Part of the ERB Library Series
Edward Gibbon, Heinrich von Treitschke,
Swami Vivekananda and Edgar Rice Burroughs
R.E. PrindleAmong the books in ERB's library as published by Mr. Hillman here on the ERBzine are two significant ones: Edward Gibbon'sDecline And Fall Of The Roman Empire and Heinrich von Treitschke's: Germany, France, Russia And Islam.
The first of these, Gibbon's masterwork was published at the end of the eighteenth century while von Treitschke's American publication date was 1915. However as one of those wonderful historical freaks both entered ERB's mind in the same year of 1915. That's funny isn't it? I had the pleasure of having the Duc de Roquelaure speak to me personally and alone over the roar of four hundred years of history. Four terrific volumes. Gibbon spoke to me also but more as a member of a lecture hall sitting there with Burroughs and countless others. Some sort of intellectual time travel as it were uniting us all into one great class.
So that while most people seem to imagine Burroughs as a semi-literate wildly imaginative type speaking from the back of his neck it ain't necessarily so. Gibbon all by himself is the most liberal of educations. Nobody who ever read him can see the world in quite the same way. ERB noted the day he finished the work which is several thousand pages as September 6, 1915 just a few days after his fortieth birthday. I can assure you the he felt himself intellectually reborn.
He finished the book just at the time generally conceded to the be the end of the nineteenth century. Certainly the Bolshevik revolution would put a period to the past inaugurating a Time of Troubles which is in full swing yet today. While Times of Troubles during great transitions in history are a recognized fact the current one hasn't been so recognized as yet.
Speaking of history let us try to integrate a part of ERB's previous education into his reading of the Decline and Fall. As I have been trying to point out in my ERBzine essays ERB had a solid educational background.
As Mr. Hillman's and my articles try to emphasize, the seminal event in Burroughs' intellectual life was the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893. Unbeknownst to me the activity at the White City as the fairgrounds were known was only part of the overall festivities. As the Fair was to draw unprecedented numbers of people to Chicago a number of organizations arranged Congresses or Parliaments for their particular interests. Among these was the World Parliament Of Religions.
If the nineteenth century can be said to have ended in 1917 thus paradoxically the twentieth century began with the Columbian Expo of 1893. The White City was a celebration of the scientific achievement of mankind with its resulting technological results. As Mr. Hillman has pointed out the virtual duel between Tesla and Edison on the electrical level over alternating current and direct current, AC/DC, was resolved in favor of Tesla's AC with the nation subsequently being so wired. That one decision reflected the supremacy of science over religion.
While the wonders of science were a liberating and expansion of mankind's possibilities yet they were a threat to the religious consciousness, which had now been superseded with its dependence on the supernatural psychological projection of God. The two visions of truth could not and cannot exist side by side. There was a consciousness sea change at the time which is the cause of our Time Of Troubles when as one might say war was declared in Chicago in 1893
The Christians and Jews caught in the middle of the maelstrom of the emerging scientific consciousness were very nearly overwhelmed while having to make the most obvious and painful adjustments. The Theosophists who made the most serious attempt to reconcile science, religion and philosophy amazingly were allowed to attend. It is highly probable that the idea of the Urantia Society arose from this parliament. Urantia is the most uncompromisingly scientific of the new religions with the possible exception of Scientology.
The 1893 Parliament of Religions in Session at the Chicago Art InstituteThe Parliament of Religions did not meet on the Fairgrounds but at the Art Institute downtown. The brightest attraction of the Parliament was a Hindu Vedantist who arrived from India specifically to the bring 'the light of the East' to this Parliament. He was apparently the first of the Hindu missionaries to the US and Western Europe.
Now, Burroughs read Edward Gibbon's Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire possibly between the ages of thirty-eight and forty. I don't know how fast he read but as busy as he was from 1913 to 1915 and as long as the work is I would imagine it would have taken him at least a year or longer.
Since he had a copy of the multi-volume work, mine are in 12, 8 and 3 volume editions, in his library he most likely bought it in 1913 when he first came into money so he began reading the work as a mature man which is best.
We know from his own titles preceding 1915 that he already had highly developed opinions on religion while being reasonably well informed in history and very well informed in current affairs.
Gibbon would have had the effect of organizing Burroughs' thoughts while providing reams of new information. For instance we know from Archimedes Q. Porter of Tarzan Of The Apes that ERB had highly developed opinions of Moslemism before 1911 when he began that work. Whatever the state of his Moslem reading before he began Gibbon his learning after that reading was widely expanded and immeasurably deepened. Gibbon has a marvelous understanding of Mohammedanism from the seventh century when it was originated and the fifteenth when the last of the Roman Empire crashed to the earth.
The amazing clarity of Gibbon's exposition is due to the fact that he is the last of the classical historians writing before science expanded horizons creating additional mega reams of information and interpretation. After all Gibbon wrote before Champollion decoded Egyptian hieroglyphics, Schliemann validated Homer or the fabulous empires of the Middle East were unearthed. The man wrote at the last possible moment when a history such as his could be written.
Still, there is no more exhilarating, life changing work in any language (I'm guessing on all those other languages) than the Decline And Fall. This and the novels of Eugene Sue are the highlights of my literary life. If you haven't read them what a dull intellectual life you must lead.
Just as ERB was winding up his reading of Gibbon a collection of essays by Heinrich von Treitschke was issued in America. As the Great War was in progress, which was engrossing ERB's interest, I am certain he bought and read Germany, France, Russia and Islam on issue. The book is included in his library.
ERB had had an unfavorable opinion of Germans ever since the Haymarket Riot and watching the German socialist cadres of 1848 marching beneath the Red Flag through Chicago shouting 'down with America.' The atrocity stories invented by the British during the invasion of Belgium reinforced his dislike of the nation which flared forth in print in Tarzan The Untamed, The Little Door, The Land That Time Forgot and others.
