THEOSOPHY, Vol. 56, No. 2, December, 1967
(Pages 46-53; Size: 23K)
(Number 2 of a 36-part series)


PAGAN ROOTS: The Bible and the Vedas

STRICTLY speaking, it is difficult to view the Jewish Book of Genesis otherwise than as a chip from the trunk of the mundane tree of universal Cosmogony, rendered in Oriental allegories. As cycle succeeded cycle, and one nation after another came upon the world's stage to play its brief part in the majestic drama of human life, each new people evolved from ancestral traditions its own religion, giving it a local color, and stamping it with its individual characteristics. While each of these religions had its distinguishing traits, by which, were there no other archaic vestiges, the physical and psychological status of its creators could be estimated, all preserved a common likeness to the prototype. This parent cult was none other than the primitive "wisdom-religion." The Israelitish Scriptures are no exception.... Who are these Elohim but the euhemerized powers of nature, the faithful manifested servants, the laws of Him who is immutable law and harmony Himself?

They remain over the seventh heaven (or spiritual world), for it is they who, according to the kabalists, formed in succession the six material worlds, or rather, attempts at worlds, that preceded our own, which, they say, is the seventh. If, in laying aside the metaphysico-spiritual conception, we give our attention but to the religio-scientific problems of creation in "six days" over which our best biblical scholars have vainly pondered so long, we might, perchance, be on the way to the true idea underlying the allegory. The ancients were philosophers, consistent in all things. Hence, they taught that each of these departed worlds, having performed its physical evolution, and reached -- through birth, growth, maturity, old age, and death -- the end of its cycle, had returned to its primitive subjective form of a spiritual earth. Thereafter it had to serve through all eternity as the dwelling of those who had lived on it as men, and even animals, but were now spirits. This idea, were it even as incapable of exact demonstration as that of our theologians relating to Paradise, is, at least, a trifle more philosophical.

As well as man, and every other living thing upon it, our planet has had its spiritual and physical evolution. From an impalpable ideal thought under the creative Will of Him of whom we know nothing, and but dimly conceive in imagination, this globe became fluidic and semi-spiritual, then condensed itself more and more, until its physical development -- matter, the tempting demon -- compelled it to try its own creative faculty. Matter defied SPIRIT, and the earth, too, had its "Fall." The allegorical curse under which it labors, is that it only procreates, it does not create. Our physical planet is but the handmaiden, or rather the maid-of-all-work, of the spirit, its master.

It must be remembered that every cosmogony has a trinity of workers at its head -- Father, spirit; Mother, nature, or matter; and the manifested universe, the Son or result of the two. The universe, also, as well as each planet which it comprehends, passes through four ages,  like man himself. All have their infancy, youth, maturity, and old age, and these four added to the other three make the sacred seven again.

The six periods or "days" of Genesis refer to the same metaphysical belief. Five such ineffectual attempts were made by the Elohim, but the sixth resulted in worlds like our own (i.e., all the planets and most of the stars are worlds, and inhabited, though not like our earth). Having formed this world at last in the sixth period, the Elohim rested in the seventh.

The reader will remember that an explanation was given of the "day" and "night" of Brahma. The former represents a certain period of cosmical activity, the latter an equal one of cosmical repose. In the one, worlds are being evolved, and passing through their allotted four ages of existence; in the latter the "inbreathing" of Brahma reverses the tendency of the natural forces; everything visible becomes gradually dispersed; chaos comes; and a long night of repose reinvigorates the cosmos for its next term of evolution. In the morning of one of these "days" the formative processes are gradually reaching their climax of activity; in the evening imperceptibly diminishing the same until the pralaya arrives, and with it "night." One such morning and evening do, in fact, constitute a cosmic day; and it was a "day of Brahma" that the kabalistic author of Genesis had in mind each time when he said: "And the evening and the morning were the first (or fifth or sixth, or any other) day." Six days of gradual evolution, one of repose, and then -- evening! Since the first appearance of man on our earth there has been an eternal Sabbath or rest for the Demiurge.

