Imagens das páginas

the Hindu Pantheon, and the act which naturally marks the sense of human degradation has been transformed by this early worship into an element of man's greatness.

The truth is, it would almost seem as if the first mission of India to the world was to proclaim the original hopefulness of the inessage of life. With all those geographical surroundings which naturally foster gloom, and which ultimately did foster gloom, the spirit of this race was at the outset light and airy, incapable of being depressed, and unable to be sombre. It became in this a revelation to the world of what the dawn of life by nature is, and by nature ought to be. Indeed, the conception of a pessimistic child is in itself a contradiction in terms. Childhood is the season of outlook, and where childhood is unimpeded the outlook is ever one of brightness. I say, where childhood is unimpeded. There is such a thing as a melancholy childhood ; but where it exists it is always the result of some hereditary influence. India betrays no such influence; its morning is without clouds. If there is anything which would prompt me to assign to this faith an earlier origin than to others, it is just this original cloudlessness, this absence from the morning sky of all portents and of all shadows. It would seem to indicate that, in a deeper sense than the surrounding religions, the worship of India was the cradle of all worship. Nowhere is there so much freshness, even in the incipient stages of seemingly contemporaneous faiths. China, with all her hopes of empire, exhibits the traces of a life worn out by a long course of worldliness. Persia, in spite of her struggles and aspirations—nay, by the very struggle to realise her aspirations-gives evidence that her morning sky has long departed. Egypt, by her efforts from the very outset to pierce behind the veil of sense, bears testimony to the fact that the form of her faith is a comparatively late one, and one which could only come when the first age of life had been found illusory. But India is at the beginning a spontaneous child. She reveals in every movement the primitive instincts of the heart. She comes to the sight of nature without any trace of a theory, without any indication that she has received from others a creed to promulgate or a doctrine to defend. She paints only what she sees, and she paints it as if she had seen it for the first time. There are many things in the Vedas which do not suggest a primitive religion; there is a knowledge of the arts which implies a previous growth, and there is a subtlety of speculation which indicates a previous maturing. But the optimism of their first aspirings comes to us as at least one drop from the fountain, and the uncloudedness of their original view looks like the reflection of a dawn.

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I HAVE said that the message of Indian religion has been the revelation of life. I have pointed out that, as a matter of fact, the spiritual. life of the individual man is unfolded in three stages. There is a stage of initial hopefulness, in which the world looks absolutely cloudless; there is a stage of disenchantment, in which the world reveals nothing but clouds, and in which the soul's only hope is to rise beyond it; and there is a stage of moral action, in which the soul surmounts once more its sense of care, not by rising above the world, but by finding within the world itself an object transcending materialism—the brotherhood of man. · I have in the previous chapter endeavoured to show how the earliest manifestation of Indian religion has revealed the earliest of these phases of life. We have seen how the first impressions of the Hindu mind were almost unqualifiedly


· joyful-how it looked out upon the forms of na

ture and saw in them only the mirror of its own freedom. We are now to let the curtain fall upon this opening scene, and when it shall rise again we shall be in the presence of a complete transformation. If the first stage of Indian religion is a sense of perfect freedom, the second is assuredly a sense of entire bondage. We have no historical clue by which to interpret the change; the interpretation lies behind the scenes. We have simply the successive representation of two contrasted pictures-the picture of national hope and the picture of national despair. In the absence of any outward clue we are driven inward. In the silence of historical annals we seek an explanation from the voice of human nature. We ask if there is anything in the constitution of the mind of man which can render intelligible this marked and contrasted transition, which can explain the substitution of a dark and sombre view of the universe for a view whose

characteristic feature was sweetness and light ? :: More than one attempt has been made to furnish

such an explanation, and some of the theories seem to me not wholly satisfactory. One very popular reason is the theory whose representative advocate is perhaps Mr Buckle. It seeks to account for the general depression of the Eastern mind by purely geographical influences. It tells us that in Europe man has power over nature, whereas in Asia nature has power over man." It tells us that the Indian has been frightened by his vast mountains, appalled by his endless plains, dwarfed by his immense rivers ; that his personality has been compelled to shrink into insignificance before the majesty of a natural 'creation exhibited ever on the largest scale, and that his life has trembled into nothingness in the presence of material forces which he is powerless to control and unable to comprehend. Now, I have already admitted that these geographical influences do exert a depressing influence, or, as I have expressed it, they “naturally foster gloom”; but I have used that expression advisedly, in order to guard against the notion that they can create gloom. When once the heart has been depressed, an environment such as that of India will certainly tend to retain and even to deepen its depression ; but there is nothing in such surroundings which can originate the sinking of the heart. If a man enters upon such a scene with a disposition light and buoyant, he will find nothing in these elements to interfere with this lightness and buoyancy-probably much which shall minister to them. The vastness of the American continent has been made, in Longfellow's “ Evangeline,” to suggest to the individual mind the idea of melancholy. But such a suggestion belongs not to the morning of American history; it has proceeded

See Buckle’s ‘History of English Civilisation,' vol. i., introductory pages.

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