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Letter from Har Dayal to Van Wyck Brooks (June 16, 1914)

Letter from Har Dayal to Van Wyck Brooks, dated June 16, 1914 and posted from Gstaad, Switzerland. The envelope for the letter contains interesting markings: "If not delivered return to A. Wursten, Sekundalehrer Gstaad (MOB) Switzerland," and "from Har Dayal for an account of Har Dayal see 'Young India' by Lajpat Rai."

In the letter, Dayal makes clear his negative opinions of Guy Aldred, the British anarchist who he references in other letters. Dayal also mentions a previous conversation between Aldred, himself and Brooks on the topic of one's belief in God, with Dayal apparently upset by Brooks' response. "When Aldred asked you, 'Do you believe in God,' he did not mean your 'psychological' attitude etc. [...] He might have asked, 'Do you believe in mermaidens or unicorns?' You can't say, 'well, it's hard to say anything, for a mermaiden is a psychological business.'" In other parts of the letter, Dayal discusses the role of propaganda, emancipation, and exploitation.

Date: June 14, 1914
Type: Correspondence
Language: English
Creator: Har Dayal
Location: Gstaad, Switzerland

Will letters addressed to you c/o American ?? Co, 6 Haymarket reach you? Please give them yr address & ask them to forward letters.


June 16

My dear Brooks,

Your interesting letter to hand. I am glad you like Aldred. I wanted your personal opinion of him. I never trust people from a distance. I think he is too egoistic & will thus ruin his work. Egoism is good to a certain extent, but I believe it will injure his movement very soon. But I can't judge well without being on the spot.

You will be glad to learn that our work in Calif. goes on as before. I write from here for our paper there, & the boys are keeping up the printing establishment alright. I am v. happy.

Re God etc, you misunderstand questions. You have no right to reply to a question in a way not intended by the person who asks the question. When Aldred asked Jon, "Do you believe in God", he did not mean your "psychological" attitude etc. He meant an objve. reality & entity, with certain attributes & powers, tangible & palpable, etc etc. He might have asked, "Do you believe in mermaidens or unicorns?" You can't say, "well it's hard to say anything for a mermaiden is a psychological business" & so on. You want to attach to words a meaning which it is not intended they should bear. You remember we had a similar discussion about religion. I believe the modern world will have to clear up many such word-fogs.

As regard "propagandist values," I have come to the conclusion that all propaganda, which is based on extreme assertions & ignorance is harmful. Propaganda, following rational understanding of causes & effects, is useful. I learn more towards Erasmus & Voltaire in emphasizing the necessity of "enlightenment", (but combined with the propagandists' clear-cut conclusions & fiery zeal). Such a combination is rare. And if I were to choose, I shall rely more on Enlightenment than passion. I approve of yr attitude, & especially like your sentence "I cannot see life merely as an alternation between exploitation & emancipa." Exactly so. Life cannot be unilateral. And no one shd. cramp & narrow his life in that way. Of course, here are relative values, & I give the palm of honor to those who combat predatory & coercive instrs above all others, e.g. artists, poets, scientists, etc. That's why I am a revolutionist first, & everything else afterwards. For we know that only through successive revolutions have a certain degree of comfort, knowledge & human dignity been secured by ever-expanding classes of society. Isn't it so?

I don't think you shd try the propagandist line. A good propagandist must have certain limitations, whereas as a disseminator of knowledge, you are at your best. You see that the increasing growth of rabid & narrow "sectarianism" in the Radical movement makes me more & more skeptical of the affects of "dogmatic" propaganda of the "religious type." I don't like social revolutionists who cry, "out of the Church, no salvation."

A regard for "loyalty to persons," I cannot understand what you mean. Do you mean it in the sense in which the early Xns confessed Christ? Of course not. THen what? The modern ideal is loyalty to persons as repres of an Ideal -- not as Persons. Now this tendency has only a halftruth behind it, for an Ideal is always taught by a Person. The Perosn is the concrete out of which we abstract the Ideal. At the same time, you can't deny that once an Ideal has been embodied in the life of a person, we can judge others by it in a detached manner. The relation of the Man to his Message is a vexed question to study.

Love to Charlie. Does he like Swiss chocolate? Of course he does. Then I'll send him some in Brittany. My best compliments to Mrs. Brooks.

Yours affly
Har Dayal

Holding Institution: University of Pennsylvania
Collection: Van Wyck Brooks Papers
Item History: 2011-11-27 (created); 2016-09-14 (modified)

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