Human nature is so diverse that I suppose every age in every clime can claim to be unique, however good or bad it be. Current Western civilisation is unique in that it exhibits for the first time in history an affluent proletariat. I almost said democracy, but despite the boasting, its democracy is more superficial than real, and every year bears witness to its decline. Having acquired affluence the great majority, of all classes, want nothing so much as to increase it by acquiring larger shares of national cakes. Indeed politics is now chiefly concerned with the distribution of the rising tide of goods which automatic machines and automatic humans turn out of the factories, and service which increased sophistication demands. In the process, the big financial corporations and a few tycoons together with a few astute politicians succeed in diverting ample supplies of the fruits of industry into the coffers of the investing classes, which proclaim their intention to let the workers share the rising prosperity. The relative shares are never disclosed.
The outcome is a materialistic society from top to bottom, which has no place for religion, philosophy or the culture of the spirit. With the exception of a small percentage of devout Christians, religion is little more than an elaborate camouflage for maintaining the social status quo. Every trade, every profession and every social group has its own techniques for advancing its income levels.
Thanks to circumstances which led me to thin': about the meaning of life at a very early age and even to perceive the values of meditation and creative social living. I became fortified, perhaps unwitting against the temptations of affluence. Their rejection required no heroism on my part, as I saw clearly what I believed to be a better way. Whether that vision was due to religion, philosophy or culture, I did not stop to consider. But it gripped me in my teens, and at 23 enabled me to make one of my major decisions. What I did know was that a spark of living TRUTH had entered my soul. It has remained with me ever since. That experience is the justification for the title I have given to my life-story. My life has been a perpetual series of experiments in the art of living, and every experiment has taken me off the beaten track. It is even so today, and so it will continue. It is also why Erick Gill pressed me to write my autobiography and why the Editor of the Indian monthly, "Sarvodaya", invited me a send to him my life-story in monthly instalments.
Now many people in this bewildered age which offers no encouragement and few opportunities to step off the beaten tracks, may be inclined to read it I haven't the foggiest idea. What I am certain of is that it is much harder today than it was sixty years ago to leave the beaten tracks and start "voyaging through strange seas of thought alone", to quote a line from Wordsworth. But above the roar and clamour of modern life can be heard the rustlings of concerned and troubled minds and souls. It is to these especially that I would like to dedicate what follows—the seekers after light and truth everywhere. I would add this note : the period during which these instalments were written covered twenty months, a circumstance which caused a little repetition for which I solicit the reader's indulgence. I am greatly indebted to David Hogget for his valuable help in correcting the proofs.
Here is a testimony of an Englishman which should be read, pondered over and digested by every educated Indian, particularly those who are young and eager to modernise their country. Many years ago I came to know of Wilfred Wellock and read some of his writings. A young Englishman, David Hogget, who lived in my Ashram for a few months in 1954 introduced me to his 'Orchard Lea Papers.' They were of absorbing interest and gave much clarity to my effort to understand Western industrial society. Not being closely associated with the Gandhian movement yet, I did not have the opportunity to meet him at the Sevagram Peace Conference in 1948. It was in 1958 that I had the pleasure, along with Siddharaj Dhadda, to meet him at his home in Preston. We spent a day with him and saw the simple life he lived there with his wife. Both of them are vegetarians and we saw how in his small backyard he was grow-ing the vegetables that we later took at his table. Like Gandhiji, one of Mr. Wellock's experiments in the Art of Living, which is the greatest Art indeed, was in dietetics, and naturally enough he had come to similar conclusions. It is a great pity that modern Medical Science, in spite of the great advance in the Natural Sciences, has paid so little attention to this subject and to that of the relation of food to disease. Ayurveda, even with-out the advantage of modern science, had given far greater thought to it, though its findings need to be drastically revised in the light of further knowledge and experience. One of the striking things that Mr. Wellock had told us at our first meeting was that he had deliberately kept his income below the taxation level: that was the only way he could make his personal contribution to the Truth as he understood it. His friends had often asked him why did he not keep an automobile. He told us he could easily earn enough to be able to buy and David had a terrible accident while working in Europe on a Service Civil work-project, and has been permanently invalidated since. But as I found, when visiting him three years ago at Cheltenham, he is still working hard—the centre of young idealists devoted to the discovery of a way of life that reconciled Science to Truth and Non-violence. He is, as I described him at a meeting in Cheltenham at which he presided, being wheel-chaired to the place, a living symbol of the triumph of Spirit over Matter. David now lives in an Ashram in Wales.
