Ancient History & Civilisation


One cannot conclude the history of India as one can conclude the history of Egypt, or Babylonia, or Assyria; for that history is still being made, that civilization is still creating. Culturally India has been reinvigorated by mental contact with the West, and her literature today is as fertile and noble as any. Spiritually she is still struggling with superstition and excess theological baggage, but there is no telling how quickly the acids of modern science will dissolve these supernumerary gods. Politically the last one hundred years have brought to India such unity as she has seldom had before: partly the unity of one alien government, partly the unity of one alien speech, but above all the unity of one welding aspiration to liberty. Economically India is passing, for better and for worse, out of medievalism into modern industry; her wealth and her trade will grow, and before the end of the century she will doubtless be among the powers of the earth.

We cannot claim for this civilization such direct gifts to our own as we have traced to Egypt and the Near East; for these last were the immediate ancestors of our own culture, while the history of India, China and Japan flowed in another stream, and is only now beginning to touch and influence the current of Occidental life. It is true that even across the Himalayan barrier India has sent to us such questionable gifts as grammar and logic, philosophy and fables, hypnotism and chess, and above all, our numerals and our decimal system. But these are not the essence of her spirit; they are trifles compared to what we may learn from her in the future. As invention, industry and trade bind the continents together, or as they fling us into conflict with Asia, we shall study its civilizations more closely, and shall absorb, even in enmity, some of its ways and thoughts. Perhaps, in return for conquest, arrogance and spoliation, India will teach us the tolerance and gentleness of the mature mind, the quiet content of the unacquisitive soul, the calm of the understanding spirit and a unifying, pacifying love for all living things.

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