What Does Yogananda Think About Spinoza’s Pantheistic Philosophy?


What were Yogananda's views on the pantheistic God of Baruch Spinoza’s philosophy?

—Niraj, India


Dear Niraj,

First of all, Spinoza was a philosopher. He based his understanding on his mind and on his intellect. Yogananda would immediately tell him to meditate, because the mind will never be able to grasp or explain God.

About his philosophy: Spinoza equates God with nature. Yogananda would have quite a discussion with Him: God is Pure Consciousness which produces nature, but He isn’t that product. That product is maya, an illusion, a creation made of thought, energy, and matter. It is not God.

Spinoza eliminated the duality between God and nature, which is correct: everything is God, also nature, including you and me. But the situation is very different, for Yogananda, from what Spinoza thought. Nature and its mechanics are not God. They are only His play, His “cinema”, his thought in manifestation.

To be more clear: Spinoza believed that God is “the sum of the natural and physical laws of the universe and certainly not an individual entity or creator”. Yogananda would definitively disagree. God created these laws, but He is not defined by them.

Spinoza says that “God is the sum of all the substances of the universe.” God, for Yogananda, is not any created substance, but is pure Consciousness: Sat-chid-ananda (existence-consciousness-bliss, or, in Yogananda’s translation, “ever existing, ever-conscious, ever-new bliss”).

“Everything is part of God,” Spinoza declares. Yes, that is true, Yogananda would answer, but as His manifestation. Again: anything created is not what God really is. The film is not the filmmaker, just as the dream isn’t the man who dreams it.

So no, for Yogananda God is not pantheistic, he is ONE. Once He creates, He plays a triple role (remaining always ONE throughout): SAT, TAT, OM, which means God as transcendent Consciousness, God as immanent Consciousness, God as Cosmic Vibration which creates everything.

In short, Yogananda would tell Spinoza: “God is not His creation.” And again, he would tell him to meditate and find out for himself, in deep silence. Only there can God be found. Yogananda talked from inner realization, Spinoza did not.

True, even Einstein believed in the pantheistic God of Spinoza, not believing in a personal God who concerns Himself with fates and actions of human beings. Again, with all due respect to Einstein, Yogananda would disagree with him on that point. God is personal (as well as impersonal) and He takes loving care of every human being. He guides them, loves them, and invites them back to His Eternal Cosmic Consciousness.

All the best,