Tuesday, October 27, 2009


This enriching poem by Francis Thompson questions accepted spirituality. The mystics of the old promoted charity and “pure living” as Godly and rejected the spirituality of those “dwelling” in sin for they did feel that these individuals are guilty of “ungodliness” but they with their life did set an example for an honest and a pious way of living. Francis Thomas was a vagabond much like the “children of Cain” wandering in a world that is not his home and seeking an alternate reality. His brilliance made him restless and he willed to create in his own mind a reality that would make him feel at home, a reality that would nourish and foster him. He desired to create a world where he would be “accepted” by everybody. It would not be justifiable to give a reason for his way of life for it is a feeble tool to explain the dynamics of the soul. He led a life that is detestable in the eyes of society but he would derive meaning and pleasure in doing what he did. He would humor ideals that were accepted by nearly everybody and weep for things that make society rejoice. When his world would come crashing down he would create a better one and would be the king till it was found wanting. This was because the absolute would “weigh and measure” all the ways of man and it would always be far away from his desires but man on the other hand would build “castles in the sand” and would never give up his pursuit. I presume that Francis Thompson would have spent many days in tears and many still clenching his fist against the “Sovereign Lord”. This is the soul’s desire and many philosophers, theologians and men of science have tried to define this quest but all their definitions are found wanting. The theologians would call it “Original Sin”. The scripture in Genesis would say that “Every intention or imagination of a man’s heart was evil”, King David says that “In sin did my mother conceive me” and the implication of John Calvin’s theology would lead us to the notion of “total depravity”. This emphasizes the soul’s desire to destroy meaningful consciousness or life and embrace “nothingness”. The Eastern theologians would call this phenomena “evil” and would define is as “self loathing that leads to destruction of one self and one’s being in such a way that there is a slow eternal fading away into nothingness” and the soul desires this more than anything. In the midst of all this “THE HOUND OF HEAVEN” sniffs the warm blood of its victim in the air and relentlessly pursues it till it is satisfied and this hound seeks to attain this end with everything at stake even if this means changing the very nature of man. This he does out of love and that is the meaning of the Christian doctrine of Kenosis, Charles Wesley says that “He emptied himself off all but love and bled for Adam’s helpless race”. The love of this mighty pursuer is not a “metaphysical concept” that occupies the speculation of the wise and learned or a love that is predestined in such a way that there is no need for ‘direct intervention” but it is a love that serves, moves, suffers, dies and triumphs not for itself but for undeserving creatures. Those whose hearts this love has captured would exclaim and question saying “Would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?” .This wonderful poem by Francis Thompson captures the soul’s desire to escape the grasp of this love and ebb into nothingness and the sovereign’s desire “capture” the soul and feed it with internal bliss.

The poet begins by describing his restless desire to flee from the presence of the almighty. His famous words “I fled him” describes the soul’s natural desire to self-destruct. He runs away from the very source of life and consciousness in search of something that does not exist but is alive in our hearts and in our minds. Human Beings have a natural conception of heaven as a place where there is joy and pleasure but not God and man works so that he might reach “his heaven”. The poet is willing to flee him past anything; he is willing to do whatever it takes to escape the “jaws of the hound”. He does not desire joy but desires to flee the “lover of his soul”. This reinforces the teaching of St Paul on the Love of Christ to quote; he says that “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?............ For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is where the poet is; the nights and days, the arches of the years, the labyrinthine ways and titanic glooms cannot separate him from the love of God in Christ. The poet would have often expressed his “unworthiness” and his great sins to discourage the hound from pursuing him, it might have been a way to put the hound “out of track” but the hound pursues him with “unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy”. The hound finally majestically remarks out of his glorious confidence knowing that it is by his very power that his prey escapes saying that “ All things betray thee who betrayest me”. This means that even the strength, the intellectual prowess and the confidence on the sin of the author would be a tool used by the hound to hunt its prey and not mechanisms used by the prey to escape the hound. Whilst in pursuit certain hounds give up hope when the hare burrows itself under the earth but the burrow would surrender the hare to this “great hound”.

