Antiquity of the Vedas

This testimony from an unwilling witness shows again the identity between the ancient religions as to their secret doctrine. The Gayatri metre, for example, consists of thrice eight syllables, and is considered the most sacred of metres. It is the metre of Agni, the fire-god, and becomes at times the emblem of Brahma himself, the chief creator, and "fashioner of man" in his own image. Now Pythagoras says that "The number eight, or the Octad, is the first cube, that is to say, squared in all senses, as a die, proceeding from its base two, or even number; so is man four-square or perfect." Of course few, except the Pythagoreans and kabalists, can fully comprehend this idea; but the illustration will assist in pointing out the close kinship of the numerals with the Vedic Mantras. The chief problems of every theology lie concealed beneath this imagery of fire and the varying rhythm of its flames. The burning bush of the Bible, the Zoroastrian and other sacred fires, Plato's universal soul, and the Rosicrucian doctrines of both soul and body of man being evolved out of fire, the reasoning and immortal element which permeates all things, and which, according to Herakleitus, Hippocrates, and Parmenides, is God, have all the same meaning.

Each metre in the Brahmanas corresponds to a number, and as shown by Haug, as it stands in the sacred volumes, is a prototype of some visible form on earth, and its effects are either good or evil. The "sacred speech" can save, but it can kill as well; its many meanings and faculties are well known but to the Dikshita (the adept), who has been initiated into many mysteries, and whose "spiritual birth" is completely achieved; the Vach of the mantra is a spoken power, which awakes another corresponding and still more occult power, each allegorically personified by some god in the world of spirits, and, according as it is used, responded to either by the gods or the Rakshasas (bad spirits). In the Brahmanical and Buddhist ideas, a curse, a blessing, a vow, a desire, an idle thought, can each assume a visible shape and so manifest itself objectively to the eyes of its author, or to him that it concerns.

Every sin becomes incarnated, so to say, and like an avenging fiend persecutes its perpetrator.

There are words which have a destructive quality in their very syllables, as though objective things; for every sound awakens a corresponding one in the invisible world of spirit, and the repercussion produces either a good or bad effect. Harmonious rhythm, a melody vibrating softly in the atmosphere, creates a beneficent and sweet influence around, and acts most powerfully on the psychological as well as physical natures of every living thing on earth; it reacts even on inanimate objects, for matter is still spirit in its essence, invisible as it may seem to our grosser senses.

So with the numerals. Turn wherever we will, from the Prophets to the Apocalypse, and we will see the biblical writers constantly using the numbers three, four, seven, and twelve.

And yet we have known some partisans of the Bible who maintained that the Vedas were copied from the Mosaic books!* The Vedas, which are written in Sanscrit, a language

* To avoid discussion we adopt the palœographical conclusions arrived at by Martin Haug and some other cautious scholars. Personally we whose grammatical rules and forms, as Max Müller and other scholars confess, were completely established long before the days when the great wave of emigration bore it from Asia all over the Occident, are there to proclaim their parentage of every philosophy, and every religious institution developed later among Semitic peoples. And which of the numerals most frequently occur in the Sanscrit chants, those sublime hymns to creation, to the unity of God, and the countless manifestations of His power? One, Three, and Seven. Read the hymn by Dirghatamas.

"To Him Who Represents All The Gods."

"The God here present, our blessed patron, our sacrificer, has a brother who spreads himself in midair. There exists a third Brother whom we sprinkle with our libations. . . . it is he whom i have seen master of men and armed with seven rays."+

And again:

"Seven Bridles aid in guiding a car which has but ONE wheel, and which is drawn by a single horse that shines with seven rays. The wheel has three limbs, an immortal wheel, never-wearying, whence hang all the worlds."

"Sometimes seven horses drag a car of seven wheels, and seven personages mount it, accompanied by seven credit the statements of the Brahmans and those of Halled, the translator of the "Shastras." f The god Heptaktis.

fecund nymphs of the water."

