28 DECEMBER 1861, Page 20

THE BRAHMO SOMAJ.* M. Hmumax lifEnrvaLE, in his thoughtful "Lectures

on Coloniza- tion," makes the suggestion whether, while the religious sentiment is plainly the one strong impulse held in common by the Christian and the savage, and is therefore the stimulus by which we may best excite the mind of the savage to desire -civilization, we should not do well to reverse this process when we are endertiouring to improve a heathen people who, like the Hindoos, already possess an established religion, a literature, and an ancient though imperfect civilization. It is clear, from the context, that Mr. Merivale does not suggest this coarse from motives of mere secular cautiousness. He recom- mends it on the ground that the civilized heathen is not accessible on the purely transcendental side; in which his spiritual affections are already preoccupied; while, onthe other hand, he does, when brought into contact with Europeans; become deeply sensible of his own in- feriority in mental and social attainments. On the intellectual side, therefore, there is most hope of rousing his dormant energies.

We believe Mr. Merivale's suggestion to be perfectly consistent with the fullest conviction that religion is the true basis of civiliza- tion. For it is impossible for any one to judge between one religion and another without sonic practical acquaintance with the kind of civilization which legitimately springs from each, and some amount of moral power to discriminate between them. We are accustomed to suppose that a corrupt religion can easily be confuted by pointing to the immoralities and cruelties which it authorizes; we forget that it is only by an awakened sense of good and evil that corrupt practices can be perceived to be such. And the more complex a religion may be, and the more venerable its accompanying lite, rature and polity, the slower must be its awakening, because there are, in such cases, far more chances that elements of good may be intertwined among the evil. The turning-point of such a nation's career arrives when its intellectual eyes are at length opened, and the moral faculty gains the opportunity of choice. There are several signs that this crisis is now beginning to dawn in India. The progress of English education has broken down the faith in the old Hindoo idolatry among the most intelligent of the natives. But Christianity seems, as yet, to gain very little by the change, and it's not difficult to see why. Any one who has glanced at the produc- tion of English-taught Hindoos, must be struck with their quick comprehension and appreciation of the most intellectual treasures of the West. Mill, Plato, Shakspeare, Coleridge, Adam Beck, Margaret Fuller, French epigrams, Latin proverbs, Hebrew history —all comes as readily and as appropriately to their lips as to any ours. Now, it is not in the nature of things that a race so quick id • Tracts of the Calcutta Brahmo Somaj. Nos. I. to VI. June to Novezatier, 1S60. Printed by G. P. Roy and Co., 67, Emaumbarry-lane, Cossitollah, anesuld at the. premises of the "Brahma° Soinaj," Jore.sanko, Calcutta. perception, keenly enjoying such mental food as this, should easily settle down into a faith so inflexible and uneatholic, so little in harmony with the intellectual movements of the age, as the Evan- gelical orthodoxy, which is the chief form of Christianity represented by our Indian missionaries. It is not surprising, therefore, that a large proportion of the English-taught Hindoos have drifted into a state of scepticism. The "Young Bengal" party, as they are called, believe no more in the Hindoo gods than we do, but they make no effort to break down the abuses of Hindooism, having no faith in any religion that can take its place. It is, therefore, with much pleasure that we hear of the growing influence of a religious movement among the educated natives, which aims at the propagation of a pure Monotheism, and the renovation of social life. This sect, which is called the Brahmo Somaj (followers of one God), was originally founded in Calcutta, by Rammohun Roy, in 1828, but declined when he left India. Six years after his death it was revived (in 1839), but on a more extended scale of operation, including branch societies and schools. From all the accounts which we have seen, we gather that it began in a purely religious impulse, and was for many years con- tent with the cultivation of individual piety and social worship. The latter took place weekly, about 200 or 300 persons usually assembling to read and chant sentences from the Vedas, to which a sermon was added about once in two months. Recently, however, the sect seems to have entered a new phase, and to be addressing itself in earnest to combat the social corruptions and idolatries of Hindooism. It has now regular missionaries, and is, we hear, gaining followers in every part of -Bengal. We have seen the first six numbers of a series of tracts issued at monthly intervals by this society, which are worthy the attention of all thoughtful Englishmen, and of which we will give a brief account.

