Letters of a Javanese princess/Chapter 53

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LIII[1]

December 12th, 1902.

WE think that your little table is the most beautiful of all the carved work that our Singo has done. A short while ago he was saved as though by a miracle, from a great calamity. Eleven houses near his own were burned to the ground. The cocoanut tree in his little garden was all ablaze, but by great good fortune his house remained uninjured. The whole village ran out to see the miracle and asked the lucky owner of the only remaining house, what "Ilmoe"[2] or "Djamat"[3] he had to protect him. For they thought, of course, that he had saved his house through some magic spell. No, he had no "Ilmoe" or "Djamat," nor magic spells, he had only "Goesti Allah" who had spared him for his own purposes. The day after the fire, the man came to us, and fancy! he thanked us for the preservation of his dwelling. He insisted that it was the power of our prayers for him that had kept his house from misfortune. Such naive and simple faith is touching.

I asked myself if it would be right to take away from these poor souls the simple faith that makes them happy. What could I give them in its stead? The stupidest person can tear down, but it is quite another matter to build up.

We have found so many charming qualities in our humble friends.

We were turned away for a long time from all religion, because we saw so much uncharitableness under its mantle. We learned, at first slowly; that it is not religion that is uncharitable, but man who has made what was originally Godlike and beautiful, bad and ugly. We think that love is the highest religion, and must one be a Christian in order to love according to that Heavenly command? For the Buddhist, the Brahmin, the Jew, the Mohammedan and even the Heathen can lead lives of pure love.

A little while ago I received a letter from Dr. Adriani in which you would be interested. I told him what you had done for us, and he is so glad for our sakes. "What Mevrouw Van Kol has made you see," he wrote, "is the substance of all religion, the recognition of God as a person, not as goodness, but the Good."

There are many earnest things in his letter, I wish that I could read it to you and talk about it with you; I must answer it. Somewhere he says, "But I can see no other way, Christianity alone does not bring one happiness, only the personal love of God does that, of which Christianity is the symbol."


  1. To Mevrouw Abendanon.
  2. Magic power to obtain what one wishes.
  3. A talisman which protects from calamity.