Monday, July 12, 2010

Charvaka - iii

I came across a good deal of information about the Charvakas in Naturalistic Tradition in Indian Thought by Dale Maurice Reipe. (Overheard about it at Vidya's blog).

Interesting point is the comparison between Indian and Greek traditions. All I can say is, the connection can be found in the spread of Y-Haplogroup J2a.

I suppose the Atharva Veda, the fourth Veda predates Charvakas (around 500 BC?). However, only three Vedas are mentioned in Charvaka rebuttals. I suppose those are Rig, Yajur and Sama.

17 comments:

Maju said...

Why J2a and not J2 in general. J2b is also shared by South Asians and Europeans, right?

manju said...

J2b-s spread across Dravidian castes and tribes make that less likely. Also, Brahmin and Dalit differentiation is only observed in J2a in North India(South India probably had older presence of J2a). In my opinion, the Charvaka families most likely might have merged with Brahmins, which as I could see it was the most natural thing for those families.

Maju said...

NVM, I thought it was a philosophical current, not a "family".

manju said...

In Indian tradition only Buddhists and Jains had education system where celibate pupils learnt knowledge. Vedic tradition transferred knowledge in hereditary fashion. Considering that there were no Charvaka schools, I would think Charvaka school of thought for almost 2000 years must have passed thro' family tradition typical of Brahmins.

bachodi said...

Thanks for sharing,.. I was looking for some information him.

Maju said...

What I'm reading of Carvakas may mean influence by Hellenistic expansion in the context of the Maurya illustrated period and later Indo-Greek realms, etc.

All this should be a lot more recent than any J2a expansion, which surely happened in the Neolithic.

manju said...

You are welcome, Bachodi!

Maju:
I suppose you didn't read the material that I have linked. The author examines the claim of Hellenic influence in India and rejects it since Charvaka thoughts clearly predates that of Greece. As I have mentioned in one of the old posts on Charvaka, had it been Greek influence they would have been called 'Yavana'. By the time of Mauryas Greeks were clearly called as 'Yavana' (Ionian).

Now, if anything it can only be Indian influence in Greece considering the presenc of wandering ascetics (Sramanas), Brahmins and Merchants in Greek realms.

Maju said...

Sorry, I can't read but short fragments. It says: "No preview available. Buy this book".

Maybe it's different if you access from India, as sometimes sites have different policies for different World regions or countries.

Anyhow, I take your word for it.

manju said...

Yeah, I have observed these access restrictions in some other cases.

Well, I don't talk about influence of Indians on Greeks or Greeks on Indians. I mentioned about J2a spread precisely for that reason.

I believe Sumerian priestly class might have taken refuge both in India and Greece as their region was being occupied by Semites.

Maju said...

"I believe Sumerian priestly class might have taken refuge both in India and Greece as their region was being occupied by Semites".

I would not think of Sumerian priests as "rationalists", sincerely. And anyhow I don't see why would they flee, much less to Greece, which is "in the wrong direction" across the mountains. Philosophy in Greece was not a priestly affair anyhow but, you know, the pass-time of illustrated secular citizens.

I know that there's a tentative Sumer-IVC association and for sure an economic one but I know of no such link with Greece at any time.

Greek philosophy stemmed from material progress and literacy (a borrowing from Phoenicians) and I'd say very specially from the lack of a centralized authority that could impose widespread censorship and morals all around (much the same as happened with European renaissance/illustration later on). It does not seem to have any particular religious or cultural root; though it was a midpoint between barbarism and civilization.

Maybe a similar situation (mutatis mutandi) happened in some parts of India at various times. I understand that one of the characteristics of the history of India is the lack of a centralized authority most of the time and we can also consider the issue of being borderline between free-thinking barbarism and West Asian civilization.

However if you want to insist in exploring a religious source for "atheism", what about Megalithism? That's a likely religious element that did migrate from West to East in a most mysterious manner and although it did not have a meaningful presence in Greece as such (there seems to be a connection in Asia Minor though) one can imagine to have something to do with rationalism in the aspects of astronomy and architecture (lintels, pulleys, cranes).

