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East India Company
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 11/4/19



East India Company (EIC)
Company flag (1801)
Coat of arms (1698)
Motto: Auspicio Regis et Senatus Angliae "By command of the King and Parliament of England"
Former type: Public
Industry: International trade, Opium trafficking[1]
Fate: Government of India Act 1858
Founded: 31 December 1600
Founders: John Watts, George White
Defunct: 1 June 1874
Headquarters: London, Great Britain
Products: Cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, spices, saltpetre, tea, and opium
The East India Company's opium stacking room at Patna, India

Colonial India
British Indian Empire
Imperial entities of India
Dutch India 1605–1825
Danish India 1620–1869
French India 1668–1954
Portuguese India
Casa da Índia 1434–1833
Portuguese East India Company 1628–1633
British India
East India Company 1612–1757
Company rule in India 1757–1858
British Raj 1858–1947
British rule in Burma 1824–1948
Princely states 1721–1949
Partition of India: 1947

The East India Company (EIC), also known as the Honourable East India Company (HEIC), East India Trading Company (EITC), or the British East India Company, and informally known as John Company,[2] Company Bahadur,[3] or simply The Company, was an English and later British joint-stock company.[4] It was formed to trade in the Indian Ocean region, initially with Mughal India and the East Indies, and later with Qing China. The company ended up seizing control over large parts of the Indian subcontinent, colonised parts of Southeast Asia, and colonised Hong Kong after a war with Qing China.

Originally chartered as the "Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East-Indies",[5][6] the company rose to account for half of the world's trade,[7] particularly in basic commodities including cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, spices, saltpetre, tea, and opium. The company also ruled the beginnings of the British Empire in India.[7][8] In his speech to the House of Commons in July 1833, Lord Macaulay explained that since the beginning, the East India company had always been involved in both trade and politics, just as its French and Dutch counterparts had been.[9]

The company received a Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth I on 31 December 1600, coming relatively late to trade in the Indies. Before them the Portuguese Estado da Índia had traded there for much of the 16th century and the first of half a dozen Dutch Companies sailed to trade there from 1595. These Dutch companies amalgamated in March 1602 into the Dutch East India Company (VOC), which introduced the first permanent joint stock from 1612 (meaning investment into shares did not need to be returned, but could be traded on a stock exchange). By contrast, wealthy merchants and aristocrats owned the EIC's shares.[10] Initially the government owned no shares and had only indirect control until 1657 when permanent joint stock was established.[11]

During its first century of operation, the focus of the company was trade, not the building of an empire in India. Company interests turned from trade to territory during the 18th century as the Mughal Empire declined in power and the East India Company struggled with its French counterpart, the French East India Company (Compagnie française des Indes orientales) during the Carnatic Wars of the 1740s and 1750s. The battles of Plassey and Buxar, in which the British defeated the Bengali powers, left the company in control of Bengal with the right to collect revenue, in Bengal and Bihar,[12] and a major military and political power in India. In the following decades it gradually increased the extent of the territories under its control, controlling the majority of the Indian subcontinent either directly or indirectly via local puppet rulers under the threat of force by its Presidency armies, much of which were composed of native Indian sepoys.

By 1803, at the height of its rule in India, the British East India company had a private army of about 260,000—twice the size of the British Army, with Indian revenues of £13,464,561 (equivalent to £225.3 million in 2018) and expenses of £14,017,473 (equivalent to £234.5 million in 2018).[13][14] The company eventually came to rule large areas of India with its private armies, exercising military power and seizing administrative functions.[15] Company rule in India effectively began in 1757 and lasted until 1858, when, following the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Government of India Act 1858 led to the British Crown's assuming direct control of the Indian subcontinent in the form of the new British Raj.

Despite frequent government intervention, the company had recurring problems with its finances. It was dissolved in 1874 as a result of the East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act passed one year earlier, as the Government of India Act had by then rendered it vestigial, powerless, and obsolete. The official government machinery of British India assumed the East India Company's governmental functions and absorbed its navy and its armies in 1858.



Further information: Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604)

James Lancaster commanded the first East India Company voyage in 1601

Soon after the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, the captured Spanish and Portuguese ships with their cargoes enabled English voyagers to potentially travel the globe in search of riches.[16] London merchants presented a petition to Queen Elizabeth I for permission to sail to the Indian Ocean.[17] The aim was to deliver a decisive blow to the Spanish and Portuguese monopoly of Far Eastern Trade.[18] Elizabeth granted her permission and on 10 April 1591 James Lancaster in the Bonaventure with two other ships sailed from Torbay around the Cape of Good Hope to the Arabian Sea on one of the earliest English overseas Indian expeditions. Having sailed around Cape Comorin to the Malay Peninsula, they preyed on Spanish and Portuguese ships there before returning to England in 1594.[17]

The biggest capture that galvanised English trade was the seizure of the large Portuguese Carrack, the Madre de Deus by Sir Walter Raleigh and the Earl of Cumberland at the Battle of Flores on 13 August 1592.[19] When she was brought in to Dartmouth she was the largest vessel that had been seen in England and her cargo consisted of chests filled with jewels, pearls, gold, silver coins, ambergris, cloth, tapestries, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, benjamin (a tree that produces frankincense), red dye, cochineal and ebony.[20] Equally valuable was the ship's rutter (mariner's handbook) containing vital information on the China, India, and Japan trades. These riches aroused the English to engage in this opulent commerce.[19]

In 1596, three more English ships sailed east but were all lost at sea.[17] A year later however saw the arrival of Ralph Fitch, an adventurer merchant who, along with his companions, had made a remarkable fifteen-year overland journey to Mesopotamia, the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean, India and Southeast Asia.[21] Fitch was then consulted on the Indian affairs and gave even more valuable information to Lancaster.[22]


On 22 September 1599, a group of merchants met and stated their intention "to venture in the pretended voyage to the East Indies (the which it may please the Lord to prosper), and the sums that they will adventure", committing £30,133 (over £4,000,000 in today's money).[23][24] Two days later, "the Adventurers" reconvened and resolved to apply to the Queen for support of the project.[24] Although their first attempt had not been completely successful, they nonetheless sought the Queen's unofficial approval to continue. They bought ships for their venture and increased their capital to £68,373.

The Adventurers convened again a year later, on 31 December, and this time they succeeded; the Queen granted a Royal Charter to "George, Earl of Cumberland, and 215 Knights, Aldermen, and Burgesses" under the name, Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading with the East Indies.[17][25] For a period of fifteen years, the charter awarded the newly formed company a monopoly on English trade with all countries east of the Cape of Good Hope and west of the Straits of Magellan.[25] Any traders in breach of the charter without a licence from the company were liable to forfeiture of their ships and cargo (half of which went to the Crown and the other half to the company), as well as imprisonment at the "royal pleasure".[26]

The governance of the company was in the hands of one governor and 24 directors or "committees", who made up the Court of Directors. They, in turn, reported to the Court of Proprietors, which appointed them. Ten committees reported to the Court of Directors. According to tradition, business was initially transacted at the Nags Head Inn, opposite St Botolph's church in Bishopsgate, before moving to India House in Leadenhall Street.[27]

Early voyages to the East Indies

Sir James Lancaster commanded the first East India Company voyage in 1601 aboard the Red Dragon.[28] After capturing a rich 1,200 ton Portuguese Carrack in the Malacca Straits the trade from the booty enabled the voyagers to set up two "factories" – one at Bantam on Java and another in the Moluccas (Spice Islands) before leaving.[29] They returned to England in 1603 to learn of Elizabeth's death but Lancaster was Knighted by the new King James I.[30] By this time, the war with Spain had ended but the Company had successfully and profitably breached the Spanish and Portuguese monopoly, with new horizons opened for the English.[18]

In March 1604, Sir Henry Middleton commanded the second voyage. General William Keeling, a captain during the second voyage, led the third voyage aboard the Red Dragon from 1607 to 1610 along with the Hector under Captain William Hawkins and the Consent under Captain David Middleton.[31]

Early in 1608 Alexander Sharpeigh was appointed captain of the company's Ascension, and general or commander of the fourth voyage. Thereafter two ships, Ascension and Union (captained by Richard Rowles) sailed from Woolwich on 14 March 1608.[31] This expedition would be lost.[32]

East India Company Initial expeditions[32]

Year / Vessels / Total Invested £ / Bullion sent £ / Goods sent £ / Ships & Provisions £ / Notes

1603 3 60,450 11,160 1,142 48,140
1606 3 58,500 17,600 7,280 28,620
1607 2 38,000 15,000 3,400 14,600 Vessels lost
1608 1 13,700 6,000 1,700 6,000
1609 3 82,000 28,500 21,300 32,000
1610 4 71,581 19,200 10,081 42,500
1611 4 76,355 17,675 10,000 48,700
1612 1 7,200 1,250 650 5,300
1613 8 272,544 18,810 12,446
1614 8 13,942 23,000
1615 6 26,660 26,065
1616 7 52,087 16,506

Initially, the company struggled in the spice trade because of the competition from the already well-established Dutch East India Company. The company opened a factory in Bantam on the first voyage, and imports of pepper from Java were an important part of the company's trade for twenty years. The factory in Bantam was closed in 1683. During this time ships belonging to the company arriving in India docked at Surat, which was established as a trade transit point in 1608.

In the next two years, the company established its first factory in south India in the town of Machilipatnam on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal. The high profits reported by the company after landing in India initially prompted James I to grant subsidiary licences to other trading companies in England. But in 1609 he renewed the charter given to the company for an indefinite period, including a clause that specified that the charter would cease to be in force if the trade turned unprofitable for three consecutive years.

Foothold in India

See also: Establishment of English trade in Bengal (1600–1700)

Red Dragon fought the Portuguese at the Battle of Swally in 1612, and made several voyages to the East Indies

Jahangir investing a courtier with a robe of honour, watched by Sir Thomas Roe, English ambassador to the court of Jahangir at Agra from 1615 to 1618, and others

English traders frequently engaged in hostilities with their Dutch and Portuguese counterparts in the Indian Ocean. The company achieved a major victory over the Portuguese in the Battle of Swally in 1612, at Suvali in Surat. The company decided to explore the feasibility of gaining a territorial foothold in mainland India, with official sanction from both Britain and the Mughal Empire, and requested that the Crown launch a diplomatic mission.[33]

In 1612, James I instructed Sir Thomas Roe to visit the Mughal Emperor Nur-ud-din Salim Jahangir (r. 1605–1627) to arrange for a commercial treaty that would give the company exclusive rights to reside and establish factories in Surat and other areas. In return, the company offered to provide the Emperor with goods and rarities from the European market. This mission was highly successful, and Jahangir sent a letter to James through Sir Thomas Roe:[33]

Upon which assurance of your royal love I have given my general command to all the kingdoms and ports of my dominions to receive all the merchants of the English nation as the subjects of my friend; that in what place soever they choose to live, they may have free liberty without any restraint; and at what port soever they shall arrive, that neither Portugal nor any other shall dare to molest their quiet; and in what city soever they shall have residence, I have commanded all my governors and captains to give them freedom answerable to their own desires; to sell, buy, and to transport into their country at their pleasure. For confirmation of our love and friendship, I desire your Majesty to command your merchants to bring in their ships of all sorts of rarities and rich goods fit for my palace; and that you be pleased to send me your royal letters by every opportunity, that I may rejoice in your health and prosperous affairs; that our friendship may be interchanged and eternal.

— Nuruddin Salim Jahangir, Letter to James I.


The company, which benefited from the imperial patronage, soon expanded its commercial trading operations. It eclipsed the Portuguese Estado da Índia, which had established bases in Goa, Chittagong, and Bombay, which Portugal later ceded to England as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza on her marriage to King Charles II. The East India Company also launched a joint attack with the Dutch United East India Company (VOC) on Portuguese and Spanish ships off the coast of China, which helped secure EIC ports in China.[34] The company established trading posts in Surat (1619), Madras (1639), Bombay (1668), and Calcutta (1690). By 1647, the company had 23 factories, each under the command of a factor or master merchant and governor, and 90 employees[clarification needed] in India. The major factories became the walled forts of Fort William in Bengal, Fort St George in Madras, and Bombay Castle.

In 1634, the Mughal emperor Jahangir extended his hospitality to the English traders to the region of Bengal,[35] and in 1717 completely waived customs duties for their trade. The company's mainstay businesses were by then cotton, silk, indigo dye, saltpetre, and tea. The Dutch were aggressive competitors and had meanwhile expanded their monopoly of the spice trade in the Straits of Malacca by ousting the Portuguese in 1640–1641. With reduced Portuguese and Spanish influence in the region, the EIC and VOC entered a period of intense competition, resulting in the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Within the first two decades of the 17th century, the Dutch East India Company or Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, (VOC) was the wealthiest commercial operation in the world with 50,000 employees worldwide and a private fleet of 200 ships. It specialised in the spice trade and gave its shareholders 40% annual dividend.[36]

The British East India Company was fiercely competitive with the Dutch and French throughout the 17th and 18th centuries over spices from the Spice Islands. Spices, at the time, could only be found on these islands, such as pepper, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon could bring profits as high as 400 percent from one voyage.[37]

The tension was so high between the Dutch and the British East Indies Trading Companies that it escalated into at least four Anglo-Dutch Wars between them:[37] 1652–1654, 1665–1667, 1672–1674 and 1780–1784.

The Dutch Company maintained that profit must support the cost of war which came from trade which produced profit.[38]

Competition arose in 1635 when Charles I granted a trading licence to Sir William Courteen, which permitted the rival Courteen association to trade with the east at any location in which the EIC had no presence.[39]

In an act aimed at strengthening the power of the EIC, King Charles II granted the EIC (in a series of five acts around 1670) the rights to autonomous territorial acquisitions, to mint money, to command fortresses and troops and form alliances, to make war and peace, and to exercise both civil and criminal jurisdiction over the acquired areas.[40]

In 1689 a Mughal fleet commanded by Sidi Yaqub attacked Bombay. After a year of resistance the EIC surrendered in 1690, and the company sent envoys to Aurangzeb's camp to plead for a pardon. The company's envoys had to prostrate themselves before the emperor, pay a large indemnity, and promise better behaviour in the future. The emperor withdrew his troops, and the company subsequently re-established itself in Bombay and set up a new base in Calcutta.[41]

Indian exports of textiles to Europe (pieces per year)[42]

Years / EIC / VOC / France / EdI / Denmark / Total

Bengal / Madras / Bombay / Surat / EIC (total) / VOC (total)

1665–1669 7,041 37,078 95,558 139,677 126,572 266,249
1670–1674 46,510 169,052 294,959 510,521 257,918 768,439
1675–1679 66,764 193,303 309,480 569,547 127,459 697,006
1680–1684 107,669 408,032 452,083 967,784 283,456 1,251,240
1685–1689 169,595 244,065 200,766 614,426 316,167 930,593
1690–1694 59,390 23,011 89,486 171,887 156,891 328,778
1695–1699 130,910 107,909 148,704 387,523 364,613 752,136
1700–1704 197,012 104,939 296,027 597,978 310,611 908,589
1705–1709 70,594 99,038 34,382 204,014 294,886 498,900
1710–1714 260,318 150,042 164,742 575,102 372,601 947,703
1715–1719 251,585 20,049 582,108 534,188 435,923 970,111
1720–1724 341,925 269,653 184,715 796,293 475,752 1,272,045
1725–1729 558,850 142,500 119,962 821,312 399,477 1,220,789
1730–1734 583,707 86,606 57,503 727,816 241,070 968,886
1735–1739 580,458 137,233 66,981 784,672 315,543 1,100,215
1740–1744 619,309 98,252 295,139 812,700 288,050 1,100,750
1745–1749 479,593 144,553 60,042 684,188 262,261 946,449
1750–1754 406,706 169,892 55,576 632,174 532,865 1,165,039
1755–1759 307,776 106,646 55,770 470,192 321,251 791,443
1760–1770 0
1771–1774 652,158 182,588 93,683 928,429 928,429
1775–1779 584,889 197,306 48,412 830,607 830,607
1780–1784 435,340 79,999 40,488 555,827 555,827
1785–1789 697,483 67,181 38,800 803,464 803,464
1790–1799 787,000 2,200,000 4,500,000
– 1790–1792 727,717 170,442 38,707 936,866 936,866
1800–1809 1,331,000 1,824,000
1810–1819 1,358,000
1820–1829 431,000
1830–1839 6 271,000 478,000 3,000,000
1840–1849 304,000 2,606,000
1850–1859 2,279,000

Eventually, the East India Company seized control of Bengal and slowly the whole Indian subcontinent with its private armies, composed primarily of Indian sepoys. As historian William Dalrymple observes,

We still talk about the British conquering India, but that phrase disguises a more sinister reality. It was not the British government that seized India at the end of the 18th century, but a dangerously unregulated private company headquartered in one small office, five windows wide, in London, and managed in India by an unstable sociopath – [Robert] Clive.[13]


Document with the original vermilion seal of Tokugawa Ieyasu, granting trade privileges in Japan to the East India Company in 1613

In 1613, during the rule of Tokugawa Hidetada of the Tokugawa shogunate, the British ship Clove, under the command of Captain John Saris, was the first British ship to call on Japan. Saris was the chief factor of the EIC's trading post in Java, and with the assistance of William Adams, a British sailor who had arrived in Japan in 1600, he was able to gain permission from the ruler to establish a commercial house in Hirado on the Japanese island of Kyushu:

We give free license to the subjects of the King of Great Britaine, Sir Thomas Smythe, Governor and Company of the East Indian Merchants and Adventurers forever safely come into any of our ports of our Empire of Japan with their shippes and merchandise, without any hindrance to them or their goods, and to abide, buy, sell and barter according to their own manner with all nations, to tarry here as long as they think good, and to depart at their pleasure.[43]

However, unable to obtain Japanese raw silk for import to China and with their trading area reduced to Hirado and Nagasaki from 1616 onwards, the company closed its factory in 1623.[44]

Mughal convoy piracy incident of 1695

In September 1695, Captain Henry Every, an English pirate on board the Fancy, reached the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, where he teamed up with five other pirate captains to make an attack on the Indian fleet on return from the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The Mughal convoy included the treasure-laden Ganj-i-Sawai, reported to be the greatest in the Mughal fleet and the largest ship operational in the Indian Ocean, and its escort, the Fateh Muhammed. They were spotted passing the straits en route to Surat. The pirates gave chase and caught up with Fateh Muhammed some days later, and meeting little resistance, took some £50,000 to £60,000 worth of treasure.[45]

Every continued in pursuit and managed to overhaul Ganj-i-Sawai, which resisted strongly before eventually striking. Ganj-i-Sawai carried enormous wealth and, according to contemporary East India Company sources, was carrying a relative of the Grand Mughal, though there is no evidence to suggest that it was his daughter and her retinue. The loot from the Ganj-i-Sawai had a total value between £325,000 and £600,000, including 500,000 gold and silver pieces, and has become known as the richest ship ever taken by pirates.[citation needed]

In a letter sent to the Privy Council by Sir John Gayer, then governor of Bombay and head of the East India Company, Gayer claims that "it is certain the Pirates ... did do very barbarously by the People of the Ganj-i-Sawai and Abdul Ghaffar's ship, to make them confess where their money was." The pirates set free the survivors who were left aboard their emptied ships, to continue their voyage back to India.

When the news arrived in England it caused an outcry. To appease Aurangzeb, the East India Company promised to pay all financial reparations, while Parliament declared the pirates hostis humani generis ("enemies of the human race"). In mid-1696 the government issued a £500 bounty on Every's head and offered a free pardon to any informer who disclosed his whereabouts. When the East India Company later doubled that reward, the first worldwide manhunt in recorded history was underway.[46]

The plunder of Aurangzeb's treasure ship had serious consequences for the English East India Company. The furious Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb ordered Sidi Yaqub and Nawab Daud Khan to attack and close four of the company's factories in India and imprison their officers, who were almost lynched by a mob of angry Mughals, blaming them for their countryman's depredations, and threatened to put an end to all English trading in India. To appease Emperor Aurangzeb and particularly his Grand Vizier Asad Khan, Parliament exempted Every from all of the Acts of Grace (pardons) and amnesties it would subsequently issue to other pirates.[47]

English, Dutch and Danish factories at Mocha

An 18th-century depiction of Henry Every, with the Fancy shown engaging its prey in the background

British pirates that fought during the Child's War engaging the Ganj-i-Sawai

Depiction of Captain Every's encounter with the Mughal Emperor's granddaughter after his September 1695 capture of the Mughal trader Ganj-i-Sawai

Forming a complete monopoly

Trade monopoly

Rear view of the East India Company's Factory at Cossimbazar

The prosperity that the officers of the company enjoyed allowed them to return to Britain and establish sprawling estates and businesses, and to obtain political power. The company developed a lobby in the English parliament. Under pressure from ambitious tradesmen and former associates of the company (pejoratively termed Interlopers by the company), who wanted to establish private trading firms in India, a deregulating act was passed in 1694.[48]

This allowed any English firm to trade with India, unless specifically prohibited by act of parliament, thereby annulling the charter that had been in force for almost 100 years. By an act that was passed in 1698, a new "parallel" East India Company (officially titled the English Company Trading to the East Indies) was floated under a state-backed indemnity of £2 million. The powerful stockholders of the old company quickly subscribed a sum of £315,000 in the new concern, and dominated the new body. The two companies wrestled with each other for some time, both in England and in India, for a dominant share of the trade.[48]

It quickly became evident that, in practice, the original company faced scarcely any measurable competition. The companies merged in 1708, by a tripartite indenture involving both companies and the state, with the charter and agreement for the new United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies being awarded by the Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin.[49] Under this arrangement, the merged company lent to the Treasury a sum of £3,200,000, in return for exclusive privileges for the next three years, after which the situation was to be reviewed. The amalgamated company became the United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies.[48]

Company painting depicting an official of the East India Company, c. 1760

In the following decades there was a constant battle between the company lobby and the Parliament. The company sought a permanent establishment, while the Parliament would not willingly allow it greater autonomy and so relinquish the opportunity to exploit the company's profits. In 1712, another act renewed the status of the company, though the debts were repaid. By 1720, 15% of British imports were from India, almost all passing through the company, which reasserted the influence of the company lobby. The licence was prolonged until 1766 by yet another act in 1730.

At this time, Britain and France became bitter rivals. Frequent skirmishes between them took place for control of colonial possessions. In 1742, fearing the monetary consequences of a war, the British government agreed to extend the deadline for the licensed exclusive trade by the company in India until 1783, in return for a further loan of £1 million. Between 1756 and 1763, the Seven Years' War diverted the state's attention towards consolidation and defence of its territorial possessions in Europe and its colonies in North America.[50]

The war took place on Indian soil, between the company troops and the French forces. In 1757, the Law Officers of the Crown delivered the Pratt–Yorke opinion distinguishing overseas territories acquired by right of conquest from those acquired by private treaty. The opinion asserted that, while the Crown of Great Britain enjoyed sovereignty over both, only the property of the former was vested in the Crown.[50]

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, Britain surged ahead of its European rivals. Demand for Indian commodities was boosted by the need to sustain the troops and the economy during the war, and by the increased availability of raw materials and efficient methods of production. As home to the revolution, Britain experienced higher standards of living. Its spiralling cycle of prosperity, demand and production had a profound influence on overseas trade. The company became the single largest player in the British global market. In 1801 Henry Dundas reported to the House of Commons that

... on the 1st March, 1801, the debts of the East India Company amounted to 5,393,989l. their effects to 15,404,736l. and that their sales had increased since February 1793, from 4,988,300l. to 7,602,041l.[51]

Saltpetre trade

Saltpetre used for gunpowder was one of the major trade goods of the company

Sir John Banks, a businessman from Kent who negotiated an agreement between the king and the company, began his career in a syndicate arranging contracts for victualling the navy, an interest he kept up for most of his life. He knew that Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn had amassed a substantial fortune from the Levant and Indian trades.

He became a director and later, as governor of the East India Company in 1672, he arranged a contract which included a loan of £20,000 and £30,000 worth of saltpetre—also known as potassium nitrate, a primary ingredient in gunpowder—for the King "at the price it shall sell by the candle"—that is by auction—where bidding could continue as long as an inch-long candle remained alight.[52]

Outstanding debts were also agreed and the company permitted to export 250 tons of saltpetre. Again in 1673, Banks successfully negotiated another contract for 700 tons of saltpetre at £37,000 between the king and the company. So high was the demand from armed forces that the authorities sometimes turned a blind eye on the untaxed sales. One governor of the company was even reported as saying in 1864 that he would rather have the saltpetre made than the tax on salt.[53]

Basis for the monopoly

Colonial monopoly

Further information: Great Britain in the Seven Years' War

An East India Company coin, struck in 1835

Robert Clive became the first British Governor of Bengal after he had instated Mir Jafar as the Nawab of Bengal

The Seven Years' War (1756–1763) resulted in the defeat of the French forces, limited French imperial ambitions, and stunted the influence of the Industrial Revolution in French territories. Robert Clive, the governor-general, led the company to a victory against Joseph François Dupleix, the commander of the French forces in India, and recaptured Fort St George from the French. The company took this respite to seize Manila in 1762.[54][better source needed]

By the Treaty of Paris, France regained the five establishments captured by the British during the war (Pondichéry, Mahe, Karikal, Yanam and Chandernagar) but was prevented from erecting fortifications and keeping troops in Bengal (art. XI). Elsewhere in India, the French were to remain a military threat, particularly during the War of American Independence, and up to the capture of Pondichéry in 1793 at the outset of the French Revolutionary Wars without any military presence. Although these small outposts remained French possessions for the next two hundred years, French ambitions on Indian territories were effectively laid to rest, thus eliminating a major source of economic competition for the company.

The East India Company had also been granted competitive advantages over colonial American tea importers to sell tea from its colonies in Asia in American colonies. This led to the Boston Tea Party in which protesters boarded British ships and threw the tea overboard. When protesters successfully prevented the unloading of tea in three other colonies and in Boston, Governor Thomas Hutchinson of the Province of Massachusetts Bay refused to allow the tea to be returned to Britain. This was one of the incidents which led to the American revolution and independence of the American colonies.[55]

East India Company Army and Navy

Main articles: Presidency armies and Company rule in India

In its first century and half, the EIC used a few hundred soldiers as guards. The great expansion came after 1750, when it had 3,000 regular troops. By 1763, it had 26,000; by 1778, it had 67,000. It recruited largely Indian troops and trained them along European lines.[56] The military arm of the East India Company quickly developed into a private corporate armed force used as an instrument of geo-political power and expansion instead of its original purpose as a guard force. Because of this, the EIC became the most powerful military force in the Indian subcontinent. As it increased in size, the army was divided into the Presidency Armies of Bengal, Madras and Bombay, each of which recruited its own infantry, cavalry, and artillery units. The navy also grew significantly, vastly expanding its fleet. Although heavily armed merchant vessels, called East Indiamen, composed most of the fleet, it also included warships.

Expansion and conquest

The company, fresh from a colossal victory, and with the backing of its own private, well-disciplined, and experienced army, was able to assert its interests in the Carnatic region from its base at Madras and in Bengal from Calcutta, without facing any further obstacles from other colonial powers.[57]

The Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II, who with his allies fought against the East India Company during his early years (1760–1764), accepted the protection of the British in the year 1803, only after he had been blinded by his enemies and deserted by his subjects

It continued to experience resistance from local rulers during its expansion. Robert Clive led company forces against Siraj Ud Daulah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal, Bihar, and Midnapore district in Odisha to victory at the Battle of Plassey in 1757, resulting in the conquest of Bengal. This victory estranged the British and the Mughals, since Siraj Ud Daulah was a Mughal feudatory ally. That led to the Battle of Buxar.

With the gradual weakening of the Marathas in the aftermath of the three Anglo-Maratha wars, the British also secured the Ganges-Jumna Doab, the Delhi-Agra region, parts of Bundelkhand, Broach, some districts of Gujarat, the fort of Ahmmadnagar, province of Cuttack (which included Mughalbandi/the coastal part of Odisha, Garjat/the princely states of Odisha, Balasore Port, parts of Midnapore district of West Bengal), Bombay (Mumbai) and the surrounding areas, leading to a formal end of the Maratha empire and firm establishment of the British East India Company in India.

Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, the rulers of the Kingdom of Mysore, offered much resistance to the British forces. Having sided with the French during the Revolutionary War, the rulers of Mysore continued their struggle against the company with the four Anglo-Mysore Wars. Mysore finally fell to the company forces in 1799, in the fourth Anglo-Mysore war during which Tipu Sultan was killed.

Battle of Assaye during the Second Anglo-Maratha War. Company replaced the Marathas as Mughal's protectors after the second Anglo-Maratha war.[58]

The fall of Tipu Sultan and the Sultanate of Mysore, during the Battle of Seringapatam in 1799

The last vestiges of local administration were restricted to the northern regions of Delhi, Oudh, Rajputana, and Punjab, where the company's presence was ever increasing amidst infighting and offers of protection among the remaining princes. The hundred years from the Battle of Plassey in 1757 to the Indian Rebellion of 1857 were a period of consolidation for the company, during which it seized control of the entire Indian subcontinent and functioned more as an administrator and less as a trading concern.

A cholera pandemic began in Bengal, then spread across India by 1820. 10,000 British troops and countless Indians died during this pandemic.[59] Between 1760 and 1834 only some 10% of the East India Company's officers survived to take the final voyage home.[60]

In the early 19th century the Indian question of geopolitical dominance and empire holding remained with the East India Company.[a] The three independent armies of the company's Presidencies, with some locally raised irregular forces, expanded to a total of 280,000 men by 1857.[61] The troops were first recruited from mercenaries and low-caste volunteers, but in time the Bengal Army in particular was composed largely of high-caste Hindus and landowning Muslims.

Within the Army British officers, who initially trained at the company's own academy at the Addiscombe Military Seminary, always outranked Indians, no matter how long the Indians' service. The highest rank to which an Indian soldier could aspire was Subadar-Major (or Rissaldar-Major in cavalry units), effectively a senior subaltern equivalent. Promotion for both British and Indian soldiers was strictly by seniority, so Indian soldiers rarely reached the commissioned ranks of Jamadar or Subadar before they were middle aged at best. They received no training in administration or leadership to make them independent of their British officers.

During the wars against the French and their allies in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the East India Company's armies were used to seize the colonial possessions of other European nations, including the islands of Réunion and Mauritius.

There was a systemic disrespect in the company for the spreading of Protestantism, although it fostered respect for Hindu and Muslim, castes, and ethnic groups. The growth of tensions between the EIC and the local religious and cultural groups grew in the 19th century as the Protestant revival grew in Great Britain. These tensions erupted at the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and the company ceased to exist when the company dissolved through the East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act 1873.[62]

Opium trade

Main articles: First Opium War, Second Opium War, and History of opium in China

The Nemesis destroying Chinese war junks during the Second Battle of Chuenpi, 7 January 1841, by Edward Duncan

In the 18th century, Britain had a huge trade deficit with Qing dynasty China and so, in 1773, the company created a British monopoly on opium buying in Bengal, India, by prohibiting the licensing of opium farmers and private cultivation. The monopoly system established in 1799 continued with minimal changes until 1947.[63] As the opium trade was illegal in China, Company ships could not carry opium to China. So the opium produced in Bengal was sold in Calcutta on condition that it be sent to China.[64]

Despite the Chinese ban on opium imports, reaffirmed in 1799 by the Jiaqing Emperor, the drug was smuggled into China from Bengal by traffickers and agency houses such as Jardine, Matheson & Co, David Sassoon & Co., and Dent & Co. in amounts averaging 900 tons a year. The proceeds of the drug-smugglers landing their cargoes at Lintin Island were paid into the company's factory at Canton and by 1825, most of the money needed to buy tea in China was raised by the illegal opium trade.

