Saturday, June 27, 2009

Alphabet of the nations...

I just picked up Wendy Doniger's "The Hindus: An Alternative History." Huge, controversial, and, so far, showing an excellent sense of humor, the book purports to illuminate how the Hindu religion has changed and, especially, how it was influenced, practiced, and felt by groups usually not included in the history books.
The Boston Unitarians, of course, were among the first Americans to take seriously the scriptures of other traditions. Much has been written about Thoreau's attractions to the "Laws of Manu" and other early translations. The Dial magazine, the house organ of transcendentalism, for a time had a regular section for "oriental" scripture. Though they often were textbook examples of what Edward Said called "Orientalism," their promotion and engagement with the texts was sincere...

This from Moncure Conway (pictured) on Emerson on Scripture:

"Emerson was among the earliest students of Oriental scriptures, from which some of the finest passages were inserted in the " Dial." In the paper which we have been mainly reading, " Thoughts on Literature," he writes: " The Bible is the most original book in the world. This old collection of the ejaculations of love and dread, of the supreme desires and contritions of men, proceeding out of the region of the grand and eternal, by whatsoever different mouths spoken, and through a wide extent of times and countries, seems, especially if you add to our canon the kindred sacred writings of the Hindoos, Persians, and Greeks, the alphabet of the nations."


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