Indian Pursuit of Scientific Temper: The dumbing down of Hindu civilization – Rajiv Varma

Radha Rajan is the editor of Vigil Online“A word of caution. We [must] all stop thinking and articulating in speech and writing words and phrases like ‘false realm of mythology.’ It is absolutely Romilla Thapar. Mythology like pagan is [a] derogatory description of non-Abrahamic worship, cultures and worldview. As tho Jesus alone or Mohammed alone are historical while Hindu devas and devis are all mythology” – Radha Rajan

Rajiv VarmaIt is good to see resistance is offered to this idea. I will extend this to put this resistance in a certain framework. Indians who find “science” in Vedas or historicize Ramayana or Mahabharata or Puranas, actually end up demeaning our culture and civilization. It is akin to dumbing down a horse to the level of a donkey, so that the horse can fit into a herd of donkeys.

In their classical definitions – “Science” and “History” are disciplines that are contextual to the Western civilization. The evolution of classical “Science” in the West is not an intrinsic development, it is in response to the Abrahamic colonization of the West that began with Emperor Constantine. After 17 centuries, this colonization has been internalized no doubt, and now the then colonized have became the “new” colonizers, but it is colonization nevertheless.

Thus the Science/Philosophy/Knowledge development during Graeco-Roman-Hellenestic pre-Christian era has a certain philosophical disconnect with Renaissance and post-Renaissance “Science”. While the Graeco-Roman knowledge development had a natural rhythm, the post-Renaissance science evolved in the backdrop of earlier Dark Ages that was a direct consequence of Christian colonization of the West.

While it may be true that Renaissance thinkers did rely, inter alia, on (for example) Cicero’s De Natura Deorum for inspiration in their quest for new knowledge, they never did escape the outer orbit of Christianity. Thus, it explains the formation of now discredited “sciences” such as craniometery, which became the basis of racism and genocide later. There is a certain amount of “irrationality” (or I call it unnaturalness) in the Western “scientific rationalism or temper”. That is – “it” is limited to the cartesian plane – and it is not allowed to look beyond it – transcend it, because the Christian God is waiting on the other side, to save the souls.

The efforts like the so-called Noetic Sciences are still disjoint in their conceptualization. Western Science can make giant strides, but it cannot do one thing – it cannot see beyond the “Edge of the Universe” – it does not have the means to – and most importantly it does not have the will to do so. The limitation is provided by the Christian worldview. One can see that the notion of secularism, protects Christianity, God and Jesus business from scrutiny.

On the other hand Vedic Rishis have no such handicap. The material and non-material transcend. Hence the sciences that evolved in Ancient India were in tune with the natural rhythm of human civilizational development. The Vedic epistemology established the scope for a Rishi to explore the worlds beyond the “Edge of the Universe” if his/her inquest pointed in that direction. The system never posed any problem in this regard. A student of civilizations can see that harmful sciences like craniometery would have had no chance of forming in a naturally inquisitive culture like India. Thus, Vedic knowledge system is much more comprehensive than Post-Renaissance “officially secular but Christian-nevertheless sciences.”

Therefore, finding such (Christian-European) “science” in Vedas is demeaning to the Vedic culture.

It is the colonized Indian mind that sees the (Christian-European) “science” as virtuous, and due to its deep-seated inferiority complex, seeks validation from the West

Ditto with “history”. Again, post-Renaissance academic discipline of “History” is also a false benchmark to aspire to for Indians. Western discipline of History also exists in Christian framework, whose evidentiary parameters are limited to a set that disables a researcher and an academician to go prior to the dates of Genesis. It is made to sound rational, but in essence it is highly irrational. If Indians were to re-write their history based on Christian parameters, all they would get is a molehill and never discover the mountain that they have.

Then, there is another problem that is even more severe. The authors of Ramayana and Mahabharata and the Puranas never intended to tell legends for the purpose of “modernist” historical validation. The purpose of this corpus of literature is adhyatmic (spiritual). These are tools for a human to know his larger Self (capital S). Valmiki never intended for the shrota of Ramayana to start digging graves to find cartesian evidence of existence of Rama or Sita. Ramayana serves only one purpose – viz. spiritual empowerment for the purposes of upholding Dharma. Ramayana serves as a living kernel of the Indic/Hindu civilization. Not a cartesian history book.

I am not against finding historical evidences for the Indian past. But that needs to be a separate discipline. I am not for dumbing down Ramayana and Mahabharata to “fall” to a pseudo-benchmark that our colonialist has set for us.

Ultimately, Western Science will self-destruct and will become extinct, just like the Neo-neanderthal man, because of its own limitation. Graeco-Roman-Hellenestic, Chinese and Vedic Knowledge Systems have a better chance of survival and growth, because of their natural rhythm.

Let us not dumb down our horses to the level of donkeys.

When the term “scientific temper” was inserted in the Indian Constitution, good ole Panditji had no clue that the West had hoodwinked him into a herd of donkeys.

See also

Jesus of the Gospels: A mythological figure – Chris Sosa

Chris Sosa“The arguments Christian scholars offer in favour of Jesus’ existence, from Flavius Josephus to later figures like Tacitus, and Justin Martyr, all disintegrate upon close examination. Dan Barker gives a strong argument against their proposed ‘evidences’ of Jesus’ existence in his excellent book Godless.” – Chris Sosa

Jesus the Imaginary Friend America has a curious fixation on the perspectives of Jesus Christ in the formation of public opinion, especially on prominent issues of social values. In recent days, protesters have taken to defending opposing moral positions by claiming Jesus held their viewpoint. Aside from the obvious problem of using a single historical figure as a moral barometer, there’s another troubling issue at hand: Folks are arguing about the opinions of an ancient person without stopping to verify his existence.

Allow me to explain. I’m not explicitly arguing there couldn’t have existed a man named Jesus who had a handful of followers, although that isn’t outside the realm of possibility. But the Jesus of Christianity presents some challenges in being understood as a literal figure within history.

Let’s begin with the largest problem: There does not exist a singular Jesus of the Bible. Each of the Gospels (and for that matter the writings of Paul) present a portrait of Jesus that disagrees with the others on basic facts, starting with the circumstances of his own birth.

When was he born? That’s a trickier question than it should be. Grab a bible and read along. According to Luke, that would be during the first census of Israel by Quirinius, governor of Syria (Luke 2:2). According to Matthew, that would be during the reign of Herod the GreatHerod the Great (Matthew 2:1). The problem? Quirinius’ census got underway in 6 CE. Herod had been dead for a good decade. Apologists occasionally try to wiggle their way out of this one by manipulating the text. But serious scholars, including believers, acknowledge the discrepancy.

Let’s check out the resurrection of Jesus. The oldest Gospel, Mark, does not say that Jesus resurrected at all in its original form. The resurrection was added at a later date. Most bibles even footnote within the text that the resurrection portion does not appear in the “earliest manuscripts.” My childhood bible, an Evangelical-approved NIV translation, actually drew a line dividing the portion from the rest of the text.

All four Gospels do reference an empty tomb. But not a single one agrees with the others on who actually saw it (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 23-4, John 20). Mary is either alone, with another Mary, also with Salome or maybe with Joanna too? It seems we’re dealing with an unreliable narrator.

We’ve established that no one really has a clue what year Jesus was born or who exactly discovered his supposedly empty tomb after he died, assuming anyone did at all. But surely everyone can agree on his ascent to Heaven, right? It was a rather fantastical public display.

Bible & CrossUnfortunately, the Gospels can’t even agree on this. In Luke, his ascension occurs in Bethany the day he resurrected (Luke 24). In Acts, a canonical book of the New Testament, he ascends from Mount Olives forty days after resurrecting (Acts 1). Oh, well.

While all of these discrepancies are highly problematic, at least Jesus remains a figure of consistent character throughout the Gospels. Or not. The character has an ethical sensibility that could be described as “confused” at best.

None of the contradictions by anonymous Gospel writers negate the existence of Jesus. However, since no coherent vision of his life exists, it doesn’t seem all that important whether he lived or not. But let’s press on for curiosity’s sake.

