History of East-West Psychology:
An Indo-centric Approach to the Early Development of Psychology in the West

Many people have a belief that East-West philosophy and East-West psychology is a new or modern subject. This is because European history only recognizes colonial thinkers and therefore most people lack an education about the history of Eastern thought and Western interaction.

India is a place with philosophical traditions of mind that have influenced almost all streams of modern psychology. All systems of Indian thought contain psychological material, as the reflective awareness of mental functions play an important role in Sanskrit literature and culture. For example, even the texts on drama (the earliest being the fourth century BCE) contain theories about core affects and emotions and the mental perceptions which modulate them. There are ancient texts on logic debating methods of epistemology (pramāṇa). These texts are not religious and have a separation between art, science, and religion, something that has been a definition of modernity in the West. 

The influence of Sanskrit literature and its various philosophies of mind and culture have shaped the fabric of European thought for the last four hundred years.[1] This Indo-centric history is a small timeline of the introduction of Sanskrit literature into Europe and how it touched almost every major philosopher and psychologist, thereby influencing Western philosophy of mind and the foundation of psychology.[2]     

The Portuguese took control of Goa in order to control spice trading in 1510. Jesuit priests began working to understand the Indian languages and religions, similar to the Jesuit work being done on Buddhism in Japan.[3] In 1651, Bhartṛhari’s poems were translated into Portuguese[4] as the first known Sanskrit literature in Europe since exchanges during the Hellenistic time period.[5] Heinrich Roth was a German Jesuit who wrote the first work on Sanskrit grammar in 1660. The Upaniṣads then appeared in France from a Persian translation in 1671.[6]

Pierre Bayle published his Dictionnaire Historique et Critque in 1697 which had summed up the known literature from the Jesuits and other explorers of the East at that time. It discussed Buddhism, Brahmanism, concepts of consciousness, mind and nirvana. Bayle compared Spinozism with the pagan scholars of India and Persia.[7] Bayle’s exposition was done in a way that challenged the European Christian concept that everyone agreed (consensus gentium) on one god, and it showed that people without the revelation of the Church had ethical principles, evolved and just societies, and religious tolerance. These Eastern concepts created discussion and the space for scholars to question outside of church doctrine.[8] There was a passion for knowing more about Eastern thought.

Johann Ernst Hanxleden was a Jesuit who learned Sanskrit from two Nambudiri Brahmans and made a Sanskrit-Portuguese dictionary in the 1720’s. Jean François Pons was a French Jesuit who made a survey of Sanskrit Literature and grammar in 1743.[9] Gaston-Laurent Coeurdoux was a Fench Jesuit in South India who published a Telugu-French-Sanskrit dictionary and later became the father of comparative philology.

James Fraser (1713-1754) lived in Gujarat for 16 years while working for the East India Company and brought over 200 Sanskrit and Avestan manuscripts to Oxford’s Bodleian Library. In the 1760’s, John Zephaniah Holwell (1711–1798) and Alexander Dow (1730s–1779) stirred debate among Europeans with translations of Indian texts that were older than the Bible.

Voltaire received the Yajur Veda in 1760. He read various texts and praised Indian intellectual history.[10] Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil collected over 180 manuscripts in various Indian languages and almost all known Avestan language texts which he gave to the Royal Library in Paris in 1762. Stories about the Empire of India (Hindustan) were published in 1764, and a Persian history of India (Hindostan) was translated in 1768.  

Starting in 1757, India was controlled by the East India Company with its private armies.[11] The Indian education system taught in either the Sanskrit or the Persian language. During the 1760’s, John Zephaniah Holwell (1711–1798) and Alexander Dow (1730s–1779) created debate among Europeans through translations of Indian texts that were considered older than the Bible. Europeans enthusiasm about India increased, and in 1776, an ancient Sanskrit legal text compilation was translated with intent to understand India’s legal system better.[12]

European intellectuals of this time period read these translations and Universities hired professors of Orientalism. The general topics of European thought went through a major transformation. Immanuel Kant’s thoughts (Critique of Pure Reason, 1781) have been compared to themes of Yogacāra Buddhism.[13] There were articles and discussion about Indology topics.[14] In 1784, the founding of the Asiatick society began the transition from Bible-centered orientalism to a more secular approach to orientalism.[15] In 1785, Charles Wilkins, who spent sixteen years in India and learned Sanskrit in Varanasi, made the first translation of the Bhagavad Gītā into English.

Sir William Jones was a hyper-polyglot who knew twenty-eight languages and he helped identify the Indo-European language connection.[16] Jones became the Supreme Court Judge in Bengal,[17] studied Sanskrit philosophy in depth and had many Sanskrit translation publications between the 1770’s and the 1790’s.[18] His 1789 translation of Kalidasa’s The recognition of Sakuntala (5th century) inspired the “Vorspiel auf dem Theater” in Goethe’s Faust (1829).[19] Edgar Allen Poe in 1835 has a quote from Sir William Jones. These instances let us know the popularity and extent to which Jones’ Sanskrit translations were read.  

