Wednesday 27 January 2010

Schopenhauer and Mysticism

I think it is not all that meaningful to look for separate Buddhist and Hindu influences in the thinking of Arthur Schopenhauer, but to to look at overlapping sources, like the Upanishads, the Vedas and the teachings of the Mahayana branch of Buddhism in particular.

The chief link here, the chief point of contact, is the illusory nature of the world of perception, a world of the ephemeral, contrasting with a more deeply rooted truth. There is a common emphasis in both systems of belief, moreover, on notions of 'release' or 'liberation' from the bonds of the ego, from all material desire. The escape from existence is the escape from suffering. Schopenhauer specifically relates his own doctrine of the denial of the will with the Buddhist notion of Nirvana-"Denial, abolition, turning of the will, is also the abolition and the vanishing of the world, its mirror"; for the world is no more than "the self-knowledge of the will."

Philosophy has reached its limits and nothing but mysticism remains.


  1. Me likes Schopenhauer when he says

    The poet comprehends the idea, man's inner nature apart from all time ... and therefore, however paradoxical it may sound, far more actual inner truth is to be imputed to poetry than to history... Anyone who wants to know Man in his inner nature, identical in all its phenomena and developments, to know him according to the idea, will find that the works of the great, immortal poets present a far truer, clearer picture than the historians can ever give.

    (Arthur Schopenhauer. The World as Will & Idea. Translated by Jill Berman. Everyman, 1995).

    Though I do believe there are historians (and other writers of that kidney in general) who are enlightened with that inner truth and true discernment and are receptive to historical truths. Peter Ackroyd makes an interesting observation on historical truth in ALBION - The origins of the English Imagination when he writes about the slight difference between history and story.

  2. Thanks again, Rehan. Schopenhauer is one of my favourite philosophers, edging slightly ahead of Nietzsche. I have the Dover Paperbacks edition of his magnum opus, translated as The World as Will and Representation.