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Hegel - Philosophy of Mind – Pantheism, Krishna , and the Bhagavad Gita



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Hegel's Philosophy of Mind By Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel [Translated From The Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences With Five Introductory Essays By William Wallace, M.A., LL.D. Fellow of Merton College, and Whyte's Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Oxford]

If we want to take so-called Pantheism [pg 186] in its most poetical, most sublime, or if you will, its grossest shape, we must, as is well known, consult the oriental poets: and the most copious delineations of it are found in Hindoo literature. Amongst the abundant resources open to our disposal on this topic, I select—as the most authentic statement accessible—the Bhagavat-Gita, and amongst its effusions, prolix and reiterative ad nauseam, some of the most telling passages. In the 10th Lesson (in Schlegel, p. 162) Krishna says of himself173:—

I am the self, seated in the hearts of all beings. I am the beginning and the middle and the end also of all beings ... I am the beaming sun amongst the shining ones, and the moon among the lunar mansions.... Amongst the Vedas I am the Sâma-Veda: I am mind amongst the senses: I am consciousness in living beings. And I am Sankara (Siva) among the Rudras, ... Meru among the high-topped mountains, ... the Himalaya among the firmly-fixed (mountains).... Among beasts I am the lord of beasts.... Among letters I am the letter A.... I am the spring among the seasons.... I am also that which is the seed of all things: there is nothing moveable or immoveable which can exist without me.”

Even in these totally sensuous delineations, Krishna (and we must not suppose there is, besides Krishna, still God, or a God besides; as he said before he was Siva, or Indra, so it is afterwards said that Brahma too is in him) makes himself out to be—not everything, but only—the most excellent of everything. Everywhere there is a distinction drawn between external, unessential existences, and one essential amongst them, which he is. Even when, at the beginning [pg 187] of the passage, he is said to be the beginning, middle, and end of living things, this totality is distinguished from the living things themselves as single existences. Even such a picture which extends deity far and wide in its existence cannot be called pantheism: we must rather say that in the infinitely multiple empirical world, everything is reduced to a limited number of essential existences, to a polytheism. But even what has been quoted shows that these very substantialities of the externally-existent do not retain the independence entitling them to be named Gods; even Siva, Indra, &c. melt into the one Krishna.

This reduction is more expressly made in the following scene (7th Lesson, p. 7 sqq.). Krishna says:

 “I am the producer and the destroyer of the whole universe. There is nothing else higher than myself; all this is woven upon me, like numbers of pearls upon a thread. I am the taste in water;... I am the light of the sun and the moon; I am ‘Om’ in all the Vedas.... I am life in all beings.... I am the discernment of the discerning ones.... I am also the strength of the strong.”

Then he adds:

The whole universe deluded by these three states of mind developed from the qualities [sc. goodness, passion, darkness] does not know me who am beyond them and inexhaustible: for this delusion of mine,” [even the Maya is his, nothing independent], “developed from the qualities is divine and difficult to transcend. Those cross beyond this delusion who resort to me alone.”

Then the picture gathers itself up in a simple expression:

 “At the end of many lives, the man possessed of knowledge approaches me, (believing) that Vasudeva is everything. Such a high-souled mind is very hard to find. Those who are deprived of knowledge by various desires approach other divinities... Whichever form of deity one worships with [pg 188] faith, from it he obtains the beneficial things he desires really given by me. But the fruit thus obtained by those of little judgment is perishable.... The undiscerning ones, not knowing my transcendent and inexhaustible essence, than which there is nothing higher, think me who am unperceived to have become perceptible.”

The source of the experience

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich

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