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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Vedas and their Theology
By John William Draper (1811–1882)
 
From ‘History of the Intellectual Development of Europe’

THE VEDAS, which are the Hindu Scriptures, and of which there are four,—the Rig, Yagust, Saman, and Atharvan,—are asserted to have been revealed by Brahma. The fourth is however rejected by some authorities, and bears internal evidence of a later composition, at a time when hierarchical power had become greatly consolidated. These works are written in an obsolete Sanskrit, the parent of the more recent idiom. They constitute the basis of an extensive literature, Upavedas, Angas, etc., of connected works and commentaries. For the most part they consist of hymns suitable for public and private occasions, prayers, precepts, legends, and dogmas. The Rig, which is the oldest, is composed chiefly of hymns; the other three of liturgical formulas. They are of different periods and of various authorship, internal evidence seeming to indicate that if the later were composed by priests, the earlier were the production of military chieftains. They answer to a state of society advanced from the nomad to the municipal condition. They are based upon an acknowledgment of a universal Spirit, pervading all things. Of this God they therefore necessarily acknowledge the unity: “There is in truth but one Deity, the Supreme Spirit, the Lord of the universe, whose work is the universe.” “The God above all gods, who created the earth, the heavens, and waters.” The world, thus considered as an emanation of God, is therefore a part of him; it is kept in a visible state by his energy, and would instantly disappear if that energy were for a moment withdrawn. Even as it is, it is undergoing unceasing transformations, everything being in a transitory condition. The moment a given phase is reached, it is departed from, or ceases. In these perpetual movements the present can scarcely be said to have any existence, for as the Past is ending, the Future has begun.  1
  In such a never-ceasing career all material things are urged, their forms continually changing, and returning as it were through revolving cycles to similar states. For this reason it is that we may regard our earth and the various celestial bodies as having had a moment of birth, as having a time of continuance, in which they are passing onward to an inevitable destruction; and that after the lapse of countless ages similar progresses will be made, and similar series of events will occur again and again.  2
  But in this doctrine of universal transformation there is something more than appears at first. The theology of India is underlaid with Pantheism. “God is One because he is All.” The Vedas, in speaking of the relation of nature to God, make use of the expression that he is the material as well as the cause of the universe, “the clay as well as the Potter.” They convey the idea that while there is a pervading spirit existing everywhere, of the same nature as the soul of man, though differing from it infinitely in degree, visible nature is essentially and inseparably connected therewith; that as in man the body is perpetually undergoing changes, perpetually decaying and being renewed,—or as in the case of the whole human species, nations come into existence and pass away,—yet still there continues to exist what may be termed the universal human mind, so forever associated and forever connected are the material and the spiritual. And under this aspect we must contemplate the Supreme Being, not merely as a presiding intellect, but as illustrated by the parallel case of man, whose mental principle shows no tokens except through its connection with the body: so matter, or nature, or the visible universe, is to be looked upon as the corporeal manifestation of God.  3
 
 
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