Alain Danielou, (1) While the Gods Play (2) The Way to the Labryinth: Memories of East and West - Peter Myers, November 23, 2001; update March 10, 2011. My comments within the text are shown {thus}.

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Alain Danielou, brother of Cardinal Jean Danielou, shows important connections between the Shivaite ascetics of India and

(1) the rise of Buddhism (p. 19; Gautama trained with Gosala the Shivaite)

(the Shivaites were both ascetic and lascivious; Gautama later rejected the latter)

(2) the Cynic ascetic-philosophers of Greece (pp. 17, 19, & 26)

(3) Jesus (p. 18; F. Gerald Downing shows that the early Christians were like Cynics: downing.html)

(4) early worship of Allah, the black stone at Mecca being a Shiva linga (p. 20)

(5) the hippy movement today (p. 19; today's hippies reject their heritage as Gautama rejected his to follow a "native" from the non-Aryan population)

(6) Taoism (p. 26)

The rationalistic, moralistic religions (Jainism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity & Islam) arose in opposition to the earlier ecstatic religions Danielou calls Shivaite, and which are also called Goddess religions.

Too much moralism takes the joy out of life, while too much amorality leads to cruelty such as human sacrifice. However, the moralistic religions have often been vehicles for conquest: Zoroastrianism was the motivator of the First Persian Empire, Christianity, Islam and Communism have spread by the sword, and even Asoka, who imposed Buddhism on India, was a bloody conqueror. So in the end, the moralistic conquistadores are not as superior as they pretend.

Philosophical Taoism and the Cynic philosophy of Greece & Rome represent a middle ground, preserving some of the amoral ecstasy but containing it with reason.

Alain Danielou, While the Gods Play, Inner Traditions International, Rochester, Vermont 1987. Translation from the French by Barbara Bailey, Michael Baker, and Deborah Lawlor.

{p. 15} Shaivism

Shaivism, the religion of the ancient Dravidians, was always the religion of the people. Its metaphysical, cosmological, and ritual conceptions were preserved by communities of wandering ascetics living on the fringe of the offical society, whom the Aryans scornfully called Yati(s) (wanderers), Vratya(s) (untouchables), or Ajivika(s) (beggars).

{quote} The Vayu Purana mentions the fact that these wandering Shaiva ascetics "seem to have possessed the humble status of Shudras (people of the servile caste or even of outcastes who were forbidden to enter towns)." In practice, the term Ajivika applied to the whole of the non-Aryan population. Communities of Ajivika laymen were to be found in all the great cities of the Ganges basin (and formed a parallel society). They included members of all classes. {endquote; this quote is taken from A. L. Basham, History and Doctrines of the Ajivikas, pp. 131, 134.}

In the fourth century A.D., Amarsimha, the author of a famous Sanskrit dictionary, still classes among the Shudra(s) (the low castes) the Devala or Shaivas, who worship idols,

{p. 16} and notes among them the Pashupata(s), the Pancharatra(s), and the Tantrika(s), that is, the population groups who had been able to maintain the old religion, its rites, cosmology, myths, and practices. It is the members of these monastic orders who today still teach the disciplines and eroticomagical rites of Tantrism.

Aryan society practiced a punitive discrimination against them. In South India, even in the fourteenth century, the Ajivika(s), that is, the indigenous people, paid much heavier taxes than the rest of the population (as later on the Muslims imposed upon the Hindus).

{p. 17} Gosala

THREE figures in India were to play a key role in the religious reforms that conditioned all subsequent religions. They are Makkhali Gosala (560-484 B.C.), Mahavira (547-467 B.C.), and Gautama (550-483 B.C.), whom his disciples called the Buddha, the Illumined {dates from Basham, op. cit.}. The characteristic sign of this reversal of values was the Makkhali Gosala's attempt to reform the Shaiva tradition.

Gosala was one of those non-Aryan wandering ascetics of humble origin whom bourgeois society called Ajivika(s) (beggars). He was very early preoccupied by the activities of extremist sects such as the Kapalika (Skull-Bearers) and the Kalamukha (Black Faces), whose magical practices and antisocial attitudes shocked the urban society of their time. He sought to reinstate the philosophic and rationalist aspects of the ancient pre-Aryan culture, which were in opposition to popular ecstatic and mystical Shaivism. We find similar attempts to adapt Shaivism to the prejudices of bourgeois society with the Vira Shaiva or Lingayat of the Middle Ages and later with the reformers of the British era. The Shaiva ascetics went about naked, their bodies smeared with ashes, practicing orgiastic dances. They refused to be participants in a society oriented toward productivity and puritanism. With matted hair and haggard eyes, they lived away from villages and towns and refused to take an interest in material wellbeing. In the same epoch, the sect of Cynics, of which Diogenes is a typical example, flourished in Greece and is clearly related to the Kalamuka(s) of India. {and as F. Gerald Downing pointed out, the early Christians were much like Cynics: downing.html; see also pp. 19 & 26 below}

The Bhagavati Sutra, a Jaina work, has preserved for us

{p. 18} the most important description of the life and work of Gosala, his relationship to and his break with Mahavira, and the circumstances of his death.

The father of Gosala was a Mankha, a sort of roving bard, exhibitor of pious images. Of non-Aryan origin, he was considered to be a Dasyu, an appellation corresponding to the term "native" in the period of European colonialism. This, in fact, meant that any position other than a servile one was prohibited to him in Aryan society. Nevertheless, he was a man learned in the philosophic tradition of the ancient culture, particularly in the materialist theories of the Vaisheshika and the cosmology of the Samkhya, infinitely more evolved than the nebulous concepts of the followers of the Veda. (In a similar context many centuries later, I myself knew a humble janitor at the French Consulate in Calcutta who was a poor Brahman who read the Upanishad(s) while operating the elevator for the sahibs, the Europeans, the new Aryan lords of India, as arrogant as they were ignorant.)

It was during the course of his father's peregrinations that Gosala was born, like Jesus, in a stable, not far from the famous university of Nalanda. After having practiced for several years the family business of dealing in images, Gosala joined a group of Shaiva ascetic-beggars. He soon acquired great renown for his asceticism and his learning. According to the Bhagavati Sutra, his disciples considered him the twenty-fourth prophet (Tlrthamkara) of the Ajivika, in the Avasarpini Yuga (the age of secret messengers), and as the reformer of the old Shaivism, about which little was known at the time for the texts were only reconstituted later. "A great wave of spiritual unrest swept through the Ganges Valley in the sixth century B.C. The thirty-three great gods of the Aryans and the lesser earth spirits of the Aboriginals were too motley a company to correspond to the orderly civilization which had already emerged ... and were inadequate to meet the spiritual needs of the rising class of merchants to the existence of which both Buddhist and Jaina texts testify." {Basham, op. cit. p. 285}

The wandering Shaiva sages, asocial and marginal, both

{p. 19} ascetic and lascivious, free from the tyrannies of society, held a great fascination for the bourgeois and aristocratic young people of the cities (a little like the hippies of modern times). Hence, the great bourgeois Mahavira and the prince Gautama became disciples of Gosala. (Plutarch reports that Alexander said of himself: "If I were not Alexander, I would wish to be Diogenes.") {Diogenes was a Cynic: downing.html}

The figure of Gosala is very important, for in presenting a different version of the old culture, until then ignored and rejected by Aryan society as the superstitions of despicable slaves, he attracted those, such as Mahavira and Gautama, who were dissatisfied with Vedic rigidity, and he aroused a sudden interest in the antique pre-Aryan philosophy within the good society of the period. The role of Gosala can be compared to someone such as Aurobindo, who, in the modern era, however contested by orthodox Hinduism, provoked considerable interest in the philosophic and religious conceptions that Europeans until then had regarded as the superstitions of backward populations.

Mahavira traveled with Gosala for six years, and Gautama joined them for three or four years. The commentary on the Avashyaka Sutra by Jina Dasa, which gives a rather complete picture of the life of Mahavira, contains the story of his travels in the company of Gosala. Gosala finally argued with his two disciples over points of doctrine, and they separated. "After their separation, Gosala made his headquarters at Savatthi in the workshop of a potter-woman, Halahala, and was surrounded by many disciples. At this time he was visited by six dishachara (missionaries of the six directions) in consulation with whom he codified the Ajivika scriptures." {Basham, op. cit. p. 51} Gosala died in 484 B.C., a year before the Buddha. Mahavira lived on until 467.

During his last years, Gosala observed a vow of silence (vacam pahaya) and lived in a state of trance. He practiced dance and drunkenness. A few moments before his death, one of his disciples asked him, "What is the nature of Halla [the principle of the world]?," to which he answered with

{p. 20} the mysterious phrase, "The form of Halla is as the root of the bamboo. Play the vina, Friend." The vina is a stringed instrument made from a long bamboo. Music, the ephemeral harmony of sounds that evokes the harmony of the universe, comes forth from the bamboo. Its form and sonorous qualities are implied in its root, in its genetic formula, which like that of all other species is part of the plan devised by the Creator. Gosala suggests here a subject for meditation on the tortuous route (vakra) which links the world of appearance to the unfathomable origin of creation and thus evokes the fundamental problem of knowledge.

Halla is a mysterious term used by certain Shaiva sects to invoke the Supreme Being during ecstatic dances. It is difficult to avoid a comparison with Allah, the divine name adopted by the Muslims, together with the black stone of Mecca, which, according to the geography of the Purana(s), is a Shiva Linga situated in the ancient sacred site called Makhevshvara (Lord of the Crocodile). Vestiges of an important colony of people from the Indus Valley have been discovered at Oman, on the Arabian Peninsula.

The teachings of Gosala, which constitute the reformed doctrine of the Ajivika(s), were gathered together in a work in ancient Dravidian called Navakadir. According to Nilakeshi Tirattu, this work was translated into the Tamil language (modern Dravidian) under the name Onbadukadir, today lost, but of which the Manimekhalai, a Tamil novel from the second century, preserves important extracts.


We primarily know about the doctrine of Gosala through the writings of his Jaina and Buddhist opponents. These texts must therefore be read with some caution. The essential element of the teaching of Gosala is the doctrine of Niyati (determinism), which envisages a preestablished universal order by which the world evolves, at all levels, as do living

{p. 21} beings, according to a plan contained in its seed. Progress and change are strictly determined by the "law of the process of development" (parinama-krama-niyama), which forms ruts or molds inside which individuals develop.

