Importance of Culture
People think that culture means merely knowledge of some dead language e.g. Latin or Greek (Or Sanskrit) and read it as unnecessary in the modern world.
They think that it is a good thing for people who are not called upon to act swiftly in crisis, that it brings indecision of action in present circumstances (because they will be thinking of ideals or past analogical situations), that it makes the, pedants and unpractical dreamers. In politics however mean who can act swiftly and resolutely in difficult circumstance, are required. Men of culture cannot, they think, be entrusted with power. But men of culture should not want power, they should follow Socrates’ dictum “Know thyself”, they should not agitate for mere political expedients and should regard such agitation as vulgar. But it is the fault of our community that men of culture cannot be entrusted with power, we find that our community is so dominated by men who lack culture that they cannot tolerate a man of culture to guide them.
Sweetness and Light
Culture is not merely knowledge of a dead language like Greek or Latin (or Sanskrit), it is not mere curiosity to know things which makes a man unpractical, it is not mere exclusiveness or vanity by which the men of culture desire to remain isolated fro the mass. Curiosity by itself is not bad, it has a good sense as also a bad sense. Some curiosity is futile but curiosity may also means a desire to know things even when there may have not be nay practical application; it may have for its aim making an intelligent being yet mire intelligent. This sort of good curiosity is one basis of culture (desire to know things.)
But culture has also another basic , a practical value, it desires to make reason and the will of God prevail. In this aspect it is not mere curiosity or a desire to know but it is a study of perfection based on the moral and social passion for doing good. Man of culture want to benefit society, but they want first of all to find out what is of real benefit to men, what will do them lasting good, what is reasonable and proper and then put these into action. They do this because they know that doing is of little value and may even be dangerous if we do not know what is the best thing we should do (e.g. a bad doctor may cause increased suffering in trying to heal.)
Of course men must know before they can act, they must find out reason and the will of God before they can make it prevail. Thus knowing and acting must proceed side by side by side.
Religion and Culture
Religion sanction this aim of culture. religion says “the kingdom of God is within you.” Culture also make perfection an internal condition which makes man something more than an animal. Culture lays stress on the dignity, wealth (well-being and happiness of mankind.) Culture lays emphasis on harmonious development, it tell us that man is to be judged not by what he has but by what he is and by what he is trying to become. This also is the view of religion because religions wants to develop the divinity in man. Again just as religion enjoins not merely that you must follow a good religion, but must bring the truths of religion before others so that they can follow the right path, so culture consist in making others follow in the path of perfection, so that there may be a general expansion, a collective realization of perfection. But culture goes beyond religion because of its layers stress on harmonious expansion of all the powers and not mere expansion of one aspect of life namely the realization of God. Culture therefore means a study of perfection (harmonious, general, internal and all round) and in seeking to make it prevail as a social ideal.
Englishman and Culture
Englishmen have a mechanical civilization which merely seeks material prosperity which they wrongly cal wealth, they have strong individualism and think that everyman should be free to do as he likes, they always look to one aspect of things so that there mind is obsessed with prejudices and they think that intense energy of action is the most desirable thing in life. Men of culture have to fight against theses mental habits, such as narrowness, individualism and pleasure in material things which do not give actual well -being and so they have a mission in England now.
British civilization has a faith in machinery. Machinery may server purpose, it may make life comfortable and so we may use it and value it as a temporary means to an end. But the English value machinery itself as if it is good in itself. Machinery really means something by which something else can be done easily or an end can be served better so that freedom of an individual (e.g. freedom of speech which should be valuable only when a man is free to speak what is actually good for the nation and his speech for the nation well-being is not suppressed but not when a man talks rabidly or incites violence etc.), increase of population, coal , rail-roads, and these therefore should not be regarded as good in themselves. Thus the freedom of everyman to eat, speak, do and read as he likes is not good thing in itself but the actual good thing is to find out what is really beautiful, graceful or becoming in dress and to like that sort of dress alone.
The national greatness of England cannot be based on cola because greatness is soothing which we can love and admire as a spiritual condition, so that after all the coal or iron is England has become exhausted people will still admire England for Shakespeare. England also cannot be regarded as great because of her prosperity or wealth because prosperity may make people think foolishly, read bad literature, act brutally, and live like so many animals. Wealth can be good only when it brings real well-bring i.e. raised a man into true perfection. Increase of population similarly doesn’t not prove the greatness or happiness of England because mere number cannot be regarded as good. In the same way, bodily health and vigor or plenty of food may not be regarded as constituting greatness of the nation because these also are when they produce godliness and help in the formation of spirit and character. Thus the end of life may be summed up in the words ‘sweetness and light’ and all activity should be directed towards attaining this end.
