Reply to reply from Koenraad Elst re AIT/OIT
Email response re AIT/OIT from Dr. Koenraad Elst and my reply from Cybalist@yahoogroups.com
Thank you for your reply.[see below flap] I have learned a few things here, which is that in broad strokes something might be true, but then we add details that won’t work. Thus I have no real idea about whether the Puranas show evidence of translation (etc..) and to cite Danielou’s idea there precipitated possible deserved charges of speculation. Similar pitfalls surround Indus archaeology. I can make my point without deciding about the Indus. I just don’t know. This ‘extras’ precipitate chaotification of the basic simple idea, that, pace. Jainism, Indic spirituality goes back a long way, and it is hard to take Vedic Sanskrit along for the ride.
But what we are talking about here is something that is doubtfully speculative, the great age of the Indic tradition. I will accept the critique of speculative notions on a case basis, but let me note my late discovery in a short life that the entire history of Hinduism is mostly speculative form of thought, based on the false sequence: Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads, etc… That sequence makes no sense. And, as I recall, through all the years that I believed that history, I also assumed, why I am not sure, but instinctively, that the Jain tradition was older. That’s a contradiction that is easily resolved by Danielou’s perspective, minus the add ons.
We are confronted by several likelihoods:
The Indic religious tradition is very ancient, perhaps even going back to the Neolithic
Indo-European linguistics (cf. a recent book by Beckwith: Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present. The appendix has an interesting take on IE differentiation dating) makes it awfully hard to posit ‘Vedic Sanskrit’ at anything like an early date, viz. prior to 2500 BCE. And even the later is unrealistic. We are talking about the obvious parallel of the lead up to Homeric Greek, and the obvious analog to Vedic Sanskrit. That makes just after 2000 BCE at the absolute outside an important probable cut off. So, unfortunately, just as the AID gang tended to suggest, we are talking about second millennium Vedic Sanskrit.
Even for an amateur such as myself, this seems an obvious situation, one that is a hard given that is hard to reinterpret.
As to the colonial question, I am a trained student of classics, with reverent awe of Homeric Greek literature, and I find it hard to admit (as Nietzsche discovered, before going off the deep end here) that, viz. the Spartan canon of ethics was ‘colonialism squared’, and a sadistic endeavor at keeping helots subjected.
If anything the Indian analog shows the strange way in which the subjected overcame the conquerors. What seems to have happened is that an oral tradition was written down in ‘Sanskrit’ and other related languages.
But even as we cite Nietzsche we come to what is possibly one of the root errors, not the least of modern fascism, here: a kind mystic Aryanism, that had all sorts of preposterous notions about Indo-European tribesmen as superior beings. Nietzsche’s nonsense about the ‘overman’ is an obvious muddle of eugenics, and garbled Buddhism, with highly fascist material lurking in the background. The IE’s were highly intelligent primitives, the source no doubt for the stunning over 160-200 IQ’s that were nonexistent or rare in the older oikouemene, that’s it. It was perhaps that factor that seeded the deranged mystique of the Aryan supremacists who are truly nutcases.
They entered the old oikoumenes and contributed fresh troopers to the advance of civilization, often with spectacular results, but rarely with the seed ideas that had generated civilization. You can see the point in the Iliadic literature: a sudden apparition of the highest quality art, but a still primitive barbarian world view.
The idea that the IE’s in India wrote down the Vedas, and then developed Indian spirituality along the lines of yoga, has contributed to that false mystique, with the spin off notion of the garbled ‘overman’ nonsense. But we can see that the real aspirant to ‘overman’ was the humble fakir and yogi of primordial India, I will wager a lowly Dravidian. Nietzsche’s, among others’, hopeless confusion here has still to be properly critiqued. And he is highly clever in his own way at hiding his real views.
Again, all this is not necessary to the basic idea: that Indic spirituality is ancient, and probably not linguistically IE at its root. I can’t honestly see any other possibility here.
It is in this context that reading Danielou made sense. There are many very loose or streamlined versions of Danielou’s thesis, without his other hypotheses, that are robust, and very hard to reject. Viz., I cannot find any source for Jainism in Vedism. Impossible for me. In that sense, Danielou made official what was obvious all my life, in a state of contradictory confusion. It is an important clarification. Anyone who tries to get from Vedism to the Upanishads to Buddhism can easily end up horribly confused. Hindus ended up with the impudence to accuse Buddhists off being outsiders, or of distorting the tradition. In fact, Buddhism makes sense as a rebirth of Jainism, other things being equal. Its allergic refusal of Hindu extraneous elements was in fact an aspect of canonical tradition that knew nothing of Vedism.
The simplest perspective here wouldn’t even need an idea of ‘primordial Shaivism’, but simply refers to an Indic stream of religion going back very early, and including sources of yoga/tantra, Jainism, etc…
As to Rajneesh, I am not one of his followers, and merely recall an one-liner from him from somewhere, speaking as a Jain by birth scoffing at the Hindutva attempts to rewrite the AIT as OIT. The charge of colonialism produced derision in him and others. He was too busy colonializing Western seekers to care less. In general he represents the spontaneous revival of Shaivite elements in India, over and over again, and his indifference to Hinduism made his teaching highly popular in the West, and in India also. I would not be so certain of who he was based on the journalism over him in the West. In any case, his remarks here were en passant, and never developed. I merely indicate the way a person from a Jain background thought less of Hinduism than of Aryan barbarians.