The company established a group of trading settlements centred on the Straits of Malacca called the Straits Settlements in 1826 to protect its trade route to China and to combat local piracy. The settlements were also used as penal settlements for Indian civilian and military prisoners.

In 1838 with the amount of smuggled opium entering China approaching 1,400 tons a year, the Chinese imposed a death penalty for opium smuggling and sent a Special Imperial Commissioner, Lin Zexu, to curb smuggling. This resulted in the First Opium War (1839–42). After the war Hong Kong island was ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Nanking and the Chinese market opened to the opium traders of Britain and other nations.[63] The Jardines and Apcar and Company dominated the trade, although P&O also tried to take a share.[65] A Second Opium War fought by Britain and France against China lasted from 1856 until 1860 and led to the Treaty of Tientsin, which legalised the importation of opium. Legalisation stimulated domestic Chinese opium production and increased the importation of opium from Turkey and Persia. This increased competition for the Chinese market led to India's reducing its opium output and diversifying its exports.[63]

Regulation of the company's affairs


The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor, 1773

The company employed many junior clerks, known as "writers", to record the details of accounting, managerial decisions, and activities related to the company, such as minutes of meetings, copies of Company orders and contracts, and filings of reports and copies of ship's logs. Several well-known British scholars and literary men had Company writerships, such as Henry Thomas Colebrooke in India and Charles Lamb in England. One Indian writer of some importance in the 19th century was Ram Mohan Roy, who learned English, Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, Greek, and Latin.[66]

Financial troubles

Although the company was becoming increasingly bold and ambitious in putting down resisting states, it was becoming clearer that the company was incapable of governing the vast expanse of the captured territories. The Bengal famine of 1770, in which one-third of the local population died, caused distress in Britain. Military and administrative costs mounted beyond control in British-administered regions in Bengal because of the ensuing drop in labour productivity.

At the same time, there was commercial stagnation and trade depression throughout Europe. The directors of the company attempted to avert bankruptcy by appealing to Parliament for financial help. This led to the passing of the Tea Act in 1773, which gave the company greater autonomy in running its trade in the American colonies, and allowed it an exemption from tea import duties which its colonial competitors were required to pay.

When the American colonists and tea merchants were told of this Act, they boycotted the company tea. Although the price of tea had dropped because of the Act, it also validated the Townshend Acts, setting the precedent for the king to impose additional taxes in the future. The arrival of tax-exempt Company tea, undercutting the local merchants, triggered the Boston Tea Party in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, one of the major events leading up to the American Revolution.
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Regulating Acts of Parliament

East India Company Act 1773

By the Regulating Act of 1773 (later known as the East India Company Act 1773), the Parliament of Great Britain imposed a series of administrative and economic reforms; this clearly established Parliament's sovereignty and ultimate control over the company. The Act recognised the company's political functions and clearly established that the "acquisition of sovereignty by the subjects of the Crown is on behalf of the Crown and not in its own right".

Nawab Mubarak Ali Khan with his son in the Nawab's Durbar with British Resident, Sir John Hadley

Despite stiff resistance from the East India lobby in Parliament and from the company's shareholders, the Act passed. It introduced substantial governmental control and allowed British India to be formally under the control of the Crown, but leased back to the company at £40,000 for two years. Under the Act's most important provision, a governing Council composed of five members was created in Calcutta. The three members nominated by Parliament and representing the government's interest could, and invariably would, outvote the two Company members. The Council was headed by Warren Hastings, the incumbent governor, who became the first governor-general of Bengal, with an ill-defined authority over the Bombay and Madras Presidencies.[67] His nomination, made by the Court of Directors, would in future be subject to the approval of a Council of Four appointed by the Crown. Initially, the Council consisted of Lieutenant General Sir John Clavering, Sir George Monson, Sir Richard Barwell, and Sir Philip Francis.[68]

Hastings was entrusted with the power of war and peace. British judges and magistrates would also be sent to India to administer the legal system. The governor-general and the council would have complete legislative powers. The company was allowed to maintain its virtual monopoly over trade in exchange for the biennial sum and was obligated to export a minimum quantity of goods yearly to Britain. The costs of administration were to be met by the company. The company initially welcomed these provisions, but the annual burden of the payment contributed to the steady decline of its finances.[68]

East India Company Act 1784 (Pitt's India Act)

The East India Company Act 1784 (Pitt's India Act) had two key aspects:

• Relationship to the British government: the bill differentiated the East India Company's political functions from its commercial activities. In political matters the East India Company was subordinated to the British government directly. To accomplish this, the Act created a Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India, usually referred to as the Board of Control. The members of the Board were the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State, and four Privy Councillors, nominated by the King. The act specified that the Secretary of State "shall preside at, and be President of the said Board".
• Internal Administration of British India: the bill laid the foundation for the centralised and bureaucratic British administration of India which would reach its peak at the beginning of the 20th century during the governor-generalship of George Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Baron Curzon.

Pitt's Act was deemed a failure because it quickly became apparent that the boundaries between government control and the company's powers were nebulous and highly subjective. The government felt obliged to respond to humanitarian calls for better treatment of local peoples in British-occupied territories. Edmund Burke, a former East India Company shareholder and diplomat, was moved to address the situation and introduced a new Regulating Bill in 1783. The bill was defeated amid lobbying by company loyalists and accusations of nepotism in the bill's recommendations for the appointment of councillors.

Act of 1786

General Lord Cornwallis, receiving two of Tipu Sultan's sons as hostages in the year 1793

The Act of 1786 (26 Geo. 3 c. 16) enacted the demand of Earl Cornwallis that the powers of the governor-general be enlarged to empower him, in special cases, to override the majority of his Council and act on his own special responsibility. The Act enabled the offices of the governor-general and the commander-in-chief to be jointly held by the same official.

This Act clearly demarcated borders between the Crown and the company. After this point, the company functioned as a regularised subsidiary of the Crown, with greater accountability for its actions and reached a stable stage of expansion and consolidation. Having temporarily achieved a state of truce with the Crown, the company continued to expand its influence to nearby territories through threats and coercive actions. By the middle of the 19th century, the company's rule extended across most of India, Burma, Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong, and a fifth of the world's population was under its trading influence. In addition, Penang Island, ceded from the Kedah Sultanate in Malaya, became the fourth most important settlement, a presidency, of the company's Indian territories.[69]

East India Company Act 1793 (Charter Act)

The company's charter was renewed for a further 20 years by the Charter Act of 1793. In contrast with the legislative proposals of the previous two decades, the 1793 Act was not a particularly controversial measure, and made only minimal changes to the system of government in India and to British oversight of the company's activities. Sale of liquor was forbidden without licence. It was pointed that the payment of the staff of the board of council should not be made from the Indian revenue.

East India Company Act 1813 (Charter Act)

Major-General Wellesley, meeting with Nawab Azim al-Daula, 1805

The aggressive policies of Lord Wellesley and the Marquess of Hastings led to the company's gaining control of all India (except for the Punjab and Sindh), and some part of the then kingdom of Nepal under the Sugauli Treaty. The Indian princes had become vassals of the company. But the expense of wars leading to the total control of India strained the company's finances. The company was forced to petition Parliament for assistance. This was the background to the Charter Act of 1813 which, among other things:

• asserted the sovereignty of the British Crown over the Indian territories held by the company;
• renewed the charter of the company for a further twenty years, but
• deprived the company of its Indian trade monopoly except for trade in tea and the trade with China
• required the company to maintain separate and distinct its commercial and territorial accounts
• opened India to missionaries

Government of India Act 1833

The Industrial Revolution in Britain, the consequent search for markets, and the rise of laissez-faire economic ideology form the background to the Government of India Act 1833 (3 & 4 Will. 4 c. 85). The Act:

• removed the company's remaining trade monopolies and divested it of all its commercial functions
• renewed for another twenty years the company's political and administrative authority
• invested the Board of Control with full power and authority over the company. As stated by Professor Sri Ram Sharma,[70] "The President of the Board of Control now became Minister for Indian Affairs."
• carried further the ongoing process of administrative centralisation through investing the Governor-General in Council with full power and authority to superintend and control the Presidency Governments in all civil and military matters
• initiated a machinery for the codification of laws
• provided that no Indian subject of the company would be debarred from holding any office under the company by reason of his religion, place of birth, descent or colour
• vested the Island of St Helena in the Crown[71]

British influence continued to expand; in 1845, Great Britain purchased the Danish colony of Tranquebar. The company had at various stages extended its influence to China, the Philippines, and Java. It had solved its critical lack of cash needed to buy tea by exporting Indian-grown opium to China. China's efforts to end the trade led to the First Opium War (1839–1842).

English Education Act 1835

Main article: English Education Act 1835

View of the Calcutta port in 1848

The English Education Act by the Council of India in 1835 reallocated funds from the East India Company to spend on education and literature in India.

Government of India Act 1853

This Act (16 & 17 Vict. c. 95) provided that British India would remain under the administration of the company in trust for the Crown until Parliament should decide otherwise. It also introduced a system of open competition as the basis of recruitment for civil servants of the company and thus deprived the directors of their patronage system.[72]

Under the act, for the first time the legislative and executive powers of the governor-general's council were separated. It also added six additional members to the governor-general's executive committee.[73]

Indian Rebellion and disestablishment

Main article: Indian Rebellion of 1857

Capture of the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar and his sons by William Hodson in 1857

The Indian Rebellion of 1857 (also known as the Indian Mutiny or Sepoy Mutiny) resulted in widespread devastation in India: many condemned the East India Company for permitting the events to occur.[74] In the aftermath of the Rebellion, under the provisions of the Government of India Act 1858, the British Government nationalised the company. The Crown took over its Indian possessions, its administrative powers and machinery, and its armed forces.

The company remained in existence in vestigial form, continuing to manage the tea trade on behalf of the British Government (and the supply of Saint Helena) until the East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act 1873 came into effect, on 1 January 1874. This Act provided for the formal dissolution of the company on 1 June 1874, after a final dividend payment and the commutation or redemption of its stock.[75] The Times commented on 8 April 1873:[76]

It accomplished a work such as in the whole history of the human race no other trading Company ever attempted, and such as none, surely, is likely to attempt in the years to come.

In the 1980s, a group of investors purchased the rights to the moribund corporate brand and founded a clothing company, which lasted until the 1990s. The corporate vestiges were again purchased by another group of investors who opened their first store in 2010.

Establishments in Britain

The expanded East India House, London, painted by Thomas Malton in c.1800

The company's headquarters in London, from which much of India was governed, was East India House in Leadenhall Street. After occupying premises in Philpot Lane from 1600 to 1621; in Crosby House, Bishopsgate, from 1621 to 1638; and in Leadenhall Street from 1638 to 1648, the company moved into Craven House, an Elizabethan mansion in Leadenhall Street. The building had become known as East India House by 1661. It was completely rebuilt and enlarged in 1726–1729; and further significantly remodelled and expanded in 1796–1800. It was finally vacated in 1860 and demolished in 1861–1862. The site is now occupied by the Lloyd's building.

In 1607, the company decided to build its own ships and leased a yard on the River Thames at Deptford. By 1614, the yard having become too small, an alternative site was acquired at Blackwall: the new yard was fully operational by 1617. It was sold in 1656, although for some years East India Company ships continued to be built and repaired there under the new owners.

In 1803, an Act of Parliament, promoted by the East India Company, established the East India Dock Company, with the aim of establishing a new set of docks (the East India Docks) primarily for the use of ships trading with India. The existing Brunswick Dock, part of the Blackwall Yard site, became the Export Dock; while a new Import Dock was built to the north. In 1838 the East India Dock Company merged with the West India Dock Company. The docks were taken over by the Port of London Authority in 1909, and closed in 1967.

Addiscombe Seminary, photographed in c.1859, with cadets in the foreground

The East India College was founded in 1806 as a training establishment for "writers" (i.e. clerks) in the company's service. It was initially located in Hertford Castle, but moved in 1809 to purpose-built premises at Hertford Heath, Hertfordshire. In 1858 the college closed; but in 1862 the buildings reopened as a public school, now Haileybury and Imperial Service College.

The East India Company Military Seminary was founded in 1809 at Addiscombe, near Croydon, Surrey, to train young officers for service in the company's armies in India. It was based in Addiscombe Place, an early 18th-century mansion. The government took it over in 1858, and renamed it the Royal Indian Military College. In 1861 it was closed, and the site was subsequently redeveloped.

In 1818, the company entered into an agreement by which those of its servants who were certified insane in India might be cared for at Pembroke House, Hackney, London, a private lunatic asylum run by Dr George Rees until 1838, and thereafter by Dr William Williams. The arrangement outlasted the company itself, continuing until 1870, when the India Office opened its own asylum, the Royal India Asylum, at Hanwell, Middlesex.[77][78]

The East India Club in London was formed in 1849 for officers of the company. The Club still exists today as a private gentlemen's club with its club house situated at 16 St. James's Square, London.[79]

Legacy and criticisms

The East India Company was one of the most powerful and enduring organisations in history and had a long lasting impact on the Indian Subcontinent, with both positive and harmful effects. Although dissolved by the East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act 1873 following the rebellion of 1857, it stimulated the growth of the British Empire. Its professionally trained armies rose to dominate the sub-continent and were to become the armies of British India after 1857. It played a key role in introducing English as an official language in India. This also led to Macaulayism in the Indian subcontinent.

Panorama of a durbar procession of Mughal Emperor Akbar II, 1806-37. The Emperor is followed by the British Resident.

Once the East India Company took over Bengal in the treaty of Allahabad (1765) it collected taxes which it used to further its expansion to the rest of India and did not have to rely on venture capital from London. It returned a high profit to those who risked original money for earlier ventures into Bengal.

During the first century of the East India Company's expansion in India, most people in India lived under regional kings or Nawabs. By the late 18th century many Moghuls were weak in comparison to the rapidly expanding Company as it took over cities and land, built railways, roads and bridges. The first railway of 21 mile (33.8 km),[80] known as the Great Indian Peninsula Railway ran between Bombay (Mumbai) and Tannah (Thane) in 1849. The Company sought quick profits because the financial backers in England took high risks: their money for possible profits or losses through shipwrecks, wars or calamities.

The increasingly large territory the Company was annexing and collecting taxes was also run by the local Nawabs. In essence, it was a dual administration. Between 1765 and 1772 Robert Clive gave the responsibility of tax collecting, diwani, to the Indian deputy and judicial and police responsibilities to other Indian deputies. The Company concentrated its new power of collecting revenue and left the responsibilities to the Indian agencies. The East India Company took the beginning steps of British takeover of power in India for centuries to come. In 1772, the Company made Warren Hastings, who had been in India with the Company since 1750, its first governor-general to manage and overview all of the annexed lands. The dual administration system came to an end.

Hastings learned Urdu and Persian and took great interest in preserving ancient Sanskrit manuscripts and having them translated into English. He employed many Indians as officials.[81]

Hastings used Sanskrit texts for Hindus and Arabic texts for Muslims. This is still used in Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi courts today in civil law. Hastings also annexed lands and kingdoms and enriched himself in the process. His enemies in London used this against him to have him impeached. See (Impeachment of Warren Hastings)[82]

Charles Cornwallis, widely remembered as having surrendered to George Washington following the Siege of Yorktown in 1781, replaced Hastings. Cornwallis distrusted Indians and replaced Indians with English. He introduced a system of personal land ownership for Indians. This change caused much conflict since most illiterate people had no idea why they suddenly became land renters from land owners.[83]

Mughals often had to choose to fight against the Company and lose everything or cooperate with the Company and receive a big pension but lose the throne. The British East India Company gradually took over most of India by threat, intimidation, bribery or outright war.[84]

The East India Company was the first company to record the Chinese usage of orange-flavoured tea, which led to the development of Earl Grey tea.[85]

The East India Company introduced a system of merit-based appointments that provided a model for the British and Indian civil service.[86]

Widespread corruption and looting of Bengal resources and treasures during its rule resulted in poverty.[13] Famines, such as the Great Bengal famine of 1770 and subsequent famines during the 18th and 19th centuries, became more widespread, chiefly because of exploitative agriculture promulgated by the policies of the East India company and the forced cultivation of opium in place of grain.[87][88]

The historian William Dalrymple has called Robert Clive an "unstable sociopath" due to these harmful policies and actions that resulted in famines and atrocities towards local native Indians and peasants. Changes caused by Clive to the revenue system and existing agricultural practices to maximize profits for the company led to the Bengal Famine of 1770.[89]



Further information: Flag of the East India Company

Historical depictions

Downman (1685)

Lens (1700)

National Geographic (1917)

Rees (1820)

Laurie (1842)

Modern depictions




The English East India Company flag changed over time, with a canton based on the flag of the contemporary Kingdom, and a field of 9-to-13 alternating red and white stripes.

From 1600, the canton consisted of a St George's Cross representing the Kingdom of England. With the Acts of Union 1707, the canton was changed to the new Union Flag—consisting of an English St George's Cross combined with a Scottish St Andrew's cross—representing the Kingdom of Great Britain. After the Acts of Union 1800 that joined Ireland with Great Britain to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the canton of the East India Company flag was altered accordingly to include a Saint Patrick's Saltire.

There has been much debate about the number and order of stripes in the field of the flag. Historical documents and paintings show variations from 9-to-13 stripes, with some images showing the top stripe red and others showing it white.

At the time of the American Revolution the East India Company flag was nearly identical to the Grand Union Flag. Historian Charles Fawcett argued that the East India Company Flag inspired the Stars and Stripes of America.[90]

Coat of arms

The original coat of arms of the East India Company

The later coat of arms of the East India Company

The East India Company's original coat of arms was granted in 1600. The blazon of the arms is as follows:

"Azure, three ships with three masts, rigged and under full sail, the sails, pennants and ensigns Argent, each charged with a cross Gules; on a chief of the second a pale quarterly Azure and Gules, on the 1st and 4th a fleur-de-lis or, on the 2nd and 3rd a leopard or, between two roses Gules seeded Or barbed Vert." The shield had as a crest: "A sphere without a frame, bounded with the Zodiac in bend Or, between two pennants flottant Argent, each charged with a cross Gules, over the sphere the words Deus indicat" (Latin: God Indicates). The supporters were two sea lions (lions with fishes' tails) and the motto was Deo ducente nil nocet (Latin: Where God Leads, Nothing Harms).[91]

The East India Company's later arms, granted in 1698, were: "Argent a cross Gules; in the dexter chief quarter an escutcheon of the arms of France and England quarterly, the shield ornamentally and regally crowned Or." The crest was: "A lion rampant guardant Or holding between the forepaws a regal crown proper." The supporters were: "Two lions rampant guardant Or, each supporting a banner erect Argent, charged with a cross Gules." The motto was Auspicio regis et senatus angliæ (Latin: Under the auspices of the King and the Senate of England).[91]

Merchant mark

HEIC Merchant's mark on a Blue Scinde Dawk postage stamp (1852)

When the East India Company was chartered in 1600, it was still customary for individual merchants or members of companies such as the Company of Merchant Adventurers to have a distinguishing merchant's mark which often included the mystical "Sign of Four" and served as a trademark. The East India Company's merchant mark consisted of a "Sign of Four" atop a heart within which was a saltire between the lower arms of which were the initials "EIC". This mark was a central motif of the East India Company's coinage[92] and forms the central emblem displayed on the Scinde Dawk postage stamps.[93]


See also: East Indiaman and List of ports of call of the British East India Company

Ships in Bombay Harbour, c. 1731

Ships of the East India Company were called East Indiamen or simply "Indiamen".[94]

Royal George was one of the five East Indiamen the Spanish fleet captured in 1780

During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the East India Company arranged for letters of marque for its vessels such as the Lord Nelson. This was not so that they could carry cannon to fend off warships, privateers, and pirates on their voyages to India and China (that they could do without permission) but so that, should they have the opportunity to take a prize, they could do so without being guilty of piracy. Similarly, the Earl of Mornington, an East India Company packet ship of only six guns, also sailed under a letter of marque.

In addition, the company had its own navy, the Bombay Marine, equipped with warships such as Grappler. These vessels often accompanied vessels of the Royal Navy on expeditions, such as the Invasion of Java.

At the Battle of Pulo Aura, which was probably the company's most notable naval victory, Nathaniel Dance, Commodore of a convoy of Indiamen and sailing aboard the Warley, led several Indiamen in a skirmish with a French squadron, driving them off. Some six years earlier, on 28 January 1797, five Indiamen, the Woodford, under Captain Charles Lennox, the Taunton-Castle, Captain Edward Studd, Canton, Captain Abel Vyvyan, Boddam, Captain George Palmer, and Ocean, Captain John Christian Lochner, had encountered Admiral de Sercey and his squadron of frigates. On this occasion the Indiamen also succeeded in bluffing their way to safety, and without any shots even being fired. Lastly, on 15 June 1795, the General Goddard played a large role in the capture of seven Dutch East Indiamen off St Helena.

East Indiamen were large and strongly built and when the Royal Navy was desperate for vessels to escort merchant convoys it bought several of them to convert to warships. Earl of Mornington became HMS Drake. Other examples include:

• HMS Calcutta
• HMS Glatton
• HMS Hindostan (1795)
• HMS Hindostan (1804)
• HMS Malabar
• HMS Buffalo

Their design as merchant vessels meant that their performance in the warship role was underwhelming and the Navy converted them to transports.


Main article: India Office Records

Unlike all other British Government records, the records from the East India Company (and its successor the India Office) are not in The National Archives at Kew, London, but are held by the British Library in London as part of the Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections. The catalogue is searchable online in the Access to Archives catalogues.[95] Many of the East India Company records are freely available online under an agreement that the Families in British India Society has with the British Library. Published catalogues exist of East India Company ships' journals and logs, 1600–1834;[96] and of some of the company's daughter institutions, including the East India Company College, Haileybury, and Addiscombe Military Seminary.[97]

The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British India and its Dependencies, first issued in 1816, was sponsored by the East India Company, and includes much information relating to the EIC.

Early Governors[98]

• 1600–1601 : Sir Thomas Smythe (first Governor)
• 1601–1602 : Sir John Watts
• 1602–1603 : Sir John Harts
• 1606–1607 : Sir William Romney
• 1607–1621 : Sir Thomas Smythe
• 1621–1624 : Sir William Halliday
• 1624–1638 : Sir Maurice (Morris) Abbot
• 1638–1641 : Sir Christopher Clitherow

See also

• British Empire portal
• Companies portal

East India Company

• Company rule in India
o Economy of India under Company rule
o Governor-General of India
o Chief Justice of Bengal
o Advocate-General of Bengal
o Chief Justice of Madras
o Indian Rebellion of 1857
o Indian independence movement
• List of East India Company directors
• List of trading companies
• East India Company Cemetery in Macau
• Category:Honourable East India Company regiments


• British Imperial Lifeline
• Lascar
• Carnatic Wars
• Commercial Revolution
• Political warfare in British colonial India
• Trade between Western Europe and the Mughal Empire in the 17th century
• Whampoa anchorage

Notes and references

1. As of 30 December 1600, the company's official name was: Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading with the East Indies.
1. "The Opium War". National Army Museum. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
2. Carey, W. H. (1882). 1882 – The Good Old Days of Honourable John Company. Simla: Argus Press. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
3. "Company Bahadur". Encyclopaedia Britannica.
4. The Dutch East India Company was the first to issue public stock.
5. Scott, William. "East India Company, 1817-1827". Senate House Library Archives, University of London. Archived from the original on 1994. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
6. Parliament of England (31 December 1600). "Charter granted by Queen Elizabeth to the East India Company". Wikimedia. Retrieved 20 September 2019. Governor and Company of Merchants of London, Trading into the East-Indies
7. Farrington, Anthony (2002). Trading Places: The East India Company and Asia 1600–1834. British Library. ISBN 9780712347563. Retrieved 21 September 2019.
8. "Books associated with Trading Places – the East India Company and Asia 1600–1834, an Exhibition". Archived from the original on 30 March 2014.
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10. Baladouni, Vahe (Fall 1983). "Accounting in the Early Years of the East India Company". The Accounting Historians Journal. 10 (2): 63–80. doi:10.2308/0148-4184.10.2.63. JSTOR 40697780.
11. "India – The British, 1600–1740".
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14. "The finances of the East India Company in India, c. 1766–1859, John F. Richards".
15. This is the argument of Robins (2006).
16. Desai, Tripta (1984). The East India Company: A Brief Survey from 1599 to 1857. Kanak Publications. p. 3.
17. "Early European Settlements". Imperial Gazetteer of India. II. 1908. p. 454.
18. Wernham, R.B (1994). The Return of the Armadas: The Last Years of the Elizabethan Wars Against Spain 1595–1603. Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. 333–334. ISBN 978-0-19-820443-5.
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21. 'Ralph Fitch: An Elizabethan Merchant in Chiang Mai; and 'Ralph Fitch's Account of Chiang Mai in 1586–1587' in: Forbes, Andrew, and Henley, David, Ancient Chiang Mai Volume 1. Chiang Mai, Cognoscenti Books, 2012.
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28. Gardner, Brian (1972). The East India Company: a History. McCall Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-8415-0124-9.
29. Dulles (1969), p106.
30. Foster, Sir William (1998). England's quest of eastern trade (1933 ed.). London: A. & C. Black. p. 157. ISBN 9780415155182.
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34. Tyacke, Sarah (2008). "Gabriel Tatton's Maritime Atlas of the East Indies, 1620–1621: Portsmouth Royal Naval Museum, Admiralty Library Manuscript, MSS 352". Imago Mundi. 60 (1): 39–62. doi:10.1080/03085690701669293.
35. "East India Company sent a diplomat to Jahangir & all the Mughal Emperor cared about was beer".
36. "The Nutmeg Wars".
37. Suijk, Paul (Director) (2015). 1600 The British East India Company [The Great Courses (Episode 5, 13:16] (on-line video). Brentwood Associates/The Teaching Company Sales. Chantilly, VA, USA: Liulevicius, Professor Vejas Gabriel (lecturer).
38. Suijk, Paul (Director) (2015). 1600 The British East India Company [The Great Courses (Episode 5, 15:18] (on-line video). Brentwood Associates/The Teaching Company Sales. Chantilly, VA, USA: Liulevicius, Professor Vejas Gabriel (lecturer).
39. Riddick, John F. (2006). The history of British India: a chronology. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-313-32280-8.
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43. Wilbur, Marguerite Eyer (1945). The East India Company: And the British Empire in the Far East. Stanford University Press. pp. 82–83. ISBN 978-0-8047-2864-5.
44. Hayami, Akira (2015). Japan's Industrious Revolution: Economic and Social Transformations in the Early Modern Period. Springer. p. 49. ISBN 978-4-431-55142-3.
45. Burgess, Douglas R (2009). The Pirates' Pact: The Secret Alliances Between History's Most Notorious Buccaneers and Colonial America. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-147476-4.
46. Burgess 2009, p. 144
47. Fox, E. T. (2008). King of the Pirates: The Swashbuckling Life of Henry Every. London: Tempus Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7524-4718-6.
48. "The British East India Company—the Company that Owned a Nation. George P. Landow".
49. Company, East India; Shaw, John (1887). Charters Relating to the East India Company from 1600 to 1761: Reprinted from a Former Collection with Some Additions and a Preface for the Government of Madras. R. Hill at the Government Press. p. 217.
50. Thomas, P. D. G. (2008) "Pratt, Charles, first Earl Camden (1714–1794)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, online edn. Retrieved 15 February 2008 (subscription or UK public library membership required)
51. Pyne, William Henry (1904) [1808]. The Microcosm of London, or London in Miniature. 2. London: Methuen. p. 159.
52. Janssens, Koen (2009). Annales Du 17e Congrès D'Associationi Internationale Pour L'histoire Du Verre. Asp / Vubpress / Upa. p. 366. ISBN 978-90-5487-618-2.
53. "SALTPETER the secret salt – Salt made the world go round". Retrieved 7 July 2017.
54. "The Seven Years' War in the Philippines". Land Forces of Britain, the Empire and Commonwealth. Archived from the original on 10 July 2004. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
55. Mitchell, Stacy. The big box swindle. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
56. Gerald Bryant (1978). "Officers of the East India Company's army in the days of Clive and Hastings". The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History. 6 (3): 203–227. doi:10.1080/03086537808582508.
57. James Stuart Olson; Robert Shadle (1996). Historical Dictionary of the British Empire. Greenwood. pp. 252–254. ISBN 978-0-313-29366-5.
58. Capper, John (7 July 2017). Delhi, the Capital of India. Asian Educational Services. p. 28. ISBN 978-81-206-1282-2.
59. "Cholera's seven pandemics". CBC News. 2 December 2008. Archived from the original on 16 December 2008. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
60. Holmes, Richard (2005). Sahib: the British soldier in India, 1750–1914. London: HarperCollins. p. 474. ISBN 978-0-00-713753-4.
61. McElwee, William (1974). The Art of War: Waterloo to Mons. Purnell Book Services. p. 72.
62. Tolan, John; Veinstein, Gilles; Henry Laurens (2013). Europe and the Islamic World: A History. Princeton University Press. pp. 275–276. ISBN 978-0-691-14705-5.
63. Windle, James (2012). "Insights for Contemporary Drug Policy: A Historical Account of Opium Control in India and Pakistan" (PDF). Asian Journal of Criminology. 7 (1): 55–74. doi:10.1007/s11417-011-9104-0.
64. "EAST INDIA COMPANY FACTORY RECORDS Sources from the British Library, LondonPart 1: China and Japan". Retrieved 7 July 2017.
65. Harcourt, Freda (2006). Flagships of Imperialism: The P & O Company and the Politics of Empire from Its Origins to 1867. Manchester University Press. p. 103. ISBN 978-1-84779-145-0.
66. Suijk, Paul (Director) (2015). The British East India Company [The Great Courses (Episode 24, 7:38–4:33)] (on-line video). Brentwood Associates/The Teaching Company Sales. Chantilly, VA, USA: Fisher, Professor Michael H (lecturer).
67. Keay, John (1991). The Honourable Company: A History of the English East India Company. Macmillan Publishing Company, New York p. 385.
68. Anthony, Frank. Britain's Betrayal in India: The Story of the Anglo Indian Community. Second Edition. London: The Simon Wallenberg Press, 2007, pp. 18–19, 42, 45.
69. Langdon, Marcus; "Penang: The Fourth Presidency of India 1805–1830, Volume One: Ships, Men and Mansions" Archived 3 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine, Areca Books, 2013. ISBN 978-967-5719-07-3
70. "Kapur".
71. "Saint Helena Act 1833". Retrieved 7 July 2017.
72. M. Laxhimikanth, Public Administration, TMH, Tenth Reprint, 2013
73. Laxhimikanth, Public Administration, TMH, Tenth Reprint, 2013
74. David, Saul (4 September 2003). The Indian Mutiny: 1857 (4th ed.). London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-100554-6.
75. East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act 1873 (36 & 37 Vict. 17) s. 36: "On the First day of June One thousand eight hundred and seventy-four, and on payment by the East India Company of all unclaimed dividends on East India Stock to such accounts as are herein-before mentioned in pursuance of the directions herein-before contained, the powers of the East India Company shall cease, and the said Company shall be dissolved." Where possible, the stock was redeemed through commutation (i.e. exchanging the stock for other securities or money) on terms agreed with the stockholders (ss. 5–8), but stockholders who did not agree to commute their holdings had their stock compulsorily redeemed on 30 April 1874 by payment of £200 for every £100 of stock held (s. 13).
76. "Not many days ago the House of Commons passed". Times. London. 8 April 1873. p. 9.
77. Farrington 1976, pp. 125–132.
78. Bolton, Diane K.; Croot, Patricia E. C.; Hicks, M. A. (1982). "Ealing and Brentford: Public services". In Baker, T. F. T.; Elrington, C. R. (eds.). A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden. London: Victoria County History. pp. 147–149.
79. "East India Club". Archived from the original on 11 January 2012. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
80. Rao, M.A. (1988). Indian Railways, New Delhi: National Book Trust, p.15
81. Suijk, Paul (Director) (2015). The British East India Company [The Great Courses (Episode 24,19:11)] (on-line video). Brentwood Associates/The Teaching Company Sales. Chantilly, VA, USA: Fisher, Professor Michael H (lecturer).
82. Suijk, Paul (Director) (2015). The British East India Company [The Great Courses (Episode 24,17:27)] (on-line video). Brentwood Associates/The Teaching Company Sales. Chantilly, VA, USA: Fisher, Professor Michael H (lecturer).
83. Suijk, Paul (Director) (2015). The British East India Company [The Great Courses (Episode 24,16:00)] (on-line video). Brentwood Associates/The Teaching Company Sales. Chantilly, VA, USA: Fisher, Professor Michael H (lecturer).
84. Suijk, Paul (Director) (2015). The British East India Company [The Great Courses (Episode 24, 9:27)] (on-line video). Brentwood Associates/The Teaching Company Sales. Chantilly, VA, USA: Fisher, Professor Michael H (lecturer).
85. "Bringing back John Company".
86. "The Company that ruled the waves", in The Economist, 17–30 December 2011, p. 111.
87. Davis, Mike. Late Victorian Holocausts. New York Times. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
88. Moxham, Roy. "Lecture: THE EAST INDIA COMPANY'S SEIZURE OF BENGAL AND HOW THIS LED TO THE GREAT BENGAL FAMINE OF 1770". You Tube. Brick Lane Circle. Retrieved 6 June2015.
89. Dalrymple, William (4 March 2015). "The East India Company: The original corporate raiders". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
90. Fawcett, Charles (30 July 2013). Rob Raeside (ed.). "The Striped Flag of the East India Company, and its Connexion with the American "Stars and Stripes"".
91. "East India Company". Hubert Herald. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
92. East India Company coin 1791, half pice, as illustrated.
93. "Scinde District Dawks". 27 October 2009.
94. Sutton, Jean (1981) Lords of the East: The East India Company and Its Ships. London: Conway Maritime
95. A2A – Access to Archives Home
96. Farrington, Anthony, ed. (1999). Catalogue of East India Company ships' journals and logs: 1600–1834. London: British Library. ISBN 978-0-7123-4646-7.
97. Farrington 1976.
98. The Emergence of International Business, 1200-1800: The English East India Company. p. Appendix.

