although I never imagined at that time the scale of the awakening that he would create in such an extraordinarily short time.

The people he attracted, the intensity of the search, the shift in consciousness in so many of his pupils, I think, helped to shift the entire North American cultural scene in a significant way and that shift is continuing. This is one of the green sprouts coming up through the wasteland that our culture of the thirties and forties and fifties had pretty well created to the detriment of the entire planet, which is suffering ecological distress and crisis. He saw very clearly that the energy that animates us in our sitting practice and on our cushions has to be brought out into life. He saw that this energy is the yeast that can facilitate a change that is absolutely necessary at the cellular level in individual people, and from there into the whole culture. He saw that bringing meditation into our daily lives would make it possible, in due course, to avoid a culture of destruction and war, and violence and fear, and generate a culture of consciousness, nonviolence, and fearlessness.

In that sense, I think he always intended the Shambhala Training as a kind of outreach into the world and at the same time an inner preparation for the dzogchen teachings, the mahamudra teachings about being present in the moment no matter what — just aware — not thinking, feeling perhaps, but not reacting and maintaining this awareness in the face of whatever happens out there in life, ordinary life. So there were no boundaries for him between the secular and the profane. There were no distinctions, finally, between samsara and nirvana.

When I visited Trungpa in Boulder at his home in 1983, he was seeing, as I was, that we were in a rather threatened strategic situation. At that time, the United States was positioning its Pershing nuclear missiles on the border of East Germany. If fired, these missiles would reach Moscow in about 12 minutes and the danger of mistaken retaliation by misinterpreting radar signals seemed to be very great. I had been writing and campaigning about this dangerous situation in the peace movement, and I shared my views with Trungpa at that time. I think this supported his decision to move the centre of his operations to Halifax, out of the United States, and out of Colorado – where the strategic command was located at Colorado Springs – and find a safer haven for his people and for his work. Of course he accomplished that move to Halifax only a year before he died. But the decision has stuck. You haven’t moved back in any substantial degree, and I think Halifax and Nova Scotia have benefited from having this influx of practitioners who are committed to doing something more than sit in solitary or collective meditation. You have taken the practice into your lives and into the creation of a more enlightened society in so many practical ways.

There’s something else I could share from an historical perspective. When I visited Trungpa in Colorado in 1983, he already had the court thing going and the formality around his person. I noticed that many of the protocols that he introduced, had been lifted directly from his experience in Delhi living with us and observing how an ambassador functions and the formalities that surround him in a country like India, which loves formality. I think much of Trungpa’s court formality was inspired by his experience of diplomatic life with us.

When I was on that visit, he asked me to stay. And I said, really I’m supposed to be back in Crestone tonight. So I took my leave and got into my car and my car wouldn’t start. It had been working perfectly when I arrived, but now it would not start. He kept me there for several hours that way before he released the car to start, which it did in due course. But it was interesting that he produced that. So that’s another anecdote for you.

But these anecdotes only point to the real thing, which is the preparation of humanity for a level of consciousness that lives with awareness in the moment, and not just in the moment. We can learn to sustain that awareness by bringing it into our life, our conversation, our writing, our being, because it doesn’t come from us personally. It comes from a much higher source that is waiting to get into humanity, if only we would wake up and get with it. So, for each one of us, this search for Shambhala is a practice of coming to this moment in a different modality of awareness. I think Trungpa Rinpoche’s influence through so many lives, not only in North America, but in Europe and other countries, has been immense and little appreciated, because it has moved quietly and modestly and, for the most part, below the radar of the media.

I’m reminded of what Bernie Glassman has been doing in New York. The Greyston Foundation, which he started, provides housing for people, and operates a bakery that is a huge business now. Greyston has created a way for Zen to enter into relations with others who are practicing, whether they carry a Buddhist name or a Christian name or a Jewish name or a Gurdjieffian name. It doesn’t matter because we’re all seeing that, in origin, the human experience has gradually come to understand what could generate bodhicitta and nonviolent awareness. All of our activities – whether we’re trying to improve the conditions of the poor, or teach meditation to prisoners in the penitentiaries, or give bread to those who need it, homes to those that don’t have them – are just the outer support for an inner practice of freedom from conditions. Without that practice, no awareness can develop. Without that practice we lose the connection to a greater consciousness, with which we have been blessed.

I think we all share the hope that human consciousness can evolve. We’re probably not going to evolve much more physically, that’s been done. But we don’t want to be stuck with the consciousness that was appropriate for hunting and gathering and the violence that was even necessary to prevent ourselves being devoured by predators. We’ve now become the predators on the planet and are destroying our resources and each other, one-hundred-million dead from war in the last century alone. It’s really shocking as a measure of human consciousness as it presently is. So that transformation must take place or we’re down the tube and so is the planet. Therefore an evolution of consciousness is what I think fundamentally – aside from whatever lineage we represent – we’re all trying to work for and search for, in ourselves, and collectively in our little groups.

When Trungpa came to America, he was not presenting the Buddhism of Tibet, exactly. When the dharma crossed the mountains with Padmasambhava, it had to change, and did. And with Trungpa, it had to cross the seas and change, and that change is still in progress. Of course anybody who is trying to change a tradition is up against enormous fundamentalist resistance, both from those who understand and want to protect something in the original that could be distorted, and from those who are just attached to a form and want to preserve it without really understanding the living spirit that gives it life. So he had to withstand pressures from all these different angles, and at the same time make something that someone like Allen Ginsberg could appreciate. I worked with Allen in New York for several years and he owed an immense debt to Trungpa. Allen would never have been able to connect with the dharma if he had just been taught in the Tibetan style. So transplanting buddhadharma into a western context was a very tricky thing to attempt and to carry out and Trungpa Rinpoche did it in a very short time.

We were friends of a remarkable English lady, Freda Bedi, later known as Sister Palmo, who should be recorded as a patron of Trungpa. She started the young lamas program with her own money; I was one of the trustees of her foundation for awhile. She sent Akong, Trungpa, Sogyal, so many of the promising tulkus, to Oxford or Cambridge and gave them a university education, so that — knowing both languages in a sophisticated way — they could teach fluently in English and translate Tibetan texts into English. She understood that such translations would be so much better than the work done by Evans-Wentz, which were hopeless translations compared to what Larry Mermelstein and your group of translators in Halifax have been doing, as well as Chagdud’s people, and others. It has been a remarkable job, comparable to the translation from Sanskrit into Tibetan, with long lasting effects and benefit, I’m sure.

WF: Could you say anything about how Trungpa Rinpoche’s life might be viewed by future generations—

JG: I don’t know how his life will be assessed in the end. It’s too soon. He’s already recognized as a pioneer in bringing a fresh Buddhism from Tibet to North America and Europe. But he also needs to be seen as a spiritual pioneer in his own right. Look at the influence of someone like Longchenpa. He did it through his books and through his pupils, just as Trungpa did, and that influence is still touching lives today. There’s a wonderful translation of the Precious Treasury of the Basic Space of Phenomena by Longchenpa that just came out from the Padma Publishing line of Chagdud Rinpoche, which I thought was splendid, sort of the heart of dzogchen. I feel Trungpa was getting us ready to appreciate such teachings and be able to live them a bit, and to prepare others for the same transmissions.

He’s been criticized for his lifestyle, but I don’t feel that way. He was very frank with me about it. He said one time in India, “You know, my lineage of Trungpas have always had trouble with their emotions.”

I’d like to read a poem that I think is appropriate, if you’ll give me that book that’s on the shelf beside you. This is René Daumal’s poem translated from the French, written at the end of his short life when he had already become, I think, one of the outstanding pupils of Gurdjieff. René Daumal is quite well known in France as an avant-garde poet of the twenties and thirties. He died in 1944 at the age of 36. This poem was his last summing up.

I am dead because I lack desire
I lack desire because I think I have it
I think I have it because I do not try to give.
In trying to give, I see that I have nothing
Seeing I have nothing, I then try to give of myself
Trying to give of myself, I see that I am nothing
Seeing that I am nothing, I desire to become
And in desiring to become, I begin to live, I begin to live.

WF: That’s marvelous. Thank you.

JG: Well I think that’s paralleled in Trungpa’s teaching. In Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, he is teaching us how to awaken enough and how to surrender enough. I think one of his greatest teachings was at the end of that book: “… these moments of surrender where we just give up.”

When Carol and I were back on leave from India in 1971, we visited Trungpa at Karme Chöling in Vermont. The three of us walked up to the great meadow together and he was enjoying the spaciousness of it – saying what a wonderful energy it had, which we felt too. The next time we were there was in 1987 for his cremation, watching all those rainbows out of a clear sky, hearing all the lamas chanting, feeling so many thousands of people practicing together. You know, such an event is not a small thing. It leaves a mark on the culture and it ripples out in ways we cannot understand.

WF: In your book, Asking for the Earth, I learned that Madame de Salzmann met Trungpa Rinpoche in India.

Dudjom Rinpoche and Mme de Salzmann, India, 1971.

JG: Yes. I had two wonderful, visits from Madame de Salzmann in India, but she met Trungpa in Paris. She met other lamas: Dudjom Rinpoche, Kangur Rinpoche, and I think Kalu Rinpoche and Chatral Rinpoche, while she was in India. They called her the Queen of the Dakinis, with great respect. They got on very well, and I have a picture I’ll show you of Madame de Salzmann with Dudjom Rinpoche. I can’t tell you much about Trungpa’s meeting with Madame de Salzmann in Paris because I wasn’t there at the time, but I had arranged it. Namkha’i Norbu Rinpoche met her in Paris as well.

[ed. note: After the interview, Mr. George shared this excerpt from a letter he received from Mme de Salzmann, dated 27 May 1969:]

“I was horrified to hear about the accident of Lama Trungpa. I like him very much – He is clean and true.” Mme de Salzmann

WF: Is it possible that Madame de Salzmann wrote about her meeting with Trungpa Rinpoche in her journals—

JG: I don’t think so. If she did, I don’t know about it, and I think they might have told me. She was very interested in her contact with the Tibetans. She began to introduce sitting meditation practice in the late fifties and early sixties following her contacts with Zen masters. Madame de Salzmann visited Japan and met several of the leading Zen masters of the day before she met their equivalent, the Rinpoches, in the Tibetan tradition. She was very interested in both streams of teachings, and I believe her interest has influenced how we, in the Gurdjieff Work, approach sittings.

When DT Suzuki came to our New York groups and saw our movements, our sacred dances, he said: “I wish we had this in Zen. We have a meditation walk, but it’s not the same thing. It’s not so demanding.” He was very attracted to what Gurdjieff had done with the movements. I think that they are probably Gurdjieff’s unique contribution: the attention created by a whole class moving as one. When the dancers can give up their own personality movements, and really listen to the music and really feel the connection with the other movers, and what animates all of them, they move together like a flock of birds turning absolutely together. You can analyze a movie of a flock of birds frame-by-frame, as they swirl in one direction or another, but you cannot find a leader. They just do it together. When one is in a state to dance together in that way, it’s quite a different consciousness. Having had a taste of it while dancing, then there’s the possibility that we might be able to reach that state again on a cushion, or in conversation, or whatever we’re doing.

Trungpa was very interested in what Gurdjieff had tried to do because, in a way, he was trying to do the same thing. They both were confronted with the task of taking an understanding that was born out of eastern spirituality and (in Gurdjieff’s case) the roots of eastern Christianity, and translating that into language that was accessible to contemporary culture.

Gurdjieff spent three and a half years in Tibet. He wrote in Meetings With Remarkable Men, his autobiographical work, that he was taken to a central Asian monastery in Kashmir or Tibet called a monastery of the Sarmoung brotherhood. Now, Surmang, the seat of Trungpa’s lineage, is just a transposition of vowels, which I think, may conceal where Gurdjieff received much of his teaching. His essential teaching, his oral teaching (as distinct from what he wrote in his books) was all about what you would call dzogchen and I would call awareness or presence in this moment.

WF: Do you think that Gurdjieff made it all the way to Surmang—

JG: Yes, I do. I don’t think he would have used that code word for his most sacred place of teaching, if he hadn’t been there. I do think that’s where he was. But there is no record of that and he was very careful to cover up any traces of where he had been so that people wouldn’t just go dashing off to find something that wasn’t there anymore.

WF: In Trungpa Rinpoche’s will, he said something to the effect that he didn’t want anyone to systematize his teachings the way that Ouspensky had systematized Gurdjieff’s teachings. He felt that Ouspensky had systematized Gurdjieff overzealously.

JG: Perhaps he did. We owe Ouspensky a lot for the clarity of his report, but we’ve been trying to get out from under that sort of systematizing ever since, and I think we are getting out of it. The fact that we can talk about dzogchen commonalities and so on, is proof of that. Ouspensky recognized at the end of his life that he probably made a mistake in breaking with Gurdjieff over twenty years earlier. So all that time, Ouspensky was in England writing about what he called The System. After Ouspensky died in 1947, Madame Ouspensky called Gurdjieff back to New York to deal with all the Ouspensky people whom he had told to have nothing to do with Gurdjieff. And Gurdjieff told them, not in these words but in effect, “Start all over again. You’ve got it all in your heads and you’re not practicing in a right way. Don’t let the spirit harden into some form; because, although it creates all forms, it is not the form. Only from the living juice of the spirit is anything alive coming through.” This is just the sort of approach Trungpa might have made: shake things up. When forms become lifeless, they turn into idolatry. Idolatry is worshiping that which is less than the Unknown. To be entirely open, to surrender to the Unknowingness of the Unknown, is an extraordinary challenge, and it needs fearless warriors to respond.

WF: Do you recall if he corresponded with you at all during the years he was in North America—

JG: Really not, no. No significant letters, in any case. And yet whenever we could meet, we’d phone him, and meet him, and it was as if we’d never left each other.

WF: Well I know he always spoke so fondly of you. This has been a wonderful account. Thank you so very much for your insight and for your continued friendship and support for our community and for Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings.
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Wed Jul 10, 2019 10:01 am

Erich Fromm
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 7/10/19



As Sherab Kohn [real name hidden completely from the Internet] reports:

Early on in the three-week Tagtsang retreat, a young Australian named Lorraine, like Rinpoche in Bhutan as a guest of the queen, arrived at Tagtsang on a sightseeing visit. Finding interesting company there -- notably the young Trungpa Rinpoche and two of his English students -- she decided to stay for a few days. She had in her backpack a copy of Erich Fromm's book The Sane Society [which discusses how a society must be structured to support and favor the arising of sane human relations, loving communication, and meaningful action, which represent the fulfillment of human existence]. She passed this book along to Kunga Dawa (Richard Arthure), one of the English students, who read it and passed it on to Rinpoche. Rinpoche had just finished writing the Sadhana of Mahamudra, and was already energized to the point where he was hardly sleeping. Now he positively caught fire with the ideas expressed in Fromm's book.

Even before leaving the UK for India and Bhutan, Rinpoche had been thinking about a new society. He had given a talk at Cambridge in which he spoke of Maitreya, the Buddha of hte future, not as a person but as a future state of society. He spoke of lost tribal structure that had to be recovered in new form. Now, at Tagtsang, discussions of those ideas began among the four English speakers at the retreat, which continued day after day from early evening until deep into the night.

As I've said, Rinpoche did not speak of his keen interest in transforming society, or the principles of Shambhala, for many years after coming to the West. Until the mid-1970s his emphasis was on personal practice. In the early years, when he was asked about getting involved in politics -- protesting against the war in Vietnam or nuclear-bomb production, for example -- he would always bring us back to working with our own aggression first.

-- Warrior-King of Shambhala: Remembering Chogyam Trungpa, by Jeremy Hayward

Erich Fromm
Fromm in 1974
Born Erich Seligmann Fromm
March 23, 1900
Frankfurt am Main, German Empire
Died March 18, 1980 (aged 79)
Muralto, Ticino, Switzerland
Era 20th century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Continental philosophy, Frankfurt School critical theory, psychoanalysis, humanistic Judaism
Main interests
Humanism, social theory, Marxism
Notable ideas
Being and Having as modes of existence, security versus freedom, social character, Character orientation
Influences: Bachofen, Spinoza, Eckhart, Kierkegaard, Marx, Freud, Alfred Weber
Influenced: Elias Porter, Chögyam Trungpa

Part of a series on the Frankfurt School
Theorists of the Frankfurt School
Major works
Reason and Revolution
The Work of Art in the
Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Eclipse of Reason
Escape from Freedom
Minima Moralia
Eros and Civilization
One-Dimensional Man
Negative Dialectics
The Structural Transformation
of the Public Sphere
The Theory of Communicative Action
Dialectic of Enlightenment
Notable theorists
Herbert Marcuse · Theodor Adorno
Max Horkheimer · Walter Benjamin
Erich Fromm · Friedrich Pollock
Leo Löwenthal · Jürgen Habermas
Alfred Schmidt · Axel Honneth Siegfried Kracauer · Otto Kirchheimer
Important concepts
Critical theory · Dialectic · Praxis
Psychoanalysis · Antipositivism
Popular culture · Culture industry
Advanced capitalism
Privatism · Non-identity
Communicative rationality
Legitimation crisis

Erich Seligmann Fromm (/frɒm/; German: [fʁɔm]; March 23, 1900 – March 18, 1980) was a German-born American social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist. He was one of the Founders of The William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis and Psychology in New York City and was associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory.[1][n 1]


Erich Fromm was born on March 23, 1900, at Frankfurt am Main, the only child of Orthodox Jewish parents, Rosa (Krause) and Naphtali Fromm.[2] He started his academic studies in 1918 at the University of Frankfurt am Main with two semesters of jurisprudence. During the summer semester of 1919, Fromm studied at the University of Heidelberg, where he began studying sociology under Alfred Weber (brother of the better known sociologist Max Weber), psychiatrist-philosopher Karl Jaspers, and Heinrich Rickert. Fromm received his PhD in sociology from Heidelberg in 1922. During the mid-1920s, he trained to become a psychoanalyst through Frieda Reichmann's psychoanalytic sanatorium in Heidelberg. They married in 1926, but separated shortly after and divorced in 1942. He began his own clinical practice in 1927. In 1930 he joined the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research and completed his psychoanalytical training.

After the Nazi takeover of power in Germany, Fromm moved first to Geneva and then, in 1934, to Columbia University in New York. Together with Karen Horney and Harry Stack Sullivan, Fromm belongs to a Neo-Freudian school of psychoanalytical thought. Horney and Fromm each had a marked influence on the other's thought, with Horney illuminating some aspects of psychoanalysis for Fromm and the latter elucidating sociology for Horney. Their relationship ended in the late 1930s.[3] After leaving Columbia, Fromm helped form the New York branch of the Washington School of Psychiatry in 1943, and in 1946 co-founded the William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis, and Psychology. He was on the faculty of Bennington College from 1941 to 1949, and taught courses at the New School for Social Research in New York from 1941 to 1959.

When Fromm moved to Mexico City in 1949, he became a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and established a psychoanalytic section at the medical school there. Meanwhile, he taught as a professor of psychology at Michigan State University from 1957 to 1961 and as an adjunct professor of psychology at the graduate division of Arts and Sciences at New York University after 1962. He taught at UNAM until his retirement, in 1965, and at the Mexican Society of Psychoanalysis (SMP) until 1974. In 1974 he moved from Mexico City to Muralto, Switzerland, and died at his home in 1980, five days before his eightieth birthday. All the while, Fromm maintained his own clinical practice and published a series of books.

Fromm was reportedly an atheist[4][n 2] but described his position as "nontheistic mysticism".[5]

Psychological theory

Beginning with his first seminal work of 1941, Escape from Freedom (known in Britain as Fear of Freedom), Fromm's writings were notable as much for their social and political commentary as for their philosophical and psychological underpinnings. Indeed, Escape from Freedom is viewed as one of the founding works of political psychology. His second important work, Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics, first published in 1947, continued and enriched the ideas of Escape from Freedom. Taken together, these books outlined Fromm's theory of human character, which was a natural outgrowth of Fromm's theory of human nature. Fromm's most popular book was The Art of Loving, an international bestseller first published in 1956, which recapitulated and complemented the theoretical principles of human nature found in Escape from Freedom and Man for Himself—principles which were revisited in many of Fromm's other major works.

Central to Fromm's world view was his interpretation of the Talmud and Hasidism. He began studying Talmud as a young man under Rabbi J. Horowitz and later under Rabbi Salman Baruch Rabinkow, a Chabad Hasid. While working towards his doctorate in sociology at the University of Heidelberg,[6] Fromm studied the Tanya by the founder of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. Fromm also studied under Nehemia Nobel and Ludwig Krause while studying in Frankfurt. Fromm's grandfather and two great grandfathers on his father's side were rabbis, and a great uncle on his mother's side was a noted Talmudic scholar. However, Fromm turned away from orthodox Judaism in 1926, towards secular interpretations of scriptural ideals.

The cornerstone of Fromm's humanistic philosophy is his interpretation of the biblical story of Adam and Eve's exile from the Garden of Eden. Drawing on his knowledge of the Talmud, Fromm pointed out that being able to distinguish between good and evil is generally considered to be a virtue, but that biblical scholars generally consider Adam and Eve to have sinned by disobeying God and eating from the Tree of Knowledge. However, departing from traditional religious orthodoxy on this, Fromm extolled the virtues of humans taking independent action and using reason to establish moral values rather than adhering to authoritarian moral values.

Beyond a simple condemnation of authoritarian value systems, Fromm used the story of Adam and Eve as an allegorical explanation for human biological evolution and existential angst, asserting that when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, they became aware of themselves as being separate from nature while still being part of it. This is why they felt "naked" and "ashamed": they had evolved into human beings, conscious of themselves, their own mortality, and their powerlessness before the forces of nature and society, and no longer united with the universe as they were in their instinctive, pre-human existence as animals. According to Fromm, the awareness of a disunited human existence is a source of guilt and shame, and the solution to this existential dichotomy is found in the development of one's uniquely human powers of love and reason. However, Fromm distinguished his concept of love from unreflective popular notions as well as Freudian paradoxical love (see the criticism by Marcuse below).

Fromm considered love to be an interpersonal creative capacity rather than an emotion, and he distinguished this creative capacity from what he considered to be various forms of narcissistic neuroses and sado-masochistic tendencies that are commonly held out as proof of "true love". Indeed, Fromm viewed the experience of "falling in love" as evidence of one's failure to understand the true nature of love, which he believed always had the common elements of care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge. Drawing from his knowledge of the Torah, Fromm pointed to the story of Jonah, who did not wish to save the residents of Nineveh from the consequences of their sin, as demonstrative of his belief that the qualities of care and responsibility are generally absent from most human relationships. Fromm also asserted that few people in modern society had respect for the autonomy of their fellow human beings, much less the objective knowledge of what other people truly wanted and needed.

Fromm believed that freedom was an aspect of human nature that we either embrace or escape. He observed that embracing our freedom of will was healthy, whereas escaping freedom through the use of escape mechanisms was the root of psychological conflicts. Fromm outlined three of the most common escape mechanisms: automaton conformity, authoritarianism, and destructiveness. Automaton conformity is changing one's ideal self to conform to a perception of society's preferred type of personality, losing one's true self in the process. Automaton conformity displaces the burden of choice from self to society. Authoritarianism is giving control of oneself to another. By submitting one's freedom to someone else, this act removes the freedom of choice almost entirely. Lastly, destructiveness is any process which attempts to eliminate others or the world as a whole, all to escape freedom. Fromm said that "the destruction of the world is the last, almost desperate attempt to save myself from being crushed by it".[7]

The word biophilia was frequently used by Fromm as a description of a productive psychological orientation and "state of being". For example, in an addendum to his book The Heart of Man: Its Genius For Good and Evil, Fromm wrote as part of his humanist credo:

"I believe that the man choosing progress can find a new unity through the development of all his human forces, which are produced in three orientations. These can be presented separately or together: biophilia, love for humanity and nature, and independence and freedom."[8]

Erich Fromm postulated eight basic needs:

Need / Description

Transcendence / Being thrown into the world without their consent, humans have to transcend their nature by destroying or creating people or things.[9] Humans can destroy through malignant aggression, or killing for reasons other than survival, but they can also create and care about their creations.[9]

Rootedness / Rootedness is the need to establish roots and to feel at home again in the world.[9] Productively, rootedness enables us to grow beyond the security of our mother and establish ties with the outside world.[9] With the nonproductive strategy, we become fixated and afraid to move beyond the security and safety of our mother or a mother substitute.[9]

Sense of Identity / The drive for a sense of identity is expressed nonproductively as conformity to a group and productively as individuality.[9]

Frame of orientation / Understanding the world and our place in it.

