[The Theosophist, Vol. V, No. 1(49), October, 1883, pp. 3-10.]
It is asked whether there may not be ‘some confusion’ in the letter quoted on p. 62 of Esoteric Buddhism regarding “old Greeks and Romans” said to have been Atlanteans. The answer is—none whatever. The word “Atlantean” was a generic name. The objection to have it applied to the old Greeks and Romans on the ground that they were Aryans, “their language being intermediate between Sanskrit and modern European dialects,” is worthless. With equal reason, might a future 6th Race scholar, who had never heard of the (possible) submergence of a portion of European Turkey, object to Turks from the Bosphorus being referred to as a remnant of the Europeans. “The Turks, are surely Semites”, he might say 12,000 years hence, and—“their language is intermediate between Arabic and our modern 6th Race dialects.”*
‘The “historical difficulty” arises from a certain authoritative statement made by Orientalists on philological grounds. Prof. Max Müller has brilliantly demonstrated that Sanskrit was the “elder sister”—by no means the mother—of all the modern languages. As to that “mother,” it is conjectured by himself and colleagues to be a “now extinct tongue, spoken probably by the nascent Aryan race.”16 When asked what was this language, the Western voice answers, “Who can tell?” When, “during what geological periods did this nascent race flourish?” The same impressive voice replies:—“In prehistoric ages, the duration of which no one can now determine.” Yet it must have been Sanskrit, however barbarous and unpolished,
* This is not to be construed to mean that 12,000 years hence there will be yet any man of the 6th Race, or that the 5th will be submerged. The figures are given simply for the sake of a better comparison with the present objection in the case of the Greeks and Atlantis.
since “the ancestors of the Greeks, the Italians, Slavonians, Germans and Celts”17 were living within “the same precincts” with that nascent race, and the testimony borne by language has enabled the philologist to trace the “language of the gods” in the speech of every Aryan nation. Meanwhile it is affirmed by these same Orientalists that classical Sanskrit has its origin at the very threshold of the Christian era; while Vedic Sanskrit is allowed an antiquity of hardly 3,000 years (if so much) before that time.
Now, Atlantis, on the statement of the “Adepts,” sank over 9,000 years before the Christian era.* How then can one maintain that the “old Greeks and Romans” were Atlanteans! How can that be, since both nations are Aryans, and the genesis of their language is Sanskrit? Moreover, the Western scholars know that the Greek and Latin languages were formed within historical periods, the Greeks and Latins themselves having no existence as nations 11,000 B. C. Surely they who advance such a proposition do not realize how very unscientific is their statement!
Such are the criticisms passed, such—the “historical difficulty.” The culprits arraigned are fully alive to their perilous situation; nevertheless, they maintain the statement. The only thing which may perhaps here be objected to is, that the names of the two nations are incorrectly
* The position recently taken up by Mr. Gerald Massey in Light that the story of Atlantis is not a geological event but an ancient astronomical myth, is rather imprudent. Mr. Massey, notwithstanding his rare intuitional faculties and great learning, is one of those writers in whom the intensity of research bent into one direction has biased his otherwise clear understanding. Because Hercules is now a constellation it does not follow that there never was a hero of this name. Because the Noachian Universal Deluge is now proved a fiction based upon geological and geographical ignorance, it does not, therefore, appear that there were not many local deluges in prehistoric ages. The ancients connected every terrestrial event with the celestial bodies. They traced the history of their great deified heroes and memorialized it in stellar configurations as often as they personified pure myths, anthropomorphising objects in nature. One has to learn the difference between the two modes before attempting to classify them under one nomenclature. An earthquake has just
used. It may be argued that to refer to the remote ancestors and their descendants equally as “Greeks and Romans,” is an anachronism as marked as would be the calling of the ancient Keltic Gauls or the Insubres—Frenchmen. As a matter of fact this is true. But, besides the very plausible excuse that the names used were embodied in a private letter, written as usual in great haste, and which was hardly worthy of the honour of being quoted verbatim with all its imperfections, there may perhaps exist still weightier objections to calling the said people by any other name. One misnomer is as good as another; and, to refer to old Greeks and Romans in a private letter as the old Hellenes from Hellas or Magna Graecia, and the Latini as from Latium, would have been, besides looking pedantic, just as incorrect as the use of the appellation noted, though it may have sounded, perchance, more “historical.” The truth is that, like the ancestors of nearly all the Indo-Europeans (or shall we say Indo-Germanic Japhetidae?), the Greek and Roman sub-races mentioned, have to be traced much farther back. Their origin must be carried far into the mists of that “prehistoric” period, that mythical age which inspires the modern historian with such a feeling of squeamishness that anything creeping out of its abysmal depths is sure to be instantly dismissed as a deceptive phantom, the mythos of an idle tale, or a later
engulfed over 80,000 people (87,903) in Sunda Straits. These were mostly Malays, savages with whom but few had relations, and the dire event will be soon forgotten. Had a portion of Great Britain been thus swept away instead, the whole world would have been in commotion, and yet, a few thousand years hence, even such an event would have passed out of man’s memory; and a future Gerald Massey might be found speculating upon the astronomical character and signification of the Isles of Wight, Jersey, or Man, arguing, perhaps, that this latter Island had not contained a real living race of men but “belonged to astronomical mythology” was a “Man submerged in celestial waters.” If the legend of the lost Atlantis is only “like those of Airyana-Vaêjo and Jambu-dvipa,” it is terrestrial enough, and therefore, “the mythological origin of the Deluge legend” is so far an open question. We claim that it is not “indubitably demonstrated,” however clever the theoretical demonstration.
