The Spalding Trust and the Union for the Study of the Great

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

The Spalding Trust and the Union for the Study of the Great

Postby admin » Mon Apr 08, 2019 1:37 am

The Spalding Trust and the Union for the Study of the Great Religions: H.N. Spalding's Pioneering Vision
by Edward Hulmes
© Edward Hulmes, 2002

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FRONTISPIECE. Henry Norman Spalding in the sitting room at 'Bell Cliff'. Lyme Regis, April 1936

'It is not enough today for mankind to seek to avoid a Third World War, necessary as that is; we must prepare for -- must lay the foundations of -- the First World Renaissance that mankind has ever known ... God reveals Himself in many ways, depending on the social circumstances of the various peoples. It is man's task today, while adhering to the inessentials so far as they still help him, to look within and to see the essentials -- the Divine Nature and man's Way of Return to It. As we all draw nearer the One, though from many different and it may be distant points, we shall all draw nearer to one another. A knowledge and love of the One God will bind the sons of God together in the Kingdom of God. Union with Him and with all things in Him is the goal of mankind and of the universe here and hereafter.' 1

-- H. N. Spalding, born 1877


'For me the most important spiritual experiences are connected with the fact that gradually and with pauses of years and decades I found the same interpretation of human life among the Hindus, the Chinese, and the Christians, I was confirmed in my intuition of a central problem, which I found expressed everywhere in analogous symbols. These experiences supported more strongly than anything else my belief that mankind has a meaning, that human need and human searching at all times and throughout the whole world are a unity. It is unimportant from the point of view whether we regard, as many do today, the religious-philosophical expression of human thinking and experience as something outmoded, an exercise of an epoch now outdated. It does not matter to me if what I am here calling 'theology' is transient, a product of one stage of human development that someday will be superseded and left behind. Art too and even speech are perhaps means of communication that are appropriate only to certain stages in human history and they also may become obsolescent and replaceable. But at each stage nothing will be so important to men, it seems to me, in their search for truth, nothing will be so valuable and comforting as the realization that beneath the division in race, colour, language, and culture there lies a unity, that there are not various peoples and minds but only One Humanity, only One Spirit.' 2

-- Hermann Hesse, born 1877


Table of Contents:

• List of Illustrations
• Acknowledgements
• Foreword by the Revd Professor Ernest W. Nicholson DO FBA
• Preface
• 1. The Partnership
• 2. 'The Renaissance of the Future'
• 3. 'A Practical Dreamer and a Poet'
• 4. Unfulfilled Plans and Frustrated Aims
• 5. The General Secretary, the Union, and the Trust
• 6. Continuing the Work of the Trust
• Appendices
• 1. Directions to the Trustees
• 2. Co-ordinating Committee of the USGR
• 3. Spalding Trustees and Secretaries
• Bibliography
• Index
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Re: The Spalding Trust and the Union for the Study of the Gr

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Abbreviations

BNC: Brasenose College, Oxford
CEW: H. N. Spalding's Civilization in East and West: An Introduction to the Study of Human Progress
HFP: Henderson Family Papers
HNS: Henry Norman Spalding
IPL: H. N. Spalding's book, In Praise of Life
JMKS: John M. K. Spalding
KDDH: Kenneth D. D. Henderson
NUSGR: K. D. D. Henderson's News Letters for members of the Union for the Study of the Great Religions
OCA: Oriel College Archives, Oxford
SFP: Spalding Family Papers
STP: Spalding Trust Papers
TDU: H. N. Spalding's book, The Divine Universe, or the Many and the One: A Study of Religions and Religion
USGR: The Union for the Study of the Great Religions
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Re: The Spalding Trust and the Union for the Study of the Gr

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List of Illustrations

Henry Norman Spalding in the sitting room at 'Bell Cliff', Lyme Regis, April 1936 frontispiece
Dr John M. K. Spalding, son of the founder of the Union and the Trust
Dr Elizabeth de Carteret Spalding
H. N. Spalding (standing, centre) 'entertains Sidney Sussex at tea' at Henley, a photograph taken and captioned by W. T. S. Stallybrass on 30 June 1914
H. N. Spalding at Henley regatta, a photograph taken by W. T. S. Stallybrass on 1 July 1914
H. N. Spalding's family tree
'Shotover Cleve', the Spaldings' new house, built in 1925 at Oxford. The photograph was taken by W. T. S. Stallybrass
Bathers at Parson's Pleasure, Oxford, photographed in the mid-1930s
H. N. Spalding's plan for the interior of an 'Asia House' at Oxford
K. D. D. Henderson reviewing a farewell parade at El Fasher, on his retirement as Governor of Darfur, Western Provinces, the Sudan, in 1953
Mr. and Mrs Henderson at 'Orchard House', Steeple Langford, 1983
K. D. D. Henderson at work on the text of his book The Sudan Republic
The General Secretary of the Union, K. D. D. Henderson (right of picture), about to present the Mace donated in memory of Mr and Mrs H. N. Spalding to the Chancellor of the University of the Punjab, Lahore, at the special Convocation of the University held on 30 December 1957
Anne C. Spalding, grand-daughter of H. N. Spalding, and now Chairman of the Spalding Trust
The Spalding Trustees, on the occasion of the retirement of Dr John Spalding and his wife, Dr Elizabeth Spalding, photographed after lunch in Robinson College, Cambridge, after the fifty-second Annual General Meeting, 13 May 2000
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Re: The Spalding Trust and the Union for the Study of the Gr

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Acknowledgements

For their invitation and encouragement to write this book I am grateful to my Spalding Trust colleagues, Dr John Spalding, his wife Dr Elizabeth Spalding, their daughter Miss Anne Spalding MA, Professor J. A. Emerton, Professor C. E. Bosworth, Dr Michael Loewe, Dr Julius Lipner, and Dr Humphrey Fisher. The book is respectfully dedicated to Dr John Spalding and his wife. It has been my privilege to enjoy their friendship for the past thirty years. They, more than anyone else, have provided me with detailed information about the life and career of Dr H. N. Spalding, and the history of the Spalding Trust.

I would also like to record my thanks to Mr David Henderson MA for providing me with access to the papers of his father, K. D. D. Henderson CMG, MA, the first and last General Secretary of the Union for the Study of the Great Religions (USGR) and Secretary of the Spalding Trust from 1953 to 1986. I also pay tribute to the late Professor Mary Lago of the Department of English in the University of Missouri, whose biography of Edward John Thompson -- a man for whom H. N. Spalding provided the funding for a Senior Research Fellowship at Oxford in the 1930s at my own College, Oriel -- opened up several interesting lines of enquiry.

For her help in directing me to unpublished material about H. N. and K. J. Spalding in the archives of Oriel College and Brasenose College, Oxford, I am grateful to the Archivist, Mrs Elizabeth Boardman. My wife, Mrs S. D. L. M. Hulmes, and my daughter, Mrs Rosalind P. Kenrick BA, have offered constructive comments throughout. Others have offered information, criticisms, and counsel. Their assistance is acknowledged in appropriate places in the text.

For their help in bringing the book to publication I wish to thank the staffs of the Memoir Club and Carnegie Book Production; also the Steward, Administrative Staff, and Porters of Oriel College.

Edward Hulmes,
Oxford, 2002
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Re: The Spalding Trust and the Union for the Study of the Gr

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Foreword

In the early years of the twentieth century the study of the great religions of the world was neither as well established nor as fashionable in this country as it is today. The promotion of interest in this important area of human knowledge and experience was the task to which Henry Norman Spalding devoted his life at the end of the First World War.

Spalding's pioneering venture led to the founding of the Trust that bears his name, and which continues its work to this day by providing limited financial assistance for scholars working in the field of Religious Studies. His vision of the essential unity that lies beneath the outward differences of name and form in the religions of the world led him shortly before his death in 1953 to found the Union for the Study of the Great Religions (USGR), with its representatives and area committees in different parts of the world.

This book gives an account, based on hitherto unpublished sources, of the origins and development of the Spalding Trust and the Union, but more importantly perhaps, it gives an account for the first time of the lives of Spalding (who was almost universally known as 'HN') and K. D. D. ('Bill') Henderson, who shared HN's vision and sought to implement his ideals. They, without question, were the leading figures in the history of both organisations. Spalding was an Oxford scholar, philosopher, poet, and benefactor who, with the constant support of his wife, used his talents and resources in the service of his ideals. Henderson, who took over the day to day running of the Trust and the Union in the year of Spalding's death, brought to the task his experience in the Sudan Political Service as an administrator and a provincial Governor.

Both Spalding and Henderson were Oxford men to the core. Several Oxford colleges (Oriel among them) benefited from Spalding's generosity. In the years shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War he financed a Research Fellowship in Indian Studies at the College, and for a number of years he enjoyed a personal friendship with a former Provost, Sir David Ross. Only last year a file of correspondence about the promotion of the study of world religions in Oxford and elsewhere, especially the religions of the East, was discovered by the author of this book in the archives of Oriel.

Other Oxford colleges, notably Brasenose and Pembroke, were helped in many ways as a result of Spalding's generosity. However, the best known benefaction he and his wife made to Oxford must be the resources they provided for the establishment of the Spalding Chair in Eastern Religions and Ethics, the first occupant of which was Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. This unique position is associated with a fellowship at All Souls College. With personal donations and gifts, but above all with his tireless and powerful advocacy, Spalding sought to encourage other universities, colleges, institutions, and individuals in many different parts of the world to promote the study of aspects of religious belief and experience.

All Souls College at Oxford University was the base for Round Table operations in England.

-- Terrorism and the Illuminati: A Three Thousand Year History, by David Livingston


Through the League of Nations, where the influence of the Milner Group was very great, the RIIA was able to extend its intellectual influence into countries outside the Commonwealth. This was done, for example, through the Intellectual Cooperation Organization of the League of Nations. This Organization consisted of two chief parts: (a) The International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation, an advisory body; and (b) The International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation, an executive organ of the Committee, with headquarters in Paris. The International Committee had about twenty members from various countries; Gilbert Murray was its chief founder and was chairman from 1928 to its disbandment in 1945. The International Institute was established by the French government and handed over to the League of Nations (1926). Its director was always a Frenchman, but its deputy director and guiding spirit was Alfred Zimmern from 1926 to 1930. It also had a board of directors of six persons; Gilbert Murray was one of these from 1926.

It is interesting to note that from 1931 to 1939 the Indian representative on the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation was Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. In 1931 he was George V Professor of Philosophy at Calcutta University. His subsequent career is interesting. He was knighted in 1931, became Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics at Oxford in 1936, and became a Fellow of All Souls in 1944.

Beginning in 1928 at Berlin, Professor Zimmern organized annual round-table discussion meetings under the auspices of the International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation. These were called the International Studies Conferences and devoted themselves to an effort to obtain different national points of view on international problems.
The members of the Studies Conferences were twenty-five organizations. Twenty of these were Coordinating Committees created for the purpose in twenty different countries. The other five were the following international organizations: The Academy of International Law at The Hague; The European Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; the Geneva School of International Studies; the Graduate Institute of International Studies at Geneva; the Institute of Pacific Relations. In two of these five, the influence of the Milner Group and its close allies was preponderant. In addition, the influence of the Group was decisive in the Coordinating Committees within the British Commonwealth, especially in the British Coordinating Committee for International Studies. The members of this committee were named by four agencies, three of which were controlled by the Milner Group. They were: (1) the RIIA, (2) the London School of Economics and Political Science, (3) the Department of International Politics at University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and (4) the Montague Burton Chair of International Relations at Oxford. We have already indicated that the Montague Burton Chair was largely controlled by the Milner Group, since the Group always had a preponderance on the board of electors to that chair. This was apparently not assured by the original structure of this board, and it was changed in the middle 1930s. After the change, the board had seven electors: (1) the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford, ex officio; (2) the Master of Balliol, ex officio; (3) Viscount Cecil of Chelwood; (4) Gilbert Murray, for life; (5) B. H. Sumner; (6) Sir Arthur Salter; and (7) Sir. J. Fischer Williams of New College. Thus, at least four of this board were members of the Group. In 1947 the electoral board to the Montague Burton Professorship consisted of R. M. Barrington-Ward (editor of The Times); Miss Agnes Headlam-Morley (daughter of Sir James Headlam-Morley of the Group); Sir Arthur Salter; R. C. K. Ensor; and one vacancy, to be filled by Balliol College. It was this board, apparently, that named Miss Headlam-Morley to the Montague Burton Professorship when E. L. Woodward resigned in 1947. As can be seen, the Milner Group influence was predominant, with only one member out of five (Ensor) clearly not of the Group.

The RIIA had the right to name three persons to the Coordinating Committee. Two of these were usually of the Milner Group. In 1933, for example, the three were Lord Meston, Clement Jones, and Toynbee.

The meetings of the International Studies Conferences were organized in a fashion identical with that used in other meetings controlled by the Milner Group — for example, in the unofficial conferences on British Commonwealth relations — and the proceedings were published by the Institute of Intellectual Cooperation in a similar way to those of the unofficial conferences just mentioned, except that the various speakers were identified by name. As examples of the work which the International Studies Conferences handled, we might mention that at the fourth and fifth sessions (Copenhagen in 1931 and Milan in 1932), they examined the problem of "The State and Economic Life"; at the seventh and eighth session (Paris in 1934 and London in 1935), they examined the problem of "Collective Security"; and at the ninth and tenth sessions (Madrid in 1936 and Paris 1937) they examined the problem of "University Teaching of International Relations."

In all of these conferences the Milner Group played a certain part. They could have monopolized the British delegations at these meetings if they had wished, but, with typical Milner Group modesty they made no effort to do so. Their influence appeared most clearly at the London meeting of 1935. Thirty-nine delegates from fourteen countries assembled at Chatham House to discuss the problem of collective security. Great Britain had ten delegates. They were Dr. Hugh Dalton, Professor H. Lauterpacht, Captain Liddell Hart, Lord Lytton, Professor A. D. McNair, Professor C. A. W. Manning, Dr. David Mitrany, Rear Admiral H. G. Thursfield, Arnold J. Toynbee, and Professor C. K. Webster. In addition, the Geneva School of International Studies sent two delegates: J. H. Richardson and A. E. Zimmern. The British delegation presented three memoranda to the conference. The first, a study of "Sanctions," was prepared by the RIIA and has been published since. The second, a study of "British Opinion on Collective Security," was prepared by the British Coordinating Committee. The third, a collection of "British Views on Collective Security," was prepared by the delegates. It had an introduction by Meston and nine articles, of which one was by G. M. Gathorne-Hardy and one by H. V. Hodson. Zimmern also presented a memorandum on behalf of the Geneva School. Opening speeches were made by Austen Chamberlain, Allen W. Dulles (of the Council on Foreign Relations), and Louis Eisenmann of the University of Paris. Closing speeches were made by Lord Meston, Allen Dulles, and Gilbert Murray. Meston acted as president of the conference, and Dulles as chairman of the study meetings. The proceedings were edited and published by a committee of two Frenchmen and A. J. Toynbee.....

This brief sketch of the Royal Institute of International Affairs does not by any means indicate the very considerable influence which the organization exerts in English- speaking countries in the sphere to which it is devoted. The extent of that influence must be obvious. The purpose of this chapter has been something else: to show that the Milner Group controls the Institute. Once that is established, the picture changes. The influence of Chatham House appears in its true perspective, not as the influence of an autonomous body but as merely one of many instruments in the arsenal of another power. When the influence which the Institute wields is combined with that controlled by the Milner Group in other fields — in education, in administration, in newspapers and periodicals — a really terrifying picture begins to emerge.... The picture is terrifying because such power, whatever the goals at which it may be directed, is too much to be entrusted safely to any group. That it was too much to be safely entrusted to the Milner Group will appear quite clearly in Chapter 12. No country that values its safety should allow what the Milner Group accomplished in Britain — that is, that a small number of men should be able to wield such power in administration and politics, should be given almost complete control over the publication of the documents relating to their actions, should be able to exercise such influence over the avenues of information that create public opinion, and should be able to monopolize so completely the writing and the teaching of the history of their own period.


-- The Anglo-American Establishment: From Rhodes to Cliveden, by Carroll Quigley


The cause to which Spalding devoted his life took on still more significance and, indeed, urgency as the twentieth century moved on. The peoples, nations and religions who in the early twentieth century seemed far away from each other are in our modern world brought much closer together by modern communications, modern means of travel and, most of all in the West, by the increasing amount of immigration during the second half of the twentieth century. At no time in modern history has it been more urgent to encourage the study and greater understanding of the great religions, whose adherents are now (and to an unprecedented extent) neighbours, and at no time has it been more urgent to bring to bear on the world's problems and needs the common insights of these religions concerning the worth of humanity, human rights, a just sharing of the world's resources, and a new concern for the poor of the world. The urgent need that Spalding identified in the troubled world of the first half of the twentieth century is as urgent in this new century. Spalding was indeed a pioneer who could not have fully realised the increasing importance for succeeding generations of what he sought so earnestly and tirelessly to foster and encourage.

I am delighted and honoured to welcome and commend this excellently researched and delightfully written book by Edward Hulmes, who is a distinguished member of Oriel College.

The Revd Professor Ernest W. Nicholson, DD FBA
Provost's Lodgings,
Oriel College, Oxford

June 2002
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Re: The Spalding Trust and the Union for the Study of the Gr

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Preface

In 1948 a small book with the title Two Quiet Lives was published by Constable. The author was the Oxford don, Lord David Cecil, who described the subjects of the book -- Dorothy Osborne and Thomas Gray -- as 'complex enough to deserve a closer analysis and a more extended interpretation than they have up to now received.' 1

Chapter 2: The Cecil Bloc

The Milner Group could never have been built up by Milner's own efforts. He had no political power or even influence. All that he had was ability and ideas. The same thing is true about many of the other members of the Milner Group, at least at the time that they joined the Group. The power that was utilized by Milner and his Group was really the power of the Cecil family and its allied families such as the Lyttelton (Viscounts Cobham), Wyndham (Barons Leconfield), Grosvenor (Dukes of Westminster), Balfour, Wemyss, Palmer (Earls of Selborne and Viscounts Wolmer), Cavendish (Dukes of Devonshire and Marquesses of Hartington), and Gathorne-Hardy (Earls of Cranbrook). The Milner Group was originally a major fief within the great nexus of power, influence, and privilege controlled by the Cecil family. It is not possible to describe here the ramifications of the Cecil influence. It has been all-pervasive in British life since 1886. This Cecil Bloc was built up by Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, Viscount Cranborne and third Marquess of Salisbury (1830-1903). The methods used by this man were merely copied by the Milner Group. These methods can be summed up under three headings: (a) a triple-front penetration in politics, education, and journalism; (b) the recruitment of men of ability (chiefly from All Souls) and the linking of these men to the Cecil Bloc by matrimonial alliances and by gratitude for titles and positions of power; and (c) the influencing of public policy by placing members of the Cecil Bloc in positions of power shielded as much as possible from public attention.

The triple-front penetration can be seen in Lord Salisbury's own life. He was not only Prime Minister for a longer period than anyone else in recent history (fourteen years between 1885 and 1902) but also a Fellow of All Souls (from 1853) and Chancellor of Oxford University (1869-1903), and had a paramount influence on The Quarterly Review for many years. He practiced a shameless nepotism, concealed to some extent by the shifting of names because of acquisition of titles and female marital connections, and redeemed by the fact that ability as well as family connection was required from appointees.


