A Guest in Glangyffin
1. Wakings; collectings. — 2. Magicked. — 3. ‘In the midst of life’; old brandy; first lesson with Mr Wrinch; sympathies. 4. — ‘Mystic hints’; ultimates; ‘the body’s guest’; the Great Debate. — 5. Cold coffee; Defayis’s choice; faber fortunae suae; I and me.
in pendinas, on those first mornings, woken by the grey gleam above the curtains, by the clang of gulls, by his own excitement, he would still lie quietly, counting the flies on the ceiling and breathing the faint fustiness of the quilt, till his parents roused (his father would be knocked up from the journey), then would dress in no time and run down two pair of stairs—not without savouring on the way the smell of sea-damp, frying, and worn carpets—in his hurry to be outdoors. Once or twice he was kept in, when he was lured into the front parlour by the twangy piano there, as on other wet days, but usually he hurried on down to the kitchen, where sad-eyed Mrs Jenkins would already be bustling, and after wishing her good morning left Pensarn Villa by the back door, and the garden by a wicket, and took the steep lane to the station (his legs stiff from climbing it with his parents the previous afternoon, his ears straining now in the early stillness for the first thud from the mountain at his back), to pass through the ringing passage under the railway and on to the front, and if the tide was out, as often the sight from the lane of a quarry-boat lying in Gyffin Bay would already have in-formed him it was, to race over the ribbed sands as far as those weed-hung rocks the jetty straddled—where at last a chill wind booming between its iron stilts would send him back to breakfast.
Here he had woken late, having read late, and had been going through memories of Pendinas till recalled to the present by the thought of lunch. While dressing, he was looking towards the mouth of the great river whose mudflats, some three miles distant, he had often in former years scanned from the train (as it ran along the embankment there) for a heron fishing the tide-pools—not towards Gull Island, hidden from him here by the westward mountains. And now he goes downstairs to be greeted by Leo with:
“Ah! just in time to join me for a cold collation. We’re on our own, as it happens, an acquaintance of my stepfather’s, one John Howell, an engaging character, has borne him off to Pontygower to see some paintings, and the womenfolk went too (it was deemed best to let you sleep on). However, upon prior consultation I established that the larder wasn’t bare.”
“It seems Uncle… your stepfather has met some interesting people here. Like the man he met yesterday—Mr Michaelis?—, who discovered that moth in the north of England.”
“If you’re interested in bugs. But you’ve mixed these up, his one lives only on the Giant’s Head. Even more nondescript, but it caused a brouhaha among the cognoscenti.”
At table, “Leo,” he says, “do tell me just what you’re studying, I’m not clear from your references last night.”
“I shall endeavour to enlighten you” (evidently pleased), “but first,” (though flourishing the servers as if in combat with him again, Paul thinks) “potato salad, what say you? And shall I dispense it?” (before resuming after a single mouthful:) “Formerly I belonged to the Faculty of English—somewhat anomalous, you may think, when I had to get through as much Middle Welsh as Old English and my strong subject was Celtic history. Actually I was the only freshman reading for the Anglo-Saxon tripos in the entire University, and then I was the only second-year man in that happy position. After that, however, after my Part One exams, I had to change course, because in Anglo-Saxon there’s no Part Two, so I changed to what the University is pleased to call Modern and Medieval Languages. Needless to say I’ve done my damnedest to ignore the ‘modern’ part—hardly my line.”
His brow clouds, and “Incidentally,” here he changes the subject, “I see from the Calendar why you didn’t try for the old place yourself. Lectures on music of this century ‘merely complementary’. Most modern composer studied, Berlioz! Major special subject, one Josquin des Prés—fifteenth century? Hardly your line” (mopping up mayonnaise with a frankfurter). “Query”, he adds as Paul is about to speak, “why you’ve let yourself in for all this philosophy.”
“But that’s just what I wanted, only there’s all too little of it.”
“Hum.—Oh yes, a stack of music awaits you in the next room, we might repair there with our coffee.”
