Victorian Popular Fictions 5.2 4 Agnew


“Physically this universe is one”: Universal Unity in Swami Vivekananda’s Raja Yoga

Éadaoin Agnew

Download PDF here


Swami Vivekananda’s Raja Yoga (1896), the focus of this article, is usually credited with starting the yoga renaissance in the late nineteenth century. The text marks a watershed moment in yoga history when Vivekananda translated and popularised the ancient Indian Yoga Sutras by the sage Patanjali as part of anti-colonial intercultural exchanges between east and west in the fin de siècle. The book’s transnational discourse drew from contemporary new physics and neo-Vedantic philosophy as well as Indian nationalism, pre-Freudian psychology, Western occultism, and modern ideas about physical health, and it issued a radical alternative to the binary oppositions on which imperialist and materialist ideologies rely. Vivekananda elucidates Patanjali’s yogic philosophy but, significantly, he also outlines a practical methodology for achieving Raja yoga’s goal of universal unity. He sets out a praxis that gradually breaks down the boundaries between mind and body, matter and energy, subject and object, and thereby transforms the individual in powerful and positive ways. It was an idealistic goal that appealed to various groups of unconventional heterodox thinkers at the fin de siècle, and it arguably contributed to the spiritual and political revolution that spread in subcultural forms, across Europe and America from the second half of the nineteenth century onward (Gandhi 2006: 121).


Yoga; Swami Vivekananda; transnationalism; fin de siècle; India; new physics; materialism; new materialism; British empire

Date of Acceptance: 16 December 2023

Date of Publication: 20 December 2023

Double Blind Peer Reviewed

Recommended Citation:

Agnew, Éadaoin. 2023. “‘Physically this universe is one’: Universal Unity in Swami Vivekananda’s Raja Yoga.” Victorian Popular Fictions, 5.2: 41-57. ISSN: 2632-4253 (online) DOI

Return to Contents page of VPFJ 5.2

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.