“’I (Keshub Chunder Sen), a servant of God, called to be an apostle of the Church.’ . . . . ‘heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, what thou seest (not) write in a book and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia,’ and unto the seventy times seven which are in Europe, America, Australia and Africa. . . . . ‘Write the things which thou hast (not) seen, and the things which are (not), and the things which shall (not) be hereafter.’” (Extracts from the Bengal Version of the Patmos Revelation.)
Wonders will never cease: the year 1883 opened with two miraculous events at Calcutta. A new Messiah was born unto the world to the great disgust of the Babu-Sadducee; and the “City of Palaces” and of whiskey dens awoke on New Year’s day to find itself, to its own utter amazement and despite every geographical and historical expectation, proclaimed as “the holy city” and “the metropolis of Aryavarta.” But thus saith the Prophet of the Patmos-Lily Ashrum, and the world must read, whether it will or not. Tired, evidently, of waiting for a star to leave its path, and of vainly expecting the appearance of the “wise men” of the West (Mr. J. Cook, though bulky, being anything but wise) to proclaim and crown him as King of the Babu Sannyasis, the “meek and lowly” Minister took destiny into his own hand and has now virtually announced himself one. In the teeth of the nineteenth century, the sober Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, and all the padris of whatever creed, colour, and persuasion, the new Messiah of Hooghly has now notified the world at large of his own advent!
An edict in the manner of Papal—or shall we say Irish?—Bulls, appeared in the New Dispensation Extraordinary—which was extraordinary indeed in every sense. Teeming with sentences copied verbally from the Christian Gospels; written in the style of, and mimicking the phraseology attributed to Christ, the said document is a curious piece of religious fanfaronnade to puzzle and perplex the future generations withal. This, of course, but in the case of a fresh miracle: that the said edict should not die a deserved death—at the bottom of the world’s waste-paper basket. Yet it is a curiosity worthy of preservation. Indeed, since the days of the Encyclical Letter and the Syllabus of Pope Pius IX in 1864-8, the precursors of the famous Ecumenical Council, no single document ever published, that we know of, has contained so many gratuitous assumptions, nor involved a more impudent claim to direct divine intercourse! Proceeding from a (as yet) comparatively obscure individual, instead of emanating from an autocratic Pope, it is but the more striking. Theocratic Rome, self-attributing to herself universal power and authority over the whole world—Kings and Emperors included—to be consistent with herself, had to face the laugh of the non-catholic world by creating a dignitary whom she called “the Vicar Apostolic of Tibet”—a country with not one single Christian in it and which slams its door in the face of every foreigner that approaches it. Why then, with such a precedent, should not our saintly minister claim likewise authority and infallibility, even though these should never be recognized? Is not he as much as any Pope “the chosen servant of God,” having en plus, than the Holy Father, the rare privilege of holding daily and hourly intercourses with the Almighty who talks to, and with him, Moses-like, and “face to face, and as a man speaketh unto his friend”? And though adverse opinions—those of the Theosophists and Spiritualists, for instance—hold that this “Almighty”—if the said intercourse is based on some more solid ground than mere nervous delusion—may be no better than some Pisacha-spirit masquerading under false colours, yet the opinions are divided. At all events, that of the Minister’s friends and well-wishers, the Theosophists, as giving him the benefit of the doubt, ought to be more welcome to, hence better appreciated by, Keshub Babu, than that of some profane Sadducees, both white and dark, who openly attribute such claims to “divine intercourse” to ambition and imposture. Meanwhile, on January 1, 1883, the readers of a few pious Journals of Calcutta were staggered by the following:
NEW YEAR’S DAY,
January 1, 1883
KESHUB CHUNDER SEN, a servant of God, CALLED to be AN APOSTLE of THE CHURCH of THE NEW DISPENSATION, WHICH IS IN THE HOLY CITY OF CALCUTTA, the METROPOLIS OF ARYAVARTA.
To all the great nations in the world and to the chief religious sects in the east and the west.
To the followers of Moses, of Jesus, of Buddha, of Confucius, of Zoroaster, of Mahomet, of Nanac, and to the various branches of the Hindu Church.