maintain one, but he did not want to do it : jumping on to the spending escalator and ascending 'higher and higher' in the scale of 'standard of living' was the chief disease of Western industriali-sed society, against which his life has been a ceaseless and reasoned protest. It is not necessary that I should give in this Foreword a summary of the results of Wellock's experiments. The reader must turn to the text itself and be rewarded and enriched by the story of an earnest spiritual search and endeavor Most of us take things on trust from others. Therein lies a vital difference between science and spirituality ( I would have called it religion had not religion, as practised, been converted to an external rather than internal experience ). A layman has to accept the word of science on trust and fully enjoy its fruits. Not only the layman but even the scientist must do the same. particularly in fields other than his own. But in the sphere of the spirit, it is otherwise. There, whatever is taken on trust is stale and merely intellectual. It cannot provide one with that fresh fountain of life from which comes happiness and calm and meaning and purpose. Wilfred Wellock's experiments, or Gandhiji's, cannot give us recipes for living ; they can only awaken us and make us quesion, seek and discover. The truth discovered by oneself is a far more potent force of life than truth borrowed from others. Wellock, like Gandhiji has shown that every one can discover the truth for himself. The merit of his story, again like Gandhiji's is that by its transparent honesty and earnestness it arouses and awakens. The search of the individual cannot be separated from the social search. The truth should be the basis not only of individual, but also of social life. This is an aspect of the truth that has not always been adequately emphasised by the spiritual teachers of mankind. In our own tune and country, it was Gandhiji who laid equal emphasis on both and sought to relate them. This too has been the life-long endeavour of Wilfred Wellock. He has closely followed—he is now in his 82nd year—the evolution of modern industrial society in his own country, which is the mother of the Industrial Revolution, as also on the Continent and in North America, and has diagnosed its ills and pondered over the remedies. According to him the disease of modern Western society is that its material values are no longer governed by its spiritual values to which it still pays lip service. This is not a startling discovery—indeed it might appear hack-neyed because the same thing has been said by so many. But the difference is that he has gone beyond generalisation and pontification and analysed objectively and concretely the whole process of degeneration of Western society. The results of the analysis point towards a socio-politico-economic revolution that would bewilder and even frighten many of those who glibly talk of the spiritual ruling over the material. The significance of Wellock's voyage and discovery is that he spells out the forms that social processes and institutions ought to take in the present age of science so that the balance between the material and the spiritual is established. Colossal waste; aimless speed; the consumption escalator with its concomitants of high-pressure advertising and hire-purchase; umbounded gadgetry; senseless competition and economic war involving internal and external exploitation, colonialism and domination, fragmented and un-natural living; commercialisation of culture; standardization of individuality ; ugly urban conurbations ; struggle for power and increase of violence and the means of violence ; decline of com-munity and stultification of democracy are some of the symptoms of the disease that he has analysed, indicating at the same time the manner to overcome them and the new forms of social life to take their place. He sees two alternatives open to Western civilisation. One, utter self-destruction as a result of atomic war or sheer collapse due to the imbalance in the structure of society, followed by a painful, slow process of re-building of a new life. Two, Western society, recognising the danger in time in which it has placed itself and making a supreme effort to turn in the direction of regeneration and survival. It is extremely interesting that Mr. Wellock thinks that the new turning in the path of civilisation might really be discovered by Soviet Russia. He thinks so because Russia is not burdened by the weight of " tycoons ' or 'big private financial corporations'. 'Why should Russia', he asks, 'incur the colossal waste that takes place in operating the American economy and that of all the Western powers ? Why should Russia, for example, refuse to make spare parts for Model A washing machine in order to com-pel customees to scrap Model A machine for Model B, when she has no profiteers to consider ? 'Supposing Russia cut out advertising except for the things which make for a higher type of civilisation than that of maxi-mum material consumption, and went in for providing beautiful houses in beautiful neighbourhoods, and started competitions for architectural designs of houses, localities, landscape gardening etc., and instead of concentrating on mammoth sports grounds, began to organise local or area festivals of art in which the imaginations of people might express their concept of a more glorious civilisation ? That would be the road to the creation of whole persons......' This surely is an arresting thought. Mr. Wellock ends his story with an 'Appeal to India'.
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