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Kathleen Raine - The Voice of the Sacred in Our Time

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  The Voice of the Sacred in Our Time Keynote Addressby Kathleen Raine  My first meeting with Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan was in (I think) the year 1982 when she took the chair at a lectre I ga!e when Dr. antosh #all ha$ in!ite$ me to gi!e the inagral lectre of the %eats ociety of In$ia. Kapila&i was at that time a mem'er of In$ira an$his go!ernment* an$ I remem'er asking her+ ,Does In$ia ha!e to make all the mistakes of the -est, /o which she replie$+ ,%es+ all,. ,0t there is not time,+ I sai$. /wo years later Kapila&i was fon$ing the In$ira an$hi ational entre for the 3rts+ an$what she sai$ then was ,I am planting trees,+ the long4li!ing wi$e4sprea$ing 'anyan that yet grows from a see$ as small as the bindu,  that all4potent ,5ero,+ the mysterios+ immeasra'le sorce. ow the I3 promotes an$ p'lishes learne$ works whose !ale is not to In$ian scholars alone 't to the whole worl$ where all scholars $e!ote$ to ,the learning of the imagination, look to In$ia with yor still li!ing tra$ition of arts an$ crafts roote$ in a nifying !ision of ,the sacre$,.Meanwhile the /emenos 3ca$emy has on a more mo$est scale worke$ to protect the li!ing see$ in a $ark season 6 helleys ,winge$ see$s where they lie col$ an$ low,+ see$ of the pirit+ li!ing essence of the past an$ sorce of ftre life. Kapila&i consente$ to  'ecome a fon$ing 7ellow of or /emenos 3ca$emy an$ she has generosly agree$ to colla'orate in this !isit we are making to In$ia. %or igh ommissioner in on$on+ Dr. .M. ingh!i+ has 'een a constant frien$ to /emenos an$ has lectre$ for s 6 he too is a great planter of trees. In :nglan$ he has 'een planting trees to commemorate those :nglish poets who lo!e$ In$ia 6 helley an$ %eats an$ :liot 6 or whom In$ia has lo!e$+ -or$sworth an$ 0rns an$ 0lake. -hat is now a $ays ine;plica'ly calle$ ,the real worl$, may see little practical se in the planting of trees 't we who 'elie!e that the li!ing worl$ of min$ an$ spirit is the real worl$ see in these things the tre sorce of ci!ili5ation.<n my first !isit+ great Kamala$e!i hattopa$hyay was the presi$ing presence at the In$ia International entre+ than whom no4one $i$ more to protect an$ promote the many arts an$ crafts inspire$ 'y ,the In$ia of the Imagination,+ an$ I ne!er retrn to this rare centre of cltre withot remem'ering her. 3n$ now we ha!e to thank the In$ia International entre for welcoming s with open arms an$ gi!ing s the se of this fine new conference room+ free. /hat a conference in In$ia shol$ take place was sggeste$  'y or frien$ an$ /emenos trstee Mr. Vino$ /ailor+ an$ Mr. 3. Misra+ retire$ Director in :nglan$ of 3ir In$ia+ who has helpe$ to sponsor or tra!el.-hen first I set foot on the sacre$ gron$ of In$ia+ illmine$ 'y the sn4go$ who she$s here his most glorios light+ something in me sai$+ ,ome at last,. 3n$ it is with the &oy of homecoming that I am a'le to 'e here with In$ian frien$s again+ an$ to 'ring with me  frien$s from /emenos+ some retrning+ others !isiting In$ia for the first time. %or welcome makes or !isit aspicios.3t the 'eginning of this centry whose en$ is so near+ Kipling col$ still write that ,:ast is :ast an$ -est is -est,. /o$ay we are one worl$+ the ,twain, ha!e met an$ are changing one another with npre$icta'le reslts. 3lrea$y we li!e in one worl$+ 't what will 'e the natre of the worl$ into which we are mo!ing /hat is in or han$s to $etermine. In$ia is 'ecoming an in$striali5e$ mo$ern nation+ with all the technology $e!elope$ o!er the last centries of -estern science* an$ who can $eny the great 'enefitsthat science an$ technology ha!e 'roght to the worl$ in many fiel$s 6 the air transport that has 'roght s here an$ other means of commnication 6 telephone+ tele!ision an$ the rest+ me$ical research+ the motor car an$ the thosan$ con!eniences of mo$ern life that we wol$ 'e nwilling to forego. 0t science is concerne$ with means an$ not en$s+ it is morally netral. It has gi!en s the means of sa!ing life 't e=ally of $estroying it 6 weapons of $estrction of terrifying power 6 an$ we ha!e se$ them 6 an$ the most  profita'le e;port of the ,$e!elope$, nations 6 incl$ing my own 6 are these weapons which are sol$+ legally or illegally+ to whoe!er can pay for them. 0y treating natre as an o'&ect e;ternal to an$ separate from orsel!es we ha!e come to regar$ animals (an$ in$ee$ plants an$ all the elements an$ powers of natre) as mere mechanisms+ as commo$ities to 'e se$ as we will. attle+ which from times immemorial+ In$ia has hel$ sacre$+ are in or mo$ern worl$ mere commo$ities+ links in the foo$4chain. 