Gunaratna, the commentator of the Shaddarshana-Samucchaya (condensed from the six systems) of Haribhadra, cites Gosala: "What makes thorns pointed and determines the innumerable forms of the animals and birds? All this originates from their nature (svabhava). Nothing is born of its own will or its actions. All beings develop according to the plan (niyati), to their nature (svabhava) and chance (sangati)."

Evil and suffering, attributed by others to the actions (karma) of living beings, are, according to Gosala, determined by fate. "Just as a dropped spool of thread unwinds to its end, so will the madman, like the sage, follow his destiny and reach the end of suffering (dukhanta)." {Digha Nikaya I. 53, (Buddhist text in Pali)} "Human efforts are ineffective" (N'atthi purisakare) was the slogan of the Ajivika(s).

The doctrine of Gosala was divided into six parts: gains (labham), losses (alabham), joy (suham), sorrow (duham), life (jiviyam), and death (maranam). It included the atomic theory of the Vaisheshika and the cosmology of the Samkhya. We will see later with regard to the Vaisheshika, a summary of Gosala's materialist doctrine according to the Manimekhalai. According to this doctrine, the number of souls, of "individual consciousnesses" in the world, is infinite.

A theory of cyclical liberation (ma dala moksha) refers to the destruction of individual beings at the end of each cycle. The process of the development of life over 8,400,000 Maha Kalpa, the stages of evolution that represent the different species in creation, was later on interpreted as a series of reincarnations of the individual being.

All the Ajivika(s) used music and dance as ecstatic media and knew the secret of the technique of rescuscitating the dead by the transfer of their own vital energy, one of the Siddhi(s) (powers) obtained through Yoga. This power was called pautta parihara by the disciples of Gosala.

{p. 22} IT was in the Age of Doubt (dvapara), with the development of agricultural, sedentary, and urban civilizations, that Jainism appeared, whose first prophet, Rishabha, belongs to what we call prehistory. With him arose the notion of a moral, materialistic society with atheistic tendencies, which restrains individual liberty in the name of the common good and of the orderliness of the city, in opposition to Shaiva mysticism, which promotes the joy of living in communion with the divine work that the natural world represents.

It was Jainism that introduced vegetarianism and nonviolence, as well as the theories of transmigration and Karma, into the Indian world. Jainism also advocated suicide by fasting.

The doctrine of Karma, linked to that of transmigration, attributes differences between beings to their behavior in previous lives. Inequalities between living beings, and, in particular, between men, are due to an automatic retribution after death for actions committed in life. This theory tends to replace the responsibility of an impermanent "I," the transmitter of a genetic code that affects the species, with the evolution of a supposedly permanent "I." This has significant consequences, morally speaking, and also eliminates the notions of grace, of the whim of the gods, and of their freedom of action. It is basically an atheistic theory, contrary to the conceptions of the mystical Shaivism and ritualistic Vedism.

Mahavira is considered to be the twenty-fourth and last prophet of Jainism. Parshva, the twenty-third prophet, lived three centuries earlier and had apparently liberalized the ascetic customs of the sect.

Mahavira was, at a young age, outraged by the environment he lived in, which was essentially commercial. He became the disciple of the wandering monk Gosala, with whom he traveled, begging for his food, for over six years. Gosala did not practice or recommend the observance of chastity, as it was contrary to the principles of Shaivai Yoga. Antisexual moralism was introduced later in certain sects, such as the

{p. 23} Vira-Shaiva. It was on these grounds and on that of Karma that Mahavira parted company with Gosala. "Mahavira was almost certainly a twice-born Aryan who had been converted from the religious goal of sexual power to that of ethical celibacy. His reform of the religion of Parshva {identified at the bottom of p. 25 below} was precisely to impose the law of celibacy where earlier it had not been in effect. He was overall the most antisexual of the religious teachers of his time. " {McEvilley, An Archaeology of Yoga, I, p. 57} Mahavira undertook to reform Jainism, which, since that time, has been divided into two sects: the Jaina "dressed in space" (digambara), who are always naked, and the Jaina "dressed in white" (shvetambara), which allows them to participate more easily in the social life of urban society.

Gautama Buddha

GAUTAMA belonged to a princely family of the Shakya clan of Nepal, who reigned over the rich city of Kapilavastu in the northeast of India. At the time, the families of the warlike aristocracy were in revolt against the authority of the Brahmans and the rigid ritualism of the Vedic religion. Immense sacrificial ceremonies, such as the sacrifice of the horse (ashvamedha), through which the Brahmans imposed their power, ruined the states financially. Gautama was at first attracted by the antisocial mysticism of Shaivism. For a time, he was also a disciple of Gosala and very close to Mahavira, who was three years younger. For several years he practiced with them the austere and free life of a wandering monk. He eventually left them, however, and soon became their rival. He then undertook to reform Brahmanism on the basis of the fundamental atheistic concepts of the Jaina, in particular the prohibition of rites, nonviolence, reincarnation, the doctrine of Karma, the negation of castes, the emphasis on moral values, and so forth.

His disciples called Gautama the Buddha the Enlightened One. His doctrine, under the name of Buddhism, was to have

{p. 24} a great influence, first in India, then in the Far East, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia. Adopted by the aristrocratic {sic} and warlike class to which Gautama belonged, Buddhism became a powerful instrument of colonialism and cultural expansion, justifying, under the pretext of religious propaganda, the most savage conquests, such as that of Kalingi, by the emperor Ashoka. Later, Christianity and Islam, other moralistic religions stemming from Arihat {this word is also used in the next paragraph, & on p. 27}, were to serve in the same way as a pretext for a conquering imperialism. Buddhism was to play a major role on the Indian scene for more than six centuries.

The Religion of Nature and the Religion of the City

DURING the Dvapara Yuga, the age of doubt and economic development, together with sedentary life and urban growth, new forms of religion emerged which sought to protect a conservative and puritanical social order. But it was not until the middle of the Kali Yuga that we witness the realization of the prediction of the Purana(s). The teaching of Arihat, in the form of Buddhism and Jainism, as well as reformed Ajivikism, attacks the old ecstatic, orgiastic, and mystical Shaiva tradition and, at the same time, the ritualistic and hierarchical structures of Vedic society.

{quote} The three heterodox sects that arose in this cultural climate, Buddhism, Jainism, and Ajivikism, had much in common. All three alike rejected the sacrifical polytheism of the Aryans and the monistic theories of the Upanishadic mystics. The supernatural powers were relegated to an inferior or even negligible position. The three new religions represent a recognition of the rule of natural law in the universe, and the work of their founders may be compared with that of their approximate contemporaries, the natural philosophers of Ionia. {endquote; - from Basham, op. cit. p. 6}

{p. 25} The religious reforms in the middle of the Kali Yuga were to bring to the fore the conflict of mysticism and moralism, and of the religion of nature and love in contrast to that of the city and civic virtues.

In India, as elsewhere, we can, in the course of the Kali Yuga, follow the alternation, conflict, and sometimes even the complementary nature of the two tendencies. Beginning in the Dvapara Yuga, in the limited spheres of what is called the intelligentsia of the cities, materialistic tendencies developed which were in conflict with Dionysian Shaivism, the religion of nature, hostile to the religion of towns, focused on man.

Jainism, an essentially moralistic religion, along with the forms of Hinduism derived from it, such as Buddhism and Vaishnavism, are still the religions of the city dwellers and commercial classes in India today.

The Kali Yuga in the World

A development similar to that in India took place in all the territories occupied by the Aryans. The legacy of vanquished Pelasgi and Cretans is at the root of the development of the Hellenic civilizations. The Indo-Sumerian sources of Hesiod and Homer have been proven. {J. Van Duk, Introduction to the Lugal-Ud} Dionysian cults similar to Shaivism combine with the Aryan religion in Greek and Roman antiquity as they do in India.

The middle of the Kali Yuga is everywhere marked by great upheavals. Europe witnessed the spread of Celtic barbarians. It was the time of the destruction of Athens, Urarthu, and Babylon, and the Persian invasion of Egypt. In Italy, Rome developed at the expense of the Etruscans. We can observe, in different parts of the world, the simultaneous appearance of doctrines so similar to each other that they seem all to have the same source, which, according to the Indians, would be the Jainism of Parshva (817-778), the predecessor of Ma-

{p. 26} havira. All these religions and philosophical movements are moralistic and puritanical in character, demonstrate a belief in transmigration, and also oppose polytheism and ecstatic practices.

Zoroaster (died 553 B.C.) {his devotees say he lived a thousand years earlier}, a little before the occupation of the Indus by Cyrus (533 B.C.), had reformed the Persian religion ({which was} close to Vedic polytheism) and adopted the Jaina theory of transmigration and retribution for actions after death {but Zoroaster's theology is theistic, and dualistic, and like Judaism & Islam sees no merit in celibacy}. Xenophanes, a Greek from Asia Minor, (c. 540 B.C.), opposed polytheism and anthropomorphism. In Greece, the naked Gymnopedists, who were Jaina missionaries, had a considerable influence. Pythagoras taught transmigration and set up a brotherhood in the same year that Gautama became a monk (530 B.C.). He drew inspiration from the theories of the Samkhya, while the School of Cynics is, in all likelihood, an echo of the teachings of the Ajivika(s).

In China, the fifth century is the age of the birth of Taoism (Lao-tse, 604-531 B.C.) and Confucianism (Confucius, 551-479 B.C.), whose ideas are very close to some of the Indian concepts. The great system of Tao, which tries to follow the natural movement of the universe, originally appears to be based on a poetic version of the concepts of the Samkhya and of Yoga. The words Yin and Yang correspond to Yoni and Linga. Breathing practices and the search for the sun and moon in the body recall Ida and Pingala, the lunar and solar paths of breath in Yoga. The sexual practices (withholding the spermatic essence and trying to absorb the feminine essence) are identical to those of Yoga. The notion of immortality conceived as transmutation, in which "astride a white cloud the Sage or Yellow Emperor arrives at the region of the gods," is analogous to that of Shaivism. We again find the seven sages, the refusal of asceticism, the practices aiming at a long life (Ayurveda, the Indian science of longevity).

Confucius, who was born ten years after Gosala, in 551 B.C., and died five years after him, in 479 B.C., was an agnostic who was against Taoism and sought to resolve all difficulties in the world through morality. He was, according

{p. 27} to Max Weber, "a rationalist absolutely free of the metaphysical and of any religious tradition who ... built up a morality based on the nature of man and the needs of society." His meeting with Lao-tse would have been in 517 B.C. It is apparently a Jaina influence that caused the appearance of the notion of transmigration in later Taoism. With the development of urban, industrial, and capitalist societies, the doctrines of the kind attributed to Arihat - moralistic, materialistic, and atheistic - filtered through into all subsequent religions, including modernized forms of Hinduism and Shaivism. We find their influence in Zoroastrianism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and even Marxism, the last of the religions of the Kali Yuga.

