Hermann von Keyserling

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Hermann von Keyserling (circa 1930)

Count Hermann Alexander Graf von Keyserling (July 20, 1880 – April 26, 1946) was a Baltic German philosopher from the Keyserlingk family. His grandfather Alexander Keyserling was a notable geologist of Imperial Russia.


  • “This philosophical nation par excellence” says Count Keyserling, “has more Sanskrit words for philosophical and religious thought than are found in Greek, Latin and German combined.”
    • in Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage : India and Her Neighbors.
  • Hinduism at its best has spoken the only relevant truth about the way to self-realization in the full sense of the word.
  • The absolute superiority of India over the West in philosophy; poetry from the Mahabharata, containing the Bhagavad-Gita, “perhaps the most beautiful work of the literature of the world".
  • Benares is holy. Europe, grown superficial, hardly understands such truths anymore.....I feel nearer here than I have ever done to the heart of the world; here I feel everyday as if soon, perhaps even today, I would receive the grace of supreme revelation...The atmosphere of devotion which hangs above the river is improbable in strength; stronger than in any church that I have ever visited. Every would be Christian priest would do well to sacrifice a year of his theological studies in order to spend his time on the Ganges; here he would discover what piety means.
  • I have not found in Europe or America, poets, thinkers or popular leaders equal, or even comparable, to those of India today.
    • Quoted from Gewali, Salil (2013). Great Minds on India. New Delhi: Penguin Random House.
  • India has produced the profoundest metaphysics that we know of … the absolute superiority of India over the West in philosophy; poetry from the Mahabharata, containing the Bhagavad Gita, perhaps the most beautiful work of the literature of the world.
    • source: The Case for India, Will Durant. Quoted from Gewali, Salil (2013). Great Minds on India. New Delhi: Penguin Random House.
  • Thus the unique formative power of Islam depends on the unique nature of their God. Allah deserves the name of the Master of Armies far more than Jehovah, far more than the Christian God. He is an autocrat in the sense of a general, not that of a tyrant And thus I appear to have it: the Mohammedan faith signifies, as the only one in the world, essentially military discipline. There is no question of right, no begging, no arguing, no crawling to and before God; here mere intention in prayer (Schirk) is a cardinal sin; man has to obey orders like a soldier. Now no one will deny that the form of consciousness of a well-drilled soldier ensures the greatest efficiency of all everywhere where execution and not thinking out of a problem is concerned. The Islamic world represents a single army with a unified, unbroken spirit. Such a spirit melts down all differences in the long runj it makes every one into a comrade.In Islam it has melted down all racial differences. The ritualism of this faith has a different significance from that of Hinduism and Catholicism. It is a question of making discipline objective. When the faithful perform their prayers at fixed hours in the mosque, kneeling there line upon line, when they all go through the same gesture simultaneously, this is not done, as in the case of Hinduism, as a means to self-realisation, but it is done in the spirit in which a Prussian soldier files past his Emperor. This fundamentally military attitude explains all the intrinsic advantages of a Mussulman. It explains simultaneously his fundamental failings: his lad: of progressiveness, his inadaptability, his lad: of inventive power. The soldier only has to obey his orders; the rest is Allah's business.
    • Hermann von Keyserling, THE TRAVEL DIARY OF A PHILOSOPHER VOLUME ONE , p. 204-5, (also quoted in Sita Ram Goel, The Calcutta Quran Petition, ch. 8) [1]
    • Different translation : "Islam is a religion, of absolute surrender and submissiveness to God - but to a God of a certain character - a War-Lord who is entitled to do with us as he will and who bids us stand ever in line of battle against the foe" The ritual of this belief embodies the idea of discipline. When the true believers every day at fixed hours perform their prayers in serried ranks in the mosque, all going through the same gestures at the same moment, this is not, as in Hinduism, done as a method of self-realization, but in the spirit in which the Prussian soldier defiled before his Kaiser. This military basis of Islam explains all the essential virtues of the Musalman. It also explains his fundamental defects - his unprogressiveness, his incapacity to adapt himself, his lack of invention. The soldier has simply to obey orders. All the rest is the affair of Allah."

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