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Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, the nearest European ally of Hindu Monism. It opened the Anglo-Saxon mind to the sense of the infinite, of the majesty of the spiritual self, and electrified the soul to the recognition of the "duties that lie nearest thee.” The gospel that taught people to “make thy numerator zero in order that the quotient may be infinite” converted the Bostonians of the trans-Atlantic world from Lockites into metaphysicians. This "new thought” of the day was worshipped by Parker and Emerson around the “Dial.” The New England Transcendentalists thus became kinsmen of the Hindus.


“Modern" is the term that seems to have been monopolized by the artists who claim Cézanne as their inspirer. And yet in this modernism Old India's paintings and sculptures have been a stimulating force.

The plastic art-creations at Bharhut and the frescoes at Ajanta constitute in stone and colour the poetry of the whole gamut of human emotions from “the ape and tiger" to the “god-in-man." The encyclopaedic humanism of Hindu art is indeed comparable only to the comprehensive secularism in the painted bas reliefs of Egyptian hill-caves and the stately Kakemonos of the Chinese masters. While the message of the artists and craftsmen of India is thus universal as the man of flesh and blood, they developed certain peculiarities in the technique and mode of expression which “he that runs may read.”

The most prominent characteristic of the Hindu sculptures and paintings is what may be called the "dance-form.” We see the figures, e.g., Shiva, the prince of dancers, or Krisna, the flute-player, in action, doing something, in the supple movement of limbs. Lines in graceful motion, the play of geometric contours, the ripple of forms, the flowing rhythm of bends and joints in space would arrest the eye of every observer of the bronzes, water-colours and gouache works in India. Another characteristic that cannot fail to be noticed is the elimination of details, the suppression of minuter individualities, on the one hand, and, on the other, the occasional elongation of limbs, the exaggeration of features, etc. All this is brought about by the conscious improvising of a new “artistic anatomy out of the natural anatomy known to the exact science of Ayurveda (medicine). In the swollen breasts, narrowed waists, bulky hips, etc., of Late Minoan or Cretan (ca. 1500 B.C.) works which bridged the gulf between the Pharaonic and the primitive Hellenic arts we can see the analogues or replicas of some of the Hindu conventions.

Leaving aside other characteristics, e.g., the absence of perspective, the grouping of colour-masses, the free laisser faire treatment of sentiments, etc., one can easily pick up the Hindu elements from the Cezannesque paintings and Rodin's sculptures and drawings.

Let us listen first to Rodin lecturing on the beauties of Venus of Melos:

In the synthesis of the work of art the arms, the legs, count only when they meet in accordance with the planes that associate them in a same effect, and it is thus in nature who cares not for our analytical description. The great artists proceed as nature composes and not as anatomy decrees. They never sculpture any muscle, any nerve, any bone for itself; it is the whole at which they aim and which they express. (Dudley's transl., p. 15.)

It is this theorizing that virtually underlies Hindu art work.

Similarly Vincent Van Gogh (1853–1890), the Dutch painter, who, if not in execution like Cézanne, has at least, in ideal, pioneered the new art movement of today, seems almost to have given the theory of Hindu art from the side of painting. He says:

I should despair if my figures were correct; . . think Michelangelo's figures magnificent, even though the legs are certainly too long and the hips and the pelvis bones a little too broad; . . . . It is my most fervent desire to know how one can achieve such deviations from reality, such inaccuracies and such transfigurations, that come about by chance. Well, yes, if you like, they are lies, but they are more valuable than the real values. (The Letters of a Post-Impressionist, translated from the German by A. M. Ludovici, p. 23.)

despair if mures magnifi and the peluaire to ki

Rodin was charged with the crime of being an “innovator" in art for he introduced movement and action into statuary. His “St. Jean Baptiste" (1880) is a specimen in point, as also the interlaced figures like the “Hand of God” holding man and woman in embrace, “Cupid and Psyche," “Triton and Nereid,” etc. With regard to this "new technique,” the representation of activity, we are told by Van Gogh that the "ancients did not feel this need."

To render the peasant form at work is, I repeat, the peculiar feature, the very heart of modern art, and that is something which was done neither by the Renaissance painters, nor the Dutch masters, nor by the Greeks. (The Letters, 22, 24.)

It is thus clear why the theory and practice that seek movement in art-forms, appreciate an "incorrect” anatomy and look upon arbitrary proportions as not distortions but “restorations,” should find an affinity with the work of the Hindu masters. And the psychology of this post-impressionist art-credo is perfectly natural, because like the previous pre-Raphaelitism and the still earlier romanticism, the new art movement is essentially a revolt. It is a reaction against the Academicians' rule of thumb. It is born of a discontent with the things that be, and of a desire to search for truth and beauty from far and old.

