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Yukteswar's Approach

Let this introduce the Bible, a book that Yukteswar took pains to line up his thinking with:
"God is everywhere present, sees and knows all things and is not everywhere present, or sees or knows all things." (Proverbs 15:3; Ps. 139:7-10; Job 34:22, 21 against Genesis 11:5)

"God is all-powerful and not all-powerful." (Jeremiah 32:27; Matthew 19:26 against Judges 1:19). Compare the conundrum: "Can the almighty create a stone that is so heavy that he cannot lift it?"

"God is to be found by those who seek him and is not to be found by those who seek him." (Proverbs 8:17; against Proverbs 1:28 etc.)

There is more on each set of Bible contradictions/paradoxes here: [References No. 4, 6 and 11]

So there is Bible support for what is to the left and what is to the right of each of the three ands above; there is for example support for "God knows all things; is all-powerful; and not to be found by those who seek him" as well as "God does not see or know all things, is not all-powerful, and is not to be found by those who seek him."

Ten Bible-supported statements may be had by combining one half from each of the three sets above. Still more combinations are possible if you should want the whole self-contradictory or paradoxical statements into the combinations. And this is to say we can get Bible support for many witty views if we want to. Still discern: "What good will it do me?"

I hope you will do better than walk in Yukteswar's steps for seeming Bible support by fragments from here and there in the Book, that is. For one thing, putting together fragments is hardly good enough as a method of documentation. One should also see Bible sayings in their context (setting) for the sake of fairness. More recent Biblical criticism may be fit for that.

Moses with two horns
The two horns in the forehead of Moses in older paintings are due to a former translation error

Swami Sri Yukteswar (1855-1936) wrote The Holy Science (Kaivalya Darsanam) in 1984 at the behest of a secretive guru. His given task and mission was to show "the basic unity between the Christian and Hindu scriptures". Here is a clue already: Both Christian texts and texts of Hinduism contain assertions that contradict one another, also about deep matters. A "basic unity of self-contradictions" has been laid bare.

However, Yukteswar seeks only to align ideas of theistic Samkhya philosophy with Christianity. The results are . . . oh well, see the previous page.

Yet, Yukteswar was given another task too, to "Show by parallel references that the inspired sons of God have spoken the same truths." He should have told explicitly who were "the inspired sons of God". When sayings of various "sons" differ - they often do - do not pretend it is otherwise. And when the "son" contradicts himself, it is fit to point out that as well. A little survey can soon show that some sayings agree more or less, and others hardly, and still others do not agree at all.

Also, the frame of references in Christianity are not like those of Hinduism. Not at all. And those frames of reference - with cultural background, body of scriptures and traditions - tend to bring a surround-meaning to very much that is said, so statements should be seen in context if they are to be compared very well. Basically, the large and kaleidoscopic, embracing body of Hinduism is not like the exclusivity-claiming Christianity.

On the previous page is shown how Yukteswar tried to accommodate to what he was told to do. For one thing, Yukteswar did not tell in his book that the old and traditional Samkhya philosophy system he made use of, has been atheistic from antiquity to this day, and that theistic Samkhya is a later development in it, not many centuries old.

This serves to point out that the Hindu philosophy he draws on throughout the book, has an atheistic basis, and that its traditionally upheld goal, Kaivalya, Aloneness, Aloofness, is not God in Christianity. The yogi Yukteswar might have done better by keeping to the Yoga Philosophy, rather, or a form of Vedanta. For Yoga Darshan is theistic, in that it incorporates Ishwara (God of Light).

In Samkhya we find thus, "There is no God" and also "There is a God". Such soap unity . . . This said, Yukteswar's exposition of theistic Samkhya offers food for thought. But Yukteswar's coverage of Christianity in his slim book is not deep and comprehensive, as shown on the previous page. The yogi was to show a deep unity; he ought to have gone deeper than he did, and come up again and out of it too.

To rub it in: In his slender treatise, Yukteswar goes into Samkhya and underpins tenets of it by not more than 36 passages from the Bible. He does not define or clarify his fundamental concepts, neither 'Hinduism', 'Christianity' or 'religion'. He does not show what these are, their main content, variety or scopes. And the "unity of all religions" of his program is a vagueness blunder, as much is evidently different in the two religions of his study. One may not be able to write a crystal clear book if the main concepts in it are not clarified.

Can his work be favorable anyhow? If you are interested in theistic Samkhya, one of the many niches of Hinduism, yes, I think so. Several stands throughout the book may be interesting too, such as his views on why vegetarianism is best for man. He reasons that the form of the teeth suits such a notion, the length of the intestines, and what food man naturally delights in. There are many other views on what foods are best suited to man, though.

However, when it comes to the professed, overriding aims of the book, it falls short, since the pars pro toto treatment of theistic Samkhya - letting Samkhya represent "all religions", Hinduism and Christianity, is clearly insufficient. Samkhya is not that representative; it is one of six orthodox philosopy systems, darshans, of Hinduism

Basically, Yukteswar's slender book covers just one narrow path of many in a wide and varied landscape. Hinduism "is a diverse system of thought with beliefs spanning monotheism, polytheism, panentheism, pantheism, monism, atheism, agnosticism, gnosticism among others," says Wikipedia (WP sv. "Hinduism"). With such simple points well in mind, let us go on with the study of Yukteswar's book:

The Commision and How Yukteswar Solved It

Yukteswar starts his introduction of the book thus:
YUKTESWAR This Kaivalya Darsanam (exposition of Final Truth) has been written by Priya Nath Swami [Sri Yukteswar] in 1894.

At the request in Allahabad of the Great Preceptor (Mahavatar Babaji) . . . this exposition has been published for the benefit of the world [Yukteswar, Hos 3].

It has to be pointed out that Hinduism is a conglomerate of ideas and issues. Many of the old works do not go very well together. Example: Some say the world is real, other that it is unreal. This issue is not solved by saying the world is "really unreal".

Snapshot: Hinduism

Because it integrates a variety of elements, Hinduism constitutes a complex but largely continuous whole and has religious, social, economic, literary, and artistic aspects. As a religion, Hinduism is a composite of diverse doctrines, cults, and ways of life.

In principle, Hinduism incorporates all forms of belief and worship without necessitating the selection or elimination of any. It is axiomatic that no religious idea in India ever dies or is superseded - it is merely combined with the new ideas that arise in response to it.

A Hindu may embrace a non-Hindu religion without ceasing to be a Hindu.

Hinduism is both a civilization and a congregation of religions; it has neither a beginning or founder, nor a central authority, hierarchy, or organization. Every attempt at a specific definition of Hinduism has proved unsatisfactory in one way or another. The finest scholars of Hinduism, including Hindus themselves, have emphasized different aspects of the whole.

As the All, [B]rahman (ultimate Reality) causes the universe and all beings to emanate from itself, transforms itself into the universe, or assumes its appearance.

[And] two movements, ahimsa and vegetarianism, reinforced one another through the common concept of the disinclination to kill and eat animals. Together they contributed to the growing importance of the protection and veneration of the cow, which gives food without having to be killed. Neither ahimsa nor vegetarianism ever found full acceptance

Hindus disagree about the way (marga) to final emancipation (moksha). [Key source: EB "Hinduism"]


This is a more elaborate selection to put things into perspective.

Hindu texts discuss theology, philosophy and mythology, and provide information on the practice of dharma (religious living).