Excitation and Stimulation / Actively striving for a goal rather than simply responding.

Unity / A sense of oneness between one person and the "natural and human world outside."

Effectiveness / The need to feel accomplished.[10]

Fromm's thesis of the "escape from freedom" is epitomized in the following passage. The "individualized man" referenced by Fromm is man bereft of the "primary ties" of belonging (i.e. nature, family, etc.), also expressed as "freedom from":

There is only one possible, productive solution for the relationship of individualized man with the world: his active solidarity with all men and his spontaneous activity, love and work, which unite him again with the world, not by primary ties but as a free and independent individual.... However, if the economic, social and political conditions... do not offer a basis for the realization of individuality in the sense just mentioned, while at the same time people have lost those ties which gave them security, this lag makes freedom an unbearable burden. It then becomes identical with doubt, with a kind of life which lacks meaning and direction. Powerful tendencies arise to escape from this kind of freedom into submission or some kind of relationship to man and the world which promises relief from uncertainty, even if it deprives the individual of his freedom.

— Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom [N.Y.: Rinehart, 1941], pp. 36–7. The point is repeated on pp. 31, 256–7.)

Five basic orientations

In his book Man for Himself Fromm spoke of "orientation of character". He differentiates his theory of character from that of Freud by focusing on two ways an individual relates to the world. Freud analyzed character in terms of libido organization, whereas Fromm says that in the process of living, we relate to the world by: 1) acquiring and assimilating things—"Assimilation", and 2) reacting to people—"Socialization". Fromm asserted that these two ways of relating to the world were not instinctive, but an individual's response to the peculiar circumstances of his or her life; he also believed that people are never exclusively one type of orientation. These two ways of relating to life's circumstances lead to basic character-orientations.

Fromm lists four types of nonproductive character orientation, which he called receptive, exploitative, hoarding, and marketing, and one positive character orientation, which he called productive. Receptive and exploitative orientations are basically how an individual may relate to other people and are socialization attributes of character. A hoarding orientation is an acquiring and assimilating materials/valuables character trait. The marketing orientation arises in response to the human situation in the modern era. The current needs of the market determine value. It is a relativistic ethic. In contrast, the productive orientation is an objective ethic. Despite the existential struggles of humanity, each human has the potential for love, reason and productive work in life. Fromm writes, "It is the paradox of human existence that man must simultaneously seek for closeness and for independence; for oneness with others and at the same time for the preservation of his uniqueness and particularity. ...the answer to this paradox – and to the moral problems of man – is productiveness."

Fromm's influence on other notable psychologists

Fromm's four non-productive orientations were subject to validation through a psychometric test, The Person Relatedness Test by Elias H. Porter, PhD in collaboration with Carl Rogers, PhD at the University of Chicago's Counseling Center between 1953 and 1955. Fromm's four non-productive orientations also served as basis for the LIFO test, first published in 1967 by Stuart Atkins, Alan Katcher, PhD, and Elias Porter, PhD and the Strength Deployment Inventory, first published in 1971 by Elias H. Porter, PhD.[11] Fromm also influenced his student Sally L. Smith who went on to become the founder of the Lab School of Washington and the Baltimore Lab School.[12]

Critique of Freud

Fromm examined the life and work of Sigmund Freud at length. Fromm identified a discrepancy between early and later Freudian theory: namely that, prior to World War I, Freud had described human drives as a tension between desire and repression, but after the end of the war, began framing human drives as a struggle between biologically universal Life and Death (Eros and Thanatos) instincts. Fromm charged Freud and his followers with never acknowledging the contradictions between the two theories.

Fromm also criticized Freud's dualistic thinking. According to Fromm, Freudian descriptions of human consciousness as struggles between two poles were narrow and limiting. Fromm also condemned Freud as a misogynist unable to think outside the patriarchal milieu of early 20th century Vienna. However, in spite of these criticisms, Fromm nonetheless expressed a great respect for Freud and his accomplishments. Fromm contended that Freud was one of the "architects of the modern age", alongside Albert Einstein and Karl Marx, but emphasized that he considered Marx both far more historically important than Freud and a finer thinker.[13]

Political ideas and activities

Fromm's best known work, Escape from Freedom, focuses on the human urge to seek a source of authority and control upon reaching a freedom that was thought to be an individual's true desire. Fromm's critique of the modern political order and capitalist system led him to seek insights from medieval feudalism. In Escape from Freedom, he found value in the lack of individual freedom, rigid structure, and obligations required on the members of medieval society:

What characterizes medieval in contrast to modern society is its lack of individual freedom…But altogether a person was not free in the modern sense, neither was he alone and isolated. In having a distinct, unchangeable, and unquestionable place in the social world from the moment of birth, man was rooted in a structuralized whole, and thus life had a meaning which left no place, and no need for doubt…There was comparatively little competition. One was born into a certain economic position which guaranteed a livelihood determined by tradition, just as it carried economic obligations to those higher in the social hierarchy.[14]

Noam Chomsky discusses Erich Fromm's theory of alienation.

The culmination of Fromm's social and political philosophy was his book The Sane Society, published in 1955, which argued in favor of a humanistic and democratic socialism. Building primarily upon the early works of Karl Marx, Fromm sought to re-emphasise the ideal of freedom, missing from most Soviet Marxism and more frequently found in the writings of libertarian socialists and liberal theoreticians. Fromm's brand of socialism rejected both Western capitalism and Soviet communism, which he saw as dehumanizing, and which resulted in the virtually universal modern phenomenon of alienation. He became one of the founders of socialist humanism, promoting the early writings of Marx and his humanist messages to the US and Western European public.

In the early 1960s, Fromm published two books dealing with Marxist thought (Marx's Concept of Man and Beyond the Chains of Illusion: My Encounter with Marx and Freud). In 1965, working to stimulate the Western and Eastern cooperation between Marxist humanists, Fromm published a series of articles entitled Socialist Humanism: An International Symposium. In 1966, the American Humanist Association named him Humanist of the Year.

For a period, Fromm was also active in U.S. politics. He joined the Socialist Party of America in the mid-1950s, and did his best to help them provide an alternative viewpoint to McCarthyism trends in some US political thought. This alternative viewpoint was best expressed in his 1961 paper May Man Prevail? An Inquiry into the Facts and Fictions of Foreign Policy. However, as a co-founder of SANE, Fromm's strongest political activism was in the international peace movement, fighting against the nuclear arms race and U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. After supporting Senator Eugene McCarthy's losing bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Fromm more or less retreated from the American political scene, although he did write a paper in 1974 entitled Remarks on the Policy of Détente for a hearing held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Fromm was awarded Nelly Sachs Prize in 1979.


In Eros and Civilization, Herbert Marcuse is critical of Fromm: In the beginning, he was a radical theorist, but later he turned to conformity. Marcuse also noted that Fromm, as well as his close colleagues Sullivan and Karen Horney, removed Freud's libido theory and other radical concepts, which thus reduced psychoanalysis to a set of idealist ethics, which only embrace the status quo.[15] Fromm's response, in both The Sane Society[16] and in The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness,[17] argues that Freud indeed deserves substantial credit for recognizing the central importance of the unconscious, but also that he tended to rectify his own concepts that depicted the self as the passive outcome of instinct and social control, with minimal volition or variability. Fromm argues that later scholars such as Marcuse accepted these concepts as dogma, whereas social psychology requires a more dynamic theoretical and empirical approach. In reference to Fromm's leftist political activism as a public intellectual, Noam Chomsky said "I liked Fromm's attitudes but thought his work was pretty superficial".[18]


1. For a second name he was given that of his grandfather on his father's side–Seligmann Pinchas Fromm, although the registry office in Frankfurt does not record him as Erich Pinchas Fromm, but as Erich Seligmann Fromm. Also his parents addressed his mail to 'Erich S. Fromm.'[1]
2. About the same time he stopped observing Jewish religious rituals and rejected a cause he had once embraced, Zionism. He "just didn't want to participate in any division of the human race, whether religious or political," he explained decades later (Wershba, p. 12), by which time he was a confirmed atheist.[4]


1. Funk, Rainer. Erich Fromm: His Life and Ideas. Translators Ian Portman, Manuela Kunkel. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003. ISBN 0-8264-1519-9, ISBN 978-0-8264-1519-6. p. 13
3. Paris, Bernard J. (1998) Horney & Humanistic Psychoanalysis – Personal History Archived May 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. International Karen Horney Society.
4. Keay Davidson: "Fromm, Erich Pinchas", American National Biography Online, Feb. 2000 (accessed April 28, 2008)
5. Fromm, E. (1966). You shall be as Gods, A Fawcett Premier Book, p. 18:"Hence, I wish to make my position clear at the outset. If I could define my position approximately, I would call it that of a nontheistic mysticism."
6. His 1922 thesis was under the title Das jüdische Gesetz. Ein Beitrag zur Soziologie des Diaspora-Judentums (The Jewish Law: A Contribution to the Sociology of Jewish Diaspora).
7. Fromm, Erich Escape from Freedom New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 1941, p. 177
8. Fromm, Erich On Being Human London: The Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd, 1997, p. 101
9. The Glaring Facts . "Erich Fromm & Humanistic PsychoanalysisArchived January 21, 2013, at the Wayback Machine." The Glaring Facts, n.d. Web. 12 November 2011.
10. Engler, Barbara Personality Theories Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2008, p. 137 based on The Sane Society and The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness
11. "Relationship Awareness Theory Overview". Personal Strengths Publishing. Retrieved January 28, 2013.
12. Liberman & Kiriki,1951
13. Fromm, Erich. Beyond the Chains of Illusion: My Encounter with Marx & Freud. London: Sphere Books, 1980, p. 11
14. Fromm, Erich "Escape from Freedom" New York: Rinehart & Co., 1941, p. 41 – 42
15. John Rickert, The Fromm-Marcuse debate revisited, 1986 in "Theory and Society", vol. 15, pp. 351–400. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht
16. Erich Fromm, [1955] 1990 The Sane Society, New York: Henry Holt
17. Erich Fromm, [1973] 1992, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, New York: Henry Holt.
18. Barsky, Robert (1997). Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. p. 134.


Early work in German

• Das jüdische Gesetz. Ein Beitrag zur Soziologie des Diaspora-Judentums., Promotion, 1922. ISBN 3-453-09896-X
• Über Methode und Aufgaben einer analytischen Sozialpsychologie. Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, Bd. 1, 1932, S. 28–54.
• Die psychoanalytische Charakterologie und ihre Bedeutung für die Sozialpsychologie.Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, Bd. 1, 1932, S. 253–277.
• Sozialpsychologischer Teil. In: Studien über Autorität und Familie. Forschungsberichte aus dem Institut für Sozialforschung. Alcan, Paris 1936, S. 77–135.
• Zweite Abteilung: Erhebungen (Erich Fromm u.a.). In: Studien über Autorität und Familie. Forschungsberichte aus dem Institut für Sozialforschung. Alcan, Paris 1936, S. 229–469.
• Die Furcht vor der Freiheit, 1941 (In English, "Fear/Dread of Freedom"). ISBN 3-423-35024-5
• Psychoanalyse & Ethik, 1946. ISBN 3-423-35011-3
• Psychoanalyse & Religion, 1949. ISBN 3-423-34105-X (The Dwight H. Terry Lectureship 1949/1950)

Later works in English

• Escape from Freedom (U.S.), The Fear of Freedom (UK) (1941) ISBN 978-0-8050-3149-2
• Man for himself, an inquiry into the psychology of ethics (1947) ISBN 978-0-8050-1403-7
• Psychoanalysis and Religion (1950) ISBN 978-0-300-00089-4
• The Forgotten Language; an introduction to the understanding of dreams, fairy tales, and myths (1951) ISBN 978-0-03-018436-9
• The Sane Society (1955) ISBN 978-0-415-60586-1
• The Art of Loving (1956) ISBN 978-0-06-112973-5
• Sigmund Freud's mission; an analysis of his personality and influence (1959)
• Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis (1960) ISBN 978-0-285-64747-3
• May Man Prevail? An inquiry into the facts and fictions of foreign policy (1961) ISBN 978-0-385-00035-2
• Marx's Concept of Man (1961) ISBN 978-0-8264-7791-0
• Beyond the Chains of Illusion: my encounter with Marx and Freud (1962) ISBN 978-0-8264-1897-5
• The Dogma of Christ and Other Essays on Religion, Psychology and Culture (1963) ISBN 978-0-415-28999-3
• The Heart of Man, its genius for good and evil (1964) ISBN 978-0-06-090795-2
• Socialist Humanism (1965)
• You Shall Be as Gods: a radical interpretation of the Old Testament and its tradition(1966) ISBN 978-0-8050-1605-5
• The Revolution of Hope, toward a humanized technology (1968) ISBN 978-1-59056-183-6
• The Nature of Man (1968) ISBN 978-0-86562-082-7
• The Crisis of Psychoanalysis (1970) ISBN 978-0-449-30792-2
• Social character in a Mexican village; a sociopsychoanalytic study (Fromm & Maccoby) (1970) ISBN 978-1-56000-876-7
• The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973) ISBN 978-0-8050-1604-8
• To Have or to Be? (1976) ISBN 978-0-8050-1604-8
• Greatness and Limitation of Freud's Thought (1979) ISBN 978-0-06-011389-6
• On Disobedience and other essays (1981) ISBN 978-0-8164-0500-8
• For the Love of Life (1986) ISBN 0-02-910930-2
• The Art of Being (1993) ISBN 978-0-8264-0673-6
• The Art of Listening (1994) ISBN 978-0-8264-1132-7
• On Being Human (1997) ISBN 978-0-8264-1005-4

Further reading

• De Rodrigo, Enrique, Neoliberalismo y otras patologías de la normalidad. Conversando nuestro tiempo con Erich Fromm. Madrid: PenBooks, 2015. ISBN 978-84-608-1648-5. (Spanish)
• Lawrence J. Friedman, The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love's Prophet. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0231162586.
• Funk, Rainer, Erich Fromm: His Life and Ideas An Illustrated Biography. Continuum: New York, 2000. ISBN 978-0826412249.
• Jensen, Walter A., Erich Fromm's contributions to sociological theory. Kalamazoo, MI: Printmill, 2017. ISBN 978-0970491947.

See also

• American philosophy
• Ernst Simmel
• Group narcissism
• List of American philosophers
• Psychoanalytic sociology
• Psychohistory

External links

• Publications by and about Erich Fromm in the catalogue Helveticat of the Swiss National Library
• – Erich Fromm Archives; Literary Estate
• International Erich Fromm Society
• Rainer Funk "Life and Work of Erich Fromm", Logos, 6:3, Summer 2007
• International Foundation Erich Fromm (Italian)
•, 1958 Mike Wallace interview
• FBI file on Erich Fromm
• Erich Fromm, Mechanisms of Escape from Freedom (1942)
• Erich Fromm at Encyclopædia Britannica
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Frankfurt School
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 7/10/19



Part of a series on the
Frankfurt School
Theorists of the Frankfurt School
Major works
Reason and Revolution
The Work of Art in the
Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Eclipse of Reason
Escape from Freedom
Minima Moralia
Eros and Civilization
One-Dimensional Man
Negative Dialectics
The Structural Transformation
of the Public Sphere
The Theory of Communicative Action
Dialectic of Enlightenment
Notable theorists
Herbert Marcuse · Theodor Adorno
Max Horkheimer · Walter Benjamin
Erich Fromm · Friedrich Pollock
Leo Löwenthal · Jürgen Habermas
Alfred Schmidt · Axel Honneth Siegfried Kracauer · Otto Kirchheimer
Important concepts
Critical theory · Dialectic · Praxis
Psychoanalysis · Antipositivism
Popular culture · Culture industry
Advanced capitalism
Privatism · Non-identity
Communicative rationality
Legitimation crisis

The Frankfurt School (Frankfurter Schule) is a school of social theory and critical philosophy associated with the Institute for Social Research, at Goethe University Frankfurt. Founded in the Weimar Republic (1918–33), during the European interwar period (1918–39), the Frankfurt School comprised intellectuals, academics, and political dissidents who were ill-fitted to the contemporary socio-economic systems (capitalist, fascist, communist) of the 1930s. The Frankfurt theorists proposed that social theory was inadequate for explaining the turbulent political factionalism and reactionary politics occurring in ostensibly liberal capitalist societies in the 20th century. Critical of capitalism and of Marxism–Leninism as philosophically inflexible systems of social organisation, the School's critical theory research indicated alternative paths to realising the social development of a society and a nation.[1]

The Frankfurt School perspective of critical investigation (open-ended and self-critical) is based upon Freudian, Marxist and Hegelian premises of idealist philosophy.[2] To fill the omissions of 19th-century classical Marxism, which could not address 20th-century social problems, they applied the methods of antipositivist sociology, of psychoanalysis, and of existentialism.[3] The School’s sociologic works derived from syntheses of the thematically pertinent works of Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Karl Marx, of Sigmund Freud and Max Weber, and of Georg Simmel and Georg Lukács.[4][5]

Like Karl Marx, the Frankfurt School concerned themselves with the conditions (political, economic, societal) that allow for social change realised by way of rational social institutions.[6] The emphasis upon the critical component of social theory derived from surpassing the ideological limitations of positivism, materialism, and determinism, by returning to the critical philosophy of Kant, and his successors in German idealism — principally the philosophy of G.W.F. Hegel, which emphasised dialectic and contradiction as intellectual properties inherent to the human grasp of material reality.

Since the 1960s, the critical-theory work of the Institute for Social Research has been guided by Jürgen Habermas, in the fields of communicative rationality, linguistic intersubjectivity, and "the philosophical discourse of modernity";[7] nonetheless, the critical theorists Raymond Geuss and Nikolas Kompridis opposed the propositions of Habermas, claiming he has undermined the original social-change purposes of critical-theory-problems, such as: What should reason mean?; the analysis and expansion of the conditions necessary to realise social emancipation; and critiques of contemporary capitalism.[8]


Institute for Social Research

Main article: Institute for Social Research

The Institute for Social Research, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

The term Frankfurt School informally describes the works of scholarship and the intellectuals who were the Institute for Social Research (Institut für Sozialforschung), an adjunct organization at Goethe University Frankfurt, founded in 1923, by Carl Grünberg, a Marxist professor of law at the University of Vienna.[9] As such, the Frankfurt School was the first Marxist research center at a German university, and originated through the largesse of the wealthy student Felix Weil (1898–1975).[3]

At university, Weil’s doctoral dissertation dealt with the practical problems of implementing socialism. In 1922, he organized the First Marxist Workweek (Erste Marxistische Arbeitswoche) in effort to synthesize different trends of Marxism into a coherent, practical philosophy; the first symposium included György Lukács and Karl Korsch, Karl August Wittfogel and Friedrich Pollock. The success of the First Marxist Workweek prompted the formal establishment of a permanent institute for social research, and Weil negotiated with the Ministry of Education for a university professor to be director of the Institute for Social Research, thereby, formally ensuring that the Frankfurt School would be a university institution.[10]

Korsch and Lukács participated in the Arbeitswoche, which included the study of Marxism and Philosophy (1923), by Karl Korsch, but their communist-party membership precluded their active participation in the Institute for Social Research (Frankfurt School); yet Korsch participated in the School's publishing venture. Moreover, the political correctness by which the Communists compelled Lukács to repudiate his book History and Class Consciousness (1923) indicated that political, ideological, and intellectual independence from the communist party was a necessary work condition for realising the production of knowledge.[10]

The philosophical tradition of the Frankfurt School — the multi-disciplinary integration of the social sciences — is associated with the philosopher Max Horkheimer, who became the director in 1930, and recruited intellectuals such as Theodor W. Adorno (philosopher, sociologist, musicologist), Erich Fromm (psychoanalyst), and Herbert Marcuse (philosopher).[3]

European interwar period (1918–39)

In the Weimar Republic (1918–33), the continual, political turmoils of the interwar years (1918–39) much affected the development of the critical theory philosophy of the Frankfurt School. The scholars were especially influenced by the Communists’ failed German Revolution of 1918–19 (which Marx predicted) and by the rise of Nazism (1933–45), a German form of fascism. To explain such reactionary politics, the Frankfurt scholars applied critical selections of Marxist philosophy to interpret, illuminate, and explain the origins and causes of reactionary socio-economics in 20th-century Europe (a type of political economy unknown to Marx in the 19th century). The School’s further intellectual development derived from the publication, in the 1930s, of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 (1932) and The German Ideology (1932), in which Karl Marx showed logical continuity with Hegelianism, as the basis of Marxist philosophy.

As the anti-intellectual threat of Nazism increased to political violence, the founders decided to move the Institute for Social Research out of Nazi Germany (1933–45).[11] Soon after Adolf Hitler's rise to power in 1933, the Institute first moved from Frankfurt to Geneva, and then to New York City, in 1935, where the Frankfurt School joined Columbia University. In the event, the School’s journal, the Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung ("Magazine of Social Research") was renamed "Studies in Philosophy and Social Science". Thence began the period of the School’s important work in Marxist critical theory; the scholarship and the investigational method gained acceptance among the academy, in the U.S and in the U.K. By the 1950s, the paths of scholarship led Horkheimer, Adorno, and Pollock to return to West Germany, whilst Marcuse, Löwenthal, and Kirchheimer remained in the U.S. In 1953, the Institute for Social Research (Frankfurt School) was formally re-established in Frankfurt, West Germany.[12]


See also: List of critical theorists

As a term, the Frankfurt School usually comprises the intellectuals Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, and Herbert Marcuse, Leo Löwenthal and Friedrich Pollock.[6] Although initially of the FS's inner circle, Jürgen Habermas was the first to diverge from Horkheimer's research program, as a new generation of critical theoreticians.

The Frankfurt School were:

• Max Horkheimer
• Theodor W. Adorno
• Herbert Marcuse
• Friedrich Pollock
• Erich Fromm
• Otto Kirchheimer
• Leo Löwenthal
• Franz Leopold Neumann
• Henryk Grossman[13]

Associates of the Frankfurt School:

• Siegfried Kracauer
• Alfred Sohn-Rethel
• Walter Benjamin
• Ernst Bloch

Critical theoreticians of the Frankfurt School:

• Jürgen Habermas
• Claus Offe
• Axel Honneth
• Oskar Negt
• Alfred Schmidt
• Albrecht Wellme

Critical theory

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The works of the Frankfurt School are understood in the context of the intellectual and practical objectives of critical theory. In Traditional and Critical Theory (1937), Max Horkheimer defined critical theory as social critique meant to effect sociologic change and realize intellectual emancipation, by way of enlightenment that is not dogmatic in its assumptions.[14][15] The purpose of critical theory is to analyze the true significance of the ruling understandings (the dominant ideology) generated in bourgeois society, by showing that the dominant ideology misrepresents how human relations occur in the real world, and how such misrepresentations function to justify and legitimate the domination of people by capitalism.

