Part 5 out of 5
the possibility of some mediumistic phenomena, while totally
disagreeing with the spiritualists as to the cause and point of
view. Refusing to believe in the interference, and even presence
of the spirits, in the so-called spiritualistic phenomena, we
nevertheless believe in the living spirit of man; we believe in
the omnipotence of this spirit, and in its natural, though benumbed
capacities. We also believe that, when incarnated, this spirit,
this divine spark, may be apparently quenched, if it is not guarded,
and if the life the man leads is unfavorable to its expansion,
as it generally is; but, on the other hand, our conviction is
that human beings can develop their potential spiritual powers;
that, if they do, no phenomenon will be impossible for their
liberated wills, and that they will perform what, in the eyes of
the uninitiated, will be much more wondrous than the materialized
forms of the spiritualists. If proper training can render the
muscular strength ten times greater, as in the cases of renowned
athletes, I do not see why proper training should fail in the
case of moral capacities. We have also good grounds to believe
that the secret of this proper training--though unknown to, and
denied by, European physiologists and even psychologists--is
known in some places in India, where its knowledge is hereditary,
and entrusted to few.
Mr. Y--- was a novice in our Society and looked with distrust
even on such phenomena as can be pro-duced by mesmerism. He had
been trained in the Royal Institute of British Architects, which
he left with a gold medal, and with a fund of scepticism that
caused him to distrust everything, en dehors des mathematiques
pures. So that no wonder he lost his temper when people tried to
convince him that there existed things which he was inclined to
treat as "mere bosh and fables."
Now I return to my narrative.
The Babu and Mulji left us to help the servants to transport our
luggage to the ferry boat. The remainder of the party had grown
very quiet and silent. Miss X--- dozed peacefully in the carriage,
forgetting her recent fright. The colonel, stretched on the sand,
amused himself by throwing stones into the water. Narayan sat
motionless, with his hands round his knees, plunged as usual in
the mute contemplation of Gulab Lal-Sing. Mr. Y--- sketched
hurriedly and diligently, only raising his head from time to time
to glance at the opposite shore, and knitting his brow in a
preoccupied way. The Takur went on smoking, and as for me, I sat
on my folding chair, looking lazily at everything round me, till
my eyes rested on Gulab-Sing, and were fixed, as if by a spell.
"Who and what is this mysterious Hindu?" I wondered in my uncertain
thoughts. "Who is this man, who unites in himself two such distinct
personalities: the one exterior, kept up for strangers, for the
orld in general, the other interior, moral and spiritual, shown
only to a few intimate friends? But even these intimate friends
do they know much beyond what is generally known? And what do
they know? They see in him a Hindu who differs very little from
the rest of educated natives, perhaps only in his perfect contempt
for the social conventions of India and the demands of Western
civilization.... And that is all--unless I add that he is known
in Central India as a sufficiently wealthy man, and a Takur, a
feudal chieftain of a Raj, one of the hundreds of similar Rajes.
Besides, he is a true friend of ours, who offered us his protection
in our travels and volunteered to play the mediator between us
and the suspicious, uncommunicative Hindus. Beyond all this, we
know absolutely nothing about him. It is true, though, that I
know a little more than the others; but I have promised silence,
and silent I shall be. But the little I know is so strange, so
unusual, that it is more like a dream than a reality."
A good while ago, more than twenty-seven years, I met him in the
house of a stranger in England, whither he came in the company of
a certain dethroned Indian prince. Then our acquaintance was
limited to two conversations; their unexpectedness, their gravity,
and even severity, produced a strong impression on me then; but,
in the course of time, like many other things, they sank into
oblivion and Lethe. About seven years ago he wrote to me to
America, reminding me of our conversation and of a certain promise
I had made. Now we saw each other once more in India, his own
country, and I failed to see any change wrought in his appearance
by all these long years. I was, and looked, quite young, when I
first saw him; but the passage of years had not failed to change
me into an old woman. As to him, he appeared to me twenty-seven
years ago a man of about thirty, and still looked no older, as if
time were powerless against him. In England, his striking beauty,
especially his extraordinary height and stature, together with his
eccentric refusal to be presented to the Queen--an honour many a
high-born Hindu has sought, coming over on purpose--excited the
public notice and the attention of the newspapers. The newspapermen
of those days, when the influence of Byron was still great, discussed
the "wild Rajput" with untiring pens, calling him "Raja-Misanthrope"
and " Prince Jalma-Samson," and in-venting fables about him all the
time he stayed in England.
All this taken together was well calculated to fill me with consuming
curiosity, and to absorb my thoughts till I forgot every exterior
circumstance, sitting and staring at him in no wise less intensely
I gazed at the remarkable face of Gulab-Lal-Sing with a mixed feeling
of indescribable fear and enthusiastic admiration; recalling the
mysterious death of the Karli tiger, my own miraculous escape a
few hours ago in Bagh, and many other incidents too many to relate.
It was only a few hours since he appeared to us in the morning,
and yet what a number of strange ideas, of puzzling occurrences,
how many enigmas his presence stirred in our minds! The magic
circle of my revolving thought grew too much for me. "What does
all this mean!" I exclaimed to myself, trying to shake off my torpor,
and struggling to find words for my meditation. "Who is this being
whom I saw so many years ago, jubilant with manhood and life, and
now see again, as young and as full of life, only still more austere,
still more incomprehensible. After all, maybe it is his brother,
or even his son?" thought I, trying to calm myself, but with no
result. "No! there is no use doubting; it is he himself, it is
the same face, the same little scar on the left temple. But, as
a quarter of a century ago, so now: no wrinkles on those beautiful
classic features; not a white hair in this thick jet-black mane;
and, in moments of silence, the same expression of perfect rest
on that face, calm as a statue of living bronze. What a strange
expression, and what a wonderful Sphinx-like face!"
"Not a very brilliant comparison, my old friend!" suddenly spoke
the Takur, and a good-natured laughing note rung in his voice,
whilst I shuddered and grew red like a naughty schoolgirl. "This
comparison is so inaccurate that it decidedly sins against history
in two important points. Primo, the Sphinx is a lion; so am I,
as indicates the word Sing in my name; but the Sphinx is winged,
and I am not. Secondo, the Sphinx is a woman as well as a winged
lion, but the Rajput Sinhas never had anything effeminate in their
characters. Besides, the Sphinx is the daughter of Chimera, or
Echidna, who were neither beautiful nor good; and so you might
have chosen a more flattering and a less inaccurate comparison!"
I simply gasped in my utter confusion, and he gave vent to his
merriment, which by no means relieved me. "Shall I give you some
good advice?" continued Gulab-Sing, changing his tone for a more
serious one. "Don't trouble your head with such vain speculations.
The day when this riddle yields its solution, the Rajput Sphinx
will not seek destruction in the waves of the sea; but, believe me,
it won't bring any profit to the Russian Oedipus either. You
already know every detail you ever will learn. So leave the rest
to our respective fates."
And he rose because the Babu and Mulji had informed us that the
ferry boat was ready to start, and were shouting and making signs
to us to hasten.
"Just let me finish," said Mr. Y---, "I have nearly done. Just
an additional touch or two."
"Let us see your work. Hand it round!" insisted the colonel and
Miss X---, who had just left her haven of refuge in the carriage,
and joined us still half asleep.
Mr. Y--- hurriedly added a few more touches to his drawing and rose
to collect his brushes and pencils.
We glanced at his fresh wet picture and opened our eyes in astonishment.
There was no lake on it, no woody shores, and no velvety evening mists
that covered the distant island at this moment. Instead of all this
we saw a charming sea view; thick clusters of shapely palm-trees
scattered over the chalky cliffs of the littoral; a fortress-like
bungalow with balconies and a flat roof, an elephant standing at
its entrance, and a native boat on the crest of a foaming billow.
"Now what is this view, sir?" wondered the colonel. "As if it was
worth your while to sit in the sun, and detain us all, to draw
fancy pictures out of your own head!"
"What on earth are you talking about?" exclaimed Mr. Y---. "Do
you mean to say you do not recognize the lake?"
"Listen to him--the lake! Where is the lake, if you please? Were
you asleep, or what?"
By this time all our party gathered round the colonel, who held
the drawing. Narayan uttered an exclamation, and stood still,
the very image of bewilderment past description.
"I know the place!" said he, at last. "This is Dayri--Bol, the
country house of the Takur-Sahib. I know it. Last year during
the famine I lived there for two months."
I was the first to grasp the meaning of it all, but something
prevented me from speaking at once.
At last Mr. Y--- finished arranging and packing his things, and
approached us in his usual lazy, careless way, but his face showed
traces of vexation. He was evidently bored by our persistency in
seeing a sea, where there was nothing but the corner of a lake.
But, at the first sight of his unlucky sketch, his countenance
suddenly changed. He grew so pale, and the expression of his
face became so piteously distraught that it was painful to see.
He turned and returned the piece of Bristol board, then rushed
like a madman to his drawing portfolio and turned the whole contents
out, ransacking and scattering over the sand hundreds of sketches
and of loose papers. Evidently failing to find what he was looking
for, he glanced again at his sea-view, and suddenly covering his
face with his hands totally collapsed.
We all remained silent, exchanging glances of wonder and pity, and
heedless of the Takur, who stood on the ferry boat, vainly calling
to us to join him.
"Look here, Y---!" timidly spoke the kind-hearted colonel, as if
addressing a sick child. "Are you sure you remember drawing this view?"
Mr. Y-- did not give any answer, as if gathering strength and thinking
it over. After a few moments he answered in hoarse and tremulous tones:
"Yes, I do remember. Of course I made this sketch, but I made it
from nature. I painted only what I saw. And it is that very
certainty that upsets me so."
"But why should you be upset, my dear fellow? Collect yourself!
What happened to you is neither shameful nor dreadful. It is only
the result of the temporary influence of one dominant will over
another, less powerful. You simply acted under `biological influence,'
to use the expression of Dr. Carpenter."
"That is exactly what I am most afraid of.... I remember everything
now. I have been busy over this view more than an hour. I saw it
directly I chose the spot, and seeing it all the while on the
opposite shore I could not suspect anything uncanny. I was
perfectly conscious... or, shall I say, I fancied I was conscious
of putting down on paper what everyone of you had before your eyes.
I had lost every notion of the place as I saw it before I began
my sketch, and as I see it now.... But how do you account for it?
Good gracious! am I to believe that these confounded Hindus really
possess the mystery of this trick? I tell you, colonel, I shall
go mad if I don't understand it all!"
