The Indian Influence in American Philosophy: Emerson to Moore
By
Riepe, Dale

Philosophy East and West
V. 17 No. 1/4 (1967)
pp. 125-137

Copyright 1967 by University of Hawaii Press
Hawaii, USA


 

 

p. 125

    Although we know that Cotton Mather knew something about Indian philosophy as early as 1721, and that Joseph Priestley knew considerably more by the end of the eighteenth century, it is only with the New England Transcendentalists that we find a genuine passion for Indian thought developing. There has been a continuous concern for Indian thought in the United States since Emerson's early years, but the individual rivulets became streams and rivers during certain periods and in particular localities. One of the effects of Transcendentalist interest in Indian thought, for example, was a flurry of awareness in St. Louis, from whence it spread to Illinois. In Illinois it reached a peak of influence in the work of Paul Carus, who attempted to reconcile science with religion, especially the religion of India. It was his view that the essence of religion lies in its practical application of a world-conception motivated by religious sentiment. The basic laws of morality are based on the nature of things, and constitute an intrinsic part of the world order, as William Hay put it. Carus' extensive writings in the field of Indian philosophy and religion as well as his exegesis of Indian art are shown in the titles of his works: The Dharma, The Gospel of Buddha, Buddhism and its Christian Critics, Portfolio of Buddhist Art, Stories of Buddhism, and Amitabha. In addition to these volumes Carus wrote more than seven editorial articles on Hinduism and thirty-nine on Buddhism between 1887 and 1909 in The Open Court and The Monist.

    Up to this time, most of the concern for Indian thought was centered in two American states: Massachusetts and Illinois. But the stage was set for its expansion. At first this appeared surreptitiously in an indigenous American religion, Christian Science, second in the growth of theosophy, and third, in the founding of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Centers.

    Theosophy in America worked contemporaneously with St. Louis philos-

 

 

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ophy, but was independent of it. Its inception lay with the arrival of a Russian noblewoman, Mme. H. P. Blavatsky, in New York from Tibet in 1873. Certain monks, she announced, had filled her with philosophy. Presumably her masters were liberal Buddhists and Hindus, united by a spirit of compromise. Mme. Blavatsky joined Col. Henry Steele Olcott, a Union officer in the Civil War, in forming the Buddhist Theosophical Society in New York City around 1875-1876, and began the Theosophist in 1879. Olcott wished to establish a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity, to promote the study of comparative religion and philosophy, and to make a systematic investigation into the mystical potencies of life and matter. Today this last investigation is usually called occultism. Some of the works of Olcott, besides the Buddhist catechism, are The Life of Buddha and its Lessons, Primer of Buddhism, Theosophy, Religion and Occult Science, and People from the Other World. Mme. Blavatsky became famous and infamous by the publication of her best known book: Isis Unveiled; a Master Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology (1877). It might well be retitled The Horrors of Christianity Unveiled and the Excellences of Hinduism Revealed. For, she maintained, we can only undo the gross inequities of Christianity with the help of the Vedas and the Kabala.

    As the result of the detective work of Romain Rolland, a French devotee of Indian thought as well as a Nobel Prize winner in literature in 1915, an unpublicized influence of Indian philosophy on American religious thought was discovered. In the twenty-fourth edition of her work, Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy included a chapter which began with four Vedaantic quotations. In the same chapter, Mrs. Eddy quoted from the Wilkins translation of the Bhagavadgiitaa, published in London in 1785 and in New York in 1867. These quotations were later excised from Science and Health. [1] Some quotations from Science and Health which show the impact of Vedaanta on Mrs. Eddy are the following:

Me or I. The Divine principle. The spirit, the soul... Eternal Mind. There is only one ME or US, only one Principle or Mind, which govern all things... Everything reflects or refracts in God's creation one unique Mind; and everything which does not reflect this unique mind is false and a cheat... God. -- The great I AM... Principle, spirit, soul. Life, Truth, love, all substance, intelligence. [2]

There are also striking similarities to Indian thought in the Mind-cure of


1. Romain Rolland, quoting from Madeline R. Harding's review in Prabuddha Bharata Review (March 1928), Prophets of the New India, E. F. Malcolm-Smith, trans. (London: Cassell and Company Ltd., 1930), p. 271n.