The poet then progresses to his defense on his way of thinking, his “hedonistic” life and his pitiable condition. He has decorated his heart with “lust after his being” which he mistakes for “true love for oneself”. The poet finds himself in a situation that we are fully accustomed with. We may sometimes find ourselves in a position where we have an illusion on knowing ourselves entirely, we may find ourselves dictating our terms to God and using him as a means to satisfy our greedy lusts but the poet is fully aware that God does not cater to these lusts but he desires to change our hearts and our lives. This is a great challenge for a man who has in his life wandered so much away from God and sought comfort elsewhere. In the song “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkle the boxer admits that his loneliness led him to seek comfort from the “whores on 7th avenue”, this is natural for a man alien from love. The poet here too seeks comfort from the harlots that surround him and when his lover approaches he uses his “books and his poetry” to protect himself from true love. For he knows that to experience the true love of his lover, he would have to abandon the harlots that he associated himself with. He remembers the nights of sensual pleasure and how passionate he was for this way of life. He did not want to open his heart to the hound because if he did he knows that the “The gust of his approach would clash it too”. He knew that the love that the hound possessed was eternal, a love that goes beyond human dimensions, a love that is relentless and a love that would accept no other love. Stricken with that love St Francis De Sales exclaims “Ah, come Holy Spirit, and inflame our hearts with your love! To love—or to die! To die—and to love! To die to all other love in order to live in Christ’s love so that we may not die eternally”. The poet thus knows that he would have to “die to all other love” to be in true love because the purity of that love is jealous and will not associate itself with anything else. Christ proclaims in Matthew 10:37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me”. This is unpleasant to the ears of the poet that he flees to seek shelter in the heavens as an outlaw but he is troubled and restless for he fears a “great conspiracy”. Filled with this great fear he proclaims to times and seasons to hasten its course for he does not will to see the day, the day when this “tremendous Lover” overwhelms his being. Thus he seeks ultimate comfort in the forces of nature, he prays to these forces urging them to blind him from the hound till they day of his death by saying “Float thy vague veil about me lest He see”. He wants his deceptive love for nature to protect him from that lover. The protection he seeks after is his desire to “live in a lie” so that he might escape the horrors of the reality of true love. To his horror and astonishment the poet found that these forces of nature did not approve of his love for them for they were the faithful servants of his lover. They betrayed him because of their constancy, a dynamic way of understanding this would be “they betrayed him by not catering to his needs” for he desired motion and change so that he might forget the haunting presence of his lover but they offered him only their constancy. The scripture says that “All of nature groans in anticipation for the sons of God to be revealed.” Their groaning is so intense that they do their part to hasten the day the hound meets its prey. The poet thus not give up, the spirit of his rebellion is still not shaken and he clings on to every fleeting opportunity that passes by but everything around him now is like the “whistling mane of every wind”. The poet here expresses his rebellious and frantic attempts to evade the hound but the hound is nonchalant. All the attempts made by the outlaw does not disturb his pace even for moment of time. He still unhurrying, unperturbed, deliberate in his pace and majestic in his desire. Then his sovereign being proclaims that “Nought shelters thee who wilt not shelter Me”. This means that the whole realm of the heavens belongs to the “Sovereign Lord” and the forces of nature’s will is the desire of “the Lord” and he channels them according to his desire, for his pleasure. It would please these forces to betray the rebel of this great being. While the love of the hound pursues him from his tail, his sovereign majesty is at work and is making his path straight so that he is one day ready for that love and one such device that he sovereignty chooses are the forces of nature so that they have the pleasure in participating in the eternal will of God and they are pleased to be an integral part of his cosmic plan.

The poet in his previous attempts to obtain ultimate control over his life tired to find “safety in numbers” by losing himself in his relationship with human beings but he did not have a pleasant experience. He then seeks to find comfort with children; he had comfort in their innocence, truthfulness and simplicity. He wanted to hide in their presence and learn their ways for he knew that they would not betray him nor were they aware of his rebellion but the “Sovereign Lord” knew his intentions and he sends the “guardian angel of the children” to protect them from the grasp of this outlaw. He did not want the children to be defiled by the presence of this “vile creature”. Thus they “innocently” seem elusive and they can offer nothing but their faithfulness to his pursuer. The rebel then turns his attention to the “children of nature”, the laws that governs life and the ways of the vast cosmos so that he may evade the pursuit of the hound. For if he finds satisfaction in these elements then the love of the hound will have no worth in his life because he would have found the answer to the questions that disturb his mind. The uneasiness of his rebellion would be destroyed and the daunting shadow of the hound would no longer worry him because it will never be able to overwhelm him. He begins with a delicate love for nature expecting that to be the one he sought and he also hoped that it would prove that the pursuit of the hound was merely an “illusion”. His desire for knowledge turns into wanton lust, he knew in his heart that he is not capable of true love because he is far away from the source, for the “Lord” holds the monopoly of love, there is no love but the Love of Christ. He still relentlessly seeks to fill himself with this knowledge for it might be used as a weapon to defend himself lest the hound draws too near. He did not gently sing his praises to nature as St Francis of Assisi did but rather greedily sought to quench himself with the ‘waters” of “forbidden” knowledge”. He was not well acquainted with the wisdom of the ancients for if he were he would take the preacher’s warning that “With much knowledge cometh much sorrow”. He looked to quench his parched throat (for fleeing from the hound would make one weary and thirsty) with the liquid of knowledge. He did not know like the Samaritan woman that the hound possessed waters that satisfies eternally for Jesus says in John 4:13-14 that “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life”.