"No fear of that, Mr. Y---," said Narayan, with a triumphant
twinkle in his eyes. "You will simply lose the right to deny
Yoga-Vidya, the great ancient science of my country."
Mr. Y--- did not answer him. He made an effort to calm his feelings,
and bravely stepped on the ferry boat with firm foot. Then he sat
down, apart from us all, obstinately looking at the large surface
of water round us, and struggling to seem his usual self.
Miss X--- was the first to interrupt the silence.
"Ma chere!" said she to me in a subdued, but triumphant voice.
"Ma chere, Monsieur Y--- devient vraiment un medium de premiere force!"
In moments of great excitement she always addressed me in French.
But I also was too excited to control my feelings, and so I answered
"Please stop this nonsense, Miss X---. You know I don't believe
in spiritualism. Poor Mr. Y---, was not he upset?"
Receiving this rebuke and no sympathy from me, she could not think
of anything better than drawing out the Babu, who, for a wonder,
had managed to keep quiet till then.
"What do you say to all this? I for one am perfectly confident that
no one but the disembodied soul of a great artist could have painted
that lovely view. Who else is capable of such a wonderful achievement?"
"Why? The old gentleman in person. Confess that at the bottom
of your soul you firmly believe that the Hindus worship devils.
To be sure it is some deity of ours of this kind that had his
august paw in the matter."
"Il est positivement malhonnete, ce Negre-la!" angrily muttered
Miss X---, hurriedly withdrawing from him.
The island was a tiny one, and so overgrown with tall reeds that,
from a distance, it looked like a pyramidal basket of verdure. With
the exception of a colony of monkeys, who bustled away to a few mango
trees at our approach, the place seemed uninhabited. In this virgin
forest of thick grass there was no trace of human life. Seeing the
word grass the reader must not forget that it is not the grass of
Europe I mean; the grass under which we stood, like insects under
a rhubarb leaf, waved its feathery many-colored plumes much above
the head of Gulab-Sing (who stood six feet and a half in his stockings),
and of Narayan, who measured hardly an inch less. From a distance
it looked like a waving sea of black, yellow, blue, and especially
of rose and green. On landing, we discovered that it consisted of
separate thickets of bamboos, mixed up with the gigantic sirka reeds,
which rose as high as the tops of the mangos.
It is impossible to imagine anything prettier and more graceful
than the bamboos and sirka. The isolated tufts of bamboos show,
in spite of their size, that they are nothing but grass, because
the least gush of wind shakes them, and their green crests begin
to nod like heads adorned with long ostrich plumes. There were
some bamboos there fifty or sixty feet high. From time to time
we heard a light metallic rustle in the reeds, but none of us
paid much attention to it.
Whilst our coolies and servants were busy clearing a place for
our tents, pitching them and preparing the supper, we went to pay
our respects to the monkeys, the true hosts of the place. Without
exaggeration there were at least two hundred. While preparing
for their nightly rest the monkeys behaved like decorous and well-
behaved people; every family chose a separate branch and defended
it from the intrusion of strangers lodging on the same tree, but
this defence never passed the limits of good manners, and generally
took the shape of threatening grimaces. There were many mothers
with babies in arms amongst them; some of them treated the children
tenderly, and lifted them cautiously, with a perfectly human care;
others, less thoughtful, ran up and down, heedless of the child
hanging at their breasts, preoccupied with something, discussing
something, and stopping every moment to quarrel with other monkey
ladies--a true picture of chatty old gossips on a market day,
repeated in the animal kingdom. The bachelors kept apart, absorbed
in their athletic exercises, performed for the most part with the
ends of their tails. One of them, especially, attracted our
attention by dividing his amusement between sauts perilleux and
teasing a respectable looking grandfather, who sat under a tree
hugging two little monkeys. Swinging backward and forward from
the branch, the bachelor jumped at him, bit his ear playfully and
made faces at him, chattering all the time. We cautiously passed
from one tree to another, afraid of frightening them away; but
evidently the years spent by them with the fakirs, who left the
island only a year ago, had accustomed them to human society. They
were sacred monkeys, as we learned, and so they had nothing to fear
from men. They showed no signs of alarm at our approach, and,
having received our greeting, and some of them a piece of sugar-cane,
they calmly stayed on their branch-thrones, crossing their arms,
and looking at us with a good deal of dignified contempt in their
intelligent hazel eyes.
The sun had set, and we were told that the supper was ready. We
all turned "homewards," except the Babu. The main feature of his
character, in the eyes of orthodox Hindus, being a tendency to
blasphemy, he could never resist the temptation to justify their
opinion of him. Climbing up a high branch he crouched there,
imitating every gesture of the monkeys and answering their
threatening grimaces by still uglier ones, to the unconcealed
disgust of our pious coolies.
As the last golden ray disappeared on the horizon, a gauze-like
veil of pale lilac fell over the world. But as every moment
decreased the transparency of this tropical twilight, the tint
gradually lost its softness and became darker and darker. It
looked as if an invisible painter, unceasingly moving his gigantic
brush, swiftly laid one coat of paint over the other, ever changing
the exquisite background of our islet. The phosphoric candles of
the fireflies began to twinkle here and there, shining brightly
against the black trunks of the trees, and lost again on the silvery
background of opalescent evening sky. But in a few minutes more
thousands of these living sparks, precursors of Queen Night, played
round us, pouring like a golden cascade over the trees, and dancing
in the air above the grass and the dark lake.
And behold! here is the queen in person. Noiselessly descending
upon earth, she reassumes her rights. With her approach, rest and
peace spread over us; her cool breath calms the activities of day.
Like a fond mother, she sings a lullaby to nature, lovingly wrapping
her in her soft black mantle; and, when everything is asleep, she
watches over nature's dozing powers till the first streaks of dawn.
Nature sleeps; but man is awake, to be witness to the beauties of
this solemn evening hour. Sitting round the fire we talked, lowering
our voices as if afraid of awaking night. We were only six; the
colonel, the four Hindus and myself, because Mr. Y--- and Miss X---
could not resist the fatigue of the day and had gone to sleep
directly after supper.
Snugly sheltered by the high "grass," we had not the heart to spend
this magnificent night in prosaic sleeping. Besides, we were
waiting for the "concert" which the Takur had promised us.
"Be patient," said he, "the musicians will not appear before the
The fickle goddess was late; she kept us waiting till after ten
o'clock. Just before her arrival, when the horizon began to grow
perceptibly brighter, and the opposite shore to assume a milky,
silvery tint, a sudden wind rose. The waves, that had gone quietly
to sleep at the feet of gigantic reeds, awoke and tossed uneasily,
till the reeds swayed their feathery heads and murmured to each
other as if taking counsel together about some thing that was going
to happen.... Suddenly, in the general stillness and silence, we
heard again the same musical notes, which we had passed unheeded,
when we first reached the island, as if a whole orchestra were
trying their musical instruments before playing some great composition.
All round us, and over our heads, vibrated strings of violins, and
thrilled the separate notes of a flute. In a few moments came
another gust of wind tearing through the reeds, and the whole
island resounded with the strains of hundreds of Aeolian harps.
And suddenly there began a wild unceasing symphony. It swelled
in the surrounding woods, filling the air with an indescribable
melody. Sad and solemn were its prolonged strains; they resounded
like the arpeggios of some funeral march, then, changing into a
trembling thrill, they shook the air like the song of a nightingale,
and died away in a long sigh. They did not quite cease, but grew
louder again, ringing like hundreds of silver bells, changing from
the heartrending howl of a wolf, deprived of her young, to the
precipitate rhythm of a gay tarantella, forgetful of every earthly
sorrow; from the articulate song of a human voice, to the vague
majestic accords of a violoncello, from merry child's laughter to
angry sobbing. And all this was repeated in every direction by
mocking echo, as if hundreds of fabulous forest maidens, disturbed in
their green abodes, answered the appeal of the wild musical Saturnalia.
The colonel and I glanced at each other in our great astonishment.
"How delightful! What witchcraft is this?" we exclaimed at the
The Hindus smiled, but did not answer us. The Takur smoked his
gargari as peacefully as if he was deaf.
There was a short interval, after which the invisible orchestra
started again with renewed energy. The sounds poured and rolled
in unrestrainable, overwhelming waves. We had never heard anything
like this inconceivable wonder. Listen! A storm in the open sea,
the wind tearing through the rigging, the swish of the maddened
waves rushing over each other, or the whirling snow wreaths on
the silent steppes. Suddenly the vision is changed; now it is
a stately cathedral and the thundering strains of an organ rising
under its vaults. The powerful notes now rush together, now spread
out through space, break off, intermingle, and become entangled,
like the fantastic melody of a delirious fever, some musical phantasy
born of the howling and whistling of the wind.
Alas! the charm of these sounds is soon exhausted, and you begin
to feel that they cut like knives through your brain. A horrid
fancy haunts our bewildered heads; we imagine that the invisible
artists strain our own veins, and not the strings of imaginary
violins; their cold breath freezes us, blowing their imaginary
trumpets, shaking our nerves and impeding our breathing.
"For God's sake stop this, Takur! This is really too much," shouted
the colonel, at the end of his patience, and covering his ears with
his hands. "Gulab-Sing, I tell you you must stop this."
The three Hindus burst out laughing; and even the grave face of
the Takur lit up with a merry smile. "Upon my word," said he,
"do you really take me for the great Parabrahm? Do you think it
is in my power to stop the wind, as if I were Marut, the lord of
the storms, in person. Ask for something easier than the
instantaneous uprooting of all these bamboos."
"I beg your pardon; I thought these strange sounds also were some
kind of psychologic influence."
"So sorry to disappoint you, my dear colonel; but you really must
think less of psychology and electrobiology. This develops into
a mania with you. Don't you see that this wild music is a natural
acoustic phenomenon? Each of the reeds around us--and there are
thousands on this island--contains a natural musical instrument;
and the musician, Wind, comes here daily to try his art after
nightfall--especially during the last quarter of the moon."
"The wind!" murmured the colonel. "Oh, yes! But this music begins
to change into a dreadful roar. Is there no way out of it?"
"I at least cannot help it. But keep up your patience, you will
soon get accustomed to it. Besides, there will be intervals when
the wind falls."
We were told that there are many such natural orchestras in India.
