Robert Charles Zaehner

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R. C. Zaehner (1972)

Robert Charles Zaehner (1913–1974) was a British academic whose field of study was Eastern religions. He could read in the original language many sacred texts, e.g., Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic. Earlier, starting in World War II, he had served as an intelligence officer in Iran. At Oxford University his first writings had been on the Zoroastrian religion and its texts. Appointed Spalding Professor, his books addressed such subjects as mystical experience (articulating a comparative typology), Hinduism, comparative religion, Christianity and other religions, and ethics. He translated the Bhagavad-Gita, providing an extensive commentary based on Hindu tradition and sources. His last books addressed similar issues in popular culture, which led to his talks on the BBC. He published under the name R. C. Zaehner.[1][2]

Life and career[edit]

Early years[edit]

Born on 8 April 1913 in Sevenoaks, Kent, he was the son of Swiss–German immigrants to England. Zaehner "was bilingual in French and English from early childhood. He remained an excellent linguist all his life."[3][4] Educated at the nearby Tonbridge School, he was admitted to Christ Church, Oxford, where he studied Greek and Latin, and also ancient Persian including Avestan, gaining first class honours in Oriental Languages. During 1936–37 he studied Pahlavi, another ancient Iranian language, with Sir Harold Bailey at Cambridge University. Zaehner thereafter held Prof. Bailey in high esteem.[5] He then began work on his book Zurvan, a Zoroastrian Dilemma, a study of the pre-Islamic religion of Iran.[6][7]

Zaehner enjoyed "a prodigious gift for languages". He later acquired a reading knowledge of Sanskrit (for Hindu scriptures), Pali (for Buddhist), and Arabic (for Islamic).[8] In 1939 he taught as a research lecturer at Christ Church, Oxford. About this time, after reading the French poet Rimbaud, and in Rumi the Sufi poet of Iran, as well as study of the Hindu Upanishads, Zaehner came to adopt a personal brand of "nature mysticism". Yet his spiritual progression led him in the mid-1940s to convert to Christianity, becoming a Roman Catholic while stationed in Iran.[9]

British intelligence[edit]

During World War II starting in 1943, he served as a British intelligence officer at their Embassy in Tehran. Often he was stationed in the field among the mountain tribes of northern Iran. After the war he also performed a more diplomatic role at the Tehran embassy.[6][10] Decades later another British intelligence officer, Peter Wright, described his activities:

"I studied Zaehner's Personal File. He was responsible for MI6 counterintelligence in Persia during the war. It was difficult and dangerous work. The railway lines into Russia, carrying vital military supplies, were key targets for German sabotage. Zaehner was perfectly equipped for the job, speaking the local dialects fluently, and much of his time was spent undercover, operating in the murky and cutthroat world of countersabotage. By the end of the war his task was even more fraught. The Russians themselves were trying to gain control of the railway, and Zaehner had to work behind Russian lines, continuously at risk of betrayal and murder by pro-German or pro-Russian... ."[11]

Zaehner continued in Iran until 1947 as press attaché in the British Embassy,[12] and as an MI6 officer. He then resumed his academic career at Oxford doing research on Zoroastrianism. During 1949, however, he was relocated to Malta where he trained anti-Communist Albanians. By 1950 he had secured an Oxford appointment as Lecturer in Persian literature. Again in 1951–1952 he returned to Iran for government service. Prof. Nancy Lambton, who had run British propaganda in Iran during the war, recommended him for the Embassy position. Journalist Christopher de Bellaigue describes Robin Zaehner as "a born networker who knew everyone who mattered in Tehran" with a taste for gin and opium. "When Kingsley Martin, the editor of the New Statesman, asked Zaehner at a cocktail party in Tehran what book he might read to enlarge his understanding of Iran, Zaehner suggested Alice through the Looking Glass."[13][14][15][16]

Zaehner publicly held the rank of Counsellor in the British Embassy in Tehran. In fact, he continued as an MI6 officer. During the Abadan Crisis he was assigned to prolong the Shah's royal hold on the Sun Throne against the republican challenge led by Mohammed Mossadegh, then the Prime Minister. The crisis involved the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company which had been in effect nationalised by Mossadegh. Zaehner thus became engaged in the failed 1951 British effort to topple the government of Iran and return oil production to that entity controlled by the British government.[17] "[T]he plot to overthrow Mossadegh and give the oilfields back to the AIOC was in the hands of a British diplomat called Robin Zaehner, later professor of Eastern religions at Oxford."[18][19][20] Such Anglo and later American interference in Iran, which eventually reinstalled the Shah, has been widely criticized.[21][22][23]

In the 1960s, MI5 counterintelligence officer Peter Wright questioned Zaehner about floating allegations that he had doubled as a spy for the Soviet Union, harming British intelligence operations in Iran and Albania during the period following World War II. Zaehner is described as "a small, wiry-looking man, clothed in the distracted charm of erudition." In his 1987 book Spycatcher Wright wrote that Zaehner's humble demeanor and candid denial convinced him that the Oxford don had remained loyal to Britain. Wright notes that "I felt like a heel" for confronting Zaehner.[24]

Although in the intelligence service for the benefit of his Government, on later reflection Zaehner did not understand the utilitarian activities he performed as being altogether ennobling. In such "Government service abroad", he wrote, "truth is seen as the last of the virtues and to lie comes to be a second nature. It was, then, with relief that I returned to academic life because, it seemed to me, if ever there was a profession concerned with a single-minded search for truth, it was the profession of the scholar."[25][26] Prof. Jeffrey Kripal discusses "Zaehner's extraordinary truth telling" which may appear "politically incorrect". The "too truthful professor" might be seen as "a redemptive or compensatory act" for "his earlier career in dissimulation and deception" as a spy.[27][28]

Oxford professor[edit]

University work[edit]

Before the war Zaehner had lectured at Oxford University. Returning to Christ Church several years after the war, he continued work on his Zurvan book,[29] and lectured in Persian literature. His reputation then "rested on articles on Zoroastrianism, mainly philological" written before the war.[30]

In 1952 Zaehner was elected Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics to succeed the celebrated professor Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who had resigned to become Vice-President (later President) of India.[31][32][33] Zaehner had applied for this position. Radhakrishnan previously had been advancing a harmonizing viewpoint with regard to the study of comparative religions, and the academic Chair had a subtext of being "founded to propagate a kind of universalism". Zaehner's inaugural lecture was unconventional in content. He delivered a strong yet witty criticism of "universalism" in religion.[34]

It drew controversy. Prof. Michael Dummett opines that what concerned Zaehner was "to make it clear from the start of his tenure of the Chair that he was nobody else's man."[35][36] Zaehner continued an interest in Zoroastrian studies, publishing his Zurvan book and two others on the subject during the 1950s.[37]

Since 1952, however, he had turned his primary attention further East. "After my election to the Spalding Chair, I decided to devote myself mainly to the study of Indian religions in accordance with the founder's wishes."[38] He served Oxford in this academic chair, while also a fellow at All Souls College, until his death in 1974, and never married.[6][39]

In his influential 1957 book Mysticism Sacred and Profane, Zaehner discussed this traditional, cross-cultural spiritual practice. Based on mystical writings, he offered an innovative typology that became widely discussed in academic journals. He also analyzed claims that mescalin use fit into this spiritual quest. His conclusion was near dismissive. Yet he revisited his harsh words on the naïveté of drug mysticism in his 1972 book Zen, Drug and Mysticism. His warnings became somewhat qualified by some prudent suggestions. He carefully distinguished between drug-induced states and religious mysticism. Then the BBC began asking him to talk on the radio, where he acquired a following. He was invited abroad to lecture.[40][41]

His delivery in Scotland of the Gifford Lectures led him to write perhaps his most magisterial book. Zaehner traveled twice to the University of St. Andrews during the years 1967 to 1969. The subject he choose concerned the convoluted and intertwined history of the different world religions during the long duration of their mutual co-existence. He described the interactions as both fiercely contested and relatively cross-cultivating, in contrast to other periods of a more sovereign isolation. The lectures were later published in 1970 "just four years before his death" by Oxford University as Concordant Discord. The interdependence of faiths.[42][43]

Peer descriptions[edit]

As professor Zaehner "had a great facility for writing, and an enormous appetite for work. [He also] had a talent for friendship, a deep affection for a number of particular close friends and an appreciation of human personality, especially for anything bizarre or eccentric". Nonetheless. "he passed a great deal of his time alone, most of it in his study working."[44]

An American professor described Zaehner in a different light: "The small, birdlike Zaehner, whose rheumy, color-faded eyes darted about in a clay colored face, misted blue from the smoke of Gauloises cigarettes, could be fearsome indeed. He was a volatile figure, worthy of the best steel of his age."[45]

His colleague in Iran, Prof. Ann K. S. Lambton of SOAS, recalled, "He did not, perhaps, suffer fools gladly, but for the serious student he would take immense pains". Prof. Zaehner was "an entertaining companion" with "many wildly funny" stories, "a man of great originality, not to say eccentricity."[46]

"Zaehner was a scholar who turned into something different, something more important than a scholar," according to Michael Dummett, a professor of philosophy at Oxford, who wanted to call him a "penseur" [French: a thinker]. With insight and learning (and his war-time experience) Zaehner shed light on key issues in contemporary spiritual life, writing abundantly. "His talent lay in seeing what to ask, rather than in how to answer... ."[47]

In theology he challenged the ecumenical trend that strove to somehow see a uniformity in all religions. He acted not out of an ill will, but from a conviction that any fruitful dialogue between religions must be based on a "pursuit of truth". If such profound dialogue rested on a false or a superficial "harmony and friendship" it would only foster hidden misunderstandings, Zaehner thought, which would ultimately result in a deepening mistrust.[48][49]

He died on 24 November 1974 in Oxford. "[A]t the age of sixty-one he fell down dead in the street on his way to Sunday evening Mass."[50]

His writings[edit]

Zoroastrian studies[edit]


Initially Zaehner's reputation rested on his studies of Zoroastrianism, at first articles mostly on philology in academic journals. He labored for many years on a scholarly work, his Zurvan, a Zoroastrian dilemma (1955). This book provides an original discussions of an influential theological deviation from the Zoroastrian orthodoxy of ancient Persia's Achaemenid Empire, which was a stark, ethical dualism. Zurvanism was promoted by the Sasanian Empire (224–651) which arose later during Roman times. Until the Muslim conquest, Zurvanism in the Persian world became established and disestablished by turns.[51][52][53]

Zurvan was an innovation analogous to Zoroastrian original doctrine. The prophet Zoroaster preached that the benevolent Ahura Mazda (the "Wise Lord"), as the creator God, fashioned both Spenta Mainyu (the Holy Spirit), and Angra Mainyu (the Aggressive Spirit) who chose to turn evil. These two created Spirits were called twins, one good, one evil. Over the centuries Ahura Mazda and his "messenger" the good Spenta Mainyu became conflated and identified; hence, the creator Ahura Mazda began to be seen as the twin of the evil Angra Mainyu. It was in this guise that Zoroastrianism became the state religion in Achaemenid Persia. Without fully abandoning dualism, some started to consider Zurvan (Time) as the underlying cause of both the benevolent Ahura Mazda and the evil Angra Mainyu. The picture is complicated by very different schools of Zurvanism, and contesting Zoroastrian sects. Also, Ahura Mazda was later known as Ohrmazd, and Angra Mainyu became Ahriman.[54][55][56][57]

Zurvan could be described as divinized Time (Zaman). With Time as 'father' twins came into being: the ethical, bountiful Ohrmazd, who was worshipped, and his satanic antagonist Ahriman, against whom believers fought. As Infinite Time, Zurvan rose supreme "above Ohrmazd and Ahriman" and stood "above good and evil". This aggravated the traditional 'orthodox' Zoroastrians (the Mazdean ethical dualists).[58][59] Zoroastrian cosmology understood that "finite Time comes into existence out of Infinite Time". During the 12,000 year period of finite Time (Zurvan being both kinds of Time), human history occurs, the fight against Ahriman starts, and the final victory of Ohrmazd is achieved. Yet throughout, orthodox Mazdeans insisted, it is Ohrmazd who remains supreme, not Zurvan. On the other hand, his adherents held that Zurvan was God of Time, Space, Wisdom, and Power, and the Lord of Death, of Order, and of Fate.[60]

