Tagore Speaks online section B5

Copyright © Christine Marsh 2016

5: Creative Unity (1922)

Tagore opposed any narrow identification with a group. Whether that group was religious or racial, whether it was a caste or nation. For Tagore, the function of such identification was invariably exclusion, hierarchy—and violence. That is why Tagore contrasted national independence with a deeper and more encompassing freedom that eschews the categories of what we now call ‘the politics of identity’. Drawing on the idioms of Hindu metaphysics—according to which all individual souls are ultimately identical in brahman, according to which all material differences are a web of maya, mere illusion—Tagore wrote that ‘Our fight’ is not a battle for a new political entity, which can despise all other political entities. Rather, it is a struggle ‘for Man. We are to emancipate Man from the meshes that he himself has woven round him–these organizations of national egoism’. (Hogan, 2003)[1]

[T]his institution should be a perpetual creation by the co-operative enthusiasm of teachers and students, growing with the growth of their soul; a world in itself, self-sustaining, independent, rich with ever-renewing life, radiating life across space and time, attracting and maintaining round it a planetary system of dependent bodies. Its aim should lie in imparting life-breath to the complete man, who is intellectual as well as economic, bound by social bonds, but aspiring towards spiritual freedom and final perfection. (Tagore, ‘An Eastern University’, 1922)[2]

Creative Unity, Tagore’s collection of lectures and essays, was published in 1922, a year after Tagore’s university, Visva-Bharati, was formally inaugurated. After the 1914-18 War, Tagore determined to create ‘an institution for East-West fellowship and the study of cultures’, and on 22 December 1918 he called a meeting of students, teachers and well-wishers at his school to explain his idea.[3] He began promotional tours in southern India in 1919, then in western India, giving a lecture entitled ‘The Centre of Indian Culture’.[4] In 1920 it was decided that Tagore should ‘go to the West to speak about Visva-Bharati and raise funds for it’, and he left India in May 1921 for his ‘fifth foreign tour’.[5] Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, professor of history and former vice chancellor of Visva-Bharati, has said that the experiment of founding the university was essential to Tagore’s ‘ideal of universalism’, and he became a travelling missionary whose aim was ‘to mobilize scholars who were willing to support and visit Santiniketan to teach and to make it truly a place where all cultures of the East and West would meet’.[6]

In ‘Rabindranath Tagore in America’, Stephen Hay refers to Tagore’s lectures from 1920 and 1921, which were ‘later collected in the volume Creative Unity’, saying that they were essentially the same as those of his two previous visits. Hay observes that Tagore’s American addresses have two main themes. There was ‘his prophetic warning against the mechanical and soul-destroying forces of modern industrialism and nationalism’, first in Nationalism and again in the essays ‘East and West’, ‘The Modern Age’ and ‘The Nation’ in Creative Unity. There was also a positive message about an alternative, higher path: ‘the path to individual liberation and self-realization through creativity, love, beauty, harmony with nature and union with the divine spirit in the universe’, set out in his lectures in Sadhana in 1912-13, in Personality in 1916-17, and in Creative Unity in 1920-21.[7]

Hay’s analysis of Creative Unity into ‘two main themes’ is confirmed by the way the essays are arranged within the book. Tagore relates the ‘positive message’ first, in the four essays: ‘The Poet’s Religion’, ‘The Creative Ideal’, ‘The Religion of the Forest’ and ‘An Indian Folk Religion’. The ‘prophetic warning’ essays follow. I would add the essay ‘The Spirit of Freedom’ (in which Tagore tells his compatriots that ‘the people of the West [...] are flattered into believing that they are free’[8]) to Hay’s list, making a run of four in the negative set. Hay names and comments upon the warning essays first, presumably because he had noticed how Tagore’s language in these is highly charged and anguished – in places even more ‘purple’ than in Nationalism.

In the previous chapter I attributed the passion Tagore exhibits in the Nationalism essays to his regrets and feelings of failure over his involvement in the Swadeshi movement, and also to his frustration at having no practical solution to offer his western audiences. The university was to be his new start. Tagore invited scholars and supporters from around the world to participate in the venture, and he was able to found an Institute of Rural Reconstruction as part of the university, thereby resurrecting ‘constructive swadeshi’, and bringing new resources and expertise to help put his ideals into practice.[9] Tagore’s optimistic scenario features in the final essay in Creative Unity, ‘An Eastern University’, which begins: ‘In the midst of much that is discouraging in the present state of the world, there is one symptom of vital promise. Asia is awakening.[10]

Creative Unity is a story in three parts: Tagore first describes the natural assets of humankind and our traditional religious thought, then he condemns the industrialism and nationalism of the modern age, and ‘An Eastern University’ makes the happy ending. Tagore’s remedy is an invitation to the world to join him in the ‘world in one nest’ at Santiniketan, and participate in teaching and learning about the ideal of ‘unity through diversity’. Tagore sees diversity as potentially enhancing social cohesion. He believes that ‘the harmony of the many’ should operate on a global scale as in a small local community, which thrives on having people with different personalities and capabilities.[11]

In this chapter I first examine the provenance of ‘An Eastern University’, because Tagore was using the ideas and sections of the text for an extended period to explain to urban audiences in India and abroad his alternative politics, which his friend Patrick Geddes succinctly called ‘Education’ and ‘Forest’.[12] I then discuss how Tagore was a ‘lone voice’, whereby even his most supportive friends were unable fully to understand or share his aims. Tagore was misunderstood – rather than not understood at all, as is evident from press reports of Creative Unity. To show how Tagore challenged prevailing ideas with this book, I draw on an idea by Bhattacharya in his short study entitled Talking Back, in which he compares the writings of Gandhi, Tagore and Nehru. I combine Bhattacharya’s approach with Patrick Colm Hogan’s work on ‘deconstructing the nationalist narrative’. Because Tagore was misunderstood, his initiates towards putting his vision into practice eventually brought disappointment.[13] There was one positive outcome of the tour associated with Creative Unity: Tagore’s recruitment of Leonard Elmhirst, and so I conclude this chapter with an account of ‘constructive swadeshi’ at Sriniketan, which was the most optimistic time for Tagore, when he was able to put his vision into practice.

‘An Eastern University’

Hay’s first mention of Tagore’s university is not in relation to the essay in Creative Unity but about the tour, and how ‘Tagore arrived in New York City in October, hoping to raise as much as five million dollars through direct contributions to a new academic enterprise, the Visva-Bharati, or International University, which he was planning to inaugurate at Santiniketan’.[14] As explained in my introduction, I have taken each tour which culminated in a book of English essays as part of the story of the book. With Creative Unity the tour is in a sense included in the book, since the final essay ‘An Eastern University’ has some of the same content as ‘The Centre of Indian Culture’, which we know played a part in Tagore’s fundraising and promotional efforts.

It is uncertain whether or not Tagore gave public lectures in Europe or America using the text of ‘An Eastern University’, but it would seem that Tagore spoke on the subject at social functions, and had one-to-one conversations with potential funders whom he met at events such as formal dinners. After one night in New York when he had ‘a reception and a speech and a dinner and a discussion’, he wrote to Andrews of feeling ‘empty, like a burst balloon with no gas left in it!’[15]

Several quotations from the essay, introduced as ‘an unpublished pamphlet about his school at Bolpur’, are included in an article in a British weekly journal in April 1921, which is prior to the publication of Creative Unity.[16] There is mention of a ‘leaflet about the scheme of an International University in India’ in an interesting ‘invitation letter’ sent by Tagore to Geddes from Geneva in May 1921:

You will know from the accompanying leaflet about the scheme of an International University in India with the object of paving the path to a future when both the East and West will work together for the general cause of human welfare. It has been decided formally to open this institution on the 15th of January, 1922, and to invite for the occasion a meeting of representative men and women of culture from the different countries of the West and from those in Asia which are likely to respond. Such a meeting of the best thinkers and workers who are interested in bringing about international good feelings and fellowship is sure to facilitate the communication of sympathy between these Continents which for various causes remain mutually alienated.[17]

I have wondered if ‘the accompanying leaflet about the scheme of an International University in India’ was (some part of) ‘An Eastern University’, which Tagore later included in Creative Unity. It may have been ‘The Centre of Indian Culture’, the lecture Tagore gave when touring India in 1919.

In her introduction to A Meeting of Two Minds, Bashabi Fraser mentions a letter from Geddes in 1919 congratulating Tagore on his ‘lectures on “Education” & on “Forest”’.[18] Geddes wrote to Tagore from Calcutta, addressing him as ‘Sir Rabindranath’, which suggests that Geddes attended the two lectures, but did not meet Tagore at that time. Fraser suggests that the lecture texts were ‘probably’ the essays ‘The Centre of Indian Culture’ and ‘The Religion of the Forest’.[19] She includes several quotations from those essays to illustrate how ‘[w]hat Tagore is advocating is the centre of learning in an atmosphere of secluded openness, where teacher and students live together in simplicity and close to nature and education is tied with life’s creative tasks, as in the tapovana’.[20]

Fraser’s quotations from ‘The Centre of Indian Culture’ are taken from the text as published in Towards Universal Man, where a note states that this was a ‘[l]ecture delivered in course of Tagore’s tour of South India in 1919’.[21] Geddes wrote to Tagore from Calcutta, which suggests that Tagore also delivered the lecture in that city. For ‘The Religion of the Forest’ Fraser takes the essay of that name in Creative Unity.[22] That collection was not published until 1922, so it would seem that Tagore did not write the essay for the book – and we do not know if he delivered it as a lecture.[23]

We discussed Tagore’s method of writing in Chapter 2 on the Sadhana lectures and book, and saw the extent to which Tagore relied on collections of material, which he recycled, rearranged and modified for different occasions and purposes.[24] One gets the impression that the ideas which were most important to Tagore crop up most frequently. There is a considerable amount of similar subject matter, including some almost identical passages, in both ‘The Centre of Indian Culture’ and ‘An Eastern University’. In the article in the British press, all but one of the passages taken from the ‘unpublished pamphlet’ about Tagore’s school are absent from ‘The Centre of Indian Culture’. Interestingly, Das Gupta quotes from a Visva-Bharati bulletin published in 1927 entitled ‘An Eastern University’.[25] Das Gupta has said that she has found in her research ‘occasionally but definitely that some of these separate sources with similar titles are different in places – nothing too significant – but which would go to show that he might have reused the material with a few changes in expression depending on the occasion or depending on his mood at that moment’.[26]

The ideas which Tagore was expressing at this time are obviously of interest, but the significance of the differences one finds in the way Tagore was expressing his thoughts in an essay or in a lecture or in a flyer is less obvious. They matter because they enable us to see how Tagore expressed himself to different audiences, including which topics he tried most persistently and insistently to get across. And sometimes we can also find from correspondence evidence of the extent to which he succeeded.

Comparing ‘The Centre of Indian Culture’ with ‘An Eastern University’ we can see that the last third of the former essay is very similar to the last third of the latter, in places almost word for word.[27] The resemblance is closest in passages where Tagore is describing in detail his expectations for the ‘economic life’ of the University, which would be a cooperative society, where students and teachers would be ‘supporting themselves with the work of their own hands’, using good materials and ‘practical industrial training’, but not motivated by profit. This is ‘constructive swadeshi’ for everyone, not only in a Department for Rural Reconstruction, with experts providing aid and advice for local village ‘tillers of the soil’. Tagore was communicating different things to his urban audiences in India and in the West, and then taking both in the same direction – towards the village.