“It’s true that neither of my subjects seems to be of any use,” Paul says slowly, “unlike yours, I suppose.”
“A single fact, faithfully recorded, is a gain to knowledge.”
“So the discovery of a single moth is, shouldn’t you think? And then you don’t only record, do you—who said the historian abdicates his function” (distinguishing these last words from his own by the inflexion of his voice) “if he doesn’t interpret as well?”
“Some pinko, I expect.”
After an interval, “You were surprised to hear of my interest in philosophy,” Paul speaks again, “I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear you were reading natural sciences.”
Leo looks at him blankly, then: “Oh, that’s ancient history, couldn’t have stood the field-work, for one thing. You’ll have to meet Michaelis”, he adds.
From their walks with his stepfather, such walks as Paul had gone with them, Leo and his half-sister had brought back, besides their finds, much odd and pleasing information—as Paul had brought back with an ‘elf-bolt’ this folk-name learnt by Mr Traube from an old Wealdsman. More. Not since those Brockhurst days had Lou pressed a flower or a fern, it was even longer since she had made patterns in plaster of Paris with winkles and cowries, small scallops and tellins, gathered as her father turned over the wrack on Pendinas beach after a storm. And her childish feeling for nature, awakened by him, was far removed from the anxious preoccupation of her adolescence. Yet she would soon know that it was strong in her still. As for her half-brother, his cabinet of curiosities, to which her father had donated most, had not, unlike her herbarium, survived the break-up of their home on the hurst (so that a vixen’s skull found by Mr Traube on a winter walk in Dinarth woods —across the river here—, and set by her on a square of black stuff, grinned at him now, when he was at his correspondence, from the top of his own bureau). And not only had Leo since grown increasingly bookish and home-abiding, but as his ambition had defined itself his interests had fewered—points of difference from Mr Traube, who, ambitious of nothing, had informed himself about a multitude of things (as much too by observation and inquiry as by his very miscellaneous reading), and was hale and limber enough yet to outwalk a young man far more active than Leo. For all this, Leo’s own factful mind, his choice of studies itself, spoke his obligation to a stepfather who had taken the liveliest interest in his adopted country’s language and past, from when so English a phrase as ‘be he who he may’ had sounded to him like Chinese, and he had been so pleasantly surprised at the derivations (true or ‘popular’) of ‘Cripplegate’ and ‘Covent Garden’, ‘Piccadilly’ and ‘Pall Mall’, ‘Charing Cross’ and ‘Elephant and Castle’.
Having invited the Crouches—who had spent their best musical evenings with him—to a home without a piano and almost without music, Mr Traube was obliged to his new neighbour Mrs Grant for her discovery of a suitable instrument, now in his sitting-room, and had been glad to acquire through her from charity sales a quantity of music besides, to supplement what little he and Lou had brought to the house between them.
One of Lou’s pieces, Chanson triste, was on the music-rest when Paul went to the piano now, and her initials were on the only music in any sense modern, The Holy Boy, of all he now reluctantly looked through. Without glancing between their mildewed boards at the Songs without Words or letting the Rondo Capriccioso detain him, without picking up ‘A Cambrian Wreath’ or ‘A Garland of Evening Hymns’ or examining the only four-handed music here, Moszkowski’s Spanish Dances, he did open ‘A Bouquet of Waltzes’—at Moszkowski’s Concert Waltz in E (between the ‘Minute’ Waltz and the Valse des fleurs)—, he surveyed the ballads, devotional songs, traditional airs, sentimental favourites and arias from grand opera that made up the rest of the vocal music, and feeling he might be expected to play something and not merely hum the opening notes of Queen of My Heart (he’d not known the thing in this guise), he even sampled a morceau élégant from a musty old album of salon stuff, after hesitating over a dear friend among some ‘Gems of Schubert’.