What about the historical evidence for Jesus? We’ll check in with New Testament scholar and James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Bart Ehrman. I bet he can clear this up.

There are no birth records, no trial transcripts, no death certificates; there are no expressions of interest, no heated slanders, no passing references – nothing. In fact, if we broaden our field of concern to the years after his death – even if we include the entire first century of the Common Era – there is not so much as a solitary reference to Jesus in any non-Christian, non-Jewish source of any kind. I should stress that we do have a large number of documents from the time – the writings of poets, philosophers, historians, scientists, and government officials, for example, not to mention the large collection of surviving inscriptions on stone and private letters and legal documents on papyrus. In none of this vast array of surviving writings is Jesus’ name ever so much as mentioned.” (pp 56-57 of Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium) 

Attis of PhrygiaMany Christian scholars will scoff at the preceding paragraph. But the outside arguments they offer in favor of Jesus’ existence, from Flavius Josephus to later figures like Tacitus, and Justin Martyr, all disintegrate upon close examination. Dan Barker gives a strong argument against their proposed “evidences” of Jesus’ existence in his excellent book Godless.

I could go on for hundreds of pages about the contradictions and historical problems of the Jesus narrative. But it’s quite unnecessary. The Jesus of Christianity is clearly a mythological figure. He’s not even an original. – HuffPost

» Chris Sosa is a managing journalist for Inside.com. He previously served as a national editor for EDGE Publications.

» See New Research: Josephus’s Testimony Examined Linguistically Demonstrates the Passage a Forgery in Toto

Christianity’s fraudulent legacy – Michael Paulkovich

Jesus

No Meek MessiahThis article is written as an introduction to historical researcher Michael Paulkovich’s investigation into early Christianity called No Meek Messiah: Christianity’s Lies, Laws and Legacy — Editor

Most historians hold the position I had once harbored as true, being a Bible skeptic but not a Christ mythicist. I had maintained that the Jesus person probably existed, having fantastic and impossible stories later foisted upon his earthly life, passed by oral tradition then recorded many decades after Jesus lived.

After exhaustive research for my first book, I began to perceive both the brilliance and darkness from history. I discovered that many early Christian fathers believed with all pious sincerity their savior never came to earth—or when he did, it was Star-Trekian style, beamed down pre-haloed and fully-grown, sans transvaginal egress. Moreover I expose many other startling bombshells in my book No Meek Messiah.

I embarked upon one exercise to revive research into Jesus-era writers who should have recorded Christ tales, but did not. John Remsburg enumerated forty-one “silent” historians in his book The Christ (1909). I dedicated months of research to augment Remsburg’s list, finally tripling his count. In No Meek Messiah I provide a list of 126 writers who should have recorded something of Jesus, with exhaustive references.

Perhaps the most bewildering “silent one” is the mythical super-savior himself, Jesus the Son of God ostensibly sent on a suicide mission to save us from the childish notion of “Adam’s Transgression” as we learn from Romans 5:14. The Jesus character is a phantom of a wisp of a personage who never wrote anything. So, add one more: 127. 

The Jesus character is a phantom 

Jesus is lauded as a wise teacher, savior, and a perfect being. Yet Jesus believed in Noah’s Ark (Mt 24:37, and Lk 17:27), Adam and Eve and their son Abel (Lk 3:38 and Lk 11:51), Jonah living in a fish or whale (Mt 12:40), and Lot’s wife turning into salt (Lk 17:31-32). Jesus believed “devils” caused illness, and even bought into the OT notion (Jn 3:14) that a magical pole proffered by the OT (Num 21:9) could cure snake bites merely by gazing upon it.

Was Jesus smarter than a fifth grader?

Apollonius of TyanaBut perhaps no man is more fascinating than Apollonius Tyaneus, saintly first century adventurer and noble paladin. Apollonius was a magic-man of divine birth who cured the sick and blind, cleansed entire cities of plague, foretold the future and fed the masses. He was worshiped as a god, and son of god. Despite such nonsense claims, Apollonius was a real man recorded by reliable sources.

As Jesus ostensibly performed miracles of global expanse (e.g. Mt 27), his words going “unto the ends of the whole world” (Rom 10), one would expect virtually every literate person on earth to record those events during his time. A Jesus contemporary such as Apollonius should have done so, as well as those who wrote of Apollonius. Such is not the case. In Philostratus‘ third century chronicle, Vita Apollonii, there is no hint of Jesus. Nor in the works of other Apollonius epistolarians and scriveners: Emperor Titus, Cassius Dio, Maximus, Moeragenes, Lucian, Soterichus Oasites, Euphrates, Marcus Aurelius, or Damis of Hierapolis. It seems none of these writers from first to third century ever heard of Jesus, global miracles and alleged worldwide fame be damned.

Another bewildering author is Philo of Alexandria. He spent his first century life in the Levant, even traversing Jesus-land. Philo chronicled Jesus contemporaries—Bassus, Pilate, Tiberius, Sejanus, Caligula—yet knew nothing of the storied prophet and rabble-rouser enveloped in glory and astral marvels. Historian Josephus published Jewish War c. 95. He had lived in Japhia, one mile from Nazareth—yet Josephus seems to have been unaware of both Nazareth and Jesus. (I devoted a chapter to his interpolated works, pp. 191-198.) You may encounter Christian apologists claiming that Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, Suetonius, Phlegon, Thallus, Mara bar-Serapion, or Lucian wrote of Jesus contemporary to the time. In No Meek Messiah I thoroughly debunk such notions.

The Bible venerates the artist formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, an “apostle” essentially oblivious to his heavenly savior. Paul is unaware of the virgin mother, and ignorant of Jesus’ nativity, parentage, life events, ministry, miracles, apostles, betrayal, trial and harrowing passion. Paul knows neither where nor when Jesus lived, and considers the crucifixion metaphorical (Gal 2:19-20). Unlike the absurd Gospels, Paul never indicates Jesus had been to earth. And the “five hundred witnesses” claim (1 Cor 15) is a well-known forgery.

Qumran, the stony and chalky hiding place for the Dead Sea Scrolls lies twelve miles from Bethlehem. The scroll writers, coeval and abutting the holiest of hamlets one jaunty jog eastward never heard of Jesus. Dr. Jodi Magness wrote, “Contrary to claims made by a few scholars, no copies of the New Testament (or precursors to it) are represented among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Christianity was still wet behind its primitive and mythical ears in the second century, and Christian father Marcion of Pontus in 144 CE denied any virgin birth or childhood for Christ—Jesus’ infant circumcision (Lk 2:21) was thus a lie, as well as the crucifixion! Marcion claimed Luke was corrupted, and his savior self-spawned in omnipresence, a spirit without a body (see Dungan, 43). Reading the works of second century Christian father Athenagoras, one never encounters the word Jesus (or Ἰησοῦς or Ἰησοῦν, as he would have written)—Athenagoras was thus unacquainted with the name of his savior it would seem. Athenagoras was another pious early Christian, unaware of Jesus (see also Barnard, 56).

Mary at the wellin NazarethThe original booklet given the name “Mark” ended at 16:8, later forgers adding the fanciful resurrection tale (see Ehrman, 48). The booklet “John” in chapter 21 also describes post-death Jesus tales, another well-known and well-documented forgery (see Encyclopedia Biblica, vol. 2, 2543). Millions should have heard of the Jesus “crucifixion” with its astral enchantments: zombie armies and meteorological marvels (Mt 27) recorded not by any historian, but only in the dubitable scriptures scribbled decades later by superstitious yokels. The Jesus saga is further deflated by the reality of Nazareth, having no settlement until after the 70 CE war—suspiciously around the time the Gospels were concocted, as René Salm demonstrates in his book. I also include in my book similarities of Jesus to earlier God-sons, too striking to disregard. The Oxford Classical Dictionary and Catholic Encyclopedia, as well as many others, corroborate. Quite a few son-of-gods myths existed before the Jesus tales, with startling similarities, usually of virgin mothers, magical births and resurrection: Sandan, Mithra, Horus, Attis, Buddha, Dionysus, Krishna, Hercules, Isiris, Orpheus, Adonis, Prometheus, etc. 

