Idolatry and the Colonial Idea of India: Visions of Horror, Allegories of Enlightenment [1° ed.] 1138688851, 9781138688858

This book explores literary and scholarly representations of India from the 18th to the early 20th centuries in South As

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Idolatry and the Colonial Idea of India: Visions of Horror, Allegories of Enlightenment [1° ed.]
 1138688851, 9781138688858

Table of contents :
Cover
Title
Copyright
Dedication
Contents
Acknowledgements
Introduction: idolatry from Plato to Indiana Jones
1 William Jones and James Mill: the duplicity of the colonial image
2 Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle: the Orientalism of Friedrich Max Müller
3 The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque: John Ruskin, Alice Perrin and E.M. Forster
4 Reforming idolatrous Hinduism: Rammohan Roy and Bankimchandra Chatterjee
5 Conclusion: idolatry, ideology and the nation-state
References
Index

Citation preview

Idolatry and the Colonial Idea of India This book explores literary and scholarly representations of India from the 18th to the early 20th centuries in South Asia and the West with idolatry as a point of entry. It charts the intellectual horizon within which the colonial idea of India was framed, tracing sources and genealogies which inform even contemporary descriptions of the subcontinent. Using idolatry as a concept-metaphor, the book traverses an ambitious path through the works of William Jones, James Mill, Friedrich Max Müller, John Ruskin, Alice Perrin, E. M. Forster, Rammohan Roy and Bankimchandra Chatterjee. It reveals how religion and paganism, history and literature, Oriental thought and Western metaphysics, and social reform and education were unfolded and debated by them. The author underlines how idolatry, irrationality and social disorder came to be linked by discourses informed by Enlightenment, missionary rhetoric and colonial reason. This book will appeal to scholars and researchers in history, anthropology, literature, culture studies, philosophy, religion, sociology and South Asian studies as well as anyone interested in colonial studies and histories of the Enlightenment. Swagato Ganguly is currently Editorial Page Editor, The Times of India and is based in New Delhi, India. He was educated in Kolkata, Delhi and Philadelphia. He has been a fellow of the American Institute of Indian Studies, Chicago, and earned a doctoral degree in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory from the University of Pennsylvania, after which he took up a career in journalism. ‘In his rich study of the Western imagination of India, Swagato Ganguly shows how the notion of “idolatry” was established and perceived by 18th- and 19th-century British historians and philosophers as the dark Other of Enlightenment thought. It gave evidence of an inherent irrationality that called for Western dominance, and justified colonial rule. This is an important book, both for an understanding of India’s colonial past and for cultural studies in general.’ Liliane Weissberg, Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor in Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania, USA. ‘In this wonderfully crafted piece of scholarship, we have history, theology, literature and anthropology held comfortably together by the subject of idol worship. The play between indigenous customs and the colonial urge to culturally distance the ruler and the ruled is brought out brilliantly. Truly, a great and rewarding read.’ Dipankar Gupta, former Professor, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. ‘Through this very important book, Swagato Ganguly explores how the colonial idea of India was driven, in substantial measure, by their approach to Indian idolatry. He does this through a scholarly analysis of the works of various colonial intellectual inquisitors. The colonial view of idolatry not only impacted the Indian intellectuals of the Raj era, but continues to impact discourse today. We need to reverse, even displace this discourse. A good first step would be to read this book. Scholarly and much-needed.’ Amish Tripathi, author of the Shiva Trilogy and other novels.

South Asian History and Culture Series Editors: David Washbrook, University of Cambridge, UK Boria Majumdar, University of Central Lancashire, UK Sharmistha Gooptu, South Asia Research Foundation, India Nalin Mehta, Asia Research Institute & Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore For a full list of titles in this series, please visit www.routledge.com This series brings together research on South Asia in the humanities and social sciences, and provides scholars with a platform covering, but not restricted to, their particular fields of interest and specialisation. A significant concern for the series is to focus across the whole of the region known as South Asia, and not simply on India, as is often the case. There is a conscious attempt to publish regional studies and bring together scholarship on and from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and other parts of South Asia. This series consciously initiates synergy between research from within academia and that from outside the formal academy. A focus is to bring into the mainstream more recently developed disciplines in South Asian studies which have till date remained in the nature of specialised fields: for instance, research on film, media, photography, sport, medicine, environment, to mention a few. The series addresses this gap and generates more comprehensive knowledge fields. Also in this Series Television at Large in South Asia Edited by Aswin Punathambekar and Shanti Kumar Gender and Masculinities New Perspectives Edited by Assa Doron and Alex Broom Rituparno Ghosh Cinema, Gender and Art Edited by Sangeeta Datta, Kaustav Bakshi and Rohit K. Dasgupta Idolatry and the Colonial Idea of India Visions of Horror, Allegories of Enlightenment Swagato Ganguly

Idolatry and the Colonial Idea of India Visions of Horror, Allegories of Enlightenment Swagato Ganguly

First published 2018 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2018 Swagato Ganguly The right of Swagato Ganguly to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this book are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher. The text representations and analyses based on archival and historical material are intended here to serve general educational and informational purposes and not obligatory upon any party. The authors and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information presented in the book was correct at the time of press, but do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability with respect to the accuracy, completeness, reliability, suitability, selection and inclusion of the contents of this book and any implied warranties or guarantees. The authors and publisher make no representations or warranties of any kind to any person or entity for any loss or injury, including, but not limited to special, incidental or consequential damage, or disruption – physical, psychological, emotional, or otherwise – alleged to have been caused, directly or indirectly, by omissions, or any other related cause. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested. ISBN: 978-1-138-68885-8 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-09996-5 (ebk) Typeset in Galliard by Apex CoVantage, LLC

To Peter, whose enthusiasm for ideas is not just inspiring but also infectious

Contents

Acknowledgementsviii

Introduction: idolatry from Plato to Indiana Jones1

1 William Jones and James Mill: the duplicity of the colonial image

17

2 Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle: the Orientalism of Friedrich Max Müller

56

3 The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque: John Ruskin, Alice Perrin and E.M. Forster

98

4 Reforming idolatrous Hinduism: Rammohan Roy and Bankimchandra Chatterjee

156

5 Conclusion: idolatry, ideology and the nation-state

193

References199 Index206

Acknowledgements

My debts in writing this book are numerous and diverse. Its origins lie in a PhD dissertation submitted to the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. An initial context for germinating some of its ideas was provided by the intellectual excitement of Peter Stallybrass’s seminars, and his incisive engagement as well as warmth and solicitude have nursed this project. Rosane Rocher’s thorough and careful commentary and suggestions provided numerous helpful insights and corrected some of its more egregious mistakes. David Ludden’s trenchant criticisms of early formulations provided the impetus for later improvements. The Comparative Literature and Literary Theory department at the University of Pennsylvania provided a warm, nurturing and stimulating environment for the exercise of professional scholarship. I owe thanks to Liliane Weissberg in particular for extending material and moral support for my research project. Henry Schwarz helped out with friendship and ideas, Suzanne Verderber with insightful commentary on portions of the manuscript and Lynn Festa by translating a crucial French poem. A generous fellowship from the American Institute of Indian Studies, Chicago, enabled me to travel and pursue productive research. Sharmistha Gooptu and Nalin Mehta inspired me to dust off and revise the manuscript for publication. Sriparna Basu has been with the project at all stages since its inception; it evolved through innumerable conversations with her and she has helped with its final revision into book form. My mother, Krishna Ganguly, supported me through all stages of the project. My father, Susnato Ganguly, loved books and literature and would have been delighted to see this book’s publication had he been alive. Finally, thanks to my son, Sumantra, who complained – fairly enough – that I was glued to the computer at all stages during the revision process, yet retained a touching faith in the book’s writing and bore my absorption in it with great fortitude.

Introduction Idolatry from Plato to Indiana Jones

Platonism must take pride of place over ‘fabulous’ theology, with its titillation of impious minds by rehearsing the scandals of the gods, and over civil theology, where, unclean demons posing as gods, have seduced the crowds who are wedded to earthly joys. − St. Augustine, City of God, 1.8.5

Of all them blackfaced crew The finest man I knew Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din! ‘Hi! Slippy hitherao ‘Water, get it! Panee lao, ‘You squidgy-nosed old idol, Gunga Din.’ Though I’ve belted you and flayed you By the livin’ Gawd that made you, You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din! − Rudyard Kipling, Gunga Din

In the popular and widely acclaimed 1984 film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, directed by Steven Spielberg, the Hindu priest Mola Ram rips the heart out of his living victims, offered as human sacrifices to a grotesque and decaying idol of Kali Ma (‘Kali the Mother’). Curiously enough, the victim shown to be sacrificed to the goddess Kali is still alive without a heart, and appears unharmed as he looks on with fascination at his beating heart held in the priest’s hand. The underground Temple of Doom where a vampire-like worship flourishes is redolent of death and decay; scattered among its antechambers are idols, or images of false gods.1 In dark mines attached to the temple, young boys are held and forced to work, in conditions that appear closer to American slavery than any Indian social practice. As Indiana Jones helps the young slaves escape into the

2  Introduction light of day from the subterranean chambers of the Temple of Doom, their escape is aided by the arrival of colonial troops who, under the command of a British officer, proceed to shoot down their native pursuers. Where does Hollywood derive this repertoire of images from, and what is the structure of signification that holds them up? What narratives of identity and subjectivity, self and other, do they rely on? What is the prehistory of the notion of idolatry in the context of colonial India? To what extent are these images and narratives a commentary on the notion of the image itself, the role played by it in representation, the fascination exercised by it? And is there a line that connects such narratives to cataclysmic events a few years later, such as the dynamiting of giant Buddha figures by the Taliban in Bamiyan, Afghanistan over several weeks in March 2001 or the demolition of the Temple of Baalshamin by Islamic State forces in Palmyra, Syria in August 2015?2 An answer to these questions would need to unpack ‘idolatry’ as a concept-metaphor; one way to do so is to explore its deployment in colonial representations of India, where the mythical Temple of Doom of the Indiana Jones movie is located. While a history of the concept would trace it to the Old and New Testaments as well as to the ‘origin of Western metaphysics’ in Plato’s splitting of eidos (form or idea) from eidolon (image or representation), this book is an examination of how it functioned in colonial Indian contexts, where it indicated a kind of delusional mentality opposed to Enlightenment values, thought to be characteristic of Indian society and religion. From the biblical conception of false gods, idolatry came to designate in the Indian context a flawed cognitive apparatus overdetermined by images, a weakness of reason which bedevilled the subjects of colonial rule, thus legitimising the latter’s ‘civilising mission’ of upholding Enlightenment and emancipatory values in a hostile environment. Idolatry did not necessarily cover all that was irrational about Indian society. But it stood as a figure for that irrationality, even as it took a stab at explaining how all that irrationality and false cognition – the Other of calm Enlightenment ratiocination – came about. Idolatry was not so much an outcome of Indian irrationality of which there could be many manifestations such as caste or the immolation of a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre; rather, idolatry was the origin and sufficient causal explanation of such irrationality. William Pietz has described how a concept of the ‘fetish’ first arose out of cross-cultural interactions on the coast of West Africa during the 16th and 17th centuries. From ‘fetish’ came the theoretical term ‘fetishism’ which gained widespread currency among European Enlightenment intellectuals in the third-quarter of the 18th century. According to this conception, fetishism was a system of religious delusion which provided the central

Introduction 3 institutional axis of African religion and society, and to which their perceived anomalies could be attributed. The term designated a state of mind consisting of a perverse overvaluation of ‘things’, to which could be accorded a ‘religious, aesthetic, sexual, or social value . . . (i.e., any value not expressing the material object’s “real” instrumental and market values)’.3 Ruled by a principle of chance conjunction between things, arbitrary fancy and a capricious imagination informed institutions and mentalities in Africa, guaranteeing misguided, miscreating societies. The state of superstitious delusion, while inhibiting natural reason and rational market activity, added greatly to the power of ‘fetish priests’ who, while themselves enlightened, were hypocritical and promoted falsehood in the rest of the populace. Africans’ attachment and devotion to things enabled a large measure of sensuality and promiscuity in African society. Ultimately, it degraded them to the level of things rather than subjects, which made the taking of African slaves permissible.4 I argue in this book that idolatry and the discourse surrounding it played a seminal role in thinking India in the 18th and 19th centuries – similar to the role played by fetishism in Enlightenment constructions of African societies. While Pietz makes a conceptual distinction between idolatry and fetishism, from my point of view, it is the correspondence between the two concepts, which sometimes causes them to be used interchangeably for each other, that is striking. According to Pietz, while the ‘idol’ is a free-standing statue of an anthropomorphic type, the ‘fetish’ is an object generally worn about the body, which embodies special powers resulting from specific ritual combinations of materials. Pietz also notes, however, that in early Portuguese travel accounts, the distinct but paired terms idolatria and feiticaria are used to characterise the superstitious practices of black African societies.5 Both concepts stress the inappropriateness of material entities as loci of spiritual and devotional activity. Both concepts were linked to the idea of superstition (superstitio), which in its traditional Latin sense referred to the kind of religious subjectivity which produced exaggerated or excessive, hence superfluous, cult practices.6 As repetitive, material practices, the latter could be placed on the same continuum as material objects, hence adjudged inappropriate media for spiritual activity. In exploring these concepts and their deployment in colonial India, this book does not aim to be a conventional work of historiography or of sociology; rather, it is a study of mentalities, of etymologies, of subconscious influences and indeterminacies and of subterranean linguistic echoes that framed the colonial outlook. Both idolatry and fetishism were linked to the idea of spiritual fraud, exercised by fetish priests in Africa or by Brahmin priests, themselves

4  Introduction enlightened about natural causality, in India. Thus, the Reverend William Ward, an English missionary associated with the Serampore Mission in Bengal, wrote that ‘idolatry is often . . . the exciting cause of the most abominable frauds’; while according to the Abbé J.A. Dubois, a French missionary who proselytised in the Madras Presidency and the Deccan, ‘there is no trick which the Brahmins will not employ in order to excite the fervour of their worshippers, and thus to enrich themselves by their offerings’.7 The word ‘idolatry’ is derived from a combination of the Greek words eidolon, signifying ‘image, phantom, idea, fancy, likeness, imitation, figure of a person or thing, especially a statue’ and latreia, meaning ‘service, worship’. Eidolon, in turn, is derived from eidos, meaning ‘form, shape’.8 Although the senses of eidos and eidolon overlap significantly, Platonic philosophy leads to a disjunction between them. The cognate words eidos and idea are used by Plato interchangeably to denote the Platonic Form or Idea.9 An eidolon becomes a corrupt, mutable, degraded copy, inferior to the eternal world of Ideas from which it is derived.10 While the Judeo-Christian God, like the Platonic Idea, is immaterial and immutable, ‘idol’ within Judeo-Christian theology comes to designate a false god that is a fabricated, material entity.11 The idol’s materiality, its proneness to change, decay and disintegration, is a crucial indicator of its falsity.12 Thus, paintings of the Christian Gothic period depicted idols in the very process of material disintegration, and representations of idols during this period were suggestive of the decay and putrefaction of the human body.13 India has been associated with the worship of idols since the days of Marco Polo.14 When Indiana Jones – Marco Polo’s modern successor – visits India, he finds the gloomy idol-filled chambers of the Temple of Doom, teeming with bats, insects, worms, skulls and instruments of human sacrifice, to be redolent of decay, corruption and death. The priest Mola Ram, master of idolatrous ceremonies, proclaims as his objective the overthrow of the Judeo-Christian God: ‘the Hebrew God will fall. And then the Christian God will be cast down and forgotten. Soon Kali Ma will rule the world.’ Thus, the opposition between true and false gods continues in contemporary times. Indiana Jones’s release of the chained prisoners from the underground Temple of Doom into a world of broad daylight cannot but suggest Plato’s parable of the philosopher’s ascent from the cave, whose bound prisoners are trapped in a world of shadowy images, into the sunlight. The film may thus be read as an allegory of Enlightenment, with Indiana Jones delivering the prisoners of the Temple of Doom from the visions of horror which hold them in thrall. Unlike the denizens of the cave, the philosopher can apprehend ideas in the sense of mental entities

Introduction 5 that are eternal universals (Gk. eidos/idea), as opposed to mutable and unstable images (Gk. eidolons).15 Words adopted in modern European languages from the Greek root idea reflected its developed Platonic signification of mental entities (albeit somewhat subjectivised). Alternative senses of the word close to that of eidolon were available, however, in the English of the 16th century and later, such as ‘figure, image, representation, likeness, “picture” (of something)’.16 Idea and eidos are also cognate with the Greek and Latin words for ‘see’, thus linking them to the world of mutable appearance rather than essence.17 Plato’s divorce between ‘idea’ and ‘image’ was, however, carried over by St. Augustine into Christianity as a distinction between the ‘intelligible’ and the ‘sensible’, the former of which was to be preferred over the latter.18 The Christian opposition between faith and idolatry stressed that the former had nothing to do with the sensible world, giving rise to the dictum that ‘faith is the virtue by which we believe in that which we do not see’.19 When the word ‘ideology’ was first used by Enlightenment ‘ideologues’, they reinscribed the same opposition, using ‘ideology’ in a sense that was opposed to the ‘idolatry’ of the superstitious past, and that stressed the superiority of ‘ideas’ over ‘images’ as instruments of thought.20 Linguistic theory restated the split between idea and image as that between the ‘signified’ and the ‘signifier’, which Jacques Derrida locates as the founding gesture of ‘Western metaphysics’: The difference between signified and signifier belongs in a profound and implicit way to the totality of the great epoch covered by the history of metaphysics, and in a more explicit and more systematically articulated way to the narrower epoch of Christian creationism and infinitism when these appropriate the resources of Greek conceptuality. This appurtenance is essential and irreducible; one cannot retain the convenience of the ‘scientific truth’ of the Stoic and later medieval opposition between signans and signatum without also bringing with it all its metaphysico-theological roots. To these roots adheres the distinction between sensible and intelligible – already a great deal – with all that it controls, namely metaphysics in its totality.21 Controlled by the protocols of ‘Western metaphysics’, the discourses of revelation and of reason both seek to bypass the signifier, and thus ‘somehow transcend all falsifications of image’.22 They presuppose a transcendental subject whose sources of illumination are wholly ‘inside’. By contrast, the idolater is subject to mediation and control by the external image. In the figure of the idolater, the ideal of the autonomously determined self is transgressed. This points to an area of convergence with fetishism:

6  Introduction Pietz shows how the autonomously determined self is also subverted in the instance of the fetishist, who treats the self as necessarily embodied.23 The distinction between idols and fetishes may be reformulated in terms of the semiotic theory of C.S. Peirce as the difference between ‘iconic’ and ‘indexical’ signs.24 However, both idolatry and fetishism retain a sense of the immanence of the signified in the signifier, thus subverting the search for a ‘transcendental signified’ in monotheistic religions.25 According to Pietz, ‘the discourse of fetishism represents the emerging articulation of a theoretical materialism quite incompatible and in conflict with the philosophical tradition’.26 A similar claim could be made for idolatry, which was historically perceived as enjoying an affinity with materialism. Thus, the Italian Jesuit Roberto de Nobili, in a 17th-century Latin treatise on Indian religion entitled Informatio de quibusdam maribus nationis indicae, included among Indian idolaters not only Shaivas, Vaishnavas and Shaktas (classed among Hindu sects) but also materialists (‘Logaides’ or lokayatikas, ‘who say that God is nothing but the elements’).27 After 30 years of missionary work in India, Abbé Dubois concluded that the undermining of Indian idolatry would lead not to Christianity, but to atheism and materialism.28 Idolatry was also seen as related to polytheism. From a monotheistic point of view, claims about many gods would ipso facto imply their falsity. Apart from this, since idolatry harbours a belief in a divinity embodied in nature rather than a wholly spiritual divinity transcending nature, the multiplicity of nature suggests a multiplicity of gods.29 If idolatry stresses the image/signifier without reference to an ultimate or transcendental signified, it also promotes a multiplicity of meanings rather than reducing them to first causes or transcendent essences. Idolatrous speech and belief thus bear a greater affinity to narrative and myth than to metaphysics and philosophy. It is comparable to Plato’s notion of writing, which he designated as the dead image or eidolon of speech. While speech is associated with the law, it is the difficulty of referring writing to an ultimate signified that makes it transgress the law and causes it to be rendered as an inferior counterpart of speech.30 Derrida stresses the affinity between myth and writing, created by their common opposition to the logos of metaphysics.31 The multiplicity of embodied gods and goddesses associated with idolatry engenders a multiplicity of profane tales and histories, an inexhaustible fund of material for use in mythical narratives. William Ward associated Indian idolatry with the proliferation of mythical narratives and modes of their representation, which he held to be injurious to public manners (and morality): There is another feature in this system of idolatry, which increases its pernicious effects on the public manners: The history of these gods is a highly coloured representation of their wars, quarrels and licentious

Introduction 7 intrigues; which are held up in the images, recitations, songs, and dances at the public festivals.32 In colonial discourse on India, idolatry became a totalising figure for Indian society and for its perceived strangeness, its excesses and anomalies. Thus, according to the Victorian art critic George Birdwood, the ‘whole organisation of social life in India’ was ‘theocratic’ in character, with the ‘monstrous forms’ of Hindu idolatry at its centre.33 To Ward, the figure of idolatry provided a sweeping explanation for the acute character of the perceived moral decay of Indian society: ‘The manifest effect of idolatry in this country, as held up to thousands of Christian spectators, is an immersion into the grossest moral darkness, and a universal corruption of manners.’34 To East India Company official Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan, whose father belonged to the Clapham Sect of fervent Christian evangelicals who militantly campaigned against Indian idolatry Hinduism is the only remaining great system of idolatry; and, of all the religions which mankind have invented for themselves, it has gone furthest in deifying human vice . . . Other religions have had their abuses; but the essence of the religion of Kalee is pure, unmixed evil.35 Moreover, idolatry’s gravitational field is so powerful that, like a malign black hole, it appears to have sucked subcontinental varieties of Islam as well into its fold. Thus, Trevelyan is surprised to find that Muslims as well as Hindus among Thugs – a league of robbers who strangled their victims – worshipped Kali: ‘The perpetual exclusion of idolatry from their religious system has always been their peculiar boast . . . we never heard before that the Mahommedans had fallen into the idolatry of the Hindus.’36 Interestingly, the Temple of Doom in the Indiana Jones movie is also portrayed as being devoted to the cult of the Thugs. Elements of Hindu architectural design were thought to be ‘idolatrous’ and shunned by the British in designing the buildings they constructed.37 While idolatry was not the only irrational practice in Indian society, it served as an overarching figure for Indian irrationality, which encompassed its perceived aesthetic shortcomings as well as moral flaws. According to Enlightenment psychology believed by both rationalists and empiricists, the faculty of imagination consisted of the power to form images, and this was a dangerously misleading and deceptive faculty when exercised for the purposes of cognition. Thinking in images precluded one from thinking in concepts. Idolatry’s proneness to images made it susceptible to the misleading and irrational powers of the imagination. As the sources of imagination lie in the material objects around us, the idolatrous

8  Introduction subject was prone to a kind of material determination from outside instead of exercising an autonomous subjectivity.38 In the context of colonial Indian society, the idolater’s lack of an autonomous subjectivity made him unable to control and govern himself, as he was liable to be held in thrall by manipulating the powers of his imagination. Just as the African fetishist’s belief in the power of things made him seem thing-like himself and rendered the trade in slaves permissible, the idolater’s situation required the intervention of an external rational power to govern him wisely and rescue him from his own idolatry. The social ‘civilising mission’ could be recast in terms of a battle against idolatry. Since idolatry was an overarching explanation for the lack of well-being of the vast majority of colonial subjects, addressing their economic and political plight did not involve reversing the unequal power relations of colonial society. It required, instead, the reform of idolatrous subjectivities. This scenario is staged by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, at whose conclusion colonial troops rescue native children kept in subjection by their own countrymen given to the performance of cruel idolatrous rites. Fetishism and polytheism (the concomitant of idolatry) were seen during the Enlightenment as two ‘moments’ or stages in a progressive evolution of the human mind. According to this notion of progress, all cultures moved through identical stages of religious consciousness with monotheism as the highest stage. Auguste Comte formulated three ‘theological’ states of humanity, moving through fetishism, polytheism and monotheism, giving way to the era of metaphysics and ultimately to positive science.39 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s philosophy of history stands as an ideological monument to the notion of progress.40 In his Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, Hegel enunciated his understanding of the moments of fetishism and polytheism. According to Hegel, fetishism is a stage in the ‘religion of magic’, widespread among ‘Negro tribes’.41 Fetishism consists of the belief that divinity is embodied in ‘things’; there is little notion of abstract universals. There is consciousness of universals in Indian religion, the ‘religion of phantasy or fanciful imagination’.42 At this stage, ‘divinity is objective with all its plenitude of content’.43 Indian religion cannot satisfactorily mediate, however, between abstract universals and sensuous particulars: ‘it is true, the different moments or aspects are developed, but in such a way that they remain external to one another’.44 Its practice therefore oscillates between the poles of a cold and lifeless universal principle where humanity and consciousness are comprehensively negated, and of a chaos of particulars where the imagination runs riot. The release offered to the imagination enables good poetry but disables reason: Caprice and freedom are released in the imagination, and it is in the imagination that poetry has its field. Among the Hindus we find the

Introduction 9 most beautiful poetry, but always with an underlying element of utter irrationality: we are attracted by its grace and at the same time repelled by the sheer confusion and nonsense of it.45 The lack of a principle of reason that could satisfactorily mediate between abstract universals and concrete particulars inhibits the development of a free, autonomous subject in India: Where consciousness of the universal in general, of what is essential, shines through into the particular, is active in it and delimits it, there freedom of spirit comes into being in some form; and the legal and ethical realms depend upon the particular being delimited [in this way] by the universal. . . . To the extent that this [delimitation] is not posited, consciousness of the universal is essentially cut off, ineffective, unfree, devoid of spirit.46 Hegel thus articulates in a systematic manner the categories within which the colonial subject could be thought. The free spirit could not develop in India, as it faced a stark choice. It could either immerse itself in a chaos of sensuous particulars and thus become subject to their random, material determination, or it could escape this condition by severing its contact with life and contemplating the abstract and universal Brahman, a vocation open to a very small minority. Hegel also positions this subject within a global field of civilisations, arranged in a graded hierarchy, with Christian, European civilisation at its apex. Hegel’s portrayal of the unfree spirit subject to random, material determinations could be compared with the colonial portrayal of the idolatrous subject whose predilection for images inhibited the growth of a rational faculty. Just as African fetishism justified the taking of slaves, the corruption of the East India Company could be justified by pointing to corruption as an endemic state of affairs, connected to the state of morals and religion in India. While idolatry in the colonial context functions as a reminder of what Nigel Wood has called ‘the “staged” conceptual power of imperialism’ and provides a powerful justificatory idiom for colonial rule, it also denotes the threat posed to prevailing categories of colonial representation and the autonomously determined European subject by an encounter with India.47 Not only was the native subject influenced by material determination and prone to disorderly and incoherent representations, this was also a prospect that faced the European subject coming into contact with India. In this sense, idolatry was seen as contagious, communicable through contact with India. Instead of reforming Indians’ idolatry, Europeans might themselves succumb to Indian idolatry through a counter-revolutionary

10  Introduction process. This is the sense in which when Mola Ram holds in his hand the beating hearts of his human victims ripped from their bodies, they appear physically unharmed: they have merely switched over to an alternative mode of interpellation and subject constitution, after succumbing to idolatry.48 At one point in the film, Indiana Jones appears as a Hindu priest and cooperates with Mola Ram in performing ceremonies preceding human sacrifice. Susceptibility to idolatry and the power of the image not only plagued Indians, but could also transfer to European observers of India, which presented the prospect of breaching European rationalities through the deployment of image, spectacle and sensuality: a prospect that was linked to decay, danger and death, and yet could produce a sense of exaltation. The trope of idolatry, therefore, may also be read to discover the fragility of the European self. India’s effect on the senses and on European rationality was a reason advanced by James Mill, who wrote extensively on and made a career out of India, for never actually setting foot in India or learning any Indian languages. The same could be said in a qualified way for the Indologist Friedrich Max Müller, who focused exclusively on Sanskrit texts. Texts by Alice Perrin and E.M. Forster link India to the power of the image; in these texts, India induces uncertainty and provides a setting for the potential unravelling and stripping out of European selves, a prospect both daunting and strangely exciting, even sexually arousing. My focus in this book is on influential literary and scholarly representations of India which draw out the manifold conjunctions between a theological discourse on idolatry and colonial discourse on India, and allow us to examine how far a trope of theological provenance informed ‘secular’ post-Enlightenment views of India. Chapter 1, ‘William Jones and James Mill: the duplicity of the colonial image’, analyses the influential work of William Jones and James Mill in terms of the themes spelt out above. Considered important spokesmen respectively for the Orientalist and Anglicist schools among colonial officials, this chapter looks at how their different agendas are reflected in differing perspectives on idolatry and related issues, such as the epistemic and political status of mythology and fable. Yet, these differing agendas have points in common: they are brought together by the trope of idolatry and thematics linked to it. Even today, they provide a foundational axis, a basic template for conducting debates about India. Both Jones and Mill theorise concrete physical/sensory experience of India as a problem for representational regimes of framing India, so that a disturbing indeterminacy and undecidability of knowledge – induced by physical proximity to India in the case of Jones and fellow Orientalists – triggered in Mill a shift to a model of ‘rational’ governance that sought to entirely eliminate physical contact with India.

Introduction 11 The discourse on idolatry upholds the primacy of the signified and a concomitant repression of the signifier. Both Jones and Mill held instrumentalist views of language which treat language simply as a referential tool and disregard the signifier. Chapter 2, ‘Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle: the Orientalism of Friedrich Max Müller’, looks at how such a model of language and the Platonic metaphysics it relies on was critiqued as well as reinforced by Müller. Theoretical issues related to fetishism and idolatry are an explicit focus in Max Müller’s work, and he is able to discern a certain ‘philosophical idolatry’ inherent in the discourse of reason itself. The chapter on him therefore centres on the extent and limits of his critique of the Enlightenment discourse on fetishism and idolatry, which he engages in uneasy and inconclusive negotiation in the course of his Indological investigations. Chapter 3, ‘The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque: John Ruskin, Alice Perrin and E.M. Forster’, looks at how pagan gods figure in the poetry and art criticism of Ruskin, the novel Idolatry by Perrin, the short story ‘The Life to Come’ and the novel A Passage to India by Forster. Apart from examining how other genres draw on tropes derived from scholarly Indology, this chapter explores how idolatry becomes a problematic and troubling issue not only in representations of India but also in more general questions of aesthetic practice. In texts by Ruskin, Perrin and Forster, idolatry figures as a kind of contagion; it is correlated to Indian aesthetic and social practices which repel but also draw Europeans into a fatal complicity. I argue that the treatment of Indian idolatry in these texts reflects in fact on the issue of the sensory/erotic image in relation to art and religion, an issue which elicits deep-seated ambivalence. In Forster’s texts, idolatrous adoration and pagan eroticism are seen as disfigurations of Christian love, and Forster on occasion powerfully engages the context of colonial disciplinarity within which such interpretations occur. Chapter 4, ‘Reforming idolatrous Hinduism: Rammohan Roy and Bankimchandra Chatterjee’, evaluates two Indian responses to the discourse on idolatry. In some respects, both Rammohan Roy and Bankimchandra Chatterjee transgressed the premises of European discourse on Indian idolatry. While in European accounts anxieties about the Christian tradition may be repressed by displacing them onto an idolatrous Other, Rammohan made this explicit by pointing out elements of idolatry within Christianity itself.49 A reading of the debates on idolatry between Bankim and the British missionary W. Hastie shows how Bankim confronted head-on many of the foundational premises of Enlightenment discourse on idolatry. I argue, however, that neither Rammohan nor Bankim were comfortable with idolatry’s relationship to folk and subaltern religious practices, or by

12  Introduction the sexual connotations it might bring into play. Both attempted to separate ‘superstitious and idolatrous practices’ from the ‘pure spirit’ of Hinduism, but encountered significant difficulties in doing so. In the fifth and concluding chapter, ‘Conclusion: idolatry, ideology and the nation-state’, I argue that the discourse on idolatry not only does predicate an impossible transcendental subject, but is also caught up within a colonial way of seeing. It therefore becomes necessary not just to invert, but also to displace and move beyond its terms of opposition.

Notes 1 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was well received both at the box office and by critics. It sold over 53 million tickets in the United States alone and was the tenth-highest grossing film of all time during its release (Figures from Box Office Mojo, www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page =main&id=indianajonesandthetempleofdoom.htm, accessed on 1 September 2016). On the widely visited movie review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, the film won a remarkably high approval rating of 85 per cent from critics, based on 65 reviews, with an average rating of 7.2/10 (latest available figures at www.rottentomatoes.com/m/indiana_jones_and_the_ temple_of_doom/, accessed on 1 September 2016). 2 The Taliban released a video of its destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYYBlPWYb7Y, accessed on 1 September 2016. Satellite imagery of the destroyed Temple of Baalshamin is available at www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-34090536, accessed on 1 September 2016. Both the Bamiyan Buddhas and Temple of Baalshamin had earlier been declared by UNESCO to be World Heritage Sites. 3 William Pietz, ‘The Problem of the Fetish, II: The Origin of the Fetish’, Res 13, Spring 1987, p. 24. 4 See Pietz, ‘The Problem of the Fetish, I’, Res 9, Spring 1985, pp. 5–17; ‘The Problem of the Fetish, II: The Origin of the Fetish’, Res 13, Spring 1987, pp. 23–45; ‘The Problem of the Fetish, IIIa: Bosman’s Guinea and the Enlightenment Theory of Fetishism’, Res 16, Spring 1988, pp. 105–23. 5 See Pietz, ‘The Problem of the Fetish, II’, pp. 36–7. 6 This definition raises the problem of what constitutes ‘proper’ as opposed to ‘exaggerated’ and ‘superfluous’ cult practice. Lactantius settled the problem in a way which refers us back to the notion of idolatry: ‘religion is the cult of the true [God], superstition that of the false’ (see ibid., p. 29). In a more modern sense, superstition is generally understood as belief in events that defy natural causation, which raises the problem of how one understands ‘natural causation’, an understanding that may itself be culturally relative. Christian ‘miracles’, which also exceed a ‘scientific’ notion of natural causation, may not be classified as ‘superstition’. 7 William Ward, A View of the History, Literature, and Religion of the Hindoos, Madras: J. Higginbotham, 1863, p. XXXIX; Abbé J.A. Dubois, Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies, ed. and trans. from French by H.K. Beauchamp, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906; repr., New Delhi: Rupa & Co., 1992, p. 667. One of the instances of the rationalist trickery

Introduction 13 of Brahmins that Dubois cites is that of a man standing concealed behind an idol and pretending to speak in the name of the idol; the words of this ‘oracle’ always have some ambiguous or double meaning, which the Brahmins then interpret to square with their own predictions and cement their power (see ibid.). Curiously enough, the French manuscript of Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies, which Dubois sold to the East India Company as if it were his own work in 1808, was substantially plagiarised from writings on India by G.L. Coeurdoux, compiled by Coeurdoux’s younger contemporary N.J. Desvaulx as Moeurs et Coutumes des Indiens in 1776–7 (see Sylvia Murr’s preface to her edition of Coeurdoux/Desvaulx, Moeurs et Coutumes des Indiens (1777), Paris: Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient, 1987). Dubois enriched himself through this piece of ‘trickery’, living subsequently on the proceeds from the sale (see H.K. Beauchamp, ‘Editor’s Introduction’, Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies, p. XVI). 8 For the senses of eidolon, latreia and eidos, see the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) entries for ‘idol’ and ‘idolatry’. 9 Plato, The Republic, trans. from Greek by Desmond Lee, London: Penguin, 1987, p. 264. 10 See ‘The Philosopher Ruler’ and ‘Theory of Art’, ibid., pp. 260–325 and 421–39, respectively. 11 See Pietz, ‘The Problem of the Fetish, II’, pp. 24–31. 12 See Moshe Halbertal and Avishai Margalit, Idolatry, trans. from Hebrew by Naomi Goldblum, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992, p. 111. 13 See Michael Camille, The Gothic Idol: Ideology and Image-Making in Medieval Art, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, pp. 7–9, 92. 14 See Partha Mitter, Much Maligned Monsters: A History of European Reactions to Indian Art, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992, pp. 3–72. 15 See Plato, ‘ “Definition of the Philosopher”, “The Divided Line” and “The Simile of the Cave” ’, The Republic, pp. 263–80, 309–25. 16 See OED entry for ‘idea’. The entry lists the following usage: ‘Where on a top or high Mount is conspicuously set the Idea of a horrible Caco-demon’ (1634). This usage of ‘idea’ corresponds to the notion of idols as demons. 17 See R.M. Hare, Plato, 1982; repr., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 32. 18 ‘The Platonists realized that God is the creator from whom all other beings derive, while he is himself uncreated and underivative. They observed that whatever exists is either matter or life, and that life is superior to matter, that the form of matter is accessible to sense, that the form of life is accessible to intelligence. They therefore preferred the “intelligible” to the “sensible”. By “sensible” we mean that which can be apprehended by bodily sight and touch, by “intelligible” that which can be recognized by the mind’s eye’ (St. Augustine, City of God, trans. from Latin by H. Bettenson, London: Penguin, 1984, p. 308). 19 This dictum was often repeated in Christian texts of the 13th century. See Camille, The Gothic Idol, p. 13. 20 See ibid., pp. XXV–XXVI. 21 Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. from French by G.C. Spivak, 1976; repr., Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1994, p. 13. 22 Kenneth Gross, Spenserian Poetics: Idolatry, Iconoclasm and Magic, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985, p. 27.

14  Introduction 3 See Pietz, ‘The Problem of the Fetish, II’, p. 23. 2 24 According to Peirce, an ‘iconic’ sign resembles what it stands for (e.g., a photograph of a person), while an ‘indexical’ sign has a relationship of contiguity with the signified object (e.g., smoke with fire, or spots with measles). In terms of Peircian categories, while an idol could be treated as an ‘iconic’ sign, a fetish may be regarded as an ‘indexical’ sign, or alternatively, a ‘symbolic’ sign, where the relationship between signifier and signified is entirely arbitrary. See C.S. Peirce, ‘Sign’, Peirce on Signs: Writings on Semiotic, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991, pp. 239–40. 25 Derrida amplifies the notion of a ‘transcendental signified’ and questions its idealist affiliations in the following formulation: ‘The maintenance of the rigorous distinction – an essential and juridical distinction between the signans and the signatum, the equation of the signatum and the concept, inherently leaves open the possibility of thinking a concept signified in and of itself, a concept simply present for thought, independent of a relationship to language, that of a relationship to a system of signifiers. By leaving open this possibility . . . Saussure . . . accedes to the classical exigency of what I have proposed to call a “transcendental signified”, which in and of itself, in its essence, would refer to no signifier, would exceed the chain of signs, and would no longer itself function as a signifier. On the contrary, though, from the moment that one questions the possibility of such a transcendental signified, and that one recognizes that every signified is also in the position of a signifier, the distinction between signified and signifier becomes problematical at its root’ (Derrida, Positions, trans. from French by Alan Bass, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981, pp. 19–20). Within monotheistic religions, the concept ‘God’ would function as such a ‘transcendental signified’. 26 Pietz, ‘The Problem of the Fetish, I’, p. 6. 27 Wilhelm Halbfass, India and Europe: An Essay in Understanding, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988, pp. 39–40. 28 ‘Should the intercourse between the individuals of both nations [India and Britain], by becoming more friendly, produce a revolution in the religion and usages of [India]; it will not be to turn Christians that they will forsake their own religion; but rather (what in my opinion is a thousand times worse than idolatry) to become perfect atheists’ (J.A. Dubois, Letters on the State of Christianity in India, London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1823, p. 50). Atheism and materialism in Indian religion are related issues for Dubois. Thus, he avers about an atheist sect: ‘Their doctrine is pure materialism. Spinoza and his disciples endeavoured to palm it off as a new invention of their own; but the atheists of India recognized this doctrine many centuries before them, and drew from it pretty much the same deductions which their European brethren afterwards drew, and which have been propagated in modern times with such deplorable success’ (Dubois, Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies, p. 464). 29 See Halbertal and Margalit, Idolatry, p. 111. 30 See Plato, Phaedrus, trans. from Greek by R. Hackforth, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952, pp. 274b–278b; also Derrida’s analysis of the speech/writing opposition in Plato in Derrida, ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’, Dissemination, trans. from French by Barbara Johnson, Chicago: University

Introduction 15 of Chicago Press, 1981, pp. 142–55. Derrida stresses the ‘affinity between writing and mythos created by their common opposition to logos [the goal of metaphysics]’ (ibid., p. 145 fn.). Prior to Derrida, Friedrich Nietzsche also inverted the poles of the Platonic/rationalist hierarchy that informs the philosophy/myth opposition. Taking Plato and Homer respectively to represent the two opposed outlooks, Nietzsche’s sympathies were decidedly with the fabulist (Homer) than with the metaphysician (Plato): ‘on the one side, the wholehearted “transcendental”, the great defamer of life; on the other, its involuntary panegyrist, the golden nature’ (Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘ “The Genealogy of Morals” III: 25’, trans. from German by Horace B. Samuel, The Philosophy of Nietzsche, New York: The Modern Library, 1954, p. 783). 31 See Derrida, Dissemination, p. 145 fn. 32 Ward, History, Literature, and Religion of the Hindoos, p. XXXIII. 33 George Birdwood, The Industrial Arts of India, London: Chapman and Hall, 1880, pp. 132–40. 34 Ward, History, Literature, and Religion of the Hindoos, p. XXXII. 35 Charles Edward Trevelyan, Christianity and Hinduism Contrasted, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1882, pp. 4, 81. 36 Ibid., pp. 72–3. According to Trevelyan, a Muslim Thug even proposes that Bhowanee (another name for Kali) and Fatima (daughter of prophet Muhammad) are ‘one and the same person’ (ibid., p. 73). 37 The British avoided heavy, dark forms of post and lintel construction, which to them were reminiscent of ‘idolatrous’ Hindu temples, but accommodated in their architecture forms such as the arch and the dome, which gestured heavenwards. See Thomas R. Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. 157–8. 38 On the place of imagination in Enlightenment psychology and the connections between idolatry and the imaginative faculty, see Halbertal and Margalit, Idolatry, pp. 123–8. 39 See Auguste Comte, The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte, trans. from French by Harriet Martineau, New York: Calvin Blanchard, 1855, pp. 515–636. 40 For Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s notion of progress in history, see G.W.F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History, trans. from German by J. Sibree, New York: Dover Publications, 1956. 41 See Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, trans. from German by R.F. Brown, P.C. Hodgson and J.M. Stewart, 3 vols, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987, vol. 2, pp. 272–99. 42 Ibid., p. 316. For Hegel’s exposition of ‘the religion of phantasy’, see ibid., pp. 316–52, 579–604. 43 Ibid., p. 317. 44 Ibid., p. 347. 45 Ibid., p. 350. 46 Ibid., pp. 347–8. 47 Nigel Wood in Tony Davies and Nigel Wood (eds), Theory in Practice: A Passage to India, Buckingham: Open University Press, 1994, p. 66. 48 On the ‘interpellation’ of subjects by ideology, see Louis Althusser, ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes Towards an Investigation)’,

16  Introduction Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, trans. from French by Ben Brewster, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971, pp. 170–83. 49 For Rammohan Roy and Bankimchandra Chatterjee, I follow the Bengali practice of using first names rather than surnames, i.e. ‘Rammohan’ and ‘Bankim’, for repetitive reference, as ‘Roy’ and ‘Chatterjee’ are too generic and undifferentiated.

1 William Jones and James Mill The duplicity of the colonial image

‘For the letter killeth, but the spirit quickeneth.’ I.e., when that which is said figuratively is taken as though it were literal, it is understood carnally. Nor can anything more appropriately be called the death of the soul than when that thing which distinguishes us from beasts, which is the understanding, is subjected to the flesh in pursuit of the letter. . . . There is a miserable servitude of the spirit in this habit of taking signs for things. − St. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine

The very idea of the idol tends, at its most urgent, to be bound up with the mythology of the iconoclast, rather than with that of the one accused of idolatry. − Kenneth Gross, Spenserian Poetics: Idolatry, Iconoclasm and Magic

I  The idol in ideology An idol deceptively resembles a god, without being God, an appearance which beguiles but belies reality, thus leading to metaphysical disappointment. It is related to artifice, and through artifice to art and literature. Kenneth Gross calls the idol ‘the mocking ghost, the fantastic and recalcitrant limit of what we call representation; it is the blank interior of our myths of revelation, the place where our questions about divine authority receive their most severe test’.1 Idolatry’s penchant for dwelling on the sensual surface of metaphors is held to lead to serious cognitive error; idolaters are thus held to be victims of the play of language. According to the Abbé J.A. Dubois: This decided taste for allegory, which is characteristic of the founders of the Hindu religion and polity, has proved the source of many

18  Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image errors in the case of a people who are invariably guided simply by the impressions of their senses, and who, accustomed to judge things only by their outward appearance, have taken literally that which was represented to them under symbols, and have thus come to adore the actual image itself instead of reality.2 The taste for allegory and penchant for outward appearance leads Indians, particularly Hindus, to dwell on the outward forms of nature itself, instead of positing a radical separation between nature and its Creator. Nature, being corporeal and multiple, is inimical to the notion of God as a unitary and perfect being. Polytheism evokes a multicausal world, from whose perspective monotheism’s search for a final cause may itself be seen to proceed from a fallacious premise: because every effect has a cause, there must be one cause that is the cause of all the effects.3 The monotheistic God as absolute, allknowing Subject is mirrored in the notion of man as autonomous subject and possessor of logos. But idolatry and polytheism, by invoking the body, materiality, mutability and multiplicity, disrupt both Semitic-religious and Cartesian-rationalist conceptualisations of God and man.4 As we saw in the Introduction, not only was India seen as a haven for idolatry, but Indian idolatry could also be perceived as contagious. In James Mill’s History of British India (1990), the problem of idolatry crops up in relation to perceptions of India by external observers. India is apprehended as the bodily, the material and the sensory, an excess of random, unassimilable signifiers, not amenable to framing or control by ideas, mind or spirit but liable to overwhelm reason. Echoing Dubois’s concern with the mind being misled by outward appearance, Mill thought that the true business of the historian was ‘not merely to display the obvious outside of things’ but to ‘convey just ideas of all those objects’ of his interest.5 In doing so, sense stimuli could prove a distraction: Nobody needs to be informed, how much more vivid, in general, is the conception of an object which has been presented to our senses, than that of an object which we have only heard another man describe. Nobody, therefore, will deny . . . there is great danger, lest the impression received from the senses should exert an immoderate influence, hang a bias on the mind, and render the conception of the whole erroneous.6 Raw empirical stimuli need to be processed into a series of textual signifieds before they could be of any use to the observer of India. The truth of

Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image 19 Mill’s predecessors’ accounts may have been affected by too much proximity to India: ‘We received indeed the accounts of the Hindu chronology . . . from men who had seen the people; whose imagination had been powerfully affected by the spectacle of a new system of manners, arts, institutions, and ideas.’ The veracity of these accounts needs to be distrusted, as their proponents may have been carried away by ‘astonishment, admiration, and enthusiasm’.7 The use of one’s senses can beguile and mislead: But the mental habits which are acquired in mere observing, and in the acquisition of languages, are almost as different as any mental habits can be, from the powers of combination, discrimination, classification, judgment, comparison, weighing, inferring, inducting, philosophizing in short; which are the powers of most importance for extracting the precious ore from a great mine of historical materials. Whatever is worth seeing or hearing in India, can be expressed in writing. As soon as everything of importance is expressed in writing, a man who is duly qualified may obtain more knowledge of India in one year, in his closet in England, then he could obtain during the course of the longest life, by the use of his eyes and ears in India.8 The oppositions expressed in this passage run through Mill’s text and frame the utilitarian imaginary. Philosophising is privileged over observing, the processing of ideas over images and impressions, the intelligible over the sensible. This correlates with the classic oppositions of ‘Western metaphysics’ which may be traced to Plato. These oppositions are linked to another dichotomy: that between England and India. Only in England are there opportunities to process ideas and to philosophise, hard to come by in India where they are precluded by the overwhelming pressures/pleasures of seeing and observing. Mill is an exemplar here of the articulation of ‘Western metaphysics’ with historicism and ethnocentrism that Derrida identifies: What then, are the pertinent traits of someone who is trying to reconstitute the structural resemblance between the Platonic and the other mythological figures of the origin of writing? The bringing out of these themes . . . must open on to the general problematic of the relations between the mythemes and the philosophemes that lie at the origin of western logos. That is to say, of a history – or rather, of History – which has been produced in its entirety in the philosophical difference between mythos and logos, blindly sinking down into that difference as the natural obviousness of its own element.9

20  Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image Logocentrism: the metaphysics of phonetic writing . . . which was fundamentally . . . nothing but the most original and powerful ethnocentrism.10 Mill is not writing a history of India but History, offering a ‘knowledge of India, approaching to completeness’ and written according to the protocols of ‘Western metaphysics’.11 His History is produced in the space of the difference between mythos and logos, which translates into the difference between India and Europe.

II  A   question of judgement A philosopher can see reality more clearly and precisely because he withdraws from the changing world of images and sensations. According to Plato’s Republic, this is what equips him to rule, to judge and to discriminate.12 The ideal republic may be realised only if power is placed in the hands of those with the capacity and training to philosophise. These constitute a small minority, as ‘philosophy is impossible among the common people’.13 In his preface, Mill calls his history of British India ‘a judging history’ (author’s italics).14 Mill’s absence from the scene of action qualifies him better to speak his history from the position of philosopher/judge: ‘Is it not understood, that in such a case as this, where the sum of the testimony is abundant, the judge, who has seen no part of the transaction, has yet, by his investigation, obtained a more perfect conception of it, than is almost ever possessed by any of the individuals from whom he has derived his information?’15 If spoken from the position of philosopher/judge, the question arises: What does Mill’s history set out to judge – ‘if a judging history, what does it judge’?16 Mill’s history is concerned to judge India’s place within an evolutionary scale of civilisations, following a comparative method whose assumptions had been stated by Baron Turgot as follows: By . . . infinitely varied inequality the actual state of the universe, in presenting at the same time all the shades of barbarism and of civilisation, shows us in some sort under one view the monuments and vestiges, and all the steps of the human mind, the reflection of all the degrees through which it has passed – in short, the history of all the ages.17 For Mill, ranking within this caste system of civilisations is to be determined by a philosophical criterion, that of Utility: In looking at the pursuits of any nation, with a view to draw from them indications of the state of civilisation, no mark is so important, as the nature of the End to which they are directed.

Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image 21 Exactly in proportion as Utility is the object of every pursuit, may we regard a nation as civilised. Exactly in proportion as its ingenuity is wasted on contemptible or mischievous objects, though it may be, in itself, an ingenuity of no ordinary kind, the nation may safely be denominated barbarous.18 Such a criterion requires an implicit normative standard, since one’s judgement of the utility of an action would depend on one’s valuation of the end towards which it is directed. It thus defers rather than resolves the problem of value: How is an end itself to be assessed? Mill considered ‘the greatest number of miscarriages in life . . . to be attributable to the overvaluing of pleasures’.19 But this begs the question of what the true value of pleasure (if pleasure be the end of activity) might be. India fell short in terms of this implicit normative standard. Not only did India rank low among civilisations according to this criterion, but despotism was also justified on the same grounds: as liberty would not be compatible with the maximisation of utility in the Indian instance. On Platonic lines, Mill proposed the Government of India by a single legislative council composed entirely of a few experts, and argued strenuously against any representative institutions for India. On grounds of the Benthamite criterion of the ‘greatest good of the greatest number’, natives could not be admitted to a significant role in the Governance of India.20 While Mill speaks his history of India from the position of philosopher/ judge, the Indological researches of William Jones were conducted during his tenure as judge at the Supreme Court in Calcutta. Post-Saidian critics such as S.N. Mukherjee and Jenny Sharpe have shown how Jones’s researches were tied up with his duties as judge: he wished to compile a digest of indigenous laws with which to govern British territories in India.21 Apart from indigenous laws, however, a knowledge of local mythologies was also considered necessary for the task of sound governance: We may be inclined perhaps to think, that the wild fables of idolaters are not worth knowing . . . but we must consider, that the allegories contained in the hymn to LACSHMI constitute at this moment the prevailing religion of a most extensive and celebrated Empire, and are devoutly believed by many millions, whose industry adds to the revenue of Britain, and whose manners, which are interwoven with their religious opinions, nearly affect all Europeans, who reside among them.22 Thus, mythology contains the key to understanding a subject population, and affects in quotidian matters Europeans living among or ruling it. It has a bearing on the successful discharge of Jones’s duties as judge. Apart from the literal discharge of his duties as judge, however, there is the

22  Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image question Mill raises regarding what it takes to pass epistemological judgement on Indian matters. On this question, Mill’s claim regarding who can judge best the Indian situation is anticipated and contested by Jones, in a letter written from India to the second Earl Spencer: You judge rightly . . . that we are the best judges here of all that relates to ourselves. In Europe you see India through a glass darkly: here, we are in a strong light; and a thousand little nuances are perceptible to us, which are not visible through your best telescopes, and which could not be explained without writing volumes.23 Jones’s position here is opposed to Mill’s: it is through proximity to India’s light and through the inscriptions of the visible that India might be read, making over Jones’s own location (as physically present in India) into one of epistemological advantage. It is possible, however, to read even into this passage a moment of equivocation, present in Jones’s use of the phrase ‘through a glass darkly’. The phrase occurs in St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, and is an allusion to the (forthcoming) day of Last Judgment and revelation, when things will at last be revealed in their true colours: ‘For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.’24 Following through the logic of this allusion would imply (somewhat blasphemously) that India stands revealed in its true colours, as on the day of Last Judgment, to those in Jones’s position. As a classics scholar, moreover, Jones must also have been aware of the occurrence of the phrase in Plato’s Phaedo, where Socrates fears the blinding of his soul if he tries to apprehend things directly with his senses instead of having recourse to conceptions. Socrates observes that people may injure their eyes by gazing directly at the sun during an eclipse.25 Elsewhere, Jones complained of the damage caused to his poor vision by the ‘glaring Indian sun’.26 Jones had a serious attack of sunstroke in India in 1784, which reduced him to a skeleton and from which he never quite recovered. Warren Hastings advised Jones to avoid the Indian sun, which he followed since his illness.27 Given this history, Jones cannot have lacked ambivalence about India’s ‘strong light’, setting up a subtext in the passage that runs against its grain. This subtext echoes Mill’s fear of losing his judgement if he were to encounter India from up close, through his senses instead of ideas.

