January 16, 2008

1. Chaudhuri

Nirad Chaudhuri, a writer from India, lived under British rule for many years. He criticized the British for their rude, contemptuous behavior toward Indians. He also criticized the British for decadence. This decadence “consists in the refusal to acknowledge great achievements of great individuals. Disrespect for great achievements is a result... of the lack of courage to attempt them.”1

Though he criticized British shortcomings, Chaudhuri nonetheless believed that the British governed India better than it had ever been governed before. Chaudhuri was opposed to Indian independence; “I thought that power in Indian hands,” he wrote, “would be a calamity for the Indian people.” In Chaudhuri’s view, Gandhi’s independence movement had no positive content, it was based on hatred and xenophobia. Like Kedourie, Chaudhuri blamed the British for leaving India too quickly. In the 1930s, when Fascism and Communism were popular, Chaudhuri remained pro-British. Like Nietzsche, Ibsen, and other intellectuals, Chaudhuri wasn’t a patriot, but rather a citizen of the world. Inside India, Chaudhuri’s writings were controversial, and he was subjected to “raucous hatred.”

As a student at the University of Calcutta, Chaudhuri failed his Master’s exam, then refused to take it again — an episode reminiscent of Kedourie’s “defiance” of his thesis. For much of his life, Chaudhuri depended on hand-outs from reluctant relatives.

Chaudhuri died in 1999, at the age of 101. His wife, Amiya Dhar, was also a writer. His son, Kirti, is a distinguished historian and artist. Kirti’s son, Vik, is a devoted cyclist who cycled from Alaska to the southern tip of South America.

2. A Passage to India

A. Chaudhuri Reacts

In an essay on Passage to India, Chaudhuri found fault with Forster’s depiction of India.2 (Chaudhuri later wrote a book called Passage to England, a book that Forster reviewed.) I recommend Chaudhuri’s essay. What’s more interesting than listening to a great writer discuss another great writer?

Chaudhuri blames Forster for arousing British opposition to Britain’s empire:

Mr Forster’s novel became a powerful weapon in the hands of the anti-imperialists, and was made to contribute its share to the disappearance of British rule in India.... On those, also, who did not follow clear party cues in respect of India, its influence was destructive. It alienated their sympathy from the Indian empire. As it was, the British people taken in the mass were never deeply involved in this empire, emotionally or intellectually. To them it was rather a marginal fact of British history than what it really was — a major phenomenon in the history of world civilization. Mr Forster’s book not only strengthened the indifference, it also created a positive aversion to the empire by its unattractive picture of India and Anglo-Indian life and its depiction of Indo-British relations as being of a kind that were bound to outrage the English sense of decency and fair play. Thus, the novel helped the growth of that mood which enabled the British people to leave India with an almost Pilate-like gesture of washing their hands of a disagreeable affair.

Chaudhuri blames Forster for passing over the Indian struggle for independence: “The novel wholly ignores the largest area of Indo-British relations and is taken up with a relatively small sector.” Chaudhuri says that the “largest area,” and the area that he himself was familiar with, was “the conflict between Indian nationalists and the British administration. Here I saw great suffering and distress, but also exultation, a brave acceptance of ill-treatment and conquest of weak tears.... In the other sector, the conflict was between associates, the British officials and their Indian subordinates or hangers-on, and had all the meanness of a family quarrel.”

According to Chaudhuri, Forster chose to write about the trivial aspect of Anglo-Indian relations because that’s the aspect he was familiar with. Also, Forster made a point of ignoring politics: “his is an appeal in a political case to the court of humane feelings.” But, Chaudhuri cautions, “the most obvious moral judgment on a political situation is not necessarily a right judgment, and for humane feelings to go for a straight tilt at politics is even more quixotic than tilting at windmills.” Perhaps “humane feelings” would suggest that the British can’t rule India, but political wisdom might suggest that a British withdrawal would trigger catastrophe; the policy of “humane feelings” might be an unwise policy.

According to Chaudhuri, there are no admirable characters in Forster’s novel: “Both the groups of characters [i.e., the Indians and the English] in A Passage to India are insignificant and despicable.... [Forster] can plead for satisfactory Indo-British relations on the only basis which could be proof against disillusionment, the basis of the least respect and the largest charity.”

