Tag: <span>Rabindranath Tagore</span>

Edward Carpenter Portraits of World Citizens.

Edward Carpenter and the Healing of Nations.

 Featured Image: Edward Carpenter (1844–1929), by Fred Holland Day (1864–1933). By F. Holland Day, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Edward Carpenter (1844-1929) whose birth anniversary we note on 29 August, was an English writer, educator and pacifist, socialist reformer. Carpenter came from a middle class intellectual family and studied at Cambridge University. As with some of his fellow students who were interested in philosophy and ideas, he was ordained in the Church of England hoping that its outlook and theology could be widened from the inside.  However, once inside, he realized that the broadening goal would take a long time.  Thus by 1874 he left the church for a new field − university extension courses − a program of night school education for the “working classes”.

Days with Walt Whitman.

Just as he was about to become a Church of England cleric in 1869, he discovered the poems of Walt Whitman which became the inspiration for his own poems as well as for an opening to a cosmic consciousness that Whitman manifested. As Carpenter wrote in Angels’ Wings “Whitman’s verse in its most successful passages, so magnificent in its effects, so democratic in feeling, so democratic in form, is more absolute in expression, more real in its content, burns brighter in the nearness of sunrise, and yet lies so near along to Nature and the innocent naivety of speech of a child, that some people are inclined to deny to it the quality of Art at all!” Whitman was his life-long model, and Carpenter spent time in the USA to be with Whitman, an experience which he recorded in a book Days with Walt Whitman.

Walt Whitman

The Laughing Philosopher: American poet Walt Whitman (1819–92). By George C. Cox (1851–1902)[1], Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Rabindranath Tagore.

Like Whitman, Carpenter was attracted to Indian philosophy and travelled to India. He became a friend of Rabindranath Tagore. His Indian travels and attraction to Indian thought he recorded in Adam’s Peak to Elephanta: Sketches in Ceylon and IndiaCarpenter kept up his interest in Indian thought through friendships in the then recently-created Theosophical Society.

Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore before 1941. By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

George Russell.

As others influenced by the Theosophical Society such as the Irish poet and agricultural reformer George Russell (best known by his pen name AE), Carpenter saw the need to improve rural life and to bring intellectual and cultural enlightenment to the rural areas. Thus he gave up formal university extension work and bought a farm which became a meeting place for discussions among many in the area − an early “back to the land movement”. He stressed using hand-made clothes, the non-killing and non-eating of animals, and the use of herbs for health.

George Russell

George William Russell. By by Cornelius Weygandt http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/19028 ==Used on== *w:en:George William Russell ==Licence== {{PD-Gutenberg}}.

The Intermediate Sex and Intermediate Types Among Primitive Folk.

He lived in a homosexual relationship with a farmer at a time when homosexuality was considered a criminal offense.  Carpenter wrote two books on homosexuality. For a long time these were the only books on the subject published by a major publisher: The Intermediate Sex and Intermediate Types Among Primitive Folk.

A New Spiritual Consciousness.

The Healing of Nations is his most important political book − a collection of essays for the most part published in newspapers and small journals written in late 1914 and early 1915 as World War I started. Carpenter had long held that a new age of fellowship was dawning in which social relations would be transformed by a new spiritual consciousness. His thinking on the outbreak of the war was close to that of Romain Roland and P. Kropotkin, both of whom he quotes at length.

Carpenter was close − though never a member − to the Independent Labour Party who’s 1914 Manifesto he quotes as its proposals were similar to his own:

” We hail our working-class comrades of every land. Across the roar of guns we send greetings to the German Socialists. They have laboured unceasingly to promote good relations with Britain, as we with Germany.  They are no enemies of ours, but faithful friends. In forcing this appalling crime upon the nations, it is the rulers, the diplomats, the militarists who have sealed their doom. In tears and blood and bitterness the greater Democracy will be born. With steadfast faith we greet the future; our cause is holy and imperishable, and the labour of our hands has not been in vain.”

Carpenter went on with his own call to action:

“Thus we have to push on with discernment. Always we have to remember that the wide, free sense of equality and kinship which lies at the root of Internationalism is the real goal. Always we have to press on towards that great and final liberation − the realization of our common humanity, the recognition of the same great soul of man slumbering under all forms in the heart of all races − the one guarantee and assurance of the advent of world peace.”

