Indian Travel Diary of A Philosopher

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Indian Travel Diary of A Philosopher

Count Hermann Alexander Keyserling (1880-1946) was a German Philosopher who focused most of his thinking and writings on metaphysics. He wrote a number of books on philosophy. Just before explosion of the World War 1, he as a meditative philosopher arrived at the conclusion that everything conclusion that everything, including all aspects of life are being questioned. For him the best way of discovering oneself was to travel around the world. He left Europe travelled in the Orient and then in America. The books recording his world travels were titled "Philosophy of Senses: The Journal of a Philosopher". The journal of which this volume records the Indian part of his experiences -is not only his masterpiece but also reflects the pinnacle of his thinking. Poet Tagore had this to say about Keyserling's travel journal: "Through the clouds of incomprehension that separate Europe from the Orient this travel journal appeared as a ray a sunshine. We Indians have welcomed Keyserling journal as a great book."


Translator's Preface

The fact that no translation by its very nature can be prefect imposes the duty of choosing the best compromise upon the translator. This raises immediately all the problem which face the translator. In the case of an original text which is written in verse or which belongs to an age antecedent to that of the translator he may rightly avail himself of every liberty. A passage of verse may be rendered in a line if by that means the rhythm, the cadence the vowel values can be susceptible of direct translation. In the case of Philosophic prose, the prose moreover not only of a contemporary but of a writer who himself possesses a vast technical vocabulary in the language of the translator, all such freedom is denied. The author of the Original text exacts precision above all in the rendering of his thought and in this connection it is my privilege to give the reader an assurance which had I been dependent on my efforts alone would be impossible. Count Keyserling who writes and lectures with ease in English has worked upon my translation for many weeks with the result that he himself is satisfied that the text which follows here is the accurate rendering of his meaning to such an extent that insofar as any differences of meanings exist between the original and the translation, they are alterations or revisions made personally by the author.

As far as the problem of conveying the meaning is concerned therefore my labour and the burden of responsibility are indeed light and it is only fair to allow the reader an insight into the nature and extent of my indebtedness by saying that in many cases I had so far failed to seize the intention of the author that there are passage in the English text from the pen of the author.

The compromise to which my labours appear to be confined is the problem of making a match between the meaning of the author's text and the requirement of English prose. Count Keyserling defined in no equivocal manner the conditions which I had to satisfy. He wrote to me:

An meinem Reisetagebuch habe ich volle sieben jahre gearbeitet, und es steht kein Wort und kein Komma darin, dessen Sinn und Ort nicht genau bedacht waren. Niemand wird dem Ubersetzer je verzeihen der seine Arbeit nicht mit der unbedingten Hingebung an eine grosse Sache geleistet hatte, welche Carlyle Goethe genenuber bewies. He then enjoined me to translate Strikt wortlich. Wort fur Wort und Komma fur Komma,….. Bringen Sie unter gartkeinen Umstanden ein und an das nicht im ausstrichen Satze zusammnen die ich getrennt und an das nicht im Originaltext stande (jedas von Ihnen habe ich ausstrichen mussen) halten Sie sich peinlich genau an meine Kommata Semikolons und Punkte ziehen Sie unter gartkeinen Sie uberall dass Sie es in mir mit einem strengen dynamischen konzentrierten Geist zu tun haben der nicht die leiseste Verdunnug und Entspannung des Styls vertragt….Bedenken Sie weiter dass die Uebersetzung der deutschen Musik in englische von der wir damals mundlich sprachen doch nur so zu verstehen sein kann mein genauer Takt mein Rythmus meine Melodie nun englsch erklange nicht dass irgend etwas anderes an seine Stelle gesetzt werden durfte. Insofern bitte meine Korrekturen als endugultige Verbesserungen aufzufassen.

Conditions of such stringency reduce of necessity the scope of corrections which even a distinguished stylist could attempt to a negligible minimum while they offer to the English reader simultaneously an absolute guarantee that the present volumes suffer in no way from the interposition of the style or personality of the translator the thought of the author and its English equivalent.

If in the circumstances I frankly acknowledge the consciousness of much which is unorthodox in style in grammar in punctuation and if I confess even to coining words not to mention the liberty of attaching a special meaning to certain words and phrases whose recurrence alone will make them clear to the reader, I will have demonstrated at any rate that the faults of the translation are mine.

My friends Lyle D. Vickers has removed innumerable blemishes both in my manuscript and in the proofs in the course of weeks of watches far into the small hours of the night which he kept faithfully from the beginning to the end of my work, and only those who have laboured likewise can appreciate the whole-hearted and unforgettable devotion such service entails.

Another debt it is a pleasure to record is the assistance I have had from Mr. R. G. Curtis who has typed with incredible speed and accuracy two complete versions of the some quarter of million my words in these two volumes. The printers, too, have lessened my difficulties considerably by their great care and accuracy of composition. Finally, if there be any virtue in my work, I dedicate my labour to her face of almost insurmountable difficulties this translation would never have seen the light of day.



This volume should be read like a novel. Although a considerable part consists of elements created in me by the external stimulus of a journey round the word and although it contains many objective descriptions and abstract commentaries which might well have been written separately this book in its entirety represents nevertheless an inwardly conceived and inwardly coherent work of fiction and only those who regard it as such will understand its real meaning. Concerning this meaning I will say nothing in advance. It will be revealed to those who are prepared to follow the wanderer willingly though his many moods and transformations never forgetting that facts as such never are an object to me but only a means of expressing their significance, which exits independently of them. They must not take offence when they find that observations on the cultures of foreign places alternate with personal introspections that precise descriptions follow upon poetic re-creations that many perhaps most of my descriptive passages do justice rather to potentialities than to facts; above all my readers must not be led astray by the contradictions necessarily imposed on me by a change of point of view or mood which I have sometimes forborne to explain in so many words. Those who are prepared to read my book in this spirit will I hope before they reach the end have caught a glimpse not so much of a philosophy possible in theory but rather if an attitude of soul and mind capable of attainment in practice, in which many an ominous problem will appear to be solved from the beginning irreconcilable contradictions will pass away and a never and fuller significance will be revealed.

… Thus I wrote in June 1914, my book was to have appeared in the autumn of that year. War was declared and as a result until Esthonia was occupied by German troops, every means of communication between my publisher and myself was off. He had in his possession the first volume ready to go to press and I was left with the proofs of the second. In spite of the long interval of time which had elapsed I am publishing my diary on the whole unaltered. Insofar as the book owes its existence to an oriental attitude of mind it belongs altogether to the 1911-14 period of my creative point of view could only have detracted from its merits. Only the last two sections-America and Rayktill-have not only been altered during the war but rewritten almost entirely. I found this step necessary by the East that I was unable to express myself adequately as a Westerner as a result certain relevant passages lacked clarity and conviction in order to round off and to complete the whole in accordance with my digressions round the world -for this task I was altogether too close to my object Today I believe I have done as much towards this end as my faculties permit. The long oppressing period of horror came to benefit at least one creative effort.




  Prologue vii
  Translator's Preface xx
  Author's Introduction xxii
  Publisher's note xxiv
  Before The Start xxv
1 Rameshwaram 1
2 Madura 2
3 Tanjore 23
4 Conjeevaram 25
5 Mahablipuram 28
6 Adyar 30
7 Ellora 87
8 Udaipur 92
9 Chitor 98
10 Jaipur 101
11 Delhi 108
12 Agra 123
13 Benares 130
14 Buddha -Gaya 219
15 The Himalayas 224
16 Calcutta 247

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