Chaudhuri says that, in India, the Muslims hated the British more than the Hindus did, because the Muslims had been deprived of an empire by the British. On the other hand, the Muslims knew that the Hindu nationalists could bear most of the weight of expelling the British, so they could afford to be friendly to the British. “This game, played with boldness and hardheaded realism, succeeded beyond expectation and created an independent state for the Muslims of India.”

But while Muslim leaders were successfully playing “a colossal Machiavellian game of politics,” the majority of Muslims were either filled with a “barren and rancorous hatred” or pining for British patronage. Forster’s Indians are among those pining for British patronage: “Aziz and his friends belong to the servile section and are all inverted toadies. With such material, a searching history of the Muslim destiny in India could have been written, but not a novel on Indo-British relations, for which it was essential to have a Hindu protagonist.”

Chaudhuri notes that the British and Indians both speak Indo-European languages, because they both are Indo-European peoples. He notes that some Indian thinkers celebrated this kinship, but the British were more attracted by the simplicity of Muslim monotheism than by any British-Hindu kinship:

There was between European civilization and the Hindu in its stricter form a common Indo-European element, which was discovered and described by British Orientalists in the first century or so of British rule, but which came to be forgotten and ignored by Englishmen in later times. Modern Hindu thinkers did not, however, lose sight of the affinity. Swami Vivekananda, speaking at the end of the last century, said that two branches of the same people placed in different surroundings in Greece and India had worked out the problems of life, each in its own particular way, but that through the agency of the British people the ancient Greek was meeting the ancient Hindu on Indian soil, and thus ‘slowly and silently the leaven has come, the broadening out, the life-giving revivalist movement that we see all around us.’ The British in India never gave this fruitful idea any encouragement. They were taken in by the deceptive simplicity of the Muslim and repelled by the apparent bizarrerie of Hinduism and its rococo excrescences. I wonder if it was the Hebraic element in the British ethos which was responsible for this.

Notice how Swami Vivekananda regards Western thought as a ‘life-giving leaven.’ Isn’t this how Westerners regard Eastern thought? Perhaps the beneficial influence operates in both directions.

Chaudhuri concludes his essay thus:

My most serious criticisms [of Passage to India] are the following. It shows a great imperial system at its worst, not as diabolically evil but as drab and asinine; the rulers and the ruled alike are depicted at their smallest, the snobbery and pettiness of the one matching the imbecility and rancor of the other. Our suffering under British rule, on which a book as noble as Alfred de Vigny’s Servitude et grandeur militaires could have been written, is deprived of all dignity. Our mental life as depicted in the book is painfully childish and querulous. Lastly, attention is diverted away from those Indians who stood aloof from the world the book describes and were aristocratic in their way, although possessing no outward attribute of aristocracy. When I consider all this I feel Mr Forster’s literary ability, which has given the book its political importance, as a grievance.

Notice the penultimate sentence: “Lastly, attention is diverted away from those Indians who stood aloof from the world the book describes and were aristocratic in their way, although possessing no outward attribute of aristocracy.” Who could this refer to but Chaudhuri himself? Chaudhuri evidently feels personally insulted by Forster’s depiction of the Indian people.

Chaudhuri was a man of vast learning, and his writings are filled with literary allusions; he mentions Alfred de Vigny, Don Quixote tilting at windmills, Pilate washing his hands, Swami Vivekananda, British Orientalists, a Machiavellian game, etc. But despite this plethora of allusions, Chaudhuri’s tone is lively, not pedantic. Chaudhuri must be regarded as one of the best English stylists of the 20th century.

B. Other Critics React

One of the leading novelists of Forster’s generation was D. H. Lawrence, who once wrote in a letter, “Am reading Passage to India. It’s good, but makes one wish a bomb would fall and end everything. Life is more interesting in its undercurrents than in its obvious, and E. M. does see people, people and nothing but people: ad nauseam.”3 I think Lawrence is right to stress the importance of “undercurrents”; in previous issues, we’ve often discussed the importance of these undercurrents, referring to them as “shadowy drives,” etc. And it’s probably true that Forster doesn’t give these undercurrents their due. But what he does, he does very well: Forster’s works combine philosophical depth, sparkling humor, and balanced humanism. Forster shows us life well lived, and perhaps this is more important than showing us undercurrents.

