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Thread: Religion in Kim

  1. #1
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Apr 2012
    Reading, England

    Religion in Kim

    I am quite interested in Kipling's attitude to religion in Kim. I assume Rudyard Kipling would have been a Christian, probably Church of England. At the time, I assume most Christians thought non-Christians were in serious doctrinal error, and headed for an eternity of roasting in fire and brimstone: a bit harsh maybe, but God must know what He's doing. Kipling seems to take a more modern clerical attitude in that any belief system is almost as good as any other so long as it is sincerely held. Most of Kim's associates would be Hindus or Muslims. The horse trader Mahbub Ali says things like, "God's curse on all unbelievers! I do not give to a lousy Tibetan; but ask my Baltis over yonder behind the camels. They may value your blessings."

    The Tibetan is Teshoo Lama, who is searching for a sacred river. You can tell he is a holy man, by his goodness, lack of greed, and his willingness to forgive and to think the best of people. He follows the "Middle Way", and frequently refers to people being bound to the "Wheel" (of life) by worldly concerns. Sikhs and Parsees are mentioned. I cannot remember Jains being mentioned yet. Kim regards himself as a low caste or casteless Hindu, but then starts to regard himself the lama's chela or disciple. Two priests have come off badly so far. One was a Hindu priest who tried to steal some money from the lama. The other was a Church of England chaplain, Mr Bennett, who Kim describes as a fool. The other regimental chaplain is the Roman Catholic priest, Father Victor. He is described as a wiser, more sensitive man. Kim is then sent off to a Roman Catholic school. There is a passage in chapter 6 which reads:

    "...They'll cure all that nonsense at St Xavier's, eh?"
    "Sprinkle him with holy water," the Colonel laughed.
    "On my word, I fancy I ought to sometimes. But I am hoping he will be brought up as a good Catholic. All that troubles me is what'll happen if the old beggar-man _"
    "Lama, lama, my dear sir; and some of them are gentlemen in their own country."
    "The lama, then, fails to pay next year. He's a fine business head to plan on the spur of the moment, but he's bound to die some day. An' takin' a heathen's money to give a Christian education _"

    I wondered about the last point myself. It was quite a lot of money too, about 300 rupees a year. I wondered how that expense could have been justified.

    I was also quite amused with Kim's first impressions of Roman Catholicism:

    He showed nothing of his mind when Father Victor, for three long mornings, discoursed to him of an entirely new set of Gods and Godlings - notably of a Goddess called Mary, who, he gathered, was one with Bibi Miriam of Mahbub Ali's theology.
    Last edited by kev67; 04-06-2014 at 05:41 PM.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  2. #2
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Sep 2012
    Somewhere in the South East of England
    I don't know where I got this impression, but when I was young I thought that Kipling had rejected any religious commitment. He is concerned about religion as a matter of cultural or mythic glue, but he is certainly not a fundamentalist. I'm thinking of my favourite Kipling, Puck of Pook's Hill and it sequel, where the religious element, often pre-Chrisian, is highly important in how people make sense of their lives. The short story about St Wilfred and the seals in, as I remember in Rewards and Fairies, criticizes religious biometry but not dismiss religion in the way that is so often the case with Dawkinsites and other on this board.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

  3. #3
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Apr 2012
    Reading, England
    I have to admit, I was not aware of Puck of Pook's Hill until several weeks ago. I am not sure what religious biometry means either. Thinking back to 19th century books I have read, Dickens and the Brontes seemed like natural Christrians, but by the late 19th century, atheism had swept through British literature at least. If by Edwardian times you weren't an atheist, you were perhaps somewhat of a reactionary, e.g. G.K.Chesterton. To me, that makes Kipling's stance more interesting.

    I have to copy out this bit, starting on page 209 of my copy; the Muslim horse trader, Mahbub Ali, replies to Kim:

    "What am I? Mussulman, Hindu, Jain or Buddhist? That is a hard knot."
    "Thou art beyond question an unbeliever, and therefore thou wilt be damned. So says my law - or I think it does. But thou art also my Little Friend of all the World, and I love thee. So says my heart. This matter of creeds is like horseflesh. The wise man knows horses are good - that there is profit to be made by all; and for myself - but that I am a good Sunni and hate men of Tirah - and I could believe the same of all the Faiths. Now manifestly a Kathiawar mare taken from the sands of her birthplace and removed to the west of the Bengal founders - nor is even a Balkh stallion (and there are no better horses than those of Balkh, were they not so heavy in the shoulder) of any account in the great northern deserts beside the snow-camels I have seen. Therefore I say in my heart the Faiths are like horses. Each has merit in its own country."
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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