Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Religious Sciences


John C. Robertson, Jr


Issac Bar-Lewaw


The purpose of this study is to investigate the religious thinking of José Vasconcelos (1880-1959). Vasconcelos was a Mexican thinker, politician and philosopher who worked out a theory of philosophical thought which he called Aesthetic Monism. In that title lies the key to an understanding of his philosophy: it is aesthetic because Vasconcelos felt that feelings and emotion best put the knower into contact with the known object, and it is monistic because Vasconcelos envisaged all reality unified in what he refers to as the Absolute or God.

Most of our knowledge of the Absolute and Vasconcelos' religious philosophical thinking are contained within his work, Todología. Therefore, for this as well as for other reasons, I have decided to analyze this work in detail. Our understanding of his religious thought, however, depends on our knowledge of how he approaches philosophy generally, and, in particular, how he conceives the nature and function of the aesthetic a priori.

Consequently, after the early chapters on his life and influences on his thought, I will spend some time surveying his philosophy, especially the way he conceives the instruments of the unification of reality. Vasconcelos wants to establish the unity of existence and in order to do this, he proposes a method of synthesizing various levels of reality -- cycles of being, in his terminology -- in an upward progression towards the highest levels of being. This is accomplished by human consciousness employing the instruments of the aesthetic a priori.

This thesis takes the view that the Todología aids, in outline form, the completion of this synthesis on the spiritual level of being, that of the absolute. I will argue that the synthesis needs this level and the activity of the absolute in order to attain the complete unity of existence which Vasconcelos set out to achieve. Our analysis of Todología in Chapter Four, consequently, is the heart of this study and I attempt to show in detail the necessity of the absolute for Vasconcelos' synthesis and, therefore, his contribution to religious philosophy.

The Union attempts to be both expositional and critical in character. I propose to outline only as much of his philosophical thinking as is necessary to comprehend his religious thought and thus avoid an exact duplication of other studies on his philosophy. At the same time, because Vasconcelos is controversial and, at times, inconsistent and vague, I intend to offer critical evaluations where appropriate, keeping in mind at all times, however, the nature of the men and the culture within which he formulated his thought.

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