The Shaiva Revival

THE period that corresponds to the beginning of the Christian era was everywhere a time when the official religions were being challenged. In India, Buddhism, which had considerably weakened the Vedic tradition, was on the decline, yet the authority of the Brahmans was not restored. Mendicant ascetics, despised and ignored by the ruling classes, had also undergone attacks from Buddhism, and it is only in the age of the decline of Buddhism, that is, at the beginning of our era, that we see the ancient pre-Aryan culture and its religion, Shaivism, reappear gloriously, scarcely affected by centuries of clandestine existence. The moment seemed favorable to the representatives of the ancient tradition to openly reestablish its precepts and react against all the foreign cults, including Vedism, and the new religions, Buddhism and Jainism.


IT was an Ajivika called Lakulisha, one of those wandering monks who maintained the heritage of the ancient knowledge

{p. 28} in an occult tradition, who judged the moment opportune to reveal it, causing a great revolution in society. This corresponds to the greatest period in Indian civilization, which was to last for more than a millennium. Lakulisha (the name means the "Club-bearing Lord") restored an extraordinary impetus to Shaivism, reestablished the pre-Aryan culture, and united, under the name of the Pashupata(s) (followers of Pashupati, Lord of the Animals), the different sects that had survived in semisecrecy for centuries.

According to tradition, Lakulisha probably lived a little before and at the beginning of our era. He would be contemporary with John the Baptist. He is considered by his disciples to be the last of the twenty-eight manifestations of Shiva mentioned in the Purana. The Kunna Purana (chap. 53), the Vayu Purana (chap. 23), and the Linga Purana (chap. 24) predicted that the Great God (Maheshvara) would appear in the form of a wandering monk called Lakulin or Nakulisha, and that he would have four disciples named Kushika, Garga, Mitra, and Kanrushya, who would reestablish the cult of Pashupati and would therefore be called Pashupata(s). Lakulisha would have had a predecessor called Uluka. After teaching Maheshvara Yoga, Lakulisha would return to the paradise of Rudra (Shiva).

Lakulisha descended from a dynasty of non-Aryan priests called Jangama. He belonged to the Kalamukha (Black Face) sect. He embarked on a work that conflicted with that of Gosala, reestablished the strictest conventions of the ancient religion, and violently opposed Vedism, Jainism, and most particularly Buddhism. Lakulisha reinstituted sacrifices {lest anyone think that I support sacrifices, let me state clearly that I oppose them; will they be reinstituted when Jews build their Third Temple?}, including human sacrifices {Danielou comments on this, in Gods of Love and Ecstasy: danielou-paglia.html, pp. 9-10; Hyam Maccoby says that Judaism is founded on a human sacrifice, that of Isaac}, and restored respect for the practices of Hatha Yoga and Tantrism and the cosmological theories of the ancient Samkhya.

According to M. R. Sakhare (The History and Philosophy of Lingayat Religion), the infiuence of Lakulisha was immense and spread like wildfire, first in the north and then in the south of India. The Shaiva revival, supported by the Bharashiva and Vakataka dynasties in central and northern India,

{p. 29} gradually spread in the south under the impetus of Shaiva mystics, the Nayanar, who all belonged to the artisan classes. During the first eleven centuries of the Christian era, Shaivism thrived and Buddhism was uprooted. This Shaivai and Tantric revival coincides with one of the most important periods of Indian civilization on a mystic, philosophical, artistic, and literary plan, which was to last until the Muslim invasions of the twelfth century.

In the time of Lakulisha, the Akhada(s) (regiments), which were religious military orders, reassumed a great importance. The order of the Dashanami Naga, which still exists, is the oldest. Their organization had much in common with that of Mithraism, which developed at the same time among the soldiers of the Roman Empire, and which includes the cult of the bull, sacrifices, Dionysian initiations, and communal sacred meals.

In the fourth century, Chandra Gupta, an adventurer of Scythian origin, who had married a princess of the ancient Shaiva tribe of the Lichavi, assassinated the last monarch of Pataliputra and ruled from A.D. 319 to 330. It is from this period on that representations of Lakulisha are to be found in India. "These portray him as a naked yogin with a staff (lakula) in his left hand and a citron (matu-linga) in his right, with his penis erect, and either standing or seated in the lotus posture. At about the beginning of the eleventh century, the Lakulisha cult seems to have shifted its activities to southern India. {D. L. Lorenzen, The Kapalikas and Kalamukhas, p. 108} In the north, the Kushana emperors replaced the pictures of Hercules on their coins with ones of Shiva, and of Heracles with images of Lakulisha.

In A.D. 78 commences the Shaka (Scythian) era, which is still in progress in India. The Vikrama era had begun in 58 B.C.


IN the second century, the Kushana emperor Kanishaka embarked on a reform of Buddhism based on the ideas of Tantric

{p. 30} Shaivism. The canons of this new Buddhism, which is a disguised Shaivism and is called Mahayana (Great Vehicle), were defined in a great synod held in Kashmir. This synthesis of Buddhism and Shaivism was primarily the work of Ashvaghosha, a Hindu converted to Buddhism. Mahayana spread mainly in Tibet, where we find numerous practices of the Kapalika(s) (skull-bearers) Shaivas, who also used a human skull to hold their food. {end}

Alain Danielou, The Way to the Labryinth: Memories of East and West, New Directions, New York 1987; translation by Marie-Claire Cournand.

This book, Danielou's autobiography, reveals much of Hinduism from a Westerner who immersed himself in it for many years, becoming a translator of Sanskrit and Tamil, as well as an ethno-musicologist. The snippets I present here do not necessarily imply my endorsement - but I find Danielou an important interpreter of what he concluded was a culture much like pre-Christian Europe.

We are now used to Gay Militancy, as part of the new Left campaign to destroy marriage; Danielou's homsexuality is quite different - he has no wish to harm family structures. Whilst I do not promote homosexuality, I find his type acceptable.

The New Left encourages young people to interpret sex in terms of a rebellion against religion and the sacred. But Danielou sees sex as inherently a religious experience: leading TO religion, not FROM it.

Although he opposes the Aryan destruction of India's earlier cultures, Danielou endorses the caste system, which I find somewhat inconsistent.

{p. 63}  Although I was still physically innocent in those days, I had declared myself a homosexual. All my college friends seemed to find this quite natural, and no one ever made the slightest disparaging remark. A number of boys tried to draw me into sexual relationships, but I was too shy and elusive to respond. Then came Donald. Donald was a twenty-year-old baseball player, six-foot-seven tall. One night he came into my room, took me in his arms, and refused to take no for an answer. All of a sudden I felt infused with light and an incredible sensation of pleasure ran through my body. I murmured: "There must be a God for such happiness to be possible!" For a long time I had ceased to believe in the Christian God, that severe schoolmaster who makes decrees and punishes transgressors. Oddly enough, it was in that moment of intense pleasure that a god of sensuousness, happiness, and light was revealed to me - that God of Love whom mystics write about, the God of Jalalal-Din Rumi and Saadi, of Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila, of Dionysian and tantric rites. He had appeared before me once and for all; all I needed to do now was find him.

{p. 135} ... For several years I read nothing but Hindu and Sanskrit, no book, newspaper, or article besides those I had to translate. I found this very difficult at first, but the discipline I imposed on myself allowed me to grow accustomed to another mode of thought, a different conception of life and the world.

In order to study Sanskrit and philosophy under a Hindu scholar and master, it was necessary to live and think exactly like a Hindu. I had to become a strict vegetarian, observe all the customs and taboos, and wear the spotless, elegant, and completely seamless dhoti and chhaddar (a silk shawl). Raymond never learned to speak Hindi very well, but he was interested in the rites and learned to perform the puja, a minutely detailed and very poetic ceremony which all Hindus must perform in their homes before the image of a god.

{p. 136} A man born outside of India is considered a mleccha, a barbarian who is assimilated with the lowest castes of artisans; he can never touch a Brahman or enter his house, nor can he recite the Veda. If he observes the proprieties and taboos, however, he is allowed to be instructed in the highest teach-

{p. 137} ings of traditional philosophy and science. Many of the great Indian mystics, poets, painters, musicians, and sculptors who were honored by kings belonged to the castes of artisans that, as a result of some very stupid propaganda, people sometimes call "the untouchables."

"The untouchable" is in fact the Brahman who, being a priest, must observe the strictest rules of ritual purity; he cannot accept food from anyone outside his own family, nor can he touch anyone. One of the most typical characteristics of the European mentality is its ability to present everything backwards.

{p. 140} Shiva is the god of the universe, the ruler of all living things, trees and animals as well as men. In temples devoted to his worship he is represented as an erect phallus, source of all life but also symbol of pleasure and sensuous delight, the earthly image of the state of godliness. Shiva is Sat-Chit-Ananda - Existence, Consciousness, and Bliss. Men build sanctuaries to honor him, but his true temple is nature, especially the forest, where he sometimes appears in the form of a naked, priapic adolescent. Shivaist initiation rites always take place in the forest, never in a temple. Here at last was the god I had vaguely sensed in my childhood and had secretly been searching for all my life.

{the following is interesting, showing how the marijuana problem in the West originates from ignorance and the spirit of rebellion. Indian use is ritualised and most likely harmless}

{p. 142} Bhang is made with fresh Indian hemp leaves, which are crushed against a rock and carefully washed to eliminate certain toxic elements that remain when hemp is used for smoking. A modest amount of this spinach-like substance, the size of a small hazelnut, is mixed with almond milk and sweetened water. The result is a drink that not only tastes very pleasant but is apparently quite harmless. Bhang can also be mixed with cakes and sweets. Proper Hindus never smoke hashish - only cab drivers and other people belonging to the most discredited classes. When it is drunk, bhang has no immediate effect. This is why, after enjoying it with a small group of friends - just like tea - one can usually go home, take a bath, dress up for the evening, and sit down to dinner. Only then does the drug begin to take effect: a strange sensation in the spine, a complete loss of the sense of time, a sharp intensification of all the perceptions, and heightened powers of analysis. If one is listening to music, for instance, it becomes possible to hear the separate parts played by each of the instruments, the double bass, the flute, the oboe, which normally cannot be distinguished from the ensemble.