Another of Forster’s contemporaries, the art historian Roger Fry, had this to say of Passage to India:

I think it’s a marvelous texture — really beautiful writing. But Oh lord I wish he weren’t a mystic, or that he would keep his mysticism out of his books.... I’m certain that the only meanings that are worth anything in a work of art are those that the artist himself knows nothing about. The moment he tries to explain his ideas and his emotions he misses the great thing.

This remark strengthens the argument that I made in an earlier issue, that Forster’s Howards End has a philosophical meaning, a mystical meaning. I reject Fry’s view that the best creations are unconscious, and I applaud Forster for consciously giving his work philosophical depth, and for superbly depicting a Zennish worldview in Howards End. I’m not suggesting, however, that all great creations are conscious; there may well be writers equal to Forster, or even better than Forster, who work in a different style, who work more unconsciously, and do a better job of depicting unconscious undercurrents.

Virginia Woolf’s criticism of Forster is similar to Roger Fry’s. Woolf says that Howards End is a “failure.” She says, “Elaboration, skill, wisdom, penetration, beauty — they are all there, but they lack fusion; they lack cohesion; the book as a whole lacks force.”4 There is some truth to Woolf’s criticism. Perhaps Forster himself wasn’t a forceful person. But again I say, what he does, he does very well, and he achieves things of great importance. I find Forster’s works very enjoyable, and isn’t enjoyment worth something? Shouldn’t enjoyment be an argument in the field of aesthetics? I also find a deep wisdom in both Forster’s novels and his essays. Isn’t wisdom worth something — even in a work of art?

Woolf herself admits that she read Howards End with “keen interest... from start to finish.” She wishes that Forster would “write comedy only.” She says that when Forster “forgets that he should solve the problem of the universe, he is the most diverting of novelists.” Perhaps Forster understood, better than Woolf did, that his generation faced a philosophical crisis, a religious crisis, but there was a way out, there was a solution. Forster saw the light, and naturally he wasn’t content to hide this light under a bushel, and write only comedy.

The critic Edwin Muir also disparaged Forster, but his complaint wasn’t that Forster was mystical or philosophical, but rather that Forster didn’t go far enough, that Forster was too moderate:

Although [Forster’s] utterance is genuine as that of few of his contemporaries is, one doubts whether it is profound. The intellect is not exercised to its utmost in going half-way in all directions. Practical expedience, intelligence of a rare kind, may be shown in doing that; but hardly wisdom, not the passion for truth which animates great art. Mr. Forster does not possess these qualities; on the other hand, he has an intelligence of greater force and purity than that of any other imaginative writer today. That intelligence is a scrupulously truthful one; but its distinguishing character is its refusal to pursue truth beyond a certain point. This is why his books, in spite of their skill, produce a total effect which is not decisive.5

Again, there is some truth to this criticism. Muir must admit, though, that there’s a certain wisdom in moderation, and he must admit that Forster deserves credit for standing aloof from the political enthusiasms of his time — Communism, Fascism, etc. Instead of seeking salvation in politics, Forster stayed true to the inner life.

C. Martin Price Reacts

Let’s return, for a moment, to Lawrence’s view that Forster stays on the surface, and overlooks the all-important “undercurrents” in human affairs. A penetrating critic named Martin Price has shown that Forster may understand these undercurrents better than Lawrence thinks. In his book Forms of Life, Price devotes a chapter to Forster. Though he focuses on A Passage to India, he briefly discusses A Room With A View. [Spoiler Warning: Don’t read the rest of this paragraph if you’re planning to read Room With A View.] Price quotes George’s remarks on Miss Bartlett: “From the very first moment we met, she hoped, far down in her mind, that we should be like this — of course, very far down [that is, she hoped George and Lucy would be together, though she appeared to separate them at times]. That she fought us on the surface, and yet she hoped. I can’t explain her any other way... she is not frozen, Lucy, she is not withered up all through. She tore us apart twice, but... that evening she was given one more chance to make us happy. We can never make friends with her or thank her. But I do believe that, far down in her heart, far below all speech and behavior, she is glad.” Miss Bartlett is doing the sort of “unconscious arranging” that we’ve often discussed in Phlit.