The Brahmans know well their wonderful properties, and calling this
kind of reed vina-devi, the lute of the gods, keep up the popular
superstition and say the sounds are divine oracles. The sirka
grass and the bamboos always shelter a number of tiny beetles,
which make considerable holes in the hollow reeds. The fakirs of
the idol-worshipping sects add art to this natural beginning and
work the plants into musical instruments. The islet we visited
bore one of the most celebrated vina-devis, and so, of course,
was proclaimed sacred.
"Tomorrow morning," said the Takur, "you will see what deep knowledge
of all the laws of acoustics was in the possession of the fakirs.
They enlarged the holes made by the beetle according to the size
of the reed, sometimes shaping it into a circle, sometimes into
an oval. These reeds in their present state can be justly considered
as the finest illustration of mechanism applied to acoustics.
However, this is not to be wondered at, because some of the most
ancient Sanskrit books about music minutely describe these laws,
and mention many musical instruments which are not only forgotten,
but totally incomprehensible in our days."
All this was very interesting, but still, disturbed by the din,
we could not listen attentively.
"Don't worry yourselves," said the Takur, who soon understood our
uneasiness, in spite of our attempts at composure. "After midnight
the wind will fall, and you will sleep undisturbed. However, if
the too close neighborhood of this musical grass is too much for
you, we may as well go nearer to the shore. There is a spot from
which you can see the sacred bonfires on the opposite shore."
We followed him, but while walking through the thickets of reeds
we did not leave off our conversation. "How is it that the Brahmans
manage to keep up such an evident cheat?" asked the colonel. "The
stupidest man cannot fail to see in the long run who made the holes
in the reeds, and how they come to give forth music."
"In America stupid men may be as clever as that; I don't know,"
answered the Takur, with a smile; "but not in India. If you took
the trouble to show, to describe, and to explain how all this is
done to any Hindu, be he even comparatively educated, he will still
see nothing. He will tell you that he knows as well as yourself
that the holes are made by the beetles and enlarged by the fakirs.
But what of that? The beetle in his eyes is no ordinary beetle,
but one of the gods incarnated in the insect for this special purpose;
and the fakir is a holy ascetic, who has acted in this case by the
order of the same god. That will be all you will ever get out of him.
Fanaticism and superstition took centuries to develop in the masses,
and now they are as strong as a necessary physiological function.
Kill these two and the crowd will have its eyes opened, and will
see truth, but not before. As to the Brahmans, India would have
been very fortunate if everything they have done were as harmless.
Let the crowds adore the muse and the spirit of harmony. This
adoration is not so very wicked, after all."
The Babu told us that in Dehra-Dun this kind of reed is planted
on both sides of the central street, which is more than a mile long.
The buildings prevent the free action of the wind, and so the sounds
are heard only in time of east wind, which is very rare. A year
ago Swami Dayanand happened to camp off Dehra-Dun. Crowds of people
gathered round him every evening. One day he delivered a very
powerful sermon against superstition. Tired out by this long,
energetic speech, and, besides, being a little unwell, the Swami
sat down on his carpet and shut his eyes to rest as soon as the
sermon was finished. But the crowd, seeing him so unusually quiet
and silent, all at once imagined that his soul, abandoning him in
this prostration, entered the reeds--that had just begun to sing
their fantastical rhap-sody--and was now conversing with the gods
through the bamboos. Many a pious man in this gathering, anxious
to show the teacher in what fulness they grasped his teaching and
how deep was their respect for him personally, knelt down before
the singing reeds and performed a most ardent puja.
"What did the Swami say to that?"
"He did not say anything.... Your question shows that you don't
know our Swami yet," laughed the Babu. "He simply jumped to his
feet, and, uprooting the first sacred reed on his way, gave such
a lively European bakshish (thrashing) to the pious puja-makers,
that they instantly took to their heels. The Swami ran after them
for a whole mile, giving it hot to everyone in his way. He is
wonderfully strong is our Swami, and no friend to useless talk, I
can tell you."
"But it seems to me," said the colonel, "that that is not the right
way to convert crowds. Dispersing and frightening is not converting."
"Not a bit of it. The masses of our nation require peculiar treatment....
Let me tell you the end of this story. Disappointed with the effect
of his teachings on the inhabitants of Dehra-Dun, Dayanand Saraswati
went to Patna, some thirty-five or forty miles from there. And before
he had even rested from the fatigues of his journey, he had to receive
a deputation from Dehra-Dun, who on their knees entreated him to come
back. The leaders of this deputation had their backs covered with
bruises, made by the bamboo of the Swami! They brought him back
with no end of pomp, mounting him on an elephant and spreading
flowers all along the road. Once in Dehra-Dun, he immediately
proceeded to found a Samaj, a society as you would say, and the
Dehra-Dun Arya-Samaj now counts at least two hundred members, who
have renounced idol-worship and superstition for ever."
"I was present," said Mulji, "two years ago in Benares, when Dayanand
broke to pieces about a hundred idols in the bazaar, and the same
stick served him to beat a Brahman with. He caught the latter in
the hollow idol of a huge Shiva. The Brahman was quietly sitting
there talking to the devotees in the name, and so to speak, with
the voice of Shiva, and asking money for a new suit of clothes the
"Is it possible the Swami had not to pay for this new achievement
"Oh, yes. The Brahman dragged him into a law court, but the judge
had to pronounce the Swami in the right, because of the crowd of
sympathizers and defenders who followed the Swami. But still he
had to pay for all the idols he had broken. So far so good; but
the Brahman died of cholera that very night, and of course, the
opposers of the reform said his death was brought on by the sorcery
of Dayanand Saraswati. This vexed us all a good deal."
"Now, Narayan, it is your turn," said I. Have you no story to
tell us about the Swami? And do you not look up to him as to
"I have only one Guru and only one God on earth, as in heaven,"
answered Narayan; and I saw that he was very unwilling to speak.
"And while I live, I shall not desert them."
"I know who is his Guru and his God!" thoughtlessly exclaimed the
quick-tongued Babu. "It is the Takur--Sahib. In his person both
coincide in the eyes of Narayan."
"You ought to be ashamed to talk such nonsense, Babu," coldly
remarked Gulab-Sing. "I do not think myself worthy of being
anybody's Guru. As to my being a god, the mere words are a
blasphemy, and I must ask you not to repeat them... Here we are!"
added he more cheerfully, pointing to the carpets spread by the
servants on the shore, and evidently desirous of changing the topic.
"Let us sit down!"
We arrived at a small glade some distance from the bamboo forest.
The sounds of the magic orchestra reached us still, but considerably
weakened, and only from time to time. We sat to the windward of
the reeds, and so the harmonic rustle we heard was exactly like
the low tones of an Aeolian harp, and had nothing disagreeable
in it. On the contrary, the distant murmur only added to the
beauty of the whole scene around us.
We sat down, and only then I realized how tired and sleepy I was--
and no wonder, after being on foot since four in the morning, and
after all that had happened to me on this memorable day. The
gentlemen went on talking, and I soon became so absorbed in my
thoughts that their conversation reached me only in fragments.
Wake up, wake up!" repeated the colonel, shaking me by the hand.
"The Takur says that sleeping in the moonlight will do you harm."
I was not asleep; I was simply thinking, though ex-hausted and
sleepy. But wholly under the charm of this enchanting night, I
could not shake off my drowsiness, and did not answer the colonel.
"Wake up, for God's sake! Think of what you are risking!" continued the
colonel. "Wake up and look at the landscape before us, at this wonderful
moon. Have you ever seen anything to equal this magnificent panorama?"
I looked up, and the familiar lines of Pushkin about the golden moon
of Spain flashed into my mind. And indeed this was a golden moon.
At this moment she radiated rivers of golden light, poured forth
liquid gold into the tossing lake at our feet, and sprinkled with
golden dust every blade of grass, every pebble, as far as the eye
could reach, all round us. Her disk of silvery yellow swiftly glided
upward amongst the big stars, on their dark blue ground.
Many a moonlit night have I seen in India, but every time the
impression was new and unexpected. It is no use trying to describe
these feerique pictures, they cannot be represented either in words
or in colors on canvas, they can only be felt--so fugitive is their
grandeur and beauty! In Europe, even in the south, the full moon
eclipses the largest and most brilliant of the stars, so that hardly
any can be seen for a considerable distance round her. In India
it is quite the contrary; she looks like a huge pearl surrounded
by diamonds, rolling on a blue velvet ground. Her light is so
intense that one can read a letter written in small handwriting;
one even can perceive the different greens of the trees and bushes--
a thing unheard of in Europe. The effect of the moon is especially
charming on tall palm trees. From the first moment of her appearance
her rays glide over the tree downwards, beginning with the feathery
crests, then lighting up the scales of the trunk, and descending
lower and lower till the whole palm is literally bathing in a sea
of light. Without any metaphor the surface of the leaves seems
to tremble in liquid silver all the night long, whereas their
under surfaces seem blacker and softer than black velvet. But
woe to the thoughtless novice, woe to the mortal who gazes at
the Indian moon with his head uncovered. It is very dangerous
not only to sleep under, but even to gaze at the chaste Indian
Diana. Fits of epilepsy, madness and death are the punishments
wrought by her treacherous arrows on the modern Acteon who dares
to contemplate the cruel daughter of Latona in her full beauty.
The Hindus never go out in the moonlight without their turbans
or pagris. Even our invulnerable Babu always wore a kind of white
cap during the night.
As soon as the reeds concert reaches its height and the inhabitants
of the neighborhood hear the distant "voices of the gods," whole
villages flock together to the bank of the lake, light bonfires,
and perform their pujas. The fires lit up one after the other,
and the black silhouettes of the worshippers moved about on the
opposite shore. Their sacred songs and loud exclamations, "Hari,
Hari, Maha-deva!" resounded with a strange loudness and a wild
emphasis in the pure air of the night. And the reeds, shaken in
the wind, answered them with tender musical phrases. The whole
stirred a vague feeling of uneasiness in my soul, a strange
intoxication crept gradually over me, and in this enchanting place
the idol-worship of these passionate, poetical souls, sunk in dark
ignorance, seemed more intelligible and less repulsive. A Hindu
is a born mystic, and the luxuriant nature of his country has made
of him a zealous pantheist.
Sounds of alguja, a kind of Pandean pipe with seven openings, struck
our attention; their music was wafted by the wind quite distinctly
from somewhere in the wood. They also startled a whole family of
monkeys in the branches of a tree over our heads. Two or three
monkeys carefully slipped down, and looked round as if waiting
"What is this new Orpheus, to whose voice these monkeys answer?"
asked I laughingly.