These heightened perceptions are such that people begin to notice all the absurd and ridiculous peculiarities of their companions - the shapes of their noses or ears, their way of speaking - and are seized with an irresistible need to giggle; those who tend to be depressed, however, must be very careful with bhang, for it will probably make them dissolve into tears. Yogis often use it to facilitate meditation, mental concentration, and extra-sensory perception.

Sometimes Raymond would organize bhang parties for his foreign visitors, and they were always highly successful; Ramprasad, our boatman, prepared the potion very well. Cecil Beaton, the famous photographer, often spoke of his bhang party at Rewa Khoti as the most amusing evening in his life.

I have never been able to take drugs. A pipeful of opium makes me feel ill for several days. For this reason I was always very careful to take the smallest possible amount of bhang. One day Ramprasad decided to play a trick on me and gave me a larger dose than usual. I soon fell into a half faint, a peculiar

{p. 143} hallucinatory state. I went off into a wonderful world filled with strange and sublime forms and was encircled with multicolored streamers of light different from anything I had ever seen. I was carried to my bed. Raymond grew quite worried and sent for a woman doctor who lived in the neighborhood. I heard her say: "If you wish, I can give him an injection for his heart." It was impossible for me to move. I could hear and feel everything, and yet I was elsewhere. I thought: "I am dead, I have almost reached Paradise, and those idiots want to give me an injection."

{p. 149} I had gradually gained a certain reputation in India as a musician and musicologist. My interest in the great classical tradition of music and my vigorous opposition to all its hybrid, so-called modern forms, which were encouraged by pressure groups and radio, had earned me strong sympathies and created a certain impact. I was the first European to proclaim that not only was this trend towards an "international" conception of music avoidable, but that such a development, in India, would be a cultural disaster. In 1950 I was named president of Calcutta's All India Music Conference, an important festival that gathers the most famous musicians in India before an audience of several thousands. I was asked, along with the famous singer Omkarnath Thakur, to organize a music school in the Benares Hindu University. Omkarnath became its director and I the assistant director; I was also made a "professor." Here, with the help of a dozen scholars, I created a research center for musical documents written in Sanskrit. I had already collected several hundred manuscripts on musical theory written between 500 B.C. and the sixteenth century. We compared texts and prepared a card index on terminology. During that period I published several articles on music and musical scholarship written in Sanskrit. ...

{p. 150} Certain sacred places "breathe of the spirit." Pilgrims go to them in search of miracles. Temples are built. Sometimes they have been abandoned for many centuries; the sanctuaries are in ruins or have completely disappeared. And yet, when the moon enters one of its "houses" on the zodiac, enormous crowds gather on these sacred sites; merchants selling various wares and entertainers go there as well. Some of these feasts take place once a year, others every four years or twice a century. They are called melas. There are similar feasts in Britanny, called pardons. The famous Kumbha mela (the feast of Aquarius) takes place every twelve years. In the days when Raymond and I would camp out for long periods in order to photograph temple sculptures, the dead city of Khajuraho was normally quite deserted. Then, during the annual mela, the entire area was suddenly invaded by

{p. 151} thousands of carts, tents, peddlers' stalls, clowns, sleight-of-hand performers, and small fires where people cooked chapattis. Pilgrims came on foot from all the neighboring region. There were no priests. No rites or ceremonies were performed, yet, responding to some kind of ancestral reflex, throngs of humble people would periodically return for a visit to this most sacred and propitious place.

The same thing happens during the great mela of Amarkantak, in central India, near the headwaters of the Sone and Narmada rivers. The site, with its magnificent ruins of abandoned temples, is almost inaccessible. For the Kumbha mela of Prayag (Allahabad), millions of pilgrims come to bathe in the place where the Jumna and Ganges rivers meet; many are drowned or trampled to death. Claude Renoir, the famous cameraman, nephew of Jean Renoir, wanted to film the Kumbha mela; he was caught in the crowd, fell into the river with all his equipment, and was rescued with great difficulty. In Benares, during solar and lunar eclipses, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims would spread all over the sacred river bank in order to bathe and cleanse their bodies of the baneful influence of Rahu, the god who devours stars.

The most remarkable feasts of all take place in eastern India and are dedicated to the Goddess. On an ancient sacred site that once boasted a miraculous sanctuary but is now only a large field, male goats are sacrificed by the thousands, each family bringing its own animal. At dusk their heads are cut off with a single blow of an axe or scimitar. The earth and the participants are all covered with blood. People move about in a bloodstained swamp. The ponds and rice paddies turn completely red.

In the Himalayas, the sacrificial victims are buffaloes and bulls. These sacrifices are performed by experts, for the animal's head has to be severed in one blow.

Foreigners speak indignantly of the barbarity of such sacrifices, conveniently forgetting the unseen horrors of the slaughterhouse. The purpose of the sacrifices is to make the gods bear witness to the terrible cruelty of a world where living creatures cannot survive without killing and devouring one another. Man too must be made aware of the seriousness

{p. 152} of the act of killing so that he will avoid doing so needlessly. Hindus are not supposed to eat the flesh of an animal which they have not killed themselves; this is why many of them prefer to become vegetarians. Buddhists do exactly the contrary. Killing is not allowed, yet they eat meat. Buddhism is a hypocritical religion.

The bloodbaths resulting from these sacrifices seem to produce a state of collective intoxication that reminds one of Dionysian rites, or Euripides' Bacchae. Sacrifices satisfy one of man's deepest needs and definitely play an important role in the psychology of the masses. This orgy of blood is a kind of revenge against the gods, against the world and all the frustrations it imposes on the less favored members of society. Having satisfied their vendetta, Hindus immediately revert to their wonderfully gentle selves, always kind towards animals and their fellowmen. Brahmans cannot participate in these popular feasts, for any form of violence is forbidden to them. Warriors and princes may witness but cannot take part in them; their violence must be expressed through the art of hunting - a prelude to the art of war, another form of murderous frenzy.

In 1942, when the Indian National Congress headed by Gandhi revealed its socialistic and progressive goals, Swami Karpatrl decided that Hindu civilization was becoming seriously threatened: it was time for the Brahmans and sannyasis, who are not supposed to take part in politics, to "descend upon the battlefield" according to the predictions of the sacred texts. Before Swami Karpatri created the Jana Sangh political movement for the defense of traditional values, he ordered the preparation of one of those astonishing rituals called yajnas, on which kings have sometimes spent their entire fortunes. This particular feast was financed by the very rich caste of tradesmen, who are always conservative in matters of religion.

In a vast field on the banks of the Ganges River, a gigantic pavilion was built, covering several acres. It was supported by bamboo pillars twenty feet high and covered with palm leaves and straw thatch. Underneath this shelter, a thousand fireplaces were dug and carefully lined with clay. Five Brahmans took turns sitting by each fire and kept it going without

{p. 153} interruption for ten whole days, murmuring ritual formulas and making offerings of grain, oil, and butter to Agni the firegod. As I watched, the immense column of prayers and smoke rising heavenward in the sky seemed like a link between the world of men and the world of gods. Neither the Congress nor the British press ever mentioned this extraordinary event which had attracted over ten thousand Brahmans and nearly a million pilgrims to the sacred city.

Certain yoga practices can develop "magic" powers: hypnosis, mindreading, long-distance vision, levitation, and the temporary suspension of heartbeat and breathing. The power of hypnosis can be so great that it is often difficult to tell whether what one sees is really happening. Yogis who truly seek spiritual fulfillment never use these tools, which are considered temptations put in their way to prevent further progress in their conquest of Heaven.

Often, while witnessing melas, I saw yogis fall into a cataleptic state and become as stiff as boards. They were laid upon two sharp-bladed swords, one under the neck, the other under the ankles. Rocks were placed on their stomachs and broken to pieces with enormous hammers, but their bodies did not even bend. Then they were buried and left underground for several hours. They would reemerge somewhat flushed, but apparently unhurt.

Sometimes, when we had visitors, we would put on magic cshows. When Cecil Beaton, who loved this kind of thing, cam to stay with us, we organized a particularly successful evening. The magician threw a rope in the air, where it remained suspended, though nothing held it from above, and sent a acolyte shinnying up it; the child disappeared into the sky. Then he placed a gold paper crown on the head of a little girl and lit a fire that seemed to come out of the child's head. He cooked fritters on a frying pan on the flames, and we ate them. After this, he made a mango tree grow before our eyes. It was wonderful to watch the plant growing little by little, the leaves opening up, finally the fruit budding and ripening. In less than fifteen minutes, the magician was able to pick the fruit off his miniature tree and offer it to the audience.

A yogi who spent some time in the house next to ours could

{p. 154} execute the "inner washings" of yoga, drawing water through his rectum or, more surprisingly, through his penis. On several occasions I saw him "drink" his morning glass of water with his sex, which must have required the most astounding muscular control. This yogi used to draw very beautiful yantras, or magic diagrams. I offered him some canvases, which he needed. A small yantra he gave me still hangs over my bed.

The practice of levitation is rare and difficult. I saw this feat performed a few times, but always in dark and smoky places; it was impossible to tell whether or not it was a trick.

Yogi magicians are sometimes very frightening people. When they look at you, you can feel all our willpower gradually disintegrating. They can seize the will of any person they choose and make him do what they want. They absorb one's psychic substance and feed on it. Like vampires, they grow to be very old but never lose their adolescent bodies, even when their faces have become ravaged and wrinkled.

I have always been afraid of yogi magicians; as soon as I began to feel the effect of their hypnotic power, I would move away. I have never taken part in experiments in spiritism and magic. Unfortunately, I have seen many people fall victim to these practices. Many of the young people who go off to India nowadays in search of "spiritual adventures" become the easy prey of these yogi magicians. Some of them remain unbalanced for the rest of their lives.


During the winter of 1934-35, we spent a holiday near the sea in Puri, in the province of Orissa. We saw some marvelous carved-wood chariots in which the images of the gods are driven about, and also visited the Sun Temple of Konarak. In those days, it was a difficult expedition. We had to rent elephants from the Rajah of Puri so that we could go across the estuaries of the rivers along the coast. Konarak, which the British call the "Black Pagoda," is a huge, abandoned temple on a sandy peninsula. Very few foreign visitors had ever seen this temple whose erotic sculptures seemed just another example of Hindu barbarity; it was unthinkable to take along "the

{p. 155} ladies." There was a small shed belonging to the Indian Department of Archaeology where one could spread blankets and spend the night. The high tower of the temple had collapsed. The nave, or mandapa, was built in the shape of a chariot and decorated with a profusion of sculptures in a style quite different from that of the other temples of India. Raymond took a great many pictures of the sculptures; it was his first attempt at photography, a craft that later earned him an important reputation. In Paris, at the end of 1935, he published his first book of photographs, Konarak, accompanied by a text written in flowery poetic prose by a novelist of the time, Andre Doderet.