The poet now for the first time feels a sense of satisfaction when he for the first time in his life come into terms with “the goodness” that lies within creation. Although his intentions were evil he is rewarded with goodness and his satisfaction is glorious. His wanton desire he believes has led him to a “better” place. He fails to acknowledge the “Glory of God” in all of creation although this goodness was a taste of the eternal goodness that only his pursuer can offer. The almighty could have in his divine providence chosen to send him a taste of his love that he poured out on the creatures so that the poet may not fear his overwhelming awesomeness and know that his goodness cannot be compared to the goodness found in these creatures. The poet also experiences “oneness” with nature, he might have counted himself among other creatures thinking that his life is no different from the lives of these beings and that he has no need for love for these creatures do not seek love nor do they burst forth with love but they have satisfaction and this the poet feels is the real meaning of life; “to be one among nature”. Little did he know that nature did not rebel against the “Lord” and that nature is satisfied in the providence of the almighty and is one in accordance to his will. It is man who has sinned against God and it is he who will never find rest until he realizes his destiny and his destiny being “in complete fellowship with God”. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”, St Augustine says that “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee”. The first chapter of the Bible tells us that God created for man but man he created for himself, thus although these creatures might give him temporary pleasures his rest comes only when he surrenders to the hound. For there is a hymn that says “At the cross where I first saw the light and the burdens of my heart were rolled away; it was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the way”. Nature may satisfy but can never fill the tremendous appetite of man, the appetite he has for true love but alas he does not know it for if he did he would throw away “vanities” and worship the “Lord” of his heart but God has his own ways of awakening our consciousness.
The fickleness and the feebleness of nature soon reveal itself. The drink that once satisfied him was now the cause of his belly’s trouble and his life’s grief. Nature was intellectually and morally inadequate to satisfy his eternal thirst. Man was created in the image of God, man is created in such a way that only God can fill him up and satisfy him. The psalmist says “As the hart panteth for water so my soul longs for thee”. Such is the nature of human desire and satisfaction; it does not find true happiness in the elements that surround it. Like the Samaritan woman traveled to Jacob’s well everyday to draw water, the poet too labors relentlessly to feed his desires. The harder his labor the more his greed, he moves his feet fast but his vision is never in sight, it eludes him everyday like a mirage. He does not know that which he seeks after desires him more than he does it but unlike him his pursuer is eternally satisfied and blissful and he is in want and in sorrow. A lover pursues his beloved for his want of love but this almighty lover pursues his beloved so that he might pour his excess love into his soul. The lover’s passion is so intense that he offer’s his body as bread and his blood as drink, for these elements carry eternal bliss. With all this available with his pursuer, the vagabond still travels to the well to fetch his drink and his weary bones crack under the weight of his burden. The “lover of the soul” knocks and knocks, St Francis De Sales says “See the divine lover at the gate. He does not simply knock once. He continues to knock. He calls the soul: come arise my beloved, hurry! and He puts his hand on the lock to see if He can open it…”. He knocks not to seek shelter but to lay the soul to rest. In the famous song by Kansas on the prodigal son he says “Carry on my wayward son there’ll be peace when you are done, lay your weary head to rest don’t you cry no more”. Such is the love that he resists but alas what pity! Even the magnificence, the beauty, the fragrance and the charms of nature does not quench the soul’s thirst for nature was created not to quench the thirst of the son of man but for man to caress it, tend it and care for it. The man who is filled with the glory of God becomes the channel of grace for nature to partake of God’s grace but such is the condition of man that he seeks to be fulfilled from nature and nature gives all she can but loses her glory. Man consumes all he can and punishes nature because of her inadequacy. The poet echoes these sentiments when he says “Never did any milk of hers once bless my thirsting mouth”. The pursuing hound then shares with the rebel another dimension of his glory. He says “Although nature cooperates she will never satisfy you because you are fleeing me, the one who owns all; I am the mighty “Lord” who satisfies you for in my right hand are pleasures evermore. I am the absolute and she is just a fragile contingent, like a shadow when compared to my glory”.

The outlaw now surrenders to the might of the approaching hound for he knows and acknowledges the supremacy of the hound and realizes his helpless estate. Many hymns attempt to depict the surrender of the soul, the helplessness experienced by the vain warrior when he has a skirmish with the divine. Jacob in the Bible also engages the almighty in a duel, although the “Lord” is depicted as one who struggles with Jacob but he effortlessly cripples him in the end and gives the credit to Jacob for his strength. Jacob knew that it was by God’s own strength that he prevailed against him and he knew that this was God’s way of blessing him. Likewise the poet here expresses in words his surrender to “the divine”. This was not a pleasant feeling for he is in faced with that which he feared the most and awaits his judgment. He recalls the days when he was full of youth and zeal to pursue his dreams but now his “mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap” and his days “have crackled and gone up in smoke”. The surrender of the soul to the divine thus causes tremendous pain and he feels like he is a “prisoner of war” awaiting his trial. Stricken with guilt and helplessness he awaits the hound killing blow, the jaws of the hound waters to grant him his desire, his desire for true love. This has been expressed by Kansas in the song Hold On “Don't you recall what you felt when you weren't alone someone who stood by your side a face you have known where do you run when it's too much to bear who do you turn to in need when nobody's there. Outside your door He is waiting, waiting for you sooner or later you know he's got to get through no hesitation and no holding back let it all go and you'll know you're on the right track”. The hymn Rock of Ages by Augustus Toplady conveys the same state of the poets soul by these words “Not the labors of my hands can fulfill thy law's commands;
could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone; thou must save, and thou alone .Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling; naked, come to thee for dress; helpless, look to thee for grace; foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die”. This state of the soul is inexpressible that is the reason why the poet uses a lot of allegorical language to be his ally.
Now the soul awaits the verdict of the “Lord of the souls”, like the woman accused of adultery was brought to Jesus for judgment, the soul is violently thrown at the feet of the “Lord”. With tears and anguish the accused awaits his verdict but he is only greeted with “amaranthine love”. The joy of the soul knows no bounds to find the sweetness of the love. The poet now knows that his days of being an outlaw were mere foolishness and that he fled from the very thing that would be his potion forever. A revelation then dawns the poet he hears the hound telling him that “All things flee thee, for thou fliest me”. He accepts this with a smile.

The poet finally ponders his lowly estate. He knows how unworthy he is for that precious love and that he has done nothing to merit it. The Psalmist says “He knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust.As for man his days as grass, like the flower of the field so he flurisheth for the the wind passeth over it and it is gone and the place thereof shall know it know more”. Thus knowing our estate God still in his divine wisdom chooses to pour out his own love upon our souls by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Words would now defy the sanctity of this mysterious love; minds should cease inquiring but should relish the goodness of the love only by divine grace. The “Lord” alienates us from the pleasures of this world so that we can seek it in his arms and this is what the poet expresses, this the Lord does for his own name’s sake. He ends appropriately by saying “Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me”. The author has now realized his destiny.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Protestant Ethic And The Spirit Of Capitalism By Max Weber


