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Title: Synthesizing the Vedānta : the theology of Pierre Johanns S.J.
Author: Doyle, Sean Michael
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2005
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In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there was an intriguing development that took place in Bengal with regard to a Christian rapprochement with Hinduism. After the early tragic death of Brahmabāndhab Upādhyāy, a convert to Catholicism whose theology conveyed a positive appreciation of aspects of Hindu advaitic philosophy, a group of Belgian Jesuits in Calcutta sought to develop the theological project initiated by Upādhyāy. Fr. Pierre Johanns (1882-1955) the most articulate figure of the group, began to publish a steady stream of articles in the monthly Light of the East that analyzed pertinent features of Vedāntic thought from the perspective of his neo-Thomistic presuppositions. In his articles, Johanns engages in a thorough explication and analysis of the thinking of the Hindu acaryas Śankara, Rāmānuja, and Vallabha. He attempts to fashion a creative synthesis of their views, constructing a new, holistic metaphysic from the raw materials of their respective philosophical theologies. The synthesis would serve as a foundation upon which to erect the superstructure of Christian revelation, which Johanns believed completes and fulfills the Vedāntic ‘natural’ religion. This thesis will undertake an examination of the theological writings of Fr. Pierre Johanns, discussing how Johanns interacted with Vedāntic philosophy and assessing the success of his project. The thesis consists of six chapters. The first chapter introduces the material with which Johanns was dealing (Vedāntic philosophy) and the theological sources which influenced his methodology and treatment of the material (Thomist approaches to other traditions; fulfillment approaches toward Hinduism). The second chapter focuses on the historical context which contributed to Johanns’ intellectual background, discussing the phenomenon of Western Orientalism, the Jesuit philosophy of education, and the thought of some key Catholics in Bengal (Upādhyāy, Animananda, Wallace, Dandoy) who shifted the theological tone toward positive engagement with Hindu philosophy. The third chapter focuses upon Johanns’ treatment of the philosophical theology of Śankara. The fourth chapter details how Johanns interacted with the system of Rāmānuja. The fifth chapter analyzes how Johanns engaged with the thought of Vallabha. The sixth chapter assesses the strengths and weaknesses of Johanns’ project, particularly in terms of the accuracy of his exposition, the quality of his neo-Thomist synthesis, and the credibility of his ‘fulfillment’ theology.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available