2. Quoted by Rolland, ibid., p. 271n.

 

 

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H. W. Dresser, Henry Wood, and R. W. Trine, which dates after the death of Vivekananda.

    India was publicly recognized at the Columbian Exposition, which opened in Chicago in 1893, and its spiritual resources were proclaimed at the World's Parliament of Religions, held concurrently. W. T. Harris and Paul Carus were among those attending the Parliament. Also present was a young philosopher named William Ernest Hocking, who later became famous for his The Meaning of God in Human Experience (1912). Hocking's interest in Indian philosophy was greatly stimulated by the meetings he had with Swami Vivekananda, who was to found the first Vedanta Society in the United States in 1894, basing it upon the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna (d. 1886). [3]

    After Hocking returned to Massachusetts from his encounter with Swami Vivekananda, he was soon established at Harvard University, where his colleagues interested in Indian thought included William James, Josiah Royce, and George Santayana in the philosophy department, and Charles Rockwell Lanman, professor of Sanskrit. Whereas James found Hinduism somewhat uncongenial, he found in Buddhism a kind of ally to the activism he espoused against the block universe. James says:

... for Buddhism as I interpret it, and for religion generally so far as it remains unweakened by transcendentalistic metaphysics, the word "judgment" here means no bare academic verdict or platonic appreciation as it means in Vedantic or modern absolutist systems; it carries on the contrary, execution with it, is in rebus as well as post rem, and operates "casually" as partial factor in the total fact. [4]

One trouble with Indian thought for James was its emphasis upon detachment. Nevertheless, James says of the negative doctrine of neti, neti that the "very denial of every adjective you may propose as applicable to the ultimate truth [for these Indian philosophers] ... is a denial made on behalf of a deeper yes." [5] Certainly this shows, like his attack on formal logic in his last years, that James' empiricism was thinned out more by mysticism than by rationalism. This could scarcely be said of Josiah Royce, his alter-ego.

    Josiah Royce found in Indian philosophy ammunition to substantiate his monistic views, and a sentimental tie with one of his favorite Western phi-


3. Cf. Wendell Thomas, Hinduism Invades America (New York: The Beacon Press, Inc., 1930), p. 116.

4. William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, The Gifford Lectures in 1901-1902 (New York: The Modern Library, n.d.), p. 512.

5. Ibid., p. 407.

 

 

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losophers, Schopenhauer. In discussing the significance of the human personality he says:

Here, one sees, is the Hindoo way of getting at the substance. It is also Schopenhauer's way. Look for the substance within, in your own nature. You will not see it without. It is the life of your own life, the soul of your own soul. When you find it, you will come home from the confusing world of sense-things to the heart and essence of the world, to the reality. That art Thou. [6]

Another of his estimates of Indian thought is also given at the turn of the century:

The Hindoo, as a philosopher, has always been a keen critic of human illusions, but since it chanced, by some accident of race-development, that the Hindoo, from an earlier period of his evolution, did not love life, Hindoo philosophy, extensive as are its literary monuments, is in its essential doctrine always very brief and unfruitful. Life for the Hindoo is an ill: one philosophizes to seek salvation. [7]

Royce's concern with Hinduism waned after 1900, whereas his desire to understand Buddhism increased as he approached the First World War. Presumably he was most stimulated in this direction by reading deeply in Schopenhauer. [8] Royce's attachment to Buddhism depended upon his belief not only that it was Christianity's greatest rival, but also that it was concerned with the reciprocal relations between metaphysical and moral problems. That Buddhism stressed the epistemological rather than the ontological also was in keeping with Royce's idealist propensities. Furthermore, the Buddha was loyal in Royce's basic sense of loyalty -- loyal to the community and not simply to himself. [9] This must have struck Royce as splendidly anticipatory of his own view of loyalty.