Max Weber is one of the most influential thinkers in the field of “Sociology of Religion”. Weber’s thought in the sociology of Religion extends to Islam, Hinduism, and Confucianism etc.
Weber in this thesis links the spirit of modern capitalism to the rise of the Protestant faith. He does not attribute the rise of capitalism merely because of the rise of Protestantism but links the influence of Protestant ethics on the growth of capitalism.
Weber always knew that accumulation of wealth was not new to the civilization of man; he also knew that the spirit of capitalism existed much before its modern, western appearance. He traces it to other civilizations of antiquity such as the Chinese, Indian, Roman etc but the reason that he denies there was any rise in capitalism in a vast scope was because rationalism was alien to those civilizations. There was no organized logical way of building systems. He also acknowledges the fact that modern inventions such as the printing press was invented by the Chinese much before their European counterparts but it failed to make impact because they were alien to the Greek way of thought that emphasized on empirical, systematic accumulation of knowledge. He also acknowledges that Machiavellian ideas were prevalent in ancient India but the reason it had minimal impact was due the fact that it did not have any empirical evidence of success. This can be also applied to other fields such as ancient medicine, concept of universities in Islam and China. According to Weber, Western civilization is the most successful because of the scientific mathematical and logical approach towards knowledge. Knowledge is tested in stringent scientific laboratories and only appropriate knowledge was applied. This was not so for other civilizations.
With this background in mind, Weber links Protestant doctrines especially those of effectual calling of Luther, double predestination of John Calvin, and the Puritan asceticism into the growth of modern capitalism. He also has an interesting approach to Benjamin Franklins Calvinistic upbringing. He believes that Catholicism did not have any great impact on Capitalism because it was more traditional religion and preserved the antiquity of the past. Whereas the Protestant, were more recent and active sect and were looking forward to apply their ‘this worldly theology’ into practice.

Weber does have a lot of critics but he always emphasizes on his limited scope of study. He also believes that what is rational for one man might not be rational for the other, nevertheless both their ideas would seem perfectly rational, and such is the scope of Weber’s study.


In this chapter Weber promotes the idea of the capitalist inclination of the Protestant faith linking tracing its origin’s from the past. He talks about a major theological difference of Catholics and Protestants that translate into differences in their approach towards life. He noticed a trend in Hungary when it came to the approach of both Catholics and Protestants in education. While the Protestants took to specialized education to fill the technical void in society the Catholics were more traditional in their approach, they took to art.
Weber introduces the idea of economic rationalism that is the organized form of economics. In ancient times people who dealt with money often promoted unscrupulous activity and this was seen as stealing by the masses whereas after rationalism in the Western thought and the Protestant morality applied to this the accumulation of wealth became reasonable not tyrannical.
Weber also believes that the capitalistic tendencies in modern Protestants existed in an uninvolved form in the era of Dutch Calvinism. The Spaniards noticed that Heresy promoted trade. The Heresy here refers to Dutch Calvinism.
The French Huguenots and the American Quakers were also known for their wealth. In East Prussia Fredrick Williams I tolerated the Mennonites because they were indispensable to industry although they refused to volunteer in the army.
Weber also believes that there are two things a person can do “Either he eats well or sleeps well”. The Protestant believes in eating well whereas the Catholic believes in an undisturbed sleep. The Protestant invests his reinvests his money and is a restless businessman whereas the Catholic prefers security and is not interested in an action packed life.


The spirit of capitalism is much more vibrant than the accumulation of wealth; it deals with the principles and the moral philosophy behind wealth making. Weber takes the aid of Benjamin Franklin to prove his point. Benjamin Franklin lays emphasis on honesty, punctuality, industry and frugality as being the key to leading a successful life not merely accumulation of wealth. This Weber believes is because of his Calvinistic upbringing. When asked if it is necessary or justifiable to accumulate wealth Benjamin Franklin would quote from proverbs saying “Seest thou the man diligent in business? He shall stand before kings.”
Weber makes a radical statement here, he says “The capitalistic economy of the present day is an immense cosmos in which a man is born and which presents itself to him at least as an individual as an unalterable order of things in which he must live.” He also says that Capitalism encourages economic survival of the fittest.
Weber then talks about traditional labour, he believes that increasing wages will not increase productivity not because there is no desire to make wealth but traditionalists do not because they do not desire wealth but because they do not want to change the way they live. In order for them to be effective labourers, labour should be an end a calling.
In another illustration he deals with the differences in the business practices of a traditional entrepreneur and a modern one filled with the spirit of capitalism. The traditional entrepreneur has traditional labour, traditional ethics, traditional way of expanding and a traditional way of providing services. He has a constant stream of customers whom he serves and his fame spreads through the word of mouth. He works for an appropriate time and spends the rest of his time in leisure. During business seasons he puts in more effort.
The modern entrepreneur filled with the spirit of Capitalism has a vibrant labour force; he inspires them and encourages them to give their fullest. He meets his customers himself and caters to their needs in the way they want it to be not they way it is. (Henry Ford when he said that people can have any colour they want as long as it’s black, while this is the traditional approach, the modern entrepreneur would personally supply his customers with any colour they desire). The modern entrepreneur does not take time for leisure, he works with all the time he has. Thus the traditional entrepreneur is displaced. This discipline Weber believes is only due to the fact that they have ingrained into their mind that their work is their calling that is the end. This coupled with ethics makes the Protestant a deadly business competitor and a force to reckon with.


If I knew Christ was coming tomorrow I would still plant a tree today- Martin Luther
Weber looks at the word ‘calling’ and concludes that it has a religious connotation. He believes that this word is widely prevalent in the Protestant circles but absent from traditional Roman Catholicism. This was because Luther’s conception of calling was different from anything that existed before. During Luther’s time the traditional view of religion was monasticism but Luther radically changed this. According to Luther people have a duty to fulfill the obligations imposed upon them by their position in the world. Martin Luther developed this idea; each legitimate calling has the same worth to God. This "moral justification of worldly activity" was one of the most important contributions of the Reformation, and particularly of Luther's role in it.
Weber believes that the early Christians did not have a ‘this worldly’ calling rather they were waiting for the immediate return of Christ, this is found in the writings of St Paul. This was the traditional approach. Although Luther looked to be Biblical he differs here.
Thus, Weber concludes that the simple idea of the calling in Lutheranism is at best of limited importance to his study. This does not mean that Lutheranism had no practical significance for the development of the capitalistic spirit. Rather, it means that this development cannot be directly derived from Luther's attitude toward worldly activity.