In the praxis of cultural hegemony, the dominant ideology is a ruling-class narrative story, which explains that what is occurring in society is the norm. Nonetheless, the story told through the ruling understandings conceals as much as it reveals about society, hence, the task of the Frankfurt School was sociological analysis and interpretation of the areas of social-relation that Marx did not discuss in the 19th century — especially in the base and superstructure aspects of a capitalist society.[16]

Horkheimer opposed critical theory to traditional theory, wherein the word theory is applied in the positivistic sense of scientism, in the sense of a purely observational mode, which finds and establishes scientific law (generalizations) about the real world. That the social sciences differ from the natural sciences inasmuch as scientific generalizations are not readily derived from experience, because the researcher’s understanding of a social experience always is shaped by the ideas in the mind of the researcher. What the researcher does not understand is that he or she is within an historical context, wherein ideologies shape human thought, thus, the results for the theory being tested would conform to the ideas of the researcher, rather than conform to the facts of the experience proper; in Traditional and Critical Theory (1937), Horkheimer said:

The facts, which our senses present to us, are socially performed in two ways: through the historical character of the object perceived, and through the historical character of the perceiving organ. Both are not simply natural; they are shaped by human activity, and yet the individual perceives himself as receptive and passive in the act of perception.[17]

For Horkheimer, the methods of investigation applicable to the social sciences cannot imitate the scientific method applicable to the natural sciences. In that vein, the theoretical approaches of positivism and pragmatism, of neo-Kantianism and phenomenology failed to surpass the ideological constraints that restricted their application to social science, because of the inherent logico–mathematic prejudice that separates theory from actual life, i.e. such methods of investigation seek a logic that is always true, and independent of and without consideration for continuing human activity in the field under study. That the appropriate response to such a dilemma was the development of a critical theory of Marxism.[18]

Because the problem was epistemological, Horkheimer said that "we should reconsider not merely the scientist, but the knowing individual, in general."[19] Unlike Orthodox Marxism, which applies a template to critique and to action, critical theory is self-critical, with no claim to the universality of absolute truth. As such, critical theory does not grant primacy to matter (materialism) or to consciousness (idealism), because each epistemology distorts the reality under study, to the benefit of a small group. In practice, critical theory is outside the philosophical strictures of traditional theory; however, as a way of thinking and of recovering humanity’s self-knowledge, critical theory draws investigational resources and methods from Marxism.[15]

Dialectical method

The Frankfort School reformulated dialectics into a concrete method of investigation, derived from the Hegelian philosophy that an idea will pass over into its own negation, as the result of conflict between the inherently contradictory aspects of the idea.[20] In opposition to previous modes of reasoning, which viewed things in abstraction, each by itself and as though endowed with fixed properties, Hegelian dialectics considers ideas according to their movement and change in time, according to their interrelations and interactions.[20]

In Hegel's perspective, human history proceeds and evolves in a dialectical manner: the present embodies the rational Aufheben (sublation), the synthesis of past contradictions. History thus is an intelligible process of human activity, the Weltgeist, which is the Idea of Progress towards a specific human condition — the realization of human freedom through rationality.[21] However, the Problem of future contingents, of considerations about the future, did not interest Hegel,[22][23] for whom philosophy cannot be prescriptive and normative, because philosophy understands only in hindsight. The study of history is thus limited to descriptions of past and present human realities.[21] Hence, for Hegel and his successors (the Right Hegelians), dialectics inevitably lead to the approval of the status quo — as such, dialectical philosophy justified the bases of Christian theology and of the Prussian state.

Karl Marx and the Young Hegelians strongly criticized that perspective, that Hegel had over-reached in defending his abstract conception of "absolute Reason" and had failed to notice the "real"— i.e. undesirable and irrational — life conditions of the proletariat. Marx inverted Hegel's idealist dialectics and advanced his own theory of dialectical materialism, arguing that "it is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness."[24] Marx's theory follows a materialist conception of history and geographic space,[25] where the development of the productive forces is the primary motive force for historical change, and, according to which, the social and material contradictions inherent to capitalism lead to its negation — thereby replacing capitalism with Communism, a new, rational form of society.[26]

Marx used dialectical analysis to learn and know the truth by uncovering the contradictions in the predominant ideas of society, and in the social relations to which they are linked — which exposes the underlying struggle between opposing forces. Therefore, only by becoming aware of the dialectic (i.e. class consciousness) of such opposing forces in a struggle for power, that men and women can intellectually liberate themselves, and so change the existing social order by way of social progress.[27] The Frankfurt School understood that a dialectical method could only be adopted if it could be applied to itself; if they adopted a self-correcting method — a dialectical method that would enable the correction of previous, false interpretations of the dialectical investigation. Accordingly, critical theory rejected the historicism and materialism of Orthodox Marxism.[28]

Influences and early works

Historical context / Transition from small-scale capitalism to large-scale capitalism and colonialism; the socialist labour movement matures into a reform movement and fosters the emergence of the welfare state; the Russian Revolution (1917) and the rise of Communism; the neotechnic period; the emergence of mass communications media and of mass popular culture, Modern art; and the rise of Nazism.

Weberian theory / Comparative history of Western rationalisation in capitalism, the modern state, secular scientific rationality, culture, and religion; analyses of the forms of dominance hierarchy and of modern rational-legal bureaucratic domination; articulation of the hermeneutic method in the social sciences.

Freudian theory / Critique of the psychological repression of the reality principle of advanced civilization, and of the neuroses of daily life; discovery of the unconscious mind, primary-process thinking, and the psychological impact of the Oedipus complex anxiety upon a man's mental health and life; analyses of the psychic bases of the irrational behaviours of authoritarianism.

Antipositivism / Critique of positivism as philosophy, as a scientific method, as political ideology and as conformity; rehabilitation of the negative dialectic, return to Hegel; appropriation of critical elements from phenomenology, historicism, existentialism, critique of the ahistorical, idealist tendencies of positivism; critique of logical positivism and pragmatism.

Aesthetic modernism / Critique of false and reified experience by breaking traditional forms and language; projection of alternative modes of existence and experience; liberation of the unconscious; consciousness of unique, modern situation; cultural appropriation of the literary devices of Franz Kafka and Marcel Proust, of Arnold Schoenberg and André Breton; critique of the culture industry.

Marxist theory / Critique of bourgeois ideology; critique of Marx's theory of alienation (Entfremdung); historical materialism; history as class struggle and the rate of exploitation in different modes of production; systems analysis of capitalism as the extraction of surplus labour; financial crisis theory; democratic socialism, and the classless society.

Culture theory / Critique of Popular culture as the suppression and absorption of individual negation, and as the integration of the individual person to the status quo; critique of Western culture as a culture of social domination; the dialectical differentiation of the emancipatory aspects and the repressive aspects of élite culture; Kierkegaard's critique of the present age, Nietzsche's transvaluation, and Schiller's aesthetic education.

Critique of Western civilization

Dialectic of Enlightenment and Minima Moralia

The second phase of Frankfurt School critical theory centres principally on two works: Adorno and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944) and Adorno's Minima Moralia (1951). The authors wrote both works during the Institute's exile in America. While retaining much of a Marxian analysis, in these works critical theory shifted its emphasis from the critique of capitalism to a critique of Western civilization as a whole, as seen in Dialectic of Enlightenment, which uses the Odyssey as a paradigm for their analysis of bourgeois consciousness. In these works, Horkheimer and Adorno present many themes that have come to dominate the social thought of recent years; for instance, their exposition of the domination of nature as a central characteristic of instrumental rationality in Western civilization was made long before ecology and environmentalism had become popular concerns.

The analysis of reason now goes one stage further: The rationality of Western civilization appears as a fusion of domination and technological rationality, bringing all of external and internal nature under the power of the human subject. In the process, however, the subject itself gets swallowed up and no social force analogous to the proletariat can be identified that enables the subject to emancipate itself. Hence the subtitle of Minima Moralia: "Reflections from Damaged Life". In Adorno's words,

For since the overwhelming objectivity of historical movement in its present phase consists so far only in the dissolution of the subject, without yet giving rise to a new one, individual experience necessarily bases itself on the old subject, now historically condemned, which is still for-itself, but no longer in-itself. The subject still feels sure of its autonomy, but the nullity demonstrated to subjects by the concentration camp is already overtaking the form of subjectivity itself.[29]

Consequently, at a time when it appears that reality itself has become the basis for ideology, the greatest contribution that critical theory can make is to explore the dialectical contradictions of individual subjective experience on the one hand, and to preserve the truth of theory on the other. Even dialectical progress is put into doubt: "its truth or untruth is not inherent in the method itself, but in its intention in the historical process." This intention must be oriented toward integral freedom and happiness: "The only philosophy which can be responsibly practiced in face of despair is the attempt to contemplate all things as they would present themselves from the standpoint of redemption." Adorno goes on to distance himself from the "optimism" of orthodox Marxism: "beside the demand thus placed on thought, the question of the reality or unreality of redemption [i.e. human emancipation] itself hardly matters."[30]

From a sociological point of view, both Horkheimer's and Adorno's works contain a certain ambivalence concerning the ultimate source or foundation of social domination, an ambivalence that gave rise to the "pessimism" of the new critical theory over the possibility of human emancipation and freedom.[31] This ambivalence was rooted, of course, in the historical circumstances in which the work was originally produced, in particular, the rise of National Socialism, state capitalism, and mass culture as entirely new forms of social domination that could not be adequately explained within the terms of traditional Marxist sociology.[32] For Adorno and Horkheimer, state intervention in the economy had effectively abolished the tension in capitalism between the "relations of production" and "material productive forces of society"—a tension that, according to traditional Marxist theory, constituted the primary contradiction within capitalism. The previously "free" market (as an "unconscious" mechanism for the distribution of goods) and "irrevocable" private property of Marx's epoch have gradually been replaced by the centralized state planning and socialized ownership of the means of production in contemporary Western societies.[33] The dialectic through which Marx predicted the emancipation of modern society is thus suppressed, effectively being subjugated to a positivist rationality of domination.

Of this second "phase" of the Frankfurt School, philosopher and critical theorist Nikolas Kompridis writes that:

According to the now canonical view of its history, Frankfurt School critical theory began in the 1930s as a fairly confident interdisciplinary and materialist research program, the general aim of which was to connect normative social criticism to the emancipatory potential latent in concrete historical processes. Only a decade or so later, however, having revisited the premises of their philosophy of history, Horkheimer and Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment steered the whole enterprise, provocatively and self-consciously, into a skeptical cul-de-sac. As a result they got stuck in the irresolvable dilemmas of the "philosophy of the subject," and the original program was shrunk to a negativistic practice of critique that eschewed the very normative ideals on which it implicitly depended.[34]

Kompridis argues that this "sceptical cul-de-sac" was arrived at with "a lot of help from the once unspeakable and unprecedented barbarity of European fascism," and could not be gotten out of without "some well-marked [exit or] Ausgang, showing the way out of the ever-recurring nightmare in which Enlightenment hopes and Holocaust horrors are fatally entangled." However, this Ausgang, according to Kompridis, would not come until later – purportedly in the form of Jürgen Habermas's work on the intersubjective bases of communicative rationality.[34]

Philosophy of music

Adorno, a trained classical pianist, wrote The Philosophy of Modern Music (1949), in which he, in essence, polemicizes against popular music―because it has become part of the culture industry of advanced capitalist society[page needed] and the false consciousness that contributes to social domination. He argued that radical art and music may preserve the truth by capturing the reality of human suffering. Hence:

What radical music perceives is the untransfigured suffering of man [...] The seismographic registration of traumatic shock becomes, at the same time, the technical structural law of music. It forbids continuity and development. Musical language is polarized according to its extreme; towards gestures of shock resembling bodily convulsions on the one hand, and on the other towards a crystalline standstill of a human being whom anxiety causes to freeze in her tracks [...] Modern music sees absolute oblivion as its goal. It is the surviving message of despair from the shipwrecked.[35]

This view of modern art as producing truth only through the negation of traditional aesthetic form and traditional norms of beauty because they have become ideological is characteristic of Adorno and of the Frankfurt School generally. It has been criticized by those who do not share its conception of modern society as a false totality that renders obsolete traditional conceptions and images of beauty and harmony.

In particular, Adorno despised jazz and popular music, viewing it as part of the culture industry, that contributes to the present sustainability of capitalism by rendering it "aesthetically pleasing" and "agreeable". The British philosopher Roger Scruton saw Adorno as producing "reams of turgid nonsense devoted to showing that the American people are just as alienated as Marxism requires them to be, and that their cheerful life-affirming music is a 'fetishized' commodity, expressive of their deep spiritual enslavement to the capitalist machine."[36]

Critical theory and domination

Negative dialectics

With the growth of advanced industrial society during the Cold War era, critical theorists recognized that the path of capitalism and history had changed decisively, that the modes of oppression operated differently, and that the industrial working class no longer remained the determinate negation of capitalism. This led to the attempt to root the dialectic in an absolute method of negativity, as in Marcuse's One-Dimensional Man (1964) and Adorno's Negative Dialectics (1966). During this period the Institute of Social Research resettled in Frankfurt (although many of its associates remained in the United States) with the task not merely of continuing its research but of becoming a leading force in the sociological education and democratization of West Germany. This led to a certain systematization of the Institute's entire accumulation of empirical research and theoretical analysis.

During this period, Frankfurt School critical theory particularly influenced some segments of the left wing and leftist thought, particularly the New Left. Herbert Marcuse has occasionally been described as the theorist or intellectual progenitor of the New Left. Their critique of technology, totality, teleology and (occasionally) civilization is an influence on anarcho-primitivism. Their work also heavily influenced intellectual discourse on popular culture and scholarly popular culture studies.

More importantly, however, the Frankfurt School attempted to define the fate of reason in the new historical period. While Marcuse did so through analysis of structural changes in the labor process under capitalism and inherent features of the methodology of science, Horkheimer and Adorno concentrated on a re-examination of the foundation of critical theory. This effort appears in systematized form in Adorno's Negative Dialectics, which tries to redefine dialectics for an era in which "philosophy, which once seemed obsolete, lives on because the moment to realize it was missed". Negative dialectics expresses the idea of critical thought so conceived that the apparatus of domination cannot co-opt it.

Its central notion, long a focal one for Horkheimer and Adorno, suggests that the original sin of thought lies in its attempt to eliminate all that is other than thought, the attempt by the subject to devour the object, the striving for identity. This reduction makes thought the accomplice of domination. Negative Dialectics rescues the "preponderance of the object", not through a naïve epistemological or metaphysical realism but through a thought based on differentiation, paradox, and ruse: a "logic of disintegration". Adorno thoroughly criticizes Heidegger's fundamental ontology, which he thinks reintroduces idealistic and identity-based concepts under the guise of having overcome the philosophical tradition.

Negative dialectics comprises a monument to the end of the tradition of the individual subject as the locus of criticism. Without a revolutionary working class, the Frankfurt School had no one to rely on but the individual subject. But, as the liberal capitalist social basis of the autonomous individual receded into the past, the dialectic based on it became more and more abstract.
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Habermas and communicative rationality

Main article: Jürgen Habermas

Habermas's work takes the Frankfurt School's abiding interests in rationality, the human subject, democratic socialism, and the dialectical method and overcomes a set of contradictions that always weakened critical theory: the contradictions between the materialist and transcendental methods, between Marxian social theory and the individualist assumptions of critical rationalism between technical and social rationalization, and between cultural and psychological phenomena on the one hand and the economic structure of society on the other.

The Frankfurt School avoided taking a stand on the precise relationship between the materialist and transcendental methods, which led to ambiguity in their writings and confusion among their readers. Habermas's epistemology synthesizes these two traditions by showing that phenomenological and transcendental analysis can be subsumed under a materialist theory of social evolution, while the materialist theory makes sense only as part of a quasi-transcendental theory of emancipatory knowledge that is the self-reflection of cultural evolution. The simultaneously empirical and transcendental nature of emancipatory knowledge becomes the foundation stone of critical theory.


Horkheimer and Adorno

In The Theory of the Novel (1971), Georg Lukács said that the Frankfurt School were:

A considerable part of the leading German intelligentsia, including Adorno, have taken up residence in the Grand Hotel Abyss which I described in connection with my critique of Schopenhauer as "a beautiful hotel, equipped with every comfort, on the edge of an abyss, of nothingness, of absurdity. And the daily contemplation of the abyss, between excellent meals or artistic entertainments, can only heighten the enjoyment of the subtle comforts offered."[37]

In "Addendum 1974: The Frankfurt School" (1994) Karl Popper said that:

Marx's own condemnation of our society makes sense. For Marx's theory contains the promise of a better future. But the theory becomes vacuous and irresponsible if this promise is withdrawn, as it is by Adorno and Horkheimer.[38]


In his criticism of Habermas, the philosopher Nikolas Kompridis said that a break with the proceduralist ethics of communicative rationality is necessary:

For all its theoretical ingenuity and practical implications, Habermas's reformulation of critical theory is beset by persistent problems of its own ... In my view, the depth of these problems indicate just how wrong was Habermas's expectation that the paradigm change to linguistic intersubjectivity would render "objectless" the dilemmas of the philosophy of the subject.[39] Habermas accused Hegel of creating a conception of reason so "overwhelming" that it solved too well the problem of modernity's [need for] self-reassurance.[40] It seems, however, that Habermas has repeated rather than avoided Hegel's mistake, creating a theoretical paradigm so comprehensive that in one stroke it also solves, too well, the dilemmas of the philosophy of the subject and the problem of modernity's self-reassurance.[41]


The change of paradigm to linguistic intersubjectivity has been accompanied by a dramatic change in critical theory's self-understanding. The priority given to questions of justice and the normative order of society has remodeled critical theory in the image of liberal theories of justice. While this has produced an important contemporary variant of liberal theories of justice, different enough to be a challenge to liberal theory, but not enough to preserve sufficient continuity with critical theory's past, it has severely weakened the identity of critical theory and inadvertently initiated its premature dissolution.[42]

That to prevent that premature dissolution critical theory should be reinvented as a philosophic enterprise that discloses possibilities by way of Heidegger's world disclosure, by drawing from the sources of normativity that were blocked by the change of paradigm.[43]

Psychoanalytic categorization

The historian Christopher Lasch criticized the Frankfurt School for their initial tendency of "automatically" rejecting opposing political criticisms, based upon "psychiatric" grounds:

The Authoritarian Personality [1950] had a tremendous influence on [Richard] Hofstadter, and other liberal intellectuals, because it showed them how to conduct political criticism in psychiatric categories, [and] to make those categories bear the weight of political criticism. This procedure excused them from the difficult work of judgment and argumentation. Instead of arguing with opponents, they simply dismissed them on psychiatric grounds.[44]

Economics and communications media

During the 1980s, anti-authoritarian socialists in the United Kingdom and New Zealand criticised the rigid and determinist view of popular culture deployed within the Frankfurt School theories of capitalist culture, which seemed to preclude any prefigurative role for social critique within such work. They argued that EC Comics often did contain such cultural critiques.[45][46] Recent criticism of the Frankfurt School by the libertarian Cato Institute focused on the claim that culture has grown more sophisticated and diverse as a consequence of free markets and the availability of niche cultural text for niche audiences.[47][48]

Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory

Definition and Culture War usage

In contemporary usage, the term Cultural Marxism is a right-wing, antisemitic conspiracy theory according to which the Frankfurt School is part of a continual academic and intellectual culture war to systematically undermine and destroy Western culture and social traditions.[49] As articulated in the 1990s, the conspiracy means to replace traditionalist conservatism and Christianity with the counterculture of the 1960s to promote social changes such as racial multiculturalism, multi-party progressive politics, acceptance of LGBT rights, and political correctness in language.[50][51][52]

In the U.S., the term "cultural Marxism" is employed in the culture wars by fundamentalist Christians and paleoconservatives, such as William S. Lind, Pat Buchanan, and Paul Weyrich,[53] the alt-right, white nationalists, and the Dark Enlightenment neo-reactionary political movement.[54][55] Moreover, conservatives such as David Brooks[56] and Jordan Peterson have used the term.[57][58][59]

In 1998 Weyrich presented his version of the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory in a speech to the Conservative Leadership Conference of the Civitas Institute and then published the speech in his syndicated Culture war letter.[60] Later, for the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation, at Weyrich's request, Lind wrote a history of Weyrich's version of Cultural Marxism, which identified the presence of gay people on television as proof of Cultural Marxist control of the mass media and claimed that the philosopher Herbert Marcuse considered a coalition of "blacks, students, feminist women, and homosexuals" as a vanguard of cultural revolution in the U.S.[50][51][61]

In 2014 Lind pseudonymously published Victoria: A Novel of 4th Generation Warfare, by Thomas Hobbes, about a societal apocalypse in which Cultural Marxism deposes traditional conservatism as the culture of the Western world. Ultimately, a Christian military victory deposes social liberalism and reestablishes a traditionalist and theocratic socioeconomic order based upon British Victorian morality of the late 19th century.[62][63] The anti–Marxism of Lind and Weyrich advocates political confrontation and intellectual opposition to Cultural Marxism with "a vibrant cultural conservatism" composed of "retro-culture fashions", a return to railroads as public transport, and an agrarian culture of self-reliance, modeled after that of the Christian Amish folk.[64] In the Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe (2011), the historian Martin Jay said that Lind's documentary of conservative counter-culture, Political Correctness: The Frankfurt School (1999), was effective propaganda, because it:

spawned a number of condensed textual versions, which were reproduced on a number of radical, right-wing sites. These, in turn, led to a plethora of new videos, now available on YouTube, which feature an odd cast of pseudo-experts regurgitating exactly the same line. The message is numbingly simplistic: “All the 'ills' of modern American culture, from feminism, affirmative action, sexual liberation, racial equality, multiculturalism and gay rights to the decay of traditional education, and even environmentalism, are ultimately attributable to the insidious [intellectual] influence of the members of the Institute for Social Research who came to America in the 1930s.”[65]

Functions of the conspiracy

Cultural pessimism and Holocaust denial

In the essay "New Dark Age: The Frankfurt School and 'Political Correctness'" (1992), Michael Minnicino presented a precursor of the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory on behalf of the Schiller Institute of the LaRouche political movement. Minnicino said the "Jewish intellectuals" of the Frankfurt School promoted modern art to make cultural pessimism the spirit of the counter-culture of the 1960s, based upon the counter-culture of the Wandervogel, the socially liberal German youth movement whose Swiss Monte Verità commune was the 19th-century predecessor of Western counter-culture.[66][65][67][68]

In "Ally of Christian Right Heavyweight Paul Weyrich Addresses Holocaust Denial Conference" (15 June 2002) the Southern Poverty Law Center reported Lind’s participation in a conference of Holocaust deniers, to whom he said that Cultural Marxism is a social threat, because the Frankfurt School was "to a man, Jewish". Lind said that he is neither an anti-Semite nor a Holocaust denier and participated in the Holocaust-denial conference because the Center for Cultural Conservatism has “a regular policy to work with a wide variety of groups, on an issue-by-issue basis”, in behalf of the Free Congress Foundation.[50][69]

In Fascism: Fascism and Culture (2003), Matthew Feldman traced the etymology of the term "Cultural Marxism" as derived from the anti-Semitic term Kulturbolshewismus (Cultural Bolshevism), which Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party used in charging that Jewish cultural influence was the source of German social degeneration under the liberal régime of the Weimar Republic (1918–1939), and also the cause of social degeneration in the West.[70]

Othering of political opponents

In Hate Crimes, Vol. 5 (2009), Heidi Beirich said that the right wing uses Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory to politically delegitimize left-wing opponents by misrepresenting the social Other (who is not the Self) as politically destructive members of the country's body politik who threaten the traditionalist conservative status quo of society—especially "feminists, homosexuals, secular humanists, multi-culturalists, sex educators, environmentalists, immigrants, and black nationalists".[71]

In Europe the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik quoted Lind's usages of Cultural Marxism in his political manifesto 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, writing that the "sexually transmitted disease (STD) epidemic in Western Europe [is] a result of cultural Marxism"; that "Cultural Marxism defines . . . Muslims, Feminist women, homosexuals, and some additional minority groups, as virtuous, and they view ethnic Christian European men as evil"; and that "The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg is a cultural-Marxist-controlled political entity." About 90 minutes before killing 77 people in his terrorist attacks in Norway (22 July 2011) Breivik e-mailed 1,003 people a copy of his 1,500-page manifesto and a copy of Political Correctness: A Short History of an Ideology (2004), edited by Lind and published by the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.[72][73][74][75]