3t the same time or machines 6 compters+ ,artificial 'rains, ha!e come to 'e seriosly $iscsse$ as capa'le of thoght 6 a $o'le 'lasphemy against the sacre$ness of life. 7or the materialist worl$ ,nothing is sacre$,* we orsel!es are mere 'iochemical mechanisms in a ni!erse withot meaning or !ale. 3n$ yet scientific materialism has 'ecome the generally accepte$ spreme athority an$ ar'iter of trth for a ma&ority in the -est an$ westerni5e$ worl$. /here is no reality e;cept what natral science can o'ser!e an$ measre. 3s for !ales 6 wis$om an$ lo!e an$ 'eaty an$ $elight+ knowle$ge an$ n$erstan$ing 6 all these are immeasra'le an$ for that reason ha!e no place in the technological topia or cltre is 'ringing into 'eing.0t for all its trimphs+ mo$ern materialist science an$ technology is creating a worl$ weare fin$ing increasingly ninha'ita'le 6 not only 'ecase we ha!e goo$ reason to 'e terrifie$ 'y or own powers of $estrction+ 't 'ecase that $estrction is alrea$y pon s in many ways. %o ha!e no $o't rea$ with some horror of the conse=ences of fee$ing cattle on animal offal+ a !iolation of natre which is taking its re!enge in the formof $isease. <r systematic $estrction of forests all o!er the worl$ is alrea$y changing the climate of or 'eatifl+ $elicately 'alance$ planet earth. ,enetic engineering, is changing the natre of plants an$ animals in ways npre$icta'le. ir arens !an $er #ost+ in a 'roa$cast shortly 'efore he left this earth in Decem'er last year smme$ p the sitation in stern wor$s >,3t the moment we are hea$ing straight for $estrction+ there is the life of the spirit an$ we ha!e not engage$ with it. <r o'session with material things is =ite $rea$fl. -e ha!e greater power than at any time in or history to control natre+ an$ it has corrpte$ s. #resent society is at the en$ of its cycle.,  3gain I recall my con!ersation with Kapila&i+ ,Mst In$ia make all or mistakes, an$ her reply+ ,%es+ all,.oing 'ack to 1928+ to %eatss secon$ !ersion of his prophetic work ?3 Vision+ his fictional mags+ Michael @o'artes+ foretells the same catastrophe. @o'artes speaks > ,a!e I pro!e$ that ci!ili5ations come to an en$ when they ha!e gi!en all their light like  'rne$4ot wicks+ an$ that ors is near its en$, ,<r transformation,+ 3herne correcte$. I sai$+ speaking in the name of all+ ,%o ha!e pro!e$ that ci!ili5ations 'rn ot+ an$ that ors is near its en$,.,<r transformation,+ 3herne correcte$ once more.,If yo ha$ answere$ $ifferently,+ sai$ @o'artes+ ,I wol$ ha!e sent yo away+ for we arehere to consi$er the terror that is to come,.0t that terror is not the whole story* nor was it for %eats+ whose !ision of history+ taken from #lato himself an$ the pre4 ocratic philosophers takes the form of a $iagram of two interpenetrating cones+ or spirals+ the ,gyres, A the ape; of each toching the 'ase of theother+ an$ in perpetal motion+ the re!oltions of time. 3s one spiral wa;es+ the other wanes ntil at the point of re!ersal gol$en age mo!es towar$ iron age an$ then again o$resmes his control of the worl$ an$ the earth4'orn men gi!e place to ,the gol$en race,+ as the $i!ine or$er is restore$. 3t these points of re!ersal there are (accor$ing to #lato) tro'le$ times* an$ accor$ing to %eatss chart one of these cosmic moments of re!ersal is $e to 'egin in the first $eca$e of the ne;t centry. ow literally one shol$ take the sym'ols offere$ s 'y all poets is open to =estion* 't what is certain is that we 'il$ or worl$ accor$ing to or $reams (or or nightmares)+ or ci!ili5ations 6 or ,clo$4cappe$ towers, whether they 'e in Manhattan or on hakespeares stage 6 the lo'e theatre or ,the great glo'e itself, srcinate in the imagination. -e create or own history. 3n$ while ol$ ci!ili5ations 6 In$ia herself 4 are eagerly a$opting -estern !ales+ at the same time in the -est we are $isco!ering the limits of those !ales+ an$ in :rope an$ 3merica there are e!erywhere to 'e fon$ seekers+ searchers+ especially among the yong+ the search after spirital !ales+ the rise of sol in protest against the o!erweeningclaims of a materialist science which $enies the !ery e;istence of immeasra'le sol an$ spirit. /his is taking place at many le!els an$ in many forms. 