enlarge this window                      close this window

Mohini Chatterjee

Concerning his visit to Dublin, see Foster, W. B. Yeats: A Life, vol. 1, 47-48 and notes 552 (for dating); Mohini Chatterjee's article, ‘The Common Sense of Theosophy’, appeared in The Dublin University Review of May 1886.

Several of his articles in The Theosophist were selected for Five Years of Theosophy (London: Reeves & Turner, 1885). The Theosophist records Chatterjee lecturing on Hindu philosophy and it published his translations of Shankara’s The Discrimination of Spirit and Not-Spirit and The Crest-Jewel of Wisdom (1882 and 1885). He also translated the Bhagavad Gita (1887), and gave accounts of the teachings of Sivanarayana Swami (Words of Blessedness, 1899 and Indian Spirituality, 1907). Chatterjee was connected with another major Indian influence in Yeats’s life, Rabindranath Tagore, and refers to Rabindranath’s father, Debendranath Tagore, as his grandfather-in-law (Five Years of Theosophy, 465).

Yeats’s impressions appear in ‘The Pathway’, The Collected Works in Verse and Prose (8 vols.; Stratford-upon-Avon: Shakespeare’s Head, 1908), Vol. 8. Originally ‘The Way of Wisdom’ in The Speaker, April 1900, revised for this collection.

P. S. Sri, in ‘Yeats and Mohini Chatterjee’ (Yeats Annual 11 61-76), generally considers Chatterjee largely responsible for Yeats’s misperceptions of Vedantic ideas, writing that Chatterjee ‘seems to have twisted them subtly, according to his own bent of mind in 1885’ (65). Sri presents the philosophy of the Upanishads as more monolithic than it is, though, and uses none of Chatterjee’s own writing. He takes Chatterjee’s comment that ‘This body is a Brahmin’, as meaning ‘of course. . . I, the Atman is Brahman - distorted almost beyond recognition, partly due to Mohini Chatterjee’s misrepresentation and partly due to Yeats’s misunderstanding of the words Brahman - the Supreme Being - and Brahmin - Mohini Chatterjee’s caste’ (65), but this reading hardly fits the context which relates rather to the outward forms of religion as opposed to the inner truths.

Along with his article ‘The Common Sense of Theosophy’, one indication of his thinking at the time of his visit to Dublin is to be found in Man: Fragments of Forgotten History (London: Reeves & Turner, 1885), an account of the evolution of man according to Theosophy, including the Atlantean and Lemurian periods, and including the emergence of sex. Published as the work of ‘Two Chelas in the Theosophical Society’, one Eastern and one Western, this was a collaboration with Laura Holloway, in which she acted as a medium, receiving impressions of the earlier epochs of human civilisation. Chatterjee was responsible for the Indian framework and presumably most of the introductory material which gives a succinct and geometric exposition of the Theosophical conception of the human being.