In "Collectivists, Communists, Labor Bosses, and Treason: The Tea Parties as Right-wing, Populist Counter-subversion Panic" (2012), Chip Berlet identifies Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory as an ideological basis of the Tea Party movement within the Republican Party. The Tea Party identifies as a right-wing populist movement; its claims of social subversion echo earlier, white-nationalist claims of subversion (racial, social, and cultural). The economic élites use populist rhetoric to encourage counter-subversion panics; thus, a large, middle-class white constituency is politically deceived into siding with the ruling-class élites (social and economic) to defend their relative and precarious socioeconomic position in the middle class. Cultural scapegoats, such as mythical conspiracies of collectivists, Communists, labor bosses, and the nonwhite Other, are to blame for the failures (economic, political, social) of free-market capitalism. In that manner, under the guise of patriotism, economic libertarianism, Christian values, and nativism, the right wing's charges of Cultural Marxism defended the racist and sexist social hierarchies specifically opposed to the "big government" policies of the Obama Administration.[76][77]

In the essay "Cultural Marxism and the Radical Right" (2014), the political scientist Jérôme Jamin said that "next to the global dimension of the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory, there is its innovative and original dimension, which lets its [racist] authors avoid racist discourses, and pretend to be defenders of democracy" in their respective countries.[78] In the vein of othering political opponents, "How Trump's Paranoid White House Sees 'Deep State' Enemies on all Sides" (2017) reported that Trump Administration employee Richard Higgins was dismissed from the U.S. National Security Council because of the memorandum "POTUS & Political Warfare" (May 2017), wherein Higgins claimed the existence of a left-wing conspiracy to destroy the Trump presidency and that American public intellectuals of Cultural Marxism, foreign Islamicists, and globalist bankers, the news media, and politicians from the Republican and the Democrat parties were attacking Trump because he represents “an existential threat to [the] cultural Marxist memes that dominate the prevailing cultural narrative” in the U.S.[79][80][81]

Anti–Semitic canards

In the speech "The Origins of Political Correctness" (2000), William S. Lind established the ideological and etymological lineage of Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory; that:

If we look at it analytically, if we look at it historically, we quickly find out exactly what it is. Political Correctness is cultural Marxism. It is Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms. It is an effort that goes back not to the 1960s and the Hippies and the peace movement, but back to World War I [to Kulturbolshewismus]. If we compare the basic tenets of Political Correctness with [the basic tenets of] classical Marxism, the parallels are very obvious.[69]

Lind’s history of the term and its meanings demonstrated that the ideology of "The Alt-right’s Favorite Meme is 100 Years Old" (2018), in which professor of law Samuel Moyn reported that social fear of Cultural Marxism is "an American contribution to the phantasmagoria of the alt-right"; while the conspiracy theory, itself, is "a crude slander, referring to [ Judeo-Bolshevism ], something that does not exist".[82]

See also

• Analytical Marxism
• Birmingham School of Cultural Studies
• Degenerate Art
• Social conflict theory
• Fredric Jameson
• Georg Simmel
• Gerhard Stapelfeldt
• Karl Manheim
• Leo Kofler
• Neo-Gramscianism
• Neo-Marxism
• New Marx Reading
• Positivism dispute
• Psychoanalytic sociology
• Zygmunt Bauman


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Further reading

• Arato, Andrew and Eike Gebhardt, Eds. The Essential Frankfurt School Reader. New York: Continuum, 1982.
• Bernstein, Jay (ed.). The Frankfurt School: Critical Assessments I–VI. New York: Routledge, 1994.
• Benhabib, Seyla. Critique, Norm, and Utopia: A Study of the Foundations of Critical Theory. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986.
• Bottomore, Tom. The Frankfurt School and its Critics. New York: Routledge, 2002.
• Bronner, Stephen Eric and Douglas MacKay Kellner (eds.). Critical Theory and Society: A Reader. New York: Routledge, 1989.
• Brosio, Richard A. The Frankfurt School: An Analysis of the Contradictions and Crises of Liberal Capitalist Societies. 1980.
• Crone, Michael (ed.): Vertreter der Frankfurter Schule in den Hörfunkprogrammen 1950–1992. Hessischer Rundfunk, Frankfurt am Main 1992. (Bibliography.)
• Friedman, George. The Political Philosophy of the Frankfurt School. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1981.
• Held, David. Introduction to Critical Theory: Horkheimer to Habermas. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.
• Gerhardt, Christina. "Frankfurt School". The International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, 1500 to the Present. 8 vols. Ed. Immanuel Ness. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2009. 12–13.
• Immanen, Mikko (2017). A Promise of Concreteness: Martin Heidegger's Unacknowledged Role in the Formation of Frankfurt School in the Weimar Republic(Ph.D. thesis). University of Helsinki. ISBN 978-951-51-3205-5. 978-951-51-3205-5 Lay summary Check |lay-url= value (help).
• Jay, Martin. The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute for Social Research 1923–1950. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. 1996.
• Jeffries, Stuart (2016). Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School. London – Brooklyn, New York: Verso. ISBN 978-1-78478-568-0.
• Kompridis, Nikolas. Critique and Disclosure: Critical Theory between Past and Future. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2006.
• Postone, Moishe. Time, Labor, and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx's Critical Theory. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
• Schwartz, Frederic J. Blind Spots: Critical Theory and the History of Art in Twentieth-Century Germany. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2005.
• Shapiro, Jeremy J. "The Critical Theory of Frankfurt". Times Literary Supplement 3 (4 October 1974) 787.
• Scheuerman, William E. Frankfurt School Perspectives on Globalization, Democracy, and the Law. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge, 2008.
• Wiggershaus, Rolf. The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories and Political Significance. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1995.
• Wheatland, Thomas. The Frankfurt School in Exile. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

External links

Look up cultural Marxismin Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
• Official website of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Frankfurt
• Gerhardt, Christina. "Frankfurt School (Jewish émigrés)." The International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest. Ness, Immanuel (ed). Blackwell Publishing, 2009. Blackwell Reference Online.
• "The Frankfurt School and Critical Theory". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
• The Frankfurt School on the Marxists Internet Archive
• BBC Radio 4 Audio documentary "In our time: the Frankfurt School"
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Wed Jul 10, 2019 8:33 pm

Letter from Arthur Conan Doyle to Julian B. Arnold
by Arthur Conan Doyle
October 6, 1927



The letter was published by Julian B. Arnold in his book Giants in Dressing Gowns (1942).

Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex.
Oct. 6th, 1927

Dear Mr. Arnold,

Many thanks for your valuable letter.

You can have no idea of what a concentration of evidence there is, in the automatic-writings, upon this world disaster, nor how remarkably consistent the various accounts are.

I have, I should think, 50,000 words (in automatic-writings) on this subject, all carefully copied out and extending over three years.

Then I have about sixty independent testimonies of the coming of a world disaster.

Time is their difficulty but the general impression is that it is at the end of the next decade.

America will, I fear, suffer greatly. Also Central Europe. Also the Mediterranean basin. Ireland also, but the British isles less. But all are to catch it. Such is the general sinister scheme.

That is how I get it. But they always emphasize that it is the good spiritual outcome and not the sad material means which should be borne in mind. There are to be great psychic accompaniments and something corresponding to the Second Coming, though hardly as pictured.

I have told you more details than to anyone else, and I don't want to seem an alarmist. Yours sincerely,


Portrait of Julian B. Arnold, a traveler, writer, and lecturer who changed his name from J. B. Lindon to resume his family name. His father was Sir Edwin Arnold, a famous English poet. This image was taken in Chicago, Illinois.
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:55 pm

Julian B. Arnold
Accessed: 7/10/19



Julian B. Arnold

Julian B. Arnold to Wed, Son of Sir Edwin, Long Known as J. Lindon, to Marry Miss Hartford
by The New York Times
August 21, 1924

Julian Arnold in the 1940 Census
Age 79, born abt 1861
Birthplace England

Gender Male
Race White
Home in 1940
1919 Marengo Avenue
Los Angeles, California
Household Members Age
Head Julian Arnold 79
Wife Iris B Arnold 45
Son Edwin B Arnold 4

Iris B Arnold in the 1940 Census
Age 45, born abt 1895
Birthplace India

Gender Female
Race White
Home in 1940
1919 Marengo Avenue
Los Angeles, California
Household Members Age
Head Julian Arnold 79
Wife Iris B Arnold 45
Son Edwin B Arnold 4

Edwin B Arnold in the 1940 Census
Age 4, born abt 1936
Birthplace California

Gender Male
Race White
Home in 1940
1919 Marengo Avenue
Los Angeles, California
Household Members Age
Head Julian Arnold 79
Wife Iris B Arnold 45
Son Edwin B Arnold 4

-- Julian Arnold, Iris Arnold, Edwin Arnold, in the 1940 Census, by

Sons Julian and Emerson as Theosophists

Sir Edwin's son Julian Tregenna Biddulph Arnold (1860-1954) was active in the American Theosophical Society:

In a recent number of The Messenger, I [the editor, A. P. Warrington] mentioned a series of lectures which Mr. J. B. Lindon, one of our members residing in Chicago, had given at Besant Hall under the designation "Twilight Talks." These lectures were so successful and drew such large audiences that a program of a new series of historical lectures has been announced by the same lecturer, which by the time this issue reaches the mails will be well on the way.

Our members no doubt have learned from recent newspaper accounts that Mr. Lindon is none other than Mr. Julian B. Arnold, the son of the late Sir Edwin Arnold, the illustrious poet, scholar and interpreter of Indian ideals, whom Theosophists the world over have loved and revered for his immortal work.

When Mr. Julian B. Arnold came to America seven years ago he launched out in the chemical business, and for that and other reasons he adopted an old family name, so that he became known as J. B. Lindon. Owing to the encouragement which he received in his recent venture in the lecturing field, he has felt that he should no longer suppress his real identity.

Lindon, Julian B., Chemical Manufacturer of 232 West Lake Street, was born July 3, 1860, in England. He is President of the Pax Chemical Company of Illinois.

-- Clark J. Herringshaw's City Blue Book of Current Biography: Chicago Men of 1913. Six thousand biographies: an alphabetical record of citizens prominent in their chosen vocations in Chicago's educational, social, civil, industrial and commercial affairs, edited by Mae Felts Herringshaw, by Clark J. Herringshaw

I am sure that all Theosophists will join me in the hope that Mr. Arnold may some day become widely traveled as a lecturer throughout our country, where we hope he will always feel that he has a true home.[9]

Julian B. Lindon was admitted to the American Theosophical Society on November 23, 1910, sponsored by Minna Kunz and Mrs. Kochersberger of the Adyar Lodge of Chicago. After July 16, 1915, he was known as Julian B. Arnold, according to membership records.[10] He wrote at least thirteen articles for Theosophical journals. As Warrington hoped, Arnold did go on to a career as a lecturer.[11]


Bachelor of Medicine (M.B. -- Edwin Gilbert Emerson Arnold, M.R.C.S.[Eng.], L.R.C.P.[Lond.] St. Thomas's Hospital

-- The Lancet, Oct-Dec 1896

Edwin Gilbert Emerson [Emmerson] Arnold (1872-????), M.D., M.R.C.P., a medical officer in Fiji, also called himself a Theosophist. He wrote of the evocative quality of his father's "pen-pictures of Indian life":

To anyone who, like myself, is a convinced student of Theosophy and Oriental occultism the phenomenon is all the more striking. For his works reveal an expert and deep knowledge of Eastern philosophy which is amazing.

I hold the view very strongly myself that the explanation lies in previous Indian incarnations. My father, although very patriotic and intensely British in many ways, was always a semi-Oriental; in outlook, tastes, manners and thoughts, and even in appearance. I believe that his brief visit to India resuscitated the subconscious memories of former lives spent there and that these gave him his wonderful knowledge and insight and his love for and attraction to Eastern life and philosophy.[12]
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Thu Jul 11, 2019 4:30 am

Part 1 of 2

An Enlightened Life in Text and Image: G. I. Gurdjieff''s Meetings With Remarkable Men (1963) and Peter Brook's Meetings With Remarkable Men (1979)
by Carole M. Cusack
Literature & Aesthetics 21 (1) June 2011, page 72




This article considers the 'autobiographical" memoir by George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (1866[?] – 29 October 1949), Meetings With Remarkable Men (hereafter Meetings), which was published posthumously in 1963 under the aegis of Jeanne de Salzmann, Gurdjieff''s designated successor. Almost all known about the Greek-Armenian Gurdjieff is open to question, from his birth date (variously given as 1866, 1872 and 1877), to the "Work", as his teaching is called. The Work has been jealously guarded as a modern initiatory tradition by first – and second – generation disciples, and is controversial in terms of its sources, meaning and interpretation.1 The 1979 film, Meetings With Remarkable Men, with a script co-authored by Madame de Salzmann, directed by Gurdjieffian theatre and film auteur, Peter Brook (b. 1925), depicts the young Gurdjieff''s spiritual quest reverentially. This article investigates a number of issues including: what models underlie the self-understanding expressed in Gurdjieff's memoir; what role Jeanne de Salzmann and other prominent disciples in the Work played in the dissemination of Gurdjieff''s model of the "enlightened life"; the ways that Peter Brook has modelled his own life on that of Gurdjieff; what the constituent elements of an "enlightened life" in the contemporary, deregulated spiritual marketplace might be; and the aesthetics of the film's presentation of the quest for enlightenment. It is speculated that the film adaptation of Meetings With Remarkable Men potentially won for Gurdjieff a new audience of spiritual seekers who did not wish to join the secretive and authoritarian Work, but admired the portrayal of Gurdjieff as a spiritual seeker who achieved enlightened status.

Gurdjieff as Enlightened Esoteric Teacher

George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff was probably born 1866 “in Alexandropol (now Gyumri, Armenia), on the Russian side of the Russo-Turkish frontier, his father a Cappadocian Greek carpenter and bardic poet [ashokh], and his mother an illiterate Armenian.”2 His family was Orthodox Christian. When Gurdjieff was a boy the family moved to Kars, a nearby city, where he became a chorister at the Kars Military Cathedral school, under the tutelage of Dean Borsh.3 From approximately 1887 to 1911 nothing verifiable is known of his life. He emerged as a spiritual teacher in 1912 in Moscow, married Julia Ostrowska in St Petersburg in the same year, and attracted group of early pupils, the most significant of whom was the philosopher and writer Pyotr Demianovitch Ouspensky (1878-1947). The group also included Sophia Ouspensky, the composer (and close friend of Wassily Kandinsky), Thomas de Hartmann, and his wife Olga, a talented singer.4 In 1917 the Russian Revolution caused Gurdjieff to leave St Petersburg and return to Alexandropol. During 1917-1922 he was based progressively at Essentuki, Tblisi (formerly Tiflis), Constantinople and Berlin.

In Tblisi he met the artist Alexandre von Salzmann (later de Salzmann) and his wife Jeanne (who were friends of the de Hartmanns and Kandinsky) and they became his staunch followers. In 1919 the first public demonstration of the sacred dances (first called "exercises", but later known as "Movements") took place in Tblisi, and the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man was founded.5 Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann worked intensively on the never-performed ballet, The Struggle of the Magicians. The group resided in Constantinople for about a year (where Gurdjieff and Ouspensky met John G. Bennett, later a significant, though heterodox, teacher in the Work), then to Berlin, finally settling in Paris in 1922. Gurdjieff then established the second Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at a chateau called the Prieure, in Fontainebleau, to the south of Paris.6 This was his headquarters for two years only, as in 1924 he had a near-fatal car crash and disbanded the Institute shortly after, moving to a flat in Paris. Although the Prieure continued to have “a small, though fluctuating, population for several more years… he ceased to have any formal pupils;”7 instead, Gurdjieff concentrated on his writing, assisted by Olga de Hartmann and Alfred R. Orage. For the last twenty-seven years of his life (1922-1949), apart from nine visits to America, some quite lengthy, and an unaccounted-for period in 1935, Gurdjieff remained in France.8

It is important to understand that until P. D. Ouspensky met Gurdjieff and began to document his system there was no virtually external testimony concerning Gurdjieff''s life at all. Ouspensky separated from Gurdjieff in 1924, although the two men met several times in between 1924 and Ouspensky's death in 1947. Ouspensky is significant in that he continued to teach the Gurdjieff system after breaking with him, and published the earliest and most systematic version of the teaching, In Search of the Miraculous, which appeared posthumously. Ouspensky was a prolific and well-regarded author of scientific and esoteric works, including The Fourth Dimension (1909), Tertium Organum (1912), A New Model of the Universe (1931) and a novel, The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin (1915), which explored the Nietzschean notion of eternal recurrence. Ouspensky recollected meeting Gurdjieff, whom he described as:

a man of oriental type, no longer young, with a black mustache [sic] and piercing eyes, who astonished me first of all, because he seemed to be disguised… I was still full of impressions of the East. And this man [had] the face of an Indian raja or an Arab sheikh whom I at once seemed to see in a white burnoose or gilded turban.9

In their early conversations Gurdjieff told Ouspensky of the plans for his ballet, The Struggle of the Magicians, which would feature some of the sacred dances that he had witnessed during his travels in the East. In explaining these dances to Ouspensky he drew attention to their cosmological significance: “In the strictly defined movements and combinations of the dancers, certain laws are visually reproduced which are intelligible to those who know them… I have many times witnessed such dances being performed during sacred services in various ancient temples.”10 The purpose of these dances was to bring into alignment the human "centres", and to align human beings with the cosmos.

In Gurdjieff''s system, humans are "three-brained beings", who need to align their intellectual, emotional and sensory selves into a single self through the development of a soul (which people, who effectively do not exist, do not have unless they work to grow one). This is known as the development of a finer, (or kesdjan), body. Gurdjieff''s teachings are often called "The Fourth Way" because of his illustration of the three ways that are connected to the three centres of being. The way of the fakir (Sufi ascetic) Gurdjieff connects to the body and the sensory centre; the way of the monk (Christian renunciant) he connects to the emotional centre; and the way of the yogi (Hindu ascetic) he connects with the intellectual centre. But all these paths are inadequate, as they “are all imbalanced because each centre is only aware of part of what we are… So in effect, there are two kinds of imbalance… individual neurosis (derived from the fact that centres try to do the work that is proper to one of the others) and 'spiritual lopsidedness" (derived from the fact that no centre can reveal the whole nature of man).”11

Gurdjieff''s system is forbiddingly difficult to penetrate, not least because he used a formidable vocabulary of neologisms. There are two fundamental laws, the Law of Three (Triamazikamno) and the Law of Seven (Heptaparaparshinokh). The first of these rejects dualistic understandings, through positing three forces, positive, negative and reconciling, or neutralising (rather than just positive and negative), “[t]he higher blends with the lower to actualize the middle, which becomes higher or the preceding lower and lower for the succeeding higher.12 These three forces, in Gurdjieffian language, are called the affirming, denying, and reconciling. The Law of Seven applies to multiple aspects of the teaching: there are seven levels of energy, seven different cosmoses, and the Ray of Creation diagramme has seven emanations. James Moore concisely explains the Law of Seven as follows:

[e]very completing process must without exception have seven discrete phases: construing these as an ascending or descending series of seven notes or pitches, the frequency of vibrations must develop irregularly, with two predictable deviations (just where semi-tones are missing between Mi-Fa and Si-Do in the untempered modern major scale EDCBAGFE).13

These two laws are synthesised and expressed symbolically in the Enneagram, a nine-sided figure.14

In the Gurdjieffian universe everything is alive and seeks to feed itself to achieve higher levels of being. Thus the moon is trying to develop into a new Earth and the Earth to develop into a new sun. Garrett Thomson summarises the role of organic life in this system as follows:

Organic life is a huge accumulator of energy gathered from the sun and the rest of the solar system by the earth to feed itself and the development of the moon. At death, everything that lives releases energy, askokin, to the moon… In other words, the choice between Heaven and Hell is the choice between feeding the sun or the moon… Our spiritual development consists a struggle to become free from the mechanical influences of the moon.15

You see by this how the spiritual Movement was wedged as it were between two set purposes, one intent upon distorting the truth concerning the Moon, the other upon distorting the truth concerning the planets. — That was the situation at the end of the nineteenth century. H. P Blavatsky and Sinnett were to distort the truth about the Moon; the others set out to distort the truth about the connection of the planets with the evolution of the Earth. Do not imagine that it is an easy position to be wedged between two such currents; for here we have to do with occultism, and where occultism is involved a stronger force is necessary for grasping its truths than for grasping the ordinary truths of the physical plane. But consequently there is also at work a far stronger force of deception which it is essential to see through. This is not easy, because of the strong force required to counter it. On the one side, the truth about the Moon is veiled by the distortion, and on the other, the truth about the planets. One was therefore wedged between two fallacies committed in the interests of materialism. First, it was a matter of reckoning with the materialism emanating from the oriental side, which was responsible for promoting the fallacy about the Moon in order to introduce the oriental teaching of reincarnation. The teaching of the fact of reincarnation was of course correct, but we shall soon see what a strong concession had been made to materialism in Esoteric Buddhism — as the book was called. On the other side there was the desire that a certain form of Catholic Esotericism should be protected from the assault of the Indian influence, and there, more than ever, the tendency was at work to allow all spiritual reality connected with the evolution of the planetary system as a whole to be submerged in materialism. The mission of Spiritual Science was wedged between these two currents. This was the situation with which one was confronted. Everywhere there were strong forces at work, intent upon making the one or the other influence effective.

-- The Occult Movement in the Nineteenth Century and Its Relation to Modern Culture, by Rudolf Steiner

Gurdjieff therefore defines the purpose of life as the development of a soul or kesdjan body through work and "conscious suffering", which he calls the Fulasnitamnian principle. Its opposite, the Itoklanoz principle, awaits most people whose wills are fragmented and dominated by trivial likes and dislikes. This process is related to Gurdjieff''s emanative cosmology, with “different manifestations, and concentrations of energy, which flow from the Absolute and which are all interconnected.”16

Humans, in Gurdjieff''s system, are essentially machines who pass through life asleep. There are four states of consciousness; sleep, waking consciousness (which is nearly the same as sleep), self-remembering, and objective consciousness, the attainment of which is connected with the development of the kesdjan body. The Movements are central to Gurdjieff''s teaching, in that they are the most important physical activity undertaken within the Gurdjieff Work. This is, despite the complex cosmological mythology developed in Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson (hereafter Tales), primarily an applied spiritual training, through actual physical labour, in addition to body-based exercises (the Movements). The Gurdjieff-de Hartmann music has an important sub-division of music for the Movements, which has become known through recordings by significant pianists including Wim van Dullemen and Helen Adie.17

In 1923, shortly after arriving in Paris, Gurdjieff staged a public performance of these 'sacred gymnastics". In 1924 he and a group of pupils went to the United States where Gurdjieff “presented public demonstrations of his movements in New York and laid the groundwork for the opening of the first branch of his institute.”18 A. R. Orage, a former student of Ouspensky, was put in charge of the New York branch. Several of the Movements teachers in the Work had been trained in other body-based disciplines. For example, Jessmin Howarth and Rose Mary Nott (nee Lillard), whom Gurdjieff met in Paris in 1922, were instructors of the eurhythmics system used to teach music developed by Gurdjieff''s Swiss contemporary, Emile-Jacques Dalcroze (1865-1950), and Jeanne de Salzmann had also studied with Dalcroze. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), the founder of Anthroposophy, similarly developed a system called Eurythmy, which he began teaching in 1912, which contained the essence of his spiritual teachings, and which was fully developed by 1919 (when he took Eurythmy practitioners on tour in post-war Europe).19

Gurdjieff''s avowed intention was to wake people up, and consciousness is crucial to his teachings. He was adamant that spiritually undeveloped human beings are machines, passive and lacking consciousness. He taught that they had to develop essence and bypass personality. The majority of his teachings are contained in Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson (1950) the "First Series" of his collected writings, known as All and Everything, which is a sprawling science fiction epic of more than twelve hundred pages, in which the reformed Beelzebub tells tales of his adventures, chiefly among three-brained beings on Earth, to his grandson Hassein as the two travel in a spaceship, the Karnak, from Beelzebub's home planet, Karatas. Gurdjieff wrote in Armenian, his native language, and pupils translated the works into different languages. The English translation first published was mainly the work of Orage, who worked closely with Gurdjieff to produce it.20 When immersed in Gurdjieff''s writings the reader is often disconcerted by the lightness of style and the apparent frivolity of certain passages. Gurdjieff often used humour and shocks to teach, as well as pushing followers to the limit physically and emotionally. He was often vulgar, sexually explicit, and appreciated good food and wine, and boisterous company.