Teachings of the Magi[edit]

The Teachings of the Magi (1956)[61] was Zaehner's second of three book on Zoroastrianism. It presented the "main tenets" of the religion in the Sasanid era, during the reign of Shapur II, a 4th-century King. Its chief sources were Pahlavi books written a few centuries later by Zoroastrians. Each of its ten chapters contains Zaehner's descriptive commentaries, illustrated by his translations from historic texts. Chapter IV, "The Necessity of Dualism" is typical, half being the author's narrative and half extracts from a Pahlavi work, here the Shikand Gumani Vazar by Mardan Farrukh.[62]

Dawn and Twilight[edit]

In his The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism (1961), Zaehner adopted a chronological dichotomy. He first explores origins, the founding of the religion by its prophet Zoroaster. He notes that the Gathas, the earliest texts in the Avesta, make it obvious that "Zoroaster met with very stiff opposition from the civil and ecclesiastical authorities when once he had proclaimed his mission." "His enemies... supported the ancient national religion." On moral and ecological grounds, Zoroaster favored the "settled pastoral and agricultural community" as against the "predatory, marauding tribal societies". His theological and ethical dualism advocated for "the followers of Truth the life-conserving and life-enhancing forces" and against the "destructive forces" of the Lie.[63] For the dates of the prophet's life, Zaehner adopted the traditional 6th century BCE dates.[64][65][66][67][68]

Zoroaster reformed the old polytheistic religion by making Ahura Mazdah [the Wise Lord] the Creator, the only God. An innovation by Zoroaster was the abstract notions, namely, the Holy Spirit, and the Amesha Spentas (Good Mind, Truth, Devotion, Dominion, Wholeness, Immortality). Zaehner interpreted them not as new substitutes for the excluded old gods, "but as part of the divine personality itself" which may also serve "as mediating functions between God and man". The Amesha Spentas are "aspects of God, but aspects in which man too can share."[69] Angra Mainyu was the dualistic evil.[70] Dating to before the final parting of ways of the Indo-Iranians, the Hindus had two classes of gods, the asuras (e.g., Varuna) and the devas (e.g., Indra). Later following the invasion of India the asuras sank to the rank of demon. Au contraire, in Iran the ahuras were favored, while the daevas fell and opposed truth, spurred in part by Zoroaster's reform. In the old Iranian religion, an ahura [lord] was concerned with "the right ordering of the cosmos".[71][72][73][74]

In Part II, Zaehner discussed the long decline of Zoroastrianism.[75] There arose the teachings about Zurvan i Akanarak [Infinite Time]. The Sasanid state's ideological rationale was sourced in Zoroastrian cosmology and sense of virtue. The Amesha Spentas provided spiritual support for human activities according to an articulated mean (e.g., "the just equipoise between excess and deficiency", Zoroastrian "law", and "wisdom or reason"). As an ethical principle the mean followed the contours of the 'treaty' between Ohrmazd [Ahura Mazda] and Ahriman [Angra Mainyu], which governed their struggle in Finite Time. Other doctrines came into prominence, such as those about the future saviour Saoshyans (Zoroaster himself or his posthumous son). Then after the final triumph of the Good Religion the wise lord Orhmazd "elevates the whole material creation into the spiritual order, and there the perfection that each created thing has as it issues from the hand of God is restored to it" in the Frashkart or "Making Excellent".[76][77][78]

Articles and chapters[edit]

Zaehner contributed other work regarding Zoroaster and the religion began in ancient Iran. The article "Zoroastrianism" was included in a double-columned book he edited, The Concise Encyclopedia of Living Faiths, first published in 1959.[79] Also were his several articles on the persistence in popular culture of the former national religion, "Zoroastrian survivals in Iranian folklore".[80] Chapters, in whole or part, on Zoroastrianism appeared in a few of his other books: At Sundry Times (1958), aka The Comparison of Religions (1962);[81] The Convergent Spirit, aka Matter and Spirit (1963);[82] and Concordant Discord (1970).[83]

Comparative religion[edit]

A choice of perspective[edit]

In the west the academic field of comparative religion at its origins inherited an 'enlightenment' ideal of an objective, value-neutral rationalism. Yet traditional Christian and Jewish writings provided much of the source material, as did classical literature, these being eventually joined by non-western religious texts, then empirical ethnological studies.[84][85] The privileged 'enlightenment' orientation in practice fell short of being value-neutral, and itself became progressively contested.[86] As to value-neutral, Zaehner situated himself roughly as follows:

"Any man with any convictions at all is liable to be influenced by them even when he tries to adopt an entirely objective approach; but let him recognize this from the outset and guard against it. If he does this, he will at least be less liable to deceive himself and others." "Of the books I have written some are intended to be objective; others, quite frankly, are not." "In all my writings on comparative religion my aim has been increasingly to show that there is a coherent pattern in religious history. For me the centre of coherence can only be Christ." Yet "I have rejected as irrelevant to my theme almost everything that would find a natural place in a theological seminary, that is, Christian theology, modern theology in particular." "For what, then, do I have sympathy, you may well ask. Quite simply, for the 'great religions' both of East and West, expressed... in those texts that each religion holds most sacred and in the impact that these have caused."[87][88][89]

Accordingly, for his primary orientation Zaehner chose from among the active participants: Christianity in its Catholic manifestation. Yet the academic Zaehner also employed a type of comparative analysis, e.g., often drawing on Zoroastrian or Hindu, or Jewish or Islamic views for contrast, for insight. Often he combined comparison with a default 'modernist' critique, which included psychology or cultural evolution.[90][91] Zaehner's later works are informed by Vatican II (1962-1965) and tempered by Nostra aetate.[92]

At Sundry Times [Comparison][edit]

In his 1958 book At Sundry Times. An essay in the comparison of religions,[93]</ref> Zaehner came to grips with "the problem of how a Christian should regard the non-Christian religions and how, if at all, he could correlate them into his own" (p.9 [Preface]). It includes an Introduction (1), followed by chapters on Hinduism (2), on Hinduism and Buddhism (3), on "Prophets outside Israel", i.e., Zoroastrianism and Islam (4), and a concluding Appendix which compares and contrasts the "Quran and Christ". Perhaps the key chapter is "Consummatum Est" (5), which "shows, or tries to show, how the main trend in [mystical] Hinduism and Buddhism on the one hand and of [the prophetic] Zoroastrianism on the other meet and complete each other in the Christian revelation" (p.9, words in brackets added).

The book opens with a discussion of comparative religion. He cites Rudolph Otto (1869-1937) and al-Ghazali (1058-1111) as being skeptical of a writer with no religious experience who expounds on the subject. Yet Zaehner acknowledges that many Christians may only be familiar with their own type of religion (similar to Judaism and Islam), and thus be ill-equipped to adequately comprehend Hindu or Buddhist mysticism (pp. 12-15). Zaehner then compared the Old Testament and the Buddha, the former being a history of God's commandments delivered by his prophets to the Jewish people and their struggle to live accordingly, and the later being a teacher of a path derived from his own experience, which leads to a spiritual enlightenment without God and apart from historical events (pp. 15-19, 24-26). Needed is a way to bridge this gap between the two (pp. 15, 19, 26, 28). The gap is further illustrated as it relates to desire and suffering (p.21), body and soul (pp. 22-23), personality and death (pp. 23-24).

Christianity & other Religions[edit]

The 1964 book,[94] following its introduction, has four parts: India, China and Japan, Islam, and The Catholic Church. Throughout Zaehner offers connections between the self-understanding of 'other religions' and that of the Judeo-Christian, e.g., the Upanishads and Thomas Merton (pp. 25–26), Taoism and Adam (p. 68), Sunyata and Plato (p. 96), Al-Ghazali and St. Paul (p. 119-120), Samkhya and Martin Buber (pp. 131–132).

In the introduction, Zaehner laments the "very checkered history" of the Church. Yet he expresses his admiration of Pope John (1881-1963), who advanced the dignity that all humanity possesses "in the sight of God". Zaehner then presents a brief history of Christianity in world context. The Church "rejoiced to build into herself whatever in Paganism she found compatible" with the revelation and ministry of Jesus. Her confidence was inferred in the words of Gamaliel (pp. 7-9).[95] While Europe has known of Jesus for twenty centuries, 'further' Asia has only for three. Jesus, however, seemed to have arrived there with conquerors from across the sea, and "not as the suffering servant" (p.9).[96] As to the ancient traditions of Asia, Christians did "condemn outright what [they had] not first learnt to understand" (pp. 11, 13). Zaehner thus sets the stage for a modern review of ancient traditions.

"The Catholic Church" chapter starts by celebrating its inclusiveness. Zaehner quotes Cardinal Newman praising the early Church's absorption of classical Mediterranean virtues (a source some term 'heathen').[97] For "from the beginning the Moral Governor of the world has scattered the seeds of truth far and wide... ."[98] There may be some danger for Christians to study the spiritual truths of other religions, but it is found in scripture.[99]

Zaehner counsels that the reader not "neglect the witness" of Hinduism and Buddhism, as they teach inner truths which, among Christians, have withered and faded since the one-sided Reformation. The Church perpetually struggles to keep to a "perfect yet precarious balance between the transcendent... Judge and King and the indwelling Christ". Writing in 1964, Zaehner perceived "a change for the better" in the increasing acceptance of the "Yogin in India or Zen in Japan". Nonetheless, a danger exists for the 'unwary soul' who in exploring other religions may pass beyond the fear of God. Then one may enter the subtleties of mystical experience, and "mistake his own soul for God." Such an error in distinguishing between timeless states can lead to ego inflation, spiritual vanity, and barrenness.[100][101][102] [under construction]

Zaehner offers this categorical analysis of some major religious affiliations: a) action-oriented, worldly (Judaism, Islam, Protestantism, Confucianism); b) contemplation-oriented, other-worldly (Hinduism, Theravada Buddhism, Taoism); c) in-between (Mahayana Buddhism, neo-Confucianism, the reformed Hinduism of Gandhi, the Catholic Church).[103]

Comparative mysticism[edit]

Zaehner wrote extensively on comparative religion.[104] His interest turned to focus primarily on Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. In his comparative work he directly addressed mysticism. Zaehner criticized the apparently simplistic idea, then widely endorsed: the mystical unity of all religions. He based his contrary views on well-known texts authored by the mystics of various traditions. After describing of their first-hand experiences of visionary states, he presented traditional interpretations. These might understand it as evidencing a particular world view, e.g., theism, monism, pantheism, or atheism.[105]

His critique challenged the thesis of Richard Bucke, developed in his 1901 book, Cosmic Consciousness. Bucke describes lesser facilities, then this prized 'cosmic' state of mind. He presents fourteen exemplary people of history, as each reaching a somewhat similar realization: the plane of cosmic consciousness.[106] This perennial idea has been variously advanced by Aldous Huxley, by Frithjof Schuon, by Houston Smith. Zaehner does not dispute that spiritual visionaries reach a distinguishable level of awareness. Nor does he deny that a life sequence over time may lead to mystical experience: withdrawal, purgation, illumination. Instead, what Zaeher suggests is a profound difference between, e.g., the pantheistic vision of a nature mystic, admittedly pleasant and wholesome, and the personal union of a theist with the Divine lover of humankind.[107][108][109]

Mystical experience[edit]

Mysticism as an academic field of study is relatively recent, emerging from earlier works with a religious and literary accent. From reading the writings of mystics, various traditional distinctions have been further elaborated, such as its psychological nature and its social-cultural context. Discussions have also articulated its phenomenology as a personal experience versus how it has been interpreted by the mystic or by others.[110] Professor Zaehner made his contributions, e.g., to its comparative analysis and its typology.