His thoughts had strayed to some music at home, a ragged miscellany of his father’s in which time and posterity were defied and Wagner rubbed shoulders again with Raff, Beethoven with Spohr, Mozart even with Storace. Mr Crouch didn’t disrelish other good tunes besides the great masters’, and with an application worthy of theirs, drawing long breaths, and extremely adagio (as his accompanist now fondly recalled), would scrape through the ‘Serenades’ by Braga and Toselli, the Gounod and Massenet ‘Méditations’, the ‘Intermezzo’ from Cavalleria Rusticana. How long though since their last music-making! And how long before he fitted the new rosewood pegs Mrs Crouch had given him to tempt him to pick up his fiddle again?
Paul felt dispirited. Not that he desired the atonal music which Leo—like the famous harpsichordist who had nevertheless demanded, the previous autumn, if Paul seriously thought there was any such thing as atonal music—had got the idea was ‘his line’, but the atonic effect on him of paltry music was only too strong. Raff’s Cavatina, Giordani’s Caro mio ben, the Berceuse by Benjamin Godard, ‘the celebrated Andante of Batiste’, these trifles which alone, as he supposed, just preserved the dead men from oblivion,—perhaps they caused something like pity in him, but what lassitude too!
He glanced through the rest of the album and closed it; the stained and faded binding didn’t belie its contents as the titles did—Souvenir charmant, Caprice brillante, Marche triomphale… Still, better this trumpery march than, today, that little march of Schubert’s—today when even that, with Schubert’s soul in the trio, might seem to him lacklustre, and ‘Brahms’s Lullaby’ as stale a succade as Barnby’s Sweet and Low. Was even the best, though, ever wholly good for him? It was certain works of music that had given the word ‘spiritual’ what sense it had for him, but those soul-stirrings had their price, he gave as well as got, and when nervous excesses had lowered his vitality still further he would begin to share the age-old mistrust of music that is too emotional.
To him the most interesting and expressive element in music was harmony, and more than once, when he had been unable to resist trying over some effect on the big Bechstein in the school hall—since Toby Rundle, the only schoolfellow to have taken the subject with him, wasn’t practising for the moment, and though he liked his modest upright at home much better—, Toby had been intrigued enough to come and look over his shoulder, only to cry “Oh, that’s all it is!”, like one who thinks nothing of a conjuring trick once shown the secret. It was since recognizing the aesthetic nature of effects of magic (whose aesthetic merit was the greater in his eyes the simpler the means) that Paul had understood his own pleasure of five years before in Ghost Tubes, Chinese Rings, ‘the Temple of Benares’, ‘the Pillars of Solomon’,—in tricks (some performable, ‘without sleight of hand’, by ‘the veriest tyro’, such as he) which had fascinated him then as much as the most luscious harmonies. That pleasure, though, he had got more from reading the catalogue of magic lent him by his first friend, Henry Wright, than from actually working the pieces of apparatus he had acquired, whereas his pleasure in harmonic effects was even greater when they found their places in compositions.
Yet not only did he sometimes lose all taste for harmony, as he had told Leo, he also doubted what no composer would doubt (would he?), whether any new tonal combinations remained to be found. If he’d not yet abandoned composition, an employment he had long preferred to every other but reading, his composerly impulse was abandoning him. And though he had wished to make this art’s secrets his own, to penetrate the arcana of those sensuous equivalents for inner states which music offered as well as nature, after saving up for it impatiently he had learnt from one glance at the score of Nuages that he didn’t care to see the mystery reduced to notes on staves.
Not then that he had ceased to find this music spellful. Each composer who had once glamoured him could do so yet, and while he listened was the one he liked best—rather as (what this year he had noticed by turns not only with his mother’s hyacinths, the garden apple-blossom, the moat-house lilac, but with the roadside hawthorn, the churchyard elder, the ‘meadwort’ his father found as stale-smelling as these) each fancied fragrance smelled the sweetest while he breathed it. It wasn’t as with books, which never so interested him but he was liable to wonder whether he shouldn’t be reading something more nourishing; yet that doubt troubled him less than his doubt about music, whether it could nourish him as even some matterful novels could do.
