Charles Eliot (diplomat)

British diplomat, colonial administrator and botanist (1862-1931)

Sir Charles Norton Edgcumbe Eliot GCMG CB PC (8 January 1862 – 16 March 1931) was a British diplomat, colonial administrator and botanist. He served as Commissioner of British East Africa in 1900–1904. He was British Ambassador to Japan in 1919–1925.

Sir Charles Eliot (1918)


  • “Though these narratives,” says Sir Charles Eliot, “are compilations which accepted new matter during several centuries, I see no reason to doubt that the oldest stratum contains the recollections of those who had seen and heard the master.”
    • quoted in Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage : India and Her Neighbors.
  • In Buddha, says Sir Charles Eliot, “the world is not thought of as the handiwork of a divine personality, nor the moral law as his will. The fact that religion can exist without these ideas is of capital importance.”
    • quoted in Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage : India and Her Neighbors.

Hinduism and Buddhism; an historical sketch

Eliot, Charles, Sir, Hinduism and Buddhism; an historical sketch London, Routledge &K. Paul [1921] Volume I p.38-78
  • Let me confess that I cannot share the confidence in the superiority of Europeans and their ways which is prevalent in the West." "European civilization is not satisfying and Asia can still offer something more attractive to many who are far from Asiatic in spirit.
  • Indian religions have more spirituality and a greater sense of the Infinite than our western creeds and more liberality. They are not merely tolerant but often hold that different classes of mankind have their own rules of life and suitable beliefs and that he who follows such partial truths does no wrong to the greater and all-inclusive truths on which his circumstances do not permit him to fix his attention ... and are more penetrated with the idea that civilization means a gentle and enlightened temper - an idea sadly forgotten in these days of war.
  • I do not think that Christianity will ever make much progress in Asia, for what is commonly known by that name is not the teaching of Christ but a rearrangement of it made in Europe and like most European institutions practical rather than thoughtful. And as for the teaching of Christ himself, the Indian finds it excellent but not ample or satisfying. There is little in it which cannot be found in some of the many scriptures of Hinduism ...
  • The claim of India to the attention of the world is that she, more than any other nation since history began, has devoted herself to contemplating the ultimate mysteries of existence and, in my eyes, the fact that Indian thought diverges widely from our own popular thought is a positive merit."
  • Hinduism has not been made, but has grown. It is a jungle, not a building. It is a living example of a great national paganism such as might have existed in Europe if Christianity had not become the state religion of the Roman Empire, if there had remained an incongruous jumble of old local superstitions, Greek philosophy, and oriental cults such as the worship of Sarapis or Mitras.
  • Compared to Islam and Christianity, Hinduism's doctrines are extraordinarily fluid, and multiform. India deals in images and metaphors. Restless, subtle and argumentative as Hindu thought is, it is less prone than European theology to the vice of distorting transcendental ideas by too stringent definition. It adumbrates the indescribable by metaphors and figures. It is not afraid of inconsistencies, which may illustrate different aspects of the infinite, but it rarely tries to cramp the divine within the limits of a logical phrase.
  • The Hindu has an extraordinary power of combining dogma and free thought, uniformity, and variety. Utmost latitude of interpretation is allowed. In all ages Hindus have been passionately devoted to speculation. It is also to point out that from the Upanishads down to the writings of Tagore in the present day literature from time to time enunciates the idea that the whole universe is the manifestation of some exuberant force giving expression to itself in joyous movement.
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