This chapter has brought me to a stage where it
becomes necessary for me to explain to the reader how
this story is written from week to week.
When I began writing it, I had no definite plan before
me. I have no diary or documents on which to base the
story of my experiments. I write just as the Spirit moves
me at the time of writing. I do not claim to know
definitely that all conscious thought and action on my
part is directted by the Spirit. But on an examination of
the greatest steps that I have taken in my life, as also
of those that may be regarded as the least, I think it
will not be improper to say that all of them were
directed by the Spirit.
I have not seen Him, neither have I known Him. I have
made the world's faith in God my own, and as my faith is
ineffaceable , I regard that faith as amounting to
experience. However, as it may be said that to describe
faith as experience is to tamper with truth, it may
perhaps be more correct to say that I have no word for
characterizing my belief in God.
It is perhaps now somewhat easy to understand why I
believe that I am writing story as the Spirit prompts me.
When I began the last chapter I gave it the heading I
have given to this, but as I was writing it, I realized
that before I narrated my experiences with Europeans, I
must write something by way of a preface. This I did not
and altered the heading.
Now again, as I start on this chapter, I find myself
confronted with a fresh problem. What things to mention
and what to omit regarding the English friends of whom I
am about to write is a serious problem. If things that
are relevant are omitted, truth will be dimmed. And it is
difficult to decide straightway what is relevant, when I
am not even sure about the relevancy of writing this
I understand more clearly today what I read long ago
about the inadequacy of all autobiography as history. I
know that I do not set down in this story all that I
remember. Who can say how much I must give and how much
omit in the interests of truth? And what would be the
value in a court of law of the inadequate ex parte
evidence being tendered by me of certain events in my
life? If some busybody were to cross-examine me on the
chapters already written, he could probably shed much
more light on them, and if it were a hostile critic's
cross-examination, he might even flatter himself for
having shown up 'the hollowness of many of my
I, therefore, wonder for a moment whether it might not
be proper to stop writing these chapters. But so long as
there is no prohibition from the voice within, I must
continue the writing. I must follow the sage maxim that
nothing once begun should be abandoned unless it is
proved to be morally wrong.
I am not writing the autobiography to please critics.
Writing it is itself one of the experiments with truth.
One of its objects is certainly to provide some comfort
and food for reflection for my co- workers. Indeed I
started writing it in compliance with their wishes. It
might not have been written, if Jeramdas and Swami Anand
had not persisted in their suggestion. If, therefore, I
am wrong in writing the autobiography, they must share
But to take up the subject indicated in the heading.
Just as I had Indians living with me as members of my
family, so had I English friends living with me in
Durban. Not that all who lived with me liked it. But I
persisted in having them. Nor was I wise in every case. I
had some bitter experiences, but these included both
Indians and Europeans. And I do not regret the
experiences. In spite of them, and in spite of the
inconvenience and worry that I have often caused to
friends, I have not altered my conduct and friends have
kindly borne with me. Whenever my contacts with strangers
have been painful to friends,I have not hesitated to
blame them. I hold that believers who have to see the
same God in others that they see in themselves, must be
able to live amongst all with sufficient detachment. And
the ability to live thus can be cultivated, not by
fighting shy of unsought opportunities for such contacts,
but by hailing them in a spirit of service and withal
keeping oneself unaffected by them.
Though, therefore, my house was full when the Boer War
broke out, I received two Englishmen who had come from
Johannesburg. Both were theosophists, one of them being
Mr. Kitchin, of whom we shall have occasion to know more
later. These friends often cost my wife bitter tears.
Unfortunately she has had many such trials on my account.
This was the first time that I had English friends to
live with me as intimately as members of my family. I had
stayed in English houses during my days in England, but
there I conformed to their ways of living, and it was
more or less like living in a boarding house. Here it was
quite the contrary. The English friends became members of
the family. They adopted the Indian style in many
matters. Though the appointments in the house were in the
Western fashion, the internal life was mostly Indian. I
do remember having had some difficulty in keeping them as
members of the family, but I can certainly say that they
had no difficulty in making themselves perfectly at home
under my roof. In Johannesburg these contacts developed
further than in Durban.