Leo, though, evidently had expected him to go in for music yet considered that his ‘other interest’, unlike an interest in dead languages, needed justifying. But as to that, and independently of his new, slight formality with Leo—begotten equally by the memory of their boyish fistifying and by the consciousness that they were boys no longer—, he was reluctant to open himself, this interest which Leo didn’t take quite seriously deriving from feelings he could hardly have confided to anyone.
Such as the startlement at being he had felt on looking into his own eyes in a mirror—into his own self, he might have believed, only, if this was in his look it wasn’t behind it. This self then, unlike these frail eyes, was it imperishable, even though, being alive, he would certainly die? That much had been borne in on him in another moment of perception, as his mother was talking blithely to his father—this self, or this consciousness, could be extinguished, one day it would be. Did time come of consciousness, as he had thought since? Time was change, he had thought then—the fading of his mother’s cheek. His father and mother also would die, they could save neither him nor themselves, and here in the warm kitchen the bright light hid a void.
But death not only must come one day, it might come any day, and for him at such moments this truth wasn’t merely notional. Death then was what it hadn’t been even when, the previous autumn, one tea-time of yellowing windows and raining leaves, with screens around his bed, he had, apparently, been near it, yet when, in that woodland hospital to which his grandmother Maher had been driven in a two-horse wagonette half a century back, his had been no such experience as she had had there, and had related during her last weeks, the previous winter, to his mother.
“I remember, Lois, I was very down too just before my first operation, Dr Porteous asked me what was wrong, I said I thought I’d not pull through it, he said ‘Mrs Maher, you aren’t trusting Someone’ and went away, well by and by I felt a calm come over me, I told the nurse, she said ‘I’m sure the doctor has prayed for you, he’s a most godly man’, then when he came in next morning he said ‘I believe Mrs Maher is looking forward to her operation’ and smiled, and indeed I had no fear at all, though I’d been so near the border, I was called back for some purpose, I expect.”
Not a few times, after going to sleep thinking ‘Shall I wake up tomorrow?’, he had woken in blackness to think ‘Has death come now?’ At once the moment had been monstered by a consciousness which had forced him to contemplate what he couldn’t bear contemplating. And speechless, in a cold sweat, his hand on his side, he had understood that each of us is essentially alone.
His parents had been troubled to observe in him a nervousness not unlike that which had long plagued Mr Crouch. And on one of those occasions, having noticed his light (being up at the time) and guessed he was wretched, his father had brought him some brandy and tried to converse about indifferent things, sitting on his bed. But Paul had been hardly more able to talk of them than of an emotion at once too strong and too intimate to be talked of, and touched though he was by these ineffectual ministrations had answered his father shortly.
It was the direction on a bottle of tablets, Daily dose: children one, adults two, that had first brought him some relief, suddenly substituting for a too keen sense of self the image of a spectral host in which he was yet included—as he could see by a mental operation such as had related for him once the science-master’s colourless statement that water crystallizes on cooling with the sight, from a form-room lit up by a crimson fireball, of a playing-field candied over with frost. He had now found that while he thought of people in the aggregate, and lacking, after a process of abstraction—as when reduced to statistics or to ‘consuming and producing units’—, almost every attribute of real people, death also was less real to him.
Now too he had felt the attraction of that impersonal knowledge—not excluding physical science—which its great exponent Stern had written of as being far above the sphere of human affairs.
Only in his reading, seemingly, could he lose himself, or fellowship with others. Often enough in his reading he had had occasion to reflect how much private anguish lay behind the facts so barely stated, that such a one had died of such a thing at such an age, and to wonder, even while soothed to think of his own end recorded so, by doctor or registrar some day, as no great matter, that we do in general think so lightly of such facts. And he had wondered that Stern wrote of death always philosophically, as though the fear of death were foreign to him. But it was in his reading too that he could feel with others in even their worst afflictions, and principally, in their last days, with the dead he loved, as most recently in the poet Defayis’s—at the same time not only consoled, because their afflictions were all past, but almost reconciled by their deaths to his death.