This latest revolution in art was brought about when Gauguin, the French master, conceived the truth that the modern European and his like all over the globe, could not and must not, be the type of the future. Anything rather than that! Even black men and women were better than that-cannibals, idolators, savages, anything! (Ludovici's introduction to The Letters, etc., p. xii.)

With such an article of faith the present-day artists have been seized by “Wanderlust." Today they draw their inspiration from the Mexicans and American-Indians, from the Negro art of the Congo regions, from Karnak and Nineveh, from the Tanagras of Greece and the "primitives" of Italy. And they roll their eyes from "China to Peru." The Buddhist, Shaiva, Vaisnava, Moghul and Rajput arts of India have but enlarged the list of the new Ossians and Percy's “Reliques” as whetters of the “futurist” imagination.


Nietzsche's Dionysian cult is one of the latest great forces in world-culture. The web of recent Eur-American life is being supremely invigorated by the warp of the Nietzschean Will to Power. It is interesting to observe that almost the whole of this new cult is reared on Hindu humanism and energism. Old India has contributed its hoary Manu as the master-builder in order to boss the super-men who are to architecture the Occident of the twentieth century.

Nietzsche, like the “futurists” of all ages, believes that the world is in need of a thorough-going “transvaluation of values.” How is that to be effected? The means to the re-humanizing of humanity have been devised, says he, by the Hindus. “Close thy Bible, open thy Code of Manu" is his prescription. And why? Because Manu is the propounder of an “affirmative” religion—the religion of the deification of power," whereas Christianity is the creed of the slave, the pariah, the chandala. (The Will to Power, Vol. I, Bk. II, p. 126.)

One breathes more freely, after stepping out of the Christian atmosphere of hospitals and poisons into this more salubrious, loftier and more spacious world. What a wretched thing the New Testament is beside Manu, what an evil odour hangs around it! (The Twilight of Idols, p. 46.)

In Nietzsche's estimation Manu is a better because more frank teacher of political science, also, than the insincere philosophers of the Western world. Thus, “Manu's words again are simple and dignified; 'Virtue could hardly rely on her own strength alone. Really it is only the fear of punishment that keeps men in their limits and leaves every one in peaceful possession of his own.'(The Will, Vol. II, Book IV, p. 184.)

In international politics Hindu theory since the days of Kautilya (fourth century B.C.), the Bismarck of the first Hindu empire, has been candidly Machiavellian. Nietzsche finds greater truth in the mercilessly correct view of interstatal relations given by the Hindus than in the hypocritical statements of Occidental statesmen whose actions belie their words.

Rather what Manu says is probably truer: we must conceive of all the states on our own frontier, and their allies, as being hostile, and for the same reason, we must consider all of their neighbors as being friendly to us. (The Will, Vol. II, Book IV, p. 183.)

This is the celebrated doctrine of Mandala (circle of states) fully described in Kautilya's Artha-shastra and Kamandaka's Neeti, both treatises on politics.

The fundamental reason for Nietzsche's sympathy with, and advocacy of, Hindu culture is to be found in the fact that the Hindus were keenly alive to the animality in human life and interests, and that their “Weltanschauung'' embodied the joy of living in its entirety. As Nietzsche observes, Manu has “organized the highest possible means of making life flourish.”

The fact that, in Christianity, "holy" ends are entirely absent, constitutes my objection to the means it employs. My feelings are quite the reverse when I read the Lawbook of Manu, . . . . an incomparably intellectual and superior work . . . . It is replete with noble values, it is filled with a feeling of perfection, with a saying of yea to life, and a triumphant sense of well-being in regard to itself and to life, the sun shines upon the whole book. All those things which Christianity smothers with its bottomless vulgarity, procreation, woman, marriage, are here treated with earnestness, with reverence, with love and confidence.(The Antichrist, p. 214–215.)

It is this secular outlook, this positive standpoint, this humanism that has given a sanctity to life in Hindu thought. “I know of no book in which so many delicate and kindly things are said to woman, as in the Lawbook of Manu; these old graybeards and saints have a manner of being gallant to women which perhaps cannot be surpassed.” The breath of a woman,” says Manu, on one occasion, “the breast of a maiden, the prayer of a child, and the smoke of the sacrifice are always pure.” Elsewhere he says; There is nothing purer than the light of the sun, the shadow

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