Tagore: ‘A Lone Voice’

Fraser asks a question about ‘The Twain’: Geddes and Tagore: ‘What made their thoughts so similar?’[28] Paul Henderson Scott, in his review of Fraser’s book, picks up on that question, quoting Philip Boardman, biographer of Geddes, on how there was ‘a strong affinity between these two utterly different minds and personalities’.[29] Scott seems to find Fraser’s explanation for this affinity persuasive, but he ends his review with a comment on the one-sidedness of the friendship:

The feelings of Geddes towards Tagore are evident from the tone of his letters. He does not explain them at length but, as he says in one letter, his ‘expression is lacking’. In spite of this mutual regard, the correspondence gives the impression that Tagore was not as keen as Geddes in arranging to meet. Geddes was in India from 1914 to 1923 and Tagore travelled widely, and frequently but, in spite of all the efforts of Geddes, they seem to have met very seldom. They met once in Bombay, where Geddes was professor of sociology and civics, but Tagore failed to keep an appointment for ‘a long talk’. When Geddes was established in Montpellier towards the end of his life, he made Tagore President of his Indian College and wrote repeatedly to press him to visit and speak to the students. All such plans failed with Tagore blaming the state of his health. Perhaps he felt that it was better to enjoy the inspiration and the enthusiasm of Geddes from afar.[30]

We have seen this kind of difficulty before, in the chapter on Personality. Tagore often found himself unable to meet his western friends, giving reasons, but one begins to suspect that he was ambivalent about these relationships, even about Andrews, his closest friend and partner at Santiniketan. It seems that even his friends were unable fully to understand or share his aims. He was indeed ‘a lone voice’,[31] a ‘dissenter among dissenters’, because everyone else, even amongst Tagore’s closest friends and supporters, had other influences and concerns.

In the chapter on Nationalism I referred to Das Gupta’s comment that Tagore failed in his efforts to persuade other leaders of the Swadeshi Movement to support his alternative because ‘Indian nationalism had [...] turned the country’s attention away from its primary problem which was social’.[32] Tagore failed despite the fact that ‘constructive swadeshi’ was a viable alternative for India at that time. Gandhi’s Swaraj ideal, his ‘true civilisation’ based on ‘[p]erformance of duty and observance of morality’ was in practical terms very similar to Tagore’s ‘constructive swadeshi’.[33] Gandhi made a major contribution to attaining ‘Parliamentary Swaraj’, the compromise he settled for because he considered that India was not ready for the full Hind Swaraj ideal;[34] he failed to lead India towards what he saw as the true way advocated by the forefathers.[35] Nehru took the country in the direction of a modern industrial nation state, because that was the way the global tide was running.

As we saw with Sadhana, at this time Tagore was misunderstood – rather than not understood at all. That this continued is evident from press reports. Creative Unity was received with considerable interest on both sides of the Atlantic.[36] Given that Tagore, and later Gandhi, failed to persuade leaders of the urban middle classes in India of the faults and dangers of the direction being taken by the West, it is hardly to be expected that Tagore’s criticisms of the Nation, the Modern Age and the false conception of Freedom, would be accepted in the West itself. The essays on the more positive topics were commented on approvingly, as ‘thoughtful’, ‘wise and exhilarating’, ‘sympathetic and penetrating’, ‘insightful’ and as beautifully or musically written. To the extent they were criticised, it was for being more of Tagore’s usual sentiments, or because the beauty of his language hid revolutionary content. Mukherjee comments that American critics complained that in these essays Tagore ‘extolled “the East” with as little validity that he reviled “the West”’.[37] Fraser comments on Geddes appreciating Creative Unity, particularly the essay ‘The Religion of the Forest’.[38] Geddes wrote to Tagore in 1929 saying:

Last night I was reading again your “Creative Unity”, and with fresh interest and renewed pleasure. How I wish I could put ideas as you do! We have ideas, that need also to be expressed, but (for lack of the Love-Unity, I fear) expression is lacking![39]

In Creative Unity, Tagore’s aim seems to have been to find as many ways as possible to express his message about ‘an ideal of unity in its endless show of variety’, as if he were determined to get this one idea across. In the four essays with the positive message, Tagore introduces and explains what he means by unity, in himself, in society, in creativity. He conveys the idea that poets who worship beauty are delighting in the theatre of life, rather than the greenrooms of analysis, logic and the mechanics of stagecraft.[40] He explains that creativity arises from ideals, which are revealed and authenticated by the joy experienced in the creative process and its outcome. By using western romantic poetry to illustrate his points, he joins hands across the boundary between East and West. He identifies the origins of ancient Indian teachings and literature in the benign landscape of northern India and its forest schools, and considers sympathetically how more hostile landscapes may have given rise to western attitudes as acted out in life and depicted in drama. He reclaims Buddhism from western scholars who see it as a ‘philosophy of suicide’ to redefine it as a religion of ‘sympathy for all creatures, and devotion to the infinite truth of love’.[41] He reveals that recognising the ‘Beloved of my heart’ in every living thing is the natural religion of simple rural people, and he offers an alternative to hierarchical beliefs and social structures.[42]

As the Creative Unity narrative moves on to the negative set,[43] we can see reflected Tagore’s concern over the changes taking place in the crucial period of 1919 to 1922. In his fascinating book about the remaking of Asia, Pankaj Mishra devotes a chapter to the crucial year 1919, when nationalists in Asia were demanding self-determination, expecting rewards for their loyalty and sacrifices in the Great War, inspired by the new moral vision of American president Woodrow Wilson.[44] Mishra’s next chapter is entitled ‘Rabindranath Tagore in East Asia’, and it provides further evidence of Tagore as the ‘dissenter among dissenters’,[45] not sharing Asians’ high hopes of 1919. Mishra, quoting Hay, writes that ‘Tagore saw no reason for Asians to believe that the “building up of a nation on the European pattern is the only type of civilization and the only goal of man”’. In 1914, Gandhi had arrived in India. Disappointment with the constitutional reforms of 1917, fury at the Rowlatt Acts and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, had destroyed Congress’s faith in ‘mendicancy’ and gradual progress to Home Rule. In 1920 Congress launched a non-violent, non-cooperation movement guided by Gandhi.[46] Tagore’s criticisms of Gandhi’s approach were mocked and disparaged as the ‘ludicrous opinions of the Poet’.[47] Tagore’s reputation abroad had plummeted after he renounced his knighthood. He must have been very sure about his ideal of global cooperation, as he prepared his lectures and set out on his world-saving mission in 1921.

To show how Tagore challenged prevailing ideas with this book, I draw on an idea by Bhattacharya in his short study entitled Talking Back, in which he takes selections of the writings of Gandhi, Tagore and Nehru and shows how these three ‘thought-leaders’ reacted to the ‘adverse evaluation of Indian civilization’ by British colonial historians by setting out their own conceptions.[48] For Gandhi and Nehru, Bhattacharya takes one work each as a central focus: Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj and Nehru’s The Discovery of India. Bhattacharya takes a different approach to Tagore, whom he regards as so inconsistent and changeable in his views that to follow his ‘evolving perspective’ on civilization, one needs to consider every essay ‘scattered in twenty-six volumes of his collected works’ in Bengali and in English.[49]

I respect Bhattacharya’s scholarship, shown in particular in his compilation of letters and debates between Tagore and Gandhi,[50] but I take a different view of Tagore’s ‘inconsistency’. Tagore famously quipped that inconsistency was both his intellectual weakness and strength. It is a strength which comes from his having been deliberately raised by his father, Devendranath, and other family members, to learn to think for himself.[51] Furthermore, his mind was changed by circumstances, with the major turning points being, firstly, his encounters with rural life when managing the family estates in the 1890s, then his efforts to promote a ‘constructive Swadeshi’ in 1903 to 1908, and then his horror at the war coupled with his shock over the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. These are milestones which Bhattacharya also points to, and they form part of his argument for considering many of Tagore’s works, rather than just one.

My approach is to take Creative Unity as the focal point of Tagore’s thought, to be compared with the works of the other two luminaries, not to contrast their ideas on Indian civilization, but to bring out what is revealed about their goals and approaches by examining the stories they tell and the narrative prototypes they employ. For this purpose I draw on the work of Patrick Colm Hogan, professor of comparative literature, cultural studies and cognitive science, particularly his book Understanding Nationalism: On Narrative, Cognitive Science, and Identity.[52] In this work, Hogan studies the ‘techniques of nationalization’, some of which are used self-consciously by activists to foster patriotism, others arise spontaneously when the national category is becoming preeminent.[53]

Like Tagore in Nationalism and in Creative Unity, Hogan pays particular attention to how nations are belligerent, and how patriotism operates such that people support their nation at war. Rather than taking a moral stance and deploring this, Hogan seeks to explain it. There is a crucial element to his explanation in Understanding Nationalism, for which Hogan takes advantage of his knowledge of recent research in cognitive science.[54] Studies have revealed a tendency in the human species to be suspicious and hostile towards the ‘other’, defined as a member of an out-group.[55] This tendency can be thought of as ‘innate’, but it is more likely to be a thought habit acquired very early in life.[56] It is generally unconscious and automatic, and manifests irrespective of how innocuous the criteria for determining who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’.[57] Tagore’s central goal in establishing Visva-Bharati was to bring people together from different cultures, beliefs, aptitudes, skills and interests to bring about mutual understanding. By this means he was addressing the tendency Hogan describes, which is the root cause of suspicion and hostility. Tagore had witnessed this tendency in destructive operation during the Swadeshi period, and later warned Gandhi about it:

The idea of non-cooperation [...] has at its back a fierce joy of annihilation, which at best is asceticism, and at its worst is that orgy of frightfulness in which human nature, losing faith in the basic reality of normal life, finds a disinterested delight in an unmeaning devastation, as has been shown in the late war and on other occasions which came nearer to us. ‘No’, in its passive moral form is asceticism, and in its active moral form violence. The desert is as much a form of himsa, violence, as is the raging sea in storm; they are both against life.[58]

Hogan: Deconstructing the Nationalist Narrative

I referred in the previous chapter, on Tagore’s Nationalism, to Hogan’s theory of identity, in which he distinguishes between ‘practical identity’, a person’s sense of self based on his or her role in life, particularly in relation to others, and ‘categorial identity’, which is a label, essentially ‘vacuous’, a named in-group most of whose members never even meet.[59] In the essay by Hogan cited earlier, this distinction relates to a contrast, and ongoing shift, between traditional village society and modern urban society. Traditional society is rooted in the land, is largely self-reliant, socially and economically, and people’s identity roles are vocational and probably inherited. In modern urban society, that kind of secure identity is lost, and people increasingly come to define themselves by labels such as nationality, ethnicity, or religion, which constrain their conduct, activities and social engagement. Tagore observes in his essay ‘The Nation’ how professionalism and specialisation have similar defects and dangers, bringing a narrow, impersonal rigidity to the modern world.[60]

In Understanding Nationalism, Hogan is not using the term ‘practical identity’ in the context of traditional society, but deploys it to refer to present-day America, defining it as ‘the total of our capacities, propensities, interests, routines—most important [sic], those that bear on our interactions with others’. By contrast, ‘[c]ategorial identity is our inclusion of ourselves in particular sets of people, our location of ourselves in terms of in-group/out-group divisions’.[61] Hogan’s theory of identity is set out in the first main chapter entitled ‘Understanding Identity: What It Is and What It Does’, in which he points to a dangerous tendency associated with these two forms of identity: ‘Contrary to our intuitions, the labels are the more consequential of the two’.[62]

Hogan’s book has an introductory chapter entitled ‘Nationalism and the Cognitive Sciences’, which begins with the author’s reflections on the views of historians on nationalism as a social force. He dissociates himself from confining the idea of the nation to the nation state, and explains that he is ‘referring to a sense of identification rather than a political structure’.[63] As Hogan uses the term, ‘nationalism has been around as long as there have been complex, hierarchically structured, nonnomadic societies’, and ‘it has always followed the cognitive and affective principles of in-group/out-group division’.[64]

Each of us has several categorial identities: labels for who we are, which are part of our lives and unavoidable. These labels are words, present in our everyday lexicon, and do not come with health warnings, although perhaps they should; it is other people’s identities we tend to regard as dangerous. Not all these labels have equal salience, and the central assertion in Hogan’s book, which he explores in a chapter entitled ‘Hierarchizing Identities: Techniques of Nationalization’, is that nationality is the preeminent categorial identity in society, particularly in present day America, and that nationalism is the cause of war.[65] Tagore would certainly agree.