The term 'Hindu' includes those who adhere to the wide range of religious beliefs and practices related to Sanatan Dharma (The Eternal Righeousness, i.e., Hinduism).

From the 1800s onwards, Hindiusm was quite revived, and reformulated versions of Hinduism's foundational texts appeared. Others such as Yukteswar's emissary Paramahansa Yogananda have served to attract awareness of Yoga in the West and elsewhere.

Hinduism does not have a "unified system of belief encoded in declaration of faith or a creed", but is rather an umbrella term. Another way of putting it: Hinduism is like a wide flood with many currents in it. The main divisions of Hinduism today are Vaishnavism (Vishnuism), Shaivism, Smartism and Shaktism. Smartism, from Sanskrit 'smarta', is a liberal or nonsectarian denomination of the Vedic Hindu religion. Advaita Vedanta Hinduism is of Smartism, and rooted in the existential-minded approach of the Upanishads.

There is Folk Hinduism, Vedic Hinduism, Yogic Hinduism, especially that based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. "Dharmic (moral)" Hinduism of adjusting to explained laws of Karma, and Bhakti or devotionalism, notably in Vaishnavism.

Hinduism is a traditional way of life with a wide range of traditions and ideas incorporated within or covered by it. It is a most diverse religious tradition and the most complex of all the living, historical world religions.

India's former president, the philosopher Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, states that Hinduism cannot be defined. Some academics suggest that Hinduism can be seen as a category with "fuzzy edges", rather than as a well-defined and rigid entity. Some forms of religious expression are central to Hinduism, while others are not as central but are there still.

The concept of God in Hinduism is complex and depends the tradition and philosophy in question. Most Hindus believe that the spirit or soul - the true "self" of every person, called the atman - is eternal. The goal of life, according to Advaita, is to realize that one's atman (spirit) is identical to Brahman (Spirit), the supreme soul. The Upanishads state that whoever becomes fully aware of the atman as the innermost core of one's own self realizes an identity with Brahman and thereby reaches moksha (freedom).

"The Supreme Lord": interpretations of Ishvara vary. Advaita identifies Brahman and Ishvara as one, while in most of the traditions of Vaishnavism Ishwara is Vishnu, God, and the text of Vaishnava scriptures identify this Being as Krishna.

Samsara, the world with its rounds of births and deaths, provides temporary delights. Moksha is believed to ensure lasting happiness and peace of Spirit (Brahman/Paramatman) The ultimate goal of life, referred to as moksha, nirvana or samadhi, is understood in several different ways, but the key is that inner realization liberates one from samsara and ends the cycle of rebirth.

Classical Hindu thought accepts four main goals of human life, the purusharthas. They are Dharma ("righteousness"), Artha ("livelihood, wealth"), Kama ("sensual pleasure") and Moksha ("liberation, freedom (from samsara)")

There are several methods (yogas) that sages have taught for reaching that goal. Texts dedicated to Yoga include the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutras, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and, as their philosophical and historical basis, the Upanishads.

Paths, margas, toward the end goal of life (moksha, samadhi or nirvana) include Bhakti Yoga (the path of love and devotion); Karma Yoga (the path of proper activity); Raja Yoga (the royal path, which is founed on deep meditation with auxilliaries); and Jnana Yoga (the path of discernment). An individual may prefer one or some yogas over others, and practice of one yoga does not exclude others. Many schools believe that the different yogas naturally work together, much like branches of a tree.

Hinduism has a developed system of symbolism and iconography to represent the sacred in art, architecture, literature and worship. These symbols gain their meaning from the scriptures, mythology, or cultural traditions. The syllable Om (which represents the Parabrahman) and the Swastika sign (which symbolizes auspiciousness) have grown to represent Hinduism itself.

Mantras serve to help a person focus the mind for benefit. Many adopt mental mantra repetition, japa, as their key spiritual practice.

Most Hindus engage in daily religious rituals at home, but practices vary greatly. At the back are concepts of accumulated merit to be got through charity or good works, to the effect of improving conditions here or hereafter, or both.

On death, cremation is considered obligatory for all except sanyasis, hijra, and children under five. Cremation is typically performed by wrapping the corpse in cloth and burning it on a pyre. Hijra? They are physiological males who have feminine gender identity, women's clothing and other feminine gender roles [Wikipedia].

Hindus recognise several Indian holy cities. The Kumbh(a) Mela (the "pitcher festival") is one of the holiest of Hindu pilgrimages that is held every four years. Pilgrimage is not mandatory in Hinduism.

Hinduism has many mythology-rooted festivals throughout the year.

As for scriptures, The Rig Veda is the oldest Veda. Shruti (lit: that which is heard) primarily refers to the four Vedas. Hindus believe that because the spiritual truths of the Vedas are eternal, they continue to be expressed in new ways.

Hindu texts other than the Shrutis are collectively called the Smritis (memory). The most notable of the smritis are the epics, which consist of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. The Bhagavad Gita, spoken by Krishna, is described as the essence of the Vedas, but it is more often placed in the Shruti category, for it is heavily Upanishadic in content.

Puranas, which illustrate Hindu ideas through vivid narratives, come under smritis. Other texts include Devi Mahatmya, the Tantras, the Yoga Sutras. The Manu Samhita (Manusmriti) is a prescriptive lawbook which lays the societal codes of social stratification which later evolved into the Indian caste system.

Hinduism has no central doctrinal authority. The Western understanding of what Hinduism is has been formed largely by the Smarta view.

Traditionally the life of a Hindu is divided into four ashramas (stages). The first is the stage as a student, spent in controlled celibate study under a Guru (teacher), building up knowledge. The second is the householder's stage, in which one marries and satisfies kama and artha in one's married and professional life (see the goals of life). Third, the retirement stage, is gradual detachment from the material world. Some Hindus choose to live a monastic life (Sannyasa) of simplicity, celibacy, and contemplation on the Divine. It is considered a highly meritorious act for a householder to provide sadhus (sannyasins) with food or other necessaries.

Hindu society has traditionally been categorized into four classes: (a) the Brahmins: teachers and priests; (b) the Kshatriyas: warriors, nobles, and kings; (c) the Vaishyas: farmers, merchants, and businessmen; and (4) the Shudras: servants and labourers. In addition there are over 160 million Untouchables (outcastes) currently.

Hindus advocate the practice of ahimsa (non-violence). Accordingly, for the sake of doing less harm to life and benefit higher life forms, many Hindus embrace vegetarianism: there are several hundred millions of lacto vegetarians in India. What is more, the cow in Hindu society is traditionally honoured for all its gifts. Cow-slaughter is legally banned in almost all states of India.

There are some surface similarities in Christian and Hindu theology, for example that that both religions have their trinities. The Holy Trinity of Christianity - the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - is sometimes seen as roughly analogous to a trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva - Well, there are three in each group. And there is a Parabrahma, the Supreme Brahman, to reckon with.

Another Hindu trinity is that of Sat-Tat-Aum, which Yogananda likens to the Father, the Son (Tat), and the Holy Spirit (Aum), Yogananda's laboured parallelism is shown in detail here: [More]

In Hinduism (also in Jainism and Sikhism), the concept of moksha is akin to that of Buddhism's nirvana, as well as Christianity's doctrine of salvation. But Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity differ on fundamental beliefs on heaven, hell and reincarnation. From the Hindu perspective, heaven and hell are temporary places only. Permanent, divine bliss is " Moksha".