The introductory tract (dated June, 1860) is headed "Young Bengal, this is for you," and is written in the form of a letter to a friend, congratulating him on having abandoned "a spurious libe- ralism," which, "in flinging away the shackles of corrupt doctrines and institutions," discarded also as "visionary pursuits,' all seeking after "religion and immortality, prayer and atonement, faith and salvation," and "scattered to the winds the holy bonds of morality." The second tract, entitled "Be Prayerful," consists of a dialogue be- tween the letter-writer and his friend, in which the latter explains that, although he has "alienated his mind from scepticism," he can scarcely yet lay claim to be called religious, and he especially objects to prayer as "an unwarrantable extreme of dogmatic theology," "altogether untenable on philosophical grounds, mid, besides, not at all necessary." The Brahmo, in reply, argues that prayer finds suf- ficient philosophical justification in its spontaneity, and that it is necessary to the support of moral and spiritual life. The deepest speculative difficulties of the question are not fathomed, but there is a directness and fervour in the dialogue which command the reader's sympathy: The next two dialogues, "Religion of Love" and "Basis of Brahnnsm," set forth the claims of Brahrnisin to!be the universal religion, superseding Sects as well as idolatries. There is something so unique in this propaganda that we must extract a brief specimen of it : "I. In vain have I traversed the vast field of theology to find an undisputed creed. Wearied and hopeless, I now sit down with the conviction that 'it is easier for a camel to pass through the needle's eye' than for an impartial inquirer, to find a resting-place in the tumultuous sea of religious polemics, where he can say, to his heart's content, 'Here is the land of true religion I have found peace.' .

"B. That resting-place, 0 my brother, which your troubled heart is looking after, islralimism. In that heaven-born religion you shall find peace and comfort, truth for your understanding and salvation for your soul- " I. That is the very language of sectarianism : the stamp of bigotry lies on its face. Heaven-born religion ! Truth for the, un- derstanding, and salvation for the soul ! So every sectarian Speaks of his own faith. . . . . Revelations arrayed against revelations, in- carnations against incarnations, miracles against miracles, infallibili- ties against infallibilities, pulpits against pulpits, missionaries against missionaries, tracts against tracts! 0 inexplicable anomalies ! From such unaccountable phenomena to educe a meaning, from such a chaotic confusion to-bring out order and light, is a task which defies human reason.

".B. Certainly. Whoever, goes through the awful perplexities of theological polemics, in order to ascertain and enjoy true faith, must pass his days in fruitless speculations; nay, he may, perchance, be eventually enshrouded and entombed amidst the horrors of despairing unbelief Indeed, many a simple heart is ready to resound the voice of A Kempis I am weary of reading, I am weary of hearing: in Thee alone (0 God) is the sum of my desires. Let all teachers be silent, let the whole creation be dumb before me, and do Thou only speak to my soul.' . . . . I cannot recommend you to sever yourself from the mass of mankind, and cling to a peculiar.creed. Away with sectarian creeds and dogmas—away with the malign spirit of sec- tarianism.

"I. If I have to turn away from all sectarian creeds, with what earthly reason can I stick to Brahmism ? is not Brahrnism a special creed, like Ilindooism, and Christianity, and Mohammedanism ? Do not the Brahmos, like the followers of other religions, constitute a sect ?

"B. Oh no, my friend. Bra!, mism is ante [probably meant for anti]- sectalian ; catholicity is its crowning characteristic ; love is its very life. It tot the religion of a community—of a particular epoch or country ; 11 is universal religion; it is Iluman Catholic religion.' . . A Brahmo sees all men in relation to God. He seeth all in God and God in all, and despiseth none.' . . . . He does not seek God through abstractions and. generalizations N other hand, is his God an historical personage cognizable through on thegle


medium of representation, and with the aid of proper evidences—and withal a God 'that teas, but not is.' His God is an ever-living and ever-present Reality that can be seen and felt. No teacher, no idea, no abstract proposition, no consecrated object, acts as a mediator between him and God. He stands before his Father face to face."