In the rest of the book Hogan applies his theory of identity, his involvement in ‘cognitive science as a research program’ and his contacts in the sciences of human cognition and neuroscience,[66] and his extensive studies of narrative prototypes,[67] to consider how we imagine or conceptualise the nation. He asks how it is that we understand ‘the unity of diverse individuals, widely dispersed in space and time [...] as part of a single, exclusive entity’. Hogan begins with the use of ‘conceptual metaphors’, and then considers ‘narrative structure’. The latter half of the book is taken up by detailed examinations of six main sample texts, chosen to illustrate three major nationalist narrative prototypes: heroic, sacrificial and romantic tragicomedy.[68] Hogan’s choice of texts includes several works dating from Tagore’s lifetime, including Gandhi’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gita.

I see Hogan’s scheme as valuable for understanding Tagore’s Creative Unity contrasted with Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj and Nehru’s The Discovery of India. Two of Hogan’s observations drawing on cognitive science are relevant to my analysis: firstly, the studies which demonstrate unconscious, negative and even violent, reactions towards members of out-groups, and, secondly, the human tendency to blame attacks directed at one’s in-group on the immediate culprit, rather than recognising the reality of complex chains of cause and effect, operating backwards and forwards in time. Hogan’s study of nationalism as an identity which leads to conflict can be applied to Tagore’s comparable views on ‘The Nation’ in Creative Unity.[69] Hogan’s insightful observation on Tagore, which I quoted in an epigraph to this chapter, has strong resonances with the concluding case study in Understanding Nationalism, which is Hogan’s reading of anarchist Emma Goldman’s essay ‘What I believe’, as romantic tragicomedy.[70] Hogan’s book ends, not with a summary and conclusion, but with the final section on Emma Goldman.[71] Hogan’s ending – or lack of it – suggests that his positive political leanings might be towards anarchism, and it has been suggested that the same applies to Tagore and Gandhi.

The Anarchist Thinking of Tagore and Gandhi

In The Mahatma and the Poet, Bhattacharya writes that on the basis of the essay ‘Swadeshi Samaj’ (‘Society and State’), where Tagore ‘put forward an anti-statist position that he never resiled from’, there is ‘no doubt that there is an element of anarchist thinking in Tagore as much as in Gandhi’.[72] This comment relates to both Tagore and Gandhi advocating a future India based on a network of villages, although they disagreed about the means to that end. Hogan’s study of Gandhi’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gita as a ‘sacrificial tragicomedy’ shows Gandhi as not opposed to violence directed against himself or his own supporters,[73] whereas Tagore’s commitment to ‘the true meeting of East and West’ means that for him ‘the idea of non-co-operation unnecessarily hurts that truth’ and is spiritual suicide.[74]

In a foreword added to Hind Swaraj in 1921, Gandhi refers to having ‘come into contact with every known Indian anarchist in London’, being impressed by their bravery but feeling that their zeal was misguided.[75] He felt that ‘violence was no remedy for India’s ills’ and that India needed a ‘higher weapon’ for which in South Africa he had adopted the word Satyagraha (truth force).[76] During a speech in 1916, Gandhi said ‘I myself am an anarchist, but of another type’, than the ‘army of anarchists’ in India who are impatient to ‘conquer the conqueror’. On that occasion, he was addressing an audience mainly of students, but the meeting was also attended by ‘an illustrious gathering of notables’ including the viceroy and several maharajas. Towards the end of his speech, Gandhi declared: ‘If we are to receive self-government we shall have to take it. We shall never be granted self-government’.[77] (Shortly afterwards the meeting was adjourned when the dignitaries left the platform.) To ‘take self-government’ implies open confrontation, and to do that without acts of violence, or collective protests liable to lead to violence, may be impossible, as Tagore saw during the Swadeshi period.[78]

Tagore’s philosophy has marked similarities with that of the anarchist Herbert Read, who wrote that ‘the social virtues necessary for a free life are more likely to be encouraged by developing an aesthetic sensibility in the young rather than by inculcating knowledge and science’. Read advocated a form of education where ‘the good teacher is not a dictator, but rather a pupil more advanced in technique than others’, who gives children ‘that priceless possession which is self confidence’.[79] As Tagore put it:

A most important truth, which we are apt to forget, is that a teacher can never truly teach unless he is still learning himself. A lamp can never light another lamp unless it continues to burn its own flame. The teacher who has come to the end of his subject, who has no living traffic with his knowledge, but merely repeats his lessons to his students, can only load their minds; he cannot quicken them. Truth not only must inform but inspire. If the inspiration dies out, and the information only accumulates, then truth loses its infinity. The greater part of our learning in the schools has been wasted because, for most of our teachers, their subjects are like dead specimens of once living things, with which they have a learned acquaintance, but no communication of life and love.[80]

Tagore’s anarchism was unacknowledged, whereas Read published a pamphlet entitled The Philosophy of Anarchism, in which he writes that to bring about a new world:

we must prefer the values of freedom and equality above all other values—above personal wealth, technical power and nationalism. In the past this view has been held by the world’s greatest seers, but their followers have been a numerically insignificant minority, especially in the political sphere, where their doctrine has been called anarchism. It may be a tactical mistake to try and restate the eternal truth under a name which is ambiguous—for what is ‘without ruler’, the literal meaning of the word, is not necessarily ‘without order’, the meaning loosely ascribed to it.[81]

Read was ‘primarily a man of letters’,[82] unlike Tagore, whose ‘constructive swadeshi’ was a practical programme, anarchistic in that it was to be organised and run locally, rather than controlled and administered centrally.

Read’s comment that anarchism ‘is not necessarily “without order”’ is crucial if the term is to be applicable to Tagore’s philosophy and practice. In the essay ‘Nationalism in the West’, Tagore refers to ‘those who call themselves anarchists’ saying that they ‘resent the imposition of power, in any form whatever, upon the individual’, but he understands their opposition to the power of the nation state which causes the ‘dissolution of personal humanity’.[83] In the essay ‘Realisation in Action’ in Sadhana, Tagore writes that ‘joy expresses itself through law’ so that ‘[t]he freed soul delights in accepting bonds, and does not seek to evade any of them, for in each does it feel the manifestation of an infinite energy whose joy is in creation’. He goes on to say that ‘where there are no bonds, where there is the madness of license, the soul ceases to be free’.[84]

In ‘The Spirit of Freedom’, in Creative Unity, Tagore warns his own countrymen against being taken in by the western notion of freedom, where people are ‘flattered into believing that [...] they have the sovereign power in their hands’, while their thoughts are being ‘fashioned according to the plans of organised interest’.[85] Tagore goes on to denounce the ‘commercial and political treadmill’ of the West, the ‘inhumanity and injustice’, where those who have ‘sacrificed their souls to the passion of profit-making and the drunkenness of power’ are ‘morally incapable of allowing freedom to others’. He tells how his experience in the West made him realise ‘the immense power of money and of organised propaganda’, whereas the truth is that ‘real freedom is of the mind and spirit; it can never come to us from outside’, and so someone ‘only has freedom who ideally loves freedom himself and is glad to extend it to others’.[86]

In ‘East and West’ he writes of his visit to the battlefields of France, where ‘ugly ridges’ retained an impression of pain and death and brought a vision to his mind:

of a huge demon, which had no shape, no meaning, yet had two arms that could strike and break and tear, a gaping mouth that could devour, and bulging brains that could conspire and plan. It was a purpose, which had a living body, but no complete humanity to temper it. Because it was passion—belonging to life, and yet not having the wholeness of life—it was the most terrible of life’s enemies.[87]

In ‘The Nation’ Tagore refers to being asked by western friends ‘how to cope with this evil’, the evil being the ‘inflammatory contagion all over the world’ of an ‘aberration of a people, decked with the showy title of “patriotism”’.[88] His answer is that he does not put his faith in ‘any new institution’ but that he puts his faith in ‘the individuals all over the world who think clearly, feel nobly and act rightly, thus becoming the channels of moral truth’.[89] These words, together with the cautionary letter to his own people in ‘The Spirit of Freedom’, show again how Tagore was a non-violent anarchist.

In order to understand the timing and the urgency behind Tagore’s Creative Unity we need to bring in Nehru’s The Discovery of India and Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj, because the post-war period from 1919 to 1921 is a crucial turning point in all three works.

Nehru and Gandhi: Heroism and Sacrifice

Nehru’s book includes a chapter on ‘Nationalism Versus Imperialism’,[90] which begins by contrasting the palaces of India’s new millionaires, enriched by the demand for jute and cotton during the war, and the ‘slums and hovels of industrial workers’. Nehru writes that the peace brought ‘repressive legislation and martial law in the Punjab’, and a ‘bitter sense of humiliation and a passionate anger filled our people’.[91] They felt ‘helpless in the grip of some all-powerful monster’. Peasantry and industrial workers were ‘servile and fear-ridden’. The middle classes, many of them unemployed, were ‘helpless, hopeless [and] sank ever deeper into the morass’, clinging to ‘dead forms of the past’ or ‘made themselves ineffectual copies of the west’.[92]

Suddenly the mood changes with the sentence: ‘And then Gandhi came.’ He was ‘a current of fresh air’. He told those who live by exploitation to ‘[g]et off the backs of these peasants and workers’. He brought new shape and content to political freedom, a psychological change, ‘a desire to submit no longer (to alien rule) whatever the consequences might be’.[93] From this point on Nehru is well set up to tell a typical heroic narrative of the nation, with himself, Gandhi and Congress as India’s champions against the usurping British Raj, and also tackling interference by communalist groups, the Moslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha.[94]

All three narratives we are discussing contain accounts of India’s glorious past. Nehru’s account comes before the ‘Nationalism Versus Imperialism’ chapter, and emphasises how India once had a thriving economy.[95] His own contribution to bringing about India’s future economic triumph is his participation in the ‘National Planning Committee’,[96] and his championship of ‘Big Business Versus Cottage Industry’.[97]

Gandhi was a successful champion in Nehru’s epic tale of Indian nationalism, with his weapons of non-violent resistance, self-sacrifice, and bringing the classes together with khadi clothing and spinning. However, his own story of Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule can be understood as a sacrificial tragicomedy, in which Gandhi sets aside his own cherished principles for the sake of a ‘Parliamentary Swaraj’, which inevitably meant the sacrifice of the kind of future which Gandhi wanted for India. The turning point for Hind Swaraj is again that crucial post-war period, and the sacrifice Gandhi is prepared to make is best understood from his own words, in the foreword he added in 1921:

The booklet is a severe condemnation of ‘modern civilization.’ It was written in 1908. My conviction is deeper to-day than ever. I feel that if India would discard ‘modern civilization,’ she can only gain by doing so.

