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Home -> Mark Twain -> Following the Equator -> Chapter 12

Following the Equator - Chapter 12

1. Contents

2. Chapter 1

3. Chapter 2

4. Chapter 3

5. Chapter 4

6. Chapter 5

7. Chapter 6

8. Chapter 7

9. Chapter 8

10. Chapter 9

11. Chapter 10

12. Chapter 11

13. Chapter 12

14. Chapter 13

15. Chapter 14

16. Chapter 15

17. Chapter 16

18. Chapter 17

19. Chapter 18

20. Chapter 19

21. Chapter 20

22. Chapter 21

23. Chapter 22

24. Chapter 23

25. Chapter 24

26. Chapter 25

27. Chapter 26

28. Chapter 27

29. Chapter 28

30. Chapter 29

31. Chapter 30

32. Chapter 31

33. Chapter 32

34. Chapter 33

35. Chapter 34

36. Chapter 35

37. Chapter 36

38. Chapter 37

39. Chapter 38

40. Chapter 39

41. Chapter 40

42. Chapter 41

43. Chapter 42

44. Chapter 43

45. Chapter 44

46. Chapter 45

47. Chapter 46

48. Chapter 47

49. Chapter 48

50. Chapter 49

51. Chapter 50

52. Chapter 51

53. Chapter 52

54. Chapter 53

55. Chapter 54

56. Chapter 55

57. Chapter 56

58. Chapter 57

59. Chapter 58

60. Chapter 59

61. Chapter 60

62. Chapter 61

63. Chapter 62

64. Chapter 63

65. Chapter 64

66. Chapter 65

67. Chapter 66

68. Chapter 67

69. Chapter 68

70. Chapter 69

71. Conclusion


There are those who scoff at the schoolboy, calling him frivolous and
shallow: Yet it was the schoolboy who said "Faith is believing what you
know ain't so."
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

In Sydney I had a large dream, and in the course of talk I told it to a
missionary from India who was on his way to visit some relatives in New
Zealand. I dreamed that the visible universe is the physical person of
God; that the vast worlds that we see twinkling millions of miles apart
in the fields of space are the blood corpuscles in His veins; and that we
and the other creatures are the microbes that charge with multitudinous
life the corpuscles.

Mr. X., the missionary, considered the dream awhile, then said:

"It is not surpassable for magnitude, since its metes and bounds are
the metes and bounds of the universe itself; and it seems to me that
it almost accounts for a thing which is otherwise nearly
unaccountable--the origin of the sacred legends of the Hindoos.
Perhaps they dream them, and then honestly believe them to be divine
revelations of fact. It looks like that, for the legends are built
on so vast a scale that it does not seem reasonable that plodding
priests would happen upon such colossal fancies when awake."

He told some of the legends, and said that they were implicitly believed
by all classes of Hindoos, including those of high social position and
intelligence; and he said that this universal credulity was a great
hindrance to the missionary in his work. Then he said something like

"At home, people wonder why Christianity does not make faster
progress in India. They hear that the Indians believe easily, and
that they have a natural trust in miracles and give them a
hospitable reception. Then they argue like this: since the Indian
believes easily, place Christianity before them and they must
believe; confirm its truths by the biblical miracles, and they will
no longer doubt, The natural deduction is, that as Christianity
makes but indifferent progress in India, the fault is with us: we
are not fortunate in presenting the doctrines and the miracles.

"But the truth is, we are not by any means so well equipped as they
think. We have not the easy task that they imagine. To use a
military figure, we are sent against the enemy with good powder in
our guns, but only wads for bullets; that is to say, our miracles
are not effective; the Hindoos do not care for them; they have more
extraordinary ones of their own. All the details of their own
religion are proven and established by miracles; the details of ours
must be proven in the same way. When I first began my work in India
I greatly underestimated the difficulties thus put upon my task. A
correction was not long in coming. I thought as our friends think
at home--that to prepare my childlike wonder-lovers to listen with
favor to my grave message I only needed to charm the way to it with
wonders, marvels, miracles. With full confidence I told the wonders
performed by Samson, the strongest man that had ever lived--for so I
called him.