fable unworthy of serious notice. The Atlantean “old Greeks” could not be designated even as the Autochtones—a convenient term used to dispose of the origin of any people whose ancestry cannot be traced, and which, at any rate with the Hellenes, meant certainly more than simply “soil-born,” or primitive aborigines; and yet the so-called fable of Deukalion and Pyrrha is surely no more incredible or marvelous than that of Adam and Eve,—a fable that hardly an hundred years ago, no one would have dared or even thought to question. And in its esoteric significance the Greek tradition is possibly more truly historical than many a so-called historical event during the period of the Olympiades—though both Hesiod and Homer may have failed to record the former in their epics. Nor could the Romans be referred to as the Umbro-Sabellians, nor even as the Itali. Peradventure, had the historians learnt something more than they have of the Italian “Autochtones”—the Iapygians, one might have given the “old Romans” the latter name. But then there would be again that other difficulty: history knows that the Latin invaders drove before them, and finally cooped up this mysterious and miserable race among the clefts of the Calabrian rocks, thus showing the absence of any race affinity between the two. Moreover, Western archæologists keep to their own counsel, and will accept of no other but their own conjectures. And since they have failed to make anything out of the undecipherable inscriptions in an unknown tongue and mysterious characters on the Iapygian monuments—and so for years have pronounced them unguessable, he who would presume to meddle where the doctors muddle would be likely to be reminded of the Arab proverb about proffered advice. Thus, it seems hardly possible to designate “the old Greeks and Romans” by their legitimate, true name so as to at once satisfy the “historians” and keep on the fair side of truth and fact. However, since in the Replies that precede Science had to be repeatedly shocked by most unscientific propositions, and that before this series is closed, many a difficulty, philological and archæological as well as historical, will have to be
unavoidably created—it may be just as wise to uncover the occult batteries at once and have it over with.
Well then, the “Adepts” deny most emphatically to Western science any knowledge whatever of the growth and development of the Indo-Aryan race which, “at the very dawn of History,” they have espied in its “patriarchal simplicity” on the banks of the Oxus. Before our proposition concerning “the old Greeks and Romans” can be repudiated or even controverted, Western Orientalists will have to know more than they do about the antiquity of that race and the Aryan language; and they will have to account for those numberless gaps in History which no hypotheses of theirs seem able to fill up. Notwithstanding their present profound ignorance with regard to the early ancestry of the Indo-European nations; and though no historian has yet ventured to assign even a remotely approximate date to the separation of the Aryan nations and the origines of the Sanskrit language—they hardly show the modesty that might, under these circumstances, be expected from them. Placing as they do that great separation of the races at the first “dawn of traditional history,” with the Vedic age as “the background of the whole Indian world” [of which confessedly they know nothing] they will, nevertheless, calmly assign a modern date to any of the Rig-vedic oldest songs—on its “internal evidence”; and in doing this, they show as little hesitation as Mr. Fergusson when ascribing a post-Christian age to the most ancient rock-cut temple in India, merely on its—“external form.” As for their unseemly quarrels, mutual recriminations and personalities over questions of scholarship, the less said the better.
