Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

a

ality of an author, if closely woven into the texture of his works, is a hindrance to their success, unless he make it either dramatically interesting, or directly and confidingly personal.

Perhaps no man ever poured more of individuality into what he wrote than Fichte; this adds much to the value and pregnancy of his compositions, but as Fichte's individuality was the mere naked and impetuous force of idea, as it had nothing confessional, familiar, or picturesque, it thrusts aside all but the courageous few who are willing to venture into that vast abyss of thought where Fichte tried to find the secret of Universal Being. On the other hand, in Montaigne the personality predominated over the individuality; he had no imperious instincts; he had no great and strong convictions to communicate: thought attracted him simply in the same way as the articles of furniture in his chateau, or the trees on his estate; that is, the moment he touched it, it became bis property, and had for him all the charm of property; so that, in reading him, it is less the uttered than the utterer that fascinates our attention. Dante had the proud, stern, self-isolating individuality of a Titan; but in his nature, passion, and the will to conquer passion, were ever struggling for the mastery: thus, tho he is so central a figure in his singular and immortal poem, it was not from a weak desire of exciting the sympathy of others that he assumed this prominence, but because his hot Italian blood required an outlet which it found only in the personal. Of St. Augustine we might almost say, what can scarcely be said of any other man equally famous, that his individuality was the result of his personality. It was the strange, the sinful, the sorrowful of his personal experience, that first led him to the glory of the impersonal. In Rousseau the individual and the personal, the idea and the destiny, the conscious and the unconscious, were perfectly one. In opposition to those who think him the most inconsistent, we think him the most consistent. Consequently, while in Montaigne, Dante, and St. Augustine, the Writer takes a deeper hold on us than the Writings, in Rousseau the writer and the writings have an equal interest. Hazlitt (whom it has become the custom of late years to depreciate as a mere imitator of, or borrower from, Lamb and Coleridge, but who had much more original genius and independent thinking than either) exhibits in his works the strangest alternation of the individual and the personal; he seldom offers us the author and the man together ; now we have a bold, brilliant, subtle critic, scattering with a careless hand around him pictorial paradoxes and most musical truths, and then we have a poble but wounded soul shrieking in the world's unheeding ear the whole fulness of its scorn, but striving in vain to breathe the whole fulness of its love. These sudden transitions, tho interfering with Hazlitt's artistic claims, bring him much Dearer in potent and fecund suggestion to our hearts, as well as to our minds, than if he had more of the sustained force and regular beauty of the artist.

Sterling was not individual in the same sense as any of those we have just mentioned. He put so much of the personal into the individual, not as a result but as a continuous effluence, that he was rendered incapable of putting the individual into the personal. He confest so much to his Ideas, that he had no confessions to make to his Fellows. Ilis thoughts have all a holiday dress on, not because he had any thing of the pedant or the phrase-maker, but because they had so much of a sort of careless liberty in his own brain, and had their garments so loose and soiled about them there, that he believed he could not give them ablutions too many or too thoro, or send them forth into the dazzling saloons of well-bred literature in too gorgeous attire.

The Biographical Sketch prefixed to these volumes, is meant to be fair, and yet we are not sure that it gives an accurate impression of Sterling. Mr. Hare is a man of eminent abilities and acquirements, too honorable to misrepresent, and with views too comprehensive and spirit too charitable to offend us by a bitter or a paltry bigotry. But he has some strong Anglican prejudices which tinge, not so much his account of Sterling's outward life, as of his mental changes and growth. We are given to understand by a sort of delicate art (not intended to be Jesuitical, but which has all the effect of Jesuitism), that Sterling's dissent from received opinions was in some measure made more lamentable and blamable by being likewise a renunciation of the Church of England's authority! We suspect it is thus, that nearly all the Anglican clergy, even those reputed the most liberal, would speak. In their eyes (as in the eyes of other sects also) the worst of heresies is that which lessens, even in the smallest degree, the weight of the Sacerdotal Corporation of which they are members. It would have been better, therefore, if Sterling's life had been written by some one who could have risen more completely above the associations of Sect and Profession than Mr. Hare seems able to do. In the meantime, we gratefully accept the narrative such as it is, and admit that it is very genial and generous, and possesses much literary merit.

W. MACCALL.

HOPE'S THREE STAGES.

BY F. E. MILSON.

