perry anderson on gandhi


The composition of Gandhi’s faith, Tidrick has shown, was born of a cross between a Jain-inflected Hindu orthodoxy and late Victorian psychomancy, the world of Madame Blavatsky, theosophy, the planchette and the Esoteric Christian Union. The two were not unconnected, as garbled ideas from the former – karma, reincarnation, ascetic self-perfection, fusion of the soul with the divine – found occult form in the latter. Little acquainted with the Hindu canon itself in his early years, Gandhi reshaped it through the medium of Western spiritualisms of the period. His one aim in life, he decided, was to attain moksha: that state of perfection in which the cycle of rebirth comes to an end and the soul accedes to ultimate union with God. ‘I am striving for the Kingdom of Heaven, which is moksha,’ he wrote, ‘in this very existence.’ The path towards it was ‘crucifixion of the flesh’, without which it was impossible to ‘see God face to face’ and become one with him. But if such perfection could be attained, the divine would walk on earth, for ‘there is no point in trying to know the difference between a perfect man and God.’ Then there would be no limit to his command of his countrymen: ‘When I am a perfect being, I have simply to say the word and the nation will listen.’

more from Perry Anderson at the LRB here.