"Some fakir probably. The alguja is generally used to invite the
sacred monkeys to their meals. The community of fakirs, who once
inhabited this island, have removed to an old pagoda in the forest.
Their new resting-place brings them more profit, because there are
many passers by, whereas the island is perfectly isolated."
"Probably they were compelled to desert this dreadful place because
they were threatened by chronic deafness," Miss X--- expressed her
opinion. She could not help being out of temper at being prevented
from enjoying her quiet slumber, our tents being right in the middle
of the orchestra.
"A propos of Orpheus," asked the Takur, "do you know that the lyre
of this Greek demigod was not the first to cast spells over people,
animals and even rivers? Kui, a certain Chinese musical artist,
as they are called, expresses something to this effect: `When I
play my kyng the wild animals hasten to me, and range themselvis
into rows, spellbound by my melody.' This Kui lived one thousand
years before the supposed era of Orpheus."
"What a funny coincidence!" exclaimed I. "Kui is the name of one
of our best artists in St. Petersburg. Where did you read this?"
"Oh, this is not a very rare piece of information. Some of your
Western Orientalists have it in their books. But I personally
found it in an ancient Sanskrit book, translated from the Chinese
in the second century before your era. But the original is to be
found in a very ancient work, named The Preserver of the Five Chief
Virtues. It is a kind of chronicle or treatise on the development
of music in China. It was written by the order of Emperor Hoang-Tee
many hundred years before your era."
"Do you think, then, that the Chinese ever understood anything
about music?" said the colonel, with an incredulous smile. "In
California and other places I heard some traveling artists of the
celestial empire. Well, I think, that kind of musical entertainment
would drive any one mad."
"That is exactly the opinion of many of your Western musicians on
the subject of our ancient Aryan, as well as of modern Hindu, music.
But, in the first instance, the idea of melody is perfectly arbitrary;
and, in the second, there is a good deal of difference between the
technical knowledge of music, and the creation of melodies fit to
please the educated, as well as the uneducated, ear. According to
technical theory, a musical piece may be perfect, but the melody,
nevertheless, may be above the understanding of an untrained taste,
or simply unpleasant. Your most renowned operas sound for us like
a wild chaos, like a rush of strident, entangled sounds, in which
we do not see any meaning at all, and which give us headaches. I
have visited the London and the Paris opera; I have heard Rossini
and Meyer-beer; I was resolved to render myself an account of my
impressions, and listened with the greatest attention. But I own
I prefer the simplest of our native melodies to the productions of
the best European composers. Our popular songs speak to me, whereas
they fail to produce any emotion in you. But leaving the tunes and
songs out of question, I can assure you that our ancestors, as well
as the ancestors of the Chinese, were far from inferior to the
modern Europeans, if not in technical instrumentation, at least
in their abstract notions of music."
"The Aryan nations of antiquity, perhaps; but I hardly believe
this in the case of the Turanian Chinese!" said our president doubtfully.
"But the music of nature has been everywhere the first step to
the music of art. This is a universal rule. But there are
different ways of following it. Our musical system is the greatest
art, if--pardon me this seeming paradox--avoiding all artificiality
is art. We do not allow in our melodies any sounds that cannot be
classified amongst the living voices of nature; whereas the modern
Chinese tendencies are quite different. The Chinese system comprises
eight chief tones, which serve as a tuning-fork to all derivatives;
which are accordingly classified under the names of their generators.
These eight sounds are: the notes metal, stone, silk, bamboo,
pumpkin, earthenware, leather and wood. So that they have metallic
sounds, wooden sounds, silk sounds, and so on. Of course, under
these conditions they cannot produce any melody; their music
consists of an entangled series of separate notes. Their imperial
hymn, for instance, is a series of endless unisons. But we Hindus
owe our music only to living nature, and in nowise to inanimate
objects. In a higher sense of the word, we are pantheists, and so
our music is, so to speak, pantheistic; but, at the same time,
it is highly scientific. Coming from the cradle of humanity, the
Aryan races, who were the first to attain manhood, listened to the
voice of nature, and concluded that melody as well as harmony are
both contained in our great common mother. Nature has no false
and no artificial notes; and man, the crown of creation, felt
desirous of imitating her sounds. In their multiplicity, all
these sounds--according to the opinion of some of your Western
physicists--make only one tone, which we all can hear, if we know
how to listen, in the eternal rustle of the foliage of big forests,
in the murmur of water, in the roar of the storming ocean, and even
in the distant roll of a great city. This tone is the middle F,
the fundamental tone of nature. In our melodies it serves as the
starting point, which we embody in the key-note, and around which
are grouped all the other sounds. Having noticed that every musical
note has its typical representative in the animal kingdom, our
ancestors found out that the seven chief tones correspond to the
cries of the goat, the peacock, the ox, the parrot, the frog, the
tiger, and the elephant. So the octave was discovered and founded.
As to its subdivisions and measure, they also found their basis
in the complicated sounds of the same animals."
I am no judge of your ancient music," said the colonel, "nor do I
know whether your ancestors did, or did not, work out any musical
theories, so I cannot contradict you; but I must own that, listening
to the songs of the modern Hindus, I could not give them any credit
for musical knowledge."
"No doubt it is so, because you have never heard a professional
singer. When you have visited Poona, and have listened to the
Gayan Samaj, we shall resume our present conversation. The Gayan
Samaj is a society whose aim is to restore the ancient national music."
Gulab-Lal-Sing spoke in his usual calm voice, but the Babu was
evidently burning to break forth for his country's honor, and
at the same time, he was afraid of offending his seniors by
interrupting their conversation. At last he lost patience.
"You are unjust, colonel!" he exclaimed. "The music of the ancient
Aryans is an antediluvian plant, no doubt, but nevertheless it is
well worth studying, and deserves every consideration. This is
perfectly proved now by a compatriot of mine, the Raja Surendronath
Tagor.... He is a Mus. D., he has lots of decorations from all kinds
of kings and emperors of Europe for his book about the music of
Aryans.... And, well, this man has proved, as clear as daylight,
that ancient India has every right to be called the mother of music.
Even the best musical critics of England say so!... Every school,
whether Italian, German or Aryan, saw the light at a certain period,
developed in a certain climate and in perfectly different circumstances.
Every school has its characteristics, and its peculiar charm, at
least for its followers; and our school is no exception. You
Europeans are trained in the melodies of the West, and acquainted
with Western schools of music; but our musical system, like many
other things in India, is totally unknown to you. So you must
forgive my boldness, colonel, when I say that you have no right
"Don't get so excited, Babu," said the Takur. "Every one has the
right, if not to discuss, then to ask questions about a new subject.
Otherwise no one would ever get any information. If Hindu music
belonged to an epoch as little distant from us as the European--
which you seem to suggest, Babu, in your hot haste; and if, besides,
it included all the virtues of all the previous musical systems,
which the European music assimilates; then no doubt it would have
been better understood, and better appreciated than it is. But
our music belongs to prehistoric times. In one of the sarcophagi
at Thebes, Bruce found a harp with twenty strings, and, judging by
this instrument, we may safely say that the ancient inhabitants
of Egypt were well acquainted with the mysteries of harmony. But,
except the Egyptians, we were the only people possessing this art,
in the remote epochs, when the rest of mankind were still
struggling with the elements for bare existence. We possess
hundreds of Sanskrit MSS. about music, which have never been
translated, even into modern Indian dialects. Some of them are
four thousand and eight thousand years old. Whatever your
Orientalists may say to the contrary, we will persist in believing
in their antiquity, because we have read and studied them, while
the European scientists have never yet set their eyes on them.
There are many of these musical treatises, and they have been
written at different epochs; but they all, without exception,
show that in India music was known and systematized in times when
the modern civilized nations of Europe still lived like savages.
However true, all this does not give us the right to grow indignant
when Europeans say they do not like our music, as long as their
ears are not accustomed to it, and their minds cannot understand
its spirit.... To a certain extent we can explain to you its technical
character, and give you a right idea of it as a science. But nobody
can create in you, in a moment, what the Aryans used to call Rakti;
the capacity of the human soul to receive and be moved by the
combinations of the various sounds of nature. This capacity is
the alpha and omega of our musical system, but you do not possess
it, as we do not possess the possibility to fall into raptures
"But why should it be so? What are these mysterious virtues of
your music, that can be understood only by yourselves? Our skins
are of different colors, but our organic mechanism is the same.
In other words, the physiological combination of bones, blood,
nerves, veins and muscles, which forms a Hindu, has as many parts,
combined exactly after the same model as the living mechanism known
under the name of an American, Englishman, or any other European.
They come into the world from the same workshop of nature; they
have the same beginning and the same end. From a physiological
point of view we are duplicates of each other."
"Physiologically yes. And it would be as true psychologically,
if education did not interfere, which, after all is said and done,
could not but influence the mental and the moral direction taken
by a human being. Sometimes it extinguishes the divine spark;
at other times it only increases it, transforming it into a
lighthouse which becomes man's lodestar for life."
"No doubt this is so. But the influence it has over the physiology
of the ear cannot be so overpowering after all."
"Quite the contrary. Only remember what a strong influence
climatic conditions, food and everyday surroundings have on the
complexion, vitality, capacity for reproduction, and so on, and
you will see that you are mistaken. Apply this same law of gradual
modification to the purely psychic element in man, and the results
will be the same. Change the education and you will change the
capacities of a human being.... For instance, you believe in the
powers of gymnastics, you believe that special exercise can almost
transform the human body. We go one step higher. The experience
of centuries shows that gymnastics exist for the soul as well as
for the body. But what the soul's gymnastics are is our secret.
What is it that gives to the sailor the sight of an eagle, that
endows the acrobat with the skill of a monkey, and the wrestler
with muscles of iron? Practice and habit. Then why should not
we suppose the same possibilities in the soul of the man as well
as in his body? Perhaps on the grounds of modern science--which
either dispenses with the soul altogether, or does not acknowledge
in it a life distinct from the life of the body.... "
"Please do not speak in this way, Takur. You, at least, ought to
know that I believe in the soul and in its immortality!"
"We believe in the immortality of spirit, not of soul, following
the triple division of body, soul and spirit. However, this has
nothing to do with the present discussion.... And so you agree
to the proposition that every dormant possibility of the soul may
be led to perfected strength and activity by practice, and also
that if not properly used it may grow numb and even disappear
altogether. Nature is so zealous that all her gifts should be
used properly, that it is in our power to develop or to kill in
our descendants any physical or mental gift. A systematic training
or a total disregard will accomplish both in the lifetime of a
"Perfectly true; but that does not explain to me the secret charm
of your melodies...."