The other religious element that Indians and Greeks share is Indoeuropean religion...

manju said...

Indo-European religion was basically Shamanic. However, priest centric religion was an innovation in West Asia. The Vedas show bardic type worship of IE gods but in a tradition similar to priestly Sumer/Mesopotamia. In contrast, until Christianity took over IE religions in Europe was basically Shamanic bardic(witches, wizards, medicinal men).

If you observe the evolution of religious aspect of the Vedic religion to the present day caste system, you can see how IE gods have become minor and in fact laughing stock under the greater gods like Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

I mean in Greek mythology Zeus could still commit all kinds of sexual indiscretion and remain the ultimate power. However, Indra after committing sexual indiscretion had to take the help of one of the trinities to save his skin from the angry ascetics/sages.

It should be noted here that Brahmins trace their lineages to some of powerful sages which I suppose was very close to Sumerian tradition of priest lineages(also later copied by the Jewish priests).

The idea of priest and his god I suppose was more evolved and the beginning of the quest of knowledge unlike the Shamanic traditions which were basically fear cults and I believe it's possible that there were some schools of thoughts that were completely atheistic even at the dawn of the civilization. Therefore, more than priestly class there was a creation of scholarly class in Sumerian civilization. I think this view is very important and should not be overlooked.

In Greek civilization, somehow I suppose, the native IE shamanic traditions along with the supremacy of IE ruling classes survived. I mean if we go by Norse mythology the classes were, chieftains (Rajanya), common people (Vaisya) and serfs (Sudra) but no priests (Brahmana).In India, somehow priests took up higher position (except Sri Lanka...which soon turned into a Buddhist country).

Most likely migrating scholarly class merged with Greek society as an administrative part. However, in India they might have merged with IE and Dravidian Shamans to form a priestly class. Probably, they already had a foothold in IVC as a priestly class and consolidated their position later. Brahmin influence went down in certain regions of India only after the emergence of Islam as Muslims thought their religion was superior. All the previous invasions didn't affect Brahmin well being as most of them assimilated into Indian culture. Or Brahmins could assimilate them into their culture (beginning with IEs).

Considering the foundation of Indian and Greek thoughts was from the same set of people belonging to a particular region, the later development in different regions might have taken similar path. I mean so many parallels could be seen here. Of course, there could be minor Hellenic influence in India as some of the scholars among the invading Greeks assimilated with Brahmins.

Maju said...

"In contrast, until Christianity took over IE religions in Europe was basically Shamanic bardic(witches, wizards, medicinal men)".

I don't think that is a sustainable claim,no matter how you look at it. Medicine was separated from religion and priests officiated national cults in state temples in ceremonies that are surely not essentially different from those of other religions such as the Judaic or Indian ones.

The difference was that they did not have such elaborated theologies of salvation/karma... but actually some mysteric traditions, the cult of Dionysos in particular, did (the concept of resurrection is older in Ta Theia than in Judaism, though Egyptians were first almost for sure in those matters).

I don't think that even druidism can be said to be shamanic and in any case it's not part of the IE religion but a borrowing from pre-Celtic Britons. Some non-druidistic Celts like the Vaccei were accused by Roman cartographers of "atheism" in fact.

Said, that the more tribal the society, the more "shamanic" elements, so to say, though always with the caveat that it's not at all like Siberian shamanism but more like Dionysian "witchcraft" and multiethnic instances of prophetic trance.

What's so peculiar about Sumerian priests? The only thing I can imagine is that religion and state were more tightly fused in Sumer, with emphasis in submission of the people to the gods, that is: the state. That they did not seem able to write a historical chronicle without making it mthological (cities names changed by those of their protector deities and such).

I don't think there's anything rationalist nor atheist about that and, considering that Sumerian religion concepts are substrate to Judaism, Christianity and Islam probably, I see nothing rationalist nor agnostic about it.

Though maybe I'm missing something.

"If you observe the evolution of religious aspect of the Vedic religion to the present day caste system, you can see how IE gods have become minor and in fact laughing stock under the greater gods like Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva".