III  ‘Seeing Them in Their Own Books’: the absent origin Idolatry signifies cognitive error or delusion, which may arise out of stupidity and ignorance, or the deliberate malignity of a priestly class. It is often

Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image 23 seen as a combination of both, in which crafty priests deliberately mislead the rest of the populace, which is ignorant and credulous enough to swallow the fables invented by them. Both senses appear in Jones’s ‘A Hymn to Lacshmi’ which also links the meme to a rationale for imperial rule: Oh! bid the patient Hindu rise and live. His erring mind, that wizard lore beguiles Clouded by priestly wiles, To senseless nature bows for nature’s GOD. Now, stretch’d o’er ocean’s vast from happier isles, He sees the wand of empire, not the rod.28 In this verse, the average Hindu is patient but slow on the uptake, held in thrall by wily priests. It also follows that priests are rational manipulators, who are themselves aware of the untruths they perpetrate, and guilty of imposing a false consciousness on the rest of society. The verse amplifies one of the principal meanings of idolatry: bowing to ‘senseless nature’ instead of ‘nature’s God’. One must not look at but look through nature, reading it as signifier pointing to God as the transcendental signified; any other reading confuses Creation with its Creator, signifier with signified. Empire will liberate Hindus from the thralldom of their priests; consequently, Hindus will not perceive empire as a coercive apparatus (‘the rod’) but as a magical ‘wand’. One of the subtle deconstructive effects set off by this passage, however, is that the Hindu still perceives the empire as a magicians’ enterprise, managed by the wielders of a wand that stretches across the oceans. The Hindu still remains an idolater, but he has shifted his allegiance from myths of his own religion to myths of empire. The persistence of idolatry, rather than a desire for profits, provides a rationale to the British for maintaining and extending their empire. Another subtle effect of the verse is that Jones positions himself through it as the true guardian and repository of tradition. The poem is in the form of an invocation to the goddess Lakshmi, to whom Jones prays to deliver the Hindu. Jones thus puts himself in the position of a priest of the community; one, however, who preserves its true interests. The poem thus inscribes the Orientalist rather than Anglicist view of the imperial civilising mission.29 Although pagans err, the poem is still addressed to a pagan deity. It is as if Hindu scriptures themselves were a kind of inferior revelation, and it was part of Jones’s brief to preserve it from corruption and misuse by priests and idolaters. India was to be governed by indigenous laws, but Englishmen were the most effective interpreters and arbiters of these laws.30

24  Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image This ideology was reflected in the constitution of the Asiatic Society founded by Jones, the principal body conducting research on Indological subjects in British India. Although set up in 1784, soon after Jones’s arrival in India, non-Europeans were ineligible to participate in its meetings till 1892.31 According to standard Christian doctrine in the 18th century, all peoples had received the same primeval revelation, but pagans lost it during the dispersion and scattering of peoples following the Tower of Babel. It is at this point of time that idolatry had its inception among them; traces of monotheism among contemporary pagans were to be attributed to distant recollections of a remote past.32 This may explain Jones’s privileging of antiquity; since Hindu scriptures were closer to the remote past, they were liable to be a less corrupted copy of revelation than the assertions of present day Hindu priests. Jones’s project therefore is couched as one of ‘restoration’ and ‘recovery’ of the text of Hindu scripture, rather than one of ‘reform’. This ‘protestant’ position vis-à-vis Hindu scriptures, together with Jones taking up the position of trustee for Hindu tradition, made it incumbent upon him to learn Sanskrit. He suspected the duplicity of the Brahmins the British had employed to give legal advice and compile digests of laws. The heterogeneity of the texts they produced led him to doubt their veracity.33 He spelt out his motives for learning Sanskrit in a letter of 1785: ‘The villainy of the Brahmen lawyers makes it necessary for me to learn Sanscrit, which is as difficult as Greek.’34 Neither were Muslim lawgivers spared from suspicion: ‘Pure integrity is hardly to be found among the Pandits and Maulavis, few of whom give opinions without a culpable bias. . . . I therefore always make them produce original texts, and see them in their own Books.’35 The British assumed that Hindu law was vested in dharmashastra texts. According to Rosane Rocher: What dharmashastra offered . . . was a multiplicity of authoritative texts and a variety of commentaries that, in Indian fashion, sought to interrogate and reconcile conflicting statements by the application of interpretatory rules of mimamsa and the entire array of panditic learning and skill.36 This heterogeneity of texts is connected to one of the root senses of idolatry: an endless proliferation of images and meanings, without reference to an ultimate signified. Plato designates writing as the dead image or eidolon of speech; while speech is associated with the law, it is the difficulty of referring writing to an ultimate signified that makes it transgress the law and causes it to be rendered as an inferior counterpart of speech.37

Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image 25 Jones refers to the ‘mad introduction of idolatry at Babel’, identifying the formation of heterogeneous languages and splitting of the logos at Babel with idolatry and the disintegration of subjectivity.38 The moments of idolatry and heteroglossia are one, implying the fracturing of subjectivity and truth. The ideas of textual and moral corruption may be linked; as Kate Teltscher observes, ‘For Jones, textual corruption seems inevitably to imply moral corruption.’39 The idol as duplicitous double and the identification of idolatry with textual and moral corruption leads, in the case of Jones’s legal thought, to a fixation on the problem of appropriate forms of oath-taking and the prevention of forgery. Forgery and its oral equivalent, perjury, are seen as the forms of social production appropriate to an idolatrous society. Jones finds Hindu law unaccountably lax in dealing with these matters. In his preface to ‘Institutes of Hindu Law’, he observes that ‘the very morals [exemplified in the law], though rigid enough on the whole, are in one or two instances (as in the case of light oaths and pious perjury) unaccountably relaxed’.40 A large number of the deviations from standard Hindu legal opinion that J.D.M. Derrett found in the ‘Digest of Indian Laws’ compiled by Jones, concern laws on fraud.41 The practice of dissimulation spreads beyond its initial referent, Brahmin pandits, to pervade all of society and pose a barrier to the administration of justice: . . . but such, after all, is the corrupt state even of their erroneous religion, that, if the most binding form on the consciences of good men could be known and established, there would be few consciences to be bound by it; and, without exemplary punishments of actual perjury, subornation of it, and attempts to suborn, we shall never be able to administer justice among them with complete satisfaction.42 In order to stem the rot, Jones (generally a mild-mannered man) prescribes severe corporal punishments for forgery or perjury. In 1783, soon after his arrival from England, Jones addressed the grand jury at the Calcutta Supreme Court as follows: It gives me, in the first place, inexpressible pain, to see no fewer than four persons charged with so abominable an object as corrupt perjury, or the subornation of it; and one of them, I observe with horror, is an Armenian by birth, and, in name, at least, a Christian: now, if all laws, human and divine, if all religions, the many false and the one true, be thus openly defied, we must abandon all hope of administering justice perfectly; and, as much as I blame severe corporal punishments, especially those which mutilate the offender’s body, I must recommend

26  Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image a degree of severity, if the wickedness of man cannot otherwise be restrained.43 Jones thus links perjury with issues of truth and falsehood in religion; he finds it shocking that a practitioner of the ‘one true religion’ should be guilty of it. ‘The wickedness of man’ carries theological overtones, and in the case of this particular mode of its manifestation (together with its twin, forgery), Jones even considered capital punishment.44 When Nandakumar, the Raja of Hoogly, complained that Jones’s friend and mentor Hastings accepted bribes in exchange for government appointments, Hastings used his powers as governor-general to have Nandakumar hanged on a charge of forgery.45 The meme of forgery, linked to the concept of idolatry as spiritual fraud, thus emerges as a crucial site for the exercise of colonial power. The meme of forgery as well as issues of idolatry and Enlightenment are highlighted in the controversy over the Ezourvedam, variously described as a ‘lost Veda’ and a ‘pious fraud’.46 This French text purported to be a translation from a lost fragment of the Vedas by a wise Brahmin. It turned out that, as Ludo Rocher puts it: This Veda contained a real surprise; its precepts were very close to the basic precepts of Christianity. Voltaire was happy to conclude that many so-called Christian concepts were, therefore, not exclusively Christian; they existed elsewhere in the world long before the birth of Christ.47 Ezourvedam was, in fact, the work of French Jesuit missionaries in India, who wanted to use it as a tool for proselytising Hindus.48 It consists of a conversation between two sages: ‘Chumantou’ (i.e. Sumantu) upholds an ‘enlightened’ philosophical monotheism, refuting the idolatrous outlook of ‘Biach’ (i.e. Vyasa). Chumantou’s arguments are meant to hold out for an original monotheism, a light of reason since obscured by the growth of idolatry. Significantly, his opponent is identified as Biach or Vyasa, to whom authorship of the Mahabharata as well as Puranic narratives is attributed by Hindu tradition. Idolatry is thus related to narrative and myth. If idolatry signifies the production of images, narrative is the generation of a surplus of images and meanings without closure. The concept of idolatry thus reconfigures the fabulous as the false. Moral and metaphysical maxims, by contrast, reduce meaning to first causes and transcendent essences, thus exemplifying the outlook peculiar to nonidolatrous monotheism.49 The strategy of conversion deployed in Ezourvedam, however, is a risky one, since it permits a multiplicity of reversible readings. Thus, Julius

Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image 27 Richter, a Protestant and a historian of Protestant missions, remarks on the Ezourvedam: ‘The fundamental dishonesty of the Jesuitical system is perhaps revealed in the most striking way of all by the remarkable literary forgeries which the Jesuits committed, probably about the middle of the 17th century.’50 The Jesuits are here tarred with the same brush as the Hindus; like Brahmin priests, they are forgers and agents of dissimulation. Wilhelm Halbfass has pointed out that it was a common Protestant strategy to discredit Catholicism by association with Hinduism.51 Although Ezourvedam targets idolatry, it takes the form of myth and dissimulates itself as a Vedic text. In other readings, the Ezourvedam may be used to argue the chronological priority of Hinduism over Christianity itself. This was precisely Voltaire’s reading of it, when he used it as evidence that Christian concepts pre-existed the birth of Christ. Texts like Ezourvedam, by appropriating the signifiers of Hinduism, may help legitimise Hinduism itself, which is the fear expressed in the following critique of the work by William Hodge Mill, a missionary: But when, as if to defeat the success of the design [of proselytisation] with all Heathens of knowledge and integrity, we see the names of Narada, Jaimini, and other teachers of Brahmanic theology, introduced as refuting and denouncing [polytheism and pantheism], and the name of the most ancient and sacred of all Hindu writings, prefixed as the real title of the composition . . . no skill in the execution can screen from censure the authors and abettors of a forgery equally disingenuous and imprudent.52 We will see in a subsequent chapter that this was by and large the strategy Hindu reformists and Indian nationalists adopted to vindicate Hinduism against charges of idolatry. A weakness of such a vindication, however, is that it makes over Hinduism in the image of Christianity; if Hinduism was Christianity before the fact, such a coup could be achieved only by obliterating Hinduism’s difference. This was the strategy adopted by Voltaire, who wrote to Prussia’s Frederick the Great that ‘our holy Christian religion is solely based upon the ancient religion of Brahma’.53 As a consequence, Voltaire retained the category of idolatry, subsuming difference as deviance or corruption: ‘This manuscript [Ezourvedam] undoubtedly belongs to the time when the ancient religion of the gymnosophists had begun to be corrupted. . . . Chumontou combats all kinds of idolatry with which the Indians began to be affected at that time.’54 Voltaire, thus, is one of the first to proffer the myth of a Hindu golden age, contrasted to a fallen present in which idolatry is dominant.

28  Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image Though Voltaire was an Enlightenment ideologue, this construct is still elaborated within a theological horizon and does not escape Christian logocentrism. Dorothy Figueira shows how for Voltaire India mirrors the human condition in its fall from grace.55 As we will soon see, the Hindu golden age also figures importantly in William Jones, in a similar fashion. If the Ezourvedam was a forgery, the question has to be: Who fell for this particular confidence trick? Since there is little evidence that it converted many Hindus in its time, the answer to that – as this book will progressively show – is European Enlightenment thinkers, and Hindu reformists and Indian nationalists who followed in their trail.

IV  Jones and the Ezourvedam Jones’s presentation of classical Indian texts follows some of the same strategies as the ‘forged’ Ezourvedam. As the founder of modern Indology, Jones is generally credited with having revealed Indian civilisation not just to the West, but to Indians as well. According to Suniti Kumar Chatterji, noted linguist of Indian languages: To my mind, as . . . an Indian who considers the personality and the achievement of Sir William Jones . . . the greatest benefit that we in India have received from England and Europe is to be able to know ourselves.56 S.N. Mukherjee asserts that Jones’s ‘real contribution to Indology lies in the foundation of the Asiatic Society which eventually unveiled India to the intellectual world’, and observes that ‘the origins of modern scholarship on Indian studies have to be traced back to Jones and his friends’.57 Ronald Inden describes Jones as ‘the “knowing subject” of the East India Company within the rising Anglo-French imperial formation’.58 By contrast, the Ezourvedam is generally characterised in terms of a vocabulary of fraudulence, such as ‘spurious’ (Paulinus), ‘literary forgery’ (Ellis), ‘pious fraud’ (Schlegel) and ‘notorious hoax’ (Schwab).59 Halbfass describes it as ‘scandalous’, not a product of ‘sober research’.60 There are, however, significant crossovers and overlaps between the project of the Asiatic Society as formulated by Jones and that of the Ezourvedam. Jones believed in the myth of a past golden age and of a degenerate present: ‘nor can we reasonably doubt, how degenerate and abased soever the Hindus may now appear, that in some early age they were splendid in arts and arms, happy in government, wise in legislation, and eminent in various knowledge’.61 Idolatry is held to be the source of this decline.

Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image 29 In Jones’s poem ‘The Enchanted Fruit; or, the Hindu Wife: An Antediluvian Tale’, this is the identification underlying Jones’s pun on kali-yug, the name for the fallen present in traditional Hindu chronology, as the age of Kali, the goddess who, as we have already seen, was among the most reviled in colonial representation of Hindu idols and who will appear again in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.62 The narrator of the poem describes kali-yug as ‘bound by vile unnatural laws/Which curse this age from Caley nam’d’; a footnote gloss adds: ‘this verse alludes to Caley, the Hecate of the Indians’.63 While a parallel is sought to be established between colonial and Hindu visions of decline, the latter is expressed in Hindu chronology as the slow step-by-step transition from satya-yug (Age of Truth) to the contemporary kali-yug; in the traditional Hindu version, this decline has nothing to do with the growth of idolatry. A conceit like Jones’s, in which the onset of kali-yug is linked to the dominance of goddess Kali, would be incomprehensible to Hindus lacking a Western education.64 Elizabeth Eisenstein has suggested that print cultures are conditioned to think in terms of historical progress, due to the continuous accumulation of fixed records. By contrast, a notion of time as decay is built into the perspectives of traditional oral and manuscript cultures, since knowledge recorded in memory or manuscripts is subject to corruption and decay.65 This could explain the traditional perception of time as decline from satyayug to kali-yug recorded in preprint Hindu culture. By contrast, colonial perceptions of Indian decay fitted it into an overall context of European progress. Such a narrative provides a rationale for India’s colonisation and resonates with the colonial civilising mission: colonisation is a means of drawing India into the larger movement for progress. While for Jones the six philosophical schools of India ‘comprise all the metaphysics of the old [Athenian] academy, the Stoa, the Lyceum’, he also passed the stricture that ‘the Gentoos should not be ruled according to the maxims of the Athenians’.66 The interregnum of Indian decline ruled out the possibility of self-government and democracy in India. Jones returns to Voltaire’s conceit of the ‘gymnosophists’. Gymnosophists were Indian sages reputed in ancient Greece for their capacity to philosophise and their stoical self-control. Pythagoras, who believed in the doctrine of transmigration, was thought to have travelled to India and transmitted to Greece the wisdom of the gymnosophists. The French Jesuit J.F. Pons, in a letter written from India in 1740, made repeated mentions of the wisdom of gymnosophists and of Pythagoras picking up Brahminic instruction in India. Upholding physis against nomos, the ways of nature against social and artificial conventions, the gymnosophists could be

30  Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image thought of as early Christians countering idolatry; their viewpoint would thus be close to that upheld by Chumantou in the Ezourvedam.67 After claiming that the six schools of Indian philosophy comprise the metaphysics of the Greek Academy, Stoa and Lyceum, Jones goes on to assert that ‘Pythagoras and Plato derived their sublime theories from the same fountain with the sages of India’.68 Thus, Jones annexes Indian to Greek philosophy, just as the Ezourvedam annexed Hinduism to Christianity. The desire governing Jones’s hermeneutic of translation is disclosed by comparing his translation of the gayatri mantra, the invocation to the sun which is the key verse in the Rig-Veda (verse 3.62.10) recited by Brahmins every morning, with other versions of it. H.T. Colebrooke’s translation of the gayatri mantra, which runs: ‘Let us meditate on the adorable light of the divine ruler; may it guide our intellects’, is fairly close to Max Müller: ‘Let us obtain/meditate on that adorable splendor of Savitri [the sun]; may he arouse our minds!’69 However, Jones’s translation of the same verse is more baroque and diverges radically from both Colebrooke and Max Müller: Let us adore the supremacy of that divine sun (opposed to the visible luminary), the godhead who illuminates all, who recreates all, from whom all proceed, to whom all must return, whom we invoke to direct our understandings aright in our progress towards his holy seat. The following is Jones’s gloss on this verse: What the sun and light are to this visible world, that are the supreme good, and truth, to the intellectual and invisible universe; and, as our corporeal eyes have a distinct perception of objects enlightened by the sun, thus our souls acquire certain knowledge, by meditating on the light of truth, which emanates from the Being of Beings: that is the light by which alone our minds can be directed in the path to beatitude.70 The point of this rather long-winded translation and gloss is Jones’s anxiety to preserve the verse, and thus Hinduism’s origin, from all traces of idolatry. Adoration of the sun was a sign of pagan idolatry.71 The sun, light and visible world of images needed to be distinguished from that which they were merely metaphors of: the supreme good and truth. Jones wanted to appropriate the sun as a Christian sign which must be ‘looked through’ rather than looked at as an end in itself, on pain of taking the figurative as literal, the signifier as signified.72

Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image 31 More specifically, Jones’s extraordinary translation recalls the simile of the sun in Plato’s Republic, which Socrates resorts to in order to explain the form of the Good: The good has begotten it [the sun] in its own likeness, and it [the sun] bears the same relation to sight and visible objects in the visible realm that the good bears to intelligence and intelligible objects in the intelligible realm.73 While Plato articulates an opposition between sight (the world of fallen, degraded images) and intelligence (the world of forms), it is noteworthy that he also depends on metaphors of the sun and sight to describe intelligence and the good, going so far as to designate the sun as begotten of (the son of?) the good.74 Likewise, Jones’s translation and gloss uneasily demarcate the visible and intellectual realms, and are anxious to establish that the sun spoken of in the gayatri mantra refers exclusively to the latter. Yet, the (visible) sun resembles the monotheistic God, insofar as they possess alike ‘powers of pervading all space and animating all nature’.75 Jones thus reworks the gayatri mantra into Platonic metaphysics. Through an act of epistemic violence, Jones interpolates Plato’s simile of the sun into Hinduism’s originary verse. This may be cited as an instance of what Jenny Sharpe means when she describes Jones’s founding of a ‘secondary origin’ for Hinduism.76

V  God’s word and idolatrous fables Jones identifies metaphor as an important source of idolatry. Poetry and fable, which are dependent on metaphor, are related sources. While ‘the metaphors and allegories of moralists and metaphysicians have been . . . very fertile in deities’, ‘numberless divinities have been created solely by the magick of poetry; whose essential business it is, to personify the most abstract notions, and to place a nymph or a genius in every grove and almost in every flower’.77 This poetic magic, which relies on metaphor, is an anthropomorphic magic giving rise to the multiple deities of idolatry. Jones believed that tangled myths and allegories could be decoded and the surplus of signification inherent in metaphor pared away to uncover moral or metaphysical truths buried underneath. Specifically, Hindu fables could be decoded to confirm Mosaic accounts of Biblical history, and that is why they deserved investigation. Such studies ‘may even be of solid importance in an age, when some

32  Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image intelligent and virtuous persons are inclined to doubt the authenticity of the accounts, delivered by Moses, concerning the primitive world’.78 Jones’s hermeneutic thus involves a flirtation with metaphor/idolatry but also an ultimate drawing away from them, in the same manner that the sun conceals/reveals the truth of philosophy and religion. He translates from the Bhagavat-Purana an episode from the life of Satyavrata, and designates it as the fable of ‘an Indian king of divine birth, eminent for his piety and beneficence, whose story seems evidently to be that of Noah disguised by Asiatick fiction’.79 Such flirtation with idolatrous fiction, however, can set up moments of indeterminacy and undecidability in Jones’s text. His essay entitled ‘On the Mystical Poetry of the Persians and Hindus’ has for its object ‘a singular species of poetry, which consists almost wholly of a mystical religious allegory, though it seems on a transient view to contain only the sentiments of wild and voluptuous libertinism’. In approaching such poetry, although ‘the limits between vice and enthusiasm are so minute as to be hardly distinguishable, we must beware of censuring it severely, and must allow it to be natural, though a warm imagination may carry it to a culpable excess’.80 The ‘warm imagination’ of Asiatic poetry, which is capable of giving over into ‘culpable excess’ and which like idolatry blurs the line between the sensual and sacred, is marked by Jones as a civilisational trait. In his second discourse to the Asiatic Society on its second anniversary, Jones made the proclamation that ‘reason and taste are the grand prerogatives of European minds, while the Asiaticks have soared to loftier heights in the sphere of imagination’. Europeans alone ‘seek nothing but truth unadorned by rhetorick’.81 Jones also makes explicit the political correlates of the epistemic relationship he postulates between Europe and Asia: Though we cannot agree with the sage preceptor of [Alexander the Great], that the ‘Asiaticks are born to be slaves’, yet the Athenian poet seems perfectly in the right, when he represents Europe as a sovereign Princess, and Asia as her Handmaid.82 Besides projecting unequal epistemic relations between Europe and Asia onto a political terrain, such a reference to classical precedent also dehistoricises and naturalises that relationship. As with Mill, Europe is assigned the place of logos, and logocentrism is played out within the space of ethnocentrism. Mill’s axiomatics of imperialism thus treads well-worn ground; he reinscribes oppositions which were already firmly in place. The hyperactive Asian imagination can be a source of idolatry. As Jones observes: ‘Gods of all shapes and dimensions may be framed by the

Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image 33 boundless powers of imagination.’83 As we have seen, however, idolatrous fables have some value for Jones in establishing divine truth. This procedure may have its dangers if the correspondences appear too close. Thus, Jones baulks at equating the Christian trinity with the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, as had been proposed: One or two missionaries have been absurd enough, in their zeal for the conversion of the Gentiles, to urge, ‘that the Hindus were even now almost Christians, because their Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesa [another name for Shiva], were no other than the Christian Trinity’; a sentence, in which we can only doubt, whether folly, ignorance, or impiety predominates. The three powers, Creative, Preservative, and Destructive, which the Hindus express by the triliteral word OM, were grossly ascribed by the first idolaters to the heat, light, and flame of their mistaken divinity, the sun. . . . The tenet of our Church cannot without profaneness be compared with that of the Hindus, which has only an apparent resemblance to it, but a very different meaning.84 This passage highlights the anxieties present in Jones’s rhetoric, in that it permits reversible readings and shows up tendencies towards idolatry and polytheism within Christianity itself. The notion of the Trinity, for example, comes close to fracturing monotheism, with its suggestions of a triple divinity governing the universe. Plato’s simile of the sun has its resonance within Christianity, in which the sun, begotten by the Good in its own likeness, becomes Christ, begotten by God in His likeness. Sun worship by idolaters could be likened to son worship, or the adoration of Christ as God’s son by Christians. Jones encounters this very situation in a confrontation with a Muslim theologian at Madeira, who accused Christians of blasphemy in calling ‘our Saviour’ the son of God. Jones’s reply to this charge bears examination: The commentator was much to blame for passing so indiscriminate and hasty a censure; the title . . . which gives you such offence, was often applied in Judea by a bold figure, agreeably to the Hebrew idiom, though unusual in Arabic, to angels, to holy men, and even to all mankind, who are commanded to call God their father; and in this large sense, the Apostle to the Romans calls the elect the children of God, and the Messiah the first born among many brethren; but the words only begotten are applied transcendently and incomparably to him alone; and as for me, who believe the Scriptures which you also profess to believe, though you assert without proof that we have altered them,

34  Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image I cannot refuse him an appellation, though far surpassing our reason, by which he is distinguished in the Gospel.85 The turns in this passage are revealing and call for analysis. In it appear many of the motifs involved in the discourse on idolatry. According to Jones, the phrase ‘son of God’ is poetic figure, metaphor, which he elsewhere identifies as a source for idolatry. This metaphor does not bear up well to being translated into Arabic, which underscores its contingent status; translatio is the Latin equivalent to the Greek metapherein, meaning ‘to transfer’ and signalling here the vulnerable transfer of meaning from one signifier to another.86 Interestingly, Jones does not extend this principle of charity to translations from Sanskrit into English, where he assumes that language is simply transparent.87 Jones had explained correspondences between Christianity and Hinduism by attributing them to the circulation in India of a falsified version of the Gospels.88 The motif is inverted here, with the Gospels returning as a corrupted copy of Islam, which has the true revelation. Jones responds to this imputation by abruptly suspending the contingency of metaphor: the phrase ‘only begotten’ now bears an incomparably transcendent reference, far surpassing reason. The only justification for such a title is its appearance in the Gospels; here Jones falls back on a straightforward assertion of faith.

VI  James Mill: idolatry at the origin Mill perceived some of the aporias present in the discourse of Jones and the Orientalists. He cited the Orientalists themselves to show that even the most ancient and originary Hindu texts contained idolatrous notions; there was thus never a nonidolatrous origin. We have seen how Jones assimilated the gayatri mantra to a nonidolatrous monotheistic model through his translation of it; Mill, however, points out the discrepancy between Colebrooke’s and Jones’s translations of the gayatri mantra and cites Colebrooke on this and similar passages of ancient Hindu scripture: ‘The ancient Hindu religion, as founded on the Indian scriptures, recognizes but one God, yet not sufficiently discriminating the creature from the Creator [Mill’s italics].’ Confusing creation with the Creator is of course the grand error of idolatry: the visible object is merely the creation, whereas the Creator is invisible.89 Mill uses this citation to press home his critique of previous Indological work: This is an important admission, from one of the most illustrious advocates of the sublimity of the Hindu religion. Had he reflected for one moment, he would have seen that between not sufficiently, and not-atall, in this case, there can be no distinction [Mill’s italics].90

Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image 35 Mill’s italics emphasise that there is no such thing as part idolatry; the divide between idolatry and monotheism is an absolute one. He did not credit Colebrooke’s idea that Hinduism was originally monotheistic. Even when mention of a singular deity appears, this is merely a mode of flattery, a means of exalting one’s patron deity over other existing deities.91 Having identified idolatry at Hinduism’s origin, Mill also attacked the hermeneutic principle favoured by Jones, of proving Christian revelation by correspondences in Hindu fable: ‘As [interpreters of pagan mythology] translated an arbitrary cipher, they could extract from any fable any sense which was adapted from their favourite system of religion and philosophy.’92 Mill suspected that Jones ‘fastens a theory of his own creation upon the vague and unmeaning jargon which [Brahmins] delivered to him’.93 Mill insisted on a rigorous separation of truth and fable: philosophy’s drive to unify is fundamentally at odds with narrative’s polysemy and mythology’s multiplicity. His characterisation of pagan mythology as an ‘arbitrary cipher’ is close to the traditional Christian view of an idol as the very limit of representation, a signifier that is ‘no-thing’.94 In medieval Christian tradition, idols literally spoke nonsense, which ‘obfuscates and blurs the direct referentiality of things to their meanings, the social and divine contract of human language, and in a sense is a paradigm for idolatrous representation that likewise severs signifier from signified’.95 Mill subscribed to Enlightenment notions of a distinctive primitive mentality, which erected gods and goddesses and worshipped them driven by fear of the forces of nature.96 Idolatry dated from the beginning of time; with Mill, myths of regress into idolatry began to be replaced by myths of progress from idolatry. Indian civilisation was not decaying but static and unchanging; it was stuck in an idolatrous time warp.97 One no longer spoke, as in Jones, an idiom of ‘discovery’ or ‘restoration’ but of moving from darkness to light. One dispensed as well with myths of a Hindu golden age.98 Frank Manuel describes the psychologising of religious experience in the historical context of the primitive world as one of the great intellectual revolutions of the Enlightenment era.99 This intellectual revolution lies between Jones and Colebrooke on the one hand, and Mill on the other. The intellectual revolution that Mill proposes has been emphasised in Javed Majeed’s study of Mill, titled Ungoverned Imaginings: James Mill’s The History of British India and Orientalism. Majeed lays stress on Mill’s philosophic radicalism and his difference from Jones and the early Orientalists, and disputes the status of Mill’s History as a hegemonic text of imperialism, even though in Majeed’s own words: ‘The History became a standard work for East India Company officials, and eventually a textbook for candidates for the Indian civil service. It was also the official textbook of the Company’s college at Haileybury.’100

36  Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image Majeed argues that Mill’s purpose was to attack the powerfully dominant ideology of British society at the time and his History used British India as a matrix to do so. In its attack it defined a secular language in which cultures could be compared and contrasted, as well as criticized.101 However, even if one were inclined to grant Majeed’s dubious premise that the History was primarily an attack on British society, the political and discursive relations which allowed British India to become an ideal matrix for the criticism of British society are not addressed by Majeed.102 The ‘secular’ language that Mill elaborated to compare and criticise cultures was that of ‘utility’. However, utility can only be assessed relative to certain ends, which have normative cultural standards built into them. In Mill’s case, many of these standards were theological, as we will see.

VII  The scattering of God’s seed The intellectual revolution proposed by Mill is in practice a limited one. On theological matters, Mill argued that ‘just and rational views of God can be obtained from two sources alone: from revelation, or, where that is wanting, from sound reflection upon the frame and government of the universe [italics mine]’.103 Mill’s primary criterion is thus revelation or a straightforward knowing through faith, as when Jones in debate with a Muslim theologian cited revealed scripture as sufficient authority for the phrase ‘only begotten son of God’. Rational reflection, Mill’s secondary source for a knowledge of God, is meant to reveal the universe as modelled on a machine, suggested by Mill’s phrase ‘frame and government of the universe’. What rational reflection outlaws is representation of the universe on the model of an organism, and of its creation on the model of biological reproduction if a description of the creation presents no idea but what is fantastic, wild and irrational; if it includes not even a portion of that design and contrivance which appear in the ordinary works of man; if it carries the common analogies of production, in animal and vegetable life, to the production of the universe, we cannot be mistaken in ascribing it to a people whose ideas of the Divine Being were grovelling.104 Mill thus subscribes to the Christian logocentric model of creation through mental intention and verbal utterance. God may be thought of in this model as a kind of supra-Cartesian subject: ‘I think, therefore the world is.’ Hinduism, by contrast, models creation on sexual reproduction:

Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image 37 ‘the Hindu could picture to himself the production of a human being, even by the Deity, only in the way of a species of birth’.105 At this point, we encounter one of Mill’s own aporias. Hinduism is criticised for its anthropomorphism in modelling creation on sexual reproduction; yet, Mill’s own favoured model of God-as-devisor-of-theuniverse-as-machine does not escape either metaphoricity or anthropomorphism. If idolatrous error is the result of man creating the world (or God) in his own image, Mill’s more ‘sublime’ conception makes over God in the image of industrial rather than agricultural man. For clues to why Mill considers Hindu cosmology to be ‘grovelling’, we need to turn to anterior Judeo-Christian discourse on idolatry. The discourse on the idol has a sexual dimension. Idolatry may have a sexual motivation and be a cover for sexual permissiveness; the appeal of idolatry may lie in the erotic temptation of idolatry itself, or the lifestyle accompanying it.106 Idolatry is described as something brought in especially by gentile women who married Israelites.107 Idolatry is analogous to whoring.108 It is also related to sodomy, homosexuality and sexual perversion.109 St. Augustine’s epigraph at the head of this chapter demonstrates that the association of idolatry with sexual transgression is not accidental but internal to the logic of the Christian sign.110 St. Augustine equates the letter or signifier with flesh; the ‘habit of taking signs for things’ is a carnal error, since it subjects the spirit to the materiality of the signifier as flesh. This carnal error, which affects understanding and reason, makes men descend to the level of beasts. All these themes recur in Mill’s discourse on India. Hindu religious observance preserves according to Mill the primacy of the signifier; it stresses ‘outward’ rituals and ceremonies to the detriment of ‘inward’ belief and morality: On all occasions ceremonies meet the attention as the pre-eminent duties of the Hindu. The holiest man is always he, by whom the ceremonies of his religion are most strictly performed. Never among any other people did the ceremonial part of religion prevail over the moral to a greater, probably to an equal extent. . . . Many positive declarations ascribe infinite superiority, to rites and ceremonies, above morality.111 As a mark of mediation by the material sign, ‘the visible agency of the Deity is peculiarly required’ by Hinduism.112 Mill proffers an instance of such mediation, in which the maids of Vraja encounter Krishna in the flesh: With a garland of wild flowers, descending even to the yellow mantle that girds his azure limbs, distinguished by smiling cheeks, and by earrings that sparkle as he plays, Hari [or Krishna] exults in the assemblage

38  Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image of amorous damsels. One of them presses him with her swelling breast, while she warbles with exquisite melody. Another, affected by a glance from his eye, stands meditating on the lotos of his face. A third, on pretence of whispering a secret in his ear, approaches his temples and kisses them with ardour. One seizes his mantle, and draws him towards her, pointing to the bower on the banks of Yamuna, where elegant vanjulas interweave their branches. He applauds another who dances in the sportive circle, whilst her bracelets ring, as she beats time with her palms. Now he caresses one, and kisses another, smiling on a third with complacency; and now he chases her whose beauty has most allured him. Thus the wanton Hari frolics, in the season of sweets, among the maids of Vraja, who rush to his embraces, as if he were pleasure itself assuming a human form; and one of them, under a pretext of hymning his divine perfections, whispers in his ear: Thy lips, my beloved, are nectar.113 There is a crossing of the languages of religion and eroticism in this passage, where Krishna’s essence is mediated to his worshippers by his physical appearance and the lust he arouses among the ‘amorous damsels’ of Vraja. Krishna has the miraculous ability to project an image of himself to each of his myriad lovers, and thus satisfy them simultaneously.114 Here lust and the image that arouses lust become the medium of worship, a play on the conventional biblical portrayal of idolatry as a cover for sexual license and lust. Mill is harsher on such manifestations and epiphanies of Eastern religion than Jones: It may be matter of controversy to what degree the indecent objects employed in the Hindu worship imply depravity of manners; but a religion which subjects to the eyes of its votaries the grossest images of sensual pleasure, and renders even the emblems of generation objects of worship; which ascribes to the supreme God an immense train of obscene acts; which has these engraved on the sacred cars, portrayed in the temples, and presented to the people as objects of adoration, which pays worship to the Yoni, and the Lingam, cannot be regarded as favourable to chastity.115 Idols in Gothic iconography are nearly always depicted nude, sometimes with enlarged genitals, betokening a ‘diabolization of desire’ in the Christian tradition.116 Michael Camille has argued that ‘the rejection of the body in Christian art – an absolute reversal from the aesthetic standards of the ancient world – is one of the most crucial transformations in the history of

Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image 39 Western art.’117 Hindu images do not partake of this ‘rejection of the body’ and Hindu gods and goddesses are often depicted naked, thus seeming to correspond with the idols of Christian tradition. Controlled by the perspectives of Christian religious representation, Mill, who had once been a preacher, labels Hindu stories and emblems as gross and monstrous.118 Hinduism’s carnality orients it towards perverse sexual practice, and Mill has Hindu women perform a kind of fellatio with naked holy men: ‘Naked fakirs . . . swarm around the principal temples. It is customary for the women to kiss, and as it were to adore, their secret, or rather, public parts.’119 Mill cites the missionary William Ward as evidence that ‘the intercourse of the sexes approaches very near to that of the irrational animals’ among Hindus.120 Promiscuity and sexual perversion are not only practised by Hindus but also projected on to their gods and goddesses. Thus, Krishna consorts simultaneously with the many married milkmaids of Vraja. Brahma harbours incestuous desires: ‘Even Brahma, finding himself alone with his daughter, who was full of charms and knowledge, conceived for her a criminal passion.’121 Lust is taken to be so universal within Hinduism that it is set up as the principle of creation itself. Thus, Mill cites a traditional Hindu cosmogony as set out in the Institutes of Manu: ‘ “The self-existing power”, says Manu, “having willed to produce various beings, first with a thought created the waters”. This is not a despicable conception: but what succeeds? “He placed in those waters a productive seed” ’.122 This spilling of divine seed, not always equally productive, marks out Hinduism from a ‘sublime’ monotheism. Even where Hinduism provides indications of being monotheistic, as when Brahma is addressed as the ‘Single Being’ and ‘ONE God’, his incestuous desire makes him fall short of ‘high and noble ideas of the creating power’.123 God’s scattering of seed subjects the Hindu word and Hindu discourse to the force of dissemination. They are placed outside logos, and seen as playing themselves out at the very limit of subjectivity. Thus, Mill characterises Hindu discourse as ‘incoherence, inconsistency, confusion . . . discourse without ideas’. This characterisation runs obsessively through Mill’s text.124 This idolatrous form of subjectivity is opposed to the Judeo-Christian God, who represents the ideal Cartesian subject fully present to itself: How infinitely removed is [the Hindu conception of divinity] from the sublime conception which we entertain of the Divine Being; to whose thoughts all his works past, present, and to come, and every thing in the universe from eternity to eternity, are present always, essentially, perfectly, in all their parts, properties, and relations!125

40  Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image The world displays itself to the omniscient gaze of the Judeo-Christian God as a succession of Platonic Ideal Forms. By contrast, Hindu deities are prone to becoming and sexuality. Derrida has suggested that dissemination and the scattering of seed/meaning might inscribe a different law governing effects of sense or reference . . . a different relation between writing, in the metaphysical sense of the word, and its ‘outside’. . . . The space of dissemination does not merely place the plural in effervescence; it shakes up an endless contradiction, marked out by the undecidable syntax of more.126 Mill sets out a theory of language which rigorously excludes dissemination: ‘The highest merit of language would consist in having one name for every thing which required a name, and no more than one. Redundancy is a defect in language, not less than deficiency.’127 In Mill’s conception, things exist as an ‘outside’ to names and to language, whereas Derrida raises the problem of what happens when things become names, and names things. This problem arises in a radical way in the sphere of theology, where we know gods exclusively by their names.128 In a manner analogous to Jones, the genesis of the world from a seed rather than an idea conjures up for Mill the spectre of materialism. Mill compares the views of creation in the Old Testament and Institutes of Manu as follows: The coincidence appears in the chaotic description here applied to the earth; the discrepancy consists in this, that the Jewish legislator informs us of the previous creation of the shapeless mass, the Hindu legislator describes it as antecedent to all creation. This chaos, this universe, then, in its dark, imperceptible, undefinable state, existed, according to Manu, antecedent to creation. This too was the idea of the Greeks and Romans, who thence believed in the eternity of matter. . . . It appears, indeed, that [Hindus] were unable to make any clear distinction between matter and spirit, but rather considered the latter to be some extraordinary refinement of the former. Thus even the Divine Being, though they called him soul, and spirit, they certainly regarded as material.129 The ‘Divine Being . . . regarded as material’ is of course a formula for idolatry, which emerges again as the heart of the matter, or perhaps the matter at the heart of the matter. The notion of the eternity of matter, its existence prior to being shaped by logos, is according to Mill what distinguishes pagan from Christian/

Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image 41 monotheistic views of the universe. It is also, one might note, disturbing to logocentrism. Derrida speaks of a notion of materialism according to which matter is another name for ‘absolute exterior or radical heterogeneity’.130 He wishes ‘to apply the name “matter” to that which lies outside all classical oppositions’.131 The idolatrous notion of a material chaos antecedent to creation, which resembles Saussure’s characterisation of thought prior to language, converges as well with Derrida’s thinking of matter as radical heterogeneity, an absolute exterior to logos.132 The Hindu view of the Divine Being falls outside the classical opposition of matter and spirit, and could in fact conceive spirit to be ‘some extraordinary refinement of [matter]’. Such a transgression is equally unpalatable to the classicising Jones and the modernising Mill, both of whom subscribe to similar views of language as referential rather than differential.133 Jones’s reputation of having ‘discovered’ India and the Orient does not satisfactorily account for the unsettling character, ambiguous elements and aporias present in Jones’s encounter with Oriental texts. His bewilderment at the Sufi poetry of Hafiz, which he considers an exemplar of Asian mystical poetry, impressively registers this ambiguity. In Hafiz’s poetry, some of the verities and classical oppositions of ‘Western metaphysics’ are vertiginously deconstructed: Many zealous admirers of HA’FIZ insist, that by wine he invariably means devotion; and they have gone so far as to compose a dictionary of words in the language, as they call it, of the Sufis: in that vocabulary sleep is explained by meditation on the divine perfections, and perfume by hope of the divine favour; gales are illapses of grace; kisses and embraces, the raptures of piety; idolaters, infidels and libertines are men of the purest religion, and their idol is the Creator himself; the tavern is a retired oratory, and its keeper, a sage instructor; beauty denotes the perfection of the Supreme Being; tresses are the expansion of his glory; lips, the hidden mysteries of his essence; down on the cheek, the world of spirits, who encircle his throne; and a black mole, the point of indivisible unity; lastly, wantonness, mirth and ebriety, mean religious ardour and abstraction from all terrestrial thoughts. The poet himself gives a colour in many passages to such an interpretation; and without it, we can hardly conceive, that his poems, or those of his numerous imitators, would be tolerated in a Muselman country, especially at Constantinople, where they are venerated as divine compositions: it must be admitted, that the sublimity of the mystical allegory, which, like metaphors and comparisons, should be general only, not minutely exact, is diminished, if not destroyed, by an attempt at particular and

42  Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image distinct resemblances, and that the style itself is open to dangerous misinterpretation, while it supplies real infidels with a pretext for laughing at religion itself.134 In a manner analogous to the legends of Krishna, metaphors drawn from the realm of the sensory and erotic invade the sacred. Sufi poetry may refer the qualities of the Supreme Being to features on a lover’s body. Jones, according to whom ‘most of the Asiatick poets are of that religion [of the Sufis]’, experiences this as profoundly unsettling.135 He wonders that such poetry is not just tolerated but sometimes venerated in Muslim societies such as Ottoman Turkey. Unable to draw the line between religious enthusiasm and vice in such poetry, Jones hesitates between approval and denunciation. While a degree of sublimity may be attributed to such compositions, they are dangerously liable to misinterpretation. While a detailed explanation of analogues and resemblances in Sufi poetry is necessary for it to find acceptance in Muslim countries, the same procedure paradoxically detracts from its sublimity and renders it a potential tool in the hands of enemies of religion. While the sensory and erotic may be read off in terms of the sacred, this protocol of reading is reversible: the sacred too may be read in terms of the erotic, providing ‘infidels with a pretext for laughing at religion’. Such protocols introduce a dangerous ambiguity into Sufi (and Asiatic) poetry, unlike that of Spenser who ‘has distinguished his four Odes on Love and Beauty, instead of mixing the profane with the divine’.136 These ambiguities are expressed in relation to not only Oriental texts but also elements of physical landscape, as we had seen earlier in Jones’s experience of the Indian sun. Chandra Mukerji has extended J.H. Elliott’s observations, on the European encounter with the New World as a revolutionary encounter with new physical realities, to apply as well to the discovery and exploration of Asia and Africa. More than the encounter with new metaphysical or intellectual systems, exposure to the natural wonders and artefacts of these newly discovered continents produced a crisis of meaning in Europe.137 For a scholar and intellectual like Jones, the crisis arose at both levels: in terms of his encounter with an ‘other’ landscape as well as texts, knowledges, languages and metaphysical systems that were foreign. Jones’s description of his voyage to India in his discourse founding the Asiatic Society captures this sense of newness, of novel physical objects, artefacts, social and intellectual systems waiting to be discovered: I found one evening, on inspecting the observations of the day, that India lay before us, and Persia on our left, whilst a breeze from Arabia

Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image 43 blew nearly on our stern. . . . It gave me inexpressible pleasure to find myself in the midst of so noble an amphitheatre, almost encircled by the vast regions of Asia, which has been esteemed the nurse of sciences, fertile in the productions of human genius, abounding in natural wonders, and infinitely diversified in the forms of religion and government, in the laws, manners, customs, and languages, as well as in the features and complexions of men. I could not help remarking, how important and extensive a field was yet unexplored, and how many solid advantages unimproved.138 By the time Mill began to write his History of British India, however, the emphases of the colonial state, and together with it the intentions and purposes of scholarly activity, had begun to alter. The ambiguities of the encounter with India’s landscape and peoples were sought to be controlled by means of a cognitive mapping that excluded physical, sensory experience and its attendant sense of newness. This transformation in the nature of the colonial government also marks the intellectual distance from Jones to Mill.

VIII  Conclusion: polytheism, philosophy and the state Subsequent to Jones’s death, the British presence in India had undergone a transformation from a regime of trade and plunder to the setting up of a unitary centralised state with long-term imperial goals. C.A. Bayly has shown how the period of Richard Wellesley’s governor-generalship (1798– 1805) was instrumental in this transition, which ‘finally forged a European military despotism out of the loose congeries of independent mercantile corporations and creole armies which it had been in Hastings’s time’.139 Wellesley felt the need for a college that would provide training for East India Company servants and turn them into functionaries of the new colonial state. The college would ensure that their early habits should be so formed, as to establish in their minds such solid foundations of industry, prudence, integrity and religion, as should effectually guard them against those temptations, with which the nature of this climate, and peculiar depravity of the people of India, will surround and assail them in every station, especially upon their first arrival in India.140 For this purpose, Wellesley set up the Fort William College in Calcutta in 1800. Although this college did not function as initially planned for long,

44  Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image the Haileybury College was set up on the same principles and with a similar curriculum in 1805, around the time that Mill began writing his History.141 After it was published, it became ‘required reading’ at Haileybury College.142 Mill’s History diffracts the new emphases of the colonial state. It is an effort to re-centre colonial knowledge of India by effacing its newness and controlling its ambiguities. Adam and Eve were beguiled by the senses and sinned through sight and taste. The Carolingian theologian Hincmar of Reims ruled that diverse varieties of idolatry all had the following feature in common: the eyes do not see the reality veiled within appearances.143 Continuing a long metaphysical tradition, John Locke claimed that idolatry was the consequence of a natural human tendency to fall back and rest upon ordinary sensible objects and images.144 Wellesley wanted to ensure that fresh East India Company servants acquire a knowledge of India that would counteract their physical experience of it. Mill’s History is also a diatribe against images and impressions received through the senses, as well as against the (imag)ination thought of as peculiarly susceptible to such influences. If Jones had envisaged imaginative Asia as a ‘handmaid’ of rational Europe, Mill turns imagination itself into an idol, a demoness meant to be proscribed by reason.145 Mill imitates Plato’s gesture of exiling poets, who traffic in eidolons and hence deviate from the truth. Plato worried that poets, through their circulation of eidolons, weakened the spirit of reason and the state by arousing passion.146 For Mill, as we will see, the preponderance of idolatry and the imaginative faculty among Hindus explained their inability to form a nation-state; they could not but be governed by a foreign power. Mill’s discourse assimilates India as body, as recalcitrant matter not amenable to being shaped by ideas. India is ‘a body of statements, given indiscriminately as matters of fact, ascertained by the senses . . . [an] assemblage of heterogeneous things’. Mill positions himself relative to India as knowing philosophical subject, bent on ‘extracting and ordering the dispersed and confused materials’ in order to constitute a ‘knowledge of India, once for all’.147 Mill’s History won him the job of assistant examiner of the East India Company’s correspondence to India in 1819, from which he succeeded to chief examiner in 1830. The post of chief examiner placed him at the very centre of power, and he got his chance at playing philosopher-king: It is the very essence of the internal government of 60 millions of people with whom I have to deal; and as you know the government of India is carried on by correspondence; and that I am the only man whose business it is, or who has the time to make himself master of the facts scattered in a most voluminous correspondence, on which a just

Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image 45 decision must rest, you will conceive to what an extent the real decision on matters belonging to my department rests with the man who is in my situation.148 Thus, Mill becomes, in his self-description, literally the eye of power. The Government of India, carried on by correspondence, is conceived here as pure information archive into which India as matter has already been mastered and transcribed, an immense retrieval and transmission system which inscribes a bloodless, bodiless logos of empire.149 This logos excludes materiality in the sense of radical exteriority and irreducible excess, much as in the Christian view of creation matter does not exist prior to logos but is willed by logos. Imagination, where materiality appears in the form of the floating signifier not yet tethered to a specific signified and thus a potential source of newness, is viewed as a threat within both Christian and imperial logocentrism. The triumph of the unitary colonial state represents a triumph of spirit, over India as recalcitrant matter and irrational imagination. Mill, as master of the logos of empire, is placed in the position of key decision maker. It is entirely symptomatic of this regime of spirit and of empire as information archive that Mill, who never visited India or knew any Indian language, found himself at the very centre of power. Since very few can access the whole archive or possess spirit and philosophical reason of this kind, it follows that the Government of India is an elite business, to be concentrated in the hands of very few. Since Hindu myths and legends cannot be ordered in terms of a few supreme concepts and unconditioned causa sui principles, subjectivities that harbour such polymorphous signification fall outside both philosophy and monotheism. One of the consequences of Hindus’ frame of mind is, according to Mill, the inability to form a nation-state: Of all the results of civilisation, that of forming a combination of different states, and directing their powers to one common object, seems to be one of the least consistent with the mental habits and attainments of the Hindus. It is the want of this power of combination which has rendered India so easy a conquest to all invaders; and enables us to retain, so easily, that dominion over it which we have acquired.150 Even in the sphere of state formation, it would appear, Hindus are unable to rise above their idolatrous subjectivities to the level of the idea; only monotheism provides a satisfactory template for the nation-state. For this reason, Mill argues that the Hindus were subjugated not only by the British, but also by Muslims (another monotheistic power).151

46  Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image Mill’s denunciation of Hindu polytheism and discounting of Hindu monotheism thus makes Hindus responsible for their own subjugation, and clears the way for the unitary colonial state. In doing so, the earlier theological view of Hindu gods as demons were transformed by Mill into figures of frightful psychological irrationality and social pathology, which guaranteed a misguided and miscreating society unless reformed through external invasion and conquest. Mill’s History unfolds a Manichean fable of Indian society, a fable whose emancipation from theology is questionable. The status of this text as a standard work for East India Company officials and candidates for the Indian Civil Service attests to its importance in framing imperial subjectivities. Mill had edged out Jones as the knowing subject of the East India Company.

Notes 1 See Kenneth Gross, Spenserian Poetics: Idolatry, Iconoclasm and Magic, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985, p. 27. 2 Abbé J.A. Dubois, Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies, trans. from French by H.K. Beauchamp, 1905; repr., Delhi: Rupa & Co., 1992, p. 624. 3 For an amplification of this argument, see Moshe Halbertal and Avishai Margalit, Idolatry, trans. from Hebrew by Naomi Goldblum, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992, pp. 133–4. Halbertal and Margalit compare the syllogism on which the search for a final cause is based to the following (fallacious) syllogism: because every girl is loved by a boy, there must be one boy who loves all the girls. 4 On subject constitution through the mirroring of an absolute Other Subject, see Louis Althusser, ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes Towards an Investigation)’, Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, trans. from French by Ben Brewster, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971, pp. 177–83. 5 James Mill, The History of British India, 3 vols, 1817; repr., New Delhi: Associated Publishing House, 1990, vol. 1, p. 10. 6 Ibid., pp. 7–8. 7 Ibid., p. 27. 8 Ibid., p. 7. 9 Jacques Derrida, ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’, Dissemination, trans. from French by Barbara Johnson, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981, p. 86. 10 Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. from French by G.C. Spivak, 1976; repr., Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1994, p. 3. On the alignment between Derrida’s reading of Western metaphysics and a critique of Eurocentrism, see Robert Young, White Mythologies: Writing History and the West, New York: Routledge, 1990, pp. 17–19. 11 Mill, History of British India, vol. 1, p. 4. 12 ‘If philosophers have the capacity to grasp the eternal and immutable, while those who have no such capacity and are not philosophers and are lost in multiplicity and change, which of the two should be in charge of a state? . . .

Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image 47 It would be absurd not to choose the philosophers’ (Plato, The Republic, trans. from Greek by Desmond Lee, London: Penguin, 1987, pp. 276–7). For the general argument, see ‘The Philosopher Ruler’, chapter 7 in ibid., pp. 260–325. 13 Ibid., p. 289. 14 Mill, History of British India, vol. 1, p. 3. 15 Ibid., p. 9. 16 Ibid., p. 3. 17 Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, Life and Writings of Turgot: Comptroller-general of France 1774–76, ed. and trans. from French by W. Walker Stephens, New York: Burt Franklin, 1895, pp. 160–1. 18 Mill, History of British India, vol. 1, p. 452. 19 John Stuart Mill, Autobiography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971, p. 30. 20 See Eric Stokes, The English Utilitarians and India, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1959, pp. 62–8; Jack Lively and John Rees (eds), Utilitarian Logic and Politics, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978, pp. 49–50. 21 See S.N. Mukherjee, Sir William Jones: A Study in Eighteenth-Century British Attitudes to India, Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 1987, pp. 1–4, 117– 21; also see Jenny Sharpe, ‘The Violence of Light in the Land of Desire; or, How William Jones Discovered India’, Boundary 2 vol. 20, no. 1, Spring 1993, pp. 26–46. Cf. also Jones’s own statement: ‘I read and write Sanskrit with ease, and speak it fluently to the Brahmans, who consider me as a Pandit; but I am now only gathering flowers: the fruit of my Indian studies will be a complete Digest of Law . . . my translation of which will, I trust, be the standard of justice to eight millions of innocent and useful men, so long as Britain shall possess this wonderful kingdom’ (Garland Cannon (ed.), The Letters of Sir William Jones, 2 vols, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970, 19 September 1788, vol. 2, p. 813). 22 William Jones, ‘A Hymn to Lacshmi’, in Lord Teignmouth (ed.), The Works of William Jones, 13 vols, 1799; repr., Delhi: Agam Prakashan, 1977, vol. 13, p. 290. 23 Jones, Letters, 4–30 August 1787, vol. 2, p. 749. 24 1 Corinthians 13:12. 25 See Plato, ‘Phaedo’, Dialogues of Plato, trans. from Greek by Benjamin Jowett, New York: Washington Square Press, 1950, pp. 132–3. For Jones’s reputation as a classics scholar, see Mukherjee, Sir William Jones, pp. 19–24; also see Peter Marshall, ‘Introduction’, in Peter Marshall (ed.), The British Discovery of Hinduism in the 18th Century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970, p. 14. 26 Letter to George Hardynge, 24 September 1788, in John Shore, Memoirs of the Life and Correspondence of Baron Teignmouth, by His Son (Charles Shore), 2 vols, London: Hatchard & Son, 1843, vol. 1, p. 320. 27 Mukherjee, Sir William Jones, p. 111. 28 Jones, ‘A Hymn to Lacshmi’, Works, vol. 13, p. 298. 29 Jones describes the Orientalist philosophy of governance as follows: ‘the British residents in India be protected, yet governed, by British laws; and . . . the natives of these important provinces be indulged in their own prejudices, civil and religious, and suffered to enjoy their own customs unmolested; and why these great ends may not now be attained, consistently with the regular collection of revenue and the supremacy of the executive

48  Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image government, I confess myself unable to discover’. (Jones, ‘Charge to the Grand Jury’, 4 December 1783, Works, vol. 7, p. 4; italics mine). 30 For a positive evaluation of this Orientalist mode of governance advocated by Jones, see David Kopf, ‘Orientalist in Search of a Golden Age’, British Orientalism and Bengal Renaissance, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969, pp. 22–42. For a negative evaluation, see Javed Majeed, ‘Sir William Jones’, in Ungoverned Imaginings: James Mill’s History of British India and Orientalism, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992, pp. 11–46 and Sharpe, ‘The Violence of Light in the Land of Desire’. 31 Sibadas Chaudhuri (ed.), Proceedings of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta: The Asiatic Society, 1980, p. 49. 32 See Marshall, ‘Introduction’, British Discovery of Hinduism, p. 22 and Frank E. Manuel, The Eighteenth Century Confronts the Gods, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959, p. 129. 33 See Rosane Rocher, ‘British Orientalism in the Eighteenth Century’, in C.A. Breckenridge and P. van der Veer (eds), Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1994, pp. 234–8. 34 Jones, Letters, late September 1785, vol. 2, p. 686. 35 Ibid., 24 October 1786, pp. 720–1. 36 Rocher, ‘British Orientalism in the Eighteenth Century’, Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament, p. 237. 37 See Derrida, Dissemination, pp. 142–55. 38 Jones, ‘On the Gods of Greece, Italy and India’, British Discovery of Hinduism, p. 209. 39 Kate Teltscher, India Inscribed: European and British Writing on India 1600–1800, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995, p. 196. 40 Jones, ‘Institutes of Hindu Law’, Works, vol. 7, p. 88. 41 See J.D.M. Derrett, Religion, Law and the State in India, London: Faber & Faber, 1968, pp. 247–8. 42 Jones, ‘Charge to the Grand Jury’, 10 June 1787, Works, vol. 7, p. 29. 43 Ibid., 4 December 1783, pp. 33–4. 44 ‘The Armenian, whom I mentioned under the head of perjury, being also charged with having forged the bond, to the due execution of which he positively swore . . . the great question again arises, whether the modern statute, which makes forgery capital, extend, or not, to these Indian territories. On the fullest consideration, I think the negative supported by stronger reasons than the affirmative. . . . Nevertheless, I still think the question debatable’ (ibid., 4 December 1783, p. 43). 45 For a fuller account of Nandakumar’s sentencing and execution, see Mill, History of British India, vol. 2, pp. 561–6. Mill, who was hardly friendly towards Indians, had this to say regarding the procedures adopted for the sentencing: ‘But that all regard to decorum, to the character of the English government, to substantial justice, to the prevention of misrule, and the detection of ministerial crimes, was sacrificed to personal interests, and personal passions, the impartial inquirer cannot hesitate to pronounce’ (ibid., p. 566). 46 For a history of readings of the Ezourvedam and the controversy surrounding it, see Ludo Rocher’s introduction to his edition of Ezourvedam: A French Veda of the Eighteenth Century, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Co., 1984, pp. 4–73. 47 Ibid., p. 7.

Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image 49 8 Ibid., pp. 60, 72–3. 4 49 The Chumantou/Biach opposition corresponds to the one that Friedrich Nietzsche formulated between Plato and Homer: ‘Plato versus Homer: that is the complete, the true antagonism.’ Nietzsche’s sympathies, however, are ranged on the side of the fabulist rather than the metaphysician: ‘on the one side, the wholehearted “transcendental”, the great defamer of life; on the other, its involuntary panegyrist, the golden nature’. See Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘ “The Genealogy of Morals” III: 25’, The Philosophy of Nietzsche, New York: The Modern Library, 1954, p. 783. 50 Julius Richter, cited in Rocher, Ezourvedam: A French Veda, p. 25. 51 Wilhelm Halbfass, India and Europe: An Essay in Understanding, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998, p. 48. See also Kate Teltscher, India Inscribed: European and British Writing on India 1600–1800, Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp. 91–2. 52 William Hodge Mill, cited in Rocher, Ezourvedam: A French Veda, p. 26. 53 Voltaire, cited in Halbfass, India and Europe, p. 58. 54 Voltaire, cited in Rocher, Ezourvedam: A French Veda, p. 6. 55 See Dorothy M. Figueira, ‘The Authority of an Absent Text: The Veda, Upangas, Upavedas and Upnekhata in European Thought’, in Laurie L. Patton (ed.), Authority, Anxiety and the Canon, Albany: SUNY Press, 1994, pp. 201–33. 56 Suniti Kumar Chatterji, ‘Sir William Jones: 1746–1794’, Sir William Jones: Bicentenary Commemoration Volume, Calcutta: Asiatic Society, 1948, p. 82. 57 Mukherjee, Sir William Jones, pp. 100 and 110. 58 Ronald Inden, Imagining India, Oxford: Blackwell, 1990, p. 44. 59 Cited in Rocher, Ezourvedam: A French Veda, pp. 17, 24, 19, 23. Julien Vinson writes of the Ezourvedam that it ‘is a pastiche, a suppositious book, a fraud, that passed unnoticed in India, but which one has tried in vain to give some credit in Europe. It is without value and without interest. Scholars should no longer waste their time on it’ (cited in ibid., p. 25). 60 Halbfass, India and Europe, p. 46. 61 Jones, ‘On the Hindus’, British Discovery of Hinduism, p. 251. 62 As recently as 1963, the New Larousse Encyclopaedia of Mythology, in its chapter on Indian mythology, has the following on offer: ‘Even in our days, on the south-east slope of the Deccan, piety is shown to hideous she-ogres such as Kali and Durga, ferocious deities of Hinduism’ (Felix Guirand, Robert Graves, Richard Aldington and Delano Ames, New Larousse Encyclopaedia of Mythology, 1963; repr., London: Hamlyn, 1984, p. 325). 63 Jones, ‘The Enchanted Fruit; or, the Hindu Wife: An Antediluvian Tale’, Works, vol. 13, p. 215. 64 The two words have different phonetic and orthographic values in Indian languages; while ‘kali’ (the age) lacks an accent in its first syllable, ‘Kali’ (the goddess) comes with that accent. 65 See the argument in Elizabeth R. Eisenstein, The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983, pp. 77, 85–6. 66 Jones, ‘On the Hindus’, British Discovery of Hinduism, p. 254 and ‘Charge to the Grand Jury’, 9 June 1792, Works, vol. 7, p. 72. Gentoo, derived from Latin gentile and Portuguese gentio, was a term used to refer to Indian heathens (Heinrich von Stietencron, ‘Hinduism: On the Proper Use of a Deceptive Term’, in G.D. Sontheimer and H. Kulke (eds), Hinduism

50  Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image Reconsidered, Delhi: Manohar, 1991, p. 12). Note that although Athenians too are gentiles, Jones develops here a contrast between Athenian and Gentoo. 67 On gymnosophists, see Halbfass, India and Europe, pp. 12–44. 68 Jones, ‘On the Hindus’, British Discovery of Hinduism, p. 254. 69 H.T. Colebrooke, Asiatic Researches, 20 vols, Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1788–1839, vol. 8, p. 400; Friedrich Max Müller, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion, Varanasi: Indological Book House, 1964, p. 269. 70 Jones, ‘Extract from a Dissertation on the Primitive Religion of the Hindus’, Works, vol. 13, p. 367. 71 Cf. Jones: ‘the principal source of idolatry among the ancients was their enthusiastick admiration of the Sun; and that, when the primitive religion of mankind was lost amid the distractions of establishing regal government, or neglected amid the allurements of vice, they ascribed to the great visible luminary, or to the wonderful fluid, of which it is the general reservoir, those powers of pervading all space and animating all nature, which their wiser ancestors had attributed to one eternal MIND’ (Jones, ‘The Argument: A Hymn to Surya’, ibid., p. 278). Jones may have had in mind Deuteronomy 4:16–19 or similar pronouncements in the Bible: ‘Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female. . . . And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.’ 72 See Michael Camille, The Gothic Idol: Ideology and Image-making in Medieval Art, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 309. 73 Plato, The Republic, p. 308. For Plato’s elaboration of the simile see ibid., pp. 305–9. 74 Cf. the following spoken by Socrates: ‘let us give up asking for the present what the good is in itself. . . . But I will tell you, if you like, about something which seems to me to be a child of the good, and to resemble it closely’ (ibid., p. 305). 75 See footnote 71. 76 Sharpe harnesses Derrida’s notion of a ‘secondary origin’ to describe the process of translation and codification of Hindu law by British Orientalists in Jones’s time, so that ‘as the one who gives the natives their own laws, the translator is the authoritative source of jurisdiction. Thus displacing a divine origin, the British civil servant assumes a seat of command’. See the argument in Sharpe, ‘Violence of Light in the Land of Desire’, pp. 37–40. 77 Jones, ‘On the Gods of Greece, Italy and India’, British Discovery of Hinduism, pp. 197–8. 78 Ibid., p. 199. 79 Ibid., p. 205. 80 Jones, ‘On the Mystical Poetry of the Hindus’, Works, vol. 4, p. 212. 81 Jones, ‘Second Anniversary Discourse’, Works, vol. 3, pp. 13–14, 12. 82 Ibid., p. 12. 83 Jones, ‘On the Gods of Greece, Italy and India’, British Discovery of Hinduism, p. 196. 84 Ibid., p. 243.

Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image 51 85 Jones, Sir William Jones to Lord Ashburton, 27 April, 1783, in Works, vol. 2, pp. 9–10. 86 See Sharpe, ‘Violence of Light in the Land of Desire’, p. 37. 87 In his discourse on the founding of the Asiatic Society which was to undertake the translation of Sanskrit works, Jones proposes an instrumentalist view of language: ‘I have ever considered languages as the mere instruments of real learning, and think them improperly confounded with learning itself’ (Jones, ‘Discourse on the Institution of a Society’, in Sibadas Chaudhuri (ed.), Proceedings of the Asiatic Society, vol. 1, p. 5). On Jones’s sense of the superficiality of linguistic differences, see Majeed, Ungoverned Imaginings, p. 15. 88 After recounting legends of Krishna which paralleled episodes from the life of Christ, Jones opined: ‘This motley story must induce an opinion that the spurious Gospels, which abounded in the first age of Christianity, had been brought to India, and the wildest part of them repeated to the Hindus, who ingrafted them on the old fable of Cesava [or Krishna]’ (Jones, ‘On the Gods of Greece, Italy and India’, British Discovery of Hinduism, p. 244). 89 See Halbertal and Margalit, Idolatry, p. 141. 90 See Mill, History of British India, vol. 1, p. 189. 91 See ibid., pp. 168–9, 182–3. 92 Ibid., p. 185. 93 Ibid., p. 379. 94 Cf. The New Testament: ‘an idol is nothing in the world, . . . there is none other God but one’ (1 Corinthians 8:3). 95 Camille, The Gothic Idol, p. 134. 96 ‘The timid barbarian, who is agitated by fears respecting the unknown events of nature, feels the most incessant and eager desire to propitiate the Being on which he believes them to depend . . . as nothing to his rude breast is more delightful than adulation, he is led by a species of instinct to expect the favour of his god from praise and flattery’ (Mill, History of British India, vol. 1, p. 167). 97 ‘The Hindus, at the time of Alexander’s invasion, were in a state of manners, society, and knowledge, exactly the same with that in which they were discovered by the nations of modern Europe’ (ibid., p. 29). 98 Mill likened the European discovery of India to the discovery of America, and thought that the heterogeneity of these two discoveries accounted for notions of a Hindu golden age: ‘Having contemplated in the one, a people without fixed habitations, without political institutions, and with hardly any other arts than those indispensably necessary for the preservation of existence, [Europeans] hastily concluded, upon the sight of another people, inhabiting great cities, cultivating the soil, connected together by an artificial system of subordination, exhibiting monuments of great antiquity, cultivating a species of literature, exercising arts, and obeying a monarch whose sway was extensive, and his court magnificent, that they had passed from one extreme of civilization to the other. . . . The progress of knowledge, and the force of observation, demonstrated the necessity of regarding the actual state of the Hindus as little removed from half-civilised nations. The saving hypothesis . . . was immediately adopted, that the situation in which the Hindus are now beheld is a state of degradation; that formerly they were in a state of high civilization; from which they had fallen through the miseries of foreign conquest and subjugation’ (ibid., p. 460).

52  Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image 99 See Manuel, ‘The Birth of the Gods’, The Eighteenth Century Confronts the Gods, pp. 127–48. 100 Majeed, Ungoverned Imaginings, p.  128. For Majeed’s critique of the characterisation of Mill’s text as hegemonic, see ibid., pp. 3–5, 132–3, 148, 195–200. 101 Ibid., p. 200. 102 Expressing a point of view consistently sustained through his History, Mill instituted the following comparison between Indian civilisation and European feudal society: ‘Should we say that the civilisation of the people of Hindustan, and that of the people of Europe, during the feudal ages, is not far from equal, we shall find upon a close inspection, that the Europeans were . . . greatly superior, notwithstanding the defects of the feudal system. . . . The gothic nations, as soon as they become a settled people, exhibit the marks of a superior character and civilisation to those of the Hindus’ (Mill, History of British India, vol. 1, pp. 481–2). Majeed’s premise is dubious insofar as it is hard to see how such a perspective fits into a critique not of Indian but of contemporary British society, which Mill considered far in advance of European feudal society. 103 Ibid., p. 186. 104 Ibid., p. 163. 105 Ibid., p. 164. 106 Ibid., pp. 23–5. 107 ‘And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites: and they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods’ (Judges 3:5–6). 108 ‘And it came to pass . . . that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baal-berith their god’ (Judges 8:33). 109 Paul’s Epistle to the Romans speaks of idolaters who have ‘changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them upto uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly’ (Epistle to the Romans 1: 23–7). See also Camille, The Gothic Idol, pp. 90–2. 110 St.  Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, 3.5.9. 111 Mill, History of British India, vol. 1, p. 193. 112 Ibid., p. 170. 113 Ibid., p. 176. 114 ‘Krishna, who saw the innocence of [the maids’] hearts, graciously gave them entire satisfaction; and by a miracle continually renewed, in all that multitude of women, each was convinced that she alone enjoyed the Deity, and that he never quitted her an instant for the embraces of another’ (ibid., pp. 176–7). 115 Ibid., pp. 205–6.

Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image 53 116 See Camille, The Gothic Idol, pp. 84–90. 117 Ibid., p. 94. 118 Mill studied divinity at the University of Edinburgh for four years, after which he served the church for a while as a preacher. See J.P. Guha, ‘Biographical Notice of James Mill’, in Mill (ed.), History of British India, vol. 1, p. VIII. 119 Ibid., p. 310. 120 Ibid., p. 241. 121 Ibid., p. 179. 122 Ibid., p. 163. 123 Ibid., p. 179. 124 Ibid., p. 163. To quote a few instances of the repetition of this characterisation: ‘the unparalleled vagueness which marks the language of the Brahmans . . . the multiplicity of their fictions, and the endless discrepancy of their ideas . . . no coherent system of belief seems capable of being extracted from their wild eulogies and legends’ (ibid., p. 160). ‘Whenever indeed we seek to ascertain the definite and precise ideas of the Hindus in religion, the subject eludes our grasp. All is loose, vague, wavering, obscure, and inconsistent. Their expressions point at one time to one meaning, and another time to another meaning; and their wild fictions, to use the language of Mr. Hume, seem rather the playful whimsies of monkeys in human shape, than the serious asseverations of a being who dignifies himself with the name of rational’ (ibid., p. 170). ‘No people . . . have ever drawn a more gross and disgusting picture of the universe than what is presented in the writings of the Hindus. In the conception of it no coherence, wisdom, or beauty, ever appears: all is disorder, caprice, passion, contest, portents, prodigies, violence, and deformity’ (ibid., p. 187). ‘The darkness, the vagueness, and the confusion, which reign in [Hindu accounts of creation], need not be remarked; for by these the Hindu mythology is throughout distinguished . . . the ideas are heterogeneous, and incompatible’ (ibid., p. 249). 125 Ibid., pp. 249–50. 126 Derrida, Dissemination, pp. 42–3. 127 Mill, History of British India, vol. 1, p. 384. 128 On this problem, see Halbertal and Margalit, ‘The Wrong God’, Idolatry, pp. 137–62. 129 Ibid., pp. 251–2. 130 See Derrida, Positions, trans. from French by Alan Bass, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981, p. 64. 131 Derrida, Dissemination, p. 4. 132 See Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, trans. from French by Roy Harris, London: Duckworth, 1983, pp. 110–11. 133 On Jones’s attitude to language and sense of the superficiality of linguistic difference, see Majeed, Ungoverned Imaginings, p. 15. On Mill, see ibid., p. 37. 134 Ibid., pp. 227–8. 135 Ibid., p. 230. 136 Ibid., p. 223. 137 See Chandra Mukerji, From Graven Images: Patterns of Modern Materialism, New York: Columbia University Press, 1983, pp. 20–1. See also

54  Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image J.H. Elliott, The Old World and the New, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970. 138 Jones, ‘Discourse on the Institution of a Society’, p. 2. 139 C.A. Bayly, Indian Society and the Making of the British Empire, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987, p. 79. For an account of Richard Wellesley’s period of governor-generalship, see ibid., pp. 79–105. 140 Richard Wellesley, ‘Extracts from the governor-general’s Notes for an official despatch . . .’, 10 July 1800, cited in Bernard S. Cohn, ‘The Recruitment and Training of British Civil Servants in India, 1600–1860’, An Anthropologist Among the Historians and Other Essays, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987, pp. 521–2. 141 See ibid., pp. 522–7. 142 See Inden, Imagining India, p. 45. 143 See Camille, The Gothic Idol, pp. 59–60. 144 See Manuel, ‘The Birth of the Gods’, p. 142. 145 According to Mill, ‘To the imagination of the eastern poets, and above all, of the Hindus, may be aptly applied, in many of its particulars, the description of the Demoness, Imagination, in the enchanted castle of Hermaphrodix:   Under the great arches of an immense portico,   A confused morass of modern and antique   Walked a brilliant phantom,   with a soft foot, a glittering eye,   quick gestures, a wandering step,   head high, decked with tinsel,   One sees her body always in motion,   And her name is Imagination,   Not that beautiful, charming goddess   Who presided in Rome and Greece   Over the beautiful works of so many great writers,   Who spread the brilliance of her colours;   But she who abjures good sense:   That scatterbrained, alarmed, insipid one   that so many writers closely approach. . . .   By her was Gibberish   Talkative monster caressed in her arms.   The Maid of Orleans, 17th song’ (Mill, History of British India, vol. 1, p. 403).   I am grateful to Lynn Festa for this translation of the poem from the French. Note that demoness imagination is described as lacking even in respect to the goddess who presides over ‘pagan’ Greece and Rome, and that Mill considers it to apply particularly to Hindus. This corresponds rather well with Mill’s demotion of Hindu civilisation below not just the European present but past states of European civilisation as well. See ibid., pp. 478, 481–2. 146 For Plato’s argument against poets, see Plato, The Republic, pp. 129–65, 421–39. 147 Mill, History of British India, vol. 1, pp. 1–2. 148 Letter from Mill to Dumont cited in Stokes, The English Utilitarians and India, p. 48.

Jones and Mill: the duplicity of colonial image 55 149 On the British Empire as information archive, see Thomas Richards, The Imperial Archive: Knowledge and the Fantasy of Empire, London: Verso, 1993. The problem with this otherwise insightful book is that it treats the project of coordinating bits of information from far-flung corners of the empire into a single, vast and coherent body of knowledge as pure fantasy, ignoring the reality inducing effects of that fantasy and reinscribing Mill’s irreducible opposition between fact and fantasy. For the instrumental uses of colonial knowledge as a systematised body of facts, see David Ludden, ‘Orientalist Empiricism’, in C.A. Breckenridge and P. van der Veer (eds), Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament, pp. 250–78. 150 Mill, History of British India, vol. 1, p. 477. 151 Mill shares the Orientalist assumption of essential difference between Hindus and Muslims and of the ‘foreignness’ of Muslims in India, which ‘ultimately derives from the long history of western (Christian)– Arab (Muslim) rivalry’ (Peter van der Veer, ‘The Foreign Hand’, Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament, p. 33). Mill, however, treats ‘Mahomedan civilisation’ as more evolved and higher up in his scale of civilisations than the Hindus; see Mill, ‘Mahomedan and Hindu Civilisation’, History of British India, vol. 1, pp. 697–724.

2 Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle The Orientalism of Friedrich Max Müller

The further East you go, the greater becomes the importance of a bit of bunting. – Lord Lytton, letter to Lord Salisbury, 11 May 1876

Many of Bopp’s, Grimm’s, and Pott’s etymologies have had to be surrendered, and yet our suzerainty over that distant country which they conquered, over the Aryan home, remains. – Friedrich Max Müller, My Autobiography: a Fragment

When the power of changing percepts into concepts was ascribed to the faculty of imagination, and the power of naming concepts to the faculty of language; when, lastly, the process of adding and subtracting concepts and names was ascribed to a new faculty, that of reason, there arose a whole Olympus of unseen deities. No doubt, as Ennius said, ‘Look at that sublime light which all people invoke as Jupiter,’ the believer in these mental deities also might say, ‘Look at that sublime light within you which all people call Reason’. – Friedrich Max Müller, Natural Religion

In 1858, subsequent to the crushing of the Indian Mutiny, the rule of the East India Company was ended and the monarch of Great Britain formally installed as India’s monarch. To mark this new relationship, the Prince of Wales embarked on a six-month tour of India during 1875–76. He received many rich and exotic presents from Indians during this tour, which were displayed on his return in exhibitions in major English cities. One of the major gifts that the Prince of Wales made his Indian subjects in return was an English translation of hymns from the Rig-Veda by Friedrich Max Müller.1 While both Jones and Mill were functionaries of the Indian British Empire, the scholarly project of Müller, a German naturalised in England

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  57 and a resident at Oxford for most of his life, is not aligned in any direct way with the task of colonial administration. However, as the Prince of Wales’s ‘gift’ to his Indian subjects indicates, Müller’s project does make an important and original contribution to the task of transforming idolatrous into colonial subjects through the imperial mission of education and civilisation. Gauri Vishwanathan has powerfully argued for the ‘surrogate’ role of English literature in the creation of colonial subjects, given the failure of attempts at Christian proselytisation and conversion in India.2 A like ‘surrogate’ function may be conceived for the issuing of ‘authentic’ versions of Hindu texts, stripped of their idolatry and authorised by European scholars. This chapter explores how Müller’s scholarly production participates in the promotion of such a surrogate function for the study and translation of Hindu texts, and also investigates how in doing so it remains fractured, inconsistent and contradictory. Orientalist readings of India by both Jones and Mill, as we saw in the last chapter, rely upon an instrumentalist theory of language and a doctrine of primacy of the signified, a doctrine upon which the critique of idolatry is also premised. Müller was a philologer and scholar of language, with interests in the discipline of comparative linguistics. Unlike Jones and Mill, Müller trembles on the verge of a theory of signification similar to Saussurean and post-Saussurean views of language, which stress the role of the signifier and that its relationship to the signified is arbitrary and conventional, even though he is otherwise committed to a positivistic ‘science of language’. Müller’s theory of language allows him to glimpse alternative perspectives on the issues of idolatry and fetishism in religion. Although Müller does not develop these perspectives to their fullest extent, his work is fissured in a way that suggests Orientalist thought at the end of the 19th century is in crisis. At certain points, Orientalism appears to have grown aware of its limits, but Müller always draws back at these points.

I  A science of thought Müller’s theory of language is illustrated in his Three Introductory Lectures on the Science of Thought, first published in 1887.3 Although he calls the book ‘evolutionary . . . not revolutionary’, this is because he himself moves to contain the more radical implications of the principles professed in it, a gesture which recurs through his writings.4 Müller proclaims in these lectures the indissociability of word and thought: But if there is no such thing as a mere name, neither is there such a thing as a mere thought or a mere concept. We may distinguish them as we distinguish the obverse from the reverse of a coin; but to try to

58  Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle separate them would be like trying to separate the convex from the concave surface of a lens.5 The analogy of two sides of a coin or a lens that Müller uses here resembles remarkably the figure used by Saussure to propose the unity of signifier and signified in the sign, that of two sides of a sheet of paper.6 The fallacy that things and concepts exist prior to words and language is, according to Müller, productive of a kind of philosophical mythology, even philosophical idolatry. Reason itself could be analysed as an effect of language, the linguistic tendency towards ‘the transition of nouns of quality into nouns of substance’.7 When people are hungry, they are said to ‘have’ hunger, i.e. to possess an entity called hunger. Reason arises as a substantive entity through a similar process of reification of language: But as little as we possess . . . a thing called patience because we are patient, do we possess a thing called reason because we are rational. Why, then, should philosophers trouble their heads about the true seat of reason, whether it is in the brain or in the heart or in the stomach? Why should they write it with a capital R, and make a goddess of Reason and worship her, as she was actually worshipped in the streets of Paris? . . . This is, of course, an extreme case of philosophical mythology and idolatry, but the number of these psychological gods and goddesses, heroes, fairies and hobgoblins is very large. Our mind is swarming with them, and every one of them counts a number of worshippers who are deeply offended if we doubt their existence. . . . As the Ephesians cried out with one voice about the space of two hours, ‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians!’ I know I shall have to hear for the space of more than two hours, the shout of my critics, ‘Great is the Reason, great is the Intellect, great is the Understanding of the Reviewers!’8 Müller undoes here the philosophical reason/idolatrous imagination binary that had marked the work of Mill, Jones and of Christian missionaries in India by suggesting the existence, even the pervasiveness of philosophical idolatry.9 He argues that the existence of different words for language and thought leads to the ‘sway of philosophical mythology’ which ‘is more powerful even than that of religious mythology’.10 Müller is aware that this challenge to Platonic metaphysics, the recognition that thought is embodied in language not just some of the time but always, has radical consequences for philosophy: But what I cannot understand is how people could be half polytheists and half monotheists, or, as applied to thought, how they could

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  59 bring themselves to believe that thought, though generally embodied in language, could from time to time walk about as a disembodied ghost. I have myself not the slightest doubt that the time will come when this belief in disembodied thought will be looked upon as one of the strangest hallucinations of the nineteenth century. . . . We must make no concessions . . . this ‘Never’, I feel convinced, will mark a new departure in the history of philosophy, nay it will supply a new foundation for every system of philosophy which the world has ever known.11 In these passages, Müller identifies Western metaphysics at work in the discourse of 19th-century philosophical reason and extends the vocabulary of fairies, hobgoblins, ghosts and hallucinations to its operations. He argues for the rethinking of central philosophical concepts in the light of the unity of signifier and signified. Although Müller recognises that language is not a transparent medium for the seamless transmission of thought and that ‘we judge by signs’, he himself fails to see the implications of this recognition.12 He is very far from the Saussurean insight into language as a system of differences without positive terms, or a realisation of the arbitrary and conventional character of the sign.13 Müller argues for a ‘science of thought’ whose project he describes as follows: If we think in words we must never take words on trust, but must be ready to give an account of every term with which our thinking and speaking is carried on.14 Such a science conjures up the prospect, to invoke the later Sigmund Freud, of an analysis that is interminable.15 An account of every term required by Müller’s science would itself have to be thought in words, which themselves would require accounts, and so on: the project could unfold indefinitely, without prospect of closure. Müller, however, does not foresee this, but dreams of a pure signified that will eventually be revealed by the operations of his science of thought, a science ‘meant to break the spell of words’.16 In Müller’s view, the human sciences must be modelled on the natural sciences, and Oriental studies provide the human sciences with the wherewithal to displace ‘theories’ with ‘facts’: The Science of Language, the Science of Mythology, the Science of Religion, aye, the Science of Thought, all have assumed a new aspect, chiefly through the discoveries of Oriental scholars who have placed facts in the place of theories, and displayed before us the historical

60  Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle development of the human race, as a worthy rival of the development of nature, displayed before our eyes by the genius and patient labours of Darwin.17 To Müller, Darwinian evolution provides a model for science, and the human sciences must demonstrate similar processes of development. Thus, evolutionary and historicist schemas of science persist in Müller’s text and are applied to language, which preclude him from following through on his anticipations of Saussurean semiotics. Although in his preface to Three Introductory Lectures on the Science of Thought he declares boldly that few only [among philosophers] have asserted the identity of reason and language without some timorous reserve, still fewer have seen all the consequences that flow from it. Some people resent it almost as a personal insult that what we call our divine reason should be no more than human language.18 Within the space of two pages, the same reserve manifests itself in Müller’s own argument, and it appears that something like divine reason is at work in human language and human affairs after all: True philosophy teaches us another lesson, namely that nothing is except what ought to be, and that in the evolution of the mind as well as in that of nature, natural selection is in reality rational selection. We must learn to recognize in language the true evolution of reason. In that evolution nothing is real and remains real except what is rational, and even the apparently irrational and anomalous has its reason and justification.19 The 19th-century deities of reason and history, it would appear, cannot be held in abeyance for long. As Müller clarifies in one of the lectures: ‘I am not a blasphemer of the great goddess of Reason.’20 In invoking natural selection as a means of the refinement of language, Müller applies, as it were, Darwinist doctrine to language; a move that allows him to claim scientificity for the philosophies of language and thought that he articulates.21 If in language lies the true evolution of reason, it follows that language at a later moment of its evolution embodies reason much more closely than in an earlier moment: a good argument for the ‘exteriority’ of thought and reason to language, but one which belies Müller’s argument in favour of the ‘unity’ of thought and language. Instead, we are left with the unity of reason and the real, a formula that comes from Hegel’s Philosophy of Right rather than anything in Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics.22

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  61 Müller’s conviction that reason manifests itself in the history of language, apart from Darwinian influences, bears the traces of Hegel’s notion of history as a process of the unfolding of reason and perfection of the Absolute Spirit.23 This is a notion ultimately theological in its provenance: by exiling God (and meaning) to the end of history, God may also be recuperated for progress and science.24 Derrida warns that ‘History and knowledge, istoria and episteme have always been determined . . . as detours for the purpose of the reappropriation of presence’.25 In Müller’s text, the study of etymologies and very valuable stress on the historicities of words and imbrication of thoughts and language function precisely as such a detour; in the end, language approaches its true signifieds through historical evolution, presence is restored, and historicity collapsed into historicism.

II  Indeterminacy at the origin: goat sacrifice or the immortal soul? What is of interest, however, is to analyse the resistance offered to this metaphysical paradigm by some of the materials that Müller examines. The imbrication of thoughts and language and the issues it raises may be analysed with respect to an example Müller proffers in a lecture entitled ‘Is Fetishism a Primitive Form of Religion?’. In the lecture, the proper interpretation of a single word has very high stakes. Müller cites a hymn of the Rig-Veda, translated by him, which accompanies the burning of a dead body: May the eye go to the sun, the breath to the wind, Go to heaven and to the earth, as it is right; Or go to the waters, if that is meet for thee, Rest among the herbs with thy limbs. The unborn part – warm it with thy warmth, May thy glow warm it and thy flame! With what are thy kindest shapes, O Fire, Carry him away to the world of the Blessed. The phrase ‘unborn part’ in connection with the cremation of a dead body would seem to suggest the ‘soul’, a permanent state of being unaffected by material traces and hence suggestive of Platonic idealism. The scandal, however, arises in that the Vedic word that Müller translates as ‘unborn part’ may also mean ‘goat’, and indeed has been rendered in this fashion by other translators, implying that a goat needs to be sacrificed during the ritual of cremation.26 Müller notes the difficulties this creates for successful incorporation of the verse within a frame of idealist metaphysics, but then proceeds to

62  Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle effect just such an incorporation in a passage whose aporias are worth analysing: This passage has often been discussed, and its right apprehension is certainly of great importance. . . . It is perfectly true, as may be seen in the Kalpa-Sutras, that sometimes an animal of the female sex was led after the corpse to the pile, and was burnt with the dead body. . . . But, first of all, this custom is not general, as it probably would be, if it could be shown to be founded on a passage of the Veda. Secondly, there is actually a Sutra that disapproves of this custom, because, as Katyayana says, if the corpse and the animal are burnt together, one might in collecting the ashes confound the bones of the dead man and of the animal. Thirdly, it is expressly provided that this animal, whether it be a cow or a goat, must always be of the female sex. . . . However, even if we retain the old translation, there is no lack of difficulties, though the whole meaning becomes more natural. The poet says, first, that the eye should go to the sun, the breath to the air, that the dead should return to heaven and earth, and his limbs rest among herbs. Everything therefore that was born, was to return to whence it came. How natural then that he should ask, what would become of the unborn, the eternal part of man. How natural that after such a question there should be such a pause, and that then the poet should ­continue – Warm it with thy warmth! . . . Assume thy kindest form, O Fire, and carry him away to the world of the Blessed! Whom? Not surely the goat; not even the corpse, but the unborn, the eternal part of man. It is possible, no doubt, and more than possible that from this passage by a very natural misunderstanding the idea arose that with the corpse a goat (aga) was to be burnt. We see in the Atharvana, how eagerly the priests laid hold of that idea.27 The slips and elisions in this passage, in its will to produce meaning from an underdetermined text, are noteworthy. It notes, first of all, that the practice of goat sacrifice although known, cannot have been very common, as it has not been sanctioned by the Veda. But this is the very issue which is at dispute, and cannot be resolved by containing the conclusion within the premise of the argument. The second and third reasons advanced against the ‘goat’ interpretation appear to contradict each other, since if the Kalpa Sutras expressly provide for the sacrifice of a female goat, it is not apparent that they are against the custom of goat sacrifice. The arguments that Müller offers against the ‘goat’ interpretation, therefore, are hardly very convincing. Regarding the ‘soul’ interpretation, Müller tells us enigmatically that ‘there is no lack of difficulties’. He does not quite specify what these are,

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  63 but irons them out since this interpretation seems more ‘natural’ to him. From the point of view of an idealist metaphysics, the notion of an unborn, immortal soul is preferable to that of ritual goat sacrifice, and Müller settles the issue on these grounds. Through an act of epistemic violence, he imposes meaning on an obscure and undecidable origin. The desire for meaning at the origin can parallel the desire for meaning at the end of history; both are forms of the desire for presence. The practice of goat sacrifice then becomes a ‘misunderstanding’ of the text, and the ‘eagerness’ with which priests seize on it becomes an index of malign motives on their part, reiterating the trope of the crafty priest duping the populace. Implicitly, the trope of the European scholar spreading Enlightenment by restoring the true meaning of scripture, pace Jones and the Ezourvedam, is also reiterated. This is ironic, since elsewhere Müller debunks the notion of wily Brahmin priests withholding knowledge from the rest of the populace: The same authorities who denied the importance of the Veda for a historical study of Indian thought, boldly [charged] those wily priests, the Brahmans, with having withheld their sacred literature from any but their own caste. Now so far from withholding it, the Brahmans have always been striving, and often striving in vain, to make the study of their sacred literature obligatory on all castes, except the Sudras, and the passages quoted from Manu show what penalties were threatened, if children of the second and third castes, the Kshatriyas and Vaisyas, were not instructed in the sacred literature of the Brahmans.28 Just as Müller comes close to disturbing the instrumentalist view of language but is unable to hold on consistently to his insights, he can at times stand back from and review Orientalist tropology, but on other occasions is claimed by it, attesting to the power of Orientalist discursivity. The question of goat sacrifice versus the immortal soul in the Rig-Veda invokes the issue of the status of the fetish and the discourse on fetishism versus nonfetishistic religion. Müller’s considerable reflections on fetish theory are marked as well by this double inscription.

III  Fraud and the fetish Müller’s most extended treatment of the problem of fetishism occurs in a lecture delivered in Westminster Abbey in 1878, entitled ‘Is Fetishism a Primitive Form of Religion?’29 Applying his etymological method, Müller traces the history of the word ‘fetish’ to the Latin factitius, which ‘from meaning what is made by hand, came to mean artificial, unnatural, magical,

64  Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle enchanted and enchanting’.30 The word evolved into the Portuguese feitico, which Portuguese sailors used for objects valued by Africans on the Gold Coast. For Hegel, the arbitrariness of the fetish lay in its not being linked to any essential idea. It signified to him the arbitrariness of African culture as a whole: The second element in [African] religion, consists in their giving an outer form to . . . supernatural power – projecting their hidden might into the world of phenomena by means of images. What they conceive of as the power in question, is . . . but the first thing that comes in their way. . . . This is their Fetich – a word to which the Portuguese first gave currency, and which is derived from feitizo, magic . . . it is merely a creation that expresses the arbitrary choice of its maker . . . if arbitrary choice is the absolute, the only substantial objectivity that is realised, the mind cannot in such be conscious of any Universality.31 Hegel thus clears philosophical ground for European traffic in slaves: The Negroes indulge, therefore, that perfect contempt for humanity, which in its bearing on Justice and Morality is the fundamental characteristic of the race. They have moreover no knowledge of the immortality of the soul, although spectres are supposed to appear . . . to the sensual Negro, human flesh is but an object of sense – mere flesh. . . . Negroes are enslaved by Europeans and sold to America. Bad as this may be, their lot in their own land is even worse, since there a slavery quite as absolute exists; for it is the essential principle of slavery, that man has not yet attained a consciousness of his freedom, and consequently sinks down to a mere Thing – an object of no value.32 Many of the motifs in the discourse on idolatry thus crop up in Hegel’s treatment of the fetish: the arbitrariness of the image due to its man-made character, its incitement to revolting sensuality, its denial of universality and immortality of the human soul and its role as a justification for European practices of slavery or colonialism. Müller, however, makes the point that the Portuguese themselves were perfectly familiar with what a feitico was; the word was by no means confined exclusively to African cultural objects.33 He then imagines a scene in which Africans are pondering the value of objects which they observe being used by Portuguese sailors: Suppose these negroes, after watching the proceedings of their white visitors, had asked on their part what the religion of those white men

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  65 might be, what would they have said? They saw the Portuguese sailors handling their rosaries, burning incense to dauby images, bowing before altars, carrying gaudy flags, prostrating themselves before a wooden cross. They did not see them while saying their prayers, they never witnessed any sacrifices offered by them to their gods, nor was their moral conduct such as to give the natives the idea that they abstained from any crimes, because they feared the gods. What would have been more natural therefore for them than to say that their religion seemed to consist in a worship of gru-grus, their own name for what the Portuguese called feitico.34 This scenario turns the tables, as it were, on European observers of African religion. William Pietz situates the problematic of the fetish within a cross-cultural space and describes it as being one of ‘the social value of material objects as revealed in situations formed by the encounter of radically heterogeneous social systems’.35 Pietz’s insight is brilliantly staged by Müller’s scenario. If, as Saussure has it, the tie between signifier and signified is arbitrary and conventional, the signifying object will appear as a fetish to the distanced observer to whom those conventions are not available. Like idolatry, fetishism is a way of naming the society of the Other. As Pietz observes, ‘the discourse of the fetish has always been a critical discourse about the false objective values of a culture from which the speaker is personally distanced’.36 Müller points out the uses of the idea that fetishistic religion was prevalent in Africa in justifying slavery: The difficulties which beset travellers and missionaries in their description of the religious and intellectual life of savage tribes are far more serious than is commonly supposed. . . . Partly owing to the influence of American ethnologists, who wanted an excuse for slavery . . . descriptions of savages began to abound which made us doubt whether the negro . . . really deserved the name of man.37 Müller observes as well the lack of coherence of the concept of ‘savagery’ itself; its use as a way of naming otherness: People who talk very freely of savages, whether in Africa, or America, or Australia, would find it extremely difficult to give any definition of that term, beyond this, that savages are different from ourselves. Savages with us are still very much what barbarians were to the Greeks . . . there is no branch of anthropology beset with so many difficulties as the study of these so called savage races.38

66  Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle Müller traces the coining of the term ‘fetishism’ to Charles de Brosses, ideologue of the French Enlightenment, who wrote a book which appeared in 1760 entitled Du Culte des Dieux Fetiches, ou, Parallele de l’ancienne Religion de l’Egypte avec la Religion actuelle de Nigritie.39 According to de Brosses, all religions begin with fetishism, developing into polytheism and finally monotheism. There is, however, one exception to this rule: the Jews skipped the intermediate stages and jumped straight to monotheism. Müller points out that de Brosses himself is not free of theological influence.40 Müller stresses the difficulty of separating these stages: there is plenty of fetishism in the Old Testament.41 Fear of the elements, associated with the angry deity of primitive religion, is present to a significant degree in the Old Testament.42 Müller points out as well instances of fetishism from contemporary European life: If the defeated soldier breaks his sword across his knees, or tears his colours, or throws his eagles away, he may be said to be punishing his fetish; nay, Napoleon himself may be called a fetish-worshipper when, pointing to the pyramids, he said to his soldiers, ‘From the summit of these monuments forty centuries look down upon you, soldiers!’ . . . We shall soon be told that the stone on which all the kings of England have been crowned is an old fetish, and that in the coronation of Queen Victoria we ought to recognise a survival of Anglo-Saxon fetishism.43 Even if, therefore, the fetish is a denial of the universal, as Hegel has it, fetishism itself is fairly universal. Müller notes that fetishism ‘may include almost every symbolical or imitative representation of religious objects’.44 This undermines its use as an explanatory category for primitive religion. Müller points out that the confusion which is ascribed to the worshipper of the fetish often lies in the communication between native and European observer and the translation of concepts between languages.45 It may be, then, that it is the European anthropologist or observer who is worshipping a fetish. As Müller puts it: ‘That very theory has become a kind of scientific fetish, though, like most fetishes, it seems to owe its existence to ignorance and superstition.’46 The signifier ‘fetishism’ attains popularity and appears as a hidden animating principle underlying diverse phenomena; it attains itself the status of a fetish.47 Like fetishism, Müller points out as well the problematic character and lack of explanatory power of categories such as ‘animism’, ‘anthropomorphism’ and ‘personification’: they do little more than provide a convenient

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  67 label for phenomena they purport to explain. They may arise out of anthropologists projecting onto natives: Whatever the anthropologists wish these primitives to do or not to do, to believe or not to believe, they must obey like silent Karyatides supporting the airy structures of ethnopsychology. . . . If Animism is to be supported, they must say, ‘Of course, the storm has a soul’. If Personification is doubted, they are called in as witnesses that their fetish is very personal indeed. If Anthropomorphism has to be proved as a universal feature of early religion, primitive man is dragged in again, and has to confess that the uncouth stone which he worships is certainly a man, and a great deal more than a man.48 Müller effects here an important reversal of anthropological discourse. He portrays anthropologists as doing what native fetishists are supposed to do: projecting onto the external world their personal beliefs. From the standpoint of the discourse on fetishism, however, a fetish mediates false values adopted by a society, and testifies to the systemic and objective power of falsity in that society. Likewise, idolatry is connected with the idea of spiritual fraud, as we have seen in the previous chapter. In an essay entitled ‘Truthful Character of the Hindus’, Müller defends Indian society against charges of the systematic production of lies, which had been a concern with both Jones and Mill.49 The essay appears in a volume entitled India: What Can It Teach Us?, and inveighs against looking upon our stay in India as a kind of moral exile, and in regarding the Hindus as an inferior race, totally different from ourselves in their moral character, and, more particularly in what forms the very foundations of the English character, respect for truth.50 To deal with the contention of those such as Jones that native witnesses habitually lied in courts, Müller applies his technique of reversal: Would an English sailor, if brought before a dark-skinned judge, who spoke English with a strange accent, bow down before him and confess at once any misdeed that he may have committed; and would all his mates rush forward and eagerly bear witness against him, when he had got himself into trouble?51 Müller foregrounds the English presence in India and the asymmetries of colonial power as itself eliciting lies from Indians.52 Much as the confusion

68  Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle surrounding the fetish lay not within the subjectivity of Africans but in the cross-cultural situation involving Africans and Europeans, the lack of intimate cultural contact between Indians and Europeans led to misconceptions about Indians’ truthfulness.53 Müller singles out for criticism Mill’s History of British India, which he sees as responsible for propagating erroneous estimates of Indian character. As recommended reading and exam text for candidates preparing for the Indian Civil Service, the work has given rise to a powerful, if pernicious, legacy.54 Müller identifies Mill’s sources on India and states how he made use of those sources: Mill in his estimate of the Hindu character is chiefly guided by Dubois, a French missionary, and by Orme and Buchanan, Tennant, and Ward, all of them neither very competent nor very unprejudiced judges. Mill, however, picks out all that is most unfavourable from their works, and omits the qualifications which even these writers felt bound to give to their wholesale condemnation of the Hindus.55 Strongly deploring Mill, what Müller’s discourse effects is a simple reversal of Mill. Thus, if for Mill Hindu character represented grossly sensual and materialistic depravity, for Müller it is the acme of spiritualism. The following passage from India: What Can It Teach Us? sums up Indian character in Müller’s view: If I were asked to indicate in one word the distinguishing feature of the Indian character, as I have tried to sketch it, I should say it was transcendent, using the word, not in its strict technical sense, as fixed by Kant, but in its more general acceptation, as denoting a mind bent on transcending the limits of empirical knowledge. There are minds perfectly satisfied with empirical knowledge . . . and to be content with it, and never attempt to look beyond it, is, I believe, one of the happiest states of mind to be in. But, for all that, there is a Beyond, and he who has once caught a glance of it, is like a man who has gazed at the sun – wherever he looks, everywhere he sees the image of the sun. Speak to him of finite things, and he will tell you that the Finite is impossible and meaningless without the Infinite. Speak to him of death, and he will call it birth; speak to him of time, and he will call it the mere shadow of eternity. To us the senses seem to be the organs, the tools, the most powerful engines of knowledge; to him they are, if not actually deceivers, at all events heavy fetters, checking the flight of the spirit.56

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  69 Instead of a discourse of transcendent reason, we now have a discourse of transcendent spirituality; in both cases, the senses remain the opposite term which must be negated. This does not fundamentally alter the terms of the Orientalist discourse on India; the otherness of Indians is still maintained. Müller’s reversal becomes, in many ways, a problematic return to Mill. We have seen how Mill’s text operates an intelligible/sensible opposition: to philosophise is to negate the sensible. With Müller as well, the senses play the part of deceivers. We return to the Platonic text: the sun indicates the form of the Good, which is higher than anything in the sensible world. Being able to gaze at the sun is the last stage in the philosopher’s ascent from Plato’s cave, where fettered prisoners (whose condition resembles that of idolaters) are trapped in a world of images and shadows.57 While according to Mill India is inimical to philosophy, Müller locates the spirit of philosophy in India. But Indian philosophy is constructed to be of an otherworldly, transcendental type, the enemy of all empiricism and sense stimuli. Müller, like Mill, would not set foot in India or have truck with modern Indian languages. Like Mill, Müller imagines primordial and antithetical Hindu and Muslim identities and essences locked in conflict since the entry of Islam into India. While Mill privileges Muslims in this conflict, Müller favours Hindus. According to Mill, the ‘Mahomedan’ civilisation was a more advanced state than the Hindu, and therefore naturally established its dominion over India.58 Müller’s sympathies lie with Hindus. He does not admit that Indian Muslims belong to India: My interest lies altogether with the people of India, when left to themselves, and historically I should like to draw a line after the year one thousand after Christ. When you read the atrocities committed by the Mohammedan conquerors of India from that time to the time when England stepped in and, whatever may be said by her envious critics, made, at all events, the broad principles of our humanity respected once more in India, the wonder, to my mind, is how any nation could have survived such an Inferno, without being turned into devils themselves.59 Thus, both Mill and Müller essentialise Hindu–Muslim difference, and construct Indian Muslims as external aggressors. The difference between Mill and Müller lies in that while the former views external aggression as a vitalising force, destined to raise India in the scale of civilisations, the latter reads it as sullying the purity of Indian civilisation. These are templates that retain their potency and drive much Hindu–Muslim conflict today.

70  Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle Moreover, in the context of British rule in India, both views have the effect of legitimising it. In Mill’s case, the Muslim conquest of India can serve as an analogy and precedent for British rule in terms of its imputed civilising effects. In Müller’s case, British rule rescues Hindus tyrannised by the Muslim yoke. Müller’s discounting of the period of Indian history since the entry of Islam is complicit with the disjunction he posits between empirical/geographical/historical India on the one hand, and a ‘real’ India that is spiritual on the other. Müller describes the slow emergence of the ‘real India’, meaning thereby the deciphering of Sanskrit texts by European scholars, as ‘a far greater discovery than Vasco da Gama’s’.60 The significant feature of Müller’s characterisation of the scholarly project of Orientalist Indology, however, is that it continues to deploy the tropes of colonial discovery, exploration and annexation. In the following passage from the dedication of India: What Can It Teach Us?, addressed to E.B. Cowell, professor of Sanskrit at Cambridge University, the work of Sanskrit scholarship is described in terms of geographic and military manoeuvres: You know that at present and for some time to come Sanskrit scholarship means discovery and conquest. Every one of your own works marks a real advance, and a permanent occupation of new ground. But you know also how small a strip has as yet been explored of the vast continent of Sanskrit literature, and how much still remains terra incognita.61 Although Müller tries to stay away from mundane geographical facts, he is reclaimed continually by the symbolics of imperial geography. Müller’s dedication to Cowell continues to provide evidence of the enmeshing of scholarship in worldly circumstances, particularly those of imperial power: Why then should it be said that the race of bold explorers, who once rendered the name of the Indian Civil Service illustrious over the whole world, has well-nigh become extinct, and that England, which offers the strongest incentives and the most brilliant opportunities for the study of the ancient language, literature, and history of India, is no longer in the van of Sanskrit scholarship? If some of the young candidates for the Indian Civil Service who listened to my Lectures, made up their minds that such a reproach shall be wiped out, if a few of them at least determined to follow in the footsteps of Sir William Jones, and to show to the world that Englishmen who have been able to achieve by pluck, by perseverance, and by real political genius the material conquest of India, do not mean

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  71 to leave the laurels of its intellectual conquest entirely to other countries, then I shall indeed rejoice, and feel that I have paid back, in however small a degree, the large debt of gratitude which I owe to my adopted country and to some of its greatest statesmen, who have given me the opportunity which I could find nowhere else of realising the dreams of my life – the publication of the text and commentary of the Rig-veda . . . and now the edition of the translations of the ‘Sacred Books of the East’.62 The task of colonial conquest and administration is here closely tied to that of Sanskrit scholarship, viewed as an intellectual conquest of India that should be concomitant to its political subjugation. The appeal to colonial civil servants and the invocation of Jones’s colonial career make it apparent that ‘genius’ in the political and intellectual spheres are closely aligned. The ‘large debt of gratitude’ that Müller owes is to the East India Company, which supported his work on the Rig-Veda over the years it took him to compile his translation.63 At stake here is a certain proprietorial attitude towards the conquered colony; although sponsoring scholarship was not uppermost in the minds of directors of the East India Company, the demands of competitive nationalism, which Müller subtly weaves in as well into this appeal to administrators heading out to the colony, appear finally to have brought them around.64

IV  ‘The Fetish, Properly So Called’ Pietz describes the articulations between Enlightenment conceptions of the fetish and an emergent colonialism. The fetish furnished proof to Enlightenment ideologues of the essential slavishness of Africans, since their subjection to the random causality of material objects and natural events demonstrated that they were not free subjects.65 Müller is critical of de Brosses’s characterisation of fetishism and the use of such characterisation lends itself to as a rationale for slavery, as we have seen. However, Müller is also committed to a progressist narrative of the history of religious forms. In an essay entitled ‘The Worship of Tangible, Semi-Tangible, and Intangible Objects’, Müller elaborates a three-part typology of religious practices according to which the worship of tangible objects (stones, bones, shells and animals) gives way to semi-intangible objects (mountains, rivers, trees and the earth) and finally to intangible objects (the sky, the stars, the sun, the dawn and the moon).66 These intangible objects are the harbingers of the deities of higher religion.67 Despite Müller’s criticism of the fetish, his own typology is in the end difficult to distinguish from de Brosses’s proposed schema of progression from fetishism through polytheism to monotheism. Although Müller is

72  Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle aware of some of the anomalies of the discourse on fetishism, he retains a basic commitment to metanarratives of progress and development in the sphere of religion. In the first of his Gifford lectures on natural religion, Müller explains that progress in religion does not contradict the idea of revelation, since there can still be progress in the interpretation of revelation.68 The human element is a factor in any religion, and this element is liable to improvement: No astronomer ventures to look at the sun without darkening his lens, and man will have to look at what is beyond through a glass darkly. But as in every other pursuit, so in religion also, we want less and less of darkness, more and more of light; we want, call it life, or growth, or development, or progress.69 Müller echoes here a phrase from St. Paul’s first Epistle to the Corinthians, according to which it is the human condition to know in part, to ‘see through a glass, darkly’, until the day of Revelation.70 Müller favours a more gradual revelation, in which the lens of language grows less and less clouded, and human understanding deepens. Müller’s metaphor also implies, however, that language can never be completely transparent, and revelation is always indirect. If the object of one’s knowledge is God, any claim to know God partakes, according to Müller, of idolatry or fetishism. No signifier or signified can be adequate to God, who is outside language: To know, in ordinary sense, means first to perceive through the senses, and then to conceive by means of language. . . . Now to know the Divine by this knowledge, by the same knowledge with which we know a stone, or a tree, or a dog, would be tantamount to annihilating the Divine. A known God, in that sense, would ipso facto cease to be God. It would become a phenomenal object, an idol, or a fetish, or a totem, but not what we mean by God.71 In such a view of fetishism/idolatry and a transcendent God, not just visual but linguistic representation of God is impermissible. Müller appears in agreement at this point with the radical view articulated by the 12thcentury Jewish theologian Moses Maimonides that idolatry inheres in linguistic as well as visual images of God.72 The italicised ‘we’ in the passage indicates who might be the subjects of such a perspective: it is a JudeoChristian ‘we’, as opposed to idolaters/fetishists/totemists. What is problematic about this (subject) position, however, is that in its terms the Bible itself may be shown to be idolatrous. The God of the Bible is certainly the object of linguistic representation, and is shown

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  73 through language to have definite attributes. He is also an object of sense perception.73 Müller’s nonidolatrous subject position is thus intensely fissured and contradictory. Just as Müller showed that fetishism in de Brosses’s terms may be shown to be universal, it also turns out that idolatry in Müller’s terms may be shown to be everywhere. In practice, the reference of terms such as fetishism and idolatry in Müller’s text cannot be pinned down: they are imprecise and polymorphous, and subject to a logic of dissemination.74 In terms of the three-part typology enumerated in Müller’s ‘The Worship of Tangible, Semi-Tangible, and Intangible Objects’, idols and fetishes would fall in the category of tangible objects, worship of which is regarded by Müller as the lowest form of religion. The presence of such objects in the Rig-Veda, which Müller considers at the origin of ‘Aryan’ subjectivity and to the study and translation of which he devoted a significant part of his life, constitutes therefore a problem for him.75 The essay expresses considerable anxiety on this issue: To return to our three classes of objects, we find the first [i.e. tangible objects] hardly represented at all among the so-called deities of the Rig-Veda. . . . When artificial objects are mentioned and celebrated in the Rig-Veda, they are only such as might be praised even by Wordsworth and Tennyson – chariots, bows, quivers, axes, drums, sacrificial vessels and similar objects. They never assume any individual character, they are simply mentioned as useful, as precious, it may be, as sacred.76 Thus, while artificial objects may be ‘celebrated’ in the Rig-Veda, they are not regarded as ‘deities’ nor do they assume ‘individual character’. It is hard to see how Müller arrives at such precise definition, given the notoriously obscure and untranslatable character of the language of the Rig-Veda. Such objects may be approved even by doyens of the literary canon such as Wordsworth or Tennyson, which confers on their mention a measure of ‘literary’ value, or their value may be reckoned simply within a utilitarian logic (‘as useful; as precious’), but here Müller adds the rider ‘it may be, as sacred’. Müller equivocates about the presence of artificial objects in the Rig-Veda, which raise the spectre of fetishism and idolatry. Although Müller can pose the problem of the fetish as one of the relativity and incommensurability of value, he cannot wholly dispense with fetishism and idolatry as evaluative categories. Rather, he attempts to resolve his difficulties with de Brosses’s use of the terms by multiplying classifications around them and imposing finer grids of difference. Thus, what de Brosses classifies as fetishism is regarded by him as belonging to three ‘totally distinct phases’ of religion: ‘physiolatry’ or worship of

74  Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle natural objects such as trees, mountains and rivers; ‘zoolatry’ or worship of animals and ‘fetishism proper’, which is ‘superstitious veneration felt and testified for mere rubbish’.77 The distinction between physiolatry and zoolatry on the one hand and fetishism on the other appears to involve a distinction between animate objects on the one hand and inanimate things or ‘mere rubbish’ on the other. We are, however, back to the old problem that Müller points out in his more perspicacious moments: rubbish on whose terms? Certainly not the fetishist’s, to whom they are animate and of great value. Müller also distinguishes the idol from the ‘fetish, properly so called’. While the fetish is felt as something supernatural, an idol is an image that stands as a symbol of something else. While the idol preserves a distance between signifier and signified, what appears to him problematic about the fetish is the manner in which the fetish incorporates the signified into its own body, and thus becomes an image for what Pietz calls ‘untranscended materiality’, with matter itself viewed as ‘a locus of religious activity or psychic investment’.78 This leads Müller to authorise a distinction between the idol and the fetish. However, this is a distinction that is hard to maintain; the idol itself has been viewed in precisely the terms in which Müller grasps the fetish, as abolishing the distance between signifier and signified. Thus, Müller also notes that ‘an idol was apt to become a fetish’.79

V  The varieties of idolatrous experience Müller’s multiplication of categories may also be seen in his consideration of the nature of Vedic religion. He does not consider ‘polytheism’ an adequate label for it, as this evokes Greek and Roman polytheism. For Müller, there is a problem in speaking of Vedic polytheism in the same breath as Greek and Roman polytheism: In the majority of the hymns of the Veda, [Indra] is preeminently the supreme god, yet again not to that extent that we should compare his position with that of Zeus. Neither are the other gods always subordinate to him, nor can we say that they are all coordinate. Though in some cases certain gods are associated together, and some, particularly Indra, represented as greater than others, yet these other gods too, have their day, and, when they are asked to bestow their blessings, there is no language too strong to magnify their power and wisdom.80 The problem, then, is that Vedic gods do not present the image of an organised and hierarchical polity, as they do, according to Müller, in Greek and Roman polytheism. The latter, one might observe, is already well on the way to monotheism, as it is a short distance from having a single supreme god, like Zeus, to a one and only God. Müller invents the terms

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  75 ‘kathenotheism’ (or a worship of one god after another) and ‘henotheism’ (or the worship of single gods distinguished from worship of a one and only God) to account for Vedic religion.81 Müller considers this feature as unique to Vedic religion, marking its difference not only from Greek and Roman polytheism but also from that of ‘the Ural-Altaic, the Polynesian, the American, and most of the African races’.82 Müller’s discourse on religion offers certain parallels with what Michel Foucault describes as the emergence of a scientia sexualis in 19th-century Europe, a learned discourse on sex that is concerned with multiplying its varieties and categories and classifying these into normal and pathological types.83 Müller introduces the idea of a ‘science’ of religion that relies on the categories of evolution and progress: Our nineteenth century, which will soon have passed away, has been described as a century of progress and enlightenment in all branches of human knowledge. . . . In religion alone it is said we have remained stationary. . . . But as in every other pursuit, so in religion also, we want less and less of darkness, more and more of light; we want, call it life, or growth, or progress . . . stretch out the right hand of fellowship to the newest among the sciences, the last-born child of the nineteenth century, the Science of Religion.84 The notion of evolution allows Müller to multiply categorisations of religion and to classify these on a scale of ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ forms. The effect of these characterisations is to withdraw religion, as the new discourses and regimes of sexuality separate sex, from ‘notions of error or sin, excess or transgression’, only to place it ‘under the rule of the normal and pathological’.85 Müller is concerned with inserting religion into systems of knowledge and utility, and ultimately, as I will show, of power. But there is also a countercurrent within his work which shows up the hollowness of anthropological categories of religion and neutralises the workings of evolution in this sphere, contributing to its aporetic and fin de siècle character. Henotheism, which describes Vedic religion, is characteristic of what Müller calls the ‘dialectic period of religion’, i.e. corresponding to the period, by analogy with language, when the dialects of a language exist but have not yet been formed into a common language. This phase of religion arises in a period of ‘anarchy, as preceding monarchy’ and constitutes ‘a communal as distinct from an imperial form of religion’.86 However, there exists even within henotheism a ‘craving for one god’.87 The practitioners of Vedic religion desired to establish a system of supremacy and precedence among their gods, but unlike the Greeks, failed in this attempt.88 Continuing Müller’s social interpretation, this may be read as a failure to achieve monarchy and an organised polity, of which a

76  Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle divine polity with a supreme god installed at its head would be the reflection. The ‘craving for one god’ would then be also a craving for the order of society it represents, for monarchy or empire as opposed to a decentralised and tribal mode of organisation.

VI  Twilight of the idols But there is an interesting way in which this problem is figured in Hindu tradition, according to Müller. We had remarked in the previous chapter Mill’s observation that Hindu gods were subject to a material fate. Idolatrous gods are gods of matter, and may be subject to the fate of matter: decay and death. Müller recounts what happens in the Brahmanas, in some of whose chapters ‘the craving after one supreme personal God had at last found its satisfaction in Pragapati, the lord of all living things’. However, Pragapati cannot quite make it to the gallery of the immortals; the Brahmanas declare that ‘he at last fell to pieces . . . all the gods went away from him’. Müller reads the episode of Pragapati’s death in the Brahmanas in the following manner: The Hindu mind had grown . . . stronger and stronger. In its search after the infinite it had been satisfied for a time by resting on the mountains and rivers, by asking their protection, praising their endless grandeur, though feeling all the time that they were but signs of something else that was sought for. Our Aryan ancestors had then learnt to look up at the sky, the sun, and the dawn, and there to see the presence of a living power, half-revealed, and half-hidden from their senses, those senses which were always postulating something beyond what they could grasp.89 In other words, Hindu dissatisfaction with Pragapati is figured in Pragapati’s death. Pragapati represented the old idolatrous order, associated with the worship of nature and material entities, which the Hindu mind is striving to transcend. Müller turns his narrative of Hinduism into a narrative of lack, a failure to achieve a telos towards which it is constantly striving. Pragapati’s narrative is repeated with respect to Indra. Faith in Indra as all-powerful is portrayed as giving way to doubts about him in Hindu texts.90 Müller anticipates a modernist move which will recur in E.M. Forster, which makes over India into a land of the empty sign with a blank interior, of metaphysical disappointment and of existential horror: The ancient Aryans felt from the beginning . . . the presence of a Beyond, of an Infinite, of a Divine, or whatever else we may call it

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  77 now. . . . They thought they had found it in the mountains and rivers, in the dawn, in the sun, in the sky, in the heaven, and the HeavenFather. But after every name, there came the No! What they looked for was like the mountains, like the rivers, like the dawn, like the sky, like the father; but it was not the mountains, not the rivers, not the dawn, not the sky, it was not the father. . . . [They wanted] a higher word, a purer thought.91 Thus, mountains, rivers, the sky and the dawn are empty signs, which cannot stand for the ‘higher word’ or ‘purer thought’. Given that a nonidolatrous divinity cannot have material embodiment, attributing divinity to natural phenomena such as mountains, rivers and the sun, can only be a preliminary step destined to be superseded in the course of religious evolution. Nature is a veil; and language, which uses metaphors and analogies drawn from the world of nature, cannot rend this veil. What lies beyond this veil (‘presence of a Beyond’), and may be glimpsed – to use a biblical ­metaphor – only through a glass darkly, is not the ‘Heaven-Father’ but God the Father. Müller indicates towards the end of his Gifford lectures on natural religion what the conclusion of the process of religious evolution might be: My principal object will be to show how the god of the sky, or, in some countries, the god of the storm-wind, assumes gradually a supreme character, and then is slowly divested in the minds of his more enlightened worshippers of what may be called his physical or mythological attributes. When the idea had once sprung up that nothing unworthy should be thought of the gods . . . the process of divestment proceeds very rapidly, and there remained in the end the concept of a Supreme Being . . . representing in reality the highest ideal of the Infinite, as a father, as a creator, as a loving ruler of the universe. What we ourselves call our belief in God the Father, is the last result of this irresistible development of human thought.92 Thus, the trajectory of evolution is away from idolatry and from physical and linguistic embodiment towards a nonidolatrous and transcendent ideal (although this ideal must still be encoded by linguistic metaphors such as ‘father’ or ‘ruler’ of the universe). The ‘we’ in the passage is again a Judeo-Christian ‘we’, and its implication is that Judeo-Christianity has travelled further along the evolutionary trajectory than Hinduism, if not actually arrived at the end of evolutionary process. This view may be compared to de Brosses’s view that the Jews arrived directly at monotheism without having to pass through the intermediate stages of fetishism and polytheism.

