India a Storehouse for Us
The Path, February, 1891
Hindustan has been called the land of mystery by many writers. For years it has been to the English a land for plunder by officials and younger sons seeking favors from fortune; for us it has been a far distant country surrounded with a halo of romance, enveloped in a cloud of memories that include the royal Sages, the Adepts, the wonderworkers, and countless monuments of human skill or limitless power. Among buildings its beautiful Taj Mahal stands unrivalled since the days of its builder Shah-Jehan; of marvellous structures its rock-cut temples challenge admiration, while its innumerable miles of underground temples and passages invite exploration and pique curiosity.
The singular vicissitudes of its fortune under conquest by the Moguls and the English point to its future and the great part it has to play in the destiny of the wide-branching Anglo-Saxon race. It has always been a storehouse, a perfect mine for plunder wherein looters have always revelled. And this fact has ingrained in its people reserve and secretiveness that are not equalled anywhere. The Mogul invaders took all the treasures in money or valuable objects that they could, and remained in the country to enjoy them. The quantity of precious things they confiscated cannot be calculated. At one place they entered the town and were beseeched by the priests to take all but not to molest the statue of the God. But the commander raised his mighty sword and clave the image to the breast. From its interior there fell out fortunes in gems and diamonds. So also the English. They overran the land, and of the great booty taken by common soldiers and officers back to Europe it has been declared by competent English writers no accurate estimate could be made, so great was the amount. In these two conquests occurred the events in the beginning which unerringly point to the destiny of India. For as at first she was a receptacle from which was taken an enormous treasure in material wealth and goods, so at the last her treasures of literature and philosophy are destined to cover the lands of English-speaking peoples, to infiltrate into the western mind, and finally drive out the puerile, degrading dogmas of christendom, replacing them with a noble and elevating scheme of philosophy which alone can save the world. This will never be done by the Hindu of today, to whom we need not look, but will come about, just as in the conquest, by the appropriation of the philosophy from the storehouse and receptacle in India by the vigorous, eager mind of the West.
Max Müller in his Cambridge Lectures upon India said:
“But what I feel convinced of, and hope to convince you of, is that Sanskrit literature, if studied only in the right spirit, is full of human interest, full of lessons which even Greek could never teach us, a subject worthy to occupy the leisure, and more than the leisure, of every Indian Civil servant. . . . There are other things, and, in one sense, very important things, which we too may learn from India. . . . If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found the solution of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant—I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself what literature we here in Europe, we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans, and of one semitic race, the Jewish, may draw that corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human, a life not for this life only, but a transfigured and eternal life—again I should point to India. . . . I am thinking chiefly of India such as it was a thousand, two thousand, it may be three thousand, years ago. That India is full of problems the solutions of which concern all of us, even us in this Europe of the nineteenth century.”
This quotation from such an eminent scholar supports the view I have held from youth that India is our great storehouse and as such ought to be used with all the means at our command and at every opportunity. Just as Prof. Müller says, I am not thinking of the Indian people of today, but of the minds of her past who have left to us an enormous mass of records of their studies and solutions of the greatest problems that can engage the attention of the human mind. It has become somewhat the fashion fro members of the Theosophical Society to suppose that the intention of the leaders of the Society was and is to make us follow the example of the swarming millions of Hindustan in ascetic or caste practices. To this some have mistakenly adhered and attempted the task, while others have railed against the man of straw of their own creation.
Others again, not taking the pains to understand the matter, have permitted outsiders to exclaim against the absurdity of following the lead of the Hindus, who are, they say, much below us in all respects. These weak members have by silence allowed the assertions to pass as proven and our Society to remain misrepresented. But while I cannot wholly agree that even the Hindu of today cannot be an example for us in anything, I leave it out of the question, inasmuch as he as well as ourselves is engaged in studying the records of the past for the same purpose that we should have in the same pursuit, as pointed out by Max Müller.
The student of Occultism, on hearing only the facts about the conquests of India, would see therein the finger of fate pointing to the future as fully indicated by the present circumstances.
For the great material and temporal events happening at the conquest of a nation always show to him who can see what is to be its future, in some respects at least. But long years have passed since that conquest, and we now have history to aid the purblind eye of the nineteenth century mind that is hardly able to see anything save dollars and cents or the mere daily benefits growing out of their possession and use. As orientalists and archaeologists have abundantly shown, it is known that our fables come from India, that the Greeks drew much from that source, and that we are indebted to her for more than we have yet been able to acknowledge. Müller and Schopenhauer and others have been delving into the Upanishads and Vedas, and every day there is growing more and more a widespread interest in ideas purely Hindu in their origin. Even poets of the female sex write sonnets in our magazines upon great doctrines such as Nirvana, 1 which, although utterly wrong in conception of that doctrine, yet show the flowing of the tide of old Brahmanical pondering. All of this pictures to me a new conquest of the West by India, the great land for conquerors. It is the rising from the grave of the mighty men of some thousands of years ago that constitutes this invasion and will bring about our conquest. And this silent leavening of the lump goes on while Mr. Gladstone is attempting with much show to prove that the Christian Bible is the only bible, as his friends in various Jerusalem Societies spend time and money in the attempt to establish the notion that a single semitic nation is the one that the West has received all her benefits from, and that it is necessary to prove the semitic narrative true in order to stem the tide of materialism.
If I were convinced by any reasonable proof or argument that Palestine was ever the cradle of our civilization or philosophy, or other than the seat of a people who are the true exponents of a fine social materialism, I would advocate great attention to her records. But it is not a single small nation we should look to. The fountain head is better than a secondary receptacle, a mere cistern that takes the overflow from the source. The fountain is old India, and to that the members of the Theosophical Society who are not only desirous of saving time but also of aiding the sages of the past in the evolution of doctrines which, applied to our great new civilization, can alone save it from failure, will bend themselves to the task of carrying out our second object—the investigation of Aryan literature, religion, and science.
We must prepare. There are men in India today who are qualified and willing to aid in translating works hitherto untranslated, in collecting that which shall enable us to disseminate and popularise true doctrines of man’s life and destiny. Time is very short and cannot be spent by all of us in learning Sanskrit. But if every member of the Society gave all he could to its funds, the treasury of the American Section could afford the employment in India of pandits who would delve into their old stores for us, and we then could print and distribute results to every member. Ought not the year 1891 to mark a step in advance? Ought not the many members to now come to the aid of the few who hitherto have borne the greater part of the burden of the work and expense? Let us then get ready to use the material in the ancient storehouse of India, treasures that no man can be called a thief for taking, since the truths acquired by the mind respecting man’s life, conduct, constitution, and destiny are the common property of the human race, a treasure that is lost by monopoly and expanded by dissemination.
1. See Current Literature, Jan., 1890, p. 48, “Nirvana,” by Carrie Stevens Walter.