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Interpreting India to the West

posted on May 24, 2012

In its department “The Repository,” The American Conservative republishes Irving Babbitt’s essay, “Interpreting India to the West,” first printed in the Nation in 1917. Babbitt, a French literature professor at Harvard and leader of the New Humanist movement, argues for a western passage into the ancient Indian texts. “If one wishes to get at the true spirit of ancient India,” writes Babbitt, “one needs to reflect on the definition of the divine as the ‘inner check’ which so struck [Ralph Waldo] Emerson when he came upon it in [the Sanskrit scholar Henry Thomas] Colebrooke’s essay on the Vedanta. More than any other this phrase supplies the key to ancient Indian thought; this thought is in general highly astringent, it conceives, that is, of the good not as we do in terms of expansion, but in terms of concentration.”

Read at The American Conservative