Price quotes from Forster’s essay, “Anonymity: An Inquiry”: “Just as words have two functions — information and creation — so each human mind has two personalities, one on the surface, one deeper down. The upper personality has a name. It is called S. T. Coleridge, or William Shakespeare, or Mrs. Humphry Ward. It is conscious and alert, it does things like dining out, answering letters, etc., and it differs vividly and amusingly from other personalities. The lower personality is a very queer affair. In many ways it is a perfect fool, but without it there is no literature, because unless a man dips a bucket down into it occasionally he cannot produce first-class work. There is something general about it. Although it is inside S. T. Coleridge, it cannot be labeled with his name. It has something in common with all other deeper personalities, and the mystic will assert that the common quality is God, and that here, in the obscure recesses of our being, we near the gates of the Divine.”

It is this “lower personality” that we’ve often discussed in Phlit; we’ve referred to it as “shadowy drives,” or “unconscious arranging,” and we’ve distinguished it from character, from the “upper personality.” We’ve argued that Shakespeare and other great writers don’t focus on character, but rather go deeper than character, dip a bucket into the “lower personality” that is common to everyone. We argued that Hamlet’s “lower personality” is negative and destructive, and most of our examples of “shadowy drives” have been negative. Forster, however, shows us a positive drive in Miss Bartlett, and he says in the above-quoted passage that the lower personality is near “the gates of the Divine.” Forster overlooks negative drives, he seems unaware that the lower personality is near the gates of Hell, as well as near the gates of the Divine, he seems unaware that a “shadow drive” can create a pile of corpses (as in Moby Dick or Hamlet) as well as a happy marriage.

I agree with Forster that the lower personality, the unconscious personality, is divine, but I follow Jung in believing that the divine is evil as well as good, just as the yin-yang symbol is dark as well as light. If Forster believed that the lower personality is God, and God is entirely good, then I think he misunderstood God, the unconscious, and literature. In Jung’s view, the unconscious is both evil and good, and God is both evil and good.

Forster’s characters seem to fall into two groups:

  1. everyday people, surface people
  2. mystical people, who are in touch with their deeper levels, and in touch with the deeper levels of the world in general
There are at least three mystical characters in Passage to India: Mrs. Moore, her son Ralph,6 and Prof. Godbole. In Howards End, Ruth Wilcox is a mystical character. Price says that Forster doesn’t discuss Godbole’s “upper personality,” his surface personality: “Like Mrs. Moore [Godbole] is less a person than the other principal characters, and, even more than she, he seems to expose directly, almost without mediation, that deeper self that is at once a perfect fool and the nearest approach to the gates of the Divine.” As I said in an earlier issue, Forster’s mystical characters resemble Dostoyevsky’s Christ-like character, Prince Myshkin.

In my view, Price misunderstands Forster and his mystical characters. Price says that these characters are deeply flawed, lacking in “social responsibility,” and dehumanized: “At one extreme are the caricatures caught in the social grid — the Turtons and Burtons. At the other are the characters [such as Mrs. Moore and Godbole] who slip out of the meshes of social responsibility through despair or obliviousness.... Transcendence dehumanizes.” Price fails to see that Forster presents a positive ideal, and that Forster’s most positive characters are his mystical characters.

Just as Forster divides people into mystical and mundane, so too he sees India as divided between the mystical and the mundane: “There ‘is scarcely anything in that tormented land,’ Forster wrote in 1922, ‘which fills up the gulf between the illimitable and the inane, and society suffers in consequence. What isn’t piety is apt to be indecency; what isn’t metaphysics is intrigue.’”7

Perhaps what India lacks is an ethical system to fill up the gap between the mystical and the mundane: “Hinduism [Forster wrote] can pull itself to supply the human demand for morality just as Protestantism at a pinch can meet the human desire for the infinite and the incomprehensible, but the effort is in neither case congenial. Left to itself each lapses — the one into mysticism, the other into ethics.”8 This doesn’t mean, however, that Forster was opposed to Hinduism (or to mysticism, or to Zen). Rather, it means that Forster saw weaknesses as well as strengths in Hinduism; perhaps Forster believed that Hinduism needed to be supplemented and revised, not accepted “as is.” Price is too quick to conclude that Forster opposes Godbole’s mysticism/pantheism.

