BLTC Press Titles


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Novalis Including Hymns to the Night

Novalis, George MacDonald, Thomas Carlyle


The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller


Paradoxes of the Highest Science

Eliphas Levi


Mortal Coils

Aldous Huxley


Discourse between Kṛiṣhṇa and Arjuna on divine matters

by Philip Wharton

Excerpt:

PREFACE.

There are many portions of Sacred Writ which, whilo it would he presumptueus to refuse their literal acceptation, forcibly prompt an allegorical construction, serving at once as a lesson and a prophecy. Such is the narrative of the building of the Tower of Babel. 'When the world, recovered from all but entire destruction, rose fresh in all its worldliness, Godless and independent, exulting in the discovery of the strength of its physical, and the unbounded vastness of its mental powers, man first learnt the truth that union is the secret of all strength, and that by it, theugh a mere unit in creation, he might attain a super-human position. Nor was ever confusion more complete or more wonderful than the miracle which crushed his efforts and lowered his proud schemes to the dust.

Yot sinco that moment man has over been building another and a greater tower which, none the less, has Heaven for its object. Science and enlightenment are ever rising brick by brick, layer by layer, story by story, towards the level of super-human knowledgo; and the great obstaclo which put a stop to the erection of the material Ilubcl—the confusion of tongues—still exist s to impede that of tho Tower of Knowledge, and still constitutes the chief hindrance to man's united action and united strength.

But if the obstacle exist, the means of surmounting it have boen granted us. We have never been debarred from acquiring another language than our own; and if the scientific man of each country bo considered the maker of the bricks, the linguist may, at least, claim to bo thst no less useful workman whe visita the kiln of knowledgo in every land and brings together the materials for the great work.

The study of tongues, then, is not to bo slighted. Through a nation's language alone can its character, as well as its labours after truth, be really known; and the study of nations is the study of mankind in its most liberal form.

Wo cannot deny that the present ago has felt this to be the easo more than any that has gone before it, when we see in every country througheut Europe that the Classies of foreign languages constitute the first food administered to the young mind. But what has been grunted to Groek and Latin has been refused to Sanskrit literature, which, if it offer more difficulties and impediments in its appreach than others, indisputably possesses as rich, as varied, and as valuable a treasure as any that can be ranked among the dead. Yet it has found many zealous opponents among the learned of the west, and many delusive arguments have been brought against it. It has been called useless, as well for practical as scientific purposes.

Let us first consider the former accusation,—its uselessness to these whem wo send from our littlo island to bo tho governors and dispensers of justice over a hundred and sixty millions of inhabitants, and a continent almost as vast as that of Europe itself. And hero it is argued, that because Sanskrit is the parent of the many dialects spoken in India, it is not on that account the more useful to these whe must employ them. It would be no more absurd, it is urged, to oblige every Englishman helding an appointment in Malta or the Ionian Islands to pass an examination in Homer or Virgil, because Greek and Latin aro the sources of the vernaculars there spoken. But the case is very different with the Indian Peninsula. The modern Greek and Italian races differ far more from the Greek and the Roman of old than even their altered languages;—their character, their religion, their institutions, their modes of expression evon, are completely changed, and the heroes of Thucydides and Livy would come among them as utter strangers. Not so the Hindu. His religion, his institutions, his character, aye, even his mode of thought, is the same now as in the time of Kalid&sa, the dramatist; or, still more, in that of the poets, Vyasa and Valmiki.i If there be any change at all, it ia only that of day to night. Qross superstition and awful fatalism now reign where thought and tho soareh for truth have existed before,—the pedantic Pundit has replaced the learned Brahman, who was poet and philosopher, astronomer and theologian alike; and an age of ruminating lethargy has succeeded to one of action and invention. But tho faults of tho ono have proceeded in a natural course from tho uncorrected errors of the other; and theso errors should be studied if we would understand and learn to deal with tho character of which they are the origin. The European who has not stadiod tho Aryan* will never comprehend the Hindu.


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