Sacred and Profane[edit]

[Under construction]

Hindu and Muslim[edit]

His innovative book compares the mystical literature and practice of Hindus and Muslims. He frames it with a theme of diversity.[111] On experiential foundations, Zaehner then commences to explore the spiritual treasures left to us by the mystics of the Santana Dharma, and of the Sufi tariqas. Often he offers a phenomenological description of the reported experiences, after which he interprets them in various theological terms.[112]

Zaehner describes five different types of mysticism to be found in Indian tradition: "the sacrificial, the Upanishadic, the Yogic, the Buddhistic, and that of bhakti."[113][114] Zaehner here relies on Hindu mystics because of their relative freedom from creed or dogma. He leaves aside the first (of historic interest), and the fourth (due to contending definitions of nirvana), so that as exemplars of mystical experience he presents:

  • (a) the Upanishadic "I am this All" which can be subdivided into (i) a theistic interpretation or (ii) a monistic;
  • (b) the Yogic "unity" outside space and time, either (i) of the eternal monad of the mystic's own individual soul per the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali or (ii) of Brahman, the ground of the universe, per the advaita Vedanta of Sankara; and,
  • (c) the Bhakti mysticism of love, according to the commentary on the Bhagavad Gita by Ramanuja.[115]

Typology of the mystics[edit]

The above-described typology of mystic practice was derived directly from Hinduism and its literature.

Zaehner's more general analysis of the full range of mystical experience resulted in a different typology. Here his schema reflects not only the phenomenology of the experience itself but also the subject's explanations of it.

  • (1) Nature mysticism;
  • (2) Monistic mysticism;
  • (3) Theistic mysticism.[116]

An endemic problem with such an analytic typology is the elusive nature of the conscious experience during the mystical state, its shifting perspectives of subject/object, and the psychology of spiritual awareness itself. Zaehner's proposals necessarily suffer from these general difficulties.

Nature mystics

Nature mysticism chiefly describes a spontaneous oceanic feeling in which a person identifies with the cosmos. It also may include a drug-induced state of consciousness. Like Aldous Huxley,[117] he had taken mescalin, but Zaehner came to a different conclusion. In his 1957 book Mysticism. Sacred and Profane. An Inquiry into some Varieties of Praeternatural Experience. Included are descriptions of the author's experience with mescalin, Yet his primary aim is to uphold a distinction between an amoral monism on the one hand and theistic mysticism on the other. In part he relies on a personal experience recorded by Martin Buber.[118] Here and elsewhere, he thus sets himself against Huxley's adoption of the Perennial Philosophy, an idea seeded with future misunderstandings.[119][120][121]

Monistic, non-dualist

Zaehner here focused especially on Hindu forms of non-dualism, e.g., the varieties of Vedanta. [Under construction]

Theistic, Christian

According to Zaehner, Christianity and theistic religions offer the possibility of a sacred mystical union with an attentive creator God, whereas a strictly monistic approach instead leads to the self-unity experience of natural religion.[122][123] Yet Zaehner remained hopeful in the long run of an ever-increasing understanding between religions. "We have much to learn from Eastern religions, and we have much too to give them; but we are always in danger of forgetting the art of giving--of giving without strings... ."[124]

During the 1940s spent in Iran he returned to the Christian faith. Decades later he published The Catholic Church and World Religions (1964), expressly from that perspective. As an objective scholar, he drew on his acquired insights from this source to further his understanding of others. Zaehner "did not choose to write to convince others of the truth of his own faith," rather "to frame questions" was his usual purpose.[125]

Gender, soul & spirit[edit]

Zaehner's interest in the writings of the mystics led him to studying the nominal gender of the sacred being they described. Often this being was male, whether the mystic was a man or a woman. In Christianity the Church as a whole was described by many as the bride of Christ.

Zaehner evolved into a conservative believer, whose ethics and morals were founded on his Catholic faith. Accordingly, sexual activity is blessed within the context of marriage.[126] His sexual orientation during World War II was said to have been homosexual. During his later life, while a don at Oxford, he became wholly devoted to teaching and research, and abstained from sexual intercourse.[127][128]

[Under construction]

Hindu religious texts[edit]

His translations and the Hinduism book "made Zaehner one of the most important modern exponents of Hindu theological and philosophical doctrines... . The works on mysticism are more controversial though they established important distinctions in refusing to regard all mysticisms as the same," wrote Prof. Geoffrey Parrinder.[129] For Zaehner's Hindu and Muslim Mysticism (1960), and like analyses, see "Comparative Mysticism" section.


While an undergraduate at Christ Church in Oxford, Zaehner studied several Persian languages. He also taught himself a related language, Sanskrit, used to write the early Hindu sacred books. Decades later he was asked by OUP to author a volume on Hinduism. Unexpectedly Zaehner insisted on first reading in Sanscrit the Mahabharata, a very long epic.[130] More than an heroic age story of an ancient war, the Mahabharata gives us the foremost compendium on Hindu religion and way of life.[131]

The resulting treatise Hinduism (1962) is elegant, deep, and short. Zaehner discusses, among other things, the subtleties of dharma, and Yudhishthira, the son of Dharma, who became the King of righteousness (dharma raja). Yudhishthira is the elder of five brothers of the royal Pandava family, who leads one side in the war of the Mahabharata. Accordingly, he struggles to follow his conscience, to do the right thing, to avoid slaughter and bloodshed. Yet he finds that tradition and custom, and the Lord Krishna, are ready to allow the usual killing and mayhem of warfare.[132][133]

As explained in Hinduism, all his life Yudhishthira struggles to follow his conscience.[134] Yet when Yudhishthira participates in the battle of Kuruksetra, he is told by Krishna to state a "half truth" meant to deceive. Zaehner discusses: Yudhishthira and moksha (liberation), and karma; and Yudhishthira's troubles with warrior caste dharma.[135][136][137] In the last chapter, Yudhishthira 'returns' as Mahatma Gandhi.[138] Other chapters discuss the early literature of the Vedas, the deities, Bhakti devotional practices begun in medieval India, and the encounter with, and response to, modern Europeans.[139]


Zaehenr continued his discussion of Yudhishthira in a chapter of his book based on his 1967-1969 Gifford Lectures.[140][141] Zaehner finds analogies between the Mahabharata's Yudhishthira and the biblical Job. Yet their situations differed. Yudhishthira, although ascetic by nature, was a royal leader who had to directly face the conflicts of his society. His realm and his family suffered great misfortunes due to political conflict and war. Yet the divine Krishna evidently considered the war and the destructive duties of the warrior (the kshatriya dharma) acceptable. The wealthy householder Job, a faithful servant of his Deity, suffers severe family and personal reversals, due to Divine acquiescence. Each human being, both Job and Yudhishthira, is committed to following his righteous duty, acting in conforming to his conscience.[142][143]

When the family advisor Vidura reluctantly challenges him to play dice at Dhrtarastra's palace, "Yudhishthira believes it is against his moral code to decline a challenge."[144][145] Despite, or because of, his devotion to the law of dharma, Yudhishthira then "allowed himself be tricked into a game of dice." In contesting against very cunning and clever players, he gambles "his kingdom and family away." His wife becomes threatened with slavery.[146][147][148]

Even so, initially Yudhishthira with "holy indifference" tries to "defend traditional dharma" and like Job to "justify the ways of God in the eyes of men." Yet his disgraced wife Draupadi dramatically attacks Krishna for "playing with his creatures as children play with dolls." Although his wife escapes slavery, the bitter loss in the dice game is only a step in the sequence of seemingly divinely-directed events that led to a disastrous war, involving enormous slaughter. Although Yudhishthira is the King of Dharma, eventually he harshly criticizes the bloody duties of a warrior (the kshatriya dharma), duties imposed also on kings. Yudhishthira himself prefers the "constant virtues" mandated by the dharma of a brahmin. "Krishna represents the old order," interprets Zaehner, where "trickery and violence" hold "an honorable place".[149][150]


In his Hindu Scriptures (1966) Zaehner presents his translations of selected classical texts, the Rig-Veda, the Atharva-Veda, the Upanishads, and the entire, 80-page Bhagavad Gita. He discusses these writings in his short Introduction. A brief Glossary of Names is at the end.[151] "Zaehner's extraordinary command of the texts" wast widely admired by his academic peers.[152]

That year Zaehner published a more annotated edition of the Bhagavad Gita, a prized episode in the Mahabharata epic. Before the great battle, the Lord Krishna discusses with the Pandava brother Arjuna the enduring spiritual realities. Krishna "was not merely a local prince of no very great importance: he was God incarnate--the great God Vishnu who has taken on human flesh and blood." Provided after his translation, is Zaehner's long Commentary, drawn from the medieval sages Sankara and Ramanuja, ancient scriptures and epics, and modern scholars. His Introduction places the Gita within the context of the Mahabharata and of Hindu philosophy. Hindu religious teachings in the Gita are addressed in terms of the individual Self, material Nature, Liberation, and Deity. A useful Appendix is organized by main subject, and under each are "quoted in full" the relevant passages, giving chapter and verse.[153][154]

Sri Aurobindo[edit]

In his 1971 book Evolution in Religion, Zaehner discusses Sri Aurobindo Ghose (1872–1950), a modern Hindu spiritual teacher, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955), a French palaeontologist and Jesuit visionary.[155][156] Zaehner discusses each, and appraises their religious innovations.[157]

Aurobindo at age seven was sent to England for education, eventually studying western classics at Cambridge University. On his return to Bengal in India, he studied its ancient literature in Sanskrit. He later became a major political orator with a spiritual dimension, a prominent leader for Indian independence. Hence he was jailed. There in 1908 he had a religious experience. Relocating to the then French port of Pondicherry, he became a yogin and was eventually recognized as a Hindu sage. Sri Aurobindo's writings reinterpret the Hindu traditions.[158] Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, later President of India, praised him.[159] "As a poet, philosopher, and mystic, Sri Aurobindo occupies a place of the highest eminence in the history of modern India."[160][161]

Aurobindo, Zaehner wrote, "could not accept the Vedanta in its classic non-dualist formulation, for he had come to accept Darwinism and Bergson's idea of creative evolution." If the One being was "totally static" as previously understood "then there could be no room for evolution, creativity, or development of any kind." Instead, as reported by Zaehner, Aurobindo considered that "the One though absolutely self sufficient unto itself, must also be the source... of progressive, evolutionary change." He found "the justification for his dynamic interpretation of the Vedanta in the Hindu Scriptures themselves, particularly in the Bhagavad-Gita."[162][163] According to Aurobindo, the aim of his new yoga was:

"[A] change in consciousness radical and complete" of no less a jump in "spiritual evolution" than "what took place when a mentalised being first appeared in a vital and material animal world." Regarding his new Integral Yoga: "The thing to be gained is the bringing in of a Power of Consciousness... not yet organized or active directly in earth-nature, ...but yet to be organized and made directly active."[164][165]

Aurobindo foresees that a Power of Consciousness will eventually work a collective transformation in human beings, making us then actually able to form and sustain societies of liberté, égalité, fraternité.[166] Adherents of Aurobindo's new Integral Yoga (Purna Yoga) would lead India to a spiritual awakening; they would facilitate an increasingly common soul-experience, in which each achieves a mystic union with the One. Each such gnosis would also be guided by the Power of Consciousness. In choosing to pursue the realization of such social self-understanding, India would hasten the natural evolution of humanity.[167][168] Hence furthering the conscious commitment everywhere, to collaborate with the hidden drive of creative evolution toward a spiritual advance, is high among the missions of Aurobindo's new 'Integral Yoga'.[169][170] "It must be remembered that there is Aurobindo the socialist and Aurobindo the mystic."[171]

Gifford lecture at St Andrew[edit]

Zaehner gave the Gifford Lectures in Scotland during the years 1967–1969. In these sessions he revisited the subject of comparative mysticism focusing on Hinduism, then discussed Taoist classics, Neo-Confucianism, and Zen. In the course of the discourse, he mentions occasionally a sophisticated view: how the different religions have provided a mutuality of nourishment, having almost unconsicouslly interpenetrated each other's beliefs. The historically obfuscated result is that neighbouring religions might develop the other's theological insights as their own, as well as employ the other's distinctions to accent, or explain, their own doctrines to themselves. Although Zaehner gives a suggestive commentary at the conjunction of living faiths, he respects that each remains distinct, unique. Zaehner allows the possibility of what he calls the convergence of faiths, or solidarity.[172][173]