[Main sources: Wikipedia, s.v. "Hinduism" and "Hinduism and other religions"

Back to Yukteswar

When Yukteswar describes how the world is made up, from gross to subtle, it is in accord with how it is delineated in Samkhya. But he omits very much in the many-faceted and many-hued Hinduism, in such a "a congregation of religions". The way to freedom - what it consists of, how its goal is, and how to reach it - is subject to disagreements within Hinduism.

Babaji speaks of "the inspired sons of God", whereas the New Testament considers Jesus as God himself and part of an exclusive deal that allow no other Christs [Matthew 24:24-25 etc.]. As for the underlying basic unity of unspecified Hindu scriptures and Christianity, there is none if the earthly level is unreal, which Babaji is rendered to have decreed in Autobiography of a Yogi: "The divine realm extends to the earthly, but the latter [is] illusory". [Ay ch. 34]

This goes to say that Yukteswar's given task was rather foolish. His disciple-emissary to the West, Yogananda, went further into misrepresentations years later. [Link]

YOGANANDA We really don't know what is right or real . . . we are often incorrect in our judgements. - Paramahansa Yogananda [Ak 414].

See further a letter from the late Yogananda's headquarters: "We do not find fault with Paramahansa Yogananda's guidelines . . . his wisdom is flawless." But what do they know? [More]

Yukteswar's Purpose

YUKTESWAR The purpose of this book is to show as clearly as possible that there is an essential unity in all religions; that there is no difference in the truths inculcated by the various faiths; that there is but one method by which the world, both external and internal, has evolved; and that there is but one Goal admitted by all scriptures [Sri Yukteswar, Hos 3].

To cut to the chase again: To see where a stream comes from, go to its source or sources. A book often has many sources too. Seeking unity in the books of scriptures is foolish. To say there is a unity where none is found, is double foolish. To find the unity gurus talk of, one had better go the one's own source and try to find out of it. At that level old Samkhya says there are two sources, spirit and matter. Advaita Vedanta ascertains there is only one source, Brahman (God as Absolute Spirit).

Yukteswar's purpose implies that he prepared deny many claims of Christianity by saying they are not truths if they are not found in other religions. What do all religions agree on, what is such a "lowest common denominator"? Although most large religions speak of a deity, there are religions that do not. Many Buddhisms are among them. If Yukteswar should go for the said unity of a "lowest common denominator", the task is to rule out that there is a God . . . You may halfway guess that was not what intended at the onset.

Yukteswar sloppily speaks of "all religions" without saying anything about almost all of them. At least a few people are needed for some shared faith to be called a religion; just how many is hardly agreed on. However, there are dozens quite known ones to be reckoned with. Their views on many subjects differ widely, as shown. As for the way to liberation, some teach this, and others teach that, and others do not mention it. All religions do not necessarily agree. [WP (s.v. "Religion", "Major religious groups" and "List of religions and spiritual traditions"]

Yukteswar further decrees that "The object of this book is to point out the harmony underlying the various religions, and to help in binding them together." To that: "You wish!"

Snapshot 2: Religion

Wikipedia says, "Religion is a cultural system that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and moral values.

"The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with [some publicly professed] faith or belief system. Most religions have organized behaviors, services for the purposes of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places and/or scriptures. The practice of a religion may [include] sacrifices,funerary services, music, art, dance, public service, or other aspects of human culture.

"The development of religion has taken different forms in different cultures. Some religions place an emphasis on belief, while others emphasize practice. Some religions consider the activities of the religious community to be most important. Some religions claim to be universal, believing their laws and cosmology to be binding for everyone, while others are intended to be practiced only by a closely defined or localized group."

The word religion may be derived from "respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods," "obligation, the bond between man and the gods", or perhaps "choose", "go over again" or "consider carefully", or "bind, connect", "to reconnect." The philologist Max Müller has found that the root of the English word "religion", the Latin religio, was originally used to mean only "reverence for God or the gods, careful pondering of divine things, piety", and what is called ancient religion today, the acients would have only called "law". Compare the old Indian concept of dharma, law, religion, righteousness.

[Source of these selections and abstracts: Wikipedia (s.v. "Religion"]

Religions are at work in the minds of people. It should be debated to what degree they also relate to the outer world beyond the social realms into dealing with said, universal laws by attuned decency, skills of work and dealings, forms of cooperation and the like, but faith may come in the way for somesuch investigations.

Yukteswar speaks for "the essential unity in religion" [p. 4, 5-6]. Now, what humans experience depends on themselves, that is, how they are designed from bottom and up and what throughts their minds have been filled with apart from what they have concluded on their own. This suggests that what you can experience as a Hindu and Christian, is first and foremost restricted to what humans can possibly contain. As for possible ranges of experiences, possible overloads, and so on, what is outside the range of what is cultivable, is unfit. Good yoga tries to cultivate the "ground" (body-mind-soul) for extended, delicate and finer experiences, and much by self-help efforts. Sciences are typically on quests through the uses of "extended senses" and mental processes "hand in hand": Telescopes are there for extending the range of what has been seen, using infra-red light, ultra-sound and roentgen to "see" somewhat beyond the human range of vision, and so on.

Thus, astronomy uses telescopes, biology labs use microscopes, and physics use computer-aided "things" while seeking to make out of matter. A science without its own terms, attempts at generalised theories, suitable pieces of equipment and trained people, may be construed, but it belongs to speculative endeavours, and there is where we find much that passes for philosophy.

Most academic subjects have such philosophy branches near their bottoms, so to speak, and they are termed paradigms [Nai]. Such great-looking assumptions that are accepted by the proponents of a rigid-looking discipline, are the backbones of the philosophy of science, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of logic, the philosophy of law, and the philosophy of history, of physics, anthropology, and psychology, for example [cf. Thd]

Yukteswar stands: Philosophical investigations into religion

YUKTESWAR [Intelligent and] intellectual men in foreign lands . . . famous for their investigations in the realms of science and philosophy, do not recognize the essential unity in religion . . . I was chosen . . . to help in establishing the basic truth in all religions [Yukteswar, Hos 5, 6]."

Yuktewar seems bent on approaching religion through philosophy. Philosophy of religion deals with issues he concerned about, namely, quite general phenomena of religon.

Snapshot 3: Philosophy of religion

"For the lack of good evidence: discussions, suppressions and at times wars." Philosophy of religion is often discussed outside of academia through popular books and debates. Philosophy of religion is that branch of philosophy concerned with questions about religion, and how God is, where God is, why God is, what God is, if God is at all. It is an ancient way where we examine and analyse religious experiences, religious language and texts and the relationship of religion and science. The philosophy of religion differs from religious philosophy in that it seeks to discuss questions about how religion is as a whole, rather than examining the problems brought forth by a particular belief system.

Philosophy of religion relates to many other branches of philosophy and general thought, including Metaphysics, Logic, and History: the philosophy of religion has concerned itself with more than just metaphysical questions.

Philosophers of religion can be contrasted with theologians. Theologians sometimes takes as a given than God is, whereas a philosopher of religion examines and critiques the epistemological, logical, aesthetic and ethical foundations inherent in claims of a religion. A philosopher of religion is interested in asking what may be knowable and expressible with regards to dogmatised opinions of religions.

There are other topics too, like: "What is the relationship between morality and religion?" What is God?" "What is the meaning of the word God?" Most philosophers want to know the essence of what it means to be God, on the basis of "seeing is believing," or better, "To know God, you have to be God." That goes several steps further than the "Before you judge a woman, walk a mile in her shoes."