78  Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle The notion of arrested growth of Hindus within an overall evolutionary framework may also be compared to William Jones’s notion of the decline of Hinduism from a past golden era. In both cases, Hinduism has slipped relative to the potential it had evinced in the past; in both cases, idolatry is responsible for this decline/arrest. Although Müller comes equipped with a more sophisticated theory of language and metaphoricity, he continues to subscribe to the metaphor/truth and sensible/intelligible oppositions, prime contributors to the ideological concept of idolatry by which he is impelled. Thus, Müller concludes about contemporary Hinduism: ‘The religion is still professed by at least 110,000,000 of human souls . . . and yet I do not shrink from saying that their religion is dying or dead.’93 Like de Brosses, Müller also advances his own version of a psychology of primitive religion, one that he fails to apply to more ‘advanced’ versions of it. According to Müller, early religion springs from the nature of language itself. Language postulates an agent for every action or event in the natural world. Thus, subjective acts may be predicated of objects, and the world becomes peopled with beings like ourselves. Gods spring from anthropomorphising the forces of nature, upon which men find themselves dependent.94 However, Müller does not subject the notion of the monotheistic God as an all-powerful agent and absolute subject to such linguistic/psychological analysis, as a projection of human agency and desire for omnipotence onto the world. Müller conceives the project he undertook of translating the Sacred Books of the East as one of looking for ‘any grains of truth that may be hidden beneath an accumulation of rubbish’.95 To explain this preponderance of ‘rubbish’, Müller proffers a political/psychoanalytic profile of Hindu religion. The accumulation of rubbish could be attributed to an exorbitant influence of women, children and the ‘uneducated classes’: The childish legends about the gods may originally have grown up among the uneducated classes; they may have been intended for children only who could not be fed on stronger food. But what we have learnt in our childhood is surrounded by a halo which often lasts for life . . . often beyond the reach of reflection or argument. We must never forget that all religions, particularly, in their earliest stages, represent the thoughts of the highest and the lowest layers of society, and that many a story told at first in good faith by an old grandmother, may in time become a sacred narrative.96 The corruption of religion by subaltern influence is also a feature of Roman Catholicism, according to Müller; but this corruption has not proceeded as far as in India because ‘the level of civilisation and good taste is higher

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  79 in Europe than it is in India’. Hence, a perusal of the East’s sacred books is useful not only because it is ‘full of lessons’, but also because of its being ‘full of warnings’.97 These lessons and warnings pertain to the presence of idolatry in Eastern religions, regarding which Müller is markedly ambivalent. He finds it puzzling that the prohibition against idolatry should be accorded pride of place as the second among Ten Commandments, but concludes that there must be circumstances justifying this: It may have seemed strange to many of us, that among the ten Commandments which were to set forth, in the shortest possible form, the highest, the most essential duties of man, the second place should be assigned to a prohibition of images. . . . Let those who wish to understand the hidden wisdom of these words, study the history of ancient religions. Let them read the descriptions of religious festivals in Africa, in America, and Australia, let them witness also the pomp and display in some of our own Christian churches and cathedrals. No argument can prove that there is anything very wrong in all these outward signs and symbols. To many people, we know, they are even a help and comfort. But history is sometimes a stronger and sterner teacher than argument, and one of the lessons which the history of religions certainly teaches is this, that the curse pronounced against those who would change the invisible into the visible, the spiritual into the material, the divine into the human, the infinite into the finite, has come true in every nation on earth.98 The passage thus associates the historical misfortunes of nations with the practice of idolatry, although if read closely it reveals ambiguities and uncertainties. The second paragraph begins ‘Let those who wish to understand the hidden wisdom of these words [i.e. the prohibition against idolatry in the second commandment], study the history of ancient religions . . .’, but then proceeds to cast doubt on their wisdom by denying that the injunction against idolatry can be corroborated by argument. We are told, however, that ‘history is a stronger and sterner teacher than argument’. Although Müller does not tell us in specific terms what the ‘curse’ pronounced against idolaters and fetishists is, one might surmise that it has something to do with colonialism and slavery, and that idolaters and fetishists might have brought these destinies upon themselves. What this argument overlooks is that even nonidolatrous religions depend on material artefacts such as books, language, churches, ministers and empires for their dissemination, and that there is no way of communicating ‘inner’ revelations except through visible (or audible) signs.

80  Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle Given Müller’s political psychoanalysis of Indian religion, it is worthwhile to query the psychic origins of some of Müller’s own views on Indian religion, and interrogate the presence in Müller’s work of elements from his childhood: elements ‘surrounded by a halo which . . . lasts for life . . . often beyond the reach of reflection or argument’. Müller had a grandmother who frightened him when he was a child by telling him stories of ogres, ghosts and witches; even in terms of personal appearance, she reminded him of a witch. She would also talk freely of her young days and her first husband in front of her grandson, in terms which would earn him a severe scolding if he repeated them to his mother.99 Later, he reports her as blending incidents from the lives of two Napoleons of French history: Napoleon Bonaparte and Louis Napoleon. In his autobiography, Müller cites this incident as evidence of ‘how little the traditions of the people can be relied on, and how easily, by the side of real history, a popular history could grow up’.100 Thus, the elements present in Müller’s linking old grandmother’s stories, mythological narratives and popular histories are already present in his memories of his own grandmother. Müller’s mother was a very pious woman. He had passionate feelings for her as a child which were reciprocated, and maintained a very close relationship with her during his adult life.101 There were lessons in religion at home, and Müller writes in his autobiography in terms that are clearly self-referential that True religious sentiments can be planted in the soul at home only, by a mother better even than by a father. . . . Thus we grew up from our earliest youth, being taught to look upon Christianity as an historical fact, on Christ and his disciples as historical characters, on the Old and New Testaments as real historical books. Though we did not understand as yet the deeper meaning of Christ and His words, we had at least nothing to unlearn in later times.102 If Müller learnt during his childhood that the Old and New Testaments were real historical books, and did not have occasion to unlearn this in later life, this circumstance reflects uneasily on how Müller’s Christian piety may have inflected his practice of ‘comparative religion’ which he is reputed to have founded as a discipline.103 Would he extend the same latitude to the Vedas or to Hindu sacred narratives? While such narratives are assimilated to the stories of his grandmother, who he rejects, the Old and New Testaments are assimilated to the stories of his mother, who he idolises.

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  81 Müller grew up in the town of Dessau, capital of the small German principality of Anhalt-Dessau.104 He remembers his childhood in Dessau in idyllic terms: In a small town such as Dessau when I lived there as a child and as a boy, one lived as in an enchanted island. The horizon was very narrow, and nothing happened to disturb the peace of the little oasis.105 Müller’s days in Dessau, which he acknowledges as having had a formative influence on his subsequent development, were a time of Gemeinschaft: The more I think about that distant, now very distant past, the more I feel how, without being aware of it, my whole character was formed by it. The unspoiled primitiveness of life at Dessau as it was when I was at school there till the age of twelve, would be extremely difficult to describe in all its details. Everybody seemed to know everybody and everything about everybody. Everybody knew that he was watched, and gossip, in the best sense of the word, ruled supreme in the little town.106 Although Dessau had a formative influence on Müller, he was not aware of this for a long time. Even at the time of writing, he finds the details of life at Dessau ‘difficult to describe’. This attests to the largely unconscious character of this influence which emerges in a symptomatic manner, as I will show, in Müller’s scholarship. The world of Dessau is primarily a world of orality, where information circulates through the medium of gossip. The role of newspapers is restricted, which according to Müller makes it possible for life in Dessau to have the character of an undisturbed idyll: What helped very much to keep the peace in the small town of Dessau, as it did all over Germany, nay, all over the world, was the small number of newspapers. . . . Shall we ever, as long as there are newspapers, have peace again – peace between the great nations of the world, and peace at home between contending parties.107 Here newspapers are the agents held responsible for disrupting Gemeinschaft, and Müller indicates a strong preference for a world of orality over that of the written/printed word. Müller also constructs ancient India as a society dominated by the institutions of orality long after the formal invention of writing. Thus, in an essay entitled ‘Literature before Letters’, Müller insists that Indian religious, legal and poetical texts were transmitted by

82  Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle being handed down orally from one generation to another instead of being entrusted to manuscripts, even though alphabets, paper and writing were in existence. The Brahmins, apparently, resisted the multiplication of manuscripts in order to keep the monopoly of knowledge in their own hands.108 By retaining these texts in their memory, however, Brahmins themselves were like living manuscripts: If you want to find a quotation from Manu, open a Law Pandit, and he will give it to you, chapter and verse. But the history of the world, geography, astronomy, do not exist for him. Newspapers did not exist, and novels are a very recent growth of native literature.109 Thus, commitment to a world of orality implies a denial of history, as well as of useful sciences such as geography or astronomy. While media such as newspapers and novels, which according to Benedict Anderson are contemporary with the growth of print capitalism and the nation-state, are disruptive of the values and institutions of orality and the order that it imposes.110 Müller cites an extended passage from Plato’s Phaedrus which exalts memory and denounces the invention of writing, a passage that Derrida also refers to and analyses in his ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’. Unlike Derrida, however, Müller’s intention is to reinstate rather than overturn the relations between speech and writing obtaining in Plato’s text.111 Müller thus ends the essay with a denunciation of the manner in which memory has been ruined by books, novels and newspapers, and significantly invokes in this context his early schooldays and childhood bliss at Dessau: I have occasionally given expression to my regret that the old system of learning by heart at our public schools should have gone so completely out of fashion. Old men like myself know what a precious treasure for life the few lines that remain indelibly engraved on our memory from our earliest schooldays are. Whatever else we forget they remain, and they remind us by their very sound of happy days, of happy faces, and happy hearts. Alas! Our memory has been systematically ruined, and it hardly deserves that name any longer when we remember what memory was in ancient times. We seem to be piling every day heaps of ashes on that divine light within us. Men who read the Times every morning, possibly Notes and Queries, then Blue Books, then possibly novels, or it may be serious works on such different subjects as geology, philology,

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  83 geography, or history, are systematically ruining their memory. They are under the suzerainty of books, and helpless without them.112 For Müller as for Plato ‘live memory repeats the presence of the eidos, and truth is also the possibility of repetition through recall’; Müller repeats here the phonocentric motif in Plato’s text of the ruining of memory and presence by writing.113 Müller regards as a ‘precious treasure’ the lines from his schooldays which exist as an engraving (hence, a kind of writing) on his memory. He thus repeats Plato’s trope of true knowledge as a writing on the soul, a ‘good’ writing which nevertheless demonstrates how speech must depend on metaphors of writing, subverting the hierarchical opposition between the two terms.114 Müller’s image of ancient India is modelled in terms of his childhood idyll at Dessau. Both are images of Gemeinschaft, held up in contrast to the large-scale societies and nation-states of industrial Europe: If we turn our eyes to the East, and particularly to India, where life is, or at all events was, no very severe struggle, where the climate was mild, the soil fertile, where vegetable food in small quantities sufficed to keep the body in health and strength, where the simplest hut or cave in a forest was all the shelter required, and where social life never acquired the gigantic, aye monstrous proportions of a London or Paris, but fulfilled itself within the narrow boundaries of village communities – was it not, I say, natural there, or, if you like, was it not intended there, that another side of human nature should be developed – not the active, the combative and acquisitive, but the passive, the meditative and reflective?115 Müller thus presses India into the service of a romantic critique of industrial civilisation. In doing so, he appropriates the classical figure of Indians as gymnosophists, wise philosophers who led frugal lifestyles. Whether in the small town of Dessau or the villages of ancient India, the simplicity of lifestyle adopted in these places seems conducive to developing ‘the passive, the meditative and reflective’ side of existence.

VII  The enigma of arrival Childhood and ancient India have this in common: both are unapproachable, and thus fulfil perfectly the conditions of a romantic elsewhere. India acquires a hallucinogenic quality as it inscribes a symbolic geography of childhood invested with desire. It is described in terms that set it apart from

84  Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle empirical verifiability, by specifying the past, memory and textuality as the sites of its location. Thus, in a lecture delivered at Cambridge to candidates for the Indian Civil Service, Müller describes India/the East as a distant home, full of memories waiting to be rediscovered: We all come from the East – all that we value most has come to us from the East, and in going to the East, not only those who have received a special Oriental training, but everybody who has enjoyed the advantages of a liberal, that is, of a truly historical education, ought to feel that he is going to his ‘old home’, full of memories, if only he can read them.116 The East as an ‘old home’ is thus the site of the uncanny, the place where the Western subject originates. By engaging with the East, the Western subject dredges up old memories and deciphers enigmatic images; it may thus be able to perform a psychoanalysis of itself. While such images may be suggestive of idolatry, in Müller’s evolutionist schema, idolatry is a possible route to the true God, and ‘truth and wisdom’ can appear ‘under strange disguises’.117 Müller designates the names and anthropomorphic forms of gods worshipped in Hindu religion as personas or masks. According to him, ‘those who worshipped these names or persons, worshipped in truth the Highest Self, though ignorantly. This is a most characteristic feature in the religious history of India’.118 According to Freud, uncanny images originate during childhood when they are perfectly familiar, but later become estranged due to the unconscious activities of the adult mind.119 Freud associates uncanniness with the phenomenon of the double, and notes how impressions of the uncanny arise out of the ‘doubling, dividing and interchanging of the self’.120 Müller suggests just such a doubling and division of the self in terms of an ‘active’, ‘acquisitive’ and ‘combative’ West against a ‘passive’, ‘meditative’ and ‘reflective’ East; it is a repressed aspect of itself that the West discovers in its encounter with the East. Freud writes very suggestively that the double may become a thing of terror ‘just as, after the collapse of their religion, the gods turn into demons’.121 While Müller finds the Vedas to be ‘full of childish, silly, even to our minds monstrous conceptions’, he also discovers in the Vedic period the ‘original, simple and intelligible religion of India’.122 Müller’s dual perspective with respect to Hinduism whereby the simple turns into the monstrous, gods of nature into idolatrous entities, is not necessarily contradictory. It should be read in conjunction with Freud’s hypothesis that the uncanny and monstrous had during childhood a more friendly and familiar aspect, but took on its more sinister features as a result of the growth of the human subject and compartmentalisation of the adult mind.

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  85 As we have seen, Müller indeed conceives of the presence and growth of an Aryan subject through history. He also considers Sanskrit texts to be exemplary of the childhood of the Aryan mind.123 Müller may thus be understood as applying the terms of Freud’s reading of the uncanny to discover behind the West’s fashioning of itself an uncanny East, in turns ‘simple’ and ‘monstrous’. The political effect of Müller’s construct is to relegate the East to the period of Western childhood, and thus to interpret the East in terms of Western interests and desire. The East is simply the West’s unconscious, whose signs are to be read as an aid to the West’s discovery and understanding of itself. If the East is a distant home, the territory of childhood and the unconscious, it is also necessary that its distance be preserved. This structure of incorporating the East inscribes a necessary ambivalence, one that is present at all levels in Müller’s work. Thus, despite repeated invitations from Indians with whom he kept up a voluminous correspondence and entertained on occasion, and despite Müller’s own exhortations to potential candidates of the Indian Civil Service to make a career in India, Müller himself never set foot in India.124 Although he ‘yearned to see Benares and to bathe in the sacred water of the Ganges’, he ‘did not desire to see the geographical Benares with my physical eye. My idea of that city is so high that I cannot risk disillusionment’.125 Müller’s Orientalism thus involves a separation of the metaphysical India from the physical one. As with James Mill, whose readings of India Müller is otherwise critical of, physical India involves a troubling materiality of proliferating signs which threaten to subvert ideal constructs of it, howsoever diverse individual instances of such constructs might be. Behind this image of a recalcitrant India of overpowering physicality lurks the figure of idolatry, as the phenomenon of unattached signifiers lacking definite relation to a fixed signified, and thus unassimilable according to the protocols of a Platonic idealism. Unhitched (and unhinged) signifiers become the locus of an unstable and irrational subjectivity, an identification implicit in locating the East as the site of the unconscious. We saw in the last chapter that idolatry is aligned with the polymorphous signification of mythology. According to Müller, Indian myths constitute a particularly privileged instance for the study of mythology: ‘Nowhere, except in India, can we watch that period of chaotic thought, half poetical, half religious, which preceded, in India at least, the age of philosophy, properly so called.’126 Borrowing a trope from geology, Müller identifies mythology with ‘a metamorphic stratum, a convulsion of rational, intelligible, and duly stratified language produced by volcanic eruptions of underlying rocks’.127 These upheavals of the rational due to emanations from underlying strata of the unconscious share the same semantic space as idolatry.

86  Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle Like the unconscious, idolatry has a sexual signification. As editor of the 50-volume Sacred Books of the East, Müller censored sexual materials. In his preface to the series, Müller specified his attitude to sexual material in Eastern religious texts: There are in ancient books, and particularly in religious books, frequent allusions to the sexual aspects of nature, which . . . cannot be rendered in modern language without the appearance of coarseness. . . . I have therefore felt obliged to leave certain passages untranslated, and to give the original, when necessary, in a note. But this has been done in extreme cases only, and many which we feel inclined to suppress have been left in all their outspoken simplicity, because those who want to study ancient man, must learn to study him as he really was, an animal, with all the strengths and weaknesses of an animal.128 In an echo of Mill, Müller has warned his readers that much in the Sacred Books ‘is not only unmeaning, artificial, and silly, but even hideous and repellent’.129 Despite this, translations have taken care to suppress nothing in the originals, with the sole exception of certain sexual materials. Since the translations have taken care not to exclude even the ‘hideous and repellent’, this would point to the extreme transgressive nature of the material left out. If idolatry confounds the sensual with the spiritual, the most extreme example of this is proffered by religious allusions to sexual matters. This makes sexual references in religion especially sensitive and problematic. Even where such references have been included in the translations, they signify the animalistic character of ancient man, as expressed in the texts of Eastern religion. We saw in the previous chapter how St. Augustine identified the idolatrous ‘habit of taking signs for things’ as a carnal error, which affected understanding and reason and blurred the distinction between men and beasts. For Mill, references to sexual intercourse within Hinduism, which requires visual and even sexual mediation by the deity, destroy meaning and render Hinduism gross, monstrous and animalistic. Thus, Müller does not break with but functions within a theological horizon of discourse, a semantic space shared with St. Augustine and Mill. Nevertheless, Müller produces a reading of Indian idolatry that is extremely fissured and has marks of the fin de siècle. By stretching the definition of idolatry to include the prohibition of not just visual but also linguistic representation of God(s), he totalises the figure of idolatry to bring within its purview any reference to God. His deconstruction of reason as an effect of language does not sit very well with his quasi-Hegelian faith in history as rational process. His working through materials from ancient

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  87 Sanskrit texts in the light of Western philosophical and theological concepts shows up the limitedness of some of those concepts. Philosophers are forced to use the tools of ordinary language, and therein lies their Achilles heel: ‘unfortunately, philosophy cannot reserve a language for its own purposes. Whatever terms philosophers coin soon enter into the general currency; they are clipped and defaced and recast in the most perplexing way’.130 It is this worldliness of philosophy that Müller takes issue with, but he is powerless to resist it. In this respect, Sanskrit – as a language confined to Brahmins and not available for ordinary usage – may be seen as approaching an ideal philosophers’ language, hence a token of the desire to efface philosophy’s worldliness. In construing Vedic Indian society as an idyllic zone of Gemeinschaft, freed of the alienations of an industrial Europe divided into hostile nationstates, Müller expresses a nostalgic desire for the disinterested scholar exempt from worldly pursuits, a role that is projected onto Brahmins in ancient India. The following passage from Müller’s autobiography makes apparent how he invests the imputed social role of the Brahmins with desire and how he sees himself in relation to them: Great wars went on in India, but they were left to be fought by the warriors by profession. The peasants in their villages remained quiet, accepting the consequences, whatever they might be, and the Brahmans lived on, thinking and dreaming in their forests, satisfied to rule after the battle was over. And what applies to military struggles seems to me to apply to all struggles – political, religious, social, commercial, and even literary. Let those who love to fight, fight; but let others who are fond of quiet work go on undisturbed in their own special callings. . . . All I plead for, as a scholar and thinker, is freedom from canvassing, from letterreading and letter-writing, from committees, deputations, meetings, public dinners, and all the rest.131 In this vision of a hierarchical social order, Müller sees his own role as that of a ‘thinker’ – an arena of activity, mirroring that of the Brahmins, that deserves to be sealed off from social and political strife and the activities of the vulgar. Interestingly, for someone who decries social and political involvement, Müller mentions that the Brahmins who withdraw to forests during times of battle are also ‘satisfied to rule’ once the battle is over; they are therefore not as averse from politics as might seem at first sight. Much the same might be said of Müller himself: I was fortunate . . . in counting among my most intimate friends some of the most active and influential reformers in University, Church, and State, and it is quite possible that I may often have influenced them

88  Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle in the hours of sweet converse; nay, that standing in the second rank, I may have helped to load the guns which they fired off with much effect afterwards.132 In practice, Müller was a public controversialist, wrote, commented on and tried to influence policy in matters pertaining to England, Germany and India, and enjoyed excellent connections with English royalty and other statesmen which he used to promote causes that he favoured.133 Müller set himself up as spokesman for Indian interests. He promoted ameliorative measures in British India, recommending that Indians be treated not as ‘born enemies or conspirators to be kept under by force, but as loyal subjects to be trusted’.134 He supported the policies of the liberal Lord Ilbert and opposed those of the autocratic Lord Lytton in India, denouncing the ‘Oriental regime of Lord Lytton’.135 His series of lectures to candidates for the Indian Civil Service at Cambridge in 1882, subsequently published under the title India: What Can It Teach Us?, sets out to combat the ideological legacy created by Mill’s History of British India. To ameliorate the rigours of the colonial regime, apart from a better knowledge of Oriental cultures by civil servants, Müller also advocated ‘real friendship between the rulers and the ruled in India’.136 These examples illustrate the contradictory political space Müller inhabited with respect to the British Empire and Indo-British relations. Thus, if force were removed as a factor in these relations, Indians would remain loyal subjects by consent. He criticises Lytton’s regime as an ‘Oriental regime’: although arguing for Liberal Reform, the statement is also based on generalisations regarding the supposed propensity of Orientals for despotic rule. His India: What Can It Teach Us? is addressed to the same target audience as Mill’s History of British India: candidates for the Indian Civil Service. In the absence of representative institutions for Indians, Müller met and corresponded with Indian leaders and communicated their views to British statesmen and policymakers. To remedy this state of affairs, however, Müller thought that Indians should enter British Parliament.137 Self-determination by Indians could not be countenanced: ‘I have all my life been a liberal and a Gladstonian, but I do not approve of Home Rule.’138 While small German principalities and Indian villages are held up alike as offering an alternative to the Europe of nations and preserving Gemeinschaft, Müller also approves of the gobbling up of these principalities by Bismarck in the drive towards German unification and nationhood.139 This is in striking contrast to his refusal to concede nationhood in the case of Indians. This contradictory space shows up as well in the instance of the ‘gift’ of Müller’s Veda. This ‘gift’ to the Indian people turns on the notion of

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  89 110,000,000 people practising a religion that is ‘dying or dead’. It relies on the trope of a lost and restored Veda, and thus marks the re-emergence of the Ezourvedam project. Müller construes Hinduism as an organic body which has already passed its prime by the time the Upanishads were formulated: ‘In the majority of the hymns of the Veda we might recognise the childhood; in the Brahmanas and their sacrificial, domestic, and moral ordinances the busy manhood; in the Upanishads the old age of the Vedic religion.’140 The period since the Upanishads is therefore one of stagnation and decay, during which the world-historical principle has migrated elsewhere.141 The stagnation and decay of Hinduism necessitate reform which may be enabled by a rediscovery of the original Veda, made available through Müller’s gift. Müller’s Veda is one that is stripped of idolatry and fetishism, like Chumantou’s version of Hinduism in the Ezourvedam.142 The project of reform, therefore, coincides with the recovery of a lost nonidolatrous subjectivity: So much may be said with perfect truth, that if the religion of India could be brought back to that simple form which it exhibits in the Veda, a great reform would be achieved . . . as far as popular conceptions are concerned, the Vedic religion, though childish and crude, is free from all that is so hideous in the later Hindu Pantheon.143 This accounts for Müller’s enthusiastic support for Brahmos and other reformist sects who, subsequent to efforts at proselytisation by Christian missionaries in India, attempted the practice of a pristine and monotheistic Hinduism cleansed of idolatry.144 The expert producer of a knowledge capable of discriminating between the merely ‘childish and crude’ and the positively ‘hideous’ can thus turn into benevolent colonial overseer and patron of a reform that attempts to elevate Hinduism at least to the level of the former. For Hegel, history begins west of India, with the Persians as the first world-historical people. China and India exhibit, by contrast, ‘the dull half-conscious brooding of Spirit’, immobile and unhistorical.145 If China is to be regarded as ‘nothing else but a State, Hindoo political existence presents us with a people, but no State’.146 Müller accepts this characterisation of India, but revalourises it to make India the home of a transcendent spirituality outside of history and empirical experience. This influential construct had several paradoxical effects. On the one hand, it implies that the handling of political matters is best left to the British. But on the other it has enabled a certain Indian nationalism, premised on the fulfilment of a transcendent spirituality as India’s unique world-historical destiny.

90  Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle

Notes 1 See Bernard Cohn, An Anthropologist Among the Historians and Other Essays, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 650. 2 See Gauri Vishwanathan, Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India, London: Faber and Faber, 1990. 3 Friedrich Max Müller, Three Introductory Lectures on the Science of Thought, 1887; repr., New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 1988. 4 Ibid., p. i. 5 Ibid., p. 50. 6 ‘But do sounds, which lie outside this nebulous world of thought, in themselves constitute entities established in advance? No more than ideas do. . . . A language might also be compared to a sheet of paper. Thought is one side of the sheet and sound the reverse side. Just as it is impossible to take a pair of scissors and cut one side of paper without at the same time cutting the other, so it is impossible in a language to separate sound from thought, or thought from sound’ (Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, trans. from French by Roy Harris, London: Gerald Duckworth, 1983, pp. 110–11). 7 Müller, Three Introductory Lectures on the Science of Thought, p. 89. 8 Ibid., pp. 90–1. 9 The same insight was expressed by Friedrich Nietzsche when he described philosophers as ‘conceptual idolaters’. See Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘Reason in Philosophy’, Twilight of the Idols/The Anti-Christ, trans. from German by R.J. Hollingdale, London: Penguin, 1990, p. 45. 10 Müller, Three Introductory Lectures on the Science of Thought, p. 57. Müller also argues that the Greek logos is a more unitary conception, signifying the undivided essence of language and thought (see ibid., p. II). 11 Ibid., p. 61. 12 Ibid., p. 94. 13 ‘In a language there are only differences, and no positive terms’ (Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, p. 118). ‘The link between signal and signification is arbitrary . . . the linguistic sign is arbitrary’ (ibid., p. 67). 14 Müller, Three Introductory Lectures on the Science of Thought, p. 88. 15 See Sigmund Freud, ‘Analysis Terminable and Interminable’, in Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, 24 vols, London: Hogarth Press, 1974, vol. 23, pp. 216–53. 16 Müller, Three Introductory Lectures on the Science of Thought, p. 89. 17 Müller, opening address, Transactions of the Ninth International Congress of Orientalists, Oxford, 1892, cited in Johannes H. Voigt, Max Mueller: The Man and His Ideas, Calcutta: Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay, 1967, p. 25. 18 Müller, Three Introductory Lectures on the Science of Thought, p. III. 19 Ibid., p. V. 20 Ibid., p. 91. 21 For Müller’s ‘scientific’ views on thought and language, in addition to Three Introductory Lectures on the Science of Thought, see as well his The Science of Thought, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1887 and Lectures on the Science of Language, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1862. 22 ‘What is rational is actual, and what is actual is rational’ (G.W.F. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, trans. from German by T.M. Knox, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1942, p. 10).

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  91 23 Müller attests that Hegelian and Darwinian thought were very much associated in his time: ‘Hegelian fever was very much like what we have passed through ourselves at the time of the Darwinian fever; Darwin’s natural evolution was looked upon very much like Hegel’s dialectic process, as the general solvent of all difficulties’ (Müller, My Autobiography: A Fragment, Varanasi: Chaukhamba Orientalia, 1974, p. 128). Given Müller’s ambivalence on the issue of reason and language, his tensions with respect to Hegelian thought are exemplary. In his autobiography, Müller recounts Hegel’s influence during his university days at Leipzig: ‘to be a Hegelian was considered a sine qua non, not only among philosophers, but quite as much among theologians, men of science, lawyers, artists, in fact, in every branch of human knowledge, at least in Prussia. If Christianity in its Protestant form was the state-religion of the kingdom, Hegelianism was its state-philosophy’ (ibid., p. 127). Müller goes on to identify a certain theological hesitation in Hegel, and provides a narrative of the ambiguity of his professor’s and his own response to Hegel: ‘Hegel himself seems to shrink occasionally from the consequence that the Idea really stands in the place of God, and that it is in the self-conscious spirit of humanity that the ideal God becomes first conscious of himself. . . . Professor Weisse also, in spite of his great admiration for Hegel, protested in his lectures against this idealisation of history, and showed how often Hegel, if he could not find the traces he was looking for in the historical development of the Idea, was misled by his imperfect knowledge of facts, and discovered what was not there, but what he felt convinced ought to have been there. . . . I see as clearly the formal truth as the material untruth of Hegel’s philosophy. The thorough excellence of its method and the desperate baldness of its results, strike me with equal force. Though I did not yet know what kind of thing or person the Idea was really meant for, I knew myself enough of ancient Greek philosophy and of Oriental religions to venture to criticize Hegel’s representation and disposition of the facts themselves’ (ibid., pp. 131–2). The ambivalence of Müller’s response to Hegel suggests that Hegel remains a prime influence on him even when he desires to escape that influence. 24 For an account of how Müller reconciled his theological concerns and Christian belief with Darwinian evolution and 19th-century science, see Voigt, Max Mueller: The Man and His Ideas, pp. 13–22. 25 Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. from French by G.C. Spivak, 1976; repr., Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1994, p. 10. 26 Müller, ‘Is Fetishism a Primitive Form of Religion?’, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1878, p. 81. 27 Ibid., pp. 82–3. 28 Müller, India: What Can It Teach Us?, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1910, pp. 142–3. 29 Müller, ‘Is Fetishism a Primitive Form of Religion?’, pp. 52–127. 30 Ibid., p. 62 31 G.W.F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History, trans. from German by J. Sibree, New York: Dover Publications, 1956, pp. 94–5. 32 Ibid., pp. 95–6. 33 Müller, ‘Is Fetishism a Primitive Form of Religion?’, p. 61. 34 Ibid., pp. 61–2.

92  Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle 5 William Pietz, ‘The Problem of the Fetish, I’, Res 9, Spring 1985, p. 7. 3 36 Ibid., p. 14. 37 Müller, ‘Is Fetishism a Primitive Form of Religion?’, p. 91. 38 Ibid., pp. 69–70. For a more extended consideration of the problematic and genealogy of the ‘savage’, see Müller, ‘The Savage’, Last Essays – First Series: Essays on Language, Folklore and Other Subjects, New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1901, pp. 139–82. Müller indicates his project as follows: ‘I have been considered too inquisitive for venturing to ask anthropologists what they meant by a fetish, but I must expose myself to the same reproach by venturing to ask them to state plainly what they mean by a savage’ (ibid., p. 148). He proceeds to subject the terms ‘savagery’ and ‘fetishism’ to critical interrogation. 39 Ibid., p. 56. For more on Charles de Brosses and his theories, see ‘President de Brosses: In Memory of the Little Fetish’ in Frank E. Manuel, The Eighteenth Century Confronts the Gods, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959, pp. 184–209. 40 Müller, ‘Is Fetishism a Primitive Form of Religion?’, p. 59. 41 ‘If [de Brosses] had dared to look for traces of fetishism in the Old Testament with the same keenness which made him see fetishes in Egypt, in Greece, in Rome, and everywhere else, surely the Teraphim, the Urim and Thummim, or the ephod, to say nothing of golden calves and brazen serpents, might have supplied him with ample material (Gen. XXVIII, 18; Jerem. II, 27)’ (ibid., pp. 59–60). 42 On fear of the elements and presence of an angry deity in the Old Testament, Müller writes: ‘Every deluge was accepted as a punishment, and the bow in the cloud was interpreted as a token of a covenant between God and man. In the Psalms the anger of the Lord is constantly perceived in the great commotions of the sky and the earth’ (Müller, Natural Religion – The Gifford Lectures, 1899; repr., New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 1979, p. 171). 43 Ibid., pp. 99–100. 44 Müller, ‘Is Fetishism a Primitive Form of Religion?’, p. 119. 45 Müller, Natural Religion, pp. 94–6. 46 Ibid., p. 96. 47 Regarding terms like ‘fetishism’ and ‘totemism’, Müller points out: ‘There seems to be a peculiar fascination in strange names’ (ibid., p. 159). 48 Müller, Physical Religion, 1891; repr., New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 1979, p. 129. 49 Müller, ‘Truthful Character of Hindus’, India: What Can It Teach Us?, pp. 34–75. Müller recounts in his preface to the second edition of this collection of his lectures delivered that ‘Truthful Character of the Hindus’ was the lecture that produced the most decided antagonism in his audience (ibid., p. XV). Within the lecture itself, he describes its contents as ‘heresy’ for which ‘I know I shall never be forgiven’ (ibid., p. 36). 50 Ibid., p. 34. 51 Ibid., pp. 36–7. 52 Müller argues that Brahmin pandits’ dread of Europeans prevents the pandits from telling them the truth (see ibid., pp. 40–1). Given the nature of land revenue demands, the villager is obliged to resist force by fraud; the presence of an English official drives native virtues away from them (see

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  93 ibid., pp. 48, 61). England is a free country, implying that India isn’t (see ibid., p. 72). 53 See ibid., pp. 58–9. 54 For Müller’s critique of Mill, see ibid., pp. 42–4. 55 Ibid., pp. 42–3. 56 Ibid., p. 105. 57 See Plato, The Republic, trans. from Greek by Desmond Lee, London: Penguin, 1987, pp. 301–25, 342. 58 See Mill, ‘Mahomedan and Hindu Civilisation’, History of British India, 3 vols, 1817; repr., New Delhi: Associated Publishing House, 1990, vol. 1, pp. 697–724. At the beginning of the chapter, Mill asserts that ‘the nations, in the western parts of Asia; the Persians, the Arabians, and even the Turks; possessed a degree of intellectual faculties rather higher than the nations situated beyond them to the East. . . . This is a statistical fact, to which it is not probable that much contradiction will hereafter be applied. It is chiefly of importance, for the present inquiry, to show; that the people who actually invaded Hindustan, and assumed the government over so large a portion of its inhabitants, were perfectly on a level with the Arabians and Persians, in the highest state of their civilisation’ (ibid., p. 697). The rest of the chapter argues this is indeed the case; while Muslims in India attained the level of Arabians and Persians, Hindus were several degrees below. Note the similarity with the idea stated in Hegel’s Philosophy of History that the Persians were the first historical people; the principle of development ceases as one enters India from Persia (see Hegel, Philosophy of History, pp. 173–4). Hegel could have been influenced in his estimate by a reading of Mill. 59 Müller, What Can India Teach Us?, p. 54. Italics are the author’s. 60 Letter from Müller to W.E. Gladstone, 18 January 1883, cited in Voigt, Max Müller: The Man and His Ideas, p. 51. 61 Müller, ‘Dedication’, India: What Can It Teach Us?, p. VIII. 62 Ibid., pp. IX–X. 63 This support provided Müller with an income of approximately £200 a year, over as many years as it took him to compile his edition. See Nirad C. Chaudhuri, Scholar Extraordinary: The Life of Professor the Rt. Hon. Friedrich Max Müller, London: Chatto & Windus, 1974, p. 60. The cost of printing the Rig-Veda was also borne by the East India Company. See Müller, My Autobiography, p. 195. 64 Müller recounts in his autobiography how difficult it was to persuade the East India Company’s directors to authorise the considerable expenditure needed for the Rig-Veda edition. However, when Baron Bunsen, the Prussian minister in London and Müller’s mentor, pointed out what a disgrace it would be if some country other than England were to publish the work, the company was finally persuaded (see ibid.). 65 See Pietz, ‘The Problem of the Fetish, IIIa: Bosman’s Guinea and the Enlightenment Theory of Fetishism’, Res 16, Spring 1988, pp. 105–23. 66 See Müller, ‘The Worship of Tangible, Semi-Tangible, and Intangible Objects’, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion, pp. 168–217. 67 Ibid., p. 181. 68 See Müller, Natural Religion, pp. 8–10. 69 Ibid., p. 10.

94  Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle 70 ‘For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known’ (1 Corinthians 13:12). 71 Müller, Natural Religion, p. 71. 72 For Maimonides’s exposition of this view, see Moses Maimonides, The Guide for the Perplexed, trans. from Arabic by M. Friedländer, New York: Dover Publications, 1956, especially Part I. Like Müller, Maimonides argues that to describe God with the universal predicates of language would be to put God into the same category as other objects to which those predicates might apply, which is impermissible. See Part I, chapter 58. 73 Thus, in Deuteronomy 4, God appears to the Hebrews in the form of a voice: ‘the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children./ And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness./ And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice’ (4:10–12). God then proceeds with injunctions against visual similitudes and graven images, through the rest of the chapter. Here it is noteworthy, however, that only visual images are forbidden; God expressly summons the Hebrews (instead of transmitting his word through Moses) in order to expose them to the sound of his voice and instill them with fear and terror. 74 An attribute of the idolatrous figure is that it is subject to a logic of dissemination, since it cannot point to an ultimate or transcendental signified. Ironically, this appears to be true here of the conceptual metaphor of ‘idolatry’ itself. 75 There is considerable ambiguity in Müller regarding whether the term ‘Aryan’ constitutes a race or a language family; see on this Voigt, Max Mueller: The Man and His Ideas, pp. 5–8. However, even in those of his formulations where he differentiates language from race and considers ‘Aryans’ as a language family and not a race, linguistic affinity is enough to confer a unified historical subjectivity: ‘There is no Aryan race in blood, but whoever, through the imposition of hands, whether of his parents or his foreign masters, has received the Aryan blessing, belongs to that unbroken spiritual succession which began with the first apostles of that noble speech, and continues to the present day in every part of the globe’ (Müller, Biographies of Words and the Home of the Aryas, 1888; repr., New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 1987, pp. 89–90). Müller places the Rig-Veda at the origin of this unified subject: ‘The bridge of thoughts and sighs that spans the whole history of the Aryan world has its first arch in the [Rig] Veda, its last in Kant’s Critique [of Pure Reason] . . . . While in the Veda, we may study the childhood, we may study in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason the perfect manhood of the Aryan mind’ (Müller, ‘Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason’, Last Essays – First Series, pp. 248–9). 76 Müller, ‘The Worship of Tangible, Semi-Tangible, and Intangible Objects’, pp. 198–9. 77 Müller, ‘Is Fetishism a Primitive Form of Religion?’, p. 63. 78 Pietz, ‘The Problem of the Fetish, II: The Origin of the Fetish’, Res 13, Spring 1987, p. 23. 79 Müller, ‘Is Fetishism a Primitive Form of Religion?’, pp. 63–4.

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  95 80 Müller, ‘Henotheism, Polytheism, Monotheism, and Atheism’, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion, p. 280. 81 See Müller, ‘The Lessons of the Veda’, India: What Can It Teach Us?, pp. 145–8. 82 Ibid., p. 146. 83 See Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, vol. 1, trans. from French by Robert Hurley, New York: Vintage Books, 1990. 84 Müller, Natural Religion, pp. 7–11. Johannes Voigt shows how ‘Max Mueller, who made a bid to check the progress of Darwinian thought, and to avert its detrimental impact upon the Christian religion, eventually tried to neutralize it by incorporating the main ideas of Darwin into his concepts of God and religions’ (Voigt, Max Mueller: The Man and His Ideas, pp. 18–24). 85 Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, p. 67. 86 Müller, ‘Henotheism, Polytheism, Monotheism, and Atheism’, p. 286. 87 Ibid., p. 291. 88 See ibid., pp. 291–2. 89 Ibid., pp. 297–8. 90 See ibid., pp. 298–303. 91 Ibid., p. 304. 92 Müller, Natural Religion, p. 574. 93 Müller, ‘Westminster Lecture on Missions’, Chips from a German Workshop, 4 vols, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1875, vol. 4, p. 263. 94 See for example Müller, Natural Religion, pp. 388–92. 95 Müller, Natural Religion, p. 571. After Müller’s retirement from teaching at Oxford in 1875, the gigantic project of translating the Sacred Books of the East was begun under Müller’s editorship. See The Sacred Books of the East, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1879–1910, 50 vols. 96 Müller, Physical Religion, p. 202. 97 Ibid., pp. 202–3. 98 Müller, ‘Is Fetishism a Primitive Form of Religion?’, pp. 117–18. 99 See Chaudhuri, The Life of Friedrich Max Müller, p. 21. 100 According to Müller, after he visited Paris and London, his grandmother asked him whether he had seen Napoleon who had been taken prisoner and sent to England, but had lately escaped and resumed his throne in Paris (Müller, My Autobiography, p. 52). 101 See Chaudhuri, The Life of Friedrich Max Müller, pp. 27–8. 102 Müller, My Autobiography, pp. 61–3. 103 A precondition in comparative religion studies is an admission of the complete parity of all religions: see Müller, Introduction to the Science of Religion, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1873, p. 281. On Müller’s role in founding this discipline see Voigt, Max Mueller: The Man and His Ideas, pp. 15–16. 104 The Duchy of Anhalt-Dessau was so small that when a troublesome political agitator was expelled from it during the revolutionary days of mid-19th-century Germany, he threatened to break the windows of the ruler’s palace by throwing stones from across the border (Chaudhuri, The Life of Friedrich Max Müller, p. 13). 105 Müller, My Autobiography, p. 45. 106 Ibid., p. 90.

96  Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle 07 Ibid., pp. 70–1. 1 108 See Müller, ‘Literature Before Letters’, Last Essays – First Series, pp. 113–15, 121. 109 Ibid., p. 124. 110 On the relation between newspapers and novels and the growth of print capitalism and the nation-state, see Benedict Anderson, ‘Cultural Roots’, Imagined Communities, London & New York: Verso, 1991, pp. 9–36. 111 See Plato, Phaedrus, trans. from Greek by R. Hackforth, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952, pp. 274b‑275b. This passage is cited in Müller, ‘Literature Before Letters’, pp. 118–19 and Derrida, ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’, Dissemination, trans. from French by Barbara Johnson, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981, p. 75. 112 Müller, ‘Literature before Letters’, pp. 134–5. 113 Derrida, ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’, p. 111. 114 Plato, Phaedrus, pp. 276–276b; see also the argument in Derrida, ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’, pp. 148–50. 115 Müller, ‘Human Interest of Sanskrit Literature’, India: What Can It Teach Us?, pp. 100–1. 116 Müller, ‘What Can India Teach Us?’, India: What Can It Teach Us?, pp. 31–2. 117 Müller, ‘Veda and Vedanta’, India: What Can It Teach Us?, p. 253. 118 Ibid., pp. 251–2. 119 See Freud, ‘The “Uncanny” ’, Standard Edition, vol. 17, pp. 219–52. 120 Ibid., p. 234. 121 Ibid., p. 236. 122 Müller, ‘Human Interest of Sanskrit Literature’, p. 97; Müller, Physical Religion, p. 10. 123 ‘The discovery of Sanskrit . . . has added a new period to our historical consciousness, and revived the recollections of our childhood, which seemed to have vanished for ever’ (Müller, ‘What Can India Teach Us?’, pp. 29–30). Examples of statements associating Sanskrit, the Vedas and Hinduism with Aryan childhood can be multiplied through Müller’s oeuvre. 124 ‘Later in life I was invited again and again by my Indian friends to go there’ (Müller, Auld Lang Syne – Second Series: My Indian Friends, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1899, p. 5). On Müller’s contacts with Indians, see Voigt, Max Mueller: The Man and His Ideas, pp. 47–52; also Chaudhuri, The Life of Friedrich Max Müller, pp. 287–310. 125 Müller, I Point to India: Selected Writings of Max Mueller, Nanda Mookerjee (ed.), Bombay: Shakuntala Publishing House, 1970, p. VII. 126 Müller, Six Systems of Indian Philosophy, 1899; repr., Varanasi: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series, 1971, pp. 139–40. 127 Müller, Natural Religion, p. 518. 128 Müller, ‘Preface’, The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 1, pp. XX–XXI. 129 Ibid., p. XII. 130 Müller, ‘The Simplicity of Thought’, Three Introductory Lectures on the Science of Thought, p. 82. 131 Müller, My Autobiography, pp. 305–6. 132 Ibid., pp. 303–4. 133 For an account of Müller’s interventions in public affairs, see Voigt, ‘Max Mueller and Contemporary Politics’, Max Mueller: The Man and His Ideas, pp. 39–78.

Idolatry and fetishism in the fin de siècle  97 134 Müller, Auld Lang Syne – Second Series: My Indian Friends, p. 158. 135 Letter to W.E. Gladstone, 13 July 1883, reproduced in Voigt, Max Mueller: The Man and His Ideas, pp. 87–8. 136 Müller, Auld Lang Syne – Second Series: My Indian Friends, p. VIII. 137 Following this route, Lalmohan Ghose attempted to gain entry to the House of Commons, supported by Max Müller. As may be expected, Ghose was quite unsuccessful in his attempt: he was not elected. See Voigt, Max Mueller: The Man and His Ideas, p. 50. 138 Müller, Letter to B.M. Malabari, 25 August 1893, Life and Letters of Friedrich Max Müller, 2 vols, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1902, vol. 2, p. 318. 139 For Müller’s views as a German nationalist and his support for Bismarck’s incorporation of Schleswig-Holstein and other principalities into Germany, see Chaudhuri, The Life of Friedrich Max Müller, pp. 240–6; also Voigt, Max Mueller: The Man and His Ideas, pp. 57–9. 140 Müller, ‘Philosophy and Religion’, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion, p. 362. 141 For an indication of the peoples and religion with whom the world-historical principle might dwell in the present: ‘As the level of civilisation and good taste is higher in Europe than it is in India, it is certainly true that in Europe the corruption of religion has never gone so far as in India. There are some portions of the Bible which, I believe, most Christians would not be sorry to miss. But that is nothing compared to the absurd and even revolting stories occurring in Sanskrit books which are called sacred. In that respect it is quite true that there is no comparison between our own sacred book, the New Testament, and the Sacred Books of the East’ (Müller, Physical Religion, pp. 202–3). 142 ‘The original, simple, and intelligible religion of India is to be found in the Vedic period only’ (Müller, Physical Religion, p. 10). ‘In the ancient Vedic religion there is no sign as yet of graven images, and though many human qualities are attributed to the gods, they never assumed that plastic human character which they have in Greece’ (ibid., p. 201). ‘Our Aryan forefathers . . . did not start, as was imagined, with a worship of fetishes. Fetish worship comes in later times, where we expect it: in the earliest documents of religious thought in India there is no trace of it, nay, we may go further and say, there is no room for it’ (Müller, ‘Philosophy and Religion’, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion, p. 373). Italics in the latter statement are mine and indicate Müller’s desire: he does not find fetishism in early Hindu texts because he does not expect it to be there. 143 Müller, Letter to Duke of Argyll, 14 January 1869, Life and Letters of Friedrich Max Müller, vol. 1, p. 382. 144 On Müller’s support for Hindu reformers, see Chaudhuri, The Life of Friedrich Max Müller, pp. 325–39. 145 See Hegel, Philosophy of History, pp. 173–5. 146 Ibid., p. 161.

3 The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque John Ruskin, Alice Perrin and E.M. Forster

The Mediterranean is the human norm. When men leave that exquisite lake whether through the Bosphorus or the Pillars of Hercules, they approach the monstrous and extraordinary; and the southern exit leads to the strangest experience of all. – E.M. Forster, A Passage to India

Sometimes he was even conscious himself of the terrible fascination of this Power of Darkness. . . . He could well imagine the frenzied emotion of it all, the splendour, the madness as well as the degradation of idolatry . . . to vanquish this terrible foe he had come out to India. – Alice Perrin, Idolatry

Get yourself to be gentle and civilised, having respect for human life and a desire for good, and somehow or other you will find that you will not be able to make such pretty shawls as before. You know that you cannot make them so pretty as those Sepoys [participating in the Indian Mutiny] do at this moment. – John Ruskin, The Two Paths

As writers and art critics, John Ruskin, Alice Perrin and E.M. Forster are all concerned with the ‘proper’ artistic image and its boundaries, and in that context all take up the representation of Indian gods as an exemplary way of figuring the ‘grotesque’. While to a lesser or greater extent the effort in their texts is to exile the idolatrous grotesque to the margins of artistic discourse, the idolatrous image turns out to be potent rather than empty; Indian gods and the grotesque have a way of returning and assuming centre stage in issues of artistic representation and cognitive mapping.

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 99 In the novel Idolatry (1909) by Alice Perrin (1867–1934), this process is narratively staged through the transformations of Anne Crivener and other Anglo-Indian protagonists in turn-of-the-century India, who are initially repelled by aesthetic and social practices connected to idolatry but later drawn into fatal complicity with it.1 John Ruskin (1819–1900), who came into literary prominence with a long poem on Indian idolatry entitled Salsette and Elephanta (1839), brought evangelical Christian perspectives to bear on his criticism of art.2 Ruskin is centrally concerned with a ‘barbarous grotesque’ linked to Indian gods. His efforts to distinguish it from a ‘noble grotesque’ that is indispensable to art lead to insurmountable problems in his art theory (which is simultaneously social theory) and testify to the enveloping power of idolatry. Relationships between idolatry, sexuality and the artistic image are a key concern in two texts by E.M. Forster (1879–1970) of which a reading will be offered in this chapter: ‘The Life to Come’ (1922) and A Passage to India (1924).3 ‘The Life to Come’ is concerned with idolatrous adoration and pagan eroticism as a disfiguration of Christian love, and powerfully engages the context of colonial disciplinarity within which such invocations occur. Such concerns are carried forward in A Passage to India where in addition, in a modernist update of James Mill, India and its landscapes come to stand as figures for materiality, dispersion, the nontranscendent image and loss.

I  Idolatry and the Ruskinian grotesque: the peat cottage and the ivory palace As an advocate of the crucial social importance of art, Ruskin’s views of art and society may at first sight be taken to be opposed to the utilitarian perspectives of James Mill. Ruskin’s aesthetic and social criticism involved a significant critique of utilitarian values in 19th-century England. Playing on Bentham’s utilitarian credo of the ‘greatest good of the greatest number’, Ruskin declared in Unto This Last ‘that country is richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings’.4 The book targeted political economy based on the principle of maximisation of utility.5 As we saw in Chapter 1, Mill’s normative definition of the philosopher’s role required a distancing from the world of images. The aesthetic imagination can be radically misleading as a cognitive mode, and art therefore plays a marginal role in Mill’s political economy. Ruskin’s The Political Economy of Art, by contrast, conceived of an alternative political economy in which art would play a central role and aesthetics constitute a crucial arbiter of social production and value.6 Ruskin was himself a painter, and interested

100  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque particularly in the visual arts: painting, sculpture and architecture. Consideration of the visual arts, particularly sculpture, brings up the issue of idolatry, which plays a crucial role in Ruskin’s aesthetic. In addition to the mimetic instinct, Ruskin considers the idolising instinct necessary for true sculpture.7 Ruskin vociferously condemned the ills promoted by the Industrial Revolution, such as aesthetic ugliness and environmental degradation.8 Reversing conventional Enlightenment teleologies, he evinced a preference for Gothic over Renaissance architecture.9 Correspondences between Gothic and Indian architectural styles had been perceived since the end of the 18th century, to which the Romantic Movement as well as travellers in search of the ‘picturesque’ had lent a particularly sharp edge.10 Ruskin’s response to Indian art, however, is not as appreciative as his response to the Gothic, but is marked by a curious disjunctive doubleness. For Ruskin, the productions of Indian art, architecture and society in general are marked by idolatry which, despite its necessity for sculpture, is a distinctly problematic category. This problematic character appears in The Two Paths (1859), which examines Indian art and points the way towards aporias present in Ruskin’s general theory of art.11 The Two Paths begins with a contemplation of scenery in the north of Scotland, which for Ruskin is marked by ‘a peculiar painfulness . . . caused by the non-manifestation of the powers of human art’. Characteristic of this scenery is the peat cottage, which is literally a heap of gray stones, choked up, rather than roofed over, with black peat and withered heather; the only approach to an effort at decoration consists in the placing of the clods of protective peat obliquely on its roof, so as to give a diagonal arrangement of lines. In the midst of Ruskin’s distressed contemplation of such scenery, however, news from another, very different quarter of the world breaks in: While I was wandering disconsolately among the moors of the Grampians, where there was no art to be found, news of peculiar interest were every day arriving from a country where there was a great deal of art, and art of a delicate kind, to be found. This is a quarter of the world more renowned for the ‘ivory palace’ than peat cottages, and the news breaking in on Ruskin is of the Indian Mutiny. This news is sufficient to make up his mind about Indian art: And we are thus urged naturally to inquire what is the effect on the moral character, in each nation, of this vast difference in their pursuits

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 101 and apparent capacities and whether those rude chequers of the tartan, or the exquisitely fancied involutions of the Cashmere, fold habitually over the noblest hearts? We have had our answer. . . . Among all the soldiers to whom you owe . . . your avenging in the Indies, to none are you bound by closer bonds of gratitude than to the men who have been born and bred among those desolate Highland moors. . . . Out of the peat cottage come faith, courage, self-sacrifice, purity, and piety, and whatever else is fruitful in the work of Heaven; out of the ivory palace come treachery, cruelty, cowardice, idolatry, bestiality, – whatever else is fruitful in the work of Hell.12 Ruskin’s radicalism and difference from Mill on aesthetic matters does not thus translate into politics or a view of idolatry that’s any different from Mill. The aesthetic value embodied in the ivory palace entails a worship of appearance and the image, hence idolatry and corruption, while the lack of it in the peat cottage signifies Scottish purity and nobility. At this point, Ruskin falls back upon a conventional pattern of associations and antitheses, opening up the very disjunction between aesthetics and morality his theory was meant to avoid. These antitheses also appear in his early poem Salsette and Elephanta, written in 1839 at the age of twenty. In this poem, the architecture of the cave temples of Salsette and Elephanta, expressive of the spirit of Indian architecture, is associated with idolatry, oppression and evil: Thus, in the fevered dream of restless pain, Incumbent horror broods upon the brain; Through mists of blood colossal shapes arise, Stretch their stiff limbs, and roll their rayless eyes. . . . The sculptor learned, on Indus’ plains afar, The various pomp of worship and of war; Impetuous ardour in his bosom woke, And smote the animation from the rock. Idols here are phantoms of the imagination, conjured up in dream states and subsequently carved out of rock by the sculptor, bringing about a reign of image and appearance. This reign may be dispelled and the phantoms of imagination exorcised by the dawning of knowledge of the true God: – the rays that bless, They come, they come. Night’s fitful visions fly Like autumn leaves, and fade from fancy’s eye;

102  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque So shall the God of might and mercy dart His day beams through the caverns of the heart; Strike the weak idol from its ancient throne.13 As Ruskin had never been to India, the poem is clearly a product of textual discursivity and iterativity. Early European accounts of sculptures at Salsette, Elephanta and similar cave temples in western India attributed to them a ‘diabolic’ character, and some of them were even subjected to attacks by Portuguese soldiers.14 Ruskin copiously cites such sources in his footnotes to the poem, among whom is the 16th-century Portuguese traveller J.H. van Linschoten, cited by Ruskin on the ‘horrible and fearful formes that . . . make a man’s hayre stande upright’ of the sculptures at Salsette.15 Linschoten’s contemporary Joao do Castro, who also visited Salsette, reported on its sculptures: I believe this work to be so amazing that it is almost one of the seven wonders of the world, except if its worth were undermined by its seeming that men are not capable of it, and that the craft and possibility to achieve it did not lie within their understanding and power, but that it was made by spirits and diabolical art. As for me I am in no doubt of it at all.16 These accounts establish a diabolic stereotype that are reiterated in later European accounts of Salsette and Elephanta, and surfaces in Ruskin’s poem.17 Significantly, accounts by Englishmen since the rise of the Romantic Movement attest to a change in taste, and begin to apprehend Salsette and Elephanta as the ‘picturesque’. But this is something that Ruskin’s poem does not pick up on, despite his own sympathy for picturesque sights in England.18 In suggesting how easily the idolatrous may slide into the picturesque, however, this points up a split within Ruskin’s notion of idolatry, as simultaneously enabling good sculpture and promoting the kind of moral evil of which the Indian Mutiny is seen as an exemplar. Is the split between the aesthetic and the ethical irreconcilable, as the Scottish/Indian dichotomy suggests? Or is nonidolatrous art conceivable? The Two Paths suggests that Indian art does not copy its forms from nature, but seeks rather to render the ‘imagination of the thoughts of their hearts’.19 This is what makes it especially culpable. Art ‘in its delicate form’ can be ‘one of the chief promoters of indolence and sensuality’; indeed, it has ‘hitherto . . . appeared only in energetic manifestation when it was in the service of superstition’.20 To rescue art from the condition of idolatry, with which much of art history is tainted, an ‘earnest and intense seizing of natural facts’ is called for: ‘seize hold of

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 103 God’s hand, and look full in the face of His creation, and there is nothing He will not enable you to achieve’.21 The dichotomy between (Scottish) peat cottage and (Indian) ivory palace may be resolved in terms of the Scottish poetry of Scott and Burns, which proffer examples of such a reverent imitation of nature.22 Yet, as soon as Ruskin has established these principles for nonidolatrous art, he goes to great lengths to hedge them with qualifications. He specifies that what he has in mind is the ‘interpretation’ rather than ‘imitation’ of nature.23 While idolatry consists of pursuing the ‘imagination of the thoughts of the heart’, what distinguishes the fine arts from the manufacturing arts is the use of the heart in addition to the head and the hand.24 Art is not just a ‘clear statement and record of the facts’ but also requires ‘the manifesting of human design and authority in the way that fact is told’.25 ‘Love of nature’ cannot suffice for art; what ‘needs to be superadded is the gift of design’ and ‘design, properly so called, is human invention’.26 Exclusions and escape clauses proliferate; if the copying of nature is a condition for nonidolatrous art, it always requires a supplement that violates those conditions. Ruskin makes the creation of nonidolatrous art sound like walking a narrow precipice: But a time has always hitherto come, in which, having thus reached a singular perfection, [art] begins to contemplate that perfection, and to imitate it, and deduce rules and forms from it; and thus to forget her duty and ministry as the interpreter and discoverer of Truth. And in the very instant when this diversion of her purpose and forgetfulness of her function take place – forgetfulness generally coincident with her apparent perfection – in that instant, I say, begins her actual catastrophe; and by her own fall – so far as she has influence – she accelerates the ruin of the nation by which she is practised.27 Thus, Ruskin’s formulation makes out as if the very attainment of the ideal of nonidolatrous art creates the conditions of its destruction. If this is so, the moment of perfection is actually the catastrophe; presence is shot through with absence. Moreover, failure in the aesthetic sphere can have ruinous political consequences. Similar aporias appear in Ruskin’s formulations on the grotesque and its relation to art. The presence of an element of the grotesque, it turns out, is indispensable to art: ‘there is no test of greatness in periods, nations, or men, more sure than the development, among them or in them, of a noble grotesque’.28 Byzantine art showed itself as that of a declining nation, according to Ruskin, through absence of the grotesque element.29 There is another order of the grotesque which consists of ‘evidences of a delight

104  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque in the contemplation of bestial vice, and the expression of low sarcasm’.30 The grotesque element in art, therefore, can be simultaneously vitalising and degrading. The aesthetic task at hand, then, becomes one of distinguishing between these orders of, on the one hand, the ‘noble’ grotesque and, on the other, an ignoble or barbarous grotesque of which an archetype is ‘the work of Hindoo and other Indian nations’.31 Ruskin formulates this distinction in various ways: as the distinction between fear and licence, or the distinction between true fear and a manufactured excitation which is the simulation of fear. In one formulation, the function of the true grotesque is the promotion of fear and awe, arising out of the contemplation of issues like sin, death and the power of God: I understand not the most dangerous, because most attractive form of modern infidelity, which, pretending to exalt the beneficence of the Deity, degrades it into a reckless infinitude of mercy, and blind obliteration of the work of sin: and which does this chiefly by dwelling on the manifold appearances of God’s kindness on the face of creation. . . . Wrath and threatening are invariably mingled with the love; and in the utmost solitudes of nature, the existence of Hell seems to me as legibly declared by a thousand spiritual utterances, as that of Heaven.32 According to James Mill, however, gods and goddesses inducing fear and awe is a sign of primitive mentality. Ruskin himself views the sculptures of Indian gods and goddesses at Salsette and Elephanta as inducing fear, and this associates them with idolatry and evil. This formulation therefore confuses rather than clarifies the distinction between the ‘noble’ and the ‘barbarous’ grotesque. Ruskin makes another formulation of the same distinction which may seem to resolve the problem: The horror which is expressed by the one [who experiences the true grotesque] comes upon him whether he will or not; that which is experienced by the other is sought out by him, and elaborated by his art. And therefore, also, because the fear of the one is true, and of true things, however fantastic its expression might be, there will be reality in it, and force. It is not a manufactured terribleness, whose author, when he had finished it, knew not if it would terrify any one else or not: but it is a terribleness taken from the life; a spectre which the workman indeed saw, and which, as it appalled him, will appal us also.33

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 105 According to this distinction, the difference between the true and false grotesque is that between true and manufactured terribleness, and the kinds of fear induced by them. Following this formulation, the fear induced by images at Salsette would be an artificial fear, since induced by artificial entities rather than the true wrath of God. This formulation ends up reiterating the distinction between true and false gods, and thus introduces a troubling circularity in the argument, which started out by trying to distinguish the barbarous grotesque of Hindu and other pagan art from the noble grotesque of, for instance, Gothic art by using criteria internal to the art itself rather than to the belief systems to which they refer. Ruskin hopes, weakly, that the reader may ‘instinctively feel the difference’, as ‘he may yet find difficulty in determining wherein that difference consists’.34 Since Ruskin cannot adequately theorise the two types of grotesque art and the distinction between them, to apprehend their difference, there is little recourse but to fall back upon ‘instinct’ or, to put the matter slightly differently, upon pre-existing aesthetic ideologies. To explain matters, he offers an analogy which is a symptom rather than a resolution of the problem. Visions of the noble and barbarous grotesque alike arise in dreams, through the activity of the imagination. If the mind is conceived as a mirror, the distinction between the two types of grotesque arises from the quality of the mirror in which the visions of the imagination are glimpsed. As St. Paul said, however, we all see through a glass (or into a mirror, in Ruskin’s adaptation of the metaphor) darkly: ‘And the fallen human soul, at its best, must be as a diminishing glass, and that a broken one, to the mighty truths of the universe round it.’35 The distinction between true and false grotesque, therefore, appears to turn upon the difference between visions of the imagination as mirrored respectively by not a perfect and a distorting glass, but a dim and a distorting one.36 The laboured and convoluted character of this analogy makes clear Ruskin’s difficulty in arriving at a resolution: his inability to extricate the noble from the barbarous grotesque replicates the difficulty he faces in extricating visual art, particularly sculpture, from idolatry.