Lord Salisbury's practice of nepotism was aided by the fact that he had two brothers and two sisters and had five sons and three daughters of his own. One of his sisters was the mother of Arthur J. Balfour and Gerald W. Balfour. Of his own daughters, one married the Second Earl of Selborne and had a son, Lord Wolmer, and a daughter, Lady Mabel Laura Palmer. The daughter married the son of Earl Grey, while the son married the daughter of Viscount Ridley. The son, known as Lord Wolmer until 1942 and Lord Selborne since that date, was an M.P. for thirty years (1910-1940), a figure in various Conservative governments since 1916, and Minister of Economic Warfare in 1942-1945.

Of Lord Salisbury's five sons, the oldest (now fourth Marquess of Salisbury), was in almost every Conservative government from 1900 to 1929. He had four children, of whom two married into the Cavendish family. Of these, a daughter, Lady Mary Cecil, married in 1917 the Marquess of Hartington, later tenth Duke of Devonshire; the older son, Viscount Cranborne, married Lady Elizabeth Cavendish, niece of the ninth Duke of Devonshire. The younger son, Lord David Cecil, a well-known writer of biographical works, was for years a Fellow of Wadham and for the last decade has been a Fellow of New College. The other daughter, Lady Beatrice Cecil, married W. G. A. Ormsby Gore (now Lord Harlech), who became a member of the Milner Group. It should perhaps be mentioned that Viscount Cranborne was in the House of Commons from 1929 to 1941 and has been in the House of Lords since. He was Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs in 1935-1938, resigned in protest at the Munich agreement, but returned to office in 1940 as Paymaster General (1940), Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs (1940-1942), and Colonial Secretary (1942). He was later Lord Privy Seal (1942-1943), Secretary for Dominion Affairs again (1943-1945), and Leader of the Conservative Party in the House of Lords (1942-1945).

Lord Salisbury's second son, Lord William Cecil (1863- ), was Rural Dean of Hertford (1904-1916) and Bishop of Exeter (1916-1936), as well as chaplain to King Edward VII.

Lord Salisbury's third son, Lord Robert Cecil (Viscount Cecil of Chelwood since 1923), was an M.P. from 1906 to 1923 as well as Parliamentary Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs (1915-1916), Assistant Secretary in the same department (1918), Minister of Blockade (1916-1918), Lord Privy Seal (1923-1924), and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1924-1927). He was one of the original drafters of the Covenant of the League of Nations and was the Englishman most closely associated in the public mind with the work of the League. For this work he received the Nobel Prize in 1937.

Lord Salisbury's fourth son, Lord Edward Cecil (1867-1918), was the one most closely associated with Milner, and, in 1921, his widow married Milner. While Lord Edward was besieged with Rhodes in Mafeking in 1900, Lady Cecil lived in close contact with Milner and his Kindergarten. After the war, Lord Edward was Agent-General of the Sudan (1903-1905), Under Secretary of Finance in Egypt (1905-1912), and financial adviser to the Egyptian government (1912-1918). He was in complete control of the Egyptian government during the interval between Kitchener's departure and the arrival of Sir Henry McMahon as High Commissioner, and was the real power in McMahon's administration (1914-1916). In 1894 he had married Violet Maxse, daughter of Admiral Frederick Maxse and sister of General Sir Ivor Maxse. Sir Ivor, a good friend of Milner's, was the husband of Mary Caroline Wyndham, daughter of Baron Leconfield and niece of Lord Rosebery.

Lord Edward Cecil had a son and a daughter. The daughter, Helen Mary Cecil, married Captain Alexander Hardinge in the same year (1921) in which she became Milner's stepdaughter. Her husband was the heir of Baron Hardinge of Penshurst and a cousin of Sir Arthur Hardinge. Both Hardinges were proteges of Lord Salisbury, as we shall see.

The fifth son of Lord Salisbury was Lord Hugh Cecil (Baron Quickswood since 1941). He was a Member of Parliament for Greenwich (1895-1906) and for Oxford University (1910-1937). He is now a Fellow of New College, after having been a Fellow of Hertford for over fifty years.

The degree to which Lord Salisbury practiced nepotism can be seen by a look at his third government (1895-1902) or its successor, Balfour's first government (1902-1905). The Balfour government was nothing but a continuation of Salisbury's government, since, as we have seen, Balfour was Salisbury's nephew and chief assistant and was made premier in 1902 by his uncle. Salisbury was Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary; Balfour was First Lord of the Treasury and Party Leader in Commons (1895-1902); his brother, Gerald Balfour, was Chief Secretary for Ireland (1895-1900) and President of the Board of Trade (1900-1905); their cousin-in-law Lord Selborne was Under Secretary for the Colonies (1895-1900) and First Lord of the Admiralty (1905-1910). Arthur Balfour's most intimate friend, and the man who would have been his brother-in-law except for his sister's premature death in 1875 (an event which kept Balfour a bachelor for the rest of his life), Alfred Lyttelton, was chairman of a mission to the Transvaal in 1900 and Colonial Secretary (1903-1906). His older brother, Neville, was Assistant Military Secretary in the War Office (1897-1898), Commander-in-Chief in South Africa under Milner (1902-1904), and Chief of the General Staff (1904-1908). Another intimate friend of Balfour's, George Wyndham, was Parliamentary Under Secretary for War (1898-1900) and Chief Secretary for Ireland (1900-1905). St. John Brodrick (later Lord Midleton), a classmate of Milner's, brother-in-law of P. L. Gell and son-in-law of the Earl of Wemyss, was Under Secretary for War (1895-1898), Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs (1898-1900), Secretary of State for War (1900-1903), and Secretary of State for India (1903-1905). James Cecil, Viscount Cranborne, Lord Salisbury's heir, was Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs (1900-1903) and Lord Privy Seal (1903-1905). Evelyn Cecil (Sir Evelyn since 1922), nephew of Lord Salisbury, was private secretary to his uncle (1895-1902). Walter Long (later Lord Long), a creation of Salisbury's, was President of the Board of Agriculture (1895-1900), President of the Local Government Board (1900-1905), and Chief Secretary for Ireland (1905-1906). George N. Curzon, (later Lord Curzon) a Fellow of All Souls, ex-secretary and protege of Lord Salisbury, was Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs (1895-1898) and Viceroy of India (1899-1905).

-- The Anglo-American Establishment: From Rhodes to Cliveden, by Carroll Quigley


The pages that follow are about two notable individuals -- Henry Norman Spalding and Kenneth David Druitt ('Bill') Henderson -- about whose lives and careers little has yet been published. Humanly speaking, their lives may have been quiet, but their achievements were far from insignificant. The fact that they were able to influence the lives of countless others, not only in this country but far beyond its shores, is a sufficient reason for bringing their work to the notice of a wider public. Put simply, they sought to promote the study of what Spalding called 'the Great Religions', at a time when it was far less common (or fashionable) to do so than it is today. It is true that neither he nor Henderson sought to promote this study for its own sake. Neither man was interested in adding another 'subject' to an already crowded curriculum. The advocacy of such study was explicitly intended by both men to serve what they believed to be a vital purpose, namely, that of helping to promote unity and peace in a world convulsed by dissension and violence. They believed that beneath the outward differences of religious names and forms there lies a unity of religious experience and aspiration. To study the religions of the world (so they believed) is first to sense and then to reveal this unity.

To discover this unity (so they averred) is to make human conflict less likely. Both men had good reason to hope that this was so because both had witnessed how the world wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45 had threatened humanity. The two men certainly shared a vision about how the world might be made a better place to live in, but they were realists. They took practical and effective steps to develop and advocate their plans, conscious of the fact that some critics would inevitably dismiss their efforts as naive and misguided. It was Spalding, who fashioned the instruments for implementing these plans and for directing their use. The Union for the Study of the Great Religions and the Spalding Trust were his creations. They were the charitable foundations for which he provided not only leadership and direction but financial support. Spalding planned, and Henderson subsequently guided, the work of these foundations for sixty five years, from 1923 to 1988. From 1923 until his death in 1953 Spalding was the dominant figure. From 1953 until his death in 1988 Henderson organised the Union and the Spalding Trust as the faithful steward of Spalding's legacy. Neither man could have achieved what he did without the willing help of many others, as this book will show, but there are two people who deserve special recognition. The first is Spalding's wife, Mrs Nellie Maud Emma Spalding. The second is Spalding's younger brother K. J. Spalding. Both remained in the background, but each played an influential supporting role. An account of the work of the Union and the Spalding Trust would be far from complete without an acknowledgement of their different and complementary contributions to the success of Spalding's efforts.

A Personal Tribute

At the fifty-second annual general meeting of the Spalding Trust, held in Robinson College, Cambridge on Saturday 13 May 2000, the Trustees met under the chairmanship of Dr John Spalding, the son of the founder. He and his wife, Dr Elizabeth de Carteret Spalding, had already informed their colleagues that after many years of service -- in his case, almost forty years, nearly thirty of them as Chairman -- they had decided to retire. In addition to their efforts on behalf of the Trust, Dr John Spalding and Dr Elizabeth Spalding have each enjoyed a distinguished career in the medical profession. John Spalding, OM (Oxon) and a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, is a neurologist who dealt with disorders of the brain, the spinal cord, and the peripheral nerves. In collaboration with some of his colleagues he wrote a number of influential books on these subjects. He was one of the first to help design, build, and operate, an artificial respirator for patients whose breathing muscles were affected. After a paediatric appointment in Oxford he worked in London in general medicine and in a neurological hospital. He then returned to Oxford to work with the neurologist Dr Ritchie Russell. In 1955 he was elected as a Senior Research Fellow at St Peter's College, Oxford, and he spent the rest of his career as a Consultant in Neurology in the city, retiring In 1977.

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Dr John M. K. Spalding, son of the founder of the Union and the Trust.

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Dr Elizabeth de Carteret Spalding.

Dr Elizabeth Spalding's mother was a gynaecologist in London at a time when there were comparatively few women doctors (and women surgeons, in particular). Elizabeth Spalding (nee Faile) completed her pre-clinical training at University College, London (UCL), and her clinical training at the West London Hospital in Hammersmith. Her training suffered from the chaos of wartime London, but she benefited from the varied practical experience she was able to gather in that situation. Having gained her Membership of the Royal College of Physicians, the postgraduate qualification in Medicine, she was appointed senior registrar at her own teaching hospital in Hammersmith. After marriage and the arrival of the two children, Anne and Susan, her time was fully occupied with the family and the management of the seven households at Shotover Cleve. The word 'seven' is not a mis-print. Life at Shotover Cleve was often hectic. The complex of dwellings built by H. N. Spalding was large enough to accommodate several families. Coping with the close proximity of guests and temporary residents called for considerable tact and strength of mind. Elizabeth Spalding provided both. Even so, she found time and energy to work for the Family Planning Association. This was an exciting and innovative time for those involved in this work, when the contraceptive pill and the intra-uterine loop were being introduced. She was soon involved in helping to integrate the family planning service into the National Health Service, and to assist with counselling for some of the psycho-sexual problems that presented.

Towards the end of the meeting in Robinson College, when tributes had been paid and presentations made, the Trustees unanimously elected Miss Anne C. Spalding to succeed her father as Chairman. The leadership of the Trust was thus handed on to the founder's granddaughter. The Trustees also decided at that meeting to commission a memoir about H. N. Spalding, K. D. D. Henderson, and the work to which both men were committed for so many years. Having been associated with the Trust since 1974, first as Assistant Secretary, and then as a Trustee, I was invited by my colleagues to write the book. It is intended to be an affectionate, though not uncritical, tribute to the work of the two principal figures in the history of the Union and the Trust. In a book of this size it has not been possible to consider the contents of more than a selection of the papers that have accumulated over the years. The book does not pretend to offer a comprehensive history of either the Union or the Trust. The usual exchanges of information, comment, and response between the Trustees about the numerous applications for financial assistance, which they have to consider each year, make rather dull and repetitive reading. They are of little general interest in any case. Moreover, the discussions about these applications, and the decisions taken by the Trustees, are confidential and ought to remain undisclosed.

Sources

The primary sources for the details contained in this book are four. The first is the information provided by H. N. Spalding's son, Dr J. M. K. Spalding, about the life and career of his father. Dr Spalding became a Trustee in 1953 and served as Chairman of the Trust from 1971 to 2000. His knowledge is a unique source of information about the history of the Trust and of the deliberations of the Trustees. The second source is the substantial collection of papers assembled for some fifty years by the Secretaries of the Trust, notably by Henderson. Many of these Spalding Trust Papers (STP) carry the marks of his organisation and careful annotation, although the cataloguing of the whole collection is far from complete. The third source is the collection of Henderson family papers (HFP) to which the author has been given access by Henderson's son, David.The fourth source of information is arguably the most important. It consists of the published and unpublished works of H. N. Spalding himself. Many passages from this source are quoted in the following pages. Additional information has been discovered in the Bodleian Library, Oxford and in Oriel and Brasenose Colleges, Oxford. A number of references to H. N. Spalding's work were located in the libraries of the University of Bristol, the University of Durham, and the London School of Economics.

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Notes:

1. Dorothy Osborne (1627-95) married the English diplomat and essay writer Sir William Temple (1628-99) in 1655, after her family, staunch Royalists, had opposed the marriage for seven years. Her place in English literature rests on the letters she wrote to her future husband before their marriage. The English scholar and poet, Thomas Gray (1716-71), is best known, perhaps, for his poem 'Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard' (1751).
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Part 1 of 2

CHAPTER ONE: The Partnership

Names and Initials


In adult life Henry Norman Spalding was known almost universally as HN. His first two initials became his name, although his wife seldom used the abbreviation. She usually shortened his second name, Norman, to its first syllable, retaining the dissyllabic Christian name for more formal occasions. The abbreviation stuck, however. People who knew him more by reputation than through personal friendship also called him HN. His younger brother, Kenneth Jay Spalding, came to be known as KJ far beyond the family circle. Kenneth David Druitt Henderson, the man who was appointed Secretary of the Spalding Trust shortly after HN died, was often known as KDDH, although to most of his colleagues, friends and acquaintances he was usually called 'Bill'. The reason why a man with three perfectly good baptismal names should come to be known as 'Bill', a name that was not linked to any of them, will be described in a later chapter. His wife preferred to call him Kenneth. It will come as no surprise to readers of the following pages that these abbreviations, HN, KJ, and KDDH, appear frequently.

Spalding and Henderson

The phrase Spalding and Henderson looks a little like the name of a small family business to be found somewhere in the shires or the remoter parts of the country, but the partnership thus named had little to do with business or commerce. It was a partnership of spirit and it had everything to do with the world of religious beliefs and values. The result was an enterprise whose purpose was to promote the study of religion and religions, especially in the West, where the horrors of war no less than the corrosive effects of critical thinking had already started to undermine the once secure foundations of religious conviction and practice. The two men first met at breakfast one day in Oxford in 1922. This book tells how their friendship flourished during the following four decades. The work that HN started almost eighty years ago continues to the present day, though on a much more modest scale. At the beginning of the twenty-first century it is appropriate to consider what he achieved and then to ask questions about how and why the work he pioneered is to proceed in circumstances very different from those that obtained in the aftermath of the First World War.

'The study of religion and religions is the phrase that HN chose to use about his work. He lived and worked for much of his life in the university city of Oxford. In 1925 he built 'Shotover Cleve' on Shotover Hill, about three miles from Oxford's city centre. Some years later he moved to number 9 South Parks Road, where he lived until his death in 1953. The house is no more. It has been replaced by a University laboratory. Kenneth Henderson was a man who spent thirty years in the Sudan Political Service. In 1926 he went as a Probationer to Khartoum. He went on to hold a succession of increasingly responsible posts in the Service, ending with his appointment as Governor of Darfur Province in 1949. He served in that capacity until he retired from the Service in 1953. Only a few months after his retirement he accepted the invitation to became General Secretary of the Union for the Study of the Great Religions and Secretary of the Spalding Trust. The pioneering venture in which both men were involved was to assume a far from local reputation and significance. It was built upon at least a century of work undertaken by a host of scholars, Eastern as well as Western, who had devoted themselves to the study of religion. The findings of these eminent researchers were clearly of considerable interest to a comparatively small number of specialists in the field, but the task was to promote the study of religion on a much broader front, in schools, colleges and universities.

The nineteenth century, in particular, had seen the growth in the West of real interest in the religions of the East.
These religions were revealed as the cradles of rich civilizations and spiritual insights. For centuries Hinduism and Buddhism, no less than Judaism and Christianity, had promoted and sustained the religious faith of millions. At a time when religion in the West appeared to be in decline, the continuing resilience of Eastern religions was worthy of note. Spalding and Henderson never claimed to be scholars in a strictly academic sense. They were scholarly men, certainly, but they always deferred to those whose reputations for scholarship in this field were clearly established and well deserved. In consequence both men were deeply indebted to those who were authorities in what had come to be called Comparative Religion. They were always scrupulously honest in acknowledging their indebtedness to the work of others. The record shows that they did much to encourage and to promote further scholarly research in this wide and widening field, but the subject of Comparative Religion was not just one of many possible intellectual options for them. In a much more profound sense they believed that the study of mankind's religious experience could provide an answer to the most intractable problems facing humanity. This was the conviction that guided what they set out to do. They believed that the scholarly study of religion should not be undertaken or promoted just for its own sake. Religion, they averred, is not just one 'subject' among many others. Religion may lend itself to 'objective' investigation -- from the outside, as it were -- as one of many possible intellectual pursuits, but neither Spalding nor Henderson was ever convinced that the inner secrets of the religious experience of mankind are revealed to the merely intellectually curious.

Both men were concerned that the unique importance of religion in human affairs was in danger of being overlooked in an increasingly secularised and secularising Western world. They believed that a more comprehensive and personally engaged approach to the study of religious experience could help to prevent this dimension of human existence from being further neglected in the West. They argued that a purely (or a predominantly) cerebral approach to religion stultifies the spirit and induces a sickness of the soul. They were convinced that a malaise of this nature was developing in the West in a way that was unknown (or at least less harmful) in the East. What prescription might help to cure this distressing human condition? Some spoke with approval about what the decadent West could learn from the East. Others used the phrase 'the soul of the East for the mind of the West' as a mantra. This was too simplistic a prescription, but the phrase contained a grain of truth that both men thought was useful. Their conviction about the unique importance of religion in human affairs invested their efforts with an element of advocacy, which some critics viewed with distaste as evidence of a proselytising spirit. It was true that both Spalding and Henderson consistently urged and defended the cause in which they believed, but neither man was insensitive to the reality of religious and cultural diversity. They sought to change attitudes by persuasion, principally through education. They appealed to teachers to widen the curriculum so as to include teaching about the great religions of the world. In doing so they were among the first in Britain to advocate changes that were not only desirable but necessary.

H. N. Spalding (1877-1953) was a man whose vision, scholarly ability and exemplary determination, initiated the enterprise. The task to which he committed himself in the third decade of the twentieth century was specifically religious, although he was never to define it as such in an orthodox Christian sense. K. D. D. Henderson (1903-1988) devoted his energies in 'retirement' to carrying on the work started by Spalding. The task was to challenge the decline of theism in the Western world by promoting renewed interest in the great religions of the world, especially those of the East. What Spalding meant by the phrase 'the great religions' will be considered later. Needless to say, the phrase included the religions of Judaism and Christianity for which he had a profound respect. His vision of a world, in which 'the great religions' reveal discrete yet complementary insights about ultimate reality, and thus point to the common source of a universal life-enhancing wisdom, provided the initial impetus for the task he undertook. Henderson's administrative gifts were complementary and used to organise and to extend the influence of Spalding's vision world-wide.

