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)

The tragedy of the modern world

I am afraid nothing has changed:

” When the heart is sensitive and the mind is perceptive, one look at the world will suffice to see the misery of the human creature and to guess at ways of salvation; when they are insensitive and dull, massive impressions will be needed to trigger even some weak feeling. The sheltered son of a prince saw a beggar, a sick person, and a corpse for the first time – and he became the Buddha; a contemporary writer sees the piles of corpses and witnesses the gruesome destruction of thousands of people in Russia after the war – and he realizes that something is awfully wrong in the world and writes a number of mediocre novels.”

Eric Voegelin, Political Religions, p.33.

Today the most important contributions to political science

“Today the most important contributions to political science – not in the academic but in the noetic sense – come from archeology, from the investigations of myths and ethnology, from the history of the Ancient Orient, classical Antiquity and the Far East, from classical philology, from the history of Judaism and Christianity, from the history of patristics and scholasticism, and from the science of comparative religion and comparative literature.”

Eric Voegelin, Anamnesis (second edition by David Walsh), p.390