But I would warn the reader against thinking that I am to-day aiming at the Swaraj described therein. I know that India is not ripe for it. It may seem an impertinence to say so. But such is my conviction. I am individually working for the self-rule pictured therein. But to-day my corporate activity is undoubtedly devoted to the attainment of Parliamentary Swaraj in accordance with the wishes of the people of India. I am not aiming at destroying railways or hospitals, though I would certainly welcome their natural destruction. Neither railways nor hospitals are a test of a high and pure civilization. At best they are a necessary evil. Neither adds one inch to the moral stature of a nation. Nor am I aiming at a permanent destruction of law courts, much as I regard it as a consummation devoutly to be wished for. Still less am I trying to destroy all machinery and mills. It requires a higher simplicity and renunciation than the people are to-day prepared for.

The only part of the programme which is now being carried out in its entirety is that of non-violence. But I regret to have to confess that even that is not being carried out in the spirit of the book. If it were, India would establish Swaraj in a day. If India adopted the doctrine of love as an active part of her religion and introduced it in her politics, Swaraj would descend upon India from heaven. But I am painfully aware that that event is far off as yet.[98]

Gandhi’s compromise over his deepest convictions was not added to the pamphlet for tactical reasons thirteen years after publication. The need for some such expediency was already indicated in the main text of 1908; Gandhi simply brought it to the fore in 1921.

The book is set out as a dialogue between a ‘Reader’ and Gandhi, the ‘Editor’. In the first section on ‘Congress and its Officials’, the Reader is impatient with the Editor’s references to Congress, saying that ‘Young India seems to ignore the Congress [which] is considered to be an instrument for perpetuating British Rule’. The Reader does not want to hear about men such as Dadabhai and Professor Gokhale who have encouraged cooperation with the ‘English Governors’,[99] or about Englishmen who are supportive of India’s self rule ambitions.[100] But Gandhi explains that Congress did serve to bring the country together as a Nation.[101]

Gandhi next tells his impatient young Reader that the ‘real awakening’ to the need for Home Rule was the concerted opposition to the Partition of Bengal, and a realisation that it was futile to ‘approach the Throne’ for the redress of grievances, and so petitions had to be backed up by force and people ‘must be capable of suffering’.[102] Partition led to discontent and unrest, and impatience for Swaraj, but a lack of understanding about what Swaraj would be, so then Gandhi tells his Reader what Swaraj is not by describing at some length the pitiable ‘condition of England’.[103] The Reader next asks what civilisation means, and Gandhi refers to a work called, ‘Civilization: Its Cause and Cure’ by a ‘great English writer’ (Edward Carpenter).[104] He goes on to condemn the belief that civilisation consists of improvements in housing, clothing, technology, printed books and newspapers, factories and mines enriching millionaires, doctors curing previously unknown diseases, irreligion, intoxication, women labouring in factories and demanding suffrage.[105]

Next, in ‘Why Was India Lost?’ the Reader asks: ‘If civilisation is a disease, and if it has attacked England[,] why has she been able to take India, and why is she able to retain it?’[106] Gandhi’s reply is: ‘The English have not taken India; we have given it to them.’ India did this by assisting the officers of the ‘Company Bahadur’ (East India Company as ruler), being tempted by their silver and buying their goods, also by relying on the Company to resolve conflicts between warring princes or Hindus and Mahomedans at daggers drawn.[107]

Several sections follow this, on aspects of the ‘Condition of India’ which Gandhi would change, saying that ‘[r]ailways, doctors and lawyers have ruined the country’. Then the question arises ‘How can India become Free?’, and at this point we see the reason for Gandhi’s sacrifice of all his desired goals for the sake of ‘Parliamentary Swaraj’. The Editor says: ‘I do not expect my views to be accepted all of a sudden [... but] the removal of the cause of a disease results in the removal of the disease. Similarly, if the cause of India’s slavery be removed, India can become free.’[108]

Gandhi’s ‘Mistake’

In The Discovery of India, Nehru writes that it is instructive to compare and contrast Tagore and Gandhi, ‘the two outstanding and dominating figures of India in this first half of the twentieth century’, because ‘[n]o two persons could be so different from one another’. Tagore is ‘the aristocratic artist, turned democrat with proletarian sympathies, representing essentially the cultural tradition of India, the tradition of accepting life in the fullness thereof and going though it with song and dance’. Gandhi, on the other hand, is ‘more a man of the people, almost the embodiment of the Indian peasant, represented the other ancient tradition of India, that of renunciation and asceticism’.[109]

We find an opposite view expressed in 1986, during a symposium to mark the 125th anniversary of Tagore’s birth, focussed on ‘Rabindranath Tagore and the Challenges of Today’. In her paper on ‘Tagore and Gandhiji on Village Reconstruction’, Nandini Joshi, economics teacher and social worker, declares that ‘there is a remarkable affinity between the thoughts, visions and actions of these two great contemporary leaders of India’.[110] Her sources include Tagore’s essay ‘The Cult of the Charkha’, his essays on the village and on cooperation, mainly from Towards Universal Man, and Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj. Joshi’s argument centres on a key text, which is Gandhi’s contribution to the discussion at a ‘Conference of the Charka Sangh’ in 1944, in which he declared that he had made a mistake with ‘the way the Charkha and Khadi were introduced’:

I first introduced Khadi and only later studied its implications and experimented with it. I find that I have been deceiving myself. What I gave to the people was money but not the real substance—self-reliance. I gave them money in the form of wages and assured them that it contained Swaraj. People took me at my word and believed me, and continue to believe me. But I have now my own misgivings as to how far such Khadi can lead to Swaraj. I am afraid that Khadi has no future if we continue it as today.[111]

Joshi writes that it is ‘a testimony to Tagore’s genius and greatness that he detected something wrong with the prevailing concept of the Charkha and also protested against it consistently, even though Gandhiji and his Charkha doctrine had an overwhelming influence in the country’. She indicates that Tagore failed at that time to make Gandhi see the deficiencies he only came to realise much later in his life. She mentions that at Sriniketan Tagore introduced ‘training in pottery, basket-making, paper-making, leatherwork, woodwork, weaving and other crafts’.[112] We know that Tagore’s goal was to help villages achieve cooperative self-reliance, and was mortified when his son turned these crafts into commercial ventures. Joshi found in her own work that to use the Charkha to produce cloth by their own effort gives joy and dignity to the poorest village people.

In fact, Gandhi was very committed to village work himself, and pursued what he called a ‘Constructive Program’ which included encouraging many essential village industries, including home-spinning and weaving.[113] Gandhi’s ‘mistake’, if we can call it that, was to use Khadi and the Charkha as political tools in the interest of achieving ‘Parliamentary Swaraj’, having resigned himself to waiting for Hind Swaraj proper. In the political turning point of 1919 to 1922 which we have been examining, Gandhi gave the Charkha a particular symbolic role. It was the ‘Karma Yoga of our age’, as Gandhi told Nehru in a letter in February 1922, urging him whilst in jail not to ‘be disgusted with the spinning wheel’ on which ‘we have pinned our faith’,[114] hence Tagore’s essay ‘The Cult of the Charkha’.[115]

Writing to Nehru in 1945, a year after Gandhi confessed the ‘mistake’ Joshi refers to in her paper, Gandhi sets out his view that ‘the unit of society should be a village, or call it a small and manageable group of people who would, in the ideal, be self-reliant (in the matter of their vital requirements) as a unit and bound together in bonds of mutual cooperation and inter-dependence’.[116] Joshi is correct that on this Tagore and Gandhi were in accord, but we can see from Bhattacharya’s assembly of their letters and debates, that when events catapulted Gandhi into leadership of a mass movement, Tagore became ‘uncomfortably at variance’ with him on his methods.[117]

Gandhi believed from 1908, through 1921 and beyond, that having ousted the British and achieved parliamentary control of the country, the disease of ‘modern civilisation’ could be cured and the true civilisation of India revived. Bhattacharya points out that, although Gandhi regarded Nehru as his heir, the latter was opposed to Gandhi’s vision of a future India as expressed in Hind Swaraj.[118] Nehru’s aims for India emerge in his book as he relates discussions with Gandhi, Congress members and others. He was an enthusiast for ‘modern civilisation’ and progress: attaining national self-sufficiency to meet domestic needs of food, raw materials and manufactured goods, building infrastructure and public utility services, with a large measure of regulation and state ownership, and basic education to fit people for work.[119]

If, as Nehru wrote, Tagore and Gandhi were ‘the two outstanding and dominating figures of India in this first half of the twentieth century’, how is it India took Nehru’s path and not theirs? There is perhaps no history more complicated and fascinating than that of India – and of the major players in the drama – between the end of World War One and Independence. Ironically, the ‘revolt against the West’ revealed by Pankaj Mishra in From the Ruins of Empire, eventually (after a period of Japanese imperialism and a second World War) remade Asia according to western models: either American representative democracy, or Soviet Communism, or combinations of the two.[120] On the failure of western ideals, Mishra quotes a poem by American educated poet, Yonejiro Noguchi, once a friend of Tagore:

America and England in the old days were for me countries of Justice:
America was the country of Whitman,
England the country of Browning:
But now they are dissolute countries fallen into the pit of wealth,
Immoral countries, craving after unpardonable dreams.[121]

Mishra believes that a turning point for Asian nationalists was when they were refused participation in the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, after ‘President Woodrow Wilson made plain his regard for weaker nations and the principle of national self-determination’.[122] Hay observes that Tagore put forward a ‘dichotomy between ruralism and urbanism [as] a full-blown opposition between the peaceful village-centred society of India and the aggressive nation-states of the West’.[123] To express Tagore’s aims and ideals as a ‘full-blown opposition’ does not seem right, since, as Gandhi insightfully remarks: ‘Tagore has a horror of everything negative’.[124] Eminent Tagore scholar, Viktors Ivbulis, describes Tagore’s fond hopes for the future of his experiments:

Tagore’s idea was that you light a lamp of enlightenment and progress in one village and it should start burning in other villages. Absolutely the same was the background for his educational institutions. He had to struggle with enormous financial difficulties and with very little support even from his country’s best minds. Now his institutions are well financed (in the situation of India) and still they move farther and farther away from Tagore’s ideals.[125]

Tagore’s vision was of a world where every university is also a village, and every village a university, as he implies in ‘An Eastern University’:

Educational institutions, in order to obtain their fulness of truth, must have close association with this economic life. The highest mission of education is to help us to realise the inner principle of the unity of all knowledge and all the activities of our social and spiritual being. Society in its early stage was held together by its economic co-operation, when all its members felt in unison a natural interest in their right to live. Civilisation could never have been started at all if such was not the case. And civilisation will fall to pieces if it never again realises the spirit of mutual help and the common sharing of benefits in the elemental necessaries of life. The idea of such economic co-operation should be made the basis of our University. It must not only instruct, but live; not only think, but produce.[126]

As Ivbulis observes, Tagore’s university lost its way after it was absorbed into the Indian educational system, but this was happening before Tagore died. In 1941, Krishna Kripalani wrote a paper entitled ‘The Poet as Educationalist’, in the special issue of Visva-Vharati Quarterly to mark Tagore’s eightieth birthday.[127] Kripalani almost breaks with the hagiographic tendency of the rest of the volume when he mentions critics who dismissed Tagore’s educational experiment at Santiniketan as ‘a mere poet’s fancy’, and ‘a haunt of lotus-eaters’, and then says that it undoubtedly is a poet’s dream and could become a haunt of lotus eaters, for its beauty will attract many idlers. But he blames ‘its defects and imperfections’ on us, ‘we who have failed to justify the trust he has left to us’.[128]

When Tagore wrote the essay ‘An Eastern University’, and included it in Creative Unity, it was meant to be the happy ending for humankind. In the first four essays he describes us as a species full of creative potential. Then he recounts a major obstacle to our coming together: a great rift has opened up as the East, dominated by the West, becomes demoralised, lured into the cult of the nation, and tempted by an illusory freedom. And then, at last, we do come together, and the great mind of man becomes one.