Although he was never what might be called an orthodox Christian, HN never wavered in his conviction that of all the world's religious teachers and spiritual masters, Jesus of Nazareth -- especially in the figure of the redeeming victim, resurrected and glorified -- was the one whose message could not finally be denied, despite the repeated failure of the Christian Church (or churches) to interpret His teaching. Theological niceties about the distinction between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith did not feature in his thinking, however. Consider, for example, one of HN's 'Sonnets of Ascent', which carries the title, The Church.

Not priest, not prelate, but the sons of man,
These are the Church of Christ: he gave the keys
That ope the Paradisal mysteries
Not to a saint, but to a fisherman,
Snob, coward, traitor: yet 'twas he who ran
First to the Sepulchre; and it did please
Wisdom as on a rock on him, on these,
To found the Kingdom will'd ere time began.
Then let us, Peters tho' we be, go on
Toward that Kingdom builded in the Heaven
Wherein man's longing shall be satisfied:
Men are we; yet Christ's Church shall stand upon
Poor human nature, Deified, forgiven:
Peter denies; Christ will not be denied.
1


Spalding was a man with a vision of the potential unity of mankind in what he called the Divine Universe, but he was more than a dreaming visionary. He planned his work in a meticulous and practical way, although a number of the highly ambitious schemes he devised proved to be impracticable. His plans, his achievements, and his failures will be considered later. He was a prolific writer of prose and poetry, of memoranda, articles, and letters. Much of his poetry was privately published. He was dismissive of its quality, but many readers did not, and would not, agree with him. His ability to recall apparently insignificant detail became the subject of affectionate family amusement and even irritation.

He could remember exactly what happened, and when. He is said to have been able to tell you what [the members of the family] did and said (for instance) three years and four days ago ... Along similar lines, I gather he noticed when the chronology in books did not fit ... HN's copies of P. G. Wodehouse [are] annotated in the margins with comments along the lines of 'It can't be Thursday; there have only been two days since Sunday'.2


Henderson was also a prolific writer, who shared Spalding's vision and sought to interpret and express it. His two major works of scholarship were written about the Sudan.3 Apart from them he wrote reports of the many conferences he attended in different parts of the world. His unique News Letters, written for circulation among the members and friends of the Union for the Study of the Great Religions, will also be considered later in the book. Throughout his career he corresponded regularly and fully with friends and associates all over the world. Some of these friends like to remember that he also wrote verse of a kind that was often amusing and satirical. It was never intended for publication. A few pieces survive in private collections. They were a source of whimsey and amusement for friends, yet the author sometimes sounded a serious note. The following example is typical. It was written as part of his Christmas greeting to H. N. Spalding in 1946, and sent in an Air Letter, typed in red ink capitals. The postmark is Khartoum, where Henderson was serving as Assistant Civil Secretary (Political).

Eheu Fugaces

Ah Postumus Ah Postumus, the years fly on apace
And no amount of noble thoughts
Drive wrinkles from one's face;
But Oxford never alters, and, changeless now and then,
Amid her ageless buildings walks, agelessly, H.N.
The day we met at breakfast in nineteen twenty-two;
The evenings round the wine-glass talking with one or two;
Old age will find the memories in glad confusion mix
With dinner at the Eastgate in nineteen forty-six.
I wondered as I listened, and the same old genial glow
Came from his conversation's enthusiastic flow,
Whether a new foundation was being subtly laid
For such another friendship as in Longwall was made;
Whether his new young listener would find as time went by
The same unchanging interest to hearten him as I;
And as the years rolled backward and I thought of what I'd done
To implement in action the dreams of twenty-one
I wondered just how much lowed to one who never ceased
To feel the dreams had substance till some came true at least.4


In a way that tends to be overlooked (or misunderstood) today, both Henderson and Spalding were scholarly men. Both, as was more common in their day than now, read Greats (Classics) at Oxford. Neither man excelled in the Schools, but both acquired an extensive knowledge of philosophy, literature and the Classics. They read widely and had retentive memories. They were articulate in conversation, receptive to new ideas, and above all sensitive to style in the written and spoken language. Schooled in the manner of Greek and Latin authorities, they were familiar with the masters of English verse and prose -- Shakespeare, Milton, Tennyson, Gibbon, Bacon, Burke, Hume, Macaulay, Matthew Arnold, the translators of the King James version of the Holy Bible, and many more. To these august names they came to add yet more from the Near and Far East, from the ancient philosophies and sacred texts of Hinduism, Buddhism, Chinese and Japanese religions, and from the Islamic world. Both men were undoubtedly opinionated to a degree, but they were also ready listeners. Both were men of discriminating taste and aesthetic sensibility. Both were capable from time to time of self-deprecation, and both had a sense of humour. Henderson's characteristic roaring laughter was felt as much as heard, whenever a conversation among friends provoked his mirth. On these occasions his face would assume a contorted wrinkled aspect as he struggled to control the mirth that he could not prevent shining out of his eyes.

Henderson had a keener ear for poetry and the spoken word than for music. From a well-stocked memory he was able to draw inspiration and consolation from his favourite poetry and prose, often quoting long passages with facility and appositeness. He kept in his head much of his Commonplace Book, his store of the passages of prose and verse that he particularly admired. Others committed their own favourite selections to writing. Henderson published one such collection in tribute to his chief mentor in the Sudan Political Service, Sir Douglas Newbold.5 In other ways Henderson was a prolific writer of papers, notes and letters. This was in addition to his substantial scholarly works on the history of the Sudan. The records of the Trust are filled with examples of his world-wide correspondence. From February 1954 to Autumn 1982 he produced thirty-nine News Letters for circulation to the members and supporters of the Union for the Study of the Great Religions. They constitute an unique record of the Union's activities, frequently enlivened by the editor's literary skill, his philosophical reflections, and his perceptive observations. Sometimes they record his moods as well. The length of these News Letters varies considerably. Some are quite short. As he grew older they became more discursive. The contents were sometimes controversial. He acknowledged this and included in subsequent issues the criticisms he received. He had an eye for detail, and sometimes pursued the points he wanted to make with dogged persistence.

Henderson and Spalding shared the same vision of a world in which religion had a decisive role to play in the promotion of racial harmony, justice, and peace. Neither man was ever wholly satisfied with the phrase 'comparative religion', or even 'the comparative study of religion'. They did use these terms on occasions, but preferred to avoid using words that could possibly imply invidious comparisons. Neither man was ever directly involved as teacher or administrator in an academic community in which these discrete areas of scholarly investigation and research were being developed. In 1972 Henderson wrote:

What Spalding hoped for was a peacefully co-existing world which would share certain ethical principles and certain basic beliefs in what Julian Huxley called the stuff of divinity; a culture co-terminous with humanity but including a rich variety of faiths and traditions and local patriotisms, a cross-pattern of loyalties which are not always subject to logical explanation or susceptible of classification.

To obtain eugenic improvement, we shall need not only an understanding of what kind of selection operates in the psychosocial process, not only new scientific knowledge and new techniques in the field of human genetics and reproduction but new ideas and attitudes about reproduction and parenthood in particular and human destiny in general. One of those new ideas will be the moral imperative of Eugenics.

-- Eugenics in Evolutionary Perspective, by Sir Julian Huxley, M.A., D.Sc., F.R.S.


I myself am Scots by birth and English by upbringing. Circumstances have led me to regard Australia as my second home. I have many personal ties with the U.S.A. and few with France, yet I can share a Frenchman's European view of America and Australia. I am a European and a Christian, but two of the closest friends I ever had were non-English-speaking Afro-Asian Muslims. In my eyes, therefore, nothing in the way of integration-cum-differentiation should be ruled out as impossible.6


If Spalding was the visionary with an almost irresistible capacity for persuading individuals from different backgrounds, religions, and cultures, to join him in the pursuit of an ideal, Henderson was the imaginative and competent administrator. He could be tetchy at times, given to exaggeration, and forthright in the expression of his own opinions. At 6' in height Spalding was the taller of the two, bespectacled, and slightly stooping in old age. He bore himself with unassuming dignity, and had the gift of making others feel at ease in his company. Henderson's frame was sturdy, the result of vigorous athletic activity in his earlier years, but progressively gnarled by arthritis. His expressive face creased, his eyes twinkled behind spectacles, and his moustaches twitched when he was amused (which was often). Both men took pleasure in the company of friends and the stimulus of vigorous debate. Both were men of unimpeachable integrity.

Mrs Nellie Maud Emma Spalding

HN was supported throughout his endeavours by two other influential, if less well-known, figures. The first was his wife, Mrs Nellie Maud Emma Spalding. It is doubtful that he would have started on his course of action, or at least sustained it for long, without her help and encouragement. She was the quiet but by no means inactive partner in the venture. From the time of their marriage in 1909 until his death in 1953, many individuals and groups benefited from the couple's joint acts of generosity. Mrs Spalding (nee Cayford) was comfortably provided for not long before the marriage by her father, Ebenezer Cayford. He died shortly after reluctantly agreeing to the marriage of HN and his daughter. It was she whose inherited wealth made it possible for her husband to leave paid employment and to devote himself to a prolonged exploration and exposition of what he called The Divine Universe. With his wife's full approval, HN assumed the responsibility for managing the family's finances. For the rest of his life he was to discharge this responsibility with scrupulous care. In this respect he acted as an assiduous steward, regarding himself as a trustee of the family finances, and playing the active role in their management. At every stage he consulted his wife about the major decisions to be made, especially with regard to gifts for charitable purposes.

For her part, Mrs Spalding resisted any suggestion that she and her husband should have separate bank accounts. She did keep shares in a phosphate company and in Houlder Brothers, a successful shipping and trading company, in both of which her father had once had interests. The personal gifts and benefactions donated by the Spaldings took different forms, and were made for different purposes. For obvious reasons details about many of these gifts and benefactions remain unknown. After her husband's death in 1953, it was she who invited Henderson to carry HN's work forward. Disinclined to run the Trust herself, and knowing that the two men had shared the same ideals for many years, she was convinced that Henderson was the right person for the task When he agreed to act as Secretary to the Trustees and to accept responsibility for co-ordinating the work of what she called 'the Movement' 7 (that is, the newly constituted Union for the Study of the Great Religions), she was delighted, describing him as 'an old friend who understood HN's ideals perfectly'. In the course of the letter she wrote to Tom Knox-Shaw, then the Master of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and the senior Spalding Trustee, Mrs Spalding wrote:

I think the appointment of Mr K. D. D. Henderson CM.G., will be a great help to all of us. It certainly will relieve my mind tremendously. Before Norman [H. N. Spalding] died he discussed the question of the work being carried on and I feel sure that he would be extremely pleased at this appointment. We shall none of us have to explain H. N. to Bill Henderson! They knew one another for thirty years and Norman was so much interested in the work he was doing in the Sudan and had a great feeling for him personally.

I hope that you and John [her son, J. M. K. Spalding] and Mr Veale [Sir Douglas Veale,8] have discussed the question of salary. I have only talked over this with John. It should be adequate for what I know he will undertake to do, and although he has his pension, he has three children to educate and when he takes up this work he will be relinquishing a Government job in London after he has done two things they want from him, namely a memorandum on the health of those living in the commonwealths (sic) and also of the education in the commonwealths. I hope that he will come to us soon, even if he has to finish this work during part time. I have had masses of letters from all parts of the world expressing deep interest in the Movement, and I am longing for someone to answer them.9


Mrs Spalding died suddenly in the afternoon of Saturday, 27 April 1957. She had been unwell for several weeks, but seemed to be making a good recovery. For some years she and her husband had taken a personal interest in the development of Oriental Studies at the University of Durham. Only a few hours before she died she sent a telegram congratulating the University authorities on the award of a grant of £60,000 from the Gulbenkian Foundation. The money was to be used to build the first wing of the Oriental Museum at Elvet Hill. This interest in the plans to develop Oriental Studies at Durham went back to the years following the Second World War. She and her husband made grants to establish at Durham a lectureship in Indian Studies and a lectureship in Chinese Studies. They also helped with grants for Professor T. W. Thacker's work in Middle Eastern Studies. Thacker was to become a Spalding Trustee in due course. In 1951 the University awarded HN the honorary degree of DCL in recognition of his scholarly and philanthropic activities.

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-- University of Durham


Henderson's eighth USGR News Letter includes the following obituary paragraph of a remarkable woman.

Mrs Spalding not only took an intense interest and an active part in the work of the Trust and Union. She provided a personal link with eminent men and women all over the world, whose desire to see her again brought them inevitably from time to time to South Parks Road10 and so to renew their contact with the Movement.11 The sense of loss which they have expressed in their many letters cannot help being even heavier for those who met her every day and talked over with her current projects and problems.12


Kenneth Jay Spalding

The second influential figure behind the scenes, as it were, was HN's younger brother, K. J. Spalding. The close personal relationship between HN and KJ should not be overlooked in assessing the former's life and work. KJ exercised a powerful influence on his brother, who often solicited his advice and acknowledged him in print as 'Master'. HN repeatedly expressed his gratitude for his brother's help in terms of which the following, to be found in the Preface to Civilization in East and West, his most ambitious religio-philosophical work, are typical: 'Without him -- brother in the flesh, father in the spirit -- the book could not have been written'.13 KJ was considered by some members of the family to be the most intellectually gifted among their number. He was HN's junior by two years, born on 17 March 1879. He died at Woodcote, Churt, in Surrey on 20 January 1962. He was educated briefly at St Servan in Normandy before being sent to Eastbourne College, a small public school on the south coast of England.14 From school he went as a Commoner to Balliol College, Oxford. He left Balliol in 1902 and took up a post as a teacher of French at Culham College near Oxford.

In 1905 he became Lecturer in Logic at King's College London. Four years later he was elected Professor of Classical Literature and Philosophy at what was to become Queen Elizabeth's College, London. During the First World War he served as a temporary civil servant. In 1928 he took up a Senior Research Fellowship in Philosophy at Brasenose College, Oxford. HN and his wife had made a grant to the College to make the move possible. KJ's wife died on 15 March 1932. From that date he took up residence in Brasenose. In 1949 he became a Supernumerary Fellow and continued to live in College until 1952. Strictly speaking, he had no tutorial responsibilities at Brasenose as Senior Research Fellow. He was a devoted teacher, however, so the College gladly used his pedagogical gifts to the full. He was particularly successful with the less able -- better, perhaps, the less philosophically engaged -- students in a College which at that time was 'a College of vigorous athletes and hard-headed lawyers'.15 He made a special study of Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. During the Second World War he served the College as Senior Tutor and edited The Brazen Nose, a College magazine. After World War II he produced two works, The Philosophy of Shakespeare (1953) and Essays in the Evolution of Religion (1954), but found the modern trends in Oxford philosophy not to his liking -- 'this subject alone being capable of moving him to anger.'16

His obituary notice in The Brazen Nose includes a notable tribute. 'If a vote had ever been taken in Common Room as to who was its best-loved member, KJ's name would have been on every voting paper.'17 He was quietly spoken, something of an introvert, and rarely voiced his opinions. The original Spalding Trust Deed dated 16 January 1923 provided for 'the promotion of the study, teaching and development of the principles set forth in the works of, and taught by, Kenneth Jay Spalding and in particular of his cardinal principle that the happiness of man consists in the knowledge and love of Nature, spirit and God'. It went on to specify more general aims in the field of Oriental, Biblical, and Greek, literature and philosophy whether in translation or in the original language and whether or not in association with the principles set forth in the works of, and taught by, the said Kenneth Jay Spalding. He will be remembered as a gentle and courtly person, who found it difficult to refuse or oppose any application for help.18

Imperial Echoes

In late Victorian times HN's copy of a world atlas would have included maps showing large expanses of land coloured in pink. Born in 1877, the year in which Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India, he grew up at a time when the British Empire was already extensive, gaining still more territory, and apparently unassailable. In comparison with many other countries Great Britain was rich and powerful, yet within half a century of the death of the Queen in 1901 the picture was to change. Doubts about Britain's role in the world were beginning to be voiced at home. Demands for independence from British imperial and colonial rule were becoming increasingly strident overseas. The importance of religion in Britain was more openly disputed. The influence of the Christian churches on social, moral, economic, and political, decisions was subjected to increasingly critical scrutiny. At the same time there was a significant awakening of interest in the religions of the East. India, in particular, was to become a focus of scholarly interest and attention. India was the jewel in the imperial crown. Britain's imperial power had helped to open up the East to Western exploration and exploitation. In the process the English language was imposed on the sub-continent in the 1830s, serving as an acceptable lingua franca and contributing over the years -- not least, to the enrichment of literature written in English by Indians. Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. Knighted in 1915, he resigned the honour in 1919 in protest against British policy in the Punjab. He was comparably fluent and imaginative when writing in the vernacular.19 Many other Indian writers of English followed him in the twentieth century, including more recently R. K. 'Malgudi' Narayan, Dom Moraes, A. K. Ramanujan, and Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, although their work shows little interest in the religious vision espoused by Tagore himself.

In his Introduction to a book of Rudyard Kipling's short stories -- tales that gave millions of readers the world over a vivid, if idiosyncratic, picture of Indian life -- W. Somerset Maugham reflected on Britain's nineteenth-century imperial, industrial, and economic power.

The mother country was immensely rich. The British were the world's bankers. British commerce sent its products to the uttermost parts of the earth, and their quality was generally acknowledged to be higher than those manufactured by any other nation. Peace reigned except for small punitive expeditions here and there. The army, though small, was confident (notwithstanding the reverse on Majuba Hill 20) that it could hold its own against any force that was likely to be brought against it. The British navy was the greatest in the world. In sport the British were supreme. None could compete with them in the games they played, and in the classic races it was almost unheard-of that a horse from abroad should win. It looked as though nothing could ever change this happy state of things. The inhabitants of these islands of ours trusted in God, and God, they were assured, had taken the British Empire under his particular protection.


There is irony in the way that Maugham uses the words 'to the uttermost parts of the earth' (cf. Acts 1.8) in connection with the export of material goods rather than the sharing of a spiritual treasure to which the words originally referred. But this description of a successful and buoyant empire was far from complete. At home there was a darker side to the picture, as Maugham himself noted.

It is true that the Irish were making a nuisance of themselves. It is true that the factory workers were underpaid and overworked. But that seemed an inevitable consequence of the industrialisation of the country and there was nothing to do about it. The reformers who tried to improve their lot were regarded as mischievous trouble-makers. It is true that the agricultural labourers lived in miserable hovels and earned a pitiful wage, but the Ladies Bountiful of the landowners were kind to them. Many of them occupied themselves with their moral welfare, sent them beef tea and calves-foot jelly when they were ill and often clothes for their children. People said there always had been rich and poor in the world and always would be, and that seemed to settle the matter.21


The economic and industrial strength of nineteenth-century Europe supported exploration and colonialisation in many parts of the world. Boundaries were often re-drawn in the new colonial territories to suit European interests, bringing disruption as often as not to the religious and cultural organisation of local communities. European administrators, merchant venturers, and Christian missionaries were given opportunities to use their talents and energy in distant lands. Their motives were very different. Many went in order 'to serve', taking with them (as they believed) the light of European civilisation. Others went for personal gain. Many felt called to the service of Christian mission, responding to the dominical command of Jesus to take the Gospel to the 'uttermost parts of the earth'. There were other things to be discovered beside the deprivation, the disease, the ignorance and the poverty, which were undoubtedly to be seen in foreign parts. Religious traditions of great nobility and antiquity were to be discovered as well. These discoveries promoted questionings about the claims of Christians that Jesus is 'the Way, the Truth, and the Life' in a universal or even cosmic sense.22 The suggestion that Christianity was (and is), merely one of many different paths to blessedness was (and remains) disconcerting to many Christians. The particularity of Christianity was not in question, but the uniqueness of Christianity was vigorously challenged from several quarters in Europe in the nineteenth century.