Regarding the world religions Zaehner held, however, that we cannot use the occasional occurrence of an ironic syncretism among elites as a platform from which to leap to a unity within current religions. His rear-guard opinions conflicted with major academic trends then prevailing. "In these ecumenical days it is unfashionable to emphasize the difference between religions." Yet Zaehner remained skeptical, at the risk of alienating those in the ecumenical movement whose longing for a festival of conciliation caused them to overlook the stubborn divergence inherent in the momentum. "We must force nothing: we must not try to achieve a 'harmony' of religions at all costs when all we can yet see is a 'concordant discord'... . At this early stage of contact with the non-Christian religions, this surely is the most that we can hope for." His Gifford Lectures were published as Concordant Discord. The Interdependence of Faiths.[174]

Social ideology and ethics[edit]

[Under construction].[175]

A militant state cult[edit]

Zaehner used a comparative-religion approach in his several discussions of Communism, both its quasi-philosophical theory (discussed below),[176] and here its practical control a sovereign state. Soviet party rule, in its ideological management political and economic operations, was said to demonstrate an attenuated resemblance to Catholic Church governance. Features in common included an authoritarian command structure (similar to the military), guided by an unquestionable theory or a dogma, which was articulated in abstract principles and exemplars.[177][178][179]

For the Marxist-Leninist the 'laws of nature' dominating political society were a complex dialectic involving class conflict.[180][181]

"Stalin saw, quite rightly, that since the laws of Nature manifested themselves in the tactical vicissitudes of day-to-day politics with no sort of clarity, even the most orthodox Marxists were bound to go astray. It was, therefore, necessary that some one man whose authority was absolute, should be found to pronounce ex cathedra what the correct reading of historical necessity was. Such a man he found in himself."[182][183]

A Soviet hierarchical system thus developed during the Stalinist era, which appeared to be a perverse copy of the organization of the Roman Catholic Church.[184][185] Yet Zaehner did not overlook the hideous, deadly, mass atrocities perpetrated, chiefly on its overworked citizenry during Stalin's rule.[186][187] He was, however, more interested in popular motivation, in the visionary import and quasi-religious dimension of Marx and Engels, than in machinations of the Leninist party's exercise of state power.[188][189][190]

Dialectical materialism[edit]

Communist ideology was analogized to various religious creeds. Here Zaehner took an interest in the materialist element in the Hegelian dialectic as developed by Marx and Engels. Zaehner compared the dynamics of matter with the role of the Spirit in the Christian concept of the Trinity, deriving various analogies.[191][192][193]

Engels had combined economic materialism, Darwinian evolution, and eastern mysticism into a systematic philosophy of dialectical materialism. Its Buddhist facet utilized "a religion without a personal God and even without a Hegelian Absolute."[194]

Cultural evolution[edit]

The interaction of natural science and social studies with traditional religions thought, particularly Christian, drew Zaehner's attention. Serving as a catalyst were the writings on evolution by Teilhard de Chardin. Juxtaposing a traditional biblical understanding of the spiritual conflicts of humankind, with a conjectured historical narrative of early human society, Zaehner would employ psychology and literature in an effort to craft a spiritual anthropolocy.[195]

Popular & drug culture[edit]

In his last three books, Zen, Drugs and Mysticism (1972), Our Savage God (1974), and City within the Heart (1981) [posthumous], Zaehner turned to address issues in contemporary society, drawing on his studies of comparative religion. He further explored the similarities and the differences between drug-induced experiences and traditional mysticism. As an academic he had already published several books on such issues starting in 1957.[196][197][198] In the meantime, a widespread counterculture had arisen, which included artists, rebels, and college youth. Their psychedelic experiences were often self-explained spiritually, with reference to zen and eastern mysticism.[199][200] Consequently, Zaehner wanted to reach this "wider public".[201] During the late 1960s he was "very often invited to talk on the BBC."[202]

Zaehner described various ancient quests to attain a mystical state of transcendence, of unification. Therein all contradictions and oppositions are reconciled; subject and object disappear, one passes beyond good and evil. That said, such a monist view can logically lead to excess, even to criminal acts.[203] If practiced under the guidance of traditional religious teachers, no harm usually results.[204][205][206] The potential for evil exists, however, through subtle misunderstanding or careless enthusiasm, according to Zaehner. After arriving at such a transcendent point, a troubled drug user may go wrong, feel licensed to do anything, with no moral limit. The misuse of a mystical state and its theology eventually can lead to horror.[207][208]

Zaehner warned of the misbehavior propagated by LSD advocate Timothy Leary,[209][210] the earlier satanism of Aleister Crowley, and ultimately the criminal depravity of Charles Manson.[211][212][213] His essay "Rot in the Clockwork Orange" further illustrates from popular culture the possible brutal effects of such moral confusion and license.[214] Yet Zaehner's detailed examination and review was not a witch hunt. His concluding appraisal of the LSD experience, although not without warning of its great risks and dangers, contained a limited, circumscribed allowance for use with a spiritual guide.[215][216]