In this chapter Weber studies the various Protestant sects as follows:-
• Calvinism
• Pietism
• Methodism
• The Baptist Sects

Calvinism stresses the complete ruin of humanity's ethical nature against a backdrop of the sovereign grace of God in salvation. It teaches that fallen people are morally and spiritually unable to follow God or escape their condemnation before him. It is seen as the work of God (divine intervention) in which God changes their unwilling hearts from rebellion to willing obedience.
In this view, all people are entirely at the mercy of God, who would be just in condemning all people for their sins, but who has chosen to be merciful to some. One person is saved while another is condemned, not because of a foreseen willingness, faith, or any other virtue in the first person, but because God sovereignly chose to have mercy on them. Although the person must believe the gospel and respond to be saved, this obedience of faith is God's gift, and thus God completely and sovereignly accomplishes the salvation of sinners. Views of predestination to damnation (the doctrine of reprobation) are less uniform than is the view of predestination to salvation (the doctrine of election) among self-described Calvinists
In practice, Calvinists teach sovereign grace primarily for the encouragement of the church because they believe the doctrine demonstrates the extent of God's love in saving those who could not and would not follow him, as well as squelching pride and self-reliance and emphasizing the Christian's total dependence on the grace of God. In the same way, sanctification in the Calvinist view requires a continual reliance on God to purge the Christian's depraved heart from the power of sin and to further the Christian's joy.

The direct originator of the movement was Philipp Jakob Spener. Born at Rappoltsweiler in Alsace on 13 January 1635, trained by a devout godmother who used books of devotion like Arndt's True Christianity, Spener was convinced of the necessity of a moral and religious reformation within German Lutheranism.
He made six proposals as the best means of restoring the life of the Church:
1. The earnest and thorough study of the Bible in private meetings, ecclesiolae in ecclesia ("little churches within the church").
2. The Christian priesthood being universal, the laity should share in the spiritual government of the Church
3. A knowledge of Christianity must be attended by the practice of it as its indispensable sign and supplement
4. Instead of merely didactic, and often bitter, attacks on the heterodox and unbelievers, a sympathetic and kindly treatment of them
5. A reorganization of the theological training of the universities, giving more prominence to the devotional life
6. A different style of preaching, namely, in the place of pleasing rhetoric, the implanting of Christianity in the inner or new man, the soul of which is faith, and its effects the fruits of life.

Methodism represented a combination of emotional yet ascetic religion with an increasing indifference to Calvinism's doctrinal basis. Its strongest characteristic was its "methodical, systematic nature of conduct." Method was primarily used to bring about the emotional act of conversion, and the religion had a strong emotional character. Good works were only the means of knowing one's state of grace. The feeling of grace was necessary for salvation.

The Baptist Sects
The Baptist sects (Baptists, Mennonites, and Quakers) form an independent source of ascetic Protestantism other than Calvinism; their ethics rest on a different basis. These sects are unified by the idea of a believers' church, a community of only the true believers. This worked through individual revelation, and one had to wait for the Spirit and avoid sinful attachments to the world. Despite having a different foundation than Calvinism, they too rejected all idolatry of the flesh as a detraction from the respect due God. They believed in the continued relevance of revelation. Like the Calvinists, they devalued the sacraments as a means to salvation, which was an important form of rationalization. This led to the practice of worldly asceticism. An interest in economic occupations was increased by their rejection of politics; they embraced the ethic of "honesty is the best policy."

Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism

In this chapter Weber deal’s with the ascetic nature of Protestantism and its influence on Capitalism. For example the influence on Calvinistic asceticism would be that in order for a person to know if he is the elect he would have to look for signs and success in worldly affairs and the approval of society would be sign enough of his election.
Weber then refers to the writing of Richard Baxter. The writings of Richard Baxter are a good model of its ethics. In his work, it is striking to see his suspicion of wealth as a dangerous temptation. His real moral objection though, is to relaxation, idleness, and distraction from the pursuit of a righteous life. Possessions are only objectionable because of this risk of relaxation; only activity promotes God's glory. Thus, wasting time is the worst of sins, because it means that time is lost in promoting God's will in a calling. Baxter preaches hard and continual mental or bodily work. This is because labor is an acceptable ascetic technique in the Western tradition, and because labor came to be seen as an end in itself, ordained as such by God. This does not change, even for those people who are wealthy, because everyone has a calling in which they should labor, and taking the opportunities for profit that God provides is part of that calling. To wish to be poor is similar to wishing to be sick, and both are morally unacceptable.
The Puritans on the other hand also add to the spirit of capitalism because they do not believe in the enjoyment of life. Weber argues saying "That powerful tendency toward uniformity of life, which today so immensely aids the capitalistic interest in the standardization of production, had its ideal foundations in the repudiation of all idolatry of the flesh." Furthermore, the Puritans rejected any spending of money on entertainment that didn't "serve God's glory." They felt a duty to hold and increase their possessions. It was ascetic Protestantism that gave this attitude its ethical foundation. It had the psychological effect of freeing the acquisition if goods from traditionalist ethics' inhibitions. Asceticism also condemned dishonesty and impulsive greed. The pursuit of wealth in itself was bad, but attaining it as the result of one's labor was a sign of God's blessing.
Thus, the Puritan outlook favored the development of rational bourgeois economic life, and "stood at the cradle of the modern economic man." It is true that once attained, wealth had a secularizing effect. In fact, we see that the full economic effects of these religious movements actually came after the peak of religious enthusiasm. "The religious roots died out slowly, giving way to utilitarian worldliness." However, these religious roots left its more secular successor an "amazingly good" conscience about acquiring money, as long as it was done legally. The religious asceticism also gave the businessmen industrious workers, and assured him that inequality was part of God's design. Thus, one of the major elements of the spirit of modern capitalism, rational conduct based on the idea of a calling, was "born" from the spirit of Christian asceticism. The same values exist in both, with the spirit of capitalism simply lacking the religious basis.