II  The exorcism of colour Other than idolatry and the barbarous grotesque, another element of the visual arts related to artifice and therefore placed in a comparable situation of indispensable supplementarity is colour. Colour, a repressed term in Ruskin’s vocabulary of the visual arts, is habitually associated with Indians: Abstract colour is of far less importance than abstract form; that is to say, if it could rest in our choice whether we could carve like Phidias

106  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque (supposing Phidias had never used colour), or arrange the colours of a shawl like Indians, there is no question as to which power we ought to choose. The difference of rank is vast: there is no way of estimating or measuring it.37 The colours on an Indian shawl do not represent anything in nature, but are entirely invented and smack of artifice.38 Hence, they are inferior to forms that are imitated from nature. Through artifice, colour is also connected to cruelty: The fancy and delicacy of eye in interweaving lines and arranging ­colours – mere line and colour, observe, without natural form – seems to be somehow an inheritance of ignorance and cruelty, belonging to men as spots to the tiger or hues to the snake.39 Neither does Indian art (or other Oriental schools of art, like the Chinese) pay any attention to the representation of light, another natural entity: these schools ‘have been content to obtain beautiful harmonies of colour without any representation of light’.40 By contrast, Greek art is held to privilege light over colour. The following passage from The Queen of the Air (1869), worth quoting at length due to the influence of some privileged themes of idealist Western philosophy that it reveals, finds Greeks of classical antiquity to be in fact deficient in their perception of colour: In the breastplate and shield of Atrides the serpents and bosses are all of this dark colour, yet the serpents are said to be like rainbows; but through all this splendour and opposition of hue, I feel distinctly that the literal ‘splendour’, with its relative shade, are prevalent in the conception; and that there is always a tendency to look through the hue to its cause. And in this feeling about colour the Greeks are separated from the Eastern nations, and from the best designers of Christian times. I cannot find that they take pleasure in colour for its own sake; it may be in something more than colour, or better; but it is not on the hue itself. . . . I have yet to trace the causes of this . . . but it is, I believe, much connected with the brooding of the shadow of death over the Greeks, without any clear hope of immortality. The restriction of colour on their vases to dim red (or yellow) with black and white, is greatly connected with their sepulchral use, and with all the melancholy of Greek tragic thought; and in this gloom the failure of colour perception is partly noble, partly base.41

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 107 Unlike Indians or other Orientals who are liable to dwell on hue itself, Greeks are able to look through the hue to its cause, through the signifier to its signified, and thus escape idolatry. Ruskin takes the apparent absence of colour and privileging of light in Greek art to betoken an elevated tragic consciousness, ennobled by having risen over the mere ‘playfulness’ of colour. He connects this imputed privileging of light in Greek art with the role played by sunlight in the cave episode of Plato’s Republic: If you will look at the beginning of the 7th book of Plato’s Polity [Republic Book VII, where the cave episode occurs], and read carefully the passages in the context respecting the sun and intellectual sight, you will see how intimately this physical love of light was connected with their philosophy, in its search, as blind and captive, for better knowledge.42 Derrida has pointed out how truth in Western philosophy is authenticated through the metaphorics of light, involving particularly the relationship of sunlight to intellectual sight.43 Ruskin’s meditations on the imputed privileging of light in Greek art place him squarely within this philosophical tradition, and make him assign to colour a subordinate status. At no point in these meditations does he take into account the possibility that the absence of colour in classical Greek artefacts may be explained simply by their fading due to age, the simplest explanation for why serpents that are said to be like rainbows do not actually have the colour of rainbows. Once natural principles such as form and light have been incorporated, there is now the possibility of a dialectical return to colour. This is what the art of the ‘best designers of Christian times’ makes available, in relation to which Greek art may now be seen as deficient or ‘partly base’. Starting with Plato, Ruskin inscribes in his text the history of Western metaphysics by enacting at this point a Hegelian manoeuvre: the Greek school (light without colour) engenders its (unequal) antithesis in Oriental art (colour without form), while the triumphant Aufhebung bringing together these poles is the art of Christian Europe.44 However, if colour is the repressed, subordinate term in the movement of this Aufhebung, Stephen Bann’s fine essay ‘The Colour in the Text: Ruskin’s Basket of Strawberries’ points out the return of the repressed in terms of an ungovernable eruption and excess of colour in Ruskin’s text.45 Having each time ostensibly settled the question of colour, his text returns to it obsessively: in Bann’s words, ‘as if colour had simply refused to lie down’.46 Bann shows how certain recurrent patterns of colour in the text have a libidinal significance and may be diagnosed to reveal psychosexual

108  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque contents. In this case, there is a clear parallel between Ruskin’s denial of colour and his disastrous attempts to form relationships with women cleansed of sexuality.47

III  R  omancing the stone Ruskin’s attempts at defining and isolating the phenomenon of idolatry paradoxically promote a productivity of meaning and accrue to it a more generalised referent. Idolatry grows progressively more difficult to exorcise and expel. In a note entitled ‘Proper Sense of the Word Idolatry’, appended to the second volume of his Stones of Venice, he notes: Idolatry is, both literally and verily, not the mere bowing down before sculptures, but the serving or becoming the slave of any images or imaginations which stand between us and God, and it is otherwise expressed in Scripture as ‘walking after the Imagination’ of our own hearts.48 It can encompass phenomena as diverse as ‘covetousness’ and ‘the denial of God’: covetousness is to set up material wealth as one’s ultimate goal, and the denial of God often follows upon it.49 Ruskin describes: Two forms of deadly Idolatry which are now all but universal in England. The first of these is the worship of the Eidolon, or Phantasm of Wealth . . . which is briefly to be defined as the servile apprehension of an active power in Money and the submission to it as the God of our life. The second elementary cause of the loss of our nobly imaginative faculty, is the worship of the Letter, instead of the Spirit, in what we chiefly accept as the ordinance and teaching of Deity. . . . No feather idol of Polynesia was ever a sign of a more shameful idolatry than the modern notion in the minds of certainly the majority of English religious persons, that the Word of God . . . may yet be bound at our pleasure in morocco, and carried about in a young lady’s pocket, with tasselled ribands to mark the passages she most approves of.50 At this point, far from being the obstacle to be overcome in a civilising discourse that is applicable to non-industrial societies, the referent of idolatry is globalised. It can encompass belief in the value of money, the ideological basis of industrial capitalism; it can include as well bibliolatry, or the belief most widespread in Protestant Christianity that religion consists of reading the Bible.

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 109 Given the proliferation of its referent, Ruskin tries to differentiate benign from more culpable versions of the phenomenon: The deliberate and intellectually commanded conception is not idolatrous in any evil sense whatever, but is one of the grandest and wholesomest functions of the human soul; and that the essence of evil idolatry begins only in the idea or belief of a real presence of any kind, in a thing in which there is no such presence.51 The italicised words, however, expose the contingency of the definition of idolatry: it is entirely relative to one’s belief in what constitutes real presence. Ruskin goes on to specify the kinds of presence that are real to him with references to the Bible: ‘If there be a real presence in a pillar of cloud, in an unconsuming flame, or in a still small voice, it is no sin to bow down before these.’52 Ruskin offers a hypothetical example of what (to his mind) would be an irretrievably idolatrous act, without redeeming features: If a meteoric stone fell from the sky in the sight of a savage, and he picked it up hot, he would most probably lay it aside in some, to him, sacred place, and believe the stone itself to be a kind of god, and offer prayer and sacrifice to it.53 For his Stones of Venice project, however, Ruskin studied stones of old buildings, which he regarded as witnesses speaking of the glory of Venice’s past. He set out to draw and measure literally everyone of the Byzantine and Gothic buildings within a 5-square mile area of Venice, and to make as accurate a record as possible of their every object and feature.54 He described his intention as being to go ‘stone by stone, to eat it all up into my mind, touch by touch’.55 In a letter to a friend, his new bride Effie Gray describes a typical day during what was their first visit together to Venice: Mr. Ruskin is busy all day till dinner time and from tea till bed time. We hardly ever see him excepting at dinner, for he has found that the short time we are able to remain is quite insufficient for the quantity of work before him. He sketches and writes notes, takes daguerrotypes and measures of every place, house, well or anything else that bears on the subject in hand, so you may fancy how much he has to arrange and think about. I cannot help teasing him now and then about his sixty doors and hundreds of windows, staircases, balconies and other details he is occupied in every day.56

110  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque And in another letter she writes: John excites the liveliest astonishment to all and sundry in Venice and I do not think they have made up their minds yet whether he is very mad or very wise. Nothing interrupts him and whether the Square is crowded or empty he is either seen with a black cloth over his head taking Daguerrotypes or climbing about the capitals covered with dust, or else with cobwebs exactly as if he had just arrived from taking a voyage with the old woman on her broom-stick.57 Noteworthy in these descriptions is the fetishistic accumulation of architectural features such as doors, windows, balconies, staircases and his relative neglect of Effie Gray for whom he seems to have little time. Effie portrays him as a man possessed and compares his occupation with forms of magical activity such as witchcraft. In contrast to his devotion to and obsessive cataloguing of objects, Ruskin has few complimentary things to say about the actual residents of Venice, who he sees as spiritually empty, indolent and depraved.58 His attitude to Venetians and Italians made him condone the stripping of Venetian buildings for panels and architectural pieces to be sold in England, although his object was to promote the preservation of Venice’s old buildings.59 He paid more attention to the stones of Venice than its people, or for that matter his new bride: the vast amount of data on its architecture he compiled during 15 months of painstaking labour in Venice were of dubious value to his project of writing The Stones of Venice, or to anything else. Thus, he wrote later in his autobiography of his notes and drawings: ‘six hundred quarto pages of notes for it, fairly and closely written, now useless. Drawings as many . . . useless too’.60 His labours are not completely explained by his book project; he collected buildings in Venice as assiduously as Mill collected facts of Indian history. His biographer Wolfgang Kemp remarks on his ‘naive appetite for objects’ as well as his ‘need to incorporate them totally’.61 His is a specific fetishism of objects, driven by the encyclopaedic ideal of a total incorporation of a whole field of objects, the same impulse that drives Mill’s ambition to write a total history for India. He thought that the stones of Venice could be interpreted to reveal a universal meaning regarding the rise and fall of nations, particularly for England which was now a great maritime power as Venice had once been.62 What Effie Gray thinks of Ruskin’s obsession with objects, on their first trip together to Venice to which she might have attached a romantic meaning, is conveyed by the not wholly complimentary tone of her letters.63

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 111 Ruskin’s absorption in objects thus appears comparable to that of the hypothetical savage with the meteoric stone. Ruskin confesses his own idolatry in a letter to his father, where he describes the way he relates to paintings and material things, and compares that with the way he relates to human beings: Men are more evanescent than pictures, yet one sorrows for lost friends, and pictures are my friends. I have none others. I am never long enough with men to attach myself to them; and whatever feelings of attachment I have are to material things. If the great Tintoret here [in Venice] were to be destroyed, it would be precisely to me what the death of Hallam was to Tennyson – as far as this world is concerned – with an addition of bitterness and indignation, for my friend would perish murdered, his by a natural death . . . in exact proportion to the pleasure I have in getting a Turner, or saving some record of a piece of architecture, is the pain I have in losing a Tintoret, or seeing a palace destroyed.64 Ruskin’s idolatry did not escape the attention of a perceptive reader and admirer of his work: Marcel Proust.65 According to Proust, Ruskin ‘exhibits a kind of idolatry which no one has defined better than he . . . this very “idolatry” lies at the root of Ruskin’s talent’.66 At times Ruskin’s own text breaks through into an awareness of the inescapability of idolatry, its rootedness in sentiments of human attachment and love, despite the challenge that it offers to post-Reformation models of subjectivity unmediated by material objects. Thus, in an appendix to the second volume of The Stones of Venice, entitled ‘Proper Sense of the Word Idolatry’, Ruskin wrote: Which of us is not an idolater? . . . For indeed it is utterly impossible for one man to judge of the feeling with which another bows down before an image. . . . strong love and faith are often the roots of [idolatrous acts], and the errors of affection are better than the accuracies of apathy.67 One could perhaps make the same remark about Ruskin’s own idolatrous acts. There is no doubt that for him Venetian buildings and paintings were animated by a real presence, and that the manner in which he related to them was impelled by similar love and faith. The fact that he cannot himself escape the influence of idolatry leaves its traces in his attempts to theorise the position of idolatry in art. Like Hegel, Ruskin seeks to merge theory

112  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque and history; but the more he seeks to expel idolatry from a systematised history of art, the more forcefully it reasserts itself as a problem. In doing so, Ruskin allows us to glimpse the limits of a post-Reformation model of disembodied subjectivity even as he operates from within its terrain and seeks to reinforce its claims.

IV  Alice Perrin: idolatry as contagion Alice Perrin’s 1909 romance Idolatry offers a novelistic treatment of the metaphysical problems having Indian idolatry as a prime referent, which are worked through in Ruskin’s artistic and social criticism. Perrin’s father was a general of the Bengal Cavalry. She married a medical officer of the Indian Civil Service and spent 25 years with him in India.68 She wrote a large number of novels set in India, dealing primarily with British social life in the country. Although (or because) Idolatry belongs to a subcanonical genre (the romance), it helps contextualise and flesh out the subjective dilemmas of characters similar to those which appear in more rarefied and sublimated ways in canonical writings on India by E.M. Forster. In Perrin’s novel, idolatry signifies initially the alien and repellent features of Indian society, seen from the point of view of its British characters. But the circle of idolatry expands, threatening to engulf the latter. It is with the force of idolatry as contagion, therefore, that the novel is primarily concerned. The novel begins with an invocation of the devil, but in the context of fashionable London society rather than at an isolated Indian outpost: ‘It’s the devil!’ declares Sir Richard Crivener, on discovering that his mother has run through her fortune without leaving an inheritance for Anne Crivener, her granddaughter and the novel’s heroine.69 A fashionable young woman, Anne was brought up in comfort and luxury, but now finds herself without a means of subsistence. In the worldly London society that she inhabits, this is perhaps the nearest equivalent to being damned. Her social world is ruled by material details and we come to know of her grandmother chiefly through the material legacy she has left behind, an assortment of commodities of which the text is richly descriptive: The silver toilet set, the little pictures, knick-knacks, photographs, books, would never again be set out here, and tomorrow the familiar white suite, and the French bed, and the cosy couch and armchair would all be taken off to the pantechnicon with the rest of the furniture to await Lady Crivener’s orders as to what was to be kept and what sold. Anne rebuked herself for these sentimental feelings; she opened a drawer with a determined jerk and began to disentangle

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 113 scraps of ribbon and lace, pieces of trimming and embroidery, soiled gloves (worth cleaning now), an accumulation of odds and ends that she had intended, for an indefinite period, to ‘go through when she had time’.70 The novel thus begins with concerns of money and class. The objects named in the passage represent a commodified order. In an important sense, these knick-knacks are Lady Crivener, like the paintings that take the place of Ruskin’s friends. Brought up in a world of fashion, Anne herself has undergone a kind of self-fashioning learnt from her grandmother: She felt nearer to tears as recollections of her dauntless old kinswoman surged through her brain – the worldly wise Granny, gone out of her life forever, from whom she had learnt tolerance, good manners, selfcontrol; who had drilled her in the art of being agreeable without trouble to herself; of being polite and punctilious without going to any great personal inconvenience; of evading tiresome obligations and engagements by the manufacture of such excuses as would please and convince instead of causing offence – all the little niceties of the craft of humbug that ensure exemption from boredom and yet make for pleasant and profitable company.71 Anne’s ‘undeniably good looks and the thoroughbred air’ are an asset for her in the matrimonial market; as Anne herself puts it: ‘marriage would be the best way out of the [present] difficulty’.72 Anne is a rational subject in its original etymological sense, i.e. she reckons and engages in profit maximising behaviour.73 She is thus the ideal subject of a utilitarian political economy which has as its goal the maximisation of pleasure and minimisation of pain. Anne’s father, however, had bucked this trend by undertaking an ‘undesirable marriage’ to the daughter of a missionary in India: ‘a little insignificant “nobody” . . . having neither connections nor money, nothing in the world to her advantage save a singularly pretty face’.74 When Anne looks at a photograph of her mother, she is placed in terms of inappropriate clothes and other material details: ‘How absurd it looked! The self-conscious pose against a balustrade . . . the strained hair, the atrocious gown, the glimpse of a broad boot.’75 When Anne first comes to know about her mother (who had left for India upon her father’s death and is now married to Mr Williams, another missionary), she is concerned only ‘to conceal the rather unpleasant fact’.76 Anne’s mother is thus placed in the position of the colonised.77 She is an origin Anne must disavow, but which, as the plot proceeds, she must return

114  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque to. Anne learns that Dion Devasse, one of her rejected suitors, has recently come into a fortune and is now in India, in the very town where her mother coincidentally happens to be. Anne therefore sets out in pursuit of Dion, and renews contact with her mother whose house she puts up in. Anne thus relies on others for a living, a relationship structurally homologous to colonialism. Her motivation for proceeding to India, indeed, is the seeking of a fortune. This quest brings her to Sika, a town of yells and smells, heat and dust. The syllables of ‘Sika’ transposed spell ‘Kasi’ or Benares, Max Müller’s dream city; indeed, the description of Sika as ‘the sacred Hindu city’ on the banks of the Ganges matches that of Kasi.78 Anne moves in with her mother and her stepfather John Williams, a missionary who has chosen Sika and surrounding villages to spread the gospel. Despite the best efforts of John Williams and other missionaries, however, ‘idolatry at Sika certainly would not be lessening’.79 As we saw in a previous chapter, the notion of idol as false god is linked to the idea of duplicity. Williams’s efforts at conversion appear to be defeated by the duplicity of Hindus, as in the case of a Hindu woman who shows up at his mission asking to be baptised. When he places her intentions under scrutiny and visits her house, she pretends not to know him at all. Anne regrets that ‘this good, sincere man’ has to be ‘wasting his time, brains, and energies on a being whom he suspected of pretending to seek after Truth that she might spite her relations!’.80 However, Anne herself cannot avoid being caught up in this regime of dissembling; Williams places her own intentions under scrutiny. He suspects her motivations for putting up in his household, which are not so much to seek after the truth of her origins (her true mother) but rather to acquire a rich husband (Dion Devasse).81 By contrast to the missionary figure of Williams, described as ‘an enemy to everything false’, Anne appears as ‘practically a pagan’.82 Williams’s colleague Oliver Wray goes out to the river’s edge, where Hindu pilgrims and worshippers gather and thus the very site of idolatry, to preach. Wray acquires a disciple in Ramanund, the son of Rajah Rampal Singh, a local aristocrat. Ramanund presents a sensual and idolatrous surface: ‘oiled, scented, exotic, jewels in his ears, on his hands, at his throat, dressed fastidiously in rich colours, having a feminine grace of carriage, and a languid indifference of manner’.83 Seeking the message of Christianity, Ramanund nevertheless manifests a love of masks, disguises and subterfuge, which he must adopt in order to meet or send emissaries to Wray without news of their liaison reaching his father.84 Ramanund asks Wray whether he can adopt Christianity while keeping his caste, to which Wray replies that Christianity and caste

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 115 are incompatible, since ‘the rules and ceremonials of caste enjoin avoidance and contempt of others’.85 Ironically, Anne’s mother Mrs Williams had to return to India because she became an outcast in Anne’s circle, an object of ‘avoidance and contempt’ due to her colonial origin. Another query by Ramanund, however, causes Wray greater unease. The question pertains to the lifestyle of English missionaries: Have [the followers of Christ] not bungalows like unto other sahibs? And women, and servants, and offspring? Do they not have three, four meals in the day and drive forth in a carriage to eat the air, and sleep on beds and wear good raiment? Sahib, thy pardon for these words; I do not mock. . . . It may be right according to the Christian scriptures, but the Brahmins maintain that it is not what the people regard as a holy man with a message to deliver.86 Like Kipling, Perrin puts archaic diction in the mouths of her native characters to convey the antique character of the civilisation they represent, thought to practice ‘cults and customs handed down unchanged through countless generations’.87 Despite the use of such devices for framing Ramanund’s speech, it has the status of a colonial hybrid, which Homi Bhabha describes as ‘the ambivalent space where the rite of power is enacted on the site of desire, making its objects at once disciplinary and disseminatory’.88 It corresponds to the ‘sly civility’ with which Indian villagers demand an Indianised gospel in Bhabha’s essay ‘Signs Taken for Wonders’.89 Thus, instead of engaging Wray directly on the terrain of religious doctrine, Ramanund brings up the apparently irrelevant but unsettling detail of the missionaries’ lifestyle; to what extent it conforms to that of the ‘other sahibs’ or the order of commodification and rules of money, caste and class that govern Anne’s world. Although Wray has given up his own property in England and come to India in order to devote himself to the battle against idolatry, it strikes him that from the perspective of those he attempts to proselytise ‘he was just a sahib who was paid to come among them and preach the sahib’s religion; and in no other way did he differ from the rest of the sahibs who helped to govern the country’.90 Wray faces the same dilemma as the writers of the Ezourvedam: Was the most appropriate way of conveying Christianity in India through modes of discourse that were Indian? Or would such a repetition refashion the Christian text itself, causing it to unravel and ultimately get swallowed up in difference? Wray decides to take the risk, as he is the only one among the missionaries to join the idolatrous throng at the river’s edge, mingling among holy men and ascetics to preach his message.

116  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque

V  The missionary as fakir On the steps leading down to the river in Sika is an intoxicating medley of sights and smells: ‘a throng of human beings draped in dyed garments – saffron, orange, rose – hung about with garlands of blossoms, jessamine, tube-rose, and the pungent-scented marigold’, representing a ‘living kaleidoscope’ which even at sunset is ‘almost dazzling to the Englishman’s vision’.91 Confronted with this spectacle, Wray considers himself in the presence of something vampirish: ‘the incarnation of everything evil . . . that sucked all purity from the spirit leaving corruption only’, yet a ‘vampire that enslaved and bewitched all who yielded to her spell!’92 The spectacle by the riverside is marked by a profusion of bodies, human, animal and artificial: Pilgrims were arriving from every quarter of India, weary with their travels, yet uplifted by the joy of reaching this holy spot. . . . Aged people were borne along by their relatives to die within sight, at least, of the River of Purification; beggars, priests, fakirs, devotees of every known Hindu sect, crowded the narrow passages, and rapid were the profits of the dealers in brass and clay images, brisk the sales, to ardent worshippers, of garlands and oil and grain. . . . The clear, cold weather atmosphere vibrated with sound – the pulsing of temple bells, the cry of the mendicant priest . . . the voices of happy children, scolding women, busy men . . . idols everywhere. Siva in his various incarnations, Kali, Ganesh, Hanuman, Durga – the whole accursed host, staring, grinning, brandishing arms and legs and weapons, stained red as with blood symbolising sacrifice, murder, wickedness. . . . [Wray] pushed his way through the steaming crowd, not only of human beings, but of monkeys, sacred bulls, pariah dogs, and hastened to reach the cool stillness of his little bungalow, that he might think and pray alone.93 The description suggests that it is this collective religious body – resembling Bakhtin’s evocation of the grotesque body of carnival – that is demonised as vampirish and idolatrous: ‘To the missionary the air was tainted, heavy with idolatry.’94 This admixture of religion and carnival is threatening to Wray who desires to escape into the space of the lone transcendental subject of nonidolatrous religion, to ‘think and pray alone’. But Wray himself is not proof against the seductions of idolatry, having experienced its spell. Peter Stallybrass and Allon White have shown how the response aroused by carnivalesque spectacle may be ambivalent, with mingled elements of desire and disgust.95 This is true of Wray’s response to the idolatrous

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 117 crowd, and is brought to a head when he notices in their midst the figure of a lone Englishwoman – Anne Crivener: An English girl with bright brown hair and long, brilliant eyes, clad daintily in softest white, shod with little tan shoes. At her bosom blazed a cluster of gaudy marigolds that sounded a note of violent contrast, yet only emphasised her beauty. A sacred bull, sleek and arrogant, brushed past her as he foraged unrebuked among the stalls for grain. Staring at her with objectionable interest were Brahmins, calmly superior as holding themselves part of the divine; citizens, villagers, pilgrims, and grotesque specimens of the religious fanatic half drunk with hemp, hideously maimed with bodily penance. To Wray the reaction seemed violent – from the poisonous influence of idolatry in positive form, to a vision that gratified the eye and the senses. He felt as though in a dream, as though his fate hung on the moment, and he had been forced to hold out unwilling arms to some loathsome goddess, when lo! she had transformed herself into a creature of gentle loveliness, subtle, alluring, the easier to tempt him to her allegiance.96 To Wray, Anne’s image is split between ‘high’ and ‘low’ levels of symbolism: there is a ‘violent contrast’ between, on the one hand, the ‘softest white’ of her dress and, on the other hand, the ‘gaudy marigolds’ blazing at her bosom. While the former signifies the purity of English womanhood, the latter represents an eruption of colour that Ruskin had sought to repress because of its association with cruelty and sin and that connects Anne with the idolatrous crowd as the blossoms were probably picked up from the fair in their midst. And yet, Wray cannot deny that the marigolds ‘only emphasised her beauty’. At work in this passage is a logic of contamination. The ‘high’ (English womanhood) is brought in close juxtaposition to the ‘low’ (the idolatrous crowd) and exposed to contamination by it, of which the ‘sleek and arrogant’ sacred bull touching Anne as it brushes past her is a metonymic expression. The ‘objectionable’ gaze directed at her by the crowd is no less contaminating. Wray reads into them a ‘contemptuous relish’ which drives him to fury: In one burning moment all his concern and devotion for the spiritual welfare of these people, to whom he was dedicating his life, went from him, driven out by a savage instinct of antagonism and defence. The men around him were no longer his equals in the sight of God, to be pitied for their blindness to the truth, to be loved, and saved, and

118  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque helped, and excused; but members of a vitiated race devoid of chivalry, without reverence for womanhood, to whom the female is naught but a necessary evil.97 On the most obvious level, there is a fault line in Wray’s perception of natives, caught as he is between Christian universalism and colonial contempt. There is, however, reason to examine the grounds for Wray’s fury. The point of view attributed to the crowd, in which ‘the female is naught but a necessary evil’, is mirrored in Wray’s own response when the figure of Anne merges with that of a loathsome pagan goddess. Wray finds himself plunged into a dreamlike state as he projects his own desire on to the crowd, whom he sees as staring at her with ‘objectionable interest’. Stallybrass and White have shown that the low placed in close proximity to the high is a transgression in the symbolic domain, which heralds the possibility of a disruption of social order.98 More specifically, Jenny Sharpe in her study of English womanhood as a signifier in the social civilising mission articulates how native insurgency and crises of British authority in colonial India since the Mutiny were recoded as barbaric attacks by Indian men on white women.99 Thus, the contaminating gaze and touch directed at Anne may be seen as questioning the legitimacy of British rule itself. Anne herself is by no means innocent of awareness of these codings. When Wray rushes to her side trying to get her away from the crowd, she asks him ‘Are we on the verge of a mutiny?’.100 Moreover, it turns out that Wray’s sexualisation of Anne is returned by Anne. As he holds forth to her on the edifying prospect that ‘a higher standard of morality may develop generally in the native mind’, her mind wanders: She was not at all interested in the missionary’s theories, though, as an individual, he was certainly attractive. . . . She began to picture him in the regulation tailoring of the man of the world; in tweeds, in hunting kit, in London ‘get up’, in dress suit. He would look at home in them all. . . . She glanced again at the clean-carven face, the expressive lines of mouth and chin, the mettle of the ice-grey eyes under brows black and straight. It might be interesting to see him in a real rage, not merely angry, as he undoubtedly had been just now with the natives around her. . . . It might be still more interesting to see him in love – he would make an ardent, masterful lover. At this point Anne checked her thoughts aghast at her own vulgarity. . . . Was it possible that the climate and surroundings of this unspeakable country had already worked a deteriorating effect upon her mind? How disgusted Granny would have been with her!101

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 119 Anne has at this point already achieved the seduction of Dion, her primary purpose in coming to India. Until this point, she has been governed solely by the imperatives of utilitarian reason. She is very clear regarding what the seduction of Dion means for her: the restoration of her social position.102 Yet, Anne finds herself sexually drawn towards Wray, a situation which could (and eventually does) jeopardise her relationship with Dion. Her visit to the ‘bazaar’ – the site of native carnival where she enjoys ‘the sunshine, the noise, the bright colours, the novelty’ and later the company of Oliver Wray – brings into play the possibility of different selves.103 It displaces her utilitarian subjectivity whose principles her grandmother had instilled in her in the direction of ‘idolatry in a positive form’, i.e. towards ‘vision[s] that gratified the eye and the senses’. Like Wray, she too is subject to the contagion of the crowd and feels ‘a deteriorating effect upon her mind’. She attributes it to ‘this unspeakable country’, making India the agent of her deterioration. Curiously, the country itself becomes a constitutive principle and animating agent, repeating the animism that is supposedly the preserve of pagan religion and closely linked to fetishism. Thanks to the contagion effect, the battle that Wray wages against idolatry is no longer external but internal. It now rages within his own soul, as he struggles to shut out Anne’s image from it: She was a poisoned weapon of the enemy that he would give his life to crush and conquer. . . . All unwittingly he had yielded tribute to the foe, his love itself was but a species of idolatry, a vulnerable spot. . . . And he must fight – fight to the death if need be.104 The struggle subjects him to increasing strain. One day as he is preaching by the riverside, he has a vision of Anne, with ‘gay marigolds blazing at her breast’, at the top of a flight of steps beckoning to him. As he climbs the steps to the top, he finds himself face to face with a wild-looking fakir of unusual height, whose eyes burned with an unholy excitement produced by a deadly drug; whose thick hair, many feet long and matted with cowdung, was piled up on his head in fantastic shape; whose gaunt, powerful body looked white as snow in the moonlight, for it was plastered with clay and ashes. Necklaces of beads, and festoons of marigolds, hung down below his waist. . . . And behind him pressed a crowd of similar faces and forms, grotesque, loathsome, very incarnations of evil.105 Between Wray and the fakir, ‘whose eyes burned with an unholy excitement produced by a deadly drug’, there is a moment of recognition. In Wray’s

120  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque case, the ‘deadly drug’ is Anne, and Wray sees in the fakir and in the grotesque figures accompanying him the demonised shapes of his own desire. Wray swoons at this sight and is thrown into delirium. Like the ‘Boum’ heard in the Marabar caves of E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, levelling differences in the minds of its English characters, Wray’s delirium is a moment of existential doubt: The doubt that had arisen and confronted him with such insistence on the morning of his first encounter with Ramanund, now . . . became fiercely importunate. . . . Analogies brushed through his mind, Trinity, Triad; Christ, Krishna; Atonement, blood sacrifice; baptism, bathing.106 Wray’s transformation is complete by the end of the novel when he becomes a fakir, taking up the life of a wandering ascetic. This is a process associated with the disintegration of subjectivity. It is like the moment in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when Indiana Jones comes under idolatrous priest Mola Ram’s spell and appears as a Hindu priest himself. As Padre Williams sombrely warns, ‘preaching Christ from an Oriental standpoint . . . has almost always resulted in loss of health or reason, or worse, in death’.107 Anne undergoes a similar process of derangement. Losing her earlier self-assurance, she is by turns depressed and hysterical, and breaks off her engagement with Dion. She dreams repeatedly of the Buddhist ruins at Thanesur, outside Sika, a spot which also holds for Wray ‘a subtle fascination’. At this site in ages past, had gleamed temples, monasteries, towers, and the buildings of a sacred city. Now the golds and crimsons of early morning fell upon ruin and desolation. The broken ground was strewn and cumbered with ancient remains of wall and foundation, scattered fragments of ornamental sculpture, masses of crumbling brick, mounds covered with coarse, rustling vegetation – a veritable cemetery of dead mysteries whose perishing tombstones revealed, even to the most learned archaeologist, but a fraction of the secrets buried underneath. From out the débris rose a massive tower, battered, defaced, shorn of its crown, thatched now with waving grass, and even a few stunted, weakly trees – a melancholy memorial to the greatest reformer, save One, that the world has ever known.108 The Thanesur ruins are an excellent objective correlative for the English characters’ sense of India as an antique and decadent civilisation, and figure Wray’s and Anne’s ambivalence towards it. Wray feels the country to

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 121 be ‘so old in wisdom and civilisation yet drugged still with the powerful narcotic of idolatry’; in the shapes of a ruined city, Wray contemplates, like Max Müller, a past golden age and present decay.109 In Anne’s dream, the mounds and stones of Thanesur call out her name, and thus become the site of an uncanny recognition.110 This recognition also appears in Max Müller’s Indological trope of the East as an ‘old home’ where the Western subject originates (see previous chapter). Wray likes to dwell on the history of ‘the greatest reformer, save One’, i.e. the Buddha, who like Wray after him is supposed to have taken up cudgels against idolatry: This man’s influence, in spite of failure and discouragement, had delivered half the world for nearly ten centuries from the trammels of idolatry. . . . Wray reminded his hearers that only within a few miles of where they were gathered together [Thanesur] Buddha had preached his first sermon, had made known the convictions that were so to stir the Indo-Aryan mind . . . yet, in the end he had failed, Idolatry had triumphed once more.111 As in the discourse of Indology, positing an ‘Indo-Aryan mind’ also postulates a point of common origin where it is possible to return, accounting for the uncanny impression produced by the ruins at Thanesur. Wray conceives his project in India as one of paring away later religious and cultural accretions stemming from idolatry to reveal an originary Indo-Aryan subject. Texts of colonial fiction such as Idolatry reveal close interconnections with the discourse of Indological scholarship, relying often on the same tropes for generating their effects of meaning and pathos. However, despite the efforts of the Buddha (or of Wray), idolatry triumphs again, accounting for the ideological meaning of the broken masonry and stonework at Thanesur. The shattered tower – which Anne notes as a ‘massive erection’ with a ‘crooked, battered crown’ – resembles nothing more than a monument to ruined masculinity, the effect that India and idolatry have on the British and particularly on Wray.112 At the site of these ruins, Anne and Wray discover love, which deflects both of them from their greatest goals: in Anne’s case a successful marriage, and in the case of Wray a successful campaign of proselytisation. Compelling grounds for comparison between Anne Crivener and Adela Quested, heroine of A Passage to India, suggest themselves. Both come out to India to contract a marriage. Like Dion Devasse in relation to Anne, Ronny Heaslop too is a ‘decent’ but unimaginative type who cannot engage Adela’s passions. Both women are afflicted by ennui and return to England empty-handed and stripped of their illusions.

122  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque While Adela’s desire for Aziz is unsaid and unspeakable within a colonial context, Anne’s desire – directed at white man Wray – can be articulated and is ‘spoken’ more by Idolatry’s narrative. For Anne, the ruins of Thanesur speak the secret of her desire: she wishes to and eventually meets Wray at this site once before returning to England ‘with her secret buried deep in her heart’.113 Wray, too, confesses at Thanesur the desire he feels for her and implores her to leave before he succumbs to his desire.114 Michel Foucault has suggested that sex and sexual desire are not so much outlawed as placed at the outer limit of modern discourse; they constitute ‘something akin to a secret whose discovery is imperative, a thing abusively reduced to silence, and at the same time difficult and necessary, dangerous and precious to divulge’.115 This formulation certainly fits manoeuvres around sex in Idolatry. Thus, sexual attraction between Anne and Wray is the secret within the text ‘whose discovery is imperative’; Thanesur becomes the site of a ‘difficult and necessary’ confession where the ‘truth’ of the subject is revealed; the novel achieves hermeneutic resolution and closure with Anne disclosing to Dion that in reality she was in love with Wray.116 Is there anything left unsaid in this narrative, are there yet more anomalous forms of desire and transgression lodged within the text? Thanesur is characterised by a certain ‘hypnotic languor’ which does not yield all its secrets equally directly.117 It is the estate of the corrupt Rajah Rampal Singh, who presides tyrannically over a Gothic establishment that epitomises the evils of idolatry.118 Ramanund is heir to this estate, and desires to usher in reform under the guidance of Wray. Interestingly, Wray very often thinks of Anne in conjunction with Ramanund. For example, just prior to his vision of Anne turning into a fakir on the river steps, he sees Ramanund with the Rajah and his companions, and the paroxysm of anger he experiences when one of them directs an insulting gesture at him reminds him of the moment when he had seen Anne in the midst of the bazaar crowd.119 After the last encounter with Anne among the ruins of Thanesur, Wray’s steps turn unconsciously towards Thanesur fort where he learns that Ramanund’s marriage is taking place, a piece of news that leaves him ‘as one transfixed’ and eventually ‘brain-sick and despairing’.120 On an earlier occasion, when Anne visited Wray’s quarters at night, she found at his place a figure with ‘naked brown arms and legs’ and a ‘shabby loin cloth’ who slipped out on catching sight of her: none other than Ramanund himself in one of his disguises.121 Ramanund’s nocturnal and clandestine visits to Wray for the purposes of religious instruction have more the character of an illicit romantic liaison. Wray gave Ramanund a Bible to read which he always carried inside his garments; although he could not interpret its contents, he ‘touched caressingly the volume’.122

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 123 Given the imputed fetishistic character of natives, it is possible to view the book as a fetish object, a token substituting for Wray himself. Wray is counselled by Williams that ‘these secret meetings should cease’. But when he does receive a message from Ramanund that the latter cannot meet him anymore, he experiences a ‘helpless yearning’ and realises with a ‘sudden, tearing shock’ that he has not taken the opportunity of sending back an answer.123 All these are signs embedded within the text of something it must disavow in its ideological register: that Ramanund’s oiled, scented and bejewelled exterior and languid and feminine manner may have held their charms for the missionary, a desire which would on his part breach colonial discipline and disfigure the civilising mission of which the pedagogic project that Wray undertakes with respect to Ramanund is an offshoot. It would constitute sodomy, a form of idolatry far more grievous than a heterosexual love affair among the governing English; hence an eruption of the carnivalesque which would make a mockery of Wray’s project of reforming Indians’ idolatry. The text is at great pains to fend off the carnivalesque, as the portrayal of the scenes by the riverside or at the bazaar with Anne Crivener suggest. The disclosure of the affair between Anne and Wray is therefore also a means of covering up of the traces of the far more transgressive relationship between Wray and Ramanund. James Mill’s fears about India come true in Perrin’s text. Idolatry is endowed with the force of contagion and contaminates English characters who come into contact with India. Analysis of overt disgust reveals a covert desire. As in Ruskin’s text, the more forcefully idolatry is sought to be exorcised, the more it reasserts itself. We now turn to a text which deals more explicitly with erotic subtexts underlying the Christian-pagan encounter in a colonial situation: turning E.M. Forster’s short story ‘The Life to Come’ into a dark and mordant allegory of colonialism.

VI  E.M.  Forster and the coming of Christ The expression unite men with God and with one another [John 17:21] may seem obscure to people accustomed to the misuse of these words that is so customary, but the words have a perfectly clear meaning nevertheless. − Leo Tolstoy, What Is Art?

E.M. Forster’s great grandfather Henry Thornton was a founder member of the Clapham Sect, along with Charles Grant, William Wilberforce and

124  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque others; as we have seen before, the Clapham Sect were militant advocates of an evangelising campaign against Indian idolatry and superstition.124 The infant Forster, however, was noted by his elders for his intense enjoyment of physical objects, which made his great-aunt Marianne Thornton fear that he might be susceptible to idolatry when he grew up. Marianne wrote to his aunt Laura Mary Forster regarding his ‘intense enjoyment of this world & all it contains & his proportionate misery when anything is withheld from him. He seems to have the attachment of grown up people for each other, for inanimate objects’. Marianne feared that with his ‘memory for old toys and love for sticks and stones’, he would grow up to be an idolater; for him, ‘any pleasure I am sure is double what it is to other people’.125 This double inheritance of Forster’s nicely frames his profoundly ambivalent attitude to the artistic/ sensory/erotic image as well as to India, which in his writing is assimilated to idolatry, imagination, materiality, dispersion, the autonomy of the signifier and loss. Although the short stories in Forster’s collection The Life to Come and Other Stories were written in the time period from 1922 to 1958, none of them found publication till 1972, two years after Forster’s death, due to the homosexual content of many of them.126 ‘The Life to Come’ turns upon native misrecognition and disfiguration of the message of Christian love, a theme which resurfaces in A Passage to India and will be a principal focus in my readings of Forster. ‘The Life to Come’ was written in 1922, the same year that Forster’s Egyptian lover, Mohammed el Adl, died. He had been arrested by British authorities in Egypt on a trumped up charge, and Forster considered his stint in prison to have wrecked his health.127 Powerful homosexual and anti-colonial motifs come together in ‘The Life to Come’, which Forster claimed to have written ‘in indignation’.128 Its frame of ideological reference, therefore, is one that is distinctly different from Perrin’s Idolatry, and enables it to interrogate and bring out elements that were implicit in the latter. Vithobai, the youthful chief of a pagan tribe in ‘The Life to Come’, is the equivalent of Ramanund; while Paul Pinmay, a missionary sent into the forest to preach Christianity to Vithobai, is Oliver Wray’s opposite number. Vithobai is reputed to be ‘the wildest, strongest, most stubborn of all the inland chiefs’. However, Pinmay encounters ‘a gracious and bare-limbed boy, whose only ornaments were scarlet flowers’. Vithobai wishes to discover more about ‘this god whose name is Love’. When Pinmay tells him ‘Come to Christ!’, he mistakes Christ to be Pinmay’s own name.129 Attracted by the boy’s exotic beauty, Pinmay makes

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 125 love to him, which Vithobai understands to be the inner meaning of Christianity and gets converted. We had seen in the first chapter that the discourse on the idol has a sexual dimension and is related particularly to forms of sexual ‘perversion’, such as homosexuality. In misrecognising the Christian message, Vithobai commits, in essence, the fallacy of idolatry. Construing Pinmay (a human being) to be Christ (who is divine), Vithobai conceives a sensual relationship with him and understands their love affair to be the essence of religion. In a process analogous to events in Idolatry, Christianity – as it struggles against and attempts to overcome idolatry – itself gets drawn into idolatry’s sphere of influence. The victory of the Church, in terms of the conversion and baptism of Vithobai’s tribe, is itself a form of defeat in terms of the idolatrous meaning that Vithobai attributes to Christianity. Idolatry becomes a sign of the polymorphously perverse and existentially evil, contaminating and corrupting its opponents even in defeat. Diabolic inspiration is seen to underlie the manifestations of this polymorphous perverse in Vithobai’s behaviour: Yes, to tempt, to attack the new religion by corrupting its preacher, yes, yes, that was it, and [Vithobai’s] retainers celebrated his victory now in some cynical orgy. Young Mr. Pinmay . . . remembered all that he had heard of the antique power of evil in the country, the tales he had so smilingly dismissed as beneath a Christian’s notice, the extraordinary uprushes of energy which certain natives were said to possess and occasionally employ for unholy purposes . . . he confessed his defilement (the very name of which cannot be mentioned among Christians), he lamented he had postponed, perhaps for a generation, the victory of the Church, and he condemned, with increasing severity, the arts of his seducer.130 While the ‘extraordinary uprushes of energy’ which natives deploy ‘for unholy purposes’ might have a sexual meaning, it also suggests diabolic possession and inspiration. Thus, when Pinmay and Vithobai make love next to an open Bible, a scarlet flower obscures the text, and Pinmay throws out the flowers with the Bible after them. Like the marigolds worn by Anne in Idolatry, the scarlet flowers worn by Vithobai and strewn everywhere during the course of their lovemaking are suggestive of idolatry, profane sexuality and the scattering of meaning and logos.131 Ironically, what Pinmay considers a defeat is seen by his fellow missionaries as a great victory, and he is given charge of a whole district. Consequently, he does not disabuse anyone of how the conversion of Vithobai’s

126  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque people came about. Neither does he explain to Vithobai the nature of his error. When the latter, now rechristened Barnabas, asks him when Christ’s coming is going to be, he replies ‘Not yet’, gaining Barnabas’s acquiescence with an indefinite promise for the future.132 Pinmay’s long sojourn in the district brings to it the usual benefits of colonial ‘progress’: clearing of the forests, mining concessions, schools, fines and disease. The teleology of progress is schematically and ironically indicated by the succession of titles of the four sections of the story: ‘Night’, ‘Evening’, ‘Day’ and ‘Morning’. Pinmay had previously taught ‘the Kingdom of Heaven is intimacy and emotion’ but no longer emphasises this message, as it is liable to be misunderstood. On the contrary, he is now inclined to stress the sinfulness of the human condition and the untrustworthiness of native converts; he applies to the latter ‘the gloomy severity of the Old Law’.133 Pinmay’s continued insecurity turns him into a colonial despot, treating the natives – particularly Barnabas – with harshness and vindictiveness. The latter loses not only his former religion but also his lands and authority. Barnabas, who had pinned his hopes on Pinmay’s ‘Not yet’, gradually begins to lose hope of ‘coming to Christ’. He questions as well the supposed benefits of colonial progress: ‘as if to himself he said: “First the grapes of my body are pressed. Then I am silenced. Now I am punished. Night, evening and a day. What remains?” ’.134 But Pinmay himself is afflicted by a form of existential uncertainty and doubt: ‘The dark erotic perversion that the chief mistook for Christianity – who had implanted it? He had put this question from him in the press of his earlier dangers, but it intruded itself now that he was safe.’135 Like Wray beginning to formulate analogies between Christianity and Hinduism subsequent to his encounters with Ramanund, Pinmay fears the dissemination of the Word when repeated in alien contexts. The delicate play on Christ’s coming makes it refer both to the possibility of a Second Coming and to that of Pinmay’s coming in a sexual encounter with Vithobai. The harsh regime of colonial discipline he imposes on natives is designed to place limits on the dissemination of the Word and lay down strict differences between Christianity and paganism. In the last section of the story, Pinmay goes to visit a dying Barnabas. He has contracted consumption, one of the diseases introduced by civilisation. Pinmay finds him lying naked with some flowers on the roof of his house: he appears to have reverted to his former religion. Needing Barnabas to cure himself of his ambivalence and self-doubt, Pinmay tells Barnabas of the joys of the life to come, and that it is time to confess the ‘sin’ they had committed together.

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 127 Thinking him neutralised by his disease, Pinmay even ventures to lay his head on Vithobai’s body in an act of Christian charity. The dialogue which follows between them has a double reference, indicating that the play between Christian and erotic love cannot in fact be closed off and one delimited from the other: [Vithobai] whispered, ‘Too late’, but he smiled a little. ‘It is never too late’, said Mr. Pinmay, permitting a slow encircling movement of the body, the last it would ever accomplish. ‘God’s mercy is infinite, and endureth for ever and ever. . . . We have erred in this life but it will not be so in the life to come.’ The dying man seemed to find comfort at last. ‘The life to come’, he whispered, but more distinctly. ‘I had forgotten it. You are sure it is coming?’ ‘Even your old false religion was sure of that.’ ‘And we shall meet in it, you and I?’ he asked, with a tender yet reverent caress. ‘Assuredly, if we keep God’s commandments.’ ‘Shall we know one another again?’ ‘Yes, with all spiritual knowledge.’ ‘And will there be love?’ ‘In the real and true sense, there will.’ ‘Real and true love! Ah, that would be joyful.’ . . . Soon God would wipe away all tears. ‘The life to come’, he shouted. ‘Life, life, eternal life. Wait for me in it.’ And he stabbed the missionary through the heart.136 The climax of the story thus reinforces rather than annuls Vithobai’s misrecognition of the Christian message. Pinmay means to say that it is never too late to confess one’s sins and repent; but from Vithobai’s point of view, their intimacy and embrace come too late at the point of his death. Pinmay means that they will have knowledge of and love for each other in the afterlife as disembodied souls, but Vithobai takes the promise of eternal life to mean that they can resume their carnal joys that had been interrupted in this life. Following his literal interpretation of Pinmay’s words, he kills Pinmay, so that the latter can accompany him into the next world. Vithobai exemplifies on multiple levels St. Augustine’s notion of ‘carnal error’: not only through carnal desire for Pinmay, but also by taking ‘that which is said figuratively . . . as though it were literal’.137 But the text underlines the cruelty implicit in transcendental as well as idolatrous/carnal versions of love. While Vithobai’s acceptance of the Christian message requires him to yield to the yoke of colonial discipline

128  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque and restraint that Pinmay lays upon him, his killing of Pinmay is as much an outcome of the desire to have Pinmay accompany him into the next world of unrestricted carnal bliss as an act of revenge. Vithobai’s understanding of Christianity parallels Mill’s and Jones’s reading of Eastern religion, where the erotic invades the sacred. Pinmay evinces an anxiety for limiting the dissemination of the sacred word parallel to Mill’s attempts at limiting the dissemination and unravelling of European truth and reason by excluding sensory contact and experience. Finally, with his ambivalent ‘Not yet’ and his hesitation in clarifying the nature of Barnabas’s error, Pinmay is himself complicit in the dissimulation of the word of truth, like the authors of the Ezourvedam.

VII  Heat and lust: a passage to India First we say that things [simply] are; second, that they are related to one another in a variety of ways, they are causally connected and depend on one another. This second moment, the moment of understanding, cannot be present at this stage. − G.W.F. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion One of [the inscriptions] . . . consisted, by an unfortunate slip of the draughtsman, of the words, ‘God si Love’. —God si Love. Is this the first message of India? − E.M. Forster, A Passage to India

‘The Life to Come’ provides a convenient point of entry into A Passage to India, where the conceptual oppositions schematically laid out in the former story receive fuller expression and development, and in which the interplay of sexuality, divinity and politics in colonial India is explored. In addition, Passage connects with and brings to a point of crisis the thematics of idolatry developed in Ruskin, Perrin, Jones, Mill and Max Müller. It pulls together many strands and is perhaps the most satisfyingly complex of all the texts studied so far in this book. When Forster visited India for the first time in 1912, he did so at the invitation of Syed Ross Masood, an Indian with whom he was in love.138 He hoped that he would find there a new opening for his imagination.139 Thus, in Forster’s mind, India was tied with his hopes of both artistic and erotic fulfilment. In the event, India turned out to frustrate both aspirations. On the basis of his experiences there he wrote six chapters of the novel, but could not proceed further. Also, he could enjoy few moments of privacy with Masood, as the latter’s house was always chock-full of friends and relatives.140

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 129 When he returned to India in 1921, he took the chapters with him expecting to finish the novel, but found writing in India very difficult: I took the chapters with me and expected that the congenial surroundings would inspire me to go on. Exactly the reverse happened. Between the India I had tried to create and the India I was experiencing there was an impassable gulf. I had to get back to England and see my material in perspective before I could proceed.141 Although, unlike Mill or Max Müller, Forster did visit India, he encountered a similar gap between India experienced and India assimilated through texts. Like Pinmay’s experience in Vithobai’s district, Forster’s experience in India proved highly equivocal. Just as in Pinmay’s case, the equivocal character of Forster’s 1921 visit to India had to do with sex and subsequent guilt. While Passage consists of a transmutation of Forster’s experiences in India, a finished, accomplished and superbly crafted piece of writing, a more direct record is available in ‘Kanaya’, a short, fragmentary memoir written immediately after his return to England in 1922 and published only after his death.142 While in India, Forster had taken the position of secretary to the Maharaja of Dewas, a princely state. At Dewas, however, Forster found himself affected by the climate: ‘The climate soon impaired my will; I did not suffer from the climate in other ways, but it provoked me sexually . . . masturbation brought no relief. . . . In the slackness and silence, nothing seemed to exist except lust.’ He felt desire for a teenaged coolie at the Maharaja’s palace: ‘My passion for him bored and humiliated me, but I could not throw it off, on account of the climate and my empty mind.’143 Forster was fearful that word about his proclivities would get around and become generally known, thus compromising his position at the palace. The prospect pushes him to the verge of hysteria: I held out for four days. I had lost my self-respect, and saw signs around me that I was mocked and despised. Everything except outward ceremonial had gone, and I determined to have the matter out with H.H. [‘His Highness’, or the Maharaja] and to offer my resignation, which was, I thought, the card he was forcing me to play.144 Eventually, Forster made a clean breast to the Maharaja, who provided him with Kanaya, a servant with whom Forster contracted sexual relations. Kanaya, however, was of little help in keeping matters confidential; he talked to courtiers, and eventually propositioned the Maharaja himself.