"These are details and particulars. Why should I dwell on them
when you must see for yourself that my reasoning gives you the clue,
which will solve many similar problems? Centuries have accustomed
the ear of a Hindu to be receptive only of certain combinations
of atmospheric vibrations; whereas the ear of a European is used
to perfectly different combinations. Hence the soul of the former
will be enraptured where the soul of the latter will be perfectly
indifferent. I hope my explanation has been simple and clear, and
I might have ended it here were it not that I am anxious to give
you something better than the feeling of satisfied curiosity. As
yet I have solved only the physiological aspect of the secret,
which is as easily admitted as the fact that we Hindus eat by the
handful spices which would give you inflammation of the intestines
if you happened to swallow a single grain. Our aural nerves, which,
at the beginning, were identical with yours, have been changed
through different training, and became as distinct from yours as
our complexion and our stomachs. Add to this that the eyes of
the Kashmir weavers, men and women, are able to distinguish three
hundred shades more than the eye of a European.... The force of
habit, the law of atavism, if you like. But things of this kind
practically solve the apparent difficulty. You have come all the
way from America to study the Hindus and their religion; but you
will never understand the latter if you do not realize how closely
all our sciences are related, not to the modern ignorant Brahmanism,
of course, but to the philosophy of our primitive Vedic religion."
"I see. You mean that your music has something to do with the Vedas?"
"Exactly. It has a good deal--almost everything--to do with the
Vedas. All the sounds of nature, and, in consequence, of music,
are directly allied to astronomy and mathematics; that is to say,
to the planets, the signs of the zodiac, the sun and moon, and to
rotation and numbers. Above all, they depend on the Akasha, the
ether of space, of the existence of which your scientists have
not made perfectly sure as yet. This was the teaching of the
ancient Chinese and Egyptians, as well as of ancient Aryans. The
doctrine of the 'music of the spheres' first saw the light here in
India, and not in Greece or Italy, whither it was brought by
Pythagoras after he had studied under the Indian Gymnosophists.
And most certainly this great philosopher--who revealed to the
world the heliocentric system before Copernicus and Galileo--knew
better than anyone else how dependent are the least sounds in
nature on Akasha and its interrelations. One of the four Vedas,
namely, the Sama-Veda, entirely consists of hymns. This is a
collection of mantrams sung during the sacrifices to the gods,
that is to say, to the elements. Our ancient priests were hardly
acquainted with the modern methods of chemistry and physics; but,
to make up for it, they knew a good deal which has not as yet been
thought of by modern scientists. So it is not to be wondered at
that, sometimes, our priests, so perfectly acquainted with natural
sciences as they were, forced the elementary gods, or rather the
blind forces of nature, to answer their prayers by various portents.
Every sound of these mantrams has its meaning, its importance,
and stands exactly where it ought to stand; and, having a raison
d'etre, it does not fail to produce its effect. Remember Professor
Leslie, who says that the science of sound is the most subtle,
the most unseizable and the most complicated of all the series
of physical sciences. And if ever this teaching was worked out
to perfection it was in the times of the Rishis, our philosophers
and saints, who left to us the Vedas."
"Now, I think I begin to understand the origin of all the mythological
fables of the Greek antiquity," thoughtfully said the colonel; "the
syrinx of Pan, his pipe of seven reeds, the fauns, the satyrs, and
the lyre of Orpheus himself. The ancient Greeks knew little about
harmony; and the rhythmical declamations of their dramas, which
probably never reached the pathos of the simplest of modern recitals,
could hardly suggest to them the idea of the magic lyre of Orpheus.
I feel strongly inclined to believe what was written by some of our
great philologists: Orpheus must be an emigrant from India; his
very name [greek script], or [greek script], shows that, even amongst
the tawny Greeks, he was remarkably dark. This was the opinion of
Lempriere and others."
"Some day this opinion may become a certainty. There is not the
slightest doubt that the purest and the highest of all the musical
forms of antiquity belongs to India. All our legends ascribe magic
powers to music; it is a gift and a science coming straight from
the gods. As a rule, we ascribe all our arts to divine revelation,
but music stands at the head of everything else. The invention of
the vina, a kind of lute, belongs to Narada, the son of Brahma.
You will probably laugh at me if I tell you that our ancient priests,
whose duty it was to sing during the sacrifices, were able to produce
phenomena that could not but be considered by the ignorant as signs
from supernatural powers; and this, remember, without a shadow of
trickery, but simply with the help of their perfect knowledge of
nature and certain combinations well known to them. The phenomena
produced by the priests and the Raj-Yogis are perfectly natural
for the initiate--however miraculous they may seem to the masses."
"But do you really mean that you have no faith what-ever in the
spirits of the dead?" timidly asked Miss X---, who was always ill
at ease in the presence of the Takur.
"With your permission, I have none."
"And... and have you no regard for mediums?"
"Still less than for the spirits, my dear lady. I do believe in
the existence of many psychic diseases, and, amongst their number,
in mediumism, for which we have got a queer sounding name from time
immemorial. We call it Bhuta-Dak, literally a bhuta-hostelry. I
sincerely pity the real mediums, and do whatever is in my power to
help them. As to the charlatans, I despise them, and never lose an
opportunity of unmasking them."
The witch's den near the "dead city" suddenly flashed into my mind;
the fat Brahman, who played the oracle in the head of the Sivatherium,
caught and rolling down the hole; the witch herself suddenly taking
to her heels. And with this recollection also occurred to me what
I had never thought of before: Narayan had acted under the orders
of the Takur--doing his best to expose the witch and her ally.
"The unknown power which possesses the mediums (which the spiritualists
believe to be spirits of the dead, while the superstitious see in it
the devil, and the sceptics deceit and infamous tricks), true men
of science suspect to be a natural force, which has not as yet been
discovered. It is, in reality, a terrible power. Those possessed
by it are generally weak people, often women and children. Your
beloved spiritualists, Miss X---, only help the growth of dreadful
psychic diseases, but people who know better seek to save them from
this force you know nothing whatever about, and it is no use
discussing this matter now. I shall only add one word: the real
living spirit of a human being is as free as Brahma; and even
more than this for us, for, according to our religion and our
philosophy, our spirit is Brahma himself, higher than whom there
is only the unknowable, the all-pervading, the omnipotent essence
of Parabrahm. The living spirit of man cannot be ordered about
like the spirits of the spiritualists, it cannot be made a slave of...
However, it is getting so late that we had better go to bed. Let
us say good-bye for tonight."
Gulab-Lal-Sing would not talk any more that night, but I have
gathered from our previous conversations many a point without
which the above conversation would remain obscure. The Vedantins
and the followers of Shankaracharya's philosophy, in talking of
themselves, often avoid using the pronoun I, and say, "this body
went," "this hand took," and so on, in everything concerning the
automatic actions of man. The personal pronouns are only used
concerning mental and moral processes, such as, "I thought," "he
desired." The body in their eyes is not the man, but only a
covering to the real man.
The real interior man possesses many bodies; each of them more
subtle and more pure than the preceding; and each of them bears
a different name and is independent of the material body. After
death, when the earthly vital principle disintegrates, together
with the material body, all these interior bodies join together,
and either advance on the way to Moksha, and are called Deva (divine),
though it still has to pass many stadia before the final liberation,
or is left on earth, to wander and to suffer in the invisible world,
and, in this case, is called bhuta. But a Deva has no tangible
intercourse with the living. Its only link with the earth is its
posthumous affection for those it loved in its lifetime, and the
power of protecting and influencing them. Love outlives every
earthly feeling, and a Deva can appear to the beloved ones only
in their dreams--unless it be as an illusion, which cannot last,
because the body of a Deva undergoes a series of gradual changes
from the moment it is freed from its earthly bonds; and, with
every change, it grows more intangible, losing every time something
of its objective nature. It is reborn; it lives and dies in new
Lokas or spheres, which gradually become purer and more subjective.
At last, having got rid of every shadow of earthly thoughts and
desires, it becomes nothing from a material point of view. It is
extinguished like a flame, and, having become one with Parabrahm,
it lives the life of spirit, of which neither our material conception
nor our language can give any idea. But the eternity of Parabrahm
is not the eternity of the soul. The latter, according to a Vedanta
expression, is an eternity in eternity. However holy, the life of
a soul had its beginning and its end, and, consequently, no sins
and no good actions can be punished or rewarded in the eternity of
Parabrahm. This would be contrary to justice, disproportionate,
to use an expression of Vedanta philosophy. Spirit alone lives in
eternity, and has neither beginning nor end, neither limits nor
central point. The Deva lives in Parabrahm, as a drop lives in
the ocean, till the next regeneration of the universe from Pralaya;
a periodical chaos, a disappearance of the worlds from the region
of objectivity. With every new Maha-yuga (great cycle) the Deva
separates from that which is eternal, attracted by existence in
objective worlds, like a drop of water first drawn up by the sun,
then starting again downwards, passing from one region to another,
and returning at last to the dirt of our planet. Then, having
dwelt there whilst a small cycle lasted, it proceeds again upwards
on the other side of the circle. So it gravitates in the eternity
of Parabrahm, passing from one minor eternity to another. Each
of these "human," that is to say conceivable, eternities consists
of 4,320,000,000 years of objective life and of as many years of
subjective life in Parabrahm, altogether 8,640,000,000 years,
which are enough, in the eyes of the Vedantins, to redeem any
mortal sin, and also to reap the fruit of any good actions
performed in such a short period as human life. The individuality
of the soul, teaches the Vedanta, is not lost when plunged in
Parabrahm, as is supposed by some of the European Orientalists.
Only the souls of bhutas--when the last spark of repentance and
of tendency to improvement are extin-guished in them--will evaporate
for ever. Then their divine spirit, the undying part of them,
separates from the soul and returns to its primitive source; the
soul is reduced to its primordial atoms, and the monad plunges into
the darkness of eternal unconsciousness. This is the only case of
total destruction of personality.
Such is the Vedanta teaching concerning the spiritual man. And
this is why no true Hindu believes in the disembodied souls
voluntarily returning to earth, except in the case of bhutas.
Leaving Malva and Indore, the quasi-independent country of Holkar,
we found ourselves once more on strictly British territory. We
were going to Jubblepore by railway.
