chapter  1
20 Pages

John Locke’s India

Religion, revelation, and enthusiasm 1
WithDaniel Carey

John Locke’s sustained intellectual engagement with India began with the study of travel books and developed through his correspondence, use of inquiries, and, in the case of François Bernier, meetings in person. His initial interest in the country focused on sati, a subject that he introduced in order to make a philosophical point about natural law, but his attention widened to include, above all, the anthropology of religion, focusing in particular on Hindu custom and belief. These investigations formed part of a much larger commitment to explore the world methodically, to harness information, and to assess it philosophically. The fruition of these efforts came in the Essay Concerning Human Understanding and elsewhere, in influential and lasting contributions to European thought in the emerging Enlightenment, not least in the assessment of revelation and claims of religious enthusiasm.