At a time when in England and France there are commemorations of the anniversaries of the 1914-1918 War, it is useful to recall that there were voices in opposition and persons like Carpenter who saw that an awareness of the spiritual dimension of each person was the basis for the healing of the nations.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan Rapprochement of Cultures.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888 – 1975) World Citizen.

Featured Image: Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Former President of India. By White House, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

If we claim to be civilized, if we love justice, if we cherish mercy, if we are not ashamed to own the reality of the inward light, we must affirm that we are first and foremost Citizens of the World…Our planet has grown too small for parochial patriotism

S. Radhakrishnan, Philosopher and President of India (1962-1967).

The present crisis in human affairs is due to a profound crisis in human consciousness, a lapse from the organic wholeness of life.  Today, there is a crisis of perception, a widespread sense of unease concerning old forms of thinking which require that we must recreate and re-enact a vision of the world based on the elements of reverence, order, and human dignity, without which no society can be held together.”

Philosophic Consciousness.

As Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan pointed out, the next stage of human evolution is in the human psyche:

in his mind and spirit, in the emergencies of a larger understanding and awareness, in the development of a new integration of character adequate to the new age.  When he gains a philosophic consciousness and an intensity of understanding, a profound apprehension of the meaning of the whole, there will result in a more adequate social order which will influence not only individuals but peoples and nations. We have to fight for this order first in our souls, then in the world outside.”

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan repeatedly stressed the close interdependence between the need to recover the visions of the Higher Self in each person and the need to move beyond a narrow, nationalistic view of the world.

The Human Heart and the New World.

If we are to help the present society to grow organically into a world order, we must make it depend on the universal and enduring values which are implanted in the human heart that each individual is sacred, that we are born for love and not hate…We have learned to live peacefully in larger and larger units”.

The concept of a community has grown from a narrow tribal basis to the Nation-State. There is no stopping short of a world community…Thus we rejoice that there is an institution like the United Nations, for it is the symbol and hope of the new world, of the light dawning beyond the clouds, clouds piled up by our past patterns of behavior, past ways of speaking, judging, and acting which do not answer to the deep desire of the peoples of the world for peace and progress. We owe it to ourselves to find out why the light does not spread and disperse the darkness, why the sky is still clouded by fear and suspicion, hate and bitterness.”

Photo by Shinobu in Pexels.

Then you could read The United Nations: The Reflection of the World Society.

President of a State.

It is rare for a world citizen to become president of a State and even rarer to find a professional philosopher as head of State outside Plato’s Republic. Radhakrishnan was a rare individual who played an important intellectual role in three crucial periods:

  1. The revival of Indian thought in the 1920s—1930s after a long period of marginalization.
  2. The Second World War period when a new world society was being planned and when India was on the eve of becoming a fully independent State.
  3. The first years of Indian independence  and the start of the Cold War, the Korean conflict and the need to help reduce Soviet-American Cold War tensions.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born into a middle-class Brahman family in south India near Madras.  His family valued education, and he attended Christian-sponsored secondary schools and did his higher education at Madras Christian College.  During his education, he came to study classical Greek and Western thought, especially Plato, Aristotle and came to know Christian religious views.

The Hinduism.

He was confronted with Western teachers who held a low opinion of the Hinduism they saw around them but who were active in promoting Christian social action, especially in the fields of health, education, and poverty reduction. 

Madras was also the headquarters of the worldwide Theosophical Society; which agreed with the Christians that Hinduism was asleep but who felt that it could be awakened from within by its deeper values and did not have to copy the West. This was the avenue which Radhakrishnan followed, a recognition of the stagnant state of much of Indian religious thought and practice but a confidence that the answer lay in a revitalization of the best of Indian thought such as the Upanisads and the Bhagavad Gita.

This folio samples a part of verse 20, and the beginning of verse 21 from the opening chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, which is on the topic of Arjuna’s distress. By British Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Status of Indian.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan cited the status of Indian thought described by the religious reformer Sri Aurobindo; “If an ancient Indian of the time of the Upanisads, of the Buddha, or the later classical age was to be set down in modern India, he would see his race clinging to forms and shells and rags of the past and missing nine-tenths of its nobler meaning…he would be amazed by the extent of the mental poverty, the immobility, the static repetition, the cessation of science, the long sterility of art, the comparative feebleness of the creative intuition.”

Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) around the turn of the century, 1900. By Rudolf 1922, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore (1918).

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was aware of the then status quo. As he wrote “Stagnant systems, like pools, breed obnoxious growths, while flowing rivers constantly renew their waters from fresh springs of inspiration. There is nothing wrong with absorbing the culture of other peoples; only we must enhance, raise and purify the elements we take over, fuse them with the best in our own. Indian philosophy acquires a meaning and a justification for the present only if it advances and ennobles life.”

For Radhakrishnan, it was Rabindranath Tagore who best represented this new, flowing river, and his first book was The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore (1918). Tagore remained his ideal. While teaching philosophy at the University of Calcutta, he saw the impact of Tagore’s thought in the cultural revival of Bengal.

 Radhakrishnan’s reputation for his analysis and presentation of Indian philosophy grew, especially since many of his essays were published in Western journals. Thus in 1929, he was called to teach in one of the colleges of Oxford University, and in 1936 he was appointed to a newly created chair of Indian thought at Oxford University.

Rabindranath Tagore By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Then you could read Rabindranath Tagore: The Call of the Universal Real.

Association of World Citizens.

Thus it was in England that the second phase of his intellectual contribution began. As the clouds of the Second World War were gathering in the late 1930s, he stressed the need for a world vision, freed from the aggressive nationalism of the times. He joined the English branch of the recently formed Association of World Citizens and started meeting with thinkers who would be the creators of UNESCO such as Julian Huxley.  Radhakrishnan was to play an important role as the 1948 chairman of the Executive Council of UNESCO and in developing the UNESCO emphasis on the study of Asian culture.

Julian Huxley (12 February 1964). By Unknown authorUnknown author, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons.

Community of Spirit.

 As he said “If we are to shape a community of spirit among the people of the world which is essential for truly human society and lasting peace, we must forge bonds of international understanding.  This can be achieved by an acquaintance with the masterpieces of literature, art, and science produced in different countries.

When we are in contact with them, we are lifted from the present and immediate passions and interests and move on the mountain tops where we breathe a larger air…For out of the anguish of our times is being born a new unity of all mankind in which the free spirit of man can find peace and safety.

It is in our power to end the fears which afflict humanity and save the world from the disaster that impends.  Only we should be men of a universal cast of mind, capable of interpreting peoples to one another and developing a faith that is the only antidote to fear.  The threat to our civilization can be met only on the deeper levels of consciousness.  If we fail to overcome the discord between power and spirit, we will be destroyed by the forces which we had the knowledge to create but not the wisdom to control.”

The Independence of India.

 With the independence of India came the third and most public of Radhakrishnan’s roles.  In 1948, he was named as the first Ambassador of India to the Soviet Union then headed by Stalin (1948-1952). While he had little personal sympathy for Marxist thought, he realized that he was in a key post at a crucial time, as the Cold War was turning hot with the outbreak of war in Korea in 1950 and the possibility of war spreading to other parts of Asia. He had written a book on the relations between India and Chinese philosophy and so had a particular interest in events in China.

 Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was among the few in India who studied deeply Buddhist philosophy and tried to place the Buddha in the context of Indian thought. Thus events of Southeast Asia and the French war in Indochina were of particular concern.

The Indian Political System.

In 1952, he returned to India to become Vice-President and in 1962 became the President of India for a five-year term. In the Indian political system, executive power is in the office of the Prime Minister rather than the President. During Radhakrishnan’s political life the Prime Minister was Jawaharlal Nehru who shared many common interests but who kept a close hold on political decision making.

         Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan put his political energy into the area he knew best, the improvement of university education and the development of culture.  As a man of South India in a government dominated by people of the north, he was a symbol of national unity. As a person with deep knowledge of both Indian and Western philosophical thought, he was the model of the “meeting of East and West.” He set out his challenge to world citizens clearly “We live in an age of tensions, danger, and opportunity.  We are aware of our insufficiencies, and can remove them if we have the vision to see the goal and the courage to work for it.”