The one true religion

If you encounter a Christian defending her faith purely based on its popularity, you would do well to inform her that Christianity was a very minor cult in the fourth century, while “pagan” religions, especially Mithraism, were much more popular in the Empire – and the Jesus cult would have faded into oblivion if not for an imperial decree.

From No Meek Messiah:
It is 391 CE now as Roman Emperor Theodosius elevates Jesus (posthumously) to divinity, declaring Christianity the only “legitimate” religion of the world, under penalty of death. The ancient myth is rendered law. This decision by Theodosius is possibly the worst ever made in human history: what followed were century after century of torture and murder in the name of this false, faked, folkloric “prophesied savior” of fictional virgin mother. Within a year after the decree by Theodosius, crazed Christian monks of Nitria destroy the majestic Alexandrian Library largely because philosophy and science are taught there—not the Bible. In Alexandria these are times of the highest of intellectual pursuits, all quashed by superstitious and ignorant Christians of the most godly and murderous variety: they had the “Holy Bible” on their side.

Emperor Theodosius I could have had no idea how much harm this blunder would cause humanity over the centuries that followed. Christianity was made the only legal cult of the empire, and for the next 1500 years, good Christians would murder all non-Christians they could find by the tens of millions. 

Frauds and forgeries

Along the centuries the Church has sought to gain power and wealth, and No Meek Messiah exposes their many scams and deceits and obfuscations in detail including:

  • Abgar Forgeries (4th century)
  • Apostolic Canons (400 CE)
  • Hypatia the witch (415 CE)
  • Symmachian Forgeries (6th century)
  • St. Peter Forgery (c. 751)
  • False “Donation of Constantine” (8th century)
  • False Decretals (8th century)
  • Extermination of the Cathar “witches” (13th century)
  • Murder of the Stedinger “devils” (1233)
  • The Manifest Destiny decree (1845) and eradication of Native Americans
  • Invention of the “Immaculate Conception” (1854)
  • The Lateran Treaty (1929)

Paul burning books at EphesusThe good that Jesus brought

Early Christians believed all necessary knowledge was in the Bible and thus closed down schools, burned books, forbade teaching philosophy and destroyed libraries. The Jesus person portrayed in the Bible taught that “devils” and “sin” cause illness, and thus for some 1700 years good Christians ignored science and medicine to perform exorcisms on the ill.

The Bible decrees “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Ex 22:18, with support from Dt 18:10-12, Lev 20:27, 2 Chr 33:6, Micah 5:12, and 1 Sam 28:3). In the New Testament, Paul in Galatians 5:19-21 joins the anti-witchcraft credo. But let’s face it: Paul claims to be a devoted Hebrew, full of credulity and misogyny. Paul will “suffer not a woman to teach” and thus along the centuries women have been second-class citizens, especially within the church. These juvenile and immoral Bible edicts are not left in the past.

From No Meek Messiah:
Remember the witch hunts? Long ago and far away, past atrocities forgotten? So perhaps we should forgive and forget. Around the world, the Christian Bible is still used to accuse people, usually children, of “witchcraft” and to punish them. Refer to The Guardian, Sunday 9 December 2007, “Child ‘witches’ in Africa”; Huffington Post, October 18, 2009, “African Children Denounced As ‘Witches’ By Christian Pastors”; and The Guardian, Friday 31 December 2010, “Why are ‘witches’ still being burned alive in Ghana?” The scripture normally cited regarding witches is Exodus 22:18, and there are many more. In Ghana, a study found that “accused witches were physically brutalized, tortured, neglected, and in two cases, murdered.” In Kinshasa, Congo, “80% of the 20,000 street children … are said to have been accused of being witches.” Even to this day the Bible’s proclamations against witches are still considered valid by many Christians. In places like Indonesia, Tanzania, the Congo and Ghana superstitious fundamental Christians actively pursue and execute witches, including murdering child “sorcerers.” In Malawi, accused witches are routinely jailed.

Christians are typically kept ignorant of certain evil and immoral words placed into the mouth of this mythical mystery-man:

If any man come to me, and HATE NOT his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26.

Jesus is actually portrayed as a pitiful man in desperate need of praise:

He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” – Matt 10:37.

Not only does Jesus never advise against slavery, but he recommends savage whipping of disobedient slaves:

And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” – Luke 12:47.

Jesus has nothing against stealing, as he instructs his apostles to pinch a horse and a donkey from their rightful owner:

And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.” (Matt 21:1-3). 

Gentle and meek and mythical

I personally know several Christians who accept evolution as scientific fact. Okay, they kind of ignore the Old Testament, but I asked one born again Christian about the genealogy of Jesus and she was only aware of another one in Luke.

From No Meek Messiah,
Christianity absolutely depends on mythical “Adam.” Without Adam, Eve, and a talking snake, Jesus’ mission is moot and pointless and void. Christians are generally oblivious of this because they have been shown a genealogy in Matthew (which only goes back to “Abraham”), and are rarely if ever exposed to Luke’s disparate and childlike version—which if true would negate all of evolution and in fact most known history and science. According to the anonymous author of Luke, a mere seventy-five generations separate “Adam”—and the beginning of the universe—from the birth of Jesus some 2,000 years ago.

Jesus This “meek” messiah boasted he was “greater than Solomon” (Mt 12:42), saying he “came not to send peace, but a sword” (Mt 10:34), and “to send fire on the earth” (Lk 12:49). Jesus desperately needs your praise (Mt 10:37), and advises you to beat your slaves.

This Jesus character speaks highly of father Yahweh‘s genocidal tantrums in Matthew 11:20-24. Jesus is referring to the book of Joshua where his father declares he will wipe out all people of Sidon: “All the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon unto Misrephoth-maim, and all the Sidonians, them will I drive out from before the children of Israel” (13:6).

You may have heard Christians claim that the only “god hates fags” verbiage comes from the Old Testament (Lev 18:22), but both Paul (in Rom 1:26-27) and Jesus speak out against it, as the J-man praises the ruin of Gaytown, Canaan: “But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.” – Luke 17:29. 

Onward Christian soldiers

Christianity has a violent “holy book” as its authority, granting followers supremacy over the entire earth (e.g. Gen 1:28) which they used to justify land grabs, genocide and holy conflicts. The following wars were perpetrated by Christians in the name of their savior:

  1. War against the Donatists, 317
  2. Roman-Persian War of 441
  3. Roman-Persian War of 572-591
  4. Charlemagne’s War against the Saxons, 8th century
  5. Spanish Christian-Muslim War of 912-928
  6. Spanish Christian-Muslim War of 977-997
  7. Spanish Christian-Muslim War of 1001-1031
  8. First Crusade, 1096
  9. Jerusalem Massacre, 1099
  10. Second Crusade, 1145-1149
  11. Spanish Christian-Muslim War, 1172-1212
  12. Third Crusade, 1189
  13. War against the Livonians, 1198-1212
  14. Wars against the Curonians and Semigallians, 1201-90
  15. Fourth Crusade, 1202-04
  16. Wars against Saaremaa, 1206-61
  17. War against the Estonians, 1208-1224
  18. War against the Latgallians and Selonians, 1208-1224
  19. Children’s Crusade, 1212
  20. Fifth Crusade, 1213
  21. Sixth Crusade, 1228 War against the Livonians, 1198-1212
  22. Spanish Christian-Muslim War, 1230-1248
  23. Seventh Crusade, 1248
  24. Eighth Crusade, 1270
  25. Ninth Crusade, 1271-1272
  26. The Inquisitions
  27. War against the Cathars, 1209-1229 and onward
  28. War against the Stedingers of Friesland, 1233
  29. Spanish Christian-Muslim War, 1481-1492
  30. Four Years War of 1521-26
  31. Count’s War of 1534-36
  32. Schmalkaldic War, 1546
  33. Anglo-Scottish War of 1559-1560
  34. First War of Religion,1562
  35. Second War of Religion, 1567-68
  36. Third War of Religion, 1568-70
  37. Fourth War of Religion, 1572-73
  38. Fifth War of Religion, 1574-76
  39. Sixth War of Religion, 1576-77
  40. Seventh War of Religion, 1579-80
  41. Eighth War of Religion, 1585-98
  42. War of the Three Henrys, 1588
  43. Ninth War of Religion, 1589—1598
  44. Ottoman-Habsburg wars, 15th to 16th century
  45. War against the German Farmers (“peasants”), 16th Century
  46. The French Wars of Religion, 16th Century
  47. Shimabara Revolt, 1637
  48. Covenanters’ Rebellion of 1666
  49. Covenanters’ Rebellion of 1679
  50. Covenanters’ Rebellion of 1685
  51. The Thirty Years War, 17th Century
  52. The Irish rebellion of 1641
  53. Spanish Christian extermination of South American natives
  54. Manifest Destiny
  55. War of the Sonderbund, 1847
  56. Crimean War, 1853-1856
  57. Tukulor-French War, 1854-1864
  58. Taiping Rebellion, 1851 and 1864
  59. Serbo-Turkish War, 1876-78
  60. Russo-Turkish War, 1877-1878
  61. Russian Revolution killing of the Jews, late 19th century
  62. First Sudanese Civil War, 1955-1972
  63. Nigerian Civil War, 1967
  64. Lebanese Civil War, 1975
  65. Sabra and Shatila massacre, 1982
  66. Second Sudanese Civil War, 1983
  67. Yelwa Massacre, 2004
  68. Bosnian War

A relatively unknown contrivance occurred in the thirteenth century when Pope Innocent III ordered a genocidal attack against the entire region of Languedoc France. The pope depicted the Cathars as witches; of being cannibals; desecrating the cross; and having “sexual orgies.”

Yet malefic sounds of sibilance emanated only from the Vatican, and not from its contrived enemies living peaceably in France with their pure and righteous ways. The Church murdered over a million innocent Cathars over the period of 35 years—men, women, children. Christian forces wiped them from the face of the planet. At the height of the siege, Christian forces were burning hundreds at the stake at a time. The Christian colossus exterminated them, then annexed much of Languedoc—some for the Church, some from northern French nobles. The extravagant Palais de la Berbie (construction began in 1228) and the Catholic fortress-cathedral Sainte Cécile (began 1282) are just two examples that remain to this day.

Joseph McCabeConclusion

When I consider those 126 writers, all of whom should have heard of Jesus but did not, and Paul and Marcion and Athenagoras and Matthew with a tetralogy of opposing Christs, the silence from Qumran and Nazareth and Bethlehem, conflicting Bible stories, and so many other mysteries and omissions, I must conclude this “Jesus Christ” is a mythical character. “Jesus of Nazareth” was nothing more than urban (or desert) legend, likely an agglomeration of several evangelic and deluded rabbis who might have existed.

The “Jesus mythicist” position is regarded by Christians as a fringe group. But after my research I tend to side with Remsburg—and Frank Zindler, John M. Allegro, Thomas Paine, Godfrey Higgins, Robert M. Price, Charles Bradlaugh, Gerald Massey, Joseph McCabe, Abner Kneeland, Alvin Boyd Kuhn, Harold Leidner, Peter Jensen, Salomon Reinach, Samuel Lublinski, Charles-François Dupuis, Rudolf Steck, Arthur Drews, Prosper Alfaric, Georges Ory, Tom Harpur, Michael Martin, John Mackinnon Robertson, Alvar Ellegård, David Fitzgerald, Richard Carrier, René Salm, Timothy Freke, Peter Gandy, Barbara Walker, Thomas Brodie, Earl Doherty, Bruno Bauer and others—heretics and iconoclasts and freethinking dunces all, according to “mainstream” Bible scholars.

If all this evidence and non-evidence including 126 silent writers cannot convince, I’ll wager we will uncover much more. Yet this is but a tiny tip of the mythical Jesus iceberg: nothing adds up for the fable of the Christ. In the Conclusion of No Meek Messiah I summarize the madcap cult of Jesus worship that has plagued the world for centuries. It should be clear to even the most devout and inculcated reader that it is all up for Christianity, and in fact has been so for centuries. Its roots and foundation and rituals are borrowed from ancient cults: there is nothing magical or “God-inspired” about them. The “virgin birth prophecy” as well as the immaculate conception claims are fakeries, the former due to an erroneous translation of the Tanakh, the latter a nineteenth century Catholic apologetic contrivance, a desperate retrofitting.

Jesus was no perfect man, no meek or wise messiah: in fact his philosophies were and are largely immoral, often violent, as well as shallow and irrational. There have been many proposed sons of god, and this Jesus person is no more valid or profound than his priestly precursors. In fact, his contemporary Apollonius was unquestionably the superior logician and philosopher.

Thomas JeffersonChristianity was a very minor and inconsequential cult founded late in the first century and then—while still quite minor—forced upon all the people of the Empire, and all rival kingdoms in the fourth century and beyond, as enforceable law with papal sanction. Christianity has caused more terror and torture and murder than any similar phenomenon. With its tyrannical preachments and directives for sightless and mindless obedience, the Bible is a violent and utterly useless volume, full of lies and immoral edicts and invented histories, no matter which of the many “versions” you may choose to read—including Thomas Jefferson’s radical if gallant abridgment.

The time to stop teaching the tall tales and nonsense to children, frightening them with eternal torture administered by God’s minions, has long ago passed. Parents who do so are likely deluded, and most surely are guilty of child abuse of the worst sort ….

The cult of Christianity has an incalculable amount of blood on its hands. And the “Jesus” tale seems to have been nothing more than oral legend, with plenty of hoax and fraud perpetrated along the ages. It is my hope that mankind will someday grow up and relegate the Jesus tales to the same stewing pile that contains Zeus and his son Hercules, roiling away in their justifiable status as mere myth. – JNE, 19 July 2014

Ancient Historians

Bibliography

  1. Catholic Encyclopedia, first edition. The Encyclopedia Press, 1907-1913.
  2. Dungan, David L., Constantine’s Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.
  3. Ehrman, Bart, Jesus, Interrupted. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.
  4. Encyclopedia Biblica: A Critical Dictionary of the Literary, Political and Religious History: The Archeology, Geography and Natural History of the Bible. Edited by Thomas Kelly Cheyne and J. Sutherland Black. 1899.
  5. Magness, Jodi, The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.
  6. Oxford Classical Dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
  7. Salm, René, The Myth of Nazareth. Parsippany: American Atheist Press, 2008.