3gain looking 'ack to the first conference I e!er atten$e$ at the In$ia International entre+ among those present wasa great philosopher4no!elist+ @a&a @ao. e was speaking of corse of the eternal In$ia+ the ,In$ia of the Imagination,+ the continos age4ol$ ci!ili5ation which has li!e$ throgh millenia withot a 'reak or a re!oltion. e sai$ many other things a'ot this state of 'eing which he calls ,In$ia,. /hat continity of cltre which has remaine$ n'roken 6 an$ which $istingishes the eternal <rient from -estern ci!ili5ation 6 has ne!er regar$e$ the material worl$ as the gron$ of reality > on the contrary+ not the o'ser!e$ 't the o'ser!er+ min$+ spirit+ is the gron$. ot a lifeless s'stance calle$ ,matter, ,otsi$e e;istence, as 0lake pts it+ 't e;istence itself+ the li!ing principle+  sat-chit-ananda  is the gron$. /he ni!erse is not a lifeless o'&ect 6 an o'&ect in which the logic of the materialist argment forces s finally to incl$e orsel!es 6 't a life which  incl$es all+ in which not only what we n$erstan$ as animate creatres+ 't rocks an$ montains an$ stars+ the light of the sn an$ the Mystery itself in which we li!e an$ mo!ean$ ha!e or 'eing+ participate. -hile for or materialist cltre ,nothing is sacre$,+ for those ci!ili5ations an$ in$i!i$als who ha!e n$erstoo$ that we are participants in a li!ing mystery+ know that+ again in 0lakes wor$s+ ,:!erything that li!es is holy,. o in these cross4crrents :ast an$ -est are thrown together* the same reality+ the same =estions confront s 'oth alike. 0t while yo are a$opting -estern !ales along with mch4nee$e$ -estern technology+ we look to the <rient to resce s from a materially afflent 't spiritally $estitte worl$. 7or science+ whose e;ploration of the physical ni!erse has prse$ matter to its !anishing4point+ that 5ero+ that bindu  'eyon$ which it can no longer 'e prse$+ an$ where the o'ser!e$ can no longer 'e e;ternali5e$ from the o'ser!er+ cience has perhaps complete$ its e;ploration of matter+ from the minte to the  'on$s of space* 't it can tell s nothing of the immeasra'le+ of meanings an$ !ales+ of lo!e an$ wis$om+ of &oy an$ sorrow* an$ the hman king$om has 'een+ from the most  primiti!e a'srcinal people to the great philosophers+ sages+ saints+ poets an$ artists+ in allor stories of lo!e an$ war+ or come$ies an$ trage$ies+ concerne$ with !ales. ch is the natre of ci!ili5ation+ sch is the natre of or hmanity. It col$ 'e =estione$ whether or mo$ern technological cltre is a ci!ili5ation at all. 3n$ of corse+ 'eing hman+ a worl$ withot meaning is n'eara'le to s+ it is a hell+ a ,nightmare, as %eats calls it. 3n$ we look to those ci!ili5ations which ha!e not $enie$ an$ e;cl$e$ spirital knowle$ge+ which we in the -est ha!e so largely lost.In$ia has from times immemorial fon$e$ its continos an$ n'roken ci!ili5ation on that li!ing mystery in which 'eing4consciosness an$ $elight are insepara'le. /he wor$ ,In$ia, e!okes+ e!en now+ a te;tre of won$er+ from the teachers an$ the teaching+ temples an$ palaces+ rich te;tiles+ &ewels+ $ance an$ msic+ to the crafts of !illages+  pottery an$ woo$4car!ing an$ metalwork+ to the finger4paintings on their threshol$s  painte$ 'y !illage women. 3n$ it is a !ision of the sacre$ness of all life that has crafte$ an$ em'o$ie$ that shimmering !ision of the Imagination in a thosan$ e;pressions of thearts an$ crafts. 7or all or technology we in the seclar -est ha!e lost the secret of  'eaty 4 or en$lessly repeata'le artefacts lack that imprint of the imaginati!e !ision which is to 'e fon$ in the still !ital tra$ition of In$ian craftsmanship. <n my first !isit toIn$ia it was the presence e!erywhere of 'eaty 6 in the saris an$ 'racelets of the poor no less than of women working in aca$emic an$ in highly responsi'le a$ministrati!e  positions that impresse$ me 6 In$ian women+ I reflecte$+ !ale 'eaty too mch to let it go. <n my last !isit+ three years ago+ I won$ere$+ ,where has 'eaty gone, hol$ it not 'e clear that something is wrong with an i$eology which $estroys 'eaty+ for 'eaty flowers only from the sol o from or materially afflent 't spiritally impo!erishe$ -estern worl$ more an$ more of or yong people in search of their own sols are trning to the <rient. 0$$hism is+ I 'elie!e+ the fastest4growing religion in :rope+ an$  pro'a'ly in the Bnite$ tates also* an$ $i$ not ehr himself write that the or$ 0$$ha is pro'a'ly In$ias greatest gift to the worl$ %o ha!e here in Delhi the International 3ca$emy of In$ian ltre+ a treasry of recor$s of the penetration of In$ian cltre to :ast an$ -est+ to In$onesia an$ hina an$ /i'et+ into pre4 ocratic :rope an$ again to$ay. /he great $iaspora of In$ian immigrants in the -estern worl$ is itself permeating

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