Further reading

• Andrews, Kenneth R. (1985). Trade, Plunder, and Settlement: Maritime Enterprise and the Genesis of the British Empire, 1480–1630. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-25760-2.
• Bowen, H. V. (1991). Revenue and Reform: The Indian Problem in British Politics, 1757–1773. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-40316-0.
• Bowen, H. V. (2003). Margarette Lincoln; Nigel Rigby (eds.). The Worlds of the East India Company. Rochester, NY: Brewer. ISBN 978-0-85115-877-8.; 14 essays by scholars
• Brenner, Robert (1993). Merchants and Revolution: Commercial Change, Political Conflict, and London's Overseas Traders, 1550–1653. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-05594-7.
• Carruthers, Bruce G. (1996). City of Capital: Politics and Markets in the English Financial Revolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-04455-2.
• Chaudhuri, K. N. (1965). The English East India Company: The Study of an Early Joint-Stock Company, 1600–1640. London: Cass.
• Chaudhuri, K. N. (1978). The Trading World of Asia and the English East India Company, 1660–1760. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-21716-3.
• Chaudhury, S. (1999). Merchants, Companies, and Trade: Europe and Asia in the Early Modern Era. London: Cambridge University Press.
• Dalrymple, William (March 2015). The East India Company: The original corporate raiders. "For a century, the East India Company conquered, subjugated and plundered vast tracts of south Asia. The lessons of its brutal reign have never been more relevant." The Guardian
• William Dalrymple The Anarchy - The Relentless Rise of the East India Company, Bloomsbury, London, 2019, ISBN 978-1-4088-6437-1.
• Dirks, Nicholas (2006). The Scandal of Empire: India and the creation of Imperial Britain. Cambridge, Massachusetts, London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-02166-2.
• Dodwell, Henry. Dupleix and Clive: Beginning of Empire. (1968).
• Dulles, Foster Rhea (1931). Eastward ho! The first English adventurers to the Orient (1969 ed.). Freeport, New York: Books for Libraries Press. ISBN 978-0-8369-1256-2.
• Farrington, Anthony (2002). Trading Places: The East India Company and Asia, 1600–1834. London: British Library. ISBN 978-0-7123-4756-3.
• Finn, Margot; Smith, Kate, eds. (2018). The East India Company at Home, 1757–1857. London: UCL Press. ISBN 978-1-78735-028-1.
• Furber, Holden. John Company at Work: A study of European Expansion in India in the late Eighteenth century (Harvard University Press, 1948)
• Furber, Holden (1976). Rival Empires of Trade in the Orient, 1600–1800. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 978-0-8166-0787-7.
• Gardner, Brian. The East India Company : a history (1990) Online free to borrow
• Greenwood, Adrian (2015). Victoria's Scottish Lion: The Life of Colin Campbell, Lord Clyde. UK: History Press. p. 496. ISBN 978-0-7509-5685-7.
• Harrington, Jack (2010), Sir John Malcolm and the Creation of British India, New York: Palgrave Macmillan., ISBN 978-0-230-10885-1
• Keay, John (2010). The Honourable Company: A History of the English East India Company. HarperCollins UK. ISBN 978-0-00-739554-5.
• Lawson, Philip (1993). The East India Company: A History. London: Longman. ISBN 978-0-582-07386-9.
• Leinwand, Theodore B. (2006). Theatre, Finance and Society in Early Modern England. Cambridge University. ISBN 978-0-521-03466-1.
• MacGregor, Arthur (2018). Company Curiosities: nature, culture and the East India Company, 1600–1874. London: Reaktion Books. ISBN 9781789140033.
• Marshall, P. J. Problems of empire: Britain and India 1757–1813 (1968) Online free to borrow
• Misra, B. B. The Central Administration of the East India Company, 1773–1834 (1959)
• O'Connor, Daniel (2012). The Chaplains of the East India Company, 1601–1858. London: Continuum. ISBN 978-1-4411-7534-2.
• Oak, Mandar, and Anand V. Swamy. "Myopia or strategic behavior? Indian regimes and the East India Company in late eighteenth century India." Explorations in economic history 49.3 (2012): 352–366.
• Philips, C. H. The East India Company 1784–1834 (2nd ed. 1961), on its internal workings
• Riddick, John F. excerpt and text search The history of British India: a chronology (2006), covers 1599–1947
• Riddick, John F. Who Was Who in British India (1998), covers 1599–1947
• Ruffner, Murray (21 April 2015). "Selden Map Atlas". Thinking Past. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
• Risley, Sir Herbert H., ed. (1908), The Indian Empire: Historical, Imperial Gazetteer of India, 2, Oxford: Clarendon Press, under the authority of H.M. Secretary of State for India
• Risley, Sir Herbert H., ed. (1908), The Indian Empire: Administrative, Imperial Gazetteer of India, 4, Oxford: Clarendon Press, under the authority of H.M Secretary of State for India
• Robins, Nick (December 2004). The world's first multinational, in the New Statesman
• Robins, Nick (2006). The Corporation that Changed the World: How the East India Company Shaped the Modern Multinational. London: Pluto Press. ISBN 978-0-7453-2524-8.
• Sen, Sudipta (1998). Empire of Free Trade: The East India Company and the Making of the Colonial Marketplace. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0-8122-3426-8.
• Sharpe, Brandon (23 April 2015). "Selden Map Atlas". Retrieved 28 April 2015.
• St. John, Ian. The Making of the Raj: India Under the East India Company (ABC-CLIO, 2011)
• Steensgaard, Niels (1975). The Asian Trade Revolution of the Seventeenth Century: The East India Companies and the Decline of the Caravan Trade. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-77138-0.
• Stern, Philip J. The Company-State: Corporate Sovereignty and the Early Modern Foundations of the British Empire in India (2011)
• Sutherland, Lucy S. "The East India Company In Eighteenth-Century Politics." Economic History Review17.1 (1947): 15–26. online
o Sutherland, Lucy S. (1952). The East India Company in Eighteenth-Century Politics. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
• Williams, Roger (2015). London's Lost Global Giant: In Search of the East India Company. London: Bristol Book Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9928466-2-6.


• Farrington, Anthony, ed. (1976). The Records of the East India College, Haileybury, & other institutions. London: H.M.S.O.
• Stern, Philip J. (2009). "History and historiography of the English East India Company: Past, present, and future!". History Compass. 7 (4): 1146–1180. doi:10.1111/j.1478-0542.2009.00617.x.

External links

• Charter of 1600
• East India Company on In Our Time at the BBC
• Seals and Insignias of East India Company
• The Secret Trade The basis of the monopoly.
• Trading Places – a learning resource from the British Library
• Port Cities: History of the East India Company
• Ships of the East India Company
• Plant Cultures: East India Company in India
• History and Politics: East India Company
• Nick Robins, "The world's first multinational", 13 December 2004, New Statesman
• East India Company: Its History and Results article by Karl Marx, MECW Volume 12, p. 148 in Marxists Internet Archive
• Text of East India Company Act 1773
• Text of East India Company Act 1784
• "The East India Company – a corporate route to Europe" on BBC Radio 4's In Our Time featuring Huw Bowen, Linda Colley and Maria Misra
• HistoryMole Timeline: The British East India Company
• William Howard Hooker Collection: East Indiaman Thetis Logbook (#472-003), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

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Part 1 of 2

Suzuki Daisetsu and Swedenborg: A Historical Background
by Yoshinaga Shin’ichi 吉永進一
translated by Erik Schicketanz
Modern Buddhism in Japan
edited by Hayashi Makoto, Ōtani Eiichi, and Paul L. Swanson



Suzuki Daisetsu and Swedenborg

A Historical Background

The present article is the updated English version of an article previously published in 2005 in Japanese. It has been amended substantially in light of the subsequent work done by other scholars. At the time of the article’s original publication, Thomas Tweed had already begun his groundbreaking work on the issue of the influence of esotericism on modern Buddhism with his volume The American Encounter with Buddhism (1992). This volume was followed by the pioneering work of Jorn Borup,1 along with further comprehensive research by Thomas Tweed (published in the same year, 2005, as my own original article),2 and the work of Wakoh Shannon Hickey (2008).3 While the overall number of publications on the topic remains relatively small, it has attracted the attention of American and European scholars and been cited time and again since the 1990s.

My intentions in writing this article were threefold. Having been inspired by Tweed’s American Encounter with Buddhism, my main aim lay in elucidating the relationship between Swedenborgianism and Japanese Buddhism on the basis of Japanese source materials. The second aim of this article was to familiarize the readership with a lecture by Suzuki Daisetsu that was included in the Annual Report of the Swedenborg Society (arss), which was kindly pointed out to me by a librarian (Nancy Dawson) during a visit to the Society’s headquarters in London in 2003. In this lecture, rather than discuss the reception of Swedenborg in Japan, Daisetsu talked frankly about his own admiration for Swedenborg. The significance of the lecture thus lies in showing Daisetsu’s deep commitment to Swedenborgianism. My third aim was to discuss the way in which Swedenborg’s thought had been absorbed into Daisetsu’s own philosophy. Regrettably, the first version of this paper failed to address this last point sufficiently.

Before taking up the main subject, I will briefly outline the historical facts concerning Suzuki’s involvement with two kinds of Western esotericism, namely Theosophy and Swedenborgianism.

It should be pointed out at the outset that there is actually only a little research about the theosophical activities of Suzuki Daisetsu and his wife Beatrice that is grounded in a thorough reading of the primary sources. Among the small body of essential works in existence, an important contribution is the article by Adele Algeo (2005) based on a survey of materials in the possession of the Theosophical Society. According to Algeo, Suzuki Daisetsu and his wife engaged with a Theosophical lodge on two occasions. The first instance was with the International Lodge, founded by the Irish poet James Cousins in Tokyo in March 1920. Beatrice and Daisetsu had not become Theosophists during their time in the United States, but did so when they joined the International Lodge. According to the chronology included in the “Fundamental Materials in Suzuki Daisetsu Research” (Kirita 2005), Daisetsu and his wife took part in seven meetings of the lodge between 13 March and 26 June 1920.4 The secretary of the lodge at the time of its founding was Kon Buhei, but he resigned shortly thereafter. He was succeeded by Jack Brinkely, and Suzuki Daisetsu took on the position of president. However, Suzuki’s involvement with the lodge ended when he left Tokyo in April 1921 to become a lecturer at Ōtani University.

Suzuki’s second involvement with Theosophy came on 8 May 1924. On that day, the first meeting of the newly established Mahayana Lodge was held at the Suzuki’s Kyoto residence. Of the eight founding members, Emma Erskine Hahn, Beatrice Suzuki, Suzuki Daisetsu, as well as Ryukoku University lecturers Jisoji Tetsugai and Utsuki Nishū were already members of the Theosophical Society. The latter two were both priests of the Nishihonganji sect and had joined the Theosophical Society while in Los Angeles on mission duty. According to the chronology provided in Kirita 2005,5 the lodge met at least sixteen times and is believed to have existed until 6 October 1929. Beatrice was an enthusiastic supporter of Krishnamurti’s Order of the Star in the East, which was a kind of messianic movement that existed within the Theosophical Society. Its central figure, Krishnamurti, personally disbanded the organization in August 1929 and it is likely that the activities of the Mahayana Lodge also ended following this event.

Apart from Utsuki and Jisoji, the Mahayana Lodge was joined by other university lecturers as well, among them Uno Enkū, Akamatsu Chijō, Hatani Ryōtai, and Yamabe Shūgaku. According to the volume on Suzuki Daisetsu edited by Hisamatsu Shin’ichi et al. (1971, 470), the activities of the Mahayana Lodge were not dedicated to the study of Theosophical texts; the lodge rather provided a venue for members to present their research of religious studies.6 It appears as if there were only a handful of members, including Beatrice, who were enthusiastic about “esoteric” activities, like those of the Order of the Star of the East.7

While the Theosophical Lodge was established at his own residence, Suzuki Daisetsu did not seem to be enthusiastic about its administration. (Since Beatrice Suzuki acted as secretary and Utsuki Nishū had the position of treasurer, it seems as if these two were in charge of the lodge’s actual affairs.) Also, while Suzuki Daisetsu hardly ever discussed Theosophy in his publications, critical remarks about it can be found in his correspondences. As Tweed writes, ”Suzuki seems more negative about Theosophy by the end of the 1920s.”8

On the other hand, compared to Theosophy, there are many works by Daisetsu dealing with Swedenborgianism. He wrote the following five monographs about Swedenborg.

1. Tenkai to jigoku 天界と地獄 (Heaven and hell). Tokyo: Yūrakusha, 1910.

2. Suedenborugu スエデンボルグ, Tokyo: Heigo Shuppansha, 1913.

3. Shin Erusaremu to sono kyōsetsu 新エルサレムとその教説 (The new Jerusalem and its heavenly doctrine). Tokyo: Heigo Shuppansha, 1914.

4. Shinchi to shin’ai 神知と神愛 (Divine wisdom and divine love). Tokyo: Heigo Shuppansha, 1914.

5. Shinryo ron 神慮論 (Divine providence). Tokyo: Heigo Shuppansha, 1915.

Apart from the biographical Suedenborugu, the remaining four volumes are all translations. The translation and publication costs of these volumes were covered by the Swedenborg Society as part of their activities to disseminate Swedenborg’s texts. Daisetsu himself had also been a member of the Japanese Swedenborg Society (Nihon Suedenborugu Kyōkai) for a short while in the 1910s (the early Taishō period). In addition to the above, there are further fragmentary writings on Swedenborg by Daisetsu, the two most comprehensive of these being:

6. “Suedenborugu” スエデンボルグ, in Sekai seiten gaisan 世界聖典外纂 (Sekai Seiten Zenshū Kankōkai 1923, 323–29.

7. “Suedenborugu (sono tenkai to tarikikan)” スエデンボルグ(その天界と他力観), in Chūgai nippō, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 February 1914. Later included in the collection Zuihitsu zen 随筆 禅 (Suzuki 1926).

Furthermore, a speech given in English by Daisetsu in 1912 at the Swedenborg Society in London is included in the volume listed below and has been consulted in the writing of this article:

8. Annual Report of the Swedenborg Society 1912, Swedenborg Society, 1912.

Just in terms of the number of publications, in 1915 Daisetsu had more works on Swedenborg than monographs on Zen. Daisetsu’s thought was rich in nuance and it is impossible to say anything decisive based on this limited data, but it is impossible to deny that he was sympathetic towards Swedenborg’s philosophy. Daisetsu was not alone, however, in his appreciation of Swedenborg. In keeping with my three aims outlined in the beginning, this article will first discuss the encounter of other Japanese Buddhists with Swedenborg. Next, I will touch on Daisetsu’s appraisal of Swedenborg. Lastly, I will examine the influence Swedenborgianism had on Daisetsu.

Swedenborg in the Mid-1880s to Mid-1890s

The first Japanese to come into touch with Swedenborgianism were figures such as Mori Arinori sent by the Satsuma domain to study abroad at the end of the Edo period. Through the introduction of Laurence Oliphant, they joined the spiritual colony, New Life, which was presided over by Thomas Lake Harris, a Swedenborgian medium. Among the Japanese who had been at New Life, Arai Ōsui was the only one who continued his religious activities after returning to Japan in 1899. While Arai’s thought is recently receiving a gradual and deserved reevaluation, due to his reclusive lifestyle, his Swedenborgian philosophy was at the time only transmitted to a small circle of persons, including Tanaka Shōzō.9

On the other hand, Swedenborg became known among Buddhists during the decade between the mid-1880s and mid-1890s. This was due to the exchange that existed between America’s first Buddhist magazine, Buddhist Ray, and contemporary progressive Buddhist magazines in Japan, such as Hanseikai zasshi 反省会雑誌 and Kaigai Bukkyō jijō 海外仏教事情.

America’s first Buddhist magazine, Buddhist Ray (1888–1894), was published in Santa Cruz, California, by Philangi Dasa. This was the Tibetan name used by Herman Carl Vetterling (1849–1931), an American of Swedish descent. Vetterling was born in Sweden, immigrated to the United States, studied at Urbana University’s Theological School, graduated in 1876, and was ordained a minister in the Swedenborgian New Church the following year. He resigned, however, in 1881, and became critical of the New Church. He studied homeopathy at Hahnemann College in Philadelphia and was active for a while as a doctor. He also joined the Theosophical Society for a time, and between 1884 and the following year he contributed several articles about Swedenborg to the Theosophist, the magazine of the Theosophical Society. However, he disassociated himself from the society in 1887 and subsequently became very critical of it. After publishing Swedenborg the Buddhist: or the Higher Swedenborgianism, Its Secrets, and Thibetan Origin in Los Angeles in 1887, Vetterling moved to Santa Cruz and began to publish the magazine Buddhist Ray.10 In his later years, Vetterling became a spiritual seeker who studied Jacob Bochme and moved in between various forms of spiritual thought, becoming an individualist who mistrusted sects and religious organizations. Vetterling can be described as a self-made Buddhist, one who had created himself through the study of Buddhist texts. His main work, Swedenborg the Buddhist, takes the form of a dream vision in which Swedenborg converses with a Buddhist monk. The Buddhism presented in this work combines information about Buddhism found in English translations of Buddhist texts available at the time along with Theosophy. Swedenborg’s writings are often discussed alongside occult and Orientalist works, and the work can be read as a comparative treatment of Eastern and Western esotericism. Vetterling was not merely motivated by academic interest. He engaged in a comparison of the religious thought of the East and West in order to decipher Swedenborg’s “lost sacred word” (the universal truth common to all mankind that existed in antiquity and held to still in Central Asia). By doing so, he sought to prove that Swedenborgianism and Buddhism are no less than the same.

The year that Vetterling became active as a Buddhist coincided with the inauguration of a progressive Buddhist reform movement in Japan. In 1886, students of the Nishi Honganji-operated school Futsū kyōkō 普通教校 started the Hanseikai 反省会 movement, advocating abstinence from alcohol and the strengthening of moral discipline among Buddhists. Publication of the movement’s magazine Hanseikai zasshi began in August 1887. By coincidence, it was during the same period that Matsuyama Matsutarō, an English teacher at the Futsū kyōkō, began to correspond with several foreign “Buddhists” (most of them Theosophists), such as Vetterling and William Q. Judge, head of the Theosophical Society in America. Matsuyama contributed translations of letters he had received from abroad as well as articles about Theosophy to the inaugural issue of Hanseikai zasshi. In the second issue, which appeared in January 1888 and coincided with the publication of the first issue of Buddhist Ray, the column “News from the Western Correspondence Society” (Ōbei tsūshin kaihō 欧米通信会報) was established. In the course of this year, “News from Europe and America” was expanded and became its own magazine, Kaigai Bukkyō jijō 海外仏教事情 (published from 1888 to 1893). Translations were not only featured in Hanseikai zasshi or Kaigai Bukkyō jijō, but also in the Jōdo sect publication Jōdo kyōhō 浄土教 報, the supra-denominational magazine Bukkyō 仏教, the Tendai magazine Shimei yoka 四明余霞, and the Shingon magazine Dentō 伝燈. Vetterling’s letters and articles from Buddhist Ray were also published first in Kaigai Bukkyō jijō, and since 1890, in Shimei yoka. This was because Ōhara Kakichi, the central figure behind Shimei yoka, had been in close correspondence with Vetterling. In 1893, the Japanese translation of Swedenborg the Buddhist was published under the title Zuiha Bukkyōgaku 瑞派仏教学 (Hakubundō, 1893) with an exclusive foreword by Vetterling for the Japanese edition, as well as a foreword by Nakanishi Ushirō, a famous Buddhist reformer at the time. Ōhara Kakichi was responsible for the translations.11

A number of articles were published in Buddhist magazines from the mid-1880s to the mid-1890s which mention Swedenborg’s name in their titles. The earliest of these was the article “Suedenborii shi no ritsugi,” which appeared in issue 5 of Hanseikai zasshi in April 1888 (Meiji 21). This was a translation of the article “Dicta of Swedenborg” published in the first issue of Buddhist Ray. The article’s content is summed up by the following quote:

That in archaic times there existed throughout the world a system of Spiritual Truth handed down from pre-archaic times. That this system of truth, which may be called Ancient Word, exists still, and is in the hands of Central-Asian Buddhists. (The Buddhist Ray 1 [Jan. 1888]: 1)

Furthermore, in Hanseikai zasshi’s ninth issue from August 1888, the article “Bussha Suedenborii” (The Buddhist Swedenborg) appeared, and the nineteenth issue from June 1889 featured the article “Bussha toshite no Suiidenboogu shi” (Swedenborg as a Buddhist). Both of these were likely based on articles from Buddhist Ray.

Of particular interest is the article on “‘Sueedenboorugu’ no zenron” (Swedenborg on Zen) which was published in the monthly Rinzai magazine Katsuron’s third issue from May 1890. Katsuron 活論 was edited and published by Hirai Kinza, who had been responsible for inviting Colonel Olcott to Japan in 1889. The anonymous author of the introduction to this article (probably penned by either Hirai or the article’s translator, Araki Toshio) states that, “Swedenborg emerged as a famous religious philosopher in the previous century and propagated Buddhism. Now, since Buddhism is prospering, people frequently discuss Swedenborg” (Katsuron 3 [25 May 1890]: 21–22). This shows that Swedenborg was already known as a Buddhist in Japan. The original author of this article is given in Japanese as “Osukeauitchi” (the original spelling is unknown; maybe “Oskarewich”), and based on my discussion below, it is likely that this was another name used by Vetterling.

The article takes the form of a dialog between a Christian belonging to the New Church and a Buddhist. The “Buddhist,” who stands in for the article’s author, argues that the New Church’s interpretation of Swedenborg is wrong and that true Swedenborgianism is identical with Buddhism. According to this argument, Swedenborg entered “contemplative samadhi” under the guidance of a Tibetan Buddhist, and it is claimed that the method he used was to block out his senses.12 It is no coincidence that among the articles dealing with Swedenborg and Buddhism, it was this article concerning religious experience that was already available in translation in 1890. This fact should probably be seen as an expression of the interest that existed in the notion of “experience” among progressive-reformist Japanese Buddhists.13 As will be discussed later, the key-words “Swedenborg” and “Theosophy” were discussed in connection with “experience,” at least by Ishidō Emyō and Taoka Reiun.

Hirai went to America in 1892 in order to propagate Buddhism and received acclaim for a speech he gave at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, wherein he criticized the unequal treaties.14 Apart from this, Hirai gave speeches in various places about the topic of synthetic religion (sōgō shūkyō 総合宗教). For instance, in a speech entitled “Mahayana and Hinayana” given in May 1892 in Los Angeles, Hirai argued that the object of veneration in all religions is “truth” (shinri 真理), and declared that all religions are the same. To illustrate this point, he quoted a Japanese waka that reads, “While at the base of the mountain the paths leading upward are many, is it not the same moon in the sky that all see in the end?” (wakenoboru fumoto no michi wa ōkeredo, onaji takane no tsuki o miru kana; Los Angeles Herald, 9 May 1892).

In 1893, Hirai published the article “Religious Thought in Japan” in English in the magazine Arena (Hirai 1893). To begin with, he stresses that the Japanese are not idol worshippers (that is, savages), but seekers of the truth. The Shinto purification rite, too, is nothing other than a spiritual exercise (gyō 行) to cleanse the mind (kokoro 心) and bring it into harmony with truth. He explains that the term kami, used for the Shinto deities, comes from the word kangami, to think about the truth. In Buddhism, buddha nature (busshō 仏性) includes the truth, the understanding of the truth, and the potentiality to know the truth. Since humans have consciousness and are made out of inanimate matter, inanimate matter also has consciousness. Therefore, all things, including inanimate matter, have buddha nature. Buddhism means the understanding of truth, and if the Christian god is also the essence of universal reason, then there is no difference between the two religions. On the other hand, the object of faith cannot be grasped logically and is unknowable. In other words, all religions share an a priori faith in an unknown entity, and the various truths pertaining to the existence of this entity constitute the edifice of all religions. Therefore, by synthesizing the various religions, it is possible to obtain a more complete truth. In the case of Japan, there were Prince Shōtoku (who not only promoted Buddhism but also Shinto), Kōbō Daishi Kūkai (who blended Buddhism and Shinto), and Ishida Baigan (who founded Shingaku 心学 in the early modern period combining Shinto, Confucianism, and Buddhism). This kind of synthetic religion, reflecting the full spectrum of Japan’s original wisdom, Hirai also refers to as Japanism. Hirai concludes his article by expressing hope that through the World’s Congress of Religions, which will be held shortly, Syntheticism and Japanism will be put into practice. Hirai thus employed a strategy in America of invoking the global ideal of Syntheticism while at the same time stressing the superiority of Japanism and covertly criticizing Christianity. Putting the issue of Japanism aside, at least in regard to Syntheticism, Hirai shared common ground with liberal religious thinkers such as Jenkin Lloyd Jones.15 After returning to Japan, he discussed his religious faith in the following way in a lecture he gave in 1899: “Whether ‘Mohammed’ or ‘Swedenborg’, Buddhism or Christianity, my belief is that despite these divisions, they [religions] are all fundamentally one” (Hirai 1899: 16). That he lists him alongside other religious founders shows in what high esteem Hirai held Swedenborg.

There are hardly any writings by Hirai himself about Swedenborg, but there exists a discussion of Swedenborg that was influenced by Hirai. This is Ishidō Emyō’s article “Suedenbori to Kōbō Daishi” (Swedenborg and Kōbō Daishi), published in the Shingon sect magazine Dentō from issue 98 (28 July 1895) to issue 103. Ishidō was a priest in the Shingon sect who had studied at the Unitarian Senshin Gakuin, later becoming chief editor at Dentō and finally acting as superintendent priest (kanchō) of the Omuro branch of the Shingon sect.

Ishidō’s understanding of Swedenborg basically followed that of Vetterling. He held that the essence of Swedenborg’s philosophy was Buddhism, and that because it was the product of Asian spirituality, if read by someone not versed in Buddhism, it would be as if someone were to enter a treasure mountain and return empty-handed (Dentō 101 [13 Sept. 1895): 16). From this position, Ishidō compared Buddhism and Swedenborg’s philosophy by dividing the comparison into four categories: theories concerning the cosmos, the identical essence of sentient beings and buddhas, the stages of the soul, and life. I will touch on the first two categories here.

In regard to cosmology, Ishidō points out that Kōbō Daishi (Kūkai) saw matter and mind (busshin 物心) as originally neither arising nor ceasing and thus constant. In this regard, Ishidō saw a congruence with Swedenborg. However, according to Ishidō, while Swedenborg does talk about the existence of an invisible heavenly god, this god does not have human guise. Rather, god stands in for the truth, “hiding the rational ideal,” in Ishidō’s words. Next, he proceeded to explain the correspondence that exists between “part” and “whole” in Swedenborg’s thought. Parts possess the same quality as the whole. A heart, for example, is made of infinitely small hearts. All things in the universe contain the entirety of creation. Where Swedenborg says that “not only are all things your possession, but you are all things,” Kōbō Daishi states that, “every particle and every dharma are the body of the dharma realm” (ichijin ippō mina kore hokkaitai 一塵一法皆是法 界体). Drawing on Swedenborg’s statement that “the human body is strictly universal,” Ishidō held that this was identical to Kōbō Daishi’s “Principle of Attaining Buddhahood in the Present Body” (Sokushin jōbutsu gi 即身成仏 義). Swedenborg had stated that not only men and women, old and young, but also animals and plants possess divine nature, and Ishidō likened this to tathāgatagarbha thought in Buddhism, seeing it as corresponding to Kōbō Daishi’s statement that, “everything that has form and possesses consciousness also has buddha nature” (ugyō ushiki ha kanarazu busshō o gusu 有形有 識必具仏性).

The idea that sentient beings and buddhas are of the same essence (shōbutsu funi 生仏不二) is an extension of this inner divine nature and constitutes a theory of salvation. According to Ishidō, Kōbō Daishi’s idea of the shared essence of sentient beings and buddhas is similar to Swedenborg’s theory of the intimate connection between humans and god. Drawing on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s discourse on compensation, Ishidō further erased the distinction between self and other, and argued that by reaching a stance of treating all with the same benevolence (isshi dōjin 一視同仁) and accepting the knowledge and virtues of others as one’s own, it becomes possible even for ordinary people to reach the realm of saints and buddhas. However, ordinary people and buddhas are not initially the same. Distinctive characteristics obviously exist in the beginning. Achieving this state of sameness requires a struggle employing earnest intention (hosshin 発心) and faith-based effort (shinju 信修). This holds true whether it be Yangming learning (which emphasizes inner spirituality in the form of good knowledge and good capacity), Swedenborg, or Kōbō Daishi.

Having said that, Ishidō writes that one should not search for guidelines to salvation in an external church or system, but rather within one’s own mind. He holds that in this regard, Kōbō Daishi’s statement that, “the Buddha Dharma is nowhere remote. It is in our own mind; it is close to us. Suchness is nowhere external. If not within our body, where can it be found?” and Swedenborg’s statements, “Why do people focus so much on the external? Why do people propagate the Bible over and over again?… Is the lord not within us?” and “it is imprinted onto all humans to look within oneself to perceive the divine entity” all correspond to each other (Dentō 101 [1895]: 10).