But I think Price hits the mark with his comments on other characters. Price says that ultimately Aziz becomes free, finds himself. “Adela Quested and Cyril Fielding are, in contrast with Aziz, trapped within the limits of liberal, rational intelligence. They are well-meaning, tolerant, open. Adela is high-minded, theoretical, and unconsciously patronizing; but she has courage and conscience.... The point of Adela’s charge [against Aziz] is that her mind — honest and admirable — is out of touch with her feelings, does not know her heart. Fielding in a comparable way suffers an excess of detachment, an inability to escape his intelligence and to lose himself in feeling.... There is a ‘wistfulness,’ a suspicion of being cut off from a reality their rational clarity cannot quite admit exists.”

An example of Fielding being “cut off” from reality occurs in Chapter 20, when Fielding can’t appreciate the view from the verandah. It was a “lovely, exquisite moment — but passing the Englishman with averted face and on swift wings. He experienced nothing himself; it was as if someone had told him there was such a moment, and he was obliged to believe.”9

But Fielding’s strengths are at least as striking as his weaknesses. Fielding seems to be Forster’s ideal, Forster’s ideal self. Forster describes Fielding thus:

After forty years’ experience, he had learnt to manage his life and make the best of it on advanced European lines, had developed his personality, explored his limitations, controlled his passions — and he had done it all without becoming either pedantic or worldly.10

A cultured life, a life free of pedantry and worldliness. A life focused on the inner life, on personal growth, on the development of personality.

D. Laurence Brander Reacts

Another critic, Laurence Brander, takes a similar view of Aziz and Adela. Brander argues that Aziz achieves a harmony of conscious and unconscious, Adela doesn’t. Brander quotes one of Forster’s lectures: “‘If you prefer the language of Freud... the conscious must be satisfactorily based on the subconscious.’ Was that what was wrong with Mrs Moore and Miss Quested? There are hints in the development of their characters that it was so. On the other hand, there are hints that Aziz, the poet, was satisfactorily based and in particular his own moment of mystical vision to show that he was. So he was untroubled by echoes.”11

When Brander speaks of “echoes,” he’s referring to echoes in the caves. According to Brander, Adela’s experiences in the caves closely matches Kipling’s remarks about the caves: “The validity of the experiences of Mrs Moore and Adela is confirmed by a description of a very similar experience in Kipling’s From Sea to Sea (1889).”

Brander’s comments on Godbole strengthen my argument that Forster takes a positive view of Godbole’s mysticism/pantheism. Brander says that Godbole represents universal love (the Hindu theme), while Aziz represents friendship (the Muslim theme). Brander summarizes Forster’s characters thus:

The two ladies are middle class Edwardians, untouched by the suburbanism of Sawston, representing the grace of age in Mrs Moore and intellectual emancipation in Adela Quested. They resemble Ruth Wilcox and the Schlegel girls [in Howards End]. Sawston and suburbanism is found in the little English community, friendship is found among the Muslims and Universal Love is found in the one Hindu of any consequence in the book, the old Brahmin teacher, Professor Godbole.... The theme of friendship, the Muslim theme, was introduced in the mosque. The theme of universal love is introduced at the very end of the next chapter. There is no apparent reason for recording that Mrs Moore noticed a wasp asleep on the peg: “Going to hang up her cloak she found the tip of the peg was occupied by a small wasp... ‘Pretty dear,’ said Mrs Moore to the wasp.” Two years later in time and away across the great Indian plain we shall see Professor Godbole in his annual religious festival realizing universal love and the images that come to his mind are the wasp and Mrs Moore and universal love embraces them both.

Just as universal love seems higher than friendship, so Forster regards Hinduism as higher than Islam. Forster takes a dim view of simple, rational, Muslim monotheism. Brander quotes Forster: “‘“There is no God but God” doesn’t carry us far through the complexities of matter and spirit; it is only a game with words, really, a religious pun, not a religious truth.’ Mrs Moore had dismissed ‘poor little talkative Christianity’. Now Islam is rejected. Hinduism is left.”12

Brander writes thus of Fielding:

By coming to India in middle age he had a long lead over most professional Englishmen who had come straight from school or college and had never worked in their own civilization and learned the compromises which make life tolerable.... His creed was that the world “is a globe of men who are trying to reach one another and can best do so by the help of goodwill plus culture and intelligence.” It is his creator’s creed of personal relations and Fielding is in many ways made in his creator’s ideal image of an Edwardian and had his approval until, much later in the tale, he gets married.

