Friday, 16 June 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Constance Towne 1

Our of the Old World of India forty years ago came a young, courageous, and handsome man in whose face shone the light of triumph over self. He came to the New World of America uninvited, unheralded, unknown ....

How Vivekananda proceeded serenely on his hazardous pilgrimage — though more than once lacking food and change of raiment; how he was admitted as a delegate at the final session of the Congress of Religions; how he electrified the assemblage with the simplicity and beauty of his message: how on the following morning the metropolitan press of three continents exhausted their powers in proclaiming his spiritual stature among the great teachers of the world — all of this is still remembered by generations now living.

My personal story of Vivekananda — hitherto unpublished — seems to stand alone. When I met him he was twenty-seven years old.* I thought him as handsome as a god of classic sculpture. He was dark of skin. of course, and had large eyes which gave one the impression of "midnight blue". He seemed larger than most of his race. who often to us appear slight of frame, because they are small-boned. He had a head heaped with short black curls. At our first meeting I was struck by the emphasis of our colour contrast. I was twenty-four, fair, tall. and slender, with golden hair and grey-blue eyes. Probably there could have been no greater contrast.

Our meeting was rather unusual. After his triumph at Chicago he was, of course, showered with invitations to come to New York, where the great of all the world are entertained. Here lived at that time a very famous physician. Dr. Egbert Guernsey, genial, literary, and ideally hospitable, with a spacious and very handsome house on Fifth Avenue at Forty-fourth Street. It was Dr. Guernsey's pleasure, heartily endorsed by his charming wife and daughter, to introduce celebrated visitors from abroad to New York society. It was to be expected that he would pay special honour to the great Swami, whose ideal of closer relations between the East and the West in the interest of religion and world peace so strongly appealed to him.

To be continued.... (Memoirs of Constance Towne)