He had, though, come to know another way of feeling ‘involved in mankind’—in fact that sense of human solidarity and his lonely terror no longer seemed absolutely opposed, as they had on his first finding in the one some relief from the other. Already on his becoming conscious at once of his selfhood and of his own mortality, the generalized understanding that to be alive was to be condemned to die had been within his reach. And by now, when he could see their common mortality as a bond between all beings, it was as though the understanding were not simply strengthening the fellow-feeling but underlying it.
Which all made him think that for him the vital thing was to find an explanation of life, and the best thing to be of some use to others. And if it were just in being this that the explanation lay? That would disappoint him if it implied a merely earthbound philosophy, such as he could never be content with. More than to be good, he wanted to know of another state of being than his present state. He had once or twice seemed about to step out of the world, and from wonder that the world was at all he desired an explanation of it, which would surely point beyond it and by which the problem of life would surely be illuminated.
And he thought this desire only natural. True, as Stern’s paradox warned, just because you desired an explanation it didn’t follow that you could find one. ‘The great secret of the universe, mightn’t it be that there is no such secret?’ What the cause of the world was, science couldn’t say, and Stern, fantastically supposing that nothing can be known except by science, had concluded that the world had no cause but simply was, and that it made no sense to ask why it was. Certain other thinkers, however, not themselves congenial to him as Stern was, had a theory of the world that was encouraging as Stern’s was not. Stern himself believed that the world we knew was constructed by our minds from our sensations, the world as it was we couldn’t know; these others asserted that beyond the sensible world lay a reality which alone explained the world and gave meaning to life and a purpose to humanity and history, that it was the ground of moral values, and that consciousness was not simply mind but soul.
Paul could no more easily think of his thoughts as molecular processes in his brain than of his feelings as secretions of his ductless glands, yet it was as a function of the brain that he had thought of consciousness, so their view of it had surprised him. And as he now knew, that view was contested not only by sceptics and materialists but by him who to some was a living Buddha (though he himself had joked that he had been acclaimed such when only a naughty boy, and Paul felt less disposed to reverence him as such than to love him for so joking, and for his smile, which Paul knew from a magazine photograph of a dapper dark-robed young man with cropped black hair and gold-rimmed glasses)—the earthly manifestation of that Bodhisattva of Compassion whose sandalwood-scented chamber Paul in his reading had visited with Po Chü-I. For this Lama consciousness was just one of the attributes or bundles of attributes we think we own, and a soul could no more be found in them than the soul of music could be found in Paul’s old Broadwood.
But which of these disputants should he believe? His “problemizing” made his mother smile, his father thought it hopeless, yet on the answer to that question depended not just his view of life but perhaps his choice of life as well.
Much of all this, though, how abstract he had found it! “And what’s my own in it” (glancing at Leo, who while he was trifling with his spoon has been reading and taking notes) “would seem mere brainspun stuff to another, as Dr Sprange’s Godspeak seems to me” (he has thought of the husband of a friend of his mother’s, a retired clergyman). The room darkens, the swollen sky has overbrimmed again. In Pendinas, rain will be running down the glazed brick and granite of Pensarn Villa, varnishing the iron thistles on the Salem railings, streaking the lead-barred, wired-glass canopy of the arcade in Paradise Road. “If only it would clear up,” he says aloud, gazing down the vivid garden, “perhaps we might go out?”
“I fear that not. I have this article to work up, actually an edition of two short dialogues of a remarkably early date, from an MS. in the University library, with an investigation of their sources and form. So far so quite good, but I shouldn’t wonder if I stayed in till September.”
According to the thinker who most interested Paul at present, there was no circumstance of Defayis’s sad life for which the poet himself hadn’t been fully and consciously responsible—so that, not ill-fated but self-condemned, he had deserved his life. According to both this thinker and the Lama, condemned every one to be free and responsible no matter what our characters and circumstances or what befell us, we all fashioned our own fortunes and all deserved our lives.