‘The Great Mind of Man Is One’[129]

We have seen already in Tagore’s books of English essays how interested Tagore was in science. His fascination began when his father introduced him as a boy to astronomy, and it continued on to when Einstein and Heisenberg talked to him about particle physics. Along the way he developed a particular interest in human evolution and anthropology. He challenged any fixity of scientific ideas and attitudes, especially if they seem to deny humanity and spirituality. We examine Tagore and science in the next chapter, focussed on the last of the book of essays, The Religion of Man.

As a poet Tagore was keenly observant and curious. As an amateur scientist he observed the world and people, and speculated about the causes of phenomena and patterns of behaviour. Although he carried out no controlled experiments or systematic surveys, he accumulated a vast amount of data, particularly about how people lived and how they acted, normally and under pressure. This came from his involvement over several decades with village people, trying to establish new systems to solve their problems, also from his observations of rural and urban discontent and unrest in Bengal, and from his travels around India and the world. With his vocation as a poet, and his disdain for the hurly-burly of politics, he did have a degree of detachment. Nevertheless, Gandhi’s rejoinder to Tagore’s criticism of the ‘Cult of the Charkha’, that the ‘Poet lives in a magnificent world of his own creation’, so his words can be dismissed as ‘a poet’s licence’, is quite wrong.[130] Bhattacharya having assembled their letters and debates, one can see how often they were at cross-purposes, and how insecure and inconsistent Gandhi was during the 1920s, as is also shown by his disagreements with Nehru and others in that period.[131]

As we have seen, cognitive science is a major theme of Hogan’s book Understanding Nationalism. Tagore cannot be called a cognitive scientist (he disliked professional labels anyway) but in ‘An Eastern University’ he sets out, with extraordinary clarity, a workable solution to a problem identified in the recent cognitive science experiments to which Hogan refers. Tagore knew from countless observations from life that people are prone to being suspicious and hostile towards anyone who is not of their own kind. From his interest in evolution he would have known that such tendencies must have had survival value in primitive societies: when an intruder appears, whether wild beast or raiding party, driving it off is the best response. Tagore also knew that situations where people encounter different others were becoming unavoidable in the modern world, and that people were actually being encouraged to identify with their own groups and to compete with others, and even fight them. He recognised that if an attitude or behaviour seems part of human nature,[132] and is undesirable, the solution is to teach another way:

In the beginning of man’s history his first social object was to form a community, to grow into a people. At that early period, individuals were gathered together within geographical enclosures. But in the present age, with its facility of communication, geographical barriers have almost lost their reality, and the great federation of men, which is waiting either to find its true scope or to break asunder in a final catastrophe, is not a meeting of individuals, but of various human races. Now the problem before us is of one single country, which is this earth, where the races as individuals must find both their freedom of self-expression and their bond of federation. Mankind must realise a unity, wider in range, deeper in sentiment, stronger in power than ever before. Now that the problem is large, we have to solve it on a bigger scale, to realise the God in man by a larger faith and to build the temple of our faith on a sure and world-wide basis.[133]

Sriniketan and ‘Creative Unity’ in Practice

There is a plethora of information on Tagore’s travels, lecture tours and fundraising efforts in 1920-21: in biographies,[134] in Stephen Hay’s and Sujit Mukherjee’s studies of Tagore in America,[135] in British press reports,[136] in his son Rathindranath’s memoir of the European tour,[137] and in his correspondence.[138] Bhattacharya provides accounts of Tagore’s financial circumstances, including archival evidence of how he was under surveillance by the authorities, who warned potential funders against him. Tagore’s letters to Andrews and Rothenstein shed light on Tagore’s feelings at the time.[139] Many commentators, with the fundraising efforts in mind, judge the results of his tour of Europe and America to have been disappointing at best, with the compilers of his Selected Letters reporting that ‘he left America with a feeling of angry failure’.[140]

Despite these setbacks, in 1922, Tagore was full of optimism for his Santiniketan Institution. As he wrote to Geddes shortly after Creative Unity was published:

My first idea was to emancipate children’s minds from the dead grip of a mechanical method and a narrow purpose. This idea has gone on developing itself, comprehending all different branches of life’s activities from Arts to Agriculture. [...]

Lately it has come to us, almost like a sudden discovery, that our Institution is to represent that creative force which is acting in the bosom of the present age; passing through repeated conflicts and reconciliations, failures and readjustments, while making for the realisation of the spiritual unity of human races.[141]

A major boost to Tagore’s hopes was the arrival at Santiniketan in late 1921 of the agricultural economist, Leonard Elmhirst, personally funded by the American heiress Dorothy Straight. Elmhirst was to take a leading role in the work to bring together the educational enterprise and the surrounding villages, at the same time investigating and finding remedies for their state of decay.[142] Early in 1922, a start was made on establishing a university department for rural reconstruction, which was later given the name ‘Sriniketan’, which means ‘an abode of wellbeing’.[143]

The site of Sriniketan was a farm which Tagore had bought near the village of Surul, about a mile and a half from Santiniketan.[144] Two little books: Poet and Plowman and Rabindranath Tagore: Pioneer in Education, containing contributions by Elmhirst and by Tagore, bring vividly to life the close working relationship which developed between them for a few years. In his chapter on ‘The Foundation of Sriniketan’ in Pioneer in Education, Elmhirst includes a number of extracts from Tagore’s letters to him during the 1920s. These reveal how this work embodied Tagore’s conception of reality, in a human and earthy sense, and also in a deeply philosophical and religious sense. Two of these letters will suffice to show what Sriniketan meant for the poet:

You know my heart is with Surul. I feel that it has life in it—it does not deal with abstractions, but has its roots deep in the heart of living reality. You may be absolutely certain that it will be able to weather all storms and spread its branches wide.[145]

I believe I have the power of vision which seeks its realisation in some concrete form. Unless our different works in Visva-Bharati are luminous with the fire of vision, I myself can have no place in them. That is why all the time when Sriniketan has been struggling to grow into a form, I was intently wishing that it should not only have a shape, but also light; so that it might transcend its immediate limits of time, space and some special purpose.[146]

These letters show how optimistic for the eventual realisation of his vision Tagore felt during the 1920s. In 1930, Tagore wrote to Elmhirst, reflecting on the time when they were in Argentina together in 1924:

I was young and old at the same time, when my aspirations had the sureness of maturity and, not having passed through the buffetings of experience, were youthful in their ferment of unbounded expectancy. Since then the burden of responsibility has grown heavy and its path intricate. I have come to know the inevitable limitation of ideas when solidified in an institution.[147]

Tagore was delighted with Elmhirst’s down to earth approach, illustrated by the way Elmhirst contrived to persuade the students at Surul to be their own sweepers, by initially emptying the latrine buckets himself.[148] Tagore wrote to Elmhirst of the ‘filmy web of respectability that shuts me off from intimate touch with Mother Dust’ and that ‘[i]t is something unclean like prudery itself to have to ask a sweeper to serve that deity who is in charge of the primal cradle of life’.[149]

One also sees Tagore’s shrewdness over his deployment of the American-trained English agriculturalist. He discouraged Elmhirst from learning Bengali, warning him not to ‘make the same mistake that so many missionaries have made [and] go out and visit a village alone’. Elmhirst recalls Tagore’s words of instruction to him:

I hope you will never visit a village alone, or ask questions of villagers without using a member of your staff or one of your students as an interpreter. The task of getting to know and to understand the village and its people must be carried out by Indians, but from you and other visitors they should learn what kind of questions to ask and how to ask them.[150]

There were two problems and two solutions behind this advice. Tagore knew that villagers either accepted any difficulties they experienced apathetically and fatalistically, or looked to officials to resolve them. Tagore wanted the villagers to learn to help themselves cooperatively, with the help of local advice centres, for which Sriniketan was to be a model. Tagore also knew that young people brought up in an urban environment, like his students, had lost touch with how village people lived, and he wanted them to engage with villagers and their difficulties in a constructive and sympathetic way.

Tagore withdrew Elmhirst from his leadership position in 1923 ‘to give the Indian staff of the young Institute a chance to find its own feet’, and took him travelling in China, Japan, Argentina and Italy.[151] Then in 1925, in Elmhirst’s words: ‘He agreed to release me so that I could marry Dorothy Whitney Straight, who had financed the enterprise at Surul from the outset and who continued to do so until 1947’.[152] Then the Elmhirsts embarked on their own ‘Experiment in Rural Reconstruction’ at Dartington Hall.[153]

Tagore and Elmhirst kept up a lively and intimate correspondence until Tagore’s death in August 1941. Fifty years later, their letters were brought together from the archives at Santiniketan and Dartington, for publication in Purabi: A Miscellany in Memory of Rabindranath Tagore.[154] One very lengthy letter from Elmhirst suggests another motive for Tagore’s cautionary approach to employing a foreigner to launch Sriniketan. Elmhirst refers to having received ‘a good letter’ from Charlie Andrews in which the latter refers to having discussed an article by Elmhirst with Gandhi, who had said:

He [...] is relying on too many props. The ultimate problem is how to do away with every prop and yet get through, and that is why I insist on khaddar, not for its economic value but for its moral significance as a test of character and endurance. Strip the experiment of Elmhirst, of funds from America and of Government support and – what then? Will it stand! He has not realised how hard it is to get to bedrock in India, the people have become so dependant.[155]

One way to read this statement is that Gandhi’s approach was every bit as reliant on ‘props’ as that of Elmhirst and Tagore, just different ones: the imposition of khaddar and the associated moral testing and ascetic rules. Tagore would have agreed that village people had lost the ability to help themselves, and he intended the work at Sriniketan to provide them with the skills to become self reliant.