Many Sanskrit texts were translated and published in the 1800’s with great interest. In 1802, Anquetil, who had spent extensive time collecting Indian texts, published a Latin translation of the Persian translation of fifty Upaniṣads (Oupnek’hat or Upanischada). Henry Thomas Colebrooke worked for the East Indian Company, and learned Sanskrit and translated the Amar kosha (a synonym dictionary) in 1805. Colebrooke then translated Brahmagupta and Bhāsakārācārya’s works on Indian mathematics and astronomy[20] in 1817.[21] H.H. Wilson, among many other Sanskrit works, prepared the first Sanskrit-English dictionary in 1819.

Hegel (1770-1831) discussed both Indian and Chinese philosophy in his Lectures on the History of Philosophy (given between 1819 and 1831).[22] With our present perspectives, it is important to understand that Hegel and other philosophers of his time, taught these lectures within a framework that the world was only a few thousand years old and that all people descended from Noah’s Ark.[23]

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was a German philosopher openly influenced by Vedānta, Buddhism and other Eastern philosophy. Schopenhauer read the works of the famous Indologist Sir William Jones and quotes him.[24] In 1814, Arthur Schopenhauer read Anquetil’s Latin translation of the Fifty Upaniṣads and called it the worthiest literature in the world to read.[25]  

As Sanskrit literature influenced European ontological thought, philosophical discussion, and religious debates, more and more texts were translated. Peter van Bohlen was a professor of oriental literature who published his translation/research on the psycholinguistics of Bhartṛhari in 1833 and the poetry of Kalidasa’s Ritusanhara in 1840. Otto von Böhtlingk, whose first Vedic grammar text was in 1847, translated and expanded H.H. Wilson’s dictionary into the Sanskrit-German Petersburg Dictionary. Sir Monier Williams published many Sanskrit works between 1846 and 1897 and furthered the dictionary translation work back into English with his famous English-Sanskrit dictionary in 1870. Georg Bühler translated numerous Sanskrit works between the 1870’s and 1890’s.

Translation of Sanskrit texts and their discussions during this time in Germany was immense. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was an initial proponent of Schopenhauer, who was influenced by Buddhism which he held in high regard.[26] Paul Jakob Deussen, a friend of Friedrich Nietzsche, was an orientalist who was influenced by Arthur Schopenhauer, published Sanskrit literature on logic, inquiry, and Vedānta between 1877 and 1922.

The list of Sanskritists in the 17-1800’s goes on in much more depth.[27] The history above are a few of the more popular examples of the huge amount of British, French and German orientalists and Indologists from the 1600’s to the 1800’s. Various Asiatic and Oriental research journals were popular.[28] During this time period, European and American psychological thought struggled to stay in alignment with church doctrine, as it tried to understand the mind’s relationship to the machine of the body.

Europeans contemplated new realms as they learned of Buddhist non-theism and Vedānta calling the existence of the material world and individual self an illusion. In 1637, Descartes made the statement that “I think therefore I am (je pense, donc je suis), which some attempt to call metacognition. But the statement indicates that he identifies his self or his being-ness with the fluctuating thinking of the mind, which is a relatively low level of mental awareness. Indian literature began awakening a deeper look at self-reflective thought (vicāra), being aware of the consciousness being aware of the thought process (vimarśa), differentiating the conscious perceiver from the affects, emotions and thoughts that arise in the mind (viveka) in order to study them, awareness of the shadow self (pāpa puruṣa), the relationship between affects (bhāva) and emotions (rasa), and other psychological concepts which influenced philosophers of mind.[29]

Many have failed to distinguish and acknowledge the transition of European thought as it integrated Sanskrit ideas because at the time it was officially unacceptable to acknowledge non-white colonial people. European colonization and the proceeding study of Indian philosophy changed Europe itself; the observer was changed by what was observed.

 After an Indian rebellion in 1857,[30] the British Crown took control of India, and began enforcing Babington Macaulay’s 1835 plan to instill European superiority by actively discrediting Indian intellectual history and only teaching European philosophy through the English medium in Indian schools.[31] This was similar to the philosophy of boarding schools of North America to civilize the Native Americans by breaking their language and cultural connection. British Indology became less popular in England, especially since promoting Sanskrit’s superior grammatical system, or about India being the birth place of Algebra or mentally developing games like Chess did not support the British government’s program of oppression of “an inferior race.” [32]   

Indology still flourished in Germany, but public praise lessened and information was appropriated without acknowledgement. Within this context, Max Müller is one of the most famous German Indologists who published in English from 1844 to 1902 and has influenced the field of Indology more than almost anyone else. Hermann Oldenberg was a German Indologist whose 1881 study of Buddhism remained continuously in print. He also translated Theravada Vinaya texts, Vedic Grhyasūtras, and Vedic Hymns. There were more Sanskrit works translated before World War II than have been done since and many of these are still the standard translations used in English. 