Apart from Gurdjieff''s own writings, the most important sources of information about him are the memoirs of his pupils; significant accounts were published by the de Hartmanns, Fritz Peters, J. G. Bennett, and others. It is undeniable that Gurdjieff''s followers viewed him as an authentic spiritual teacher; an enlightened being. A sketch published in Practical Psychology Monthly in 1937 by a pseudonymous pupil stated that “[m]any people attributed impartial objective knowledge to Gurdjieff… He could read character at a glance. He had powers of clairvoyance, thought-reading and the like. In short, it was claimed for him by some people that he was a veritable God-man.”21 John Bennett concurred, saying that although Gurdjieff tended to make ambiguous statements about himself, “[s]ometimes he came very near to claiming he was an avatar, a Cosmic individual incarnated to help mankind.”22

Gurdjieff as Spiritual Seeker: Meetings With Remarkable Men (1963)

During his life, Gurdjieff published only The Herald of Coming Good (hereafter Herald), which was released privately in Paris in 1933. The popular writer on esoteric traditions, Romuald (Rom) Landau, discussed Herald in God is My Adventure (1935). Landau, who also interviewed Gurdjieff twice in 1934, concluded that Herald was “the work of a man who was no longer sane,” and dismissed the grandiose assertion that Gurdjieff would publish three series of works, ten volumes in all, that revealed significant esoteric knowledge. The autobiographical Herald was franker than Gurdjieff would ever be subsequently; Landau covers Gurdjieff''s claim to have been in a certain "dervish" monastery of the "Mohammedan religion" in Central Asia and the claim that Gurdjieff had “arrived at unprecedented practical results without equal in our day.”23 Landau's low opinion of Herald was shared by P. D. Ouspensky who burned the copies that were sent to him. After a few months, Gurdjieff recalled the book and destroyed the remaining copies.24

Gurdjieff''s three major works, Tales (1950), Meetings (1963), and Life is Only Real When ‘I Am’ (1974) were published posthumously. In the "autobiographical" Meetings Gurdjieff presents himself as a seeker after truth, one who is fundamentally concerned with the reconciliation of religious, esoteric and scientific knowledge. Additionally, his birth and upbringing in Transcaucasia positions him as a reconciler of East and West; in 1923, he told Professor Denis Saurat, the Director of the French Institute in London,

I want to add the mystical spirit of the East to the scientific spirit of the West. The Oriental spirit is right, but only in its trends and general ideas. The Western spirit is right in its methods and techniques. Western methods alone are effective in history. I want to create a type of sage who will unite the spirit of the East with Western techniques.25

To date, Gurdjieff has received comparatively little academic attention, despite his clear significance within the esoteric milieu. Arguably, the three most influential teachers of alternative spirituality and esoteric systems in the modern West are: Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891), who co-founded the Theosophical Society in 1875 with the American Civil War veteran Colonel Henry Steel Olcott; Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), a philosopher and scientist who broke with Theosophy in 1912 to form the Anthroposophical Society; and Gurdjieff.26

Compared to Tales, which is a demanding text in terms of its vast length, vocabulary of neologisms, and exposition of complex cosmology, Meetings appears to be a relatively brief and 'simple" book in which Gurdjieff recounts his early life. However, the “Introduction” resolutely refuses to permit the reader to enter the text without effort, with its seemingly random anecdotes about grammar, Persian folktales, and musings on the differences between "European" and "Asiatic" literatures, presented as the findings of an “elderly, intelligent Persian.”27 The convoluted prose style of all Gurdjieff''s writings is itself an important teaching technique, and not merely the product of his own polyglot status and the complex processes of translation. Joshua Gunn has argued persuasively that esotericists usually employ one of three standard strategies with regard to language, which as a human attribute cannot reliably express ineffable truths: first, the recommendation to keep silent; second, the use of “language itself in order to ascend to higher states of awareness;”28 and third, a quest for a pure language (possibly from a divine source) that is able to express the ineffable. Gurdjieff''s writings are excellent examples of the second strategy; his followers assert that his neologisms and difficult prose are designed to reveal higher levels of reality. Further, he developed (with Alexandre de Salzmann) a new script, which read vertically from top to bottom, in which to write the forty aphorisms that featured on the walls of the Prieure.29 Mohammad H. Tamdgidi argues that Gurdjieff learned from his ashokh father to hide “serious ideas under the cloak of apparently trivial, absurd and nonsensical ones.”30

In Meetings, Gurdjieff recounts pivotal moments in his young life, and the "remarkable men" in whose company these occurred. The first such man is his father, the bard (whom he claimed could recite the Epic of Gilgamesh, a text which was not translated until much later), and he is followed by Gurdjeff's teacher at Kars, Dean Borsh, and the priest Bogachevsky, also known as Father Evlissi. In the chapter dedicated to Bogachevsky, Gurdjieff introduces the motif of the Yezidi boy trapped within a chalk circle. The adolescent Gurdjieff saw a small boy weeping and struggling to escape, and being mocked by the other children:

I was puzzled and asked what it was all about. I learned that the boy in the middle was a Yezidi and the circle had been drawn round him and that he could not get out of it until it was rubbed away. The child was indeed trying with all his might to leave this magic circle, but he struggled in vain. I ran up to him and quickly rubbed out part of the circle, and immediately he dashed out and ran away as fast as he could.31

This anecdote presents Gurdjieff as a benevolent liberator from superstitious irrational constraints, a role that he assumed as an esoteric teacher many years later in pre-revolutionary Russia. Other early experiences, such as the mysterious resurrection of a Tartar corpse (or accidental burial of a live man, depending on how the incident is interpreted), and the duel involving cannons fought with his friend Piotr Karpenko over “the Riaouzov girl,” with whom he was passionately, though briefly, in love, are vividly portrayed.

The core of the book details the search by the adult Gurdjieff and his friends, known as the 'seekers of Truth". These included Abram Yelov, the Aisor (Assyrian Christian), trainee priest Sarkis Pogossian, who became an engineer and later the owner of a steamship company, the pasha's son Ekim Bey, Professor Skridlov, an archaeologist, and the Prince Yuri Lubovedsky, who is presented as the principal spiritual guide in Gurdjieff''s memoir. Embedded in the chapter about Prince Lubovedsky are the stories of the alcoholic Soloviev and Vitvitskaia, the one "remarkable woman" acknowledged by Gurdjieff. Intriguingly, she is Polish and has a dubious reputation, having been a "kept woman". This invites the speculation that she is modelled on Gurdjieff''s wife, Julia Ostrowska, who was Polish and retained her own name, possibly because Gurdjieff already had a wife and children.32 It is undeniable that Gurdjieff loved Madame Ostrowska, and that she was a person of rare spiritual qualities is testified to by many of his pupils.33 However, she was only twenty-two when they married in 1912, too young to have belonged to the Seekers of Truth, if they really existed.

The Seekers of Truth sought ancient wisdom and allegedly journeyed far and wide in the 1880s and 1890s to attain it. Gurdjieff stated that:

[t]hirty years ago twelve of us spent many years in central Asia, and we reconstructed the Doctrine by oral traditions, the study of ancient costumes, popular songs, and certain books. The Doctrine has always existed, but the tradition has been interrupted. In antiquity some groups and castes knew it, but it was incomplete. The ancients put too much stress on metaphysics, their doctrine was too abstract.34

Their quest involves archaeological expeditions in the Gobi Desert, examination of the antiquities of Egypt after discovering a “map of pre-sand Egypt” (which Gurdjieff connects to Atlantis),35 experiments with music and vibrations, discussions with the wandering holy men of Central Asia, and finally, for Gurdjieff, arrival at the fabled monastery of the esoteric Sarmoung Brotherhood, where he is reunited with Prince Lubovedsky and learns the sacred dances, or Movements (referred to above).

There has been much speculation about the sources of Gurdjieff''s teachings, which raises the issue of how reliable the account of his early years given in Meetings is? The teachings have variously been described as an amalgam of esoteric Christianity, Sufism, Tibetan Buddhism, Western occult traditions, and Hindu ideas. Some of his disciples, like J. G. Bennett, believed that sources for the Work could be identified and that Gurdjieff''s travels were to some extent verifiable. Bennett accepted that Gurdjieff had spent time with Essenes and at the famed Christian monastery of Mount Athos, and had visited Ethiopia where he became familiar with Coptic Christianity. He further accepted that Gurdjieff spent time in Egypt, Babylon, Afghanistan and Tibet, and was initiated into a Sufi order. Also, Bennett claims that Gurdjieff was a Russian spy:

[h]is almost uniformly hostile references to England, and especially his attack on the Younghusband Expedition into Tibet in 1903, suggests that he was in conflict with the authorities of British India. I can personally confirm that he had an unfavourable dossier in New Delhi because, as an intelligence officer in Constantinople in 1920, I first heard of Gurdjieff in a dispatch from New Delhi warning us of a “very dangerous Russian agent, George Gurdjieff, who was in Georgia and had applied for a permit to come to Constantinople”… I was invited to dinner by my friend Prince Sabaheddin to meet an old friend of his whom he regarded as a most exceptional man in the field of occultism and spirituality. This was Gurdjieff… Anyone who knew the Caucasus at that time would suspect that a man who could get permits and move freely through the Bolshevik and Social Democrat areas must have a secret pull with the authorities.36

The truth of these fascinating assertions has not been definitely established. They are mentioned for two reasons: first, there is a resemblance between the roles of spy and esoterist, in that both deal with multiple realities, fragmented identities and secrets; and second, because one very obvious model of the enlightened life that Gurdjieff drew upon was that of Madame Blavatsky.

Prior to the establishment of the Theosophical Society, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky had led a daring and unconventional life for a well-born Russian woman of the nineteenth century. The daughter of Colonel Peter von Hahn and the novelist Helena de Fadeyev, she ran away from a marriage of convenience to the middle-aged Nikifor Vassilievich Blavatsky after a matter of weeks in 1848, aged seventeen. She travelled in Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Western Europe, the Americas, the Caribbean, India, and Tibet, where she allegedly spent at least seven years studying with a spiritual master. Richard Hutch argued that she became an American citizen in 1878 to “stop British charges that she was on a mission to India as a Russian spy.”37 Further, Blavatsky had made her living in an unconventional fashion, which included working as a medium in Cairo in the 1870s, and Gurdjieff in Meetings details sundry ways that he earned money through deception and fringe pursuits, most notably hypnotism. Further connections are apparent when Hutch discussed the sources of Madame Blavatsky's occult teachings and concluded that:

Blavatsky drew from the more esoteric, though ubiquitous traditions of Russian pre-Christian and Orthodox Christian spirituality. The former involved an unconscious identification with so-called “paganism”, or shamanistic religion which… is characteristic of Russian tribal societies… [the] latter associate[d] the essence of Christian liturgical history and continuity with the tradition of “holy men” or “pilgrims” of the church.38

Gurdjieff''s Meetings abounds in Christian references (for example, Jesus Christ is referred to as “Our Divine Teacher,” the ecclesiastical seasons of Lent and Easter are observed, and when Gurdjieff speaks of his deceased friends he asks God to look with favour on them), and he did describe his system as "esoteric Christianity" to pupils on occasion. Gurdjieff followed Blavatsky in recounting tales of the lost civilization Atlantis and crediting the Atlanteans with an advanced technology and great wisdom. Gurdjieff was clearly familiar with Theosophy and referred to it in conversation.39 Blavatsky's death in 1891 is at the beginning of the decade when Gurdjieff''s quest with the Seekers of Truth began.

Andrew Rawlinson assesses Helena Petrovna Blavatsky's claim to have been initiated into Eastern traditions as truthful, stating that “we would have to say that we know of no other Westerner of the time who was doing the same… Blavatsky has a unique place in the great process by which Eastern teachings – and by extension, spiritual psychology as a worldview – have come to the West.”40 The debt of Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy to Theosophy is well-documented; there is much more to do in detailing the debt that Gurdjieff owes his greatest nineteenth century role-model of the enlightened life, Madame Blavatsky, and the debt the Work owes to Theosophy.

Gurdjieff, Jeanne de Salzmann and Peter Brook

Having considered Gurdjieff's textual rendering of his enlightened life, attention is now turned to Peter Brook, and the film he directed of Gurdjieff's memoir. Renowned theatre and film director Peter Brook was born in England to Russian parents in 1925. Tuberculosis in his mid-teens resulted in him spending two years in Switzerland, and at seventeen he became a student of Magdalen College, Oxford. In his first year of study he directed an amateur production of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus at the Torch Theatre in London, and in 1946 he directed Love’s Labours Lost for the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-on-Avon. In 1948 he became Director of Productions at Covent Garden Opera House. Brook read Ouspensky's In Search of the Miraculous in 1950, and in 1951 he married the Russian-English actress Natasha Parry. They joined the London Gurdjieff group under the direction of American writer Jane Heap (1883-1964), and after her death gravitated to the Paris Work group led by Jeanne de Salzmann.41 The couple moved to Paris in 1972 and Brook now heads the Paris Gurdjieff group. Brook's theatrical practice has been deeply influenced by his spiritual explorations, and the model of Gurdjieff as both spiritual seeker and esoteric master arguably underpins his understanding of his artistic vision.

During his time studying Gurdjieff's system with Jane Heap, Brook experimented with radical theatrical practice. The Theatre of Cruelty workshops, inspired by the work of Antonin Artaud (1886-1948), in which Brook collaborated with Charles Marowitz, led to the publication of The Empty Space (1968), his theatrical manifesto. Brook distinguished four types of theatre: Deadly (which was commercial and bad); Holy (which was akin to ritual, and showed the influence of Artaud); Rough (which was popular and incited laughter); and Immediate (which used improvisation and experimentation).42 Brook's own directorial practice sought to combine Holy and Rough theatre, in what Maria Shevtsova calls a “universal theatre which, in cutting across ethnic, linguistic and value differences, will traverse cultural boundaries, closing the gaps that divide race from race, class from class, and whatever else sets divisions in motion.”43 This has led him to combine stories and performance modes from widely divergent cultures, with often spectacular, though controversial, results.

Tracing Brook's conscious modelling of his own life on that of his spiritual master, and of his theatrical output on Gurdjieff''s teaching, is a complex and difficult task, but one that repays effort. Sally Mackey and Simon Cooper note the parallels between the two in passing: “Gurdjieff originated from a Near Eastern background from which Brook would draw inspiration… Gurdjieff''s concept of a journey as a means of learning and discovery was taken up by Brook, particularly in his African travels… Gurdjieff was a teacher and mystic. Although Brook denies his own guru status there is no doubt that he is regarded as such by some contemporary practitioners.”44 Gurdjieff himself was sternly critical of much that passed for art, literary and otherwise. In Tales, he has Beelzebub tell his grandson Hassein that before art became degraded, artists were known as Orpheists, a term that meant “that he rightly sensed the essence.” The term "artist", by contrast, simply means “he-who-is-occupied-with-art.” Literary and artistic fashions, Beelzebub maintains, are simply alternations to “the external form of what is called "the-covering-of-their-nullity".”45 However, it is undeniable that he attracted many artists, particularly writers and musicians, as pupils, and the Work continues to be attractive to creative people.46

Brook is recognised as somewhat self-dramatising and highly conscious of his stature as an auteur, moved in the 1960s to increasingly grandiose productions that claimed significance beyond mere entertainment and performance. Orghast at Persepolis, in 1971, involved the development of a script that combined disparate theatrical texts. The basis was Aeschylus" Prometheus Bound, to which were added extracts of “text from the Spanish playwright Calderon, a chorus from an Armenian play… Seneca, and an exploration of Avestan, the ceremonial language of Iran,” which were blended with writings from the poet Ted Hughes.47 Brook used members of his company and local Iranians, and language and technical preparation was done very swiftly, with much reliance on improvisation. The Persian archaeological site of Persepolis (which is redolent of antiquity in general and Alexander the Great in particular) provided a huge and impressive stage set. Performances began at dusk, with the sunset and the sunrise the following morning being important contributions to lighting effects. The flaming torches illuminating the site reinforced the reception of Orghast at Persepolis as a type of esoteric ritual, or temple spectacle, very far removed from theatre, as the West understands it. Brook has made extravagant claims regarding what his theatrical productions can achieve; “holy theatre not only presents the invisible but offers conditions that make its perception possible.”48

The other great international marathon theatrical event that Peter Brook is associated with is the nine-hour production of The Mahabharata that he conceived and delivered in the 1980s, after he had made the film of “Meetings With Remarkable Men.” Where Orghast was an original script, Brook has been praised and vilified for his adaptation of the vast Indian epic, which was composed between approximately 400 B.C.E. and 200 C.E., although it is traditionally attributed to the sage Vyasa.49 Core to criticism of Brook's Mahabharata was the claim that it was an orientalising appropriation of Indian theatre and culture. This elucidates another parallel between Gurdjieff and Brook; both were "Orientalists" who presented an exoticised version of the Orient to the Occident.50 The East, as Edward Said argued, “was not allowed to represent itself, but had to be represented by the Occident. In other words, it had to be re-presented in a manner so as to align itself within the prevailing hierarchy, with the imperial powers on top, the Orient at the bottom, of the political, social, and cultural scale”51 It has been objected that Brook reduced the action of the Mahabharata to a tragic tale of two flawed heroes, Karna and Duryodhana, rendering it Shakespearean, rather than a traditionally Indian religious cultural event.52 More serious charges against Brook included that he made promises to certain Indians, particularly a young male dancer named Dohonda, regarding participation in the production and later reneged on them, and that he had failed to bring the Mahabharata back to the villagers whose traditions he appropriated, which some critics viewed as an act of “cultural piracy.”53

This failure to appreciate the authentic Indian qualities of the Mahabharata on the part of Brook reveals another way in which he models his life and activities on Gurdjieff. Esoteric teachings posit that there is a universally applicable strand of ancient wisdom (the philosophia perennis, the prisca theologica) that is available to enlightened souls in all historical eras and across all geographies and cultures. This perspective is thus anti-modern and anti-progress, as the ancient Atlanteans (or which ever group is valorised) possessed perfect wisdom, to which nothing further could be added.54 It also tends to erase differences between cultures and to propose universally applicable solutions for human dilemmas. Nevertheless, Brook's Mahabharata is considered a masterpiece by many, particularly by those who operate within a "Traditionalist" framework. Basarab Nicolescu argues that there is a close relationship between theatre and “spiritual work,” because of the fact that both involve oral transmission, and asserts that Brook's troupe of actors “can communicate just as well with African villagers, Australian aborigines or the inhabitants of Brooklyn.”55 He suggests that the art of theatre as practiced by Brook is a universal language, and cites Gurdjieff:

[t]he fundamental property of this new language is that all ideas are concentrated around one single idea: in other words, they are all considered, in terms of their mutual relationships, from the point of view of a single idea. And this idea is that of evolution. Not at all in the sense of a mechanical evolution, naturally, because that does not exist, but in the sense of a conscious and voluntary evolution. It is the only possible kind… The language which permits understanding is based on the knowledge of its place in the evolutionary ladder.56

Nicolescu concludes that any activity that facilitates the evolution of consciousness (which is a spiritual process), in this case the theatre of Brook, should be considered as sacred.

In his autobiography Brook presents himself as a spiritual seeker not unlike Gurdjieff. As an imaginative young child, he “learned that what we call living is an attempt to read the shadows, betrayed at every time by what we so easily assume to be real.”57 When recuperating from tuberculosis in Europe he has a similar emotional awakening to women as that Gurdjieff experienced with “the Riaouzov girl,” which he calls “the wild sickness of love born of one glimpse of a dark-haired Italian schoolgirl, looking down at me from the top of a flight of steps.”58 He admits to an interest in the occult and describes meeting Aleister Crowley (who also met Gurdjieff) as a teenager. He praises Jane Heap as a teacher of rare insight:

[t]hrough her, I began to discover that “tradition” had another meaning from the sterile old-fashionedness I so detested in the theater. I learned to understand the oriental way of hiding knowledge like a precious stone, of concealing its sources, of making it hard to discover, so that its value can be truly appreciated by the searcher who has been willing to pay the price. She showed how every religion rapidly destroyed the purity of its origins by offering too readily to others what one has not made one's own by hard practical work.59

After Heap's death he and his wife Natasha developed a deep bond with Jeanne de Salzmann, who was described to him as “like a fan, which gradually opens until more and more is revealed.”60 While in New York in the mid-1970s de Salzmann suggested to Brook “very lightly, "Why don"t we make a film of Meetings With Remarkable Men?"”61 Brook responded to this proposal with enthusiasm, but his initial desire to make a “dynamic, colorful film” was thwarted by Madame de Salzmann, who desired to “give to the spectator a direct taste of that 'something else" she had experienced with Gurdjieff over the years.”62 This anecdote demonstrates that viewing the film of Gurdjieff''s autobiography was intended as a kind of substitute for an encounter with Gurdjieff himself, and thus can be understood as a type of evangelism, of spreading the word about the Work.
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Part 2 of 2

Meetings With Remarkable Men (1979)

Meetings With Remarkable Men, which is dedicated to Gurdjieff, was filmed in Afghanistan, which doubles for a variety of Central Asian locations and Egypt. Jeanne de Salzmann, then well over eighty, played a part in the casting of roles, particularly of the Montenegrin actor Dragan Maksimovic as the adult Gurdjieff, and in the supervision of filming. The issue of casting clearly was of spiritual significance. Brook stated in his autobiography that while waiting to meet Madame de Salzmann, Maksimovic;

sat patiently on a stool. Then, at one moment, he crossed his legs, and learning forward, he clasped his hands together on a stick he had picked up off the ground, his body relaxed yet poised and alert. Madame de Salzmann was delighted, recognizing a characteristic attitude of Gurdjieff that Dragan had unwittingly assumed, simply through the power of essential roots and type.63

Due to Brook's theatrical contacts, the distinguished cast included the South African playwright Athol Fugard as Professor Skridlov, and the English actors Terence Stamp as Prince Lubovedsky and Warren Mitchell as Gurdjieff''s father. The film is episodic and has been praised for its cinematic beauty. It opens with the young Gurdjieff and his father climbing a barren, rocky mountain. They are going to the meeting of the ashokhs. As the singer sings, the camera pans slowly over the faces. The significance of music is underlined; Gurdjieff asks his father “Where do the ashokhs learn?” and receives the answer “From their fathers,” which is then regressed back to God. His father suggests that young Gurdjieff should “Become yourself. Then God and the Devil don"t matter.” The evocative, faintly melancholy, soundtrack consists of music based on compositions by Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann, with additional music by Gurdjieffian musician and composer Laurence Rosenthal.64

The key episodes of Gurdjieff''s youth, including the Yezidi boy trapped in the circle, the brief experience of love for the Riaouzov girl, and the resulting duel with Piotr Karpenko, are picturesquely presented, as are his adult acquaintances with Pogossian, Yelov, Vitvitskaia (whose importance is downplayed in the film through her being nameless), and the other Seekers of Truth. The action is slow-moving, with minimal dialogue, resulting in a sometimes ponderous silence. The 'spiritual" nature of the film is underscored throughout, and the music has a hypnotic effect. Film Studies scholar Paul Coates argues that if Rudolf Otto's notion that the core of religion is:

the experience of a mysterium tremendum… [this]… can be aligned with the experience of cinema. For a start, Otto's statement of the need for “metaphor and symbolic expressions, to make the states of mind we are investigating ring out” privileges aesthetic categories as conduits to religiosity. He describes the mysterium as an “overpowering might” with “a character which cannot be expressed verbally.” The pattern of a feeling that precedes ands even resists verbal rationalization may seem peculiarly apt to cinema, the most widespread forms of which pressure-cook emotions within the confines of a two-hour period.65

Religion plays a part in the film, as it does in the book, but it is largely emptied of doctrinal and institutional significance. Pogossian and Gurdjieff acquire the map of “Egypt before the sands” from the abbot of an Orthodox monastery and journey to Egypt where Gurdjieff meets Prince Lubovedsky; Gurdjieff has several encounters with the dervish Bogga Eddin, but the fact he is Muslim (or a Sufi) is never mentioned. After the failure of Professor Skridlov's archaeological expedition in the Gobi Desert, Bogga Eddin tells Gurdjieff to find the Sarmoung Brotherhood; “I have found nothing. I don"t know how to search. Alone a man can do very little. He needs to find the place where knowledge has been kept alive.”66

The quest to find the monastery of the Sarmoung Brotherhood (which is described as having been founded in 2,500 B.C.E. and having disappeared after the sixth century C.E.) becomes the primary narrative to propel the film forward. Gurdjieff and Skridlov sing and beg as they travel; they meet a former Christian missionary, Father Giovanni, who explains that he has abandoned exclusive adherence to Christianity to become a member of the World Brotherhood (which is a nod to the deregulated spirituality characteristic of the West post-Theosophy). When Skridlov decides to stay with Father Giovanni, Gurdjieff presses on to the Sarmoung monastery, and after crossing a perilous rope bridge he is welcomed by the monastery's superior, who greets him warmly; “[y]ou have found your place my son. You have come here like a lamb but you have a wolf inside of you.” Here he is reunited with Prince Lubovedsky, who is close to the end of his life. Gurdjieff''s followers have argued for various locations for this monastery (assuming that it did exist). Gurdjieff claimed to have spent time in Tibet as a lama, and to have had a Tibetan wife and children. It has been suggested that he was the Lama Dorjieff, the tutor of the Dalai Lama (though this has been effectively refuted by Moore), and Anna Durco, who knew Gurdjieff when she was a child, remembered asking why his head was shaved. He told her “"Where I was, all were like that." He added that they had red garments with a bare shoulder exposed, a wooden staff – land barren in the background.”67 As there is a group of nine or ten Nyingma Buddhist monasteries collectively called 'surmang" in the Nangchen region of Tibet, some have speculated that this is the site of Gurdjieff''s initiation into wisdom, and the place of origin of the Movements.68

However, both Gurdjieff''s own memoir and Brook's film present the monastery more as a Sufi institution. The final fifteen minutes of the film make it clear that the Movements are the central revelation of the Gurdjieff Work. Prince Lubovedsky says to Gurdjieff, “Everyone in the monastery learns the alphabet of these movements. They are exactly like books, we can read in them truths placed there a thousand years ago.” Gurdjieff replies, “I understand.” The Prince continues, “They tell us of two qualities of energy, moving without interruption through the body. As long as the dancer can keep in balance these two energies, he has a force that nothing else can give.” The two walk through the courtyards of the monastery, viewing six different Movements. These are performed by men and women, and are accompanied by the hypnotic recitation of the Law of Three, “affirming, denying, reconciling.” Prince Lubovedsky departs to a monastery in the Himalayas to live out his last three years. He counsels Gurdjieff to remain with the Sarmoung Brotherhood:

[y]ou have now found the conditions in which the desire of your heart can become the reality of your being. Stay here, until you acquire a force in you that nothing can destroy. Then you will need to go back into life, and there you will measure yourself constantly with forces which will show you your place.69

The final Movement shown is a Sufi dervish dance. The credits roll over an image of Gurdjieff standing in the barren rocky landscape, as he watches the Prince retreat into the distance, until he is no longer visible.