“The evidence of language is irrefragable,”18 as the great Oxford Sanskritist says. To which he is answered—“provided it does not clash with historical facts and—ethnology.” It may be—no doubt it is, as far as his knowledge goes, “the only evidence worth listening to with regard to ante-historical periods”;16 but when something of these alleged “pre-historical periods” comes to be known,
and when what we think we know of certain supposed prehistoric nations is found diametrically opposed to his “evidence of language,” the “Adepts” may be, perhaps, permitted to keep to their own views and opinions, even though they differ with those of the greatest living philologist. The study of language is but a part—though, we admit, a fundamental part—of true philology. To be complete, the latter has, as correctly argued by Böckh,—to be almost synonymous with history. We gladly concede the right of the Western philologist who has to work in the total absence of any historical data, to rely upon comparative grammar, and take the identification of roots lying at the foundation of words of those languages he is familiar with, or may know of, and put it forward as the results of his study, and the only available evidence. But we would like to see the same right conceded by him to the student of other races; even though these be inferior to the Indo-European races—in the opinion of the paramount West: for it is barely possible that proceeding on other lines, and having reduced his knowledge to a system which precludes hypothesis and simple affirmation, the Eastern student has preserved a perfectly authentic record (for him) of those periods which his opponent regards as ante-historical. The bare fact that, while Western men of science are referred to as “scholars” and scholiasts—native Sanskritists and archæologists are often spoken of as “Calcutta” and “Indian sciolists”—affords no proof of their real inferiority, but rather of the wisdom of the Chinese proverb that “self-conceit is rarely companion to politeness.”
The “Adept” therefore, has little, if anything, to do with difficulties presented by Western History. To his knowledge—based on documentary records from which, as said, hypothesis is excluded, and as regards which even psychology is called to play a very secondary part—the history of his and other nations extends immeasurably beyond that hardly discernible point that stands on the far-away horizon of the Western world as a land-mark of the commencement of its history. Records made throughout a series of
ages based on astronomical chronology and zodiacal calculations cannot err. [This new “difficulty”—palæographical, this time—that may be possibly suggested by the mention of the Zodiac in India and Central Asia before the Christian era is disposed of in a subsequent article.]
Hence, the main question at issue is to decide which—the Orientalist or the “Oriental”—is most likely to err. The “English F. T. S.” has choice of two sources of information, two groups of teachers. One group is composed of Western historians with their suite of learned Ethnologists, Philologists, Anthropologists, Archæologists and Orientalists in general. The other consists of unknown Asiatics belonging to a race which, notwithstanding Mr. Max Müller’s assertion “that the same blood was running in his veins [the English soldier’s] and in the veins of the dark Bengalese”16—is generally regarded by many a cultured Western as “inferior.” A handful of men—whose history, religion, language, origin and sciences, having been seized upon by the conqueror, are now disfigured and mutilated beyond recognition; and who having lived to see the Western scholar claim a monopoly beyond appeal or protest of deciding the correct meaning, chronological date, and historical value, of the monumental and palæographic relics of his motherland—can hardly hope to be listened to. It has little, if ever, entered the mind of the Western public that their scholars have, until very lately, worked in a narrow pathway obstructed with the ruins of an ecclesiastical, dogmatic Past; that they have been cramped on all sides by limitations of “revealed” events coming from God “with whom a thousand years are but as one day,” and who have thus felt bound to cram millenniums into centuries and hundreds into units, giving at the utmost an age of 1,000 to what is 10,000 years old. All this to save the threatened authority of their religion and their own respectability and good name in cultured society. And even that, when free themselves from preconceptions, they have had to protect the honour of the Jewish divine chronology assailed by stubborn facts; and
thus, have become (often unconsciously) the slaves of an artificial history made to fit into the narrow frame of a dogmatic religion. No proper thought has been given to this purely psychological but very significant trifle. Yet we all know how, rather than admit any relation between Sanskrit and the Gothic, Keltic, Greek, Latin and Old Persian, facts have been tampered with, old texts purloined from libraries, and philological discoveries vehemently denied. And we have also heard from our retreats, how Dugald Stewart and his colleagues, upon seeing that the discovery would also involve ethnological affinities, and damage the prestige of those sires of the world races,—Shem, Ham and Japhet—denied in the face of fact that “Sanskrit had ever been a living, spoken language,” supporting the theory that “it was an invention of the Brahmins, who had constructed their Sanskrit on the model of the Greek and Latin.”19 And again we know, holding the proof of the same, how the majority of Orientalists are prone to go out of their way to prevent any Indian antiquity (whether MSS. or inscribed monument, whether art or science) from being declared pre-Christian. As the origin and history of the Gentile world is made to move in the narrow circuit of a few centuries “B.C.”; within that fecund epoch when mother earth, recuperated from her arduous labours of the stone-age, begat, it seems, without transition so many highly civilized nations and—false pretences, so the enchanted circle of Indian archæology lies between the (to them unknown) year of the Samvat era, and the 10th century of the Western chronology.