There are a number of widely different senses of the word 'God.' So first we must get clear on which conception of God we are trying to define. In the canon of "philosophy of religion" it is important to keep to such a canon. Hindus have a widely followed monistic philosophy that can be said to be neither monotheistic nor polytheistic (Advaita Vedanta). Buddhism tends to deal less with metaphysical questions.

Monotheism holds there is only one Supreme Spirit, whereas polytheists believe in more than one god(dess): there can be from two to very, very many in Hinduism. Pantheists assert that God is itself the natural universe. Panentheism too holds that the physical universe is part of God, but that God yet is more than this. Panentheism can be summed up as "The world is in God and God is in the world, but God is more than the world and is not synonymous with the world". Theism, pantheism, panentheism, deism, agnosticism and atheism: these positions are considered in the philosophy of religion. Some of them are not mutually exclusive.

A great part of the philosophy of religion is a result of theology's assumption that the existence of God can be justified on rational grounds, or its meaning may be elucidated, as in what has come to be called "Contemplative philosophy", a Wittgensteinian school of thought.

Among the philosophers of religion are such as Adi Shankara, Augustine of Hippo, Karl Marx and Søren Kierkegaard.

[Source. Wikipedia, s.v. "Hinduism" and "Philosophy of Religion"]

Yukteswar and Self-help Efforts

Yukteswar represents a Hindu outlook on salvation by own efforts at meditation, usually with some help. Buddha advocates something similar, by pointing out the way, and saying something like, "You yourself have to tread it." Most Christians, on the other hand, talk from a belief in the mystical, magical help of Jesus, and often tell that the way is one of belief, although belief may serve just as a door-opener to some, if at all. Brother Bhaktananda (1914-2005) of SRF once told about Christians who had passed on to the other side, and somehow communicated how things were. They were fine, "but Jesus is not here." Anyway, Christian salvation is not the results of methods, but is fellowship with God as a result of the Holy Spirit jumping on you, so to speak. That, in essence, is what Acts tell, and also parts of the Gospel of John, which also says the kingdom has come while the other three gospels speak of the coming kingdom only. Common Christianity is not all marked by self-help efforts, although in some Catholic orders monks and nuns learn to meditate (contemplate) in various ways.

The common ground of "the unity" is man and not his many forms of dogmatism.

All religions do not agree, and Christianity does not agree with itself in all respects either, but contains self-contradictions. There are well over a hundred self-contradictions in the Bible. [Link]. Another page brings easy ones from the New Testament.

Snapshot 4: The Gospel of John

The Gospel of John or simply John, is the fourth of the canonical gospels. It's author is anonymous. Most scholars do not believe that John or any other eyewitness wrote it. The Gospel of John developed over a period of time in various stages till became the gospel that was accepted in the New Testament canon, around 85-90 AD. Over ninety percent of John's Gospel is unique to him, and not in the three other gospels.

John presents a "higher" Christology" in that he describes Jesus as the incarnation of the divine Logos through whom all things were made, as God incarnate. John seeks to to identify Jesus as the eternal Word (Logos) of God. The gospel does so by adapting the doctrine of the Logos, God's creative principle, from Philo of Alexandria, a first-century Hellenized Jew. Philo had adopted the term Logos from Greek philosophy, using it in place of the Hebrew concept of Wisdom (sophia). So Logos (Word) is a term from Greek philosophy, where it meant the principle of cosmic reason. In this sense, it was similar to the Hebrew concept of wisdom, Yahweh's companion and intimate helper in creation.

The synoptics look forward to a future, coming Kingdom of God (using the term parousia, while John says it has come already, presenting salvation as already present for the believer. The Kingdom of God is mentioned only twice in John. In contrast, the other gospels repeatedly use the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven as important concepts.

Parables and exorcisms are not found in John. To most Bible scholars, the differences between the teaching in John and in the three other gospels are substantial, and already acknowledged in the early Church. For example, John the Baptist publicly proclaims Jesus to be the Lamb of God. The Baptist recognises Jesus secretly in Matthew, and not at all in Mark or Luke. John also denies that he is Elijah, whereas Mark and Matthew identify him with Elijah. The majority viewpoint for most of the 20th century is that Jesus' teaching in John is largely irreconcilable with that found in the three other gospels, and scholars have chosen the version found in the other gospels as representing the teaching of the historical Jesus.

The teachings of Jesus in John are distinct from those found in the synoptic gospels, that is, the three other gospels, but "the final word has not been said on how much of the historical Jesus inhabits John's gospel," and John has affected modern Christianity notably.

Raymond Brown maintains that John's "picture of a savior who came from an alien world above, who said that neither he nor those who accepted him were of this world, [17:14] and who promised to return to take them to a heavenly dwelling [14:2-3] could be fitted into the gnostic world picture (even if God's love for the world in 3:16 could not)." It has been suggested that similarities between John's Gospel and Gnosticism may spring from common roots in Jewish Apocalyptic literature.

Thus, John has elements in common with Gnosticism. Christian Gnosticism did not fully develop until the mid-2nd century. Comparisons to Gnosticism are based in John's use of the concepts of Logos and Light. Gnosticism taught that salvation came from gnosis, secret knowledge, and Gnostics did not see Jesus as a saviour.

The noncanonical Dead Sea Scrolls suggest an early Jewish origin, parallels and similarities to the Essene Scroll, and Rule of the Community. Many phrases are duplicated in the Gospel of John and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Moreover, the mysterious Egerton Gospel may represent a parallel but independent tradition to the Gospel of John. Liberal scholar Robert W. Funk and the Jesus Seminar place the Egerton fragment in the 2nd century, perhaps as early as 125, which would make it as old as the oldest fragments of John.

In John, Jesus says, for example, that he is the way, the truth, and the life. He echoes Yahweh's own statements with several "I am" declarations that also identify him with symbols of major significance. Critical scholars think that these claims represent the Christian community's faith in Jesus' divine authority but doubt that the historical Jesus actually made these sweeping claims.

[Source: Wikipedia, s.v. "Gospel of John"]


Yukteswar's Holy Science at a Glance

Yukteswar's book is furnished with an introduction, four chapters and a conclusion. The four chapters are said to reflect four stages in the development of knowledge. The chapters are called (1) the Gospel, (2) the Goal, (3) the Procedure and (4) the Revelation. You may consider the following chapter summaries an hors d'oeuvre:

1. Gist of the Gospel Chapter. A fit point of his Gospel chapter is that God "is "not comprehensible by man of this material world unless he becomes divine [p. 21-22]" and "the root of all power and joy [p. 22]." Then he goes on to say how the world as humans perceive it, has been "transformed down" from Spirit levels and delineates how; his Samkhya view [p. 23-32].

Yukteswar further tells the universe consists of fourteen spheres: seven heavens and seven patalas. In Hindu mythology the patalas make up the infernal subregions, supposed to be inhabited by various classes of supernatural serpents and other beings. Yukteswar tells that when man is turning toward his Self and advances well, he perceives light in these regions of hell, and compares them to the seven candlesticks and churches in Revelation - all in hellish places, he says. That is his understanding of it. [p. 32-35]

Going on, Yukteswar says the soul or monad is covered by five sheaths, five koshas, and delineates them. What he calls the Heart, also Atom, is the innermost of these coverings. He says there are different kingdoms of nature: the one called the inanimate kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, animal kingdom. Further upwards: mankind, angel, free (Sannyasi, the Son of God) [p. 35-38]

He also comes to the conclusion that the Voice in Revelation and John is Aum, and that Radha, otherwise well known as Krishna's mistress for a while, is symbolised in the Bible as John the Baptist [p. 40]. Though Radha was the wife of another cowherd, she was the most beloved of Krishna's consorts and his constant companion. In the bhakti movement of Vaishnavism, Radha symbolises the human soul and Krishna the divine. Radha is often worshiped along with Krishna. The question is what Yukteswar means by the word Radha. He does not explain it; he just draws a parallel to "mistress John".