The basis of this pure and lofty faith is said to be " those principles of the mind which are above, anterior to, and independent of reflec- tion—which the variations of opinion cannot alter or affect. It stands upon intuitions." The inquirin„e. friend suggests that the illiterate multitude, who know nothing of the doctrine of intuition, may be unable to realize the spiritual influences which are enjoyed by the intelligent ; to which the Brahmo replies that, although "the philosophy of intuition is limited to a few," "intuition itself is universal property." It is not to be supposed "that the God of Love reveals himself only to those who possess the means of a rich education and who have health and strength enough to take advan- tage of such means." The friend's final reply is rather striking: "Your arguments would be all very well if human nature remained in an uncorrupted and innocent state. In that case alone would a religion based upon nature be perfectly plausible and satisfactory. But perverted as [thel human mind is, a code of the pure doctrines of natural theism is simply useless. Survey mankind, and you will find merely a small per-centage professing and following natural doc- trines—so universal is the prevalence of unnatural ones. . . . My impression is, that besides the teachings of nature, a written revelation from God is necessary, nay, indispensable; in other words, Brahmism, though philosophically and doctrinally the correct system of faith, needs the help of some Word of God to supply its practical deficiencies."

The Brahmo defers this question to a future conversation, which, we are glad to see from a recent announcement, has now been pub- lished. Tract No. 5, "Brethren, love your Father," has the motto, "He forsaketh none of us. May we never forsake him !" It con- sists of a long and rather incoherent prayer, beginning in distress and passing into thanksgiving. Tract No. 6, "Signs of the Times," is a collection of extracts from modern English works, including Morell's Philosophy of Religion, Wilson's Catholicity, Greg's Creed of Christendom, Newman's Soul, Intuitive Morals, &c. &c. We also glean sonic interesting particulars of this movement from a new journal called. the Indian Mirror, which commenced last August, and is published at Calcutta on the let and 16th of every month. Though pointedly stating that "it is not, and shall not be made, the mouthpiece or organ of any particular section of the community, be it secular or clerical," it supplies frequent information concerning the Brahmos, and we find in its columns the same religious and social enthusiasm that distinguishes the Tracts. Into the vexed sea of Bengal politics which occupies the chief portion of the Indian Mirror we will not now enter, but will merely say that the leading idea of the journal is to contribute to the elevation and welfare of the native community, politically and socially. We regret, however, to see frequent specimens of a taunting tone in speaking of opponents, which is not worthy of men who have a good cause to defend. This blemish in the Mirror is, however, more visible in the "summary of news" than in the long articles, which are mostly characterized by good feeling as well as by good sense. We have only room to speak of two of these, one in the number for September 15, 1861, entitled "Physical Hardihood, a prime Want in the Native Character," in which the writer observes that "an insight into literature may ex- pand the moral qualities of the mind; but vain is the endeavour to exalt it, where the spirit that should adorn it—they call it pluck' in England—coma under the head of non est inventus !" The other article, is one in the previous number, on "Social Re- forms," and it begins by referring to a marriage which took place this summer among the Brahmos, in which the customary idolatrous Bindoo rites were entirely dispensed with. The bride's father, who took the responsibility of this act, was Debender Nath Tagore (son of the late well-known Dwarica Nath Tagore). who is one of the leading men of the body. 'We learn from the Mirror, that this mar- riage was the first of its kind, and that Debender Nath Tagore has wisely published a detailed account of the proceedings. After no- ticing this pamphlet, the Mirror sees on to point out how many other social reforms need tp be taken in hand, and how far it is from being a holiday task. The writer thinks that "religious improvement must precede social," for the evil social customs "are interwoven with the Hindoo religion, and unless a better system of faith iv introduced, we do not think we can easily get rid of the serious mischiefs under which our country is groaning."

It will be deeply interesting to watch the future progress of the Brahmo Somaj in relation to their work and to their faith. It is well that there should be a class of men who can replace the Hindoo polytheism by the simplest of all faiths, and thoroughly realize that before proceeding to a development of which they do not yet feel the want. The Christianity of to-day will lose nothing by this movement which will not be regained fourfold by the Christianity of a future generation. In the mean time, although some zealous Christians may upbraid these men because, while casting out the devils of idolatry

and immorality with a power lar derived gely deved from Christian civiliza- tion, they yet join not the band of Christ's disciples, we cannot doubt that now, as of old, the Master rejoices in such Theists as true fellow-workers with Him, and faithful servants of the Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.