The Idea of the World in the East

This very early review by Julius Evola of “The Science of Peace” and “The Science of the Sacred Word” originally appeared in Bilychnis, volume XXVI, September, 1925. This is part one of two parts. The third part will deal with the idea of the world in the West.
NOTE: This is not the American musician who goes by that name.

As readers here know, Evola’s first book, The Individual and the Becoming of the World, was presented to the Free Theosophical Society in Rome; hence, he was aware of theosophical literature. Bhagavan Das was one of the figures who stood out to Evola, although apparently ignored by the Theosophical Society today. Evola expresses the reasons below, but it should be clear that Bhagavan Das’ knowledge of German idealism, particularly the thought of Fichte made an impression on Evola.

In my research into BD, I found out that his works were also highly recommended by the Theosophist Alice Bailey. Curiously, there are some pagan circles in Russia that hold both Evola and Bailey both in high esteem, for reasons that escape me.

For those interested in the texts:
The Science of Peace
The Science of the Sacred Word
Background information on the Pranava Vada

There is a point that whoever approaches oriental wisdom should keep constantly in mind and that instead, as far as I know, is neglected also by our major philologists is this: the quality and role by which its expressions in the East and in the West is experienced are in fact different. While among us, to experience a content means, approximately, to think it and to know how to speak it, so that the expression in its rational form is something that expresses it adequately and with which it is interchangeable, in the Oriental, the content instead draws its evidence from an interior and individual experience and, in respect to which, its expression is always an allusive sign, a symbol, a contingent image. Hence, simply translated oriental texts imported into Europe can only yield little or nothing: to translate an oriental text should not mean to put our words in the place, e.g., of Sanskrit words, but rather to seek for an inner reconstruction to take into account the profound explanation of that content, which in the Orient is supported not on the expression, but rather on an internal apperception, and therefore to make oneself give this same content back to rational mediation according to its own form. Such is the true translation, in respect to which the linguistic translation is something in fact secondary and subordinate, and only in this conditions can oriental metaphysics fit into the western mentality and can be not a simple object of erudite curiosity, but can operate in a vital way.

Now the work of Bhagavan Das, which we highly recommend to the reader, represents the most serious and successful effort along such lines. Bhagavan Das is an Indian who has sketched out an austere discipline of western speculative culture, and joining it with singular gifts of penetration and critical awareness, he has proposed to give the essence of one of the greatest Indian metaphysical systems—the Vedanta—in an explanation proper to our European mentality, and thus (and in that is the superiority of his work in respect to various purely intellectual presentations previously attempted) to the dialectical and critical awareness elaborated by German idealism, in which that mentality has culminated. The Science of Peace represents a general placement, a taking of a purely speculative, synthetic and fully detailed position; the redaction of Gargayana’s Pranava Vada is its later development that is deployed and shares in the opulent material of the Vedas, thereby leading the reader into the heart of the Indian tradition. It treats a work so complex and rich that the attempt to give it here in few words not just a summary, but even only the meaning and the more general lines is certainly rather risky. This is therefore a warning to the reader.

In the introductory section, Bhagavan makes us present at the rising of the moral crisis in man: doubt, anguish, the problem of certainty, that of the I and the not-I, and finally the anxious searching for a firm point, of a concept that can take account of the chaotic and contradictory material of experience. Various solutions proposed by the East and the West are little by little undertaken and then criticized and made to pass into other until it reaches an understanding of an opposition as the final foundation: on the one hand, the experience of multiplicity, the changeable, and the illusory refers, as in its condition, to something simple, firm, self-evident: to the I; on the other hand, the I does not have at all a pure experience of itself as such, but is inseparably connected to this dispersed, changeable, and uncertain matter of sensible reality, to which it is opposed. Having reached such a result, it remains to understand its meaning. Here the author moves onto a deductive procedure, discussing the Pranava Vada, i.e., the “Science of the Sacred Word”.

The central point is that the truly absolute is not that which is simply itself in an emptiness of abstract identity, but rather that which is itself as negation of all that it is not, and that therefore it is at the same time the creative function of its “other”—of the particular, the contingent, and the changeable—if only as the simple antithesis, against which it strikes the awareness of the universal, if only as the simple matter generated only by giving life to the flame that, devouring it, reaffirms the point of infinity. One therefore has a dialectic concept of the Absolute, enclosed in the sacred word Aum, whose meaning is: aham etat na = “I-this-not” = ”I am not this”; i.e., the idea of the Absolute as that supreme simplicity that draws itself from the synthesis of three movements: of an I, of a not-I or “this” opposed to it, and of a power that connects the three terms together according to a double function of creation (the I that poses the not-I) and of negation (the not-I dissolved and taken back into the I).

Brahman is exactly this syntheses in its aspect of actual, eternal, simultaneous unity of the three moments; a unity that is neither the one opposed nor the other, neither affirmation nor negation, neither universal nor particular, neither rest not motion, etc. but something that transcends and contains them all, all contradictions and higher reconciliations. It is the dvandvatitam, opposed to the dvandam, i.e., to the relative, the process of which one can say, like Aristotle, that it is the act and the eternal substrate.

As to the dvandvam, it therefore includes everything that is determined through relationships, and is expressed in the three moments just mentioned.

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