William Dwight Whitney was an influential Sanskrit translator and Vedic philologist who lived in Massachusetts and published a large amount of Sanskrit literature between 1856 and 1894. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), Henry David Thoreau (1843-1916),[33] Walt Whitman[34] (1819-1892), William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) and T.S. Elliot[35] (1888-1965) all acknowledged inspiration from Sanskrit literature.[36]

The influence of Indian grammar on western thought and psychology cannot be under estimated. The Sanskrit grammarian Bhartṛhari, specifically, was more of a psycholinguist than a simple grammarian. His discussions of language were filled with psychological material. Much of this has been appropriated without reference. William Dwight Whitney discusses the arbitrary nature of language signs and the social constructionism of language. This was expanded by the Sanskrit lecturer, Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), who founded the school of structuralism. Saussure’s ideas are said to have laid the foundation for modern linguistics and semiology. The great linguistic turn in western philosophy,[37] is the realization that language constructs the world we perceive and is not just a simple representation of an objective world.[38] The linguistic turn influenced Gottlob Frege (1848- 1925), one of the founders of analytic philosophy, and Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) who influenced many analytic thinkers, logicians, and philosophers of mind.[39] All of these thinkers are in debt to the concepts within Sanskrit, which are fundamental to their line of thought.   

Ken Wilber calls this linguistic turn “just another name for the great transition from modernity to postmodernity. Where both premodern and modern cultures simply and naively used their language to approach the world, the postmodern mind spun on its heels and began to look at language itself.” Wilber naively states that “in the entire history of human beings, this, more or less, had never happened before.”[40] Yet, the majority of ideas contained within the linguistic turn are appropriated Sanskrit concepts. For example, Ferdinand de Saussure’s idea that a linguistic sign is composed of three parts: a material signifier (written or spoken word), the signified (a concept associated with the word), and the actual referent was considered monumental. In the fourth century, Bhartṛhari taught that within the comprehension of sound there are three primary elements to perceiving. The first is the sound or word (śabda) which denotes an object, then the mental apprehension (pratyaya) of the meaning of the word, connecting the sound to the object. Then the actual object (artha) denoted by the word. The consciousness has pratyaya (apprehension) of artha (objects) and names those objects by śabda (word). This concept was developed much more in later Sanskrit texts,[41] yet its Sanskrit source is not referenced in European discussion and even denied in American literature. Heidegger[42] and Postmodernism[43] are heavily influenced by the grammatical and linguistic concepts of Sanskrit.

Europe and America had no formal psychology before the late 1800’s. Early psychological writings of the 1700’s were called metaphysics: that which is beyond (meta) the physical.[44] During the early 1800’s there was debate in the writings of Kant and Reid about whether the mind was something to study scientifically or whether it was meant to be philosophized about.

The German scientist Wilhelm Wundt is considered the first western scientist to experiment with self-consciousness in his psychological laboratory in 1879. He was a scientist and philosopher who lectured on physiology, social anthropology, cosmology, language, neurophysiology, sensory perception and cultural psychology. Sanskrit literature directly influenced his peers and the topics of his time period, and his process theory particularly shows an influence of the non-theist Saṁkhya philosophy (popular at that time) which focuses on mental causality, efficient cause, sensory stimuli, mental structure, self-inquiry and observation.[45] Wundt is considered the first psychologist and defined the new science of psychology as the study of the general principles of the “entire experience in its immediately subjective reality.” Wundt made the distinctions between philosophy, the metaphysics of the soul, physiology and the new science of psychology. Wundt himself had a very integral approach, but his followers have not used his broad minded vision.

While Wundt worked to ground the science of mind into the material world, others went in a spiritual direction. Helena Blavatsky moved to India in 1879, and with her Theosophical Society and worked towards developing the “New Age” approach. Many texts with Sanskrit psychological material were translated into English by authors supported by the Theosophical Society and many important scholars were inspired by these publications and meetings.[46]

William James is considered the father of American Psychology. He was a Harvard professor and philosopher who helped establish the field of psychology as a logical and empirical discipline and the first American professor to teach a psychology class. William James was openly interested in Buddhist philosophy and its views on consciousness.[47] He was interested in Indian philosophy and parapsychology and became a member of the Theosophical Society in 1882.[48]  James took twelve years to produce the Principles of Psychology, a two volume set in 1890 which was the first psychology text book in America. He is known to have invited the Sri Lankan Buddhist, Anagarika Dharmapala,[49] to lecture in his Psychology class in 1903 and made a comment that implied the West still had a lot to learn from Buddhism.[50]

Sir John George Woodroffe (1865–1936) started as a Judge in the Calcutta High Court and rose to become the Chief Justice of India. He translated and commented on over twenty Sanskrit Tāntric texts from 1913 to 1922 under the pseudonym Arthur Avalon. He was a specialist in the realm of Yoga and Tantra, and brought into popularity concepts such as non-dualism, śakti, śaktism, chakras and the transformative power of kuṇḍalini, which inspired many early psychologists.