I am aware of it (though Vishnu seems to be a Vedic deity anyhow and Brahma is a mere theological concept with nearly no organized religion around it). This means, I understand, that the pre-IE religious substrate counter-stroke and recycled the Vedic religion into something else. Essentially Vishnu seems to be perpetuating through transformation the IE heroic religion, while its more dualistic counterpart, Shiva-Shakti, actually represents the pre-IE religion reinstated to some extent.

...

Maju said...

...

"I mean in Greek mythology Zeus could still commit all kinds of sexual indiscretion and remain the ultimate power. However, Indra after committing sexual indiscretion had to take the help of one of the trinities to save his skin from the angry ascetics/sages".

And? That only means that the power of Zeus was more consolidated since the beginning and that Europeans saw sex in a more natural light. Sexual repression was restricted to women... and goddesses too. Very much IE but hardly shamanic.

"It should be noted here that Brahmins trace their lineages to some of powerful sages which I suppose was very close to Sumerian tradition of priest lineages(also later copied by the Jewish priests)".

Fair enough. It's very possible. Certainly a non-IE thing. But how does this relate to rationalism?

"Therefore, more than priestly class there was a creation of scholarly class in Sumerian civilization. I think this view is very important and should not be overlooked".

The pragmatic Greco-Phoenician in me says: woot?

Not really believable. Priests have concentrated knowledge in some stages but, as the religious bureaucracy they are, they have more mutilated than preserved or expanded science generally.

Science, philosophy, is non-religious, even anti-religious to a large extent. It thrives outside of religion, at its margins, where religion is weak or at least quite restricted to a mostly ceremonial role.

There are a few religious scientists in history but they are the exception, not the rule. Essentially what philosophy does is to say: "ok that's the myth [thread], let's find the truth behind it" or "outside it". That's not acceptable to the religious establishment... unless the role religion itself is already somewhat restricted and society acknowledges the limitations of religious, mythological thought.

"I mean if we go by Norse mythology the classes were, chieftains (Rajanya), common people (Vaisya) and serfs (Sudra) but no priests (Brahmana)".

Yes, to some extent yes. However look at Celtic druidism, which had a whole elaborate caste of priests (druids, bards, etc.). I understand this happened because they adopted pre-IE religious elements upon invading Britain. These elements possibly existed or evolved from Megalithism (or is it a Danubian element?) in the European case... but maybe not in India, where they rather seem to be IVC-related.

Another, often overlooked, place with a strong priestly caste was ancient Egypt (and of course Hebrews too). Egypt ("the most religious nation on Earth", according to the ancients) was also the only other place I know of where eating cow was religiously and legally forbidden (up to the point they did not buy menagerie from the "impure" Greeks).

"Most likely migrating scholarly class merged with Greek society as an administrative part".

I don't see any factual element that might support this claim. Greek society was almost only Greek.

"Of course, there could be minor Hellenic influence in India as some of the scholars among the invading Greeks assimilated with Brahmins".

I don't know what to say, really. I'd be more inclined to think that, after all, rationalist thought is generically human and may have nothing (or not too much) to do with Greeks. Just that, as soon as the theocratic grip loosens, the "atheists" start showing around.

But I could not read the book. Any chance that the rationalist thought of the Charvaka could be a totally (or almost totally) independent Indian development after all?

manju said...

Your temple priests more likely are Greeks and Romans. They have more like an oracle tradition which I believe is diluted Shamanism by including deity worship ideas. In India you could see the opposite in South (Kerala). Here you can see diluted priesthood by including Shamanic ideas. The priest before worshiping deity is said to be possessed by the deity. Thus as I said before, somehow southern Europe retained IE political and religious supremancy even though it had similar influence from West Asia(J2a) and North Africa (E1b1b). Of course, until Christianity.

I'm more interested in relatively uninfluenced northern European worship.

Druidism is a red-herring or an Atlantis in this. We should not include it in our discussion. We know about Indians, about Greeks, about Sumerians and about northern Europeans because not only other people have written about them but they themselves have left enough evidences. However, Druidism has been completely constructed from others writings. I am surprised to see it's even compared to four fold division of India when in reality it was clearly given that Druids weren't a hereditary class (thus no class at all in those days).