I.
HEN Time was Young, with reckless haste

The hour-glass from his hand he cast,

Let the fair Present run to waste,
And mingled with the forward-gazing throng
Who, to the music of Hope's cheering song,
Up to the unseen Future pass along-

In early Morning
While yet Time is young!

II.
When Time grew Older, not so fast
He journeyed, but more slowly passed,
Gazing with back-turned eyes into the Past :
The restless Trouble-shadow ran before,
And Hope behind him, as on Being's shore
He walked along, all travel-worn and sore,

In shady Evening-
Time was young no more!

III.
When Time grew Very Old, and carthly sight
Was dimmed, then Hope's increasing light,
With heavenly radiance lit the shadowy Night.
Star-seated then, lie heard God's curfew rung
To quench Earth's Passion-fires, and tongue
Of Seraph, in his ears new opened, sung:

Life's second Morning
* Time again is Young!

[ocr errors]

THEOSOPHY OF THE HINDOOS.

THE BHAGVAT GEETA.

I. INTRODUCTION. HE book which best represents the sacred philosophy of the Hindoos is the Bhagvat Geeta. It is a kind of episode to an ancient Hindoo poem

called the Mahabharat, said to have been written upwards of four thousand years ago, by Kreeshna Dwypayen Veias, a learned Brahmin, and is more highly esteemed and ven ed than any other of the Brahminical writings.

We are indebted to Commerce not only for this book, but for our knowlege of the Sanscrit language itself, from which the book is translated. It was originally published under the sanction of the East Inaia Company, by Charles Wilkins, a Senior Merchant in the service, with a prefatory letter by Warren Hastings, dated 1784. According to Mr. Wilkins, “it is a dialogue supposed to have passed between Kreeshna, an incarnation of the Deity, and his pupil and favorite Arjoon, one of the five sons of Pandoo, who is said to have reigned about five thousand years ago, just before the commencement of a famous battle fought on the plains of Koorookshetra, near Dehly, at the beginning of the Kalee Yoog, or fourth and present age of the world, for the empire of Bharat-versh, which at that time included all the countries that, in the present division of the globe, are called India, extending from the borders of Persia to the extremity of China; and from the snowy mountains, to the southern promontory.”

As a mere literary record of the philosophy, morals, and religion of the Brahmins, this book is a valuable possession; but considered with reference to the time in which it was written, it increases both in value and importance, and suggests many startling questions and enquiries. In the opinion of competent scholars there is no reason to doubt the alleged antiquity of the Geeta; and allowing it to have been written four thousand years ago, it furnishes us with conclusive evidence-from the profound nature of its philosophy and its great literary merit--that there existed an old and highly polished civilization in India, which must have been the result of a slow and gradual development of the Indian people. This view of the subject, which is confirmed by the existence of a still more ancient literature than that of which Veias is the reputed author, and by the wonderful temples and enormous ruins of Bamyan, Ellore, Elephanta, Ceylon, and other Indian localities, leads us back to an age of the world long anterior to historic dates and records, and overturns the received notions of cosmogony and chronology.

The study of the Sanscrit language has, indeed, opened up a new and strange world to modern men; whilst it has increased the difficulties which have so long beset the great questions of primitive history. All the traditions which have been handed down to us respecting the common origin of man, the date of the Deluge, and the general dispersion of the race, are not only questionable as facts,

a

a

a

but modern in their history, when compared with the Indian revelations and the antiquity of the Indian people. And altho, in the absence of satisfactory records, too much reliance should not be placed in the chronological accounts of the Brahmins, with reference to their origin and history, yet the Sanscrit literature affords abundant proofs of an early and primitive culture which has no parallel in ancient times.

According to Mr. Wilkins, the Four Veds are considered the most ancient of the sacred scriptures of the Indians. In his preface to the translation of the Geeta, however, he infers that as Kreeshna alludes only to three of these books, and those the first three according to the present order, that the fourth, in which Kreeshna is spoken of, was a posterior work. This inference when announced to the Pandett of Benares, who aided Mr. Wilkins in his translation, startled him not a little; for it was an old and universally recorded article of Indian faith, that Bralıma promulgated these four books at the creation. The author of the Mahabharat is said to have collected the scattered remnants of the Veds, which at his time were nearly lost as scriptures, in their present literary form; but altho this may have been the case with the first three books, yet the fourth must be excepted for the reason already given. The Geeta may be regarded as a successful attempt to merge the Polytheism, sacrifices, idolatrous worship, and doctrines inculcated in the Veds, into a belief of the Unity and Omnipresence of the Deity.