This town is situated in the district of Saugor and Nerbudda;
once it belonged to the Mahrattis, but, in 1817, the English army
took possession of it. We stopped in the town only for a short
time, being anxious to see the celebrated Marble Rocks. As it
would have been a pity to lose a whole day, we hired a boat and
started at 2 A.M., which gave us the double advantage of avoiding
the heat, and enjoying a splendid bit of the river ten miles from
The neighborhood of Jubblepore is charming; and besides, both a
geologist and a mineralogist would find here the richest field for
scientific researches. The geological formation of the rocks offers
an infinite variety of granites; and the long chains of mountains
might keep a hundred of Cuviers busy for life. The limestone caves
of Jubblepore are a true ossuary of antediluvian India; they are
full of skeletons of mon-strous animals, now disappeared for ever.
At a considerable distance from the rest of the mountain ridges,
and perfectly separate, stand the Marble Rocks, a most wonderful
natural phenomenon, not very rare, though, in India. On the
flattish banks of the Nerbudda, overgrown with thick bushes, you
suddenly perceive a long row of strangely-shaped white cliffs.
They are there without any apparent reason, as if they were a wart
on the smooth cheek of mother nature. White and pure, they are
heaped up on each other as if after some plan, and look exactly
like a huge paperweight from the writing-table of a Titan. We
saw them when we were half-way from the town. They appeared and
disappeared with the sudden capricious turnings of the river;
trembling in the early morning mist like a distant, deceitful
mirage of the desert. Then we lost sight of them altogether.
But just before sunrise they stood out once more before our
charmed eyes, floating above their reflected image in the water.
As if called forth by the wand of a sorcerer, they stood there on
the green bank of the Nerbudda, mirroring their virgin beauty on
the calm surface of the lazy stream, and promising us a cool and
welcome shelter.... And as to the preciousness of every moment of
the cool hours before sunrise, it can be appreciated only by those
who have lived and traveled in this fiery land.
Alas! in spite of all our precautions, and our unusually early
start, our enjoyment of this cool retreat was very short-lived.
Our project was to have prosaic tea amid these poetic surroundings;
but as soon as we landed, the sun leaped above the horizon, and
began shooting his fiery arrows at the boat, and at our unfortunate
heads. Persecuting us from one place to another, he banished us,
at last, even from under a huge rock hanging over the water. There
was literally no place where we could seek salvation. The snow-white
marble beauties became golden red, pouring fire-sparks into the river,
heating the sand and blinding our eyes.
No wonder that legend supposes in them something between the abode
and the incarnation of Kali, the fiercest of all the goddesses of
the Hindu pantheon.
For many Yugas this goddess has been engaged in a desperate contest
with her lawful husband Shiva, who, in his shape of Trikutishvara,
a three-headed lingam, has dishonestly claimed the rocks and the
river for his own--the very rocks and the very river over which
Kali presides in person. And this is why people hear dreadful
moaning, coming from under the ground, every time that the hand
of an irresponsible coolie, working by Government orders in
Government quarries, breaks a stone from the white bosom of the
goddess. The unhappy stone-breaker hears the cry and trembles,
and his heart is torn between the expectations of a dreadful
punishment from the bloodthirsty goddess and the fear of his
implacably exacting inspector in case he disobeys his orders.
Kali is the owner of the Marble Rocks, but she is the patroness
of the ex-Thugs as well. Many a lonely traveler has shuddered on
hearing this name; many a bloodless sacrifice has been offered
on the marble altar of Kali. The country is full of horrible tales
about the achievements of the Thugs, accomplished in the honor of
this goddess. These tales are too recent and too fresh in the
popular memory to become as yet mere highly-colored legends.
They are mostly true, and many of them are proved by official
documents of the law courts and inquest commissions.
If England ever leaves India, the perfect suppression of Thugism
will be one of the good memories that will linger in the country
long after her departure. Under this name was practised in India
during two long centuries the craftiest and the worst kind of
homicide. Only after 1840 was it discovered that its aim was
simply robbery and brigandage. The falsely interpreted symbolical
meaning of Kali was nothing but a pretext, otherwise there would
not have been so many Mussulmans amongst her devotees. When they
were caught at last, and had to answer before justice, most of
these knights of the rumal--the handkerchief with which the operation
of strangling was performed--proved to be Mussulmans. The most
illustrious of their leaders were not Hindus, but followers of
the Prophet, the celebrated Ahmed, for instance. Out of thirty-seven
Thugs caught by the police there were twenty-two Mahometans. This
proves perfectly clearly that their religion, having nothing in
common with the Hindu gods, had nothing to do with their cruel
profession; the reason and cause was robbery.
It is true though that the final initiation rite was performed in
some deserted forest before an idol of Bhavani, or Kali, wearing a
necklace of human skulls. Before this final initiation the
candidates had to undergo a course of schooling, the most difficult
part of which was a certain trick of throwing the rumal on the neck
of the unsuspecting victim and strangling him, so that death might
be instantaneous. In the initiation the part of the goddess was
made manifest in the use of certain symbols, which are in common
use amongst the Freemasons--for instance, an unsheathed dagger,
a human skull, and the corpse of Hiram-Abiff, "son of the widow,"
brought back to life by the Grand Master of the lodge. Kali was
nothing but the pretext for an imposing scenarium. Freemasonry
and Thugism had many points of resemblance. The members of both
recognized each other by certain signs, both had a pass-word and
a jargon that no outsider could understand. The Freemason lodges
receive among their members both Christians and Atheists; the
Thugs used to receive the thieves and robbers of every nation
without any distinction; and it is reported that amongst them
there were some Portuguese and even Englishmen. The difference
between the two is that the Thugs certainly were a criminal
organization, whereas the Freemasons of our days do no harm,
except to their own pockets.
Poor Shiva, wretched Bhavani! What a mean interpretation popular
ignorance has invented for these two poetical types, so deeply
philosophical and so full of knowledge of the laws of nature.
Shiva, in his primi-tive meaning is "Happy God"; then the
all-destroying, as well as the all-regenerating force of nature.
The Hindu trinity is, amongst other things, an allegorical
representation of the three chief elements: fire, earth and water.
Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva all represent these elements by turns,
in their different phases; but Shiva is much more the god of the
fire than either Brahma or Vishnu: he burns and purifies; at
the same time creating out of the ashes new forms, full of fresh
life. Shiva-Sankarin is the destroyer or rather the scatterer;
Shiva-Rakshaka is the preserver, the regenerator. He is represented
with flames on his left palm, and with the wand of death and
resurrection in his right hand. His worshippers wear on their
foreheads his sign traced with wet ashes, the ashes being called
vibhuti, or purified substance, and the sign consisting of three
horizontal parallel lines between the eyebrows. The color of Shiva's
skin is rosy-yellow, gradually changing into a flaming red. His neck,
head and arms are covered with snakes, emblems of eternity and
eternal regeneration. "As a serpent, abandoning his old slough,
reappears in new skin, so man after death reappears in a younger
and a purer body," say the Puranas.
In her turn, Shiva's wife Kali is the allegory of earth, fructified
by the flames of the sun. Her educated worshippers say they allow
themselves to believe their goddess is fond of human sacrifices,
only on the strength of the fact that earth is fond of organical
decomposition, which fertilizes her, and helps her to call forth
new forces from the ashes of the dead. The Shivaites, when burning
their dead, put an idol of Shiva at the head of the corpse; but
when beginning to scatter the ashes in the elements, they invoke
Bhavani, in order that the goddess may receive the purified remains,
and develop in them germs of new life. But what truth could bear
the coarse touch of superstitious ignorance without being disfigured!
The murdering Thugs laid their hands on this great philosophic
emblem, and, having understood that the goddess loves human sacrifice,
but hates useless blood-shed, they resolved to please her doubly:
to kill, but never to soil their hands by the blood of their victims.
The result of it was the knighthood of the rumal.
One day we visited a very aged ex-Thug. In his young days he was
transported to the Andaman Islands, but, owing to his sincere
repentance, and to some services he had rendered to the Government,
he was afterwards pardoned. Having returned to his native village,
he settled down to earn his living by weaving ropes, a profession
probably suggested to him by some sweet reminiscences of the
achievements of his youth. He initiated us first into the mysteries
of theoretic Thugism, and then extended his hospitality by a ready
offer to show us the practical side of it, if we agreed to pay for
a sheep. He said he would gladly show us how easy it was to send
a living being ad patres in less than three seconds; the whole
secret consisting in some skillful and swift movements of the
righthand finger joints.
We refused to buy the sheep for this old brigand, but we gave him
some money. To show his gratitude he offered to demonstrate all
the preliminary sensation of the rumal on any English or American
neck that was willing. Of course, he said he would omit the final
twist. But still none of us were willing; and the gratitude of
the repentant criminal found issue in great volubility.
The owl is sacred to Bhavani Kali, and as soon as a band of Thugs,
awaiting their victims, had been signalled by the conventional
hooting, each of the travelers, let them be twenty and more, had
a Thug behind his shoulders. One second more, and the rumal was
on the neck of the victim, the well-trained iron fingers of the
Thug tightly holding the ends of the sacred handkerchief; another
second, the joints of the fingers performed their artistic twist,
pressing the larynx, and the victim fell down lifeless. Not a
sound, not a shriek! The Thugs worked, as swiftly as lightning.
The strangled man was immediately carried to a grave prepared in
some thick forest, usually under the bed of some brook or rivulet
in their periodical state of drought. Every vestige of the victim
disappeared. Who cared to know about him, except his own family
and his very intimate friends? The inquests were especially
difficult, if not impossible, thirty years ago , when there
were no regular railway communications, and no regular Government
system. Besides, the country is full of tigers, whose sad fate
it is to be responsible for every one else's sins as well as for
their own. Whoever it was who happened to disappear, be it
Hindu or Mussulman, the answer was invariably the same: tigers!
The Thugs possessed a wonderfully good organization. Trained
accomplices used to tramp all over India, stopping at the bazaars,
those true clubs of Eastern nations, gathering information, scaring
their listeners to death with tales of the Thugs, and then advising
them to join this or that travelling party, who of course were
Thugs playing the part of rich merchants or pilgrims. Having
ensnared these wretches, they sent word to the Thugs, and got
paid for the commission in proportion to the total profit.
During many long years these invisible bands, scattered all over
the country, and working in parties of from ten to sixty men,
enjoyed perfect freedom, but at last they were caught. The
inquiries unveiled horrid and repulsive secrets: rich bankers,
officiating Brahmans, Rajas on the brink of poverty, and a few
English officials, all had to be brought before justice.