Hirai’s influence on Ishidō can be seen in his treatment of “truth” as the foundation for comparison. Like Hirai, Ishidō also cites the poem, “While at the base of the mountain the paths leading upward are many, is it not the same moon in the sky that all see in the end?” and comments: “There is only one cosmic truth; while people of then and now, east and west differ, the ultimate truth cannot but be one, just as they look at the same bright disc of the moon. There exist various methods, however, to reach the source of this truth” (Dentō 100: 12). While it is also possible to see the influence of Unitarianism in these ideas, the influence of Hirai Kinza’s notion of synthetic religion can be felt strongly in the use of the moon as a metaphor for truth. Further, drawing on Emerson, Ishidō stresses the importance of intuition for salvation. Following Swedenborg, intuition can be further divided into the superficial and the profound. Ishidō argues that profound (spiritual) intuition corresponds to what Kōbō Daishi propagated, saying that through this intuition it is possible to see the entire cosmos in a single drop of water (Dentō 100: 13).

Among Ishidō’s contemporaries, there were young intellectuals who made similar arguments concerning the understanding of truth trough intuition. Among intellectuals who were discussing mysticism in the second half of the 1880s to the mid-1890s, Taoka Reiun (1871–1912) is of particular importance. Taoka was known as a literary critic and as an author of pioneering writings about mysticism. He was not only familiar with classical mysticism (German mysticism, Indian Yoga philosophy, Neo-Platonism) and Schopenhauer’s philosophy, but also had detailed knowledge of contemporary European intellectual trends such as Theosophy, Mesmerism, and Vegetarianism.16 In the essay “Beauty and the Good” (Bi to zen 美と善), Taoka wrote that the experience of forgetting the self is “the state where every being is perfect and spiritual enlightenment is without impediment.” Since the existence of “buddhas” or “god” can also be traced back to this subjective psychological state, “Christ and paradise are already inside of you, and Shakyamuni has achieved buddhahood in his very body” (Nishida 1973, 234; first published in Shūkyō 35 [5 September 1895]). He also wrote that the climate of skepticism created by experimental science is overpowering, and that Japan has turned into a state of “no faith and no religion.” However, without faith people cannot live, he writes. To overcome skepticism, the only option is to gain mystical experiences through Zen and to realize that “one should not look for god outside oneself nor should one look for Buddha outside one’s own nature.”17 The emergence of this issue in Japan came with the introduction of Western civilization, but, Taoka prophesized, Western and Eastern civilization were headed towards reconciliation in the twentieth century: “Material civilization was imported to the Orient from the West, but spiritual civilization has not been injected from the Orient to the West. Ah! Will we see in the coming twentieth century the mutual mixing of Eastern and Western civilization and the emergence of a grand new civilization whose light will reach all corners of the world?”18

It is a fact that during the period from the mid-1880s to mid-1890s, Vetterling’s Buddhist Swedenborgianism exerted a great influence on Buddhism. Whether in the case of those who saw Swedenborg as a Buddhist, as Vetterling did (as did Shaku Sōen who will be discussed below), or in the case of those who, like Ishidō Emyō, distinguished between Swedenborg’s philosophy and Buddhism but still compared the two, Swedenborg’s philosophy was widely regarded as very similar to Buddhism. This is not the result of a one-sided imposition of American occultism onto Japan, however, nor of a strategic occidentalist usage, as James Ketelaar (1993) argues. That Ishidō’s comparative framework was that of an amalgamated religion like Heart Learning (Shingaku) and its modernized version in the form of Hirai Kinza’s synthetic religion is the result of active attempts on the Japanese side to absorb this thought. It was also nothing unusual for a young Buddhist such as Daisetsu in the mid-1880s to mid-1890s to be interested in Swedenborg.

Furthermore, discussion of Swedenborg led to a focus on psychological states that went beyond reason and the ordinary senses in the form of samadhi, or intuition. At the same time, Taoka Reiun was already proposing a theory of mystical experience based on religion and a decontextualized theory of Zen experience that was inseparably linked to the former. Considering that Taoka had been a non-regular student at Tokyo Imperial University like Daisetsu, and that he had been a prolific writer in the first half of the 1890s, it can be assumed that Daisetsu knew of Taoka.19 Further, as I argue below, judging by the similarity in content of Daisetsu’s and Ishidō’s writings, there is the possibility that Daisetsu was also familiar with these ideas. That is, the topics that Daisetsu would continue to reflect on—the meaning of the universality of religious truth, the congruence or opposition of Western and Eastern mystical thought, Swedenborg’s philosophy—all had been raised already by other young intellectuals during the period of the mid- 1880s to mid-1890s. In other words, ideas that later came to be criticized as characteristic of Suzuki Daisetsu’s thought (an exclusive emphasis on experience, comparisons of stereotyped Western and Eastern civilization) were already constitutive elements of the Buddhist world of that period without Daisetsu’s help.

Daisetsu and Swedenborg

It is believed that there were three instances in the first half of Suzuki Daisetsu’s life in which he came into contact with Swedenborg‘s philosophy.

It is possible that Daisetsu learned about Swedenborg through contemporary Buddhist magazines before embarking for America. We know at least that his master Shaku Sōen was familiar with the volume Zuiha Bukkyōgaku. In an “Epigraph” attached to Daisetsu’s partial translation of Paul Carus’ The Gospel of Buddha, published in the eighty-sixth issue of Shimei yoka, he writes:

Even though there are a great number of Western scholars who translate Indian Sanskrit texts or write about Chinese Buddhism, works that have been translated and distributed in our country are limited to those by Mr. Max Müller, A Buddhist Catechism by Mr. Olcott, The Light of Asia by Mr. Arnold, and Buddhist studies (Bukkyōgaku)20 by Mr. Swedenborg.

(Shimei yoka 86 [24 February 1895]: 12)

The fact that Zuiha Bukkyōgaku is mentioned here alongside Müller, Arnold, and Olcott can also be taken to show that Shaku Sōen regarded it as a work on Buddhism, despite knowing its contents.

Furthermore, Daisetsu published a short piece entitled “The Zen of Emerson” in issue 14 of the magazine Zenshū on 1 March 1896. He does not mention Ishidō’s name in it, but its content resembles that of Ishidō’s articles. The way that Daisetsu develops an argument about the unity of all religions based on Zen through a poem that uses the moon as a metaphor is another example of this conflation, as witnessed in the following quote.

Since the so-called paths leading up from the base of the mountain are manifold, somebody who is in one place will look at the reflection of the moon from that position and take that as the truth, while somebody in another place will look at the reflection of the moon from another perspective and take that as the truth. If someone reaches the very top beyond which one can proceed no further, he is already removed from the path of delusion, does not discriminate between this and that, and therefore there is no more quarrel. Therefore, even Confucianism ultimately becomes Zen, and Daoism and Christianity, too, inevitably turn into Zen. (sdz 30: 42)

Or, as shown by the next quote, the emphasis on experience over scriptures reminds one of Ishidō and Taoka:

Concerning Emerson, Daisetsu wrote that, “[Emerson] does not take god to actually exist outside the mind or to be a human-like creator. Correspondingly, he does not employ literal meanings in his understanding of the teachings of Christ, turning the idolatrous Christianity of the past into an intuitive and self-reflective religion. He does not seek god through other languages and scripts, [instead] arguing that if one moves straight ahead and removes the manifold emotions, the spirit will be enriched, and the mind will enter a realm of highest joy (gokuraku). (sdz 30: 49)

As a matter of fact, this interesting philosophy consisting of the idea of the unity of all religions centered on “Zen,” the rejection of a personalized creator god, and an intuitive understanding not dependent on texts had already been formulated at this point, and Ishidō had already used these notions in his own writings. The similarity of Ishidō’s and Daisetsu’s theories of religion does not only derive from Swedenborg’s influence on Emerson, but possibly also from Daisetsu having read Ishidō’s writings (or those of Vetterling). However, it is interesting to note that what Ishidō called “truth” (shinri 真理), Daisetsu called “enlightenment” (satori 悟り). Having said that, all this amounts only to circumstantial evidence, and, as far as can be ascertained, it was only after making his way to America that Daisetsu became interested in Swedenborg. This was probably due to the influence of A. J. Edmunds, whom he met while living there. It has been argued that Daisetsu learned about Swedenborg from Edmunds, who was employed for a short period of time at Open Court in July 1903. This can be ascertained through both Edmunds’ own diary and Daisetsu’s own words.21

Albert Joseph Edmunds (1857–1941) has already been mostly forgotten, but he was a “Buddhist” who in many points resembled Vetterling. He was born in 1857 into a family of Quakers in England and immigrated to America in 1885. He moved to Philadelphia, a Quaker stronghold, becoming a cataloger for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and spent the rest of his life there. A scholar of Buddhism, Edmunds co-authored, together with Anesaki Masaharu, a work comparing Buddhism and Christianity (Edmunds 1905), while spending a quiet life as librarian for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Besides research on Buddhism, he also tried his hand at research on early Christianity and penned an anthology of poems (Leonard 1908, 230). Despite being a Quaker, he was a Swedenborgian and vegetarian. It is unclear, though, how Edmunds and Vetterling stood towards each other, and it should be pointed out that this combination of Buddhism and Swedenborgianism was not exceptional.22

The third instance of contact with Swedenborg came in 1909, when Daisetsu visited London on his way back to Japan from America. On that occasion, on commission from the Swedenborg Society, he fashioned a translation of Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell for the purpose of proselytization in Japan. In the summer of 1912 he visited London at the invitation of the Swedenborg Society, translating a further three of Swedenborg’s works. After this, the Japan Swedenborg Society was launched with his participation, 23 and he became involved in publishing these works. However, the activities of the Japan Swedenborg Society seem to have ended in 1915 with the publication of Divine Providence (Shinryoron 神慮論), the conclusion of its publishing contract with the Swedenborg Society in Britain. At the time that Daisetsu began work on his translation, Swedenborg was no longer wrongly regarded as a Buddhist, but Buddhists had also ceased to read and discuss his philosophy. The target audience Daisetsu sought to familiarize with Swedenborg’s philosophy, then, were not Buddhist priests and believers as had been the case when Hirai and Ishidō were writing in the mid- 1880s to mid-1890s, nor was it the young intellectuals (as had been the case with Taoka), but rather the wider general public.

Daisetsu and the Swedenborgians

Apart from the translations, Daisetsu did not pen many other writings about Swedenborg, although he held Swedenborg fundamentally in high regard. Daisetsu’s collected thoughts on Swedenborg are expressed in a lecture he gave at the Swedenborg Society, which is included in the Society’s 1912 Annual Report. The lecture is divided into three parts, the first dealing with the allure of Swedenborg, the second with the spread of his philosophy in Japan, and the last with Japan’s spiritual poverty as well as Daisetsu’s expectations for its recovery via Swedenborg’s thought. Spread across these three parts is an analysis of Japan’s spiritual culture and a discussion of the transmission of Swedenborg’s philosophy. With regard to its content, it can be called the antetype of later discussions of Swedenborg, but its unadulterated praise and expressions are rarely seen in Japanese writings.24

First, Daisetsu praises Swedenborg’s writing style in the following terms:

Even his peculiar repetitious style of writing is so characteristic of him. It is so much like a grey-haired, long-bearded, kind-looking, patriarchal wise man teaching his children, who gather about him and wonderingly listen to what he says about the wonders of an unknown world. He has naturally to repeat over again and again lest his ignorant audience should miss his heavenly message—he has so much to say, and all so new to his listeners. In his style I perceive the kindly heart of the author, and in the matter of his writing I perceive his intellectual penetration and deep spiritual insight into the secrets of life. (aars, 31)

Next, he makes an interesting argument regarding the need for Swedenborg’s philosophy in Japan.

A senior friend of mine who is the chief prosecuting attorney in the supreme Court of Japan is a religiously minded person—and he was one of the first who bought the Japanese copies of Heaven and Hell. When I met him later, he was enthusiastic about the book, and highly recommended it to the Japanese public, which is lately, I am sorry to say, losing faith in the world to come, or rather in a world which exists along with this one. He ascribed one of the reasons why crime seems to be growing rampant lately in Japan, to the lack of the knowledge of a coming life. (aars, 32)

Here, Daisetsu introduces the concept of the loss of belief in the afterlife or other world (that is, Japan’s modernization) and the idea that enlightenment thought has invited moral decay. These notions also reflect his own opinions. His conclusion is a rather vicious critique of Japan:

There was a time once when everything spiritual was hopelessly trodden under foot and most contemptuously looked upon as having nothing to do with material welfare, political reformation, industrial prosperity, or, in short, with the development of the national life. This was when materialism was at its height, which came soon after the political revolution about forty years ago. This revolution or reformation destroyed everything historical, priding itself in this very destruction. Old Japan was to go, and New Japan to be welcomed at any cost. But the fact is that we cannot live without history. We are all historical. We grow out of the historical background. New Japan must be the continuous growth of Old Japan. And Old Japan was religious and spiritual, as you can see from the numerous temples, monasteries, and shrines still in existence. Swedenborg, too, must come and help New Japan to be placed once more upon the solid pedestal of spirituality. In concluding this, I wish to express my gratitude for your having made it possible for me to peruse Swedenborg with thoroughness, which has opened to me so many beautiful, noble things belonging to the spirit. My next task will be to purify my own will through this elevated understanding and thus to appreciate his wonderful message spiritually. (aars, 33–34)

By comparison, in Suedenborugu, the representative treatise on Swedenborg in Japanese, Daisetsu gave an overall very positive evaluation of Swedenborg despite some criticism, writing that, “despite the fact that not all that [Swedenborg] wrote can be believed, there are pearls among the rubble” (sdz 24: 11. From Suedenborugu).
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

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Part 2 of 2

In the same text, Daisetsu lists three advantages and three disadvantages of Swedenborg’s philosophy. The advantages are: (1) Swedenborg discusses his journey to heaven and hell sincerely and without boasting; (2) “in this world, beyond the five senses, there is something like the world of the spirits. When one enters a certain psychological state, it is as if one can access it like we do our own” (sdz 24: 7, 8); and (3) the idea that one should discard the self and leave things up to the divine nature resembles Buddhism. Conversely, the disadvantages are: (a) the text reads tediously and sounds like a grandfather berating a child; (b) since Swedenborg is too serious about the world beyond the senses, he comes across as a madman; (c) the descriptions are too concrete.

However, in his lecture in English Daisetsu defended point (b), making it unlikely that he really considered it a shortcoming. As (b) and (c) represent the flipside of advantage (1), he probably did not necessarily think of them as shortcomings. That is, while using the expression “pearls among the rubble,” he hardly dealt with the “rubble” part in a substantive manner. Ultimately, for Daisetsu the allure of Swedenborg and the seed of his bewilderment are probably encapsulated in advantages (1) and (2), that is, in the notion of the “existence of an other world.” I will deal with this issue in the next section and address here the problem of (3): individualism and morality.

First, as he had done in his English lecture, Daisetsu also harshly criticized the religious attitude of the Japanese in Suedenborugu: “Looking in particular at the current state of spiritual life in Japan, it seems that people are tired of the superficiality of our materialistic, industrial culture, but do not know where to turn. Both the government and the people feel the need for religion, yet it has not been adequately investigated how this need can be met” (sdz 24: 11). Judging from the arguments made in both the English lecture and in Japanese, Daisetsu’s expectations for Swedenborg’s philosophy were undergirded by a strong sense of crisis in regard to the moral decay of the Japanese people and their spiritual poverty.

In regard to the social critique that is hidden within these arguments, the scholar Andrew Bernstein has proposed an interesting analysis from the perspective of the history of ideas of intellectuals from the Meiji to the Taishō period (Bernstein 1996, xix). The development of capitalism after the Russo-Japanese War, the “age of suffering” (kunō 苦悩) symbolized by Fujimura Misao’s suicide, the imposition from above of a national morality (kokumin dōtoku 国民道徳) as represented by the Boshin Rescript (Boshin shōsho 戊申詔書) of 1908 conceived to rectify the situation, and the emergence of an introverted individualism to escape the confines of this national morality—all of this, Bernstein points out, was the social and intellectual climate against which Daisetsu indicated two guidelines in Suedenborugu. The first guideline was the need to introduce a variety of religions to meet the needs of different people, and thus create a free market of religions to still the religious thirst of the people, instead of edifying the people through a standardized national religion or imposed morality. The second guideline was provided by Swedenborg’s life and person itself as depicted in the book. In Suedenborugu, Daisetsu describes the first half of Swedeborg’s life as dedicated to scientific research, and the second half of his life as committed to research into the spiritual world. Based on this depiction, he praised Swedenborg’s combination of spiritual research and social action. According to Bernstein’s reading, Daisetsu saw Swedenborg’s life in direct relation to the first half of the Meiji period, which was characterized by Japan’s efforts to build a rich country and strong army (fukoku kōhei 富国強兵), and the period of inner absorption stretching from the second half of the Meiji period into the Taishō period. Bernstein sees Daisetsu as understanding Swedenborg as combining everyday and inner life as a lesson for those who have given up their social duties as a result of an inner orientation. However, in his 1924 essay “Swedenborg’s View of Heaven and Other-Power” (Suzuki 1926), this social argument has disappeared in favor of an ahistorical, religious argument about the relationship between free will and universal salvation. The reason is that between 1913 and 1927, Daisetsu himself was not concerned with social issues. Regarding this judgment, Bernstein bases his interpretation on that of Robert Sharf (1993, 1994, 1995), who sees a transition from a liberal Daisetsu to a conservative Daisetsu. In his work, Bernstein contrasts the Swedenborgian Daisetsu with the introverted Buddhist Daisetsu, being somewhat critical towards the latter.

I find nothing to take issue with in the first half of Bernstein’s argument. The proposal of a free market of religions is, as I will discuss further below, also consistently expressed in Daisetsu’s sympathetic statements about new religions. Further, precisely because spiritual thought was popular during the Taishō period, it is important to point out that Daisetsu depicted Swedenborg as possessing a realistic, socially balanced personality. As Daisetsu had also argued in his English lecture, however, the issue of social morality rests ultimately on the fact that the other world has lost its reality. The issues of the existence or non-existence of a transcendental realm and morality are interrelated. At the core of Daisetsu’s view of Swedenborg lies the issue of the existence of the other world.

From Religion to Superstition

As I argued in the previous section, the importance of Swedenborg’s writings for Daisetsu lay in the fact that they provided a concrete and realistic view of the other world. But this concreteness was difficult to accept for Meiji Buddhists. Inoue Enryō, who sought to revive Buddhism, had argued that Buddhism represents a truth in accord with reason and modern science. The reformers of the New Buddhist Society (Shin Bukkyōto Dōshikai 新仏教徒同志会), who inherited Inoue’s spirit of rationalism, called for a healthy faith and the eradication of superstition in their program. As Daisetsu himself had close contacts to the New Buddhist Society, it is only natural that he would claim that “not all that [Swedenborg] wrote can be believed,” such as Swedenborg’s visits to the spiritual world. However, insofar as Daisetsu had a positive view of Swedenborg, it is possible to identify two levels here: the larger framework of Daisetsu’s understanding of religion and his concrete interpretation of Swedenborg. In his first book, Shinshūkyōron 新宗教論 (A treatise on new religion) from 1896, Daisetsu employed an essentially enlightened and rational interpretation of Buddhism. In this same work, Daisetsu dedicates a chapter to the topic of science and religion. In it, he argues that there are not two truths in the universe, and that science and religion are indistinguishable. However, since religion originates in mythology, it is steeped in superstition. It is the role of science to expunge these elements and restore truth. Therefore, science and religion complement each other and true religion is devoid of any shred of superstition. Furthermore, he dedicates a chapter to spirits (reikon 霊 魂), quoting Hume and pointing out that in modern psychology the soul has no real existence and that this view is shared by Buddhism. While one may question whether he was actually at ease with this understanding of the soul,25 seven years later in 1903 in a lecture entitled “The Question of the Existence of the Soul and the Fate of Faith” (Reikon no umu to shinkō no taifutai 霊魂の有無と信仰の退不退) published in Beikoku Bukkyō 米国仏 教 (American Buddhism) he argued that “Buddhism allows for a nominal self (kega 仮我), that is, it allows for the unification of consciousness or the continuation of personality, but it does not allow for the existence of a kind of individual, concrete soul that could be called true self (jitsuga 実我) or enduring self (shinga 神我). What people call soul (reikon 霊魂), or what Buddhism calls the ‘self,’ is a superstition that is a figment of one’s imagination” (sdz 32: 322).

It is held that Daisetsu was influenced by the Monist Paul Carus, president of Open Court Publishing where Daisetsu had been employed in America. Carus advocated a “religion of science” and was a representative figure of rationalist and moralist sympathizers with Buddhism. There are, however, some differences with regard to Carus’s influence on Daisetsu in the English and the Japanese literature. The Japanese literature does not necessarily depict Daisetsu as being infatuated with Carus. It is true that Daisetsu originally held Carus in high esteem, among other things translating his The Gospel of Buddha. After moving to America, however, he became critical of Carus’s rationalist view of religion. In a letter to Nishida Kitarō from 1898, he is extremely harsh. “He [Carus] argues about morality based on the experiences of scientists or whatever and seeks to explain the fate and happiness of people. But based on my own life, I believe that people seem to be moved by a kind of indeterminate force whose origin is unknown. I think that the idea that the power of reason can limit natural impulses is nothing more than an illusion.… Carus’s views on religion are not worth adopting, and his opinions are only persuasive because he has read more books than I have” (day and month unknown; sdz 36: 163).

The person who provided Daisetsu with a solution for the conflict between this “kind of indeterminate force” on the one side, and scientific or Buddhist rationalism on the other, was William James, Carus’s rival in debate. In another letter to Nishida Kitarō dated 23 September 1902, Daisetsu expressed his joy over James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience. He described it as having brought relief to a longstanding thirst and shown him an alternative to Carus’s theory on religion, writing that it represented “a refreshing change not experienced in years”:

Unlike other philosophers, he [James] does not take things to unrealistic extremes, citing many concrete facts in compiling his works. This professor appears to be rich in religious sentiment and unlike, Carus’s theory of religion, [his arguments] directly affect people. The views of the professor, who seeks to study religious experience as psychological facts as opposed to studying them under the moniker of delusion or superstition, coincide with my own. (sdz 36: 222)26

What can be discerned here is a switch from a binary system of superstition and true faith based on a one-dimensional view of truth to that of a multi-dimensional view of religion. From here on an awareness of the limits of moral judgments imposed from above by intellectuals, a standpoint of respecting different forms of faith, and a modest attitude towards human reality composed the basis of Daisetsu’s view of religion. As an indication of this, he still expressed the same opinions in writings twenty-five years later.

In the article “New Religions and Superstitious Evil Cults” (Shinkō shūkyō to meishin jakyō 新宗教と迷信邪教) written for the newspaper Nagoya shinbun in 1935, Daisetsu expressed sympathy for those groups accused of being evil, superstitious cults. He wrote that, “rather than calling them stupid and belittling them, is it not more appropriate to call them human and show sympathy?” (sdz 32: 118). “We are essentially bundles of contradictions, in one word, bundles of superstition. Therefore, I believe that these so-called new religions will always exist” (sdz 32: 120). Or, in “The World of Superstition” (Meishin no sekai 迷信の世界), he expressed a quite radically pluralist worldview, writing that, “terms such as scientific knowledge or religious knowledge are always trudged out by scholars. The validity of these types of knowledge seems to be limited to and effective only in the world of those who belong to the peculiar class of scholars. It is hard to believe, however, that they have any use at all for the deity ‘Konjin’” (sdz 19: 578).

When directly connecting the inspiration young Daisetsu felt on reading James to the views on religion of the middle-aged Daisetsu, it is easy to understand his attraction to and sympathy for Swedenborg. In his outline of his pluralist view of religion and the world, both a society in which Swedenborg talks to angels as well as a society of the everyday status quo, have equal existential value as human societies. As already mentioned, Daisetsu considered this kind of pluralism to be necessary for modern Japanese society. It is possible to posit this as the first level of his affirmation of Swedenborg.

The second level was the issue of how to work Swedenborg’s picture of the journey to heaven and the spiritual world into reality.

Since naïve ideas of the actual existence of the afterlife or the Pure Land had received a decisive blow following the Meiji Restoration, a variety of arguments had been put forth. The scholar Kashiwahara Yūsen lists four of them: (1) the rejection of an afterlife from a scientific perspective by modernist Buddhists starting with Inoue Enryō; (2) the agnostic position that took the afterlife as a transcendental reality which the Buddha had come to know and which lies outside the perception of ordinary people; (3) an expedient means (upāya) to give faith; and (4) an affirmation of the afterlife on the condition of seeing it as a purely subjective reality. Kiyozawa Manshi represents the fourth standpoint, arguing that, “hell and heaven are entirely limited to the subjective realm, and only acknowledged and posited as facts of faith” (Kashiwahara 1987, 218). This probably represented the finalized version of the modern view on the Pure Land, but considering the popularity of spiritualism in the Taishō period,27 it is unlikely that it was able to completely satisfy the yearnings of modern people.

On the other side, Bernhard Lang has described Swedenborg’s view of the afterlife as an “anthropocentric view of the afterlife,” pointing out the following four characteristics: (1) The veil between heaven and earth is thin; (2) life in heaven is seen as a continuation and fulfillment of earthly existence; (3) people in heaven are also progressing, the journey to god continues in heaven; and (4) social relationships are seen fundamental to heavenly life. “God is not only loved directly, but also through the love and charity shown to others in heaven” (Brock 1989, 310). Concerning points (3) and (4), modern Japanese Buddhists probably held similar views, but the other world’s continuity and concreteness expressed in the first three points clashed head on with their views.

For Daisetsu, too, one of the allures of Swedenborg was the aforementioned concreteness of the other world found in Swedenborg’s writings and the fact that he revived it, through concrete experience, in the form of a naïve belief in the reality of the other world. It had been such a belief in the reality of the other world that had been rejected as part of the process of modernization. Based on Swedenborg, Daisetsu was convinced that “there is no doubt that a kind of transcendental world exists beyond the sensual world or alongside this world” (sdz 30: 457). However, the next step posed a problem. As a modern Buddhist, Daisetsu could not simply affirm such a view. It seems he divided the further argumentation into two steps.

The defining characteristic of Swedenborg’s view of the other world lay in the fact that, while it was brimming with concreteness, the spiritual world and the real world were intimately linked through a relationship of
correspondence, the natural world being a mirror of the spiritual. Daisetsu interpreted this to reflect the philosophy of rituals and doctrines (jisō 事相) in esoteric Buddhism. “Ultimately, heaven is a giant symbol. In Swedenborg’s words, a representation. However, the sole mental function needed to understand this is sympathetic imagination. Without such imagination, it is impossible to reach the great fundamental power that is hidden within the myriad phenomena, that is, within these symbols” (sdz 18: 322). In Swedenborg’s philosophy, the possibility of deciphering spiritual meanings from the real world is guaranteed through the law of correspondence. Daisetsu argues that this law also runs through Buddhism.28 This comparison to Shingon esoteric Buddhism is not very different from the comparative approach taken by Ishidō and does not go beyond the confines of scriptures.

However, Daisetsu’s interpretation does not merely confine the other world to something that can only be concretely experienced through such “sympathetic imagination.” Rather, the creativity of his interpretation lies in the fact that it regards the familiar, everyday world as itself a kind of other world. Of course, Daisetsu writes that this world is this world, and the Pure Land is the Pure Land, and that humans cannot leave this world, which is divided in two but connected through symbols.29 A transcendental other world exists, but its shape can only be perceived by special people like Swedenborg or through the mediation of symbols. As an example, in a piece on personal matters entitled “What Happened One Day” (Aru hi no koto ある日の事), Daisetsu recounts his reaction to an exposition on the Rinzairoku 臨済録 (Record of Linji) at the Kaizenji temple in Asakusa, he provides another response to the issue of how to view the other world:

Swedenborg says that heaven is only a state. Not only heaven. Our lives that take place every day on this earth might only have entirely subjective value. This subjective value is our lot in life (kyōgai 境涯). (sdz 30: 498)

What can be seen here is the expression of joy at discovering that heaven and the real world are the same in regard to the realm of our experience (kyōgai).30 The expression “this world is the Pure Land” (shaba soku jōdo 娑婆即浄土) contains a similar free-spirited vigor. The word “subjective” is used in this context, but this view differs greatly from the distressing view of the other world that holds the Pure Land to exist only in one’s belief. It is not something that can only be experienced within the special and restricted frame of religious experience. Diverging from Swedenborg’s view of the other world, in which the spiritual world and the real world were seen in a hierarchical relationship, Daisetsu regarded the two as equal. I believe that Daisetsu’s creative interpretation of Swedenborg’s thought can be recognized in this unique interpretation.


The relationship between Swedenborg and Buddhism differs greatly from the period of the second half of the 1880s and first half of the 1890s, where it is characterized by the influence of Vetterling’s writings on Swedenborg, and the period after 1907 when Daisetsu began his translation work.

In the first period, Swedenborg’s philosophy was compared with Buddhism and often seen as congruent with it. During this phase, there existed a multilayered situation in which Buddhism as understood by a Swedish American centered on Swedenborg and filtered through Western mysticism, was then given a further layer of interpretation in Japan. Furthermore, at this stage, the decontextualization of the Zen experience later attempted by Suzuki Daisetsu was already emerging.

By the end of the Meiji period, however, Swedenborg’s philosophy and Buddhism were clearly distinguished from each other. By strategically employing Western natural science and Orientalism, Meiji Buddhism was able to protect itself from the intellectual class and respond to a social atmosphere that emphasized productivity as symbolized by the slogan fukoku kyōhei (rich country, strong army). It did not face problems in this regard. But it was also for this reason that Japanese Buddhism ended up passing over the liminal question of life and death, which could only be dealt with by religion. This issue came to the fore again at the end of the Meiji period. In the face of a state of spiritual poverty, Daisetsu advocated not a morality or view of life and death imposed by the state, but a free market of religions that could respond to the religious inclinations of everyone. He sensed acutely the need to import Swedenborg’s philosophy as one of the choices offered by this market.

Daisetsu welcomed Swedenborg’s philosophy as proving the existence of the afterlife within a dominant atmosphere of rationalism and thereby providing a solution to this issue. The existence of the soul and afterlife was rejected by segments of modern Buddhism, however, and Daisetsu needed a perspective that allowed him to harmonize these two positions. As the term kyōgai (“lot in life” or “realm of our experience”) shows, the position that saw the real world and the other world as equal, represented a creative (re-) interpretation of Swedenborg’s view of the other world and can be characterized as a new view of the other world in which the issue of the existence of the soul is not raised. Elsewhere, Daisetsu took the mystical experiences that were regarded as temporally limited psychological states belonging to the special realm of the temple and freed them from this limitation, seeking to move them into the secular world rather than see them as psychological states.

Daisetsu’s understanding of Zen may only disappoint those expecting the “traditional” Zen of monasteries and temples. Daisetsu’s writings, however, allow the world to appear, even if momentarily, in a different guise, thus continuing to appeal to those who still have to live pondering how one can attain salvation in a modern society that has rejected the existence of god or the other world.

[translation by Erik Schicketanz]


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*Acknowledgments: I would like to express my gratitude to Kirita Kiyohide (Hanazono University), Wayne Yokoyama, Nancy Dawson (Swedenborg Society), John and the late Adele Algeo (Theosophical Society), the late Nagashima Tatsuya (Arcana Press), and Senoue Masahito. A research trip to London was made possible thanks to jsps kakenhi Grant Number 13410010.

1. See Jorn Borup on “Zen and the Art of Inverting Orientalism” (2004). This article employs an extension of the Orientalist angle proposed by Robert Sharf (1993), pointing out that Daisetsu not only rearranged Zen under the influence of modern Western thought, but also strategically employed an image of the “Orient” that was built on top of an Orientalist perspective borrowed from the West. Borup’s article is also trail-blazing in that it exposed the relationship between Japanese Buddhism, Theosophy, and Swedenborg.