And the following again, in honor of the fire-god — Agni, who is so clearly shown but a spirit subordinate to the ONE God.

"Ever One, although having three forms of double nature (androgynous) — he rises! and the priests offer to God, in the act of sacrifice, their prayers which reach the heavens, borne aloft by Agni."

Is this a coincidence, or, rather, as reason tells us, the result of the derivation of many national cults from one primitive, universal religion? A mystery for the uninitiated, the unveiling of the most sublime (because correct and true) psychological and physiological problems for the initiate. Revelations of the personal spirit of man which is divine because that spirit is not only the emanation of the ONE Supreme God, but is the only God man is able, in his weakness and helplessness, to comprehend — to feel within himself. This truth the Vedic poet clearly confesses, when saying:

"The Lord, Master of the universe and full of wisdom, has entered with me (into me) — weak and ignorant — and has formed me of himself in that place* where the spirits obtain, by the help of Science, the peaceful enjoyment of the fruit, as sweet as ambrosia."

Whether we call this fruit "an apple" from the Tree of Knowledge, or the pippala of the Hindu poet, it matters not. It is the fruit of esoteric wisdom. Our object is to show the

* The sanctuary of the initiation.

existence of a religious system in India for many thousands of years before the exoteric fables of the Garden of Eden and the Deluge had been invented. Hence the identity of doctrines. Instructed in them, each of the initiates of other countries became, in his turn, the founder of some great school of philosophy in the West.

Who of our Sanscrit scholars has ever felt interested in discovering the real sense of the following hymns, palpable as it is: "Pippala, the sweet fruit of that tree upon which come spirits who love the science (?) and where the gods produce all marvels. This is a mystery for him who knows not the Father of the world."

Or this one again:

"These stanzas bear at their head a title which announces that they are consecrated to the Viswadevas (that is to say, to all the gods). He who knows not the Being whom I sing in all his manifestations, will comprehend nothing of my verses; those who do know Him are not strangers to this reunion."

This refers to the reunion and parting of the immortal and mortal parts of man. "The immortal Being," says the preceding stanza, "is in the cradle of the mortal Being. The two eternal spirits go and come everywhere; only some men know the one without knowing the other" (Dirghatamas).

Who can give a correct idea of Him of whom the Rig-Veda says:

"That which is One the wise call it in divers manners." That One is sung by the Vedic poets in all its manifestations in nature; and the books considered "childish and foolish" teach how at will to call the beings of wisdom for our instruction. They teach, as Porphyry says: "a liberation from all terrene concerns . . . a flight of the alone to the Alone."

Professor Max Müller, whose every word is accepted by his school as philological gospel, is undoubtedly right in one sense when in determining the nature of the Hindu gods, he calls them "masks without an actor . . . names without being, not beings without names."* For he but proves thereby the monotheism of the ancient Vedic religion. But it seems to us more than dubious whether he or any scientist of his school needed hope to fathom the old Aryant thought, without an accurate study of those very "masks." To the materialist, as to the scientist, who for various reasons endeavors to work out the difficult problem of compelling facts to agree with either their own hobbies or those of the Bible, they may seem but the empty shells of phantoms. Yet such authorities will ever be, as in the past, the unsafest of guides, except in matters of exact science. The Bible patriarchs are as much "masks

* "Comparative Mythology."

f While having no intention to enter at present upon a discussion as to the nomadic races of the "Rhematic period," we reserve the right to question the full propriety of terming that portion of the primitive people from whose traditions the "Vedas" sprang into existence, Aryans. Some scientists find the existence of these Aryans not only unproved by science, but the traditions of Hindustan protesting against such an assumption.

without actors," as the pragäpatis, and yet, if the living personage behind these masks is but an abstract shadow there is an idea embodied in every one of them which belongs to the philosophical and scientific theories of ancient wisdom.} And who can render better service in this work than the native Brahmans themselves, or the kabalists?

