Mahatma Gandhi/Man and Mystery in Asia

by Romain Rolland. New York: The Century Co. 1924. Frontispiece. 16mo. vi+250 pp. $1.50.
by Ferdinand Ossendowski. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co. 1924. With maps. 12mo. xvi+343pp.
HERE are two books out of Asia, whence, as the Romans said, come strange philosophies and gods. What tidings, what gospel comes westward to-day?
The first ‘message’ — to use an overburdened word — may be found in the pages of M. Rolland’s sympathetic and enlightening study of the ascetic who has ‘ introduced into human politics the strongest religious impetus of the last two thousand years.’ The book is but a small one, and has little meat for those who relish the usual kind of printed thesis; it is more for those who seek a brief and lucid presentation of the ideas which underlie the present Indian revolt. These M. Rolland brings forward and examines with a fine sympathy and understanding, never forgetting the while his natural inheritance of the Western attitude. The reader will find the Mahatma’s conception of nationalism, of war, of machinery, and of caste set forth in a manner comprehensible to the Western mind. And the more one reads into the book, the more one reflects upon its gospel, the more one feels that the West must forget the statesman and hearken to the saint.
Rising above our Western ruin, the immemorial East confronts us to-day with an authority long unknown. Statesman or saint, brown ascetic or busy electioneer, the fullness of life or the madness of speed and steel —the future lies in the choice we shall make.
The Mahatma’s gospel has many sides, but its essence is a reaffirmation of the power of religion to remould the world. In the West we continue to build new states with new governments, new laws, and new decrees, whilst only from new souls, cleansed by religious flame, can a new civilization be born. The genius of the Mahatma lies not in his gospel, which is as ancient as the earth, but in his application of it to the confusion and despair of these unhappy times. A saint with a university degree — perhaps only such a person can lead this generation to the sun.
Professor Ossendowski’s book is again a chronicle of adventure in Asiatic lands. Wise artist and story-teller that he is, the author has not tried to squeeze dry his adventures while escaping from the Bolsheviki but has drawn on his experiences while wandering through Siberia and Mongolia in Tsarist days. Once more the uncanny mystery of Asia seizes upon the mind. Once more the reader’s heart leaps at the tale of strange adventures and escapes.
The books which bring home to the mind the mystery, the terror, which sometimes lurk in life are few, and this is one of the best. In this age of explanations it is well to know that there are sides of life which cannot be measured by a rule or prisoned in a laboratory.
The power of religion together with its necessity, and the sense of the wonder of life— these are noble gifts. Let us open our doors wider to the East.
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