Shankara on the disenchantment of the world

A fascinating text from Shankara’s Brahma-Sutra-Bhasya on the disenchantment of the world:

“For what is not accessible to our perception may have been within the sphere of perception of people in ancient times. Smriti also declares that Vyâsa and others conversed with the gods face to face. A person maintaining that the people of ancient times were no more able to converse with the gods than people are at present, would thereby deny the (incontestable) variety of the world. He might as well maintain that because there is at present no prince ruling over the whole earth, there were no such princes in former times; a position by which the scriptural injunction of the râgasûya-sacrifice would be stultified. Or he might maintain that in former times the spheres of duty of the different castes and âsramas were as generally unsettled as they are now, and, on that account, declare those parts of Scripture which define those different duties to be purposeless. It is therefore altogether unobjectionable to assume that the men of ancient times, in consequence of their eminent religious merit, conversed with the gods face to face. Smriti also declares that ‘from the reading of the Veda there results intercourse with the favourite divinity’ (Yoga Sûtra II, 44). And that Yoga does, as Smriti declares, lead to the acquirement of extraordinary powers, such as subtlety of body, and so on, is a fact which cannot be set aside by a mere arbitrary denial. Scripture also proclaims the greatness of Yoga, ‘When, as earth, water, light, heat, and ether arise, the fivefold quality of Yoga takes place, then there is no longer illness, old age, or pain for him who has obtained a body produced by the fire of Yoga’ (Svet. Up. II, 12). Nor have we the right to measure by our capabilities the capability of the rishis who see the mantras and brâhmana passages (i.e. the Veda).–From all this it appears that the itihâsas and purânas have an adequate basis.–And the conceptions of ordinary life also must not be declared to be unfounded, if it is at all possible to accept them.”

Brahma-Sutra-Bhasya, I-3, 33 (Translated by George Thibaut)

New issue of Religions/Adyan: Peace in a World of Conflicts

COVER OUT_PeaceENGLISHcCover courtesy of Kai-Henrik Barth

The issue 9 of Adyan is now available

To download the English section, click here.
To download the Arabic section, click here.

Table of content for the English and French section:

by Patrick Laude

Interview with Karen Armstrong

by Renaud Fabbri

Eschatology and Philosophy: the Practice of Dying
by Eric Voegelin

The Problem of Peace in the Ecumenic Age
by Barry Cooper

Religion and Violence: how symbiotic a relationship?
by Olivier Leaman

Islam and Peace: A Preliminary Survey on the Sources of Peace in the Islamic Tradition
By Ibrahim Kalin

La paix passe-t-elle par une ère messianique ?
by Eric Geoffroy

L’État islamique, entre tradition réinventée et utopie politico-religieuse
by Myriam Benraad

Peace as inner transformation: a Buddhist perspective
by John Paraskevopoulos

Buddhist Perspective on Conflict Resolution
by Daisaku Ikeda

New Reality: Peace and Universal Responsibility, according to the Dalai Lama
by Sofia Stril-Rever

Jerusalem, City of Peace
by Louis Massignon

Human Diversity in the Mirror of Religious Pluralism
by Samuel Bendeck Sotillos

The Greatest Binding Force
by Mahatma Gandhi

Hope for Peace in a Broken World: 1 Chronicles, Exile and Building Walls
by Grace Ji-Sun Kim

Integral Pluralism as the Basis for Harmony: The Approach of His Highness the Aga Khan
by Ali Lakhani

Out of the mouths of babes: Comenius and World Peace
by Elizabeth Kristofovich Zelensky

Les religions, entre violence et paix
by Eric Vinson

Subverting Hatred: The Challenge of Nonviolence in Religious Traditions (book review)
by Akintunde E. Akinade

Karen Armstrong, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence (book review)
by Senad Mrahorović


Un article sur Eric Voegelin et Rene Guenon


N° 29 — 2015


Renaud Fabbri
René Guénon et Eric Voegelin

Le nom d’Eric Voegelin commence tout juste à être connu en France où son œuvre est surtout associée aux polémiques contre la gnose. Prenant le contre-pied des interprétations néoconservatrices qui prédominent aux Etats-Unis, cet article montre les convergences entre la pensée de Voegelin, le soi-disant chasseur de gnose et la pensée de René Guénon, lequel a contribué plus que quiconque à la renaissance d’une gnose orthodoxe au 20ème siècle.