Further Reading

  1. Alfaric, Prosper. Jésus a-t-il existé? 1932.
  2. Allegro, John M., The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth. Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1992.
  3. Barnard, Leslie William. Athenagoras: A Study in Second Century Christian Apologetic. Paris: Éditions Beauchesne, 1972.
  4. Bradlaugh, Charles, Who Was Jesus Christ? London : Watts and Co., 1913.
    Brodie, Thomas. Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2012.
  5. Carrier, Richard. Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus. Amherst: Prometheus, 2012.
  6. Doherty, Earl, Neither God not Man. Ottawa: Age of Reason, 2009.
  7. Drews, Arthur, Hat Jesus gelebt? Mainz: 1924.
  8. Dupuis, Charles-François, L’origine de tous les cultes, ou la religion universelle. Paris: 1795.
  9. Ellegård, Alvar, Jesus One Hundred Years Before Christ. New York: Overlook Press, 2002.
  10. Fitzgerald, David, Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All. Lulu.com, 2010.
  11. Freke, Timothy, and Gandy, Peter, The Jesus Mysteries: Was the “Original Jesus” a Pagan God? New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999.
  12. Harpur, Tom, The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light. Toronto: Thomas Allen Publishers, 2005.
  13. Higgins, Godfrey, Anacalypsis. A&B Books, 1992.
  14. Jensen, Peter, Moses, Jesus, Paul: Three Variations on the Babylonian Godman Gilgamesh. 1909.
  15. Kneeland, Abner, A Review of the Evidences of Christianity. Boston: Free Enquirer, 1829.
  16. Kuhn, A. B., Who Is This King of Glory? Kessinger Publishing, LLC; Facsimile Ed edition, 1992.
  17. Leidner, Harold, The Fabrication of the Christ Myth. Survey Press, 2000.
  18. Lublinski, Samuel, Die Entstehung des Christentums; Das werdende Dogma vom Leben Jesu. Köln: Eugen Diederichs, 1910.
  19. Martin, Michael, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992.
  20. Massey, Gerald, Ancient Egypt, the Light of the World. Sioux Falls: NuVision, 2009.
  21. McCabe, Joseph, The Myth of the Resurrection and other essays. Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1993.
  22. Ory, Georges, Le Christ et Jésus. Paris: Éditions du Pavillon, 1968.
  23. Paine, Thomas, The Age of Reason. Paris: Barrots, 1794.
  24. Price, Robert M., Deconstructing Jesus. Amherst: Prometheus, 2000.
  25. Price, Robert M., The Case Against the Case for Christ. Cranford: American Atheist Press, 2010.
  26. Reinach, Salomon, Orpheus, a History of Religions. New York: Liveright, 1933.
  27. Remsburg, John, The Christ. New York: Truth Seeker, 1909. Reprinted by Prometheus Books, 1994.
  28. Robertson, John M., A Short History of Christianity. London: Watts & Co., 1902.
  29. Steck, Rudolf, Der Galaterbrief nach seiner Echtheit untersucht nebst kritischen Bemerkungen zu den Paulinischen Hauptbriefen. Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1888.
  30. Walker, Barbara, The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. New York: HarperOne, 1983.
  31. Zindler, Frank, The Jesus the Jews Never Knew. Cranford: American Atheist Press, 2003.

» Michael Paulkovich is an aerospace engineer, historical researcher, freelance writer, and a frequent contributor to Free Inquiry and Humanist Perspectives magazines. His book No Meek Messiah was published in 2013 by Spillix.

Thomas Paine

About the St Thomas reference in Shashi Tharoor’s book Pax Indica – Poulasta Chakraborthy

Shashi Tharoor

St Thomas by Georges de la Tour  (1593 – 1652)This sounds like a good story. And that’s what it is: a good story. All those statements on Thomas made by Tharoor, Nehru and Prasad are not based on any solid historical evidence. They are just repetitions of a well established legend. – Poulasta Chakraborthy

Page 280 of former minister and current Member of Parliament, Shashi Tharoor’s book Pax Indica contains an interesting assertion.

Christianity arrived on Indian soil with St. Thomas the Apostle (‘Doubting Thomas’), who came to the Malabar Coast sometime before 52 CE and was welcomed on shore, or so oral legend has it, by a flute playing Jewish girl. He made many converts, so there are Indians today whose ancestors were Christians well before any Europeans discovered Christianity.

Although Tharoor identifies the incident of St. Thomas being welcomed to Malabar by a flute-playing Jewish girl as part of folklore, he states that the arrival of St. Thomas to the Malabar Coast as a historical fact.

The good news is that he’s not the first one to state that myth as a historical truth. The biggest of political leaders in India have obediently accepted this historical myth. In one of his works, the nation’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote:

Few people realise that Christianity came to India as early as the first century after Christ, long before Europe turned to it, and established a firm hold in South India….

This statement was repeated in a different way by Dr. Rajendra Prasad in his St. Thomas Day speech at New Delhi, in 1955:

Remember St. Thomas came to India when many countries in Europe had not yet become Christian and so these Indians who trace their Christianity to him have a longer history and a higher ancestry than that of Christians of many of the European countries. And it is a matter of pride for us that it happened….

This famous legend as well as the assertion that Christianity came to India before it went to Europe is a tactic to make it a sort of indigenous religion, even if it came from the Middle East. The statements made by our great leaders are based on the following incidents:

St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Christ (itself a disputed fact), came to India in 52 CE. He landed at Maliankara (Cranganore) in Kerala, preached the Gospel, produced miracles, and got many converts.

Then he went to Mailepuram (Mylapore), and from there to China, but after some time returned to Maliankara, and from there came again to Mylapore where he spent the rest of his life preaching, converting a large number of the low-caste Hindus.

The aforesaid points make St. Thomas appear as socio-religious reformer who aimed to ameliorate the woes of local residents—specifically those suppressed under the caste system. As every tale of reformers goes St. Thomas was also disliked by the orthodox elements (which in the Indian context are the Brahmins) of the land that were determined to finish him. This risky situation made Thomas take refuge in a cave at a mountain located near the present St. Thomas Mount. Unfortunately the great Saint was murdered by one of those zealous Brahmins at St. Thomas Mount. His body was brought to Mylapore and buried in 73 CE.

This sounds like a good story. And that’s what it is: a good story. All those statements on Thomas made by Tharoor, Nehru and Prasad are not based on any solid historical evidence. They are just repetitions of a well established legend.

Syrian bishop with Pope Benedict

Now let’s see what some historical, and even Christian religious texts have to say about this tale:

  1. D. Burnell, in an article in the Indian Antiquary of May 1875, writes, “The attribution of the origin of South Indian Christianity to the apostle Thomas seems very attractive to those who hold certain theological opinion. But the real question is, on what evidence does it rest? Without real or sufficient evidence so improbable a circumstance is to be at once rejected. Pious fictions have no place in historical research.”
  2. Prof. Jarl Charpentier, in St. Thomas the Apostle and India, writes, “There is absolutely not the shadow of a proof that an Apostle of our Lord be his name Thomas or something else — ever visited South India or Ceylon and founded Christian communities there.”
  3. Rev. J. Hough, in Christianity in India, writes, “It is not probable that any of the Apostles of our Lord embarked on a voyage … to India.”
  4. Cosmas the Alexandrian, a theologian, geographer and merchant who traded with Ethiopia and Ceylon, visited Malabar in 520-525 CE and provided the first acceptable evidence of Christian communities there as noted in his Christian Topography. There is no mention of any Thomas in his works.
  5. Regarding the fabled Apostle of Jesus, Thomas, early Church Fathers like Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Eusebius had stated outright that Apostle Thomas settled in ‘Parthia’, and established a church in Fars (Persia). This is supported by the 4th century priest Rufinus of Aquileia, who translated Greek theological texts into Latin, and the 5th century Byzantine church historian, Socrates of Constantinople, who wrote an Ecclesiastical History, the second edition of which survives and is a valuable source of early church history. None of those sources speak of St. Thomas visiting India.
  6. Bishop Stephen Neill who had spent many years in South India examined the St. Thomas story as late as 1984. “A number of scholars,” wrote Neill, “among whom are to be mentioned with respect Bishop A.E. Medlycott, J.N. Farquhar and Jesuit Dahlman, have built on slender foundations what can only be called Thomas romances, such as reflect vividness of their imagination rather than the prudence of historical critics…. Millions of Christians in India are certain that the founder of their church was none other than the apostle Thomas himself. The historian cannot prove it to them that they are mistaken in their belief. He may feel it right to warn them that historical research cannot pronounce on the matter with a confidence equal to that which they entertain by faith.”

And to top them all, in September 2006, Pope Benedict XVI himself declared that Thomas never came to India. But his declaration was toned down after a complaint from the so-called St. Thomas Christians who still believe Thomas came to India and converted their ancestors. Now the question: where did it all begin?

Bardaisan / BardesanesThe chief source of this tale is a Gnostic Syrian fable, Acts of Thomas, written by a poet named Bardesanes at Edessa around 201 CE. The text says the apostle went from Palestine eastwards to a desert-like country where people are ‘Mazdei’ (a term used for Zoroastrians) and have Persian names. The term “India” in Acts is used as a synonym for Asia.