"At first I saw lively anticipation and strong interest in the faces
of my people, but as I moved along from incident to incident of the
great story, I was distressed to see that I was steadily losing the
sympathy of my audience. I could not understand it. It was a
surprise to me, and a disappointment. Before I was through, the
fading sympathy had paled to indifference. Thence to the end the
indifference remained; I was not able to make any impression upon

"A good old Hindoo gentleman told me where my trouble lay. He said
'We Hindoos recognize a god by the work of his hands--we accept no
other testimony. Apparently, this is also the rule with you
Christians. And we know when a man has his power from a god by the
fact that he does things which he could not do, as a man, with the
mere powers of a man. Plainly, this is the Christian's way also, of
knowing when a man is working by a god's power and not by his own.
You saw that there was a supernatural property in the hair of
Samson; for you perceived that when his hair was gone he was as
other men. It is our way, as I have said. There are many nations
in the world, and each group of nations has its own gods, and will
pay no worship to the gods of the others. Each group believes its
own gods to be strongest, and it will not exchange them except for
gods that shall be proven to be their superiors in power. Man is
but a weak creature, and needs the help of gods--he cannot do
without it. Shall he place his fate in the hands of weak gods when
there may be stronger ones to be found? That would be foolish. No,
if he hear of gods that are stronger than his own, he should not
turn a deaf ear, for it is not a light matter that is at stake. How
then shall he determine which gods are the stronger, his own or
those that preside over the concerns of other nations? By comparing
the known works of his own gods with the works of those others;
there is no other way. Now, when we make this comparison, we are
not drawn towards the gods of any other nation. Our gods are shown
by their works to be the strongest, the most powerful. The
Christians have but few gods, and they are new--new, and not strong;
as it seems to us. They will increase in number, it is true, for
this has happened with all gods, but that time is far away, many
ages and decades of ages away, for gods multiply slowly, as is meet
for beings to whom a thousand years is but a single moment. Our own
gods have been born millions of years apart. The process is slow,
the gathering of strength and power is similarly slow. In the slow
lapse of the ages the steadily accumulating power of our gods has at
last become prodigious. We have a thousand proofs of this in the
colossal character of their personal acts and the acts of ordinary
men to whom they have given supernatural qualities. To your Samson
was given supernatural power, and when he broke the withes, and slew
the thousands with the jawbone of an ass, and carried away the
gate's of the city upon his shoulders, you were amazed--and also
awed, for you recognized the divine source of his strength. But it
could not profit to place these things before your Hindoo
congregation and invite their wonder; for they would compare them
with the deed done by Hanuman, when our gods infused their divine
strength into his muscles; and they would be indifferent to them--as
you saw. In the old, old times, ages and ages gone by, when our god
Rama was warring with the demon god of Ceylon, Rama bethought him to
bridge the sea and connect Ceylon with India, so that his armies
might pass easily over; and he sent his general, Hanuman, inspired
like your own Samson with divine strength, to bring the materials
for the bridge. In two days Hanuman strode fifteen hundred miles,
to the Himalayas, and took upon his shoulder a range of those lofty
mountains two hundred miles long, and started with it toward Ceylon.
It was in the night; and, as he passed along the plain, the people
of Govardhun heard the thunder of his tread and felt the earth
rocking under it, and they ran out, and there, with their snowy
summits piled to heaven, they saw the Himalayas passing by. And as
this huge continent swept along overshadowing the earth, upon its
slopes they discerned the twinkling lights of a thousand sleeping
villages, and it was as if the constellations were filing in
procession through the sky. While they were looking, Hanuman
stumbled, and a small ridge of red sandstone twenty miles long was
jolted loose and fell. Half of its length has wasted away in the
course of the ages, but the other ten miles of it remain in the
plain by Govardhun to this day as proof of the might of the
inspiration of our gods. You must know, yourself, that Hanuman
could not have carried those mountains to Ceylon except by the
strength of the gods. You know that it was not done by his own
strength, therefore, you know that it was done by the strength of
the gods, just as you know that Samson carried the gates by the
divine strength and not by his own. I think you must concede two
things: First, That in carrying the gates of the city upon his
shoulders, Samson did not establish the superiority of his gods over
ours; secondly, That his feat is not supported by any but verbal
evidence, while Hanuman's is not only supported by verbal evidence,
but this evidence is confirmed, established, proven, by visible,
tangible evidence, which is the strongest of all testimony. We have
the sandstone ridge, and while it remains we cannot doubt, and shall
not. Have you the gates?'"

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