[Note on “The Bishop’s Manifesto”]
Theosophist, April, 1881
Article Selections by P. A. P. | Note by H.P.B.
Madame,—Permit me to draw your attention in your journal which is devoted to Oriental Philosophy, to a danger which hangs over the latter. While His Excellency, our liberal Viceroy . . . was receiving lately the Mussulman deputation at Calcutta, and reiterated to them the assurances of “strict religious neutrality” guaranteed to the people of India, by the Queen’s Proclamation of 1858, and reaffirmed again . . . [in] 1876, the Christian priesthood through one of its Bishops openly preaches the necessity of religious aggression against “the false religions” of India! Allow me to quote from the Bombay Gazette’s report a few words from the long speech delivered to the assembled clergy by the Bishop of Bombay . . .
“. . . To live amid false religions, and to make no effort to overthrow them, is necessarily to slacken our hold upon the Religion which we know to be true. Christianity which is not aggressive is doomed to gradual extinction. . . . We are living in the midst of false religions, forced to be the daily spectators of worships which we treat with contempt . . .
“All beliefs are interesting and valuable not for their absolute truth, but simply as facts in human history and phases in human development. . . .
“I know by precious experience that Christian faith is all-important to the believer, because it unites him with God. There is a counter-proposition which alone can maintain us in the faith.
“And the necessary supplement to this is a proposition about other religions, which may sustain us in that attitude of aggression without which we shall lose our faith, namely,—whatever adumbrations of positive truth may have been vouchesafed to other religions, they are so far diabolic and pernicious as they keep men from believing in Christianity; for there is none other name under heaven given aong men whereby we must be saved. . . .”
. . . Reverse the situation; instead of the Bishop of Bombay as the orator, imagine Babu Keshub Chunder Sen, the chief of the Brahmo Samaj, or Swami Dayanand, the head and founder of the reformatory Aryan movement, and saying to their followers and publishing to the world—“We live enveloped and stifled by a false religion, which is Christianity, and belong to a Samaj, (or a Church) we know to be true, forced thus to be the daily spectators of a worship which we treat with contempt. . . . Let us then maintain ourselves in an attitude of aggression, for that religion brought to and thrust upon us unmasked is so far diabolic and pernicious as it keeps men from believing in Brahmoism, or the Veda, etc. etc.” Would this not be as just and permissable, and could his Lordship complain? But what would be the results? Facts are there to tell us that when Mussulman or Hindu has retorted upon the missionary and paid him back in his own coin for the public reviling of his faith, it was the native who suffered in the long run; the law generally managing to lay its velvet glove upon the Christian and its claws of steel upon the Native. . . .
[etc. etc. etc.]
The above temperate and logical argument from one of the least bigoted Hindus of our acquaintance should be thoughtfully considered by all Asiatics. In fact, it reflects the common sense of both Eastern and Western observers. The promised “strict neutrality” seems to amount to this—“You Heathen fellows shall not ask us to favour either of your religions, nor shall you say a word when we take the money, all you have paid into the Treasury to support our priests—that few of us either care to hear—and build our Churches—that as few of us care to worship in. As for your devilish and pernicious faiths, if you don’t see what they really are, the Bishop of Bombay does, and we pay him with your money to abuse you and your religions. What are you going to do about it?”