Before 1904, Comparative Religion had been incorporated into the curricula of only one or two theological colleges (for instance Mansfield and Manchester Colleges in Oxford) and had never previously been accepted by any British university. The setting up of the Manchester Chair was therefore a radical departure. But before we can begin to appreciate how radical it was, we must take a moment to inquire into the character and status of Comparative Religion in 1904, and the relationship in which it stood at that time to some of the wider issues and goals of Christian theology, since it was introduced not as an Arts subject (as had happened a few years earlier in Berlin) but as an arm of Christian theology....

'Comparative Religion' is of course a shortened form of 'the comparative study of religion', the aim of which was once described by L. H. Jordan as being '. . . to investigate and expound, through the competent comparison of data collected from the most diverse sources, the meaning and value of the several faiths of mankind'. [3] The enterprise might equally be called 'the science of religion', as in Friedrich Max Muller's 1873 book Introduction to the Science of Religion (which might well be called the foundation document of the discipline)....

It is equally important to note that the original intention of those who practised this new 'science' was not simply to study religion outside the borders of Christianity and its antecedents (a common assumption which, once made, has proved well nigh impossible to eradicate), but to study all the religions of the world, irrespective of time and place, as diverse and evolving manifestations of the religion of the world. The presuppositions of Comparative Religion were, as I have attempted to show in detail elsewhere, in large measure (though not exclusively) those of the Darwinian-Spencerian theory of evolution as applied to a particular area of human experience -- an intellectual position which from the first aroused the suspicions of conservative Christians, Catholics and Protestants alike. What this meant in practice was that Comparative Religion was welcomed by Liberal Protestants (and by a small number of Catholic Modernists), that is, by those for whom divine revelation was not restricted in principle to the deliverances of one single tradition....

To take only one non-Mancunian example, in 1887 we find the noted Boden Professor of Sanskrit in the University of Oxford, Sir Monier Monier-Williams, telling an Exeter Hall audience to study 'non-Christian bibles', but to keep their heads in so doing. These bibles, he said, are

. . all developments in the wrong direction. They all begin with some flashes of true light, and end in utter darkness. Pile them, if you will, on the left side of your study table, but place your own Holy Bible on the right side -- all by itself -- all alone -- and with a wide gap between. [4]


The liberal mind saw things differently. To the liberal Christian, the new science of Comparative Religion enabled the student to view religion, not in the bare categories of 'true' and 'false', but on an ascending scale of human response to God's revelation of himself....the liberal Christian was convinced on the one hand that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was the point toward which the development was moving, and on the other that the highest point could only be rightly appreciated by those who had taken the trouble to study the world of the religions in all their infinite variety.....

In 1909 [the principle was stated] by J. N. Farquhar (who came to Manchester in 1923) in these words: Each religion

. . . contains a partial revelation of God's will, but each is incomplete; and He comes to fulfil them all. In each case Christianity seeks not to destroy but to take all that is right and raise it to perfection. Christianity is the full, final truth, towards which every religion has been straining. [6]


-- Comparative Religion at the University of Manchester, 1904-1979, by Eric J. Sharpe


'The Death of God'

In 1900 the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche died in Weimar in the southeastern part of Germany. Growing insanity clouded his last ten years of life, during which he was cared for by his sister. The son of a Lutheran pastor, he became a passionate opponent of civilisation, West as well as East, regarding it as decadent. As far as Western civilisation is concerned he went further, asserting that the cause of this decadence was the 'slave morality' fostered by Christianity. He hurled defiance at the religion preached by Jesus. In its place he advocated a new heroic morality, exemplified by the Ubermensch -- 'the superman' -- a human being capable of living beyond the conventional standards of 'good' and 'evil'. The creative powers of this new race of superior beings would distinguish them from 'the herd' of inferior beings which made up the rest of humankind. A later generation of Nietzsche's countrymen were quick to adapt his doctrines of national and racial superiority for their own purposes in Europe between the years 1933 and 1945. He wrote the parable of the Madman to express in words of terrifying defiance his conviction that God is dead.

Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market-place and cried incessantly: 'I am looking for God! I am looking for God!' As many of those who did not believe in God were standing together there he excited considerable laughter. 'Have you lost him then?' said one. 'Did he lose his way like a child?' said another. 'Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? Or emigrated?' Thus they shouted and laughed. The madman sprang into their midst and pierced them with his glances. 'Where has God gone?' he cried. 'I shall tell you. We have killed him -- you and I. We are all his murderers ...

Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God's decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him ...' It has been further related that on that same day the madman entered divers churches and there sang a requiem aeternam deo. Led out and quieted, he is said to have retorted each time: 'What are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchres of God?' 23


Nietzsche added a further comment: 'God is dead, but considering the state the species Man is in, there will perhaps be caves, for ages yet, in which his shadow will be shown.' He certainly inherited the tradition of the Enlightenment when it came to his strenuous efforts to rid human beings of their dependence upon 'illusions', but for him it was the 'illusion' that God exists, which was the chief obstacle to human progress. Yet in his attempts to eliminate the ultimate 'illusion' of a divine Creator, Nietzsche succeeded only in carrying atheism to its logical and destructive conclusion. Human beings, he insisted, are alone in a bleak universe that is doomed to extinction. It may be that his passionate service to the cause of human reason divorced from divine creativity helped him towards the state of insanity in which he ended his life in the year 1900, for if taken seriously -- as he himself took it seriously -- atheism confronts us with an abyss from which there is no escape. The Madman in Nietzsche's parable, far from trying to convince his hearers in the market-place that 'God is dead!', may well have been trying to show them from his own experience that the denial of God's sovereignty leads not to enlightenment and liberty but to the darkness of insanity.

Enlightenment

The eighteenth-century Enlightenment in Europe encouraged attempts to distinguish between knowledge acquired by empirical methods through the exercise of reason (and thus, indisputably, reasonable), and faith that is mediated and acquired through divine revelation (and thus, strictly speaking, unreasonable). This misleading distinction still has its advocates among secularists, but for thoughtful religious believers, faith and reason are not so easily separated. The prologue to the Gospel of St John speaks of Jesus as the Word of God, as the incarnation of the principle of cosmic order and reason in the form of the divine logos, and as true source of light and enlightenment (John I.1-14.). In all the major religions of the world the source of ultimate reality is self-evidently (so it is affirmed) not only the principle of reason, but the ground of all our human reasoning. The prayer of Muslims, 'O my Lord, advance me in knowledge!' is not merely the plea of those who seek knowledge for its own sake, but of believers who recognise that the knowledge they seek cannot be other than knowledge of the God, who knows and reveals all.24 True knowledge, from whatever source of human inquiry it comes, is -- as Muslims habitually affirm -- 'knowledge of God' (in Arabic, 'ilm). And as such, the human being in possession of such knowledge is 'aqil, that is to say (in Arabic) one who has 'understanding', one who is 'rational' and 'discerning'. Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Muslims, follow different paths. The metaphor of the Path, or the Way, recurs in each of these religious traditions, within which differences of belief and emphasis have led to internal division and conflict. Hinduism accommodates a multiplicity of sects. Buddhists interpret the teaching of the Buddha in different ways. Jews do not attempt to conceal the differences between them. For centuries, Christians have failed to agree amongst themselves about the Gospel of Jesus. Islam is by no means a monolithic, unified system of belief. Despite the ecumenical initiatives of the past fifty years or so controversy persists, and in some cases shows signs of growing. According to some observers, Britain 'is no longer a Christian country'. It appears that 'a tacit atheism' has gripped the country. The Archbishop of Canterbury is reported to have said as much at the beginning of the new millennium. Unbelievers and professing atheists have welcomed the public acknowledgement by such a prominent Christian of a fact they claim to have been obvious for years. It seems that for practical purposes large numbers of people believe that God is dead and that he has been dead for a long time. It is premature, not to say unreasonable, to account for the apparent rejection of theism by claiming that thoughtful people are increasingly convinced by the sweet reasonableness of atheism. On the contrary, there is evidence to support the view that large numbers of ' tacit atheists' choose to rely in one way or another on the solaces offered by materialism, hedonism, new age sects, astrology, and the various meditation techniques transposed from other cultures. Atheism offers bleak comfort to all but the irrepressibly self-confident. 'The telephone bell was ringing wildly, but without result, since there was no-one in the room but the corpse.' 25

Light from the East

Spalding and Henderson were aware of these currents of opinion in the West. They knew well enough that the divisions among religious believers did little to commend religion to its cultured despisers. Despite this they believed that beneath all the outward differences there was a unity waiting to be discovered. By 1909, the year in which HN married Miss Nellie Cayford in Florence, many echoes of Nietzsche's notice of God's demise, were to be heard in Europe. The end of revealed and institutionalised religion was confidently predicted. Could the same be said about Eastern religions, about the paths of Hinduism and Buddhism, for example? Was it really the case that religion was dead, that God is dead, 'killed', as Nietzsche put it, by the human beings who had created him? Or had something important been overlooked? The religions of the East had certainly been largely overlooked in the West. HN believed that this could be rectified. He maintained that the West had much to learn about true religion and authentic spirituality from the East. At the same time he insisted that the West had a spiritual contribution to make to the East. For this contribution to be made, he held that any notions of the supremacy of one religious system must be abandoned. This presented a particular challenge to Christians in the West, whose religion was so often associated in Africa and Asia with an alien imperial and colonial power.

The meticulous investigations of scholars, European as well as Asian, into the history and the ancient religious texts of Hinduism and Buddhism brought to Western readers hitherto unsuspected light from the East. One of the leading nineteenth-century figures in this scholarly exploration was the German-born British philologist and orientalist, Friedrich Max-Muller (1823-1900). He studied Sanskrit during the course of his studies in Dessau, Leipzig, and Berlin. In Paris he began work on a critical edition of the collections of Hindu sacred hymns, travelling to England in 1848 in order to study manuscripts. A year later the East India Company commissioned him to edit the texts. They were published in six volumes, at the Company's expense, between 1849 and 1874, under the title Rig Veda with Commentary. In 1854 he was appointed Taylorian Professor of Modern Languages at Oxford, and in 1868 he became Professor of Comparative Philology. He did much to popularise the study of philology and mythology, advancing the theory that myths originate the metaphors used to describe natural phenomena. In addition to his translations of Eastern religious texts, Muller produced several popular introductory books on the subject of the study of religion. Among the former is the series of volumes The Upanishads (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1879-84). Among the latter is a small book based on the lectures he gave at the University of Cambridge to candidates preparing for entry into the Indian Civil Service. The book was called India: What Can It Teach Us?26 His greatest contribution to the comparative study of religion was the work he did until his death as editor of the Sacred Books of the East, a series in which translations of many hitherto unknown oriental non-Christian religious texts were made available to readers in the West. The fifty-one volumes, published between 1879 and 1910, remain as a monument to his ground-breaking industry.27

During the period in which Max-Muller was at work, others were making their own studies of societies in different parts of the world.28 It came as no surprise to discover that human societies everywhere are rooted in, and sustained by, some form of religion. More surprising was the revelation of the antiquity and the diversity of the civilisations of the East. Hinduism, with its 5,000 years of history and continuing development, emerged as the oldest living faith in the world.29 It was troubling in many cases for people in nineteenth-century Europe to learn that Africa -- far from being the Dark Continent of popular belief -- was a continent with a long, though largely unwritten, history of religious diversity and cultural achievement. The darkness that concealed Africa was that of European ignorance. Similarly, the news of the gospel of the Buddha was slow in reaching the West. When it did, together with more and more information about the ancient wisdom of India, it began to attract appreciative attention. In the case of a savant like Max-Muller, the appreciation was generous to the point of hyperbole.

If I were to look over the whole world to find out the country most richly endowed with all the wealth, power, and beauty that nature can bestow -- in some parts a very paradise on earth -- I should point to India. If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant -- I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we, here in Europe, we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans, and of one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw that corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human, a life, not for this life only, but a transfigured and eternal life -- again I should point to India.30


The light that came from the East had another salutary effect. It stimulated some in the West to look again into their own religious history and to gain fresh insights into their own scriptures. Could it be, for instance, that Christians in the West had overlooked rather than ignored the significance of references in their own sacred books to the provision made by God for the salvation of His human creatures? In the well-known passage of the fourth Gospel, in which Jesus develops his teaching about himself as the Good Shepherd, he is recorded as saying: 'I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd' (John 10.16). In the prayer he made before leaving for the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus expressed his concern not just for the small group of his disciples, 'but for all those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me' (John 17.20-1). For Christians, the high-priestly prayer of Jesus expresses a desire for the widest and most inclusive ecumenism.

For centuries Christians had presumed to have an unique lien on the redemptive work of Christ. Many had gone as far as to insist that 'outside the Church there is no salvation' (extra ecclesiam non est salus). Intra-religious disputes between members of different Christian communities, as well as inter-religious conflicts between Christians and adherents of other faiths had compromised the witness of those who claimed to follow Jesus of Nazareth. By the end of the nineteenth century, when evidence from other religions was becoming accessible to anyone with sufficient interest to examine it, no-one could deny that Jesus had an honoured -- if different -- place in the non-Christian religions of the Near and the Far East. His place in Judaism was about to be re-assessed, by Jews as well as Christians. He was born, and remained, a Jew. In an important and indisputable sense, he belonged to the Jewish community.31 It was not only Jews and Christians, however, who claimed an affinity with Jesus of Nazareth. His teaching was not disregarded by Hindus or Buddhists, who acknowledged him as a spiritual master. In HN's opinion it was time for Christians to reconsider the questions put by Jesus to his closest disciples when they were at Caesarea-Philippi, "'Whom do men say that I am?" And they told him, "John the Baptist, others say, Elijah, and others say one of the prophets". And he asked them: "But whom do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Christ'" (Mark 8.27-9). Spalding was never much concerned with theological niceties that sought to distinguish between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith.
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Part 2 of 2

Alienation and Impercipience

A different kind of challenge to religious belief, not just to Christian belief, came from another quarter in the nineteenth century. For some fiery spirits the world had to be changed, but this could only come about -- as they believed -- by liberating the peoples of the world from the shackles of institutional religion. When revolution was in the air, no accommodation with religion could be tolerated. The concept of pluralism, whether religious or political, was considered to be a bourgeois fiction. In organised religion, especially in Christianity, Karl Marx claimed to see institutions of oppression, which enslaved the masses. Religion, he averred, was one of the principal instruments with which the privileged classes controlled the underprivileged. Its effects on the workers of the world were uniformly repressive. In the style of a Hebrew prophet or an evangelical preacher he challenged his contemporaries to free themselves from God, from the fetters of religious practice and from the illusory solace of religious belief. Criticisms of religious belief have been part of European life and thought since the beginning of the Christian era. At points of crisis in the history of Christianity as decisive as the Reformation in the sixteenth century, the struggle was not merely between the reformers and the traditionalists, but between those who held to any religious convictions and those who had none. It was not just a difference of opinion between those who insisted that this form of Christianity should prevail over that, but a fundamental disagreement about the validity of any form of religious belief.

In the nineteenth century it was the impact of industrialisation on the lives of ordinary people which gave sharpness to the social and economic critiques of thinkers like Marx. It was an age in which Entfremdung (alienation) was identified by them as a universal human sickness, the symptom of which was a dependence on the unseen (and, for Marx, the non-existent) spiritual forces conjured up by the disreputable lackeys of organised religion. Furthermore, in Europe at least, it was a time in which the Christian churches were criticised for having nothing to offer the socially and economically deprived, other than a promise that things would be different in a future life. This hope sustained many, despite the jibes about 'pie in the sky'. But there were others whose present condition gave sufficient reason for abandoning religion. As is often the case, the rejection of religion is the result of considerations that are pragmatic rather than metaphysical. Religion, it is claimed, 'does not work', or 'one can live well enough without it'. Once these conclusions are drawn, it matters little what efforts are made by religious believers to re-awaken interest in the benefits of a coherent religious view of life. As the benefits of scientific discovery and applied technology continue to be enjoyed by increasing numbers of people, confidence in man's own capacity to solve problems tends to increase. What further need can there be for ancient, pre-scientific, creeds? Secularism had always provided a theoretical alternative to religious belief. A thorough-going process of secularisation was now under way. Was Christianity to be considered as no more than one of the many ways that human beings have devised for themselves for probing into the mystery of existence? Are all religions no more than human constructs? The nineteenth century witnessed what today seems to have been an unseemly as well as an unnecessary conflict between those who saw in science a threat to established religion and those who saw in religion a negation of science.

Scientism and Relativism

Today, these simplistic notions, which helped to encourage the growth of an arid scientism on the one hand and an uncritical religious syncretism on the other, are being subjected to scrutiny by thoughtful religious believers and unbelievers alike. Scientism, as an ideology, reflects a naive belief that human beings can solve the problems that face them, and understand the universe in which they find themselves, by adopting strictly 'scientific methods' -- without further recourse to the obsolete and superstitious beliefs of institutional (and, specifically, theistic) religion. Needless to say, scientism is to be distinguished from science. The purpose of science is to discover generalisations that cover all the known facts.32 The difficulty is that those with a predilection for the atheistic beliefs of scientism tend to take a narrow view of what constitutes a fact. This tendency excludes, a priori, the facts of religious experience. With the exclusion comes, unfortunately, a rejection of all that it means to be fully human. Nothing, it is asserted by the opponents of religious belief is too absurd to be accepted, once the decision to believe has been taken. Those who accept the first principle of scientism would appear to be in a good position to illustrate the validity of that peculiar statement. Scientism provides too narrow a focus for human experience, from which religion is not so easily dismissed. Scientism, nonetheless, (not science) presents itself as an alternative belief system -- as the 'reasonable' alternative for reasoning individuals -- to faith in God or the gods.

Our perceptions may well mislead us about the nature of 'reality'. Despite this uncertainty, it is confidently asserted -- with the vigour of an unchallengeable dogmatism -- that 'truth' is relative, especially when it comes to religion. How can all the religions of the world be 'true'? How are we to evaluate such claims? How is one religion to be judged 'truer' than another? Is the attempt to make such value-judgements merely another example of a human predilection for the absurd? More sensible, perhaps, to remain silent or to take the line that all religions can, at best, be only relatively true. Comparisons are seldom so odious as they are when made about religion. Is it 'true' that we do not know, and can not know, the 'truth'? The word agnosticism is used almost exclusively today to express scepticism about revealed religion. Agnostics may include among their number those who are uncertain about the claims advanced for any institutionalised religion, but it may be truer to say that they are convinced about the irrelevance of such claims. To put it another way, their agnosticism is selective, in that their 'not-knowing' does not extend to social ideals, values, politics, business, or education. On these matters they are usually as certain as the most devout believers are about their religious convictions. In theory, agnosticism is not an absolute position, but when it comes to the world's religions, agnostics and atheists have much in common. For much of the Agnosticism of the age, the Gnosticism of theologians is undeniably responsible. 'They have inconsiderately overstrained the language of religion till its meaning breaks; and the coherent thinker easily picks up its ruins to show they can contain nothing.'33

The Irritant of Agnosticism

The Victorian Agnostics, of whom Thomas Huxley is probably the best known, sought to remind their contemporaries of the ineluctable limits of human knowledge.34 In the opinion of G. K. Chesterton, 'Huxley preached a humility content to learn from Nature. But the new sceptic is so humble that he doubts if he can ever learn'.35 The corpus of human knowledge is always increasing, but there are limits to what we are able to know. Some agnostics are scrupulous in their attitude to atheism, preferring neither to affirm nor deny the God of religion. At the same time God is dethroned de facto, set aside, when it is asserted that nothing is knowable about the ultimate origins and final purpose of the universe. Commenting on the way in which agnosticism soon began to assume a more dogmatic character, the English convert to Islam, Gai Eaton wrote,

Agnosticism raises a personal incapacity to the dignity of a universal law. It amounts to the dogmatic assertion that what 'I' do not know cannot be known, and it limits the very concept of what is knowable to the little area of observation open to the unsanctified and unilluminated human mentality. The agnostic attitude derives from a refusal to admit that anyone can be, or ever could have been, our superior in this, the most important realm of all; the true knowledge of what there is to be known. Religion is now seen exclusively in terms of faith rather than of supernatural knowledge. In egalitarian terms, faith is acceptable; you may believe in fairies if you wish to. But the claim to a direct and certain knowledge of realities beyond the mind's normal compass excludes those who do not possess it and savours of presumption. The idea that a saint among the saints may have known God -- not merely believed in him -- suggests 'unfairness' and implies the superiority of some men to others. It puts us in our place.36


The nineteenth century saw the sharpening of a sustained attack on Christian faith and practice, at least as far as Western Europe was concerned. During that high period of humanistic idealism, in which the statement that human beings were alone in an unfriendly universe was defiantly accepted by an influential minority of evangelical atheists, some less strident voices were to be heard. Among them was that of the poet and literary critic Matthew Arnold (1822-88). Middle-class Philistines were subjected to his fastidious scrutiny. More pungent criticisms of religious hypocrisy came from Ibsen, Tolstoi, Nietzsche, and later from Anatole France, George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. Arnold's frequently quoted poem Dover Beach evokes a mood of melancholy reflection about a past that can never return. The age of religious faith seemed to have come to an end. Cathedrals, parish churches, and the remnants of religious faith lodged in consciousness, were regarded as the fossil remains in the life of a people. Yet Arnold does not exult because men and women are liberated from the fetters of an outworn creed.