    Whereas Santayana was later to use Saa^mkhya to bolster up the sense of naturalism in Indian thought, Royce used it as a stick to beat the wily nag of realism. For, as he points out: "The world of the realist is full of chasms; all elements are in greater or less isolation; unity becomes mysterious and, if dispensed with, will still leave the problem of the linkage in knowledge which the realist must assume but cannot satisfactorily solve. " [10] The greatest


6. Josiah Royce, Spirit of Modern Philosophy (Boston: Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1899), p. 255.

7. Josiah Royce, Studies in Good and Evil (New York: Appleton and Company, 1898), p. 353.

8. See Kurt Leidecker, Josiah Royce and Indian Thought (New York: Kailas Press, 1931), p. 7 f.

9. See Josiah Royce, Studies in Good and Evil, p. 20 f.

10. See Leidecker's admirable synopsis of Royce's analysis of the weakness of realism in his Josiah Royce and Indian Thought, pp. 13-14.

 

 

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weakness of realism is its dualism. The soul is absolutely immaterial for Saa^mkhya, while objects are known outside one's own ideas. Ultimately, Royce believed that,

Salvation, for the Sankhya philosophy, depends upon coming to know precisely this utter independence of the true soul and the material world. In fact the soul is not only separated by a chasm from matter; it is even really unaffected by matter. What seem to be affections of the soul are, according to the Sankhya psychophysical theory, material states, which merely appear to be in the soul, as, according to a favorite Sankhya similitude, the red Hibiscus flower is reflected in a crystal that all the while remains inwardly unaltered by the presence of the flower. [11]

    Royce's most sustained single writing on Indian thought is to be found in his major work. The World and the Individual. Here he praises the Hindu seer who "was early aware of the danger threatening every monistic interpretation of the Real. He undertook to escape the danger by a device which in the Upanishads appears so constantly, and with such directness of expression, as to constitute a sort of axiom, to which the thinker constantly appeals. The Hindoo seer of the period of the Upanishads is keenly and reflectively self-conscious. " [12] According to Royce, the monism of the Hindu becomes subjective idealism. This is accomplished by a series of reflections upon the nature of the Self, and mere epistemological idealism is then led to metaphysical idealism through the series of steps shown in the Chaandogya Upani.sad III. 14. The steps are (1) the realization that the universe is Brahman, (2) the consciousness that everything is one infinite One, (3) that the spirit within my heart is greater than the universe, and hence (4) that the spirit within my heart is Brahman. The final stage of awareness comes, says Royce, "Through this very identification of the essence of the knower and of the object known, the innermost reality of the world has itself become transformed. It is no longer a world independent of knowledge." [13]

    Had Royce spent more of his efforts studying Indian metaphysics and ethics, we might have had at least one important monograph from his fluent pen. As it happened, we must be satisfied with what he did write and with the stimulation he imparted to James Houghton Woods (1864-1935), William Briggs Savery (1875-1945), and William Ernest Hocking (1873-1966). All of these men taught Indian or Buddhist philosophy and themselves encouraged students to pursue Indian thought.


11. Josiah Royce, The World and the Individual (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1904), I, 103.

12. Ibid., p. 157.

13. The World and the Individual, I, 160.

 

 

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    One might expect Hocking's theological training and approach to make him sympathetic to Indian philosophy. As a matter of fact, he was, among those fascinated by Indian philosophy, one of its harsher critics. Of Buddhism he says: "The most widely influential of religions, Buddhism, must by its own logic regard itself a failure in so far as it tends in any way to make the present existence, whether personal, social or political, more attractive. And Buddhism is not alone in this deprecation of things present." [14] This fault was later echoed by Santayana, who had taken on more of American pragmatic optimism than he probably would like to have admitted. Hocking criticizes the emptying out of individuality in the religious or philosophical experience of Buddhism as follows: "Buddhism ... more completely [than Vedaanta] ... subtly defines the goal of all passion as a passionless transparency of seeing. It attacks the self-element in all desire, demands that the individual organism shall become the instrument of a perfect universality of indifference, to which neither existence nor yet non-existence shall appear as an object of strife." [15] Vedaanta, on the other hand, is at fault, according to Hocking, because it "empties all passion into the will to know." [16] The power of knowledge is that I (every particular being) am Brahman. "This is the power that can strike off the chains of reincarnation; in it all lesser powers are believed to be included." [17] Hocking is here valiantly trying to make sense out of the relation of the individual to society through the particular medium of religion -- which he takes to be the fundamental relation. Evidently the Vedaanta and Buddhism are not helpful in the last analysis because they allow the individual to disappear into the vortex of Brahman, in "a perfect universality of indifference," as he puts it.