Brander mentions Adela’s car accident, and the ghost she sees. Brander says that Forster’s novel deals with “things outside normal experience.” Like most people who are interested in the mystical, Forster was interested in the occult, and there are occult phenomena in Howards End as well as Passage to India.13

We said above that India lacked an ethical system to fill up the gap between the mystical and the mundane. In an earlier issue, we suggested that India was too introverted:

Marie-Louise von Franz, a disciple of Jung, compared Western civilization with the civilization of India; “they are far ahead of us,” she wrote, “in their spiritual and philosophical attitude.” But she was shocked to find that people in India have no concern for the welfare of their fellow man: “if you walk through the streets of Bengal you will see numbers of people obviously starving to death; they are in extremis, yet no one takes any notice.... To us Europeans, this social attitude spoils the whole country, for it is revolting to see people starving and ignored.” Von Franz concludes that, while Westerners are too extraverted, and ignore the inner life, Indians are too introverted, and ignore their fellow man.

Perhaps India needs an ethical system, an extraverted ethics. Perhaps India needs absolute morality, black-and-white morality. This may be a social need, but not a philosophical need. Society may benefit from black-and-white morality, but philosophy is more profound if it sees morality as grey and relative, not absolute. Forster understood this, and he created characters who are grey and relative; Forster said, “The idea of relativity has got into the air and has favored certain tendencies in novels. Absolute good and evil, as in Dickens, are seldom presented. A character becomes good or evil in relation to some other character or in a situation which may itself change. You can’t measure people up because the yard-measure keeps altering its length.”14 Forster realized that, in Hinduism, morality is relative, and this makes Hinduism more impressive to philosophers, though it may be less useful to society.15

Hinduism does a better job than Protestantism of grasping the whole universe. Hinduism’s moral relativism can deal with the universe’s “rough spots,” whereas Protestantism’s black-and-white morality can’t reconcile these “rough spots” with its concept of a benevolent Creator. When Forster’s friend Dickinson was in India, surrounded by wilderness and insects, he wrote, “‘In the face of these things, most religious talk seems “tosh”. If there’s a God, or gods, they’re beyond my ken. I think, perhaps, after all, the Hindus took in more of the facts in their religion than most people have done.’”16

Forster had a good grasp of world affairs. Writing in the early 1920s, he understood Hindu-Muslim hostility,17 the rising power of Japan,18 and the likelihood that, if Britain became involved in another major war, India would break away from the British Empire.19 He says that atheism is growing in England, but people “don’t like the name. The truth is that the West doesn’t bother much over belief and disbelief in these days.”20

The decline of religious belief, says Forster, has brought with it a decline of morality. At this point in the conversation, an Indian says, “Excuse the question, but if this is the case, how is England justified in holding India?” Forster understands the decline of religion and morality, and he understands that Britain can’t rule an empire if it doesn’t believe in itself, if its own Weltanschauung is eroding; nihilism can’t be imperial.

3. East and West

Generally speaking, Western religion is ethical, it prescribes rules for our behavior toward other people — the Ten Commandments, for example, or “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” These rules come from God, and if belief in God erodes, man falls into moral anarchy.

Eastern religion is psychological and metaphysical, rather than ethical. The psychological side of Eastern religion says, “use the following techniques to reduce stress and attain inner peace,” while the metaphysical side says, “man is connected to the whole universe, his being/energy is akin to the being/energy in everything else.” If the individual achieves inner peace, and is comfortable with his place in the universe, virtuous conduct is likely to result, even without an ethical code.

Reason is more important in Western thought than in Eastern thought, perhaps because reason can be useful in regulating our inter-actions with other people, but it isn’t as useful in psychological and metaphysical inquiries.

I began by saying “Generally speaking” because there are counter-currents. While Taoism and Buddhism may be described as psychological and metaphysical, Confucianism has a strong ethical tendency. Western religion sometimes aims at inner peace, as in precepts like “take no thought for the morrow.”

