Vast Works of the Past
The Path, September, 1894
The objection is often urged against Theosophical theories that they were produced by Eastern nations, and if we are to judge by India of today these beliefs will result in stagnating human effort. But the facts do not support the objection. Indeed, if we think of the present works of man in the West and make any comparison with the older days, we must conclude that ours are the most fragile and will the sooner yield to the destroying touch of time. What modern work is to be compared to the pyramid of Ghizeh in Egypt? None in respect to any of the elements involved. Which of our huge buildings will last for more than ten thousand years? In Chicago the place where most, perhaps, the tall buildings are found in one spot, they say the foundation is really mud, and even now the tallest tower of all must come down and other buildings show signs of weakness. A slight convulsion would wreck them all. And what of our records both of literature and science? All will wither, disappear, be eaten up by moth and worm, and after a time not a line be left. What do we record on our inscriptions on buildings when we make any? Only some unimportant names of builder, contractor, or official in the municipality. There are no sentences of art or science or philosophy. And even the foundation stones contain but silly remains and small things of no use to future men. Most of our energy is devoted to getting mere coin that must soon or late be lost or given up, be melted, and altogether done away with. Yet though the Egyptians, who long ago left the scene, held beliefs that we might regard as superstitious, they made buildings and inscriptions and pictures which confront, us today as the mute proofs of the mightiness of a nation that rules its life by theories we do not accept.
But in India and the rest of the East is where the objection is directed. Even there the facts are to the contrary. What of their tanks for watering towns and fields; of their great temples; of their awe-inspiring underground constructions; of those buildings cut out of the solid mountain with mathematical precision. Can these be the work of people whose beliefs tend to stagnate human effort? I think not.
The caves of Ellora and Elephanta contain immense images and carvings which would do credit to this day. The caves of Kailas are 401 feet deep and 185 feet wide. Man made these. Inside is a conical pagoda 100 feet high, with a music gallery, five large chapels, a large court, and a colonnade. Three immense elephants are there cut from the stone. An image of Lakshmi reposes with two elephants standing on their hind legs as if pouring water over her. A passage then opens right and left. Thirty feet on there are two obelisks carved, being 41 feet high and 11 feet square. Thirty feet more and you find a great pagoda carved inside and out. There are sixteen pillars, twenty-two pilasters, and five entrances. The roof is carved to represent cross beams, and each pillar is different from the other.
At Ajanta are twenty-seven cut caves, the inscription seeming to give the date of 200 years B.C. What is the temple of Solomon to all this?
Then look at India’s tanks. We would call them reservoirs. That of Lingamputti is a great triangle 2½ miles long, 1 broad at the base, and 200 years old. Bhusrapatanam tank is 13 miles in circumference; Guntoor 8 miles; Gurgi 12 miles; Shengalmalla 11 miles; Duraji 9 miles. Chambrambakam was twenty miles, and watered sixty-eight villages. Vivanam has a dam 12 miles long. At Hyderabad is a great tank about 20 square miles, watering the city.
All over the East are immense works of the past which we could not duplicate, and which our sordid civilization would not permit us to think of “wasting” money upon. If we seek further and inquire of the works of the mind, the ancient astronomy confronts us. Were it not for it, our astronomers might now be wondering what was the meaning of the backward motion of the sun in the Zodiac, if they knew anything at all about it. It is fair, then, to say that there is no force at all in the objection to Theosophical thought as an Eastern product on the ground that it will or might inhibit effort. On the contrary, it will broaden our civilization and make us create works as great if not greater than those of the past. But we must not ignore the past, for to do so is to incur a sure if mysterious retribution, because that past belongs to ourselves and was a part of our own doing and begetting.