To conclude Weber did justice to his work linking the Rise of Capitalism to Protestant ethics but it is not the sole reason why Capitalism developed. There are countries where Capitalism flourishes but they have no Christian let alone Protestant population and a great example would be Japan. Weber did have a lot of critics but his work is path breaking and influential in Sociology.


Upanayanam is one of the most important of the 40 Samskaras prescribed by Shastras for a Hindu. Upanayanam is a ceremony performed by upper caste Hindus inaugurating their first step towards becoming a Brahmachari which means student hood which is the first phase of life for a Hindu. Upanayanam is also known as “The Sacred thread ceremony” performed on Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaishya boys at the ages of seven, thirteen and seventeen respectively. This marks their descent into the fold of the dviga or twice-born. A popular belief is that every Hindu is born a Sudra but becomes a dviga only after the Upanayanam is performed. A male child is born once after he enters the world and is twice born after the Upanayanam to signify that he is now on his path to divine knowledge since he is now permitted to read the Vedas. Various rituals are performed preceding the day of the Upanayanam and these rituals are to be followed to complete the Upanayanam rightly.
Upanayanam literally means 'leading or taking near'. That is ‘introducing the novice to the stage of ‘student hood’. Upa means 'approaching towards, by the side of'. Nayanam means 'leading, directing, bringing'.

After the ceremony is performed the Brahmachari is exposed to the sacred knowledge contained in the Vedas. It is the right of the High Class of society to know the sacred knowledge of the Vedas because salvation from the wheel of karma is his birthright and Nirvana is his destiny. The path to true enlightenment is not easy, for the soul to be in ignorance brings suffering and for the soul to escape ‘maya’ one must sacrifice everything he holds dear. The Upanayanam reminds the Brahmachari that it was through great difficulty and many lives that he is now a ‘dviga’ and if he ignores his birthright then he will be in the sway of ignorance for many more lifetimes but now he must come to terms with his opportunity that his lifetimes of ‘dharma’ and ‘karma’ has offered him and this lifetime is different because now he has the opportunity to attain salvation, be liberated forever and to realize Brahman that he truly is.
Apart from the obvious spiritual implication of the Upanayanam there is also a very strong social relevance in today’s society. Some Brahmins believe that those who do not take the Upanayanam to heart is no different from a ‘Sudra’ for he is scorning the opportunity for his salvation, one person believes that if a Brahmin ignores his rights then his karma was not truly noble but deceptive and that is why he is being deceived to ignore the sacred offered to him. This division exists because of the influence of modernity clashing with the search of one’s true identity in a cosmopolitan society.
It is believed that the Upanayanam is an ancient ritual that precedes the arrival of the Aryans. A corresponding Parsi ceremony, Navjot, in which initiates are invested with a sacred thread called the kusti before a sacred fire, testifies to the fact that this rite developed when the two communities were one. References to the life of a religious student are found in the Rig-Veda where the Upanayanam is described as a simple ceremony.
The Upanayanam is rich in symbols similar to other ancient religious practices; the imagery has a lot to do with the religio-socio-cultural scenario during the time of the Vedas. The study of the Upanayanam can take us back to the ancient days.
The ceremony has a lot of intricate rituals that needs to be followed and the preparation for the ceremony starts much before the actual ceremony itself. This ceremony is extremely crucial because it changes the way one approaches life in the future.
The study of the Upanayanam is also very important and systematic study might be path-breaking because during the time in which it originated the caste system had an extremely powerful hold on Indian society. Another theory or assumption that can be deduced by this ceremony can be that this ceremony could be a display of ‘Caste Supremacy’ and hierarchy. This was because only the ‘dviga’ were allowed to be educated and of them the Brahmins were the only people who were allowed to study the ‘sacred texts’ and obtain knowledge from them. Another important fact that we should also bear in mind was during this time the only form of education available was hereditary, that is one can only study what his caste is permitted to. While the other castes learned to make pots, polish statues etc the Upper castes particularly the Brahmins were exposed to the highest of all knowledge, the knowledge that could bring salvation – The Vedas. Why should not they then show the world around them how superior their place in society and what better way than to use the symbolism of those times? The best way to assert one’s control over the soil is a public display of supremacy. This could be one important factor that led to the origin of the Upanayanam.