Having to dispose of an “historical difficulty” of such a serious character, the defendants charged with it can but repeat what they have already stated: all depends upon the past history and antiquity allowed to the Indo-Aryan nation. The first step to take is to ascertain how much History herself knows of that almost prehistoric period when the soil of Europe had not been trodden yet by the primitive Aryan tribes. From the latest Encyclopædia, down to Prof. Max Müller and other Orientalists,
we gather what follows: they acknowledge that at some immensely remote period, before the Aryan nations got divided from the parent stock (with the germs of Indo-Germanic languages in them); and before they rushed asunder to scatter over Europe and Asia in search of new homes, there stood a “single barbaric [?] people as physical and political representative of the nascent Aryan race.” This people spoke “a now extinct Aryan language,”20 from which, by a series of modifications (surely requiring more thousands of years than our difficulty-makers are willing to concede?) there arose gradually—all the subsequent languages now spoken by the Caucasian races.
That is about all Western History knows of its—genesis. Like Ravana’s brother, Kumbhakarna—the Hindu Rip Van Winkle—it slept for a long series of ages a dreamless, heavy sleep. And when, at last, it awoke to consciousness, it was but to find the “nascent Aryan race” grown into scores of nations, peoples and races, most of them effete and crippled with age, many irretrievably extinct, while the true origin of the younger ones it was utterly unable to account for. So much for the “youngest brother.” As for “the eldest brother, the Hindu,” who, Professor Max Müller tells us—“was the last to leave the common home” of the Aryan family,21 and whose history, this eminent philologist has now kindly undertaken to impart to him,—he, the Hindu, claims that while his Indo-European relative was soundly sleeping under the protecting shadow of Noah’s ark, he kept watch and did not miss seeing one event from his high Himalayan fastnesses; and that he has recorded the history thereof in a language which, though as incomprehensible as the Iapygian inscriptions to the Indo-European immigrant, is quite clear to the writers. For this crime he now stands condemned as a falsifier of the records of his forefathers. A place has been hitherto purposely left open for India “to be filled up when the pure metal of history should have been extracted from the ore of Brahmanic exaggeration and superstition.”22 Unable, however, to meet this programme, the Orientalist has
since persuaded himself that there was nothing in that “ore,” but dross. He did more. He applied himself to contrast Brahmanic “superstition” and “exaggeration” with Mosaic revelation and its chronology. The Veda was confronted with Genesis. Its absurd claims to antiquity were forthwith dwarfed to their proper dimensions by the 4,004 years B.C., measure of the world’s age; and the Brahmanic “superstition and fables” about the longevity of the Aryan Rishis, were belittled and exposed by the sober historical evidence furnished in “the genealogy and age of the Patriarchs from Adam to Noah”—whose respective days were 930 and 950 years; without mentioning Methuselah, who died at the premature age of nine hundred and sixty-nine.
In view of such experience, the Hindu has a certain right to decline the offers made to correct his annals by Western history and chronology. On the contrary, he would respectfully advise the Western scholar, before he denies point-blank any statement made by the Asiatics with reference to what is prehistoric ages to Europeans, to show that the latter have themselves anything like trustworthy data as regards their own racial history. And that settled, he may have the leisure and capacity to help his ethnic neighbours to prune their genealogical trees. Our Rajputs among others, have perfectly trustworthy family records of an unbroken lineal descent through 2,000 years “B.C.” and more, as proved by Colonel Tod; records which are accepted by the British Government in its official dealings with them. It is not enough to have studied stray fragments of Sanskrit literature—even though their number should amount to 10,000 texts, as boasted of—allowed to fall into their hands, to speak so confidently of the “Aryan first settlers in India,” and assert that, “left to themselves in a world of their own, without a past, and without a, future [!] before them, they had nothing but themselves to ponder on”23—and therefore could know absolutely nothing of other nations. To comprehend correctly and make out the inner meaning of most of them, one has to read these texts with the help of the esoteric light, and
after having mastered the language of the Brahmanic Secret Code—branded generally as “theological twaddle.” Nor is it sufficient—if one would judge correctly of what the archaic Aryans did or did not know; whether or not they cultivated the social and political virtues; cared or not for history—to claim proficiency in both Vedic and classical Sanskrit, as well as in Prakrit and Arya Bhâshya. To comprehend the esoteric meaning of ancient Brahmanical literature, one has, as just remarked, to be in possession of the key to the Brahmanical Code. To master the conventional terms used in the Puranas, the Aranyakas and Upanishads is a science in itself, and one far more difficult than even the study of the 3,996 aphoristical rules of Pânini, or his algebraical symbols. Very true, most of the Brahmans themselves have now forgotten the correct interpretations of their sacred texts. Yet they know enough of the dual meaning in their scriptures to be justified in feeling amused at the strenuous efforts of the European Orientalist to