The Writer & Vedanta
A Lecture by Christopher Isherwood

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Christopher Isherwood gave this lecture, The Writer & Vedanta, at the Santa Barbara Vedanta Temple on November 11, 1960. As both a successful writer and a longtime earnest spiritual aspirant, Isherwood brings a wealth of experience to bear in this original and personal approach to the topic. 

The synthesis of art and spirituality was an issue that would continue to occupy him. At the time of this lecture, he was in the midst of writing Ramakrishna and His Disciples. In the decade following this talk, he gave a series of lectures at California universities on the craft of writing, including “the problem of the religious novel.”  And it must be remembered that his most overtly spiritual books were still to come — A Single Man, A Meeting by the River, and My Guru and His Disciple, not to mention the completion of Ramakrishna and His Disciples

In this exploration, he touches on: the place of both the artist and the mystic in polite society, karma yoga, the novel as a limited model of maya, the rewards and difficulties in writing about the saint, and more. One feels while listening that rather than resort to abstractions, he takes the synthesis only as far as he can personally attest to. Spicing the talk with a dry, sometimes self-deprecating, humor, he shares with us insights on the craft of writing and the struggle to merge, with ever-increasing refinement, the worldly calling with spirituality.

Special Thanks to Don Bachardy. Front Cover: Detail Christopher Isherwood, by Don Bachardy (January 11, 1963, ink on paper 15” x 35”, copyright Don Bachardy, all rights reserved). It is displayed in full on the back cover. Although originally photographed to use the portrait detail, we show it, fold and all, as it’s gorgeous. For more on both Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy, visit IF, the Isherwood Foundation


The Writer and Vedanta was recorded live at the Santa Barbara Vedanta Temple on November 11, 1960 on a wire recorder. The wire recording was preserved by the Vedanta Society of Southern California and later digitized by the Vedanta Archives. The sound was engineered by mondayMEDIA and released on CD in 2012 by Vedanta Press and GemsTone.

The archival wire version includes the introductory and concluding musical offerings that traditionally accompanied lectures at the Vedanta temples at that time. These performances were not mic'd well, and we decided not to include them on the CD; but as they have historic interest, they will be available for listening here: Opening Song and Closing Song

Lecturer Christopher Isherwood is also a celebrated writer and collaborated on numerous books with his guru, Swami Prabhavananda.*  

*Related works are available from Vedanta Press