To deny, point-blank, any sound philosophy in the later Brahmanical speculations upon the Rig-Veda, is equivalent to refusing to ever correctly understand the mother-religion itself, which gave rise to them, and which is the expression of the inner thought of the direct ancestors of these later authors of the Brahmanas. If learned Europeans can so readily show that all the Vedic gods are but empty masks, they must also be ready to demonstrate that the Brahmanical authors were as incapable as themselves to discover these "actors" anywhere. This done, not only the three other sacred books which Max Müller says "do not deserve the name of Vedas," but the Rig-Veda itself becomes a meaningless jumble of words; for what the world-renowned and subtile intellect of the ancient Hindu sages failed to understand, no modern

J Without the esoteric explanation, the "Old Testament" becomes an absurd jumble of meaningless tales — nay, worse than that, it must rank high with immoral books. It is curious that Professor Max Müller, such a profound scholar in Comparative Mythology, should be found saying of the pragäpatis and Hindu gods that they are masks without actors; and of Abraham and other mythical patriarchs that they were real living men; of Abraham especially, we are told (see "Semitic Monotheism") that he "stands before us as a figure second only to one in the whole history of the world."

scientist, however learned, can hope to fathom. Poor Thomas Taylor was right in saying that "philology is not philosophy."

It is, to say the least, illogical to admit that there is a hidden thought in the literary work of a race perhaps ethnologically different from our own; and then, because it is utterly unintelligible to us whose spiritual development during the several thousand intervening years has bifurcated into quite a contrary direction — deny that it has any sense in it at all. But this is precisely what, with all due respect for erudition, Professor Max Müller and his school do in this instance, at least. First of all, we are told that, albeit cautiously and with some effort, yet we may still walk in the footsteps of these authors of the Vedas. "We shall feel that we are brought face to face and mind to mind with men yet intelligible to us after we have freed ourselves from our modern conceits. We shall not succeed always; words, verses, nay whole hymns in the Rig-Veda, will and must remain to us a dead letter. . . . For, with a few exceptions . . . the whole world of the Vedic ideas is so entirely beyond our own intellectual horizon, that instead of translating, we can as yet only guess and combine."*

And yet, to leave us in no possible doubt as to the true value of his words, the learned scholar, in another passage, expresses his opinion on these same Vedas (with one exception) thus: "The only important, the only real Veda, is the Rig-Veda — the other so-called Vedas deserve the name of

* The italics are our own. "The Vedas," lecture by Max Müller, p. 75.

Veda no more than the Talmud deserves the name of Bible." Professor Müller rejects them as unworthy of the attention of any one, and, as we understand it, on the ground that they contain chiefly "sacrificial formulas, charms, and incantations."+

And now, a very natural question: Are any of our scholars prepared to demonstrate that, so far, they are intimately acquainted with the hidden sense of these perfectly absurd "sacrificial formulas, charms, and incantations" and magic nonsense of Atharva-Veda? We believe not, and our doubt is based on the confession of Professor Müller himself, just quoted. If "the whole world of the Vedic ideas [the Rig-Veda cannot be included alone in this world, we suppose] is so entirely beyond our own [the scientists'] intellectual horizon that, instead of translating, we can as yet only guess and combine"; and the Yagur-Veda, Sama-Veda, and Atharva-Veda are "childish and foolish";} and the Brahmanas, the Sutras Yaska, and Sayana, "though nearest in time to the hymns of the Rig-Veda, indulge in the most frivolous and ill-judged interpretations," how can either himself or any other scholar form any adequate opinion of either of them? If, again, the authors of the Brahmanas, the nearest in time to the Vedic hymns, were already incompetent to offer anything better than "ill-judged interpretations," then at what period of history, where, and by whom, were written these grandiose f "Chips," vol. i., p. 8.