I mentioned in the chapter on Personality how there was a rift between Tagore and Rothenstein in 1920 to 1922 which Rothenstein would recall as ‘a passing breeze’. The issue they quarrelled over was Tagore’s ‘feeling of irritation’ with Rothenstein’s ‘suggestion that a board should be appointed in England with the object of selecting the students and teachers who were to come to us (Santiniketan) from the West’.[156] Tagore was afraid of his university being ‘dominated over by bureaucrats’.[157] He was averse to all structures, whether for administration, planning or control, even when proposed by friends and colleagues. Tagore’s correspondence with Geddes, Andrews and Elmhirst shows this. And yet Tagore was perfectly capable of being systematic and organised. Das Gupta provides an example when she sets out Tagore’s scheme for staff and students at Visva-Bharati:

Four different categories of people were associated with Visva-Bharati as an institution. First, there were the professors or the acharyas, men of scholarly learning such as Professor Levi to whom every opportunity was to be given for pursuing their research. Second, there were the advanced students or the chhatra who had already attained proficiency in a particular field elsewhere but came to Visva-Bharati for research; the famed Indian linguist Suniti Kumar Chattopadhyaya, then a young scholar at Calcutta University, was one such advanced student of Visva-Bharati who commuted between Calcutta and Santiniketan. Rabindranath personally identified such individuals and invited them to join the institution and enrich the classes. Within the student category was included the teachers of the Santiniketan school who became the students of the visiting professors. Third, there were the teachers or the adhyapaka recruited by Visva-Bharati as regular faculty. Fourth, there were the bandhab, or ‘friends of Visva-Bharati’, an outside support group who would occasionally come to Visva-Bharati on invitation as resident scholars. This included writers and artists. The British sociologist-philosopher Patrick Geddes came as one such ‘friend’ to Santiniketan. Some ‘friends’ were donors themselves, some were raising funds in India and abroad.[158]

It is evident from this that Tagore was not averse to hierarchies at a local level, so one would not call him an ‘anarchist’ in a strictly literal sense.[159] Das Gupta goes on to list some of the visiting professors in different fields who came to Visva-Bharati from different parts of the world during the 1920s and 1930s, showing that Tagore’s hard work was fruitful.[160] Tagore wrote to Rothenstein saying that Santiniketan was ‘poor in resources and equipment but it has the wealth of truth that no money can buy’ and that he was ‘proud of the fact that it is not a machine-made article perfectly modelled in [a Western] workshop—it is our very own’.[161]

Reading Creative Unity as a story has opened up rich seams of meaning. This collection of lectures and essays is not ‘essentially the same’ as Tagore’s earlier books, as Hay and the American critics cited by Mukherjee claimed. The specifics about the community economy set out in ‘An Eastern University’ have added substance to the general social solutions which Tagore indicated in Nationalism.

Tagore wrote in ‘An Eastern University’ that the institution was originally conceived as a ‘centre of Indian learning’ which would ‘provide for the co-ordinate study of all these different cultures,—the Vedic, the Puranic, the Buddhist, the Jain, the Islamic, the Sikh and the Zoroastrian’, but its aspirations grew:

The Chinese, Japanese, and Tibetan will also have to be added; for, in the past, India did not remain isolated within her own boundaries. Therefore, in order to learn what she was, in her relation to the whole continent of Asia, these cultures too must be studied. Side by side with them must finally be placed the Western culture. For only then shall we be able to assimilate this last contribution to our common stock. A river flowing within banks is truly our own, and it can contain its due tributaries; but our relations with a flood can only prove disastrous. [162]

Tagore wrote to Andrews in December 1921, following the rapturous welcome he had received in continental Europe, saying that he now saw his mission as ‘the mission of the present age. It was to make the meeting of East and West fruitful in truth’.[163]

I began this chapter with a discussion of the provenance of ‘An Eastern University’, which was probably a leaflet or pamphlet before it was the final essay in Creative Unity. I compared ‘A Centre of Indian Culture’ which Tagore had used for his tour of Indian cities, with ‘An Eastern University’ which he took to cities in Europe and America, and drew the conclusion that ‘Tagore was communicating different things to his urban audiences in India and in the West, and then taking both in the same direction – towards the village’. Visva-Bharati was real life, with real people, many of them eminent academics from many parts of the world or aspiring students, but it seems that only those who were part of the work at Sriniketan had contact with surrounding villages, or were involved in food growing or other activities concerned with local self-reliance. For Tagore, the principle of ‘common sharing of life’ was the practical manifestation of the Creative Unity that is the subject of this book. It is ‘the One, the Infinite, through the harmony of the many’ which ‘is the object alike of our individual life and our society’.[164] Given his extensive knowledge of village people and how they lived and thought, we can say Tagore was a physical anthropologist. He was also a philosophical anthropologist, or ‘deep anthropologist’, as we have seen in the Personality essays in particular. Given his interest in science, Tagore might have likened the elaborate systems of relationships and duties in a traditional society to the immune system of the social body, applying social sanctions to rectify any lapses in responsible conduct, rather than having formal law and order imposed by the institutions of some remote government, or moral testing and ascetic rules paring life down to the basic necessities. We see in the next chapter how Tagore takes some of these ideas further in his last book of English essays, The Religion of Man.

Before we move on to The Religion of Man, we have one of the Creative Unity essays in full, and I have chosen the intriguing and challenging essay ‘The Spirit of Freedom’.


The Spirit of Freedom

(A letter from New York to the author’s own countrymen.)

When freedom is not an inner idea which imparts strength to our activities and breadth to our creations, when it is merely a thing of external circumstance, it is like an open space to one who is blindfolded.

In my recent travels in the West I have felt that out there freedom as an idea has become feeble and ineffectual. Consequently a spirit of repression and coercion is fast spreading in the politics and social relationships of the people.

In the age of monarchy the king lived surrounded by a miasma of intrigue. At court there was an endless whispering of lies and calumny, and much plotting and planning among the conspiring courtiers to manipulate the king as the instrument of their own purposes.

In the present age intrigue plays a wider [133] part, and affects the whole country. The people are drugged with the hashish of false hopes and urged to deeds of frightfulness by the goadings of manufactured panics; their higher feelings are exploited by devious channels of unctuous hypocrisy, their pockets picked under anaesthetics of flattery, their very psychology affected by a conspiracy of money and unscrupulous diplomacy.

In the old order the king was given to understand that he was the freest individual in the world. A greater semblance of external freedom, no doubt, he had than other individuals. But they built for him a gorgeous prison of unreality.

The same thing is happening now with the people of the West. They are flattered into believing that they are free, and they have the sovereign power in their hands. But this power is robbed by hosts of self-seekers, and the horse is captured and stabled because of his gift of freedom over space. The mob-mind is allowed the enjoyment of an apparent liberty, while its true freedom is curtailed on every side. Its thoughts are fashioned according to the plans of organised interest; in its choosing of ideas and forming of opinions it is hindered either by some punitive force or by the constant insinuation of untruths; it is made to dwell in an [134] artificial world of hypnotic phrases. In fact, the people have become the storehouse of a power that attracts round it a swarm of adventurers who are secretly investing its walls to exploit it for their own devices.

Thus it has become more and more evident to me that the ideal of freedom has grown tenuous in the atmosphere of the West. The mentality is that of a slave-owning community, with a mutilated multitude of men tied to its commercial and political treadmill. It is the mentality of mutual distrust and fear. The appalling scenes of inhumanity and injustice, which are growing familiar to us, are the outcome of a psychology that deals with terror. No cruelty can be uglier in its ferocity than the cruelty of the coward. The people who have sacrificed their souls to the passion of profit-making and the drunkenness of power are constantly pursued by phantoms of panic and suspicion, and therefore they are ruthless even where they are least afraid of mischances. They become morally incapable of allowing freedom to others, and in their eagerness to curry favour with the powerful they not only connive at the injustice done by their own partners in political gambling, but participate in [135] it. A perpetual anxiety for the protection of their gains at any cost strikes at the love of freedom and justice, until at length they are ready to forgo liberty for themselves and for others.

My experience in the West, where I have realised the immense power of money and of organised propaganda,—working everywhere behind screens of camouflage, creating an atmosphere of distrust, timidity, and antipathy,—has impressed me deeply with the truth that real freedom is of the mind and spirit; it can never come to us from outside. He only has freedom who ideally loves freedom himself and is glad to extend it to others. He who cares to have slaves must chain himself to them; he who builds walls to create exclusion for others builds walls across his own freedom; he who distrusts freedom in others loses his moral right to it. Sooner or later he is lured into the meshes of physical and moral servility.

Therefore I would urge my own countrymen to ask themselves if the freedom to which they aspire is one of external conditions. Is it merely a transferable commodity? Have they acquired a true love of freedom? Have they faith in it? Are they ready to make space in [136] their society for the minds of their children to grow up in the ideal of human dignity, unhindered by restrictions that are unjust and irrational?

Have we not made elaborately permanent the walls of our social compartments? We are tenaciously proud of their exclusiveness. We boast that, in this world, no other society but our own has come to finality in the classifying of its living members. Yet in our political agitations we conveniently forget that any unnaturalness in the relationship of governors and governed which humiliates us, becomes an outrage when it is artificially fixed under the threat of military persecution.

When India gave voice to immortal thoughts, in the time of fullest vigour of vitality, her children had the fearless spirit of the seekers of truth. The great epic of the soul of our people—the Mahâbhârata—gives us a wonderful vision of an overflowing life, full of the freedom of inquiry and experiment. When the age of the Buddha came, humanity was stirred in our country to its uttermost depth. The freedom of mind which it produced expressed itself in a wealth of creation, spreading everywhere in its richness over the continent of Asia. But with the ebb [137] of life in India the spirit of creation died away. It hardened into an age of inert construction. The organic unity of a varied and elastic society gave way to a conventional order which proved its artificial character by its inexorable law of exclusion.

Life has its inequalities, I admit, but they are natural and are in harmony with our vital functions. The head keeps its place apart from the feet, not through some external arrangement or any conspiracy of coercion. If the body is compelled to turn somersaults for an indefinite period, the head never exchanges its relative function for that of the feet. But have our social divisions the same inevitableness of organic law? If we have the hardihood to say “yes” to that question, then how can we blame an alien people for subjecting us to a political order which they are tempted to believe eternal?

By squeezing human beings in the grip of an inelastic system and forcibly holding them fixed, we have ignored the laws of life and growth. We have forced living souls into a permanent passivity, making them incapable of moulding circumstance to their own intrinsic design, and of mastering their own destiny. Borrowing our ideal of life from a dark period of our de[138]generacy, we have covered up our sensitiveness of soul under the immovable weight of a remote past. We have set up an elaborate ceremonial of cage-worship, and plucked all the feathers from the wings of the living spirit of our people. And for us,—with our centuries of degradation and insult, with the amorphousness of our national unity, with our helplessness before the attack of disasters from without and our unreasoning self-obstructions from within,—the punishment has been terrible. Our stupefaction has become so absolute that we do not even realise that this persistent misfortune, dogging our steps for ages, cannot be a mere accident of history, removable only by another accident from outside.

Unless we have true faith in freedom, knowing it to be creative, manfully taking all its risks, not only do we lose the right to claim freedom in politics, but we also lack the power to maintain it with all our strength. For that would be like assigning the service of God to a confirmed atheist. And men, who contemptuously treat their own brothers and sisters as eternal babies, never to be trusted in the most trivial details of their personal life,—coercing them at every step by the cruel threat of persecution into following a [139] blind lane leading to nowhere, driving a number of them into hypocrisy and into moral inertia,—will fail over and over again to rise to the height of their true and severe responsibility. They will be incapable of holding a just freedom in politics, and of fighting in freedom’s cause.