This deed of the East India Company truly deserves the popular
gratitude which it receives.
On our way back from the Marble Rocks we saw Muddun-Mahal, another
mysterious curio; it is a house built--no one knows by whom, or
with what purpose--on a huge boulder. This stone is probably some
kind of relative to the cromlechs of the Celtic Druids. It shakes
at the least touch, together with the house and the people who feel
curious to see inside it. Of course we had this curiosity, and
our noses remained safe only thanks to the Babu, Narayan and the
Takur, who took as great care of us as if they had been nurses,
and we their babies.
Natives of India are truly a wonderful people. However unsteady
the thing may be, they are sure to walk on it, and sit on it, with
the greatest comfort. They think nothing of sitting whole hours
on the top of a post--maybe a little thicker than an ordinary
telegraph post. They also feel perfectly safe with their toes
twisted round a thin branch and their bodies resting on nothing,
as if they were crows perched on a telegraph wire.
"Salam, sahib!" said I once to an ancient, naked Hindu of a low
caste, seated in the above described fashion. "Are you comfortable,
uncle? And are you not afraid of falling down?"
"Why should I fall?" seriously answered the "uncle," expectorating
a red fountain--an unavoidable result of betel-chewing. "I do not
"What do you mean? A man cannot do without breathing!" exclaimed I,
a good deal astonished by this wonderful bit of information.
"Oh yes, he can. I do not breathe just now, and so I am perfectly
safe. But soon I shall have to fill up my breast again with fresh
air, and then I will hold on to the post, otherwise I should fall."
After this astounding physiological information, we parted. He
would not talk any more, evidently fearing to endanger his comfort.
At that time, we did not receive any more explanations on the subject,
but this incident was enough to disturb the scientific equanimity
of our minds.
Till then, we were so naive as to fancy that only sturgeons and
similar aquatic acrobats were clever enough to learn how to fill
up their insides with air in order to become lighter, and to rise
to the surface of the water. What is possible to a sturgeon is
impossible to man, speculated we in our ignorance. So we agreed
to look upon the revelation of the above described "uncle" in the
light of a brag, having no other aim but to chaff the "white sahibs."
In those days, we were still inexperienced, and inclined to resent
this kind of information, as coming very near to mockery. But,
later on, we learned that his description of the process necessary
to keep up this birdlike posture was perfectly accurate. In Jubblepore
we saw much greater wonders. Strolling along the river bank, we
reached the so-called Fakirs' Avenue; and the Takur invited us to
visit the courtyard of the pagoda. This is a sacred place, and
neither Europeans nor Mussulmans are admitted inside. But Gulab-Sing
said something to the chief Brahman, and we entered without hindrance.
The yard was full of devotees, and of ascetics. But our attention
was especially attracted by three ancient, perfectly naked fakirs.
As wrinkled as baked mushrooms, as thin as skeletons, crowned with
twisted masses of white hair, they sat or rather stood in the most
impossible postures, as we thought. One of them, literally leaning
only on the palm of his right hand, was poised with his head downwards
and his legs upwards; his body was as motionless as if he were the
dry branch of a tree. Just a little above the ground his head rose
in the most unnatural position, and his eyes were fixed on the
glaring sun. I cannot guarantee the truthfulness of some talkative
inhabitants of the town, who had joined our party, and who assured
us that this fakir daily spends in this posture all the hours between
noon and the sunset. But I can guarantee that not a muscle of his
body moved during the hour and twenty minutes we spent amongst the
fakirs. Another fakir stood on a "sacred stone of Shiva," a small
stone about five inches in diameter. One of his legs was curled
up under him, and the whole of his body was bent backwards into
an arc; his eyes also were fixed on the sun. The palms of his
hands were pressed together as if in prayer. He seemed glued to
his stone. We were at a loss to imagine by what means this man
came to be master of such equilibration.
The third of these wonderful people sat crossing his legs under him;
but how he could sit was more than we could understand, because
the thing on which he sat was a stone lingam, not higher than an
ordinary street post and little wider than the "stone of Shiva,"
that is to say, hardly more than five or seven inches in diameter.
His arms were crossed behind his back, and his nails had grown
into the flesh of his shoulders.
"This one never changes his position," said one of our companions.
"At least, he has not changed for the last seven years."
His usual food, or rather drink, is milk, which is brought to him
once in every forty-eight hours and poured into his throat with
the aid of a bamboo. Every ascetic has willing servants, who are
also future fakirs, whose duty it is to attend on them; and so
the disciples of this living mummy take him off his pedestal, wash
him in the tank, and put him back like an inanimate object, because
he can no longer stretch his limbs.
"And what if I were to push one of these fakirs?" asked I. "I
daresay the least touch would upset them."
"Try!" laughingly advised the Takur. "In this state of religious
trance it is easier to break a man to pieces than to remove him
from his place."
To touch an ascetic in the state of trance is a sacrilege in the
eyes of the Hindus; but evidently the Takur was well aware that,
under certain circumstances, there may be exceptions to every
Brahmanical rule. He had another aside with the chief Brahman,
who followed us, darker than a thundercloud; the consultation
did not last long, and after it was over Gulab-Sing declared to
us that none of us was allowed to touch the fakirs, but that he
personally had obtained this permission, and so was going to show
us something still more astonishing.
He approached the fakir on the little stone, and, carefully holding
him by his protruding ribs, he lifted him and put him on the ground.
The ascetic remained as statuesque as before. Then Gulab-Sing took
the stone in his hands and showed it to us, asking us, however,
not to touch it for fear of offending the crowd. The stone was
round, flattish, with rather an uneven surface. When laid on the
ground it shook at the least touch.
"Now, you see that this pedestal is far from being steady. And
also you have seen that, under the weight of the fakir, it is as
immovable as if it were planted in the ground."
When the fakir was put back on the stone, he and it at once resumed
their appearance, as of one single body, solidly joined to the ground,
and not a line of the fakir's body had changed. By all appearance,
his bending body and his head thrown backward sought to bring him
down; but for this fakir there was evidently no such thing as the
law of gravity.
What I have described is a fact, but I do not take upon myself to
explain it. At the gates of the pagoda we found our shoes, which
we had been told to take off before going in. We put them on again,
and left this "holy of holies" of the secular mysteries, with our
minds still more perplexed than before. In the Fakirs' Avenue we
found Narayan, Mulji and the Babu, who were waiting for us. The
chief Brahman would not hear of their entering the pagoda. All
the three had long before released themselves from the iron claws
of caste; they openly ate and drank with us, and for this offence
they were regarded as excommunicated, and despised by their
compatriots much more than the Europeans themselves. Their
presence in the pagoda would have polluted it for ever, whereas
the pollution brought by us was only temporary; it would evaporate
in the smoke of cow-dung--the usual Brahmanical incense of
purification--like a drop of muddy water in the rays of the sun.
India is the country for originalities and everything unexpected
and unconventional. From the point of view of an ordinary European
observer every feature of Indian life is contrary to what could
be expected. Shaking the head from one shoulder to another means
no in every other country, but in India it means an emphatic yes.
If you ask a Hindu how his wife is, even if you are well acquainted
with her, or how many children he has, or whether he has any sisters,
he will feel offended in nine cases out of ten. So long as the
host does not point to the door, having previously sprinkled the
guest with rose-water, the latter would not think of leaving. He
would stay the whole day without tasting any food, and lose his
time, rather than offend his host by an unauthorized departure.
Everything contradicts our Western ideas. The Hindus are strange
and original, but their religion is still more original. It has
its dark points, of course. The rites of some sects are truly
repulsive; the officiating Brahmans are far from being without
reproach. But these are only superficialities. In spite of them
the Hindu religion possesses something so deeply and mysteriously
irresistible that it attracts and subdues even unimaginative Englishmen.
The following incident is a curious instance of this fascination:
N.C. Paul, G.B.M.C., wrote a small, but very interesting and very
scientific pamphlet. He was only a regimental surgeon in Benares,
but his name was well known amongst his compatriots as a very learned
specialist in physiology. The pamphlet was called A Treatise on the
Yoga Philosophy, and produced a sensation amongst the representatives
of medicine in India, and a lively polemic between the Anglo-Indian
and native journalists. Dr. Paul spent thirty-five years in studying
the extraordinary facts of Yogism, the existence of which was, for
him, beyond all doubt. He not only described them, but explained
some of the most extraordinary phenomena, for instance, levitation,
the seeming evidence to the contrary of some laws of nature,
notwithstanding. With perfect sincerity, and evident regret, Dr.
Paul says he could never learn anything from the Raj-Yogis. His
experience was almost wholly limited to the facts that fakirs and
Hatha-Yogis would consent to give him. It was his great friendship
with Captain Seymour chiefly which helped him to penetrate some
mysteries, which, till then, were supposed to be impenetrable.
The history of this English gentleman is truly incredible, and
produced, about twenty-five years ago, an unprecedented scandal
in the records of the British army in India. Captain Seymour, a
wealthy and well-educated officer, accepted the Brahmanical creed
and became a Yogi. Of course he was proclaimed mad, and, having
been caught, was sent back to England. Seymour escaped, and
returned to India in the dress of a Sannyasi. He was caught again,
and shut up in some lunatic asylum in London. Three days after,
in spite of the bolts and the watchmen, he disappeared from the
establishment. Later on his acquaintances saw him in Benares, and
the governor-general received a letter from him from the Himalayas.
In this letter he declared that he never was mad, in spite of his
being put into a hospital; he advised the governor-general not
to interfere with what was strictly his own private concern, and
announced his firm resolve never to return to civilized society.
"I am a Yogi," wrote he, "and I hope to obtain before I die what
is the aim of my life--to become a Raj-Yogi." After this letter
he was left alone, and no European ever saw him except Dr. Paul,
who, as it is reported, was in constant correspondence with him,
and even went twice to see him in the Himalayas under the pretext
of botanic excursions.
I was told that the pamphlet of Dr. Paul was ordered to be burned
"as being offensive to the science of physiology and pathology."
At the time I visited India copies of it were very great rarities.
Out of a few copies still extant, one is to be found in the library
of the Maharaja of Benares, and another was given to me by the Takur.
This evening we dined at the refreshment rooms of the railway station.