2. See Tweed 2005. This article discusses the esoteric connections and contacts of Suzuki Daisetsu as well as his wife Beatrice and her mother Emma Erskine Hahn by focusing on the Swedenborgian scholar of Buddhism A. J. Edmunds. Employing a large number of new sources, this article remains the most comprehensive treatment of these topics.

3. See Hickey 2008 on “Swedenborg: A Buddha?” This article discusses the figures of Albert J. Edmunds, Herman Carl Vetterling, Warren Felt Evans, and D. T. Suzuki. It argues that while esotericism played an important role in modernizing Buddhism in Asia and America, this role was later performed by a discourse grounded in psychology. It stresses the need to examine Buddhist history from perspectives other than “psychology,” but in Japanese scholarship on modern Buddhism, it is rather this psychological perspective that is missing.

4. On 13 March, 27 March, 10 April, 22 May, 29 May, 12 June, 26 June. On these dates, meetings were held three times at Suzuki Daisetsu’s residence where he lectured on sitting meditation and Daoism.

5. 1924: 14 June, 11 October; 1925: 15 February, 20 June, 31 October; 1926: 20 November, 4 December; 1927: 5 February, 28 May, 16 October, 13 December; 1928: 29 January, 13 May; 1929: 10 February, 15 June, 6 October. At the meeting on 13 May 1928, Daisetsu talked about “Mahayana and Hinayana.”

6. According to an essay by Hatani Ryōtai on “Kyōto jidai no Daisetsu hakushi” (Professor Daisetsu during his time in Kyoto; Hisamatsu et al. 1971, 470), who was a member of the Lodge, meetings were held once a month at the Suzuki residence and presentations were delivered by lodge members on these occasions. All members who were lecturers dropped out because of the burden of presenting in English. According to the essay “Kateijin toshite no Daisetsu koji” (Layman Daisetsu, the family man) written by another member, Jugaku Bunshō, “As Beatrice was interested in esoteric Buddhism, she also had an excessive interest in Theosophy, setting up the Japan chapter of Krishnamurti’s Order of the Star of the East in their house, organizing regular meetings and inviting like-minded people. This group was disbanded in 1929 on the effective initiative of the leader himself and it was up to that point that the Daisetsu residence experienced the gatherings of this rather bizarre society” (Hisamatsu et al. 1971, 209). This shows that the level of commitment of the various members of the Theosophical Society varied greatly.

7. Beatrice Suzuki, “Report of Mahayana Lodge. 1927,” “In December the first meetings in Japan of the Order of the Star were held and it is hoped to do some work for the Star: this work has been started by two members of the Mahayana Lodge” (Algeo 2004, 12).

8. See footnote 50 in Tweed 2005. Tweed quotes from a letter by Suzuki to Beatrice dated 4 August 1930: “the T. S. [Theosophical Society] is too mixed up not only in its teaching but in its organization [sic]. People want something more direct and simple” (sdz 36: 547).

9. Concerning Arai Ōsui, Mori Arinori, and Tanaka Shōzō, see Senoue 2001.

10. According to Tweed 1992, 58–60, and Vashestov 2003, “Introduction.”

11. For more information, see Yoshinaga 2012, 103–32.

12. See Katsuron 3 (25 May 1890): 24. Contemporary scholars argue that Swedenborg’s mystic experiences originate in the Kaballah or Tibetan Buddhism. See Hickey 2008: 108–9.

13. A focus on “experience” in modern Japanese Buddhism can be seen in the early Meiji scholar monk Hara Tanzan. See Klautau 2009.

14. For information on Hirai, see Yoshinaga 2007. Regarding Hirai’s lecture at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, see Snodgrass 2003, chapter 8.

15. Hirai was present at The First American Congress of Liberal Religious Societies held in May 1894 at Sinai Temple.

16. Taoka 1895 touches on Theosophy and Swedenborgianism, mentioning that with the popularity of Theosophy, research on vegetarianism, cremation, and mesmerism had greatly increased.

17. “Zenshū no ryūkō o ronjite kyō no shisōkai no shūsei ni oyobu” 禅宗の流行を論じて 今日の思想界の趨勢に及ぶ, in Nishida 1973, 428. First published in Nihonjin 日本人 6 (20 September 1895).

18. “Jūkyū seiki seiō ni okeru tōyō shisō,” in Nishida 1973, 270. First published in Tōa setsurin 東亜説林 2 (December 1895).

19. Taoka Reiun became a non-regular student in Chinese classics at Tokyo Imperial University in 1891, while Furukawa Rōsen and Suzuki Daisetsu became non-regular students in 1892 (the former in Chinese classics, the latter in philosophy). Daisetsu’s and Taoka’s relationship is not known, but it is at least known that Furukawa Rōsen met Daisetsu in the summer of 1895, when he was participating in sitting meditation at Engakuji. Taoka was active as a critic from early on, publishing a small number of articles on mysticism and Zen between 1894 and 1903 in such magazines as Nihonjin, Tōa setsurin, Rokugō zasshi, and Shūkyō. On the other hand, while Daisetsu published Shin shūkyō ron 新宗教論 in 1896, until his move to America in 1897, many of his works were translations and he was still only a fledgling writer on Buddhism. “Emāson no zengaku ron” エマーソンの禅学論 and “Kami wa shinpikyō naru ka” 神は神秘教なるか, published in 1896, are believed to have been written under the influence of Taoka who regarded Zen and mysticism as the same.

20. Refers to Zuiha Bukkyōgaku, Ōhara Kakichi’s translation of Swedenborg the Buddhist.

21. The entry for 18 July 1903, of Edmunds’s diary, in the possession of the Pennsylvania Historical Society (Diary #10), mentions that Daisetsu had become interested in Swedenborg and Myers. Myers refers to William James’s friend, the psychical researcher and depth psychologist F. W. H. Myers, who also influenced James’s Varieties of Religious Experience. However, no statements by Daisetsu concerning Myers have been discovered yet. Daisetsu himself has written that “it was he (Edmunds) who turned this author (Daisetsu) on to doing research on Swedenborgian mysticism” (Eastern Buddhist 2: 92). See also Tweed 1992, 185–86. I owe this information on Edmunds’s archive to Thomas Tweed’s kind e-mails.

22. In 1886, a Swedenborgian vegetarian magazine with the title Health, Family, Garden began publication in Philadelphia. The magazine published articles on Vetterling and Japanese Buddhists, such as the introduction to Vetterling “A Buddhist in California” (Health, Family, Garden 1/10, October 1889) or Albert J. Edmunds’s “Food in the Light of the Scripture” (Health, Family, Garden 3/31, July–August, 1891).

23. According to the Minutes of a Meeting of the Committee for Japan held on the 17th April 1914 in the possession of the Swedenborg Society in London, F. G. Sale, E. W. Frazer, and D. Teitaro Suzuki became committee members in the year before the publication of Suedenborugu in order to ensure the smooth progress of other publications after its publication. However, at least as far as can be seen from the sources, it does not seem that the dissemination of the texts went well.

24. Annual Report of the Swedenborg Society 1912 (aars), London [Swedenborg Society], 1912, 31–34. I learned about the existence of this source from Ms. Nancy Dawson, honorary secretary of the Swedenborg Society.

25. In a letter to Yamamoto Ryōkichi, dated 1 May 1890, in which Daisetsu mentioned the passing of his mother, he expressed his grief and confusion, writing, “While I take on an air and tell others that ‘living beings are doomed to die’ (shōja hitsumetsu 生者必滅), or that I am free from trouble and at ease, in reality I am terribly lonely and sometimes witness her likeness in my dreams.… What I feel upon the death of my aged mother is the immortality of the soul (rei)” (sdz 36: 18, 19).

26. Daisetsu, who came to teach at Ōtani University after this, lectured on the writings on religion of Bergson, van der Leeuw, and others. According to the memories of one of his students, “among these works, it was only those by James that he showed deep sympathy for” (Hisamatsu et al. 1971, 43).

27. Concerning the popularity of spiritualism in modern Japan, see Ichiyanagi 1994 and Yoshinaga 1980.

28. In “Hōshinkan no shūkyō shinriteki kisoron” 報身観の宗教心理的基礎論 (The religio- psychological basis of views on the reward body), Ōtani gakuhō 9/4 (20 December 1928), he uses his own interpretation of Heaven and Hell as the basis for his understanding of views on the reward body (hōshin 報身).

29. “While ‘non-obstruction among individual phenomena’ (jiji muge 事事無礙) is affirmed, the sameness of hell and heaven is not. While we can conceive of the Pure Land existing in this world, hell is hell, and not the Pure Land after all. Kannon, Amida, Fudō, Yakushi, and the myriad deities all exist. The principle of being bound together (sōō 相応) cannot be removed from the consciousness of human beings” (sdz 19: 637).

30. [Translator’s note: In the above quote, kyōgai has been translated as “lot in life.” The same term here seems to have a more fundamental meaning, and has thus been translated “realm of our experience.”]
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Wed Nov 06, 2019 12:56 am

The Chinese Revolution of 1911
by Office of the Historian
Department of State
Accessed: 11/5/19



In October of 1911, a group of revolutionaries in southern China led a successful revolt against the Qing Dynasty, establishing in its place the Republic of China and ending the imperial system.

Photograph of Revolutionaries in Shanghai

In the Nineteenth Century, the Qing Empire faced a number of challenges to its rule, including a number of foreign incursions into Chinese territory. The two Opium Wars against Western powers led by Great Britain resulted in the loss of Hong Kong, forced opening of “treaty ports” for international trade, and large foreign “concessions” in major cities privileged with extraterritorial rule. After its loss in the Sino-Japanese War (1894–95), Imperial China was forced to relinquish control over still more of its territory, losing Taiwan and parts of Manchuria and ending its suzerainty over Korea. The Russo-Japanese War (1904–05) firmly established Japanese claims to the Northeast and further weakened Qing rule. The combination of increasing imperialist demands (from both Japan and the West), frustration with the foreign Manchu Government embodied by the Qing court, and the desire to see a unified China less parochial in outlook fed a growing nationalism that spurred on revolutionary ideas.

As Qing rule fell into decline, it made a few last-ditch efforts at constitutional reform. In 1905, the court abolished the examination system, which had limited political power to elites who passed elaborate exams on Chinese classics. Faced with increasing foreign challenges, it worked to modernize its military. With its central power weakening, the court also attempted a limited decentralization of power, creating elected assemblies and increasing provincial self-government.

Qing Soldiers

Although the Qing court maintained a degree of control within China in these years, millions of Chinese living overseas, especially in Southeast Asia and the Americas, began pressing for either widespread reform or outright revolution. Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao emerged as leaders of those proposing the creation of a constitutional monarchy. Sun Yat-sen led the amalgam of groups that together formed the Revolutionary Alliance or Tongmenghui. The Revolutionary Alliance advocated replacing Qing rule with a republican government; Sun himself was a nationalist with some socialist tendencies.

Both the revolutionary leaders and the overseas Chinese bankrolling their efforts had their roots in southern China. The Revolutionary Alliance attempted seven or more different revolts against the Qing in the years leading up to the revolution
, most of which originated in south China and all of which were ultimately stopped by the Qing army.

Finally, in the autumn of 1911, the right set of conditions turned an uprising in Wuchang into a nationalist revolt. As its losses mounted, the Qing court responded positively to a set of demands intended to transform authoritarian imperial rule into a Constitutional monarchy. They named Yuan Shikai the new premier of China, but before he was able to retake the captured areas from the revolutionaries, the provinces started to declare their allegiance to the Revolutionary Alliance. Dr. Sun was in the United States on a fundraising tour at the time of the initial revolt; he hastened first to London and Paris to ensure that neither country would give financial or military support to the Qing government in its struggle. By the time he returned to China, the revolutionaries had taken Nanjing, a former capital under the Ming Dynasty, and representatives from the provinces began to arrive for the first national assembly. Together, they elected Dr. Sun the provisional president of the newly declared Republic of China.

Sun Yat-Sen

Sun Yat-sen telegrammed Yuan Shikai to promise that, should Yuan agree to the formation of a republic, the position of president would be his. With the military position of the Qing weakening and provisions made for the maintenance of the royal family at court, the emperor and the royal family abdicated the throne in February of 1912.

The 1911 revolution was only the first steps in a process that would require the 1949 revolution to complete. Though the new government created the Republic of China and established the seat of government in Nanjing, it failed to unify the country under its control. The Qing withdrawal led to a power vacuum in certain regions, resulting in the rise of warlords. These warlords often controlled their territories without acknowledging the nationalist government. Additionally, the reforms set in place by the new government were not nearly as sweeping as the revolutionary rhetoric had intended; unifying the country took precedent over fundamental changes.

International reaction to the revolution was guarded. Foreign nations with investments in China remained neutral throughout the upheaval, though they were anxious to protect the treaty rights they gained from the Qing through the first and second opium wars. Still, the United States was largely supportive of the republican project, and in 1913, the United States was among the first countries to establish full diplomatic relations with the new Republic. Britain, Japan, and Russia soon followed.
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Wed Nov 06, 2019 3:49 am

Esper Ukhtomsky
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 11/5/19



In establishing the OKR+C, which came to be regarded as the “inner circle” of the Martinist Order, Papus dreamed of uniting occultists into a revived Rosicrucian brotherhood, as an international occult order, in which he hoped the Russian Empire would play a leading role as the bridge between East and West.[10] Papus believed that the vast Russian Empire was the only power capable of thwarting the conspiracy of the “Shadow Brothers,” and to prepare for the coming war with Germany. Papus served Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra both as physician and occult consultant. Through Papus the Imperial family became acquainted with his friend and spiritual mentor, the mystic Maître Philippe who exercised an important influence on the royal family before Rasputin. He was believed to possess remarkable healing powers, as well as the ability to control lightning, to travel invisibly. The purported forgers of the Protocols of Zion were also said to have made use of an earlier version of the work discovered by Papus.[11]

Among these circles, the city of St. Petersburg became a hotbed of plots surrounding the Great Game, of confused British and Russian interests. As reported by Richard B. Spence in Secret Agent 666, in the summer of 1897, Aleister Crowley had also travelled to St Petersburg in Russia, under the employ of the British secret service, aiming to gain an appointment to the court of Tsar Nichoals II.

A key actor in these intrigues was the Lama Agvan Dorjieff (or Dorzhiev), chief tutor of the Dalai Lama XIII, who became his ambassador to the court of the Tsar Nicholas II. In 1898, only a few months after Crowley’s visit, Dorjieff himself travelled to St. Petersburg to meet the Tsar.

Dorjieff’s meeting with Nicholas II was arranged by the Tsar’s close confidant, Prince Esper Ukhtomskii (1861 – 1921). A Theosophist, Ukhtomskii’s closest ally was Count Sergei Witte, Russia’s Minister of Finance and first cousin to Blavatsky. When Ukhtomskii accompanied Nicholas II while he was on his Grand tour to the East, he made contact with Blavatsky and Olcott at the headquarters of the Theosophical Society at Adyar, India, and promised to use his influence to push forward their projects.[12] Hinting at the nature of the Russian ambitions he represented, Ukhtomskii wrote, “in our organic connection with all these lands lies the pledge of our future, in which Asiatic Russia will mean simply all Asia.”[13] As he explained,

The bonds that unite our part of Europe with Iran and Turan [Central Asia], and through them with India and the Celestial Empire [China], are so ancient and lasting that, as yet, we ourselves, as a nation and a state, do not fully comprehend their full meaning and the duties they entail on us, both in our home and foreign policy.[14]

-- Occult Secrets of the Dalai Lama, by David Livingstone

Esper Esperovich Ukhtomsky
Born 26 August 1861, Oranienbaum, Russian Empire
Died 26 November 1921, Detskoye Selo, Russia
Nationality: Russian
Occupation: Diplomat, Courtier, Poet
Spouse(s): Maria Vasilievna Vasilyeva
Children: Dy Esperovich Ukhtomsky
Parent(s): Esper Alekseevich Ukhtomsky; Yevgeniya Alekseevna Greig

Prince Esper Esperovich Ukhtomsky, Эспер Эсперович Ухтомский (26 August [O.S. 14 August] 1861 – 26 November 1921) was a poet, publisher and Oriental enthusiast in late Tsarist Russia. He was a close confidant of Tsar Nicholas II and accompanied him whilst he was Tsesarevich on his Grand tour to the East.


Ukhtomsky was born in 1861 near the Imperial summer retreat at Oranienbaum. His family traced their lineage to the Rurik Dynasty, and had been moderately prominent boyars in the Muscovite period. His father, Esper Alekseevich Ukhtomsky had been an officer in the Imperial Russian Navy during the Crimean War, and had been present at the siege of Sevastopol. He went on to establish a commercial steamship company with routes from Saint Petersburg to India and China. He died when the young Esper was seven. His mother, Yevgeniya (Dzhenni) Alekseevna Greig, was descended from the Greigs, a long line of admirals of Scottish origin, notably Samuel and Alexey Greig. One of Esper's relations, Pavel Petrovich Ukhtomsky, served as a vice-admiral of the Pacific Squadron in the Russo-Japanese War.

Early life

Esper was privately educated by tutors during his early years, and travelled to Europe on numerous occasions with his parents. He received his secondary education at a Gymnasium and went on to read philosophy and literature at the University of Saint Petersburg. He graduated in 1884, winning a silver medal for his master's thesis 'A Historical and Critical Survey of the Study of Free Will.' It was during this period that he began to dabble in poetry, which was published in a number of Russian periodicals.

He got a job in the Interior Ministry's Department of Foreign Creeds, and travelled to Eastern Siberia to report on the Buryats. He then went on to travel as far as Mongolia and China, reporting on frictions between Russian Orthodoxy and Buddhism. He also took note of the effects of Alexander III's policies of Russification. He would later write reports criticising the overzealousness of the local Orthodox clergy in attempting to win converts, and expressed tolerant views regarding Russia's non-Orthodox faiths.

Ukhtomsky was also passionate about Oriental culture and arts. He was the standalone figure in Russian establishment to proclaim himself Buddhist.[1] During his journeys he amassed a large collection of Chinese and Tibetan art, that eventually numbered over 2,000 pieces. They were displayed in the Alexander III Museum in Moscow (now the State Historical Museum), and were also exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900, earning Ukhtomsky a gold medal.

Rising fame and the Grand Tour

Ukhtomsky's book, detailing his journey to the east with Nicholas

Ukhtomsky's activities attracted the attention of the Oriental establishment active in Saint Petersburg, and he was elected to the Imperial Geographical Society and began to advise the Foreign Ministry on East Asian matters. His expertise in Eastern matters and his high social standing led to him being selected to accompany the Tsesarevich Nicholas on his Grand tour to the East. Nicholas took a liking to Esper Ukhtomsky, writing to his sister that "the little such a jolly fellow".[2] After returning to Russia in 1891, Ukhtomsky was appointed to the role of court chamberlain, and served on the Siberian Railway Committee. He also began work on his account of the grand tour, entitled Travels in the East of Nicholas II.

The book was written in close consultation with Nicholas II, who personally approved each chapter. It took six years to complete, and was published in three volumes between 1893 and 1897 by Brockhaus, in Leipzig. Despite being expensive at 35 roubles, it still ran to four editions. Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna bought several thousand copies for various government ministries and departments, and a cheaper edition was subsequently printed. The work was translated into English, French, German and Chinese, with a copy being presented to the Chinese Emperor and Empress in 1899 by the Russian envoy.[3]

Ukhtomsky became a close confidante and adviser to the Tsar on matters of Eastern policy and was made editor of the Saint Petersburg Gazette in 1895. He used the paper to promote and emphasise the importance of Russian expansionism in the East as a basis of Russian foreign policy, an approach which sometimes drew fire from right-wing colleagues, and those advocating Westernisation. He continued to converse with Nicholas and used his position to advocate Russian intervention in East Asia, but by 1900 Ukhtomsky's influence was waning.

China and the Trans-Siberian Railway

As chairman of the Russo-Chinese Bank, Ukhtomsky was involved in negotiations with the Chinese regarding the route of the Trans-Siberian Railway, and escorted Chinese statesman Li Hongzhang for negotiations in St Petersburg in 1896.[4] The Russians were keen to secure a route through Manchuria. Ukhtomsky travelled to the Chinese court in 1897 and presented gifts to the emperor, as well as large bribes to officials; he later became the chairman of the Chinese Eastern Railway.[4]

When the Boxer Rebellion broke out in 1900, Ukhtomsky was dispatched to Peking to offer Russian support against the Western powers who might seek to take advantage of the situation and push into China. By the time he arrived in Shanghai, he was too late. The Western powers had lifted the Siege of Peking a month earlier and had occupied the city. Despite offering to represent the Chinese to the occupying armies he was recalled to Saint Petersburg.

Decline and legacy

Following the dismissal of his patron, Sergei Witte from the government, from 1903 Ukhtomsky found himself increasingly isolated. He continued to editorialise about the East for a few more years, taking an especially assertive viewpoint that the Russia should continue the war against Japan until it achieved complete victory.[4] Although he remained active within Saint Petersburg's orientalist community, he mainly concerned himself with editing his paper, which he did until the fall of the Romanov dynasty in 1917.

He would remain an important social figure far beyond Eastern affairs and his editor's duties, becoming a household name in the house of Leo Tolstoy, and through him establishing ties with Doukhobor leader Peter Vasilevich Verigin. He would publish the works of his University teacher Vladimir Solovyov [Solovev], and after the latter's death, became one of key figures of Solovyov [Solovev] Society that would among other issues discuss the necessity of equal rights for repressed Doukhobors and Molokans, Jewish and Armenian people.

Examining Soloviev's writings, [20] one realizes that he could not, however, be considered a blind Judophile. In the first place, he shared the belief of many anti-Semites that the mission of the Jews had been to prepare the way for Christianity and that once Christ appeared, their refusal to follow Him was a betrayal of this mission. [21] Soloviev further agreed that in contrast to their ancestors, the majority of Jews during the time of Christ had failed to subject nationalistic and materialistic concerns to religious principles. As a result, they had not been able to understand the necessity of accepting the cross of Christ; i.e., the rejection of exclusive nationalism and of a disproportionate concern with material welfare. In addition, Soloviev felt that the Jews had failed to appreciate that salvation had to come, not only from the appearance of a Messiah, but also by the personal transformation of each individual. Concerning specific charges against the Jews of his day, especially in Russia, Soloviev did not reject them all. He admitted, for example, that a number of Jews might be guilty of exploiting the peasants. [22]

What distinguished Soloviev's attitude was that he did not dwell on the negative aspects of the Jews, but tried to see the positive side also....

In fact, in his "The Jews and the Christian Question," he expresses the idea that universal theocracy is the aim of both Christians and Jews and that it is only in a theocratic context that the "Jewish problem" could be solved....

Soloviev seemed to feel that it was God's will that man spiritualize matter, that he transform and prepare the whole world, man and nature, so that God would be willing to cooperate with man in inaugurating the millennium and the resurrection of the faithful foretold in the Apocalypse (20:4-5). The establishment of a universal, free theocracy was to be a means toward this end. The theocracy would contain three elements: 1) the priestly, 2) the kingly, and 3) the prophetic. [26] The first would be supplied by an ecumenical church reunited under the Catholic pope -- the Orthodox Russians had to be the first to reunite with their Catholic brethren. The second element would be furnished chiefly by the Russian Tsar, who would voluntarily exercise his authority in accordance with the principles of the spiritual power. The third element would be supplied by those moved by the Holy Spirit. It would be the task of the prophets to work in harmony with the other two powers and to point the way towards man's final goal.

And where in this picture would the Jews fit? Once the Christians were reunited and had begun to put their Christianity into practice, Soloviev felt that the best Jews would enter the Christian theocracy....

Soloviev thought that upon entering the theocracy the Jews would have a most valuable contribution to make toward the economic reconstruction of society.... Soloviev hoped that, along with the Polish landowning class, an unhampered Jewish business class could provide the social and economic leadership needed to prevent the further ruination of the Russian land and economy....

Soloviev's position on the Jews remained fairly consistent from the early 1880s until his death. [31] He always differed from men like Aksakov and Istomin in the means by which he wished to lead the Jews to Christianity. He was thoroughly convinced that this would occur only after Christians began acting like Christians. This was why he stated that the Jewish problem was primarily a Christian problem. [32]

-- Vladimir Soloviev and the Jews in Russia, by Walter G. Moss

He survived the revolution, and having lost his son in the First World War had to support himself and his three grandchildren by working in a number of Saint Petersburg's museums and libraries, as well as by odd translation jobs before dying in 1921.

His collection of art was taken from him by the Bolsheviks in 1917 and now forms a significant part of the East Asian holdings at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, as well as some other museums.

Ukhtomsky is primarily remembered for his account of Nicholas's Grand Tour and for his role in promoting Eastern affairs in Russian society in the later years of the Russian empire.


Ukhtomsky married Maria Vasilievna Vasilyeva, the daughter of a peasant. They had one son, Dy Esperovich Ukhtomsky (1886 - 1918), who became a Fellow of the Russian Museum in 1908. Dy Ukhtomsky married Princess Natalia Dimitrieva Tserteleva (1892 - 1942), daughter of philosopher and poet Prince Dimitri Nikolaevich Tsertelev (30 June 1852 - 15 August 1911) and had three children: Dmitri, Alexei (1913 - 1954), and Marianne (1917 - 1924). Dmitri (1912 - 1993) served as a foreign intelligence officer in Iran during World War II and later became a noted photographer and photojournalist.


1. Johnson, K. Paul. Initiates of theosophical masters.(SUNY series in Western esoteric traditions/Suny Series in Political Party Development). SUNY Press, 1995. ISBN 0-7914-2555-X, 978-0-7914-2555-8 page 125
2. Nicholas Aleksandrovich to Grand Duchess Ksenia, letter, Nov. 4, 1890, GARF, f. 662, o. 1, d. 186, l. 41.
3. Schimmelpinninck, p. 49
4. Kowner, Rotem (2006). Historical Dictionary of the Russo-Japanese War. The Scarecrow Press. p. 403. ISBN 0-8108-4927-5.
• Prince E. Ukhtomskii, Travels in the East of Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia When Cesarewitch 1890–1891, 2 vols., (London, 1896), II.
• E. Sarkisyanz, Russian Attitudes towards Asia in 'Russian Review', Vol. 13., No. 4 (Oct., 1954), pp. 245–254.
• D. Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, Toward the Rising Sun: Russian Ideologies of Empire and the Path to War with Japan, (Illinois, 2001)
• Khamaganova E.A. Princes Esper and Dii Ukhtomsky and Their Contribution to the Study of Buddhist Culture (Tibet, Mongolia and Russia) // Tibet, Past and Present. Tibetan Studies. PIATS. 2000: Proceedings of the Ninth Seminar of the International Tibetan Studies. Leiden, 2000. Brill, Leiden-Boston-Koln, 2002, pp. 307-326.
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Wed Nov 06, 2019 4:43 am

Sergei Witte
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 11/5/19



Sergei Yulyevich Witte
Серге́й Ю́льевич Ви́тте
Sergei Witte, early 1880s
Prime Minister of Russia
In office: 6 November 1905 – 5 May 1906
Monarch: Nicholas II
Preceded by New Post: (Himself as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers)
Succeeded by: Ivan Goremykin
Chairman of the Committee of Ministers
In office: 1903–1905
Monarch: Nicholas II
Preceded by: Ivan Nikolayevich Durnovo
Succeeded by: Post abolished (Himself as Prime Minister)
13th Finance Minister of Imperial Russia
In office: 30 August 1892 – 16 August 1903
Preceded by: Ivan Vyshnegradsky
Succeeded by: Eduard Pleske
14th Transport Minister of Imperial Russia
In office: February 1892 – August 1892
Preceded by: Adolf Gibbenet
Succeeded by: Apollon Krivoshein
Personal details
Born: Sergei Yulyevich Witte, 29 June 1849, Tiflis, Caucasus Viceroyalty, Russian Empire (now Tbilisi, Georgia)
Died: 13 March 1915 (aged 65), Petrograd, Russian Empire
Cause of death: Brain tumor
Resting place: Alexander Nevsky Monastery, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Nationality: Russian
Alma mater: Novorossiysk University

Count Sergei Yulyevich Witte (Russian: Серге́й Ю́льевич Ви́тте, romanized: Sergéj Júl'jevič Vitte, pronounced [ˈvʲitɨ];[1] 29 June [O.S. 17 June] 1849 – 13 March [O.S. 28 February] 1915), also known as Sergius Witte, was a highly influential econometrician, minister, and prime minister in Imperial Russia, one of the key figures in the political arena at the end of 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century.[2]

Witte was neither a liberal nor a conservative. He attracted foreign capital to boost Russia's industrialization. Witte served under the last two emperors of Russia, Alexander III and Nicholas II.[3] During the Russo-Turkish War (1877–78) he had risen to a position in which he controlled all the traffic passing to the front along the lines of the Odessa Railways. As Minister of Finance Witte presided over extensive industrialization and the management of various railroad lines. He framed the October Manifesto of 1905, and the accompanying government communication, but was not convinced it would solve Russia's problem with the Tsarist autocracy.

On 20 October 1905 he became the first Chairman of the Russian Council of Ministers (Prime Minister). Assisted by his Council he designed Russia's first constitution. Within a few months, he fell into disgrace within court circles as a reformer. He resigned before the First Duma assembled. Witte was fully confident that he had resolved the main problem—providing political stability to the regime,[2] but according to him the "peasant problem" would further determine the character of the Duma's activity.[4]

He has been described as the 'great reforming finance minister of the 1890s',[5] 'one of Nicholas's most enlightened ministers',[6] and the architect of Russia's new parliamentary order in 1905.[7]

Family and early life

Witte's father Julius Chistoph Heinrich Georg Witte was from a Lutheran Baltic German family of Dutch origin[8] and converted to Russian Orthodoxy upon marriage with Yekaterina Fadeyeva. He became a member of the knighthood in Pskov, but moved to Saratov and Tiflis as a civil servant. Sergei was raised on the estate of his mother's parents.[2] His grandfather was Andrei Mikhailovich Fadeyev, a Governor of Saratov and Privy Councillor of the Caucasus, his grandmother was Princess Helene Dolgoruki. Sergei had two brothers (Alexander and Boris) and two sisters (Olga and Sophia),[9][10] and the mystic Helena Blavatsky was their first cousin. He entered a Tiflis gymnasium, but he took more interest in music, fencing and riding than in studying. Sergei finished Gymnasium I in Kishinev[11] and commenced studying Physico-Mathematical Sciences at the Novorossiysk University in Odessa in 1866 graduating top of his class in 1870.[12]

Witte had initially planned to pursue a career in academia with the aim of becoming a professor in Theoretical Mathematics. His relatives took a dim view of this career path as it was considered unsuitable for a noble at the time. He was instead persuaded by Count Vladimir Alekseyevich Bobrinsk, then Minister of Ways and Communication, to pursue a career in the railroads. At the direction of the Count, Witte undertook six months of on the job training in a variety of positions on the Odessa Railways in order to gain a practical understanding of Ukrainian railways operations. At the end of this period, he was appointed chief of the traffic office.[13]

After a wreck on the Odessa Railways in late 1875 cost many lives, Witte was arrested and sentenced to four months in prison. However, while still contesting the case in court, Witte's Odessa Railways made such extraordinary efforts towards the transport of troops and war materials in the Russo-Turkish War—he devised a novel system of double-shift working to overcome delays on the line[14]—that he attracted the attention of Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, who commuted his term to two weeks.