130  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque Forster, who detected ‘an air of rollicking equality’ in the courtiers’ attitude towards him, was not amused by any of this. In what must be quite uncharacteristic of him and exemplify the level of his frustration, he punished Kanaya by beating and raping him.145 Although these experiences held up the writing of Passage while Forster was in India, they returned to it in transmuted form when it was eventually written.146 Thus, as Adela is climbing up to the Marabar caves with Aziz, she is distracted by the hot weather, and her thoughts dwell on Aziz: What a handsome little Oriental he was. . . . She did not admire him with any personal warmth . . . but she guessed he might attract women of his own race and rank, and regretted that neither she nor Ronny had physical charm. It does make a difference in a relationship – beauty, thick hair, a fine skin. Probably this man had several wives – Mohammedans always insist on their full four, according to Mrs. Turton.147 Like Anne Crivener with Dion Devasse, Adela had contracted a marriage of convenience with Ronny Heaslop, but realises on the way up with Aziz: ‘She and Ronny – no, they did not love each other.’148 Thereafter, she sexualises Aziz, idly wondering about his physical attributes, just as Forster had sexualised Kanaya or the teenaged coolie. She undergoes a bout of hysteria, parallel to Forster’s at the Maharaja’s palace, and accuses Aziz of attempting to rape her.149 She has him arrested and cast into prison and thereby punishes him, just as Forster punishes Kanaya. The effect of India on Forster’s imagination is thus complex and equivocal: while it does enable him to write Passage, close proximity to it inhibits the writing of the novel. Although Forster wrote a string of successful novels prior to his first visit to India in 1912, his novelistic production ceased abruptly after the writing of Passage, midway through his career. It is as if India was assimilated closely to imagination, and the difficulties of relating to it signified a general failure of the imaginative faculty itself.150 I will argue that ‘India’ in Forster’s narrative economy resembles an idolatrous image, a signifier which opens up a metaphysical gap because it stimulates but indefinitely postpones the fulfilment of desire. This gap is articulated in the final sentence of the novel: ‘. . . “No, not yet”, and the sky said, “No, not there” ’.151 In terms of its thematic of imagination, Passage reveals a gap between Indians and Englishmen in their receptivity to poetry and literature. At a gathering of Aziz’s friends, as Aziz recites Urdu poetry, the company listened with pleasure, because literature had not been divorced from their civilisation. The police inspector, for instance, did not feel that

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 131 Aziz had degraded himself by reciting, nor break into the cheery guffaw with which an Englishman averts the infection of beauty. . . . The poem had done no ‘good’ to anyone, but it was a passing reminder, a breath from the divine lips of beauty, a nightingale between two worlds of dust.152 Thus, Forster at this point affirms the creative power of literature, and associates it with Indians. Yet, there are problems with the quality of imagination that is expressed through this literature. When Aziz recites his poem, it had no connection with anything that had gone before, but it came from his heart and spoke to theirs. They were overwhelmed by its pathos; pathos, they agreed, is the highest quality in art; a poem should touch the speaker with a sense of his own weakness, and should institute some comparison between mankind and flowers . . . words accepted as immortal filled the indifferent air. Not as a call to battle, but as a calm assurance came the feeling that India was one; Moslem; always had been; an assurance that lasted until they looked out of the door.153 The poetic faculty of Aziz and his friends is associated here with artifice and illusion. It promotes the delusion that India is still in Muslim hands: a conceit that pleases Aziz and his Muslim friends although it bears no relation to the realities of British rule and Hindu empowerment. It consists of an appeal exclusively to the heart, but not to the head, giving rise to sentiments that are relatively superficial with pathos as the dominant element. This reinscribes the opposition between imagination and reason that had appeared in William Jones and James Mill: while India is associated with the life of the imagination, Europe is the home of reason. Indian imagination is aligned with what Samuel Taylor Coleridge would have described as ‘fancy’: a faculty which resembles but is actually inferior to true imagination. Coleridge considered fancy as having no other counters to play with, but fixities and definites. The Fancy is indeed no other than a mode of Memory emancipated from the order of time and space; while it is blended with, and modified by that empirical phenomenon of the will, which we express by the word CHOICE.154 The narrator’s judgements on the poetry that Aziz recites to his friends in Passage echoes very closely Coleridge’s definition of fancy. Thus, according to the narrator, Aziz’s poetry plays with fixities and definites, such as a resemblance between mankind and flowers. It is a mode of memory

132  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque emancipated from time and space, as in Aziz’s memories of the Mughal Empire. Fancy develops a kind of free association, which is also the principle on which Aziz’s mind works. As an empirical phenomenon of the will, fancy is guided essentially by arbitrary caprice, and hence is close to fetishistic modes of thinking.155 Aziz’s fancy also acts as a barrier to intimacy between him and Fielding. While Fielding cuts ties with fellow Englishmen in order to back him unconditionally during his imprisonment and trial, Aziz is morbidly suspicious that Fielding is having an affair with Aziz’s accuser Adela Quested. The part played by an ‘Oriental imagination’ in constituting Aziz’s suspicions is apparent in the following exchange between Fielding and Aziz: Presently [Aziz] said: ‘So you and Madamsell Adela used to amuse one another in the evening, naughty boy.’ . . . Fielding . . . lost his head and cried: ‘You little rotter! Well, I’m damned. Amusement indeed. Is it likely at such a time?’ ‘Oh, I beg your pardon, I’m sure. The licentious Oriental imagination was at work,’ he replied, speaking gaily, but cut to the heart.156 Aziz’s licentious Oriental imagination may be likened to the ‘warm imagination’ of Asiatic poetry that Jones discovered, likely to give over into ‘culpable excess’. It is this element of excess that qualifies Fielding’s Indian experiences as ‘muddle’, a word that recurs through the novel. Subsequent to the disruption of his relationship with Aziz, Fielding returns to England through Italy. At Venice, he discovers ‘form’ in place of ‘muddle’: The buildings of Venice, like the mountains of Crete and the fields of Egypt, stood in the right place, whereas in poor India everything was placed wrong. He had forgotten the beauty of form among idol temples and lumpy hills; indeed, without form, how can there be beauty? . . . In the old undergraduate days he had wrapped himself up in the many-coloured blanket of St. Mark’s, but something more precious than mosaics and marbles were offered to him now: the harmony between the works of man and the earth that upholds them, the civilisation that has escaped muddle, the spirit in a reasonable form, with flesh and blood subsisting. Writing picture-postcards to his Indian friends, he felt that all of them would miss the joys he experienced now, the joys of form, and this constituted a serious barrier. They would see the sumptuousness of Venice, not its shape.157 It is only at Venice – geographically midway between India and England – that Fielding arrives at a point of satisfactory mediation between reason and

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 133 sensory experience, spirit and matter, giving rise to the joys of artistic form: ‘the spirit in a reasonable form, with flesh and blood subsisting’. The two poles of this antithesis, however, do not have equal valency for ‘the southern exit [out of the Mediterranean towards India and “muddle”] leads to the strangest experience of all’.158 The reference to precious ‘mosaics and marbles’ of Venice which Fielding can wrap himself in like a ‘many-coloured blanket’ points to fetishism of a Ruskinian type; the aesthetic discriminations that Fielding sets up in this passage are reminiscent of those of Ruskin.159 The contrast drawn between ‘idol temples’ and Venice’s ‘beauty of form’ connects failures in Indian architecture and sensibility to idolatry, as in Ruskin. As a preponderance of material signifiers over definite signifieds, idolatry is not conducive to good art. As a participant in Hindu religious worship during his tenure at Dewas, Forster wrote: There is no dignity, no taste, no form, and though I am dressed as a Hindu I shall never become one. I don’t think one ought to be irritated with Idolatry because one can see from the faces of the people that it touches something very deep in their hearts. But it is natural that Missionaries, who think these ceremonies wrong as well as inartistic, should lose their tempers.160 Unlike Ruskin, Forster adjudged idolatry to be not so much ‘wrong’ as ‘inartistic’. It was the reason why ‘in poor India everything was placed wrong’. What is remarkable, however, is that this sense of formlessness and wrongness extends not only to architectural edifices but also to natural objects, so that the ‘lumpy hills’ of India are held in contrast to the mountains of Crete. There is a sense of anthropomorphic intention here which is pervasive through Passage. While serving as a convenient expressionist device, it also repeats the gesture that it condemns, partaking of an animism closely related to idolatry. In his veneration of Gothic or Renaissance era Venetian architecture (in place of Mughal era poetry), Fielding also repeats a gesture that the narrator attributes to Aziz: sentimental nostalgia for a vanished past. The passage induces an effect of pathos not dissimilar to the one which overtakes Aziz while reciting Urdu poetry. There is more than a touch of ressentiment behind Fielding’s gratuitous reference to his absent Indian friends as incapable of experiencing the ‘joys of form’; in keeping with norms of idolatrous aesthetics, they would notice ‘the sumptuousness of Venice’ though ‘not its shape’. The gratuitousness of the reference suggests that Fielding is not as wrapped up in Venetian architecture as appears in the above passage; he is still thinking about his Indian friends, notably

134  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque Aziz, with whom his differences are not merely aesthetic but also personal and political. ‘Muddle’ aptly describes the state of affairs in the Hindu princely state of Mau, where Aziz retires subsequent to his bruising encounter with British authorities. It is particularly apparent in scenes of idolatrous worship during Gokul Ashtami, the religious festival celebrating the birth of Krishna: They sang not even to the God who confronted them, but to a saint; they did not do one thing which the non-Hindu would feel dramatically correct; this approaching triumph of India was a muddle (as we call it), a frustration of reason and form. Where was the God himself, in whose honour the congregation had gathered? Indistinguishable in the jumble of his own altar, huddled out of sight amid images of inferior descent, smothered under rose-leaves, overhung by oleographs, outblazed by golden tablets representing the Rajah’s ancestors, and entirely obscured, when the wind blew, by the tattered foliage of a banana.161 This scene of idolatry, as a ‘frustration of reason and form’, can be contrasted to Fielding’s discoveries in Venice. Yet, the parenthetical ‘as we call it’ problematises the notion of ‘muddle’, which may be so only from a certain perspective. It is not only that details in this scene do not appear ‘dramatically correct’, but also that it yokes together incompatibles, muddying categories and transgressing domains demarcated by post-Reformation Christian subjectivity and ideology. Thus, as Professor Godbole dances in the midst of Gokul Ashtami’s revelry, he has a religious epiphany involving Mrs Moore: He was a Brahman, she Christian, but it made no difference, it made no difference whether she was a trick of his memory or a telepathic appeal. It was his duty, as it was his desire, to place himself in the position of the God and to love her, and to place himself in her position and to say to the God, ‘Come, come, come, come’.162 Vaishnava devotees of Krishna routinely place themselves in the position of Radha, the god’s human lover. Here Godbole actually fantasises that he is Krishna, making love to Mrs Moore as Radha.163 This fantasy transgresses more domains than one could think of. It transgresses the social taboos of colonial India (‘He was a Brahman, she Christian’). It transgresses the categories of life and death (Mrs Moore is dead at this point). It crosses borders between humanity and divinity, as well as between eroticism and religion; the latter of which is especially evident in

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 135 the play on ‘coming’. In ‘The Life to Come’, Pinmay takes the position of Christ, as Godbole does here of Krishna; the short story incorporates the same play on the notion of Christ’s coming. Among the ‘inappropriate’ signs present at the scene of the worship of Krishna is the inscription ‘God si Love’, with respect to which the narrator queries: ‘Is this the first message of India?’164 The message of India would then have to do with a displacing and estranging of the message of Christian gospel (‘God is Love’) by inserting it into novel frames, one of which is suggested by Godbole’s vision of Mrs Moore. Thus, although its proportions are wrong and dramatic effect a failure, the scene of the nativity of Krishna skirts dangerously close to that of Christ: A Brahman brought forth a model of the village of Gokul (the Bethlehem in that nebulous story) and placed it in front of the altar. . . . Here, upon a chair too small for him and with a head too large, sat King Kansa, who is Herod, directing the murder of some Innocents, and in a corner, similarly proportioned, stood the father and mother of the Lord, warned to depart in a dream.165 As the narrative of Krishna’s nativity proceeds, it becomes apparent that ‘God si love’ names not just a lack, but also fills out certain elements that are missing in the Christian gospel: ‘God si love!’ There is fun in heaven. God can play practical jokes upon Himself, draw chairs away from beneath His own posteriors, set His own turbans on fire, and steal His own petticoats when he bathes. By sacrificing good taste, this worship achieved what Christianity had shirked: the inclusion of merriment. All spirit as well as all matter must participate in salvation, and if practical jokes are banned, the circle is incomplete.166 The God named in this passage is an immanent rather than transcendent deity. The world and its beings on whom God plays practical jokes are all incorporated within God’s own being, annulling the distance between divinity and humanity. Unlike nonidolatrous religions which rigorously exclude matter (and levity), both spirit and matter can participate in salvation, and practical jokes are part of its scheme. Apart from the message of Christian gospel, the Indian tendency towards idolatry and ‘muddle’ also disfigures and dismantles some of the ‘truths’ of Orientalism with which the novel works. Things in India exceed their identification, and cannot be held in place by a network of colonial signifieds. Adela wonders ‘how can the mind take hold of such a country?’ as

136  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque her party proceeds towards the Marabar caves.167 Hinduism seems equally mysterious, escaping the surveillance of colonial power: Hinduism, so solid from a distance, is riven into sects and clans, which radiate and join, and change their names according to the aspect from which they are approached. Study it for years with the best teachers, and when you raise your head, nothing they have told you quite fits. Aziz, the day of his inauguration, had remarked: ‘I study nothing, I respect’ – making an excellent impression. There was now a minimum of prejudice against him.168 According to one of Orientalism’s ‘truths’, Aziz, a Muslim doctor, should have found it impossible to function in a Hindu kingdom. However, he produces an ‘excellent impression’ with his remark intended to clarify that he does not intend to participate in exercises of colonial knowledge and power. Meanwhile, the ‘best teachers’ of that knowledge cannot quite get a hold of their object, which would then appear to resemble ‘muddle’. As part of the conceptual ‘confusion’ of idolatry, the boundaries of divinity, sexuality and politics are continually transgressed in Indian affairs. Deification of human agents as political leaders is an aspect of idolatry, as it crosses the boundary between humanity and divinity.169 Mrs Moore accuses her son Ronny Heaslop, city magistrate of Chandrapore, of crossing this boundary and acting like a god in his running of administrative affairs: ‘Your sentiments are those of a god’, she said quietly. . . . Trying to recover his temper, he said, ‘India likes gods’. ‘And Englishmen like posing as gods’.170 In this instance, it is left undecided who has a greater penchant for the idolatrous deification of political authority: Indians or Englishmen. Subsequent to Adela’s accusation of Aziz, as Collector Turton oversees Aziz’s arrest, he is ‘revealed like a god in a shrine’.171 Indians, however, select a different person to deify as Aziz’s trial proceeds: they choose Mrs Moore. As the issue of the evidence of Mrs Moore, whom Ronny had put on a ship to England, is discussed in court, the crowd outside the courtroom chants her name, Indianising it to ‘Esmiss Esmoor’. The name is taken up like a ‘charm’ and spreads; the magistrate finds it impossible to stop its spread ‘until the magic exhausted itself’. ‘Esmiss Esmoor’ thus functions as a magic name, a fetish; eventually, Mrs Moore becomes ‘a Hindu goddess’.172 In an essay entitled ‘Subaltern Studies: Deconstructing Historiography’, Gayatri Spivak has written about the role of rumour in promoting

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 137 insurrection by subaltern groups. Spivak shows how rumour, although oral and used by communities with predominantly oral forms of communication, conforms to a Derridean sense of writing: ‘This rumour is not error but primordially (originally) errant, always in circulation with no assignable source. This illegitimacy makes it accessible to insurgency.’173 The chant ‘Esmiss Esmoor’, together with the notion that Ronny has spirited away Mrs Moore to prevent the truth from coming out at the trial, has this structure of insurgent rumour. Coming from ‘no assignable source’, the magistrate is powerless to put a stop to it. If agency may be assigned for it at all, it originates from the subaltern group of Indian servants at Ronny’s place who may have overheard Mrs Moore’s remarks on Aziz.174 Although ‘errant’ in terms of hybridising Mrs Moore’s name, the rumour does have an important element of truth: it is apparent from Ronny’s conversations with Mrs Moore that he fears the evidence she might give at the trial if summoned.175 Not only does the chant have a mobilising function for the crowd collecting outside the courtroom, but it also calms the unstable Adela’s nerves as she steps up and gives evidence that exonerates Aziz.176 Idolatry, in terms of the divinisation of Mrs Moore, thus becomes a relay in the propagation of subversive rumour. If, as Ronny Heaslop says, ‘India likes gods’, they also select their gods to suit their political purposes and do not fall for the ones Englishmen set up for them. Present as well at the courtroom is a living idol: a punkah puller of low birth who works the manually operated fan and is compared by the narrator to a god. In a strangely ambivalent representation, the punkah puller is apparently unaware of his surroundings, yet controls the proceedings of the court: The first person Adela noticed in [the courtroom] was the humblest of all who were present, a person who had no bearing officially upon the trial: the man who pulled the punkah. Almost naked, and splendidly formed, he sat on a raised platform near the back, in the middle of the central gangway, and he caught her attention as she came in, and he seemed to control the proceedings. He had the strength and beauty that sometimes come to flower in Indians of low birth. When that strange race nears the dust and is condemned as untouchable, then nature remembers the physical perfection that she accomplished elsewhere, and throws out a god – not many, but one here and there, to prove to society how little its categories impress her. This man would have been notable anywhere: among the thin-hammed, flat-chested mediocrities of Chandrapore he stood out as divine, yet he was of the city, its garbage had nourished him, he would end on its rubbish

138  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque heaps. . . . Opposite him, also on a platform, sat the little assistant magistrate, cultivated, self-conscious, and conscientious. The punkahwallah was none of these things: he scarcely knew that he existed and did not understand why the Court was fuller than usual, didn’t even know he worked a fan, though he thought he pulled a rope.177 In the curious and apparently gratuitous figure of the punkah puller occurs an interchange of ‘high’ and ‘low’ attributes. Thus, someone who is almost devoid of subjectivity appears to control the proceedings; someone close to ‘dust’ and ‘garbage’ is compared to a god. Stallybrass and White have observed that ‘the top includes [the] low symbolically, as a primary eroticized constituent of its own fantasy life. . . . It is for this reason that what is socially peripheral is so frequently symbolically central’.178 The untouchable punkah puller’s place at the social periphery is indicated by his literal position at the periphery of the courtroom; yet, as the first person to catch Adela’s attention, he is symbolically central to it. The set piece with the assistant magistrate seated opposite the punkah puller illustrate the set of antinomies which structure this scene. The assistant magistrate, who is caught in a conflict between ‘cultivated’ classes of the English and elite Indians, is self-conscious and nervous, displaying an excess of subjectivity; by contrast, he is physically ‘little’. He is fully clothed, displaying the insignia of his position in the court. By contrast, the punkah puller is ‘almost naked’ and clad only in a loincloth. He is seated in a position which emphasises his lower bodily topography. Stallybrass and White have pointed out the importance of bodily postures which appear physically debased and emphasise lower bodily topography in fixating bourgeois desire for the ‘low’.179 In this scene of a living idol, the eroticised body of the ‘low’ inserts itself into and appears to control ‘official’ court proceedings, serving to remind Adela of the provincial character of her concerns: Something in his aloofness impressed the girl from middle-class E ­ ngland, and rebuked the narrowness of her sufferings. In virtue of what had she collected this roomful of people together? Her particular brand of opinions, and the suburban Jehovah who sanctified them – by what right did they claim so much importance in the world, and assume the title of civilisation?180 The figure of the nominally gratuitous punkah puller in Passage inverts the scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where idolatrous priest Mola Ram promises an uprising against the Hebrew god on behalf of Kali Ma. Here, a living Indian god countermands the sanctions of a ‘suburban Jehovah’. Like the ‘Esmiss Esmoor’ chant, this is another element of the courtroom scene that moves Adela to finally exonerate Aziz.

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 139 The figure of the punkah puller in the courtroom serves not only to remind Adela but also to alert the reader of the text to an occluded subaltern presence, a third term structuring relations between the two contending groups in the novel: the English and elite Indians. Thus, when Collector Turton organises a ‘bridge party’ where, following Max Müllerian typologies, the English at the club at Chandrapore may encounter socially the ‘Aryan Brother’, certain types of Indians are excluded from the gathering: Near the Courts the pleaders waited for clients; clients, waiting for pleaders, sat in the dust outside. These had not received a card from Mr. Turton. And there were circles even beyond these – people who wore nothing but a loincloth, people who wore not even that, and spent their lives knocking two sticks before a scarlet doll – humanity grading and drifting beyond the educated vision, until no earthly invitation could embrace it.181 Although the novel focuses on civilisational encounters between the ­ nglish and educated or property-owning Indians, it registers on occasion, E as we saw in the courtroom scene, the presence of an Other named here as ‘humanity grading and drifting beyond the educated vision’. The presence of this subaltern other is coded through symbolic topographies of the human body, psychic forms and geographic space which, as Stallybrass and White suggest, are overlapping domains for the expression of social hierarchy.182 Colonial hierarchies are mapped here through spatial metaphors of concentric circles as well as those in the ‘lowly’ position of sitting in the dust outside the courtroom. The human body may appear wearing a loincloth (like the punkah puller), or sometimes not even that; while the lowest psychic form imaginable is that of an idolater, portrayed here in the stereotypical terms of a naked man knocking two sticks together before a scarlet doll. Likewise, when Godbole sings his song to Krishna for the small party gathered at Fielding’s place, the servants of the household are his only appreciative audience. Among whom is a man gathering water chestnuts who ‘came naked out of the tank, his lips parted with delight, disclosing his scarlet tongue’.183 These are not speaking subjects in the novel, but may be identified through a chain of metonymic associations such as nakedness/idolatry/the colour scarlet. However, they may become the objects of a bourgeois desire for the ‘low’, as when Adela muses: The true India slid by unnoticed. Colour would remain – the pageant of birds in the early morning, brown bodies, white turbans, idols whose flesh was scarlet and blue – and movement would remain as long as there were crowds in the bazaar and bathers in the tanks. . . .

140  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque But the force that lies behind colour and movement would escape her even more effectually than it did now. She would see India always as a frieze, never as a spirit.184 Adela had been contemplating at this point the monotonous life of marital duties and social rounds that marriage to Ronny would entail. Like Anne Crivener in a similar situation in Idolatry, she becomes a voyeur of sights at the bazaar, among which are eroticised elements of the ‘low’ such as brown bodies, bathers in tanks and idols with coloured flesh. As in Ruskin’s text, eruptions of colour signify the return of the repressed. Colour and movement indicate both an excess and a troubling lack of signification: they capture no coherent ‘spirit’ although many idols of coloured ‘flesh’ are on display. Similar confusion marks the journey to the Marabar caves during which the surrounding landscape displays an excess of signs and the caves themselves reveal their empty centre. Aziz’s group is mounted on an elephant, which raises it above the surrounding landscape; while travelling on foot with the elephant, apart from the servants accompanying the group, are the ‘scurf of life that an elephant always collects round its feet – villagers, naked babies’. Social hierarchies of colonial India are once again inscribed into the landscape and mapped by a spatial metaphor: perched on the elephant ‘ten feet above the ground’ are elite Indians in (momentary) intimacy with the Englishwomen Mrs Moore and Adela Quested, while at its feet and close to the ground are subaltern Indians, servants and villagers.185 The intimate exchanges between Aziz and the Englishwomen presuppose full subjects engaging in civilisational encounters, a principal object of representation in the novel. Villagers and servants, like the punkah puller, are denied access to subjectivity by the text, although their presence is recorded at its margins; symptomatically, subaltern Indians gathered in this scene are referred to as ‘the scurf of life’. As they travel, they spot some mounds by the side of the track. The narrator is unsure about their nature: ‘What were these mounds – graves, breasts of the goddess Parvati?’ Adela spots a thin, dark object on the ground which could either be a live black cobra or a dead tree branch. Due to the hallucination-inducing excess of signification encountered as the company proceeds to the caves, ‘everything seemed cut off at its root, and therefore infected with illusion’.186 The travellers appear to be moving in a realm of the pure signifier, cut off from referentiality. This refers to the idea of idolatry as appearance, which beguiles but belies reality. The association is reinforced by the reference to features in the landscape as ‘breasts of the goddess Parvati’. As we have seen

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 141 before, idols are deities whose sexuality is emphasised. The heat and features of the landscape induce sexual thoughts in Adela, which will emerge in her sexualisation of Aziz. While subaltern Indians are denuded of subjecthood, the Indian landscape itself appears endowed with an uncanny subjectivity. Thus, as Adela looks out at fields and landscape during the train ride which constituted the initial segment of the group’s journey to the caves, she muses: ‘[India] knows of the whole world’s trouble, to its uttermost depth. She calls “Come” through her hundred mouths, through objects ridiculous and august. But come to what? She has never defined. She is not a promise, only an appeal.’ The Indian landscape is thus endowed with an uncanny half-life analogous to that which is attributed to the idol by mediaeval Christian tradition. As we have encountered before, in this tradition, idols can utter speech without signifying, and following their speech leads to metaphysical disappointment. The Indian landscape issues a metaphysical invitation, ‘Come’, but does not endow it with any further content or specify what one is being invited to. As Adela’s company watches the sun rise, metaphysical disappointment is bound up with the landscape: They awaited the miracle. But at the supreme moment, when night should have died and day lived, nothing occurred. It was as if virtue had failed in the celestial fount . . . a profound disappointment entered with the morning breeze. Why, when the chamber was prepared, did the bridegroom not enter with trumpets and shawms, as humanity expects?187 The landscape thus becomes identified with failure, both metaphysical and erotic, and anticipates the mental breakdown Mrs Moore suffers on entering one of the Marabar caves. She finds that the cave had become too full, because all their retinue followed them. Crammed with villagers and servants, the circular chamber began to smell. She lost Aziz and Adela in the dark, didn’t know who touched her, couldn’t breathe, and some vile naked thing struck her face and settled on her mouth like a pad. She tried to retain the entrance tunnel, but an influx of villagers swept her back. She hit her head. For an instant she went mad, hitting and gasping like a fanatic. For not only did the crush and stench alarm her; there was also a terrifying echo. . . . After Mrs Moore all the others poured out. . . . As each person emerged she looked for a villain, but none was there, and she realized she had been among the mildest of individuals, whose only desire was

142  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque to honour her, and that the naked pad was a poor little baby, astride its mother’s hip. Nothing evil had been in the cave, but she had not enjoyed herself; no, she had not enjoyed herself, and she decided not to visit a second one.188 Inside the cave, ‘high’ and ‘low’ levels of spatial and social hierarchy, which had been kept separate during the long journey on elephant-back across the plains, have been suddenly compressed and brought into close proximity, even bodily contact. Mrs Moore has lost contact with Aziz and Adela, her erstwhile companions, and been brought in touch with the lowly ‘scurf of life’. The strong sunlight outside gives way to dark. The scene inside the cave resembles many scenes we have encountered in this book as it enacts the twilight of Western subjectivity. It could be a return to the allegory of Enlightenment and its obverse in Plato’s cave, whose bound prisoners are prey to shadowy illusions. It could be a plunge into the subterranean chambers of the evil Temple of Doom, whose idolatry tempts Indiana Jones. It also resembles scenes of religious pilgrimage and gatherings at dusk by the riverside in Idolatry where ‘lowly’ senses such as smell and touch begin to predominate over sight, and the sacred bull grazing past Anne Crivener in the bazaar is the equivalent of the naked baby’s hand settling on Mrs Moore. Just as in the scene of Anne Crivener at the bazaar, ‘high’ and ‘low’ in contaminating contact are a threat to social order, a prospect to which Mrs Moore, like Wray in Idolatry, responds with hysteria. Although we are not told in the text what happened to Adela when she entered a cave, both Adela and Mrs Moore are terrified by the echo they hear, and both emerge with a sense of having been in the presence of evil. It is reasonable to deduce, therefore, that they have similar negative experiences in the caves. It is significant that the sense of evil re-emerges in the text during moments of civil disorder and potential threats to social stability. Thus, as a crowd gathers for a demonstration at the civil hospital run by Major Callendar, one of the mainstays of the Chandrapore administration, the situation is described in the following terms: ‘The earth and the sky were insanely ugly, the spirit of evil again strode abroad.’189 According to Forster’s biographer P.N. Furbank, Mrs Moore’s breakdown in the caves was suggested to Forster by the insanity of Lady Herringham, an acquaintance of his who made full-scale copies of the frescoes in caves at Ajanta. Lady Herringham was haunted by India and believed that Indians bore her a grudge for intruding into the caves.190 Forster studied her copies of the frescoes at Ajanta, and also visited the cave temples at Ellora which, like the ones at Salsette and Elephanta that Ruskin wrote about, are full of ‘idolatrous’ sculptures.

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 143 Forster was familiar with Ruskin’s writings on Indian gods, and his chief impression of the sculptures at Ellora was that they were too diabolic to be beautiful – ‘Satanic masterpieces to terrify others’.191 Forster’s association between caves and evil is thus mediated by the notion of idolatry. By conjoining matter and spirit, idolatry fuses the ‘high’ and the ‘low’, analogous to the manner in which spatial levels of ‘high’ and ‘low’ during the journey to the Marabar caves are brought together inside them. Idols are a potent trope of symbolic inversion: as deities that are manmade objects, they reverse the hierarchy of creation. Mrs Moore finds that ‘divine words’ of Christianity such as ‘Let there be light’ are reduced by the caves to the echo ‘Boum’.192 As opposed to the ‘high’ ideals of light and spirit, we are told that ‘very little light penetrates down the entrance tunnel’ into the caves; they are also associated with carnality.193 Thus, they induce carnal thoughts in Adela, and inspire in Mrs Moore the reflection: ‘centuries of carnal embracement, yet man is no nearer to understanding man’.194 On multiple levels, therefore, the caves are concerned with reducing the ‘high’ to the ‘low’. The uniform echo ‘Boum’ it produces is a fixed and empty signified in response to all signifiers.195 This is a situation contrary to the one during the journey to the caves, when there was a plethora of signifieds. In both cases, however, signifier is severed from signified which, as we have seen before, is a paradigm for idolatrous representation. It is useful to regard Passage as a limit-text of Orientalism.196 Although it works within a network of tropes and generalisations deployed and familiarised by Orientalism, it brings them to a point of crisis and has a selfcancelling character. Thus, while Indians in the text are emotional and impulsive, Englishmen are controlled, phlegmatic, rational and calculating, in conformity with the established stereotype.197 However, it turns out that subsequent to Aziz’s arrest the [Anglo-Indian] herd had decided on emotion. . . . Nothing enraged Anglo-India more than the lantern of reason if it is exhibited for one moment after its extinction is decreed. . . . Pity, wrath, heroism, filled them, but the power of putting two and two together was annihilated.198 Although lapses in rationality are sometimes attributed to the Indian climate, this notion is also parodied in the theory held by McBryde, the district superintendent of police: No Indian ever surprised him, because he had a theory about climatic zones. The theory ran: ‘All unfortunate natives are criminals at heart,

144  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque for the simple reason that they live south of latitude 30. They are not to blame, they have not a dog’s chance – we should be like them if we settled here’. Born at Karachi, he seemed to contradict his theory, and would sometimes admit as much with a sad, quiet smile.199 The climactic incidents at the caves in the central section of the novel are thus cancelled and counterpointed by another scene of idolatry in its final, ‘Temple’ section. In the carnival like scenes of the Gokul Ashtami festival, opposites are reconciled and the chain of events builds towards a different sort of climax. Idolatry and formlessness are reconciled as a religious procession proceeds to the waterside for the symbolic immersion of the gods: On either side of [Krishna’s palanquin] the singers tumbled, a woman prominent, a wild and beautiful young saint with flowers in her hair. She was praising God without attributes – thus did she apprehend Him. Others praised Him with attributes, seeing Him in this or that organ of the body or manifestation of the sky.200 Chosen to return the gods to the elements by immersing them is a naked Indian boy, of the type of the naked babies and idolaters encountered so far in the text: The village of Gokul reappeared upon its tray. It was the substitute for the silver image, which never left its haze of flowers; on behalf of another symbol, it was to perish. A servitor took it in his hands, and tore off the blue and white streamers. He was naked, broad-­ shouldered, thin-waisted – the Indian boy again triumphant – and it was his hereditary office to close the gates of salvation. He entered the dark waters, pushing the village before him, until the clay dolls slipped off their chairs and began to gutter in the rain, and King Kansa was confounded with the father and mother of the Lord. Dark and solid, the little waves sipped, then a great wave washed and then English voices cried ‘Take care!’.201 On many levels, this passage stages a collision of incompatibles. Thus, divinity, represented here through a chain of substitutions, is being consigned to the elements to perish; and performing this important function is a naked Indian boy – type of the ‘low’. Fielding has come to visit India with Stella, Mrs Moore’s daughter; but Aziz, under the impression that Fielding has married Adela and brought her to India, is trying to avoid them. In this scene, King Kansa, who tried to kill Krishna, collides with Krishna’s parents; while Aziz is watching this, his boat collides with the one carrying

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 145 the English he had been trying to avoid, flinging everyone into the water where English, Indians, gods and mythic villains mingle: ‘That was the climax, as far as India admits of one.’202 This scene, like the episode of the Marabar caves, stages a series of collisions of mutually incompatible symbolic levels. Rather than signifying evil, however, these collisions represent Forster’s favoured theme of connection.203 Aziz and Fielding become ‘friends again’ after this episode, while the moment of Krishna’s birth coincides with the Rajah of Mau’s unobtrusive death, which does not interrupt the festivities.204 As Aziz fell into the water at Mau, he thought ‘how brave Miss Quested was and decided to tell her so, despite my imperfect English’. As Stella observes, at this point ‘the Marabar is wiped out’.205 For Ruskin, Perrin and Forster, idolatry is a conception necessary to enable the rhetoric of colonial order, and becomes what Stallybrass and White have called the ‘scene of its low other’ for the ambivalent projection of disgust and desire.206 Although they start out with the assumption that idolatry is an alternative cognitive mode unique to India or the East, attempts to define its character open on to generalised questions of imaginative vision and artistic practice, and lead ultimately to the elaboration of a notion of the grotesque. Since the identities of all three of them are tied up with the question of artistic practice, to an extent far greater than those operating within a more ‘scholarly’ Indological domain such as Jones, Mill or Max Müller, this induces in them particular tensions and anxieties of self-definition. Forster deals with such tensions and anxieties with a kind of self-cancelling irony that brings out best the fragility of the idolatry trope, and goes furthest among the three of them down the path of carnival. While his texts are not necessarily revolutionary or subversive of colonial order, they stage the terms within which it is constructed and render its scaffolding, props and struts visible.

Notes 1 Alice Perrin, Idolatry, London: Chatto & Windus, 1909. 2 John Ruskin, ‘Salsette and Elephanta’, in E.T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn (eds), The Complete Works of John Ruskin (The Library Edition), 39 vols, London: George Allen, 1903–12, vol. 2, pp. 90–100. Written in 1839 at the age of 20, this poem won the Newdigate Prize for Poetry at Oxford – where Ruskin was enrolled as an undergraduate – and brought him to the notice of William Wordsworth (see ibid., vol. 2, pp. XXV–XXVII; also Joan Evans, John Ruskin, 1952; repr., New York: Haskell House, 1970, pp. 64–5). 3 E.M. Forster, A Passage to India (1924); repr., London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984; Forster, ‘The Life to Come’ in Oliver Stallybrass (ed.), The Life to Come and Other Stories, London: Edward Arnold, 1972, pp. 65–82.

146  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 4 John Ruskin, ‘Unto This Last: Four Essays on the First Principles of Political Economy’, Complete Works, vol. 17, p. 105. 5 See ibid., pp. 13–114. The first sentence in the first of four essays in ‘Unto This Last’ indicates their target: ‘Among the delusions which at different periods have possessed themselves of the minds of large masses of the human race, perhaps the most curious – certainly the least creditable – is the modern soi-disant science of political economy, based on the idea that an advantageous code of social action may be determined irrespectively of the influence of social affection’ (ibid., p. 25). 6 See Ruskin, ‘The Political Economy of Art’, reprinted in ‘A Joy for Ever, Being the Substance (with Additions) of Two Lectures on the Political Economy of Art’, Complete Works, vol. 16, pp. 9–103. 7 ‘And the second great condition for the advance of sculpture is that the race should possess, in addition to the mimetic instinct, the realistic or idolising instinct; the desire to see as substantial the powers that are unseen, and bring near those that are far off, and to possess and cherish those that are strange. To make in some way tangible and visible the nature of the gods – to illustrate and explain it by symbols; to bring the immortals out of the recesses of the clouds, and make them Penates; to bring back the dead from darkness, and make them Lares’ (Ruskin, ‘Aratra Pentelici’, Complete Works, vol. 20, p. 223). 8 See, for example, Ruskin, ‘Fors Clavigera’, Complete Works, vol. 27, pp. 675–6; also Ruskin, ‘The Storm Cloud of the Nineteenth Century, Complete Works, vol. 34, pp. 1–80. These are visionary, apocalyptic accounts of the disruption of natural order by industrial civilisation. 9 ‘Renaissance architecture is the school which has conducted men’s inventive and constructive faculties from the Grand Canal to Gower Street; from the marble shaft, and the lancet arch, and the wreathed leafage, and the glowing and melting harmony of gold and azure [features of Gothic style], to the square cavity in the brick wall’ (Ruskin, ‘The Stones of Venice, Vol. III’, Complete Works, vol. 11, p. 4). Editors Cook and Wedderburn add in a footnote that ‘Gower Street is . . . selected, as a type of modern ugliness’ (ibid.). For Ruskin’s appreciation of Gothic style, see Ruskin, ‘The Nature of Gothic’, Complete Works, vol. 10, pp. 180–269. 10 See Partha Mitter, Much Maligned Monsters: A History of European Reactions to Indian Art, 1977; repr., Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992, pp. 120–40. 11 Ruskin, ‘The Two Paths’, Complete Works, vol. 16, pp. 253–424. 12 See ibid., pp. 259–63. 13 Ruskin, ‘Salsette and Elephanta’, Complete Works, vol. 2, pp. 94–9. 14 See Mitter, Much Maligned Monsters, pp. 21, 34–5. 15 Ruskin, ‘Salsette and Elephanta’, Complete Works, vol. 2, p. 94 fn. John H. van Linschoten’s account was translated into English in 1598 as The Voyage of John Huyghen van Linschoten to the East Indies, London: Hakluyt Society, 1885. 16 Joao do Castro, ‘The Pagode of Salsette’, trans. from Portuguese by Partha Mitter, Much Maligned Monsters, p. 327. 17 See Mitter, Much Maligned Monsters, p. 158. 18 For accounts of Salsette and Elephanta as the picturesque, see ibid., pp. 120–40. For Ruskin’s affinity to the picturesque, see Wolfgang Kemp,

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 147 The Desire of My Eyes: The Life and Work of John Ruskin, trans. from German by Jan van Heurck, London: HarperCollins, 1991, pp. 76–7. 19 Ruskin, ‘The Two Paths’, Complete Works, vol. 16, p. 266. 20 Ibid., p. 264. 21 Ibid., pp. 284, 287. 22 See ibid., p. 266. 23 ‘Art, so far as it was devoted to the record or the interpretation of nature, would be helpful and ennobling also’ (ibid., p. 268); ‘You observe that I always say interpretation, never imitation’ (ibid., p. 269). 24 See ibid., pp. 294–5. 25 Ibid., pp. 268, 270. 26 Ibid., pp. 284–5. 27 Ibid., p. 269. 28 Ruskin, ‘The Stones of Venice Vol. III’, Complete Works, vol. 11, p. 187. 29 Ibid., p. 190. 30 Ibid., p. 145. 31 Ibid., p. 189. 32 Ibid., p. 164. 33 Ibid., pp. 168–9. 34 Ibid., pp. 188–9. 35 Ibid., p. 181. 36 See the argument in ibid., pp. 178–81. 37 Ruskin, ‘Modern Painters, V’, Complete Works, vol. 7, p. 414 fn. 38 Cf. the following observation by Ruskin: ‘the arrangement of colours and lines is an art analogous to the composition of music, and entirely independent of the representation of facts. Good colouring does not necessarily convey the image of anything but itself’ (Ruskin, ‘ “The Nature of Gothic”, “The Stones of Venice Vol. II” ’, Complete Works, vol. 10, pp. 215–16). 39 Ruskin, ‘The Two Paths’, Complete Works, vol. 16, p. 307 fn. See also quote from Ruskin in epigraph to this chapter: the cruelty and lack of civilisation of Indian mutineers were related to the fact that they wove pretty shawls. Christopher Bayly has pointed out that many Indian weavers ruined by the flooding of the Indian market with cheap industrially produced textiles from England joined the mutiny, and that many rebel proclamations referred specifically to their plight (See Christopher A. Bayly, ‘The Origins of Swadeshi: Cloth and Indian Society, 1700–1930’, in Arjun Appadurai (ed.), The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986, pp. 307–10). Although Ruskin is generally sympathetic to the victims of industrialisation, this is superseded by the politics of imperialism: he withholds all sympathy in the instance of Indian rebels. 40 Ruskin, ‘ “Light”, “Lectures on Art” ’, Complete Works, vol. 20, p. 153. 41 Ruskin, ‘ “Athena Keramitis”, “The Queen of the Air” ’, Complete Works, vol. 19, pp. 382–3. 42 Ruskin, ‘Light’, Complete Works, vol. 20, pp. 152–3. 43 See Jacques Derrida, ‘White Mythology: Metaphor in the Text of Philosophy’, Margins of Philosophy, trans. from French by Alan Bass, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982, pp. 209–71. 44 ‘The consummate art of Europe has only been accomplished by the union of both [light and colour]’ (Ruskin, ‘Light’, Complete Works, vol. 20, p. 154).

148  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 45 See Stephen Bann, ‘The Colour in the Text: Ruskin’s Basket of Strawberries’, in Harold Bloom (ed.), John Ruskin, New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986, pp. 105–16. 46 Ibid., p. 108. 47 Ruskin’s marriage of six years to distant cousin Effie Gray was annulled on grounds of non-consummation; Effie had already left him at this point for the painter John Everett Millais. Soon after he met and fell in love with Rose La Touche, a girl aged 9, who appeared to him half-angelic, halfdiabolic, and was 30 years younger than him. In 1866, when Rose was 16, he asked her to marry him, but was finally turned down by her in 1872. By then she had started manifesting signs of mental and physical illness, and died insane in 1875. Ruskin himself lost his mental balance and was incapacitated for the last 10 years of his life (see Clive Wilmer’s introduction to John Ruskin, Unto This Last and Other Writings, London: Penguin Classics, 1985, pp. 7–37). Wilmer notes: ‘it seems probable that the sexuality of adult women terrified Ruskin and repelled him; in consequence, perhaps, he found it easier to direct his emotions to girls’ (ibid., p. 31). 48 Ruskin, ‘ “Proper Sense of the Word Idolatry”, “The Stones of Venice” Vol. II, Appendix 10’, Complete Works, vol. 10, p. 451. 49 Ibid. 50 Ruskin, ‘ “Idolatry”, “Aratra Pentelici” ’, Complete Works, vol. 20, pp. 240–1. 51 Ibid., p. 230; italics mine. 52 Ibid., p. 231; the references are to Exodus 33:9, 3:2 and 1 Kings 19:2, respectively. 53 Ibid., p. 230; author’s italics. 54 See Kemp, The Desire of My Eyes, p. 161. 55 Letter to John James Ruskin, Verona, June 2, 1852, Complete Works, vol. 10, p. XXVI. 56 Effie Gray, letter dated 15 January 1850, cited in Raleigh Trevelyan, A PreRaphaelite Circle, London: Chatto & Windus, 1978, p. 49. 57 Effie Gray, cited in Mary Lutyens (ed.), Effie in Venice, London: John Murray, 1965, p. 146. 58 The following description of contemporary Venetians is typical of The Stones of Venice: ‘Round the whole [of St. Mark’s] square in front of the church there is almost a continuous line of cafés, where the idle Venetians of the middle classes lounge, and read empty journals: in its centre the Austrian bands play during the time of vespers, their martial music jarring with the organ notes, – the march drowning the miserere, and the sullen crowd thickening among them, – a crowd which, if it had its will, would stiletto every soldier that pipes to it. And in the recesses of the porches, all day long, knots of men of the lowest classes, unemployed and listless, lie basking in the sun like lizards; and unregarded children, – every heavy glance of their young eyes full of desperation and stony depravity, and their throats hoarse with cursing, – gamble, and fight, and snarl, and sleep, hour after hour, clashing their bruised centesimi upon the marble ledges of the church porch’ (Ruskin, ‘ “St. Mark’s”, “The Stones of Venice” ’, Vol. II, Complete Works, vol. 10, pp. 84–5). Juxtapositions in this passage such as ‘men . . . basking in the sun like lizards’ or ‘children . . . young eyes full of desperation . . . throats hoarse with cursing . . . snarl’ contribute to its overall effect of a sense of unnaturalness and decadence. 59 See Kemp, The Desire of My Eyes, p. 198.

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 149 60 Ruskin, ‘Praeterita’, Complete Works, vol. 35, p. 483. See also Kemp, The Desire of My Eyes, pp. 162–4. 61 Kemp, The Desire of My Eyes, p. 161. 62 The Stones of Venice begins with the heavily portentous words: ‘Since first the dominion of men was asserted over the ocean, three thrones, of mark beyond all others, have been set upon its sands: the thrones of Tyre, Venice, and England. Of the First of these great powers only the memory remains, of the Second, the ruin; the Third, which inherits their greatness, if it forgets their example, may be led through prouder eminence to less pitied destruction’ (Ruskin, ‘The Stones of Venice’, Vol. I, Complete Works, vol. 9, p. 17). Ruskin’s painstaking study of Venetian architecture is meant to aid in the project of emulating her past glory while avoiding her present decadence. 63 In the period of their engagement, during what must have been the height of their courtship, Ruskin wrote to Effie: ‘I find work good for me and when I am busy upon architecture or mathematics I sometimes very nearly forget all about you! – and retain merely a pleasant sense of all’s being right’ (Ruskin, cited in Kemp, The Desire of My Eyes, p. 139). 64 Ruskin, letter from Venice to John James Ruskin, 28 January 1852, Complete Works, vol. 10, p. 436. 65 Marcel Proust translated Ruskin into French and followed his lead in many things: for example, in his enthusiasm for Giotto’s allegorical paintings in Padua, to which Ruskin made frequent allusions. For Ruskin’s influence on Proust, see Kemp, The Desire of My Eyes, pp. 312, 331, 463. 66 Proust, cited in Kemp, The Desire of My Eyes, p. 464. 67 Ruskin, ‘Proper Sense of the Word Idolatry’, Complete Works, vol. 10, pp. 451–2. 68 For a brief biography of Perrin, see Saros Cowasjee (ed.), Women Writers of the Raj: Short Fiction from Kipling to Independence, London: Grafton Books, 1990, p. 261. 69 Perrin, Idolatry, p. 3. 70 Ibid., p. 23. 71 Ibid., pp. 12–13. 72 Ibid., p. 11. ‘She ought to have married well, too, long before this, with her undeniably good looks and the thoroughbred air’ (ibid.). 73 ‘Reason’ is derived from the Latin root ration-em, among whose senses are ‘reckoning, account, relation’. Reason itself may signify ‘monetary reckoning’; when used in the plural it could stand for ‘accounts, moneys’. See Oxford English Dictionary entry for ‘reason’. 74 Perrin, Idolatry, p. 9. 75 Ibid., pp. 23–4. 76 Ibid., pp. 8–9. 77 The narrative tells us further that as Anne looks at her mother’s photograph, she guesses at ‘the mental discomfort the poor little creature must have endured when she came to England to live among her husband’s people – the silent slights, the quiet contempt; the help withheld in social difficulties; the notice, without kindly correction, of mistakes; the hundred little negative cruelties of which, Anne knew very well, the members of Granny’s world were capable towards one not of themselves. Then, left to their mercy, without the love and support of her young husband, the widow had fled, back to her own kin, deeming the surrender of her baby a price worth paying for her freedom’ (ibid., p. 24).

150  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 78 Ibid., p. 33. 79 Ibid., p. 47. 80 Ibid., pp. 136–7. 81 See ibid., pp. 135–7. 82 Ibid., pp. 136, 143. 83 Ibid., p. 102. 84 See ibid., pp. 217–18, 270, 276–7. ‘The fact of Ramanund’s visits to him being accomplished only by an elaborate system of deception – a system in which the boy took a curious racial pleasure as being a triumph of intrigue – gave Wray matter for serious perplexity’ (p. 270). 85 Ibid., p. 107. 86 Ibid., p. 108. 87 Ibid., p. 102. 88 Homi Bhabha, ‘Signs Taken for Wonders: Questions of Ambivalence and Authority Under a Tree Outside Delhi, May 1817’, in H.L. Gates (ed.), “Race”, Writing and Difference, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985, p. 173. 89 See ibid., pp. 163–84. 90 Perrin, Idolatry, p. 110. For Wray’s sacrifice of his family property, see p. 112. 91 Ibid., p. 34. 92 Ibid. 93 Ibid., pp. 113–15. 94 Ibid., p. 114. According to Bakhtin the grotesque body of carnival is presented ‘not in a private, egotistic form, severed from the other spheres of life, but as something universal, representing all the people. As such it is opposed to severance from the material and bodily roots of the world; it makes no pretense to renunciation of the earthy, or independence of the earth and of the body. . . . The material bodily principle is contained not in the biological individual, not in the bourgeois ego, but in the people, a people who are continually growing and renewed’ (Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. from Russian by Helene Iswolsky, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1968, pp. 19–20). 95 See Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986. 96 Perrin, Idolatry, pp. 115–16. 97 Ibid., p. 117. 98 See Stallybrass and White, ‘Introduction’, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression, pp. 1–26. 99 See Jenny Sharpe, Allegories of Empire: The Figure of Woman in the Colonial Text, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993. 100 Perrin, Idolatry, p. 119. 101 Ibid., pp. 120–2. 102 ‘For a sharp moment the difference of [Dion’s] nature as compared with her own smote Anne with a sense of shame, and a revulsion of feeling against her subtlety nauseated her. She was the snarer – Dion her victim. Yet, after all, was she not working to their mutual advantage? If, when the time came, she told Dion she loved him and would marry him, would he not, in his ignorance, consider himself the happiest being on earth, and why should he ever be disillusioned? And would not she herself have gained all that, to her, meant happiness? – money, independence, position, an adoring indulgent husband’ (ibid., p. 98).

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 151 03 Ibid., pp. 117–18. 1 104 Ibid., p. 318. 105 Ibid., pp. 288–9. 106 Ibid., p. 320. 107 Ibid., p. 322. 108 Ibid., pp. 100–1. For Anne’s dreams involving the ruins, see ibid., pp. 215, 291–2. 109 Ibid., p. 111. 110 See ibid., p. 215. 111 Ibid., pp. 156–7. 112 Ibid., p. 171. 113 ‘She thought of Thanesur and her dream. Ah! to think that they might linger together in reality among the ruins, breathing the sunny, scented air; that they might have long, intimate talks! . . . Perhaps if she only went for two days – three days? – and then came back . . . her secret buried deep in her heart, and the past behind her for ever?’ (ibid., p. 333). For Anne and Wray’s final meeting at Thanesur, see ibid., pp. 336–54. 114 At Thanesur, Wray tells Anne that ‘it has been one awful struggle to shut your image from my heart. For me there is only one way – for me such thoughts are sin . . . as if I bowed down before the gods that I am here to overthrow! . . . I have told you the truth. Now that you know it, I beseech you go back to Sika. . . . Anne, be kind to me – go back!’. Anne obligingly sees herself as ‘a temptation in his path, as a weight on his soul, as a distraction from his religious purpose’ (ibid., p. 345); she returns to Sika and eventually to England. 115 Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, vol. 1, trans. from French by Robert Hurley, New York: Vintage Books, 1990, p. 35. 116 See Perrin, Idolatry, pp. 395–6. 117 Ibid., p. 342. 118 The Rajah is said to be enfeebled by ‘opium, self-indulgence, and excess’ (ibid., p. 185). His mind is ‘steeped in superstition; omens, dreams, charms, spells, evil spirits were a direct and perpetual reality to him, and he carried out no undertaking that was not sanctioned by some lucky token’ (ibid., p. 195). See the description of his household and affairs in ibid., pp. 181–99. 119 See ibid., pp. 286–7. 120 Ibid., p. 354. 121 Ibid., p. 217. 122 Ibid., p. 271. 123 Ibid., pp. 272, 277–8. 124 On Henry Thornton’s connection with the Clapham Sect, see P.N. Furbank, E.M. Forster: A Life, 2 vols, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978, vol. 1, pp. 3–4. 125 Marianne Thornton, cited in ibid., p. 15. 126 See on this Oliver Stallybrass, ‘Introduction’, in Forster, ‘The Life to Come’, pp. XII–XIII. 127 See Furbank, E.M. Forster: A Life, vol. 2, pp. 62–3. Mohammed el Adl’s imprisonment may have suggested to Forster a model for the unjust imprisonment Aziz undergoes in A Passage to India; the experience turned El Adl, as it did Aziz, strongly anti-British. 128 Ibid., p. 115. 129 Forster, ‘The Life to Come’, pp. 66–7.

152  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 30 Ibid., p. 68. 1 131 ‘ “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not – ” a scarlet flower hid the next word, flowers were everywhere, even round [Pinmay’s] own neck. Losing his dignity, he sobbed “Oh, what have I done?” and not daring to answer he hurled the flowers through the door of the hut and the Bible after them’ (ibid., p. 65). 132 See ibid., pp. 69–72. 133 Ibid., p. 70. 134 Ibid., p. 76. 135 Ibid. 136 Ibid., p. 81. 137 See St. Augustine epigraph in first chapter. 138 See Furbank, E.M. Forster: A Life, vol. 1, p. 146. 139 See ibid., pp. 184, 215. 140 See ibid., pp. 226, 228. Masood knew of Forster’s passion for him but was cool in his response; see ibid., pp. 194–5. 141 Forster, The Hill of Devi and Other Indian Writings, London: Edward Arnold, 1983, p. 298. 142 ‘Kanaya’, The Hill of Devi, pp. 310–24. ‘Kanaya’ was excluded from the first edition of The Hill of Devi published in 1953, as the homosexual acts recounted in it were punishable offences at the time. See Elizabeth Heine, ‘Editor’s Introduction’, ibid., pp. IX, XXXVII–XL. 143 Ibid., pp. 311–12. 144 Ibid., p. 314. 145 See ibid., pp. 314–24. On his rape of Kanaya, Forster wrote: ‘I resumed sexual intercourse with him, but it was now mixed with the desire to inflict pain. It didn’t hurt him to speak of, but it was bad for me, and new in me, my temperament not being that way’ (ibid., p. 324). 146 Forster’s diary entry of 31 December 1921, towards the end of his sojourn in India, provides further evidence of his difficulty in writing the novel: ‘India not yet a success, dare not look at my unfinished novel, can neither assimilate, remember, or arrange. . . . Sex has blurred my perceptions, especially at evening. . . . Had K. [Kanaya] not been a chatterbox, I should have avoided feeling trivial and being brutal’ (‘Entries from the Locked Diary’, The Hill of Devi, p. 326). In suggesting that experiences initially narrated in the ‘Kanaya’ memoir return to Passage in a transmuted form, I am developing Elizabeth Heine’s insight: ‘The “Kanaya” memoir suggests that the central section of A Passage to India – the long account of a hot season of emotional oppression and mental and sexual confusion . . . is a triumphantly imagined transmutation of Forster’s experience of lust, shame and guilt in his homosexual relations with the servants of Dewas Senior’ (Elizabeth Heine, ‘Editor’s Introduction’, The Hill of Devi, p. VIII). 147 Forster, A Passage to India, p. 169. On the heat and Adela’s distracted thoughts, see ibid., pp. 166–8. 148 Ibid., p. 168. 149 Adela’s hysteria could plausibly be attributed to guilt at her betrayal of Ronny, just as Forster’s hysteria is traced to his guilt at betraying the trust the Maharaja had placed on him; see ‘Kanaya’, The Hill of Devi, p. 313. While Adela transgresses race in her desire for Aziz, Forster transgresses both race and heterosexism in his sexual pursuit of the Maharaja’s servants.