The cosmogonical speculations of the first six chapters of Genesis are shown in the races of "sons of God," "giants," etc., of chapter 6. Properly speaking, the story of the formation of our earth, or "creation," as it is very improperly called, begins with the rescue of Noah from the deluge. The Chaldeo-Babylonian tablets recently translated by George Smith leave no doubt of that in the minds of those who read the inscriptions esoterically. (See Isis Unveiled II, 422.)

One who reads these tablets will recognize at a glance the biblical account; and judge, at the same time, how disfigured is the great Babylonian poem by euhemeric personages -- degraded from their exalted positions of gods into simple patriarchs. Space prevents our entering fully into this biblical travesty of the Chaldean allegories. We shall therefore but remind the reader that ... the Chaldeo-Babylonian triad placed under Ilon, the unrevealed deity, is composed of Anu, Nuah, and Bel. Anu is the primordial chaos, the god time and world at once, the uncreated matter issued from the one and fundamental principle of all things. As to Nuah, he is, according to the Orientalist [Lenormant]:

... the intelligence, we will willingly say the verbum, which animates and fecundates matter, which penetrates the universe, directs and makes it live; and at the same time Nuah is the king of the humid principle; the Spirit moving on the waters.
Is not this evident? Nuah is Noah, floating on the waters, in his ark; the latter being the emblem of the argha, or moon, the feminine principle; Noah is the "spirit" falling into matter. We find him as soon as he descends upon the earth, planting a vineyard, drinking of the wine, and getting drunk on it; i.e., the pure spirit becoming intoxicated as soon as it is finally imprisoned in matter. The seventh chapter of Genesis is but another version of the first. Thus, while the latter reads: "... and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit (of God) moved upon the face of the waters," in chapter seventh, it is said: "... and the waters prevailed ... and the ark went (with Noah -- the spirit) upon the face of the waters." Thus Noah, if the Chaldean Nuah, is the spirit vivifying matter, chaos represented by the deep or waters of the flood.

The successive existence of an incalculable number of worlds before the subsequent evolution of our own, was believed and taught by all the ancient peoples.... The Hindu doctrines teach of two Pralayas or dissolutions; one universal, the Maha-Pralaya, the other partial, or the minor Pralaya. This does not relate to the universal dissolution which occurs at the end of every "Day of Brahma," but to the geological cataclysms at the end of every minor cycle of our globe. This historical and purely local deluge of Central Asia, the traditions of which can be traced in every country, and which, according to Bunsen, happened about the year 10,000 B.C., had naught to do with the mythical Noah, or Nuah. A partial cataclysm occurs at the close of every "age" of the world, they say, which does not destroy the latter, but only changes its general appearance. New races of men and animals and a new flora evolve from the dissolution of the precedent ones.

The allegories of the "fall of man" and the "deluge," are the two most important features of the Pentateuch. They are, so to say, the Alpha and Omega, the highest and the lowest keys of the scale of harmony on which resounds the majestic hymns of the creation of mankind; for they discover to him who questions the Zura (figurative Gemantria), the process of man's evolution from the highest spiritual entity unto the lowest physical -- the post-diluvian man, as in the Egyptian hieroglyphics, every sign of the picture writing which cannot be made to fit within a certain circumscribed geometrical figure may be rejected as only intended by the sacred hierogrammatist for a premeditated blind -- so many of the details in the Bible must be treated on the same principle, that portion only being accepted which answers to the numerical methods taught in the Kabala.

The deluge appears in the Hindu books only as a tradition. It claims no sacred character, and we find it but in the Mahabharata, the Puranas, and still earlier in the Satapatha, one of the latest Brahmanas. It is more than probable that Moses, or whoever wrote for him, used these accounts as the basis of his own purposely disfigured allegory, adding to it moreover the Chaldean Berosian narrative. In Mahabharata, we recognize Nimrod under the name of King Daytha.... Vaivasvata (who in the Bible becomes Noah) saves a little fish, which turns out to be an avatar of Vishnu. The fish warns that just man that the globe is about to be submerged, that all that inhabit it must perish and orders him to construct a vessel in which he shall embark, with all his family. When the ship is ready, and Vaivasvata has shut up in it with his family the seeds of plants and pairs of all animals, and the rain begins to fall, a gigantic fish, armed with a horn, places itself at the head of the ark. The holy man, following its orders, attaches a cable to this horn, and the fish guides the ship safely through the raging elements. In the Hindu tradition the number of days during which the deluge lasted agrees exactly with that of the Mosaic scriptures. When the elements were calmed, the fish landed the ark on the summit of the Himalayas.