These photographs are now of considerable interest. A few years after they were taken, the Department of Archaeology decided to clean the temple and remove the black coating that covered it. They used pressurized water sprays and damaged all the sculptures, destroying the delicate cement that covered the small holes in the porous rock, and leaving the faces pockmarked it looked as though the temple had been visited by the goddess of smallpox. The difficulties and discomforts this kind of expedition were very great. We decided that the only way to visit Indian monuments, which are usually quite distant from inhabited areas, was to travel by trailer. In those days, these peculiar objects were only made in America. 1936, when we stopped in Los Angeles on our trip around the world, Raymond went to the Hollywood Trailer Corporation and ordered the magnificent four-bed trailer that would all us not only to travel over the roughest terrains and jungle paths, but to sleep comfortably in the most isolated places, near temples lost in the forests of central India, the southern and Rajputana Deserts, Kashmir, and the Himalayas.

The trailer reached Calcutta the following year, packed in enormous crate. For several years we dragged it behind our Ford rumble-seat roadster, later behind our jeep. It was the first trailer anyone had ever seen in India. When Tagore first saw it, he insisted on trying it out. He sat majestically on the cushions, surrounded by several young girls, and was driven on the dirt road between the school and the agricultural institute. But a trailer is not meant to be sat in while it is being

{p. 156} driven; the venerable poet was tossed about as if he were in a salad basket and sent flying through the air while the girls tumbled pell-mell in all directions. He never repeated the experience.

For ten years, we spent several months a year in the trailer and travelled to every corner of India. Much later, after the war, when we left Benares and moved south, we sold the trailer - still in very good condition - to a rich merchant. Even then it was still the only trailer in India.


Raymond had always been interested in photography and soon acquired a professional technique. He developed his own films and made enlargements with meticulous care, dosing his chemicals for the particular effects he desired. I still have the negatives of some remarkable photographs he took in 1933, when we first went to Japan, China, and Shantiniketan: they are superb, of unequalled quality. As soon as we moved to Benares, Raymond set up a laboratory and a dark room. Soon afterward, we became interested in the type of sculpture that is called medieval, which goes from the ninth to the twelfth century, a time when Indian artists achieved a unique balance between stylization and realism and discovered a kind of geometry of life. It was during this period that the greatest numbers of temples were built in northern India. This particular period of Indian art was not at all popular with specialists. It was fashionable in those days to admire the more realistic earlier eras, Graeco-Buddhist sculpture or sixth-century art from the Gupta period, which is not unlike the baroque. The beautifully sober, stylized erotic and symbolic tradition of the Middle Ages was considered decadent and unworthy of attention. Although we were advised against it, we decided to explore medieval temples almost exclusively. Raymond ordered a ten-foot teakwood extension ladder that could be dismantled; he also bought large mirrors to reflect sunlight on the sculptures.

Each year, we would take our trailer and go off on one or two expeditions, accompanied by our two servants, Gulab and Ramprasad, and sometimes even an assistant. Our first discovery was Khajurah, whose temples were practically abandoned at the time. During the long months we spent there we never saw a visitor or any member of the Department of Archaeology, only the crowds of peasants who came for the

{p. 174} annual feast. There were no bungalows, no places to sleep or eat, no shops.

We took baths in lotus-filled ponds and bought vegetables, rice, and flour in small villages some distance away.

The work was very difficult. We had to clean the sculptures, remove wasp nests, and carefully scrape off the remains of lime that coated the temples. Then we had to build scaffoldings, wait under the burning sun for the perfect light, and adjust the mirrors to enhance it.

Raymond worked with passion, striving to reanimate the stone gods that had been abandoned for centuries in secluded forests. The moment he got home, he would lock himself in his laboratory and remain there for several days. When the marvelous images would begin to appear, one after the other, he was so elated he could neither eat nor sleep. Some of the statues became so real to him that he would fall passionately in love with them. In a letter to Pierre Arnal, he wrote: "These thousand-year-old statues have finally been released from their stone bodies and found another form, more volatile, more subtle, more alive. They will find their way to you. They will travel around the world." (Benares, 17 November, 1946)

Raymond's photographs were a revelation. It was thanks to him that Khajuraho became famous. When Nehru came to power, he decorated his office with very large prints we had made for him. Raymond was a superb technician and the thirty-two-inch-high enlargements he printed from his negatives were of exceptional quality; I was in charge of the touching up. In 1949, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, which had never shown photographs before, presented a large exhibition of Raymond's work; they said that at this level photography was truly a great art. A similar exhibition had already been shown in Paris, under the auspices of Pierre Beres.

But Khajuraho is not the only center of medieval art. There are nearly a hundred of these temple groupings lost in jungles, mountains, and deserts. Those which happened to be near urban centers were systematically destroyed by Moslem invaders. Later, when British engineers built the large railway network, they used the temples as quarries; in some roadbeds

{p. 175} of central India I found small stone hands, mutilated faces of statues, and fragments of all kinds. The last enemy of the temples was Gandhi who, in one of his mad, puritanical frenzies, sent armies of young people to.destroy all the erotic sculptures. This massacre was fortunately brought to an end by the vehement protests of the great Bengali painter, Nandalal Bose, who was director of the school of art at Shantiniketan.

As a rule, all the important temples were indicated on maps put out by the Department of Archaeology, but they were not always easy to reach. Roads and paths were everywhere, joining all the villages; from time to time, we saw ox-drawn carts driving along them. But many of these roads had been abandoned for years. Often we had to ford rivers, build rafts, or creep along gutted forest paths. By nightfall we were so covered with dust that we looked like statues just pulled out of a mudbath; our hands and faces could not be distinguished from our clothes.

We would stop near rivers and waterfalls, take baths, and wash our clothes. At night, while the heat was slowly subsiding, we would look at the stars and listen to the sounds of the forest. The trailer protected us from tiers, wolves, snakes, and mosquitoes. We often met tigers and leopards; in the morning, we could see their footprints around the trailer. But we strictly observed the law of the forest tribes, which forbids the carrying of any kind of weapon, even a concealed knife, on the grounds that tigers will never attack an unarmed man. When we were in Ramgarh, in the Rajputana, I was calling Raymond to show him a particularly fine sculpture when I suddenly found myself face to face with a tiger, who was just stepping out of the ruined temple. We politely saluted each other, and the tiger continued on his way.

The information we got from the Department of Archaeology was always very vague. Sometimes, after a long and difficult journey, we would finally reach the site we were looking for and find nothing but fragments. Other times we would suddenly discover, half hidden under the banyans and pippals - the sacred fig trees that always seem to take root in the stones - the most beautiful and sublime monuments. Even

{p. 176} today many of these temples are almost inaccessible and practically unknown. In recent years, some of them were discovered by sculpture dealers and taken apart. Raymond's photographs, which I still have in my possession, are the only evidence of their former splendor.

Once, in the mountains of central India, we were slowly travelling between Amarkantak and Chilpi on a narrow and winding forest path full of bumps and hollows, when our trailer, which was going down one slope, and the car, which was creeping up the next, suddenly got caught together, and the coupler snapped. We were quite dismayed. We were a hundred and twenty-five miles away from the nearest city: now we would have to abandon the trailer and travel for several days on unknown, perhaps dangerous paths. The situation was rather serious. We were just about to camp for the night when several young Munda warriors, armed with bows and arrows, cautiously stepped out of the jungle. These people speak a language of prehistoric origin which nobody can understand, but several of the youths knew a few words of a dialect called budelkhandi, which closely resembles Hindi. We explained our situation, hoping they would give us a few supplies. They carefully examined the broken piece and said: "We shall call our chief." The chief turned out to be a wrinkled old woman. She carefully studied the problem, took measurements, and told us that she would repair the coupler. We were rather skeptical. We were taken to a small village of huts hidden in the forest. In the middle of village was a forge used to manufacture arrowheads. It consisted of a small clay tower, ten feet high, in which various pieces of scrap iron were thrown, with an open furnace at the bottom and bellows made of whole cowhides. Small boys, stepping from one foot to the other, activated the bellows which fanned the flames; a system of ropes and counterweights allowed the cowhides to fill and refill with air. The old woman gave orders with great authority. A thick iron plate from some abandoned truck was cut to size, then pierced with holes to fit the bolts. After the piece of iron had cooled off and was fastened to the car, the bolt holes were in exactly the right place, to a millimeter. We had no problem reassembling the car and trailer. Raymond thought

{p. 177} that by being very careful he might manage to haul the trailer to the next city; but the new piece was a perfect fit and we never had to replace it.

The old woman refused any kind of payment or gift and gave our small group her blessing. We continued on our way and, in the heart of the forest, discovered the magnificent ruins of the temple of Chilpi overlooking an abandoned lake. It has probably not been visited since.

The trailer also made it possible for us to travel in comfort to the abandoned temples of the Rajputana Desert - Osian, Janjgir, Rampur, Kekind, Kiradu. In central India, we visited Madanpur, Dudahi, Deogarh, Chandpur, Bilva, Pali, etc. We also saw temples in Kashmir and other Himalayan regions.

Sir Mortimer Wheeler made Raymond an honorary officer of the Department of Archaeology, which allowed him to continue his work without too many problems.

Stella Kramrisch, professor of Indian art at the University of Calcutta, used Raymond's photographs to illustrate her great work, The Hindu Temple.

Stella was a very interesting woman. She had studied art history in Vienna, then gone to India, first to Shantiniketan then to Calcutta, where she founded the Indian Society of Oriental Art as well as a journal by the same name. Raymond became an associate editor; I contributed translations of Hindi and Sanskrit texts. Stella owned a large collection of sculptures and paintings which she later donated to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She was then named curator of the museum and professor of Oriental art.

Stella was an intelligent and likeable woman, but in her classes and written works she always insisted on using the convoluted scientific language that had been fashionable in Vienna when she was a student; translated into English, this jargon was not only incomprehensible but also quite comical, with its interminable sentences filled with reflections on mythology, philosophy, and esthetics.

She was a very active woman and constantly travelled from one end of India to another so that she could enrich her collections. She was married to a businessman who was inter-

{p. 178} ested neither in culture nor in art. They adored each other but never lived together. From time to time they would arrange a meeting in one of those private rooms for government officials that can be found in all the Indian railroad stations. They were a very united couple.