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 153 150 Prior to Passage, Forster wrote in succession Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), The Longest Journey (1907), A Room with a View (1908) and Howards End (1910): novels which established his literary reputation. He began writing Passage in 1912 and completed it in 1924. During this period, he also wrote Maurice, completed in 1915, an overtly homosexual novel never published during his lifetime. Although he was only 45 when Passage was published, he wrote and published no further fiction during the remaining 46 years of his life. See Furbank, E.M. Forster: A Life; also Tony Davies and Nigel Wood (eds), Theory in Practice: A Passage to India, Buckingham: Open University Press, 1994, p. 4. Wood notes in this regard that ‘it was as if the rocks, the birds, the sky that had imposed their veto . . . on the possibility of friendship between the Indian Aziz and the Englishman Fielding [in Passage] continued, too, to embargo those ethical and imaginative connections that his fiction had worked so hard to achieve’ (ibid.). 151 Forster, A Passage to India, p. 362. 152 Ibid., p. 114. 153 Ibid., p. 113. 154 Samuel T. Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, London: Dent, 1965, p. 167. 155 On the role of arbitrary and unmotivated caprice in the formation of fetishistic mentality, see William Pietz, ‘The Problem of the Fetish, I’, Res 9, Spring 1985, pp. 8–9. 156 Forster, A Passage to India, p. 304. Aziz’s imagination and emotionality goes with a lack of ability to reason from evidence: ‘Aziz had no sense of evidence. The sequence of his emotions decided his beliefs, and led to the tragic coolness between himself and his English friend’ (ibid., p. 302). 157 Ibid., pp. 313–14. 158 Ibid., p. 314. 159 These discriminations were shared by Forster, as is evident in his annoyance at a group of American tourists with whom he took a boat ride to view the marble palaces of Udaipur, a Venice-like scenario: ‘I . . . felt rather depressed with the Americans, who seem even more indiscriminating in India than elsewhere. . . . From the stern came cries of “This knocks Venice cold”. Does it?’ (Forster, Letter to Forster’s mother, 17 December 1912, reprinted in The Hill of Devi, pp. 166–8). Forster’s annoyance at the Americans appears to stem from their inversion of a conventional hierarchy between Venetian and Indian architecture. 160 Forster, Letter to Forster’s mother, 23 August 1921, reprinted in The Hill of Devi, pp. 63–5. 161 Forster, A Passage to India, p. 319. 162 Ibid., p. 326. 163 The name ‘Godbole’ is significant in this context. If broken up into the components ‘God’ and ‘bole’, the latter of which is Hindi for ‘speaks’, it suggests ‘God speaks’. 164 Ibid., p. 320. 165 Ibid., p. 322. 166 Ibid., p. 324. 167 Ibid., p. 150. 168 Ibid., pp. 327–8. 169 For example, the following passage from the Bible narrates the woes of the idolatrous king of Babylon, who aspires to the condition of divinity: ‘How

154  The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! . . . For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. . . . I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought to hell, to the sides of the pit’ (Isaiah 14:12–15). Here the king of Babylon, who aspires to a throne beyond the stars and thus resemble God, is destined instead to be cast into the pit of hell, the lowest of low places. 170 Forster, A Passage to India, p. 51. 171 Ibid., p. 180. 172 Ibid., p. 250. 173 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, ‘Subaltern Studies: Deconstructing Historiography’, in Ranajit Guha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (eds), Selected Subaltern Studies, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988, p. 23. 174 Ronny’s deposition in court clarifies from whom the rumour might have originated: ‘Before she sailed, her mother had taken to talk about the Marabar in her sleep, especially in the afternoon when servants were on the veranda, and her disjointed remarks on Aziz had doubtless been sold to Mahmoud Ali for a few annas: that kind of thing never ceases in the East’ (Forster, A Passage to India, p. 250). 175 See ibid., pp. 220–9. 176 Ronny and Adela have the following exchange regarding the chant, which testifies to the effect it has on Adela: ‘ “I’m afraid it’s very upsetting for you”. “Not the least. I don’t mind it”. “Well, that’s good”. She had spoken more naturally and healthily than usual. Bending into the middle of her friends, she said: “Don’t worry about me, I’m much better than I was; I don’t feel the least faint; I shall be all right, and thank you, thank you, thank you for your kindness” ’ (ibid., p. 251). 177 Ibid., pp. 241–2. 178 Stallybrass and White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression, p. 5. 179 See Stallybrass and White, ‘Below Stairs: The Maid and the Family Romance’, ibid., pp. 149–70. I am greatly indebted to Sriparna Basu for having pointed out to me the significance of the bodily posture of the punkah puller, as well as some of the general codings of ‘high’ and ‘low’ present in this scene. 180 Forster, A Passage to India, p. 242. 181 Ibid., pp. 26, 37. 182 See Stallybrass and White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression, pp. 2–3. 183 Forster, A Passage to India, pp. 84–5. 184 Ibid., p. 48. 185 Ibid., p. 154. 186 Ibid., p. 155. 187 Ibid., pp. 150–2. 188 Ibid., pp. 162–3. 189 Ibid., p. 262. 190 See Furbank, E.M. Forster: A Life, vol. 1, p. 216. 191 For Forster’s response to Ellora, see ibid., p. 254. Forster’s reading of Ruskin is reflected in the following extract from a Ruskinian essay he wrote at school, which refers to Indian gods: ‘In the north the builder heaved from the mountain side masses of rock, and with them he made his church, huge, rough, irregular like one of his own cliffs, with great dark entrances

The aesthetic image and the idolatrous grotesque 155 like the caverns that yawned in the face of the hills. And he would not do without ornament, but hastily struck out from rough blocks fantastic forms and grotesque shapes, such as we may see today in the churches of Rouen and the houses of Lisieux, not the creation of a diseased mind, like the gods of India, but the creations of a new and vigorous life’ (cited in ibid., p. 48). Forster appears to be making here the Ruskinian distinction between the noble and barbarous grotesque, which distinguishes the Gothic architecture of Rouen or Lisieux from that of Indian cave temples. 192 Forster, A Passage to India, p. 166. 193 Ibid., p. 137. 194 Ibid., p. 149. 195 See ibid., p. 163. 196 I am indebted to Sriparna Basu for first suggesting this to me. 197 The contrast between English and Oriental character types is spelt out by Forster in the essay ‘Notes on English Character’, Abinger Harvest, New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1964, pp. 3–15. 198 Forster, A Passage to India, p. 183. 199 Ibid., p. 184. 200 Ibid., p. 352. 201 Ibid., p. 353. 202 Ibid., p. 354. 203 In Howards End, Forster expresses this theme as follows in the thoughts of Margaret Wilcox: ‘Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer, only connect’ (Forster, Howards End, New York: Vintage Books, 1921, p. 187). The same theme is restated in A Passage to India in terms of Fielding’s belief that ‘the world is a globe of men who are trying to reach one another and can best do so by the help of good will plus culture and intelligence’ (Forster, A Passage to India, p. 65). 204 See ibid., pp. 340–1, 355. 205 Ibid., p. 356. 206 See Stallybrass and White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression, p. 202.

4 Reforming idolatrous Hinduism Rammohan Roy and Bankimchandra Chatterjee

But the gods on which you meditate are but the fictions of your own mind. − Rammohan Roy, Dialogue between a Theist and an Idolater

Why is a pure monotheism, freed from all polytheism, a rational worship, and polytheism mere stupidity and folly? What evidence is there, that God is one and cannot be many? That the government of the Universe unlike that of society, is carried on by a single Personal Being, without the intervention of others? If you come to the question of evidence, . . . there is probably as little in favour of monotheism as of polytheism. − Bankimchandra Chatterjee, Letters on Hinduism

T.B. Macaulay was confident that if his plans for English education in India were to be approved, ‘there will not be a single idolater among the respectable classes in Bengal thirty years hence’.1 Gauri Vishwanathan has shown how English education was assigned the task of constructing a moral subject by reforming the immorality, sensuality, self-indulgence, corruption and depravity of Hindus and Muslims in India.2 Idolatry was seen as a barrier to a properly colonial subjectivity: a frame of mind in which – as Vishwanathan points out in the case of Charles Grant, East India Company official and founder member of the Clapham Sect of evangelicals – ‘morality, monotheism and monorule [would] all become linked . . . as part of a single constellation of meaning’.3 In this reading of Indian society, its social evils could be seen as flowing not from asymmetries of power such as those fostered by colonial rule, but rather from the prevalence of idolatrous religious practice. A programme for remedying those evils would not aim centrally, therefore, at undoing those asymmetries of power but rather would translate into the ‘ameliorative’ project of reforming religious practice.

Reforming idolatrous Hinduism 157 The Orientalist reading of India made available by a William Jones or a Max Müller proffered a point of view which enabled a putative colonial subject purged of its idolatry. According to this point of view, the classical (or Vedic) Indian past embodied a golden age notable for its upholding of morality and uncomplicated, quasi-monotheistic religious practice, virtues that had since been forgotten due to the growth of idolatry. The ameliorative, civilising project hence could be cast in terms of a recovery of this golden past, a process of reform that would lead, it was claimed, to a revitalisation or ‘renaissance’ of Indian culture.4 As Noel A. Salmond has argued, ‘to re-form is to attempt to reinstate what is purported to be an earlier model of purity that has become distorted over time’.5 This was an option that proved attractive to Indian nationalism, which borrowed many of the strategies of an Orientalist reading of India’s past for the patriotic project of national redemption. Thus, Rammohan Roy (1772–1833), the social reformer who has generally been accorded iconic status as ‘the father of modern India’ by Indian nationalism, inveighed against the evils of idolatry which putatively overlaid and obscured the purity of the original Vedic religion.6 This chapter considers figurations of idolatry and tensions around the notion of the image in Rammohan Roy as well as Bankimchandra Chatterjee (1838–94). Novels and essays by Bankim articulate a nationalist paradigm, and he remains a major inspiration behind 20th-century Indian nationalism. While conscious of the power of the image in binding desire and its pertinence to the task of imagining and mobilising a national community, Bankim was not wholly comfortable with idolatry’s relationship to folk and subaltern religious practices, or the sexual connotations it might bring into play. Rammohan’s tensions with regard to the image also centre on the question of sexuality. His enunciatory voice is split between various personas and hybrid discourses, consisting more of a reaction to the exigencies of a particular polemic and anxieties of the moment rather than the articulation of a wholly coherent and consistent subjectivity. Tensions around idolatry and the image offer a useful way of addressing and mapping intertextual echoes, ambivalences and tensions between disparate agendas of Orientalism, social reform and Indian nationalism, articulated in texts by William Jones, James Mill, Max Müller, Rammohan Roy and Bankimchandra Chatterjee.

I  Rammohan Roy: reforming the idolatrous subject ‘Oh, superstition is terrible, terrible! oh, it is the great defect in our Indian character!’ . . . He grew more and more voluble. ‘Oh, it is the duty of each and every citizen to shake superstition off, and though

158  Reforming idolatrous Hinduism I have little experience of Hindu states, and none of this particular one, namely Mudkul (the Ruler, I fancy, has a salute of but eleven guns) – yet I cannot imagine they have been so successful as British India, where we see reason and orderliness spreading in every direction, like a most health-giving flood!’ Miss Derek said ‘Golly!’. − E.M. Forster, A Passage to India

Rammohan Roy’s lifetime (1772–1833) overlaps partially with William Jones (1746–94) and coincides almost exactly with G.W.F. Hegel (1770– 1831). He is the first Indian thinker significantly influenced by postEnlightenment categories of thought. He acquired a fortune as financier and speculator, lending money to East India Company personnel, dealing in company’s paper or stock and buying taluqs (land on which rent was paid to the company). He later worked as dewan (secretary and private manager) to John Digby and other British civil servants of the company.7 Rammohan is thus the quintessential modern or ‘economic’ man and had close contacts with British officials in Calcutta. He was deeply influenced by the principles of English utilitarianism, and entered into personal correspondence with Jeremy Bentham.8 He was not only among the first Hindus to make use of the term ‘idolatry’, but even the term ‘Hinduism’.9 Rammohan, as an originator of what Gayatri Spivak has described as ‘the Semitized near-monotheist high-Hindu discourse of the nineteenth century’, invented a homogenised version of Hinduism that was meant to cope with the charge of ‘idolatry’ and bring it into conformity with principles of utility.10 According to Rammohan, contemporary practices of Hinduism were at odds with the more authentic version of it available from ancient texts. To push this line of argument, Rammohan translated what he considered the authoritative texts of Hinduism into English and Bengali. These translations include the English Translation of an Abridgement of the Vedant and the Bengali Vedantasara and Vedantagrantha, all based on the Vedantasutras of Badarayana and Shankara’s commentary on them.11 Rammohan also translated five Upanishads (Kena, Isha, Mundaka, Katha and Mandukya) into Bengali, and four of the five (with the exception of the Mandukya Upanishad) into English.12 The title pages of many of these translations spell out Rammohan’s preferred interpretation of the texts. Thus, the title of the Kenopanishad English translation reads ‘Translation of the Cena [Kena] Upanishad one of the chapters of the Sama Veda; according to the gloss of the celebrated Shancaracharya [Shankara]: establishing the unity and the sole omnipotence of the Supreme Being and that He alone is the object of worship [italics mine]’. That of the Abridgement of the Vedant is very similar.13

Reforming idolatrous Hinduism 159 Thus, according to Rammohan, the original Hinduism was a monotheism ‘confirming exclusively the rational worship of the true God, and prohibiting the worship of the celestial figures and their images’. When such worship of images began to be countenanced, ‘true’ Hinduism began to be inverted, with the ‘idolaters . . . strangely believing that things so constructed can be converted by ceremonies into constructors of the universe’. Rammohan wanted his English translations to prove to ‘[his] European friends, that the superstitious practices which deform the Hindu religion have nothing to do with the pure spirit of its dictates!’14 Rammohan’s separation of superstitious and idolatrous practices from the ‘pure spirit’ of Hinduism is reminiscent of William Jones, H.T. Colebrooke and other Orientalists. Bruce Robertson has shown how Orientalists such as Jones, Colebrooke and H.H. Wilson treated Shankara’s Advaita Vedanta philosophy as the pre-eminent Hindu school, relegating other schools such as those of Ramanuja, Vallabha, Madhva and Bhaskara to heretic or schismatic status.15 By presenting Advaita Vedanta as the core of Hindu philosophy, Rammohan too falls in line with this trend. By limiting its referent and curtailing the plurality of its traditions, Rammohan thus produces Hinduism as a homogeneous religion.16 Spivak’s point about the ‘Semitization’ of Hinduism in the 19th century may be sustained if one considers the construction of difference in the case of Ramanuja, Vallabha or Madhva as heresy or schism in the body of a Hinduism thought of as a single, unified ‘church’. In a related move, Rammohan reduces the monism of Advaita Vedanta into a monotheism dependent on a duality of matter and spirit and a transcendental deity: The fact is, that the Vedanta by declaring that ‘God is everywhere, and everything is in God’, means that nothing is absent from God, and nothing bears real existence except by the volition of God, whose existence is the sole support of the conceived existence of the universe, which is acted upon by him in the same manner as a human body is by a sou1.17 Thus, the claim ‘everything is in God’ is reduced to the claim that everything owes its existence to the will of God, a notion of deity more in line with that of Semitic religions. Rammohan translates here as ‘God’ the concept of Atman, the term Shankara uses for the monistic principle. Robertson shows how the concept of Atman, translated here as ‘God’, is rendered by him elsewhere as ‘soul’, in senses that include even the individual soul, thus indicating the indeterminacy of the concept even in Rammohan’s own mind.18 As we saw in the case of Jones, Rammohan’s translations too are governed by a desire to locate within the Hindu text a Platonic/Christian

160  Reforming idolatrous Hinduism metaphysics. This is illustrated by his rendition of the gayatri mantra in an essay on the same subject, the language of which closely follows Jones: We meditate on that indescribable spirit inwardly ruling the splendid Sun, the express object of worship. He does not only inwardly rule the sun, but he, the spirit, residing in and inwardly ruling all us material beings, directs mental operations towards their objects.19 Like Jones, Rammohan takes care to separate the sun from the spirit inwardly pervading it, and specifies that only the latter is the object of worship. Rammohan ends his essay on the gayatri mantra with an explicit acknowledgement of Jones’s influence. He is ‘delighted by the excellence of the translation’, and wishing to ‘connect [Jones’s] name and his explanation of the passage with this treatise’ cites the latter in ful1.20 As in the work of Orientalists, the translations undertaken by Rammohan are aligned to his project of presenting the ‘pure spirit’ of Hinduism, which are opposed to its contemporary idolatrous and degenerate practices. He began his introduction to Translation of an Abridgement of the Vedant with the following words: The greater part of Brahmans, as well as of other sects of Hindus, are quite incapable of justifying that idolatry which they continue to practise. When questioned on the subject, in place of adducing reasonable arguments in support of their conduct, they conceive it fully sufficient to quote their ancestors as positive authorities!21 There is an ambiguity in this opening, an analysis of which reveals a fault line running through the heart of Rammohan’s reformist discourse. If ‘quot[ing] ancestors as positive authorities’ by Brahmins was an illegitimate gesture, then so would be citing scripture in support of one’s argument. This would invalidate the project of translation that Rammohan himself undertook. As Lata Mani has pointed out, Rammohan’s arguments for the abolition of sati were grounded not so much on the inhumanity of the practice, but upon a discussion of sacred scripture.22 Rammohan’s plea for the abolition of idolatry in contemporary practice was also predicated on the argument that a return to the scriptural authority of ancestors would reveal a simple religion devoid of idolatry. Elsewhere, Rammohan drew up the lines between true and false religion differently: no longer in terms of an opposition between reason and ancestral authority, but rather reason and spiritual authority aligned against custom, which Rammohan saw as guided by ‘vulgar caprice’: It is however evident to everyone possessed of common sense, that custom or fashion is quite different from divine faith; the latter proceeding

Reforming idolatrous Hinduism 161 from spiritual authorities and correct reasoning, and the former being merely the fruit of vulgar caprice.23 Rammohan’s contemporary Hegel saw caprice as the essential idea of African society and linked it to the arbitrariness of the fetish.24 Likewise, Rammohan linked caprice to Indian idolatry sanctioned by custom and saw in idolatry a principle of social disorder. According to him, idolaters ‘practise a system which destroys, to the utmost degree, the natural texture of society, and prescribes crimes of the most heinous nature’.25 Rammohan saw such crimes as pervasive in Indian society due to the contemporary preponderance of idolatry in religious worship: For every Hindoo who devotes himself to this absurd worship, constructs for that purpose a couple of male and female idols, sometimes indecent in form, as representatives of his favourite deities; he is taught from his infancy to contemplate and repeat the history of these, as well as their fellow-deities, though the actions ascribed to them be only a continued series of debauchery, sensuality, falsehood, ingratitude, breach of trust, and treachery to friends. There can be but one opinion respecting the moral conduct to be expected of a person, who has been brought up with sentiments of reverence to such beings.26 The passage betrays anxiety about the sexual signification of idols, which it connects to moral degeneracy and crime. Such a portrayal of Hindu society is at the centre of his project of reform, whose objective is to produce a moral subject that has purged itself of its idolatry. As Salmond argues for Rammohan as well as Dayananda Saraswati, another key 19th-century reformer who founded the Arya Samaj, ‘the issue of image-worship was the symbolic core of their reform agendas. . . . The idolatrous image functioned pars pro toto for all that Rammohan and Dayananda perceived as wrong with the Hindu society around them’.27 Yet, there is a certain instability and lack of consistency in Rammohan’s image of native society. The above passage, for example, may be contrasted with the following characterisation which appeared in an essay by Rammohan entitled ‘The Condition of India’: From a careful survey and observation of the people and inhabitants of various parts of the country, and in every condition of life, I am of opinion that the peasants or villagers who reside at a great distance from large towns and head stations and courts of law, are as innocent, temperate and moral in their conduct as the people of any country whatsoever. . . . The virtues of this class however rest at present chiefly on their primitive simplicity, and a strong religious feeling which leads

162  Reforming idolatrous Hinduism them to expect reward or punishment for their good or bad conduct, not only in the next world, but like the ancient Jews, also in this: 2ndly, The inhabitants of the cities, towns or stations who have much intercourse with persons employed about the courts of law, by Zamindars, &c., and with foreigners and others in a different state of civilisation, generally imbibe their habits and opinions. . . . Consequently a great proportion of these are far inferior in point of character to the former class, and are very often even made tools of in the nefarious work of perjury and forgery.28 In Rammohan’s terms, it might be expected that peasants or villagers who reside at a great distance from large towns and courts of law would have little exposure to scriptural authority and rational inquiry, and be subject more to custom and idolatry. If custom and idolatry are corrosive of moral fibre, it is a surprising result that those in contact with large towns and courts of law are in fact ‘far inferior in point of character to the former class’, and that the former resemble more closely the Judeo-Christian ethical subject. The superior virtue of peasants and villagers is actually attributed to their religion, which from Rammohan’s other characterisations of it may be expected to have left them morally depraved. The corruption and penchant for the crimes of forgery and perjury of some Indians are explained in terms of their contact with foreigners and courts of law, i.e. the very civilising institutions which are expected to deliver India from idolatry. Here the colonial stereotype is inverted: while Rammohan shares the colonial concern with crimes like forgery and perjury, unlike Jones he does not connect it to idolatry, but attributes it instead to contact with urban institutions and foreigners.29 A similar instability appears in Rammohan’s interpretation of issues such as valid and invalid types of scriptural authority, or the question of idolatry’s origins. In a tract entitled Dialogue between a Theist and an Idolater, Rammohan considered various arguments in favour of idolatry, and followed up with a refutation of them.30 He considered the question of authority in the hypothetical argument that ‘the worship of images has been handed down to us by tradition by pious men, and we must do what pious men were used to do’. He pointed out, reasonably enough, that pious men of different persuasions may be at odds with each other, and hence cannot be a reliable guide in questions of doctrine and worship. Immediately after this, however, he argues somewhat peremptorily that the truth is, to the name of pious men the following are entitled: Manoo, Jagyabalkya, Bashist’ha, Gotam, Vyasa, and similar men; these approved only the worship of the supreme God, as I have shown before . . . therefore the supreme God only ought to be worshipped.31

Reforming idolatrous Hinduism 163 This undercuts the force of the previous argument, since if the authority of pious ancestors cannot be allowed, neither can the authority of those imputed to speak in favour of the ‘supreme God’ or nonidolatrous monotheism be allowed. After debunking canons, Rammohan arbitrarily drew up his own canon, which he used to buttress his arguments. Although at times Rammohan spoke in favour of bypassing holy men and referring to scripture, the same problem of authority existed in relation to scripture as well: their plurality and divergence from each other renders the task of singling out some of them as authoritative a problematic enterprise. Such a problem arises when the hypothetical idolater in Rammohan’s discourse brings up the teachings of Chaitanya, proponent of the ‘idolatrous’ theology that proclaims the universe a product of love-play between Krishna and Radha, and juxtaposes them to Shankara’s teachings favoured by Rammohan. Chaitanya’s disciples turn around the charge of metaphysical error against Shankara: from their point of view, Shankara ‘has composed false commentaries, in order to lead men into error’. Rammohan’s response to this problem of authority can hardly be qualified as rational: Now how can the declaration of a person, guilty of the blackest crimes (Choitanya), be thought worthy of credit, so that thereby such a stigma should be affixed to the character of the divine teacher (Shangkaracharjya)? All the sacred authors and teachers of our country consider Shangkaracharjya as a gooroo [guru], and revere him as much as Shankar (Sheeva). Those who reject him, as weavers, fishers, and such like persons, are wicked people. But there would arise in the Kaleejoog [kali-yug] persons who would reject him, this is clearly predicted in the Tantraratnakar (a book held sacred by some sects among the Hindoos).32 The arguments that Rammohan musters against Chaitanya appeal not only to the authority of Shankara as a ‘guru’, but also to traditional narratives and sacred prophecies. None of these may count as ‘rational’ procedures, something he reproaches Brahmins for not adopting. He also appeals to social codings of ‘high’ and ‘low’. As the followers of Chaitanya are comprised often of non-Brahmin lower castes, such as weavers and fishers, Chaitanya’s theology is seen as a subaltern one which cannot have the legitimacy and force of the preachings of Shankara. Part of Rammohan’s charge against idolaters is that they blur social categories and blend indiscriminately ‘high’ and ‘low’ levels of symbolic discourse: You consider as gods, images of earth, which represent persons in various shockingly obscene positions; and place in their temples, to which

164  Reforming idolatrous Hinduism your women resort, all sorts of figures of men and women which are not fit to be looked upon. . . . There are also various figures unfit to meet the eye upon the cars of your gods, which are looked upon by persons of all ages and sexes. And when you have made an image, you consider it as God, and sing before it various obscene and abominable songs in the hearing of persons of all descriptions; and you employ persons to represent your favourite god, and amuse yourselves thereby. In order to acquire religious merit, thousands of males and females bathe together near a landing-place, so that their bodies touch each other; and you employ singers to sing the most obscene songs, and declaimers to use the most obscene expressions. Further, you eat in company with persons of all casts [castes], and you appoint young men to instruct young women.33 Idolatrous religion thus operates on the principles of inversion and the carnivalesque. An object of critique here is the body of the pilgrimage or the congregation which gathers for worship at temples, a body which blends people of all ages, sexes, categories and descriptions, a Dionysiac and collective body rather than one that is moral and individual (and somewhat prudish too). At the pilgrimage or at the temple, the boundaries between religion and eroticism are transgressed, both in terms of figures and postures of gods and goddesses represented, and in terms of songs and possibilities of erotic contact between men and women present at the spectacle. The atmosphere of amusement and levity also transgresses the seriousness and gravitas thought necessary of the religious scene. The senses of symbolic inversion and transgression in this passage are condensed in the figure of the gods (and goddesses) that are made of earth, and hence represent the earthly; Rammohan makes the point that to think these male and female figures is ‘to think continually of that connubial intercourse which you [the idolater] imagine to subsist between them . . . that kind of worship . . . excites only sinful lusts in the mind, and pollutes the soul’.34 The sense of transgression is also carried through in the reference to eating together in the company of all castes, which Rammohan specifies in a footnote to be a reference to Chaitanya’s followers. As practitioners of a theology that incorporates subaltern values, they are seen as having a particular affinity for the idolatrous outlook. Social codings of ‘high’ and ‘low’ also appear in Rammohan’s multiple and sometimes contradictory accounts of the origin of idolatry. In one familiar version, idolatry arose when allegorical language began to be interpreted literally, the signifier taken for signified, at a time ‘when literature and philosophy decayed’.35 This would be a version of the golden-age-andsubsequent-decline hypothesis. In another version, idolatry was present

Reforming idolatrous Hinduism 165 in the original shastras for the benefit of ‘ignorant persons’, who would become atheists if not kept in a state of ‘agreeable delusion’. Those members of an elite who happen to be ‘duly instructed’ and therefore not of this category are, however, ‘forbidden to worship Images’.36 In this version, idolatry is once again mapped onto the social body where it belongs to the domain of the ‘low’. Elsewhere, however, Rammohan argues that the human race is universally capable of attaining to nonidolatrous modes of worship: Permit me . . . to ask whether every Mussulman [Muslim] in Turkey and Arabia, from the highest to the lowest, every Protestant Christian at least of Europe, and many followers of Kabir and Nanak, do worship God without the assistance of consecrated objects? If so, how can we suppose that the human race is not capable of adoring the Supreme Being without the puerile practice of having recourse to visible objects?37 Apart from advancing the rationalist fantasy of a religion without material signs (the Ka’bah, Bible and Guru Granth Sahib are examples of consecrated objects among Muslims, Protestant Christians and followers of Nanak, respectively), the argument here undermines Rammohan’s hypothesis explaining the presence of idolatrous notions in Hindu sacred scripture, since even the ‘low’ may be successfully incorporated into nonidolatrous modes of worship. On the issue of the origins of idolatry and the relationship it bears to Hindu sacred scripture, as on other issues, Rammohan’s views are ambiguous and inconsistent. Dermot Killingley has noted the discrepancies between Rammohan’s espousal of a ‘rational worship of the God of nature’ and his allegiance to Advaita Vedanta, while Bruce Robertson has shown that neither his Translation of an Abridgment of the Vedant nor its Bengali equivalents were translations or abridgments of any known work.38 Rammohan claimed in his introduction to the text: I have to the best of my abilities translated this hitherto unknown work, as well as an abridgment thereof, into the Hindoostanee and Bengalee languages. . . . The present is an endeavour to render an abridgment of the same into English.39 However, his translations and abridgments lack any originals, but were rather free essays in Rammohan’s somewhat idiosyncratic interpretation of Vedanta doctrine.40 Salmond has noted how Rammohan’s English works employ the language of European deism to replace Vedanta terminology.41

166  Reforming idolatrous Hinduism Rammohan’s enterprise thus bears a remarkable resemblance to the Ezourvedam project. Both projects invent originary texts for Hinduism, which propagate an ‘enlightened’ philosophical monotheism supposedly obscured by subsequent idolatry. The correspondences between Rammohan and the Ezourvedam project were noted by the contemporary Government Gazette, according to which ‘the writings of Ram Mohun Roy seem to be precisely of the same tendency as the discussions of Robertus de Nobilibus [the supposed writer of the Ezourvedam]’.42 Rammohan’s critique of Hindu idolatry, as well as the parallels between the Ezourvedam and Rammohan’s translation project, would appear to align him with an evangelical Christian perspective. In general, he did favour the type of moral subject fostered by Christianity: ‘I presume to think, that Christianity, if properly inculcated, has a greater tendency to improve the moral, and political state of mankind, than any other known religious system.’43 He thought that Christian missionaries diffused ‘sobriety, moderation, temperance, and good behaviour . . . among their neighbours’.44 Nevertheless, he stopped short of a full endorsement of the Christian missionary position. His approach to Christianity was hesitant, as he was unsure whether Christianity itself fulfilled his criteria of a rational and monotheistic religion: Disgusted with the puerile and unsociable system of Hindoo idolatry, and dissatisfied at the cruelty allowed by Musalmanism [Islam] against Non-musalmans, I, on my searching after the truth of Christianity, felt for a length of time very much perplexed with the difference of sentiments found among the followers of Christ . . . when the Jews misunderstood the phrase used by the Saviour, ‘I and my Father are one’, and accused him of blasphemy Jesus in answer to the accusation denied having made himself God, saying ‘say ye of him whom the Father had sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?’ . . . The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die; because he made himself the Son of God.45 In this passage, the truth of Christianity is subject to indeterminacy. The Jews understand Christ’s phrase ‘I and my Father are one’ to mean Christ is claiming divinity for himself, an idolatrous and blasphemous statement. It also invokes the doctrine of the Trinity, whose compatibility with monotheism is problematic. Christ responds by saying that he is the son of God, sanctified by God. Although Rammohan interprets this to mean that Christ has thereby denied having made himself God, the statement is actually ambiguous, and leaves indefinite the issue of his human or divine status.

Reforming idolatrous Hinduism 167 The Jews favour the latter interpretation: to claim to be the son of God is still to claim divine status, and Christ ought to die. Elsewhere, Rammohan found Christianity deficient in terms of rational religion. Trinitarian doctrine as well as myths and legends of Christianity were not spared from criticism: Nothing can be a more acceptable homage to the Divine Majesty, or a better tribute to reason, than an attempt to root out the idea that the omnipresent Deity should be generated in the womb of a female, and live in a state of subjugation for several years, and lastly offer his blood to another person of the Godhead, whose anger could not be appeased except by the sacrifice of a portion of himself in a human form.46 In an interesting epistemological move, Rammohan appropriated Christian and utilitarian rhetoric on Hindu idolatry and its irrationality and turned it around on Christianity itself. Thus, in polemics he entered into with a Christian apologist who wrote about the perversions supported by Hindu idolatry (and who signed his correspondence as ‘A Christian’), Rammohan wrote: I call on reflecting men to compare the two religions [Hinduism and Christianity] together and point out in what respect the one excels the other in purity? Should the Christian attempt to ridicule some part of the ritual of the Veds [Vedas] I shall of course feel myself justified in referring to ceremonies of a similar character in the Christian Scriptures; and if he dwell on the corrupt notions introduced into Hindooism in modern times, I shall also remind him of the corruptions introduced by various sects into Christianity. . . . I appeal to History, and call upon the Christian to mention any religion on the face of the earth that has been the cause of so much war and bloodshed, cruelty and oppression, for so many hundred years as this whose ‘sweet influence’ he celebrates.47 The passage, however, is also testimony to Rammohan’s own divided subjecthood, as the ‘Christian’ whom Rammohan is writing in response to had issued a critique of Hindu idolatry and a plea for a reformed moral subject not remarkably different from his own.48 Rammohan does not always put Hindu and Christian idolatry on the same plane as he does here. As we have seen previously with respect to the Ezourvedam, it is an ambiguous text that appropriates the signifiers of Hinduism to propagate Christian concepts, thus making way for reversible readings. Likewise, Rammohan’s text permits reversible readings. The discursive template that

168  Reforming idolatrous Hinduism Rammohan produced by annexing the Advaita Vedanta to a religion based on rational and utilitarian principles is available for the purpose of Hindu self-assertion. It was adopted by and became an important constituent of modern Hindu and Indian nationalism, most notably in the figures of Vivekananda and Radhakrishnan.49 Ultimately, however, Rammohan does not take a stand even by the Vedanta. In a letter to the Governor-General Lord Amherst, he opposed the Orientalist policy on education and made a plea for the introduction of a curriculum which imparted the ‘arts and sciences of modern Europe’. In this letter, he dismissed the value of the Vedanta.50 If his position cannot be aligned with the Christian critique of idolatry, neither can it be straightforwardly squared with Hindu self-assertion. Rammohan’s split subjectivity is most dramatically illustrated in his polemical exchanges with ‘A Christian’, to whom he responded under the pseudonym ‘Ram Doss’. Ram Doss took the position that Christianity was as idolatrous as Hinduism, since both believed in human incarnations of the deity. Not knowing who Ram Doss was, Rammohan’s Christian interlocutor, after excoriating Ram Doss, invoked against him ‘Rammohan Roy’, who appeared to Rammohan’s interlocutor ‘to be the most learned of the Hindoos, [and] is so far from making such odious and offensive remarks [as Ram Doss], that he apparently gives the preference to Christianity’.51 Rammohan’s response to this is even more curious. He wrote (about himself): Rammohun Roy’s abandonment of Hindoo doctrines . . . cannot prove them to be erroneous; no more than the rejection of the Christian religion by hundreds of persons who were originally Christians and more learned than Rammohun Roy, proves the fallacy of Christianity.52 Not without reason, Rammohan’s opponent played off Ram Doss against Rammohan Roy, since there is no consistent logic informing the arguments of Rammohan’s various personas. Rammohan too confirms the difficulty of a bridge between his various personas, by stating that Rammohan’s abandonment of Hindu doctrine was no reason to consider it erroneous. Rammohan Roy sought to pursue a rational agenda for social reform which would rescue India from idolatrous mentalities. In pursuing an Enlightenment agenda, he sought to reduce religious worship and social practice to a few simple principles, accessible to all. In doing so, however, he does not gain access to a subjectivity that is coherent, unified, centred and can be simply identified, but rather one that is fragmented, discrepant and schizophrenic. Rather than a sublime outcome of reason and deduction from first principles, it is a product of stitching together disparate

Reforming idolatrous Hinduism 169 fragments of many discourses in an act of what has been described by Claude Lévi-Strauss as intellectual ‘bricolage’.53 Rammohan speaks from a rationalist position that is at least as fractured and contradiction-ridden as that attributed to its idolatrous other, and is testimony to the difficulties of the formation of a native colonial subject. His predicament as colonial intellectual is comparable to that of Bankimchandra Chatterjee, whose literary writings were to shape a new nationalist generation. Bankim’s concerns as a literary artist and a nationalist made him realise the importance of engaging the affective, which could be represented and ‘bound’ in terms of an external image. This made the question of the status and role of the image one of central importance to his work.

II  Bankimchandra Chatterjee: the joust with Rev. Hastie Hinduism does not consider itself placed on its defence. In the language of lawyers, there is not yet a properly framed charge against it. − Bankimchandra Chatterjee, ‘The Intellectual Superiority of Europe’

Bankimchandra Chatterjee (1838–94) was one of the first graduates of the new system of higher education in English that Macaulay thought would dismantle Indian idolatry in 30 years.54 He was also one of the pioneers of modern Bengali prose, producing novels, discursive essays on issues of religion and political theory as well as short, satirical sketches that were a form of social commentary. He championed the cause of Bengali letters, arguing that ‘we ought to disanglicise ourselves, so to speak, to a certain extent, and to speak to the masses in the language which they understand’. Since it was also necessary, however, to address ‘the other Indian races, and . . . the governing race’, he also wrote in English when the occasion demanded.55 In 1882, Bankim had an opportunity to address the ‘governing race’ when he was involved in a public controversy on the issue of idolatry. The controversy erupted in the columns of the Calcutta English daily The Statesman and was initiated by W. Hastie, a missionary and the principal of the General Assembly’s Institution in Calcutta. Hastie wrote a series of letters condemning ‘Hindu idolatry’ and attacked English-educated Bengalis and Calcutta’s intellectual elite for giving the lie to Macaulay’s prophecy through their approval of and participation in idolatrous forms of religious performance and worship.56 The debate foregrounds some of the important principles at stake in the colonial discourse

170  Reforming idolatrous Hinduism on idolatry, and incorporated an explicit and articulate rejection of some of its foundational assumptions by a member of the native intelligentsia. From Hastie’s point of view, while idolatry in itself was the commission of intellectual and moral error, the Hindu variant of it was infinitely worse than possible counterparts in the West’s ‘pagan’ traditions: No Western poet, in his wildest dream, ever imagined such a ‘Den of error’, or planted such monsters by the gates of Hell. The moral pollutions of the system [of Hindu idolatry] cannot be decently referred to on the pages of a modern newspaper. If we take the boasted literature of the holy Shastras, in which the system is mirrored, every pure mind must turn away from it in disgust. The immoralities of the Western idolatry from Homer and Hesiod and Aristophanes and Lucian, to Ovid and Juvenal and Petronius Arbiter, are here a thousand times outdone.57 While full of such vituperative rhetoric, Hastie’s letters also advanced a philosophical argument, cited before by Mill, which relied on a dissociation between reason and the senses: ‘Thought, and not sense, must eventually be recognised as the true organ of religion.’58 Since idolatry engages the senses and is therefore a token of the ‘sensuous Imagination’, putting it in place of a ‘supersensuous Reason’ would amount to a ‘practical treason against this royal crown of our manhood’.59 Hastie demarcated three categories of Hindu believers. One of these is the ‘common people’ who are prone to idolatry’s sensual incitement: they ‘give way, with excuse, to unlimited passion’ so that ‘every form of natural religion issues at last in the orgy’.60 The second category consists of ‘the speculative gymnosophist’ who repudiates all sensory stimuli to put in their place abstract and arid metaphysical conceptions, a mode of thought ‘as different from the vulgar sensuousness, as is the cold lifeless silence of the pole from the warm exuberant naturalism of the tropics’.61 Both modes of apprehension diverge from rationality; putting them together recalls Hegel’s verdict that Hinduism lacked satisfactory mediation between sensuous immediacy and the abstract.62 The third category repeats an image from Dubois: it consists of idolaters who, having been touched by intellectual Enlightenment and influenced by the new sceptical philosophies, have gone over into atheism and materialism.63 Hastie was aware of the lineages of colonial scholarship underpinning his arguments. His second major strategy was therefore to cite the verdict of European scholars on Hindu theology: The crystal battlements have been scaled by daring scholars of the West, and their keen eyes have searched through every nook and

Reforming idolatrous Hinduism 171 comer of the beatific abode. . . . And once fairly upon this highest and last retreat . . . it will not be so difficult to shew . . . that the whole of the Brahmanic theology never really solved a single problem of human life and thought.64 According to Hastie, European scholars of Sanskrit literature brought to bear upon their object the superior epistemic apparatus of positive science, invalidating other knowledges of it. Comparing the cognitive capacities of the ‘native Sanskrit verbalist’ with the ‘scientific European scholar’, Hastie concluded that the ‘intellectual superiority [of the latter] is beyond all question’ and that ‘native pundits, like Ram Chandra [Bankim’s pseudonym] are quite helpless against the logical inferences deducible from this knowledge of [Sanskrit literature]’.65 For his argument, Hastie thus relied on the unquestionability and transparency of Orientalist assertions on Hinduism. Following their logic, he held Hindu idolatry to be ‘the one chief cause of all the demoralisation and degradation of India’ and came to the familiar conclusion that the Hindu’s ‘own idolatry, and not foreign conquerors, has been the curse of his history’.66 Interestingly, for one concerned with how thought and reason are led astray by the deployment of sensuous images, unacknowledged quasisexual metaphors lurk within Hastie’s own rhetoric, such as the reference to reason as a ‘royal crown of our manhood’ or in making the reading of Sanskrit texts by European scholars sound like the storming by swashbuckling adventurers of the remote bastion of a fairy princess. Bankim took Hastie’s polemic not to be the reflection of an individual point of view, but rather that of a large class of Europeans.67 In his responses to Hastie, he took issue with some fundamental assumptions of Orientalist positivism and the colonial discourse on idolatry. He questioned the ‘monstrous claim to omniscience’ made on behalf of European scholars.68 He asserted the radical alterity of languages, and argued that European accounts of India did not sufficiently take into account the epistemic difference of Indian languages. He denied the validity of a claim to knowledge of Sanskrit scripture based on English translations. This denial was based on a rejection of an instrumentalist theory of language and direct referentiality between words and things, which had been asserted by Jones and Mill.69 In response to the objectification of Hindu culture by Orientalism, Bankim asserted the superiority of insider knowledge: In the case of every country and every people, the natives must, as a necessary consequence of their being natives, understand their own language and their literature better than any foreign student. Mr. Hastie would probably have no hesitation in admitting this, if the question

172  Reforming idolatrous Hinduism were between one European people and another. His refusal to do so, when the question is between Europeans and Hindus, is grounded upon the reason he has distinctly asserted, the intellectual superiority of Europe, the divine right of Mr. Hastie and his co-religionists to intellectual prerogatives which may not be questioned.70 Bankim not only initiates such a questioning of Orientalism’s intellectual prerogatives, but also suggests that the point of view of the insiders of a culture is a privileged one. This is a reversal of Hastie’s position that accords epistemic privilege to knowledge of Hinduism articulated by European scholars. Bankim counselled Hastie to approach Sanskrit scriptures in the original, with the help of ‘a Hindoo, with one who believes in them’.71 Bankim underscored the importance of empathy to make a hermeneutic connection with the Hindu text: If Mr. Hastie thinks that he can comprehend the vast complicated labyrinth of Hindu religious belief without studying it in the original sources of knowledge, and in a spirit of patient, earnest, and reverential search after truth, he will meet with bitter disappointment. He will fail in arriving at a correct comprehension of Hinduism, as – I say it most emphatically – as every other European who has made the attempt has failed.72 Stung by the collective voice he took to be present behind Hastie’s polemic, Bankim denied the validity of existing European knowledges of India. He dramatised European incomprehension of India by telling a story: A navvy who had strayed into the country, and felt fatigued and hungry, asked for some food from a native whom he met on the way. The native gave him a cocoanut. The hungry sailor, who had never seen a cocoanut before, bit the husk, chewed it, in spite of instructions to the contrary, and finding it perfectly inedible, flung the fruit at the head of the unhappy donor in the shape of thanks. The sailor carried away with him an opinion of Indian fruits parallel to that of Mr. Hastie and others, who merely bite at the husk of Sanskrit learning, but do not know their way to the kernel within.73 The parable echoes and turns around one of the arguments usually made against idolatry: that the latter stresses external ceremonies and observances at the expense of inner faith. According to the parable, it is the European

Reforming idolatrous Hinduism 173 observer who chews on the husk of Hinduism and Sanskrit learning rather than making his way to its inner core. In his Bengali text Devatattva O Hindudharma (‘Theories on the Gods and Hindu Religion’), Bankim mocked Max Müller not just for being unable to apprehend the Hindu principle of immanence of divinity in the material world, but also because his ‘science of religion’ multiplies and comes up with a mind-bogglingly diverse variety of idolatrous experiences: Western pundit Max Müller – on being unable to grasp this principle – couldn’t figure out how to classify what seemed to him a grotesque monstrosity, it worried him sick! When compared to Western religions it was neither theism nor polytheism nor atheism, none of these ‘isms’ fit! Pondering such matters the eminent pundit opened a Greek lexicon and came up with some double-barrelled names – Kakenotheism or Henotheism. That such knowledge is perused, studied, esteemed and translated in this country is a matter of no small regret.74 Bankim also denies the primacy of the Vedas, which is taken for granted by both Max Müller and Rammohan Roy. According to Bankim, ‘the whole of Hindu religious philosophy is probably post-Vedic, and serves to mark the era of separation between ancient and modern religions of India’.75 He claimed that the Vedas were dead and had only a historical interest.76 In Devatattva O Hindudharma, he argued that far from the Orientalist notion of the Vedas marking the original, unsullied Hinduism and later texts such as the Puranas – replete with idolatrous legends – standing for a fallen and corrupted version of it, the Puranas in fact are a realisation of the Hindu religion that was seeded by the Vedas: ‘In the view of the sahibs and their disciples the Puranas represent merely ignorance, irreligion, fraud and degeneracy. In reality Vedic religion is to Puranic religion what a seed is to a tree.’77 Among Hindu systems of philosophy, Bankim singled out Kapila’s Sankhya school as the most influential; a choice that dissented from Jones, Colebrooke, Max Müller and Rammohan Roy, all of whom had treated Shankara’s Advaita Vedanta as the essence of Hindu philosophy.78 As opposed to Shankara’s monism, Sankhya posited a dualism of prakriti and purusha, which Bankim rendered as ‘nature’ and ‘soul’, respectively.79 While Sankhya preached that ‘supreme human bliss consisted in the dissociation of Soul from Nature’, thus tending towards an idealism, this dissociation had been subverted by Hindu religious practice: [Sankhya] had pronounced their connexion [i.e. that of Soul and Nature] illegitimate; and the legend of Radha and Krishna retains the

174  Reforming idolatrous Hinduism illegitimate connexion. Nevertheless, the Hindu worships this illicit union. He worships it because, with a truer insight than is given to the morose philosopher, he has perceived that in this union of the Soul with Nature lies the source of all beauty, all truth, and all love. And this magnificent legend, the basis of the Hindu religion, of love for all that exists, is treated by its European critics as the grossest and most revolting story of crime ever invented by the brain of man. So much for the intellectual superiority of Europe.80 Bankim’s statement of a Sankhya opposition between soul and nature is reminiscent of Hastie’s opposition between sensuous nature and supersensuous Reason; it may be designated as the central opposition on which the discourse of idolatry turns. In the above passage, Bankim makes Hindu religious practice perform a critique of the ‘morose philosopher’ whose discourse is structured by these oppositions. The transgressive love of Krishna and Radha (Radha is a married woman) is also treated by Bankim as a transgression of philosophy: it brings prakriti and purusha, or nature and soul, into intimate connection. Hastie had called the Krishna stories ‘the apotheosis of sensual desire and the idolatry of merely finite life’; they may be treated as a benchmark of idolatry, as they call into question the hierarchy between the material and the spiritual.81 By celebrating the Krishna–Radha legends and placing them at the centre of Hinduism, Bankim transvalues the values of the discourse on idolatry. He posits the Hindu ideal as one of art rather than philosophy, where the ideal must be mediated by the material image. This renders it akin to idolatry, but in an affirmative sense: And I must ask the student of Hinduism when he comes to study Hindu Idolatry, to forget the nonsense about dolls given to children. I decline to subscribe to what is simply childish, even though the authority produced is titled authority with a venerable look. The true explanation consists in the ever true relation of the subjective Ideal to its objective Reality. Man is by instinct a poet and an artist. The passionate yearnings of the heart for the Ideal . . . must find an expression in the world of the Real. Hence proceed all poetry and all art. Exactly in the same way the ideal of the Divine in man receives a form from him, and the form an image. The existence of Idols is as justifiable as that of the tragedy of Hamlet or of that of Prometheus. The religious worship of idols is as justifiable as the intellectual worship of Hamlet or Prometheus.82 Dolls given to children are the classic example of fetishism, to which Hastie had compared Hindu idolatry.83 Bankim rejects the analogy as itself

Reforming idolatrous Hinduism 175 childish, despite the authority of discourses that read fetishism and idolatry as pathologies of reason. He relates idolatry to art; in both cases, the ideal acquires a material embodiment, and to deny the legitimacy of idolatry is to deny the legitimacy of representation and projection of artistic images. Bankim’s dismantling of some of the central figures and suppositions of the discourse on idolatry does not proceed, however, without some of its own ambiguities and curiosities. Although he debunked European intellectual superiority, this was not a position he sustained consistently: I cheerfully admit the intellectual superiority of Europe. I deny, however, that the conclusion [that Sanskrit language and literature are better understood in Europe] follows from the premises. I deny that intellectual superiority can enable anyone to dispense with the essential conditions under which alone knowledge can be acquired, that it can enable the blind to see or the deaf to hear.84 Europe’s intellectual superiority is thus represented through clashing images. In this passage, it is compatible, it would seem, with ‘blindness’ and ‘deafness’; elsewhere it is altogether rejected. After denying that any European scholar had so far met the preconditions for an accurate knowledge of Hinduism, he paid handsome tribute to such European Indologists as Max Müller, Goldstuecker, Colebrooke, Muir, Roth and Weber, elevating them above his countrymen: ‘I yield to none in my profound respect for their learning, their ability, and the largehearted philanthropy which leads them to devote themselves to pursuits from which my countrymen often recoil in fear and despair.’85 Having defended idolatry as art, he confessed that standards of artistic representation in Hindu images are somewhat degraded and inferior to those of Europe. He made the bizarre suggestion that idols could be ordered from Europe: Our idols are hideous, say they. True, we wait for our sculptors. It is a question of art only. . . . The images we worship in Bengal are, as works of art, a disgrace to the nation. Wealthy Hindus should get their Krishnas and Radhas made in Europe.86 At this point, Bankim would appear to concur with Forster that idolatry was not so much wrong as inartistic.87 If Europe’s intellectual superiority was problematic, its artistic superiority was freely conceded by Bankim. Bankim’s arguments to Hastie were elaborated in his Letters on Hinduism, which he wrote to a friend with a view to future publication.88 Bankim’s writings on Hinduism perform a double manoeuvre: they

176  Reforming idolatrous Hinduism deconstruct Hinduism as an object of colonial anthropology and reconstitute it on terms favourable to forging a national subject. In executing this double manoeuvre, however, he does not always maintain consistency; the reconstitution of Hinduism often occurs on the same terms that had been deconstructed earlier. Thus, while he is anxious to maintain Hinduism’s epistemic difference from post-Reformation European subjectivities, he is also anxious to narrow this difference. Like Rammohan Roy, he is concerned to distinguish between a ‘true’ and a ‘false’ Hinduism, including within the latter large elements of everyday popular practice. Bankim recognised the difficulties of the Orientalist construction of Hinduism. He denied the existence of Hinduism as a homogeneous object, and emphasised differences between Hindu sects: ‘there is greater affinity between Mahomedanism and Christianity than between the Saktaism of the Tantras and the Vaisnavism of Chaitanya’. Treatment of Hinduism as ‘religion’ was an act of epistemic violence: Is there not then such a thing as Hinduism? Search through all the vast written literature of India, and you will not, except in modern writings where the Hindu has sought obsequiously to translate the phraseology of his conquerors, meet with any mention of such a thing as the Hindu religion. Search through all the vast records of pre-Mohamedan India, nowhere will you meet with even such a word as Hindu, let alone Hindu religion. Nay more. Search through the whole of that record, and nowhere will you meet with such a word as religion.89 Bankim indicates that the concept of ‘Hindu religion’ is the effect of an Orientalist construction, repeated by modern ‘Hindus’ influenced by it. It arose because foreigners could not distinguish between independent religions existing on the subcontinent: ‘The differences in religion were, however, imperceptible to the foreigner who, without trying to understand anyone of the various systems, thought he discerned the same grotesque features in all.’90 As the other side of this coin, the demarcations between Hinduism and other Indian religions such as Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism were essentially arbitrary and arose due to political and administrative decisions taken in modern times.91 In emphasising the epistemic difference of pre-Islamic Indian or ‘Hindu’ civilisation, Bankim made the interesting claim that the concept of ‘religion’ was not applicable to it because it did not demarcate distinct realms of the sacred and the secular. In effect, religion pervaded all of it: To the Hindu, his whole life was religion. To the European, his relations to God and to the spiritual world are things sharply distinguished from his relations to man and the temporal world. To the Hindu, his

Reforming idolatrous Hinduism 177 relations to God and his relations to man, his spiritual life and his temporal life, are incapable of being so distinguished.92 As we have seen before, idolatry may be understood as a confusion between the temporal and material world on the one hand and the realm of spirit and eternity on the other. If for Hindus the spheres of the sacred and the secular interpenetrate, this could be one reason why the term ‘idolatrous’ was applied to them, and the meanings and practices of their culture appeared epistemically strange to the ‘nonidolatrous’ observer. Bankim made the point, however, that from the point of view of an external observer practices of the sacred and the secular always interpenetrate, and that the separation between them is the result of an analytical distinction. ‘Idolatry’ therefore would not be an attribute of essential doctrine but of reversible positionality: it would belong to the observed rather than the observer, the other rather than the self. Bankim demonstrated that from the point of view of a Hindu observer in European countries, Christianity would seem idolatrous, polytheistic and fetishistic: Observing the worship of the Virgin and the Saints in Catholic countries, he would take Christianity to be a polytheism. The worship of images would lead him to believe, that Christianity was an idolatry also, and the reverence paid to the crucifix would induce him to think that there was also a leaven of fetishism in it. Protestant Christianity he would account to be a dualism, a religion of the good and evil ­principle, – a religion of God and the Devil. And if he mixed well enough with the ignorant peasantry of Christendom, he too would meet with that tangled jungle of ghosts and demons which it had been Sir Alfred Lyall’s lot to meet with in India. And who shall say that the Hindu’s account of Christianity would be wider of the truth than many an account of Hinduism by European or native?93 The association of idolatrous Hinduism with moral corruption and cruelty was also a reversible one: If you hold that the principles of Christianity are not responsible for the slaughter of the Crusades, the butcheries of Alva, the massacre of St. Bartholomew or the flames of the Inquisition, I do not see how anyone can hold the principles of Hinduism responsible for the immolation of Hindu widows on the funeral pyre. If the principles of Christianity are not responsible for the civil disabilities of Roman Catholics and Jews, which till lately disfigured the English Statute Book, I do not understand how the principles of Hinduism are to be held responsible for the civil disabilities of the Sudras under the Brahmanic regime.94

178  Reforming idolatrous Hinduism It is at this point, however, that some of the slippages within Bankim’s own reading of Hinduism begin to show. If religion cannot be separated from the secular but is defined across the whole field of social practices, it is in fact legitimate to query the connection between Hinduism and the immolation of widows, as indeed it is to query Christianity’s connections with the Inquisition. If Hinduism is as protean and elusive an entity as Bankim has shown it to be, that cuts the ground away from beneath attempts to distinguish ‘true Hinduism’, its ‘eternal verities’ from ‘non-essential adjuncts’, ‘false and corrupt Hinduism’: a project that Bankim subsequently undertakes.95 In order to do this, he deploys the categories of the same colonial anthropology that he critiques. Thus, he desires to exclude from Hinduism ‘nonAryan customs and observances retained by non-Aryan tribes converted into Hinduism, non-Aryan fetishism, popular superstitions without any warranty in Hinduism’.96 His definition of Hinduism would exclude . . . much that is popularly considered to be a portion of Hinduism even by Hindus themselves . . . popular delusions . . . that have encrusted Hinduism with the rubbish of ages – with superstitions and absurdities which subvert its higher purposes. Like Rammohan, Bankim speaks here a reformist subjectivity: ‘Hinduism is in need of a reformation. . . . I have certainly no serious hope of progress in India except . . . in Hinduism reformed, regenerated and purified.’97 Having deconstructed Hinduism, Bankim now aspires to transform it into ‘Semitized near-monotheist high-Hindu discourse’. Reformulating Hinduism in terms of 19th-century European rationality, he also desires to retain its difference. This tension can be captured with respect to the ambivalent status of legend and myth in religion. While myths and legends bespeak a primitive consciousness, allegorical interpretations of these are permissible.98 In displaying an excess of signification, myths are akin to idols, but the possibility of reducing them to an allegorical signified makes them amenable to rational understanding. The Gothic metaphors present in the following advice to the modern Hindu, regarding the status to be accorded to myth in religion, enact the tension and ambivalence present in Bankim’s project of a rational reformulation of religion: The modern Hindu . . . will see in these legends which belong to Hinduism but do not constitute Hinduism, much that is beautiful, much that is really instructive, much that is calculated to save him yet from the effects of that deadliest of moral poisons – the intense

Reforming idolatrous Hinduism 179 materialism of modern Europe. They serve to embellish, to beautify, to explain and to illustrate the belief of his forefathers. Left for thousands of years to form the sole occupation of an idle literary class, they have run to waste, and now form a dense, impenetrable jungle in the dark recesses of which vile things flourish. The way must be cleared, the rank and noxious undergrowth, and the vile things that grow and flourish beneath it must be swept away.99 Hindu myths occupy a liminal space, belonging to Hinduism yet not constituting it. They may embellish and beautify, yet are liable to turn rotten. They operate in Bankim’s text in a manner similar to Derrida’s notion of the pharmakon, whose meaning is undecidable between medicine and poison. While they may serve as a kind of balm, safeguarding the modern Hindu from ‘Europe’s materialist poisons’, they are liable to turn into toxic matter themselves.100 The Krishna–Radha myths and the narrative of Krishna’s encounter with the milkmaids of Vraja, set out in the Puranas and celebrated in countless Bengali Vaishnava lyrics, expressed a theology in which sacred and profane interpenetrated and described a sensual and bodily excess not reducible to a transcendent metaphysical meaning. Not surprisingly, they represented for Jones, Mill, Hastie and Rammohan the essence of the idolatrous outlook in religion. Bankim’s ambivalence towards the question of myth is illustrated by his ambiguous responses to the Krishna–Radha myths. In response to Hastie’s attacks, Bankim had declared them to be a ‘magnificent legend, the basis of the Hindu religion’, expressing a ‘truer insight than is given to the morose philosopher’ by deconstructing philosophy’s idealism. In a long Bengali essay entitled Krishnacharitra [Krishna’s character], Bankim arrived at a different assessment of the Krishna myths. This assessment is apparent in his account of Krishna’s encounter with the milkmaids at Vraja, which he described as ‘Krishna’s greatest scandal in the eyes of his detractors’.101 Translating a passage from the Vishnu Purana into Bengali, Bankim rendered the Sanskrit rati (sexual love) as krira (play/ sport) in Bengali, although rati would be perfectly adequate in Bengali, signifying the same thing it did in Sanskrit. Commenting on this emendation, Bankim claimed that the root ram from which the word rati was derived originally meant ‘play’, and that the word ratipriya (fond of rati) applied to Vraja’s milkmaids meant only that they were fond of play, in the form of singing and dancing while holding hands in a circle, and that there was no trace of adirasa (the principal rasa, i.e. erotic love) present in their activities.102 Bankim’s discomfort with the transgressive aspects of the Krishna myths is evident as well in his idiosyncratic interpretation of the well-known

180  Reforming idolatrous Hinduism vastraharana episode, in which Krishna stole the clothes of the milkmaids while they were bathing in a river. According to Bankim, Krishna’s motive was to teach the milkmaids a moral lesson, since in many parts of India down to contemporary times women followed the ‘indecent practice [kutsita pratha]’ of shedding their clothes while entering a river or lake to bathe.103 He recognised a difficulty in this interpretation since the milkmaids also desire Krishna ‘as a husband’, for which they were observing a vrata (vow including the observance of austerities). Bankim dealt with this difficulty by declaring peremptorily by that ‘all this is mere fiction [upanyas], imagined by the writer of the Puranas, and has no basis in truth [satyata]’.104 Bankim thus resolved the serious difficulties he encountered in incorporating the ‘idolatrous’ stories of Krishna’s sport with Vraja’s milkmaids into a framework of moral/metaphysical meaning, by resorting to a positivist distinction between myth or fiction on the one hand and historical fact on the other. At other times, however, he perceived a subtle affinity between the two modes of discourse: while myth told histories of the gods, history narrated myths of the people. While history could be myth’s dialectical reverse image, the two discourses gave rise to different types of subjects, of which Europeans and Indians were the archetypes: Indians are extremely modest; they do not consider themselves the agents of worldly occurrences; they consider gods to be the authors of all events. For that reason they are taken up narrating histories [itihas] of gods; in Purana histories only the doings of the gods have been narrated. Where doings of men have been narrated, they are partial avatars of the gods, or beholden to them; the purpose remains hymning the gods. . . . Europeans are very proud; they consider what they do as their own achievement, if they yawn, that deserves to be recorded as an imperishable achievement affecting the world, hence it should be written down. That is why proud peoples have an abundance of history; that is why we have none.105 Interestingly, Bankim describes the Puranas as itihas (history) here, while he declares them to be upanyas (fiction/fable/novel) while dealing with the milkmaids of Vraja, pointing to the possibility of traffic between the two categories. While Bankim considered history a European fetish, it was a uniquely serviceable one, in the sense that it helped construct an order of subjectivity that he wanted Bengalis (and Indians) to possess: ‘Bengal needs history. Otherwise Bengalis will never be men.’106 However, history in its Hegelian version became a record of the journey of the rational subject cured of idolatrous fixations, and embraced

Reforming idolatrous Hinduism 181 colonialism as an inevitable stage of this journey. Bankim found the Hegelian mode of writing Bengal’s history, which found it ripe for conquest whenever approached by outsiders, distinctly problematic: ‘English historians assert with a sneer, 17 Muslim horsemen came and conquered Bengal . . . we have shown in Bangadarshan before, this statement has no basis; it is a novel [upanyas] written for the entertainment of children’.107 He responded to histories that were like novels by writing novels designed to fulfil Bengalis’ need for history. As Sudipta Kaviraj has suggested, fiction allowed him to fashion a form of history that went against its deterministic grain, and opened it up as a realm of contingency.108 Bankim’s tensions with respect to history as a Hegelian-positivistic genre are particularly evident in Anandamath, the novel which was to inspire later generations of nationalists.109 The procedures of positivistic history are parodied in the report sent to English headquarters by Capt. Thomas, commander of the East India Company’s troops in the novel, after a minor skirmish with nationalist rebels: ‘With 157 troops 14,700 rebels could be defeated. Among the rebels 2,153 were killed, 1,233 injured. Seven have been captured. But only the last statement was true.’110 The proliferation of numbers as well as the precision with which they are quoted establish a seeming veracity for the account, a semblance of objectivity. However, history is also told in a very different register in the novel, in a mythic or epiphanic mode.