  • There is indeed a sharp division between those religions whose characteristic form of religious experience is prayer and adoration of Pascal's God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob on the one hand, and religions in which sitting postures designed to find the God within you are thought to be the most appropriate way of approaching the Deity.[217][218]
  • Jung has done in the twentieth century A.D. what the Hindus did in perhaps the eighth century B.C.; he has discovered empirically the existence of an immortal soul in man, dwelling outside time and space, which can actually be experienced. This soul Jung, like the Hindus, calls the "self"... [which is] extremely difficult to describe in words. Hence his "self" is as hard to grasp as the Indian atman.[219][220]
  • One quite arresting resemblance between Zoroastrianism and Christianity remains to be noticed. This is the Haoma sacrifice and sacrament which seems to foreshadow the Catholic Mass in so strange a way. ... [T]he Haoma rite with partially fermented juice became the central act of Zoroastrian worship... .[221][222][223]
  • The whole ascetic tradition, whether it be Buddhist, Platonist, Manichaean, Christian or Islamic, springs from that most polluted of all sources, the Satanic sin of pride, the desire to be 'like gods'. We are not gods, we are social, irrational animals, designed to become rational, social animals, and finally, having built our house on solid Aristotelian rock, to become 'like a god', our work well done.[224][225][226]
  • Few Catholics are now proud of the Sack of Constantinople, the Albigensian Crusade, the Inquisition, or the Wars of Religion, nor... the Crusades. It has taken us a long time to realize that we cannot... remove the mote from our brother's eye without first getting rid of the beam in our own.[227][228][229]
  • True, the human phylum did not split up into separate subspecies as has been the case with other animal species, but it did split up into different religions and cultures, each having its own particular flavour, and each separated from the rest. With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit... the scattering of man which is symbolised by the Tower of Babel comes to an end: the Church of Christ is born and the symbol of unity and union is found.[230][231]
  • Aristotle claimed to have known God 'for a short time' only, but that was enough. He was never so immodest as to claim that he had known the Truth, for he knew that this is reserved for God alone.[232][233]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Before becoming an Oxford professor he had been known as Robin Zaehner. Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987), pp. 243–244.
  2. ^ Photographs of R. C. Zaehner are rare. One was published to accompany his obituary by Morrison (1975).
  3. ^ Ann K. S. Lambton, Richard Charles Zaehner in BSOAS 38/3: 823–824, at 823 (1975). She identifies his ancestry as "Swiss German",
  4. ^ Editorial insert, "The Author", in Zaehner, The Teaching of the Magi (1956; 1976), p. 5 (bilingual).
  5. ^ Zaehner called Prof. Bailey "perhaps the greatest Indo-Iranian philologist of our time". Zaehner's 1972 "Preface to the New Printing" to his Zurvan, A Zoroastrian Dilemma (1972), p. vi. "My debt to him, as always, remains immense."
  6. ^ a b c Alana Howard, "Gifford Lecture Biography."
  7. ^ Lambton, Richard Charles Zaehner in BSOAS (1975).
  8. ^ Michael Dummett, "Introduction" pp. xi–xix, at p. xiii (quote), to Zaehner's posthumous The City within the Heart (1981).
  9. ^ Geoffrey Parrinder, "Robert Charles Zaehner (1913–1974)" in History of Religion 16: 66–74, 74 (1976).
  10. ^ Nigel West, At Her Majesty's Secret Service. The chiefs of Britain's intelligence agency MI6 (Naval Institute Press 2006) at 117. Nigel West is the pen name of Rupert Allason.
  11. ^ Peter Wright, Spycatcher. The candid autobiography of a senior intelligence officer, with Paul Greengrass (Richmond: Heinemann Australia 1987), pp. 243–246, at 244–245 (quote).
  12. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, "R. C. Zaehner" {website}.
  13. ^ Christopher de Bellaigue, Patriot of Persia. Muhammad Mossadegh and a tragic Anglo-American coup (2012). pp. 193–194 (Lambton), p. 194 (description of Zaehner, Martin quote).
  14. ^ Ann Lambton, RCZ (1975), p. 623. In Iran stationed at the British Embassy during 1943–1947, and 1951–1952. Zaehner enjoyed a "large number of Persian friends."
  15. ^ 'Ali Mirdrakvandi, an Iranian peasant from Luristan, worked awhile for Zaehner. He wrote a fantastic story in his self-taught English. It was later edited by John Hemming and published, with a foreword by Zaehner, as No Heaven for Gunga Din. Consisting of the British and American Officers' Book (London: Victor Gallancz 1965).
  16. ^ Cf., Zaehner, "Zoroastrian survivals in Iranian folklore" (1965), pp. 87–96, at 88–89 re 'Ali Mirdrakvandi and his book. Also: Part II (1992).
  17. ^ Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Iranian Intellectuals and the West. The tormented triumph of nativism (Syracuse Univ. 1996) at 33, 38–39. The 1951 coup staged by Britain alone failed due to Mossadegh's popularity and Iranian nationalism. Later in 1953 a joint American and British coup toppled Mossadegh, returned the Shah to power, and restored oilfields to Britain, but henceforth other countries, too. Yett the coup sowed the seeds of a lasting mistrust.
  18. ^ Robert Fisk, "Another Fine Mess", Information Clearing House (2003). "It was Zaehner who had cultivated the Rashidian brothers, each of whom had worked against German influence in Iran during the Second World War." They were key players in the 1951 coup attempt. Fisk knew Robin Zaehner, "the British classics scholar who helped mastermind it."
  19. ^ During the 1951 attempted overthrow, Zaehner is said to have enlisted support of politicians, editors, aristocrats, army officers, tribal chiefs, businessmen, and others, including several associates of Mossadegh. Ervand Abrahamian, Komeinism (1993) cited in N.C.R.I.-F.A.C.
  20. ^ de Bellaigue, Patriot of Persia (2012), pp. 193–195, 197.
  21. ^ Fakhreddin Azimi, The Quest for Democracy in Iran. A century of struggle against authoritarian rule (Harvard University 2008), p. 153. "The defeat of [Mossadegh's civic-nationalist] movement was a watershed that marked renewed antagonism between the rulers and the ruled, as well as intensified abhorrence of Western imperialism."
  22. ^ de Bellaigue, Patriot of Persia (2012), pp. 271-278.
  23. ^ Cereti (1957), ¶¶17-20.
  24. ^ Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987) at 245–246. Wright states that, "I felt bitter at the ease with which the accusation had been made," and for his subjecting a loyal colleague to hearing the false charges made against him. "In that moment the civilized cradle of Oxford disintegrated around him; he was back behind the lines again, surrounded by enemies, alone and double-crossed" (p. 246 quote).
  25. ^ Zaehner, Concordant Discord (1970), p. 6 (quote).
  26. ^ de Bellaigue, Patriot of Persia (2012), p. 194. The job MI6 gave to Zaehner in Tehran was "ugly: to sow chaos in the heart of a sovereign government."
  27. ^ Jeffrey Kripal, Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom (2001), p. 162. Kripal comments on Zaehner's Gifford lectures and his earlier Spalding inaugural lecture.
  28. ^ Wright, Spycatcher (1987), p. 245. Wright mentions an apparently contrary view: "The cords which bind Oxford and British Intelligence together are strong."
  29. ^ Zaehner, Zurvan, a Zoroastrian dilemma (1955).
  30. ^ Zaehner, Concordant Discord (1970), p. 8.
  31. ^ Sarvepalli Gopal, Radhakrishnan. A Biography (Delhi: Oxford University Press 1989), pp. 249–250, 257 (VP); 304–307 (P); during his last three years at Oxford, Radhakrishnan had served concurrently as India's ambassador to the Soviet Union (pp. 213–215, 228, 248, 257). He was the first Spalding professor, starting in 1936 (pp. 132–133, 145).
  32. ^ S. Radhakrishnan, Eastern Religions and Western Thought (Oxford University 1939, 2d ed. 1940; 1960), p. 20. Regarding his Spalding post: "the unprecedented appointment of an Asian to the Oxford Chair [is] motivated, I take it, by a desire to lift Eastern Thought... [indicating] its enduring value as a living force in shaping the soul of the modern man."
  33. ^ Vishwanath S. Naravane, Modern Indian Thought (New Delhi: Orient Longman 1978), p. 249. Radhakrishnan's "role has been described as that of a 'liaison officer' between East and West... as a 'philosophical bilinguist'... as a bridge builder facilitating intellectual commerce... ."
  34. ^ Zaehner's 1953 Spalding lecture, "Foolishness to the Greeks", was incorporated as an Appendix, pp. 428–443, in his book Concordant Discord (1970).
  35. ^ Michael Dummett, "Introduction" (1981) to Zaehner's posthumous The City within the Heart, at pp. xii-xiii, p. xii (quotes).
  36. ^ Cf. Gopal, Radhakrishnan (1989). During the last decades of the Indian independence movement, Prof. Radhakrishnan had criticized Christianity's unique claims (pp. 39–44, 195–197). He promoted an optimistic view of "a shrinking world" in which his generation would provide "spiritual oneness and create an integrated human community" (p. 149 quote). His Eastern Religions and Western Thought (Oxford 1939) discussed, e.g., Hindu influence on the ancient Greeks, and "common elements in Christianity and Hinduiism" (pp. 159–160).
  37. ^ See Zoroastrian sections below.
  38. ^ Zaehner, Zurvan (reissued 1972) "Preface to the New Printing", pp. v (quote) and vi (Hinduism and Buddhism).
  39. ^ Cf. Kripal, Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom (2001), p. 189.
  40. ^ Fernandes, The Hindu mystical experience (2004), p.6 (BBC talks, lectures abroad), pp. 10–11 (writing on drug mysticism).
  41. ^ See Popular & drug culture section below.
  42. ^ Kripal, Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom (2001), p. 181 (quote).
  43. ^ See Gifford Lecture section below.
  44. ^ Dummett, "Introduction" (1981), pp. xiii-xiv (quote).
  45. ^ Newell, Struggle and Submission. R. C. Zaehner on mysticisms (1981), p. iv (quote).
  46. ^ Lambton, "Obituary" (1975), p. 624 (quote).
  47. ^ Dummett, "Introduction" (1981) at xi (quotes). Prof. Dummett here may refer especially to Zaehner's later, more popularizing books, e.g., on those counterculture drug users who associated their experience with mysticism. Yet Zaehner's work shed light on many regions.
  48. ^ Zaehner, Concordant Discord (1970), pp. 6 & 7 (quotes).
  49. ^ Gregory Baum, "Forward" to Newell (1981), p. xi.
  50. ^ Dummett, "Introduction" (1981) p. xviii (quote).
  51. ^ Zaehner, Zurvan (1955, 1972). The oldest reference for Zurvan found dates to the 12th (name), and 4th (sources unclear) centuries BCE (p. 20). Zurvanism had been installed at start of Sasanid rule as its state religion (p. 90), yet its status varied (pp. 112–113).
  52. ^ Touraj Daryaee, Sasanian Iran 224–651 CE (Mazda Publishers, Costa Mesa 2008), King Ardaxsir I founded Sananid rule as Zoroastrian, with labors by the priest Kerdir (p, 16); Zurvan in edict (p. 62).
  53. ^ Zaehner differs with Mary Boyce as to whether, during the prior Parthian period (247 BCE to 224 CE) in Iran, Zoroastrianism survived if not flourished, or was little practiced, confused and inauthentic. Zaehner chose the latter (the Sasanians "restored the Zoroastrian faith"). Compare: her Zoroastrians. Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul 1979, 1985), pp. 80–82; and, his Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism (1961), pp. at 22 (quote), 175.
  54. ^ Zaehner, Zurvan (1955, 1972), pp. 3–5 (dualism of Zoroaster, and development of Zurvan).
  55. ^ Zaehner, Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism (1961) at 34, 42–46 (Zoroaster's teaching); 178–183 , 246–247 (Zoroastrian sects).
  56. ^ Mary Boyce, Zoroastrians. Their religious belief and practices (1979), dualism: pp. 19–21, cf. 9-10; Zurvan heresy: pp. 67–70, 112–113, 118–123.
  57. ^ Alessandro Bausani, Persia religiosa (Milano 1959, Rome 1960), translated as Religion in Iran (New York: Bibliotheca Persica 2000), pp. 42–47, 63 (Zurvan).
  58. ^ Zaehner, Zurvan. A Zoroastrian dilemma (1955, 1972): Zurvan supreme (pp. 90, 91 quote).
  59. ^ Farhang Mehr, The Zoroastrian Tradition (Element, Rockport 1991), moral dualism (pp. 71–76).
  60. ^ Zaehner, Zurvan (1955, 1972), finite Time, victory of Ohrmazd (pp. 106–107 quote, and 100–101); Zurvan as God (p. 219), as Lord (pp. 239, 248, 254).
  61. ^ A short (156 pages) book published by George Allen and Unwin for a series, Classics East and West.
  62. ^ Zaehner (1956), Chapter IV, pp. 52–66. The "main tenants" quote at p. 11.
  63. ^ Zaehner, Dawn and Twilight (1961), p. 25 (Gathas); p. 35 (quote "opposition"), p. 37 (quote "enemies"); p. 40 (quotes "settled", "marauding"); p. 42 (quote "Truth" and "Lie").
  64. ^ Zaehner, Dawn and Twilight (1961), p. 33 (dates [of Sasanian priests] were pegged to year of Alexander's conquests).
  65. ^ Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin, La religion de l'Iran ancient (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France 1962) translated as Religion of Ancient Iran (Bombay: Tata 1973), pp. 99–100. Classic Greeks assigned his dates to 6000 years before Plato. The "native tradition" of the 7th century CE placed him 258 years before Alexander (early 6th century BC). The author here concludes 600 BC at the latest (concurrent with Buddha and Confucius), but perhaps 1000 BC per "linguistic evidence".