And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.37


An English poet, for whom agnosticism was clearly an irritant, is Thomas Hardy (1840-1928). One of his poems, written in 1898, has the significant title, The Impercipient: (at A Cathedral Service).38 The poem is more like a cry from the heart of a reluctant unbeliever. Hardy echoes the image of the distant sea in Arnold's poem, Dover Beach. That one thing that the poet wishes to see, the vision he would like to share with the religious believer, is (or so it appears) withheld from him. This is why he is obliged to count himself among the Impercipient, those who lack perception. Not to be able to see and know what others see in the religion they profess is the real irritant, rendered more disconcerting by the fact that those in whose company he finds himself have an experience which they are, it would seem, unwilling to explain or share. He sits in the cathedral, isolated during a service in which he cannot participate fully. We are not told why he was there. It may have been no more than the pressure of the social conventions at that time. The Victorians have been criticised, not always fairly, for their religious attitudes and beliefs. They have been charged with hypocrisy for their failure to deal adequately with social and economic inequality, whilst professing to follow the teachings of their professed religion. They, or at any rate many of their leaders, are accused of obscurantism, of persistence in defending the inerrancy of Scripture against the findings of historical and literary criticism, and of opposition to the discoveries of science. Towards the end of the nineteenth century the Catholic Church in particular stood accused of silencing the voice of theological liberalism in her struggle against Modernism.

Religion Without Revelation?

The Victorian Age is one which is often identified with the rise of a self-confident agnosticism and an increasingly hostile spirit of atheism, both of which helped to weaken belief in a revealed religion. The phrase 'revealed religion' is important because not all the Victorian agnostics denied the value of religion, or even of 'religious' or 'spiritual' belief. The task they proposed was that of choosing the right religion -- by which was meant the religion of and for humanity, without reference to God -- and then of propagating it. An interesting exposition of non-theistic religious belief was given by Julian Huxley (1887-1975) in his monograph, Religion Without Revelation.

In that new religion, man must make up his mind to take upon himself his full burden, by acknowledging that he is the highest entity of which he has any knowledge, that his values are the only basis for any categorical imperative, and that he must work out both his own salvation and destiny, and the standards on which they are based. To put off this burden on to the shoulders of an imaginary God is to shrink from full responsibility, and to hinder man from arriving at his full stature.

Nor is it true to-day that theology is irrelevant to spiritual and moral attitude. What I have just written is proof to the contrary. It is obvious that any religion which lays primary emphasis on salvation in the next world will be something of an obstacle towards getting the best out of this world as speedily as possible. It is equally obvious that any religion which stresses the need for propitiating an external Power will be diverted away from the more essential task of using and organising the spiritual forces that lie within each individual. 'The Kingdom of Heaven is within you' is a saying that has not been sufficiently taken into account in orthodox theology.39


After a moving analysis of the human predicament and of the means by which human existence might be improved by an adoption of the new religion for which he argues, Julian Huxley concluded his book with a personal testimony of faith.

I believe that the great sacrifice needed for religion is that of her old certitude, to be offered up on the altar of humility. And that demanded by organised science, and all the doers of good works and planners of the future to boot, is that of all narrowness and aggressiveness, to be offered on the altar of reverence and imaginative love. But today the sacrifice of organised religion is more necessary and more called for than that of science, and failure to make it will be not only more blameworthy but, from her own standpoint, more foolish ...

I have no doubt of the ultimate issue. The verdict of the trend of human history, in the fifteen thousand years since civilization dawned in the later Old Stone Age, is too clear to permit a doubt. But in what way it will come, and after how long, and what it will be like, the future religion of this world and of all humanity -- that nobody can know ...

A religion which takes this as its central core and interprets it with wide vision, both of the possibilities open to man and of the limitations in which he is confined, will be a true religion, because it is coterminous with life; it will encourage the growth of life, and will itself grow with that growth. I believe in the religion of life.40


There is an inconsistency in this powerful final statement between the uncertainty of its author's predictions about the future of religion and the certitude of his personal faith. Despite expressing unexceptionably visionary sentiments for the future development of human existence and happiness, he says nothing about how the necessary changes in human nature are to be brought about by relying solely on human resources. The idealistic view of humanity taken by Huxley sounds naively mistaken today. Spalding and Henderson were in partnership to challenge it in so far as it sought to promote human progress by excluding belief in God. From the early 1920s until his death in 1953 Spalding was to devote his time and the relatively considerable financial resources to which he had access, to the re-exploration and the re-exposition of what he chose to call The Divine Universe, or the Many and the One: A Study of Religions and Religion.41 His motives were unselfish, his approach timely, his actions generous, and his methods scholarly. He had become convinced that the widespread rejection of organised, institutionalised religion by so many of his contemporaries, though understandable in the light of tragic conflicts and personal misfortunes, was premature. About belief in God there was much more to be said. For him it was not the so-called conflict between religion and science in the nineteenth century, or the concomitant growth of agnosticism and atheism during the same period, or even the comfortably decadent self-confidence of the Edwardian era, which seemed to account most reasonably for the decline of belief in God, or at least for the widespread collapse of belief in a benign and loving deity. What appeared to Spalding to be the most likely cause of a decline in religious belief was the experience of war in the killing fields of the First World War.

Resurrection and Renaissance

For the rebirth of civilization -- 'resurrection' and 'renaissance' were among his favourite words -- HN believed that it was necessary to look for enlightenment and spiritual renewal beyond a war-torn Europe. For many years people in Britain had been pleased to call India 'the jewel in the crown' of the Empire. For reasons unsuspected by those who took a lofty view of Western cultural superiority at that time, India was indeed a multi-faceted jewel, the true beauty of which was just beginning to be revealed to Western eyes. He was one of the Western observers for whom, as he grew older, the beauty of that jewel became increasingly apparent. The antiquity and continuing resilience of Indian religions and cultures awakened in him hospitable thoughts about what an American contemporary, the philosopher and psychologist William James, had called The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature.42 For Spalding the striking feature about human religious experience -- as it presents itself in the lives of religious believers, their traditions and scriptures -- was not the divergence of belief and practice, but the underlying unity of aspiration to which all religions bear witness. This was a vision shared by Henderson. Some critics considered that HN's knowledge of other religions and cultures was superficial, that his vision was naive, and that his efforts were the work of an amateur -- a dilettante with a peculiar agenda -- but this was not the judgement of at least one reviewer of his magnum opus, who wrote,

[Mr Spalding's] scholarship is good, as far as I can test it -- that is, as regards Greece and India ... In his final summary Mr Spalding rises to real eloquence, the eloquence of noble thoughts and simplicity, for there is no trace of showing off, no self-consciousness, only the consciousness of a great theme and a real faith.43


The tension between academics engaged in the discrete but related fields of theological studies and comparative religious studies, shows little sign of being resolved. The situation is further complicated by the objections raised by specialists in the fields of Asian, Islamic, or African studies, who maintain that no-one can acquire an expert knowledge of more than one religion and its culture. Since those who are engaged in the study of world religions are expected to work in a wider field, the implication is that they can not pretend to be strictly scholars. In a note published in the October 1956 issue of The Hibbert Journal, Professor S. G. F. Brandon, then Professor of Comparative Religion in the University of Manchester, responded to the criticism in a way of which Spalding approved. If the criticism were to be generally accepted, it would mean

that anyone who attempts a comparative study of religion is obliged to use, for the most part, material with which he has no first-hand acquaintance. And this in turn means that he inevitably lays himself open to the criticisms of the specialist, into whose field he has entered. Some scholars keenly feel the inherent weakness of this position and are tempted not to venture themselves thus, but to keep within such fields as they think that they have reasonably mastered. The temptation is indeed a strong one; but, if none were to resist it and tread the harder path, there would be an end to any synoptic view of mankind's religious faith and practice. Instead there would be only a series of highly-specialized and unrelated studies of specific religions.44


Despite this kind of criticism of 'the intruding amateur' and the 'ill-informed generalist', Spalding was convinced that the great religions of the world have an unique role to play in the less exalted spheres of education. In schools there are (or ought to be, as he believed) opportunities in the curriculum for teaching about these religious systems and the cultures that are associated with them. The promotion of an understanding of the unity that he claimed to see beneath the outward differences of name and form in different religions, led him to advocate a wider approach to religious and moral education in schools at a time when the need for such a broadening of the curriculum was not as generally recognised as it is today. On this particular point about education in schools, no less than in his advocacy of a wider exploration of the accumulated wisdom of sages East and West by thoughtful adults, he has claims to be considered in the broadest sense as a pioneer in the field of education.

Through the efforts of Spalding, Henderson, not to forget Mrs Spalding's contribution to the total effort and the support of many others, the work of the Spalding Trust was to become widely known and respected, not only in Britain but across the face of the globe. It was not by chance that the first practical steps in the venture were taken under the aegis of The Spalding Educational Trusts (plural). Eventually the financial resources were consolidated, and the work co-ordinated, in a single Trust, but there was always to be some criticism of the work of the Trust, on the grounds that its leaders were burdened with a quasi-evangelical agenda, which does not serve to promote a properly objective approach to the study of religious and cultural diversity in a pluralist world. Furthermore, critics were in the habit of observing somewhat peevishly that Spalding and Henderson, though intelligent men, were amateurs, generalists at best, with little right to engage in serious studies in the field of Eastern religions. The criticisms were unfair at the time and they are unfair today.

_______________

Notes and References:

1. H. N. Spalding, 1952, In Praise of Life (IPL), Basil Blackwell, Oxford, p. 90. Other sonnets in the same volume, which focus on the figure of Christ, include: The Christ-Apollo, He Rose Again, Marx or Christ, Christos Woskresse (sic, see below, p. 53), Christ's Followers, and Thy Kingdom Come.

2. From a letter sent to me by the Chairman of the Trust, Anne C. Spalding.

3. See the Bibliography.

4. SFP; in the margin of the Air Letter HN added in his own handwriting, 'Thanks, 23.3.'47. KEEP, Lines by Bill Henderson to H. N., Christmas, 1946'.

5. KDDH (ed.), 1952, An Administrator's Anthology, Douglas Newbold, McCorquodale & Co. (Sudan) Ltd, Khartoum.

6. Henderson, NUSGR 29, Summer 1972, p. 8.

7. In 1970 it was decided to take steps to re-absorb the Movement Trust, which was formed to administer the affairs of the Union for the Study of the Great Religions, into the parent Trust which originally endowed it, and which had financed its projects. From that date the Union was to function as before, with its branches, book-lists, and news letters, but after the amalgamation there was to be one set of Trustees and one set of accounts instead of two (NUSGR 27, Summer 1970, p. 1). The history of the two trusts was outlined in a lecture delivered at Younghusband House in London, in December 1969. The lecture was printed in World Faiths, the journal of the World Congress of Faiths, Spring number (79), 1970.

8. Sir Douglas Veale Registrar of Oxford University from 1930 to 1958, was one of H. N. Spalding's closest associates, and a chosen Trustee.

9. SFP. The letter, written in the Osborne Hotel, Torquay, Devon, is dated 11 November 1953.

10. That is, to the Spalding family house at number 9 South Parks Road, Oxford.

11. 'The Movement' was the Union for the Study of the Great Religions.

12. K. D. D. Henderson in USGR, number 8, June 1957, p. 1.

13. H. N. Spalding CEW, 1939, Preface, p. xi.

14. In the United Kingdom, that is to say, a private, independent school.

15. The words of Maurice Platnauer, a Fellow of the College, in The Brazen Nose, a College Magazine, vol. xiii, no. 2, 1962, p. 101.

16. From KJ's obituary in The Times, 24 January 1962.

17. The Brazen Nose, a College Magazine, vol. xiii, no. 2, 1962, p. 102.

18. Dr, J. M. K. Spalding, son of the founder, provides another comment on KJ: 'K. J. Spalding (17.3.1879-20.1.1962) was considered by his mother, Ellen Rebe, to be the brilliant member of the family and H.N. seemed to agree. Their sisters, Selma and Eva, on the other hand, referred to 'the myth of Ken' and seemed to think that he had advantages in their youth which might just as well have come their way ... In 1922 he published Desire and Reason, a substantial volume of which I have a copy. Chairs were quire scarce in those days and he deserves congratulations on his appointment, but perhaps his tenure was a modest success for he moved to a Senior Research Fellowship at BNC funded by my parents. He lived in or near High Wycombe until his wife, Amy Katherine nee Baynes died on 15.3.1932.Thereafter he lived in BNC until he retired, and then with his sister Selma at Woodcote, Churt, Surrey. When I knew him he was very agreeable but quiet and did not radiate energy. During the second war he learned to make tea. Even after that he preferred to walk from the bottom of South Parks Road [Oxford] to Brasenose so that the porter could dial a telephone number for him rather than learn to dial it himself. The only publication I know of from his time in Oxford is a slim volume Talks on Philosophy, of which I have a copy. He was disappointed that it did not get critical acclaim, indeed hardly any reviews. Norman H. Baynes, brother of KJ's wife, commented that if you do not keep your name before the public by a steady flow of publications, lack of notice is likely to be the result. NHB had a personal Chair at London University in Byzantine history at a time when hardly anyone was working on it.' (In a note from JMKS to the author, dated 28 April 2001).

19. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan called Tagore 'the greatest figure of the Indian renaissance'.

20. Majuba Hill is in the Drakensberg Range in East Natal, South Africa. It is the place where, on 27 February 1888, a British force of 500 men was routed by Boer troops under the command of P.J. Joubert.

21. W. Somerset Maugham, 1952, A Choice of Kipling's Prose, Macmillan & Co. Ltd, London, p. VII.

22. John 14.6.

23. F. W. Nietzsche, 1882, Die Frohliche Wissenschaft (The Gay Science), quoted In R.J. Hollingdale, 1977ff, A Nietzsche Reader, Penguin Classics, pp. 202-3.

24. The Holy Quran, surah 20.114.

25. Charles Williams, 1982 (first published in 1930), War in Heaven, Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 7.

26. The American edition used by the present author was published in 1883 by Funk & Wagnall, New York.

27. Muller's other works include Lectures on the Science of Language (1861-64) and My Indian Friends (1898).

28. See, for example, Sir James Frazer, 1894, The Golden Bough: A Study In Magic and Religion, Macmillan, London.

29. cf. K. M. Sen, 1961, Hinduism: The World's Oldest Faith, Penguin Books.

30. F. Max-Muller, 1883, India: What Can It Teach Us?, p. 24.

31. See Geza Vermes, 1983, Jesus the Jew. SCM Press, London; 2001, The Changing Faces of Jesus, Penguin Books.

32. 'The very soul of science consists in theoretical generalization leading to the formation of quantitative laws and systems of laws.' Stanley L. Jaki, 1974, Science and Creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe, Scottish Academic Press, p. 14.

33. James Martineau, 1888, A Study of Religion: Its Sources and Contents, Clarendon Press, Oxford, vol. I, p. xi.

34. The word 'agnosticism' seems to have been coined by Thomas Huxley, in an informal conversation during the course of an evening with friends in 1869.

35. G. K. Chesterton, (1908), Orthodoxy, Collins Fontana edition, 1963, PP. 31-2.

36. Gai Eaton, 1977, King of the Castle: Choice and Responsibility in the Modern World, The Bodley Head, PP. 144-5.

37. Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach (1867), lines 35-7.

38. Hardy's poem is a perceptive comment on the failure of Christians (in this instance) to explain to those who have no such belief what it means to be a religious believer.

That with this bright believing band
I have no claims to be,
That faiths by which my comrades stand
Seem fantasies to me,
And mirage-mists their Shining Land,
Is a strange destiny.

Why thus my soul should be consigned
To infelicity,
Why always I must feel as blind
To sights my brethren see,
Why joys they've found I cannot find,
Abides a mystery.

Since heart of mine knows not that ease
Which they know; since it be
That He who breathes All's
Well to these
Breathes no All's Well to me,
My lack might move their sympathies
And Christian charity!

I am like a gazer who should mark
An inland company
Standing upfingered, with,
'Hark! Hark!
The glorious distant sea!'
And feel, 'Alas, 'tis but yon dark
And wind-swept pine to me!'
Yet I would bear my shortcomings
With meet tranquillity,
But for the charge that blessed things
I'd liefer not have be.
O, doth a bird deprived of wings
Go earth-bound willfully!

Enough. As yet disquiet clings
About us. Rest shall we.


39. Julian Huxley. 1941, Religion Without Revelation, Thinker's Library, no. 83, Watts & Co., London, pp. vi-vii.

40. Julian Huxley (1941), pp. 112-13.

41. This was the title of the book by Spalding, published posthumously by Basil Blackwell in 1958.

42. Published in New York in 1902, the year in which Spalding, having recently left New College, Oxford after reading Greats, began to broaden his intellectual horizons, not least by looking to the civilizations of the East.

43. W. H. D. Rouse, in his review of H. N. Spalding's Civilization in East and West: An Introduction to the Study of Human Progress, Oxford University Press, 1939. The review appeared in The Manchester Guardian on 12 January 1940.

