Love Perfected, Life Divine: A Novel

by Swami Kriyananda


The Life Everlasting, by Marie Corelli, is the only novel Paramhansa
Yogananda ever finished reading. I can understand why. It
holds a deep spiritual potential. I myself have enjoyed it, and have
read it many times. I would not have undertaken this endeavor, however,
if Yogananda himself had not also addressed the subject in such
a way that seemed to demand clarification. He said—and to the best
of my knowledge once only—that everyone, before attaining oneness
with God, must somehow achieve union with his soul dual,
even if that dual happens to be living on another planet and the
union can be achieved only in vision.

I must confess, however, to a certain discomfort with Corelli’s
overblown style, her condescension toward anyone who disagreed
with her, her attitude of spiritual superiority, and the severe limitations
of her philosophy. I have other objections to her book also, one of
them being that, out of a wish to justify women, she makes them
look frail and inadequate. Why? Women are quite the equals of men.
It is absurd, in my eyes, for men to treat them condescendingly. The
“little woman” is a concept as passé as the belief that aristocrats are
somehow better than other people, who own no land. Marie Corelli,
in her attempts to defend women, made them look incompetent—
which they are not at all!

All these objections might damn her were it not for the fact that
there is, in The Life Everlasting, a definite otherworldly charm which,
even after repeated readings, exerts an undeniable spell. One reason
I have read her books is that Marie Corelli is the only novelist I
know who wrote outright spiritual novels. I refer to novels that
are not afraid to express openly the author’s devotion to God, without
enclosing the reader in a narrow box of sectarianism. I have often
asked myself: Why have there been no others? We can go to works
that are almost, or entirely, scriptural: Pilgrim’s Progress in the West;
the Ramayana and the Mahabharata in India. But stories attuned to
modern times that yet contain a simple, devotional story, inspiring
people to seek God—well, if you know of any such, please tell me
about them. What Marie Corelli succeeded in doing was uplift the
heart. At the time when she wrote, there was a public for this sort of
thing. Why is there none now?

I admit cheerfully, also, that I am in awe at her ability to visualize
scenes: luxurious apartments; sunsets; heaving oceans. She can go on
for paragraphs describing a scene to which I would devote perhaps a
sentence or two. Put her and Ernest Hemingway (who was wont to
write sentences of only one word) in the same room, and I don’t think
they’d even be able to see each other! Yes, she is overblown, and I have
often smiled at the fact. A friend of mine cannot even read her for this
very reason. I have pared her ebullience; have challenged every word
to justify itself; and have often used more suitable adjectives than
hers. Still, I have to hand it to her: her descriptions go far beyond
anything I am ever inclined even to imagine.

I have rewritten her story because, with all its faults, I have always
loved it. I have cleared out a great deal of excessive verbiage, introduced
a note of greater kindness and tolerance, cut out a great deal of
material—well over a hundred pages, in fact—as unnecessary and,
indeed, deleterious to the lofty mood of the book. I have rewritten
the book also to make it correspond to my own understanding. I
think, as you read, you will understand my reasons for the countless
changes I have made. And I conclude by saying I am happy with the
results. I hope you, dear reader, will be happy also.

See Also: Contents  Sample Chapter  

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