Before coming to a recital of the chief facts relating to the establishment of The Index, in many respects a fellow journal of The Radical, it seems desirable to present a brief account of the founding of the Free Religious Association of America, an organization whose connections with the later history of transcendentalism appear to be unusually important.
As has been indicated from time to time, the members of the New School were all aroused by the prospect of a world religion which should eschew the paltry parochialism of sects and creeds, and base itself upon a fundamental religious instinct. One after the other--Emerson, Ripley, Dwight, Cranch, and others--had found even the limitations imposed by Unitarianism irksome in the extreme. Thoreau, perhaps as little a transcendentalist as any who bear the name, had found intellectual comfort at least in the religion of the Orient; Convers Francis had written to Parker of the glorious idea of a catholic bible, to consist of cullings from the various sacred literatures known to man; W. H. Channing had forsaken all creeds to embrace the larger faith of "Christian Socialism." With the widespread discussion of comparative religion aroused by the ethnological investigations of the nineteenth century, the catholicity of spiritual interest that had so early marked the transcendental movement in America received a stimulus of a very effective character. The selections from various "Ethnical Scriptures" that had appeared in the journals controlled by the members of the New School were merely precursors of such works as Conway Sacred Anthology ( London, 1874), and the volumes on India, China, and Persia published by Samuel Johnson, at Bos