J We believe that we have elsewhere given the contrary opinion, on the subject of "Atharva-Veda," of Prof. Whitney, of Yale College.

poems, whose mystical sense has died with their generations? Are we, then, so wrong in affirming that if sacred texts are found in Egypt to have become — even to the priestly scribes of 4,000 years ago — wholly unintelligible,* and the Brahmanas offer but "childish and foolish" interpretations of the Rig-Veda, at least as far back as that, then, 1st, both the Egyptian and Hindu religious philosophies are of an untold antiquity, far antedating ages cautiously assigned them by our students of comparative mythology; and, 2d, the claims of ancient priests of Egypt and modern Brahmans, as to their age, are, after all, correct.

We can never admit that the three other Vedas are less worthy of their name than the Rig-hymns, or that the Talmud and the Kabala are so inferior to the Bible. The very name of the Vedas (the literal meaning of which is knowledge or wisdom) shows them to belong to the literature of those men who, in every country, language, and age, have been spoken of as "those who know." In Sanscrit the third person singular is veda (he knows), and the plural is vida (they know). This word is synonymous with the Greek ZeooePeia, which Plato uses when speaking of the wise — the magicians; and with the Hebrew Hakamin, D'&nn (wise men). Reject the Talmud and its old predecessor the Kabala, and it will be simply impossible ever to render correctly one word of that Bible so much extolled at their expense. But then it is, perhaps, just what its partisans are working for. To banish the Brahmanas is to fling

away the key that unlocks the door of the Rig-Veda. The literal interpretation of the Bible has already borne its fruits; with the Vedas and the Sanscrit sacred books in general it will be just the same, with this difference, that the absurd interpretation of the Bible has received a time-honored right of eminent domain in the department of the ridiculous; and will find its supporters, against light and against proof. As to the "heathen" literature, after a few more years of unsuccessful attempts at interpretation, its religious meaning will be relegated to the limbo of exploded superstitions, and people will hear no more of it.

We beg to be clearly understood before we are blamed and criticised for the above remarks. The vast learning of the celebrated Oxford professor can hardly be questioned by his very enemies, yet we have a right to regret his precipitancy to condemn that which he himself confesses "entirely beyond our own intellectual horizon." Even in what he considers a ridiculous blunder on the part of the author of the Brahmanas, other more spiritually-disposed persons may see quite the reverse. "Who is the greatest of the gods? Who shall first be praised by our songs?" says an ancient Rishi of the Rig-Veda; mistaking (as Prof. M. imagines) the interrogative pronoun "Who" for some divine name. Says the Professor: "A place is allotted in the sacrificial invocations to a god 'Who,' and hymns addressed to him are called 'Whoish hymns.' " And is a god "Who" less natural as a term than a god "I am"? or "Whoish" hymns less reverential than "I-amish" psalms? And who can prove that this is really a blunder, and not a premeditated expression? is it so impossible to believe that the strange term was precisely due to a reverential awe which made the poet hesitate before giving a name, as form to that which is justly considered as the highest abstraction of metaphysical ideals — God? Or that the same feeling made the commentator who came after him to pause and so leave the work of anthropomorphizing the "Unknown," the "WHO," to future human conception? "These early poets thought more for themselves — than for others," remarks Max Müller himself. "They sought rather, in their language, to be true to their own thought than to please the imagination of their hearers."* Unfortunately it is this very thought which awakes no responsive echo in the minds of our philologists.

Farther, we read the sound advice to students of the Rig-Veda hymns, to collect, collate, sift, and reject. "Let him study the commentaries, the Sutras, the Brahmanas, and even later works, in order to exhaust all the sources from which information can be derived. He [the scholar] must not despise the traditions of the Brahmans, even where their misconceptions . . . are palpable. . . . Not a corner in the Brahmanas, the Sutras, Yaska, and Sayana, should be left unexplored before we propose a rendering of our own. . . . When the scholar has done his work, the poet and philosopher must take it up and finish it."+

* "Chips," vol. i.; "The Vedas." f Max Müller, Lecture on "The Vedas."

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