    Irving Babbitt (1865-1933), another colleague of Hocking, believed less in Western schemes than in Buddhism. Babbitt, the founder, with Paul Elmer More, of American Neo-Humanism, studied Sanskrit in the same class with More. Arthur Christy claims that the orientalism of Babbitt and More in their Neo-Humanism was the first in the United States "based on sound scholarship and an acquaintance with Sanskrit and Paali." [18] This accomplishment was shared with James Houghton Woods, I believe. Babbitt's only book to deal almost exclusively with Indian thought is his The Dhammapada


14. The Meaning of God in Human Experience (New Haven; Yale University Press, 1934), p. 6.

15. Human Nature and its Remaking (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1919), pp. 99, 334.

16. Ibid., p. 333.

17. Ibid., p. 334.

18. Arthur Christy, "The Sense of the Past," The Asian Legacy and American Life, Arthur E. Christy, ed. (New York: The John Day Company, 1945), p. 50.

 

 

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(1936), which contains an "Essay on Buddha and the Occident." He translated the former from the Paali. Walter E. Clark, Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard, helped with the completion of the posthumous volume, as did Babbitt's widow, Dora. She states in the editor's prefatory note that this work was "the fruit of Irving Babbitt's whole life's devotion to the study of Buddhism."

    Babbitt, who fought romanticism, found what he believed to be its American manifestation: the industrial and utilitarian view of life. Europe, in order to escape what the Americans reveled in, turned to the East. But the East had already become sullied by the West. "Japan in particular has been disposing of her Buddhas as curios and turning her attention to battleships." [19] In the authentic teachings of the Buddha, nevertheless, the best of the West is preserved without Western theological and metaphysical complications. Furthermore, Babbitt maintains, the Buddha "was more prone to humor than most religious teachers," [20] perhaps concomitant with his absence of casuistical and obscurantist propensities. Babbitt, the stylist, could not let the Buddhist literature pass without a few remarks. First of all he points out the "damnable iteration," which he explains away as a mnemonic device. Also, the aphoristic gifts of the Buddha are not quite up to those of Jesus Christ. The Buddha was humble, says Babbitt, but he was not modest, as his claims outdo even those of Jesus.

    Babbitt claims that whereas Western philosophy has been "from the time of Locke ... a long debauch of epistemology," [21] it has not produced the answer to Kant's second question -- What must I do? Buddhism, on the other hand, is a path philosophy." [22] One must not only know the Four Noble Truths but act on them. Hence, it is a voluntaristic philosophy. But the trouble with romantic orientalism, which goes beyond the clear message of the Buddha, is that it is "picturesque surfaces," the locus of "the bower of dreams," a kind of "subrational spontaneity" and in Schopenhauer the Buddha is converted into a "heavy-eyed, pessimistic dreamer" whereas he was "one of the most alert and vigorous figures of whom we have historical record." [23]

    From the views of Babbitt we turn to those of George Santayana (1863-1952). His views on Indian philosophy are too extensive to receive full treat-


19. Irving Babbitt, The Dhammapada (New York: Oxford University Press, 1936), p. 68.

20. Ibid., p. 71.

21. Ibid., p. 73.

22. A notion to become a central view of Karl Potter thirty years later in his Presuppositions of India's Philosophies (1963).

23. Irving Babbitt, "Romanticism and the Orient," On Being Creative (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.; The Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1932), pp. 241-243.

 

 

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ment in this short account. We know he recognized that in India and Greece "The first philosophers, the original observers of life and nature, were the best; and I think only the Indians and Greek naturalists, together with Spinoza, have been right on the chief issue, the relation of man and of his spirit to the universe." [24] Although he made relatively few references to Indian thought until after the First World War, from that time onward his writings increasingly related directly to it, or alluded to it, almost as if he felt that he should continue a tradition begun by Emerson and continued by Royce. Santayana continued until his death to search for parallels and differences in Indian philosophy, which gave him the requisite outings from the constricted European and American dialogue. In 1954 he confessed that "Ancient philosophy was a great aid to me ... the more I retreated in time, and the farther east I looked, the more I discovered my own profound and primitive convictions." [25] Not only did Santayana look increasingly eastward in his last year, but he clearly differentiated his own assessment from that of Emerson. "I follow the Indians in their notion of Brahman, Spirit, in its essence, but of course not in its absolute status as the root of all things. It is the root, in an animal psyche, of the universe of appearances: but the real universe, with its movement and competion [sic] must first have produced the psyche with its interests and powers..." [26] Such was his note from the materialist clarinet.

