This Book is written by Arthur Osborne.
I never went back to the moors. Life now took a new course. The beacon ahead to which I steered was an Oxford scholarship. I have the methodical tenacity in pursuing a goal which one would expect of a moon in Capricorn. At present the goal was an idealized Oxford; later it was to be the supreme goal of Nirvana. Between the two intervened a period with no envisaged goal, when I tossed adrift on a stormy sea. At present Oxford seemed like an alabaster city of dreams in the mists ahead and I aimed steadily at getting there. Not only was it the gateway to a good career but, in itself, a haven of culture from the bleak money-cult of the West Riding. In fact, refusal to accept a materialist world was already working in my mind and, the true alternative having not yet been descried, an idealized Oxford served as an imaginary substitute for it.
My school trained boys in classics, science and mathematics, but an enthusiastic history master captured my interest and got the headmaster’s permission to coach me for a historyscholarship. That was before the day of the welfare state, when a country grant came automatically to all who obtained entrance to a university. For me it was a scholarship or nothing.
Side by side with persistent study I found time for other reading also — philosophical writers like Ruskin and Carlyle, though not pure philosophy; theology as well, such as the works of Dean Inge who was then in vogue; also much poetry. My special delight was when I was left alone in the house and was able to read poetry aloud. I also enjoyed whatever humour came my way — Pickwick, the plays of W.S. Gilbert, the Ingoldsby Legends. Except for an occasional humorous novel, I read no fiction. It seemed a waste of time with so much knowledge to acquire and philosophy to ponder. Although little enough spending money came my way, I began to accumulate a small library.
I thought of myself as a future writer. Looking round at the sunset sky from a windy hill one evening, the conviction came to me with an intensity of a revelation: “I could write poems if there were anything important enough to write about”. Several times in the course of my life I recalled this, saying: “Surely what I feel now is important enough?” But it never was.
On another occasion, walking across the fields into town, I had a strange dream that I should some day write a book that would begin in prose and then, attaining too high a vibration for prose, continue in poetry, and finally transcend speech altogether, ending in silence.
There were no buses on the roads in those days, and it was a two-mile walk to school in the morning and back in the evening; often four times a day when I came home for lunch. I must have been about sixteen when, as I was walking home one day, a vivid and intense feeling of the reality of death came over me — why should I accumulate a library, why should I accumulate anything at all, when death was inevitable? There was nothing sad or tragic about the thought and no fear; it was not a feeling of despondency or revolt, but simply of the inevitability of death. It passed and effected no permanent change, but at least it left an impression too vivid to fade. It was at the same age that an experience of death overwhelmed Ramana, who was to become the Maharshi, and destroyed his ego once and for all, leaving him thenceforth established immutably in the Self (see my Ramana Maharshi and the Path of Self-Knowledge, page 18-19, Rider & Co). It is very seldom that the path can thus be completed in a single step, only in those rare cases where obstacles have already been overcome in a previous life, leaving the ultimate attainment within grasp. More often it is a path of striving for a lifetime, seldom indeed brought to a conclusion before life ends. However, it may be natural for the first intuition of it to occur at this age, when the mind is already fully active and worldly unwisdom has not yet closed over it like a dense cloud, hiding the face of Reality.
Religion already meant a lot to me. At this time I came under the influence of a Welsh clergyman called Morgan, a spare but powerfully built man dominating and combative, utterly dedicated and tense with nervous energy. That he was a boxing blue and an authority on rugby football impressed me not at all, that he was a keen wit very much. He ran into opposition through introducing beauty into his church and its services. Typical of him was that he painted the pews bright green instead of the usual dull brown, saying that he wanted to wake people up when they came into the church, not put them to sleep. To give us courage he introduced street processions and small prayer meetings conducted by laymen, and I took part in both. I had read Gitanjali and its sequel, Tagore’s books of prose poems, and was fascinated by them as the nearest thing to mystical knowledge I had yet found (though how far distant from it I was later to understand) and— foreshadowing of things to come — at one such prayer meeting that I conducted I read out a poem by Tagore and explained that, although not a Christian, he had the same faith and understanding. Those present expressed agreement.
The second strong influence on me at that time was Mr. Lance, my history master. He was a loyal son of Christ Church and eager that I should go there too. However, the Oxford colleges were divided into three groups for scholarship purposes, and in my year the Christ Church group came last of the three. It would be obviously too reckless to wait for that, so he suggested my going up to try for a scholarship a year early. The headmaster agreed that it would be useful for me to have the experience, not that there was any chance of my getting in. It was, however, pointed out to me that it was unwise for a boy from a grammar school like ours to put Christ Church first on his list of preferences; he would not be chosen anyway, and it would make the colleges he had put lower down on the list less likely to accept him. However, I stuck to my guns, or rather to Mr. Lance’s guns. In the autumn of 1924 I went up to Oxford as a scholar of Christ Church, just turned eighteen, a year before my time.