Jean-Louis Coy
Quelques réflexions sur ésotérisme et cinema

Philippe Roger
L’oeil camérique : l’ésotérisme biographique de Jean Grémillon

Yvon Gerault
Le golem de Gustav Meyrink : un mythe pour l’image

Yann Calvet
Cinéma, imaginaire, ésotérisme : réflexions sur 2001 l’Odyssée de l’espace (1968) de Stanley Kubrick

Laurent Aknin
Alejandro Jodorowsky ou l’ésotérisme panique

Stéphane Grobost
Archétypes, gnose et cinéma : les trilogies cultes et l’initiation


Francesco Baroni
L’école d’Alexandrie dans les courants ésotériques contemporains : Clément et Origène symboles du mystère

Renaud Fabbri
René Guénon et Eric Voegelin

Giovanni Monastra
L’itinéraire d’Harold E. Musson : un traducteur en quête du Nirvāna

Éric Phalippou et Aurélie Choné
Meher Bâbâ (1894-1969), ou le dernier avatar de la sotériologie iranienne


Jérôme Rousse-Lacordaire
Jean-Pierre Brach, Aurélie Choné & Christine Maillard (dir.), Capitales de l’ésotérisme européen et dialogue des cultures

Jérôme Rousse-Lacordaire
Franck Damour, Le Pape noir, genèse d’un mythe

Emmanuel Kreis
Henrik Bogdan & Jan A. M. Snoek (éd.), Handbook of Freemasonry. Charis : Archives de l’Unicorne, no 5

Aurélie Choné
Jérémy Jammes, Les Oracles du Cao Ðài. Études d’un movement religieux vietnamien et de ses réseaux

Jean-Pierre Laurant
Lara Sanjakdar, Mircea Eliade e la Tradizione. Tempo, Mito, cicli cosmici

Radu Dragan
Peter Staudenmaier, Between Occultism and Nazism. Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race in the Fascist Era


The Lives of Sri Aurobindo

As I am just finishing the reading of Peter Heehs’s The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, I find it hard to understand the negative reactions and controversies it has triggered. The book offers a balanced and nuanced (non-hagiographical) perspective on the life and work of Aurobindo. The most original aspect of the book is its treatment of Aurobindo’s role in the Indian struggle for independence. I always considered Neo-Hinduism as a by-product of British Colonialism, far inferior to what traditional Hinduism has ever produced. I also remained totally unmoved by a short visit ten years ago to Auroville. This book contributed to give me a much more positive image of Aurobindo and a better understanding of his importance in the intellectual history of modern India (a total enigma to me before reading this work).

The book raises a few important questions that nobody except Aurobindo’s most zealous devotees can afford to ignore: the authenticity of his spiritual experiences as he departs more and more from traditional Hinduism;  the nature of the influence of the Mother onto him; finally the (classical) problems related to the development of an ashram around him.  Peter Heehs confronts these questions without giving definitive answers. (I would add that in general, Peter Heehs always favors the most charitable explanations.)

My recent interest for Aurobindo is directly related to the research I am pursuing about Voegelin and Hinduism. By Voegelinian standards, Aurobindo (like Ibqal at the same period) was a kind of gnostic. His attempt at re-enchanting modernity amounts to a form of immanentisation of Hindu eschatology. Like the Tantra, Aurobindo rejects the doctrine of Mayavada (the characterization of a the world as an illusion). He went further however than the Tantra in teaching a form of “process theology” centered on a dynamic conception of the Absolute, influenced by modern evolutionism. The goal of Aurobindo’s sadhana was not individual Deliverance but a collective enlightenment unknown to traditional Hindu theology and the descent of the supramental consciousness onto earth.  Aurobindo’s community is an interesting chapter in the history of modern utopias.

Aurobindo’s parousianism influenced Western adepts of the New Age but also  played a key role in the development of the Hindu nationalist “political theology”. Originally a “blood and soil” ideology with no intellectual substance, Hindu Nationalism started to borrow from other sources (Gandhian socialism, eco-feminism but also Aurobindo’s mystical theology) by the late 1970s. (The process is well studied by Meera Nanda in her book  Prophets Facing backward). If Aurobindo distorted the Hindu eschaton, the Hindu Nationalists equally distorted Aurobindo’s teaching. The distortion of a distortion was unfortunately not a return to the original.