    Is it surprising, on the other hand, that Santayana's interpretation of Indian spiritualism is subtler and more keenly attuned to the Christian tradition than Emerson's? Nevertheless, Emerson may be closer to Indian intentions, as Santayana demonstrates in the following passage: "In calling existence an illusion, the Indian sages meant that it is fugitive and treacherous; the images and persons that diversify it are unsubstantial, and myself the most shifting and. unsubstantial of all... Life is an illusion if we trust it, but it is a truth if we do not trust it; and this discovery is perhaps better symbolized by the cross than by the Indian doctrine of illusion [maayaa]." [27]

    Of the Indian doctrines that Santayana discussed throughout his writing, the following, listed in order of their significance, are the most important: being, spirit, maayaa, transmigration, karma, transcendentalism, mysticism, and deep sleep. It is instructive to compare his reactions to those of Emerson,


24. George Santayana, Scepticism and Animal Faith (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1923), p. viii.

25. George Santayana, The Idler and His Works and Other Essays, Daniel Cory, ed. (New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1957), p. 7.

26. From a letter by Santayana, quoted in Daniel Cory, Santayana: The Later Years (New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1963), p. 291.

27. George Santayana, Soliloquies in England (London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1922), p. 93.

 

 

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with which Santayana was doubtless familiar. Both Americans showed a certain respect for transcendentalism, despite Santayana's revulsion when it took a Germanic form. They both believed that the notion of maayaa adds a dimension to philosophic thought. They thought that there might be something to karma, yet they both rejected transmigration as contrary to their respective reality-principles or to the American spirit that is full of pragmatic hopefulness for the future. Both could tolerate Indian "spirit," with Emerson reading into it more transcendentalism and Santayana more animality.

    Santayana's view of Indian thought shifted from his writing of The Realm of Essence (1927), where he says, "As for me, I frankly cleave to the Greeks and not to the Indians," and "I aspire to be a rational animal rather than a pure spirit." [28] But by the time he was writing his first general confession for Paul Schilpp's Library of Living Philosophers (drafts from 1930-39) he says that "There is no opposition in my mind between materialism and a Platonic or Indian discipline of the spirit." [29] For him this was a radical step. His philosophical carpet was Greek and Christian for half a century, and then gradually the threads of the Vedas and Saa^mkhya were woven in.

    Turning now to the qualities of Indian philosophy that Santayana most approved, I hypothesize that the single most attractive feature for him was its translatability into his own theory of essence. This he conceived to be its doctrine of pure being. Intimately associated with essence is his doctrine of spirit, which is truly remarkable for its Hegelian ability to incorporate within itself widely divergent conceptions peculiarly embarrassing to materialists and naturalists, who wish to disown him at this point. According to Morris Grossman, "Many fragments wrestle with the difficulties, with the relationship of spirit to comparable Indian categories, and particularly with the problem whether or not to attribute existence to spirit. " [30] Although Santayana appreciated the grace of Vedaanta and its doctrine of pure being, he claims that, "At the threshold of natural philosophy, the Vedaanta system must yield to the Saa^mkhya; and this the Indians seem to have admitted by regarding the two systems as orthodox and compatible. It might be well if in the West we could take a hint from this comprehensiveness." [31] The dynamic quality


28. George Santayana, Realm of Essence (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1927), p. 65.

29. The Philosophy of George Santayana, Paul A. Schilpp, ed. (Evanston: North-western University Press, 1940), p. 13.

30. Morris Grossman, "A Glimpse of Some Unpublished Santayana Manuscripts," Journal of Philosophy, LXI, 1 (January 2, 1964), p. 67.

31. George Santayana, Realms of Being (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1942), p. 211.

 

 

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of puru.sa in Saa^mkhya must be added to changeless being. In this brief study I am by necessity skipping around in Santayana's thoughts about Indian philosophy, to bring out some of his more interesting observations.

