[L. 61 | 68] 20 August 1963

This morning I finished reading through the carbon copy of the Notes and gave the final touches to the stencils. There is no doubt that the book has benefitted from my having had to type it out again. I have been able to make additions (one long one) and check the entire text for possible inconsistencies. I am particularly pleased that I have not found it necessary to erase anything: I am satisfied that the book does in fact say what I have to say (indeed, I am almost sorry that someone else did not write the book so that I should have the pleasure of reading it for the first time: this is not vanity but an expression of satisfaction that I find myself in agreement with myself). And now you have what you wanted—all the Notes under one cover. I suggest that the outer cover should be jet black, which gives a very elegant appearance.

I am glad to hear that you are making something of the Kafka. It is really quite in order to interpret him as you feel inclined: there is probably no one single interpretation that is absolutely right to the exclusion of all others.

Camus loses much in translation, but he is still very readable. 'The Renegade' is a warning against trying to demonstrate by personal example that God is Good. The trouble is that it is just as possible to demonstrate by personal example that God is Evil. If God is almighty (and he would not be God if he were not almighty), and Evil exists (which it does), then God is responsible for it. God cannot be both almighty and good. This is perfectly well understood by Kafka, who knows that God is capable of making indecent proposals to virtuous young women: '...is it so monstrous that Sortini, who's so retiring, ...should condescend for once to write in his beautiful official hand a letter, however abominable?' (The Castle, p. 185) What a deliciously explosive sentence!

But what is a virtuous person, who trusts in God, to do when he gets a command from God to commit evil? Followers of the Buddha are spared these frightful decisions, but others are not. Arjuna had some compunctions about joining battle with his kith and kin, but Krishna, or God, in the person of his charioteer, told him to go ahead.[1] And in Christian Europe these dilemmas are the order of the day. European thought cannot be understood until it is realized that every European is asking himself, consciously or unconsciously, whether God exists. Everything hinges on the answer to this question; for the problem of good and evil, and of personal survival of death ('the immortality of the soul'), are one with the problem of God's existence. It is this fact that makes the Buddha's Teaching incomprehensible to the European—'How' he asks 'can there be Ethics and Survival of Death if there is no omnipotent God?' The European will passionately affirm God or passionately deny God, but he cannot ignore God. Sir Francis Younghusband, commenting on the fact that there is hardly any reference to an omnipotent God (Issaranimmāna, 'Creator God') in the Suttas, attributes the omission to the supposed fact that the Buddha had far too much reverence for God ever to presume to speak of him.[2] What other explanation could there be? The idea of a moral but Godless universe is quite foreign to European thought.

Editorial notes:

[61.1] Arjuna, Krishna: See Bhagavad-Gita, the best-known of Hindu texts. [Back to text]

[61.2] Younghusband: 'He was silent on the Nature of God not from any inadequacy of appreciation, but from excess of reverence.' (from Younghusband's introduction to Woodward's Some Sayings of the Buddha) [Back to text]