This chapter has brought me to a stage where it becomes necessary for me to explain to the reader how this story is written from week to week.
When I began writing it, I had no definite plan before me. I have no
diary or documents on which to base the story of my experiments. I
write just as the Spirit moves me at the time of writing. I do not
claim to know definitely that all conscious thought and action on my
part is directed by the Spirit. But on an examination of the
greatest steps that I have taken in my life, as also of those that
may be regarded as the least, I think it will not be improper to say
that all of them were directed by the Spirit.
I have not seen Him, neither have I known Him. I have made the
world's faith in God my own, and as my faith is ineffaceable, I
regard that faith as amounting to experience. However, as it may be
said that to describe faith as experience is to tamper with truth,
it may perhaps be more correct to say that I have no word for
characterizing my belief in God.
It is perhaps now somewhat easy to
understand why I believe that I am writing this story as the Spirit
prompts me. When I began the last chapter I gave it the heading I
have given to this, but as I was writing it, I realized that before
I narrated my experiences with Europeans, I must write something by
way of a preface. This I did and altered the heading.
Now again, as I start on this chapter, I find myself confronted with
a fresh problem. What things to mention and what to omit regarding
the English friends of whom I am about to write is a serious
problem. If things that are relevant are omitted, truth will be
dimmed. And it is difficult to decide straightway what is relevant,
when I am not even sure about the relevancy of writing this story.
I understand more clearly today what I read long ago about the
inadequacy of all autobiography as history. I know that I do not set
down in this story all that I remember. Who can say how much I must
give and how much omit in the interests of truth? And what would be
the value in a court of law of the inadequate ex parte
evidence being tendered by me of certain events in my life? If some
busybody were to cross-examine me on the chapters already written,
he could probably shed much more light on them, and if it were a
hostile critic's cross-examination, he might even flatter himself
for having shown up 'the hollowness of many of my pretensions.'
I, therefore, wonder for a moment whether it might not be proper to
stop writing these chapters. But so long as there is no prohibition
from the voice within, I must continue the writing. I must follow
the sage maxim that nothing once begun should be abandoned unless it
is proved to be morally wrong.
I am not writing the autobiography to please critics. Writing it is
itself one of the experiments with truth. One of its objects is
certainly to provide some comfort and food for reflection for my co-
workers. Indeed I started writing it in compliance with their
wishes. It might not have been written, if Jeramdas and Swami Anand
had not persisted in their suggestion. If, therefore, I am wrong in
writing the autobiography, they must share the blame.
But to take up the subject indicated in the heading. Just as I had
Indians living with me as members of my family, so had I English
friends living with me in Durban. Not that all who lived with me
liked it. But I persisted in having them. Nor was I wise in every
case. I had some bitter experiences, but these included both Indians
and Europeans. And I do not regret the experiences. In spite of
them, and in spite of the inconvenience and worry that I have often
caused to friends, I have not altered my conduct and friends have
kindly borne with me. Whenever my contacts with strangers have been
painful to friends, I have not hesitated to blame them. I hold that
believers who have to see the same God in others that they see in
themselves, must be able to live amongst all with sufficient
detachment. And the ability to live thus can be cultivated, not by
fighting shy of unsought opportunities for such contacts, but by
hailing them in a spirit of service and withal keeping oneself
unaffected by them.
Though, therefore, my house was full when the Boer War broke out, I
received two Englishmen who had come from Johannesburg. Both were
theosophists, one of them being Mr. Kitchin, of whom we shall have
occasion to know more later. These friends often cost my wife bitter
tears. Unfortunately she has had many such trials on my account.
This was the first time that I had English friends to live with me
as intimately as members of my family. I had stayed in English
houses during my days in England, but there I conformed to their
ways of living, and it was more or less like living in a boarding
house. Here it was quite the contrary. The English friends became
members of the family. They adopted the Indian style in many
matters. Though the appointments in the house were in the Western
fashion, the internal life was mostly Indian. I do remember having
had some difficulty in keeping them as members of the family, but I
can certainly say that they had no difficulty in making themselves
perfectly at home under my roof. In Johannesburg these contacts
developed further than in Durban.