  66. ^ Josef Wiesehöfer, Ancient Persia (London: I. B. Tauris 1996), pp. 96, 272. Now "very few scholars" dissent to prophet's date of circa "1000 BC".
  67. ^ Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism, volume 1 (Leiden/Köln: E. J. Brill 1975) at 190. Boyce notes that the 6th-century dates were suggested by Sasanian priests, but are known to be artificial. She favors an earlier dating, 1400 to 1000 BC, for the prophet Zarathushtra or Zoroaster. His Gathas are linguistically comparable to the Rig Veda, dated at 1700 BC, and the pastoral social economy described in the Gathas fits that time period.
  68. ^ Mehr, The Zoroastrian Tradition (1991), pp. 3–5. Mehr's discussion gives a date of 1750 BC for Zoroaster, stating reasons similar to those of Boyce.
  69. ^ Zaehner, Dawn and Twilight (1961), pp. 54-55 (Ahura Mazdah); 45-46 ("mediating" quote), 71 ("aspects" quote).
  70. ^ See above: Zurvan section.
  71. ^ Zaehner, Dawn and Twilight (1961), pp. 37 (Varuna as asura, Indra as deva), 39 (asuras lawful), 66 (Ahura Mazdah and Vouruna), 82-83 (laws of Zoroaster, asura), 132 (Rig Veda, Avesta). Regarding another subject, the application of Georges Dumézil's theories to Zoroastrian theology, Zaehner criticizes its accuracy (pp. 49-50).
  72. ^ Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism, v. 1 (1975): Vedic deva and Avestan daeva, Vedic asura and Avestan ahura (p. 23); deva Indra (p. 32), Varuna as asura (p. 36); the lawful Ahura Vouruna in Iran as forerunner of Ahura Mazda (pp. 48, 53); Zoroaster rejects the heroic warrior Indra as daeva, as "violent, lavish, reckless" (p.53).
  73. ^ Gherardo Gnoli, "Indo-Iranian Religion" (2004, 2012 update) in Encyclopaedia Iranica [2018-06-09]. Ahura/asura, daeva/deva distinctions (¶5), after Zoroaster condemned polytheism.
  74. ^ Nalinee M. Chapekar, Ancient India and Iran (Delhi: Ajanta 1982), pp. 19-22: ahura/asura, daeva/deva, Iran/India.
  75. ^ Wiesehöfer,Ancient Iran (1996), pp. 96-97. The period between the Dawn and the Twilight was not uneventful. Scholars often differ over conflicting theories of Zoroaster's original message by turns compromised and transformed, a schism that split the religion, survivals of the preexisting pantheon, rise of Mithraism, and political opportunism. Also (pp. 134-135): the confusion added by a "loss of historic memory" during the Parthian era, a regional commingling of oral history and heroic tales.
  76. ^ Zaehner, Dawn and Twilight (1961), pp. 181–184, 193–247 (Zurvan); pp. 284–301 (Sassanid state: the mean at 285, 286 & 289, 287: quotes; the treaty at 286–287, castes at 284–285); pp. 58–60, 299, 317-318 (Saoshyans); pp. 228–229 quote, 296, 302 (the Frashkart).
  77. ^ Cf. Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism, vol.1 (1975), p.232: Ohrmazd's cosmic triumph ushers in this "glorious moment" at the end of the era, "termed Frašo.kǝrǝti (Pahlavi "Frašegird"), the "Making Wonderful". Humankind enters an eternity of "untroubled goodness, harmony and peace." Boyce on the "Frašegird": pp. 245 (and Nõ Rõz), 246 ("perfect men in the perfect kingdom"), 291 ("the Last Judgment will take place, the earth will be cleansed of evil"), 292 (renewal).
  78. ^ Cf., Zaehner, Matter and Spirit (1963), where the Zoroastrianism of the Sasanid era is compared with the ethical vision of quasi-utopian Marxists.
  79. ^ 1959 article at pp. 209-222,
  80. ^ The two related articles (1952, 1965), and its posthumous "Part II" (1992).
  81. ^ Chapter IV, "Prophets outside Israel" pp. 134–164, Zoroaster discussion at pp. 135–153 (1962).
  82. ^ Chapter 5, "Solidarity in God," pp. 130-156 (1963).
  83. ^ Chapter XIX, "Beneath the Sun of Satan" pp. 385–403, at pp. 387–394 (1970).
  84. ^ Zaehner, Foolishness to the Greeks (1953; 1970).
  85. ^ Academic study itself split into several diverse directions: hybrid sociological and anthropological works, rational and innovative harmonizations of traditional anomalies, updated apologetics, ethical discourse.
  86. ^ Secular rationalism of the Enlightenment inherited or developed conflicting, shifting stands, e.g., Aristotle's prime mover, Descarte's radical doubt, Spinoza's pantheism, Hume's natural religion, Kant's rational critiques, Hegel's historicism, Kierkegaard's existentialism, Nietzsche's irrationalism, Freud's psychology (or Jung's), Weber's sociology (or Durkheim's), etc.
  87. ^ Zaehner, Concordant Discord (1970), quotes: p.10 ("Any man"), p.9 ("Of the books"), p.16 ("In all"), p. 17-18 ("I have"), p.19 ("For what"). Cf. his criitique of a plague of theology, pp. 15-16.
  88. ^ Cf., Zaehner, Comparison (1958, 1962), pp. 12-13: rational agnostics before the "basically irrational" nature of religion seem unable.
  89. ^ Cf., Fernandes (2004), pp. 8, 12-16, 198-200.
  90. ^ Zaehner, Christianity and other Religions (1964).
  91. ^ Kripal (2001), pp. 156-157.
  92. ^ Zaehner, Concordant Discord (1970), pp. 12-15, esp. p.15 re his limits on Nostra Aetate.
  93. ^ Reissued by Beacon Press, Boston, in 1962, as The Comparison of Religions. Page references here are to this 1962 edition. The At Sundry Times title is from Hebrews, chap. I, verse 1 (p.28). Based on lectures at University College of Wales, with appendix added (pp. 9, 10, 195).
  94. ^ New York, Hawthorn; concurrently published in London by Burns and Oates as The Catholic Church and World Religions.
  95. ^ Zaehner, Christianity (1964), p.9: The Jewish teacher Gamaliel stated that nothing will stop Christianity "if it be of God".
  96. ^ Matthew 4, 8-10 is quoted by Zaehner, Christianity (1964), p.9, regarding the temptation of Jesus in the desert, by Satan who promised him all the kingdoms of the world.
  97. ^ Cf., Zaehner, Our Savage God (1974), where Heraclitus, Parmenides, Plato, and Aristotle are extensively discussed.
  98. ^ Zaehner, Christianity (1964), p.128 (term 'heathen'; Newman quote).
  99. ^ Acts 17:26-28, (St. Paul at the Areopagus in Athens). Zaehner (1964) then artfully quotes St. Paul's words to the philosophers (pp. 128-129).
  100. ^ Zaehner, Christianity (1964), quotes: first 129, three at 130, last 131. Zaehner further discusses the 'mystic mistake' at pp. .
  101. ^ Fernandes (2004), p.89 (spiritual pride may lead to barrenness).
  102. ^ Cf. Asin Palacios, St. John of the Cross and Islam (1981), pp. 11-14, 25: renunciation of 'expansion' (basṭ, anchura); 20-22: danger of "spiritual vanity".
  103. ^ Zaehner, Christianity (1964), p.22.
  104. ^ E.g., At Sundry Times (1958); Christianity and other Religions (1962). See also Zaehner Bibliography.
  105. ^ E.g., Zaehner, Mysticism. Sacred and Profane (1957, 1961) at 168.
  106. ^ Richard Maurice Bucke, Cosmic Consciousness. A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind (Philadelphia: Innes and Sons 1901; reprints: University Books 1961, Dutton 1969), range of experience pp. 55-56; summary description 14, 65–66; exemplars: fourteen pp. 67, 69–209, an additional thirty-six 211–302.
  107. ^ Zaehner, Concordant Discord (1970), pp. 46–48.
  108. ^ Reardon (2011).
  109. ^ Schebera (1978).
  110. ^ Cf. Michael Stoebel, "The comparative study of mysticism" in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion (New York 2015). Accessed 2015-4-22.
  111. ^ Zaehner, Hindu and Muslim Mysticism (1960, 1969), "Preface" at vii–viii.
  112. ^ Junayd (pp. 135-153), and Ghazali (153–175) are thereafter discussed. Zaehner (1960, 1969).
  113. ^ Zaehner, Hindu and Muslim Mysticism (1960, 1969) at 6–11. Zaehner credits (p.6) Dasgupta's Hindu Mysticism for the initial typology.
  114. ^ Surendranath N. Dasgupta, Hindu Mysticism (Chicago: Open Court 1927; republished by Frederick Unger, New York, 1959). Dasgupta gave six lectures: Sacrificial, Upanishads, Yoga, Buddhistic, Classical Devotional, and Popular Devotional. Starting in 1922, the University of Cambridge published his A History of Indian Philosophy in five volumes.
  115. ^ Zaehner, Hindu and Muslem Mysticism (1960, 1969) at 19, 6 & 10; (a) 7–9, 17; (b) 9–10, 13, 17; (c) 11, 14–16, 17–18. Zaehner quotes at length from Martin Buber on mystical experience, at 17–18.
  116. ^ Schebera, Christian, Non-Christian Dialogue (1978).
  117. ^ Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception (New York: Harper and Row 1954).
  118. ^ Zaehner, Mysticism. Sacred and Profane (1957, 1961) at v of the "Preface".
  119. ^ Zaehner, Our Savage God (1974) at 10–12.
  120. ^ Zaehner, Mysticism. Sacred and Profane (1957, 1961) at 25–26, 27–29.
  121. ^ Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy (New York: Harper and Brothers 1945).
  122. ^ Zaehner, Mysticism. Sacred and profane (1957): two chapters discuss Theism and Monism, another two Mescalin (drug-induced states). The Triune Divinity of Christianity is briefly addressed at pp. 195–197.
  123. ^ William Lloyd Newell, Struggle and Submission: R. C. Zaehner on Mysticisms (University Press of America 1981), pp. 5-6.
  124. ^ Zaehner, Christianity and Other Religions (1970), p. 147 (quote).
  125. ^ Dummett, "Introduction" (1981), p. xvi (quote).
  126. ^ Zaehner, Mysticism: Sacred and Profane (1957), p.152. Otherwise it became "a desecration of a holy thing."
  127. ^ Kripal (2001), pp. 180-193.
  128. ^ Cf., Zaehner, Concordant Discord (1970).
  129. ^ Parrinder. RCZ (1975), pp. 66–74, at p. 74.
  130. ^ Pripal, Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom (2001), pp. 159–160.
  131. ^ Barend A. van Nooten, The Mahabharata (New York: Twayne 1971). The most influential work of literature in India; yet not a revealed text like the Vedas, but on par with ancient law books and puranas (p. 81). Written in Sanskrit (p. 52), by "the mythical saint Vyasa" ("arranger") about the 4th century BCE (p. 43).
  132. ^ "The Mahabharata is a strange kind of book," writes Zaeher. As a major hero "Yudhishthira shows sympathy" for criticism about the "injustice" in the caste laws (dharma) for warriors (kshatriya). Zaehner, Hinduism (1962, 1966), p. 108 (quotes).
  133. ^ Cf. van Nooten, The Mahabharata (19171), synopsis pp. 5-42.
  134. ^ Chapters 3 moksha, and 5 dharma.
  135. ^ Zaehner, Hinduism (1962, 1966), Yudhishthira: pp. 64-66 (moksha); 107-108, 111, 115-125 (dharma). Warrior caste karma (p.59), dharma (pp. 108–111, Yudhishthira's protest at 111). The Bhagavad Gita describes Krishna's teaching to the Pandava brother Arjuna before the battle of Kuruksetra (pp. 92-100). Yudhishthira is "ordered to do so by the Lord Krishna", i.e, to "lie" (p.117, quote).
  136. ^ Cf. Zaehner, Concordant Discord (1970), pp. 180-185 et seq. (Krishna advocates war prompting Yudhishthira's dilemma, and opposition), pp. 154, 181 (following Krishna's urging Yudhishthira utters a "lie").
  137. ^ Buddhadeva Bose, The Book of Yudhisthir (Hyderabad: Sangam 1986), pp.66-70 (Krishna and Yudhishtriya, at Kuruksetra), at 67 (the "half truth").
  138. ^ Zaehner, Hinduism (1962), Chapter 8, Gandhi at pp. 170–187, Gandhi and Yudhishthira at pp. 170-172, 174, 178, 179, 184. "Gandhi's dilemma was the same as Yudhishthira's". Was dharma a tradition, or was it his conscience? (p. 170 quote, p. 171). The book closes with the modern poet Rabindranath Tagore (pp. 187-192).
  139. ^ Hinduism (1962), Chapters 1, 2 & 4, 6, 7.
  140. ^ Zaehner, Concordant Discord (1970), Chapter IX, "The Greatness of Man and the Wretchedness of God", pp. 172–193, which devotes attention to Yudhishthira (pp. 176-193).
  141. ^ See section below "Gifford Lectures".
  142. ^ Zaehner, Concordant Discord (1970): Yudhishthira and Job (pp. 178, 179, 355). The Book of Job proper becomes focus of Zaehner in Ch. XVII, pp. 346-355. Yudhishthira and Krishna (177–182, 184–185, 188–190); kshatriya's "duty of killing and being killed in war" (p. 176).
  143. ^ Book of Job, ch. 1; ch. 2, v. 1–10: God permits Satan to devastate Job and his family. Later without guile Job disputed accusations that he was being punished for commensurate sins, e.g., he says aloud to God, "You know very well that I am innocent" (ch. 9, v. 7).
  144. ^ Van Nooten, The Mahabharata (1971), p. 16 (quote).
  145. ^ The Mahabharata. 2. The Book of the Assembly Hall 3. The Book of the Forest (University of Chicago 1975), translated and edited by J. A. B. van Buitenen, Book 2, chapter 51 (pp. 125-127, at 125–126): Yudhishthira first agrees to the game of dice at Hastinapura. The second time Yudhishthira agrees to roll the dice, it is expressly stated because he cannot disobey his elder, Dhrtarastra (bk. 2, ch. 67, v. 1–4; p. 158). Vidura and Dhrtarastra are his uncles.
  146. ^ Zaehner, Concordant Discord (1970). p. 179 (quotes about the dice game).
  147. ^ Zaehner, Hinduism (1962, 1966), p. 107 (the fateful game of dice).
  148. ^ Bose, The Book of Yudhisthir (1986), pp. 26, 29:n1, 87:n1 (Yudhishthira rolls the dice, commentary). Among nobles of India then, dice games were an "addiction" or "chief indulgence", p. 29:n1.
  149. ^ Zaehner, Concordant Discord (1970, p. 177 (quote: holy); p. 179 (quotes: defend, justify); p. 177 (Draupadi's quote about Krishna). Yudhishthira at first "defends the established order" (pp. 178–179). He prefers the brahmin's dharma over the kshatriya's (pp. 177, 179, 184, 188). Draupadi attacks Krishna (pp. 177-178, 347), attacks Yudhishthira (p. 186). Yudhishthira does not attack Krishna, but becomes disgusted with "a warrior's duty to kill," saying after the destructive war:

    "Cursed be the kshatriya code, cursed be physical strength, cursed be violence through which we have been brought to our present pass. Blessed be long-suffering, self-control, purity, freedom from strife and slander, refusal to do another harm, truthful speech, the constant virtues... "(p. 184).

  150. ^ The Mahabharata [Bks. 2 & 3], trans. and ed. by von Buitenen (1975), Yudhishthira about the brahmins (cf. bk. 3, ch. 177; pp. 563-565). [under construction].
  151. ^ Zaehner (1966), Introduction, pp. v-xxii; Upanishads, pp. 33–245.
  152. ^ Reardon, A Theological Analysis of R. C. Zaehner's Theory of Mysticism (2012), pp. 134–135, at 135 quote.
  153. ^ The Bhagavad Gita with commentary based on the original sources (1966) by R. C. Zaehner, translated with introduction and appendix. From Zaehner's Introduction: quote re Vishnu (p.6); Sankara and Ramanuja (pp. 3, 4, 8; R. p.40). Translation pp. 43-109, Commentary 111–403, Appendix 405-464, (cf. pp. 4–5).
  154. ^ Gopal, Radhakrishnan (1989), pp. 179, 204–205. His predecessor, Prof. Radhakrishnan, had published a translation of the Gita in 1948. Cf. Zaehner, BG (1966), p. 1:n2.
  155. ^ Zaehner had written on Teilhard for his 1963 book The Convergent Spirit, American title: Matter and Spirit. Their convergence in Eastern Religions, Marx, and Teilhard de Chardin. See "Evolution and 'Materialism'" section below.
  156. ^ Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (Paris 1955; New York: Harper and Row 1959, 1965), was the book that established his public profile.
  157. ^ Zaehner delivered the same three lectures in Delhi, Calcutta [Kolkota], and Madras [Chinnai], and at Christian colleges, and a fourth lecture at Madras University. These four lectures comprise his Evolution in Religion (1971). An Appendix contains his short meditation on Death (pp. 115–121), given at St. Stephen's College, Delhi.
  158. ^ E.g., Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita (Arya 1916-1920; republished: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 9th ed. 1996; reprint: Lotus Press, Wisconsin, 1995).
  159. ^ Radhakrishnan wrote in 1950, "Aurobindo was the greatest intellectual of our age and a major force for the life of the spirit." Quoted in D. Mackenzie Brown, The White Umbrella. Indian political thought from Manu to Gandhi (University of California 1958), pp. 124 [179:n7]. Chap. X on Aurobindo, pp. 122-138.
  160. ^ Vishwanath S. Naravane, Modern Indian Thought. A philosophical survey (Bombay: Asia Publishing House 1964; [rev'd ed.]: Orient Longman, Bombay, 1978), quote p.198. 1978 rewritten chapter on "Sri Aurobindo" at pp. 193-219, his biography at 195-198. Aurobindo also called 'Aravinda' ( Before Gandhi he advocated a spiritual basis for Indian politics (p.197).
  161. ^ Rudolph & Rudolph, The Modernity of Tradition (1969), p.193. Aurobindo's early career was as a top political leader in India.
  162. ^ Zaehner, Evolution in Religion (1971), pp. 10, 11 (quotes). Aurobindo's teaching was a "clear break" from both Sankhya Yoga which "made the sharpest distinction between Spirit and matter" and from the Vedanta of Sankara (p.10). Aurobindo retained the outlook of a political reformer and, e.g., with regard to caste, "makes a clean break with traditional values" (p. 29).
  163. ^ K. D. Sethna, in his 1981 book on Zaehner and Teilard Spirituality of the Future, found Zaehner well-read and in "fine sympathy" with Aurobindo. Yet however "well-grounded" his grasp was not total, e.g. Sri Aurobindo was not influenced by Henri Bergson (pp. 9-10 quotes, 29-30 Bergson). Sethna was the editor of Mother India. Cf. section "Popular & drug cultures" for Sethna's stronger criticism of Zaehner.
  164. ^ Sri Aurobindo, On Yoga, part 2 (Pondicherry 1958), 6: pp. 105, 107–108, quoted by Sethna (1981), pp. 31–32, [37:n2+n3].
  165. ^ Joseph Veliyathil, The Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo. His idea of evolution (Alwaye, Kerala: Pontifical Institute 1972), pp. 50-51: Yoga accelerates nature's evolution of consciousness. "The liberation that Aurobindo's yoga aims at is not only personal but collective" (p.53).
  166. ^ Zaehner, Evolution in Religion (1971). The Power of Consciousness is also called the divine "descent of the 'Supermind'," a spirit of pure consciousness. Otherwise, without such a transformation of selfish humans, Aurobindo considered any utopia impossible, and that promised by communists as a vain illusion leading to tyranny (pp. 28-29, 30-31). Zaehner analogizes the Power of Consciousness (Supermind) to Jesus as Logos (pp. 35, 38-39, 77, but cf. 31); cf., Christianity and sac-cid-ānanda [Being-Consciousness-Joy] (pp. 13, 48, 74).
  167. ^ Naravane, Modern Indian Thought ([1964], 1978): The process of cosmic evolution is preceded by an involution (p. 207), by which the material world is infused with consciousness by the Absolute; thereafter comes the creative evolution. Eventually humans appear and advance until the Supramental links us to pure consciousness, an Absolute: then everyone becomes transformed (pp. 204–205). Aurobindo's "aim is to combine the western and eastern theories of evolution" (p. 208). The divine goal of Yoga at p.203. "Humanity will be transformed into a race of gnostic beings" (p.212).
  168. ^ Sri Aurobindo, On Yoga. I The Synthesis of Yoga (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram 1957, originally in Arya 1914-1921). "The gnostic (vijnanamaya) being is in its character a truth-consciousnress" (pp. 557-558). The state of gnosis "is impossible without ample and close self-identification of ourselves with all existence" (p.558). To "learn how to be one self with all" is key, "without it there is no gnosis" (p.559). Gnosis changes "all our view and experience of our soul-life and of the world around us" as it is "the decisive transition in the Yoga" (p.542). Yet we must "remember that the gnostic level... is not the supreme plane of our consciousness but a middle or link plane" (p.553).
  169. ^ Sethna, Spirituality of the Future (1981), p. 267: Such human collaboration [in evolutionary time] is a spiritual quest that "by a concentrated effort of the entire being [may] accomplish in a short time the results that, with less clear vision and less inward pressure, might take millennia."
  170. ^ Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man. The Divine Life upon Earth, compiled with a summary and notes by P. B. Saint-Hilaire (Pondicherry 1963), e.g., pp. 25-29 ('Life evolves out of Matter, Mind out of Life, Spirit out of Mind') , 40-41 (reason and inspiration), 64-66 (justice and freedom), 72-73 (spiritual experience and inner realization), 93-94 (the power to transform our being), 123-126 (personality of the gnostic beings), 131 (wholly aware of one's self/being), 137-143 (entirely new and conscious human facilities).
  171. ^ Zaehner, Evolution in Religion (1971), p. 36 (quote).
  172. ^ Zaehner, Concordant Discord (1970). Preface. Zaehner writes of the "missing link" between Zen and theism ( p. 304), and "the Hindu bridge" (p. 297), as pathways to convergence.
  173. ^ Newell, Struggle and Submission (1981), pp. 24-33 (convergence, solidarity). A false convergence is also possible (p. 252).
  174. ^ Zaehner, Concordant Discord (1970), p. 383 ("unfashionable" quote), p. 7 ("force nothing" quote). Cf. p. 296-299: ecumenical strategies Christian and Zen.
  175. ^ Concordant Discord (1970).
  176. ^ About the dialectical materialism of Marx and Engels, see the section below. "Diamat" was the source of Marxism-Leninism, the ideology per se of the Soviet state.
  177. ^ Zaehner, "A new Buddha and a new Tao", pp.  402-412, at 406-412; and 415-416, 417, in his Concise Encyclopedia (1959, 1962).
  178. ^ Zaehner, Dialectical Christianity (1971), pp. 32,  37-38 (Communist theory).
  179. ^ Cf., Gustav A. Wetter, Dialectical Materialism ([Wien: Herder 1952]; rev. ed., New York: Praeger 1958), pp. 554-561; at p.560: Communism a perverse "counter-church".
  180. ^ J. M. Bochenski, Soviet Russian Dialectical Materialism ([Bern: Francke 1950]; 3d ed. rev., Dordrecht: Reidel 1963), pp. 102-103 (Communist party fights the class warfare on behalf of the proletariat).
  181. ^ Cf., Tony Judt, Reappraisals (Penguin 2008), at pp. 128-146: his review of Leszek Kolakowski's Main Currents of Marxism ([Paris 1976], Oxford University 1978), esp. volume 3 on Soviet rule.
  182. ^ Zaehner, 'Marxian communism or dialectical materialism' pp.  406-412 at 412 (quote), in Concise Encyclopedia (1962).
  183. ^ Wetter, Dialectical Materialism ([1952]; 1958), p.209: Clearly, "throughout the whole of the Stalinist period Stalin himself was the only person in the Soviet Union who could ever dare to say anything new. In his lifetime, [his writings] were hymned in the highest superlatives... ." It was "altogether too flattering to him."
  184. ^ Martin D'Arcy, Communism and Christianity (Penguin 1956), p.43: "according to certain critics, the supposed resemblances with the Catholic Church" occurred when Stalin centralized Soviet power.
  185. ^ Nicolas Berdyaev, The origin of Russian communism (London: Geoffrey Bles 1937, new ed. 1948; University of Michigan 1960), not only the Catholic, at p.143: "The Soviet communist realm has in its spiritual structure a great likeness to Muscovite Orthodox Tsardom." Distinguishing its mystical nature, the Church is also a social phenomena.

    "The Church as a social institution, as part of history, is sinful, liable to fall and to distort [its truth], passing off the temporary and human as the eternal and divine." Berdyaev (1960), p.172.