We also made many trips to the south of India; the distances are incredibly long there, so our trips were slow and difficult. We visited all the great southern temples, which are still quite active. They are vast, enclosed spaces with immense "thousand-columned" halls (there are only five or six hundred, in fact), ritual bathing ponds, and innumerable sanctuaries, where priests carry visitors' offerings to the idols and the sanctuary lamp is presented for worship to the faithful. The fact that I spoke Hindi without an accent and dressed like a northern Hindu made it easier for me to enter the sanctuaries and worship the images of the gods. Raymond took very few pictures. He was not interested in the sculptures of southern India and found them far less refined, warm, and human than those of the north.

{p. 202} While living in Madras I decided to study Tamil, an important and highly difficult pre-Aryan language of India. With the help of local specialists, I translated from ancient Tamil the great third-century epic romance, the Shilappadikaram, which was brought out by Gallimard under the title Le Roman de l'anneau. The English version was published in America by New Directions and entitled The Ankle Bracelet.

{p. 205} In every domain I have always met with the hostility of "scientists." On one such occasion, when I was being criticized as an "amateur," Louis Renou was so exasperated that he publicly protested: "Danielou may not be familiar with our methods, but when I don't understand a text, he is the man I turn to." After that, French Indianists left me in peace.

{p. 248} ... This was not the case with Mircea Eliade, the famous prophet of religious history whose superb work always struck me as being based on exterior knowledge rather than actual experience. Although he was always very polite with me, I sensed a certain reticence in this man, as I always did with university-trained Indianists and musicologists.

In the very curious Western world of Indian scholarship, no one, in fact, speaks any Indian languages. All these people's opinions on Indian philosophy are based on English-written texts. Many Sanskrit professors cannot even read the alphabet and need to use transliterations. That was why I was always considered so troublesome. I did not pretend to be a philosopher or a historian, but I knew the subtleties of the language, the meaning of the rites and symbols as well as any Brahman formed in the Hindu tradition. My approach to this extraordinary civilization challenged the ideas of people who did not really understand its spirit. It was as though I were a scholar from Ancient Egypt suddenly and mysteriously transported into the modern age among a herd of Egyptologists. It was perfectly natural that such "men of learning," accustomed to interpreting the vestiges of a "dead" civilization as they pleased, should feel threratened by a survivor who had not only practiced all the rites and sacrifices but understood their psychological and social significance, not only studied them but lived them. For these people I was an intruder who was best ignored; my works were never included in their bibliographies. Like all others, apparently, Eliade feared a reality that might disturb his clever, intelligent, but artificial system of reconstruction.

{p. 308} For many years I had grown accustomed to the extreme intellectual discipline of Hindu scholars. With them it was possible to discuss any problem without ideological interference or limited preconceived notions; one could think and try to go to the heart of things according to different value systems, without the prejudices or limitations that are created by set beliefs. Vijayanand never found it difficult to discuss ways of life or opinions about the world and the divine that were different from his own; he would analyze them logically without ever allowing himself to make judgments or trying to reconcile them with his own value system or the life he had chosen or been fated to adopt by birth. The darshana doctrine is a solid basis for well-balanced thinking. What may be true on one level is not necessarily true on another. Any hasty and superficial generalization not only leads to absurdities but is morally, socially, and intellectually dangerous. All systems are defined and limited by their data, and become false when they try to go beyond their postulates. As a result, many different relative truths can coexist without negating one another. The

{p. 309} important thing in any kind of research is to determine at the outset the limitations of its given data. This is why science, for Hindus, is necessarily atheistic, for the study of the material world does not lead to the notion of God. Yoga, on the other hand, is theistic for it leads to mystical experience, while in cosmology the "first causes" of the universe must be impersonal. A realistic approach towards any problem must necessarily take these contrasts into account; a doctor who allows his religious beliefs to interfere with the exercise of his profession not only betrays science but religion as well.

Armed with this baggage I began to renew my contacts with Europe, which appeared to be suffering from a deadly disease, a kind of cancer with some cells developing in an incontrollable manner and contaminating the others little by little. There is a limit to this kind of development, however. The countryside and wooded areas of our lands are slowly being devoured by giant urban anthills, with less and less vital space to breathe in. Certain aspects of life have grown disproportionately in relation to others, creating a serious disequilibrium. The desire for prosperity has stifled the quest for wisdom and the joy of being alive. I often used to wonder why modern Westerners were so agitated and so seldom happy. The truth is that Aryans, from whom all the dominating forces of Europe have descended - Achaeans, Dorians, Celts, Romans, Teutons, and Russians - are a predatory people. Having recently invaded a large part of the planet, populated the American and Australian continents, imposed their languages on Africa and sometimes even Asia, they have finally reached a limit, and their forces of expansion are beginning to turn against them. It seems unlikely that they will ever be able to control themselves. This is one of the great problems of history: when a natural equilibrium is destroyed, certain animal species tend to multiply to the point of self-destruction.

I was quite amazed by the incoherence of ideas, the naivete of beliefs, and the low level of reasoning that I found in Europe. Armed with their very dubious theories, so-called intellectuals seek unrelentingly to change the world without studying its logic or trying to understand its cause or purpose. ...

{p. 310} Discussions always seem to focus on critical interpretations of "prophetic" texts rather than on an effort to understand reality. Only a few "scientists" working in very limited fields seem able to escape dogmatism, but the moment they move away from these specialized areas they become as incoherent as everyone else.

No one seems capable of recognizing the point where the valid elements of a theory become absurd. A so-called ideology can very quickly turn into blind faith. People choose their arguments, their proofs, and deny any evidence that contradicts them. This kind of artificial game can only result in a distorted value system imposed by various forms of tyranny; for when one reaches the extreme limit of a lie, there is no other choice but to destroy the evidence of one's opponent and physically annihilate those who maintain and defend it. History has only too often proved this.

{p. 312} But whenever people, instead of simply being themselves, wish to be labeled as Christians, Moslems, Communists, Democrats, Fascists, or Socialists, I feel as though their minds were dead and see no point in trying to establish contact.

In a world based on systems of belief, free spirits tend to lead marginal lives. A typical example is Francois Michel, whom I met when he was preparing the Encyclopedie de la Musique, published by Fasquelle, and liked from the first moment I saw him. Though a marvelous pianist, he never made a career in music. It is impossible to belong to a clique and still maintain one's integrity. As a result Francois Michel has continued to lead a nomadic existence, and I sometimes see him in completely unexpected places, which he visits for brief periods of time.

One of the personalities who most strongly impressed me was Jean Genet, a kind of ascetic saint and a totally disinterested man who, in spite of his fame, managed to remain marginal. He spent his time and money supporting thieves, those miserable sinners society imprisons and mistreats because of their unorthodox attempts to redistribute worldly goods - something that everyone agrees should be done but seems unwilling to carry through. Among Hindus there is a moral code for thieves as well as for prostitutes. They are considered special kinds of castes that can be found in all societies, with as much right to spiritual growth as anyone else. There is no reason why a thief or a prostitute should not also be a saint: their ways of life are unacceptable only from the standpoint of social conventions, which have nothing to do with the inner life. One might even say that the true thieves are those who accumulate property and wealth.

{p. 313} Whether under the rule of capitalism or socialism, Western countries are completely dominated by the bourgeois mentality - in Hindu terms the spirit that motivates the third, or mercantile, caste. This is true not only because of the power associated with money but because of the importance of material concerns and, above all, snobbery. This word which, according to some, comes from the Italian snobile (without nobility), characterizes a caste whose interest in intellectual matters is nothing more than a desire for social advancement, power, or profit. In the political world people easily speak of the proletariat and the ruling class, but seem to forget the most powerful group of all, the merchants and the businessmen - useful, but unproductive and parasitical - who control everything connected with money but have long since overstepped the bounds that should exist in a well-balanced society .

Whether one is dealing with literature or the arts, philosophy, politics, or science, it is impossible for an idea or a principle to achieve recognition or success unless it conforms to certain fashionable and ready-made standards that are geared towards commercial interests or ambitions of power in the name of which all other values are sacrificed. In the artificial and pretentious world we live in today, independent spirits who try to find their own truth and live according to their personal ideas and tastes are viewed with suspicion. Snobs go about extolling the artistic fashions of the day as though their merits were absolute. In all artistic domains snobs seem to lead the way, not even realizing that by calling graffiti "sublime," cacophonic jumbles "musical masterpieces," and banal literary forms "works of art" they are only yielding to vulgar commercialism. They have lost all sense of reality, which generates ludicrous, even perverse attitudes in their politics as well as in their personal lives. Their judgment has been so totally conditioned that they cannot think seriously or adopt rational attitudes regarding the world and its problems. It seems as though the links between cosmology and science, art and the sacred no longer existed. Ideologies - even certain diseases - become "the latest thing," when in fact the problems are deeply vital. Fashionable Communism goes hand in hand with faddish and short-lived musical crazes or feigned enthusiasm

{p. 314} for painting styles that are totally devoid of talent, aesthetic interest, or even technique. I was quite astonished by the difference in atmosphere between the avant-garde circles of my youth, when artists flirted with the absurd without taking themselves seriously, and the postwar intellectuals who pondered over it with pedantic solemnity.

Snobs are vain and naive people who are easily used and manipulated by powerful plutocracies and other types of imperialisms. Intellectuals, unfortunately, are often part of the flock.

In the Hindu world, "knowledge" is considered above all a heritage. It is one's duty to pass it on and, if possible, add a few elements that will serve to develop and keep it up to date. As a result, those who have been deemed worthy of carrying this burden have a heavy moral responsibility, especially in the choice of their disciples. Knowledge is like a calling. Some forms of knowledge must never be transmitted to ambitious or irresponsible people. The greatest problem of a scholar is to find a disciple, a receptacle (patra) who will be worthy of this sacred trust. One of the most astonishing aspects of the evolution of Western society is its total irresponsibility and anonymity regarding the transmission of knowledge. Knowledge has become collective. A learned man or scientist is nothing more than an easily replaceable cogwheel in the machine of "progress." Nowadays, in the excitement of new discoveries and their applications, the legacy of the past is completely left aside. The keenest minds are taken up by specialized branches of science, their findings immediately thrown into the communal melting pot of all these sorcerers' apprentices, without a thought for the use that will be made of them. There is no longer any such thing as a responsible individual, only a vast community of brains. This community apparently has no guide, no presiding force, and seems to drift along aimlessly at the mercy of chance. But is it really a question of chance? Might we not be victims of an evil force goading us along with the promise of a few so-called material advantages, but leading us in fact to the total destruction of our own species? This process is obvious on all levels of society.

