Out of the Labyrinth

For Those Who Want to Believe, But Can't
by Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters)

During the process of writing this book, I paid a visit to the eminent Jewish scholar, Dr. Leon Kolb, who had been recommended to me as an expert on the history of the Jewish people. I was hoping that he would be able to endorse a point I wanted to make in my section on evolution.

As it happened, although he helped me, it was more in the negative sense: He recounted certain facts of history which forced me to abandon my point.

As our conversation progressed, however, a response that was initially negative on his part ended up very positively indeed for the larger issues of the book.

I had mentioned to Dr. Kolb why I was writing this book, which I said combated with new ideas the modern question of meaninglessness. By way of illustrating why life is so widely considered meaningless, I mentioned the claim of modern biologists that evolution is purely accidental.

”But it is accidental!” he cried indignantly, interrupting my explanation. “Completely accidental!” He went on to inform me that he was not only a Jewish scholar, but an anthropologist, and had taught physiology at Stanford University for thirty years until his recent retirement. He was solidly in the camp of the evolutionists.

”Perhaps,” I suggested, “you” like to read my chapters titled, ‘Meaning in Evolution’?”

”It’s accidental, I tell you. Biologists are all quite agreed on the subject.”

”But I haven’t disagreed with them!” I replied.

He looked non-plussed. “Then how can you talk of meaning in evolution?”

”My approach,” I said, “is probably so different from any you’ve come across that I think you might really enjoy reading it. And I’d certainly appreciate any corrections you might care to make in it, if you can find any fault with what I’ve written.”

”Very well,” he agreed, somewhat reluctantly, “I’ll read what you’ve written. But it’s useless, I tell you. Evolution is completely accidental!”

I visited him again a week later to see how much of my work, if any, he’d read. His eyes as he greeted me at the door were fairly shining with excitement.

”But this is wonderful!” he exclaimed. “It’s completely in harmony with the findings of modern science, yet it provides them with deep meaning. It is wonderful—wonderful! I tell you, this message must be spread everywhere!”

I hope other readers will confirm his reaction. For the subject matter treated here is vitally important to the present state of our civilization. Too many people have had their confidence in life’s meaning and purpose shaken by the insistence of so many of today’s thinkers that life is meaningless.

My purpose in writing this book has not been to discuss at length the intricacies of Western philosophy, nor indeed to familiarize myself with all of them. Sartre enthusiasts, for example, might complain, “Oh, but elsewhere in his writings Sartre says such-and-so.” More power to him, I reply, but this is most certainly what he said in those writings with which I’ve dealt here. It wouldn’t alter my purpose if, since then, he had completely changed his mind (although in fact he did not). It is the ideas he expressed that I have challenged, not the man himself. It is those ideas which, in this Twentieth Century, have become so widespread. I have made Sartre my target only because he expressed them so lucidly.

Please, then, approach this book as a fresh statement—or, if you like, as an approach from a new angle. Don’t try to determine out of which school of Western thought it might have sprung, for it owes its solutions to none of them. And remember that it takes time to make a difficult point. Please, therefore, hear me out before rebutting me, should rebuttal come instinctively to you.

For just as Dr. Kolb thought I meant to say one thing only to find that my meaning was very different, so anyone who is familiar with the currents of modern thought will be tempted to jump in at the beginning with assumptions that have no bearing on my actual argument.

With that let me conclude: “Dear Reader, allow me to present my good friend, This Book. Now, with your permission I’ll just leave the two of you alone together to chat for awhile. I hope you’ll find that you have lots in common.”

See Also: Contents  Sample Chapter  Behind the Scenes  

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