When released, Meetings With Remarkable Men received a mixed reaction from both cinema critics and those in the Work. It was both panned as pompous, pseudo-profound and obscurantist, and celebrated as lyrically beautiful and conveying an authentic sense of the spiritual quest. Janet Maslin's review in the New York Times is revealing, in that she apprehended the film's hagiographical intent, but felt that Brook had failed to convey the sense of Gurdjieff''s search. She wrote that:

Mr Brook's presentation of this is so solemn, so evidently lacking the joyful guiding spirit of such a search, that his film feels flat. Watching this handsome, affectless effort feels a little like receiving a series of puzzling picture postcards in the mail, each one beautiful but missing a message on the back. The effect is perhaps more mysterious than it means to be.70

However, more than thirty years since its release, the film ranking website Flixster records an 89% favourable rating from viewers, suggesting that the film has stood the test of time.71 The late 1970s is an interesting period with regard to religion and spirituality in the West. The boom in alternative religions of the countercultural 1960s had abated, and the New Age of the 1980s had not yet begun. The positive reception of Brook's film was greatly boosted as the New Age gained traction among Westerners and in 1980 the renowned jazz and classical virtuoso pianist, Keith Jarrett, released a popular recording of a selection of the Gurdjieff-de Hartmann music, Sacred Hymns. Jarrett identified the process of musical improvisation as spiritual inspiration, and Sacred Hymns was immensely successful, winning a substantial audience for the Gurdjieff-de Hartmann music, though more without than within the Work.72

Within Gurdjieff groups, these negative reactions to popular media presentations of the master's teachings were in part motivated by the belief that knowledge of the Work could only be gained through direct teacher-pupil contact and the fear that the teachings would be misunderstood by an unprepared and ignorant public. Jeanne de Salzmann had decided that to “give to the spectator a direct taste of that 'something else" she had experienced with Gurdjieff over the years” was a valid step.73 However, her actions as Gurdjieff''s successor, though respected by many, were not universally accepted, and there were groups who believed that her control of the Work (which as an organised system she, not Gurdjieff, had instituted) was overly-controlling and lacked spiritual authenticity. David Kherdian, an Armenian-American who belonged, with his wife Nonny Hogrogian, to a group led by Annie-Lou Stavely, has published a complex reflection on Meetings With Remarkable Men that repays study. He says,

[w]e had rented five mini-buses, complete with an intercom system, and we set off for San Francisco. I gave the buses the names Farm Barn 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, and the assistant drivers of each Farm Barn set up their communication system to prevent any of the buses getting lost. The trip was exciting and eventful, and proved to be the catalyst for two marriages. But the movie itself was a disappointment. Halting and stilted as well as pretentious, I felt that it had made a travesty of the book, with the only believable people on the screen – apart from Warren Mitchell, who played Gurdjieff''s father – being the natives, who were not acting but simply being themselves, men and women with real being, unlike the hired actors who, for all their polish, were ineffective and empty. Except for the movements, it was clearly an unfortunate misappropriation of a great, objective work of art. And yet, in spite of myself, there were moments during the film when I was moved – for somehow, in spite of everything, something of Gurdjieff''s great spirit and teaching had come through.74

Kherdian was puzzled as to whether the film was intended for people in the Work, or for people "in life"? He and his fellow-students of Gurdjieff were convinced that those "in life" would not understand the film. He also concluded that Dragan Maksimovic was unconvincing as Gurdjieff, and the film failed as a rendering of Gurdjieff''s book. However, he was not able to sustain his first, negative reaction, as “the people in the Work… [became] identified with the film,” and Mrs Stavely purchased a copy and instituted screenings at the farm community she headed.75

Conclusion: Models of the Enlightened Life

Kherdian's reflections are interesting because by the 1970s there were clear tensions in the Work. Whereas many, including Peter Brook, accepted the authority of Jeanne de Salzmann, others were concerned that under the "Great Helmswoman" the teaching had diverged from Gurdjieff''s own. James Moore's study of the tradition between the death of Gurdjieff in 1949 and the death of Madame de Salzmann in 1990 argues that she deliberately engineered the dismantling of “Gurdjieff''s canon of effort, striving, and self-reliance” and replaced it with a grace paradigm.76 Moore claims Gurdjieff and his ideas were effectively abandoned:

discarded with both the “heroic” and the historical Gurdjieff was the entire apparatus of his Systema Universi: the Ray of Creation, the Table of Hydrogens, the Step Diagram, the Food Diagram, the Enneagram etc. They and their unwelcome implications simply vanished from politically correct discourse. With this final solution to the Work's effort-saturated cosmological matrix… the pupil's presumed new experience of “being worked upon” and “being remembered” was posited in a mystical illuminism, which hinted encouragingly at a supernal “look of love” – albeit not specifying its presumably divine, demiurgic, or angelic provenance. In a doctrinal corollary of seismic implications, fusion with this supernal source replaced individuation as the pupil's goal.77

Accompanying these doctrinal changes was the introduction of yoga practice (which Gurdjieff explicitly rejected), and the re-translation and publication of a bowdlerized version of Tales in 1992, against which Annie-Lou Stavely protested fervently. Thus, the Movements were the last remaining unchanged esoteric exercise developed by Gurdjieff. Moore indicates that respect for and awe of Madame de Salzmann stifled dissent; David Kherdian accuses her of sanitising both Gurdjieff''s lectures, published as Views From the Real World (1975), and Gurdjieff''s Meetings in Brook's film of “Meetings With Remarkable Men.”78 Brook, however, maintains that the film is authentic and that “the unique and unknown dances themselves are what matter. They have never been shown before, and these movements are authentic, re-created from the complex principles that Gurdjieff discovered during his journeys and had transmitted directly to Madame de Salzmann, who in turn had taught them to her pupils.”79 This is in fact inaccurate; many performances of the Movements occurred during Gurdjieff''s lifetime, and in fact some argue that there are deliberate mistakes in the filmed Movements, to prevent reproduction of them outside of the Work.80

It could be argued that the changes introduced by Jeanne de Salzmann, and the film of “Meetings With Remarkable Men,” were a response to a changed spiritual climate at the end of the 1970s and throughout the 1980s, which is generally called the “New Age.” Gurdjieff''s teachings were delivered to his pupils before the spiritual revolution of the counter-cultural 1960s and the Work was an authoritarian, initiatory teaching. Gurdjieff himself was arbitrary, sexist and given to terrifying rages; outsiders accused of hypnotising his followers and negatively characterised him as a "magician". The second half of the twentieth century saw the opening up of esoteric traditions; and despite the secretive nature of the Work, Gurdjieff''s pupils produced a constant stream of books about him, and autobiographical accounts of their spiritual struggle. The emergence of the New Age 'spiritual seeker", now viewed as a major factor in the West's shift from institutional religion to free-floating, individual 'spirituality",81 created a new audience for Gurdjieff''s ideas and validated his self-presentation as a questing seeker after wisdom in Meetings as an authentic model of the enlightened life. Coupled with this was a rise in eclectic, personal religio-spiritual bricolage, and the gradual retreat of traditional Western religious notions (monotheism, divine transcendence, one earthly life, and so on) with broadly Eastern ones (monism, reincarnation, karma, subtle body energies, and so on).82

The deliberate downplaying of specific religions (Yezidi, Orthodox Christian, Sufi, Muslim, and so on) in establishing the identities of Gurdjieff''s 'seekers of Truth" and other characters contributes to the generically 'spiritual" tone of the film, as does Father Giovanni's World Brotherhood, which is compatible with the philosophia perennis of Western esoteric traditions. The aesthetics of Meetings With Remarkable Men presents the quest for wisdom and enlightenment in a serious and weighty fashion that is in conformity with Paul Schrader's notion of “transcendent style.” This is a filmic form that features “austerity and asceticism” rather than “exuberance and expressivism,” utilises “sparse means” and rejects realism, and depends on silence and stasis in the depiction of the holy.83 Nicolescu notes the centrality of silence in Brook's oeuvre:

[s]ilence plays an integral part in Brook's work, beginning with the research into the inter-relationship of silence and duration with his Theatre of Cruelty group in 1964, and culminating in the rhythm punctuated with silences that is indefinably present at the core of his film Meetings with Remarkable Men: “In silence there are many potentialities: chaos or order, muddle or pattern, all lie fallow - the invisible-made-visible is of sacred nature.” Silence is all-embracing, and it contains countless “layers.”84

In certain respects, Meetings With Remarkable Men recalls a later Hollywood film, Martin Scorsese's Kundun (1997), a biographical treatment of Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. In fact, there are profound similarities between these two works, in that Kundun is also a film of stunning beauty, featuring a rugged and barren landscape, with a profoundly emotive soundtrack by Philip Glass, which presents the spiritual maturation of the Dalai Lama against the backdrop of the struggle of the Tibetan people against Maoist China.85 The power of Tibet's passive resistance to the military might of China is dramatised by Scorsese in a myriad ways, but most poignantly through the silence of the Dalai Lama in a meeting with Mao Zedong, who dismisses religion in Tibet as "poison". Monasteries feature as sites where ancient wisdom is protected and passed on, and both films conclude with the promise of the spiritually enlightened young male protagonist going into the wider world, as the Dalai Lama is exiled from Tibet, and Prince Lubovedsky tells Gurdjieff, “[s]tay here, until you acquire a force in you that nothing can destroy. Then you will need to go back into life [where] you will measure yourself constantly with forces which will show you your place.”86 Both films are slow-paced, stately and aestheticised, and are powerful, affective examples of transcendental style in cinema. It is also worth noting that both are exercises in Orientalism, in which Western viewers are invited to appreciate the spiritual value of the "mysterious East". That this was Brook's intention in directing the film is corroborated by his reflection on Afghanistan as “a country where there were no ruins to admire but which was organically linked to traces of a living whole,” and where “theatre, like a bazaar, could both stay in the everyday world and yet touch a monastery wall.”87

In conclusion, Meetings With Remarkable Men as a foray into making the Work public, and as the first (and possibly the only) narrative feature film about the life of a new religious movement leader, won for Gurdjieff a new audience of spiritual seekers who did not wish to join the initiatory and authoritarian Work, but who admired the portrayal of Gurdjieff as a spiritual seeker who achieved enlightened status, and were enabled to utilise elements of his system in the construction of their own personal spiritualities. Brook has acknowledged that not all viewers found his portrayal of Gurdjieff authentic and persuasive, but defends the film as ultimately effective. In his autobiography Threads of Time: Recollections, he notes that

some people were disappointed, finding it too simplistic as cinema, too exotic in its imagery, too naïve in its narrative. Certainly, when at last the distant monastery is reached, the dancers assembled there in white are unmistakably European, and this is hard to swallow from the point of view of normal storytelling logic… It is interesting to see that when the film is shown, most spectators are deeply touched by these dances and exercises and are totally unconcerned by their lack of verisimilitude in the story.88

In the twenty-first century, ready access to inexpensive editions of Gurdjieff''s writings in the original translations, and to Brook's Meetings With Remarkable Men on DVD and online via YouTube, as well as through screenings at art-house cinemas, means that information about the Work teachings is more widely available than ever before. The New Age has given way to the Next Age, eclectic spiritualities have become the default mode for contemporary Westerners, and conflicts within the Gurdjieff tradition, particularly over issues of leadership as Michel de Salzmann (who is Gurdjieff''s biological son) succeeded his mother Jeanne, have resulted in freelance Movements instructors and acephalous Work groups that are more liberal and open to seekers.

Finally, the centrality of the self to contemporary spiritual quests, and the diminished importance of doctrinal and other boundary markers between religions for seekers, means that G. I. Gurdjieff''s enlightened life, expressed through text in Meetings With Remarkable Men, and through image in Peter Brook's Meetings With Remarkable Men, with its central motif of the young Gurdjieff''s quest for and attainment of perennial, universally applicable, esoteric wisdom, has been authenticated as a valid and powerful model of seekership and self-realisation. The text's teasing play with truth and historicity, and the film's beauty and transcendent style, combine effectively to win for Gurdjieff a constantly replenished new audience of spiritual seekers.



Carole M. Cusack is Associate Professor in Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney.
1 Sophia Wellbeloved, "Gurdjieff, “Old” or “New Age”; Aristotle or Astrology?", Journal of Alternative Spiritualities and New Age Studies, vol. 1 (2005), pp. 75-88.
2 James Moore, "Katherine Mansfield and Gurdjieff''s Sacred Dance", in Katherine Mansfield: In From The Margin, ed. Roger Robinson (Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1994), p. 190.
3 Anthony Storr, Feet of Clay: A Study of Gurus (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996), p. 24.
4 Thomas and Olga de Hartmann, Our Life With Mr. Gurdjieff (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983), pp. 4, 49.
5 John Mangan, "Thomas de Hartmann: A Composer's Life", Notes, vol. 53, no. 1 (September 1996), p. 25.
6 George Baker and Walter Driscoll, "Gurdjieff in America: An Overview", in America’s Alternative Religions, ed. Timothy Miller (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995), p. 259.
7 "Gurdjieff", in Andrew Rawlinson, The Book of the Enlightened Masters: Western Teachers in Eastern Traditions (Chicago and La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1997), p. 284.
8 Rawlinson, "Gurdjieff", p. 283.
9 P.D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous: The Teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff (San Diego, New York and London: Harcourt Inc, 2001), p. 7.
10 Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, p. 16.
11 Rawlinson, "Gurdjieff", p. 288.
12 G.I. Gurdjieff, Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson (New York: Penguin Arkana, 1999 [1950]), p. 751.
13 James Moore, Gurdjieff The Anatomy of a Myth: A Biography (Shaftesbury and Rockport: Element, 1991), p. 45.
14 Moore, Gurdjieff The Anatomy of a Myth, pp. 344-345.
15 Thomson, On Gurdjieff, pp. 45-46.
16 Garrett Thomson, On Gurdjieff (London: Wadsworth, 2003), p. 29.
17 Fiona Richards, "Changing Identities: The Pianist and Composer Helen Perkin [Adie]", Australasian Music Research, vol. 7 (2002), pp. 15-30.
18 Anon, "Gurdjieff Foundation", in Odd Gods, ed. James R. Lewis (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2001), p. 202.
19 Beth Usher, "Introduction", in Rudolf Steiner, Eurythmy: An Introductory Reader (Forest Row: Rudolf Steiner Books, 2006), pp. 1-9. There are myriad suggestive similarities between the teachings of Gurdjieff and Steiner which are worthy of investigation, but are beyond the scope of this article.
20 Martin Seymour-Smith, The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written: A History of Thought From Ancient Times to Today (Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press, 1998), p. 449.
21 Armagnac (pseudonym), "The Strange Cult of Gurdjieff: An Insider's Story of the Most Mysterious Religious Movement in the World", reprinted in Gurdjieff International Review, vol. 3, no. 2 (2000), p. 53.
22 J.G. Bennett, Gurdjieff: Making a New World (New York, Evanston, San Francisco, London: Harper and Row, 1973), p. 82.
23 Rom Landau, God Is My Adventure: A Book on Modern Mystics, Masters, and Teachers (London: Ivor Nicholson and Watson Ltd, 1935), pp. 196-197.
24 Rebecca Rauve, "An Intersection of Interests: Gurdjieff''s Rope Group as a Site of Literary Production", Twentieth-Century Literature, vol. 49, no. 1 (2003), p. 60.
25 Seymour-Smith, The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written, p. 451.
26 See Johanna Petsche, "Gurdjieff and Blavatsky: Western Esoteric Teachers in Parallel" in this volume for Gurdjieff''s interactions with Theosophy.
27 G.I. Gurdjieff, Meetings With Remarkable Men (London and New York: Penguin Arkana, 1985 [1963]), p. 28.
28 Joshua Gunn, "An Occult Poetics, or, The Secret Rhetoric of Religion", Rhetoric Society Quarterly, vol. 34, no. 2, Spring 2004, p. 33.
29 James Moore, Gurdjieff Anatomy of a Myth, pp. 341-342.
30 Mohammad H. Tamdgidi, Gurdjieff and Hypnosis: A Hermeneutic Study (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), p. 13.
31 G.I. Gurdjieff Meetings With Remarkable Men, p. 65.
32 James Webb, The Harmonious Circle: An Exploration of the Lives and Work of G. I. Gurdjieff and P. D. Ouspensky and Others (London: Thames and Hudson, 1980), p. 52.
33 De Hartmann and de Hartmann, Our Life With Mr. Gurdjieff, pp. 14-15.
34 Quoted in Seymour-Smith, The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written, p. 447.
35 Moore, Gurdjieff Anatomy of a Myth, p. 29.
36 Bennett, Gurdjieff: Making a New World, p. 84.
37 Richard Hutch, "Helena Blavatsky Unveiled", Journal of Religious History, vol. 11, no. 2 (1980), p. 320.
38 Hutch, "Helena Blavatsky Unveiled", p. 323.
39 For example, in the early account, "Glimpses of the Truth", in G.I. Gurdjieff, Views From the Real World (London and New York: Penguin Arkana, 1984 [1975]), p. 14.
40 "Madame Blavatsky", in Andrew Rawlinson, The Book of the Enlightened Masters, p. 196.
41 Peter Brook, Threads of Time: Recollections (Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 1999 [1998]), passim.
42 Sally Mackey and Simon Cooper, Drama and Theatre Studies (Cheltenham: Stanley Thornes, 2000), p. 381.
43 Maria Shevtsova, Theatre and Cultural Interaction (Sydney: Sydney Studies in Society and Culture, 2006), p. 14.
44 Mackey and Cooper, Drama and Theatre Studies, p. 393.
45 Gurdjieff, Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, pp. 495-496, 501.
46 A list of artists (of various kinds) influenced by or attracted to the teachings of Gurdjieff includes Thomas de Hartmann, Katherine Mansfield, Jane Heap, Margaret Anderson, Jean Toomer, Sun Ra, Keith Jarrett, Bill Murray, and many more.
47 Mackey and Cooper, Drama and Theatre Studies, p. 385.
48 Peter Brook, The Empty Space (New York: Touchstone, 1996 [1968]), p. 56.
49 Gautam DasGupta, "The Mahabharata: Peter Brook's “Orientalism”", Performing Arts Journal, vol. 10, no. 3 (1987), p. 9.
50 See Harry Oldmeadow, "Ex Oriente Lux: Eastern Religions, Western Writers" in this volume.
51 DasGupta, "The Mahabharata: Peter Brook's “Orientalism”", p. 10.
52 Alf Hiltebeitel, "Transmitting Mahabharatas: Another Look at Peter Brook", The Drama Review, vol. 36, no. 3 (Autumn, 1992), p. 150.
53 Phillip Zarrilli, "The Aftermath: When Peter Brook Came to India", The Drama Review, vol. 30, no. 1 (Spring 1986), p. 98.
54 Wouter J. Hanegraaff, New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998 [1996]), pp. 327-330.
55 Basarab Nicolescu, trans. David Williams, "Peter Brook and Traditional Thought", Contemporary Theatre Review, vol. 7, no. 1 (1997), pp. 13-14.
56 Nicolescu, "Peter Brook and Traditional Thought", p. 20.
57 Brook, Threads of Time: Recollections, p. 7.
58 Brook, Threads of Time: Recollections, p. 18.
59 Brook, Threads of Time: Recollections, p. 61.
60 Brook, Threads of Time: Recollections, p. 108.
61 Brook, Threads of Time: Recollections, p. 173.
62 Brook, Threads of Time: Recollections, p. 174.
63 Brook, Threads of Time: Recollections, p. 177.
64 Laurence Rosenthal, "Music for the Film Meetings With Remarkable Men", Gurdjieff International Review, vol. II, no. 4 (1999).
65 Paul Coates, Cinema, Religion and the Romantic Legacy (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003), p. 55.
66 Peter Brook, Meetings With Remarkable Men (Sandpoint, ID: Morning Light Press, 1997 [1979]).
67 Bennett, Gurdjieff: Making a New World, p. 96.
68 P.T. Mistelberger, Three Dangerous Magi: Gurdjieff, Osho, Crowley (Ropley, Hants: O Books, 2010), p. 568.
69 Brook, Meetings With Remarkable Men (1997 [1979]).
70 Janet Maslin, "Meetings With Remarkable Men: Peter Brook on Russian Mystic", New York Times (5 August 1979), at ... 946890D6CF. Accessed 25/04/2011.
71 Flixster, "Meetings With Remarkable Men (1979)", at ... rkable-men. Accessed 25/04/2011.
72 Johanna Petsche, "Channelling the Creative: Keith Jarrett's Spiritual Beliefs Through a Gurdjieffian Lens", Literature & Aesthetics, vol. 19, no. 2 (2009), pp. 138-158.
73 Brook, Threads of Time: Recollections, p. 174.
74 David Kherdian, On a Spaceship With Beelzebub: By a Grandson of Gurdjieff (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 1998 [1991]), pp. 191-192.
75 Kherdian, On a Spaceship With Beelzebub, p. 192.
76 James Moore, "Moveable Feasts: The Gurdjieff Work", Religion Today, vol. 9, no. 2 (19), p. 12.
77 Moore, "Moveable Feasts", p. 13.
78 Kherdian, On a Spaceship With Beelzebub, p. 192.
79 Brook, Threads of Time: Recollections, p. 180.
80 Joseph Azize, "Gurdjieff''s Sacred Dances and Movements", in Handbook of New Religions and Cultural Production, eds Carole M. Cusack and Alex Norman (Leiden: Brill, 2012) [forthcoming].
81 Colin Campbell, "The Cult, the Cultic Milieu, and Secularization", A Sociological Yearbook of Religion in Britain, vol. 5 (1972), pp. 119-136.
82 Colin Campbell, "The Easternisation of the West", in New Religious Movements: Challenge and Response, ed. Bryan Wilson and Jamie Cresswell (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), pp. 35-49.
83 Paul Schrader, Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1972), pp. 151-169.
84 Nicolescu, "Peter Brook and Traditional Thought", pp. 21-22.
85 Eve L. Mullen, "Orientalist Commercializations: Tibetan Buddhism in American Popular Film", Journal of Religion and Film, vol. 2, no. 2 (1998): at Accessed 22/10/2010.
86 Brook, Meetings With Remarkable Men (1997 [1979]).
87 Brook, Threads of Time: Recollections, pp. 99, 104.
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

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Robert Charles Zaehner
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 7/13/19

List of Spalding Professors

Holders of the Spalding Chair to date have been:

• 1936 to 1952: Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
• 1952 to 1974: R. C. Zaehner
• 1976 to 1991: Bimal Krishna Matilal
• 1992 to 2015: Alexis Sanderson
• 2016 to present: Diwakar Nath Acharya[3]

-- Spalding Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics, by Wikipeida

Light, and the enlightenment it brings, is to be welcomed from whatever source it comes. Spalding and Henderson acknowledged that many lamps light the path to truth. The religions of India, China, and Japan promise deliverance from darkness to light. Hinduism promises deliverance from ignorance of the real to knowledge of the real, furnishing the seeker after truth with a strategic and a progressive plan of salvation. Siddharta Gautama, the Buddha, with his gospel of liberation from the suffering and the dis-ease of existence, is the exemplary 'enlightened one' -- as his title reveals. In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, light illuminates the path to wholeness, well-being, and salvation. Each of these religions, in its distinctive and particular way, satisfies a universal human need. Does any one religion take precedence over the others? Can any one religion contain the truth for everyone and for all time? It was one thing for Spalding and Henderson to assert -- at a time when it was less common to do so than it is today -- that there are many different ways in which spiritual insight and wisdom is to be attained. This they did, ex animo, but neither man was ever to be a campaigner for a new universal system of beliefs (whether reformed but 'secular', or reformed and 'religious') based upon the abandonment of doctrinal particularity. This point is worth making if only to refute the charge laid against both men (but especially against HN by Professor R. C. Zaehner during the course of his inaugural lecture in Oxford) that their interest in world religions concealed an attempt to use the study of comparative religion in order to promote a universal syncretism. This, quite simply, was not true of either Spalding or Henderson.44.....

