I am sifting through Edwyn Bevan‘s book, Holy Images, (c) 1940. They were a series of four lectures – Gifford Lectures – that he gave at the University of Edinburgh in 1933. The subtitle is An Inquiry into Idolatry and Image-Worship in Ancient Paganism and in Christianity. Bevan took a degree from Oxford in 1892, and then went traveling for a year. One of the places that he went to was India and as a result he developed a life long interest in all matters Indian. It makes sense, because he would have been in India at a time when India would have been brimming with activity – nationalistic movements were picking up speed, and so too Hindu Reform movements, like the Arya Samaj. In addition the above book, he also wrote Indian Nationalism (1913), and Thoughts on Indian Discontents (1929).
“One may sometimes to-day hear superior persons rebuke the stupid narrow-mindedness of European Christians, especially of missionaries, who speak of Hindus bowing down to wood and stone. Such critics, they say, ought to understand that it is not the material image which the so-called “heathen” worship, but the divine being whom the image symbolizes. Unfortunately we have striking testimony, in support of the missionary assertion, not from a missionary, not from a Christian, not from European, but from a Hindu of such militant nationalism as the late Lala Lajpat Rai. … Note that the belief is here stated to have been, not merely a popular belief held by the simple and uninstructed, but a belief which the authoritative exponents of the religion, the priests, taught as true.”
Bevan goes on to point out that Rai was a member of the Arya Samaj, and Dayanada Saraswati made observations, to wit that people in fact were worshiping wood and stone, with no thoughts of deity going further beyond the stone and the wood. Honestly, I have observed this myself. One needn’t have recourse to such luminaries in order to find out that this is so.