In 1879, Witte accepted a post in St. Petersburg, where he met his future wife. He moved to Kiev the following year. In 1883, he published a paper on "Principles of railway tariffs for cargo transportation", in which he also spoke out on social issues and the role of the monarchy. Witte gained popularity. In 1886, he was appointed manager of the privately held Southwestern Railways, based in Kiev, and was noted for increasing its efficiency and profitability. Around this time, he met Tsar Alexander III but came into conflict with the Tsar's aides when he warned of the danger in using two powerful freight locomotives to achieve high speeds for the Royal Train. His warnings were proven in the October 1888 Borki train disaster, which resulted in the appointment of Witte to the position of Director of State Railways.

Political career

Witte in the 1880s

Mathilda Witte, picture by Karl Bulla


Witte worked in railroad management for twenty years, starting out as a ticket clerk.[5] He served as Russian Director of Railway Affairs within the Finance Ministry from 1889 to 1891; and during this period, he oversaw an ambitious program of railway construction. Until then less than one-fourth of the small railway systems was under direct state control, but Witte set about making the railway service a monopoly of the State. Witte also obtained the right to assign employees based on their performance, rather than political or familial connections. In 1889, he published a paper titled "National Savings and Friedrich List", which cited the economic theories of Friedrich List and justified the need for a strong domestic industry, protected from foreign competition by customs barriers. This resulted in a new customs law for Russia in 1891, which spurred an increase in industrialization in Russia towards the turn of the century.

Tsar Alexander III appointed him acting Minister of Ways and Communications in 1892.[12] This gave him control of the railroads in Russia and the authority to impose a reform on the tariffs charged. "Russian railroads gradually became perhaps the most economically operated railroads of the world.".[15] Profits were high: over 100 million gold rubles a year to the government (exact amount unknown due to accounting defects). In 1892 Witte became acquainted with Matilda Ivanovna (Isaakovna) Lisanevich in a theater.[9] Witte began to seek her favour, urging her to divorce her gambling husband and marry him. The marriage was a scandal, not only because Matilda was a divorcee, but also because she was a converted Jew. It cost Witte many of his connections with the upper nobility, but the Tsar protected him.

Minister of Finance

In August 1892, Witte was appointed to the post of Minister of Finance, a post which he held for the next eleven years. (Until 1905 matters pertaining to industry and commerce were within the province of the Ministry of Finances.) During his tenure, he greatly accelerated the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway. He also paid much attention to the creation of an educational system to train personnel for industry, in particular, the creation of new "commercial" schools, and was known for his appointment of subordinates by their academic credentials instead of political connections. In 1894, he concluded a 10-year commercial treaty with the German Empire on favorable terms for Russia. When Alexander III died, he told his son on his deathbed to listen well to Witte, his most capable minister. In 1895, Witte established a state monopoly on alcohol, which became a major source of revenue for the Russian government. In 1896, he concluded the Li–Lobanov Treaty with Li Hongzhang of the Qing dynasty. One of the rights secured for Russia was the construction of the Chinese Eastern Railway across northeast China, which greatly shortened the route of the Trans-Siberian Railway to its projected eastern terminus at Vladivostok. However, following the Triple Intervention, Witte strongly opposed the Russian occupation of Liaodong Peninsula and the construction of the naval base at Port Arthur in the Russia–Qing Convention of 1898.

Gold standard

In 1896, Witte undertook a major currency reform to place the Russian ruble on the gold standard. This led to increased investment activity and an increase in the inflow of foreign capital. Witte also enacted a law limiting working hours in enterprises in 1897 and reformed commercial and industrial taxes in 1898.[16] In summer 1898 he addressed a memorandum to the Tsar[17] calling for an agricultural conference on the reform of the peasant community. This resulted in three years of talks about laws abolishing collective responsibility and facilitated the resettlement of farmers onto lands on the outskirts of the Empire. Many of his ideas were later adopted by Pyotr Stolypin. In 1902 Witte's supporter the Minister of Home Affairs Dmitry Sipyagin was assassinated. In an attempt to keep up the modernization of the Russian economy Witte called and oversaw the Special Conference on the Needs of the Rural Industry. This conference was to provide recommendations for future reforms and the data to justify those reforms. By 1900 the growth in the manufacturing industry had been four times faster than in the preceding five-year period and six times faster than in the decade before that. External trade in industrial goods was equal to that of Belgium.[18] In 1904 the Union of Liberation was formed demanding economic and political reform.

Worsening relations with Japan in 1890s

Witte controlled East Asian policy in the 1890s. His goal was peaceful expansion of trade with Japan and China. Japan, with its greatly expanded and modernized military easily defeated the antiquated Chinese forces in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–95). Russia now faced the choice of collaborating with Japan (with which relations had been fairly good for some years) or acting as protector of China against Japan. Witte chose the second policy and in 1894 Russia joined Britain and France in forcing Japan to soften the peace terms it imposed on China. Japan was forced to cede the Liaodong Peninsula and Port Arthur (both territories were located in south-eastern Manchuria, a Chinese province) back to China. This new Russian role angered Tokyo, which decided Russia was the main enemy in its quest to control Manchuria, Korea and China. Witte underestimated Japan's growing economic and military power while exaggerating Russia's military prowess. Russia then concluded an alliance with China (in 1896 by the Li–Lobanov Treaty), which led in 1898 to an occupation and administration (by Russian personnel and police) of the entire Liaodong Peninsula and to a fortification of the ice-free Port Arthur. Russia also established the Russian-owned Chinese Eastern Railway, which was to cross northern Manchuria from west to east, linking Siberia with Vladivostok. In 1899 the Boxer Rebellion broke out with Chinese attacks on all foreigners. A large coalition of all the major Western powers and Japan sent armed forces to relieve their diplomatic missions in Peking. The Russian government used this as an opportunity to bring a substantial army into Manchuria. As a consequence, Manchuria became a fully incorporated outpost of the Russian Empire in 1900, and Japan made ready to fight Russia.[19]

Loss of power

Witte, in a memorandum, tried to turn the reports of the zemstvo presidents into a condemnation of the Home Office[20] In a conflict on land reform Vyacheslav von Plehve accused him being part of a Jewish-masonic conspiracy.[21] According to Vasily Gurko Witte had dominated the irresolute Tsar and this was the moment to get rid of him. Witte was appointed on 16 August 1903 (O.S.) as chairman of the Committee of Ministers, a position he held until October 1905.[12] While officially a promotion, the post had no real power, and Witte's removal from the influential post of Minister of Finance was engineered under the pressure from the landed gentry and his political enemies within the government and at the court. However, Nicholas V. Riasanovsky states that Witte's opposition to Russian designs on Korea caused him to resign from government in 1903.[22][23]

Diplomatic career

Negotiating the Treaty of Portsmouth (1905) -- from left to right: the Russians at far side of table are Korostovetz, Nabokov, Witte, Rosen, Plancon; and the Japanese at near side of table are Adachi, Ochiai, Komura, Takahira, Satō. The large conference table is today preserved at the Museum Meiji Mura in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture, Japan.

Witte was brought back into the governmental decision-making process to help deal with the civil unrest. Confronted with growing opposition and after consulting with Witte and Prince Sviatopolk-Mirsky, the Tsar issued a reform ukase on December 25, 1904 with vague promises.[24] After Bloody Sunday riots of 1905 Witte supplied 500 Rubles, the equivalent of 250 dollars, to Father Gapon in order to leave the country.[25] Witte recommended that a manifesto be issued.[26] Schemes of reform would be elaborated by Goremykin and a committee consisting of elected representatives of the zemstva and municipal councils under the presidency of Witte. On 3 March the Tsar condemned the revolutionaries. The government issued a strongly worded prohibition of any further agitation in favor of a constitution.[27] By spring a new political system was beginning to form in Russia. A petition campaign with a wide variety of proposed changes, like ending the war lasted from February to July 1905. In June mutiny broke out on the Russian battleship Potemkin.

Witte returned to the forefront when he was called upon by the Tsar to negotiate an end to the Russo-Japanese War.[12] He was sent as the Russian Emperor's plenipotentiary and titled "his Secretary of State and President of the Committee of Ministers of the Emperor of Russia" along with Baron Roman Rosen, Master of the Imperial Court of Russia[28] to the United States, where the peace talks were being held.

Witte is credited with negotiating brilliantly on Russia's behalf during the Treaty of Portsmouth negotiations. Russia lost little in the final settlement.[12] For his efforts, Witte was created a Count.[9][29] But the loss of the war would perhaps spell the beginning of the end of Imperial Russia.

After this diplomatic success, Witte wrote to the Tsar stressing the urgent need for political reforms at home. Dissatisfaction with the proposals by Bulygin, the successor of Sviatopolk-Mirsky on 6 August (O.S.) creating a Duma as a consultative body only; the elections would not be direct but would be held in four stages, and qualifications on class and property would exclude much of the intelligentsia and all of the working classes from suffrage, resulted in numerous protests, and strikes across the country. During the Russian Revolution of 1905 troops were sent out 2,000 times. The Tsar remained quiet, impassive and indulgent; he spent most of that autumn hunting.[30] Witte told Nicholas II, "that the country was at the verge of a cataclysmic revolution". Trepov was ordered to take drastic measures to stop the revolutionary activity. According to Orlando Figes the Tsar asked his uncle Grand Duke Nicholas to assume the role of dictator. "But the Grand Duke ... took out a revolver and threatened to shoot himself there and then if the Tsar refused to endorse Witte's memorandum." Nicholas II had no choice but to make a number of steps in the constitutional liberal direction.[9] The Tsar accepted the draft, hurriedly outlined by Aleksei D. Obolensky.[31][32] known as the October Manifesto. This promised to grant civil liberties such as freedom of conscience, speech, freedom of association, constitutional order, representative government and the establishment of an Imperial Duma.[14] As the Duma was only a consultative body, the Council of Ministers or the Tsar had the right to block certain proposals, and many Russians felt that this reform did not go far enough;[21] nothing on universal suffrage.

Chairman of the Council of Ministers

Prince Alexey D. Obolensky

The regime's usual 'incompetence and obstinacy' in response to the crisis of 1904–1905 was by Witte called a 'mixture of cowardice, blindness and stupidity'.[33]

Witte and Sviatopolk-Mirsky were approached the 8th of January 1905 by a delegation of intellectuals led by Maxim Gorky, who begged them to negotiate with the demonstrators, as they — after the postings of warnings of 'resolute measures' against street gatherings led by Father Gapon, on 7 January — sensed the coming tragedy. They were unsuccessful as the government believed they could control Gapon.[34] Leaving behind visiting cards to Witte and Mirsky, Gorky was arrested with the other members of the deputations.[35] Father Gapon would in 1906 return to Russia from exile and support Witte's government.[36] On 30 April Witte proposed the Law of Religious Toleration in 1905, followed by the edict of 30 October 1906 giving legal status to schismatics and sectarians of the ROC.[37] Witte argued that ending discrimination against religious rivals of the Orthodox Church 'would not harm the church, provided it embraced the reforms that would revive its religious life'. Although the Church's 'senior hierarchs' may for some time have played with the thought of self-government, Witte's demand that this would come at the cost of religious toleration 'guaranteed to drive them back into the arms of reaction'.[38] Witte had made this demand (self-government for religious toleration) in the hope of 'wooing' the important commercial groups of the Jewish and Old-Believer communities.[38]

Witte was approached by the Tsar's advisers, in an effort to save the country from complete collapse, and on 9 October 1905, Witte arrived to be met at the Winter Palace. Here he told 'with brutal frankness' the Tsar that the country was on the verge of a catastrophic revolution, which he said 'would sweep away a thousand years of history'. He presented the Tsar with two choices: either appoint a military dictator or agree to broad and major reforms. In a memorandum arguing for a manifesto, Witte outlined the reforms needed to appease the masses, and this he brought with him to the Tsar. The reforms he presented were the creation of a legislative parliament (Imperial Duma) elected via a democratic franchise; granting of civil liberties; a cabinet government; and a 'constitutional order'.[30] These demands, which basically was the political programme of the Liberation Movement, was an attempt to isolate the political Left by pacifying the liberals.[30] He also emphasised that repression only would be a temporary solution to the problem, and a risky one, because he believed the armed forces — whose loyalty was now in question — could collapse if they were to be used against the masses.[30] Most of the military advisers to the Tsar agreed with Witte, along with Governor of St. Petersburg Alexander Trepov, who wielded considerable influence at court. Only when Nicholas II's uncle Grand Duke Nikolai threatened to shoot himself if he did not agree to Witte's demands, following the Tsar's request of him taking the position of dictator, the Tsar agreed. This would be a large source of embarrassment for the Tsar, that a former 'railway clerk', a bureaucrat and 'businessman' forced the Tsar to relinquish his autocratic rule.[30][nb 1] Witte himself would later claim that the Tsar's court only were ready to use the Manifesto as a temporary concession, and later return to autocracy when the revolutionary tide subsided'.[39]

Witte was in October charged with the task of assembling the nation's first cabinet government, and he offered the liberals several portfolios (Ministry of Agriculture to Ivan Shipov; Ministry of Trade and Industry to Alexander Guchkov; Ministry of Justice to Anatoly Koni and the Ministry of Education to Evgenii Troubetzkoy. Pavel Milyukov and Prince Georgy Lvov were also offered ministerial posts. None of these liberals agreed to join the government though, and Witte's cabinet had to be made of 'tsarist bureaucrats and appointees lacking public confidence'. The Kadets doubted that Witte could deliver on the promises made by the Tsar in October, knowing the Tsar's staunch opposition to reform.[40]

Witte argued that the Tsarist regime only could be saved from a revolution by the transformation of Russia to a 'modern industrial society', in which 'personal and public initiatives' were encouraged by a rechtsstaat who guaranteed civil liberties.[5]

In the two weeks following the October Manifesto, several pogroms followed. Witte ordered an official investigation, where it was revealed that the police organised, armed and gave the antisemitic crowds vodka, and even contributed in the attacks. Witte demanded the prosecution of the chief of police in St. Petersburg, who was involved in the printing of agitating antisemitic pamphlets, but the Tsar intervened and protected him.[41] Witte believed that antisemitism was 'considered fashionable' among the elite.[42] Witte had once commented in the aftermath of the Kishinev pogrom in 1903, admitting that if Jews 'comprise about fifty percent of the membership in the revolutionary parties', it was 'the fault of our government. The Jews are too oppressed'.[43]

Milyukov once confronted Witte, asking why he would not commit himself to a constitution; to this Witte replied that he couldn't 'because the Tsar does not wish it'.[44] Witte himself was worried that the court were only using him, which emerged in talks with members of the Kadet Party.[44]

After his skillful diplomacy Witte was appointed Chairman of the Council of Ministers, the equivalent of Prime Minister, and formed Sergei Witte's Cabinet, not belonging to any party, as there were none. No longer was the Tsar the head of the government. "Immediately upon my nomination as President of the Imperial Council I made it clear that the Procurator of the Most Holy Synod Konstantin Pobedonostsev, could not remain in office, for he definitely represented the past" and was replaced by Obolensky. Trepov and Bulygin were dismissed and after many discussions Durnovo became Minister of Interior on 1 January; his appointment seems one of the greatest errors Witte made during his administration. According to Harold Williams: "That government was almost paralyzed from the beginning. Witte acted immediately by urging the release of political prisoners and the lifting of censorship laws."[45] Alexander Guchkov and Dmitry Shipov refused to work with the reactionary Durnovo and to support the government. On 26 October (O.S.) the Tsar appointed Trepov Master of the Palace without consulting Witte, and had daily contact with the Emperor; his influence at court was paramount. "In addition mass violence broke out in the days following the issuance of the October Manifesto. The major source of the unrest was unrelated to the October Manifesto. It took the form of attacks by gangs in the cities on the Jews. In general, the authorities ignored the attacks.[45] On 8 November the sailors in Kronstadt mutinied. In the same month the border provinces were clearly taking advantage of the weakening of Central Russia to show their teeth:

The dominating element of the Empire, the Russians, fall into three distinct ethnic branches: the Great, the Little, and the White Russians, and 35 per cent, of the population is non-Russian. It is impossible to rule such a country and ignore the national aspirations of its varied non-Russian national groups, which largely make up the population of the Great Empire. The policy of converting all Russian subjects into "true Russians" is not the ideal which will weld all the heterogeneous elements of the Empire into one body politic. It might be better for us Russians, I concede, if Russia were a nationally uniform country and not a heterogeneous Empire. To achieve that goal there is but one way, namely to give up our border provinces, for these will never put up with the policy of ruthless Russification. But that measure our ruler will, of course, never consider.[46]

On 10 November Russian Poland was placed under martial law.

Lev Kyrillovich Naryshkin was born in 1905, a portrait by Valentin Serov

Witte's position was not established. The Liberals remained obdurate and refused to be cajoled. The Peasants' Union[clarification needed] asked the Russian people not make redemption payments to the government and withdraw their deposits from bank that might be subject to government action.[47] He promised an eight hour working day and tried to secure vital loans from France to keep the "regime" from bankruptcy.[14] Witte send his envoy to the Rothschild bank; "they would willingly render full assistance to the loan, but that they would not be in a position to do so until the Russian Government had enacted legal measures tending to improve the conditions of the Jews in Russia. As I deemed it beneath our dignity to connect the solution of our Jewish question with the loan, I decided to give up my intention of securing the participation of the Rothschilds."[48] On 24 November by Imperial decree provisional regulations on the censorship of magazines and newspaper was released.[49]

On 16 December Trotsky and the rest of the executive committee of the St. Petersburg Soviet were arrested.[21] The Minister of Agriculture Nikolai Kutler resigned in February 1906; Witte refused to appoint Alexander Krivoshein. In the next few weeks changes and additions to the fundamental laws were made, so that the Emperor was confirmed as the dictator of foreign policies and the supreme commander of the army and navy; the ministers remained responsible solely to Nicholas II, not to the Duma. The "peasant question" or land reforms was a hot issue; the influence of the "Duma of Public Anger" had to be limited according to Goremykin and Dmitri Trepov. The Bolsheviks boycotted the coming election. When Witte discovered that Nicholas never intended to honour these concessions he resigned as Chairman of the Council of Ministers. The position and influence of General Trepov, Grand Duke Nicholas, the Black Hundreds and overwhelming victories by the Kadets in the 1906 Russian legislative election, forced Witte on 14th to resign, which was announced 22 April 1906 (O.S.).

Witte confessed to Polovtsov in April 1906 that the success of the repressions in the wake of the Moscow uprising in 1905 had made Witte lose all influence over the Tsar, and despite Witte's protests, Durnovo was allowed to 'carry out a brutal and excessive, and often totally unjustified, series of repressive measures.'[50]

Member of the State Council

Witte's mansion on Kamennoostrovsky Prospekt in St Petersburg

Witte continued in Russian politics as a member of the State Council but never again obtained an administrative role in the government. He was ostracized from the Russian establishment. In January 1907 a bomb was found planted in his home. The investigator Pavel Alexandrovich Alexandrov proved that the Okhrana, the tsarist secret police, had been involved.[51][52] During the winter season Witte lived in Biarritz and started his Memoirs,[53] but he returned to St Petersburg in 1908.

During the July Crisis in 1914, Grigori Rasputin and Witte desperately urged the Tsar not to enter the conflict and warned that Europe faced calamity if Russia became involved. The advice went unheeded; the French ambassador Maurice Paléologue complained to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sazonov. Witte died shortly afterwards due to Meningitis or a brain tumor at his home in St. Petersburg. His third class funeral was held at the Alexander Nevsky Lavra. Witte had no children, but he adopted his wife's. According to Edvard Radzinsky Witte wished the title of count to be given to his grandson L.K. Naryshkin. Nothing is known about him.

Witte's reputation was burnished in the West when his secret memoirs were published in 1921. They had been completed in 1912 and kept in a bank in Bayonne, not destined to be published while he and his contemporaries were alive. The original text of these memoirs are held in Columbia University Library's Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian and East European History and Culture.[3]


• Order of St. Alexander Nevsky
• Order of St Vladimir, 1st degree
• Order of St. Anne 1st degree
• Legion of Honor, Grand Croix, 1901 (France)
• Order of Vasa (Sweden), Grand Cross, 1897
• Order of the Crown (Prussia)
• There is a university in Moscow, Russian Federation named after S. Witte

Popular culture depictions

• Freddie Jones in Fall of Eagles
• Laurence Olivier in Nicholas and Alexandra

See also

• History of the Russian Far East
• History of Sino-Russian relations


1. Not even his abdication in 1917 was considered as big a humiliation than agreeing to the demands.[39]


1. F.L. Ageenko and M.V. Zarva, Slovar' udarenii (Moscow: Russkii yazyk, 1984), p. 547.
2. "Sergei Witte – Russiapedia Politics and society Prominent Russians".
3. Harcave, Sidney. (2004). Count Sergei Witte and the Twilight of Imperial Russia: A Biography, p. xiii.
4. Witte's Memoirs, p. 359
5. Figes, p. 41
6. Figes, p. 8
7. Figes, p. 217
8. His ancestors lived in Friedrichstadt in the Courland Governorate and not in Holstein.[1]
9. "История России в портретах. В 2-х тт. Т.1. с.285-308 Сергей Витте".
10. "Sergei Yulyevich Count Witte". geni_family_tree.
11. (in Russian) Archived 2009-07-10 at the Wayback Machine
12. Harcave, p. 33.
13. Harcave, p. 42.
14. "Sergey Yulyevich, Count Witte - prime minister of Russia".
15. Boublikoff, p. 313
16. B. V. Ananich & R. S. Ganelin (1996) Nicholas II, p. 378. In: D. J. Raleigh: The Emperors and Empresses of Russia. Rediscovering the Romanovs. The New Russian History Series.
17. Witte's Memoirs, pp. 211–215
18. "Witte on economic tasks".
19. B. V. Ananich, and S. A. Lebedev, "Sergei Witte and the Russo-Japanese War." International Journal of Korean History 7.1 (2005): 109-131. Online
20. Ward, Sir Adolphus William (7 August 2018). "The Cambridge Modern History". CUP Archive – via Google Books.
21. "Sergei Witte".
22. Riasanovsky, N. V. (1977) A History of Russia, p. 446
23. Massie, Robert K. (1967). Nicholas and Alexandra (1st Ballantine ed.). Ballantine Books. p. 90. ISBN 0-345-43831-0.
24. Harold Williams, Shadow of Democracy, p. 11, 22
25. Witte, Sergei IUl'evich; Yarmolinsky, Avrahm (7 August 2018). "The memoirs of Count Witte". Garden City, N.Y. Doubleday, Page – via Internet Archive.
26. Williams, p. 77
27. Williams, p. 22-23
28. "Text of Treaty; Signed by the Emperor of Japan and Czar of Russia," New York Times. October 17, 1905.
29. Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra P.97
30. Figes, p. 191
31. V.I.Gurko (7 August 2018). "Features And Figures Of The Past Government And Opinion In The Reign Of Nicholas II". Russell & Russell – via Internet Archive.
32. Witte's Memoirs, p. 241
33. Figes, p. 186
34. Figes, p. 175
35. Figes, p. 179
36. Figes, p. 178n
37. Pospielovsky, Dmitry (1984). The Russian Church Under the Soviet Regime. Crestwood: St. Vladimir Seminary Press. p. 22. ISBN 0-88141-015-2.
38. Figes, p. 69
39. Figes, p. 192
40. Figes, p. 194–5
41. Figes, p. 197
42. Figes, p. 242
43. Figes, p. 82
44. Figes, p. 195
45. Williams, p. 166
46. Witte's Memoirs, p. 265
47. Williams, p. 220
48. Witte's Memoirs, p. 293-294
49. "1905 :: Электронное периодическое издание Открытый текст".
50. Figes, p. 201
51. «ПОКУШЕНИЕ НА МОЮ ЖИЗНЬ», «Воспоминания» С. Ю. Витте, т. II-ой, 1922 г. Книгоиздат. «Слово» (in Russian)
52. Покушение на графа Витте (2011-10-15), сканер копии — Юрий Штенгель (in Russian)
53. Design, Pallasart Web. "Count Sergei Iulevich Witte - Blog & Alexander Palace Time Machine".


• Ananich, B. V. and S. A. Lebedev, "Sergei Witte and the Russo-Japanese War." International Journal of Korean History 7.1 (2005): 109-131. Online
• Boublikoff, A.A. "A suggestion for railroad reform". In: Buehler, E.C. (editor) "Government ownership of railroads", Annual debater's help book (vol. VI), New York, Noble and Noble, 1939; pp. 309–318. Original in journal "North American Review, vol. 237, pp. 346+. (Title is misleading. It's 90% about Russian railways.)
• Davis, Richard Harding, and Alfred Thayer Mahan. (1905). The Russo-Japanese war; a photographic and descriptive review of the great conflict in the Far East, gathered from the reports, records, cable despatches, photographs, etc., etc., of Collier's war correspondents New York: P. F. Collier & Son. OCLC: 21581015
• Figes, Orlando (2014). A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891–1924. London: The Bodley Head. ISBN 9781847922915.
• Harcave, Sidney. (2004). Count Sergei Witte and the Twilight of Imperial Russia: A Biography. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe. ISBN 978-0-7656-1422-3 (cloth)
• Kokovtsov, Vladamir. (1935). Out of My Past (translator, Laura Matveev). Stanford: Stanford University Press.
• Korostovetz, J.J. (1920). Pre-War Diplomacy The Russo-Japanese Problem. London: British Periodicals Limited.
• Theodore H. von Laue (1963) Sergei Witte and the Industrialization of Russia
• Witte, Sergei. (1921). The Memoirs of Count Witte (translator, Abraham Yarmolinsky). New York: Doubleday. online free
• Wcislo, Francis W. (2011). Tales of Imperial Russia: The Life and Times of Sergei Witte, 1849-1915. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-954356-4.

External links

• Portsmouth Peace Treaty, 1905-2005
• Memoirs of Count Witte
• The Museum Meiji Mura—peace treaty table on display
• Newspaper clippings about Sergei Witte in the 20th Century Press Archives of the ZBW
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

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Ferdynand Antoni Ossendowski
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 11/5/19



Ferdynand Antoni Ossendowski
Ossendowski in 1933
Born: 27 May 1876, Ludza, Russian Empire (now Latvia)
Died: 3 January 1945 (aged 68), Żółwin, Poland
Resting place: Milanówek
Occupation: Writer, journalist, traveler
Language: Polish
Nationality: Polish
Notable works: Lenin
Cień Ponurego Wschodu

Ferdynand Antoni Ossendowski (27 May 1876 – 3 January 1945) was a Polish writer, explorer, university professor, and anti-Communist political activist. He is best known for his books about Lenin and the Russian Civil War in which he participated.

Early years

He was born on 27 May 1876, on his family's manor near Ludza in the Vitebsk Governorate (now Latvia), of Lipka Tatar descent. He studied at the famous gymnasium in Kamieniec Podolski, but he moved with his father, a renowned doctor, to Saint Petersburg, where he graduated from a school in Russian. Then he joined the mathematical-physical faculty of the local university, where he studied chemistry. As an assistant to professor Aleksander Zalewski, he traveled to many distant areas, including Siberia, the Caucasus and the Altay Mountains. During the summer, he was frequently enrolled as a ship's writer on the Odessa-Vladivostok line, a job that allowed him to visit many parts of Asia, including Japan, Sumatra, China, Malaya and Indonesia. For his description of his trip to Crimea and Constantinople, he received his first royalty. His record of a trip to India (Chmura nad Gangesem: A Cloud Over the Ganges) gained the prestigious Petersburg Society of Literature prize.

In 1899, after a students' riot in Saint Petersburg, Ossendowski was forced to leave Imperial Russia and move to Paris, where he continued his studies at the Sorbonne, his professors being Maria Curie-Skłodowska and Marcelin Berthelot. It is possible that he received a doctorate back in Russia, but no documents have survived. In 1901 he was allowed to return to Russia, where professor Zalewski invited him to the newly founded Institute of Technology of the Tomsk State University. There, he gave lectures on chemistry and physics. At the same time he also gave lectures at the Agricultural Academy and published numerous scientific works on hydrology, geology, physical chemistry, geography and physics.

After the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) Ossendowski moved to Harbin in Manchuria, where he founded a Central Technical Research Laboratory, a Russian-financed institution for development of the ore deposits in the area. At the same time, he headed the local branch of the Russian Geographic Society in Vladivostok. As such he made numerous trips to Korea, Sakhalin, Ussuri and the shores of the Bering Strait. In Manchuria, he also became one of the leaders of the considerable Polish diaspora and published his first novel in Polish, Noc (Night). He also got involved in the Main Revolutionary Committee, a leftist organisation that tried to take power in Manchuria during the Revolution of 1905. After the failure of the revolution, Ossendowski organised a strike against the brutal repressions in Congress Poland for which he was arrested. A military tribunal sentenced him to death for conspiracy against the tsar, but his sentence was later commuted to several years' hard labour.

St. Petersburg to China

A plaque commemorating Ossendowski, Grójecka Street, Warsaw

In 1907, he was released from prison with a so-called wolf ticket, which prevented him from finding a job or leaving Russia. At that time he devoted himself to writing. His novel V ludskoi pyli (In Human Dust), in which he described his several years' stay in Russian prisons, gained him much popularity in Russia and was even described by Leo Tolstoy as one of his favorites. His popularity allowed him to return to St Petersburg in 1908. There he continued to write books and at the same time headed the Society of the Gold and Platinum Industry and several newspapers and journals, both in Russian and in Polish. After the outbreak of World War I, Ossendowski published several more books, including a science fiction novel, a propaganda novel on German spies in Russia and a brochure describing German and Austro-Hungarian war crimes.

After the outbreak of the February Revolution of 1917, Ossendowski moved yet again, to Siberia, this time to Omsk, where he started giving lectures at the local university. After the October Revolution and the outbreak of the Russian Civil War, he also got involved in the counterrevolutionary Russian government led by Supreme Governor Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak. He served at various posts, among others as an intelligence officer, an envoy to the intervention corps from the United States and an assistant to the Polish 5th Rifle Division of Maj. Walerian Czuma. In 1918 he was responsible for the transfer of many tsarist and White Russian documents to the Entente, including proofs (many apparently forged) of German support (confirmed later from German archives) for Lenin and his Bolsheviks (so-called Sisson Documents).

After Kolchak's defeat in 1920, Ossendowski joined a group of Poles and White Russians trying to escape from communist-controlled Siberia to India through Mongolia, China and Tibet.[1] After a journey of several thousand miles, the group reached Chinese-controlled Mongolia, only to be stopped there by the takeover of the country led by mysterious Baron Roman Ungern von Sternberg. The Baron was a mystic who was fascinated by the beliefs and religions of the Far East such as Buddhism and Lamaism and "who believed himself to be a reincarnation of Kangchendzönga, the Mongolian god of war."[2] Ungern-Sternberg's philosophy was an exceptionally muddled mixture of Russian nationalism with Chinese and Mongol beliefs. However, he also proved to be an exceptional military commander, and his forces grew rapidly.

Ossendowski joined the baron's army as a commanding officer of one of the self-defense troops. He also briefly became Ungern's political advisor and chief of intelligence. Little is known of his service at the latter post, which adds to Ossendowski's legend as a mysterious person. In late 1920, he was sent with a diplomatic mission to Japan and then the US, never to return to Mongolia. Some writers believe that Ossendowski was one of the people who hid the semimythical treasures of the Bloody Baron.

After his arrival in New York City, Ossendowski started to work for the Polish diplomatic service and possibly as a spy. At the same time, in late 1921 he published his first book in English: Beasts, Men and Gods. The description of his travels during the Russian Civil War and the campaigns led by the Bloody Baron became a striking success and a bestseller. In 1923, it was translated into Polish and then into several other languages.

Back to Poland

In 1922, Ossendowski returned to Poland and settled in Warsaw. Immediately upon his return, he started giving lectures at the Wolna Wszechnica Polska, Higher War School and School of Political Sciences at the Warsaw University. At the same time, he remained an advisor to the Polish government and an expert sovietologist.