This fable which mentions the earliest avatar -- the Matsya -- relates to another yuga than our own, that of the first appearance of animal life; perchance, who knows, to the Devonian age of our geologists? It certainly answers better to the latter than the year 2348 B.C.! Apart from this, the very absence of all mention of the deluge from the oldest books of the Hindus suggests a powerful argument when we are left utterly to inferences as in this case. Says Jacolliot:

The Vedas and Manu, those monuments of the old Asiatic thought, existed far earlier than the diluvian period; this is an incontrovertible fact, having all the value of an historical truth, for, besides the tradition which shows Vishnu himself as saving the Vedas from the deluge -- a tradition which, notwithstanding its legendary form, must certainly rest upon a real fact -- it has been remarked that neither of these sacred books mention the cataclysm, while the Puranas and the Mahabharata, and a great number of other more recent works, describe it with the minutest detail, which is a proof of the priority of the former. The Vedas certainly would never have failed to contain a few hymns on the terrible disaster which, of all other natural manifestations, must have struck the imagination of the people who witnessed it. Neither would Manu -- who gives us a complete narrative of the creation, with a chronology from the divine and heroical ages, down to the appearance of man on earth -- have passed in silence an event of such importance.
The fullest account of the deluge is found in the Mahabharata of Vedavyasa, a poem in honor of the astrological allegories on the wars between the Solar and the Lunar races. One of the versions states that Vivaswata became the father of all the nations of the earth through his own progeny, and this is the form adopted for the Noachian story; the other states that -- like Deukalion and Pyrrha he had but to throw the pebbles into the ilus left by the retiring waves of the flood, to produce men at will. These two versions -- one Hebrew, the other Greek -- allow us no choice, We must either believe that the Hindus borrowed from pagan Greeks as well as from monotheistic Jews, or -- what is far more probable -- that the versions of both of these nations are derived from the Vedic literature through the Babylonians.

History tells us of the stream of immigration across the Indus, and later of its overflowing the Occident; and of populations of Hindu origin passing from Asia Minor to colonize Greece. But history says not a single word of the "chosen people," or of Greek colonies having penetrated India earlier than the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., when we first find vague traditions that make some of the problematical lost tribes of Israel, take from Babylon the route to India. But even were the story of the ten tribes to find credence, and the tribes themselves be proved to have existed in profane as well as in sacred history, this does not help the solution at all. Colebrooke, Wilson, and other eminent Indianists show the Mahabharata, if not the Satapatha-brahmana, in which the story is also given, as by far antedating the age of Cyrus, hence, the possible time of the appearance of any of the tribes of Israel in India.(1)

Orientalists accord the Mahabharata an antiquity of between twelve and fifteen hundred years B.C.; as to the Greek version, it bears as little evidence as the other, and the attempts of the Hellenists in this direction have as signally failed. The story of the conquering army of Alexander penetrating into Northern India, itself becomes more doubted every day. No Hindu national record, not the slightest historical memento, throughout the length and breadth of India offers the slightest trace of such an invasion.

If even such historical facts are now found to have been all the while fictitious, what are we to think of narratives which bear on their very face the stamp of invention? We cannot help sympathizing at heart with Professor Müller when he remarks that it seems "blasphemy to consider these fables of the heathen world as corrupted and misinterpreted fragments of divine Revelation once granted to the whole race of mankind." Only, can this scholar be held perfectly impartial and fair to both parties, unless he includes in the number of these fables those of the Bible? And is the language of the Old Testament more pure or moral than the books of the Brahmans? Or any fables of the heathen world more blasphemous and ridiculous than Jehovah's interview with Moses (Exod. 33 :23)? Are any of the Pagan gods made to appear more fiendish than the same Jehovah in a score of passages?