III  Idolatry and the birth of national Gothic This alternative, mythic register of history is reflected in the central episode of Anandamath when Mahendra, a recent recruit, is initiated in the band of santans (literally children/progeny) fighting the government. He is led to a temple which has images of the traditional Hindu deities, but these are overshadowed by a vast and awe-inspiring idol of a goddess Mahendra doesn’t recognise, an image of great sumptuousness and power: An enormous image with four hands, holding a conch shell, a discus, a club and a lotus, her bosom set with precious stones, a rotating sudarshanchakra [weapon of war] in front of her. The headless and bloody images of Madhu and Kaitabh [two demons] were painted in front of her.111 He is told that this goddess represents the motherland, whose ‘children’ the santans consider themselves to be. Bankim thus transvalues the old characterisation of idols being invented or manufactured deities by literally bringing into being a new goddess representing the motherland.

182  Reforming idolatrous Hinduism Thereafter, Satyananda, the ascetic leader of the santans, conducts Mahendra to a tableau of sculptures in which the new goddess is depicted as passing through three stages: as she once was in the past (bejewelled, bewitching, and seductive), as she is in the present (naked, shorn of dignity, in a gloomy underground room) and as she will be in the future (in an Edenic, brightly sunlit garden; resplendent, triumphant over her enemies). This tableau of idols represents an alternative mythic history inscribed in stone: a golden past of civilisational glory, succeeded by a fallen present in which the motherland is oppressed, succeeded by a utopian future in which her past status is restored.112 Likewise, the Bande Mataram [Hail Mother] hymn extends a symbolic economy in which images of nature–mother–nation are conflated and a lush Oedipal sensuality evoked.113 Through this chain of ‘idolatrous’ signs, which carry for Mahendra the force of an erotic/mystic epiphany, Bankim forged an idiom of nationalist imagining and desiring. He depicted santan life as a spectacle of music, mourning, war, cults, treasure, sacrifice, excess – phenomena that Georges Bataille connects to economies of nonproductive expenditure where the rules of utilitarian economy are inverted and ‘the accent is placed on a loss that must be as great as possible in order for that activity to take on its true meaning’.114 If the principle of excess present in santan life is considered to exemplify the carnivalesque, the latter principle is held in check by the santan leaders who practise an ascetic regimen of self-discipline and sexual abstinence. As Tanika Sarkar has pointed out, the disciplinary regimen practised by their leaders reintroduces the principle of authority and hierarchy into santan life.115 While sanction for this ascetic regimen is indeed derived in part from traditional Hindu social doctrine as Sarkar suggests, it is also derived from the santan leaders’ observation of the English. English successes in war are attributed not just to the superiority of their material technology, but also to their adoption of a political and spiritual ‘technology of self’ which constituted a national subject.116 This interplay between Hindu and English ideals of asceticism is suggested in the following dialogue between Mahendra and santan leader Bhabananda: MAH.:  . . . why is there so much difference between the English and Mus-

lim [soldier]? BHAB.:  An Englishman does not flee even when he’s dying, a Muslim flees

if he sweats – starts looking for sherbet [cool drink] – and then, an Englishman has tenacity – he finishes what he takes up, a Muslim couldn’t care less. The sepoys fight for money, but still don’t get paid. And the last word is bravery – a cannonball explodes in one place and not in

Reforming idolatrous Hinduism 183 ten – therefore when a cannon is fired two hundred don’t have to run. But a whole host of Muslims run when they see a cannon fired, while not a single Englishman runs even when a host of cannons are fired. MAH.:  Do you [the santans] have these qualities? BHAB.:  No. But qualities have to be cultivated. They don’t fall from trees. MAH.:  What exercises do you do? BHAB.: Don’t you see we are sannyasis [renouncers]? Our renunciation is in aid of this exercise. Once our goals have been achieved – our exercises fulfilled – we can return to domestic life. We have wives and daughters as well.117 Thus, qualities which make the English soldier a feared enemy in combat are sought to be imitated by the santans, and traditional Hindu practices of discipline, renunciation and abstinence from conjugal life are found to be a useful resource in this regard. Much of Anandamath as well as Debi Choudhurani, another novel which recounts a nationalist uprising against the British, are taken up with the question of pedagogies and disciplines of the self which would yield a new self-regulating rational (and national) subject. If ordinary santans indulge in carnival-like excess, the carnivalesque in Anandamath is therefore essentially self-limiting and no more than ‘a licensed affair . . . a permissible rupture of hegemony’.118 One of the targets of santan violence is Muslims, which may involve a process of what Peter Stallybrass and Allon White have called ‘displaced abjection’ where ‘low’ folk may turn their symbolic and actual violence not upon the ‘high’ but other elements of the ‘low’.119 There is some evidence that Bankim made a distinction between the historical experience of Muslim rule in Bengal and Islam as such.120 Yet, in Anandamath, the santans’ battle against the corrupt Muslim nawab of Bengal spills over into violence against ordinary Muslims. Anandamath is set in the background of the disastrous 1770 famine, which depopulated Bengal’s countryside and becomes in the novel the trigger for the santans’ revolt.121 At this time, while Bengal was formally administered by its Muslim nawab, its Diwani or revenue rights belonged to the East India Company, to whom it had been granted by the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II in Delhi.122 Anandamath notes the anomalous character of this regime and attributes to it responsibility for the famine: At the time responsibility for collecting money belonged to the English, but that for protecting the life and property of Bengalis belonged to that sinful, treacherous, stain on humanity, Mir Jafar. Mir Jafar could not save himself, how could he save Bengal? He smokes opium

184  Reforming idolatrous Hinduism and sleeps. The English seize revenue and write dispatches. The Bengali weeps and goes to blazes.123 In a battle that pits town against country, the santans make war against both the English and the nawab’s Muslim troops from bases in the jungle, but their insurrection also triggers violence against ordinary Muslims in neighbouring towns and villages.124 The novel suffers from indecision regarding who the real enemies of the santans are, which renders it capable of being interpreted both from the point of view of anti-colonial Indian nationalism and anti-Muslim Hindu sectarianism. There is a radical ambivalence, bordering on schizophrenia, in the novel’s assessment of the English and their role in India. This ambivalence surfaces occasionally in terms of overt commentary in the novel, as in the following passage assessing the santans’ war against the English: That the English came to rescue India, was not recognised by the santans then. How could they know it? Even Capt. Thomas’s English contemporaries did not know it. It was known only to Providence [bidhata] at this time. Bhabananda thought, we will destroy this brood of demons [asur] one day.125 Thus, within the space of a short passage, the English oscillate between the antithetical roles of providential rescuers and demons in India. This ambivalence is most apparent in the curious resolution of the novel. After an enormous amount of sacrifice and effort, the santans triumph over a combined Muslim and British force: ‘there was no one left even to convey the message [of defeat] to Warren Hastings’.126 However, when the santans expect Satyananda, their leader, to push for a sovereign Hindu state, he is led off into the Himalayas by a mysterious figure − part Vedic sage, part Hegelian world spirit – known only as the ‘Physician’ (chikitsak). Anandamath’s concluding scene features a dialogue between Satyananda and the ‘Physician’ which poses sharply the conflict between historical desire and necessity: He who had come, said: ‘Your task is accomplished. The Muslim power is destroyed. There is nothing else for you to do. No good can come of needless slaughter’. SATYA:  ‘The Muslim power has indeed been destroyed, but Hindu dominion not yet established. The English still hold Calcutta’. HE:  ‘Hindu dominion will not be established now. If you remain at your work, men will be killed needlessly. Therefore come’. Satyananda was greatly pained on hearing this. He said: ‘My Lord! . . . who will rule now? Will the Muslim king return?’ HE:  ‘No. The English will rule.’

Reforming idolatrous Hinduism 185 Tears began to stream from Satyananda’s eyes. He turned to the maternal idol of the nation that was present, folded his hands, and said in a voice choked with emotion: ‘Alas, my mother! I have failed to set you free – you will fall again to the unclean foreigner (mleccha). Forgive your son. Alas mother! Why did I not die on the battlefield today?’ The Physician said: ‘Satyananda, do not grieve. You have won wealth and conquered by becoming an outlaw, for your mind was deluded. No pure fruit can grow on a sinful tree. . . . I will tell you what the wise have understood. The worship of 33 crore gods is not authentic dharma, but merely corrupted folk religion; it has long obscured authentic dharma, which the foreigners have called Hinduism. True Hindu dharma is oriented to knowledge, not action. Knowledge is of two kinds, external and internal. If externals are not known, then internal knowledge cannot be achieved. . . . Now in this country knowledge of externals is nonexistent – there is no one to teach it, and we are not good at mass education. Thus we have to obtain knowledge of externals from elsewhere . . . hence we will install English rule.’127 Assembled in this passage are a number of idols, vying for attention. On the one hand are the 33 crore gods attributed to ‘polytheistic’ Hindu religion. In the passage, Bankim sees Hindu polytheism as having contributed not only to corruption and the obscuring of knowledge (although he refuted Hastie when the latter made a similar claim), but also to social divisiveness and lack of the national unity that will be necessary for reclaiming the motherland. In contrast to these 33 crore deities, Satyananda turns in his distress to the idol which is the material embodiment of the motherland, an external locus ‘fixing’ his nationalist desire. But the passage evokes still another idol of Western provenance which looks to displace this idol: that of Hegelian historicism embodied in the figure of the mysterious ‘Physician’, according to whom English rule was inevitable and would have a salutary civilising effect on India. Relative to Europe, Indian civilisation was deficient in knowledge of the material world, and English rule would provide it to them. The flaw in this argument was apparent to Rabindranath Tagore. Responding to Anandamath’s concluding passage, Tagore suggested that it was equally plausible that English rule in India actually ‘inhibited’ the flow of European knowledge: Bankim asserted that we need English rule, because without it we would not attain to knowledge of the physical world. I would say rather that the English have denied us the fruits of European civilisation. . . . I refuse to be grateful for it. The Japanese refuse to take European rule

186  Reforming idolatrous Hinduism on their heads like a mahout [elephant driver] atop an elephant, have they been denied European civilisation as a result?128 The Physician argued that English rule and English education would remove the barriers to the spread of authentic Hindu dharma by showing up the falsity of its contemporary practices. This is reminiscent of the Orientalist position articulated by Jones in his poem ‘A Hymn to Lacshmi’, with similar political implications. Jones positioned himself as the true guardian of Hindu tradition through his mastery of European disciplines, and European rule as providing the best set of conditions for the rejuvenation of Hinduism.129 If Anandamath proved a foundational text for later Indian nationalism, such a correspondence indicates a point of significant intersection between Orientalism and Indian nationalism. Within the terms of the novel, however, the quasi-Hegelian position taken by the Physician does not provide a satisfactory narrative resolution, as Satyananda’s bitter protests against the former’s verdict, maintained right to the end of the novel, indicate. Placed in between an effete Muslim and a rising English power in Bengal, if the only contribution of the santan insurrection has been to give to the former a further push downhill and practice in spiritual self-discipline by turning away from temporal power, all the blood and thunder of the preceding pages is unnecessary and overdone. Debi Choudhurani, another novel by Bankim which describes an antiBritish insurrection, possesses a similar ending and displays a similar askesis of historical desire: Bhabani Pathak, one of the leaders of the rebels, surrenders to the British after routing them in war, and calmly accepts transportation for life; while Debi Choudhurani, another of their leaders, retires to her domestic duties as a housewife. Taken together, these endings reflect Bankim’s deep ambivalence towards the British and their supposed historical mission in India, and are testimony to radical self-divisions in the constitution of the colonial subject. Influenced by Enlightenment ideology, Rammohan directed a campaign against idolatry, where one of his principal objectives was to reform the modes of irrational subjectivity (centred in material objects and practices) that went with it. His project of ‘curing’ the idolatrous mentality culminates, however, not in access to whole Cartesian subjecthood but in a schizophrenia of reason itself, in which Rammohan has to resort to different personas, sometimes set off against each other, in order to express different aspects of self. This schizophrenia is duplicated in Bankim’s attitude to a teleological version of history in which the colonial government of India is portrayed as a necessary outcome of the march of Reason itself. Bankim too plays with different personas, in which he expresses different aspects of himself.

Reforming idolatrous Hinduism 187 The abrupt about-turns which mark the endings of Anandamath and Debi Choudhurani, for example, mark Bankim’s respect for the colonial regime and its ‘civilising’ work, as well as his scepticism, during a period of political quiescence, of the possibility of organised opposition to it.130 His conception of an idol in whom the motherland is deified and at whose altar anti-colonial rebels worship, however, is a representation and ‘fixation’ in terms of an external image of his desire for national independence and autonomy. In inventing this image, he reinterprets and transvalues the colonial text of idolatry, and expresses the ‘truth’ of what is perhaps the most prevalent and consecrated form of idolatry in the modern world: worship of the nation-state.

Notes 1 T.B. Macaulay, Letter to Zachary Macaulay, 12 October 1836, in G.O. Trevelyan, Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1889, p. 330. 2 See Gauri Vishwanathan, ‘One Power, One Mind’, Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India, London: Faber & Faber, 1989, pp. 68–93. 3 Ibid., p. 73. 4 On the ubiquity among early Orientalists at Calcutta’s College of Fort William, their premier institutional stronghold, of the theme of an Indian ‘renaissance’ induced by Orientalist scholarship, see David Kopf, British Orientalism and the Bengal Renaissance: The Dynamics of Indian Modernization 1773–1835, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969, pp. 97–104. 5 Noel A. Salmond, Hindu Iconoclasts: Rammohun Roy, Dayananda Sarasvati and 19th Century Polemics Against Idolatry, Calcutta: Sampark, 2004, p. 50. Salmond speculates that early Vedic religion depended more on sacrifice, libations and the chanting of mantras rather than temples and image worship, probably due to the nomadic rather than settled nature of early Vedic culture: ‘Rammohun and Dayananda are probably right that image-worship is not sanctioned in the Vedas – but neither is it proscribed’ (ibid., p. 40). 6 On Rammohan Roy’s image as the ‘father of modern India’, see Wilhelm Halbfass, India and Europe: An Essay in Understanding, Albany: SUNY Press, 1988, pp. 199–200; also Kopf, British Orientalism and the Bengal Renaissance, p. 196. Kopf notes that ‘the aura surrounding this man had exerted so profound an influence on later historians that he is frequently portrayed as a virtual god-man containing within himself the seeds of a regenerated India’ (ibid.). 7 See Dermot Killingley, Rammohan Roy in Hindu and Christian Tradition, Newcastle upon Tyne: Grevatt & Grevatt, 1993, p. 6. 8 See Halbfass, India and Europe, pp. 198–9. 9 See Killingley, Rammohan Roy in Hindu and Christian Tradition, p. 6. 10 Gayatri Spivak, ‘Response to Jean-Luc Nancy’, in J.F. MacCannell and L. Zakarin (eds), Thinking Bodies, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994, p. 40.

188  Reforming idolatrous Hinduism 11 Rammohan Roy, ‘Translation of an Abridgment of the Vedant’, in K. Nag and D. Burman (eds), The English Works of Raja Rammohun Roy, 7 vols, 1945; repr., Calcutta: Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, 1995, vol. 2, pp. 57–72; ‘Vedantagrantha’, in A. Ghosh (ed.), Rammohan Rachanabali, Calcutta: Haraf, 1973, pp. 1–60 and ‘Vedantasara’, ibid., pp. 61–8. 12 Roy, ‘Translation of Moonduk Opunishad’, English Works, vol. 2, pp. 1–10; ‘Translation of Cena Upunishad’, ibid., pp. 11–20; ‘Translation of Kuth-Opunishad’, ibid., pp. 21–38; ‘Translation of Isopanishad’, ibid., pp. 39–56; ‘Talabakar Upanishat’, Rachanabali, pp. 69–73; ‘Ishopanishat’, ibid., pp. 74–84; ‘Kathopanishat’, ibid., pp. 126–41; ‘Mandukyopanishat’, ibid., pp. 142–54 and ‘Mundakopanishat’, ibid., pp. 180–8. 13 ‘Translation of an abridgment of the Vedant or the resolution of all the Vedas; the most celebrated and revered work of Brahmunical Theology; establishing the Unity of the Supreme Being; and that he alone is the object of propitiation and worship’ (Roy, English Works, vol. 2, p. 57). 14 Roy, ‘Second Defence of the Monotheistical System of the Vedas’, ibid., p. 103; ‘A Defence of Hindoo Theism’, ibid., p. 88 and ‘Translation of an Abridgment of the Vedant’, ibid., p. 60. 15 On views of the Vedanta adopted by premier Orientalists and by Rammohan, see Bruce Robertson, Raja Rammohan Roy: The Father of Modern India, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995, pp. 60–4. William Jones opined that Shankara’s Sutrabhasya ‘exposes the heretical opinions of Ramanuja, Madhva, Vallabha and other sophists’ (Jones in Lord Teignmouth (ed.), The Works of William Jones, 13 vols, 1799; repr., Delhi: Agam Prakashan, 1977, vol. 4, p. 96). 16 On the absence of a homogeneous ‘Hindu’ tradition prior to the Orientalist production of it, see Heinrich von Stietencron, ‘Hinduism: On the Proper Use of a Deceptive Term’, in G.D. Sontheimer and H. Kulke (eds), Hinduism Reconsidered, New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 1989, pp. 11–27. 17 Roy, ‘Translation of Isopanishad’, English Works, vol. 2, p. 47. 18 See Robertson, Raja Rammohan Roy, p. 128. 19 Roy, ‘Translation into English of a Sunskrit Tract Inculcating the Divine Worship’, English Works, vol. 2, p. 79. Compare to Jones’s translation cited in Chapter 1. 20 Ibid., p. 80. 21 Roy, ‘Translation of an Abridgment of the Vedant’, ibid., p. 59. 22 See the analysis of Rammohan’s discourse on sati in Lata Mani, ‘Contentious Traditions: The Debate on “Sati” in Colonial India’, in K. Sangari and S. Vaid (eds), Recasting Women: Essays in Colonial History, New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1989, pp. 102–6. 23 Roy, ‘Translation of Isopanishad’, English Works, vol. 2, p. 48. 24 See Chapter 2. 25 Roy, ‘Translation of the Kuth-Opunishud’, English Works, vol. 2, p. 23. 26 Roy, ‘A Second Defence of the Monotheistical System of the Vedas’, English Works, vol. 2, pp. 105–6. 27 Salmond, Hindu Iconoclasts, p. 2. 28 Roy, ‘The Condition of India’, English Works, vol. 3, p. 64. 29 For Jones’s ‘problematic of the lie’ which connects idolatry to the crimes of forgery and perjury, see Chapter 1.

Reforming idolatrous Hinduism 189 30 Roy, Dialogue between a Theist and an Idolater, Calcutta: Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay, 1963. 31 Ibid., p. 91. 32 Ibid., pp. 110–11. ‘Shankar’ is another name for the god Shiva; in this passage, Rammohan plays on the similarity between the names of Shiva and Shankara (or Shankar) in order to buttress the latter’s prestige. 33 Ibid., pp. 136–7. 34 Ibid., p. 133. 35 For this version, see Roy, ‘Translation of the Cena Upanishad’, English Works, vol. 2, pp. 13–14; also ‘Translation of an Abridgment of the Vedant’, ibid., p. 60. 36 See Roy, Dialogue between a Theist and an Idolater, pp. 65, 55. 37 Roy, ‘A Defence of Hindoo Theism’, English Works, vol. 2, p. 89. 38 See Killingley, Raja Rammohan Roy, pp.  95–100; and Robertson, Raja Rammohan Roy, pp. 75–7. 39 Roy, ‘Translation of an Abridgment of the Vedant’, English Works, vol. 2, pp. 59–60. 40 See Robertson, Raja Rammohan Roy, p. 77. 41 See Salmond, Hindu Iconoclasts, p. 51. 42 Government Gazette, Supplement, 14 August 1817, cited in Robertson, Raja Rammohan Roy, p. 116. 43 Roy, ‘A Letter on the Prospects of Christianity’, English Works, vol. 4, p. 43. 44 Roy, ‘An Appeal to the Christian Public’, ibid., vol. 5, p. 66. 45 Roy, ‘Second Appeal to the Christian Public’, ibid., vol. 6, p. 13. For biblical references, see St. John 10:30, 10:36, 19:7. 46 Roy, ‘A Letter on the Prospects of Christianity’, ibid., vol. 4, p. 44. 47 Roy, Letter to Bengal Hurkaru, Calcutta, 23 May 1823, ibid., p. 73. 48 See ‘Letter of a Christian to Ram Doss’, ibid., pp. 69–71. ‘Ram Doss’ was a pseudonym of Rammohan Roy. 49 For an exposition of this point, see Halbfass, ‘Neo-Hinduism, Modern Indian Traditionalism, and the Presence of Europe’ as well as ‘Supplementary Observations on Modern Indian Thought’, India and Europe, pp. 217–62. 50 ‘Neither can much improvement arise from such speculations as the following which are the themes suggested by the Vedanta, – in what manner is the soul absorbed in the Deity? What relation does it bear to the Divine Essence? Nor will youths be fitted to be better members of society by the Vedantic doctrines which teach them to believe, that all visible things have no real existence, that as father brother, &c., have no actual entity (sic), they consequently deserve no affection, and therefore the sooner we escape from them and leave the world the better’ (Roy, ‘A Letter on English Education’, in J.C. Ghose (ed.), The English Works of Raja Rammohun Roy, 1906; repr., New York: AMS Press, 1978, pp. 472–3). 51 ‘Letter of a Christian to Ram Doss’, Roy, English Works, vol. 4, p. 70. 52 Roy, ‘Letter to Bengal Hurkaru’, Calcutta, 23 May 1823, ibid., p. 72. 53 Claude Lévi-Strauss describes the bricoleur as being ‘adept at performing a large number of diverse tasks. . . . His universe of instruments is closed and the rules of his game are always to make do with “whatever is at hand”,

190  Reforming idolatrous Hinduism that is to say with a set of tools and materials which is always finite and also heterogeneous because what it contains bears no relation to the current project, or indeed to any particular project, but is the contingent result of all the occasions there have been to renew or enrich the stock or to maintain it with the remains of previous constructions and destructions’ (Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Savage Mind, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966, p. 17). This seems particularly apt as a characterisation of a colonial intellectual working within a limited horizon and with a finite and heterogeneous set of tools. 54 Along with Jadunath Bose, Bankimchandra Chatterjee was the only successful candidate in the first ever BA examination held on Indian soil, at the Calcutta University in 1858. See Jogeshchandra Bagal, ‘Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay’, in Bagal (ed.), Bankim Rachanabali, 3 vols, Calcutta: Sahitya Samsad, 1990, vol. 1, p. XII. 55 Chatterjee, Letter to S.C. Mookerjee, 14 March 1872, ibid., vol. 3, p. 170. 56 W. Hastie’s letters to The Statesman as well as Bankimchandra’s and other responses to them are reproduced in ibid., pp. 186–224. 57 Hastie, Letter to The Statesman, 26 September 1882, ibid., p. 192. 58 Hastie, Letter to The Statesman, 23 September 1882, ibid., p. 189. 59 Ibid., p. 188. 60 Hastie, Letter to The Statesman, 29 September 1882, ibid., p. 198. 61 Ibid., p. 194. 62 See Introduction. 63 Hastie, Letter to The Statesman, 23 September 1882, ibid., p. 190. 64 Hastie, Letter to The Statesman, 29 September 1882, ibid., p. 196. 65 Hastie, Letter to The Statesman, 7 October 1882, ibid., p. 202. 66 Hastie, Letter to The Statesman, 26 September 1882, ibid., pp. 192–3. 67 Bankim thought that behind Hastie’s polemic ‘there lurk errors which are not confined to him, but are shared by a large class of Europeans’ (Chatterjee, Letter to The Statesman, 16 September 1882, ibid., p. 204). 68 Chatterjee, Letter to The Statesman, 28 September 1882, ibid., p. 192. 69 ‘Let the translator be the profoundest Sanskrit scholar in the world – let the translation be the most accurate that language can make it, still the disparity between the original and the translation will be, for practical purposes, very wide. The reason is obvious. You can translate a word by a word, but behind the word there is an idea, the thing which the word denotes, and this idea you cannot translate, if it does not exist among the people in whose language you are translating’ (Chatterjee, Letter to The Statesman, 16 October 1882, ibid., p. 204). 70 Chatterjee, Letter to The Statesman, 28 October 1882, ibid., p. 210. 71 Chatterjee, Letter to The Statesman, 6 October 1882, ibid., p. 200. 72 Chatterjee, Letter to The Statesman, 16 October 1882, ibid., p. 205. Italics are the author’s. 73 Chatterjee, Letter to The Statesman, 28 October 1882, ibid., p. 210. 74 Chatterjee, Devatattva O Hindudharma, ibid., vol. 2, p. 816. Translation from the Bengali is mine; words in italics are in English in the original. 75 Chatterjee, Letter to The Statesman, 28 October 1882, ibid., vol. 3, p. 213. 76 See ibid., p. 212. 77 Chatterjee, Devatattwa O Hindudharma, ibid., vol. 2, p. 786.

Reforming idolatrous Hinduism 191 78 Hastie followed the Orientalists in this regard; one of his letters reproduced a long passage from M. Monier-Williams, which placed the principles of Advaita Vedanta at the centre of Hindu philosophy. See Hastie, Letter to The Statesman, 29 September 1882, ibid., vol. 3, p. 197. 79 See ibid., p. 213. 80 Ibid., pp. 214–15. 81 Hastie, Letter to The Statesman, 23 September 1882, ibid., p. 187. 82 Chatterjee, Letter to The Statesman, 28 October 1882, ibid., pp. 215–16. 83 According to Hastie, Hindus playing with idols is comparable to but less innocent than children playing with dolls. See Hastie, Letter to The Statesman, 23 September 1882, ibid., p. 187. 84 Chatterjee, Letter to The Statesman, 28 October 1882, ibid., p. 210. 85 Chatterjee, Letter to The Statesman, 16 October 1882, ibid., p. 205. 86 Chatterjee, Letter to The Statesman, 28 October 1882, ibid., p. 216. 87 See Chapter 3. 88 Chatterjee, ‘Letters on Hinduism’, ibid., pp.  227–69. See also editor’s note, ibid., p. 293. 89 Ibid., p. 230. 90 Ibid., p. 231. 91 Ibid., pp. 232–3. 92 Ibid., p. 230. 93 Ibid., p. 235. 94 Ibid., p. 239. 95 Ibid., p. 236. 96 Ibid., p. 233. 97 Ibid., p. 235. 98 Ibid., pp. 244–5. 99 Ibid., p. 253. 100 For Derrida’s notion of the pharmakon, see Derrida, ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’, Dissemination, trans. from French by Barbara Johnson, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 61–171. 101 Chatterjee, ‘Krishnacharitra’, Bankim Rachanabali, vol. 2, p. 397. All translations from the Bengali are mine. 102 Ibid., pp. 398–402. 103 Ibid., p. 406. 104 Ibid., p. 407. 105 Chatterjee, ‘Bangalar Itihash [Bengal’s History]’, ibid., p. 285. 106 Chatterjee, ‘Bangalar ltihash Sambandhe Kayekti Katha [A Few Words on Bengal’s History]’, ibid., p. 290. 107 Chatterjee, ‘Bangalar Kalanka [Bengal’s Shame]’, ibid., p. 288. Bangadarshan was a journal that Bankimchandra edited. 108 See Sudipta Kaviraj, ‘Imaginary History’, The Unhappy Consciousness: Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay and the Formation of Nationalist Discourse in India, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995, pp. 107–57. 109 On Anandamath’s influence on the nationalist movement, see William R. Pinch, ‘Soldier Monks and Militant Sadhus’, in David Ludden (ed.), Contesting the Nation: Religion, Community, and the Politics of Democracy in India, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996, p. 146. 110 Chatterjee, ‘Anandamath’, Bankim Rachanabali, vol. 1, p. 618.

192  Reforming idolatrous Hinduism 111 Ibid., p. 592. 112 Ibid., p. 593. 113 See Tanika Sarkar’s analysis of the Bande Mataram hymn in ‘Imagining Hindurashtra: The Hindu and the Muslim in Bankimchandra’s Writings’, Contesting the Nation, pp. 172–6. 114 Georges Bataille, ‘The Notion of Expenditure’, Visions of Excess, trans. from French by Allan Stoekl, Carl R. Lovitt and Donald M. Leslie Jr, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985, p. 118. 115 Sarkar, ‘Imagining Hindurashtra’, pp. 176–7. 116 For the notion of ‘technology of self’, see Michel Foucault, ‘On the Genealogy of Ethics: An Overview of Work in Progress’, in Paul Rabinow (ed.), The Foucault Reader, New York: Pantheon Books, 1984, pp. 340–72. 117 Chatterjee, ‘Anandamath’, Bankim Rachanabali, vol. 1, p. 592. 118 Terry Eagleton, Walter Benjamin: Towards a Revolutionary Criticism, London: Verso, 1981, p. 148. 119 See Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986, pp. 19, 53–6. 120 On this see Sarkar, ‘Imagining Hindurashtra’, pp. 177–84. 121 Richard Becher, a contemporary observer of the 1770 famine, estimated that the number to have perished in it was ‘as 6 to 16 of the whole inhabitants’ of Bengal (cited in Sugata Bose, Peasant Labour and Colonial Capital: Rural Bengal Since 1770, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 18). This figure is corroborated by Anandamath: ‘The year faded, but not before conducting 6 annas of the people of Bengal [out of a total of 16 annas in the rupee] – no one knows how many crores – into the quarters of Yama [the god of death]’ (Chatterjee, ‘Anandamath’, Bankim Rachanabali, vol. 1, p. 617). While the colonial state collected £1.5 million in revenue in the famine year 1770–71 (£8,000 more than it did during the non-famine year of 1768–69), it provided a mere 40,000 rupees towards relieving famine distress (see Bose, Peasant Labour and Colonial Capital, p. 18). 122 See Chittaranjan Bandopadhyay, Anandamath: Rachanar Prerana O Parinam, Calcutta: Ananda Publishers, 1983, p. 45. 123 Chatterjee, ‘Anandamath’, Bankim Rachanabali, vol. 1, p. 587. Mir Jafar, who had been installed by Clive as Bengal’s puppet nawab after the latter’s victory at the battle of Plassey in 1757, was universally reviled as a traitor who betrayed his homeland by Bankimchandra’s time: he is to Bengali nationalism what Judas is to Christianity. However, projecting him as ‘nawab’ in 1770 at the time of the famine is fanciful, as he died in 1765. See Bandopadhyay, Anandamath: Rachanar Prerana O Parinam, p. 51. 124 For outbreaks of anti-Muslim violence in the novel, see Chatterjee, ‘Anandamath’, Bankim Rachanabali, vol. 1, pp. 605, 617, 634. 125 Ibid., p. 618. 126 Ibid., p. 641. 127 Ibid., p. 643. My translation of this passage is adapted from the one in Stephen Hay (ed.), Sources of Indian Tradition, 2 vols, New York: Columbia University Press, 1988, vol. 2, p. 138. 128 Rabindranath Tagore, cited in Bandopadhyay, Anandamath: Rachanar Prerana O Parinam, pp. 48–9. 129 See Chapter 1. 130 On Bengal’s political quiescence in the period in which Bankimchandra wrote his novels, see Sarkar, ‘Imagining Hindurashtra’, pp. 166–9.

5 Conclusion Idolatry, ideology and the nation-state

Political or civil liberty has been erected into an idol, and extolled with extravagant praises by doting and fanatical worshippers. − John Austin, The Province of Jurisprudence Determined

I do not want, or try, to ‘demystify’ things. One day we shall be blamed for our ‘demystification’ by the descendants of those we once colonized. They will say to us: ‘You exalt the creativity of your Dante and your Vergil, but you demystify our mythologies and our religions. Your anthropologists never stop insisting on the socioeconomic presuppositions of our religion or our messianic and millenarist movements, thereby implying that our spiritual creations, unlike yours, never rise above material or political determining factors. In other words, we primitives are incapable of attaining the creative freedom of a Dante or a Vergil’. Such a ‘demystifying’ attitude ought to be arraigned in its turn, on charges of ethnocentrism, of Western ‘provincialism’, and so, ultimately, be ‘demystified’ itself. − Mircea Eliade, Ordeal by Labyrinth

Idolatry, thought of as comprising Indian subjectivities, was conceived by colonial discourse as a belief in ‘things’ and ‘images’, sometimes extended to ‘rituals’, ‘ceremonies’ and ‘practices’ to which could be ascribed a materiality due to their repetitive character. By contrast, a belief in ‘ideas’, whether true or false, was ipso facto thought to reflect the operation of a superior mode of cognition. In what has been described by Louis Althusser as an ‘ideology of ideology’, the Enlightenment held up ‘ideology’, or the sphere of ideas, as a term to be contrasted with ‘idolatry’ and its concomitant ‘superstition’.1 The ideology/idolatry opposition is a restatement of the distinction between idea and image, or signified and signifier, which has been seen by Jacques Derrida as the essential opposition that has been reworked through

194  Conclusion the history of Western metaphysics. Althusser’s theorisation of ‘ideological state apparatuses’, according to which a subject’s ideas are ‘his material actions inserted into material practices governed by material rituals which are themselves defined by the material ideological apparatus from which derive the ideas of that subject’, suggests a fertile way of moving beyond these entrenched oppositions.2 According to this conception, the subject of ideology is as materially determined as the subject of idolatry. The sphere of ideas, regardless of whether they are thought by an ‘idolatrous’ or a rational and ‘modern’ subject, are intimately related to (not opposed to) the subject’s participation in certain material rituals prescribed by ideological apparatuses, which are also material in the sense that they pre-exist the subject and are not freely chosen. Thus, Althusser reads Pascal as saying, regarding Christian belief: ‘Kneel down, move your lips in prayer, and you will believe’, scandalously inverting the priority of belief over practice that is asserted by modern idealism.3 The same can be said about the colonial school. Although T.B. Macaulay thought that the anglicised education disseminated through the colonial educational system would efface idolatry within a generation, the colonial school itself was a material apparatus which provided access to government jobs, and which ritually examined candidates on a standardised curriculum premised on Macaulay’s famous dictum that ‘a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia’.4 The following episode in a colonial classroom in Calcutta, involving the Scottish missionary Alexander Duff, illustrates my point about the colonial school as an ideological apparatus: Duff asked his students to supply the Bengali word for cow, which is goru. He next asked whether they knew another Bengali word resembling it in sound, which happened, of course, to be guru, or Brahmin teacher. Dwelling at ample length on the patterns of similarity in form and sound between the two words, Duff quietly built up to his solemn query about what purpose was served by a guru and whether goru was not more useful than guru.5 Ostensibly meant to be a language catechism, a repetitive ritual through which languages are learnt, Duff’s pedagogy is in reality designed to undermine belief in Brahminical concepts. Ironically, Duff performs here the task of a guru or spiritual teacher himself, just as the colonial school replaced idolatry with ideology. One of the useful effects of adopting Althusser’s notion of ideology is to do away with the ‘problematic of the lie’, or the notion of ideology as

Conclusion 195 fabrication underpinning the colonial discourse on idolatry. This notion accounts for the origin of idolatry by attributing it to conscious fabrication by a wily and self-interested Brahmin priesthood. Likewise, fetish religion in Africa is attributed to the invention of ‘fetish priests’, meant to hold in thrall the rest of the populace. By regarding ideology as the effect of a material apparatus which reproduces itself, Althusser’s notion of ideology elegantly disposes of the problem of the origin of ideology. There is no longer any need to attribute ideology to the conscious action of a subject or a ‘clique’ of rational conspirators; it arises out of insertion into a material apparatus, as in Pascal’s understanding of the genesis of a Christian believer.6 Regardless of the extent to which one might agree or disagree with Althusserian formulations on ideology, it is a fallacy to regard the nonWestern/nonmodern/idolatrous subject as any ‘more’ marked by material objects/images/practices/institutions than the modern subject of reason. William Pietz’s observation on the discourse of fetishism applies equally to that of the idol: ‘The discourse of the fetish [or idol] has always been a critical discourse about the false objective values of a culture from which the speaker is personally distanced.’7 To name someone an idolater is to name an Other, a worshipper of false gods as opposed to the ‘true’ gods that determine one’s own existence. As the Eliade epigraph cited at the head of this chapter warns, a tooquick demystification of the Other runs the risk of being unaware of the material markings which determine one’s own identity and subjecthood, and therefore opens one’s own self up to demystification. ‘Idolatry’ serves as an overdetermining signifier in the colonial imagination of India, thereby itself becoming an instance of what it critiques: a situation where the signifier is made to carry too much weight. Thus, European accounts of idolatry attempt to set up Indian society as a scene of Otherness and difference. But this sense of difference was shared by Bankim as well when he asserted that the concept of ‘religion’ was not applicable to Indian society, paradoxically because it pervaded all of it. Although this difference is essentialised in Bankim’s instance, it is worth querying what elements this sense of difference may consist of. Idolatrous and polytheistic societies are characterised as being simultaneously chaotic, heterogeneous and fissiparous, and promoting despotism and dogmatism. The following passage by sociologist Louis Dumont suggests what might underlie these perceptions: Everyone knows that religion was formerly a matter of the group and has become a matter of the individual (in principle, and in practice at least in many environments and situations). But if we go on to assert

196  Conclusion that this change is correlated with the birth of the modern State, the proposition is not so much a commonplace as the previous one. . . . Once [religion] became an individual affair, it lost its all-embracing capacity and became one among other apparently equal considerations, of which the political was the first born.8 Although Dumont has medieval Christendom in mind when he speaks of the ‘all-embracing capacity’ of religion, or of religion as a matter of the group rather than the individual, this characterisation corresponds with what Bankim has to say about Hinduism. From a post-Reformation point of view religion as an affair of communal practice rather than individual conscience would seem coercive and despotic; this is because idolatrous/ polytheistic/medieval religion arrogated to itself many political functions since performed by the modern state. Given that colonialism introduced into India the idea of the modern state, which it saw as upholding order against the chaos and heterogeneity of indigenous society, idolatry named the otherness of a society that lacked a modern state apparatus. Seen from the point of those who possessed or represented one, idolatrous societies did not conform to the standards of a properly ‘historical’ society following laws of progress, but were subject instead to decay, analogous to the decay that was the lot of the material idol itself. This ideology of idolatry deflects attention from ideologies/idolatries informing the ‘rational’ subjects of a colonial state. It is expressed in an exemplary form by Hegel: ‘in the history of the world, only those peoples can come under our notice which form a state. . . . The State is the Divine Idea as it exists on earth’.9 The false gods of premodern societies must be displaced by this ‘true’ theology of the colonial, or totalitarian, state. In a poem called ‘The New Idol’, Friedrich Nietzsche questions and inverts the priorities informing Hegel’s apotheosis of the state. According to Nietzsche, the new idol is the state itself: A state, is called the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly lieth it also; and this lie creepeth from its mouth: ‘I, the state, am the people’. Destroyers, are they who lay snares for many, and call it the state: they hang a sword and a hundred cravings over them. This sign I give unto you: every people speaketh its language of good and evil: this its neighbour understandeth not. Its language hath it devised for itself in laws and customs. But the state lieth in all languages of good and evil; and whatever it saith it lieth; and whatever it hath it hath stolen.

Conclusion 197 Madmen [worshippers of the state] all seem to me, and clambering apes, and too eager. Badly smelleth their idol to me, the cold monster: badly they all smell to me, these idolaters.10 In this poem, language characterising idolatry and idolaters is turned around on the state. Like the stone idol, the state is a cold, unfeeling monster. Like the putative acts of Brahmin priests in India and fetish priests in Africa, it engenders the absolute lie, and hangs a ‘hundred cravings’ over people to cement its power. It steals from people and induces insanity in its worshippers. Like Nietzsche, Bankim too sets up the nation-state as an idol. But unlike Nietzsche, he assigns to it a positive value. In doing so, Bankim articulates a certain ‘truth’ of modern idolatry, a principal locus of which tends to be the nation-state.11 Placing the nation-state at the interstice between idolatry and ideology, Bankim gestures at the formal equivalence of both. The colonial discourse on idolatry, by instituting a hierarchy between ‘idea’ and ‘image’, ‘belief’ and ‘practice’, could administer a despotism in India in the name of ‘reason’. As by dint of their idolatry very few of colonialism’s native subjects could be deemed in possession of ‘reason’, they could be excluded from power. The language of idolatry, having its origins in theology, carries the baggage of a colonial version of knowledge, which instituted its own theology of reason. As the long political history of the term shows, further use of it may be justified only if its formal equivalence to ideology is fully and explicitly acknowledged. Colonialism may be past, but the high priests of a theology of ‘reason’ are still legion in independent India.

Notes 1 Louis Althusser, ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes Towards an Investigation)’, Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, trans. from French by Ben Brewster, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971, pp. 165–8. 2 Ibid., p. 169. 3 Ibid., p. 168. 4 T.B. Macaulay, ‘Minute on Indian Education’, Selected Writings, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972, p. 241. Macaulay compiled prose readers to be taught in Indian schools (see Gauri Vishwanathan, Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India, London: Faber and Faber, 1990, p. 54). 5 Ibid., p. 58. 6 For Althusser’s comments on the notion of ideology arising out of clique conspiracy, see Althusser, ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’, pp. 162–5.

198  Conclusion 7 William Pietz, ‘The Problem of the Fetish, I’, Res 9, Spring 1985, p. 14. 8 Louis Dumont, ‘Religion, Politics, and Society in the Individualistic Universe’, Proceedings of the Royal Anthropological Institute for 1970, p. 32. 9 G.W.F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History, trans. from German by J. Sibree, New York: Dover Publications, 1956, p. 39. 10 Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘The New Idol’, in Oscar Levy (ed.), The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, 18 vols, New York: Russell & Russell, 1964, vol. 11, pp. 54–6. 11 Benedict Anderson has shown the nation-state to be an ‘imagined community’ that is among the most universally legitimate ideologies of modern times. See Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, London: Verso, 1991.

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202  References ———, The Works of Sir William Jones, Lord Teignmouth (ed.), 13 vols, Delhi: Agam Prakashan, 1977. Kaviraj, Sudipta, The Unhappy Consciousness: Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay and the Formation of Nationalist Discourse in India, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995. Kemp, Wolfgang, The Desire of My Eyes: The Life and Work of John Ruskin, trans. from German by J. van Heurck, London: HarperCollins, 1991. Killingley, Dermot, Rammohan Roy in Hindu and Christian Tradition, Newcastle upon Tyne: Grevatt & Grevatt, 1993. Kipling, Rudyard. ‘Gunga Din’, Gunga Din and Other Favorite Poems, pp. 27–28, New York: Dover Publications, 1990. Kopf, David, British Orientalism and the Bengal Renaissance: The Dynamics of Indian Modernization 1773–1835, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969. Lévi-Strauss, Claude, The Savage Mind, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966. Linschoten, J.H. van, The Voyage of John Huyghen van Linschoten to the East Indies, London: Hakluyt Society, 1885. Lively, Jack and John Rees (eds), Utilitarian Logic and Politics, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978. Ludden, David (ed.), Contesting the Nation: Religion, Community, and the Politics of Democracy in India, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996. Lutyens, Mary (ed.), Effie in Venice, London: John Murray, 1965. Macaulay, T.B., Selected Writings, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972. Maimonides, Moses, The Guide for the Perplexed, trans. from Arabic by M. Friedländer, New York: Dover Publications, 1956. Majeed, Javed, Ungoverned Imaginings: James Mill’s History of British India and Orientalism, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992. Mani, Lata, ‘Contentious Traditions: The Debate on “Sati” in Colonial India’, Recasting Women: Essays in Colonial History, K. Sangari and S. Vaid (eds), pp. 88–126, New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1989. Manuel, Frank E., The Eighteenth Century Confronts the Gods, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959. Marshall, Peter, The British Discovery of Hinduism in the Eighteenth Century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970. Metcalf, Thomas R., Ideologies of the Raj, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Mill, James, The History of British India, 3 vols, New Delhi: Associated Publishing House, 1990. Mill, John Stuart. Autobiography, J. Stillinger (ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971. Mitter, Partha, Much Maligned Monsters: A History of European Reactions to Indian Art, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. Mukerji, Chandra, From Graven Images: Patterns of Modem Materialism, New York: Columbia University Press, 1983.

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204  References Plato, Dialogues of Plato, trans. from Greek by Benjamin Jowett, New York: Washington Square Press, 1950. ———, Phaedrus, trans. from Greek by R. Hackforth, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952. ———, The Republic, trans. from Greek by Desmond Lee, London: Penguin, 1987. Richards, Thomas, The Imperial Archive: Knowledge and the Fantasy of Empire, London: Verso, 1993. Robertson, Bruce, Raja Rammohan Roy: The Father of Modern India, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995. Rocher, Ludo (ed.), Ezourvedam: A French Veda of the Eighteenth Century, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1984. Roy, Rammohan, Dialogue between a Theist and an Idolater, S.N. Hay (ed.), Calcutta: Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay, 1963. ———, The English Works of Raja Rammohun Roy, K. Nag and D. Burman (eds), 7 vols, Calcutta: Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, 1995. ———, Rammohan Rachanabali [Bengali], A. Ghosh (ed.), Calcutta: Haraf, 1973. Ruskin, John, The Complete Works of John Ruskin (The Library Edition), E.T. Cook and A. Wedderburn (eds), 39 vols, London: George Allen, 1903–1912. ———, Unto This Last and Other Writings, London: Penguin Classics, 1985. Salmond, Noel A., Hindu Iconoclasts: Rammohun Roy, Dayananda Sarasvati and 19th Century Polemics Against Idolatry, Calcutta: Sampark, 2004. Saussure, Ferdinand de, Course in General Linguistics, trans. from French by Roy Harris, London: Duckworth, 1983. Sharpe, Jenny, Allegories of Empire: The Figure of Woman in the Colonial Text, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993. ———, ‘The Violence of Light in the Land of Desire; or, How William Jones Discovered India’, Boundary 2, vol. 20, no. 1 (Spring 1993), pp. 26–46. Shore, John, Memoirs of the Life and Correspondence of Baron Teignmouth, by His Son (Charles Shore), 2 vols, London: Hatchard & Son, 1843. Sontheimer, G.D. and H. Kulke (eds), Hinduism Reconsidered, Delhi: Manohar, 1991. Spielberg, Steven. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Hollywood: Paramount Pictures, 1984. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, ‘Response to Jean-Luc Nancy’, Thinking Bodies, J.F. MacCannell and L. Zakarin (eds), pp. 32–51, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994. ———, ‘Subaltern Studies: Deconstructing Historiography’, Selected Subaltern Studies, Ranajit Guha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (eds), pp. 3–32, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. St. Augustine, City of God, trans. from Latin by Henry Bettenson, London: Penguin, 1984. ———, On Christian Doctrine, trans. from Latin by J.F. Shaw, New York: Dover Publications, 2009.

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Websites www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-34090536 www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=main&id=indianajonesandthetemple ofdoom.htm www.rottentomatoes.com/m/indiana_jones_and_the_temple_of_doom/ www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYYBlPWYb7Y

Index

allegory 4, 17 – 18, 41, 123, 142; see also metaphor Althusser, Louis 15, 46, 193 – 5 animism 66 – 7, 119, 133 Benares 85, 114 Bentham, Jeremy 21, 99, 158; see also utility, utilitarianism Bible 72, 97, 108 – 9, 122 – 3, 125, 153 – 4,  165 body in art 4, 38 – 9, 42; see also carnival Brahmin priests 29, 35, 115, 117, 160, 163; orality and 82; guru and goru (cow) 194; Mill’s view of 35; Müller’s view of 63, 87, 92; spiritual fraud and 3 – 4, 12 – 13, 24 – 7,  197 Brosses, Charles de 66, 71, 73, 77 – 8,  92 carnival 116, 119, 123, 144 – 5, 150, 164, 182 – 3 caste 2, 20, 63, 114 – 5, 163 – 4,  177 Chaitanya 163 – 4, 176; see also Shankara Christ, Jesus 27, 33 – 4, 51, 80, 120, 124 – 7, 135, 166 – 7 civilising mission 2, 23, 29, 118, 123, 157 Clapham Sect 7, 123 – 4, 156 Colebrooke, H.T. 30, 34 – 5, 159, 173, 175 colour 105 – 8, 117, 119, 132 – 3, 139 – 40,  147

Derrida, Jacques 14 – 15, 40 – 1, 61, 82, 107, 179; Western metaphysics 5 – 6, 19 – 20, 193 – 4; see also Saussure devil, diabolic 69, 102, 112, 125, 143, 148, 177 Dubois, Abbé J.A. 4, 6, 12 – 14, 17, 170; Mill and 18, 68 Dumont, Louis 195 – 6 East India Company 13, 28, 56, 156, 158, 181, 183; colleges and curriculum of 35, 43 – 6; support for Müller of 71, 93 English education 57, 156, 168 – 9, 185 – 6,  194 Enlightenment 26, 63, 66, 75, 100, 142, 193; colonialism and 71; idolatry and 2 – 5, 8, 11, 170; psychologising of religion and 35; Rammohan and 158, 168, 186; theology and 10, 28 erotic, eroticism 11, 37 – 8, 138, 140 – 1; Bankim and 179, 182; Christianity and 123 – 8; sacred and 42, 134, 164 Ezourvedam 26 – 8, 30, 48, 115, 128; Müller’s Veda and 63, 89; Rammohan and 166 – 8 fetish 2 – 6, 119, 123, 132 – 3, 136, 161, 174 – 5, 180; fraud and the 63 – 71; progress in religion and the 71 – 4, 77, 97, 177 – 8; Ruskin and the 110, 133; slavery and the 3, 8 – 9, 71, 79

Index  207 Foucault, Michel 75, 122, 192 fraud 3 – 4, 25 – 6, 28, 49, 92, 173; see also fetish gayatri mantra 30 – 1, 34, 160 golden age, subsequent decline 27 – 8, 35, 51, 78, 121, 157, 164, 182 Gothic art, Gothic style 100, 105, 109, 122, 133, 146, 178; idols in 4, 38, 181 grotesque 1, 116, 145, 150, 176; noble and barbarous 98 – 9, 103 – 5 gymnosophist 29, 83, 170 Hafiz 41 – 2 Hegel, G.W.F. 8, 15, 60, 64, 66; Bankim and 170, 181, 184 – 6; colonial subject and 9; Mill and 93; Müller and 86, 89 – 91; Rammohan and 158, 161; Ruskin and 107, 111 – 12; state as divine idea 196 high and low 117 – 18, 138, 142 – 3, 163 – 5,  183 Hindu-Muslim difference 45, 55, 69 – 70, 93, 183 – 4 ideological apparatuses 194 – 5 ideology 5, 15 – 16, 24, 134, 186, 193 – 7 imagination 3, 45, 56, 105; Enlightenment psychology and 7 – 9, 15; India/Asia/Orient and 32 – 3, 102 – 3, 130, 132; idolatry and 44, 54, 101, 108, 124, 170; reason and 19, 58, 131, 153; see also reason Indian nationalism 89, 157, 168, 184, 186 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom 1 – 2, 8, 12, 120; allegory of Plato’s cave in 4 – 5, 142; worship of Kali in 7 – 8, 29, 138 Indology, Indological 11, 24, 28, 34, 70, 121, 145, 175 Judeo-Christian God 4, 39 – 40 Kali 1, 4, 7, 15, 29, 116, 138 Krishna 37 – 9, 42, 51 – 2, 120, 139, 144 – 5; Radha and 134 – 5, 163, 173 – 5, 179 – 80

language 41 – 3, 66, 77, 85, 190; idolatry and 17, 25, 35, 74, 164; instrumentalist view of 11, 34, 51, 53, 171; Müller’s view of 56 – 61, 72 – 3, 78, 86 – 7; rejection of Indian 10, 19, 45, 69 levity in religion 135, 164 logos and logocentrism 6, 25, 28, 32, 90, 125; logos and materiality 39 – 41, 45; opposition to mythos 15, 18 – 20 Macaulay, T.B. 156, 169, 194, 197 Marabar caves 120, 130, 136, 140 – 5, 154 marriage 113, 121 – 2, 130, 140,  148 metaphor 37, 41 – 2, 77 – 8, 83, 171; colonial hierarchy through spatial 139 – 40; idolatry and 2, 17, 94; sun/son as 30 – 4, 107; see also allegory modernism 76, 99 monism 159, 173 monotheism 33 – 5, 39, 159; Ezourvedam and 26, 166; the state and 45 – 6, 156; three stages of religion and 8, 66, 71, 74, 77; see also polytheism muddle 132, 134 – 6 Mutiny 56, 98, 100, 102, 118, 147 Nietzsche, Friedrich 15, 49, 90, 196 – 7 Oriental, Orientalism 106 – 7, 120, 155, 159, 171 – 2, 176, 191; A Passage to India and 130, 132, 135 – 6, 143; Jones and 10, 23, 41 – 2, 47 – 8, 50, 186 – 7; Mill and 34, 55; Müller and 57, 59, 63, 69 – 70, 84 – 5, 88, 91; Rammohan and 157, 160, 168, 188 pagan, paganism 23 – 4, 30, 35, 54, 105, 119, 170; Anne Crivener as 114, 118; eroticism and 11, 99; eternity of matter and 40 – 1; ‘The Life to Come’ and 123 – 6 peat cottage and ivory palace 100 – 1,  103

208 Index Pietz, William 2 – 6, 65, 74, 195; see also fetish Plato 19, 30, 58, 61; eidos/eidolon split 2, 4 – 5, 44; speech and writing 6, 24, 82 – 3; philosopher king 20 – 1; simile of the sun 22, 31 – 4, 69, 107, 159 – 60 poetry 8 – 9, 31 – 2, 41 – 2, 103, 130 – 3,  174 polytheism 27, 156, 185; Christianity and 33, 177; progress and 8, 66, 71, 77; relation to idolatry 6, 18; the state and 43 – 6; varieties of 74 – 6, 173; see also monotheism Protestant 24, 27, 91, 108, 165, 177 Puranas 26, 32, 173, 179 – 80 reason 2 – 3, 11, 68, 91, 119, 149, 158, 174; Christianity and 33 – 4, 167; deities of 56; despotism, the state and 45, 197; Europe and 32, 128, 132, 143; Ezourvedam and 26; idolatry and 133 – 4, 175, 195; imagination and 8 – 10, 19, 44, 58, 131, 153, 170 – 1; Rammohan and 160 – 2, 168, 186; signifier and 5, 18, 37, 86; see also imagination reform 8 – 9, 24, 27 – 8, 87 – 9, 97, 122 – 3, 156 – 7; Rammohan and 160 – 1, 167 – 8, 178,  186 renaissance 157, 187; Renaissance style 100, 133, 146 revelation 5, 17, 22 – 4, 34 – 6, 72 reversible reading 26, 33, 42, 167 romantic 83; Romantic movement 100, 102 Salsette and Elephanta 101 – 2, 104 – 5, 142,  145 Saussure, Ferdinand de 14, 41, 57 – 60, 65; see also Derrida savagery, concept of 65, 92, 109 – 11 sensible and intelligible 5, 13, 19, 44, 69, 78 sensory image 11, 18, 43, 124, 128, 133, 170; see also sensible and intelligible; body in art Shankara, 158 – 9, 163, 173, 188 – 9; see also Chaitanya

signifier and signified 5, 18, 57 – 8, 164, 193; Christian sign 30, 35, 37, 45; fetishism and the signifier 65, 74; God as transcendental signified 23; idolatry and the signifier 11, 85, 130, 133, 140, 143, 195 sin 44, 75, 104, 109, 117, 126 – 7, 151, 164; see also transgression Spivak, Gayatri 136 – 7, 158 – 9 Stallybrass, Peter and Allon White 116 – 8, 138 – 9,  145 subaltern, subalternity 11, 78, 136 – 42, 157, 163 – 4 subject, subjectivity 10, 15 – 16, 28, 44, 46, 111 – 13, 119; African 3, 67, 71; Aryan 73, 85, 94, 121; colonial 2, 9, 56 – 7, 88, 156 – 7, 168 – 9, 186, 197; God as 18, 36 – 7, 39, 78; idolatrous versus autonomous/moral 7 – 8, 25, 45, 89, 120, 138 – 41, 161 – 2, 193 – 6; reformist/nationalist 176, 178, 180, 182 – 3; transcendental 5, 12, 116; Western, Judeo-Christian 72, 84 – 5, 121, 142, 166 – 7 superstition 3, 12, 124, 157, 178, 193 symbolic inversion 143, 164 transgression 37, 75, 118, 122, 134 – 5, 164, 174; see also sin trinity 33, 120, 166 – 7 uncanny 84 – 5, 121, 141 Upanishad 89, 158 utility, utilitarianism 73, 75, 182; Anne Crivener and 113, 119; Mill and 19 – 21, 36, 99; Rammohan and 158, 167 – 8 Veda 74, 80, 84, 96, 158, 167, 173, 187; Rig Veda 30, 56 – 7, 61 – 3, 71, 73, 88 – 9, 93 – 4 Vedanta, Advaita Vedanta 159, 165, 168, 173, 188 – 9, 191 Venice 109 – 11, 132 – 4, 149,  153 Voltaire 26 – 9 Ward, William 4, 6 – 7, 68