In a clinical setting, Freud began changing the discussion of psychology in 1895,[51] and Carl Jung in 1912. In 1914, Caroline Rhys Davids published Buddhist Psychology: An Inquiry into the Analysis and Theory of Mind in Pali Literature.[52] This was also the time period where the Indologist Heinrich Zimmer (1890-1943) began teaching and publishing his work on Myth and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. Zimmer’s lectures where he interpreted art according to Indian philosophy were attended by Joseph Campbell, who edited Zimmer’s work after his death. If we compare the literature on myth previous to Zimmer, we see anthropologist-psychologists like Wundt discussing the religious (adhidaivika) and nature explanations (adhibautika) aspect of myth.[53] After Zimmer we see the traditional psychological (ādhyatmika) aspect of myth being elucidated and a cross pollination and development of interpreting myths and symbols.

In 1933 Switzerland, Olga Froebe-Kaptey founded the gatherings of Eranos (a banquet of ideas) to bring together various multi-disciplinary scholars. The theme of the first conference was “Yoga and Meditation in East and West” (1933), and the second conference was “East-west Symbolism and Spiritual Direction” (1934). At these gatherings, people like Carl Jung and Heinrich Zimmer became friends and shared ideas.[54] Carl Jung had a deep interest in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, and familiarity with Indologists such as Max Mueller, Oldenburg and Duessen, as well as discussions with his friend Herman Keyserling.[55] Jung spent a lot of time contemplating Eastern concepts and appropriating aspects he appreciated.[56]  

A colony is the property of the colonizer. The people and resources of the colony are controlled how the owner chooses. This is not a relationship that respects the inhabitants, their time, or their intellectual property. Europeans believed they had no need to reference the source of their ideas inspired from Sanskrit sources. Euro-centric history teaches a limited perspective about colonialism and ignores the civilizations that it destroyed for financial benefit. This leaves most people unaware of the history of Sanskrit literature and its influence on the great minds of our society.

Smaller movements of Indian philosophy influenced the West through various Indian teachers such as Swami Vivekanada (1863-1902), Paramhamsa Yogananda 1893-1952), Sri Aurobindu (1872-1950), Swami Sivananda (1887-1963). These first well known Indian teachers began to teach after Sanskrit philosophy had already made a respected space in western thought for them to be received. The Indian teachers of the 1960’s stood on the shoulders of these previous teachers and marked about 400 years of East-West philosophy.   

J. Robert Oppenheimer quoted from the Bhagavad Gītā after detonating the first atomic bomb explosion in 1945 because while he was a professor at Berkeley in 1933 he had learned to read Sanskrit with the scholar Arthur W. Ryder. The Second World War changed Europe (and Germany which was a seat of Sanskrit research), and the study of Sanskrit literature lost its momentum. Presently, many people associate Indian philosophies influence on the West with the hippy movements of the 1960’s and the Yoga movement of the 2000’s, but this is indicative of the lack of acknowledgment of the role of Indian Philosophy on modern thought.[57] The lack of understanding Sanskrit literature’s impact on Western culture is a remnant of Colonial rule. British colonialism utilized white supremacy to maintain power over their non-white colonies. There are texts on inquiry predating Socrates and Plato by about a thousand years,[58] but British supported scholars consciously denigrated local Indian culture and promoted the myth that all philosophy originated in Greece and Rome in order to maintain the white supremacy view. Later white generations were raised with this belief which increased the sense of superiority and promoted a lack of accurate historical context of what European nations received from its colonial occupations.

Many believe that racism is a thing of the past, but it still exists in how history is framed during ‘colonial consolidation.’ The United States ended slavery in 1863, but did not give civil rights to coloured people till 1964. India received independence from Britain in 1948, and South Africa only ended apartheid in 1994. White prejudice and oppression is not an outdated concept and still persists. The average college-educated person is unaware that Europe did not bring “civilization” to the world, but instead pillaged and destroyed cultures that had advanced forms of mathematics, astronomy, social theory and laws. The British Eurocentric prejudice of white supremacy was an official standard in the Universities of America until the 1960’s, and these ideas still persist in latent forms. Some University philosophy programs are still arguing at the time this is written in 2017 that only European thought is considered philosophy.[59] Recent research and publications by scholars of the post-civil rights generations have begun to present a more even viewpoint but the system is slow to change.[60]

Sanskrit literature influenced the greatest minds of western thought. The transformations of thought within the philosophy of mind in the last four hundred years cannot be seen outside of the context of Indian philosophy’s impact on western consciousness. The development of western psychology seen within an interactive context has the potential to broaden western clinical practice by deepening the roots of ideas and theories utilized today. East-West philosophy/psychology is not a new field, it is actually older than the field of psychology itself.   