The study of the Upanayanam can be done systematically as follows:-

1. Selection of a muhurta

2. Symbolic Preparation before the ceremony

3. Yajñopavītam

4. The Ceremony

5. The Gayathri Mantra

6. Bhikshakaranam

1. Selection of a muhurta

As per the Hindu Astrology, muhurta is an auspicious time selected for starting or performing an important event/action in life. In Sanskrit the word for a moment is “muhurta.” Specifically, a muhurta is a period of 48 minutes, and there are 30 such muhurtas in a day. These moments are sometimes compared to flowing water with ups and downs and ins and outs, and so there are certain moments when the flow of time is favorable and when the flow of time is unfavorable. It is, therefore, important to choose the right moment to begin a new project as this will affect the outcome of that endeavor. In fact, not only do each of the thirty 48 minute segments of time have their different moods, some auspicious and others inauspicious, different days of the week (varas), different lunar mansions (nakshatras), different lunar days (tithis), different phases of the moon (pakshas), the direction of the sun (ayana) and even whether it is night time or day time are all considered favorable or unfavorable for different endeavors. Therefore, when choosing a favorable time for any given event, all these factors have to be considered. This is what is meant by ‘choosing the moment” (muhurta) and it is the job of an expert priest or astrologer to select the proper time for the proper activity. It is a natural desire of every one important occasion or events in our life should be trouble free any unwanted, unpleasant or sorrowful incident should not take place during these important events or occasions. If these events or occasions are started on a shubha muhurta (auspicious time), these events are completed peacefully. Typically muhurta is selected for following important events/occasions in life:
• Marriage, Thread Ceremony, Jawal (Mundan), Annaprashan, Naming ceremony, Baby Shower etc…
• Pooja Vidhi, Religious Functions,
• buying a new house, land, other property, vehicle
• Starting a new business, signing work contracts, partnership deeds etc…
Therefore selecting a muhurta for the Upanayanam is very important for orthodox Hindus. They believe that ceremonies performed in inauspicious moments have the power to darken the ceremony. Upanayanam is recommended to be conducted in ‘Utharayana’. Generally, orthodox priests do not consider it a good idea to postpone the Upanayanam on excuses regarding the boy’s age being an odd number etc. It is believed to be against ‘dharmasasthra’ to say that the boy period is ‘ezharasani’ or ‘ahtamasani’. There is no relation between the time of conducting Upanayanam and the current position of planets.
Any position of the planet is considered to stand in the way of successfully conducting Upanayanam at the age of 8. Spiritual scholars believe that Upanayanam eliminates a boy’s bad period. ‘Sandhya Vandanam’ performed from a young age will bring him a bright future. Upanayanam is said to ward off the ill effects of planets.

2. Symbolic Preparation before the ceremony

Any Brahmin child seeking an education came to a guru, who took charge of him. The guru symbolically bore the child as an embryo within himself. He placed his hand on the child's right shoulder, by which he symbolically became pregnant with the child. After three nights, the child was considered reborn, or 'twice-born'. From this time onwards, his formal education began. The child spends the night before the actual ceremony in isolation and absolute silence, preparing for his second birth. The next morning, the mother and child eat together for the last time. If the Chudakarana (Chudakarana also called Chaula or Chudakarma, this is the ceremony in which a child's head is shaved for the first time, leaving a tuft on the crown. 'Chuda' refers to this tuft) has not already been performed, it is now done. The child is then bathed and, adorned in a loincloth, is taken to the guru. The guru accepts him and offers him a mantle to cover his upper body. Since every Hindu is required to cover his upper body during religious ceremonies, this symbolizes the beginning of a religious life for the child. The guru then ties a girdle around the waist of the student. This is supposed to support the loincloth, to protect his purity and chastity.
This ritual is important because in the times of old education was a Brahmin’s destiny and to be a successful student of his guru one must forget his days of old and all his vain affections. He must be born out of his household and be born into the household of the guru. This is similar to the Christian concept of ‘being born again’, being dead to the old life of sin and being born into the fellowship of the household of God. This symbolizes the death of one’s original sin and the new-birth into a life of reconciliation with God and the sacrament of water-baptism symbolizes this new birth.
In contrast with Hindu philosophy, the concept of salvation is completely different from the Judeao- Christian tradition. While the Judeao-Christian tradition emphasizes on justification by faith through the sacrament of water baptism as the symbol initiating the process of regeneration the Hindus believe in salvation through the knowledge contained in the Vedas and this path is inaugurated by the ceremony of the Upanayanam.
Hence we see a connection between the social aspects of both the faiths which both attest to the fact that for a person to attain salvation one must forgo his old ways and attitudes.

3. Yajñopavītam

The hallmark of having gone through the Upanayana ceremony is the wearing of the Yajñopavītam (Sacred Thread) on the body. The thread is circular, being tied end-to-end (only one knot is permissible); it is normally supported on the left shoulder (savya) and wrapped around the body, falling underneath the right arm. The length of the thread is generally 96 times the breadth of four fingers of a man, which is believed to be equal to his height. Each of the four fingers represents one of the four states that the soul of a man experiences: waking, dreaming, dreamless sleep and knowledge of the absolute.
The knot in the middle represents the formless Brahman, the pure form of energy which pervades all. The three threads again represent the manifestation of Brahman as Srishti, Sthithi and Vinasa. The sacred thread illustrates the fact that everything in the universe emerges from and then merges with Brahman.
Yajñopavītam has three threads (actually only one thread, folded three times and tied together) each consisting of three strands. These threads represent
• Goddess Gayatri (Goddess of mind),
• Goddess Saraswati (Goddess of word) and
• Goddess Savitri (Goddess of deed).
It denotes that one who wears the sacred thread should be pure in his thought, word and deed. The sacred thread reminds a Brahmachari to lead a regulated life with purity in his thought, word and deed. These threads also represent the debt that is owed to the guru, parents and society.
The thread is spun by a virgin girl and consists of nine strands, which are three long threads, each folded thrice over. This is then knotted, with each knot marking a distinguished ancestor.
In some interpretations, these threads are intended to constantly remind the man of his worldly responsibilities. 3 original threads (each consisting of 3) make up 9 threads, to which 3 are added for wife and 1 for children, making a total of 13 individual threads in some communities.
Another interpretation of the three threads is that they denote the three qualities from which the universe evolved: passion, representing Brahma; reality, representing Vishnu ; and darkness, representing Shiva. The three folds in the thread also remind the wearer of the three debts he owes: to the gods, to the sages, and to his ancestors
This is a contemporary interpretation of the three sacred threads this clearly bears the mark of the latest theory of the Hindu ‘Trimurti’.
Ancient texts refer to the wearing of the Yajñopavītam in three forms:

One is 'Upavītam', where the Yajñopavītam is worn over the left shoulder and under the right arm. This is for Gods. Upavītam is also called savya (Katyayana Shrauta Sutra &c.).