Why should the story of Deukalion and Pyrrha, throwing stones behind them, and thus creating the human race, be deemed more ridiculous than that of Lot's wife being changed into a pillar of salt, or of the Almighty creating men of clay and then breathing the breath of life into them? The choice between the latter mode of creation and that of the Egyptian ram-horned god fabricating man on a potter's wheel is hardly perceptible. The story of Minerva, goddess of wisdom, ushered into existence after a certain period of gestation in her father's brain, is at least suggestive and poetical, as an allegory. No ancient Greek was ever burned for not accepting it literally; and, at all events, "heathen" fables in general are far less preposterous and blasphemous than those imposed upon Christians, ever since the Church accepted the Old Testament, and the Roman Catholic Church opened its register of thaumaturgical saints.

"Many of the natives of India," continues Professor Müller, "confess that their feelings revolt against the impurities attributed to the gods by what they call their sacred writings; yet there are honest Brahmans who will maintain that these stories have a deeper meaning; that immorality being incompatible with a divine being, a mystery must be supposed to be concealed in these time-hallowed fables, a mystery which an inquiring and reverent mind may hope to fathom."

This is precisely what the Christian clergy maintain in attempting to explain the indecencies and incongruities of the Old Testament. Only, instead of allowing the interpretation to those who have the key to these seeming incongruities, they have assumed to themselves the office and right, by divine proxy, to interpret these in their own way. They have not only done that but have gradually deprived the Hebrew clergy of the means to interpret their Scriptures as their fathers did; so that to find among the Rabbis in the present century a well-versed kabalist, is quite rare. The Jews have themselves forgotten the key! How could they help it? Where are the original manuscripts? Except a few manuscripts of the Tora Ketubim and Nebiim, used in the synagogues, and which are of quite a recent date, we do not think there is one old manuscript in existence which is not punctuated, hence completely misinterpreted and altered by the Masorets. Were it not for this timely invention of the Masorah, no copy of the Old Testament could possibly be tolerated in our century. It is well known that the Masorets while transcribing the oldest manuscripts put themselves to task to take out, except in a few places which they have probably overlooked, all the immodest words and put in places sentences of their own, often changing completely the sense of the verse. "It is clear," says Donaldson, "that the Masoretic school at Tiberias were engaged in settling or unsettling the Hebrew text until the final publication of the Masorah itself."

Let us thank the Masorets by all means, but let us study at the same time both sides of the medal.

Legends, myths, allegories, symbols, if they but belong to the Hindu, Chaldean, or Egyptian, are thrown into the same heap of fiction. Hardly are they honored with a superficial search into their possible relations to astronomy or sexual emblems. The same myths -- when and because mutilated -- are accepted as Sacred Scriptures, more -- the Word of God! Is this impartial history? Is this justice to either the past, the present, or the future? "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon," said the Reformer, nineteen centuries ago. "Ye cannot serve truth and public prejudice," would be more applicable to our own age. Yet our authorities pretend they serve the former.

There are few myths in any religious system but have an historical as well as a scientific foundation. Myths, as Pococke ably expresses it, "are now proved to be fables, just in proportion as we misunderstand them; truths, in proportion as they were once understood. Our ignorance it is which has made a myth of history; and our ignorance is an Hellenic inheritance, much of it the result of Hellenic vanity."

A conclusive opinion is furnished by too many scholars to doubt the fact that India was the Alma-Mater, not only of the civilization, arts, and sciences, but also of all the great religions of antiquity; Judaism, and hence Christianity, included.

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PAGAN ROOTS: The Neo-Platonists
(Part 3 of a 36-part series)

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(2) NOTE.--"The Christian Scheme," begun in the November issue, is collated from the works of H. P. Blavatsky. It recounts the historical background and early development of Christianity.
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(1) Against the latter assumption derived soley from the accounts of the Bible we have every historical fact. (1) There are no proofs of these twelve tribes having ever existed; that of Levi was a priestly caste and all the others imaginary. (2) Herodotus, the most accurate of historians, who was in Assyria when Ezra flourished, never mentions the Israelites at all. Herodotus was born in 484 B.C.
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