  186. ^ Zaehner, Matter and Spirit (1963), p.26 (Soviet atrocities).
  187. ^ Cf., Nicolas Werth, "A State against its People: violence, repression, and terror in the Soviet Union" at pp.  33-202, in Stéphane Courtois, et al., Le Livre noir du communisme (Paris 1997), translated as The Black Book of Communism (Harvard University 1999).
  188. ^ Zaehner, Dialectical Christianiy (1971), p.30.
  189. ^ Wetter, Dialectical Materialism (1952, 1958), p.553: There is "a great deal of difference between Engels and Lenin."
  190. ^ See section below: Dialectical Materialism.
  191. ^ Zaehner, "Marxian communism and dialectical materialism" pp. 406-412, in his Encyclopedia (1959); in the 1989 edition, revised as "Dialectical Materialism", pp. 393-407.
  192. ^ Zaehner, Matter and Spirit (1963).
  193. ^ Zaehner, Dialectical Christianity (1971), Chap. II, "Marxist evolution" pp.30-63.
  194. ^ Zaehner, Dialectical Christianity, p.32 (quote).
  195. ^ Evolution in Religion (1971); Dialectical Christianity and Christian Materialism (1971); The City within the Heart (1981). The evolving future of humanity: Matter and Spirit.
  196. ^ In Mysticism, Sacred and Profane (1957), Zaehner had discussed in a scholarly fashion the mescalin experience and eastern religions.
  197. ^ With Hindu and Muslim Mysticism (1960), Zaehner further articulated his understanding of comparative mysticism.
  198. ^ Cf. Zaehner, Concordant Discord (1970).
  199. ^ Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, Richard Alport, The Psychedelic Experience. A manual based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (New Hyde Park: University Books 1966).
  200. ^ R. E. L. Masters and Jean Houston, The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience (New York: Holt Rinehart Winston 1966), per Zaehner, ZDM (1972), e.g., p. 77.
  201. ^ Zaehner, Zen, Drugs and Mysticism (1972), "Foreword" p.9.
  202. ^ Fernandes (2004), p.6 (quote). His 1972 book Drugs, Mysticism and Make-Believe [original English title] was "an expansion of three radio broadcasts" on BBC (p.265,n13).
  203. ^ Zaehner, A City within the Heart (1981), pp. 34-35: mystical states, Neo-Vedanta non-dualism of the Hindus, and Zen (practiced in America); p. 36: excess, the deity Indra as a killer in the Kaushitaki Upanishad, and his follower. Cf. excess in western religion, pp. 30-31.
  204. ^ Zaehner, Zen, Drugs and Mysticism (1972), p. 125-127 re Zen, per Abbot Shibayama. Per Jiddu Krishnamurti, p. 115.
  205. ^ Abbot Zenkai Shibayama, A Flower does not Talk (Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle 1970), pp. 105-110, esp. 105-106, the "Self before you were born" p. 108; re Zaehner, ZDM (1972), p. 81.
  206. ^ Radhakrishnan, Eastern Religions and Western Thought (1939, 1960), pp. 102-103: "When the Upanishad says that 'sin does not cling to a wise man any more than water clings to a lotus leaf' it does not mean that the sage may sin and yet be free, but rather that any one who is free from worldly attachments is also free from all temptation to sin."
  207. ^ Zaehner, Our Savage God (1974), pp. 47, 288, 306 (Charles Manson's "mysticism").
  208. ^ Sethna, Spirituality of the Future (1981), in his Chap. 10, pp. 208-220, challenges Zaehner's criticism of "the idea of an amoral or immoral component in Indian mysticism" (p.210, quote). Sethna refers to Zaehner's Evolution in Religion (1971), pp. 18-20, which discusses "a state so rudimentary that self-awareness and the moral sense have yet to arise" (p.210, quote).
  209. ^ Zaehner, Zen, Drugs and Mysticiam (1972), Leary: pp. 66-67, 69-75, 83-87.
  210. ^ Timothy Leary, The Politics of Ecstasy (New York: G. P. Putnam 1970), a source for Zaehner, ZDM (1972), p. 67:n9.
  211. ^ Zaehner, Our Savage God (1974), Crowley: pp. 40-47; Manson: pp. 47-72. Zaehner tells how Manson was underprivileged, son of a teenage prostitute (p.51), an ex-convict whose maleducation trickled down from local occult sects (pp. 46, 59). His enemy was society (pp. 48-50, 55-56, 306-307). He preached to die to the world, by exhaustion, drugs and sex, to break-down the ego (pp. 60, 62, 69), in order to attain an indifference (pp. 60, 66-67, cf. 80). So broken, his followers committed horrific crimes (pp. 47, 56, 67).
  212. ^ Ed Sanders in his The Family (New York: Dutton 1972; reprint Avon 1972) describes the occult indoctrination used by Manson, and his loopy rationale of the murders. Zaehner quotes it and obtained knowledge of Manson's crimes from it. Zaehner, OSG (1974), pp. 9, 45:n8, 61.
  213. ^ Zaehner, The City within the Heart (1981), chapter "The Wickedness of Evil" pp. 27-44, which begins with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and ends with Manson (pp. 35-44).
  214. ^ The crazy, soul-killing violence of the 1962 novel by Anthony Burgess and of the 1971 film of Stanley Kubrick are discussed in unavoidable graphic language by Zaehner in his essay, "Rot in the Clorkwork Orange" pp. 19-73, at 35-40, in Our Savage God (1974), esp. p. 36.
  215. ^ Zaehner, Zen, Drugs and Mysticism (1972), pp. 133-134.
  216. ^ Cf. The Economist, June 25, 2011, "Acid Test. Research into hallucinogenic drugs begins to shake off decades of taboo" p. 95; e.g., medical treatments, biotechnology.
  217. ^ Zaehner, Our Savage God (1974) p. 234 (quote).
  218. ^ Cf., Zaehner, Comparison of Religions (1958, 1962), p.30: "The prophet confronts the mystic: and each speaks a different language that is not comprehensible to the other."
  219. ^ Zaehner, "A New Buddha and a New Tao" pp. 402–412, at 403 (quote), in The Concise Encyclopedia of Living Faiths (1959; 1967), edited by Zaehner.
  220. ^ C. G. Jung, Aion (New York: Bollingen 1959), in Collected Works, vol. 9,ii, re chap. IV, "The Self", pp. 23-35, atman at 32, and re chap. XIV, "The structure and dynamics of the Self", pp. 222-265, atman at 222-223.
  221. ^ Zaehner, The Comparison of Religions (1958) p. 152 (quote). "Haoma is both a plant and a god. ... As a god Haoma was the son of Ahura Mazdah, the Wise Lord (Yasna 11:4). ... The purpose of the sacrifice is to confer immortality on all those who drink the sacred liquid--the life-juice of a divine being pounded to death in a mortar" (pp. 152-153).
  222. ^ Cf., Zeahner, Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism (1961) at 85–94, re the Haoma rite.
  223. ^ Mary Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism, vol.1 (Leiden/Köln: E. J. Brill 1975), pp. 164-165. Boyce criticizes Zaehner's presentation of the Haoma ritual in his Teachings pp. 126, 129; and Dawn and Twilight pp. 93-94. She says he marshals scripture, and evidence on the divine presence, death, and resurrection in the Haoma sacrifice, so that it resembles "the Christian communion rite". "But if all the material is properly taken into consideration... its intention appears as something very different" (p. 164). She cites A. Berriedale Keith, The religion and philosophy of the Veda and Upanishads, vol. II (Harvard Oriental Series 1925, reprint 1970), pp. 332. Keith states that for the Brahman soma ritual, there was "no serious or real feeling for the death of a god" (p. 460). The same applies for the Iranian haoma (Keith, p.326,n2). Cf., Boyce (1975), p.165.
  224. ^ Zaehner, Our Savage God (1974) p. 235 (quote).
  225. ^ Cf., Zaehner, Mysticism. Sacred and Profane (1961), p. 49: his approval of Richard Jefferies, advocate of "a mysticism of soul and body", who opposed ascetic practices.
  226. ^ Cf., Zaehner, The Comparison of Religions (1958), p. 172: his disapproval of Hendrik Kraemer, who condemned wholesale all mystics for wanting 'to be like God'. From this attack, Zaehner defends mystics of Samkhya, nature, and theism, while questioning some divinity claims of monism. Cf. p.83 re Jefferies, "this prince of nature mystics" (p.85).
  227. ^ Zaehner, Matter and Spirit (1963), p.27 (quote).
  228. ^ Matthew 7:3, re the "mote" and the "beam".
  229. ^ Cf., Zaehner, Christianity and other Religions (1964), p.147: "By their fruits shall ye know them." Yet some Catholic Church "fruits in the past have been bitter, rotten fruits that would, had it been possible, have corrupted the very tree, Christ, from which they sprang."
  230. ^ Zaehner, Matter and Spirit (1963) p. 199 (quote). Cf., p. 19: This book "does not attempt to be an objective study..., rather it is a subjective interpretation... seen from an individual angle within... the Catholic Church."
  231. ^ Cf., Zaehner, Concordant Discord (1970), p.360: "[T]o be a Christian you must be both a Marxist and a Buddhist, both Confucian and Taoist, for in Christ all that has abiding value meets."
  232. ^ Zaehner, The City within the Heart (1981) p. 136 (quote).
  233. ^ Aristotle, Metaphysics 12 (11).7.9 (1072b), "And so we roundly affirm that God is a living being, eternal and supremely good, and that in God there is life and coherent, eternal being. For that is God." Quoted by Zaehner, Our Savage God (1974), p.194.


Zaehner's works[edit]

  • Foolishness to the Greeks. Oxford University, 1953 (pamphlet). Reprint: Descale de Brouwer, Paris, 1974. As Appendix in Concordant Discord (1970).
  • Zurvan. A Zoroastrian Dilemma. Oxford University, 1955. Reprint: Biblio and Tannen, New York, 1972.
  • The Teachings of the Magi. A compendium of Zoroastrian beliefs. George Allen & Unwin, London, 1956. Reprints: Sheldon Press, 1972; Oxford, 1976. Translation:
    • Il Libro del Consiglio di Zarathushtra e altri testi. Compendio delle teorie zoroastriane. Astrolabio Ubaldini, Roma, 1976.
  • Mysticism: Sacred and Profane. Clarendon Press, Oxford University, 1957, reprint 1961. Translations:
    • Mystik, religiös und profan. Ernst Klett, Stuttgart, 1957.
    • Mystiek sacraal en profaan. De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 1969.
    • Mystique sacrée, Mystique profane. Editorial De Rocher, Monaco, 1983.
  • At Sundry Times. An essay in the comparison of religions. Faber & Faber, London, 1958. Alternate title, and translation:
    • The Comparison of Religions. Beacon Press, Boston, 1962.
    • Inde, Israël, Islam: religions mystiques et révelations prophétiques. Desclée de Brouwer, Paris, 1965.
  • Hindu and Muslim Mysticism. Athlone Press, University of London, 1960. Reprints: Schocken, New York, 1969; Oneworld, Oxford, 1994.
  • The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1961. Translation:
    • Zoroaster e la fantasia religiosa. Il Saggiatore, Milano, 1962.
  • Hinduism. Oxford University Press, London, 1962. Translations:
    • Der Hinduismus. Seine geschichte und seine lehre. Goldman, München, 1964.
    • L'Induismo. Il Mulino, Bologna, 1972.
    • L'hindouisme. Desclée de Brouwer, Paris, 1974.
  • The Convergent Spirit. Towards a dialectics of Religion. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1963. Alternate title:
    • Matter and Spirit. Their convergence in Eastern Religions, Marx, and Teilhard de Chardin. Harper & Row, New York, 1963.
  • The Catholic Church and World Religions. Burns & Oates, London, 1964. Alternate title, and translation:
    • Christianity and other Religions. Hawthorn Books, New York, 1964.
    • El Cristianismo y les grandes religiones de Asia. Editorial Herder, Barcelona, 1967.
  • Concordant Discord. The Interdependence of Faiths. Clarendon Press, Oxford University, 1970. Gifford Lectures 1967-1969. Translation:
    • Mystik. Harmonie und dissonanz. Walter, Olten/Freiburg, 1980.
  • Dialectical Christianity and Christian Materialism. The Riddell Memorial Lectures. Oxford University Press, London, 1971.
  • Evolution in Religion. A study of Sri Aurobindo and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Clarendon Press, Oxford University, 1971.
  • Drugs, Mysticism and Make-believe. William Collins, London, 1972. Alternate title:
    • Zen, Drugs, and Mysticism. Pantheon Books, New York, 1972.
  • Our Savage God. The Perverse use of Eastern Thought. Sheed & Ward, New York, 1974.
  • The City within the Heart. Crossroad Publishing, New York, 1981. Introduction by Michael Dummett.


  • "Zoroastrian survivals in Iranian folklore," in Journal of British Institute of Persian Studies, 1952; reprinted in Iran, v.3, pp. 87–96, 1965; Part II, in Iran, v.30, pp. 65–75, 1992.
  • "Abu Yazid of Bistam" in Indo-Iranian Journal, v.1, pp. 286–301, 1957.
  • “Islam and Christ,” Dublin Review, no. 474, pp. 271–88, 1957.
  • "A new Buddha and a new Tao," in The Concise Encyclopedia of Living Faiths, 1959.
  • "Christianity and Marxism," in Jubilee 11: 8-11, 1963.
  • "Sexual Symbolism in the Svetasvatara Upanishad," in J. M. Kitagawa (editor), Myths and Symbols: Studies in honor of Mircea Eliade, University of Chicago, 1969.
  • "Learning from Other Faiths: Hinduism," in The Expository Times, v.83, pp. 164–168, 1972.
  • "Our Father Aristotle" in Ph. Gignoux et A. Tafazzoli, editors, Memorial Jean de Menasce, Louvain: Impremerie orientaliste, 1974.


  • Hindu Scriptures. Translated and edited by R. C. Zaehner. J. M. Dent, London, 1966.
  • The Bhagavad Gita. With commentary based on the ancient sources. Translated by R. C. Zaehner. Oxford Univ., London, 1969.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Living Faiths. Edited by R. C. Zaehner. Hawthorn Books, New York, 1959. Three reprints:
    • The Concise Encyclopedia of Living Faiths. Beacon Press, Boston, 1967.
    • The Hutchinson Encyclopedia of Living Faiths. Century Hutchinson, London, 1988.
    • Encyclopedia of the World's Religions. Barnes and Noble, New York, 1997.

Criticism, commentary[edit]

  • Albano Fernandes, The Hindu Mystical Experience: A comparative philosophical study of the approaches of R. C. Zaehner & Bede Griffiths. Intercultural, New Delhi 2004.
  • George Kizhakkemury, The Converging Point. An appraisal of Professor R. C. Zaehner's approach to Islamic mysticism. Alwaye MCBS, New Delhi 1982.
  • Jeffrey John Kripal, Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom. University of Chicago 2001. Chapter III (pp. 156–198) on Zaehner.
  • William Lloyd Newell, Struggle and Submission: R. C. Zaehner on Mysticisms. University Press of America, Washington 1981, forward by Gregory Baum.
  • John Paul Reardon, A Theological Analysis of R. C. Zaehner's Theory of Mysticism. Dissertation at Fordham University, New York 2012. {website}
  • Richard Charles Schebera, Christian and Non-Christian Dialogue. The vision of R. C. Zaehner. University Press of America, Washington 1978.
  • K. D. Sethna, The Spirituality of the Future: A search apropos of R. C. Zaehner's study in Sri Aurobindo and Teilhard De Chardin. Fairleigh Dickinson University 1981.
    • Carlo Cereti, "Zaehner, Robert Charles" in Ehsan Yarshater, editor, Encyclopaedia Iranica. {website}
    • Robert D. Hughes, "Zen, Zurvan, and Zaehner: A Memorial Tribute... " in Studies in Religion 6: 139-148 (1976-1977).
    • Ann K. S. Lambton, "Robert Charles Zaehner" in B.S.O.A.S. 38/3: 623–624 (London 1975).
    • Morrison, Gorge (1975). "Professor R. C. Zaehner". Iran. 13: iv–iv. JSTOR 4300520.
    • Geoffrey Parrinder, "Robert Charles Zaehner (1913–1974)" in History of Religions 16/1: 66–74 (Univ.of Chicago 1976).
    • F. Whaling, "R. C. Zaehner: A Critique" in The Journal of Religious Studies 10: 77-118 (1982).
  • Michael Dummett, "Introduction" at pp. xi-xix, to Zaehner's posthumous The City within the Heart (1981).

External links[edit]