The Acts identifies St Thomas as Judas, the look-alike twin of Jesus, who sells him into slavery. The slave travels to Andropolis where he makes newly-weds chaste, cheats a king, fights with Satan over a beautiful boy, persuades a talking donkey to confess the name of Jesus, and is finally executed by a Zoroastrian king for crimes against women. His body is buried on a royal mountain and later taken to Edessa, where a popular cult rises around his tomb. Even in this story, it is clear that St. Thomas never visited India.

Thomas of CanaThere is another popular fable among Indian Christians about one Thomas of Cana, a merchant who led a group of 400 Christians from Babylon and Nineveh, out of Persia in the 4th century CE, when Christianization of the Roman Empire motivated the Persians to persecute their Syriac-speaking Christian minority. These Christians apparently landed in Malabar around 345 CE.

Based on this tale, a section of St. Thomas Christians believe Thomas of Cana to be known as St. Thomas.

And so it is clear that nothing much is known about St. Thomas beyond these stories which have been refuted by historical evidence.

Even after reading the refutation of this tale of St. Thomas by strong historical evidence, the likes of Tharoor will claim that these ‘fables’ are historical facts, in no less than a full length book of the genre Pax Indica belongs to. The reason is not far to seek: Tharoor’s parroting of the St. Thomas myth arises from the Indian secularist template for keeping the secular fabric of India intact.

Sita Ram GoelBut there are deeper, more fundamental reasons why the St. Thomas myth must be debated and re-debated.

The reason is given in detail by Sita Ram Goel in his Papacy: Its Doctrine and History.

Firstly, it is one thing for some Christian refugees to come to a country and build some churches, and quite another for an apostle of Jesus Christ to appear in flesh and blood for spreading the Good News. If it can be established that Christianity is as ancient in India as the prevailing forms of Hinduism, no one can nail it down as an imported creed brought in by Western imperialism.

Secondly, the Catholic Church in India stands badly in need of a spectacular martyr of its own. Unfortunately for it, St. Francis Xavier died a natural death and that, too, in a distant place. Hindus, too, have persistently refused to oblige the Church in this respect, in spite of all provocations. The Church has to use its own resources and churn out something. St. Thomas, about whom nobody knows anything, offers a ready-made martyr.

Thirdly, the Catholic Church can malign the Brahmins more confidently. Brahmins have been the main target of its attack from the beginning. Now it can be shown that the Brahmins have always been a vicious brood, so much so that they would not stop from murdering a holy man who was only telling God’s own truth to a tormented people. At the same time, the religion of the Brahmins can be held responsible for their depravity.

Fourthly, the Catholics in India need no more feel uncomfortable when faced with historical evidence about their Church’s close cooperation with the Portuguese pirates, in committing abominable crimes against the Indian people. The commencement of the Church can be disentangled from the advent of the Portuguese by dating the Church to some distant past. The Church was here long before the Portuguese arrived. It was a mere coincidence that the Portuguese also called themselves Catholics. Guilt by association is groundless.

To reword a phrase used by the famed novelist S.L. Bhyrappa ‘Secularism can never be strengthened by projecting historical lies.’ Hence it is imperative for students of history as well as those claiming to be historians to challenge these distortions in our public discourse. – India Facts, 1 August 2014

References

  1. Ishwar Sharan, The Myth of St. Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple
  2. Sandhya Jain, Merchant Thomas to Saint Thomas
  3. Tejasvi Surya, The Mylapore St. Thomas Myth that just doesn’t seem to die: Part 1 [and 2]
  4. Ishwar Sharan, Wikipedia & Encyclopaedia: Their counterfeit St. Thomas entries exposed

Swami Vivekananda on the historicity of Jesus Christ – Sister Nivedita

Swami Vivekananda & Sister Nivedita (R) in Kashmir (1898)

Wanderings with Swami Vivekananda by Sister NiveditaOur Master had been talking of Christian ritual as derived from Buddhist, but one of the party would have none of the theory.

“Where did Buddhist ritual itself come from?” She asked.

“From Vedic,” answered the Swami briefly.

“Or as it was present also in southern Europe, is it not better to suppose a common origin for it, and the Christian, and the Vedic rituals?”

“No! No!” he replied. “You forget that Buddhism was entirely within Hinduism! Even caste was not attacked, it was not yet crystallised, of course! And Buddha merely tried to restore the ideal. He who attains to God in this life, says Manu, is the Brahmin. Buddha would have had it so, if he could.”

“But how are Vedic and Christian ritual connected?” persisted his opponent. “How could they be the same? You have nothing even corresponding to the central rite of our worship!”

“Why yes!” said the Swami, “Vedic ritual has its Mass, the offering of food to God, your Blessed Sacrament, our prasadam. Only it is offered sitting, not kneeling, as is common in hot countries. They kneel in Tibet. Then, too, Vedic ritual has its lights, incense, and music.”

“But,” was the somewhat ungracious argument, “has it any common prayer?”

Objections urged in this way always elicited some bold paradox which contained a new and unthought-of generalisation.

He flashed down on the question.

“No! And neither had Christianity! That is pure Protestantism and Protestantism took it from the Mohammedans, perhaps through Moorish influence!

“Mohammedanism is the only religion that has completely broken down the idea of the priest. The leader of prayer stands with his back to the people, and only the reading of the Koran may take place from the pulpit. Protestantism is an approach to this.

“Even the tonsure existed in India, in the shaven head. I have seen a picture of Justinian receiving the Law from two monks, in which the monks’ heads are entirely shaven. The monk and nun both existed, in pre-Buddhist Hinduism. Europe gets her orders from the Thebaid.”

Jesus Christ by El Greco“At that rate, then, you accept Catholic ritual as Aryan!

“Yes almost all Christianity is Aryan, I believe. I am inclined to think Christ, never existed. I have doubted that, ever since I had my dream—that dream off Crete.* Indian and Egyptian ideas met at Alexandria, and went forth to the world, tinctured with Judaism and Hellenism, as Christianity.

“The Acts and Epistles, you know, are older than the Gospels, and St. John is spurious. The only figure we can be sure of is St. Paul, and he was not an eye-witness, and according to his own showing was capable of Jesuitry “by all means save souls” isn’t it?

No! Buddha and Mohammed, alone amongst religious teachers, stand out with historic distinctness, having been fortunate enough to have, while they were living, enemies as well as friends. Krishna I doubt; a yogi, and a shepherd, and a great king, have all been amalgamated in one beautiful figure, holding the Gita in his hand.

Renan‘s life of Jesus is mere froth. It does not touch Strauss, the real antiquarian. Two things stand out as personal living touches in the life of Christ, the woman taken in adultery, the most beautiful story in literature, and the woman at the well. How strangely true is this last, to Indian life! A woman, coming to draw water, finds, seated at the well-side, a yellow-clad monk. He asks her for water. Then He teaches her, and does a little mind-reading and so on. Only in an Indian story, when she went to call the villagers, to look and Hillel the Elderlisten, the monk would have taken his chance, and fled to the forest!

“On the whole, I think old Rabbi Hillel is responsible for the teachings of Jesus, and an obscure Jewish sect of Nazarenes, a sect of great antiquity suddenly galvanised by St. Paul, furnished the mythic personality, as a centre of worship.

“The Resurrection, of course, is simply spring-cremation. Only the rich Greeks and Romans had had cremation any way, and the new sun-myth would only stop it amongst the few.”