The civilisation of the West has in it the spirit of the machine which must move; and to that blind movement human lives are offered as fuel, keeping up the steam-power. It represents the active aspect of inertia which has the appearance of freedom, but not its truth, and therefore gives rise to slavery both within its boundaries and outside. The present civilisation of India has the constraining power of the mould. It squeezes living man in the grip of rigid regulations, and its repression of individual freedom makes it only too easy for men to be forced into submission of all kinds and degrees. In both of these traditions life is offered up to something which is not life; it is a sacrifice, which has no God for its worship, and is therefore utterly in vain. The West is continually producing mechanical power in excess of its spiritual control, and India has produced a system of mechanical control in excess of its vitality.


[1] Hogan, ‘Introduction: Tagore and the Ambivalence of Commitment’, in Rabindranath Tagore: Universality and Tradition, ed. by Patrick Colm Hogan and Lalita Pandit (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 2003), pp. 9-23 (p. 16). Hogan quotes a letter to Andrews.

[2] Tagore, ‘An Eastern University’, in Creative Unity, pp. 169-203 (p. 203).

[3] Uma Das Gupta, ‘“A World in One Nest”: Visva-Bharati University Santiniketan’, in Rabindranath Tagore: My Life in My Words, pp. 194-203 (p. 194).

[4] Tagore, ‘The Centre of Indian Culture’, in Towards Universal Man, pp. 202-30. His talks in South India were received enthusiastically, according to his biographers. (Krishna Dutta and Andrew Robinson, ‘The Founding of a University (1918-1921)’, in Rabindranath Tagore: The Myriad-Minded Man, pp. 219-36 (p. 221).)

[5] ‘A Chronicle of Eighty Years’, p. 476.

[6] Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, ‘New Directions 1919-1929’, in Rabindranath Tagore: An Interpretation ((New Delhi: Penguin, 2011), pp. 132-71 (p. 133).

[7] Hay, ‘Rabindranath Tagore in America’, p. 453.

[8] ‘The Spirit of Freedom’, p. 131.

[9] Tagore scholar, Viktors Ivbulis, who has spent many years at Santiniketan, has said that ‘Tagore’s idea was that you light a lamp of enlightenment and progress in one village and it should start burning in other villages. Absolutely the same was the background for his educational institutions’. (Viktors Ivbulis, personal communication, 22/9/2011.)

[10] ‘An Eastern University’, p. 169.

[11] ‘To give perfect expression to the One, the Infinite, through the harmony of the many; to the One, the Love, through the sacrifice of self, is the object alike of our individual life and our society.’ (Creative Unity, p. vi.)

[12] Geddes, letter to Tagore, 1 April 1919, in A Meeting of Two Minds, pp. 60-1.

[13] Das Gupta suggests Tagore’s failure is due to his dispensing with clear directions and systems of reporting, and relying at all levels on ‘the individual and what he made of the job’. Das Gupta, ‘Rabindranath Tagore on Rural Reconstruction: The Sriniketan Programme’ (1978), pp. 377.

[14] Hay, p. 452.

[15] Tagore, letter to Andrews, 23 January 1921, in Letters to a Friend, p. 117.

[16] ‘A League of Spirit’, anonymous article in The Nation and The Athenaeum, 9 April 1921, Imagining Tagore, pp. 329-31 (p. 330).

[17] Tagore, ‘Draft copy of invitation letter’, sent to Patrick Geddes with letter, 5 May 1921, quoted in A Meeting of Two Minds, p. 63.

[18] Geddes, letter to Tagore, 1 April 1919, in A Meeting of Two Minds, pp. 60-1. Geddes’ underlining.

[19] Fraser, Introduction, in A Meeting of Two Minds, pp. 12-51 (p. 30).

[20].Fraser, pp. 30-4.

[21] Towards Universal Man, p. 375. The note also states that the essay was ‘[f]irst published by the Society for Promotion of National Education, Adyar, Madras (1919)’.

[22] ‘The Religion of the Forest’ in Creative Unity, pp. 43-66. Fraser actually quotes from that essay reproduced in English Writings II, pp. 511-19.

[23] Creative Unity appears in the promotional lists of Macmillan and Co., Limited, London as ‘Essays’. Sadhana and Personality are listed as ‘Lectures’, Nationalism with no designation. (The Religion of Man was first published in London by George, Allen & Unwin.)

[24] Chapter 2, # 27-31.

[25] Uma Das Gupta, Rabindranath Tagore: An Illustrated Life (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 86.

[26] Uma Das Gupta, personal communication, 30 March 2013.

[27] ‘The Centre of Indian Culture’, pp. 220-28 (out of 29 pp.); ‘An Eastern University’, pp. 191-201 (out of 35 pp.).

[28] Fraser, p. 20.

[29] Paul Henderson Scott, ‘Review: Patrick Geddes and Rabindranath Tagore’, Scottish Affairs, 57 (2006), 143-4 (p. 143).

[30] Scott, p. 143.

[31] Kripalani, ‘A Lone Voice’, in A Biography, pp. 356-389.

[32] Das Gupta, Oxford India Tagore, pp. 339-40. Chapter 4: Nationalism, p. 85.

[33] Gandhi, ‘What is True Civilisation?’, in Hind Swaraj, pp. 53-7 (p. 54).

[34] Gandhi, Foreword, in Hind Swaraj, [pp. 1-4 (pp. 2-3)].

[35] Gandhi, ‘What is True Civilisation?’, pp. 54-5.

[36] Imagining Tagore, pp. 357-74. Mukherjee, Passage to America, pp. 207-10.

[37] Mukherjee, p. 56.

[38] Fraser, p. 47.

[39] Geddes, letter to Tagore, 22 August 1929, in A Meeting of Two Minds, p. 145.

[40] Creative Unity, pp. 13-4.

[41] Creative Unity, pp. 70-1.

[42] Creative Unity, p. 77.

[43] ‘East and West, ‘The Modern Age’, ‘The Spirit of Freedom and ‘The Nation’.

[44] Mishra, Chapter Four: 1919 ‘Changing the History of the World’, in From the Ruins of Empire, pp. 184-215.

[45] Nandy, ‘The Illegitimacy of Nationalism’, p. vii.

[46] Jehangir P. Patel and Marjorie Sykes, Gandhi: His Gift of the Fight (Rasulia, Hoshangabad, India: Friends Rural Centre, 1987), p. 16.

[47] Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, Introduction, in The Mahatma and the Poet: Letters and Debates between Gandhi and Tagore 1915-1941, pp. 1-37 (p. 23).

[48] Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, Introduction, in Talking Back: The Idea of Civilization in the Indian Nationalist Discourse (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2011), p. 2.

[49] Bhattacharya, ‘The Concept of Civilization: Rabindranath Tagore’s Evolving Perspective’, in Talking Back, pp. 67-84 (pp. 67-8).

[50] The Mahatma and the Poet, ed. by Sabyasachi Bhattacharya.

[51] Marjorie Sykes, ‘The Training of a Poet’, in Rabindranath Tagore, pp. 18-27 (p. 22).

[52] Patrick Colm Hogan, in Understanding Nationalism: On Narrative, Cognitive Science, and Identity (Columbus: Ohio State University, 2009)

[53] Hogan, ‘Hierarchizing Identities’, in Understanding Nationalism, pp. 66-123 (p. 66).

[54] In her review of Understanding Nationalism, Anne Stiles (Professor of medical humanities and Victorian literature, and a section-editor of the journal Literary Compass) describes Hogan as ‘one of the leading theorists of cognitive cultural studies’ and the book as an ‘engrossing’ and ‘formidably well-researched’ addition to that growing interdisciplinary field. (Anne Stiles, Review of Hogan, Understanding Nationalism, in http://ravonjournal.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/revstiles.pdf [accessed 31 August 2012])

Hogan published Cognitive Science, Literature, and the Arts: A Guide for Humanists (New York: Routledge, 2003) in order to ‘provide adequate background for readers (scholars in the humanities) to participate in and contribute to a research program in cognitive science and the arts’. (Hogan, ‘Introduction: The Dustheap of History: Why Cognitive Science Now?’, in Cognitive Science, pp. 1-6 (p. 3).)

[55] Hogan suggests in a footnote that we might ask: ‘What made an individual feel she or he was part of Group A other than being assigned to that group?’ He then says: ‘This is an excellent question, for it gets to the heart of these studies. The answer is nothing.’

[56] We should not assume that hostile othering is innate, ‘in our genes’, perhaps due to an evolutionary tendency which was advantageous for primitive human groups. With knowledge of the work of Paul Griffiths and others, we can see that it could be an effect of very early socialisation. (see Paul. E. Griffiths, ‘What is Innateness?’, The Monist, 85 (2002), 70-85.)

[57] Hogan, ‘Understanding Identity: What it Is and What It Does’, in Understanding Nationalism, pp. 23-65 (pp. 29-32).

[58] Tagore, letter to Andrews, 5 March 1921, in Letters to a Friend, pp. 128-3 (p. 131). (A version (with a few typos) is in Mahatma and the Poet, pp. 57-8.)

[59] Chapter 4, # 91-2. ‘A second important characteristic of categorial identity is that it is vacuous. As the social psychological research indicates, the robust motivational and other effects of categorial identity operate independently of any shared properties those categories might be seen as implying’. (Patrick Colm Hogan, ‘Practical identity against categorial identity’, pp. 517-22.)

[60] ‘The Nation’, pp. 145-6.

[61] Introduction, in Understanding Nationalism, p. 8.

[62] ‘Understanding Identity: What It Is and What It Does’, in Understanding Nationalism, pp. 23-65 (p. 24).

[63] Introduction, in Understanding Nationalism, p. 4.

[64] Introduction, in Understanding Nationalism, pp. 4-5.

[65] Introduction, p. 2. ‘2: Hierarchizing Indentities: Techniques of Nationalization’, in Understanding Nationalism, pp. 66-123.

[66] Introduction, pp. 5-6. Hogan, ‘Is It Cognitive Science Yet? Some Basic principles’, in Cognitive Science, Literature, and the Arts: A Guide for Humanists, pp. 29-58 (p. 29).

[67] ‘Emplotting the Nation’, in Understanding Nationalism, pp. 167-219 (pp. 197-9).

[68] Introduction, in Understanding Nationalism, p. 12. Chapters ‘5: Heroic Nationalism’, pp. 213-63; ‘6: Sacrificial Nationalism’, pp. 264-304 and ‘7: Romantic Nationalism’, pp. 305-37.

[69] ‘The Nation’ in Creative Unity, pp. 141-53. See also ‘East and West’, pp. 91-112.

[70] Emma Goldman, ‘What I Believe’, in Red Emma Speaks: An Emma Goldman Reader, ed. by Alix Kates Shulman (New York: Shocken, 1983), pp. 48-60. Hogan, ‘7: Romantic Love and the End of Nationalism: Walt Whitman and Emma Goldman’, in Understanding Nationalism, pp. 305-37 (pp. 324-37).

[71] The Goldman section is followed by a blank page and then the bibliography.

[72] Bhattacharya, The Mahatma and the Poet, p. 25.

[73] ‘Gandhi’s politics manifest an implicit sacrificial tragicomedy, in its collective self-punishment version’. (Hogan, p. 268.)

[74] Tagore, letter to Andrews, 5 March 1921, in Letters to a Friend, pp. 128-33 (pp. 131-3).