44. The paragraph is quoted by K. D. D. Henderson in the appendix to NUSGR, number 7. November 1956. Professor Brandon held the Chair at Manchester from 1951 to 1971.
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Re: The Spalding Trust and the Union for the Study of the Gr

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Part 1 of 2

CHAPTER TWO: The Renaissance Of the 'Future'

A Universal Malaise and a Cure


The partnership between H. N. Spalding and K. D. D. Henderson was based upon a shared conviction about the value of religion in helping to heal the ills of the world. They believed that religion was an integral, indeed a necessary, element in the prescription of any cure for the disunity that afflicts humanity. It was not a popular belief to hold in their day, when the conviction was growing that religion was one of its principal causes of human conflict. Despite the often articulate and rationalistic expression of anti-religious sentiment in the society of their time, neither Spalding nor Henderson was convinced that the time had come, or ever would come, to abandon religious belief. On the contrary, they held that this was a time for a serious re-examination of the claims of religion. In their view it was precisely because the world was divided by different religions and cultures that such careful investigation was required. Experience persuaded them that atheism as advocated in Marxist-Leninist theory, for example, could never provide the means for discovering practicable answers to the human predicament. In this they were not alone in pointing to the consequences of unbelief that were the results of Stalinism in the Soviet empire and Hitlerism in Europe. The call for religion to be rejected as inimical to human progress was one that Spalding and Henderson challenged, not least for empirical reasons. Ignorance, not knowledge, of what the great religions teach seemed to them to account in large measure for the premature rejection of religious belief among many of their contemporaries. The task, therefore, was to counter this ignorance by focusing attention on the common ground to be found in the religious experience of mankind, without overlooking or discounting the profound differences of belief that can lead to disunity and conflict. This was the task that Spalding believed would prepare the way for what he called 'the Renaissance of the Future'. His thoughts on the subject of this 'renaissance' are expressed in the seventh and final part of his book, Civilization in East and West, under the significant chapter-heading, 'The Coming of the Kingdom'.1

In practical terms the task of promoting knowledge of this healing unity centred on Spalding's plans for the Union for the Study of the Great Religions ('the Union'). The Union was founded in Oxford in 1950/1951 by Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Canon Charles E. Raven, and H. N. Spalding. Radhakrishnan was the first scholar to be elected to the Spalding Chair of Eastern Religions and Ethics. In later life he was to become Vice-President and finally President of India. He and Spalding soon established a firm personal friendship that was to continue until the latter's death. Radhakrishnan was appointed to the Oxford Chair in 1936 after Spalding had made the necessary funds available to the University. HN's intention was to provide the resources for distinguished Asian scholars to come to Oxford in order to share their knowledge and experience of the religions of the East with members of the wider, as well as the academic, community. Charles Raven retired from the Regius Professorship of Divinity in Cambridge in 1950, having already served as Master of Christ's College and Vice-Chancellor of the University. Spalding, who had read Classics at New College, Oxford from 1898 to 1902, was the motivator, the idealistic visionary, whose peculiar gift it was to encourage these men and many others to share his vision of a future renaissance based upon a recovery of religious conviction and spiritual insight.

'Not a Learned Man'

Oxford draws scholars and visitors from all over the world. Between the two World Wars many of them were invited, or otherwise drawn, to the Spalding house at 'Shotover Cleve' or later and more accessibly, at number 9 South Parks Road. In both these houses visitors found generous hospitality, congenial company, and wide-ranging conversation. It was the cut and thrust of conversation that encouraged Spalding to write his books. Of his Civilization in East and West, he wrote: 'The book is the child of talks rather than of books'. A voracious reader, though dependent for his knowledge of the spiritual classics of the East on English translations, he pursued his studies with a disciplined determination. He did not find writing books easy, observing that it was 'the loving patience of a wife' that enabled him to complete them. His religio-philosophical works, not to mention his poetry, kept him at work long after his other commitments for the day had been met. In some ways it was fortunate that he was an insomniac. When others were sleeping he was all too often wakeful. Yet during these hours of sleeplessness he would continue to write. His capacity for sustained effort, even in the closing years of his life when he was weakened by illness, was remarkable. He was modest about what he produced. Of himself he wrote,

He does not claim to be a philosopher; rather he is a small boy peering through the palings into the delectable pleasance of philosophy. He is not a learned man; but the scraps of information he has acquired are of infinite value to him, and may perhaps be valuable to others. The book, though conservative, challenges convention. He knows that much of the material he handles can be interpreted in different ways; but unfortunately he can lay no claim to infallibility for the interpretations he has too summarily presented. His fallibility will no doubt be amply recognised by the critics (if the book is lucky enough to have any); what is remarkable is that the author himself is aware of it.

A religion is often vague or self-contradictory, and it is tempting to state its doctrine too sharply and precisely. The same religion may give different accounts of such matters as the stage of contemplation of the Divine Mind; yet one account only may be here represented. When the meaning of such words as Citta, Vijnan, Nous, Logos, or as Rita and Dharma varies or is open to doubt, to compare them is difficult and dangerous. Comparison is no easy task, and it is to be feared that this book will, unwittingly and unwillingly, illustrate not only its path, but its pitfalls. Still, progress proceeds by trial and error. In the writing of this book there have been many trials; no doubt in the result there are many errors.2


Spalding concluded the Prologue to The Divine Universe with a moving invocation, which illustrates how committed he was to a belief in the unity of creation. His words express both a conviction and an expectation: 'May God and man forgive [the book's] errors, and prosper the Truth it reports. And may better and wiser minds follow who will re-write it with deeper insight into the Divine Universe. For that way lies the Renaissance of the future.' 3 On a stylistic note, Spalding wrote his key concepts with initial capitals. His most important assumption, one that he seldom made explicit because he took it for granted that no reasonable person would ever wish to deny it, was that the universe is contingent. It is strictly dependent upon the Creator, the Self-Existent Being, the Organising Principle, the Absolute. He would readily have agreed with Isidore Epstein.

Even an infinite universe is only of 'possible existence', and as such requires as its ground a necessary existent being. As a being of merely possible existence, the world is no longer a natural necessity of cause and effect but a product of the Will of God. The highest attribute of the Will of God is Love, and creation is a contingent means whereby God diffuses his Love to give existence to all beings.' 4


Image
H. N. Spalding (standing, centre) 'entertains Sidney Sussex at tea' at Henley, a photograph taken and captioned by W. T. S. Stallybrass on 30 June 1914.

Image
H. N. Spalding at Henley regatta, a photograph taken by W. T. S. Stallybrass on 1 July 1914.

Neither Spalding nor Henderson explicitly quoted the New Testament text that was later to serve as a watchword for Christians who, whilst firmly committed to the faith they profess, are open to dialogue with those of other faiths and of none: 'But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.'5 Spalding approached the central theme of his spiritual quest with gentleness and respect. The tributes that flowed in to the members of his family after his death in 1953 provide evidence of the high regard in which he was held. He was a generous man, giving freely of his time and resources to those who came to him for advice and help. Nor was his philanthropy limited to those who asked for assistance. During his years as a member of the Senior Common Room at Brasenose College, he made several anonymous gifts to help needy students.

Many generations of the readers of these pages will remember in a more personal way his keen interest in and generosity to many undergraduate activities -- in particular to the boat Club, which enjoyed through many years between the wars the hospitality of 'H.N.' and his wife at their house in Henley at Regatta-time. The greater part of his generosity was, however, unobtrusive and unseen -- to College Societies, to the College Servants' Clubs, and above all to many individual undergraduates in need of help. Many Brasenose men, with many others, will also remember with affection Sunday afternoons in the Spaldings' house when 'H.N.' would exercise his rare talent for stimulating and maintaining intelligent and interesting conversation between undergraduates of diverse tastes and often of different nationalities or races. Many a shy guest must have been surprised at his own conversational ability. Perhaps the secret of 'H.N.'s' success in this lay in the youthful interest, which he retained to the end of his life, in almost all the things of the mind.6


'An old friend who understood HN's ideals perfectly'

The Spalding Trusts (sic) were founded in 1923 and 1928. There are two distinct Trust Deeds, but both were drafted for similar purposes. Today it is more convenient to speak of the Spalding Trust, singular, if only to avoid having to answer the question, 'What's the difference?' The answer would seem to be that there is none.7 The Trust was founded to promote a better understanding between men and women from different religions and cultures, by encouraging the study of the religious principles on which these cultures are based. To help to promote this the Trust began to make grants to individuals, places of learning, libraries, other groups, and institutions. concerned with the study of the great religions of the world. The Union for the Study of the Great Religions (USGR) was founded in 1950/1951 and incorporated by a trust deed in 1953 after HN's death. The object of the USGR was defined in the original Statement of Aims as being to promote ethical, philosophic, and religious education and culture through the study of the great civilizations of East and West. In this way it was hoped to foster better international understanding between the peoples of the world and to enrich their spiritual life. The founders believed that just as European civilization achieved unity in diversity on the basis of Judaism, Hellenism, and Christianity, so a world culture could be built up and a world renaissance made possible, if educational institutions throughout the world were re-inspired by a common study of the spirit of man as reflected in his approach to God.

When her husband died in 1953, Mrs Nellie Spalding did not want to run the Trust herself. Someone who could undertake the task needed to be found. She was re-assured when K. D. D. Henderson agreed to act as Secretary to the Trustees. It was she who described him as 'an old friend who understood HN's ideals perfectly'. Henderson was an only child. His father was a general practitioner in the East End of London, who lived above his surgery during the week and only returned home occasionally. The boy saw little enough of his father. He saw him less when he was sent to school at Glenalmond in Perthshire, in order (as his father put it) that he might learn at least something of his Scottish inheritance. Henderson's churchmanship was that of a low-church Anglican. In retirement he was a critic of what he considered to be the banalities of the liturgical experiments and theological speculations of the established Church. For theologians who (as he put it) 'throw out the baby with the bath-water', he coined the adjective cenobalian, the etymology of which he helpfully traced to cenos, 'empty' and balaneion, 'a bath'.8 His frustration extended to synodical government in the Church of England and what appeared to him to be futile attempts to catch the skirts of the spirit of the age as it hurried past on a frantic search for renewal. He was frustrated by the apparent refusal of the leaders of the Church to admit that, by permitting the replacement of the sonorous and still intelligible language of Cranmer with the uninspiring verbalism of a series of newly-devised alternative services, a gradual decline in church-going was inevitable. He put his frustration into words.

We who have called upon our God as Thee,
Like lovers their Beloved; who have prayed
And praised in words the Holy Spirit blessed
With a perpetual fragrance, still unstaled
By countless repetitions; who have felt
Past congregations throng the silent pews
From twenty thousand Sundays, we must go.
Leaving the zealot busy in his stall
On some new Series, almost up-to-date;
The studious pedant careful to point out
The Gadarene was really Gergasene
And Simeon was granted a discharge;
The sons of Eli, tendering the Cup
To maenads worshipping their Unknown Gods.

Let us seek out some lost redundant church,
Unsuitable for hall or house or barn,
And worship there, perhaps his ghost to meet
Who once at Bemerton did sit and eat.9


In his later years Henderson was often tempted to abandon church attendance, feeling acutely the loss of the elegance, the beauty, and the spiritual power of the 1662 Prayer Book. In his regard for the felicity of Cranmer's language he found an ally in the Catholic, Robert Speaight, the English actor and author who was one of his contemporaries at Oxford.

Let us try out our experiments with liturgical language very carefully in private before we set them up in competition with Cranmer. If Cranmer were still in Purgatory -- though I'm sure he has long since been promoted to a better place -- the worst of his pains would surely be the knowledge of how atrociously the Roman Catholics of today have translated the prayers which he once translated so sublimely. He might even imagine that this was their way of getting their own back. But let him have no such fears. I can assure you that many of us who are of the Roman obedience would ask for nothing better, now that we worship in our own language, than to use wherever possible the language that the genius of the Church of England has bequeathed to its posterity. We should grow much closer together in our thoughts and in our feelings if we gave expression to them in identical words. 10


In his adult years HN chose to be a member of the Church of England, though he was not a regular church-goer. As a child in London he had been brought up in a Presbyterian household. His lack of enthusiasm for worship in church did not signify a lack of interest in Christianity, however. On the contrary he was deeply attached to the personality and the teaching of Jesus Christ, as given in the Gospels and preserved in 'the Church of Christ' which, in HN's view, consists not of priests and prelates, but of 'the sons of man'.11 Several of his poems show this lasting influence on him of the person of Christ. 'Every generation must try to construct a more perfect portrait of Jesus as more material becomes available and powers of comprehension develop.'12 Spalding's Christology veered towards unitarianism at times, but Henderson's was decidedly trinitarian. On several occasions the present writer heard Henderson expressing his disappointment that the Christian churches (as he thought) were neglecting to place sufficient emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit in the story of mankind's redemption and salvation.

Is Religion Necessary?

To this question Henderson, agreeing with Spalding, responded with an emphatic Yes. In his answer to this question, Henderson noted that

[half a century ago Spalding] was to watch the spread of two rival materialist ideologies like a veneer of acid across the world, eating corrosively into the various indigenous cultures and putting nothing back in their place. He saw the weakening resistance of European civilization with its roots in Jerusalem, Athens and Rome, and he foresaw the collapse of the other great world cultures unless they could be induced to make common cause. He suggested as one method of bolstering resistance the introduction into the education of the future rulers of a common factor akin to what used in Europe to be called the liberal arts. This factor he thought to find in the study of man's spiritual needs and of the various ways in which they had been satisfied at sundry times and in divers places. He recognised no threat to the integrity of the various faiths because he knew from experience that familiarity with another's religion heightens understanding and appreciation of one's own.

This attitude is, of course, consonant with the strictly historical approach to the study of world religions which opened the door to the claim of humanism for inclusion as a social phenomenon. But Spalding's own underlying dream was the possibility of a world renaissance brought to birth by what we now call dialogue, the cross-fertilisation of powerful intellects bedded in spiritual understanding.13


Both Spalding and Henderson instinctively reacted against attempts to make comparisons on the basis of what were, in effect, western reifications of highly complicated systems of religious belief and practice. 'Hinduism' and 'Buddhism', for example, could well be described -- a favourite word in some Western circles -- from their extensive literature, iconography, and architecture. The translation and elucidation of the sacred books of Eastern religions could provide the student with important new tools for investigating exotic cultures, but both men held that the Western predilection for taxonomy, for the analysis and classification of objects, was insufficient for 'the study of religions and religion'. They found the reductionism of the age dispiriting. A strictly phenomenological approach to religion and religions struck them as interesting but needlessly narrow. They believed that religion and religions are not the objects to be described from a distance de haut en bas, so to speak, but living options, which call for personal engagement of the most demanding nature. The American scholar, Huston Smith, echoing William James' distinction between religion as a dull habit and religion as an acute fever, observed that

wherever religion comes to life it displays a startling quality; it takes over. All else, while not silenced, becomes subdued and thrown without contest into a supporting role. Religion alive confronts the individual with the most momentous option this world can present. It calls the soul to the highest adventure it can undertake, a proposed journey across the jungles, peaks, and deserts of the human spirit. The call is to confront reality, to master the self. Those who dare to hear and follow this secret call soon learn the dangers and difficulties of its lonely journey. 14


This was a point of view that Spalding and Henderson shared. It expresses humility in the presence of mysteries that may be prematurely dismissed as absurd. The task was one of trying 'to understand faith as those who hold faith understand it, in its infinite complexity and continual movement'.15 There was another possible pitfall for the 'objective' observer of religion, a hazard to which the Canadian scholar, W. Cantwell Smith, drew attention. The concept of 'a religion' reflects what he took to be a characteristically Western attitude -- that of categorizing and differentiating religious systems -- which then appear to be more distinct from each other than they are.16 The point was picked up by John Hick.

The notion of religions as mutually exclusive entities with their own characteristics and histories, although it now tends to operate as a habitual category of our thinking, may well be another example of the illicit reification, the turning of good adjectives into bad substantives, to which the Western mind is prone and against which contemporary philosophy has armed us. In this case a powerful but false conceptuality has helped to create phenomena answering to it, namely, the religions of the world seeing themselves and each other as rival ideological communities. 17


A measure of humility and personal engagement is required of the student who approaches the faiths of others. It was inconceivable to Spalding and Henderson that anyone could remain for long a detached observer of sacred mysteries, and remain personally unchallenged by the claims and evidences of faith. Two quotations will serve to express their approach to religious belief and to faith. The first is the familiar verse from the Bible, quoted here in the words of the King James version that both men preferred: 'It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God' (Hebrews 10.31). The nineteenth-century philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, knew what it was to take God seriously. At the prospect of the existential dread that was the consequence of too close a personal engagement with the claims made on him by the Christian God, he was tempted to prefer a studious detachment. Yet disengagement was impossible. Once drawn to the source of enlightenment, the individual is consumed by its overpowering proximity. Neither Spalding nor Henderson ever spoke in such dramatic terms, but each was aware that one of the ways of not taking the Divine Vision seriously is to stress the importance of religion 'for other people -- people of the past, people of other cultures, people whose ego strength needs bolstering'.18 The second quotation, from an essay by the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, points to the risk involved in an exploration of religious faith.

A time of genuine religious conversations is beginning -- not those so-called but fictitious conversations where none regarded and addressed his partner in reality -- but genuine dialogues, speech from certainty to certainty, from one open-hearted person to another open-hearted person. Only then will genuine common life appear, not that of an identical content of faith which is alleged to be found in all religions, but that of the situation, of anguish and of expectation. 19


Learning through Experience

Spalding was an assiduous advocate of an inclusive, rather than a syncretistic, approach to religious belief and experience. The word 'experience' is significant. His study 'of religions and of religion', to quote the phrase he liked to use, was not simply the private pursuit of an intellectual interest. It was directed (as he saw it) towards a higher purpose. Religion mattered to him. He was personally involved in the quest for spiritual truth. Religion might be in decline, but it was not dead; it might be in retreat in parts of Europe, but this was not true of many other parts of the world. He grew up in Victorian and Edwardian England, in which rapid and astonishing developments in science and technology had a profound, even disturbing, influence on religious belief and practice. The faith of English Christians like Spalding, whose childhood, adolescence, and early manhood, had been spent in a society influenced by imperial splendour and the comfortable certainties of an established religion, was to be questioned by the historical-critical study of the Scriptures, textual criticism, the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace, and the progress of the natural sciences. The impressively unified triumphs of science and technology present an interesting comparison with the disunity that had arisen our of religious diversity. The methods of scientific inquiry are universally discernible, assimilable, and applicable. The achievements and the benefits of science and technology can be seen, if not yet enjoyed, by all. The results of scientific investigation can be checked, confirmed or refuted. Experiments can be repeated. In such circumstances science itself begins to assume a quasi-religious function. By contrast, religious 'knowledge', in so far as it is to be distinguished from the 'knowledge' that accrues from scientific inquiry, is held by some observers to be illusory.

Both Spalding and Henderson were possessed of a religious faith that was capable of being enriched, rather than subverted or displaced, by claims that there were other paths, discrete and coherent, by which human beings may attain a knowledge of ultimate reality. In Spalding's case this appreciation of religious and cultural diversity was to come progressively through his study of other civilizations, notably, those of India and China. In Henderson's case, his awareness of the pluralism of religious truth was strengthened by his experiences as a political officer and finally as a Governor in the predominantly Islamic regions of the Sudan. He sought to discourage Christian missionaries from working in the Islamic communities in his administrative areas, chiefly because he considered that attempts to convert Muslims from Islam in such regions were likely to threaten social stability. Muslims, after all, were not unbelievers, awaiting the arrival of divine revelation. He was not the first European colonial administrator to take this view. For pragmatic administrative reasons in the early years of the twentieth century, in what was to become known as Nigeria, the British High Commissioner, Lord Lugard, with his predilection for Indirect Rule in colonial territories, sought to preserve local social and religious stability by discouraging Christians from presenting themselves as missionaries in the northern Islamic parts of the areas he administered.

On one occasion in Khartoum, Henderson was taken to one side by a Sudanese friend, who suggested that he should have a quiet word with an English official working in the city, a man who was apparently irritating local people by commending the Christian faith too openly, almost as if he were a Christian missionary in a heathen land. Henderson found an opportunity to say as much to the man, reminding him that Muslims were not without their own approach to God.20 This lesson in humility, when faced with the religious traditions and experiences of others, was one that Henderson believed it necessary for others to learn as he had learned it. This was one of the experiences that shaped his own religious development and led him in time to co-operate with Spalding in calling for a more sensitive understanding of religious belief and practice. One of the ways in which this might be done was to press for a recognition of religious and cultural diversity in education, first in the universities and then, by extension, in schools. This work required the co-operation of like-minded people in different parts of the world. In the Union for the Study of the Great Religions, the task of organising regional inter-faith activities and conferences was delegated to Area Committees and co-ordinated by the local Area Secretary.21 These regional groups were active and successful for a time, although they all failed to operate with the enthusiasm and efficiency for which the General Secretary, Henderson, repeatedly pressed. As he grew older and less capable of travelling the world as he had once done it became clear that the work of the Union was coming to an end.