* In travelling from Naples to Port Said, on his way back to India, in January 1897, the Swami had a dream of an old and bearded man, who appeared before him, saying “This is the island of Crete,” and showing him a place in the island, that he might afterwards identify. The vision went to say that the religion of Christianity had originated in the island of Crete and in connection with this gave him two European words, one of which was Therapeutae which it declared, were derived from Sanskrit. Therapeutae meant sons (from the Sanskrit putra) of the Theras, or Buddhist monks. From this the Swami was to understand that Christianity had originated in a Buddhist mission. The old man added “The proofs are all here,” pointing to the ground. “Dig and you will see!”
As he awoke, feeling that this was no common dream, the Swami rose, and tumbled out on deck. Here he met an officer, turning in from his watch. “What o’clock is it?, said the Swami. “Midnight!” was the answer. “Where are we?” he then said; when, to his astonishment, the answer came back “fifty miles off Crete!”
Our Master used to laugh at himself for the strength of the impression that this dream had made on him. But he could never shake it off. The fact that the second of the two etymologies has been lost is deeply to be regretted. The Swami had to say that before he had had this dream, it had never occurred to him to doubt that the personality of Christ was strictly historic. We must remember, however, that according to Hindu philosophy, it is the completeness of an idea that is important, and not the question of its historical authenticity. The Swami once asked Sri Ramakrishna, when he was a boy, about this very matter. “Don’t you think!” answered his Guru, “that those who could invent such things were themselves that?” – Extracted from  Chapter 8 of Notes of some wanderings with Swami Vivekananda by Sister Nivedita

 

See also

Cultures use myths, scholars misuse them – Shivaji Singh

Prof. Shivaji Singh“In The Origins of the World’s Mythologies, Michael Witzel misses no opportunity to point out that Gondawana peoples were inferior to Laurasians (present western world), a fact he claims is demonstrated by mythology! This is the genesis of his hatred for Indian traditions—Indians are a Gondwana people!” – Prof. Shivaji Singh

Lakshman, Rama & SitaMyths are integral to any culture; they give life and vibrancy to the cultures in which they are created. Philosopher-historian Peter Munz observed, “Myths and their motifs invariably constitute the leaven of the weltanschauung of a culture and permeate its fabric and identity in the way matter and form inform the world of reality. But like matter again myths, in their own world, cannot be related to time and space. Ipso facto ahistorical, they impart meaning to the intractable mass of unaccounted and unaccountable past by selection, by focusing a few bits of the past which thereby acquired relevance and universal significance” – ‘History and Myth’, Philosophical Quarterly, VI: 1-6, 1956

In fact, cultures are sets of images (bimba-vidhaana). A culture is, therefore, best defined in terms of the metaphors, symbols and images that it uses, and myths play the lead role in the formation of the mental templates that shape these signs and signals. 

Myths, motifs, and mythology

But what are ‘myths’? Myths are legends that relate to divine or semi-divine beings, popular stories describing exploits of gods and goddesses and supreme human beings. They are handed down from earlier times and their truth is accepted without any scrutiny.

Two other categories of legends do not pertain to divinities. One is saga (folk tales), the other marchen (a German word, popularised by folklorists, for fairy tales). These also contribute to the formation of a mythology, but it is mostly and primarily out of myths that mythologies are made. That justifies the name ‘mythology’ and also explains why mythology, the discipline dealing with myths, is called devasaastra in India.

The ideas and themes that go to make a myth are called its motifs. Myths are culture specific, but motifs – the building blocks of myths – very often transcend cultural boundaries. The motifs, ‘Sky Father, Earth Mother’, ‘Cosmic Egg’, ‘The Great Flood’, etc., are found equally in Indian mythology and the mythologies of Greece, Egypt, Babylonia, and other countries to various extents.

Prof. Michael WitzelFrom mythology to comparative mythology 

This observed commonality of mythological motifs gave rise to comparative mythology. In the 19th century, comparative mythological studies became greatly fashionable, mainly to buttress support to the so-called Aryan invasion theory. This theory, as we know, is in crisis today and despite being reformulated again and again by substituting ‘migration’, ‘trickle-in’, in place of invasion, its validity remains extremely doubtful. However, comparative mythology still continues as a convenient weapon to fight The Origins of the World’s Mythologiesideological battles. The latest in this genre is Harvard Professor Michael Witzel’s recently published The Origins of the World’s Mythologies (Oxford University Press, 2012).

This is a lengthy offering (686 pages), well organised, with clear-cut thematic chapters, copious references and a systematic bibliography. The concept of myth is tolerably well analysed. The author’s previous work in the field is summarized and the manner in which his approach differs from that of his poorvasuuris explained. But there is a hidden agenda, perhaps originating from the author’s ideological and psychological aberrations and a few other drawbacks such as a demonstrably uncalled for attempt on the part of the author to venture into a field for which he is ill-equipped.

Michael Witzel is currently in a precarious situation. The fast flowing anti-Hindu and pro-AIT winds on which he has been flying his kites high have slowed down considerably. He can either step back and admit that he has been talking nonsense all these years, as some think is advisable, or he can move on.

He has chosen the latter course, thanks to a new development in western academics. The growing corpus of work of archaeologists, geologists and population geneticists has contributed to growing knowledge about the prehistoric past and transformed the atmosphere in the Humanities and Social Science departments of universities. Scholars are now more interested in pre-3000 BCE than in the post-3000 BCE era. Witzel has seized this opportunity to shift to an earlier chronological horizon, and hence the study of the origins of the world’s mythologies.

The problem is that he lacks the academic abilities and expertise for this complex field. Witzel chose mythology under the impression that myths are ahistorical and their space-time coordinates can therefore be easily manipulated. But though the time-frame of myths are unknown, they cannot be pushed back in time beyond a limit, a fact that he clearly did not realise as he set out on his academic adventure.

For instance, leave aside 50 to 60 thousand BCE horizons when our earliest ancestors, Homo sapiens sapiensstarted moving out of Africa; coming down to as late as the beginning of the Neolithic Age around 10 to 12 thousand BCE, we find that the father-mother relation was unknown. The women folk had the impression that they become pregnant because of bathing in a particular pond or sitting under a certain tree. How could a ‘Sky-father, Earth-mother’ motif develop before that time? Thus there is indeed a time limit beyond which the origin of a specific motif cannot be placed.

Mythology was a poor choice for Witzel if he desired to roam in the misty pre-10,000 BCE world. The origins of language might have been a better choice, given his claimed linguistic expertise, to investigate how Palaeolithic man’s speaking skills developed over time in tune with tool manufacture and such things.

Laurasia & Gondwana ContinentsIn The Origins of the World’s Mythologies, Witzel misses no opportunity to point out that Gondawana peoples were inferior to Laurasians (present western world), a fact he claims is demonstrated by mythology! This is the genesis of his hatred for Indian traditions – Indians are a Gondwana people!

The Harvard Professor may be excused for his wrong assumptions relating to myths and mythology, he may be pardoned for using discarded models in analysing mythological inter-relationships, but should he be spared for sharing racist ideas? If considering dark-skinned Gondwana peoples as a whole to be inferior to white-skinned Laurasians is not racism, what is racism? Oxford University Press needs to explain its decision to publish such a book. –  Vijayvaani,  7 February 2014

» Dr Shivaji Singh is former Professor and Head, Dept. of Ancient History, Archaeology and Culture, University of Gorakhpur, UP, India

Chronology and the Upanishads – Koenraad Elst

Dr. Koenraad ElstAccording to Hindu tradition, the grandfather of the Mahabharata heroes is the one who ordered the Vedas in their definitive and still prevailing form: Krishna Dvaipayana alias Veda-Vyasa, … In the oldest Upanishads already, the Rg-, Sama- and Yajur-Veda are mentioned as known and complete wholes. So, the Upanishads started at or after the time of the Mahabharata battle, though at a different location. … The first six or so of the Upanishads easily predate the Buddha. The line of thought laid down in the Upanishads thus had almost a thousand years to develop, between the Mahabharata war (ca. -1400) and the Buddha (-500). – Dr. Koenraad Elst

Vedic Rishi A famous Flemish emeritus professor recently reacted to my off-hand mention of a date for the major Upanishads, viz. “second millennium BCE”. He thought that this should be 900-500 BCE, a date obviously borrowed from the textbooks. It is no big deal that a Western philosopher, not specializing in the chronology of Indian history, should abide by the received wisdom in this matter; but the few specialists know it to be highly controversial.

When scholar upon scholar claims just as off-hand that the Brhadaranyaka, Chandogya, Katha etc. Upanishads date from 900-500 BC, I always wonder: how do they know this? Where did they get it? The texts themselves never give such a date, nor other premodern texts referring to them.