Who was to succeed Radhakrishnan after his sixteen years of tenure of the professorship? The election to the Chair in 1952 demonstrated that Oxford was not prepared to allow the benefactor's personal wishes to influence the decision about who the new Professor was to be. HN's main purpose in founding the Chair had never been to promote the study of 'Comparative Religion' as a discrete academic subject for an intellectual elite. He wanted people in the West to be informed about Eastern religions in general, and about Hinduism and Buddhism in particular. For this purpose he was convinced that the exposition of these religious systems by a competent Asian scholar was likely to be more authentic than that given by someone born and educated in the West, however able a research scholar that person might be. In a memorandum written in 1953 after his disillusionment with the decision taken by the electors to appoint R. C. Zaehner to the vacant Chair, Spalding recapitulated some of the reasons why he established it. He noted that in any study of 'the Great Religions' Hinduism, Buddhism will 'have a peculiarly important place; for they developed perhaps the greatest religious philosophy and mystical systems in the world'.

These have been powerfully developed by the great Commentators. From the Bhagavad-Gita onward till today they have given rise to successive devotional movements. They are the source of two of the greatest epics in the world, of dramas and lyrics, of sculpture and painting. In short, these two great related cultures vie with that of Greece itself. It was with these wider studies in view that my wife and I founded the Chair of Eastern Religions and Ethics at Oxford. We did not in terms restrict it to the teaching of these two cultures, or even to a scholar of Asian descent; we trusted to the Electors (unfortunately in vain) to carry out the intentions of the Chair. The Preamble makes them clear:

It is a condition of the Gift that the purpose of the professorship shall be to build up in the University of Oxford a permanent interest in the great religions and ethical systems (alike in their individual, social, and political aspects) of the East, whether expressed in philosophic, poetic, devotional, or other literature, in art, history, and in social life and structure, to set forth their development and spiritual meaning, and to interpret them by comparison and contrast with each other and with the religions and ethics of the West and in any other appropriate way, with the aim of bringing together the world's great religions in closer understanding, harmony, and friendship; as well as to promote co-operation with other Universities, bodies, and persona, in East and West which pursue the like ends, which purpose is likely to be furthered by the establishment of a Professorship, which would in the natural course normally be held by persons of Asian descent.' [23]

Growing Disillusionment

It was clear that in normal circumstances -- by which he meant the availability and readiness of a suitably qualified candidate -- HN expected the holder of the Chair to be an Asian. This had been acknowledged by the University from the outset, when provision for 'normal tenure by a person of Asian descent was substituted at the suggestion of the University for an original draft which precluded Europeans from appointment'. The importance and significance of the Preamble was recognized by the inclusion of extracts from it in a footnote to the Statutes. If it were found necessary to appoint a European in the absence of a suitable Asian candidate, the successful European candidate would not expect to hold the Chair permanently. HN recognised (and even hoped) that an Asian candidate, who could 'rely upon returning from Oxford with enhanced prestige to preferment in his own country', would in any case find a short-term professorship more congenial than a European. Things came to a head in 1952 when the electors met to choose a successor to Radhakrishnan. On this occasion they did not choose an Asian. They chose R. C. Zaehner. Spalding was infuriated that an 'unsuitable' candidate had been chosen to fill the post instead. A lasting rift with the University ensued, as a result of which HN decreed that the University was to receive no further grants from the Spalding Trust. He expressed his displeasure in the following terms.

The election of a highly unsuitable candidate (a philologist, a Christian, and a European) to the Chair of Eastern Religions and Ethics having been arranged without consultation with its Founders, and in the teeth of their own wish for a highly suitable Hindu philosopher, and of the intention and provision of the Statute, no further benefactions are to be made to or in the University of Oxford until these abuses and their cause have been remedied. [24]

The election of R. C. Zaehner was perceived by HN as a repudiation of his ideas and ideals in founding the Chair. Zaehner's inaugural lecture entitled Foolishness to the Greeks, was given before the University of Oxford on 2 November 1953, only a few weeks after HN's death. In retrospect it is easy to understand why some of Zaehner's remarks on that occasion gave such lasting offence to the members of Spalding's family who were in the audience. Parts of the lecture were perceived by them and others to constitute a gratuitous insult to HN's memory. The ensuing rift between Zaehner and the Spalding Trust was not to be healed.


44. The charge against Spalding, the founder of the Chair to which Zaehner had just been elected, was made in the new Professor's inaugural lecture, 'Foolishness to the Greeks', to an audience which included H and his wife. Zaehner also used the occasion to make the same criticism of his predecessor, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. The ensuing hostility between HN and Zaehner, which arose not only as a result of Spalding's objection to Zaehner's election but out of the latter's declaration of intent to change the emphasis of the work of the Chait, is considered in chapter four, pp. 114ff.

-- The Spalding Trust and the Union for the Study of the Great Religions: H.N. Spalding's Pioneering Vision, by Edward Hulmes

R. C. Zaehner (1972)

Robert Charles Zaehner (1913–1974) was a British academic whose field of study was Eastern religions. He could read in the original language many sacred texts, e.g., Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic. Earlier, starting in World War II, he had served as an intelligence officer in Iran. At Oxford University his first writings had been on the Zoroastrian religion and its texts. Appointed Spalding Professor, his books addressed such subjects as mystical experience (articulating a comparative typology), Hinduism, comparative religion, Christianity and other religions, and ethics. He translated the Bhagavad-Gita, providing an extensive commentary based on Hindu tradition and sources. His last books addressed similar issues in popular culture, which led to his talks on the BBC. He published under the name R. C. Zaehner.[1][2]

Life and career

Early years

Born on 8 April 1913 in Sevenoaks, Kent, he was the son of Swiss–German immigrants to England. Zaehner "was bilingual in French and English from early childhood. He remained an excellent linguist all his life."[3][4] Educated at the nearby Tonbridge School, he was admitted to Christ Church, Oxford, where he studied Greek and Latin, and also ancient Persian including Avestan, gaining first class honours in Oriental Languages. During 1936–37 he studied Pahlavi, another ancient Iranian language, with Sir Harold Bailey at Cambridge University. Zaehner thereafter held Prof. Bailey in high esteem.[5] He then began work on his book Zurvan, a Zoroastrian Dilemma, a study of the pre-Islamic religion of Iran.[6][7]

Zaehner enjoyed "a prodigious gift for languages". He later acquired a reading knowledge of Sanskrit (for Hindu scriptures), Pali (for Buddhist), and Arabic (for Islamic).[8] In 1939 he taught as a research lecturer at Christ Church, Oxford. About this time, after reading the French poet Rimbaud, and in Rumi the Sufi poet of Iran, as well as study of the Hindu Upanishads, Zaehner came to adopt a personal brand of "nature mysticism". Yet his spiritual progression led him in the mid-1940s to convert to Christianity, becoming a Roman Catholic while stationed in Iran.[9]

British intelligence

During World War II starting in 1943, he served as a British intelligence officer at their Embassy in Tehran. Often he was stationed in the field among the mountain tribes of northern Iran. After the war he also performed a more diplomatic role at the Tehran embassy.[6][10] Decades later another British intelligence officer, Peter Wright, described his activities:

"I studied Zaehner's Personal File. He was responsible for MI6 counterintelligence in Persia during the war. It was difficult and dangerous work. The railway lines into Russia, carrying vital military supplies, were key targets for German sabotage. Zaehner was perfectly equipped for the job, speaking the local dialects fluently, and much of his time was spent undercover, operating in the murky and cutthroat world of countersabotage. By the end of the war his task was even more fraught. The Russians themselves were trying to gain control of the railway, and Zaehner had to work behind Russian lines, continuously at risk of betrayal and murder by pro-German or pro-Russian... ."[11]

continued in Iran until 1947 as press attaché in the British Embassy,[12] and as an MI6 officer. He then resumed his academic career at Oxford doing research on Zoroastrianism. During 1949, however, he was relocated to Malta where he trained anti-Communist Albanians. By 1950 he had secured an Oxford appointment as Lecturer in Persian literature. Again in 1951–1952 he returned to Iran for government service. Prof. Nancy Lambton, who had run British propaganda in Iran during the war, recommended him for the Embassy position. Journalist Christopher de Bellaigue describes Robin Zaehner as "a born networker who knew everyone who mattered in Tehran" with a taste for gin and opium. "When Kingsley Martin, the editor of the New Statesman, asked Zaehner at a cocktail party in Tehran what book he might read to enlarge his understanding of Iran, Zaehner suggested Alice through the Looking Glass."[13][14][15][16]

Zaehner publicly held the rank of Counsellor in the British Embassy in Tehran. In fact, he continued as an MI6 officer. During the Abadan Crisis he was assigned to prolong the Shah's royal hold on the Sun Throne against the republican challenge led by Mohammed Mossadegh, then the Prime Minister. The crisis involved the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company which had been in effect nationalised by Mossadegh. Zaehner thus became engaged in the failed 1951 British effort to topple the government of Iran and return oil production to that entity controlled by the British government.[17] "[T]he plot to overthrow Mossadegh and give the oilfields back to the AIOC was in the hands of a British diplomat called Robin Zaehner, later professor of Eastern religions at Oxford."[18][19][20] Such Anglo and later American interference in Iran, which eventually reinstalled the Shah, has been widely criticized.[21][22][23]

In the 1960s, MI5 counterintelligence officer Peter Wright questioned Zaehner about floating allegations that he had doubled as a spy for the Soviet Union, harming British intelligence operations in Iran and Albania during the period following World War II. Zaehner is described as "a small, wiry-looking man, clothed in the distracted charm of erudition." In his 1987 book Spycatcher Wright wrote that Zaehner's humble demeanor and candid denial convinced him that the Oxford don had remained loyal to Britain. Wright notes that "I felt like a heel" for confronting Zaehner.[24]

Although in the intelligence service for the benefit of his Government, on later reflection Zaehner did not understand the utilitarian activities he performed as being altogether ennobling. In such "Government service abroad", he wrote, "truth is seen as the last of the virtues and to lie comes to be a second nature. It was, then, with relief that I returned to academic life because, it seemed to me, if ever there was a profession concerned with a single-minded search for truth, it was the profession of the scholar."
[25][26] Prof. Jeffrey Kripal discusses "Zaehner's extraordinary truth telling" which may appear "politically incorrect". The "too truthful professor" might be seen as "a redemptive or compensatory act" for "his earlier career in dissimulation and deception" as a spy.[27][28]

Oxford professor

University work

Before the war Zaehner had lectured at Oxford University. Returning to Christ Church several years after the war, he continued work on his Zurvan book,[29] and lectured in Persian literature. His reputation then "rested on articles on Zoroastrianism, mainly philological" written before the war.[30]

In 1952 Zaehner was elected Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics to succeed the celebrated professor Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who had resigned to become Vice-President (later President) of India.[31][32][33] Zaehner had applied for this position. Radhakrishnan previously had been advancing a harmonizing viewpoint with regard to the study of comparative religions, and the academic Chair had a subtext of being "founded to propagate a kind of universalism". Zaehner's inaugural lecture was unconventional in content. He delivered a strong yet witty criticism of "universalism" in religion.[34]

It drew controversy. Prof. Michael Dummett opines that what concerned Zaehner was "to make it clear from the start of his tenure of the Chair that he was nobody else's man."[35][36] Zaehner continued an interest in Zoroastrian studies, publishing his Zurvan book and two others on the subject during the 1950s.[37]

Since 1952, however, he had turned his primary attention further East. "After my election to the Spalding Chair, I decided to devote myself mainly to the study of Indian religions in accordance with the founder's wishes."[38] He served Oxford in this academic chair, while also a fellow at All Souls College, until his death in 1974, and never married.[6][39]

In his influential 1957 book Mysticism Sacred and Profane, Zaehner discussed this traditional, cross-cultural spiritual practice. Based on mystical writings, he offered an innovative typology that became widely discussed in academic journals. He also analyzed claims that mescalin use fit into this spiritual quest. His conclusion was near dismissive. Yet he revisited his harsh words on the naïveté of drug mysticism in his 1972 book Zen, Drug and Mysticism. His warnings became somewhat qualified by some prudent suggestions. He carefully distinguished between drug-induced states and religious mysticism. Then the BBC began asking him to talk on the radio, where he acquired a following. He was invited abroad to lecture.[40][41]

His delivery in Scotland of the Gifford Lectures led him to write perhaps his most magisterial book. Zaehner traveled twice to the University of St. Andrews during the years 1967 to 1969. The subject he choose concerned the convoluted and intertwined history of the different world religions during the long duration of their mutual co-existence. He described the interactions as both fiercely contested and relatively cross-cultivating, in contrast to other periods of a more sovereign isolation. The lectures were later published in 1970 "just four years before his death" by Oxford University as Concordant Discord. The interdependence of faiths.[42][43]

Peer descriptions

As professor Zaehner "had a great facility for writing, and an enormous appetite for work. [He also] had a talent for friendship, a deep affection for a number of particular close friends and an appreciation of human personality, especially for anything bizarre or eccentric". Nonetheless. "he passed a great deal of his time alone, most of it in his study working."[44]

An American professor described Zaehner in a different light: "The small, birdlike Zaehner, whose rheumy, color-faded eyes darted about in a clay colored face, misted blue from the smoke of Gauloises cigarettes, could be fearsome indeed. He was a volatile figure, worthy of the best steel of his age."[45]

His colleague in Iran, Prof. Ann K. S. Lambton of SOAS, recalled, "He did not, perhaps, suffer fools gladly, but for the serious student he would take immense pains". Prof. Zaehner was "an entertaining companion" with "many wildly funny" stories, "a man of great originality, not to say eccentricity."[46]

"Zaehner was a scholar who turned into something different, something more important than a scholar," according to Michael Dummett, a professor of philosophy at Oxford, who wanted to call him a "penseur" [French: a thinker]. With insight and learning (and his war-time experience) Zaehner shed light on key issues in contemporary spiritual life, writing abundantly. "His talent lay in seeing what to ask, rather than in how to answer... ."[47]

In theology he challenged the ecumenical trend that strove to somehow see a uniformity in all religions. He acted not out of an ill will, but from a conviction that any fruitful dialogue between religions must be based on a "pursuit of truth". If such profound dialogue rested on a false or a superficial "harmony and friendship" it would only foster hidden misunderstandings, Zaehner thought, which would ultimately result in a deepening mistrust.[48][49]

He died on 24 November 1974 in Oxford. "[A]t the age of sixty-one he fell down dead in the street on his way to Sunday evening Mass."[50]

His writings

Zoroastrian studies


Initially Zaehner's reputation rested on his studies of Zoroastrianism, at first articles mostly on philology in academic journals. He labored for many years on a scholarly work, his Zurvan, a Zoroastrian dilemma (1955). This book provides an original discussions of an influential theological deviation from the Zoroastrian orthodoxy of ancient Persia's Achaemenid Empire, which was a stark, ethical dualism. Zurvanism was promoted by the Sasanian Empire (224–651) which arose later during Roman times. Until the Muslim conquest, Zurvanism in the Persian world became established and disestablished by turns.[51][52][53]

Zurvan was an innovation analogous to Zoroastrian original doctrine. The prophet Zoroaster preached that the benevolent Ahura Mazda (the "Wise Lord"), as the creator God, fashioned both Spenta Mainyu (the Holy Spirit), and Angra Mainyu (the Aggressive Spirit) who chose to turn evil. These two created Spirits were called twins, one good, one evil. Over the centuries Ahura Mazda and his "messenger" the good Spenta Mainyu became conflated and identified; hence, the creator Ahura Mazda began to be seen as the twin of the evil Angra Mainyu. It was in this guise that Zoroastrianism became the state religion in Achaemenid Persia. Without fully abandoning dualism, some started to consider Zurvan (Time) as the underlying cause of both the benevolent Ahura Mazda and the evil Angra Mainyu. The picture is complicated by very different schools of Zurvanism, and contesting Zoroastrian sects. Also, Ahura Mazda was later known as Ohrmazd, and Angra Mainyu became Ahriman.[54][55][56][57]

Zurvan could be described as divinized Time (Zaman). With Time as 'father' twins came into being: the ethical, bountiful Ohrmazd, who was worshipped, and his satanic antagonist Ahriman, against whom believers fought. As Infinite Time, Zurvan rose supreme "above Ohrmazd and Ahriman" and stood "above good and evil". This aggravated the traditional 'orthodox' Zoroastrians (the Mazdean ethical dualists).[58][59] Zoroastrian cosmology understood that "finite Time comes into existence out of Infinite Time". During the 12,000 year period of finite Time (Zurvan being both kinds of Time), human history occurs, the fight against Ahriman starts, and the final victory of Ohrmazd is achieved. Yet throughout, orthodox Mazdeans insisted, it is Ohrmazd who remains supreme, not Zurvan. On the other hand, his adherents held that Zurvan was God of Time, Space, Wisdom, and Power, and the Lord of Death, of Order, and of Fate.[60]

Teachings of the Magi

The Teachings of the Magi (1956)[61] was Zaehner's second of three book on Zoroastrianism. It presented the "main tenets" of the religion in the Sasanid era, during the reign of Shapur II, a 4th-century King. Its chief sources were Pahlavi books written a few centuries later by Zoroastrians. Each of its ten chapters contains Zaehner's descriptive commentaries, illustrated by his translations from historic texts. Chapter IV, "The Necessity of Dualism" is typical, half being the author's narrative and half extracts from a Pahlavi work, here the Shikand Gumani Vazar by Mardan Farrukh.[62]

Dawn and Twilight

In his The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism (1961), Zaehner adopted a chronological dichotomy. He first explores origins, the founding of the religion by its prophet Zoroaster. He notes that the Gathas, the earliest texts in the Avesta, make it obvious that "Zoroaster met with very stiff opposition from the civil and ecclesiastical authorities when once he had proclaimed his mission." "His enemies... supported the ancient national religion." On moral and ecological grounds, Zoroaster favored the "settled pastoral and agricultural community" as against the "predatory, marauding tribal societies". His theological and ethical dualism advocated for "the followers of Truth the life-conserving and life-enhancing forces" and against the "destructive forces" of the Lie.[63] For the dates of the prophet's life, Zaehner adopted the traditional 6th century BCE dates.[64][65][66][67][68]

Zoroaster reformed the old polytheistic religion by making Ahura Mazdah [the Wise Lord] the Creator, the only God. An innovation by Zoroaster was the abstract notions, namely, the Holy Spirit, and the Amesha Spentas (Good Mind, Truth, Devotion, Dominion, Wholeness, Immortality). Zaehner interpreted them not as new substitutes for the excluded old gods, "but as part of the divine personality itself" which may also serve "as mediating functions between God and man". The Amesha Spentas are "aspects of God, but aspects in which man too can share."[69] Angra Mainyu was the dualistic evil.[70] Dating to before the final parting of ways of the Indo-Iranians, the Hindus had two classes of gods, the asuras (e.g., Varuna) and the devas (e.g., Indra). Later following the invasion of India the asuras sank to the rank of demon. Au contraire, in Iran the ahuras were favored, while the daevas fell and opposed truth, spurred in part by Zoroaster's reform. In the old Iranian religion, an ahura [lord] was concerned with "the right ordering of the cosmos".[71][72][73][74]

In Part II, Zaehner discussed the long decline of Zoroastrianism.[75] There arose the teachings about Zurvan i Akanarak [Infinite Time]. The Sasanid state's ideological rationale was sourced in Zoroastrian cosmology and sense of virtue. The Amesha Spentas provided spiritual support for human activities according to an articulated mean (e.g., "the just equipoise between excess and deficiency", Zoroastrian "law", and "wisdom or reason"). As an ethical principle the mean followed the contours of the 'treaty' between Ohrmazd [Ahura Mazda] and Ahriman [Angra Mainyu], which governed their struggle in Finite Time. Other doctrines came into prominence, such as those about the future saviour Saoshyans (Zoroaster himself or his posthumous son). Then after the final triumph of the Good Religion the wise lord Orhmazd "elevates the whole material creation into the spiritual order, and there the perfection that each created thing has as it issues from the hand of God is restored to it" in the Frashkart or "Making Excellent".[76][77][78]

Articles and chapters

Zaehner contributed other work regarding Zoroaster and the religion began in ancient Iran. The article "Zoroastrianism" was included in a double-columned book he edited, The Concise Encyclopedia of Living Faiths, first published in 1959.[79] Also were his several articles on the persistence in popular culture of the former national religion, "Zoroastrian survivals in Iranian folklore".[80] Chapters, in whole or part, on Zoroastrianism appeared in a few of his other books: At Sundry Times (1958), aka The Comparison of Religions (1962);[81] The Convergent Spirit, aka Matter and Spirit (1963);[82] and Concordant Discord (1970).[83]

Comparative religion

A choice of perspective

In the west the academic field of comparative religion at its origins inherited an 'enlightenment' ideal of an objective, value-neutral rationalism. Yet traditional Christian and Jewish writings provided much of the source material, as did classical literature, these being eventually joined by non-western religious texts, then empirical ethnological studies.[84][85] The privileged 'enlightenment' orientation in practice fell short of being value-neutral, and itself became progressively contested.[86] As to value-neutral, Zaehner situated himself roughly as follows:

"Any man with any convictions at all is liable to be influenced by them even when he tries to adopt an entirely objective approach; but let him recognize this from the outset and guard against it. If he does this, he will at least be less liable to deceive himself and others." "Of the books I have written some are intended to be objective; others, quite frankly, are not." "In all my writings on comparative religion my aim has been increasingly to show that there is a coherent pattern in religious history. For me the centre of coherence can only be Christ." Yet "I have rejected as irrelevant to my theme almost everything that would find a natural place in a theological seminary, that is, Christian theology, modern theology in particular." "For what, then, do I have sympathy, you may well ask. Quite simply, for the 'great religions' both of East and West, expressed... in those texts that each religion holds most sacred and in the impact that these have caused."[87][88][89]

Accordingly, for his primary orientation Zaehner chose from among the active participants: Christianity in its Catholic manifestation. Yet the academic Zaehner also employed a type of comparative analysis, e.g., often drawing on Zoroastrian or Hindu, or Jewish or Islamic views for contrast, for insight. Often he combined comparison with a default 'modernist' critique, which included psychology or cultural evolution.[90][91] Zaehner's later works are informed by Vatican II (1962-1965) and tempered by Nostra aetate.[92]

At Sundry Times [Comparison]

In his 1958 book At Sundry Times. An essay in the comparison of religions,[93]</ref> Zaehner came to grips with "the problem of how a Christian should regard the non-Christian religions and how, if at all, he could correlate them into his own" (p.9 [Preface]). It includes an Introduction (1), followed by chapters on Hinduism (2), on Hinduism and Buddhism (3), on "Prophets outside Israel", i.e., Zoroastrianism and Islam (4), and a concluding Appendix which compares and contrasts the "Quran and Christ". Perhaps the key chapter is "Consummatum Est" (5), which "shows, or tries to show, how the main trend in [mystical] Hinduism and Buddhism on the one hand and of [the prophetic] Zoroastrianism on the other meet and complete each other in the Christian revelation" (p.9, words in brackets added).