Yukteswar says that true comprehension understands "the nothingness of the external world [p. 39]." Is he for real? Saying so, he does not exactly underpin his other message, that to attain Self-knowledge, "knowledge of the external world is necessary [p. 6]," does he? You may come to wonder, "If the outer world is nothing, why write so much about it? Why write at all? Is not everything Yukteswar has written, nothingness (of the external world)? And he too in his outward aspect?" - and so on.

Yukteswar-understanding for common persons: "God and the universe; the incomprehensible and nothing at all."

The second birth is to be absorbed in "the holy stream of the sound" [from the Ganges, Jamuna, and/or Jordan Rivers], and from there on true comprehension advances, Yukteswar says further. Jamuna is the main distributary channel of the Brahmaputra River. [p. 40-41]

The clear heart manifests great Light from within, and so man becomes Christ the Saviour, and saved for ever and ever, Yukteswar goes on to tell. [p. 41-42]

Kaivalya, "isolation, aloneness" is next [p. 43]

2. Gist of the Goal Chapter. According to Yukteswar, the highest aim of religion is Atma-jnanam, Self-knowledge, and salvation means residing in the real Self [p. 46]. But to attain Self-knowledge, knowledge of the external world is necessary, he says too [p. 6]. Well, in kriya yoga you "just" have to breathe in and out in the regulated ways, and are not asked to know anything at all about the lifestyles and customs of Eskimos, for example. Let Ramakrishna concur:

"I have come to the garden to eat mangoes. What is the use of my calculating the number of trees, branches, and leaves? I only eat the mangoes; I don't need to know the number of trees and leaves." [Goa 217-18]

On another occasion he said:

You have come to the orchard to eat mangoes; what need is there of knowing how many . . . branches and millions of leaves there are in the orchard?" [Goa 411]

What Ramakrishna speaks for, is enjoying divine bliss, by a figurative expression. Compare Yukteswar's:

"All creatures, from the highest to the lowest in the link of creation, are found eager to realize three things: Existence, Consciousness, and Bliss," says Yukteswar [Hos 6].

That is the ancient Hindu God-concept of Sat-Chit-Ananda. However:

  • People take existence for granted as long as it lasts, just like good health.
  • They fill their waking consciousness with games and glamour models, but not all seek to make progress in deep meditation or develop useful sides to their minds. Schools serve for cramming content into the minds for a while, and so on.
  • They seek joys or stabilisation in regular goings, joys of things, of conquests, and of having money to have many of their desires fulfilled somehow, some ways or others.

In short, they rarely bore deep into Existence itself; they rarely seek to cultivate their inner minds full well for so-called Awakening or Illumination; and they seek joys in outer things and relations, and not so much by going into Joy Itself.

One may say the majority is not taught how to do it, how to approach the inner sides of humans and explore them safely. Yukteswar says man is bound by tenacious ignorance, egoism, attachment, and aversion, and in consequence suffers. [p. 46-49] However, if he gets a good guru and follows his precepts, he is on the way of working on his salvation toward contentment, ananda (usually: bliss, joy). Man follows up and focuses inwards in yogic manner and reaches "the door of the interior world". [p. 51, 39] I think Yukteswar refers to the space between the eyebrows by that. Further, the mantra-spirit of Hamsa is said to reside there. However, Yukteswar does not specify what he means by what he writes here either, so I let it rest.

Man manages to comprehend his own Self as Real Substance, and the clean heart becomes one with Eternal Spirit, God the Father, is Yukteswar's teaching [p. 51-53]. Hindu scriptures do not agree whether the realised jiva (soul, individualised spirit), actually unites with Brahman or was Brahman all along, waking up. That should be noted.

3. Gist of the Procedure Chapter. Yukteswar says the way to go, the procedure, is of penance toward purity, and includes hearing definite truths, and meditate on the Aum sound. Penance. [p. 55]

While penance is far from "natural living," Yukteswar speaks of three sides to living:(a) select food, (b) dwelling and (c) company.

(a) Natural food suits the organs of man, says he, and points at the form of the teeth, the length of the digestive canal, natural tendencies or tastes, and settles on man as a frugivorous (fruit-eating) being, but he allows for vegetables, nuts, grains and milk too. As many Hindus otherwise, he is not for eating steak, regarddless of expertise in handling it, making it tender, spiced, tasty, and so on. [p. 62]

(b) Yukteswar speaks for breathing fresh air on the mountaintop, the field, the garden, or a dry place under trees covering a lange plot of land and freely ventilated with fresh air to be the proper dwelling place for man. Egyptians found out that houses surrounded by gardens and walls made pleasant life possible. Disgusting weather and other hazard can threaten a lot people unless there are houses carefully planned and organised for at least good enough living. [p. 69]

(c) Much depends on the company you keep. Conscience and liking help in not letting usuitable, asat company shorten our lives, he goes on. [p. 69-70]

Yukteswar says that monastic confinement for the purpose of suppressing the passions seldom produce the desired effect, contrary to what he says his favoured diet can [p. 62-68]. Be that as it may, a study that was published in the British Medical Journal in 2006, - of thousands of men and women - revealed that those who stick to a vegetarian diet have IQs that are around five points higher than those who regularly eat meat. The researchers, from the University of Southampton, had tracked the fortunes of more than 8,000 volunteers for 20 years for the findings. [1]

The kriya guru Yukteswar further talks against a too narrow sense of respectability, and for the value of a good heart, for a steady and pleasant mediation posture, for pranayama (gentle breathing methods), and for pratyahara. His delineations here follows suit with steps of Patanjali yoga. The gur speaks for being "dead" for a while, so that man can wake up naturally again after enjoying a full rest, and live as long as he likes in his present body. At this point he - like his disciple Yogananda - draws in Paul's "I die daily." Adjusting to the American public, though, Yogananda soon toned down the marketing value of "dying at will," which featured in his The Science of Religion [More] [p. 71-75]

Yukteswar's aim is fixed attention toward the purified heart, and in such a state the scene is set for doing samyama and be turned into a divine being. Samyama or sanyama means "mixing dharana, dhyana and samadhi", that is, focusing in deeper meditation states goes a long way. And, as man progresses in meditating deeply, his heart goes from dark to clean through three stages in between them, says Yukteswar. [p. 75-80]

Yukteswar mentions seven realms, seven swargas (heavens) or lokas, in the purification way toward Divinity, toward becoming "Christ, the Savior", a "Jivanmukta Sannyasi, like Lord Jesus", and gets another view of the universe than the ordinary one. [p. 80-86]

4. Gist of the Revelation Chapter. Yukteswar speaks for the value of purifications in this chapter too - bodily cleansing, by yoga breathing methods, mantras for the mind. He talks for yogic dos and don't', niyamas and yamas as they are spelled out in Patanjali. Grace and meditation lets man see the seven golden candlesticks, chakras, in his own body. Yukteswar names them as they often are named, and says, "Through these seven centers of churches, the Ego or son of man passes toward the Divinity". [p. 87-92]

Passing through the heavens man becomes possessed of all majesties, another term for yogic powers. He can make you as small as he likes down to the size of an atom, or as big as he likes, or as light or heavy as he likes. Further, he can get anything he likes, can bring anything under his control, and satisfying all desires by his will. And he can become the Lord over everything. These are the eight majesties Yukteswar speaks of. And finally: Eternal Spirit. [p. 92-96]

Yukteswar's conclusion. Yukteswar concluded with a well-meaning "Never . . . forget the great goal of life," and quotes Adi Shankara:

Life is always unsafe and unstable, like a drop of water on a lotus leaf.