Gautama BuddhaA few scholars even date them all later than 500 BCE, the time of the Buddha. Animated by the “Hinduism bad, Buddhism good” doctrine, they are puzzled by the existence of undeniably profound ideas in the Upanishads, clearly related to the Buddhist teachings, so they want to explain these as “borrowed from Buddhism”. Of course, the notion of Buddhism as a separate religion was constructed only recently, by the first Western Buddhologists, whereas Hindu tradition rightly considers the Buddha as only one of the Hindu sect founders/leaders of his time, though for sociological reasons (his high birth and top connections) the most successful one. Hindu writers of idol-making manuals treat the Buddha on a par with Krishna and the others. At any rate, the linguistic anteriority of the preclassical Sanskrit of the Upanishads date them to before the Buddha and to his probable contemporary Panini, the codifier of classical Sanskrit. Though most Western and Westernized scholars share this “Hinduism bad, Buddhism good” framework, they still agree that the great Upanishads definitely predate the Buddha. That is why these works don’t refer to any specifically Buddhist concept while basic Buddhism does refer to generally Upanishadic concepts.

But for them, 900 BCE is more than enough time distance to 500 BC. The Upanishads should not be dated earlier, for then the Aryan invasion framework runs into difficulties. This is roughly as follows:

  • 1700-1500 BCE: Indo-European or “Aryan” nomads invade India;
  • 1500-1200 BCE: they compose the Rg-Veda;
  • 1300-500 BCE: they compose the other Vedas and their ancillary literature;
  • 900 BCE onwards: among these writings are the Upanishads.

In Chinese history, all important and numerous unimportant events are dated precisely from at least the 8th century BCE, and approximately so for a thousand years earlier. In Indian history, by contrast, many important events or the birth years of famous persons are only vaguely known, mostly but not even always in their proper chronological order, and without any absolute chronology. We maintain that the usual estimate for the first Upanishads misses the mark by at least five hundred years.

Devi Saraswati blesses Rishi YagnavalkyaThere are only few chronologically relevant references in the Upanishads, and that mostly to other insecurely dated characters of Hindu literature. Thus, Yajnavalkya of Brhadaranyaka fame wins a debate at the court of king Janaka of Videha, and this king is usually taken to be the father of the Ramayana’s heroine Sita, also known by her patronymic Janaki. But that doesn’t get us very far, if only because the paucity of data makes it difficult to be sure that the same Janaka is meant, as this is not an unusual name. But the larger literary framework contains better chronological clues.

The ecliptic was divided into 28 lunar houses, like in China and Arabia, rather than in the 12 Babylonian-Hellenistic signs of the Zodiac. The precession of the equinoxes, at 1° per ca. 71 years, makes data about the relation between fixed stars and equinoxes or solstices or other seasonal phenomena into a secure chronological pointer. For instance, an ancillary work of the Vedas, the Vedanga Jyotisha (“Veda-Ancillary of Stellar Science”, at that time meaning astronomy though now used to refer to astrology), conventionally dated to 500-200 BCE, dates itself twice to ca. 1350 BCE, viz. by explicitating which stars are on the winter solstice and spring equinox points. This is an explicitly post-Rg-Vedic texts, so the Rg-Veda was already complete by the time the Aryan Invasion Theory lets the Aryans invade India. It is quite amusing to read the mental and verbal acrobatics which conformistic scholars try out to neutralize this inconvenient evidence.

The Atharva-Veda lists all the lunar houses, starting with Krttika/Pleiades, presumably because it was on the spring equinox point, which it was ca. 2300 BCE. The Yajur-Veda also gives this position thrice. But could this not be a reminiscence, a classical enumeration which endured even when the asterism concerned had, after some 900 years, shifted and left the place of honour to the next asterism? Unlikely, for astrologers typically change the list to reflect the changing of asterisms on the equinoctial point; they no longer treat Krttika as number 1. The Shatapatha Brahmana, traditionally held to be from the same period (but which modern textbooks date to 900 BCE or so), later than the Rg-Veda but just before the Upanishads, confirms this synchronism by referring to the same position, telling us that Krttika “never swerves from the east”, i.e. from the equinox, the intersection of ecliptic and equatorial plane. This passage, like the Vedanga Jyotisha passages, is part of a practical instruction under which to conduct a certain ritual, so it is observational par excellence, not a traditional prayer-type text where an ancient reminiscence might have survived.

Death of BhishmaThe Kaushitaki Brahmana points to the same period, ca. 2300 BCE, by means of a different astronomical pointer, viz. the star Regulus on the summer solstice point. Another text where the position of Regulus is mentioned, is the epic Mahabharata, but there it is said that an event, the death of the hero Bhishma coinciding with the full moon near Regulus, took place after the winter solstice, i.e. centuries after 2300 BCE.

The importance of this information is that it shows how the astronomical evidence does not always support a high chronology. Indians say that the war described in the Mahabharata took place in 3139 BCE. This is based on the length of the Four Ages given in the Puranas, a type of mythohistorical literature from the first millennium CE. The doctrine of Four Ages is very ancient, attested also in Greek and Germanic mythology, but their quantification is apparently linked with the precession of the equinoxes, discovered by Hipparchos ca. 150 BCE and introduced in India only in subsequent centuries. There are no pre-Hellenistic mentions of the fourth age starting in the 32th century BCE, 37 years after the Mahabharata war, as Hindus traditionally (i.e. Puranically) believe. The astronomical evidence of the Mahabharata itself, however, points to well after 2300 BC.

This lower chronology is supported by another passage from the Puranas. As said, it mixes historical data with mythology, so we have to be very cautious, but the following sentence is sufficiently clear. The Puranas record that either 1050 or 1015 years elapsed between the birth of Mahabharata hero Arjuna’s grandson Parikshit and the coronation of Magadha-based emperor Mahapadma Nanda in either 378 or 382 BCE. This puts the Mahabharata war (predating Parikshit’s birth by less than a year) in about 1400 BCE. This is earlier than the textbooks’ date of 900 BC, but lower than the traditional date. It is further confirmed by archaeological periodization. The second half of the second millennium BCE marked the high tide of chariot warfare, cfr. the war between the Hittite and Egyptian empires or the Trojan war. Chariot warfare is central to the Mahabharata story, not some literary addition by a later editor. And there was simply no chariot warfare in 3139 BCE.

Rishi VyasaAccording to Hindu tradition, the grandfather of the Mahabharata heroes is the one who ordered the Vedas in their definitive and still prevailing form: Krishna Dvaipayana alias Veda-Vyasa, “analyser/editor of the Veda”. In the oldest Upanishads already, the Rg-, Sama- and Yajur-Veda are mentioned as known and complete wholes. So, the Upanishads started at or after the time of the Mahabharata battle, though at a different location. The Bharata clan was based between the Yamuna and the Saraswati/Ghaggar, in present-day Haryana, while Yajnavalkya, the philosopher featured in the first Upanishad, is shown winning a debate at the court of king Janaka in Mithila, in the present-day Bihar, far to the east. At any rate, the first six or so of the Upanishads easily predate the Buddha. The line of thought laid down in the Upanishads thus had almost a thousand years to develop, between the Mahabharata war (ca. -1400) and the Buddha (-500).

Conclusion: the astronomical evidence (not treated in its completeness here) is internally consistent, faithfully following the relative chronology of the different Vedic writings, e.g. it does not date the Upanishads earlier than the Rg-Veda. It is higher than the conventional AIT chronology, irreconcilable with it. But it is also lower than some of the wilder chronologies popular in India.

» Koenraad Elst distinguished himself early on as eager to learn and to dissent. He studied at the KU Leuven, obtaining MA degrees in Sinology, Indology and Philosophy. After a research stay at Benares Hindu University he did original fieldwork for a doctorate on Hindu nationalism, which he obtained magna cum laude in 1998. As an independent researcher he earned laurels and ostracism with his findings on hot items like Islam, multiculturalism and the secular state, the roots of Indo-European, the Ayodhya temple/mosque dispute and Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy. He blogs at http://koenraadelst.blogspot.in/

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