protect the supremacy of his own national records and the dignity of his science by interpreting the Hindu hieratic text after a peremptory fashion quite unique. Disrespectful though it may seem, we call on the philologist to prove in some more convincing manner than usual, that he is better qualified than even the average Hindu Sanskrit pundit to judge of the antiquity of the “language of the gods”; that he has been really in a position to trace unerringly along the lines of countless generations, the course of the “now extinct Aryan tongue” in its many and various transformations in the West, and its primitive evolution into first the Vedic, and then the classical Sanskrit in the East, and that from the moment when the mother-stream began deviating into its new ethnographical beds, he has followed it up. Finally that, while he, the Orientalist, can, owing to speculative interpretations of what he thinks he has learnt from fragments of Sanskrit literature, judge of the nature of all that he knows nothing about, i.e., to speculate upon the past history of a great nation he has lost sight of from its “nascent state,” and caught up again but at the period of its last degeneration—the native
student never knew, nor can ever know anything of that history. Until the Orientalist has proved all this, he can be accorded but small justification for assuming that air of authority and supreme contempt which is found in almost every work upon India and its Past. Having no knowledge himself whatever of those incalculable ages that lie between the Aryan Brahman in Central Asia, and the Brahman at the threshold of Buddhism, he has no right to maintain that the initiated Indo-Aryan can never know as much of them as the foreigner. Those periods being an utter blank to him, he is little qualified to declare that the Aryan having had no political history “of his own . . .” his only sphere was “religion and philosophy . . . in solitude and contemplation.”24 A happy thought suggested, no doubt, by the active life, incessant wars, triumphs, and defeats portrayed in the oldest songs of the Rig-Veda. Nor can he, with the smallest show of logic affirm that “India has no place in the political history of the world,”25 or that there are no “synchronisms between the history of the Brahmans and that of other nations before the date of the origin of Buddhism in India,”26 for—he knows no more of the prehistoric history of those “other nations” than of that of the Brahman. All his inferences, conjectures and systematic arrangements of hypothesis begin very little earlier than 200 “B. C.,” if even so much, on anything like really historical grounds. He has to prove all this before he would command our attention. Otherwise, however “irrefragable” the evidence of language, the presence of Sanskrit roots in all the European languages will be insufficient to prove, either that (a) before the Aryan invaders descended toward the seven rivers they had never left their northern regions; or (b) why the “eldest brother, the Hindu,” should have been “the last to leave the common home” of the Aryan family. To the philologist such a supposition may seem “quite natural.” Yet the Brahman is no less justified in his ever-growing suspicion that there may be at the bottom some occult reason for such a programme. That in the interest of his theory the Orientalist was forced to make “the eldest brother” tarry so
suspiciously long on the Oxus, or wherever “the youngest” may have placed him in his “nascent state” after the latter “saw his brothers all depart towards the setting sun.”27 We find reasons to believe that the chief motive for alleging such a procrastination is the necessity to bring the race closer to the Christian era. To show the “Brother” inactive and unconcerned, with nothing but himself to ponder on, lest his antiquity and “fables of empty idolatry” and, perhaps, his traditions of other people’s doings, should interfere with the chronology by which it is determined to try him. The suspicion is strengthened when one finds in the book from which we have been so largely quoting—a work of a purely scientific and philological character—such frequent remarks and even prophecies as:—“History seems to teach that the whole human race required a gradual education before, in the fullness of time, it could be admitted to the truths of Christianity.” Or, again,—“The ancient religions of the world were but the milk of nature, which was in due time to be succeeded by the bread of life”; and such broad sentiments expressed as that “there is some truth in Buddhism as there is in every one of the false religions of the world. But . . .”28
The atmosphere of Cambridge and Oxford seems decidedly unpropitious to the recognition of either Indian antiquity, or the merit of the philosophies sprung from its soil!*
* And how one-sided and biased most of the Western Orientalists are may be seen by reading carefully The History of Indian Literature, by Albrecht Weber—a Sanskrit scholiast classed with the highest authorities. The incessant harping upon the one special string of Christianity, and the ill-concealed efforts to pass it off as the key-note of all other religions, is painfully pre-eminent in his work. Christian influences are shown to have affected not only the growth of Buddhism, and Krishna-worship, but even that of the Siva-cult and its legends; it is openly stated that “it is not at all a far-fetched hypothesis that they have reference to scattered Christian missionaries”!29 The eminent Orientalist evidently forgets that notwithstanding his efforts, none of the Vedic, Sutra or Buddhist periods can be possibly crammed into this Christian period—their universal tank of all ancient creeds and of which some Orientalists would fain make a poor-house for all