To the saints and the sages, the bishops and the elders, the ministers and the missionaries of all these religious bodies:
Grace be unto you and peace everlasting.
Whereas sectarian discord and strife, schisms and enmities prevail in our Father’s family, causing much bitterness, and unhappiness, impurity and unrighteousness, and even war, carnage, and bloodshed. . . .
It has pleased the Holly God to send unto the world a message of peace and love, of harmony and reconciliation.
This new Dispensation hath He, in boundless mercy, vouchsafed to us in the East, and WE HAVE BEEN COMMANDED TO BEAR WITNESS UNTO IT AMONG THE NATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Thus saith the Lord—Sectarianism is an abomination unto me and unbrotherliness I will not tolerate. . . .
At sundry times have I spoken THROUGH MY PROPHETS, and though many and various my dispensations, there is unity in them.
But the followers of these, my prophets, have quarrelled and fought, and they hate and exclude each other. . . .
These words hath the Lord our God spoken unto us, and His new gospel He hath revealed unto us, a gospel of exceeding joy.
The Church Universal hath he already planted in this land and therein are all prophets and all scriptures harmonized in beautiful synthesis.
And these blessed tidings the Loving Father HATH CHARGED ME and my brother-apostles to declare unto all the nations of the world, that being of one blood they may also be of one faith and rejoice in one Lord.
Thus shall all discord be over, saith the Lord, and peace shall reign on earth.
Humbly, therefore, I exhort you, brethren, to accept this new message of universal love. . . .
Hate not, but love ye one another, and be ye one in spirit and in truth even as the Father is one.
All errors and impurities ye shall eschew, in whatever church or nation they may be found, but ye shall hate no scripture, no prophet, no church.
Renounce all manner of superstition and error, infidelity and scepticism, vice and sensuality, and be ye pure and perfect.
Every saint, every prophet and every martyr ye shall honour and love as a man of God.
Gather ye the wisdom of the east and the west, and accept and assimilate the examples of the saints of all ages. . . .
Beloved brethren, accept our love and give us yours, and let the east and the west with one heart celebrate the jubilee of the New Dispensation.
LET ASIA, EUROPE, AFRICA, AND AMERICA WITH DIVERSE INSTRUMENTS PRAISE THE NEW DISPENSATION, and sing the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.
“The Editors of the leading journals in Europe and America, in India, Australia, China and Japan are respectfully requested to insert the above Epistle in their respective papers.”
We have culled the choicest flowers from this bouquet of modest assumptions, and republished it nearly in toto with its best passages immortalized in capitals, and neither demand nor expect thanks for it. Whether the four quarters of the globe are quite ready to “praise the New Dispensation with diverse instruments”—street organ included we suppose—is yet a matter for doubt. But, whether the future generations shall string on the name of Babu Keshub Chunder Sen to those of Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus, and Mahomet, or not, no one will now be disposed to deny that “cheek takes cities by storm and grinds strongholds to powder.” It is this same New Dispensation (and Liberty), be it remembered, which now issues the above Epistle, that denounced repeatedly in its columns the claims of the Theosophists to an intercourse with the living, albeit mysterious, “Brothers” who are but mortals—as an imposture and a fraud. Look upon this picture, and upon THAT!
After the above was in type, the Indian world was again staggered through the medium of dailies and weeklies by another piece of extraordinary news. The minister has announced his intention of circumnavigating the globe and visiting Europe, America and Africa as an apostle of the New Dispensation. So far the intention can hardly be found fault with. But the Babu affirms again that he has received a divine commission from God himself to go. Forsooth, the visits of the Almighty to the Babu are fast becoming a matter of quite a common occurrence now! “God”—goes “to and fro in the earth and walks up and down in it” after the manner of the rebellious Son of God in Job. We wonder whether it is the “Lord” who will defray Babu K. C. Sen’s travelling expenses out of his own private treasury; or, is the burden—agreeably with the time-honoured policy of Churches in general—to be left on the shoulders of the too confiding believers in the new “Seer” and “Minister”?