The rise of Hitler and the Nazis resulting in WWII merely confirmed his opinion of the Germans. I am not concerned with whether he was right or wrong, just or unjust, I am merely an historian reporting the past. As a writer he was a little intemperate in his vituperation which redounded on him.
Heinrich von Treitschke is the most famous of the German historians although in disrepute in today's intellectual climate. His multi-volume history of Germany is very well thought of although I haven't read it. It is very hard to find and very expensive as Treitschke is considered a proto-Nazi. He is presently condemned as an apostle of Prussian militarism.
While Europe and America were busy sending Christian missionaries throughout the world the two areas seem to have been oblivious to the fact that other religions had sent missionaries amongst themselves. The current Moslem invasion can be seen in that light. This Hindu, known as Swami Vivekananda established Vedantism in the United State. He was followed by a host of Hindu and Vedantist missionaries who over the last century and a quarter have been very successful
In the nineteenth century Chicago was the wide open town where every 'kook' organization could find a home. When LA arose in the sunny West the 'kooks' naturally gravitated to it so for the twentieth century Los Angeles was seen as the 'kook' capital of America, but the title was transferred from Chicago.
The Parliament of Religions was the first attempt in history at ecumenism. Another first for Mr. Hillman's list. The ecumenical movement dates from this Parliament.
Today there is a Hindu Temple Of Greater Chicago at Lemont, Illinois. On Sunday, July 12, 1998 a gigantic ten foot plus bronze statue of Swami Vivekananda was erected in the temple compound to commemorate his services to the Hindu religion in America.
While he was assuming his Swamihood in India, Vivekananda realized the challenge not only to Hinduism but to all religions posed by science. His purpose in going to the Parliament was based not only on his understanding of Hinduism as the mother of religions, but on the need to subordinate science to the ignorance of religion rather than assimilating the religious impulse to science.
He rightly feared for the future of 'spirituality.' The first human impulse was to create a god from whom all the inexplicable mysteries of the world flowed thus providing an explanation to ease mankind's anxiety. Religionists call this ignorance 'spirituality' as God is imagined to be a spirit.
Science on the other hand is materialistic beginning with hard material facts then attempting to explain reality based on these facts. Man gropes from fact to fact hence religionists say that science doesn't explain everything. Science does explain everything, it is only the limitations of human knowledge that leaves matters unexplained. Thus Evolution as a concept is a fact, although the mechanisms of Evolution are poorly understood. But those mechanisms will be learned through assiduous application while the 'spiritual' God is old and dying soon to be dead when scientific knowledge replaces 'spirituality.'
Whether Burroughs ever said this or not it is what he must have believed.
When the Swami Vivekananda delivered the keynote address to the Parliament of 1893 he created a sensation. His name and picture were splashed over the next day's papers so that Burroughs must have read them in wonder. As his impressions of the Fair are strung out through his works as a careful reading of my essays show then Swami Vivekananda was very probably the model for Prince Kavandavanda of Tarzan's Quest.
If one looks at the picture of Swami Vivekananda to the left I think one has a fair notion of what Prince Kavandavanda looked like.
Treitschke was born in 1834 dying in 1896. This book is a collection of essays written between 1876 and 1895.
As I'm sure we all know prior to 1866 Germany was a congeries of small states celebrated in literature under such romantic names a Zenda, Graustark, Lutha and others. Prior to Prussia's unification of the states under its aegis the principalities had been under the hegemony of Austria. The separation of the States from Austria was achieved by a very scientifically managed conflict. The idea was not to injure Austria so badly that it would join with France or Russia to retaliate. Apparently the surgery was performed successfully.
Shortly after the Austrian war the Prusso-German Empire fought the successful war of 1871 with France. Germany had arrived on the world stage. The first effect of Prussian 'militarism' had been felt.
Von Treitschke's mission then was to explain Germany's place in European history vis-a-vis Russia, France and actually Turkey, not Islam as a whole. The title of the book was probably an American invention. The first essay 'Turkey And The Great Nations' was written in 1876 during the war in which Russia and Poland expelled the Ottomans from Europe, except the Dardanelles of course.
The remaining essays deal with German relations with France concerning mainly Alsace and Lorraine and the nature of the German Empire.
Treitschke's attitude would lead to the German holocaust of WWI and the even greater holocaust under Hitler when the German nation was very nearly destroyed. Like Lenin's and Stalin's Treitschke's statues have been melted down.
The title is a trifle misleading to my mind and ERB might have thought the same. I found the book informative concerning the development of the German mind but as inflamed as ERB's feeling were I find it difficult to imagine how he may have interpreted the book. I think it probable he went huh! and threw it aside as not particularly useful.
The book does not appear to have led to any deeper understanding of the issues on his part.
I am sure the book added something to his knowledge as he looked forward to the next phase of his life after having read Gibbon.
In our ongoing investigation of the influences that made ERB a writer, the Parliament Of Religions with Swami Vivekananda and Gibbon are influential, while I would have to think that Germany, France, Russia and Islam was negligible, perhaps forgotten as he read it.
ERB Library Titles
Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire
Heinrich von Treitschke
Germany, France, Russia And Islam
Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893
Tesla and Edison at the Columbian Exposition of 1893
Tarzan Of The Apes
Tarzan The Untamed
The Little Door
The Land That Time Forgot
Best of Gibbon's Decline and Fall
Decline and Fall Online eText Edition with hypertext
Heinrich von Treitschke
The Parliament of Religions
The Ecumenical Movement
Swami Vivekananda Photographs
Bronze Statue of Swami Vivekananda
Swami's Keynote Address to the Parliament of 1893
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