“My father too,” Paul had asked them in thought, “a guest in Radlett?”—In Radlett, where, the very name seeming to him stigmatical, Mr Crouch hadn’t wished even his wife to visit him.
About that self of his, which had looked out from his eyes, but which when he had tried to look into it had proved so elusive, Paul had puzzled not a little. If nothing of him was not self it was even looser to talk as though he had a self than as though he had a mind or a body, for who or what then was this ‘he’? But should he say he was a mind or a body, as the mind perhaps was ‘its’ thoughts? There was no self without memory. (And no memory without consciousness, but indeed he could more easily conceive of self as consciousness than of thoughts with no thinker. Couldn’t he look over his own shoulder? It was chiefly himself he was conscious of.) And as with memory, so with reason and perhaps feelings. Unfashionably, though, he had a will too, which could determine his choices and actions regardless of his reason or feelings, so if reason was the highest function of his being, will seemed the most fundamental.
And with reason and feelings to prompt and guide him, and a will to decide for him, he did seem free morally—he did seem free not only to raise his arm or commit himself in friendship, but (say) to disapprove of a feeling he couldn’t help feeling. He might often err, but he was free to err—or as free as he was conscious. And so far as he was free he was responsible. To be morally free wasn’t to be wholly free, still he supposed we were, generally, responsible for our conduct towards others. But he could hardly agree with the Lama, or with Dr Sprange—who liked to think that the crimes of religion had been exceeded by those of modern atheistic ideologies—, in linking ‘right conduct’ with religious belief. If that old atheist Stern was the kindest of men, as he was commonly reported to be, it was with no thought of merit-making. And believers didn’t all report so well of themselves.
A Sadhu in the Suburbs
1. Between attraction and belief…; Arjuna’s choice. — 2. ‘Married to a single life’; school satyagraha; following the Master.
“We are a non-violent people, but when you have been bashed up several times you are also insecure. The majority want to do nothing with fights, despite all manners of provocation, but the authorities cannot be controlling each and every situation, and hotheads who want to keep the pot boiling demand, What option we have? Of course, if government have army for midwife, we know who will be calling the shots! I wish we may have Gandhian principles, even after three wars. Gandhiji made hartals, fasts unto death, against all those atrocities the Britishers were doing, also against communal bickering. And still” (sighing) “so many have been perished!”
It was through the mother of a workmate of his that Paul had met Swami Satyanand, the previous summer, on attending a meeting of the Swami’s scripture study-group at her suggestion. (He had hoped first to learn about the Song Celestial from her son, but Bhagwandas had told him nothing about it, preferring to kick a football with others.)
“My teacher, or as ve call, guru—a very great learned one from Rishikesh, abode of the mystic sages. It might have never happened if he didn’t inspire us, and ve are loving it, it is so much better since before!”
As the meeting broke up, Paul had thanked the Swami enthusiastically.
“I dare say it’s another Western distinction, or even opposition, that between philosophy and religion. Your talk has encouraged me to think that it’s rather artificial. And that even if such answers seem strange to me, these are the essential problems.”