"Life is a drop of water," is a simile from that metaphor again. "Life . . . a water drop" is another, perhaps more haiku-looking variant.


Another Close Look

Yukteswar describes how large parts of his book are organised: "First to enumerate a proposition in Sanskrit terms of the Oriental sages, and then to explain it by reference to the holy scriptures of the West. In this way I have tried my best to show that there is no real discrepancy, much less any real conflict, between the teachings of the East and the West." [Hos 6-7]

He does not tell which sage outputs he has selected, does not tell which sages he calls "the Oriental sages". He has not cited all of them, and he does not tell which ones he has cited.

Unreferenced selectivity as to Sanskrit output, and referenced but hardly significant enough Bible quotations spell "flawed" perhaps just as much as flavoured". He has chosen and arranged selections that could support his Babaji-ordered task in the first place, and ignores much other material that, frankly, dominates Hinduism. As for the messages that are taken to matter in Christianity, they are more numerous than some thirty passages from John and Revelation in support of a Samkhya treatise.

A short book on a postulated underlying harmony

Savoury, pregnant deeds should be awarded.

Babaji wanted Yukteswar to write a short book on the underlying harmony between Christian and Hindu scriptures (Autobiography of a Yogi,, ch. 36). Christians hold that one should convert Hindus and all others to Christianity according to the Missionary Command at the end of Matthew, a late addition to that gospel, and a forgery, says Joseph Wheless in Forgery in Christianity. [Link]

In the SRF-published version of the book, the Sanskrit verses are translated, apart from shown in the original. But with one exception there are no references to who actually wrote the Sanskrit sutras (aphorisms) that Yukteswar uses in his book, and where they are found. So it becomes practically impossible to check the quotations in their original contexts for almost anyone.

Perhaps Yukteswar uses a medley from Hindu canon. The question of the representativeness of his quotations goes unmentioned by him. As shown above and on other pages, there are other variants or forms or modes of Hinduism. That should be recognised. Gavin Flood says in An Introduction to Hinduism [Ith]:

The diversity of Hinduism is truly vast . . . Some might claim, both from within the tradition and from outside it, that because of this diversity there is 'no such thing as Hinduism', while others might claim that, in spite of its diversity, there is an 'essence' which structures or patterns its manifestations. The truth of the matter probably lies somewhere between these claims . . . and differences between Hindus might be as great as differences between Hindus and Buddhists or Christians [Ith 5].

Yukteswar does not bring up the topic whether and to what extent there is any underlying harmony between all the religions. However, it is standard procedure for researchers to question one's basic propositions (hypotheses) in order to arrive at something of possible value. Yukteswar does nothing of the kind; he settles on explaining a theistic variant of Samkhya that is about the same as the Yoga philosophy of India. He sprinkles this yoga exposition with some thirty passages from the Gospel of John and from Revelation, thirty-six Bible quotations in all.

The choice of what texts to use, seems to be Sri Yukteswar's own. Among a massive amount of such texts, he choses three small books, bases his works most of all on theistic Samkhya, and uses his selected Bible quotations to season some of it, but far from all his sections, and far from extensively. How representative of (1) "all religions", (2) very complex and extensive Hinduism and (3) Christianity can that be?

Surface Knowledge: Bible matters

Christians hold different views of the Old Testament. There are thirty-nine books in the Old Testament that are commonly used in Christianity. Some communions add more books, and up to twelve books more in the Orthodox communion. Further, among Christian denominations, the New Testament, a collection of works written at different times by various authors, consists of 27 books. Almost all Christian traditions today stick to those same books of the New Testament.

The two books of the New Testament that Yukteswar uses along with his Samkhya exposition, do not reflect Christianity as a whole, are not well suited to cover the whole gamut of Christianity.

Yukteswar does not offer any criticism of Christianity when the good opportunity was there. However, others have spent criticism on Christianity throughout its history, often along with a quest for textual understanding. And although moderate and liberal Christians generally accept the reliability of scripture in varying degrees, they differ in how to interpret particular passages. Further, some criticism addresses Christian beliefs, teachings and interpretation of scripture: the accounts of the resurrection of Jesus in the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are difficult to reconcile, for example, for they differ much from one another.

Things Jesus did not accomplish

Hundreds of years before the time of Jesus, Jewish prophets promised that a messiah would come. Judaism claims that Jesus did not fulfill these prophecies. And surely, he did not come close to fulfilling all of them. The Hebrew Bible's prophetic literature ends waiting for Judah to be restored via a new monarch, one who will restore David's kingdom and possibly create universal peace. Two gospels in the New Testament trace Jesus' line to that of David through the carpenter Joseph, but in two widely different ways. It is to claim legitimity for the Christ (Messiah) title. At any rate Joseph was not his father if an angel was. Stephen L. Harris sums up sides to it:

Jesus did not accomplish what Israel's prophets said the Messiah was commissioned to do: He did not deliver the covenant people from their Gentile enemies, reassemble those scattered in the Diaspora, restore the Davidic kingdom, or establish universal peace. [Isa. 9:6-7] [11:7-12:16] Instead of freeing Jews from oppressors and thereby fulfilling God's ancient promises - for land, nationhood, kingship, and blessing - Jesus died a "shameful" death . . . Indeed, the Hebrew prophets did not foresee that Israel's savior would be executed as a common criminal by Gentiles. [Wikipedia, s.v. "Criticism of Christianity"]

Also, certain interpretations of various moral positions in the Bible are considered at least ethically questionable by many. Some of the passages commonly criticised include:

  • Subjugation of women, aided by man-centred Bible stories that serve a patriarchy, so that women have been largely denigrated and forced into a second-class status;
  • Religious intolerance, when a group, or the society refuses to tolerate practices, persons or beliefs on religious grounds, such as against Mormons having many wives. Harems are certainly not forbidden in the Bible, neither the Old and New Testament;
  • Support for the institution of slavery in both Old and New Testaments: Early Christianity variously opposed, accepted, or ignored slavery.
  • This point should be added to the list list: The inferior moral of sacrifice of innocent victims for the sake of offending ones in both Testaments. It has nothing to do with fair treatment.

How did Yukteswar deal with these issues of well-founded, acceptable criticism? He did not mention them; he let John and Revelation serve his ends.

Several areas of criticism include some claims of scripture itself, ethics of biblical interpretations that have been used historically to justify attitudes and behaviors that are seen by critics as clearly wrong, the question of compatibility with science, and certain Christian doctrines that some find unsettling or unreasonable. [Wikipedia, s.v. "Christianity", "Books of the Bible", "Criticism of Christianity", "Religious Intolerance"]

The fuzzy-edged tradition: Hinduism

"First study the scriptures and see whether there is any underlying harmony there. Then say it is there if you find it to be so - without being so ordered, preferably - and in what parts, and so on." Gavin Flood has tried to, and has come up with a different conclusion (above): Even in Hinduism there is not any inclusive harmony.

