The Tree of Human History

The Tree of Human History

The Tree of Human History

The Tree of Human History

Excerpt

As I am writing this and thinking of how best to persuade readers to let me tell a tale which seems to me to be of use to us all, here and now, as well as of exciting interest, there is, facing me, a large, gilt-bronze statue of the Buddha. I know it so well that when I look at it, the image does not, luckily enough, make me try to be intelligent or knowing. It is just calming and rather compassionate. A precious object for an author to look upon.

However, if you were with me in my study and were to encourage me to talk about the statue, I should be tempted to explain it in several different ways. Putting aside what you and I might feel to be the spiritual effect which it might have upon us -- and we may be sure that we should not both experience the same sensations -- let us take the most commonplace way of regarding the image. It is Japanese -- probably rather late eighteenth century -- and it is not only a good example of the bronze-casting of the epoch, but as a piece of work it is well conceived, well proportioned and well executed. As it is an object which was designed to take its place in a temple-shrine, the Buddha is conventional in attitude and general appearance. The thing does not reveal the hand of a significant or original artist since when we say 'well conceived, well proportioned and well executed' we mean that the man who made it knew his job -- he was a skilful artisan and craftsman. He was not required, probably not permitted, to be more than that. He was expected to turn out an image which would take its place in a set and fixed assemblage. Of . . .

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