First Draft May 2017


[1] The influence of Sanskrit philosophy on European thinking is not a new concept. It has been discussed in depth, here I just specifically focus on the precedents for the development of psychology. See Wilhelm Halbfass, Tradition and reflection: Explorations in Indian thought (New York: SUNY Press, 1990). And also Wilhelm Halbfass, India and Europe: An Essay in Understanding (originally SUNY 1988 and now Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1990).

[2] I use the term Sanskrit and Sanskrit literature instead of Indian or Hindu. I avoid the term Indian, as the classical literature was written in Sanskritic Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal and modern day India. I avoid the term Hindu as it blurs the line between an ethnic connotation and a religious connotation. Sanskrit literature contains Vedic, Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and non-religious literature such as texts on mathematics, laws, astronomy, art, poetry, etc. The proper Sanskrit term would be Sanskriti, which means Sanskrit culture. 

[3] Urs App, The Cult Of Emptiness: The Western Discovery of Buddhist Thought and the Invention of Oriental Philosophy (Switzerland, University Media, 2014).

[4] Abraham Roger (1609 – 1649) was a Dutch clergyman and translator working for the Dutch East India Company who, in 1651, authored Open Door to the Secrets of Heathendom (De Open-Deure tot het verborgen Heydendom ofte Waerachtigh vertoogh van het leven ende zeden, mitsgaders de Religie ende Gotsdienst der Bramines op de Cust Chormandel ende der landen daar ontrent). This was the first European text describing Brahmanical customs and rituals (Hinduism). The third part of the book is a “Hundred aphorisms on the path to heaven by the heathen Bhartṛhari, famous amongst the Brahmins on the Coromandel Coast.”
See also Gaurinath Sastri, “History of the study of Sanskrit in the West”, A Concise History of Classical Sanskrit Literature (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987), 1.

[5] Thomas C. Mcevilley, The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies (New York, NY: Allworth Press, 2001).
See also Parkes, Graham, Heidegger and Asian Thought (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1987).

[6] Tathagatananda, Swami. Journey of the Upanishads to the West (Vedanta Society of New York, 2002).

[7] Urs App, The Cult Of Emptiness, 225.

[8] Ibid., 219.

[9] He influenced the works of Charles de Brosses (French writer), Alexander Dow (Orientalist, writer, playwright), Johann Rudolf Sinner (German writer), Voltaire (French writer, historian, and philosopher), James Burnett-Lord Monboddo (founder of modern comparative historical linguistics), Nathaniel Brassey Halhed (English Orientalist and philologist), Nicolas Beauzée (French linguist), and Lorenzo Hervás y Panduro (Spanish philologist and linguist).

[10] “I am convinced that everything has come down to us from the banks of the Ganges; astronomy, astrology, metempsychosis, etc… It is very important to note that some 2,500 years ago at the least Pythagoras went from Samos to the Ganges to learn geometry…But he would certainly not have undertaken such a strange journey had the reputation of the Brahmins’ science not been long established in Europe.”  Voltaire, Lettres sur l’origine des sciences et sur celle des peuples de l’Asie, letter of 15 December 1775, first published Paris, 1777. Accessed 25 March 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indomania.

[11] For a discussion of the East India Company, its politics and how India is perceived because of that, see John Roosa, “Orientalism, Political Economy, and the Canonization of Indian Civilization.” In Enduring Western civilization: the construction of the concept of Western civilization and its “others” edited by Silvia Federici, pages 137-155 (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 1995).

[12] This was translated by Nathaniel Brassey Halhed while in service of the East India Company in hopes to improve British implementation of law in India. It was followed by his Bengali grammar text in 1778. Halhed later translated Tipu Sultan’s book of Dreams (1810) and various parts of the Mahabharata. His Upaniṣad translation was unpublished and is only available at the British Museum. See Rosan Rocher, “Nathaniel Brassey Halhed on the Upaniṣads (1787).” Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute 58/59 (1977): 279-89. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.sfpl.org/stable/41691698.

[13] Immanuel Kant was inspired by many Sanskrit ideas that gave him a broader perspective. While European philosophy had been focused on Christian ideologies, Church doctrine, and Christians and Muslims, Kant remarked that the Hindus “do not hate the other religions but believe that they are also right.” Quoted from Dwijendra Narayan Jha. Rethinking Hindu Identity. (Routledge, 2014), Section 2, Tolerant Hinduism: Evidence and Stereotype. See also Alison Gopnik, Could David Hume Have Known about Buddhism? Charles Francois Dolu, the Royal College of La Flèche, and the Global Jesuit Intellectual Network, accessed 26 March 2017, http://www.alisongopnik.com/papers_alison/gopnik_humestudies_withtoc.pdf

[14] Details of lectures and discussions can be found in Tathagatananda, Journey of the Upanishads to the West, 2002.

[15] Urs App, “William Jones’s Ancient Theology,” Sino-Platonic Papers, volume 191 (2009), viii. http://sino-platonic.org/complete/spp191_william_jones_orientalism.pdf.