But as usually happened when he let another know how he felt, the other felt otherwise. (Later, when he thought how Swami Satyanand had stared on his introducing himself and saying, “Mrs Navsaria I believe has asked you if I might come”, he would wonder if Bhagwandas’s mother had no more done that than she had come to the meeting.) And now he is to understand that whereas these compatriots of the Swami’s weren’t wrong to seek material betterment in his country, he wouldn’t be right to seek spiritual betterment in the Swami’s country. After considering him for a space,
“You can find wisdom in the East, also false gurus”, the holy man brings out, “I myself have had the opportunity to encounter with some, who are guaranteeing to open your third eye but are nothing but fakes, exploiting the ignorrance of the masses.” (This, as opposed to a ‘higher understanding’, was the subject of his address.) “Now many young peoples like you are going to this sai babas, seeking the spirituality, who should be solving their problems at home. Of course,” (still more severely) “many young Indians are going gaga about the materialistic Vest—they are just lapping it up! And this peoples,” (with a nod towards the door) “they come from far away, seeking greener pastures, starting from scratches. Now they have money, success—all well and done, those things are not condemnable. But without a strong culture they razzle-dazzle us, if you may, the old values are forgotten, then we cannot have happiness. This, some are understanding. Bharath is our Mother, preserving the culture; they are losing it, losing the spiritual stories the grandparents were telling, bringing up their childrens ignorrantly. So they ask me to come and explain them about it, and together we sing and pray, and study this wonderful book. And I think,” he had added, “our culture has already imbibed the positives of yours—that is the beauty of it, it is a melting pot. So we can having the best of the both worlds.”
Paul is thoughtful. “I suppose what’s best is to be useful to others.”
“To serve man is to serve God, Mahatma Gandhi has said.”
“And isn’t the best way of serving others to relieve their sufferings? Well, a religious meaning is, for me, the only one the world could have, but the suffering prevents me from believing it does have one.”
Dr Sprange, convinced of the reasonableness of his faith, had wished to convince Paul of it, but after hearing Paul’s reasons against it explained that the arguments of men were vain, that to God the wisdom of this world was folly, and that to gain true wisdom the wise must become fools. Swami Satyanand doesn’t disapprove of Paul’s studying and questioning, only it must be with a view to right living. Seeing they are alone now, he invites Paul to sit down with him.
“Before you can believe, you must be convinced,” (his tone has altered) “that is why in our culture we are not making this difference you mentioned. You are preferring philosophy because in your religion you are not free to question, yet in this way we make spiritual progress—Arjuna is questioning all through the Gita. And you have already decided between good and evil, Arjuna also. Now he must decide between two courses that both seem good, so he needs a guide, like the community here. In all difficult situations I am finding a guide in the Gita. Philosophical theories are of no value as such, we need a simple, practical help for right living. This is the way to real happiness, with right use of money—artha is for dharma. But I will say, you are young,” he adds. “To learn our svadharma is not easy, I was twice your age when I left my monastery.”
“Was it Mrs Navsaria who told him I preferred philosophy to ‘my religion’? His own idea perhaps, which he preferred to the one I’d expressed to him.”
After all, the Swami clearly preferred his own idea of that religion to the idea that the basis of Christian belief was not certainty but faith—an idea Paul had heard Dr Sprange express, no doubt considering that to believe what was actually possible was not faith but mere philosophy.
‘Shankaracharya taught God in all’ had been the Swami’s justification for quitting first his studies, to help a leper, then (in the year of Paul’s birth) monastic life, to help humanity. And sitting with Paul after the meeting, in what had been the vestry of a Baptist church, he went back in a muse to his monastery in Rishikesh, to leave it again as, earlier, on the death of a beloved aunt, he had left the world.—Further back to Hardwar, where that aunt had bought him roshagulas at the bazaar, after taking him to see her guru.—Back further still to his father’s house in Benares, where she had painted his hands and feet with henna before he had become ‘twice born’.
Shankaracharya, he was thinking now, had wished from a child to renounce the world, opposed by his mother till she saw him in the muggar’s jaws; he, opposed by his mother, had wished to reform the world. And if he had refused to marry (whereupon his mother had urged, not that a gristhi too might live a life of purity, but that a gristhi too might become a member of the All-India Legislative Council), it was from devotion to Mother India, not to God.
Or was it merely from an objection to her matchmakers’ choice? She anyway hadn’t spared him, reminding him sharply of their circumstances since his father’s death (he was to consider the value of the dowry), and playing on his feelings—woman-like, he had thought then, though not quite irrelevantly, he could see now—as she recalled her fear that she should never have a child.
Yes, but he had been hard-hearted, disregarding her tearful “But what joy, Anand, when at last the gods were gracious!”