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Jawaharlal Nehru, the main campaigner of the Indian National Congress, 1951-52 elections. The poster reads ‘for a stable, secular, progressive state; VOTE CONGRESS’. By Indian National Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Notes.

 For a useful overview of his philosophical
thinking see Paul A. Schilpp (Ed). The Philosophy of Sarvepalli
Radhakrishnan (1952)

For a good picture of his bridge-building role, see S.J. Samartha Introduction to Radhakrishnan: The Man and His Thought. Dr. Samartha was Director of the program Dialogue among Living Faiths at the World Council of Churches in Geneva

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Rabindranath Tagore Rapprochement of Cultures.

Rabindranath Tagore: The Call of the Universal Real.

Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures. It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.  It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and death, in ebb and in flow. I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.  And my pride from the life- throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

May 7 marks the  anniversary of the birth of the Bengal and world poet Rabindranath Tagore.  As he wrote:

I was born in 1861.  It was a great period in our history of Bengal. Just about that time the currents of three movements had met in the life of our country.” One current was religious – the Brahmo Samaj – founded by Raja Rammohan Roy (1774-1833) in which his family was active.  Brahmo Samaj’s humanistic aim was to reopen the channel of spiritual life which, for Tagore, had been obstructed for many years by the sands and the debris of creeds, caste and external practices…Each great movement of thought and endeavour  in any part of the world may have something unique in its expression, but the truth underlying any of them never has the meretricious cheapness of utter novelty about it. The great Ganges must not hesitate to declare its essential similarity to the Nile of Egypt or to the Yangtse-Kiang of China.”

An Innovative School “Santiniketan”.

The second current was literary.  It was an effort by Tagore and other poets and writers such as Bankim Chandra Chatterji (1838-1894) to awaken the Bengali language from its stereotyped style and limitations of language.  His was an effort to bring the ordinary speech of Bengal into poetic form.  He had had intimate contact with village life in Bengal early in his youth as his family had estates with many villages.  Later in 1922 he created a center for rural development and reform “Sriniketan” along side an innovative school “Santiniketan” started in 1901 where he hoped that  young and the old, the teacher and the student, would sit at the same table to take their daily food and the food of their eternal life.

Tagore was interested in all the religious currents in Bengal, devotional Hinduism and the popular and mystic currents of Islam as expressed by the Bauls whose poetry he transformed into songs.  He wrote over 2000 songs; every change of season, each aspect of Bengal landscape, every sorrow and joy found a place in his songs which became Bengali folk music.

The third current was national.  As Tagore wrote:

“The national was not fully political, but it began to give voice to the mind of the people, trying to assert their own personality.  It was a voice of indignation at the humiliation constantly heaped upon us by people.”  Tagore was the first to make popular the term “Mahatma” for Gandhi. “So disintegrated and demoralized were our people that many wondered if India could ever rise again by the genius of her own people, until there came on the scene a truly great soul, a great leader of men, in line with the tradition of the greatest sages of old  Mahatma Gandhi.  Today no one need despair of the future of the country, for the unconquerable spirit that creates has already been released.  Mahatma Gandhi has shown us a way which, if we follow, shall not only save ourselves but may also help other peoples to save themselves.”

The call of the universal  real.

Rabindranath Tagore was the Renaissance man of modern India – the bridge from an Indian culture dominated on the one hand by a traditionalism that had long ceased to be creative and on the other by English colonial practice whose reforms were self-interested. He was known world wide as a poet having received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, especially for his set of poems Gitanjali championed by William Butler Yeats.  Tagore’s aim was to combine a renewal of local thought, in particular that of his native Bengal with an appreciation of the cultures of the world.

As Tagore emphasized, the creative impulse was rooted in man’s desire to enhance the experiences of life.  Man shared with the Divine Spirit the possibility of shaping the material world as well as his own personality according to the implicit laws of being.  An artist responds to what Tagore named the call of the universal  real through reverence, understanding and delight.  An artist is aroused not by knowledge or emotion alone, but by the wholeness of his perceptions. The Real is that order which lies behind multiplicity. 

“To be able to love material things, to clothe them with tender grace, and yet not to be attached to them, this is a great service.The wonder is not that there should be obstacles and sufferings in this world, but that there should be law and order, beauty and joy, goodness and love”.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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