© L. James Hammond 2008
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1. This is a quote from Edward Shils, Portraits: A Gallery of Intellectuals, ch. 3, “Nirad C. Chaudhuri” back
2. A Routledge Literary Sourcebook on E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India, edited by Peter Childs; Extract from Nirad Chaudhuri, “Passage To and From India” back
3. E. M. Forster: The Critical Heritage, edited by Philip Gardner; D. H. Lawrence letter of 7/23/24 back
4. See the Norton Critical Edition of Howards End, edited by P. Armstrong back
5. Muir’s essay is in E. M. Forster: The Critical Heritage, edited by Philip Gardner. Muir wrote a book called The Structure of the Novel, which might be compared to Forster’s Aspects of the Novel. Muir also wrote poetry. Muir’s Kafka translations are well known. back
6. Ralph Moore has the sort of intuitive wisdom that Mrs. Moore has, and he dissipates Aziz’s hostility to the British. “Aziz is released from his anger [Price writes], his hands become kind, and he acknowledges Ralph Moore’s intuitive power: ‘Then you are an Oriental.’” Aziz had spoken the same words to Mrs. Moore in the mosque, at the beginning of the novel. “At this moment Forster makes Aziz himself acknowledge and accept the pattern of nonlogical repetition, of ‘life by values’ as opposed to ‘life in time.’” back
7. Quoted in Price back
8. Quoted in Price back
9. p. 212 (Harcourt paperback, 1984) back
10. Ch. 20, p. 212 back
11. E. M. Forster: A Critical Study, by Laurence Brander, “A Passage to India” back
12. Earlier I quoted Chaudhuri’s remark about the “simplicity” of Islam. Price speaks of the rationalism of Islam: “As a Muslim [Aziz] is more a rationalist in his religion than the Hindu, perhaps even more than a Christian like Mrs. Moore.” If Aziz ultimately reaches enlightenment, perhaps he does so not because of Islam, but despite Islam. back
13. Brander quotes Forster’s comments on an “esoteric tendency”; Forster said that “the best work of the period” (the modern period?) has this tendency. (Brander is quoting from the end of a lecture that Forster delivered in Glasgow in 1944.) For more on this subject, click here. back
14. Quoted in Brander back
15. According to Brander, Forster’s “discussion of Hindu thought and belief” shows that he understands Hinduism’s moral relativism. Consider, for example, Godbole’s comments on the affair in the caves. Godbole thinks that everything in the universe is connected, including good and evil. “Nothing can be performed in isolation. All perform a good action, when one is performed, and when an evil action is performed, all perform it.” (ch. 19, p. 196, Harcourt paperback, 1984)

Godbole says that the “evil action” in the caves was performed by both the perpetrator and the victim, by both Aziz and Adela. “When evil occurs,” Godbole says, “it expresses the whole of the universe. Similarly when good occurs.” Each of us is a blend of good and evil. When someone objects, “You’re preaching that evil and good are the same,” Godbole responds, “Oh no, excuse me once again. Good and evil are different, as their names imply. But, in my own humble opinion, they are both of them aspects of my Lord.” (p. 197, ch. 19) (One is reminded of Jung, who also believed that good and evil are different, and that God blends good and evil, just as the yin-yang symbol blends black and white.)

At the Hindu festival, “God could not issue from his temple until the unclean Sweepers played their tune, they were the spot of filth without which the spirit cannot cohere.” (p. 342, ch. 36) The Hindu god is not all-good.

Forster seems to have little use for morality. Fielding writes to Aziz, “It is on my mind that you think me a prude about women. I had rather you thought anything else of me.... I am absolutely devoid of morals.”

Godbole isn’t the only character who thinks that everything is connected. Another of Forster’s mystical characters, Mrs. Moore, has the same feeling. When she steps out of the club, “A sudden sense of unity, of kinship with the heavenly bodies, passed into the old woman and out, like water through a tank, leaving a strange freshness behind.” (ch. 3, p. 28) back

16. Quoted in Brander back
17. See, for example, chapter 7, p. 72 (Harcourt paperback, 1984), where a Muslim says there’s “nothing sanitary” in a Hindu household. back
18. When Aziz tells Fielding that the English should “clear out,” Fielding asks, “Who do you want instead of the English? The Japanese?” (ch. 37, p. 361) back
19. Aziz says, “Until England is in difficulties we keep silent, but in the next European war — aha, aha! Then is our time.” (ch. 37, p. 360) back
20. Ch. 9 back