Some more points from Flood's book may be added:

Hinduism does not have a single historical founder [and] it does not have a unified system of belief encoded in a creed or declaration of faith, it does not have a single system of soteriology [theology dealing with salvation], and it does not have a centralized authority . . .

Hinduism . . . has fuzzy edges. Some forms of religion are central to Hinduism, while others are less clearly central but still [accepted]. [Ith 6-7]

Flood grants that Western understanding of 'religion' is largely determined by Christianity in terms of beliefs. But, according to Flood, the sacred in Hinduism is "mediated through innumerable, changings forms". [cf. Ith 8-9]. Further, "One striking feature of Hinduism is that practice takes precedence over belief. What a Hindu does is more important than what a Hindu believes. Hinduism is not credal." [Ith 12]

"While there are pan-Hindu traditions of Vaisnavism, Saivism and Saktism alongside the renouncer tradition, there are also local or popular traditions, even within a particular village." [Ith 17]

A Brief Look into Upanishads

Yoga forms are connected to Upanishads. They are Hindu scriptures that constitute the core teachings of Vedanta. The oldest date to the 500s BCE, and the latest were composed in medieval and early modern times. The Upanishads speak of Brahman (Universal spirit) and Atman (individualided spirit, soul) as actually one and the same "substance". Upanishads do not explain all inner, subtle experiences with crystal clear wording, though, so a great many commentaries exist to explain them. Schools of thought were formed from antiquity on top of different ways of understanding the Upanishads.

K. Narayanasvami Aiyar informs in his foreword to Thirty Minor Upanishads that Hindus reckon with 108 Upanishads. Eleven of them are considered part of the sacred canon of Hinduism. Two more Upanishads are often added to that group. The eleven and one more are commented on by Adi [the first] Shankara of Advaita Vedanta.

Vedanta is first and foremost concerned with "yoga of the heart". Aiyar explains that many Upanishads tell that the Atma in the heart may be realised, and then the Atma in all universe is realised too. In fact, the eleven principal Upanishads and the Vedanta Upanishads among the minor Upanishads deal with the heart and the heart alone, and are aimed at those who want to have a development of the heart by focusing attention on it and through it. Other groups of Upanishads have somewhat different focuses, not only on the heart and further. The Yoga Upanishads, for example treat of many centres in the organism, chakras, the heart centre included.

Aiyar further classifies a selection of thirty minor upanishads loosely under the headings of (1) Vedanta, (2) Physiology, (3) Mantra, (4) Sannyasa and (5) Yoga, adding that the Upanishads that come under the headings of Vedanta and Yoga are the most important. There are overlappings between the groups. [BOOK REF]

In Sixty Upanishads of the Veda [So], Paul Deussen groups the better-known Upanishads by their sources, such as "The Upanishads of the Rigveda", "The Upanishads of the Samaveda", "The Upanishads of the Black Yajurveda", and so on.

Further, in The Philosophy of the Upanishads [Puh], Deussen exposes the system that gradually developed from them. He lays bare (1) the theology of Brahman; (2) the doctrine of the soul, Atman; (3) the doctrine of reincarnation and moskha, emancipation; and (4) the way to it (existential-practical philosophy). Deussen further lists up the pure Vedanta Upanishads and the Yoga Upanishads, along with other groups of Upanishads, and points out that the Yoga Upanishads treat recognition of the Atman through the syllable Om (Aum). [Cf. Minor Upanishads]

How did Yukteswar address the problem that there are many and variegated scriptures and understandings of them in Hinduism? He settled on presenting just one of the six orthodox philosophical systems of Hinduism, a system that is much as the orthodox Yoga hilosophy. What is more, he chose to present just one variant of his chosen system, namely Samkhya without atheism. The point is: Among all the scriptures and schools he did not chose, many interpret and teach differently. To tell about that state of affairs in Hinduism would be fair, but Yukteswar ignores it on a farfetched "unity mission".


Yukteswar and Transpersonal Psychology

Yukteswar writes that his book is divided into four sections, according to "the four stages in the development of knowledge". [Hos 6]. Yukteswar treats subjects which are central in transpersonal psychology. Why just four stages? Some do not postulate "four stages". The widely accepted psychodynamic theory by Erik Erikson usually has eight stages of life and life lessons - and knowledge to get along with them. They are linked to social-emotional development of the id system. Knowledge of the stages should be helpful.

"The highest aim of religion is Atma-jnanam, Self-knowledge. But to attain this, knowledge of the external world is necessary. Therefore the first section of the book deals with the gospel (veda), and seeks to establish fundamental truths of creation and to describe the evolution and involution of the world," says Yukteswar [Hos 6, emphasis added]. That "knowledge of the external world is necessary" hardly fits the general understanding of good yoga or a mango-fond Ramakrishna (above); it is by largely ignoring the world one interiorises the mind in all right yoga and goes on to deepen mind interiorisation from there. It is the fifth step in Patanjali's Yoga, called pratyahara (sense-withdrawal). After such sense-withdrawal, meditation may deepen. That is how yoga progress is outlined in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.

Another rendering of atmajnana (from atman (soul, spirit) and jnana (gnosis) than self-knowledge is self-realization, wa term that is rather often met with nowadays, and a common subject in transpersonal psychology too. Yukteswar passed away about a generation before the field of transpersonal psychology took off as an academic discipline. However, in his Kaivalya Darsanam he deals with many core issues that today are talked of in transpersonal psychology, so here is another snapshot to present key information about the subject. The abstract is selective: there are many other persons in the field of transpersonal psychology, more issues, and so on.

Snapshot: Transpersonal Psychology

Abraham Maslow published work regarding human peak experiences, and was one of the people who suggested the term "transpersonal" for the emerging field. Trans means such as "on the other side of, to the other side of, across, beyond". Personal, from 'person', includes for example, "of, relating to, or affecting a person, relating to an individual or an individual's character, conduct, motives, or private affairs, being rational and self-conscious, having the qualities of a person". 'Person' in this jargon involves the personality of a human being as recognized by law as the subject of rights and duties. [For more: Wikipedia, s.v. "Personal identity"]

Gradually, during the 1960s, the term "transpersonal" was associated with a distinct school of psychology within the humanistic psychology movement. In 1969, Abraham Maslow was among the initiators behind the publication of the first issue of the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, the leading academic journal in the field. This was soon to be followed by the founding of the Association for Transpersonal Psychology (ATP) in 1972. Past presidents of the association include Daniel Goleman. In the 1980s and 90s the field developed through the works of Charles Tart [cf. Edit] and others.

Mariana Caplan defines of transpersonal psychology thus:

Transpersonal psychology . . . beginning with the publication of The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology in 1969 and the founding of the Association for Transpersonal Psychology in 1971, . . . draws upon ancient mystical knowledge that comes from multiple traditions. Transpersonal psychologists attempt to integrate timeless wisdom with modern Western psychology and translate spiritual principles into scientifically grounded, contemporary language. Transpersonal psychology addresses the full spectrum of human psychospiritual development – from our deepest wounds and needs, to the existential crisis of the human being, to the most transcendent capacities of our consciousness. [Ewo 231]

Issues considered in transpersonal psychology include spiritual self-development, self beyond the ego, peak experiences, mystical experiences, systemic trance and other sublime and/or unusually expanded experiences of living.

