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Notes on Greece:

(1) There, on the summit of the Acropolis, its rock hill home, covered in the purple dawn light, perched the massive Doric-columned Parthenon. Once it was a temple where man as pagan, then as Christian, then as Muhammedan worshipped God. But now as tourist he stares and gapes at its empty shell. It stands broken and roofless, the crimson and blue colours of the elaborate interior decorations gone, the exquisitely carved statues taken away, the gildings removed. The marble floor, trodden by Phidias and Pericles, is bare and worn.

(2) Grey, honey-yielding Mount Hymettus stands between me and the sea. For some hours daily I see this hill whenever I lift my head from the meditation in which it is sunk, or from the white papers scattered on the desk, or go out on the verandah to feed the impatient swallows who have been circling above it in their joyous freedom. Daily at two o'clock the guns on Lycabettus fire their time signal.

(3) A Meditation on Mount Parnassus: I sat on the mountain's southern slope, looking down on the narrow ravine, and thought of those who travelled from afar and near, of the pilgrims who came here to question the far-famed Oracle at Delphi, came out of their anxieties and fears, their uncertainties and perplexities. (Complete this section by paras on precognition, prophecy, karma, rebirth, fortunetelling, fate, clairvoyance.) Why was Delphi called by the ancients "the navel of the earth," meaning its centre, where Apollo's immense temple once stood? Why did they believe that the god of the dead hid here, among the lonely volcanic rocks?

(4) It was the Hill of Pnyx, just west of the Acropolis, where the great speakers of ancient Greece delivered their celebrated orations, and where Demosthenes defended democracy. Day after day, and in the presence of the Greek King and Queen, for five days a cosmopolitan crowd gathers in the wide open space on the hill to listen to invited speakers, each a leader in his field, from different parts of the world, on some higher aspect of culture and civilization, science and philosophy, to feed the higher nature of man. German, Indian, Greek, Swede, Frenchman, American, and Italian speak on successive days. The wisdom of Asia, carried down from its ancient past, is here carried to Europe and mingled with our own thought. I hear with especial interest considering the place and its symbolism, the name of Ramana Maharshi uttered by a bespectacled and benign Hindu professor. I hear the name of Socrates mentioned by an Italian one, and ruminate that both have given us the same counsel, in almost identical words: "Man, know thyself!" The addresses are timed for early evening, so that the last sentences are heard with the last rays of the sun. As the sky's light darkens, a hush falls over the meeting, helped by the little groves of trees on two sides which screen off some of the city's distant hum, and is broken only by the lecturer's voice.

(5) The quality of curiosity prominent in the Greek temperament developed on a higher level into the search after scientific knowledge and on a still higher level into the search after metaphysical truth.

(6) After the Persian Wars, Greek traders took part in the long winding caravans which crossed central Asia as far as northern India or embarked on ships which sailed from Egypt to northwestern India. Now and then a scholar or philosopher might join them, mostly to learn but sometimes to teach. There are several evidences of Indian contacts with Egypt immediately before and after the Christian era began. If Chinese silk was freely sold during the first century a.d. in the markets of Egypt, Greece, and Rome, the contacts of Greece and Egypt with India, situated at a shorter distance by sea as she was, were likely to be more numerous.


-- Notebooks Category 15: The Orient > Chapter 7: Related Entries > # 74






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