{p. 315} Only occasionally does a scientist, like Oppenheimer, have sufficient courage and insight, at the end of a long career, to recognize the great dangers of the world he has helped to build and the irresponsibility of collective science in its blind pursuit of an unknown and frightening destiny - a destiny everyone is aware of and no one really wants. ...

The vital music of our time is jazz, rock, disco, the popular song. What people call modern music, most often abstract compositions completely devoid of acoustical or psychological meaning, only interests a small group of conditioned music lovers. I, for one, find it deadly boring. Nowadays even the masterpieces of romantic music are too often played coldly, precisely, with no thought for anything but technique. Gone are the days when simple folk would go about humming Verdi arias or Neapolitan songs to themselves, when children learned die Forelle or Standchen without ever having heard of Schubert. A gloomy, disquieting silence has fallen upon a modern society that is saturated with the blare of radio music and the images of television advertisements.

Sometimes I sit down at the piano and play a Schubert

{p. 316} impromptu, a short piece by Grieg, a Mozart fantasia, or a melody by Faure only to remind myself that music still exists. Other times I turn to my vlna and suddenly feel myself enveloped in a world of beautifully precise and meaningful sounds, full of poetry and emotion. What the fate of contemporary music may be, I cannot say. I do not believe that it can be leading to anything. People seem to have forgotten that music is a language - the language of the soul, the language of the gods.

Young animals that live in the forests soon learn to make as little noise as possible for fear of attracting the lurking tiger. The children of poor peasants work along with their parents and know that the food on their table comes from the seeds they have sown, and from nothing else. Indian children share the lives of adults. By prolonging childhood to absurd lengths, the Western bourgeois system of education produces a society of shallow minds that have spent too many years living outside reality and are accustomed to functioning in a vacuum, constructing systems not based on experience.

Revolutions, murderous wars, and genocides are created not by artisans or peasants, who from infancy are always in touch with the problems of everyday reality, but by the idle classes who have no idea what it means to be hungry. Most of the problems of the modern West have been caused by maladjusted members of the petite bourgeoisie who spend their lives daydreaming instead of trying to learn. Whether one is speaking of Rousseau, Marx, Lenin, Sartre, Aragon, or Adorno, all revolutionary theorists are idealistic bourgeois who drag the popular masses into ill-conceived ventures of which the people, not the initiators, are always the victims. ...

{p. 317} When belief in a doctrine or ideology becomes a substitute for a serious and responsible study of facts and possibilities, it inevitably leads to the opposite of what is expected. The striking example of Soviet concentration camps has not impressed people conditioned by Marxism, any more than the genocide of the Albigensians or Incas has kept Christians from preaching charity and love of their neighbor; nor has the tragic example of Nazism prevented dictatorships from multiplying.

Marxism, which seeks to replace Christianity, has adopted its system of absolute conformism, enforced by laic"bishops" who demand blind obedience. People who consider themselves rational have grown so accustomed to accepting questionable dogma and obvious lies that they cannot react, or are afraid to do so. They seem to have lost the ability to recognize independent or well-balanced forms of thinking, which they systematically reject.

The list of populations victimized by ideologies grows longer and longer. Slogans and propaganda, which no one dares or feels able to oppose, preclude all other forms of social action or a more realistic style of politics.

{p. 320} In traditional India, marriage is neither the result of a chance encounter nor of love's illusions. Children are married off by their parents when they are ten or twelve, according to a very strict system based on racial selection, the choice of profession, and the compatibility of horoscopes. Financial matters do not come into play; a shepherdess can marry a prince. The female members of a young boy's family include not only his mother and sisters, but a little girl who is his wife. There is no need for him to seek out a female companion. At first the games they play together are fairly simple, which does not prevent him from having other experiences. At an age when Western couples are only beginning to consider the essential duties of marriage, the Indian wife already has several children and lives with other women in the gynaeceum. Although she occasionally meets her husband, they do not live as a couple.

In India there is a society of women as well as a society of men, whose preoccupations, interests, and distractions are different but complementary. The Western "couple," more and more isolated in the world of today, has become an anomaly and creates a kind of prison whose principal victims are the children.

In southern India one also finds matriarchal societies. I have always felt great admiration for those hard, responsible, authoritarian women who so competently manage vast estab-

{p. 321} lishments, with large tracts of land, herds of animals, servants, a family, and those flowerlike, dainty, elegant, impeccably groomed men who devote their time to games, sports, theater, music, literature, and war. The result is a charming and cultivated society in which the role distribution seems far more reasonable than in the West. In these matriarchal societies the level of literacy and culture is higher than anywhere else.

Man is like the male fig tree: he bestows his seed. He can produce thousands of children. Procreation is little more than an incident along his sexual journey. Of all the millions and millions of genes he can transmit through the sexual act, only a few serve towards reproduction; the rest are wasted according to the vicissitudes of life and pleasure. Havelock Ellis scandalized his time by declaring: "Man is polygamous by nature." In answer to his critics, he added: "I never met a man who had not enjoyed sexual relations with several women. I mention this only as an experimental fact." It would have been more accurate for him to say: "Man is polyvalent by nature." In traditional India, a six-year-old schoolboy has already studied texts of the Kama-sutra which explain all the secrets of loveplay and its variations. These diversions are very important, for they possess a mystical value linked to practices of tantric yoga, which forbid relations with the wife except in preliminary exercises. The aggressive puritanism of contemporary Indians is a result of the British influence. Raymond, who had been driven by jealousy into marrying Radha, was nonetheless aware of the magical value of other types of sexual acts. He wrote: "I have always felt suspicious of acts that correspond too closely to the animal nature of things." (Benares, 3 November 1948)

According to the Hindu system, the preservation of the species is an essential duty, which is why interracial marriages are strictly forbidden. Whether or not one believes in religion or rituals, the responsibility toward an unborn child is a basic moral duty. Hindus believe that children born of interracial marriages have ambiguous personalities and lose the hereditary qualities of both races, thereby causing the corruption and ruin of any society. Individual freedom is only restricted if it is harmful to a third party. This is true of procreation since it

{p. 322} involves the unborn child and the future of the species. If one does not wish to have children, the sacramental aspect of marriage is meaningless.

The solemnization of a marriage which is nothing more than a legalization of sex is the prostitution of a holy rite. It seems to me that many of the family problems of our time are the result of a conception of marriage as a simple channel for erotic energy in a puritanical society perverted by moralistic Christian nonsense. The quality of the product, the child, does not seem to be taken into account, except perhaps among the Jews, with undeniable success.

{p. 323} Egalitarian societies that try to fit everyone into the same mold and refuse to acknowledge the essential and beneficial role of homosexuals pay dearly for the consequences. I am what people call a virile man. I am daring and adventurous.

My long years of training in sports, dance, and yoga have given me far more strength and serenity than my brother, the cardinal, ever had - for to the end of his life he remained a nervous, frail, and agitated man. I can leap into adventures without even thinking of the risks involved, and have never known fear. I enjoy the company of men who possess these same qualities and feel somewhat repelled by effeminate boys and those weak, fainthearted, prissy men who can be found among woman-chasers as well as among homosexuals.

Once, when I was in Venice, I invited the parents of one of my associates for lunch. I obviously did not fit the mental image the average Frenchman forms of the "typical" homosexual, whom he usually designates by a number of pejorative terms. The moment I left the room, my associate's mother admiringly exclaimed: "But he's a regular he-man!" When I founded the Berlin Institute, a few kindly souls felt bound to inform the president of the Ford Foundation of my proclivities, to which he curtly answered: "It is certainly not obvious. Do you know anyone better qualified for the job?" The incident went no further.

I became integrated into the Hindu world without any trouble, without making any sacrifices. Through a series of erotic adventures I became aware of the subtleties, the mild taboos,

{p. 324} and all the nuances of behavior and feeling that distinguish particular civilizations. For a married man, such a degree of integration would be unthinkable. A European wife could never adapt to the traditional role that is expected of Indian women, nor would interracial marriage be the answer, since it violates the most basic taboos of Hindu society.

I have always had the feeling that my destiny, which in a way seemed to have an existence of its own, could only be accomplished if I remained unattached and without social responsibilities. I could not have a family or children. This is why the gods granted me the privilege of a nature that would keep me free from the inevitable social ties that go with having a family, while also allowing me the high level of eroticism that is essential for mental equilibrium.

Once, during a dinner party given by Enrico Fulchignoni, the Italian philosopher, I was asked various questions about polytheism and explained how every aspect of the world is a particular projection of God's mind; so that for a tree, God is a tree, for a bull, he is a bull, for a man, he is man, for a woman, woman, and for a Negro, he is black. All this seemed fairly acceptable. But when I added that for a homosexual God was androgynous, I noticed that several women were shocked. I found this reaction very interesting. If I had said that God was inevitably Christian for a Christian, or Moslem for a Moslem - or even that a Marxist, though his choice is strictly ideological, thought more or less consciously of God as a Marxist - my statement would have struck my listeners as just another paradox. They seemed totally unable to accept the idea that homosexuality was a fact of nature, therefore part of the divine order of things.

In India I learned that the first duty of man is to understand his own nature and the basic elements of his being, which he must fulfill to the best of his ability. His second duty is to respect the reality of other people. This is why he cannot conduct his life on the basis of general moral principles, at least not according to social conventions that are worthless from the point of view of human or spiritual fulfillment. No man should ever try to appear different from what he is by birth and natural aptitude, or reject the special role that has been given him as an individual or as a member of a species;

{p. 325} nor should he attempt to impose upon others a code of behavior that might prevent them from fulfilling their true destiny. I have never found it difficult to accept myself as I am. In this sense I have been very fortunate.


The main purpose of religion is to provide men with a sense of the supernatural and an awareness of the divine nature of the world. The word "religion" is probably a translation of yoga (that which connects), and refers to the fundamental link between the Creator and the created, man and the divine. The social groupings that go under the name "religion" are altogether different, however, and form a further category to be added to such human entities as race, language, tribe, and country. Religion is the most effective instrument of conquest and domination. A defeated people that is forced to adopt the religion of its conquerors loses its individuality, its rituals, its beliefs, and the magical protection of its gods. As a result it becomes vulnerable, therefore submissive and easily assimilated.