I am interested that OIT predates the AIT, as noted. But then, so what? Again, I need make no hard assumptions about AIT either, but I do have a problem with Vedic Sanskrit in the Neolithic. That won’t work.
As to Gurdjieff, I referred to the blog The Gurdjieff Con, a critique of that fellow. Actually, Gurdjieff had a perspective not unlike Danielou’s. He also thought the traditions of esoteric spirituality went back thousands of years. But his statements are actually less reliable than even Danielou’s and make obvious errors, so, in any case, that doesn’t really concern us, save that he is perhaps in general correct that some things are very ancient indeed. Danielou is more honest, as a scholar, where Gurdjieff makes things up, outrageously, viz. the reference to a complete fiction, Ashieta Shiemash, then collated with Zoroaster, to say nothing of Nietzsche’s brand of the recycled zarathustras of the late nineteenth century, unspoken in the background, etc… In the same way he claims that ‘pre-sand Egypt’ was the source of his ‘fourth way’, a typically preposterous, if possibly true, claim, for which he presents no evidence. Nothing Gurdjieff claims is thus reliable.
Danielou, as far as I know, was respectful of scholarly honesty.
The question of Nietzsch is highly complex, and not irrelevant to this issue, since he is the source, often invisible, of much Aryan supremacy nonsense, as this is mixed with Darwinian-style eugenics, and the whole witches’ brew of the last century.
For a wild yet sober book (self-published), out of the mainline of Nietzsche research, which sanitizes Nietzsche, check out
Nietzsche, Prophet of Nazism: The Cult of the Superman–Unveiling the Nazi Secret Doctrine Abir Taha (cf. Amazon.com)
Read at your own risk, this highly toxic, but cogent underground perspective. Mostly it is quotes form Nietzshe’s writings, which many Nietzsche scholar assist readers in never reading. The confusion over the overman, eugenics, reductionism scientism mixed with Aryan nonsense (in part from Nietzsche’s studies of Archaic Greeks) as a ‘transvaluation of values’ etc etc lurks behind this AIT/OIT imbroglio.
Three cheers for the Dravidian fakirs.
In a message dated 6/27/2010 12:43:17 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
In email@example.com, nemonemini@… wrote:
> I have been lurking with respect to discussions here re: the vexed debate
> over AIT.
> If appropriate I might interject a short remark, and leave it at that.
> These discussions of AIT versus OIT are complex and confusing, but it
> should be noted that they
> are curiously recent in the sense that a generation ago many students of
> Indic religion cared little for the issues, and simply assumed varieties of
Ø conventional AIT to be the case. A figure such as the guru Rajneesh (significantly a Jain), as I recall,
> denounced as Hindutva nonsense the sudden appearance of these claims denying
> AIT. Thus the discussion transcends colonialist harangues, pro or anti.
“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”: Rajneesh has pontificated on nearly every subject under the sun, but was competent on only few, certainly not on the Aryan invasion debate. The OIT long predated the Hindutva movement, which initially swallowed the AIT for want of proper study of the topic. The very coiner of the term Hindutva as a political concept, VD Savarkar, assumed the AIT in his seminal book Hindutva, 1923. Hindu nationalist Congress leader BG Tilak notoriously theorized the “Arctic homeland”, a variation on the AIT. There need, after all, not be a conflict between nationalism and an invader history: the Rumanians celebrate Roman invader Trajanus; Pakistan celebrates Arab invader Md bin Qasim as the founder of Pakistan (i.e. Muslim India); the US celebrates Columbus and the Mayflower pilgrims. Among pre-independence Hindu nationalists, it was only the marginalized Sri Aurobindo who argued against the AIT. (His secretary was KD Sethna, cfr. supra.)
> Thus, also, that devoted student of Hinduism and convert thereto, Danielou,
> with his useful A History of India, from another generation, simply
> assumed AIT in some form and, issues of the Indus set to one side, since we can
> speak of the Indic tradition (primordial Shaivism with its tantra/yoga, and
> Jainism/proto-Jainism) going back to the near Neolithic, without deciding
Ø about Indus archaeology, which often muddles all arguments from all sides. In the process he also made clear that he thought Indic tradition preceded
> the Aryan entry on the scene, thus implying the problematical character of
> the Vedas in that regard. The exact language involved would not therefore
> have been Indo-European, presumably thus by speculative inference a Dravidian
Ø tradition being the case.
> I am not a ‘true
> believer’ in Danielou’s theories, and I appreciate the problematic character of
> his notions of an Indo-Mediterranean religio-cultural complex’. It is also
> true that much conventional, supposedly non-speculative scholarship on
> Hinduism, is even worse, and has gone completely astray, terminally muddled,
Ø although taken as normative. So, however shaky, Danielou’s unwitting commentary is a clue, no more, to
> a possible solution to at least some of the problems of the religious
> traditions here. Hinduism, if not a modern invention, and whatever it refers to,
> is a series of bum steers and gross historical fictions, so the sudden
> jolt given by Danielou can act like shock treatment, and reorient one’s
> thinking, hopefully without buying into all his other speculations.