« AnteriorContinuar »
message for the world—a noble, a divine message in relation to the Brahmanic past. But its message has long since been delivered, and its mission has long since been fulfilled. It has no voice for the progressive life of the West, no movement with the waves of the modern sea. It has sought a Stoic's calm, and a Stoic's calm has been its goal. It remains still as a monument of noble effort and a record of high aspiration ; but its record extends not beyond the range of ancient times, and even at its loftiest zenith it subsists only as the “Light of Asia.”
THE MESSAGE OF PERSIA.
PARSISM, or the religion of Persia, is the second attempt of the ancient world to explain the great problem of human suffering. All religions of the world, whether ancient or modern, have had their rise in an effort to explain that problem. Even the unspeculative mind of China was induced to construct a religion by a sense of the social difficulties which prevailed in the natural state of man. But China did not encounter the problem; when brought face to face with it she ran away. Her whole system is based upon the presentiment that the evils of social life have their origin in social development, and that the only way to get rid of these evils is to go back to a primitive type having its roots in the far past. China, accordingly, does not attempt to grapple intellectually with the difficulties that surround the path of man. She is content to leave these difficulties unsolved. Her whole effort is to avoid them, to get into a state of life where they do not exist; and she believes that she will compass this aim by retracing her steps into a region of primitive simplicity over which the forms of subsequent civilisation exert no power.
It is to India that we must look for the first deliberate effort to face the problem of human suffering. We have seen how, in India, the awakening to that problem was somewhat slow. We have seen how. her earliest view of life was rose-coloured, and therefore false. We have seen how she started with the belief that this world is a pleasure-ground, a place where men are put to sport and play. And we have seen how this belief was broken into fragments by the stern facts of experience. India woke from her delusion to an even exaggerated view of the misery of life. She passed from an unqualified optimism into an unrelieved pessimism, an antagonism to things as they are. Unlike the Chinese empire, she did not fly back from the shadow that she had conjured; she prepared to meet it, to face it — if possible, to account for it. She felt, and rightly felt, that when an evil is explained, one half of its sting has vanished. Accordingly India set herself to explain this evil. She accoinplished her object in a manner satisfactory to herself, and by a method short and easy. She had found the optimism of life to be a delusion; she decided that its pessimism was also a delusion. She came to the conclusion that earthly life, as such, did not exist
that everything in this world below was but part of a dream. This life which man calls human was in reality the dream of God. The divine Spirit had passed into a state of sleeping consciousness, in which the images and forms were unreal, and in which the most tangible experiences were but shadows of the night. This world was a vain show, an appearance, an illusion. The only reality was that which dwelt behind it, and that which dwelt behind it was the Almighty. The dream implied a dreamer, but the dreamer could only be reached by the annihilation of the dream. Things were not what they seemed, and he who would attain their reality must awake to the conviction of their imaginary character.
Let us consider, in passing, the extreme fascination of this idea. It was not merely fascinating as an intellectual speculation ; I believe its main attractiveness lay in its influence over the moral nature. There are times in which we of modern days feel the same attractiveness, experience almost a wish that it might be true. As we look abroad upon the sin and sorrow of the world, as we contemplate the apparent inequalities in the destinies of men, as we survey the misery and squalor and penury which dwell side by side with prodigal wealth and lavish luxury, we ask a thousand times for a vindication of the justice of God. At such seasons the thought sometimes enters the mind, What if it is all a
dream? What if we should awake and find that the things we wept over, prayed over, agonised over, had never any existence outside our own imagining ? What if those experiences of life which suggested a doubt of the justice of God should be themselves illusions, apparitions of the fancy, nightmares of the sleep? Would not the very thought of such a possibility convey to the mind a sense of present calm, and suggest at least a method by which, in the days to come, the plans of Omnipotence might be vindicated ?
Such I believe to have been the moral strength of Brahmanism. Its mere fantasticness would have been against its continuance, its pronounced speculativeness would have been adverse to its popularity; but its suggestion to the trembling heart was the secret of its power. It held out to the hour of trouble the idea that the trouble was an illusion. It told Job that his sufferings were inflicted by his own imagination, and that the Being whom he blamed for them had never once extended an aggressive hand. In stimulating such a belief, Brahmanism did something for the moral life; it helped it to rest under the shadow in the conviction that the shadow was no part of the divine. Nevertheless it was impossible in the light of reason that such a view could long maintain itself. It was inevitable that a time should come in which men would enter on a deeper questioning. Whence this