The Second is 'Nivītam', where the Yajñopavītam is worn around the neck and over the chest. Nivīta form is to be used during Rishi Tharpana, sexual intercourse, answering the calls of nature etc. (Shadvimsha Brahmana, Latyayana, etc.).

The third, 'Prachīnavītam' is where the Yajñopavītam is worn above the right shoulder and under the left arm. This is for Spirits. Prachīnavītam is also called apsavya (Katyayana Shrauta Sutra, Manusmriti, &c.).The sacred thread has close and essential connection with the concept of pravaras related to Brahmin gotra system, which reflects the number of most excellent Vedic rishis belonging to that particular gotra to which the wearer of sacred thread belongs. Generally, there are either three or five pravaras. While tying the knots of sacred thread, an oath is taken in the name of these excellent sages. The full affiliation of a Vedic brāhamana consists of (1)gotra, (2)sutra (of Kalpa), (3)shakha, (4)pravaras. (Example) A brahmana named 'X' introduces himself as follows : I am 'X', of Shrivatsa gotra, of Āpastamba sutra, of Taittiriya shākha of Yajurveda, of five pravaras named Bhārgava, Chyāvana, Āpnavan, Aurva and Jāmdagnya .
The sacred thread is supposed to be worn for the rest of one's life after the ceremony has been performed. A new thread is worn and the old thread discarded every year; the change-over ceremony is held on a specific date calculated as per the Hindu lunar calendar. Among Brahmins, this date varies depending on which of four Vedic Shakhas one belongs to.
Once a student achieves a certain level of Brahma knowledge ("Brahma Vidya"), the guru adds 3 more strings signifying "Graduation" and the student goes on to study. In South Indian wedding ceremony, the addition of the 3 more string is followed by "Kashi Yatra". This signifies the Yatra student intends for advanced study. At this point, the father of the bride convinces the youth to get married and then go to Kashi (Varanasi) with his new bride. In modern days, the entire ceremony is packaged within the wedding ceremony.

4. The Ceremony

After bestowing the thread, the guru gives the pupil a staff, symbolizing the beginning of a long journey to perfection. With this, the student is fully equipped with the necessities of student life. Then the guru fills his cupped hands with water, which he sprinkles on the pupil, to cleanse and purify him Sanskara. He touches the heart of the student, symbolizing harmony, sympathy, and wholehearted communion between the two. The student then mounts a stone to imbibe its firmness. This is followed by a formal introduction between the guru and the student, where each tells the other about him. The student is fed yogurt as a sign that he should clear his mind and ingest what he is taught. Then, after circumambulating the sacrificial fire the student is shown the sun and explained that the quest for knowledge should be like the light of the sun, which permeates through all things.
The student then puts a piece of wood into the sacrificial fire. This signifies the beginning of his contribution to religious rites.
The most important part of the ceremony is the recitation of the Gayathri mantra. S. Radhakrishnan described the imparting of the Gayathri Mantra as the essence of the Upanayanam ceremony, which is sometimes called "Gayathri diksha" (initiation into the Gayathri Mantra)
5. The Gayathri Mantra

Gayatri Mantra is recited by the guru and repeated by the pupil, who memorizes it. It goes as follows:-
“Oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ tat savitur vareṇyaṃ bhargo devasya dhīmahi dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt”
This literally translates to
“May we attain that excellent glory of Savitar the god so may he stimulate our prayers."
This is the climax of the ceremony and takes place with the guru, the student and his father huddled secretively under a cloth, to prevent unfit people from hearing the mantra. The teaching of the sacred Gayatri Mantra is called 'Brahmopadesham' (Brahma's counsel). It is only after learning the mantra that the student is accepted as 'twice-born'.
Literally, Gayathri means which protects him who chants it. She is the mother of all the mantras, and when chanted with devotion and single pointed concentration and purity, takes the chanter to the ultimate bliss - the knowledge of the Supreme Truth, called the Brahman. The Gayathri is a mantra praying for divine guidance to inspire and illumine the intellect so that the Jiva may know his real self - the Atman. Universal in its approach, it does not seek any personal benefit for the chanter. The venerable Bhisma, while extolling the greatness of the Gayathri from his bed of arrows declares - Where the Gayathri is chanted, ultimately deaths, involving the performance of obsequies for children by their elders will not occur. Thus it is a prayer for universal welfare which the Brahmin must perform as a sacred trust enjoined on him.

6. Bhikshakaranam

Earlier, the Brahmachari used to go out into the streets and beg for alms from various houses. This is called Bhikshakaranam and is done symbolically today. It is very difficult to practice Bhikshakaranam in today's world but we should at least keep in mind the virtues underlying this practice and try to cultivate them. Bhikshakaranam was done to make one humble and control the ego. It enables the young Vatu to control the senses, which is absolutely essential for receiving Vedic Knowledge.


The Upanayanam is rich in symbols, culture and tradition and still plays a great part in the Brahminic community even today. Modern Brahmins have a scientific apologetic approach towards the Upanayanam. The flaws of this sociological ceremony are as follows:-
• It is exclusive because it is only meant for the ‘twice born’ Hindus.
• It strengthens the identity one derives from one’s caste
• It emphasizes on ‘Brahminic Superiority’
• Women are not permitted to partake of the Upanayanam

Swami Vivekananda had a similar problem when it came to the Brahminic domination of the Upanayanam so he performed this ceremony on people from other castes and women too. Thus the Upanayanam may have a role in promoting caste equality although it is Brahminic in nature. For a Brahmin is not one who is born into a caste but a noble and a Godly man is truly a Brahmin.