HUMAN BEINGS, THEIR NATURAL AND COSMOLOGICAL ENVIRONMENT: THREE LETTERS OF ALAIN DANIÉLOU
In these letters written to Italian and French correspondents, Alain Daniélou provides insights into his own understanding of ancient wisdom, on different levels. His attempt at integrating metaphysics and cosmology without any moral interference, natural philosophy with its mystical dimension and the conception of a social order based on a cosmic distribution of functions and obligations, shows Daniélou’s holistic and unprejudiced spirit working at its full synthetic capacity. His amplification method – in speaking of the Goddess and of subtle beings of Nature – is a reaction to the general tendency of the human spirit to encapsulate itself in parcels of specialized knowledge without any integral vision – however problematic the latter may be for contemporary standards of legitimated knowledge.
LETTER TO CARLO COCCIOLI
6 November 1983
In the divine dream that is the world, nothing separates subtle energy principles from manifested forms as we usually see them. The Mother Goddess has always manifested herself in mountain caves, whether in Crete or in Malta, at Praeneste – where Aeneas made a pilgrimage to venerate her – or at Lourdes – to which popular masses flow at present. In India, the sacred places of Kumāra always attract their humble devotees – all people who ignore modern ashrams, Gandhism and business Hinduism.
Ancient wisdom has always striven to define the places, forms and beings in which gods and subtle energy forms become manifested. They are still accessible for those who are capable of perceiving their proximity. In different cultures, notions like that of a ‘sacred book’ – whether it is the Vedas, the Quran or their secular equivalents, such as Das Kapital – as well as the dogmas related to it have closed the door to any authentic exploration of reality.
LETTER TO JACQUES MABBIT
11 November 1986
Every medical system is the fruit of a long experience of pharmacopeia and method. In India I saw efficient treatments of smallpox using vegetal oil, holy smokes and uninterrupted musical recitations, as well as the healing of intestinal problems through applying cobra venom to the skin. It is very important to know the antidotes and the methods to be applied. Peru seems to me a confluence of different populations due to the differences in size, color and languages of the people living there. Research into its legendary history should produce elements for a better understanding of it.
Usually symbols, rites and structures of language are more efficient than vocabulary in retracing influences and contacts among ethnic groups. It is not easy to venture any suggestion, but I would be glad to study your observations with more time and attention.
Drugs are chemical substances that at the same time play a role in the structural balance of Nature. They are in fact magical entities related to subtle beings. There is for example a genius of opium, a genius of hemp and marihuana which should be propitiated by means of specific rituals. The use of certain drugs to facilitate mental concentration or spiritual experiences is well-known in every culture. Ritualized usage of such powers with a well-defined goal is important and beneficial, but they become destructive if they are dissociated from their scope and consumed indiscriminately. Wine, for example, an essential element in Christian liturgy, has nothing to do with alcoholism. Traditional societies managed to curb the negative effect of such substances by ritualizing their consumption.
LETTER TO OLIVIER KERMEUR
19 December 1991
The number 5 is the factor of life. It is found on each level of living organisms and plays a role in our aesthetic perceptions. It is a fundamental element of existence, as such explicitly or intuitively acknowledged in all traditions. The posthumous destiny of living beings is a mystery that gave rise to different interpretations. These are mirrored in religious texts, and each one of them stands for a particular perspective, so in a way they differ from each other. The divine is that in which contraries coexist, but we are in the sphere of limitation [avidyā], so we will never arrive at any certainty as to what lies beyond.
The combination of dharma, the right way of living, with kāma, transmission of life, and artha, social subsistence, is what permits a fulfilled existence. The attempt to give human action [karma] some sort of benefit in another life according to moral rules (related to dharma), seems to me arbitrary and could only be understood in terms of encouragement to maintain a social order which is part of manifested reality.
At death, individuality or the sense of ‘I’ as ‘doer’ [ahamkāra]breaks free and the soul, which is a fragment of an intelligent energy pool called ‘universal consciousness’, returns to its source. Probably the soul is enriched by the experiences of life, and it takes a certain time for this input to be assimilated and reabsorbed, since consciousness is not a neutral substrate, but a sum of experiences through which the ‘creator’ contemplates his work. The experiences of beings who have acquired a deeper insight into the nature of the world – artists, sages, philosophers – contribute to enriching the consciousness that will survive them; they realize their own particular destiny [svadharma] in that way. This means that our perceptions and our knowledge of the nature of the world are not annihilated in death: they are preserved in some corner of the universal consciousness which, strictly speaking, is not separate from the individual soul. This is at least how I understand the cosmological thought of the India I have known.
The merits that a master demands from his disciple are a prophylactic question. The receptacle must be healthy, but this has nothing to do with the nature of the values to be transmitted. A certain type of knowledge, or initiatic powers, can be transmitted by a mediocre and despicable individual.
The god of monotheists is the name that prophets give to the source of their inspiration. It has no cosmological or even metaphysical reality. In their ecstatic practices, Sufis are inspired by a bhūta, a genius quite similar to the spirits of animistic dance or possession cults.
Liberation is a living death in which the individual soul is in contact with the universal soul. However, this universal soul or universal consciousness is no causal principle external to the world, but rather a substrate of manifested reality. There is an infinite number of universes, each including a certain number of finite possibilities [avakāśa], such as space [ākāśa]and time [kāla]. Such possibilities are the first level of manifestation. In the language conception related to the Sanskrit language, each word has 32 different meanings, suited to the 32 sciences [vidyāḥ]. The same word may have quite different meanings depending on whether one speaks of cosmology, yoga, religion, geography, mathematics, vedānta, dharma, etc. For each subject being treated there are specific notions. Only the gods can perceive the unity of these different dimensions of reality.