    Surrounded by the quiet of his Roman convent, Santayana takes a dim view of transmigration. Although Emerson was not able to appreciate this effulgent flower of the Indian garden either, he was more circumspect in criticizing it. But Santayana says,

Life is the form or order that all suitable substances conspire to compose when any seed develops into an ordinary body. This form is hereditary; and the psyche is a name for the natural magic that keeps each individual true to his species, and predetermines his normal organs, habits and passions. Hence the absurdity of transmigration; as if functions could migrate from one organ to another, so that the eye should hear and the ear should see, or as if music, which is the soul of the lyre, could migrate into an axe, or the power of cutting from the axe into the lyre. [32]

Santayana was clearly disappointed in the loss of naturalistic and Lucretian nerve that impelled first the Hindus, and then the Buddhists, to call upon transmigration to solve major metaphysical and ethical difficulties. In Scepticism and Animal Faith (1923) he says:

The Indians were poets and mystics; and while they could easily throw off the conventions of vulgar reason, it was often only to surrender themselves to other conventions, far more misleading to a free spirit, such as the doctrine of transmigration of souls; and when, as in Buddhism, they almost vanquished that illusion, together with every other, their emasculated intellect had nothing to put in its place. [33]

Santayana believed that so long as a metaphysics and religion are metaphorical and aesthetic instruments to enhance the natural life or the natural life of reason, then they are worthy of gratitude, but when they make a mockery of life and become life-denying, then they must be rejected by manly philosophers. This is the summation of Santayana's sixty years of reflection on Indian philosophy. No other American philosopher up to his time was able to appreciate the good in it and to reveal the false in it in the same lucid way.

    Following Santayana is a succession of philosophers and philosophical writers who have been smitten by Indian thought. They include Edgar Saltus (1858-1921), Joseph Alexander Leighton (1870-1932), James Bissett Pratt


32. George Santayana, The Idea of Christ in the Gospels (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1946), p. 224.

33. Scepticism and Animal Faith, pp. 305-306.

 

 

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(1875-1944), William Briggs Savery (1875-1945), Wilmon Henry Sheldon (1875-), Ethel May Kitch (1880?), Leroy Schaub (1881-1953), George Christian Otto Haas (1883-), Clarence H. Hamilton (1886-), Will Durant (1885-), Lewis Browne (1897-1949), Frances Ruth Grant (1889-), George P. Conger (1884-1961), Walter T. Stace (1886-), Edwin Arthur Burtt (1892-), Filmer Stuart Cuckow Northrop (1893-), Francis Palmer Clarke (1895-), Joachim Wach (1898-1955), Charles William Morris (1901-), and Charles A. Moore (1901-1967). With Moore we conclude this account, not because there are not many more younger American scholars with keen interest in Indian thought, but because with Moore begins a professionalism and decisiveness lacking in Indian philosophical studies before his time. With Moore, Indian philosophical studies approached maturity.

    Although most of Moore's work was as an editor of books and his journal, he also wrote a notable body of articles about Indian philosophy. But his main concern was twofold: not only to help American philosophers understand Indian philosophy, but also to help Indian philosophers to understand Western thought. Nowhere does Moore defend the values of the West so sharply as in his critique of Sri Aurobindo's account of the West's alleged defects in philosophy. Moore retorts: "The West ... is not materialistic, is not a slave of science, is not devoted to the limitation that all reality consists of the physical, the vital, and the mental -- every one of the very many idealists in the entire Western tradition and in what has been called the "Great Tradition" would deny these allegations and interpretations." [34] Moore was unsparing in his insistence that science, reason, progressivism, humanitarianism, and social service cannot be fairly lumped together as being worldly and materialistic, as held by Sri Aurobindo.

    Moore's own philosophical position emerges in his evaluation of what he considered Sri Aurobindo's real significance in bringing about an understanding between East and West. According to Moore, "[Sri Aurobindo] has shown the world that Indian philosophy in its fullness ... is able to meet not only the problems of man and his destiny in terms of the ultimate spiritual Absolute but also the problems of man's life and experiences in the here and now." [35] That Moore found in the integralism of Aurobindo "the true wisdom of the Indian mind" is not intended as irony. Moore calls it "a worldly as well as other-worldly, personal as well as impersonal, rational as well as intuitive, pluralistic as well as monistic, human as well as super-


34. Charles A. Moore, "Sri Aurobindo on East and West," in The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, Haridas Chaudhuri and Frederic Spiegelberg, eds. (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1960), p. 95.