[16] The Indo-European language connection was already mentioned by Filippo Sassetti in 1585, Schulze in 1725, and Coeurdoux in 1767; see Wilhelm Halbfass, Tradition and reflection: Explorations in Indian thought (New York: SUNY Press, 1990). 63.

Jones stated “The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could have been produced by accident; so strong, indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists.” From Vasunia, Phiroze, The Classics and Colonial India (Oxford University Press, 2013), 17. While he believed in the ancient nature of Sanskrit, Jones continued to have a deep attachment to Biblical chronology. See Urs App, “William Jones’s Ancient Theology,” Sino-Platonic Papers, volume 191 (2009), 77.

[17] Jones was a well-connected politician and a friend of Benjamin Franklin. See also Rick Fields, How the Swans Came to the Lake (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1992).

[18] Jones inspiration to learn Sanskrit first came after reading a Persian translation of the Bhagavata Purāṇa in 1784. Then he was inspired by his studies of the Prince Dara’s Persian version of the Upaniṣads and the Yoga-Vāsiṣṭha. Jone’s stated that “A Persian version of the Jōg Bashest [Yoga-Vāsiṣṭha] was brought to me the other day, in which I discovered much of the Platonick metaphysicks and morality; nor can I help believing, that Plato drew many of his notions (through Egypt, where he resided for some time) from the sages of Hindustan.” Quoted from Urs App, “William Jones’s Ancient Theology,” Sino-Platonic Papers, volume 191 (2009), 16. Jone’s was also known to have carried on a ten year correspondence about Jyotiṣa with Samuale Davis, another orientalist who was a diplomat for the East Indian Company.

[19] Georg Forster produced the German prose translation of Jones’ English version of “Sakuntala” and sent a copy to Goethe who wrote,
“If in one word of blooms of early and fruits of riper years,
Of excitement and enchantment I should tell,
Of fulfillment and content, of Heaven and Earth;
Then will l but say “Sakuntala” and have said all.”
Quoted from “How Kalidasa’s Works Reached Germany,” Indian Review, accessed 25 March 2017, http://indianreview.in/essays/literary-studies/indian-literature-how-kalidasa-reached-germany

[20] Colebrooke later became the president of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1822.

[21] This is the first official translation, but there is dispute about how much of this mathematics came into Europe earlier through Jesuit Priests. Bhāsakāra II (1114-1185 CE) and Madhava Sangamagrama (1340-1425), the founder of the Kerala school of mathematicians, used calculus before either Newton or Leibniz. There are various theories about this work entering Europe although open translations made by Jesuit priests, particularly the German Jesuit astronomer/mathematician Clavius who was investigating how other cultures calculated their calendars. Almeida, D. F., J. K. John, and A. Zadorozhnyy. “Keralese mathematics: Its possible transmission to Europe and the consequential educational implications.” Journal of Natural Geometry 20, no. 1/2 (2001): 77-104.
Gheverghese says “For some unfathomable reasons, the standard of evidence required to claim transmission of knowledge from East to West is greater than the standard of evidence required to knowledge from West to East.” Quoted from Indians Predated Newton’s ‘Discovery’ by 250 Years, posted 13 August 2007, accessed 16 August 2017, http://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/indians-predated-newton-discovery-by-250-years. See also Joseph, George Gheverghese. The crest of the peacock: Non-European roots of mathematics. Princeton University Press, 2011.
For an anti-racist activist discussion of the history of mathematics see C.K. Raju, Archive for the ‘History and Philosophy of Mathematics,’ assessed 16 April 2017,http://ckraju.net/blog/?cat=9.

[22] Oliver Crawford, Hegel and the Orient, accessed 25 March 2017, https://cambridge.academia.edu/OliverCrawford. A sample of Hegel’s Indian philosophy is available here: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/hp/hporiental.htm. A comparison of Hegel’s thought and Indian philosophies is available here: http://www.unipune.ac.in/snc/cssh/ipq/english/IPQ/1-5%20volumes/03-3/3-3-4.pdf.

[23] In 1776, the standard world history by Jacob Bryant attempted to make sense of all Chinese, Indian and Persian history within the history of the Old Testament. See Urs App, “William Jones’s Ancient Theology,” Sino-Platonic Papers, volume 191 (2009), 8. See also Urs App, The Birth of Orientalism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), xiii.

[24] … how early this basic truth was recognized by the sages of India, since it appears as the fundamental tenet of the Vedānta philosophy ascribed to Vyasa, is proved by Sir William Jones in the last of his essays: “On the Philosophy of the Asiatics” (Asiatic Researches, vol. IV, p. 164): “The fundamental tenet of the Vedānta school consisted not in denying the existence of matter, that is solidity, impenetrability, and extended figure (to deny which would be lunacy), but in correcting the popular notion of it, and in contending that it has no essence independent of mental perception; that existence and perceptibility are convertible terms.”