Our arrival caused an evident sensation. Our party occupied the
whole end of a table, at which were dining many first-class passengers,
who all stared at us with undisguised astonishment. Europeans on an
equal footing with Hindus! Hindus who condescended to dine with
Europeans! These two were rare and wonderful sights indeed. The
subdued whispers grew into loud exclamations. Two officers who
happened to know the Takur took him aside, and, having shaken hands
with him, began a very animated conversation, as if discussing some
matter of business; but, as we learned afterwards, they simply
wanted to gratify their curiosity about us.
Here we learned, for the first time, that we were under police
supervision, the police being represented by an individual clad
in a suit of white clothes, and possessing a very fresh complexion,
and a pair of long moustaches. He was an agent of the secret police,
and had followed us from Bombay. On learning this flattering piece
of news, the colonel burst into a loud laugh; which only made us
still more suspicious in the eyes of all these Anglo-Indians,
enjoying a quiet and dignified meal. As to me, I was very
disagreeably impressed by this bit of news, I must confess, and
wished this unpleasant dinner was over.
The train for Allahabad was to leave at eight P.M., and we were
to spend the night in the railway carriage. We had ten reserved
seats in a first-class carriage, and had made sure that no strange
passengers would enter it, but, nevertheless, there were many
reasons which made me think I could not sleep this night. So I
obtained a provision of candles for my reading lamp, and making
myself comfortable on my couch, began reading the pamphlet of Dr.
Paul, which interested me greatly.
Amongst many other interesting things, Dr. Paul explains very
fully and learnedly the mystery of the periodical suspension of
breathing, and some other seemingly impossible phenomena, practised
by the Yogis.
Here is his theory in brief. The Yogis have discovered the reason
of the wondrous capacity of the chameleon to assume the appearance
of plumpness or of leanness. This animal looks enormous when his
lungs are filled with air, but in his normal condition he is quite
insignificant. Many other reptiles as well acquire the possibility
of swimming across large rivers quite easily by the same process.
And the air that remains in their lungs, after the blood has been
fully oxygenated, makes them extraordinarily lively on dry land
and in the water. The capacity of storing up an extraordinary
provision of air is a characteristic feature of all the animals
that are subjected to hibernation.
The Hindu Yogis studied this capacity, and perfected and developed
it in themselves.
The means by which they acquire it--known under the name of Bhastrika
Kumbhala--consist of the following: The Yogi isolates himself in
an underground cave, where the atmosphere is more uniform and more
damp than on the surface of the earth: this causes the appetite
to grow less. Man's appetite is proportionate to the quantity of
carbonic acid he exhales in a certain period of time. The Yogis
never use salt, and live entirely on milk, which they take only
during the night. They move very slowly in order not to breathe
too often. Movement increases the exhaled carbonic acid, and so
the Yoga practice prescribes avoidance of movement. The quantity
of exhaled carbonic acid is also increased by loud and lively talking:
so the Yogis are taught to talk slowly and in subdued tones, and
are even advised to take the vows of silence. Physical labor is
propitious to the increase of carbonic acid, and mental to its
decrease; accordingly the Yogi spends his life in contemplation
and deep meditation. Padmasana and Siddhasana are the two methods
by which a person is taught to breathe as little as possible.
Suka-Devi, a well-known miracle-monger of the second century B.C. says:
"Place the left foot upon the right thigh, and the right foot upon
the left thigh; straighten the neck and back; make the palms of
the hands rest upon the knees; shut the mouth; and expire forcibly
through both nostrils. Next, inspire and expire quickly until you
are fatigued. Then inspire through the right nostril, fill the
abdomen with the inspired air, suspend the breath, and fix the
sight on the tip of the nose. Then expire through the left nostril,
and next, inspiring through the left nostril, suspend the breath... "
and so on.
"When a Yogi, by practice, is enabled to maintain himself in one
of the above-mentioned postures for the period of three hours, and
to live upon a quantity of food proportional to the reduced condition
of circulation and respiration, without inconvenience, he proceeds
to the practice of Pranayama," writes Dr. Paul. "It is the fourth
stage or division of Yoga."
The Pranayama consists of three parts. The first excites the
secretion of sweat, the second is attended by convulsive movements of
the features, the third gives to the Yogi a feeling of extraordinary
lightness in his body.
After this, the Yogi practises Pratyahara, a kind of voluntary
trance, which is recognizable by the full suspension of all the
senses. After this stage the Yogis study the process of Dharana;
this not only stops the activity of physical senses, but also
causes the mental capacities to be plunged into a deep torpor.
This stage brings abundant suffering; it requires a good deal of
firmness and resolution on the part of a Yogi, but it leads him
to Dhayana, a state of perfect, indescribable bliss. According
to their own description, in this state they swim in the ocean
of eternal light, in Akasha, or Ananta Jyoti, which they call
the "Soul of the Universe." Reaching the stage of Dhyana, the
Yogi becomes a seer. The Dhyana of the Yogis is the same thing
as Turiya Avastha of the Vedantins, in the number of whom are
"Samadhi is the last stage of self-trance," says Dr. Paul. "In
this state the Yogis, like the bat, the hedge-hog, the marmot,
the hamster and the dormouse, acquire the power of supporting the
abstraction of atmospheric air, and the privation of food and drink.
Of Samadhi or human hibernation there have been three cases within
the last twenty-five years. The first case occurred in Calcutta,
the second in Jesselmere, and the third in the Punjab. I was an
eyewitness of the first case. The Jesselmere, the Punjab, and
the Calcutta Yogis assumed a death-like condition by swallowing
the tongue. How the Punjabi fakir (witnessed by Dr. McGregor),
by suspending his breath, lived forty days without food and drink,
is a question which has puzzled a great many learned men of Europe....
It is on the principle of Laghima and Garima (a diminution of one's
specific gravity by swallowing large draughts of air) that the
Brahman of Madras maintained himself in an aerial posture... "
However, all these are physical phenomena produced by Hatha-Yogis.
Each of them ought to be investigated by physical science, but
they are much less interesting than the phenomena of the region
of psychology. But Dr. Paul has next to nothing to say on this
subject. During the thirty-five years of his Indian career, he
met only three Raj-Yogis; but in spite of the friendliness they
showed to the English doctor, none of them consented to initiate
him into the mysteries of nature, a knowledge of which is ascribed
to them. One of them simply denied that he had any power at all;
the other did not deny, and even showed Dr. Paul some very wonderful
things, but refused to give any explanations whatever; the third
said he would explain a few things on the condition that Dr. Paul
must pledge himself never to repeat anything he learned from him.
In acquiring this kind of information, Dr. Paul had only one aim--
to give these secrets publicity, and to enlighten the public
ignorance, and so he declined the honor.
However, the gifts of the true Raj-Yogis are much more interesting,
and a great deal more important for the world, than the phenomena
of the lay Hatha-Yogis. These gifts are purely psychic: to the
knowledge of the Hatha-Yogis the Raj-Yogis add the whole scale of
mental phenomena. Sacred books ascribe to them the following gifts:
foreseeing future events; understanding of all languages; the
healing of all diseases; the art of reading other people's thoughts;
witnessing at will everything that happens thousands of miles from
them; understanding the language of animals and birds; Prakamya,
or the power of keeping up youthful appearance during incredible
periods of time; the power of abandoning their own bodies and
entering other people's frames; Vashitva, or the gift to kill,
and to tame wild animals with their eyes; and, lastly, the mesmeric
power to subjugate any one, and to force any one to obey the
unexpressed orders of the Raj-Yogi.
Dr. Paul has witnessed the few phenomena of Hatha-Yoga already
described; there are many others about which he has heard, and
which he neither believes nor disbelieves. But he guarantees that
a Yogi can suspend his breath for forty-three minutes and twelve
Nevertheless, European scientific authorities maintain that no one
can suspend the breath for more than two minutes. O science! Is
it possible then that thy name is also vanitas vanitatum, like
the other things of this world?
We are forced to suppose that, in Europe, nothing is known about
the means which enabled the philosophers of India, from times
immemorial, gradually to transform their human frames.
Here are a few deep words of Professor Boutleroff, a Russian
scientist whom I, in common with all Russians, greatly respect:
"....All this belongs to knowledge; the increase of the mass of
knowledge will only enrich and not abolish science. This must be
accomplished on the strength of serious observation, of study, of
experience, and under the guidance of positive scientific methods,
by which people are taught to acknowledge every other phenomenon
of nature. We do not call you blindly to accept hypotheses, after
the example of bygone years, but to seek after knowledge; we do
not invite you to give up science, but to enlarge her regions... "
This was said about spiritualist phenomena. As to the rest of our
learned physiologists, this is, approximately, what they have the
right to say: "We know well certain phenomena of nature which we
have personally studied and investigated, under certain conditions,
which we call normal or abnormal, and we guarantee the accuracy of
However, it would be very well if they added:
"But having no pretensions to assure the world that we are acquainted
with all the forces of nature, known and unknown, we do not claim
the right to hold back other people from bold investigations in
regions which we have not reached as yet, owing to our great
cautiousness and also to our moral timidity. Not being able to
maintain that the human organism is utterly incapable of developing
certain transcendental powers, which are rare, and observable only
under certain conditions, unknown to science, we by no means wish
to keep other explorers within the limits of our own scientific
By pronouncing this noble, and, at the same time, modest speech,
our physiologists would doubtless gain the undying gratitude
After this speech there would be no fear of mockery, no danger of
losing one's reputation for veracity and sound reason; and the
learned colleagues of these broad-minded physiologists would
investigate every phenomenon of nature seriously and openly. The
phenomena of spiritualism would then transmigrate from the region
of materialized "mothers-in-law" and half-witted fortune-telling
to the regions of the psycho-physiological sciences. The celebrated
"spirits" would probably evaporate, but in their stead the living
spirit, which "belongeth not to this world," would become better
known and better realized by humanity, because humanity will
comprehend the harmony of the whole only after learning how closely
the visible world is bound to the world invisible.
After this speech, Haeckel at the head of the evolutionists, and
Alfred Russel Wallace at the head of the spiritualists, would be
relieved from many anxieties, and would shake hands in brotherhood.
Seriously speaking, what is there to prevent humanity from
acknowledging two active forces within itself; one purely animal,
the other purely divine?
It does not behove even the greatest amongst scientists to try
to "bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades," even if they have
chosen "Arcturus with his sons" for their guides. Did it never
occur to them to apply to their own intellectual pride the questions
the "voice out of the whirlwind" once asked of long-suffering Job:
"where were they when were laid the foundations of the earth? and
have the gates of death been opened unto them?" If so, only then
have they the right to maintain that here and not there is the
abode of eternal light.