Lajoie and Shapiro [2] reviewed forty definitions of transpersonal psychology from the period 1969 to 1991. They found that five key themes were often used in these definitions: states of consciousness, higher or ultimate potential, beyond the ego or personal self, transcendence, and the spiritual.

Transpersonal psychology is a form of psychology that studies the transpersonal, self-transcendent or spiritual aspects of the human experience. The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology suggests that transpersonal psychology "is concerned with the study of humanity's highest potential, and with the recognition, understanding, and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness" [3].

Transpersonal psychology developed from earlier schools of psychology including psychoanalysis and humanistic psychology. Transpersonal psychology attempts to describe and integrate spiritual experience within modern psychological theory and to formulate new theory to encompass such experience.

Types of spiritual experience examined vary greatly but include altered states of consciousness and spiritual practices. Carl Gustav Jung and others explored aspects of the spiritual and transpersonal in their work, but on the whole, Western psychology has had a tendency to ignore the spiritual dimension of the human psyche. With the advent of positive psychology, more research has been funded into some of the channels that transpersonal psychology is about.

Amongst the thinkers who are held to have set the stage for transpersonal studies are Carl G. Jung and Abraham Maslow. The earliest usage of the term "transpersonal" can be found in Harvard lecture notes of William James in 1905-6.

Transpersonal therapies are also included in many therapeutic practices. Currently, transpersonal psychology, especially the schools of Jungian and Archetypal psychology, is integrated, at least to some extent, into many psychology departments in American and European Universities. Institutions of higher learning have adopted insights from transpersonal psychology. There is also a strong connection between the transpersonal and the humanistic approaches to psychology.

The following branches are among those considered to be transpersonal psychological schools: various depth psychology approaches including Analytical psychology, based on Carl Gustav Jung and the theories of Abraham Maslow and of Charles Tart.

Transpersonal psychology is not Parapsychology. Transpersonal psychology tends to be more closely related to the epistemology of the humanities and the hermeneutic disciplines (humanism, existentialism, phenomenology, anthropology), yet with contributions involving experimental and statistical research.

Transpersonal psychology may be associated with New Age beliefs too, although transpersonal psychology is an academic discipline, not a religious or spiritual movement.

Transpersonal psychology is many times regarded as the fourth wave force of psychology which according to Maslow even transcends the self actualization of Humanistic psychology. Transpersonal can be considered the most integrated complete psychology, a positive psychology.

The transpersonal perspective spans many interests. The following list is abbreviated from one by Scotton, Chinen and Battista [3]:

  • Spiritual traditions - Hinduism, Yoga, Theravada Buddhism, Vajrayana, Zen, Taoism, Tantra and Christian mysticism and psychology

  • Adult spiritual development

  • Meditation research and consciousness studies

  • Diagnosis of Religious and Spiritual Problems

  • The treatment of former members of cults

  • Dying and near death experience (NDE)

  • Ecological survival

Contributions to the academic field:

Many of the psychological difficulties associated with a spiritual crisis are not ordinarily discussed by mainstream psychology. A spiritual crisis has to do with a person's relationship to existential issues, or issues that transcend the mundane issues of ordinary life. Among these are problems tied in with near-death experience, Kundalini awakening, intensive meditation, and illness. Transpersonal Psychology has brought attention to spiritual crises.

A spiritual crisis in a person's life may involve a "gradual unfoldment of spiritual potential with no disruption in psychological-social-occupational functioning" [4], but in cases where the spiritual unfoldment is intensified beyond the control of the individual it may lead to a state of "Spiritual Emergency" and cause significant disruption in psychological, social and occupational functioning.

Criticisms of transpersonal psychology have come from several commentators. One of the earliest criticisms of the field was issued by the Humanistic psychologist Rollo May, who disputed the conceptual foundations of early transpersonal psychology: its low level of reflection on the dark side of human nature, and on human suffering.

Doctrines or ideas of many colourful personalities, who were or are spiritual teachers in the Western world, such as Gurdjieff or Alice Bailey, are often assimilated into the transpersonal psychology mainstream scene. Most psychologists take an eclectic [selective] approach.

Transpersonal psychologists disagree with the approach to various inner phenomena taken by traditional psychology, and claim that transpersonal categories have typically been dismissed either as signs of various kinds of mental illnesses, or as a regression to infantile stages of psychosomatic development. For such reasons religious and spiritual experiences have in the past been seen as either regressive or pathological and treated as such.

From the standpoint of Buddhism and Dzogchen, Eías Capriles elaborates on what he calls a meta-transpersonal psychology.

Transpersonal psychology has been applied to areas such as counselling, health, spiritual development, mind expansion, and to provide psychological security for self growth. Applications to the areas of business studies and management have been developed. Other transpersonal disciplines, such as transpersonal business studies, are listed in transpersonal disciplines.

Transpersonal art criticism can be considered that which claims conventional art criticism has been too committed to stressing rational dimensions of art and has subsequently said little on art's spiritual dimensions, or as that which holds art work has a meaning beyond the individual person. Certain aspects of the psychology of Carl Gustav Jung may also relate to the field. The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, in 2005, Volume 37, launched a special edition devoted to the media, which contained articles on film criticism that can be related to this field.

[Source: Wikipedia, "Transpersonal Psychology", "Spiritual crisis"]


Swami Sri Yukteswar writings and comments, Literature  

Ak: Yogananda, Paramahansa: Man's Eternal Quest. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1982.

Alk: Beck, Thomas: Astrologisk leksikon. Oslo: Teknologisk forlag, 1993.

Aso: Asimov, Isaak: Om tall. Oslo: Dreyer, 1980.

Ay: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 1st ed. New York: Philosophical Library, 1946.

EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica 2010 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD. London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2010.

Ewo: Caplan, Mariana. Eyes Wide Open: Cultivating Discernment on the Spiritual Path.. Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2009.

Ha: Yogananda, Paramahansa: Autobiography of a Yogi. 12th ed. Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF). Los Angeles, 1981.

Hom: Berne, Eric: What Do You Say After You Say Hello? The Psychology of Human Destiny. Bantam. New York, 1973.

Hos: Yukteswar, sw: The Holy Science. 7th ed. Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), Los Angeles, 1972.

Ith: Flood, Gavin. An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Mux: Bühler, G. tr: The Laws of Manu. Banarsidass (Reprint from Oxford University's 1886-edition). Delhi,1984.

Nai: Guba, Egon, and Yvonne Lincoln. Naturalistic Inquiry. Newbury Park: Sage, 1985.

Pa: Yogananda, Paramahansa: Autobiography of a Yogi. 11th ed. Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF). Los Angeles, 1971.

Puh: Deussen, Paul. The Philosophy of the Upanishads. New York: Dover (Reprint of Clark's 1906-ed), 1966.

So: Deussen, Paul, tr. Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Vols 1-2. Varanasi: Banarsidass, 1980.

Tpu: Deussen, Paul. The Philosophy of the Upanishads. Tr. A. S. Geden. London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent, and Co. Ltd, 1906.

Tmu: Aiyar, K Narayanasvami, tr. Thirty Minor Upanishads. Madras: K. N. Ayar, 1914.

Viom: Jolly, Julius tr: The Institutes of Vishnu. Banarsidass. Delhi, 1965.


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