Culture and religious organization
In this respect, culture is akin to poetry because poetry is concerned with the idea of beauty and human perfection. But coupled with this, we aim at a human nature perfect in the moral side in religion so that religion and poetry are akin to culture. In Greek poetry and religion there was an attempt to lay primary emphasis on the idea of beauty, harmony and complete human perfection but they did not emphasis’s the active side (the moral fiber) of religion (i.e. proselytizing establishing missions, founding churches etc. ) Englishmen on the other hand have active religious organizations but ignore beauty, harmony and perfection. Thus Englishmen miss inward peace and satisfaction based on complete spiritual perfection but they confuse this with mere moral perfection. Thus their minds become rough and brutal. This religious intolerance is exhibited in Puritanism (which is very much obsessed with the outer forms of religion) and with dogmas like ‘the dissidence of dissent and the protestation of the protestant religion.’ ( which merely emphasize religion intolerance and quarrelsomeness ). These are thus opposed to sweetness and light and of religion teachings like “be of one mind”. Things like these are thus to be avoided, even when they appear to be religious. Men of culture may fail in subduing our animal passion , they may fail in morality but they had an idle viz. to pursue beauty, perfection, sweetness and light, while the Puritans followed the other ideal of practicing religions dogmas and adopting religions codes without considering whether they really good and useful. This was a narrow and inadequate view of perfection, a sort of intolerable and intolerant religious fanaticism. Such religious observance produce jealousy, disputes, sermons etc, but cannot give sweetness and light or perfection.
There is vice and hideousness in horse races (e.g. in some of our Puja processions etc.) and people may ask how these can be cured by a religion as it was being practiced in England. Religion reaches us that we are all “Children of God.” But we can be real children of God by the good works which we can do collectively and by the beautiful words of culture which we can speak together. Instead of this, collectively Englishmen build a huge city like London which is hideous and where a few rich person live among a mass of starving men and collectively they speak in the language of the Daily Telegraph which merely boats of a large circulation instead of caring for correct idea, Religion in England had become a sort of muscular harmonious inner perfection.
Culture regards all these above (freedom , coal, wealth, population, religious organizations etc.) as machinery ; men of culture may utilize them or tolerate them but they regard them as machinery. They are not violent fanatics seeking to wipe them out altogether; they have flexible tolerant minds, they may accept these as stepping stones to future progress but they are aware that these are wrong be discarded. Wealth may be necessary and industrialism may be good because it produces wealth, but it does not breed perfection so that the present generation of industrialists are scarified to it. Similarly games may build up the body but those who are now trained as professional athletes are being scarified in the hop of a future of better physical body for a generation more usefully employed. So also about Puritanism or freedom of speech; men of culture don’t deny their utility some day but are reluctant to make too much fuss about them at all times.
Oxford has fought for culture, for sweetness and light, for beauty and perfection. Oxford might not have won political battles but Oxford has prepared the minds of the people to accept culture at its true value. The oxford movement (with Cardinal Newman, Pusey, Dr. Arnold as leaders) was defeated, but it stood for perfection and culture. It was opposed and defeated by the liberalism of the old Middleclass (the Philistines) but this Middleclass liberalism has been defeated by the present middle class or the working class (the populace or democracy). The upsurge against the Middleclass liberalism was fostered by the light thrown upon it by Dr. Newman’s movement for beauty and sweetness and its collapse become inevitable because the minds of men could realize its emptiness. Thus the Oxford movement, although killed by the Middle-class liberalism, had its revenge and Victory in having paved the path for the destruction of the force which has conquered it.
Democracy has defeated old middle-class liberalism. The upholders of culture find in democracy some ally, because democracy seeks to reform every sphere of life and even talks of making life better and more worth living. But even here culture should upload the ideal of inward spiritual activity, increase sweetness, increase light, increased life and increased sympathy so that democracy will have new ideologies than mere belief in franchise (Voting power), pride in cities, rail-roads and factories built by the people. Now man can never value himself merely on these things, his value lies in what he is, so that culture can teach democracy not to take pride in the wonderfulness of its own industrial performance or the blessedness of the franchise but in perfection.