BLTC Press Titles


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Novalis Including Hymns to the Night

Novalis, George MacDonald, Thomas Carlyle


The Bhagavad Gita

Anonymous


The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian


The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller


Ancient religion and modern thought

by William Samuel Lilly

Excerpt:

TO THE MARQUIS OF RIPON, E.G.

My Dear Lord Kipon,

I Had hoped to dedicate to you this volume when it was originally published, in the spring of last year. The accidental delay of a letter deprived me of that pleasure. I regret the accident the less, now that, with your kind permission, I am able to write your name upon the first page of this second edition, because the favour with which the book has been received encourages me to think that what I am offering you is not wholly worthless.

You return to us from a country where you have had abundant opportunities of observing the actual. working of more than one of those vast non-Christian religious systems whose claims upon the attention of every student of man and society are just now of such pressing interest and importance. And it is a satisfaction to me to know that

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you judge the brief account which I have given of them in these pages to be just and true, and likely to help towards the recognition of the divine elements which they contain. Such recpgnition, surely, is essential, if we would apprehend the true bearing of the great ethical and spiritual problems confronting us in our Indian Empire. I well remember how intolerable I used to think the supercilious contempt which, during my residence in that country, I too frequently heard expressed by young European officials for the cults and customs of the people of Hindustan: yes, and not by young European officials only, but by many a veteran public servant to whom, unfortunately, years had not brought the philosophic mind. The creeds, the rituals, the institutions in which the highest conceptions, the deepest yearnings, the most sacred ties of millions of our native fellowsubjects are embodied, surely deserve from us far other treatment than that. Nothing would be more fatal to the highest interests of India than the solution of social and religious continuity, which contact with European thought and European thoughtlessness unquestionably threatens.

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It is a commonplace, that one chief effect of British rule in Hindustan has been to induce a moral and political revolution, which is even now in full progress. But woe to India and to England too, if the issue of that revolution is to sap all belief in supersensuous truth, and in the ethical obligations which find in supersensuous truth their only real sanction. Terrible for both countries will be the catastrophe if we have no higher message to proclaim than the Gospel of Materialism, the expression of which, in the public order, is the doctrine of the sole supremacy of brute force. During the last two years that doctrine has been loudly preached, as the one great formula of our Indian policy, by some of the leading exponents of English public opinion. It has been your wisdom to insist upon a nobler teaching, and to give it practical expression. I remember how at a public meeting which we both happened to address, shortly before your departure to assume the Viceroyalty, you insisted with much earnestness that there are not two moralities, one for individuals and another for races, for nations: that nation owes to nation and race to race the

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same even justice and fair dealing and considerate treatment and appreciation of responsibilities that man owes to man; that immutable principles determine what is just and true and pleasing to God in public as in private life : and that other sound and solid foundation of politics than this doctrine there is none. I find in these words the thought which has dominated your mind and informed your administration for the last four years and a half. The preachers of that vulgar and debased Positivism which lies at the root of so much in contemporary ways of thinking and acting, are contemptuously impatient of what they deem the sentimentalism of " a creed outworn." They might have learnt from Comte himself, had they been willing to apprehend the higher elements of his philosophy, that "une experience decisive a maintenant prouve 1'instabilite necessaire de tout regime purement materiel, fonde seulement sur des interets, independamment des affections et des convictions." That is the great, the primary verity of the political order to which you have been unswervingly loyal. Half a century ago Lord William Bentinck's celebrated Resolution declared, that " the great object of the British Government ought to be the promotion of European literature and science amongst the natives of India," and directed the employment of public money for that end. Since then Western thought has been slowly accomplishing its inevitable work in Hindustan : the seed of light which for fifty years we have been steadily sowing has taken deep root, and is growing into an abundant crop of new sentiments, new aspirations, new necessities. These are signs of the times which you have beheld on all sides in India, for your " open eyes desire the truth." And the passionate display of popular affection of which you have so recently been the object is signal evidence of the correctness of your political vision. It is no great wonder that those of the non-official classes in India who have gone there simply to make money, and who are interested in their native fellow-subjects solely as a means to that end, should resent the recognition of facts which hamper their operations, and condemn legislation which restricts their privileges. It is not surprising that many of the servants of the should regard with distrust and dislike a policy which, as they perceive, points to great changes in the public administration. Nor do those who are behind the scenes of the London and Calcutta press, and who know how powerful are personal and sectarian motives with some of its leading organs, experience the least astonishment that you have been systematically misrepresented and v1lified; but Time—


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