[25] Urs App, Schopenhauer’s Compass. An Introduction to Schopenhauer’s Philosophy and its Origins. University Media, 2014.

[26] Nietzsche’s high regard for Buddhism was my own entry into the world of Buddhism. My sophomore year of high school, I read the collected works of Nietzsche, and afterwards started reading Buddhist thought.

[27] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Indologists

[28] https://www.jstor.org/journal/jroyasiasocgrbi

[29] It’s important to notice that I am comparing western philosophy of mind and psychology to similar components of Sanskrit literature, not comparing it to the religious aspects of Hinduism which is what is taught in “religious studies.” Concepts of nirvana, Advaita (non-duality), impermanence, etc are religious concepts and are often confused with the more anatomical, logical systems of Sanskrit thought on the functioning of consciousness.    

[30] Similarly, in the United States, a more intense segregation began after Bacon’s rebellion (1676), and they began to do away with European indentured servants and “teach Whites the value of whiteness.” See, Pem Davidson Buck, “Constructing Race, Creating White Privilege,” Race, Class, and Gender in the United States, edited by Paula S. Rothenberg, (New York: Worth Publishers 2014), 33.

[31] “The intrinsic superiority of the Western literature is indeed fully admitted by those members of the committee who support the oriental plan of education.” Thomas Babington Macaulay, Minute by the Hon’ble T. B. Macaulay, dated the 2nd February 1835.  http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00generallinks/macaulay/txt_minute_education_1835.html  See also Thomas Babington Macaulay, “Government of India” A Speech Delivered in the House of Commons on the 10th of July 1833. http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00generallinks/macaulay/txt_commons_indiagovt_1833.html

[32] George Gheverghese Joseph discusses the colonial myth of Greece as the cradle of knowledge for imperial control over the colonies. For example, presenting mathematics and astronomy as a purely a European invention and omitting its actual development in the colonial territories to present the view that the empire has brought civilization to the uncivilized. See George Gheverghese Joseph, “Mathematics and Eurocentrism.” In Enduring Western civilization: the construction of the concept of Western civilization and its “others” edited by Silvia Federici, pages 119-135 (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 1995).

[33] Alan D. Hodder, Thoreau’s Ecstatic Witness (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008). See also Rick Fields, How the Swans Came to the Lake (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1992).

[34] A comparison of Whitman’s ideas and poetry to the Sanskrit translations available at the New York public libraries during the time period he wrote Leaves of Grass can be found in Tumkur Rudraradhya Rajasekharaiah, The Roots of Whitman’s Grass (New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1970).

[35] Sri, Padmanabhan S. TS Eliot, Vedanta and Buddhism (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1985). See also: Kearns, Cleo McNelly. TS Eliot and Indic Traditions: A Study in Poetry and Belief (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987). See also: Singh, Amar Kumar. TS Eliot and Indian philosophy (Sterling Publishers, 1990).

[36] A book discussing the influence of Sanskrit concepts starting with Emerson and Thoreau and focusing on its extensive impact on modern culture: Goldberg, Philip. American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation–how Indian Spirituality Changed the West (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2010).

[37] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_turn

[38] This concept is found throughout Sanskrit literature. See Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad 4.1.2: Yājñavalkya replies Janaka that it is language (vāk) itself that we have perceptual understanding (prajñā). It is through speaking/language (vaca) that we have a felt perception (prajñāyate) of a friend, as well as the four Vedas, history, mythology, the sciences, Upaniṣads, mantras, aphorisms, elucidations, explanations, the results of sacrifices, the reasons for fire offerings, everything about this world and the world beyond is understood/perceived (prajñāyate) through language (vaca).

[39] One of the original analytic philosophers, Gottfried Leibniz, discussed the various opinions of Oriental scholars after the publication of Pierre Bayle’s Dictionnaire Historique et Critque. See Urs App, The Cult of Emptiness: The Western Discovery of Buddhist Thought and the Invention of Oriental Philosophy (Switzerland, University Media, 2014), 225-226.

[40] Wilber, Integral Psychology, 164-165.

[41] For an example of how this was continually developed and was intricately discussed, see Kiyotaka Yoshimizu, “How to Refer to a Thing by a Word: Another Difference Between Dignāga’s and Kumārila’s Theories of Denotation.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 39, no. 4 (2011): 571-587.

[42] Heidegger, who completed his doctoral thesis on psychologism in 1914, was said to be more influenced by Chinese thought and even attempted a translation of the Tao Te Ching, but by that time, Sanskrit ideas had already created the field of thought in German psychology as can be seen in Olson, Indian Philosophers and Postmodern Thinkers, 2002. See also Graham Parkes, Heidegger and Asian Thought (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1987). See also Reinhard May, Heidegger’s hidden sources: East Asian influences on his work (New York: Routledge, 1996).

[43] A direct look at the roots of postmodern philosophy influenced by Sanskrit thought. Olson, Carl. Indian Philosophers and Postmodern Thinkers: Dialogues on the margins of culture (New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 2002).