Uncertainty, Doubt, and Devout Scepticism

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82) entertained an idea that was to enjoy wide, if uncritical, acceptance in the Western world as the nineteenth and twentieth centuries proceeded. In consequence, doubt (by which he meant religious doubt and the disposition to go on doubting) was, paradoxically, to assume a neo-credal status for many believers and unbelievers alike in the years that followed. Uncertainty and doubt were to be welcomed by some as hallmarks of a 'mature' belief, whether religious or secular. Emerson declared his hand when he wrote of the modern men and women like himself, 'in whose doubt is more than in all your creeds'. In the nineteenth century he was not alone in his rather contemptuous dismissal of the religious beliefs of others as groundless and irrational metaphysical speculations. There was nothing new in his rejection of revealed religion. In England, two hundred years earlier, William Law was confronted by the indifference, rather than the hostility, of many of his contemporaries to the claims of the Christian religion. He was born in King's Cliffe, Northamptonshire in 1686 and died in 1761. From an explicitly Christian point of view he sought to engage his readers in a thoughtful consideration of the claims of the Gospel of Jesus. The result was his A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life published in 1728. It was to become a spiritual classic. Its influence on the indifferent, the sceptical, and the unbelieving, is unclear, but it certainly encouraged the faithful. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Christians as different in temperament and conviction as Dr Samuel Johnson (1709-84), John Wesley (1703-91), and John Henry Newman (1801-90), were to find inspiration in it.

From a very different perspective, and in his own way, H. N. Spalding, set out to engage his contemporaries in a serious call to consider (or to re-consider) the importance of the religious dimension in human experience. Unlike Law, Spalding was not an apologist for any one or other of the great religions of the world. As his friend Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan observed, HN was a deeply religious man, whose religion 'was not confined to a code of conduct and respect for outward forms. These latter were experienced as opening the door to the truths of spirit. Man is not a finished creation. He is an experiment of which he can be partly the creator. Religion is essentially the art and theory of the re-making of man. It assumes man's ability to change himself.' 22 For many of their contemporaries, the agnosticism of gifted individuals such as Thomas Huxley, Matthew Arnold, and Thomas Hardy, helped to shake the foundations of the authority claimed for organised religion. For others, especially those who survived its horrors, the First World War provided the clinching reason for abandoning a religious faith that had once seemed reasonable and well-founded. In consequence, the voice of atheism grew more self-confident and strident as religious faith was exposed to the corrosive effects of scepticism and uncertainty.

In the nineteenth century the poet Matthew Arnold had recorded his sense of loss as he reflected on the decline of a religious faith that was steadily losing its influence on him and many of his contemporaries. His familiar image of 'the Sea of Faith', slowly ebbing to the sounds of a 'melancholy, long withdrawing roar', expresses his sense of regret that the authority of traditional religious structures must inevitably be abandoned in favour of a liberating, yet disconcerting, reliance on critical thought.23 Arnold expressed the growing unease and uncertainty about the cultural life of England. In his Introduction to a compilation of the works of Arnold, Martin Corner writes,

Much about nineteenth-century England, its complacency and narrow self-satisfaction, grated on him, and Arnold, permeated with the high-culture of Europe, saw it as his role to be England's intellectual conscience and better self. He was able, in a manner more personal and more universal than Tennyson or Browning, to register the characteristic pressure of cultivated consciousness in his age; the liberating inevitability of critical thought alongside the pain of withdrawal from traditional structures, and the need, exciting as well as alarming, to establish new ones. Arnold grew up in a liberal religious setting, where critical reflection on faith was accepted, and he did not experience, in any sudden or acute form, the classic Victorian 'loss of faith'. But no poet conveyed more acutely the existential dilemma of the contemporary reflective mind: the need, and at the same time the difficulty, of finding some new basis for an authentic life.24


Spalding, no romantic visionary, did not question the inevitability of the changes that were coming, but he took a more positive line than Arnold with regard to the future of religion. He noted the decline of Christianity in the developed Western world and the concomitant decline of the culture built upon it, but he was more optimistic than Arnold. The tide that ebbs flows again. The incoming tide flows back to refresh and re-invigorate the land it recovers. The dismissal of religious belief is premature, however refined the terms in which it is expressed. Spalding sought to find a way of expressing this in a way that might commend itself to the uncertain, the sceptical, and the merely curious. He might well have associated the phrase 'round earth's shore', in Arnold's poem, Dover Beach, not with a retreating sea of faith but with the promise of its irresistible return, surging in with revitalising power from distant parts of the world. In the first instance Spalding's purpose was to help to re-instate the religious hypothesis, at a time when the reasonableness of religion (the established Christian religion, in particular) was being questioned as never before by many voices in the Western world.

HN was convinced that 'the knowledge of our buried life', words from another of Arnold's poems,25 could be revealed, discovered, through study of what the great religions teach, if only men and women would have the courage to look. His own Christian beliefs were not of an evangelistic or proselytising kind, however, so they were unshaken by the kind of theological controversy or philosophical scepticism that helped to disturb convictions about the truth of orthodox Christian doctrine. Indeed, he believed that challenges to the uniqueness of Christianity, above all to its superiority in the universe of faiths, might serve to further the task to which he was personally committed. This task was to draw attention to 'the Divine Vision', to which all the religions of mankind bear witness in different but complementary ways. The notion that one or other of the great religions could claim to be the true religion for all did not seem to him to be reasonable. From his perspective, it followed that if human beings the world over neglect this vision they will continue to suffer from a spiritual malaise. That there was a health-threatening imbalance in human affairs was clear enough to him in the wake of a savage world war. Spalding's diagnosis of the human condition may have been naively expressed, but he was consistent in prescribing the cure he thought necessary. The cure, he argued, was not to be found in any one religion, not even in Christianity. If religious faith was to be renewed in order to meet the spiritual needs of a world that grew smaller and more complex by the day, it could only be done by discovering the essential unity that lies behind the multiplicity of name and forms in all the great religions of the world.

[b]Henderson shared that belief. After a visit to the newly established Harvard Center for the Study of World Religions in 1961, he wrote,

On May 4th Robert Slater26 drove me up to Madison, New Hampshire. Here we spent two nights in a granite house looking north-west across wooded hills and valleys to a dark range topped by the snow-clad slopes of Mount Washington, seemingly as high and remote as Kanchenjunga. This is the home of Ernest Hocking.27 [b]During the visit we talked, among other things, of Schweitzer and his 'focal point of good'; also of the Arab concept of baraka, a quality which some men possess in such measure that it influences even those whose contact with it is casual, and without which 'though I have all knowledge, I am nothing'.[/b; This grace adorned the house we were visiting and one can count oneself fortunate, after seven years' association with Richard Livingstone, 28 to find it again so soon ... Some of us exist for long periods and suddenly come to life for brief unforgettable intervals. Such was our stay in New Hampshire.

It came to mind a fortnight later at the bedside in London of a Muslim friend, who also possessed baraka in a marked degree and that combination of goodness and gentleness without weakness which enables a man to overstep the barriers of race and creed and which, in a fellow-countryman of his thirty years ago, first brought home to me that no religion can claim a monopoly of revelation or salvation. The goodness of some men certainly lives after them.29


Henderson was deeply impressed by W. E. Hocking's 'lucid, easily intelligible wisdom', in which the doubts and uncertainties associated with religious belief were positively rather than negatively explored. In May 1961 Henderson thanked the elderly philosopher for the inspiration he had received during that visit to Madison. Unable to express himself adequately in prose, he chose to write in verse. Like Spalding he had no illusions about the quality of his poetic effusions.30 The following poem survives -- with an unconscious plagiarism from G. K. Chesterton, as Henderson himself said -- chiefly because it elicited a response from Hocking.

High places know no boundaries, You may stand
On Kosciusko or in Kalimpong
And watch blue threads of shadow spread along
The shadeless snow, regardless of the land
Stretched out below. Wise men who understand
And seek high places overtop the throng
Of races, faiths, and years. They belong
To levels where all boundaries are spanned.
So there in Madison the world looked small
And dear; dear, too, the eddying sons of man,
Who know not what they do, yet one and all
Play their small part in furthering the Plan.

So now, like swimmers freshly breached, do we
Lower our heads to battle with the sea.


Hocking responded,

As-seen from Tiger Hill-the sun's first ray
Swathes Kanchenjunga's bulk in radiant light,
So-through the poet, in whose eyes the sight
Shines with a glory not its own, we rise
To the high Source of all transforming day,
To the life-fire within the skies. [W.] E. H.
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Part 2 of 2

The Great Religions

Both Spalding and Henderson were convinced that men and women the world over suffer from a sickness caused by spiritual deprivation. They were equally convinced that there is a cure for this universal human malaise, and that the treatment of the illness is to be found by turning to the accumulated wisdom of the great religions, 'studied in their ethical, philosophic, devotional and mystical aspects'. For Spalding, 'the Great Religions' were,

Hinduism, its child Buddhism, its brother Zarathustrianism; Confucianism and mystical Taoism; Judaism and Greek thought, and their offspring Christianity and Islam. These nine have been the chief source of the great literature, the great art and the great music of the world. And when they are examined and compared, a marvellous truth stands revealed: while they differ widely on minor and sometimes on major points, they agree or harmonize (vary without contradiction) on broad principles: on man's approach to God and on the Divine Nature Itself, whether regarded as the Godhead as He is in Himself, or as God as He is in relation to His creatures. As the same light of the one sun shines through the many different stained-glass windows, so the same truth of the one God shines through the various colours of different civilizations and different minds.31


The list of the great religions and cultures of East and West lengthened to include representatives from the Far East, China, Japan, India. It extended to include the religions of ancient Greece, Palestine, Slav, Latin and Nordic Europe, North and South America. These sources of wisdom and spiritual insight were to be studied in their independence, integrity, and fruitful diversity. A demanding programme, to be sure, and one for which three lines of approach were suggested. The first was through the study of the religions themselves. The second was through the fostering of mutual understanding between men and women of faith. The third was through the co-operation of religious leaders in making common cause against materialism. The immediate aim was to further the study of the great religions in universities, where the students should obtain an outline knowledge of the great cultures as a whole and a more detailed knowledge of one of them. The studies of a student

would be cultural rather than philological and sound translations will have to be provided where they are not already available.32 Use should also be made of the appeal to eye and ear of art, architecture and music in specimen, picture and record. The importance of studying the arts as a means to the understanding of a religion was stressed by the founders. The recommendations of the Ramakrishnan University Education Committee for India, which have been accepted by the Indian Government, and have commended themselves to high educational authorities elsewhere, are that all university students should study, in their first year, the lives of the great religious leaders; in the second, selections from the scriptures of the world; and in their third, the central problems of the philosophy of religion. This scheme also provides a guide for the ordinary person who wishes to study religions as part of his general education.33


Holy Russia

To the list of 'great religions' Spalding added the religion of 'Holy Russia'. The Orthodox traditions, especially those of Holy Mother Russia, caught and held his attention, inspiring him to reflect upon the experience to which the mystics of all religions bear common witness. Even so, he detected a fundamental difference between civilizations which are anthropocentric and those which are essentially theocentric.

Hinduism with Buddhism and Orthodoxy [are] at the opposite pole from China and the Nordics, as the other world is at the opposite pole from this. The Chinese and Nordic ideal, being social, did not admit of anything in the nature of a flight from ordinary human experience: as Confucius said, 'absorption in the study of the supernatural is most harmful'. In India and Russia, however, precisely such a flight from experience did take place; and with it came a certain neglect of experience and interest in the world of things and men. If the Chinese and the Nordics are the Marthas among the nations, India and Russia are the Marys; not busy and practical, but on the whole meditative and mystic.34


Spalding described Russia as 'this vast world of resurrection'. He thought of Russia as a huge land-mass of mountain and steppe in which even the dullest observer could not fail to be awakened by the sudden Easter-burst of spring after the long darkness and the bitter cold of winter. For HN the resurrection of all living things to a new life of light, love and rejoicing, was Nature's exemplary response to the Divine Will. Prompted by the sight of such recurring wonders, an Orthodox Christian is helped to glimpse the Unseen in the midst of what is seen. In the Orthodox liturgy the worshipper is led into the very presence of the Unseen.35 Spalding believed that Holy Russia was itself an icon, a window into Heaven, through which streamed the glory of the Divine Vision. At the time when he was writing about these things, Russia was gripped by a political system that actively sought to destroy religion. After the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, Christians were among the first to suffer persecution. The body of Christ was once more suffering crucifixion, but after the crucifixion would come the resurrection. One of Spalding's sonnets is called Christos Woskresse (sic). The title comes from the greeting exchanged by Russian Orthodox believers on Easter Day: Christos voskrese! Voistinu voskrese!, that is, 'Christ is Risen! He is risen Indeed!' The poem shows that, unlike some of his more gullible contemporaries who should have known what was actually going on in the Soviet Union because they had been there, ostensibly to see for themselves, Spalding was aware of the tragedy that was unfolding in that country.

Christ is Risen!
Look ye at Holy Russia crucified:
Behold the nails, the thorns, the dying breath;
Hark to the cry of anguish; and beneath,
The passing scoffers, daring to deride.
Wisdom she hath forgot, the Christ denied;
God hath forsaken her, she perisheth;
Great darkness glooms about the cross of death;
She hath put on the mortal, and hath died.
See, from the tomb the stone is roll'd away;
The dark is empty of the dead, and rife
The dawn with Paschal light and Paschal bird:
Lo! Russia risen to Eternal Life,
Ringing the bells of Resurrection Day,
And in her heart the Everlasting Word.36


Seventy years later the Communist system collapsed in the Soviet Union. It remains to be seen whether or not Spalding's words were prophetic, but there are clear signs of a revival of religion in that part of the world. He believed, but could not have known for certain, that in the darkest days of Communist oppression in the USSR there were individuals who strove, often at great personal cost, to preserve the Divine Vision in Holy Russia. The writer of the short prayer that follows experienced persecution, imprisonment, 'internal exile', and ultimately exile from his own country. He was to become famous for novels like In the First Circle, Cancer Ward, and for his meticulous documentation of life and death in the Soviet Gulag Archipelago. Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn speaks of the responsibility that human beings bear for reflecting the radiance of God, however inadequately, a conviction that HN would clearly have shared.

Prayer
How easy it is for me to live with you, O Lord!
How easy it is for me to believe in you!
Whenever my mind is uncertain, or I am consumed by perplexity,
Or when clever people fail to see further than today,
Not aware of what they must do tomorrow-
You send down to me from heaven the clear certainty
That you exist and that you are taking care of me
So that not all the favourable paths for me are closed.

On the crest of human fame, I grow accustomed
With astonishment to a journey
That one is never capable of devising for oneself;
An astonishing journey through hopelessness up to this point,
Whence I am able to send to humanity
Reflections of your radiance.
Yet you will give me the time that is necessary
For me to continue to reflect that radiance.
But as to how much time I have-that you know
And determine-as with everything else.37


Spalding's respect -- one might say, his reverence -- for Orthodoxy was expressed practically in 1948. In that year he provided the funds for a University Lectureship at Oxford, to be held by Dr Nicolas Zernov. Dr Zernov's book, Eastern Christendom: A Study of the Origin and Development of the Eastern Orthodox Church,38 is dedicated 'to the memory of H. N. Spalding, 1877-1953 and of his wife Nellie Spalding, 1876-1957, whose vision and generosity endowed the study of Eastern Christianity in the University of Oxford'.39 Four decades earlier, on the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Spalding wrote a sonnet with the title Holy Russia.40 Like most of his other poems it was not published until 1952, because of the 'idleness' that the author claimed to have been one of his virtues. Spalding's respect for the Orthodox Tradition of Holy Russia was never to waver, but the horrors of the First World War, the barbarity of the Bolshevik revolution, and the totalitarian dictatorships of atheistic Communism in the Soviet Union and Communist China, changed his understanding of the relationship between Church and State, the meaning of patriotism, and the source of Light from the East. Another of his sonnets illustrates this.

Bolshevik Russia:
Massacre seized me; mad, I swung the knife
And stab'd my bosom -- I the murderer
And I the murder'd! Godless self-slaughter,
Russian and Russian, soul and soul at strife!
Henceforth is the whole earth with horror rife:
Look, young and old, with starving eyes, wander
Thro' cornless Volga's crowded sepulchre,
Then drink the river in despair of life.
Yet have I deeper drunk, yea, deadlier know.
Where love was, hate is; whom I saved before
Now smite I. Still of Hell remains the worst:
Ah, fires of anguish! bottomless pit of woe!
God loved I, now I see His Face no more,
Call me not human; I am the Accurst.41


The brutality of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich was still to come, but by then Spalding had already turned further East, to the ancient traditions of India and China, for confirmation of his belief that the religious insight and the wisdom for which human beings seek (or can be encouraged to seek) is universal, though differently expressed. This common wisdom -- Eastern and Western -- points towards unity, justice, and peace. This is the wisdom that promises renaissance. This is the knowledge that leads to resurrection. As he was to comment later, when his poems were published,

The energies of mankind are at present directed to avoiding a Third World War. But necessary as this is, it is not enough; they must also be devoted to preparing for the first World-wide Renaissance, the true alternative to another war. It is a Renaissance centring upon God, to which East and West will alike contribute.42


Light from Many Sources

The notion of a universal religion, in which tolerance is the principal article of faith and education the means by which it is to be inculcated, is by no means new. It assumes importance as the extent of religious and cultural diversity becomes more apparent, and potentially more threatening. How are the rights, the needs, the aspirations, of different cultural and religious communities to be recognised (not to say, reconciled) without damaging social stability? How are the convictions of believers, unbelievers, agnostics, and atheists, to be accommodated in a society that may be described with the best intentions, but prematurely, as 'pluralist' and 'multi-cultural'? Secularism, inside as well as outside the different religious traditions, has fostered indifference to the claims of institutionalised religion. It is not that religion has been decisively rejected because of the sophisticated disinclination on the part of modern men and women to accept outdated metaphysics. The rejection of organised religion is often the consequence of an unreflective pragmatism nourished by ignorance. It is widely believed that in order to live a 'reasonable' and a 'reasonably successful' life it is not necessary to consider the claims and counter-claims of any religion. Henderson's hold on institutional religion loosened when he began to feel that traditional religious systems were too specifically prescriptive and constricting. Dauntingly, they presented the seeker of truth with what Dr Carmen Blacker called, 'a number of metaphysical propositions in which to believe and a set of moral principles with which to conform'.43

Light, and the enlightenment it brings, is to be welcomed from whatever source it comes. Spalding and Henderson acknowledged that many lamps light the path to truth. The religions of India, China, and Japan promise deliverance from darkness to light. Hinduism promises deliverance from ignorance of the real to knowledge of the real, furnishing the seeker after truth with a strategic and a progressive plan of salvation. Siddharta Gautama, the Buddha, with his gospel of liberation from the suffering and the dis-ease of existence, is the exemplary 'enlightened one' -- as his title reveals. In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, light illuminates the path to wholeness, well-being, and salvation. Each of these religions, in its distinctive and particular way, satisfies a universal human need. Does any one religion take precedence over the others? Can any one religion contain the truth for everyone and for all time? It was one thing for Spalding and Henderson to assert -- at a time when it was less common to do so than it is today -- that there are many different ways in which spiritual insight and wisdom is to be attained. This they did, ex animo, but neither man was ever to be a campaigner for a new universal system of beliefs (whether reformed but 'secular', or reformed and 'religious') based upon the abandonment of doctrinal particularity. This point is worth making if only to refute the charge laid against both men (but especially against HN by Professor R. C. Zaehner during the course of his inaugural lecture in Oxford) that their interest in world religions concealed an attempt to use the study of comparative religion in order to promote a universal syncretism. This, quite simply, was not true of either Spalding or Henderson.44[/url]

In each case of an experiment with religious truth the test is both empirical and pragmatic. The approach to the claims of a religion is heuristic. What is there to know and learn? What is there to discover and experience? Is a commitment to belief reasonable or absurd? In a more utilitarian vein, and in plain language, Does religion deliver what it promises to the believer? The great religious teachers, among whom are Siddharta Gautama, the Buddha and Jesus, the Christ, issue the invitation, 'Come and see', to the would-be seeker after truth. The claims of religion are thus to be tested only in the crucible of personal experience. The Gayatri Mantra, the prayer to the Sun, is the most sacred of Vedic mantras, repeated three times each day by an orthodox initiated Brahmin, in the early morning when the sun rises, at midday when the sun is at its zenith, and at sunset. In this prayer it is the light of the Sun which provides an appropriate metaphor for the blaze of enlightenment which may come, only faintly at first, when vision is clouded by sin, doubt, and uncertainty. At such times the believer may be compared to one who patiently waits for illumination, knowing that the dim light to be seen is the promise not the fulfilment. That which is just discernible on the horizon before dawn will give way ultimately to the effulgence of the risen sun. So the daily prayer is for light, for liberation, for salvation, for a knowledge of the Truth. It was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi -- Mahatma Gandhi -- who declared that 'Truth is God'. What we seek in our search for Truth is, according to this view, nothing less than that for which in our present state of ignorance we can only call God.

