re Kalanos the gymnosophist

zydenbos at zydenbos at
Fri May 3 21:42:46 UTC 1996

Replies to msg 03 May 96: indology at
(l.m.fosse at

 lmfu> Re: Borrowing of ideas:

 lmfu> Do what extent are ideas borrowed? 

 lmfu> Indic philosophy
 lmfu> was studied
 lmfu> extensively by Westernes in the last century, yet this
 lmfu> philosophy had
 lmfu> little or no impact upon our own brand. 

I thought Schopenhauer was the classical example; and through him, Nietzsche.
Rudolf Steiner needs to be mentioned too, and Whitehead.

 lmfu> The bottom line
 lmfu> seems to be that
 lmfu> nations are influenced by other cultures if they are under
 lmfu> military
 lmfu> occupation for some time, or if they choose to regard
 lmfu> another culture as an
 lmfu> exciting model, cf. the modern craze for imitating the
 lmfu> culture of the USA
 lmfu> (Americanization). Also, the immigration of members of
 lmfu> another culture into
 lmfu> an indigenous culture should have some effect. The Western
 lmfu> world today has
 lmfu> pockets of Western Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus, but they
 lmfu> are still
 lmfu> marginal. It remains to be seen if their influence will
 lmfu> grow. 

To me, your example of present-day Americanization looks like something we
could consider a parallel to what may have happened in ancient times. Another
example would be French influence throughout western Europe during the latter
part of the nineteenth century. Or consider the gigantic impact of Greek ideas
on Rome, although the Greeks were conquered by the Romans. Nor did the Chinese
conquer Japan, as far as I know. So I think we have ample evidence of how
ideas, norms, mannerisms etc. etc. migrated without being imposed through
military means and without being accompanied by large-scale migration of people
(there were no huge tribes of ex-patriot Frenchmen in fin-de-sie`cle Holland or

The borrowing of ideas does not necessarily entail a wholesale
revolutionization of a culture. (Even the Japanese are not mere pseudo-Chinese,
but have a character of their own.) To take an example from our own time: does
not practically every Westerner have at least a dim idea of what 'yoga',
'karma' and 'nirvana' are? Last year I read documentation that came with some
"shareware" computer software, and its author (a fellow with a clearly
Anglo-Saxon name) pleaded that users should register themselves, so that they
would get "good karma". What is the New Age movement, if not a big (and often
wild, rather disorderly) importation of ideas which originated in South Asia?

Of course we can debate the quality of understanding of the borrowed ideas, or
the depth of the effects of this borrowing; but that ideas are constantly being
borrowed, and do have effect -- unavoidably so, because such is the nature of
any non-trivial idea -- seems rather obvious.

Robert Zydenbos
Internet: zydenbos at

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list