[44] Edward Reed, From Soul to Mind (Yale University Press: New Haven, 1997), 22.

[45] Saṁkhya philosophy is a non-theist philosophy of consciousness. It is non-theist because it says that god cannot be proven to exist or proven not to exist and is therefore not pertinent to the study of consciousness. What is pertinent is sensory perception. Many people assume that Indian philosophy relates to spirituality, as they have learned about Hindu religious rituals, but have not learned about rational Indian theories of logic, physical science, mathematics and astronomy.

[46] See Harry Oldmeadow, Journeys East: 20th century Western encounters with Eastern religious traditions. (Bloomington, Indian: World Wisdom, Inc, 2004), 63-94.

[47] David Scott, William James and Buddhism: American Pragmatism and the Orient, Religion, Volume 30, Issue 4, October 2000, Pages 333-352 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048721X00902926

[48] Tony Lysy, “William James, Theosophist,” Quest magazine, 88.6 November-December 2000): pg 228-233. https://www.theosophical.org/publications/1556

[49] Anagarika Dharmapala was a Buddhist monk associated with the Theosophical movement. See Harry Oldmeadow, Journeys East: 20th century Western encounters with Eastern religious traditions. (Bloomington, Indian: World Wisdom, Inc, 2004), 65.

[50] “This is the psychology everybody will be studying 25 years from now.”

[51] Freud had little direct South Asian influence, besides the German preoccupation with understanding the psyche that was awoken with Sanskrit literature. Freud’s views seem to be based primarily on his clinical experiences with Plato and Jewish mysticism (German translation of Hayyim ben Joseph Vital and French translation of the Zohar).

[52] https://archive.org/details/cu31924022982072

[53] His folk psychology (which is an anthropological cultural psychology study) discusses myth through the religious lens of soul, salvation, and the heaven of Christian culture and the natural rhythms of nature that are embedded in Greek nature myths (pages 414-426). His concepts of Buddhism were extremely Christian to the point of seeing Nirvana as similar to Heaven (pages 497-509). Wilhem Wundt, translated by Edward Leroy Schaub, Elements of Folk Psychology: Outlines of the Psychological History of the Development of Mankind (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1916).

[54] Harold Coward, Jung and Eastern Thought (SUNY Press, 1985).

[55] Herman Keyslerling was a proponent for a synthesis of Eastern and Western philosophy. Jung was a pluralist highlighting differences and being critical of a unitive philosophy promoted by the Theosophical Society. Sudhir Kakar, Jung, Freud and India, accessed 21 March 2017, http://www.figs-india.org/Lectures/WPML/15.pdf, p.1.

[56] Jung was invited to India by the Indian Science Congress in 1938. Besides suffering amoebic dysentery in the hospital for ten days, he had a hard time when he visited India as his European superiority didn’t allow him to be receptive to learning directly from the culture. He believed the Indians were civilized noble savages and mocked the Indian clothing (dhoti) as effeminate and complained about the Indian culture. The following statement reveals his attitude when he said that India has “no sense of persona; it only knows the archetype. And that is why I made no plans to visit Swamis or Gurus when I went to India. I knew what a Swami was; I had an exact idea of his archetype; and that was enough to know them all, especially in a world where extreme personal differentiation does not exist as it does in the West. We have more variety, but it’s only superficial.” Referenced from Sudhir Kakar, Jung, Freud and India, accessed 21 March 2017, http://www.figs-india.org/Lectures/WPML/15.pdf, 6.

[57] A technical history that looks directly at the colonial mindset and its denial of Sanskrit literature’s influence since the Renaissance: Clarke, John James. Oriental enlightenment: The encounter between Asian and Western thought (New York: Routledge, 1997).

[58] Thomas C. Mcevilley, The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies (New York, NY: Allworth Press, 2001).

[59] Jay L. Garfield and Bryan W. Van Norden, “If Philosophy Won’t Diversify, Let’s Call It What It Really Is,” The NewYork Times, May 11, 2016, accessed 26 March 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/11/opinion/if-philosophy-wont-diversify-lets-call-it-what-it-really-is.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=Moth-Visible&moduleDetail=inside-nyt-region-4&module=inside-nyt-region&region=inside-nyt-region&WT.nav=inside-nyt-region&_r=0 and see also Amod Lele, “Why philosophy departments have focused on the West,” The Indian Philosophy Blog, posted 22 May 2016, accessed 26 March 2017, http://indianphilosophyblog.org/2016/05/22/why-philosophy-departments-have-focused-on-the-west/#more-2352  

[60] For a deeper discussion of the Eurocentric view of philosophy and a more inclusive view, see Federico Squarcini. Tradition, Veda and Law: Studies on South Asian classical intellectual traditions, Vol. 1 (New York: Anthem Press, 2011), 22-34. See also Wilhelm Halbfass, India and Europe: An Essay in Understanding (Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1990), 145-159.