Mystics adapt more or less successfully to the dominant religion of their culture; they remain marginal and are generally mistrusted by society. For others, religion is a means of conquest, a pseudo-divine pretext for domination, corruption, and genocide. The total lack of judgment and critical sense of many Westerners which causes them to form fanatical and irrational sects in nearly every domain - social, moral, religious, as well as artistic- is mostly a result of the age-long tyranny of Christianity. They have grown so accustomed to expressing themselves through scriptural exegesis, distorting the meaning of texts more or less ingeniously, that their faculty for logical thinking has become paralyzed. This was true of my brother, the cardinal, whenever he was led into topics of conversation that challenged the foundations of the doctrine which he had to believe in. I learned long ago that believing was the opposite of knowing. People do not need to believe when they truly know; they only believe in things that they do not know. Belief is always a very poor counselor.

There is nothing original about Christianity such as it ap-

{p. 326} pears today. It is part of a system of religious and moral thought that originated with Mahavira and ancient Indian Jainism, which influenced Ikhnaton, Moses, and shortly before Jesus, the Master of Justice and the Essenes

{so Danielou sees Jainism as the original moralistic religion, predating the Aryan invasion of India, older than Akhnaton, and influencing him and Moses; yet it seems that Solomon's religion may have been polytheistic: the Song of Songs, for example, suggests a Goddess religion: jewish-taoist.html}.

With its worship of the Trinity, the Virgin, and the Saints, Christianity - like Mahayana Buddhism - reincorporated certain elements of polytheism. In the Christian religion there is no connection between theory and practice. It probably runs counter to all of the teachings of Jesus, who was essentially a liberal dissident. What we know of his doctrine was written, modified, and expurgated long after his death and in a spirit totally different from his.

The gnostics of the early Christian era, who attempted to place the teachings of Jesus within the context of his time and man's ancestral religious experience, were viciously eliminated by a Church obsessed with power. After years of internal conflicts and mutual accusations of hereticism, Christians were finally able to establish a system of politico-religious authority so stringent and so terrifying that any sign of independent thinking or attempt to return to the original teachings of Jesus was immediately suppressed. Dissidents were put to death and all their works destroyed or burned, including certain parts of the Gospels that were considered apocryphal. During the Renaissance a new attempt was made to link Christian teachings to ancient forms of wisdom, but this too was quickly put down.

From the time it set itself up as a political and missionary system, Christianity has done all it could to conceal its sources, disregarding all the other ancient traditions, claiming to have invented everything. This is why, even today, Westerners are still so ignorant of the sources of their culture or the meaning of their rites and customs. All attempts to link cosmological and theological thinking, science and religion, have been rejected. In the higher spheres of the Church, the only topics worthy of attention seem to be moral and social behavior, to which one might add a violent antisexual fanaticism, a kind of reverse Kama-sutra, which can only be of interest to psychiatrists.

Protestantism made it possible for certain Christians to es-

{p. 327} cape the massacre of "heretics" at the hand of an all-powerful Church. Scientific research, freed from the bonds of dogmatism that had paralyzed it for centuries, was finally allowed to develop. But this reformed Christian church has evolved within a framework of theological and moral concepts without a solid cosmological foundation. This is why, instead of leading to serious considerations on the nature of man, the world, and the divine, it has concentrated on scientific discoveries and their applications. The Protestants' traditional reliance on the Bible - a mixed bag of protohistoric anecdotes - as the obligatory source of all knowledge has severely restricted their freedom of thought. Until I returned to Europe, the British world was my main contact with Western culture. As a result of political events, these relatively liberal-minded Protestants had some smatterings of knowledge - incomplete and distorted, to be sure - of Indian ideas. France seemed far more closed and remote.

I had lived in a culture {in India} whose religious conceptions were very close to those of the pre-Christian era. After my return to Europe, I was surprised by the great numbers of feasts, rites, customs, and superstitions that greeted me everywhere I went; but although they were very familiar to me, no one seemed to know what they actually meant. Then I remembered hearing an old Brahman explaining the myth of the nativity of Christ to a group of ignorant, bewildered missionaries. Why was the God-child - like Ganesha or Hephaestus, son of Hera - born of a virgin, symbol of the first feminine principle? Why was he born in a cave, in the belly of the goddess Earth - the traditional site for mysteries and initiations - surrounded by an ass and a bull, the impure and the sacred beast? What was that star that guided the Wise Men, who came from three different continents and held secret doctrines representing the three different modes of initiation? Why was Jesus riding on an ass, like Shiva, when he entered Jerusalem? Why did he have twelve companions, like the Sun among the signs of the zodiac? Why did he befriend a prostitute, symbol of sacred love? Why, like Dionysus, did he turn water into wine and walk across the waters? And what was the Cross, the symbol of universality and life, of the union

{p. 328} between fire (the masculine principle) and water (the feminine principle), besides a simple instrument of torture? How and why did Christians come to forget the real meaning of all these myths and symbols, which are common to all the gods? The same is true of rites, sacred formulas, texts, the architecture of temples and their magic orientation. All the feasts, whose universal meaning has disappeared, are linked to the passage of the stars and seasons, as are thousands of other customs. All the sacred Christians {sic} sites are inherited from antiquity; saints have simply taken the place of gods and retained their magic qualities. Vatican ceremonies are in no way different from those of ancient "pagan" rites. It was in trying to understand the obvious similarities between the surviving rituals and symbols of the West and the rites of ancient civilizations, which are very close to some still existing in India, that I became interested in the Dionysian cult. Here, I found a conception of the world, of the divine, of happiness, that is very similar to ancient Shivaism and still survives, without anyone being really aware of it, in the mysteries of Christianity. Seen from this angle, the West became far less alien to me, and seemed only a world adrift that needed to find its moorings, its sources, and its origins.

The Christianity of mystics and humble people has very little to do with Church dogma, which they must accept for want of anything better. Many Christians still feel the need to commune with divine mystery in all its multiplicity, whatever names they choose to give it. Many of the people I have met in recent years are struggling hopelessly in the miasma of arbitrary and contradictory beliefs that seems to characterize the modern world. Sometimes they are attracted to so-called initiatory sects or recruited by pseudomystical adventurers, especially by certain types of Indians who preach a very simplified form of Vedanta and exploit their credulousness.

Westerners often speak of Oriental "wisdom" without realizing that this so-called wisdom is simply an attitude of realism in the pursuit of knowledge, whether the field be science, philosophy, religion, or social organization. The little that I could explain of Indian philosophy and cosmology seemed to them an important new discovery; in fact I was only describing

{p. 329} certain very rudimentary aspects of Hinduism that have been taught in the traditional world for thousands of years and have somehow been forgotten and lost in the West. Most of the problems of today are a result of monotheistic ideologies taught by prophets who believe themselves to be inspired and claim to know the truth. This is obviously absurd, for there can be no single, absolute truth. The reality of the world is multiple and elusive. Only those who succeed in freeing themselves from various forms of monotheism, dogmatism, blind faith, Christianity, Islam, and Marxism can ever hope to approach the multiple aspects of the divine, understand the proper place of man within the scheme of Creation, and discover the true path of tolerance and love as well as the good will of beasts, men, and gods.

People have often asked me whether I could suggest a line of conduct, a method, and a "religion" that might bring the Western world out of its predicament or at least help some people to fulfill themselves. But I am neither a master nor a prophet. In a world that is hastening towards its own destruction, man's only hope, according to the theory of cycles, lies in individual salvation. Hindus believe that we are approaching the last stages of the kali yuga, the age of conflicts, which must inevitably end in a cataclysm. Only when the greater part of humanity has been destroyed by an underwater explosion will Kalki, the last "messiah," appear on his white horse and grant a few individuals a reprieve in this wondrous adventure man has known on Earth.

{p. 333} Promoters of Heaven and Hell have carefully fostered man's

{p. 334} illusory belief in personal survival, which is manifestly absurd, for none of the inner faculties - memory, thought, intelligence, the concept of "self" - can live on once the physical body is gone. All that survives is our genetic memory, which passes onto other beings; but we cannot sense it or feel it.

This terrifying idea of eternal survival in an ill-defined beyond - as though anything with a beginning could possibly not come to an end - is the reason behind the tremendous fear of death so often found among Christians. It is this fear of the beyond that makes them cling to life. But death is such a simple thing, a final slumber in which all the elements of our being dissolve, become inanimate matter, and return to the workshop of the gods who fashioned us, like a broken vase that reverts to potter's clay.

Death then appears to be the end of a wonderful journey; and when it is finished we can sleep without fear, dissolving into other beings who will continue the voyage. Those who leave their organs to posterity subconsciously understand this.

There comes a time in our lives when we begin to count backwards. Like a soldier who is about to be discharged, we count the days that are left. We try to organize our time in the hope of finishing our work. We no longer wish to undertake, only to complete. It is one of the most beautiful periods of our lives: the most peaceful, as we await our well-deserved rest after so many strains and struggles. Now we can give all we have; not only the physical objects that stand in our way, but all the experience, wisdom, and tenderness we have acquired, forming that precious soil on which new lives, new experiences will develop and flower.

Life has brought me so much joy, so much sweetness, pleasure, friendship, happiness, and knowledge that the only fear I have is that I shall not have given all there was for me to give before I sleep.

The grapes have just been harvested. Le Farfadet is transformed into Bacchus. The wind is blowing through the trees. A gentle rain is perking up the garden. Our dog in the greenhouse is suckling her young.

All the naked heroes, Orestes, Homer, Achilles, Hercules,

{p. 335} have come back to life; I can hear them carousing in th swimming pool among the angels and saints of the village. Their shouts and swearing fill the air, mingling with birdsong and the rustling of leaves. In the distance lies the Eternal City, bathed in a red glow of late afternoon sun; I am too far to hear its sound and clamor.

The large, open room where I love to work looks out in all directions, revealing every landscape. I can see the Alban Mountains, dotted with tiny villages, and the terraces of the ancient temple resting on the Praenestan Hills.

Faces from the past, captured in a moment of perfect harmony, gratefully come to life in the paintings on my walls. Between my piano and my books I have just completed the seventy-ninth turn of the spiral of my life.

Here, in the heart of the Labyrinth, I have done my best bring together these memories.

October 1986

{end of quotes from Danielou}

Alain Danielou, Gods of Love and Ecstasy: the Traditions of Shiva and Dionysus: danielou-paglia.html.

Danielou's book on Shiva and Dionysus is available at

The Way to the Labyrinthis available at and

Amazon has it at

To order a second-hand copy of any of Alain Danielou's books through Abebooks

Barbara G. Walker on the "Star of David", the Kabalah, & Tantrism: jewish-taoist.html.

Write to me at contact.html.