Before I proceed to analyze this work, which with respect to the Veds may be regarded as a new revelation, it will be necessary to give a short outline of the characteristics of Indian civilization, and some account of the various systems of its philosophy up to the time of Veias, the author of the Vedanta philosophy and the Geeta.

The most remarkable feature in the civil life of India is the Institution of Castes. It lies indeed at the very foundation of Indian society; and has preserved itself entire thrö long and dateless ages, amidst all the fortunes of conquest. It comes to us in one unbroken line from the primitive world, and confronts Alexander, and Mahomet, and the genius of Christianity with the same unchanging face. The highest caste is that of the Brahmins, who are the priests, philosophers, lawyers, and physicians of India. Whatever may have been the origin of this sacerdotal class, it is evident from their ancient poems and literature that they have had a long and honorable ancestry. Frederick Schlegel seems to imagine that their history is in some way connected with the old Patriarchs--the Sons of God, as they are called in the Hebrew Scriptures. And it is certain that the traditions which they have of their origin extend to a very remote antiquity, and that they place their seven Rishis, or Sages from whom they claim descent, in the very morning of the world. But there are many grave objections to this theory of their connection with the Patriarchs. And there is no resemblance between them, either in language, tradition, or religion. Neither is the supposition of Schlegel, that the origin of Castes may be found in the discords and wars of the rival races of the Sethites and Cainites-revived after the Delugementitled to historical weight. It is much more probable, and more consonant with history to suppose, that the Priests rose gradually to a distinct order in consequence of their superior wisdom, and the reverence which their teaching inspired;

[ocr errors]

and that the generai institution of castes was the result partly of conquest and the superiority of one race over another, and partly of that civil division of classes which is natural to all societies. Thus the Kshatriyas, or landed proprietors, were the warriors and nobility of the country, and had distinct rights and privileges from those of the artizan and trading classes; and the Sudras, or common laborers, altho eternally separated from the higher castes,--in consequence, as it is affirmed, of the inferiority of the race,-have their own peculiar privileges. It is remarkable that there are no slaves, properly so called, in this division of classes. Each person, according to the caste in which he is born, has his rights clearly defined in the great charter of Indian custom, which he cannot be deprived of, unless by the commission of crime, or by intermarriage with one of an inferior caste. And it is equally worthy of notice, as a mark of this strange civilization, that women are entitled and admitted to all the privileges and immunities of the caste to which they belong, with the exception of officiating in the Priestly office. But altho this division of ranks and classes in India, may to some extent be accounted for, it is difficult-regarded in the political point of view—to fathom the motives which induced that rigid separation of castes which exists amongst them. Nor must it be supposed that this separation-and the frightful and degrading consequences entailed upon its infringement were the sudden enactions of any single and primitive law, but rather that they grew by slow degrees out of the development of Indian civilization. The key to this strange and startling mystery, so far as it is possible to unlock its meaning, is to be found in the religious doctrines promulgated by the Brahmins; and altho the division of classes may in the first instance have had a political origin, yet the idea of castes--that is, as I have said, the rigid separation of classes with hereditary rights and privileges--seems to have a deeper origin and a more mystic sense; and is certainly woven up with the entire system of Indian faith. The doctrine of the Transmigration of souls, which was held not only by the Indians but by the ancient Egyptians and British Druids--points to the regenerated Brahmin as the great exemplar of human perfection, and holds out to every individual member of the castes, the prospect, after various transformations and purifications, of becoming born into the nature and caste of a Brahmin. Thus, altho the poor Sudras were of an inferior race, and separated from the higher classes by an impassable gulf of social distinction, yet in the spiritual world they might attain equality with the highest. I remark, however, that this doctrine of transmigration, which influenced so deeply the life and conduct of the people, was not regarded by them with hope or joy, but with apprehension and the profoundest dread. It produced likewise that respect for animal life which is so prevalent in India; for it was a part of the doctrine of transmigration, that the souls of men passed, in the cycles of purification, thrö the bodies of animals as well as men. One is at a loss, however, to conceive the meaning of this endless series of natural and supernatural transformations. No doubt the idea of responsibility and of regeneration lies at the bottom of this teaching; but without the aid of the philosophical system of the Brahmins we could get no true insight from this doctrine into their higher faith and life. For this doctrine of the transmigration is a confusion of material and spiritual things;

[ocr errors]

a

N

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »