Saturday, September 25, 2010

Faith, cyclical and sublime

In the spring of 1907, the London publisher, John Murray, published a book on Persian mystics by one F. Hadland Davis. The book appeared in a series called “The Wisdom of the East”, whose editors desired their publications to be “ambassadors of good-will and understanding between East and West, the old world of Thought, and the new of Action”. Through the books in the series, it was hoped that the Western (and Christian) reader would acquire “a deeper knowledge of the great ideals and lofty philosophy of Oriental thought [which] may help to a revival of that true spirit of Charity which neither despises nor fears the nations of another creed and colour”.

One of the first readers of the book was an Easterner educated in the West, Mohandas K. Gandhi. Then based in Johannesburg, Gandhi may have acquired the book from a local store, or perhaps ordered it from London. At any rate, he was deeply impressed, writing about it in Indian Opinion, the journal he then edited. Of the mystics whom Hadland Davis had profiled, Gandhi was charmed most by Jalaluddin Rumi, who aspired to “a pure heart and love of God”. Gandhi quotes Rumi saying, when asked where one could find god, “I saw the Cross and also Christians, but I did not find God on the Cross. I went to find him in the temple, but in vain. I saw him neither in Herat nor in Kandahar. He could be found neither on the hill nor in the cave. At last, I looked into my heart and found Him there, only there and nowhere else.” Gandhi ended his review by saying that he would “like to recommend the book to everyone. It will be of profit to all, Hindus and Muslims alike”.

Full report here Telegraph

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