He continued to travel to different parts of the world, and after each journey he published a book or two. In the interwar period, he was considered the creator of a distinct genre called the traveling novel. With over 70 books published in Poland and translated almost 150 times into 20 other languages, Ossendowski was also the second most popular Polish author abroad, after Henryk Sienkiewicz. He repeated the success of his Beasts, Men and Gods with a book on Lenin in which he openly criticized Soviet communist methods and policies as well as the double face of the communist leaders. In Poland, three of his books were being filmed at the moment World War II started.

World War II

Ossendowski's grave in Milanówek

After the 1939 Invasion of Poland and the outbreak of World War II, Ossendowski remained in Warsaw, where he lived at 27 Grójecka Street. In 1942 he converted to Catholicism (previously being a Lutheran), and the following year, he joined the ranks of the underground National Party. He worked in the structures of the Polish Secret State and cooperated with the Government Delegate's Office in preparation of the underground education in Poland during World War II and postwar learning programmes.

After the Warsaw Uprising, Ossendowski, now seriously ill, moved to the village of Żółwin, near the Warsaw suburb of Milanówek, where he died on 3 January 1945. He was buried the following day in the local cemetery in Milanówek.


Two weeks after Ossendowski's death, on 18 January, the area was seized by the Red Army. It turned out that Ossendowski was being sought by the NKVD, and was being considered an enemy of the people for his book on Lenin and the Soviet system, which was considered an act of anti-Soviet agitation. The Soviet agents exhumed his body to confirm his identity and that he was really dead.

After the war, the new communist Soviet-led authorities of Poland issued a ban on all books by Ossendowski. Many of his books were confiscated from the libraries and burnt.[citation needed] It was not until 1989 that his books were again published openly in Poland.


The relative obscurity of much of Ossendowski's output means that many books have been published twice under different names or with no date of publication. The following list is an approximate and incomplete bibliography only.

• "Chmura nad Gangesem: A Cloud Over the Ganges"
• "Noc" (Night)
• "V ludskoi pyli" (In Human Dust)
• Beasts, Men and Gods. – 1922 [3][4]
• Black Magic of Mongolia – 1922 [5]
• "With Baron Ungern in Urga" – 1922 [6]
• Man and Mystery in Asia (PDF). – 1923
• From President to Prison – 1925
• The Shadow of the Gloomy East: A Moral History of the Russian People.– 1925
• The Fire of Desert Folk: The Account of a Journey Through Morocco. – 1926
• The Breath of The Desert: Oasis and Simoon: The Account of a Journey Through Algeria and Tunisia – 1927
• Slaves of the Sun: Travels in West Africa – 1928
• Life Story of a Little Monkey: The Diary of the Chimpanzee Ket – 1930
• Lenin: God of the Godless. – 1931

See also

• Vladimir Lenin
• Sławomir Rawicz
• Tiziano Terzani
• Roman von Ungern-Sternberg
• Polish-Mongolian literary relations


1. Ossendowski, Ferdinand (1922). Beasts, Men and Gods. New York: E. P. Dutton & Company.
2. Blurb of Ossendowski, Ferdinand (1922) Beasts, Men and Gods. New York: E. P. Dutton & Company. Page 269 of this book only says "Incarnated God of War." Kangchendzönga is a mountain with five peaks in Sikkim and Nepal, and said to be home to a mountain deity, called Dzö-nga. See Anna Belikci Denjongpa, Kangchendzönga: Secular and Buddhist perceptions of the mountain deity of Sikkim among the Lhopos.
3. Ferdynand Antoni Ossendowski (1922). Beasts, Men and Gods. E. P. Dutton.
4. Ferdinand Antoni Ossendowski. Bestie, Uomini, Dei: Il mistero del Re del Mondo. Edizioni Mediterranee. ISBN 978-88-272-2550-9.
5. East and West Association (U.S.). (1922). Asia and the Americas. pp. 556–.
6. East and West Association (U.S.). (1922). Asia and the Americas. pp. 614–.

External links

• Works by Ferdynand Antoni Ossendowski at Project Gutenberg
• Works by or about Ferdynand Antoni Ossendowski at Internet Archive
• Works by Ferdynand Antoni Ossendowski at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
• Beasts, Men and Gods at Google Books
• Ferdinand Ossendowski on YouTube
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

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John G. Bennett
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 11/5/19



This article has been nominated to be checked for its neutrality. (January 2012)


John Godolphin Bennett (8 June 1897 – 13 December 1974) was a British scientist, technologist, industrial research director, and author. He is best known for his books on psychology and spirituality, particularly on the teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff. Bennett met Gurdjieff in Istanbul in October 1920 and later helped to co-ordinate the work of Gurdjieff in England after the guru had moved to Paris. He also was active in starting the British section of the Subud movement, and co-founded its British headquarters.

Bennett was born in London, England; educated at King's College School, London; Royal Military Academy, Woolwich; School of Military Engineering, Chatham; and the School of Oriental Studies, London.

He was a Fellow of the Institute of Fuel, London, from 1938 onwards; Chairman, Conference of Research Associations, 1943–1945; Chairman, Solid Fuel Industry, British Standards Institution, 1937–1942; Chairman and Director, Institute for the comparative study of History, Philosophy, and the Sciences, Kingston upon Thames, 1946–1959.

Early life, World War I, marriage

Bennett's parents met in Florence, Italy; they later married. His mother was American and his father was British. In Bennett's infancy, his family were moderately wealthy and traveled frequently in Europe. In 1912, his father, who was a noted traveller, adventurer and linguist, lost all of his money and his wife's in an investment that failed. Bennett later displayed an extraordinary talent for languages, which enabled him to talk with many spiritual teachers in their native tongues. He studied Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic and Christian sacred texts in their original languages.

Bennett makes little reference to his childhood in his autobiography, Witness. Elsewhere he credits his mother with instilling in him the virtues of hard work and tolerance.

At school, he excelled in sports and captained the school rugby football team. He won a scholarship in mathematics from Oxford University, but never had the chance to take advantage of this because of the outbreak of the Great War. He continued to play rugby football for the army (against such opponents as the New Zealand national team), breaking his arm once and his collar bone twice.


In the First World War, at the age of nineteen, Bennett served as a subaltern in the Royal Engineers, with responsibility for signals and telegraphy.

In France in March 1918, he was blown off his motorcycle by an exploding shell. Taken to a military hospital, operated upon, and apparently in a coma for six days, Bennett had an out-of-body experience. He became convinced that there is something in man which can exist independently of the body.

"It was perfectly clear to me that being dead is quite unlike being very ill or very weak or helpless. So far as I was concerned, there was no fear at all. And yet I have never been a brave man and was certainly still afraid of heavy gun fire. I was cognizant of my complete indifference toward my own body."[1]

This experience set his life on a new course. He described the return to normal consciousness as the return to a body that was now in some sense a stranger.

In the closing months of the First World War, Bennett undertook an intensive course in the Turkish language at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, and was posted to Constantinople. He was assigned to a sensitive position in Anglo-Turkish relations, at the time of the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and rise in Turkish nationalism. His fluency made him the confidant of many high-ranking Turkish political figures; it also helped him to develop his knowledge of Turkey and to gain insights into non-European ways of thinking. A notable piece of initiative drew the attention of General Edmund Allenby, and a mention in C-in-C's dispatches. Bennett was recruited to be the head of Military Intelligence "B" Division, with responsibility for the entire Middle Eastern region.

"All day long I was dealing with different races: English, French, Italian, Greek, Armenian, Turkish, Kurdish, Russian, Arab, Jews and people so mixed up as to be no race at all. Each and every one was convinced of the superiority of his own people. How could everyone be right and all the rest wrong? It was nonsense."

Bennett's eighteen months' tenure in this position were so eventful, that he is still regarded as a major figure in the political life of Turkey in that period. Bennett's success resulted in some animosities among his superiors and he was recalled to London in January 1921. He resigned his commission with the rank of Captain and a pension for life. He kept an abiding love for Turkey for the rest of his life.

After the war, Bennett had married Evelyn, with whom he had a daughter, Ann, born August 1920. Evelyn had stayed in England when he was posted to Turkey. Bennett's immersion in Turkish affairs and his relationship with Winifred Beaumont, an English woman living in Turkey, placed increasing strain on the marriage. In 1924, Evelyn Bennett sued for divorce. Bennett later married Beaumont, who was twenty years his senior; they were together until her death in 1958. (He married a third time in 1958, to Elizabeth Mayall.)

Gurdjieff and Ouspensky

After the First World War and the Russian Revolution, many displaced people passed through Constantinople en route to the West. Part of Bennett's job was to monitor their movements. Among them were G.I. Gurdjieff and P.D. Ouspensky, whom Bennett met through Prince Sabahaddin. This reformist thinker had introduced him to a wide range of religious and occultist systems, including Theosophy and Anthroposophy. Bennett became determined to pursue the search for a deeper reality. He had been profoundly impressed with Gurdjieff's ideas about the arrangement of the human organism and the possibility of a man's transformation to a higher state of being, and would later dedicate much of his life to the elaboration and dissemination of those ideas.

Gurdjieff and Ouspensky moved on to Europe, and Bennett remained in Turkey, committed to his work and fascinated by the political and social developments in Turkey. The sultanate fell and on October 29, 1923, the Turkish republic was proclaimed. Bennett approved permission for M. Kemal Atatürk to enter Samsun, where he started the Turkish Independence struggle.[2]

Gurdjieff founded his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at the Château Le Prieuré in Fontainebleau-Avon, south of Paris, in October 1922. Bennett visited in the summer of 1923, spending three months at the institute. This experience further convinced him that Gurdjieff had profound knowledge and understanding of techniques by which man can achieve transformation. Gurdjieff encouraged Bennett to stay longer, but Bennett was short of money and so felt obliged to return to work in England. Though Bennett expected to return to the group soon, he would not meet Gurdjieff again until 1948.

Bennett served the British government as a consultant on the Middle East, and interpreter at the 1924 conference in London intended to settle disputes between Greece and Turkey. He was invited to stand for parliament, but he chose instead to give his personal studies precedence over his public life.

He joined Ouspensky's groups, and continued to study Gurdjieff's system with them for fifteen years. Ouspensky broke off all contact with Gurdjieff himself in the early 1920s.

Coal industry

During this time, Bennett became involved with various coal mining ventures in Greece and Turkey. These were ultimately unsuccessful, but in the process he acquired expertise in mining and coal chemistry. He worked for four years in Greece, where he was also involved in protracted negotiations involving land claims by members of the deposed Turkish royal family.

In 1938, Bennett was asked to head Britain's newest industrial research organisation, the British Coal Utilisation Research Association (BCURA). With the outbreak of World War II, BCURA's research was focused on developing fuel-efficient fireplaces and finding alternatives to oil. BCURA developed cars powered by coal-gas and a coal-based plastic.

Group work

In 1941, Ouspensky left England to live in the United States. By now, Bennett was running his own study groups and giving talks on the subject of Gurdjieff's system. The groups continued and expanded in London throughout the Second World War. Bennett began writing and developing his own ideas in addition to Gurdjieff's. Ouspensky repudiated him in 1945, which proved very painful for Bennett. He had lost touch with Gurdjieff during the war, and believed him to be dead.

"Ouspensky fell under the impression that Bennett was setting himself up as a teacher and plagiarising his lecture material. Instructions were sent to all members of Ouspensky's groups to disassociate themselves from Bennett, who found himself vilified and ostracised, but still supported by a small loyal following. He decided to go ahead with his work of communicating his understanding of the System to people, and to create a society or institute to serve as its vehicle".[3]

Coombe Springs


In 1946, Bennett and his wife founded the non-profit Institute for the Comparative Study of History, Philosophy and the Sciences:

"To promote research and other scientific work in connection with the factors which influence development and retrogression in man and their operation in individuals and communities; to investigate the origin and elaboration of scientific hypotheses and secular and religious philosophies and their bearing on general theories of Man and his place in the universe; and to study comparative methodology in history, philosophy and natural science".[3]

The Institute bought Coombe Springs, a seven-acre estate in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, which had housed research laboratories used by BCURA. The Bennetts moved in with ten of Bennett's closest pupils, with the intention of starting a small research community. Coombe Springs became a centre for group work. In addition to the small community who lived there permanently, hundreds of people visited Coombe Springs for meetings and summer schools.

The old laboratories were used as dormitory space; they were known as the "fishbowl" because of the large amount of glass they had. A "new building" was later built for superior accommodation. The main house was used for meetings as well as accommodation. Coombe Springs took its name from an original Elizabethan spring house in the grounds. Until the mid-19th century, it had provided water to the palace at Hampton Court.[4]

Bennett believed that Gurdjieff's system could be reconciled with modern science. He started work on a five-dimensional geometry which included "eternity" as a second time-like dimension, introducing this in his first published book, The Crisis in Human Affairs (1948).

Reunion with Gurdjieff

Ouspensky died in 1947. In 1948, Bennett went to the United States and met Ouspensky's wife, through whom he learned that Gurdjieff had survived the Nazi occupation of France and was living in Paris. Though it was 25 years since they had last met (due mainly to Ouspensky's longstanding veto against Gurdjieff to members of his groups), Bennett quickly decided to renew contact. In the 18 months before Gurdjieff's death (in October 1949), Bennett visited him frequently. He also continued his crowded professional schedule (he was now working for the Powell Duffryn coal company) and his responsibilities towards the group work at Coombe Springs.

A month spent working very intensively with Gurdjieff's group in the summer of 1949 laid the foundation for a significant transformation in his life and spiritual work. At that time, Gurdjieff's apartment in Paris had become a 'Mecca' to the followers of his ideas, who converged from many different countries. Bennett learnt of Gurdjieff's writings, and read Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson for the first time. At the beginning of 1949, Gurdjieff named Bennett as his 'Representative for England'. Bennett later gave public lectures in London on Gurdjieff and his ideas.

This period was described by Bennett's third wife, Elizabeth Bennett (1918-1991), who was part of the study group, in her book Idiots in Paris: Diaries of J.G. Bennett and Elizabeth Bennett, 1949. Her memoir was based on J.G. Bennett's diaries and on her own memories. A third paperback edition was published posthumously in 2017.

Gurdjieff's death in 1949 was a serious blow for all his followers. Disagreements arose within the group, partly as a result of Gurdjieff's having allocated his closest associates with conflicting areas of authority. In Bennett's case, the conflict was exacerbated by his own interpretation and development of Gurdieff's ideas.

After Gurdjieff's death, the various groups looked to Jeanne de Salzmann to give them direction and hold them together, but there was little inherent harmony among them. At this time Bennett was a member of a small group headed by Madame de Salzmann, and he put his work at Coombe Springs under her overall guidance.

In 1950, Bennett was falsely accused of harbouring communists on his staff, during a communist scare in Great Britain, and he was forced to resign from Powell Dufryn. (He later resisted several attractive offers to return to a career in industrial research and administration). He began to concentrate more fully on the group work at Coombe Springs. He lectured frequently, trying to fulfill a promise he had made to Gurdjieff to do everything in his power to propagate his ideas. Friendly relations continued with Madame de Salzmann and her groups throughout 1951 and 1952, but by then Bennett was convinced that his more senior students were not making progress. He believed that he had to learn firsthand whether there still existed an ancient tradition or source from which Gurdjieff had derived his teaching.

Travels in the Middle East

In 1953, Bennett undertook a long journey to the Middle East (West Asia), visiting Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Persia. His search, chronicled in his book Journeys in Islamic Countries (reprinted in paperback in 2001), brought him into contact with Sufis of extraordinary spiritual accomplishment, such as Emin Chikou (1890-1964) (known in Syria as Mohammad Amin Sheikho) and Farhâd Dede[5] (1882-1977), the former of whom led Bennett indirectly to a profound meeting with Shaykh Abdullah Fa'izi ad-Daghestani[6] (1891-1973). Bennett described him as "a true saint in whom one feels an immediate complete trust. With him there were no lengthy arguments or quotations from the scriptures."[citation needed] Their chance meeting on a mountaintop in Damascus is chronicled, albeit briefly, in his book Subud. Bennett concludes that Shaykh Daghestani was in possession of "powers of a kind that I had already seen in Gurdjieff and one or two others, and prepared me to take very seriously anything that he might [have to] say."[citation needed]

During 1954, differences of opinion became more obvious between Bennett and Madame de Salzmann regarding the promulgation of Gurdjieff's teachings. Bennett decided that an effectual working relationship with her groups was not possible. He wanted to execute Gurdjieff's last directives literally, by disseminating his ideas and writings as widely as possible, especially Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson, which Madame de Salzmann wanted to keep away from the public eye.

In 1955, Bennett initiated a project to build an unusual nine-sided meeting hall at Coombe Springs for the performance of Gurdjieff's sacred dance movements. This, together with his public lectures in London, completed the rift with Madame de Salzmann. The project took two years to complete. At the opening in 1957, Bennett commented that the real value of such a project was in building a community rather than the building itself.


In 1956, Bennett was introduced to Subud, a spiritual movement originating in Java (an island in the Republic of Indonesia). For a number of reasons, Bennett felt that Gurdjieff had expected the arrival of a very important teaching from Indonesia. In spite of deep reservations, in November 1956 Bennett allowed himself to be 'opened' by Husein Rofé, a native Englishman [7] (1922-2008) who had studied in the East. Rofé used the latihan (the primary spiritual exercise used in Subud).

Bennett regarded the latihan as being akin to what the mystics call diffuse contemplation. He also felt that the latihan has the power to awaken a person's conscience, the spiritual faculty that Gurdjieff regarded as necessary for salvation. Bennett sent an invitation to Subud's founder, Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo (1901-1987) (aka Pak Subuh), to come to England. Pak Subuh came to Coombe Springs, where all Bennett's pupils were given the opportunity to be 'opened'.

It was a highly controversial event. It included the apparently miraculous cure of film star Eva Bartok, but also the violent death of one of Bennett's pupils. The death of Bennett's pupil is described on pages 345–347 of the original edition of Bennett's auto-biography titled Witness: The Story of a Search (1962). The section on the death was excised from later editions of the autobiography, along with some fifty additional pages. Although Bennett admits writing this section from a subjective and self-serving perspective, the incident still showed the dangers of Subud and of putting one's trust blindly in any spiritual teacher or spiritual path.

Soon Bennett was instrumental in spreading Subud practice all over the world. He travelled extensively to spread the Subud exercise, sometimes in the company of Pak Subuh. Bennett translated Pak Subuh's lectures into various languages. His introductory book on Subud, titled Concerning Subud (1959), sold thousands of copies worldwide.

Bennett's deep involvement in Subud meant less participation in the work-group activities and exercises that had been practised until he began this work. The meeting hall was left unfinished without its intended viewers' balcony and its striking pentagonal floor was filled in to allow for latihans. Its original purpose was not to be fulfilled for many years.

Some of Bennett's pupils were dismayed. Subud's spontaneous exercise seemed to some to be the antithesis of Gurdjieff's methods for spiritual awakening, and Bennett's enthusiasm for it served to deepen the divisions within the Gurdjieff groups. Many people left the Coombe Springs groups, but others came in large numbers. For several years Coombe Springs was the headquarters of the Subud movement in Europe, attracting both serious seekers and sensation seekers.

In 1958, monks from the Benedictine Abbey of St. Wandrille,[8] interested in Subud, contacted Bennett. The following year he made the first of many visits to the abbey to teach the monks. These visits brought him into close contact with the Catholic Church. Dom Albert-Jacques Bescond, OSB (1920-1986) was the first monk from the abbey to be 'opened', followed by many others. At St. Wandrille, Bennett first had a deep experience of what he believed was the destined unification of Islam and Christianity. He had given this possibility philosophical expression through his concept of 'essential will', as detailed in his The Dramatic Universe (4 vols). Soon after, he formally entered the Catholic Church.

By 1960, Bennett had concluded that the practice of 'latihan' alone was inadequate, and he resumed the work that he had learned from Gurdjieff. By 1962, Bennett left the Subud organization, feeling that a return to the Gurdjieff method was necessary.

Although he always said that he had derived great benefit from Subud, his departure aroused animosity and dismay from Subud members, and many turned against him.

Meanwhile, the Institute had been largely given over to Subud to the extent, at one time, of instigating a move to forbid the sale of Gurdjieff's books at Coombe Springs. In spite of this, Bennett reinstated lecture courses on psychokinetics, an action that led to increasing conflict among the membership.

A battle of power ensued in 1962 that resulted in Subud acquiring its own organization and Bennett resigning from the Subud brotherhood and his role as leader of the Coombe Springs Community and Director of Research of the Institute.

From 1963, the pattern of exercises that were subsequently followed at Coombe Springs combined the latihan with different techniques such as the Gurdjieff movements. The meeting hall was completed with the fitting of a balcony for viewers and an external access through stairs for spectators. Lectures were held on topics ranging from Sufism to Synchronicity, and Bennett resumed work on the final volumes of his "personal whim", the epic 'The Dramatic Universe', which he had been working on for more than ten years, constantly writing, revising and re-writing.

Shivapuri Baba

Meanwhile, Bennett had made contact with the Shivapuri Baba, a Hindu sage living in Nepal. He had first heard of the Shivapuri Baba in the early 1940s, and now learned from Hugh Ripman (a fellow student of Ouspensky) that the yogi was still alive.[3]

Bennett visited the Shivapuri Baba twice between 1961 and 1963, by which time the Shivapuri Baba was reportedly 137 years old. Bennett was impressed with the vitality and simplicity of the Shivapuri Baba's teaching, and later referred to him as his teacher. Bennett undertook to propagate the Shivapuri Baba's teaching, and made various attempts to incorporate it into his own work.

The Shivapuri Baba died in 1963, shortly after he had approved the draft for his biography, Bennett's Long Pilgrimage - The Life and Teaching of the Shivapuri Baba.


In 1962, Bennett gave a seminar on spiritual psychology in which the various elements he had received (particularly from Gurdjieff, Subud and the Shivapuri Baba) were integrated into a coherent psycho-cosmology. This marked a major step in his understanding of a comprehensive methodology which combined both active and receptive "lines of work".

By this time Bennett was also working with a group of young scientists called ISERG (Integral Science Research Group) headed by Dr. Anthony Hodgson and soon joined by Anthony George Edward Blake, Kenneth Pledge, Henri Bortoft and others. This group investigated educational methods, the nature of science, and similar subjects. The group maintained a contact with physicist and philosopher David Bohm.

Research fellowships were created to enable Hodgson and Blake to concentrate their time on educational work. Out of this came the idea of structural communication which led the Institute into co-operative work with G.E.C. in the field of teaching machines.

In 1963, Bennett launched the institute's journal, Systematics. The journal was designed to spread the ideas of the discipline of Systematics, a practical analytical method based on his own researches into the laws governing processes in the natural world. The journal ran for 11 years with major contributions from all disciplines.

Idries Shah

While the educational work was progressing, Bennett learned of Idries Shah, an exponent of Sufism. When they met, Shah presented Bennett with a document supporting his claim to represent the 'Guardians of the Tradition'. Bennett and other followers of Gurdjieff's ideas were astonished to meet a man claiming to represent what Gurdjieff had called 'The Inner Circle of Humanity', something they had discussed for so long without hope of its concrete manifestation.

Bennett introduced "teaching stories" to his groups on Shah's instructions. These are now widely published and recognized as important teaching materials containing the essence of Sufi knowledge and insight.

It remained unclear as to what the future relationship between the Institute, Bennett and Shah could become. Eventually Bennett decided to put Coombe Springs at Shah's disposal to do with as he saw fit. In October 1965 at an extraordinary General Meeting of the Institute, Bennett persuaded the membership to take this step.

Shah originally indicated that he would take Bennett's psychological groups under his own wing. Bennett welcomed this, as it would allow him to concentrate on research and writing. However, he again found himself unpopular - not only with conservatives within the Institute, but also with other followers of Idries Shah and members of his organisation SUFI (Society for the Understanding of the Foundation of Ideas).

In the spring of 1966, The Institute for Comparative Study donated Coombe Springs to Shah, who promptly sold it for a housing development. The Djamee was destroyed. About half the people who had studied under Bennett were integrated into his groups while the rest were left 'in the air'. The Institute was left with the educational research work as its main focus. The work with the Hirst Research Laboratories of G.E.C. bore fruit in the new teaching machine, the 'Systemaster', and Bennett organised various young people around him to write and develop teaching materials that followed the structural communication method.

Bennett and some of the Coombe Springs residents had moved into a nearby house in Kingston upon Thames, where the family (the Bennetts now had two sons and two young daughters) would live quietly for four years before Bennett embarked on his last great project - an experimental school for passing on techniques for spiritual transformation.

International Academy for Continuous Education

By 1969 the company which had been formed to explore structural communication – Structural Communication Systems Ltd. – was floundering and Bennett's health, too, was in a dangerous state. After his recovery, Bennett looked afresh at the situation and the conviction came to him that he should take up the work that Gurdjieff had started at the Prieuré in 1923 and been forced to abandon. He would start a School of the Fourth Way.

Bennett became very interested in young people, especially those who surfaced from the social and cultural turmoil of the 1960s with serious questions about the significance of life but with few satisfactory answers. As part of his research, Bennett attended the rock music festival on the Isle of Wight in 1970. The outcome was the establishment of an "academy" to teach some of what he had learned in trying to discover the "sense and aim of life, and of human life in particular."

On the twenty fifth anniversary of the Institute, in April 1971, a jubilee celebration on the theme of The Whole Man was held. In a very short time, primarily in the USA, Bennett recruited many students and in October 1971 the International Academy for Continuous Education was inaugurated in Sherborne, Gloucestershire.

Bennett had begun this enterprise with no programme in mind and with only a handful of helpers. Initially, his ideas had involved running a school in the midst of 'life-conditions' in Kingston with two dozen students, but contact with a young representative of the New Age Movement in the USA persuaded him to think in terms of larger numbers and a relatively isolated locale in the countryside. Bennett realized that work on the land (which he considered to be an essential part of teaching the proper relationship between mankind and the rest of creation) would require a larger number. Both Hasan Shushud and Idries Shah made recommendations that, for the most part, he disregarded.

He quickly attracted one hundred pupils, and in 1971, with the support of the Institute for Comparative Study, he inaugurated the International Academy for Continuous Education, in the village of Sherborne, Gloucestershire, England.

The name was chosen "to indicate on the one hand its Platonic inspiration and on the other to emphasise that it was to offer a teaching for the whole life of the men and women who came to it."

As he tells the story in his autobiography, although various spiritual leaders had urged him at various points in his life to strike out on his own path, it was not until near the end of his years that he felt fully confident to assume the mantle of the teacher. Bennett relates how Gurdjieff had told him in 1923 that one day Bennett would "follow in his footsteps and take up the work he had started at Fontainebleau." In 1970, following the promptings of a still, small voice from within that said, "You are to found a school",

Bennett proposed that there should be five experimental courses each of ten months duration. The courses proved fruitful, and many people have continued, as he had hoped, to work with the ideas and methods he presented.

In April 1972, the Sufi Hasan Lutfi Shushud (1901-1988)[9] came to stay for a few months at the Academy. Shushud and Bennett had met in Turkey ten years previously, and Shushud had visited Bennett's Surrey home in 1968, at which time he initiated Bennett into his wordless, universal zikr. Bennett concluded that Shushud's wordless universal zikr produced results similar to those of the latihan, while omitting many of the risks attendant on 'opening' people through Subud. Bennett observed that occasionally there are people 'opened' through Subud who experience some harsh and/or dangerous effects (for which they are unprepared) during the operation of the latihan. This observation led him to have reservations about the supposed absolute safety of the latihan for the general public. As a result of these reservations, Bennett became increasingly attracted to the Khwajagan (Masters of Wisdom of Central Asia) as presented in the teachings of Shushud. In 1973 Bennett’s publisher Alick Bartholomew commissioned Bennett and Shushud to co-write a book whose tentative title was Gurdjieff and the Masters of Wisdom. Before the book was ready for publication Shushud pulled out of the project, telling Bennett that he did not trust the publisher, apparently on the grounds that Bartholomew had deducted state income tax from the advance payment for the book. However, eventually it became known that what Shushud was really objecting to was Bennett's contention in the book that Gurdjieff had established personal contact with the Khwajagan, and that therefore it is very likely that at least some of Gurdjieff's major teachings are based directly on what he had learned from the Khwajagan. Due to Shushud's disagreements with Bennett over this issue, Bennett ended up dividing the proposed book into two separate books, titled respectively Gurdjieff: Making a New World (1973) and The Masters of Wisdom (1975) (not published until after Bennett's death). However, in spite of Shushud's disagreements with Bennett over this issue, it appears that Bennett nevertheless (in the end) borrowed heavily from Shushud's teachings on the Khwajagan (probably against Shushud's wishes), in order to bring his book on that subject (The Masters of Wisdom) to a successful conclusion.

There are a number of mysterious things about Shushud, who certainly had unusual powers. Bennett makes a brief reference to these in his book Witness, and many others have attested to them. While criticising Bennett's methods, Shushud impressed on him that "Your only home is the Absolute Void". However, Shushud eventually agreed that what Bennett was doing for young Western seekers was more suitable for them than his own strict methods of fasting and zikr.

In the same year (1973), Bennett began editing Gurdjieff's Third Series of writings, Life is Real Only Then When I Am, undertaking its publication on behalf of the Gurdjieff family (who were having difficulties in dealing with the Gurdjieff Foundation). He also revisited Turkey, meeting with Hajji Muzaffer Özak al-Jerrahi[10] (1916-1985), the Grand Shaykh of the Halveti-Jerrahi Sufi Order.

During the period of the second course at the Academy, a Theravada Buddhist monk and teacher from Cambodia named Bhante Dharmawara[11] (1889-1999) came to Sherborne at Bennett's invitation. During his visit Dharmawara introduced meditation techniques that continue to be practised by many people.

Other visitors to the Academy were Süleyman Dede[12] (1904-1985), head of the Mevlevi Order in Konya, as well as Süleyman Dede's disciple Reshad Feild (1934-2016). Idries Shah paid a brief visit during the first year, but soon left, with harsh views on the attitudes and disposition of the students.

Throughout the period of the Institute's existence, Bennett had been toying with the idea of founding a spiritual community. He saw the Sermon on the Mount as a document describing the true community. His contact with Idries Shah combined this in his mind with the possibility of establishing a Power House where 'enabling energies' could be concentrated. He set his sights on some kind of self-sufficient community, populated by Sherborne graduates, to evolve out of the school. He was profoundly influenced by contemporary ideas, such as those of Schumacher, about the need for alternative technology and by the argument of conservationists for intelligent, ecologically sound agriculture. He was also greatly impressed that his spiritual hero and inner teacher, Khwaja Ubaidallah Ahrar (15th century) had turned to farming after his period of training.

The soaring price of land in the UK led to Bennett's interest in starting something in the USA. In 1974, he signed an agreement whereby the Institute loaned $100,000 to a newly formed society for the foundation of a psychokinetic community. He signed this document shortly before his death on December 13, 1974.

The Claymont Society was founded to attempt to carry out Bennett's vision, but without the help of his guidance.

In the summer of 1974, he visited the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rome to question him about Transcendental Meditation and his interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita. Bennett had been initiated into TM several years before and first met the Maharishi in 1959. He disputed Maharishi's presentation of the Gita in which he eliminated the need for sacrifice and suffering.

In the last year of his life, he gradually made it known to those working with him, that his own personal task centred on the creation of a way of religious worship that would be accessible to men and women of the West who were lacking in religious formation. During this period he made experiments with the Islamic namaz and Sufi zikr.

The teachings he developed in his last years were recorded and published in a series of books put together by Anthony Blake. He showed that at last he was independent of Gurdjieff and had his own understanding of the spiritual world, based on a radical questioning of all current assumptions.