35. Charles A. Moore, ibid., p. 98.

 

 

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human philosophy." [36] It is to the everlasting credit of Aurobindo "that he has overcome the error of much limited thinking by pointing out the remarkable richness of the Indian tradition." [37] In "One Step Beyond" Moore claims that "the general attitude of Indian philosophy ... is 'ultimate perspective.'" He believes that this implies that the Indian is willing to think things through thoroughly, whereas Western philosophers in general are, by an ever more iron-clad tradition than India is alleged to have, willing to go only so far and no farther in their speculation. [38] Indian philosophers, Moore says, demonstrate "one step beyond" in metaphysics through neti neti absolutism; in epistemology through intuition going beyond reason; and in ethics, in karma, renunciation going beyond the most extreme Western conceptions. Indians also go one step beyond in their views of ahi^msaa (non-injury) and mok.sa (freedom, liberation). In ethics these views are part of the supposition in India that the ultimate value is spiritual. [39]

    Moore replies to the claim that Indian philosophers do not make Western distinctions between philosophy and religion, and indeed have really a religious philosophy and little distinct philosophy at all, in his "Philosophy as Distinct from Religion in India." [40] First of all, he argues that philosophizing and religionizing may be indispensable to each other -- as theory and practice. "Only reasoned faith can give coherence to life and knowledge." This quotation from Radhakrishnan is repeated with approval by Moore. The West differs from India in pursuing knowledge and truth rather than in integrating the whole realm of human experience.

    Moore's article "The Meaning of Du.hkha" traces various interpretations of that term, which is generally held to mean "suffering" (birth, sickness, old age, death, lamentation). The two basic meanings, Moore believes, are (1) commotion or unrest and (2) phenomenal existence. He believes that this establishes "initial pessimism" in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. Ultimately this pessimism is transformed into final optimism when we realize the du.hkha can be overcome. Yet, the pessimistic view of the Indian about phenomenal life will have to stand, according to Moore.

    Ahi^msaa also challenged Moore, as it has other sensitive philosophers in the United States who have known anything about it. E. Washburn Hopkins had emphasized ahi^msaa in the Indian tradition as being valuable because it includes living creatures and not just man. As technology makes killing even


36. Charles A. Moore, "Sri Aurobindo on East and West," pp. 107-108.

37. Ibid., p. 108.

38. Charles A. Moore, K. C. Bhattacharyya Memorial Volume (Amalner: Indian Institute of Philosophy, 1958), p. 121.

39. Ibid., p. 131.

40. Philosophy East and West, XI, 1 and 2 (April-July 1961), 3-25.

 

 

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easier, it is the West which seems most likely to commit this gravest of all Jaina sins. Moore believes that it [that is, non-injury] should be the "supreme principle of ethics" and the only exception to its practice being "the situation in which the unavoidable causing of lesser suffering would be justified in the name of the prevention of greater suffering." [41] But an inadequacy of the doctrine, according to Moore, is that it is concerned with the inner rectitude of the actor instead of the suffering of the victim. He does not mention that a powerful incentive to its adoption in India, rather than the West, has been in its connection with the doctrine of transmigration. Moore's significance is of course greatest as a disseminator of Indian thought, but as we can see, his critical views are also of considerable interest.

    The significance of the study of Indian philosophy in the United States cannot be traced in all of its detail to the daily lives changed by it and the minute scholarly influences which pervade American culture. Nevertheless, certain features of its influence stand out. Indian philosophy has:

(1) encouraged transcendentalism and idealism in American thought.

(2) caused a general re-examination and critique of utilitarian ethics, eudaemonism, and hedonism.

(3) enlarged the scope of the philosophical subject-matter of many universities and colleges.

(4) widened the American perspective in every phase of philosophy, especially epistemology, psychology, and the metaphysics of the self.

(5) given impetus to individualistic, rather than social, ethics.

(6) finally, helped create a new climate for the discussion of values.


41. Charles A. Moore, "The Significance of Ahi^msaa for Ethics, East and West," Proceedings of the XI International Congress of Philosophy, XIV (Amsterdam: North Holland Publishing Company, 1953), p. 250.