Mark Twain == 1following the Equator == Chapter 12

 In Sydney I had a large dream, and in the course of talk I told it to a 
missionary from India who was on his way to visit some relatives in New 
Zealand. I dreamed that the visible universe is the physical person of God; 
that the vast worlds that we see twinkling millions of miles apart in the 
fields of space are the blood corpuscles in His veins; and that we and the 
other creatures are the microbes that charge with multitudinous life the 
corpuscles.

Mr. X., the missionary, considered the dream awhile, then said:

    “It is not surpassable for magnitude, since its metes and bounds are the 
metes and bounds of the universe itself; and it seems to me that it almost 
accounts for a thing which is otherwise nearly unaccountable—the origin of the 
sacred legends of the Hindoos. Perhaps they dream them, and then honestly 
believe them to be divine revelations of fact. It looks like that, for the 
legends are built on so vast a scale that it does not seem reasonable that 
plodding priests would happen upon such colossal fancies when awake.”

He told some of the legends, and said that they were implicitly believed by all 
classes of Hindoos, including those of high social position and intelligence; 
and he said that this universal credulity was a great hindrance to the 
missionary in his work. Then he said something like this:

    “At home, people wonder why Christianity does not make faster progress in 
India. They hear that the Indians believe easily, and that they have a natural 
trust in miracles and give them a hospitable reception. Then they argue like 
this: since the Indian believes easily, place Christianity before them and they 
must believe; confirm its truths by the biblical miracles, and they will no 
longer doubt. The natural deduction is, that as Christianity makes but 
indifferent progress in India, the fault is with us: we are not fortunate in 
presenting the doctrines and the miracles.

    “But the truth is, we are not by any means so well equipped as they think. 
We have not the easy task that they imagine. To use a military figure, we are 
sent against the enemy with good powder in our guns, but only wads for bullets; 
that is to say, our miracles are not effective; the Hindoos do not care for 
them; they have more extraordinary ones of their own. All the details of their 
own religion are proven and established by miracles; the details of ours must 
be proven in the same way. When I first began my work in India I greatly 
underestimated the difficulties thus put upon my task. A correction was not 
long in coming. I thought as our friends think at home—that to prepare my 
childlike wonder-lovers to listen with favor to my grave message I only needed 
to charm the way to it with wonders, marvels, miracles. With full confidence I 
told the wonders performed by Samson, the strongest man that had ever lived—for 
so I called him.

    “At first I saw lively anticipation and strong interest in the faces of my 
people, but as I moved along from incident to incident of the great story, I 
was distressed to see that I was steadily losing the sympathy of my audience. I 
could not understand it. It was a surprise to me, and a disappointment. Before 
I was through, the fading sympathy had paled to indifference. Thence to the end 
the indifference remained; I was not able to make any impression upon it.

    “A good old Hindoo gentleman told me where my trouble lay. He said ‘We 
Hindoos recognize a god by the work of his hands—we accept no other testimony. 
Apparently, this is also the rule with you Christians. And we know when a man 
has his power from a god by the fact that he does things which he could not do, 
as a man, with the mere powers of a man. Plainly, this is the Christian’s way 
also, of knowing when a man is working by a god’s power and not by his own. You 
saw that there was a supernatural property in the hair of Samson; for you 
perceived that when his hair was gone he was as other men. It is our way, as I 
have said. There are many nations in the world, and each group of nations has 
its own gods, and will pay no worship to the gods of the others. Each group 
believes its own gods to be strongest, and it will not exchange them except for 
gods that shall be proven to be their superiors in power. Man is but a weak 
creature, and needs the help of gods—he cannot do without it. Shall he place 
his fate in the hands of weak gods when there may be stronger ones to be found? 
That would be foolish. No, if he hear of gods that are stronger than his own, 
he should not turn a deaf ear, for it is not a light matter that is at stake. 
How then shall he determine which gods are the stronger, his own or those that 
preside over the concerns of other nations? By comparing the known works of his 
own gods with the works of those others; there is no other way. Now, when we 
make this comparison, we are not drawn towards the gods of any other nation. 
Our gods are shown by their works to be the strongest, the most powerful. The 
Christians have but few gods, and they are new—new, and not strong; as it seems 
to us. They will increase in number, it is true, for this has happened with all 
gods, but that time is far away, many ages and decades of ages away, for gods 
multiply slowly, as is meet for beings to whom a thousand years is but a single 
moment. Our own gods have been born millions of years apart. The process is 
slow, the gathering of strength and power is similarly slow. In the slow lapse 
of the ages the steadily accumulating power of our gods has at last become 
prodigious. We have a thousand proofs of this in the colossal character of 
their personal acts and the acts of ordinary men to whom they have given 
supernatural qualities. To your Samson was given supernatural power, and when 
he broke the withes, and slew the thousands with the jawbone of an ass, and 
carried away the gate’s of the city upon his shoulders, you were amazed—and 
also awed, for you recognized the divine source of his strength. But it could 
not profit to place these things before your Hindoo congregation and invite 
their wonder; for they would compare them with the deed done by Hanuman, when 
our gods infused their divine strength into his muscles; and they would be 
indifferent to them—as you saw. In the old, old times, ages and ages gone by, 
when our god Rama was warring with the demon god of Ceylon, Rama bethought him 
to bridge the sea and connect Ceylon with India, so that his armies might pass 
easily over; and he sent his general, Hanuman, inspired like your own Samson 
with divine strength, to bring the materials for the bridge. In two days 
Hanuman strode fifteen hundred miles, to the Himalayas, and took upon his 
shoulder a range of those lofty mountains two hundred miles long, and started 
with it toward Ceylon. It was in the night; and, as he passed along the plain, 
the people of Govardhun heard the thunder of his tread and felt the earth 
rocking under it, and they ran out, and there, with their snowy summits piled 
to heaven, they saw the Himalayas passing by. And as this huge continent swept 
along overshadowing the earth, upon its slopes they discerned the twinkling 
lights of a thousand sleeping villages, and it was as if the constellations 
were filing in procession through the sky.

    While they were looking, Hanuman stumbled, and a small ridge of red 
sandstone twenty miles long was jolted loose and fell. Half of its length has 
wasted away in the course of the ages, but the other ten miles of it remain in 
the plain by Govardhun to this day as proof of the might of the inspiration of 
our gods. You must know, yourself, that Hanuman could not have carried those 
mountains to Ceylon except by the strength of the gods. You know that it was 
not done by his own strength, therefore, you know that it was done by the 
strength of the gods, just as you know that Samson carried the gates by the 
divine strength and not by his own. I think you must concede two things: First, 
That in carrying the gates of the city upon his shoulders, Samson did not 
establish the superiority of his gods over ours; secondly, That his feat is not 
supported by any but verbal evidence, while Hanuman’s is not only supported by 
verbal evidence, but this evidence is confirmed, established, proven, by 
visible, tangible evidence, which is the strongest of all testimony. We have 
the sandstone ridge, and while it remains we cannot doubt, and shall not. Have 
you the gates?’”


 

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