[75] Gandhi, foreword, in Hind Swaraj, [p.1.] Anarchism is popularly associated with the targeted act of violent protest, or attentat. Goldman writes that those who have studied the character and personality of the attentater have found that ‘theirs was the attitude of the social student, of the man who knows that beyond every vital act is a vital cause’. (Goldman, ‘The Psychology of Violence’, in Red Emma Speaks, pp. 256-79 (p. 257).)

[76] Gandhi, foreword, in Hind Swaraj, [pp. 2-3.]

[77] Gandhi, address at the opening ceremony of the Hindu University Central College in Benares, 4 February 1916, in The Essential Gandhi: An Anthology of His Writings on His Life, Work, and Ideas (New York: Vintage, 2002), ed. by Louis Fischer, pp. 111-5 (pp. 114-5).

[78] Tagore learned his pacifism during the Swadeshi period, when he first encouraged and led collective protest against partition, but then saw how readily that leads to violence, thus witnessing the mindless hostility towards members of the out-group which Hogan passes on from experimental evidence in cognitive science.

[79] Peter Marshall, ‘Herbert Read’, in Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism (London: Harper Perennial, 2008 [1992]), pp. 587-93 (p. 589).

[80] Tagore, ‘An Eastern University’, pp. 186-7.

[81] Herbert Read, The Philosophy of Anarchism (London: Freedom, 1940), p. 6.

[82] Marshall, p. 587.

[83] ‘Nationalism in the West’, p. 11.

[84] Tagore, ‘Realisation in Action’, in Sadhana, pp. 119-34 (p. 119).

[85] Tagore, ‘The Spirit of Freedom’, in Creative Unity, pp. 131-40 (p. 134).

[86] ‘The Spirit of Freedom’, pp. 135-6.

[87] ‘East and West’, in Creative Unity, pp. 91-112 (pp. 96-7).

[88] ‘The Nation’, p. 152.

[89] ‘The Nation’, p. 152-3.

[90] Nehru, Chapter Eight: The Last Phase (2): ‘Nationalism Versus Imperialism’, in The Discovery of India, pp. 334-92.

[91] Nehru, p. 335.

[92] Nehru, pp. 334-6.

[93] Nehru, pp. 336-7.

[94] Nehru, ‘The Question of Minorities. the Moslem League. Mr. M.A. Jinnah’, pp. 358-72.

[95] There are many references to India’s once thriving and then usurped economy, e.g. ‘India’s Foreign Trade’ (pp. 193-4), ‘The Economic Background of India. The Two Englands’ (pp. 261-6) and ‘The Destruction of India’s Industry and the Decay of her Agriculture’ (pp. 276-80).

[96] Nehru, pp. 372-80.

[97] Nehru, pp. 380-87.

[98] Gandhi, foreword, in Hind Swaraj, [pp. 1-4 (p. 1)]. This text was also published in Young India in 1921, as noted by Bhattacharya in The Mahatma and the Poet, p. 33.

[99] In a section about various struggles and disagreements entitled ‘Heavy Industry Begins. Tilak and Gokhale. Separate Electorates’ (pp. 330-1), Nehru mentions ‘the old patriarch of the Congress, Dadabhai Naorji’, ‘father of the nation’, being ‘brought out of retirement’, and also Gopal Krishna Gokhale, a very able young leader.

[100] Gandhi, ‘Congress and its Officials’, in Hind Swaraj, pp. 1-8.

[101] ‘Congress and its Officials’, pp. 7-8.

[102] ‘The Partition of Bengal’, pp. 8-11.

[103] ‘Discontent and Unrest’, pp. 11-12. ‘What is Swaraj?’, pp. 12-16. ‘The Condition of England’, pp. 16-20.

[104] ‘Civilisation’, pp. 20-5 (p. 20). Gandhi provides an appendix to the pamphlet, ‘Some Authorities: Testimonies by Eminent Men’, with firstly a list of works including Carpenter’s essay, also Ruskin’s ‘Unto This Last’, and works by Tolstoy and Thoreau, followed by several extracts, all by western writers, showing that Gandhi’s ideas are not taken exclusively from Indian thought. (Hind Swaraj, pp. i-viii.)

[105] ‘Civilisation’, pp. 21-5.

[106] ‘Why Was India Lost?’, pp. 25-9 (p. 25).

[107] ‘Why Was India Lost?’, pp. 26-7.

[108] Gandhi, ‘How can India become Free?’, in Hind Swaraj, pp. 57-61.

[109] Nehru, pp. 318-9.

[110] Nandini Joshi, ‘Tagore and Gandhiji on Village Reconstruction’, in Rabindranath Tagore and the Challenges of Today, ed. by Bhudeb Chaudhuri, and K.G. Subramanyan (Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 1988), pp. 194-201.

[111] Joshi, p. 196.

[112] Joshi, pp. 197-8.

[113] The Essential Gandhi, pp. 258-63.

[114] Gandhi, letter to Nehru, 19 February 1922, in A Bunch of Old Letters: Written mostly to Jawaharlal Nehru, and some written by him, ed. by Jawaharlal Nehru (Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1958), pp. 23-5.

[115] Tagore, ‘The Cult of the Charkha’, in The Mahatma and the Poet, pp. 99-112. Tagore raised further questions on the subject in ‘Striving for Swaraj’, pp. 113-21.

[116] Gandhi, letter to Nehru, 13 November 1945, , in A Bunch of Old Letters, pp. 359-60.

[117] Bhattacharya, Introduction, in The Mahatma and the Poet, pp. 5-6.

[118] Bhattacharya, Talking Back, p. 113.

[119] Nehru, The Discovery of India, pp. 372-92.

[120] Mishra, ‘Chapter Six: Asia Remade’, in From the Ruins of Empire, pp. 242-297.

[121] Mishra, p. 247.

[122] Mishra, ‘Chapter Four: 1919, Changing the History of the World’, in From the Ruins of Empire, pp. 184-215 (p. 187).

[123] Hay, p. 32.

[124] Gandhi, ‘The Poet’s Anxiety’, in The Mahatma and the Poet, pp. 65-8 (p. 66).

[125] Latvian Tagore scholar, Prof. Viktors Ivbulis, who studied for many years at Visva-Bharati, personal communication, 22/9/2011.

[126] Tagore, ‘An Eastern University’, pp. 199-200.

[127] K.R. Kripalani, ‘The Poet as Educationalist’, pp. 225-234.

[128] Kripalani, p. 225.

[129] ‘An Eastern University’, p. 172.

[130] Gandhi, ‘The Poet and the charkha’, in The Mahatma and the Poet, pp. 122-6 (p. 123).

[131] E.g. letters Gandhi to Nehru, January 4 and 17, 1928, in A Bunch of Old Letters, pp. 55-8.

[132] ‘Human nature’ in this context could be innate or acquired very early in life – see footnote 666 above, # 104.

[133] ‘An Eastern University’, pp. 170-1.

[134] For example, in Kripalani, ‘World in One Nest’, in Rabindranath Tagore: A Biography, pp. 267-301 (pp. 278-85).

[135] Hay, ‘Rabindranath Tagore in America’, pp. 452-5. Sujit Mukherjee, Passage to America: The Reception of Rabindranath Tagore in the United States, 1912-1941, pp. 214-5.

[136] Imagining Tagore, pp. 327-41.

[137] Rathindranath Tagore, ‘A Travel Diary’ (and other relevant sections), in On the Edges of Time, pp. 128-65.

[138] ‘The founding of a university (1920-1921)’, in Selected Letters of Rabindranath Tagore, pp. 233-84.

[139] Letters to a Friend, Chapters V-VIII, pp. 81-197. ‘1920-1922 “A Passing Breeze”’, in Imperfect Encounter, pp. 267-97.

[140] Selected Letters, p. 233.

[141] Tagore, letter to Geddes, 2 May 1922, in A Meeting of Two Minds, pp. 68-9 (p. 69).

[142] Leonard Elmhirst, ‘Personal Reminiscences’, in Poet and Plowman, pp. 15-31 (pp. 15-17).

[143] Uma Das Gupta, ‘Using a Poet’s Archive to Write the History of a University: Rabindranath Tagore and Visva-Bharati’, Asian and African Studies XIV, 1 (2010), 9-16 (p. 12).

[144] Elmhirst, ‘Personal Reminiscences’, in Poet and Plowman, pp. 15-31 (pp. 15-18). Sriniketan is first mentioned in the Contents, with Elmhirst’s ‘Sriniketan Diary’, pp. 51-162.

[145] Tagore, letter to Elmhirst, 13 November 1922, in Elmhirst, ‘The Foundation of Sriniketan’, in ‘Rabindranath Tagore, Pioneer in Education: Essays and Exchanges between Rabindranath Tagore and Leonard Elmhirst (London: John Murray, 1961), pp. 18-43 (p. 33).

[146] Tagore. letter to Elmhirst, 25 June 1924, in Elmhirst, p. 34. Both these letters are reproduced in full in ‘The Tagore-Elmhirst Correspondence’, in Purabi, pp. 72-121 (pp. 77-8, 83-4).

[147] Tagore, letter to Elmhirst, 10 July 1930, in Purabi, pp. 106-7.

[148] Elmhirst, ‘Sriniketan Diary’, pp. 119-20.

[149] Tagore, letter to Elmhirst, 31 March 1922, in Elmhirst, ‘Sriniketan Diary’, pp. 145-6.

[150] Elmhirst, ‘The Foundation of Sriniketan’, in Rabindranath Tagore, Pioneer in Education, pp. 18-43 (p. 21).

[151] Elmhirst, ‘The Foundation of Sriniketan’, p. 33.

[152] Elmhirst, ‘The Foundation of Sriniketan’, p. 33.

[153] Peter Cox, ‘The Background’, in The Arts at Dartington 1940 – 1983: A Personal Account (Totnes: Peter Cox with Dartington Hall Trust Archive, 2005), pp. 6-14 (p. 6).

[154] ‘The Tagore-Elmhirst Correspondence, 1921-1941’, in Purabi, pp. 72-126.

[155] Elmhirst, letter to Tagore, 22 August 1924, in ‘The Tagore-Elmhirst Correspondence’, pp. 85-7 (p. 86). I have put an ellipsis at the point where ‘Elmhirst’ in parentheses has been added by the editors. My sense from the published debates between Tagore and Gandhi in 1925, is that Gandhi was referring to Tagore ‘relying on too many props’. (Gandhi, ‘The Poet and the charkha’, in The Mahatma and the Poet: Letters and Debates between Gandhi and Tagore 1915-1941, pp. 122-6 (p. 125).)

[156] Tagore, letter to Rothenstein, 13 July 1922, in Imperfect Encounter, pp. 292-3 (p. 292).

[157] Tagore, p. 292.

[158] Das Gupta, ‘From School to an International University: Visva-Bharati’, in An Illustrated Life, pp. 77-90 (82-3).

[159] Tagore’s description in ‘Society and State’ of the role of a responsible king or rich man in a traditional society is also indicative of his view that local structures are acceptable.

[160] Das Gupta, p. 83.

[161] Tagore, letter to Rothenstein, 24 April 1921, in Imperfect Encounter, pp. 283-4 (p. 283).

[162] ‘An Eastern University’, p. 195. A very similar passage occurs in ‘The Centre of Indian Culture’. p. 224.

[163] Tagore, letter to Andrews, quoted in Das Gupta, An Illustrated Life, p. 79.

[164] Introduction, Creative Unity, p. vi.