ABOU BEN ADHEM’S IDEAL
(New Discoveries, Vol. 3, pp. 316-18. Abou Ben Adhem, the hero of Leigh Hunt’s famous poem, asked a recording angel to list him as loving his fellowmen.)
[New York World, December 8, 1895]
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA THE YOGI, COMES FROM BOMBAY,
PREACHING LOVE FOR HIS FELLOW-MAN.
To find an ascetic of the Highest Eastern type clad in a red and flowing Hindoo cloak over unmistakable American trousers is necessarily a surprise. But in other things besides dress is Swami Vivekananda astonishing. In the first place he declares that your religion or any one else’s religion is just as good as his own, and if you should happen to be a Christian or Mussulman, Baptist or Brahmin, atheist, agnostic or Catholic, it will make no difference to him. All that he asks is that you act righteously according to your lights.
The Yogi, with his peculiar notions of dress and worship, arrived Friday on the Brittanic. He went to No. 228 West Thirty—ninth street. While in New York he will lecture upon metaphysics and psychology, and will also disseminate in a general way his ideas on the universal religion which asks no man to take another by the throat because his creed happens to be different. “Let me help my fellowman; that is all I seek,” he says.
“There are four general types of men,” he says,
the rational, the emotional, the mystical and the worker. For them we must have their proper worship. There comes the rational man, who says, “I care not for this form of worship. Give me the philosophical, the rational — that I can appreciate.” So for the rational man is the rational, philosophic worship.
There comes the worker. He says: “I care not for the worship of the philosopher. Give me work to do for my fellow-men.” So for him is made a worship, as for the mystical the emotional. In the religion for all these men are the elements of their faith.
“No,” said the Swami, very softly, in answer to a question,
I do not believe in the occult. If a thing be unreal it is not. What is unreal does not exist. Strange things are natural phenomena. I know them to be matters of science. Then they are not occult to me. I do not believe in occult societies. They do no good, and can never do good.
In fact, the Swami belongs to no society, cult or creed. His is a religion which compasses all worship, all classes, all beliefs.
Swami, who is a very dark-featured and good-looking young fellow, explained his creed yesterday in remarkably pure English. One forgot when he spoke that an orthodox choker peered over the Bombay robe which in turn scantily concealed the American trousers. One saw instead a winning smile and a pair of deep, lustrous black eyes.
Swami believes in reincarnation. He believes that with the purification of the body the soul rises to a higher condition, and as the purification through matter continues the spirit rises, until released from further migration and is joined with the universal spirit.
Such a man as the Jew-baiter [Hermann?] Ahlwardt, who has just arrived in this country, the Swami cannot understand. “You say,” he said,
that he comes here to preach hate against his fellow-men. Is he not of wrong mind? Is he allowed to spread this hate? The doctors should examine his brain to find out the wrong.
The peculiar name of the Yogi signifies, literally, “The bliss of discrimination.” He is the first Indian Yogi who ever came to this country. He comes from Bombay.