Om: Let us meditate on
The radiance of the divine
May it inspire and illuminate our intellects. Om.45


The theme of the revelatory power of light is picked up in al-Quran. The Holy Book of Islam is itself the light that is manifest, a revelation sent down by God. The 'convincing proof' of its illuminating truth is given not so much in prepositional statements about doctrine -- though these are important enough -- but in the personal example of the Prophet Muhammad's response in every particular to the divine call he received.

O Mankind! Verily
There hath come to you
A convincing proof
From your Lord:
For We [i.e. God] have sent unto you
A light (that is) manifest. (4.174)46


The twenty-fourth surah of the Quran carries the title al-Nur, 'the Light'. It contains the 'Verse of Light'.

God is the Light
Of the heavens and the earth.
The parable of His Light
Is as if there were a Niche
And within it a Lamp:
The Lamp enclosed in Glass:
The glass as it were
A brilliant star:
Lit from a blessed Tree,
An Olive, neither of the East
Nor of the West,
Whose Oil is well-nigh
Luminous,
Though fire scarce touched it:
Light upon Light!
God doth guide
Whom He will
To His Light:
God doth set forth Parables
For men: and God
Doth know all things. (verse 35)


Then come the lines,

(Lit is such a light)
In houses, which God
Hath permitted to be raised
To honour; for the celebration
In them of His name:
In them He is glorified
In the mornings and
In the evenings, (again and again),
By men whom neither
Traffic nor merchandise
Can divert from the Remembrance
Of God, nor from regular Prayer,
Nor from the practice
Of regular Charity. . . (verses 36-7)47


Opportunity and Responsibility in Education

Could a new universal religion be founded upon human solidarity in the face of cosmic indifference? The prospect of a godless chaos rather than a divinely ordered cosmos offers a bleak view of human existence in a universe from which even the possibility of supernatural intervention is excluded. Spalding and Henderson would have none of that. The denial of the Divine Vision was to be vigorously challenged. The notion that it is the denial of God that is the beginning of wisdom was a poisoned inversion of the truth, which Spalding established the Trust and the Union to counter. At the same time he was fully aware of the fact that two separate groups were brought into a formidable anti-theistic alliance by the secularist tendency. On the one hand were the dogmatic atheists, with their own counter-gospel to propagate. On the other hand were those whose practical atheism had never been subjected to critical scrutiny and whose lives appeared to them to stand in no need of spiritual inquiry, except at infrequent moments of personal stress. These are the ones who are indifferent rather than hostile to the claims of religion. Both Spalding and Henderson rook a great interest in educational theory and practice. What is the role of education in a pluralist, multi-ethnic, multi-faith, multi-cultural society? If 'God' exists, and if all men and women belong to the same family of created beings, can disagreements about revelation be allowed to obstruct human progress? Can it be that 'God' should wilfully confuse the most important issue of all by dividing those who 'He' has created to be obedient to 'His' will? Such questions often exercised the minds of both men. Much of what they had to say by way of answers focused on education and especially on religious and moral education in schools. Without the adequate preparation of teachers, however, the inclusion of teaching about world religions in the school curriculum is questionable. This was one of the concerns of the Anglican scholar, Canon Spencer Leeson, whose teaching career took him to the headship of Winchester College, one of England's leading public schools. In 1944 he gave the Bampton Lectures in Oxford. In one of the notes to the published lectures he wrote:

It is hardly fair to confront a child with his mind as yet undeveloped with Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Confucianism, laying them side by side as it were on the table, and inviting him to choose for himself. He is not ready to appreciate either the differences or the common elements, and if told that he must exercise a choice between alternative ideas about God and man, would either feel bewildered or would cease to listen. Those who have had practical experience of dealing with children of that age would not be likely to commend this proposal. As every teacher knows, if any impression is to be made upon children, he must be definite, clear and, above all, concrete. Moreover it is doubtful whether a teacher with any strong convictions of his own could maintain an objective attitude towards these alternatives. He would be required by implication to believe, or at least suggest, that all of them were equally true; this would be impossible unless he was indifferent to them all, and a teacher with an outlook of that sort might well be unwilling to give any religious reaching.

Again, to discover common elements among competing creeds long study of them is necessary, and if possible practical experience of their working in the countries where they command assent. I do not envy a teacher who believes in the value of religious training being compelled by State regulation to extract these common elements at second-hand from books of reference, and then present them to a class of 13-year-olds, implying that they are all of them equally valuable and that they must make their own choice. Children of that age have a right to look to their teacher for guidance; and he, if he has any faith at all, will be eager to give it. If he has no faith, he should not be called upon to teach religion.

There is everything to be said for the conscientious study of comparative religion at a later stage, and it does in fact form part of many sixth form courses ... But no religious teacher worth the name would encourage his pupils to regard other faiths with intolerance or contempt. If he is a Christian, he must believe that his faith is the truth of God; but he must equally certainly hold that wherever there is honest thinking and right action, there the Holy Spirit is working.48


With much of this Spalding would have agreed in principle. A broader approach to religious education in schools was a matter of importance to him. But who was to take up the challenge? Who was to widen the curriculum? Who was to question the established practice, so familiar to members of his own generation and not unknown in his later years, of equating terms such as Religious Instruction, Divinity, Scripture, with a presentation in schools of the beliefs and practices of Christianity? Was this an appropriate task for State schools? Did not such attempts amount to indoctrination? Leeson had given his Bampton lectures in Oxford in 1944, the year in which the forward-looking Education Act, associated with the name R. A. Butler, appeared on the statute book. Butler was Minister of Education from 1941 to 1945 in the National Coalition government, which served Britain during the Second World War. The Act re-organised secondary school education and introduced the II-plus examination for selection to the grammar schools. It also set important guidelines for the provision of religious education in County and Voluntary schools. These parts of the Act were to become so important, so widely discussed, and ultimately so fiercely challenged, that is useful to quote them.

Section 25

(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, the school day in every county school and in every voluntary school shall begin with collective worship on the part of all pupils in attendance at the school, and the arrangements made therefore shall provide for a single act of worship attended by all such pupils unless, in the opinion of the local education authority or, in the case of a voluntary school, of the managers or governors thereof, the school premises are such as to make it impracticable to assemble them for that purpose.

(2) Subject to the provisions of this section, religious instruction shall be given in every county school and in every voluntary school.

(3) It shall not be required, as a condition of any pupil attending any county school or any voluntary school, that he shall attend or abstain from attending any Sunday school or any place of religious worship.

(4) If the parent of any pupil in attendance at any county school or any voluntary school requests that he be wholly or partly excused from attendance at religious worship in the school, or from attendance at religious instruction in the school, or from attendance at both religious worship and religious instruction in the school, then, until the request is withdrawn, the pupil shall be excused from such attendance accordingly ...

Section 26

Subject as hereinafter provided, the collective worship required by subsection (1) of the last foregoing section shall not, in any county school, be distinctive of any particular religious denomination, and the religious instruction given to any pupils in attendance at a county school in conformity with the requirements of subsection (2) of the said section shall be given in accordance with an agreed syllabus adopted for the school or for those pupils and shall not include any catechism or formulary which is distinctive of any particular religious denomination.


The importance of religious education was thus recognised, and the position of the 'subject' in the curriculum ensured. Within a short period of time, however, the unique status of religious education as the only school subject to be made compulsory began to be questioned. An approach to religious education, which focused almost exclusively on Christianity, became more controversial after the end of the Second World War, when immigration to this country increased the numbers of adherents of other faiths. The situation was further complicated by the rising secularism in a country that was now being described as 'post-Christian'. If religious education was to survive it would have to be re-designed in order to meet the needs of a pluralist society. The changes were not long in coming. In the 1960s moves to broaden the content of religious education in schools and to redefine its aims and objectives were being made. Perhaps the most far-reaching of the changes now being advocated was that which called for the inclusion of teaching about religions other than Christianity.

The phrase 'teaching about' is important because it reflects a growing insistence that State schools are not places in which religion ought to be taught. Religious beliefs and practices may legitimately be described but not taught in a confessional way that may be appropriate in a synagogue, a church, a mosque, or a rationalist ethical society. A more important place in the school curriculum for a descriptive, phenomenological, approach to the great religions (not excluding Christianity) was thus envisaged and designed. This was a development for which Spalding had argued
, but he did not live to see the formal introduction of world religions as an integral element of 'the new religious education'. Among the most prominent advocates of this change were the members of the Shap Working Party on World Religions in Education, led by Professor Ninian Smart of the University of Lancaster and Professor Geoffrey Parrinder of King's College, London. 'Shap', as it is popularly known, combined theory with practice (as it continues to do), offering teachers and educational administrators practical help in the planning of syllabuses and the preparation of materials about different religions, suitable for use in schools.

Henderson welcomed the new developments and for several years was a member of the Shap Working Party, so called because the early group of enthusiasts first met for discussion at the Shap Wells Hotel, in a remote part of Westmorland (now in Cumbria), near the village of Shap. His enthusiasm waned somewhat with the onset of age, when he noted that the emphasis of the innovators did not appear to be the same as he and Spalding had expected. He felt, probably mistakenly, that in what was becoming known as the New Religious Education, the approach to world religions was too studiously descriptive. There appeared to be little room for encouraging an awareness of the Divine Vision that is our common spiritual heritage, and no place for encouraging the search for Truth. He thought that the approach to religious studies (and, hence, 'to the teaching of religion in schools', as he still preferred to call it, was becoming too reductionist, too self-consciously 'neutral', and sadly, too superficial. He no doubt misunderstood what the innovators were attempting to do, but he feared that religion and religions might be trivialised in the process. He also feared that, by simply presenting facts about different religions to immature minds in a way that could hardly be other than selective, the unfortunate result might be an induction into agnosticism -- unintended, perhaps -- about the worth, not to speak of the truth, of any religion. The irony of an approach to religious education, which might well result in the rejection of a personal commitment to any form of religious belief, was not lost on him. Although he made his personal reservations known, however, he commended the Shap initiative in such a way that the Spalding Trustees were able to support it for several years with an annual grant. HN cannot be said to have appreciated the problem of preparing teachers to deal effectively with religious education in schools. In Henderson's time the problem was becoming acute, and he did understand what was needed. In his twilight years, however, he was obliged to concede that the educational renaissance for which he and Spalding had laboured in their different ways was not about to occur. In education there were other priorities of a less than spiritual kind. To the claims of religion and religions there was growing indifference and apathy rather than real curiosity and sustained interest. The comparative study of world religions seemed to him to be increasingly remote from the needs of most people. Despite the efforts of enthusiastic teachers to ensure that this did not happen, he felt that the 'subject' was not being taught in a sufficiently imaginative way. Furthermore, there seemed to be little evidence to show that religious belief and moral action were being significantly improved by the teaching of a subject that still had to fight for survival in the curriculum. Old age and infirmity did not extinguish his idealism, although towards the end he was clearly tired of life. The gleam in his eyes and the sound of his laughter still evoked the love and enthusiasm of family and friends. His death in 1988 marked the end of the partnership in the service of Spalding's ideal, but it did not mark the end of the work with which both men had been so intimately involved.

_______________

Notes and References

1. CEW, pp. 293ff.

2. H. N. Spalding, 1958, The Divine Universe or the Many and the One: A Study of Religions and Religion, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, Prologue. pp. 10-11. The book was published posthumously.

3. HNS, TDU, op. cit., p. 11.

4. Isidore Epstein, 1959. Judaism: A Historical Presentation, Penguin Books, p. 217.

5. I Peter 3.15. For the word translated here as 'reason', the Greek text has [x], 'a reasoned (and reasoning) defence'.

6. Obituary notice of HN in The Brazen Nose, A College Magazine, Oxford, 1954, pp. 342-3.

7. The point is one of historical interest. See Appendix I, Directions to Trustees.

8. Letter to Dr Carmen Blacker, 26 October 1967, HFP file F2/6.

9. USGR, number 32, Summer 1975, p. 14. The reference in the last line is to the English poet and Anglican priest, George Herbert (1593-1633), who spent his last years serving the parish of Bemerton in Wiltshire, not far from Henderson's house in Steeple Langford. Herbert's poem 'Love' (III) ends with the lines: 'You must sit down', says Love, 'and taste my meat' / So I did sit and eat.

10. This extract from Robert Speaight's article 'Liturgy and Language' appeared in NUSGR number 30, Summer, 1973, p. 5.

11. See above, page 10, for the lines of Spalding's sonnet that contains the words quoted here.

12. A comment of Spalding, recalled by Henderson, NUSGR, number 26, Summer 1969, p. 6.

13. K. D. D. Henderson. 1976, 'Is Religion Necessary", Occasional Papers 1976-1986, edited by Edward Hulmes. Farmington, Oxford, p. 11.

14. Huston Smith, 1958. The Religions of Man, Mentor Books, The New American Library, New York, p. 20. The last sentence in this quotation is from the Katha Upanishad, I, iii, 14.

15. Kathleen Bliss, 1969, The Future of Religion, The New Thinker's Library, C. A. Watts & Co. Ltd, London, p. 2.

16. See W. Cantwell Smith, 1964, The Meaning and End of Religion, New York.

17. John Hick, 'Towards a Global Theology', in Theology, September 1970.

18. Huston Smith, op. cit., 1958, p. 19.

19. Martin Buber, 1961. Between Man and Man, translated by R. Gregor Smith, Collins Fontana Books, p. 24.

20. The incident in Henderson's life, which convinced him that missionary efforts to convert Muslims to Christianity were not always well-advised, was recalled by his son David during K.D.D.H.'s funeral service in All Saints' Church, Steeple Langford, Wiltshire, on Wednesday, 30 March 1988. See below, page 168.

21. See Appendix 2.

22. Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, 1958, in his foreword to Spalding's TDU, op. cit., p. vii.

23. See page 28.

24. Martin Corner, 1995. in his Introduction to The Works of Matthew Arnold, Wordsworth Poetry Library, p. v.

25. Matthew Arnold, The Buried Life, lines 45-54, first published in 1852.

26. Professor Robert Slater of Harvard University.

27. Professor W. E. Hocking of Harvard University.

28. Sir Richard Livingstone died a few months before on 26 December 1960. He served as Chairman of the Union for the Study of the Great Religions from 1953. In tribute, Henderson wrote, 'What strikes us is the power of a liberal education to make England's greatest and most distinguished classicist work for the extension of the western classical tradition, [and] to embrace the cultural heritage of India and China'. NUSGR, number 14, February 1961 p. 1.

29. NUSGR, number 15, October 1961, p. 7.

30. Spalding wrote many poems, mostly sonnets, for which he claimed no special merit. They were not, as he put it, 'for the fashion of these times'. As for criticism, he added in Greek, 'the author doesn't care!'

31. H. N. Spalding, TDU, pp. 1-2.

32. The Trust encouraged the work of providing such translations by supporting the commissioning and publication of Ethical and Religious Classics, published by George Allen & Unwin.

33. From a leaflet about the USGR drafted in June 1954, by the General Secretary, KDDH, pp. 1-2.

34. HNS, 1939, CEW, p. 190.

35. Ibid, PP. 232-54.

36. HNS, IPL ([952), p. 88. In a letter (dated 28 April 2001) to the present author by JMKS, Spalding's son, there is the following note: 'HN wrote and published anonymously Russia in Resurrection. I do not have a copy, but it was published while we lived at Shotover Cleve, probably about 1926-30. It had no index because it was published in a hurry for some reason which I forget'. In this case JMKS was probably correct to attribute the omission of an index to the need for hasty publication, but this cannot be said of his father's other published works. One of Spalding's major publications contains an index. In his review of Civilization in East and West G. Stanley Whitby suggested a different reason for the omission: 'An index is desirable, although with such a wealth of scholarship to be catalogued one can forgive a compiler for shrinking from the task'. The review of CEW was published in the American journal Ethics. HN typed the review (undated) from a handwritten transcript sent from Oriel College, Oxford, on 15 March 1941 by Jim Kincade. HN pasted his typescript into a copy of CEW that is now in my possession. On the last page of the same copy of the book H wrote the three words 'Add an Index'. He never did.

37. The Russian text of this 'Prayer' (Molitva), written in 1962 by Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, was sent to me, typed on an old fashioned machine, from his home in exile in Vermont in 1981. Here I have included my English version of the Russian text.

38. Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 1961.

39. The lectureship was originally called The Spalding Lectureship in Eastern Orthodox Culture. It was subsequently renamed The Spalding Lectureship in Eastern Orthodox Studies, after it was felt that the word Culture in the original wording was too ambiguous.

40. HNS, IPL, p. 7.

41. HNS, IPL, p. 31.

42. HNS, IPL, pp. viii-ix.

43. Dr Blacker's comment was made in her Charles Strong Memorial Lecture in Melbourne, Australia, in July 1968.

44. The charge against Spalding, the founder of the Chair to which Zaehner had just been elected, was made in the new Professor's inaugural lecture, 'Foolishness to the Greeks', to an audience which included H and his wife. Zaehner also used the occasion to make the same criticism of his predecessor, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. The ensuing hostility between HN and Zaehner, which arose not only as a result of Spalding's objection to Zaehner's election but out of the latter's declaration of intent to change the emphasis of the work of the Chair, is considered in chapter four, pp. 114ff.


45. Rig Veda, 3.62.10.

46. The English versions of the Arabic original are those of A Yusuf Ali, in The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary, Dar al Arabia, Beirut, Lebanon, 1968.

47. Ibid

48. Spencer Leeson, 1947, Christian Education, being eight lectures delivered before the University of Oxford, in the year 1944, on the foundation of The Rev. John Bampton, Canon of Salisbury, Longmans, Green & Co., London, p. 24.
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