Bennett died on Friday, December 13, 1974, shortly after the start of the fourth course. That course, and the fifth, were completed by his wife, working with a few of his most experienced pupils.

With his death the Institute was faced with the typical problems of a body which had been led almost single-handedly by one man since its inception. The decision was taken to continue the Academy's work until the five-year period, originally specified by Bennett, had been completed. The setting up of the USA community at Claymont Court, West Virginia, went ahead.

In the months before he died, Bennett worked to establish an experimental "ideal human society" embodying the methods and ideas that he had developed and derived from Gurdjieff. He made substantial efforts to overcome the rifts that had grown between different groups of Gurdjieff's followers, and was beginning to talk about the development of new forms of worship appropriate for the modern world.


• 1948. Crisis in human affairs. (2e ed. 1951)
• 1949. What Are We Living For? (A critique of western culture)
• 1956. Dramatic Universe, The (A search for a unified vision of reality)
• 1959. Concerning Subud.
• 1961. Christian mysticism and Subud.
• 1962. Approaching Subud; ten talks. And a discussion with Steve Allen.
• 1962. Witness: The Story of a Search (Dharma Book Company, and Hodder & Stoughton)(Autobiography)
• 1964, A Spiritual Psychology (1974, 1999)(a workbook for creating an organ of perception and mode of existence independent from the vagaries of life)
• 1964. Energies: Material, Vital, Cosmic (2e ed. 1989) (exploration of the theory of Universal Energies developed from Gurdjieff's hints)
• 1965. Long Pilgrimage (2e ed. 1983) (The life and teaching of the Shivapuri Baba)
• 1969. Gurdjieff: A Very Great Enigma (The ideas of Gurdjieff and the mystery that surrounded him)
• 1973. Gurdjieff - Making a New World (Biography exploring Gurdjieff's role in bringing ancient wisdom to the West)
• 1974. How We Do Things: The Role of Attention in Spiritual Life (Chapters on Function, Sensitivity, Consciousness, Decision, & Creativity)
• 1974. Sex: the relationship between sex and spiritual development (The relationship between sex and spiritual development)
• 1974, Transformation of man series

Posthumous publications

• 1975. Intimations: Talks with J.G. Bennett at Beshara (talks given to students of Reshad Feild, Bulent Rauf and of the great Sufi Mystic
• 1976. First Liberation, freedom from like and dislike (2002 ed. subtitle: Working with Themes at Sherborne House)
• 1976. Hazard: The Risk of Realization (First book of talks given on ideas found in The Dramatic Universe)
• 1976. Journeys In Islamic Countries (Diaries of Bennetts's search for the sources of Gurdjieff's teachings)
• 1977. Needs Of A New Age Community: Talks on Spiritual Community & Schools compiled by A. G. E. Blake from the unpublished writings and talks of J. G. Bennett. (Includes Bennett's commentaries on 'The Sermon on the Mount')
• 1977. Material objects
• 1978. Creation (Exploration of the idea that man lives in many worlds)
• 1978. Deeper Man (Gurdjieff's ideas applied to the critical condition of 20th century society)
• 1978, Transformation (2003) (The process by which a man can become a 'New Man')
• 1980. Idiots In Paris 1991. 2008. (Diaries of Elizabeth & J.G. Bennett in Paris with Gurdjieff)
• 1983. Spiritual Hunger Of The Modern Child: a series of ten lectures (Bennett, Mario Montessori, A.I Polack and others on the nature of a child's spirituality)
• 1989. Creative Thinking (1998) (The conditions necessary for creative insight)
• 1989. Sacred Influences: Spiritual Action in Human Life (Essays on the qualities of Life, Nature, Doing, Wisdom, God, and Sacred Images)
• 1993. Elementary Systematics: A Tool for Understanding Wholes (Conceptual tool to find pattern in complexity. A handbook for business)
• 1995. Making A Soul: Human Destiny and the Debt of Our Existence (Instruction based on Bennett's view of the fundamental purpose of human existence)
• 1995. Masters Of Wisdom: An Esoteric History of the Spiritual Unfolding of Life on This Planet (Historical study and a vision of the workings of higher intelligence)
• 2006. Way To Be Free. edited by Anthony Blake (Conversations between Bennett & his students on the difference between work done from the mind and work from essence)
• 2007. Talks On Beelzebub's Tales (From Bennett's talks on Gurdjieff's series 'Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson'.

See also

• Systematics – study of multi-term systems


1. Witness: The Story of a Search (Autobiography) (1974: Omen Press, Tucson, Arizona; First U.S. ed.). Hodder & Stoughton. 1962. ISBN 0-912358-48-3.
2. Certificate Photo[permanent dead link]
4. Hampton Court Archived 2015-04-03 at the Wayback Machine
5. Other forms of his name are: (1) Ferhâd Dede (2) Ferhât Dede.
6. Shaykh Abdullah al-Fa'izi ad-Daghestani Alayhi Rahma (December 14, 1891 - September 30, 1973).
7. Husein Rofé (May 3, 1922 - February 2008) - His name originally was Peter Rofé. He was born in Manchester, England, and he died in Singapore.
8. Abbey of St. Wandrille (aka Fontenelle Abbey) - This is a Benedictine monastery located in the commune of Saint-Wandrille-Rançon, near Caudebec-en-Caux, in Seine-Maritime, Normandy, France.
9. Hasan Lütfi Şuşud (Hasan Lutfi Shushud) (June 8, 1901 - January 1, 1988). His year of birth is given in many sources as 1902, which is incorrect. Also, his middle name Lütfi (Lutfi) is misspelled "Lufti" in many sources. See: (1) (2)
10. His name is also spelled: Hajji (Hadji) Muzaffer Özak Ashki al-Jerrahi (1916 - February 12, 1985). Some sources give his year of death as 1986, which is incorrect.
11. Bhante Dharmawara (February 12, 1889 - June 26, 1999) - Other forms of his name are: (1) Bellong Mahathera (2) Mahathera Vira Dharmawara (3) Samdach Vira Dharmawara Bellong Mahathera.
12. Süleyman (Suleiman) Dede (1904 - January 19, 1985) - A more complete form of his name is Süleyman Hayati Loras Dede.

External links

• Official website
• Bennett Books website
• The Gurdjieff's Mission video explores Bennett's enigmatic relationship with Gurdjieff
• John G. Bennett page at Gurdjieff International Review website
• "A Call for a New Society" by Bennett
• Systematics website including original journal articles
• Sabah newspaper from Turkey Bennett's signature from 16 May 1919, Istanbul[permanent dead link]
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

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George Gurdjieff
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 11/5/19



George Gurdjieff
Gurdjieff between 1925 and 1935
Born George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, 1866–1877, Alexandropol, Russian Empire (now Gyumri, Armenia)
Died: 29 October 1949 (aged 71–83), Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
School: Fourth Way (the "Gurdjieff Work")
Main interests: Psychology, perennial philosophy
Notable ideas: Fourth Way, Fourth Way enneagram, Centers, Self-remembering
Influences: Not all known; but according to his Meetings with Remarkable Men: his childhood and adult teachers and his father; his book Beelzebub's Tales also mentions Mullah Nassr Eddin;[1] Max Müller (according to modern research)[2]
Influenced: P. D. Ouspensky, Olga de Hartmann, Thomas de Hartmann, Jane Heap, John G. Bennett, Alfred Richard Orage, Jean Toomer, Maurice Nicoll, Frank Lloyd Wright, P. L. Travers, Peter Brook, René Daumal, Katherine Mansfield, Keith Jarrett, James Moore, Philip Mairet, Henry Miller, Barry Long, Arnaud Desjardins, John Anthony West

George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (/ˈɡɜːrdʒiɛf/, Russian: Георгий Иванович Гурджиев; 31 March 1866/14 January 1872/28 November 1877 – 29 October 1949[3]) was a mystic, philosopher, spiritual teacher, and composer of Armenian and Greek descent, born in Alexandrapol (now Gyumri), Armenia.[4] Gurdjieff taught that most humans do not possess a unified consciousness and thus live their lives in a state of hypnotic "waking sleep", but that it is possible to awaken to a higher state of consciousness and achieve full human potential. Gurdjieff described a method attempting to do so, calling the discipline "The Work"[5] (connoting "work on oneself") or "the System".[6] According to his principles and instructions,[7] Gurdjieff's method for awakening one's consciousness unites the methods of the fakir, monk and yogi, and thus he referred to it as the "Fourth Way".[8]


Early years

Gurdjieff[9] (Russian: Гео́ргий Ива́нович Гурджи́ев, Greek: Γεώργιος Γεωργιάδης, Armenian: Գեորգի Գյուրջիև) was born to a Caucasus Greek father, Ἰωάνης Γεωργιάδης (Yiannis Georgiades),[10] and an Armenian mother, Evdokia (according to biographer Paul Beekman Taylor), in Alexandropol (now Gyumri), Armenia, then part of the Russian Empire in the Transcaucasus.[11] The name Gurdjieff represents a Russified form of the Pontic Greek surname "Georgiades" (Greek: Γεωργιάδης).[9] The exact year of his birth remains unknown; conjectures range from 1866 to 1877. Some authors (such as James Moore) argue for 1866. Both Olga de Hartmann, the woman Gurdjieff called "the first friend of my inner life", and Louise Goepfert March, Gurdjieff's secretary in the early 1930s, believed that Gurdjieff was born in 1872. A passport gave a birthdate of November 28, 1877, but he once stated that he was born at the stroke of midnight at the beginning of New Year's Day (Julian calendar). Although the dates of his birth vary, the year of 1872 is inscribed in a plate on the gravemarker in the cemetery of Avon, Seine-et-Marne, France, where his body was buried.[12]

Gurdjieff spent his childhood in Kars, which, from 1878 to 1918, was the administrative capital of the Russian-ruled Transcaucasus province of Kars Oblast, a border region recently captured from the Ottoman Empire. It contained extensive grassy plateau-steppe and high mountains, and was inhabited by a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional population that had a history of respect for travelling mystics and holy men, and for religious syncretism and conversion. Both the city of Kars and the surrounding territory were home to an extremely diverse population: although part of the Armenian Plateau, Kars Oblast was home to Armenians, Russians, Caucasus Greeks, Georgians, Turks, Kurds and smaller numbers of Christian communities from eastern and central Europe such as Caucasus Germans, Estonians and Russian sectarian communities like the Molokans, Doukhobors, Pryguny, and Subbotniki. Gurdjieff makes particular mention of the Yazidi community. Growing up in a multi-ethnic society, Gurdjieff became fluent in Armenian, Pontic Greek, Russian and Turkish, speaking the last in a mixture of elegant Osmanlı and some dialect.[13] He later acquired "a working facility with several European languages".[11] Early influences on him included his father, a carpenter and amateur ashik or bardic poet,[14] and the priest of the town's Russian church, Dean Borsh, a family friend. The young Gurdjieff avidly read Russian-language scientific literature.[15] Influenced by these writings, and having witnessed a number of phenomena that he could not explain, he formed the conviction that there existed a hidden truth not to be found in science or in mainstream religion.

Seeker of truth

In early adulthood, according to his own account, Gurdjieff's curiosity led him to travel to Central Asia, Egypt, Iran, India, Tibet and Rome before he returned to Russia for a few years in 1912. He was always unforthcoming about the source of his teachings. The only account of his wanderings appears in his book Meetings with Remarkable Men. Most commentators[16] leave his background unexplained, and it is not generally considered to be a reliable or straightforward autobiography.[17][18] Each chapter is named after an individual "remarkable man"; many are putatively members of a society of "seekers of truth".

After Gurdjieff's death, J. G. Bennett researched his sources extensively and suggested that these characters were symbolic of the three types of people to whom Gurdjieff referred: No. 1 centred in their physical body; No. 2 centred in their emotions and No. 3 centred in their minds. He asserts that he has encounters with dervishes, fakirs and descendants of the extinct Essenes, whose teaching had been, he claimed, conserved at a monastery in Sarmoung. The book also has an overarching quest narrative involving a map of "pre-sand Egypt" and culminating in an encounter with the "Sarmoung Brotherhood".[19]


Gurdjieff wrote that he supported himself during his travels with odd jobs and trading schemes (one of which he described as dyeing hedgerow birds yellow and selling them as canaries[20]). On his reappearance, as far as the historical record is concerned, the ragged wanderer had transformed into a well-heeled businessman. His only autobiographical writing concerning this period is Herald of Coming Good. In it, he mentions acting as hypnotherapist specialising in the cure of addictions and using people as guinea pigs[21] for his methods. It is also speculated that during his travels, he was engaged in a certain amount of political activity, as part of The Great Game.[22]

In Russia

From 1913 to 1949, the chronology appears to be based on material that can be confirmed by primary documents, independent witnesses, cross-references and reasonable inference.[23] On New Year's Day in 1912, Gurdjieff arrived in Moscow and attracted his first students, including his cousin, the sculptor Sergey Merkurov, and the eccentric Rachmilievitch. In the same year, he married the Polish Julia Ostrowska in Saint Petersburg. In 1914, Gurdjieff advertised his ballet, The Struggle of the Magicians, and he supervised his pupils' writing of the sketch Glimpses of Truth. In 1915, Gurdjieff accepted P. D. Ouspensky as a pupil, and in 1916, he accepted the composer Thomas de Hartmann and his wife, Olga, as students. Then, he had about 30 pupils. Ouspensky already had a reputation as a writer on mystical subjects and had conducted his own, ultimately disappointing, search for wisdom in the East. The Fourth Way "system" taught during this period was complex and metaphysical, partly expressed in scientific terminology.

In the midst of revolutionary upheaval in Russia, Gurdjieff left Petrograd in 1917 to return to his family home in Alexandropol. During the Bolshevik Revolution, he set up temporary study communities in Essentuki in the Caucasus, then in Tuapse, Maikop, Sochi and Poti, all on the Black Sea coast of southern Russia, where he worked intensively with many of his Russian pupils. Gurdjieff said, "Begin in Russia, End in Russia".

In March 1918, Ouspensky separated from Gurdjieff, settling in England and teaching the Fourth Way in his own right. The two men were to have a very ambivalent relationship for decades to come.

Four months later, Gurdjieff's eldest sister and her family reached him in Essentuki as refugees, informing him that Turks had shot his father in Alexandropol on 15 May. As Essentuki became more and more threatened by civil war, Gurdjieff fabricated a newspaper story announcing his forthcoming "scientific expedition" to "Mount Induc". Posing as a scientist, Gurdjieff left Essentuki with fourteen companions (excluding Gurdjieff's family and Ouspensky). They travelled by train to Maikop, where hostilities delayed them for three weeks. In spring 1919, Gurdjieff met the artist Alexandre de Salzmann and his wife Jeanne and accepted them as pupils. Assisted by Jeanne de Salzmann, Gurdjieff gave the first public demonstration of his Sacred Dances (Movements at the Tbilisi Opera House, 22 June).

In Georgia and Turkey

In 1919, Gurdjieff and his closest pupils moved to Tbilisi. There, Gurdjieff's wife Julia Ostrowska, the Stjoernvals, the Hartmanns, and the de Salzmanns gathered the fundamentals of his teaching. Gurdjieff concentrated on his still unstaged ballet, The Struggle of the Magicians. Thomas de Hartmann (who had made his debut years ago, before Czar Nicholas II of Russia), worked on the music for the ballet, and Olga Ivanovna Hinzenberg (who years later wed the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright), practiced the ballet dances.[24] In 1919, Gurdjieff established his first Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man.

In late May 1920, when political conditions in Georgia changed and the old order was crumbling, his party travelled to Batumi on the Black Sea coast and then traveled by ship to Istanbul.[25] Gurdjieff rented an apartment on Koumbaradji Street in Péra and later at 13 Abdullatif Yemeneci Sokak near the Galata Tower.[26] The apartment is near the kha'neqa'h (monastery) of the Mevlevi Order (a Sufi Order following the teachings of Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi), where Gurdjieff, Ouspensky and Thomas de Hartmann witnessed the sema ceremony of the Whirling Dervishes. In Istanbul, Gurdjieff also met his future pupil Capt. John G. Bennett, then head of British Military Intelligence in Constantinople, who describes his impression of Gurdjieff as follows:

It was there that I first met Gurdjieff in the autumn of 1920, and no surroundings could have been more appropriate. In Gurdjieff, East and West do not just meet. Their difference is annihilated in a world outlook which knows no distinctions of race or creed. This was my first, and has remained one of my strongest impressions. A Greek from the Caucasus, he spoke Turkish with an accent of unexpected purity, the accent that one associates with those born and bred in the narrow circle of the Imperial Court. His appearance was striking enough even in Turkey, where one saw many unusual types. His head was shaven, immense black moustache, eyes which at one moment seemed very pale and at another almost black. Below average height, he gave nevertheless an impression of great physical strength

Prieuré at Avon

In August 1921 and 1922, Gurdjieff travelled around western Europe, lecturing and giving demonstrations of his work in various cities, such as Berlin and London. He attracted the allegiance of Ouspensky's many prominent pupils (notably the editor A. R. Orage). After an unsuccessful attempt to gain British citizenship, Gurdjieff established the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man south of Paris at the Prieuré des Basses Loges in Avon near the famous Château de Fontainebleau. The once-impressive but somewhat crumbling mansion set in extensive grounds housed an entourage of several dozen, including some of Gurdjieff's remaining relatives and some White Russian refugees.

New pupils included C. S. Nott, René Zuber, Margaret Anderson and her ward Fritz Peters. The generally intellectual and middle-class types who were attracted to Gurdjieff's teaching often found the Prieuré's spartan accommodation and emphasis on hard labour in the grounds disconcerting. Gurdjieff was putting into practice his teaching that people need to develop physically, emotionally and intellectually, hence the mixture of lectures, music, dance, and manual work. Older pupils noticed how the Prieuré teaching differed from the complex metaphysical "system" that had been taught in Russia.[27] In addition to the physical hardships, his personal behaviour towards pupils could be ferocious:

Gurdjieff was standing by his bed in a state of what seemed to me to be completely uncontrolled fury. He was raging at Orage, who stood impassively, and very pale, framed in one of the windows.... Suddenly, in the space of an instant, Gurdjieff's voice stopped, his whole personality changed, he gave me a broad smile—looking incredibly peaceful and inwardly quiet— motioned me to leave, and then resumed his tirade with undiminished force. This happened so quickly that I do not believe that Mr. Orage even noticed the break in the rhythm.[28]

During this period, Gurdjieff acquired notoriety as "the man who killed Katherine Mansfield" after Katherine Mansfield died there of tuberculosis under his care on 9 January 1923.[29] However, James Moore and Ouspensky[30] argue that Mansfield knew she would soon die and that Gurdjieff made her last days happy and fulfilling.[31]

First car accident, writing and visits to North America

Starting in 1924, Gurdjieff made visits to North America, where he eventually received the pupils taught previously by A.R. Orage. In 1924, while driving alone from Paris to Fontainebleau, he had a near-fatal car accident. Nursed by his wife and mother, he made a slow and painful recovery against medical expectation. Still convalescent, he formally "disbanded" his institute on 26 August (in fact, he dispersed only his "less dedicated" pupils), which he explained as an undertaking "in the future, under the pretext of different worthy reasons, to remove from my eyesight all those who by this or that make my life too comfortable".[32]

After recovering, he began writing Beelzebub's Tales, the first part of All and Everything in a mixture of Armenian and Russian. The book was deliberately convoluted and obscure, forcing the reader to "work" to find its meaning. He also composed it according to his own principles, writing in noisy cafes to force a greater effort of concentration.

Gurdjieff's mother died in 1925 and his wife developed cancer and died in June 1926. Ouspensky attended her funeral. According to Fritz Peters, Gurdjieff was in New York from November 1925 to the spring of 1926, when he succeeded in raising over $100,000.[33] He was to make six or seven trips to the US, where he alienated a number of people with his brash and impudent demands for money. Some have interpreted that in terms of his following the Malamatiyya technique of the Sufis, he was deliberately attracting disapproval.[34]

A Chicago-based Gurdjieff group was founded by Jean Toomer in 1927 after having trained in Prieuré for a year. Diana Huebert was a regular member of the Chicago group, and documented the several visits Gurdjieff made to the group in 1932 and 1934 in her memoirs on the man.[35]

Despite his fund-raising efforts in America, the Prieuré operation ran into debt and was shut down in 1932. Gurdjieff constituted a new teaching group in Paris. Known as The Rope, it was composed of only women, many of them writers, and several lesbians. Members included Kathryn Hulme, Jane Heap, Margaret Anderson and Enrico Caruso's widow, Dorothy. Gurdjieff became acquainted with Gertrude Stein through Rope members, but she was never a follower.[36]

In 1935, Gurdjieff stopped work on All and Everything. He had completed the first two parts of the planned trilogy but only started on the Third Series. (It was later published under the title Life Is Real Only Then, When 'I Am'.) In 1936, he settled in a flat at 6, Rue des Colonels-Renard in Paris, where he was to stay for the rest of his life. In 1937, his brother Dmitry died, and The Rope disbanded.

World War II

Although the flat at 6 Rue des Colonels-Renard was very small for the purpose, he continued to teach groups of pupils throughout World War II. Visitors recalled the pantry, stocked with an extraordinary collection of eastern delicacies, which served as his inner sanctum, and the suppers he held with elaborate toasts to "idiots"[37] in vodka and cognac. Having cut a physically impressive figure for many years, he was now distinctly paunchy. His teaching was now far removed from the original "system", being based on proverbs, jokes and personal interaction, although pupils were required to read, three times if possible, copies of his magnum opus Beelzebub's Tales.

His personal business enterprises (he had intermittently been a dealer in oriental rugs and carpets for much of his life, among other activities) enabled him to offer charitable relief to neighbours who had been affected by the difficult circumstances of the war, and it also brought him to the attention of the authorities, leading to a night in the cells.

Final years

After the war, Gurdjieff tried to reconnect with his former pupils. Ouspensky was reluctant, but after his death (October 1947), his widow advised his remaining pupils to see Gurdjieff in Paris. J. G. Bennett also visited from England, the first meeting for 25 years. Ouspensky's pupils in England had all thought that Gurdjieff was dead. They discovered he was alive only after the death of Ouspensky, who had not told them that Gurdjieff was still living. They were overjoyed to hear so, and many of Ouspensky's pupils including Rina Hands, Basil Tilley and Catherine Murphy visited Gurdjieff in Paris. Hands and Murphy worked on the typing and retyping of the forthcoming book All and Everything.

Gurdjieff suffered a second car accident in 1948 but again made an unexpected recovery.

" was looking at a dying man. Even this is not enough to express it. It was a dead man, a corpse, that came out of the car; and yet it walked. I was shivering like someone who sees a ghost."

With iron-like tenacity, he managed to gain his room, where he sat down and said: "Now all organs are destroyed. Must make new". Then, he turned to Bennett, smiling: "Tonight you come dinner. I must make body work". As he spoke, a great spasm of pain shook his body and blood gushed from an ear. Bennett thought: "He has a cerebral haemorrhage. He will kill himself if he continues to force his body to move". But then he reflected: "He has to do all this. If he allows his body to stop moving, he will die. He has power over his body".[38]

[i]The body of Gurdjieff, lying in state, France. 'Every one of those unfortunates during the process of existence should constantly sense and be cognizant of the inevitability of his own death as well as of the death of everyone upon whom his eyes or attention rests'.

After recovering, Gurdjieff finalised plans for the official publication of Beelzebub's Tales and made two trips to New York. He also visited the famous prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux, giving his interpretation of their significance to his pupils.

Gurdjieff died at the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. His funeral took place at the St. Alexandre Nevsky Russian Orthodox Cathedral at 12 Rue Daru, Paris. He is buried in the cemetery at Avon (near Fontainebleau).[39]


Although no evidence or documents have certified anyone as a child of Gurdjieff, the following seven people are believed to be his children:[40]

• Cynthie Sophia "Dushka" Howarth (1924–2010); her mother was dancer Jessmin Howarth.[41][42][43] She went on to found the Gurdjieff Heritage Foundation.[43]
• Sergei Chaverdian; his mother was Lily Galumnian Chaverdian.[44]
• Andrei, born to a mother known only as Georgii.[44]
• Eve Taylor (born 1928); the mother was one of his followers, American socialite Edith Annesley Taylor.[40]
• Nikolai Stjernvall (1919–2010), whose mother was Elizaveta Grigorievna, wife of Leonid Robertovich de Stjernvall.[45]
• Michel de Salzmann (1923–2001), whose mother was Jeanne Allemand de Salzmann; he later became head of the Gurdjieff Foundation.[46]
• Svetlana Hinzenberg (1917–1946), daughter of Olga (Olgivanna) Ivanovna Hinzenberg and a future stepdaughter of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.[47][48]

Gurdjieff had a niece, Luba Gurdjieff Everitt, who for about 40 years (1950s-1990s) ran a small but rather famous restaurant, Luba's Bistro, in Knightsbridge, London.[49]


Gurdjieff claimed that people cannot perceive reality in their current condition because they do not possess a unified consciousness but rather live in a state of a hypnotic "waking sleep".

"Man lives his life in sleep, and in sleep he dies."[50] As a result of this each person perceives things from a completely subjective perspective. He asserted that people in their typical state function as unconscious automatons, but that a person can "wake up" and become a different sort of human being altogether.[51]

Self-development teachings

Main article: Fourth Way

Gurdjieff argued that many of the existing forms of religious and spiritual tradition on Earth had lost connection with their original meaning and vitality and so could no longer serve humanity in the way that had been intended at their inception. As a result, humans were failing to realize the truths of ancient teachings and were instead becoming more and more like automatons, susceptible to control from outside and increasingly capable of otherwise unthinkable acts of mass psychosis such as World War I. At best, the various surviving sects and schools could provide only a one-sided development, which did not result in a fully integrated human being.

According to Gurdjieff, only one dimension of the three dimensions of the person—namely, either the emotions, or the physical body or the mind—tends to develop in such schools and sects, and generally at the expense of the other faculties or centers, as Gurdjieff called them. As a result, these paths fail to produce a properly balanced human being. Furthermore, anyone wishing to undertake any of the traditional paths to spiritual knowledge (which Gurdjieff reduced to three—namely the path of the fakir, the path of the monk, and the path of the yogi) were required to renounce life in the world. Gurdjieff thus developed a "Fourth Way"[52] which would be amenable to the requirements of modern people living modern lives in Europe and America. Instead of developing body, mind, or emotions separately, Gurdjieff's discipline worked on all three to promote comprehensive and balanced inner development.

In parallel with other spiritual traditions, Gurdjieff taught that a person must expend considerable effort to effect the transformation that leads to awakening. The effort that is put into practice Gurdjieff referred to as "The Work" or "Work on oneself".[53] According to Gurdjieff, "...Working on oneself is not so difficult as wishing to work, taking the decision."[54] Though Gurdjieff never put major significance on the term "Fourth Way" and never used the term in his writings, his pupil P.D. Ouspensky from 1924 to 1947 made the term and its use central to his own teaching of Gurdjieff's ideas. After Ouspensky's death, his students published a book titled The Fourth Way based on his lectures.

Gurdjieff's teaching addressed the question of humanity's place in the universe and the importance of developing latent potentialities—regarded as our natural endowment as human beings but rarely brought to fruition. He taught that higher levels of consciousness, higher bodies,[55] inner growth and development are real possibilities that nonetheless require conscious work to achieve.[56]

In his teaching Gurdjieff gave a distinct meaning to various ancient texts such as the Bible and many religious prayers. He claimed that such texts possess meanings very different from those commonly attributed to them. "Sleep not"; "Awake, for you know not the hour"; and "The Kingdom of Heaven is Within" are examples of biblical statements which point to a psychological teaching whose essence has been forgotten.[57]

Gurdjieff taught people how to increase and focus their attention and energy in various ways and to minimize daydreaming and absentmindedness. According to his teaching, this inner development of oneself is the beginning of a possible further process of change, the aim of which is to transform people into what Gurdjieff believed they ought to be.[58]

Distrusting "morality", which he describes as varying from culture to culture, often contradictory and hypocritical, Gurdjieff greatly stressed the importance of "conscience".

To provide conditions in which inner attention could be exercised more intensively, Gurdjieff also taught his pupils "sacred dances" or "movements", later known as the Gurdjieff movements, which they performed together as a group. He also left a body of music, inspired by what he heard in visits to remote monasteries and other places, written for piano in collaboration with one of his pupils, Thomas de Hartmann.

Gurdjieff also used various exercises, such as the "Stop" exercise, to prompt self-observation in his students. Other shocks to help awaken his pupils from constant daydreaming were always possible at any moment.


"The Work" is in essence a training in the development of consciousness. Gurdjieff used a number of methods and materials, including meetings, music, movements (sacred dance), writings, lectures, and innovative forms of group and individual work. Part of the function of these various methods was to undermine and undo the ingrained habit patterns of the mind and bring about moments of insight. Since each individual has different requirements, Gurdjieff did not have a one-size-fits-all approach, and he adapted and innovated as circumstance required.[59] In Russia he was described as keeping his teaching confined to a small circle,[60] whereas in Paris and North America he gave numerous public demonstrations.[61]

Gurdjieff felt that the traditional methods of self-knowledge—those of the fakir, monk, and yogi (acquired, respectively, through pain, devotion, and study)—were inadequate on their own and often led to various forms of stagnation and one-sidedness. His methods were designed to augment the traditional paths with the purpose of hastening the developmental process. He sometimes called these methods The Way of the Sly Man[62] because they constituted a sort of short-cut through a process of development that might otherwise carry on for years without substantive results. The teacher, possessing consciousness, sees the individual requirements of the disciple and sets tasks that he knows will result in a transformation of consciousness in that individual. Instructive historical parallels can be found in the annals of Zen Buddhism, where teachers employed a variety of methods (sometimes highly unorthodox) to bring about the arising of insight in the student.


Gurdjieff's music divides into three distinct periods. The "first period" is the early music, including music from the ballet Struggle of the Magicians and music for early movements dating to the years around 1918.

The "second period" music, for which Gurdjieff arguably became best known, written in collaboration with Russian composer Thomas de Hartmann, is described as the Gurdjieff-de Hartmann music.[63][64] Dating to the mid-1920s, it offers a rich repertory with roots in Caucasian and Central Asian folk and religious music, Russian Orthodox liturgical music, and other sources. This music was often first heard in the salon at the Prieuré, where much was composed. Since the publication of four volumes of this piano repertory by Schott, recently completed, there has been a wealth of new recordings, including orchestral versions of music prepared by Gurdjieff and de Hartmann for the Movements demonstrations of 1923–24. Solo piano versions of these works have been recorded by Cecil Lytle,[65] Keith Jarrett[66] , Frederic Chiu[67].

The "last musical period" is the improvised harmonium music which often followed the dinners Gurdjieff held at his Paris apartment during the Occupation and immediate post-war years to his death in 1949. In all, Gurdjieff in collaboration with de Hartmann composed some 200 pieces.[68] In May 2010, 38 minutes of unreleased solo piano music on acetate was purchased by Neil Kempfer Stocker from the estate of his late step-daughter, Dushka Howarth. In 2009, pianist Elan Sicroff released Laudamus: The Music of Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann, consisting of a selection of Gurdjieff/de Hartmann collaborations (as well as three early romantic works composed by de Hartmann in his teens).[69] In 1998 Alessandra Celletti released "Hidden Sources[70]" (Kha Records) with 18 tracks by Gurdjieff/de Hartmann.


Main article: Gurdjieff movements

Movements, or sacred dances, constitute an integral part of the Gurdjieff Work. Gurdjieff sometimes referred to himself as a "teacher of dancing" and gained initial public notice for his attempts to put on a ballet in Moscow called Struggle of the Magicians.

Films of movements demonstrations are occasionally shown for private viewing by the Gurdjieff Foundations and one is shown in a scene in the Peter Brook movie Meetings with Remarkable Men.
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