The book opens with a discussion of comparative religion. He cites Rudolph Otto (1869-1937) and al-Ghazali (1058-1111) as being skeptical of a writer with no religious experience who expounds on the subject. Yet Zaehner acknowledges that many Christians may only be familiar with their own type of religion (similar to Judaism and Islam), and thus be ill-equipped to adequately comprehend Hindu or Buddhist mysticism (pp. 12-15). Zaehner then compared the Old Testament and the Buddha, the former being a history of God's commandments delivered by his prophets to the Jewish people and their struggle to live accordingly, and the later being a teacher of a path derived from his own experience, which leads to a spiritual enlightenment without God and apart from historical events (pp. 15-19, 24-26). Needed is a way to bridge this gap between the two (pp. 15, 19, 26, 28). The gap is further illustrated as it relates to desire and suffering (p.21), body and soul (pp. 22-23), personality and death (pp. 23-24).

Christianity & other Religions

The 1964 book,[94] following its introduction, has four parts: India, China and Japan, Islam, and The Catholic Church. Throughout Zaehner offers connections between the self-understanding of 'other religions' and that of the Judeo-Christian, e.g., the Upanishads and Thomas Merton (pp. 25–26), Taoism and Adam (p. 68), Sunyata and Plato (p. 96), Al-Ghazali and St. Paul (p. 119-120), Samkhya and Martin Buber (pp. 131–132).

In the introduction, Zaehner laments the "very checkered history" of the Church. Yet he expresses his admiration of Pope John (1881-1963), who advanced the dignity that all humanity possesses "in the sight of God". Zaehner then presents a brief history of Christianity in world context. The Church "rejoiced to build into herself whatever in Paganism she found compatible" with the revelation and ministry of Jesus. Her confidence was inferred in the words of Gamaliel (pp. 7-9).[95] While Europe has known of Jesus for twenty centuries, 'further' Asia has only for three. Jesus, however, seemed to have arrived there with conquerors from across the sea, and "not as the suffering servant" (p.9).[96] As to the ancient traditions of Asia, Christians did "condemn outright what [they had] not first learnt to understand" (pp. 11, 13). Zaehner thus sets the stage for a modern review of ancient traditions.

"The Catholic Church" chapter starts by celebrating its inclusiveness. Zaehner quotes Cardinal Newman praising the early Church's absorption of classical Mediterranean virtues (a source some term 'heathen').[97] For "from the beginning the Moral Governor of the world has scattered the seeds of truth far and wide... ."[98] There may be some danger for Christians to study the spiritual truths of other religions, but it is found in scripture.[99]

Zaehner counsels that the reader not "neglect the witness" of Hinduism and Buddhism, as they teach inner truths which, among Christians, have withered and faded since the one-sided Reformation. The Church perpetually struggles to keep to a "perfect yet precarious balance between the transcendent... Judge and King and the indwelling Christ". Writing in 1964, Zaehner perceived "a change for the better" in the increasing acceptance of the "Yogin in India or Zen in Japan". Nonetheless, a danger exists for the 'unwary soul' who in exploring other religions may pass beyond the fear of God. Then one may enter the subtleties of mystical experience, and "mistake his own soul for God." Such an error in distinguishing between timeless states can lead to ego inflation, spiritual vanity, and barrenness.[100][101][102] [under construction]

Zaehner offers this categorical analysis of some major religious affiliations: a) action-oriented, worldly (Judaism, Islam, Protestantism, Confucianism); b) contemplation-oriented, other-worldly (Hinduism, Theravada Buddhism, Taoism); c) in-between (Mahayana Buddhism, neo-Confucianism, the reformed Hinduism of Gandhi, the Catholic Church).[103]

Comparative mysticism

Zaehner wrote extensively on comparative religion.[104] His interest turned to focus primarily on Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. In his comparative work he directly addressed mysticism. Zaehner criticized the apparently simplistic idea, then widely endorsed: the mystical unity of all religions. He based his contrary views on well-known texts authored by the mystics of various traditions. After describing of their first-hand experiences of visionary states, he presented traditional interpretations. These might understand it as evidencing a particular world view, e.g., theism, monism, pantheism, or atheism.[105]

His critique challenged the thesis of Richard Bucke, developed in his 1901 book, Cosmic Consciousness. Bucke describes lesser facilities, then this prized 'cosmic' state of mind. He presents fourteen exemplary people of history, as each reaching a somewhat similar realization: the plane of cosmic consciousness.[106] This perennial idea has been variously advanced by Aldous Huxley, by Frithjof Schuon, by Houston Smith. Zaehner does not dispute that spiritual visionaries reach a distinguishable level of awareness. Nor does he deny that a life sequence over time may lead to mystical experience: withdrawal, purgation, illumination. Instead, what Zaeher suggests is a profound difference between, e.g., the pantheistic vision of a nature mystic, admittedly pleasant and wholesome, and the personal union of a theist with the Divine lover of humankind.[107][108][109]

Mystical experience
Mysticism as an academic field of study is relatively recent, emerging from earlier works with a religious and literary accent. From reading the writings of mystics, various traditional distinctions have been further elaborated, such as its psychological nature and its social-cultural context. Discussions have also articulated its phenomenology as a personal experience versus how it has been interpreted by the mystic or by others.[110] Professor Zaehner made his contributions, e.g., to its comparative analysis and its typology.

Sacred and Profane

[Under construction]

Hindu and Muslim

His innovative book compares the mystical literature and practice of Hindus and Muslims. He frames it with a theme of diversity.[111] On experiential foundations, Zaehner then commences to explore the spiritual treasures left to us by the mystics of the Santana Dharma, and of the Sufi tariqas. Often he offers a phenomenological description of the reported experiences, after which he interprets them in various theological terms.[112]

Zaehner describes five different types of mysticism to be found in Indian tradition: "the sacrificial, the Upanishadic, the Yogic, the Buddhistic, and that of bhakti."[113][114] Zaehner here relies on Hindu mystics because of their relative freedom from creed or dogma. He leaves aside the first (of historic interest), and the fourth (due to contending definitions of nirvana), so that as exemplars of mystical experience he presents:

• (a) the Upanishadic "I am this All" which can be subdivided into (i) a theistic interpretation or (ii) a monistic;
• (b) the Yogic "unity" outside space and time, either (i) of the eternal monad of the mystic's own individual soul per the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali or (ii) of Brahman, the ground of the universe, per the advaita Vedanta of Sankara; and,
• (c) the Bhakti mysticism of love, according to the commentary on the Bhagavad Gita by Ramanuja.[115]

Typology of the mystics

The above-described typology of mystic practice was derived directly from Hinduism and its literature.
Zaehner's more general analysis of the full range of mystical experience resulted in a different typology. Here his schema reflects not only the phenomenology of the experience itself but also the subject's explanations of it.

• (1) Nature mysticism;
• (2) Monistic mysticism;
• (3) Theistic mysticism.[116]

An endemic problem with such an analytic typology is the elusive nature of the conscious experience during the mystical state, its shifting perspectives of subject/object, and the psychology of spiritual awareness itself. Zaehner's proposals necessarily suffer from these general difficulties.

Nature mystics

Nature mysticism chiefly describes a spontaneous oceanic feeling in which a person identifies with the cosmos. It also may include a drug-induced state of consciousness. Like Aldous Huxley,[117] he had taken mescalin, but Zaehner came to a different conclusion. In his 1957 book Mysticism. Sacred and Profane. An Inquiry into some Varieties of Praeternatural Experience. Included are descriptions of the author's experience with mescalin, Yet his primary aim is to uphold a distinction between an amoral monism on the one hand and theistic mysticism on the other. In part he relies on a personal experience recorded by Martin Buber.[118] Here and elsewhere, he thus sets himself against Huxley's adoption of the Perennial Philosophy, an idea seeded with future misunderstandings.[119][120][121]

Monistic, non-dualist

Zaehner here focused especially on Hindu forms of non-dualism, e.g., the varieties of Vedanta. [Under construction]

Theistic, Christian

According to Zaehner, Christianity and theistic religions offer the possibility of a sacred mystical union with an attentive creator God, whereas a strictly monistic approach instead leads to the self-unity experience of natural religion.[122][123] Yet Zaehner remained hopeful in the long run of an ever-increasing understanding between religions. "We have much to learn from Eastern religions, and we have much too to give them; but we are always in danger of forgetting the art of giving--of giving without strings... ."[124]

During the 1940s spent in Iran he returned to the Christian faith. Decades later he published The Catholic Church and World Religions (1964), expressly from that perspective. As an objective scholar, he drew on his acquired insights from this source to further his understanding of others. Zaehner "did not choose to write to convince others of the truth of his own faith," rather "to frame questions" was his usual purpose.[125]

Gender, soul & spirit

Zaehner's interest in the writings of the mystics led him to studying the nominal gender of the sacred being they described. Often this being was male, whether the mystic was a man or a woman. In Christianity the Church as a whole was described by many as the bride of Christ.

Zaehner evolved into a conservative believer, whose ethics and morals were founded on his Catholic faith. Accordingly, sexual activity is blessed within the context of marriage.[126] His sexual orientation during World War II was said to have been homosexual. During his later life, while a don at Oxford, he became wholly devoted to teaching and research, and abstained from sexual intercourse.[127][128]

[Under construction]

Hindu religious texts

His translations and the Hinduism book "made Zaehner one of the most important modern exponents of Hindu theological and philosophical doctrines... . The works on mysticism are more controversial though they established important distinctions in refusing to regard all mysticisms as the same," wrote Prof. Geoffrey Parrinder.[129] For Zaehner's Hindu and Muslim Mysticism (1960), and like analyses, see "Comparative Mysticism" section.


While an undergraduate at Christ Church in Oxford, Zaehner studied several Persian languages. He also taught himself a related language, Sanskrit, used to write the early Hindu sacred books. Decades later he was asked by OUP to author a volume on Hinduism. Unexpectedly Zaehner insisted on first reading in Sanscrit the Mahabharata, a very long epic.[130] More than an heroic age story of an ancient war, the Mahabharata gives us the foremost compendium on Hindu religion and way of life.[131]

The resulting treatise Hinduism (1962) is elegant, deep, and short. Zaehner discusses, among other things, the subtleties of dharma, and Yudhishthira, the son of Dharma, who became the King of righteousness (dharma raja). Yudhishthira is the elder of five brothers of the royal Pandava family, who leads one side in the war of the Mahabharata. Accordingly, he struggles to follow his conscience, to do the right thing, to avoid slaughter and bloodshed. Yet he finds that tradition and custom, and the Lord Krishna, are ready to allow the usual killing and mayhem of warfare.[132][133]

As explained in Hinduism, all his life Yudhishthira struggles to follow his conscience.[134] Yet when Yudhishthira participates in the battle of Kuruksetra, he is told by Krishna to state a "half truth" meant to deceive. Zaehner discusses: Yudhishthira and moksha (liberation), and karma; and Yudhishthira's troubles with warrior caste dharma.[135][136][137] In the last chapter, Yudhishthira 'returns' as Mahatma Gandhi.[138] Other chapters discuss the early literature of the Vedas, the deities, Bhakti devotional practices begun in medieval India, and the encounter with, and response to, modern Europeans.[139]


Zaehenr continued his discussion of Yudhishthira in a chapter of his book based on his 1967-1969 Gifford Lectures.[140][141] Zaehner finds analogies between the Mahabharata's Yudhishthira and the biblical Job. Yet their situations differed. Yudhishthira, although ascetic by nature, was a royal leader who had to directly face the conflicts of his society. His realm and his family suffered great misfortunes due to political conflict and war. Yet the divine Krishna evidently considered the war and the destructive duties of the warrior (the kshatriya dharma) acceptable. The wealthy householder Job, a faithful servant of his Deity, suffers severe family and personal reversals, due to Divine acquiescence. Each human being, both Job and Yudhishthira, is committed to following his righteous duty, acting in conforming to his conscience.[142][143]

When the family advisor Vidura reluctantly challenges him to play dice at Dhrtarastra's palace, "Yudhishthira believes it is against his moral code to decline a challenge."[144][145] Despite, or because of, his devotion to the law of dharma, Yudhishthira then "allowed himself be tricked into a game of dice." In contesting against very cunning and clever players, he gambles "his kingdom and family away." His wife becomes threatened with slavery.[146][147][148]

Even so, initially Yudhishthira with "holy indifference" tries to "defend traditional dharma" and like Job to "justify the ways of God in the eyes of men." Yet his disgraced wife Draupadi dramatically attacks Krishna for "playing with his creatures as children play with dolls." Although his wife escapes slavery, the bitter loss in the dice game is only a step in the sequence of seemingly divinely-directed events that led to a disastrous war, involving enormous slaughter. Although Yudhishthira is the King of Dharma, eventually he harshly criticizes the bloody duties of a warrior (the kshatriya dharma), duties imposed also on kings. Yudhishthira himself prefers the "constant virtues" mandated by the dharma of a brahmin. "Krishna represents the old order," interprets Zaehner, where "trickery and violence" hold "an honorable place".[149][150]


In his Hindu Scriptures (1966) Zaehner presents his translations of selected classical texts, the Rig-Veda, the Atharva-Veda, the Upanishads, and the entire, 80-page Bhagavad Gita. He discusses these writings in his short Introduction. A brief Glossary of Names is at the end.[151] "Zaehner's extraordinary command of the texts" wast widely admired by his academic peers.[152]

That year Zaehner published a more annotated edition of the Bhagavad Gita, a prized episode in the Mahabharata epic. Before the great battle, the Lord Krishna discusses with the Pandava brother Arjuna the enduring spiritual realities. Krishna "was not merely a local prince of no very great importance: he was God incarnate--the great God Vishnu who has taken on human flesh and blood." Provided after his translation, is Zaehner's long Commentary, drawn from the medieval sages Sankara and Ramanuja, ancient scriptures and epics, and modern scholars. His Introduction places the Gita within the context of the Mahabharata and of Hindu philosophy. Hindu religious teachings in the Gita are addressed in terms of the individual Self, material Nature, Liberation, and Deity. A useful Appendix is organized by main subject, and under each are "quoted in full" the relevant passages, giving chapter and verse.[153][154]

Sri Aurobindo

In his 1971 book Evolution in Religion, Zaehner discusses Sri Aurobindo Ghose (1872–1950), a modern Hindu spiritual teacher, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955), a French palaeontologist and Jesuit visionary.[155][156] Zaehner discusses each, and appraises their religious innovations.[157]

Aurobindo at age seven was sent to England for education, eventually studying western classics at Cambridge University. On his return to Bengal in India, he studied its ancient literature in Sanskrit. He later became a major political orator with a spiritual dimension, a prominent leader for Indian independence. Hence he was jailed. There in 1908 he had a religious experience. Relocating to the then French port of Pondicherry, he became a yogin and was eventually recognized as a Hindu sage. Sri Aurobindo's writings reinterpret the Hindu traditions.[158] Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, later President of India, praised him.[159] "As a poet, philosopher, and mystic, Sri Aurobindo occupies a place of the highest eminence in the history of modern India."[160][161]

Aurobindo, Zaehner wrote, "could not accept the Vedanta in its classic non-dualist formulation, for he had come to accept Darwinism and Bergson's idea of creative evolution." If the One being was "totally static" as previously understood "then there could be no room for evolution, creativity, or development of any kind." Instead, as reported by Zaehner, Aurobindo considered that "the One though absolutely self sufficient unto itself, must also be the source... of progressive, evolutionary change." He found "the justification for his dynamic interpretation of the Vedanta in the Hindu Scriptures themselves, particularly in the Bhagavad-Gita."[162][163] According to Aurobindo, the aim of his new yoga was:

"[A] change in consciousness radical and complete" of no less a jump in "spiritual evolution" than "what took place when a mentalised being first appeared in a vital and material animal world." Regarding his new Integral Yoga: "The thing to be gained is the bringing in of a Power of Consciousness... not yet organized or active directly in earth-nature, ...but yet to be organized and made directly active."[164][165]

Aurobindo foresees that a Power of Consciousness will eventually work a collective transformation in human beings, making us then actually able to form and sustain societies of liberté, égalité, fraternité.[166] Adherents of Aurobindo's new Integral Yoga (Purna Yoga) would lead India to a spiritual awakening; they would facilitate an increasingly common soul-experience, in which each achieves a mystic union with the One. Each such gnosis would also be guided by the Power of Consciousness. In choosing to pursue the realization of such social self-understanding, India would hasten the natural evolution of humanity.[167][168] Hence furthering the conscious commitment everywhere, to collaborate with the hidden drive of creative evolution toward a spiritual advance, is high among the missions of Aurobindo's new 'Integral Yoga'.[169][170] "It must be remembered that there is Aurobindo the socialist and Aurobindo the mystic."[171]

Gifford lecture at St Andrew

Zaehner gave the Gifford Lectures in Scotland during the years 1967–1969. In these sessions he revisited the subject of comparative mysticism focusing on Hinduism, then discussed Taoist classics, Neo-Confucianism, and Zen. In the course of the discourse, he mentions occasionally a sophisticated view: how the different religions have provided a mutuality of nourishment, having almost unconsicouslly interpenetrated each other's beliefs. The historically obfuscated result is that neighbouring religions might develop the other's theological insights as their own, as well as employ the other's distinctions to accent, or explain, their own doctrines to themselves. Although Zaehner gives a suggestive commentary at the conjunction of living faiths, he respects that each remains distinct, unique. Zaehner allows the possibility of what he calls the convergence of faiths, or solidarity.[172][173]

Regarding the world religions Zaehner held, however, that we cannot use the occasional occurrence of an ironic syncretism among elites as a platform from which to leap to a unity within current religions. His rear-guard opinions conflicted with major academic trends then prevailing. "In these ecumenical days it is unfashionable to emphasize the difference between religions." Yet Zaehner remained skeptical, at the risk of alienating those in the ecumenical movement whose longing for a festival of conciliation caused them to overlook the stubborn divergence inherent in the momentum. "We must force nothing: we must not try to achieve a 'harmony' of religions at all costs when all we can yet see is a 'concordant discord'... . At this early stage of contact with the non-Christian religions, this surely is the most that we can hope for." His Gifford Lectures were published as Concordant Discord. The Interdependence of Faiths.[174]

Social ideology and ethics

[Under construction].[175]

A militant state cult

Zaehner used a comparative-religion approach in his several discussions of Communism, both its quasi-philosophical theory (discussed below),[176] and here its practical control a sovereign state. Soviet party rule, in its ideological management political and economic operations, was said to demonstrate an attenuated resemblance to Catholic Church governance. Features in common included an authoritarian command structure (similar to the military), guided by an unquestionable theory or a dogma, which was articulated in abstract principles and exemplars.[177][178][179]

For the Marxist-Leninist the 'laws of nature' dominating political society were a complex dialectic involving class conflict.[180][181]

"Stalin saw, quite rightly, that since the laws of Nature manifested themselves in the tactical vicissitudes of day-to-day politics with no sort of clarity, even the most orthodox Marxists were bound to go astray. It was, therefore, necessary that some one man whose authority was absolute, should be found to pronounce ex cathedra what the correct reading of historical necessity was. Such a man he found in himself."[182][183]

A Soviet hierarchical system thus developed during the Stalinist era, which appeared to be a perverse copy of the organization of the Roman Catholic Church.[184][185] Yet Zaehner did not overlook the hideous, deadly, mass atrocities perpetrated, chiefly on its overworked citizenry during Stalin's rule.[186][187] He was, however, more interested in popular motivation, in the visionary import and quasi-religious dimension of Marx and Engels, than in machinations of the Leninist party's exercise of state power.[188][189][190]

Dialectical materialism

Communist ideology was analogized to various religious creeds. Here Zaehner took an interest in the materialist element in the Hegelian dialectic as developed by Marx and Engels. Zaehner compared the dynamics of matter with the role of the Spirit in the Christian concept of the Trinity, deriving various analogies.[191][192][193]

Engels had combined economic materialism, Darwinian evolution, and eastern mysticism into a systematic philosophy of dialectical materialism. Its Buddhist facet utilized "a religion without a personal God and even without a Hegelian Absolute."[194]

Cultural evolution

The interaction of natural science and social studies with traditional religions thought, particularly Christian, drew Zaehner's attention. Serving as a catalyst were the writings on evolution by Teilhard de Chardin. Juxtaposing a traditional biblical understanding of the spiritual conflicts of humankind, with a conjectured historical narrative of early human society, Zaehner would employ psychology and literature in an effort to craft a spiritual anthropolocy.[195]

Popular & drug culture

In his last three books, Zen, Drugs and Mysticism (1972), Our Savage God (1974), and City within the Heart (1981) [posthumous], Zaehner turned to address issues in contemporary society, drawing on his studies of comparative religion. He further explored the similarities and the differences between drug-induced experiences and traditional mysticism. As an academic he had already published several books on such issues starting in 1957.[196][197][198] In the meantime, a widespread counterculture had arisen, which included artists, rebels, and college youth. Their psychedelic experiences were often self-explained spiritually, with reference to zen and eastern mysticism.[199][200] Consequently, Zaehner wanted to reach this "wider public".[201] During the late 1960s he was "very often invited to talk on the BBC."[202]

Zaehner described various ancient quests to attain a mystical state of transcendence, of unification. Therein all contradictions and oppositions are reconciled; subject and object disappear, one passes beyond good and evil. That said, such a monist view can logically lead to excess, even to criminal acts.[203] If practiced under the guidance of traditional religious teachers, no harm usually results.[204][205][206] The potential for evil exists, however, through subtle misunderstanding or careless enthusiasm, according to Zaehner. After arriving at such a transcendent point, a troubled drug user may go wrong, feel licensed to do anything, with no moral limit. The misuse of a mystical state and its theology eventually can lead to horror.[207][208]

Zaehner warned of the misbehavior propagated by LSD advocate Timothy Leary,[209][210] the earlier satanism of Aleister Crowley, and ultimately the criminal depravity of Charles Manson.[211][212][213] His essay "Rot in the Clockwork Orange" further illustrates from popular culture the possible brutal effects of such moral confusion and license.[214] Yet Zaehner's detailed examination and review was not a witch hunt. His concluding appraisal of the LSD experience, although not without warning of its great risks and dangers, contained a limited, circumscribed allowance for use with a spiritual guide.[215][216]
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