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commentary of the Rig-Veda are published, the great task of translating, or, I should rather say, deciphering these ancient hymns still remains. There are, indeed, two translations; one by a Frenchman, the late M. Langlois, the other by the late Professor Wilson; but the former, though very ingenious, is mere guesswork; the latter is a reproduction, and not always a faithful reproduction, of the commentary of Sâyaņa, which I have published. It shows us how the ancient hymns were misunderstood by later grammarians, and theologians, and philosophers; but it does not attempt a critical restoration of the original sense of these simple and primitive hymns by the only process by which it can be effected, — by a comparison of every passage in which the same words occur. This process of deciphering is a slow one; yet, through the combined labors of various scholars, some progress has been made, and some insight been gained into the mythological phraseology of the Vedic Rishis. One thing we can clearly see, that the same position which Sanskrit, as the most primitive, most transparent of the Aryan dialects, holds in the science of language, the Veda and its most primitive, most transparent system of religion, will hold in the science of mythol. ogy. In the hymns of the Rig Veda we still have the last chapter of the real Theogony of the Aryan races : we just catch a glimpse, behind the scenes, of the agencies which were at work in producing that magnificent stage-effect witnessed in the drama of the Olympian gods. There, in the Veda, the Sphinx of Mythology still utters a few words to betray her own secret, and shows us that it is man, that it is human thought and human language combined, which natu
rally and inevitably produced that strange conglomerate of ancient fable which has perplexed all rational thinkers, from the days of Xenophanes to our own time.
I shall try to make my meaning clearer. You will see that a great point is gained in comparative my. thology if we succeed in discovering the original meaning of the names of the gods. If we knew, for instance, what Athene, or Here, or Apollo meant in Greek, we should have something firm to stand on or to start from, and be able to follow more securely the later development of these names.
We know, for instance, that Selene in Greek means moon, and knowing this, we at once understand the myths that she is the sister of Helios, for helios means sun; that she is the sister of Eos, for eos means dawn ;- and if another poet calls her the sister of Euryphaë'ssa, we are not much perplexed, for euryphaë'ssa, meaning wide-shining, can only be another name for the dawn. If she is represented with two horns, we at once remember the two horns of the moon; and if she is said to have become the mother of Erse by Zeus, we again perceive that erse means dew, and that to call Erse the daughter of Zeus and Selene was no more than if we, in our more matter-of-fact language, say that there is dew after a moonlight night.
Now one great advantage in the Veda is that many of the names of the gods are still intelligible, are used, in fact, not only as proper names, but likewise as appellative nouns. Agni, one of their principal gods, means clearly fire; it is used in that sense; it is the same word as the Latin ignis. Hence we have a right to explain his other naines, and all that is
told of him, as originally meant for fire. Váyu or Väta means clearly wind, Marut means storm, Parjanya rain, Savitar the sun, Ushas, as well as its synonyms, Urvasi, Ahana, Saranyû, means dawn; Prithivî earth, Dyâvâprithivî, heaven and earth. Other divine nanies in the Veda which are no longer used as appellatives, become easily intelligible, because they are used as synonyms of more intelligible names (such as urvaši for ushas), or because they receive light from other languages, such as Varuna, clearly the same word as the Greek ouranós, and meaning originally the sky.
Another advantage which the Veda offers is this, that in its numerous hymns we can still watch the gradual growth of the gods, the slow transition of appellatives into proper names, the first tentative steps towards personification. The Vedic Pantheon is held together by the loosest ties of family relationship; nor is there as yet any settled supremacy like that of Zeus among the gods of Homer. Every god is conceived as supreme, or at least as inferior to no other god, at the time that he is praised or invoked by the Vedic poets; and the feeling that the various deities are but different names, different conceptions of that Incomprehensible Being which no thought can reach, and no language express, is not yet quite extinct in the minds of some of the more thoughtful Rishis.
JUPITER, THE SUPREME ARYAN GOD.
THERE are few mistakes so widely spread and so firmly established as that which makes us confound the religion and the mythology of the ancient nations of the world. How mythology arises, necessarily and naturally, I tried to explain in my former Lectures, and we saw that, as an affection or disorder of language, mythology may infect every part of the intellectual life of man. True it is that no ideas are more liable to mythological disease than religious ideas, because they transcend those regions of our experience within which language has its natural origin, and must therefore, according to their very nature, be satisfied with metaphorical expressions. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man.1 Yet even the religions of the ancient nations are by no means inevitably and altogether mythological. On the contrary, as a diseased frame presupposes a healthy frame, so a mythological religion presupposes, I believe, a healthy religion. Before the Greeks could call the sky, or the sun, or the moon gods, it was absolutely necessary that they should have framed to themselves some idea of the godhead. We cannot speak of King Solomon unless we first know
11 Cor. ii. 9. Is. lxiv. 4.
what, in a general way, is meant by King, nor could a Greek speak of gods in the plural before he had realized, in some way or other, the general predicate of the godbead. Idolatry arises naturally when peo
“ The sun is god,” i. e. when they apply the predicate god to that which has no claim to it. But the more interesting point is to find out what the ancients meant to predicate when they called the sun or the moon gods; and until we have a clear conception of this, we shall never enter into the true spirit of their religion.
It is strange, however, that, while we have endless books on the mythology of the Greeks and Romans, we have hardly any on their religion, and most people have brought themselves to imagine that what we call religion, - our trust in an all-wise, all-powerful, eternal Being, the Ruler of the world, whom we approach in prayer and meditation, to whom we commit all our cares, and whose presence we feel not only in the outward world, but also in the warning voice within our hearts, that all this was unknown to the heathen world, and that their religion consisted simply in the fables of Jupiter and Juno, of Apollo and Minerva, of Venus and Bacchus. Yet this is not so. Mythology has encroached on ancient religion, it has at some times wellnigh choked its very life; yet through the rank and poisonous vegetation of mythic phraseology we may always catch a glimpse of that original stem round which it creeps and winds itself, and without which it could not enjoy even that parasitical existence which has been mistaken for independent vitality.
A few quotations will explain what I mean by