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Synthesizing the Vedanta

The Theology of Pierre Johanns S. J.


Sean Doyle

Fr Pierre Johanns is a key figure in the history of Christian intellectual engagement with Hindu philosophy. He was the most articulate figure in a group of Belgian Jesuits in Calcutta who sought to develop the theological project initiated by Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, a convert to Catholicism whose theology conveyed a positive appreciation of aspects of Hindu advaitic philosophy. Johanns began to publish a steady stream of articles in the monthly Light of the East that analysed pertinent features of Vedantic thought from the perspective of his neo-Thomistic presuppositions. Johanns engaged in a thorough explication and analysis of the thinking of the Hindu teachers Sankara, Ramanuja, and Vallabha. He attempted to fashion a creative synthesis of their views, constructing a new, holistic metaphysic from the raw material of their respective philosophical theologies.
This book examines the theological writings of Pierre Johanns by situating him within his historical context, by discussing how Johanns interacted with Vedantic philosophy, and by assessing the success of his project.


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Acknowledgements 9 Introduction 11 Research topic; Justification of topic; Research questions; Research methodology; Primary sources; Secondary literature on Johanns; Educational and priestly biography of Pierre Johanns S.J.; Outline of chapters Section One Chapter One 37 Theological methodology of Johanns Introduction; Use of the method of Church Fathers and Aquinas; Thomas Aquinas and neo-Thomism; Project: synthesis of Vednntic schools; Hinduism as preparation and Christianity as fulfillment; Conclusion Chapter Two 81 Intellectual background Introduction; Orientalism; Jesuit education; The Calcutta circle; Brahmabnndhab Upndhyny; Animananda; William Wallace; Georges Dandoy; Conclusion Section Two Chapter Three 137 Johanns on Ìaœkara Introduction; Johanns’ exposition of Ìaœkara’s philosophy; Contributions of Ìaœkara to the synthesis; Critique of Ìaœkara’s position – Creatio Ex Nihilo; Ìaœkara and Aquinas; Conclusion 8Chapter Four 191 Johanns on Rnmnnuja Introduction; Johanns’ exposition of Rnmnnuja’s philosophy; Contributions of Rnmnnuja to the synthesis; Critique of Rnmnnuja’s position; Rnmnnuja and Aquinas; Conclusion Chapter Five 243 Johanns on Vallabha Introduction; Johanns’ exposition of Vallabha’s philosophy; Contributions of Vallabha to the synthesis; Critique of Vallabha’s position; Vallabha and Aquinas; Conclusion Section Three Chapter Six 297 Theological evaluation of Johanns Introduction; Summary of the synthesis; Evaluation of Johanns’ exposition; Evaluation of Johanns’ neo-Thomist synthesis; Evaluation of Johanns’ fulfillment theology; Conclusion Conclusion 333 Summary of key contributions of Johanns; Conclusion Bibliography 341 Index 349

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