I don't think there's anything rationalist nor atheist about that and, considering that Sumerian religion concepts are substrate to Judaism, Christianity and Islam probably, I see nothing rationalist nor agnostic about it.
Even in India rationalism was restricted to only certain certain pockets. It is not uniformly spread. Therefore, I believe the knowledge had become monopoly of certain families.

I have read that manuscripts of Atharva Veda were obtained from certain Brahmins who themselves were completely illiterate (But preserved those scriptures). We can only imagine about families, small in number and falling hard times, inheriting secular knowledge. The reason we have lost all Charvaka manuscripts can only be because it was the preserve of few families.

manju said...

I have come across Hera's wrath and jealousy about Zeus's dalliances. However, hardly have I come across such stories about Shachi. Curiously, Shachi is the goddess of wrath and jealousy (even though she appears to be submissive wife ..true to misogynistic priest philosophy).

Any chance that the rationalist thought of the Charvaka could be a totally (or almost totally) independent Indian development after all?

I suppose that's what the book is hinting at. But I find it difficult believe. How come so many parallels between these India and Greece around the same time? Probably, in certain ares (Certain sections of Astrology and Music ... which might be due knowledge transfer after Greek invasions) this could be due to cultural mixing but the rest I suppose common beginning of certain groups.

eg. IE language : R1a1 IEs from Central Asia/Eastern Europe
Priesthood/philosophy/mathematics/rationalism : J2a people from Sumeria/Mesopotamian region

manju said...

Priests have concentrated knowledge in some stages but, as the religious bureaucracy they are, they have more mutilated than preserved or expanded science generally.

There was hierarchy among Brahmins in the past. The top position was held by scholars and administrators. The priests were at the bottom. Among priests deity priests ( and I suppose sorcerers who were the real power behind Brahmin dominance on masses as anybody would say) were higher and funeral priests were at the bottom (ref: Anthropologist M N Srinivas's article about 'dominant castes' I suppose). It was not uncommon for priests to be uneducated.

Maju said...

I can't agree, I think, with your very wide concept of "shamanism". All cultures and religions have trance of some sort, be it by praying, fasting, drug ingestion, music, incense, physical mortification or which is probably the most distinct of all: yoga. All aim to achieve trance and connection with the "divine" or "spiritual" planes.

There's if you wish a contradiction between mere formal ritualism and this deeper mysticism (order and chaos) but religion without the latter is a mere hollow shell. Hence all religions tolerate and accept, if not actively promote, mysticism, trance.

"I'm more interested in relatively uninfluenced northern European worship".

Why would it be less influenced? Influenced by what: Mesopotamian doctrines?

Whatever the case trance, "witchery" and oracles also existed in Northern Europe. How could it be otherwise being a rural, underdeveloped, area?

On the contrary I think that religion was more formal and less mystic in the civilized south, because the dominance of formal ritualism, which can be controlled better by the priestly and oligarchic elites, is typical of civilization.

"... it was clearly given that Druids weren't a hereditary class (thus no class at all in those days)".

Regardless of whether Druidism is relevant or not, I must insist that classes are not hereditary, castes are. European Medieval nobility was not a class but a caste, for instance. Bourgeoisie instead is a class because it's open to new members and there's no guarantee of inheritance of status.

"The reason we have lost all Charvaka manuscripts can only be because it was the preserve of few families".

Or maybe because it was a particularly heretical doctrine that was not tolerated?

"eg. IE language : R1a1 IEs from Central Asia/Eastern Europe"

But now we know that we cannot anymore make such simplistic parallel, when it seems that R1a (R1a1?) arose in South Asia. That's a reason I have switched to think that its main expansion into Central Asia and Eastern Europe correlates with some Paleolithic or at most Early Neolithic, regardless that IE migrations and invasions also spread it secondarily (particularly some sublineages like R1a1a7 - the whole structure is yet to be clarified).

At this moment I don't think anymore that the bulk of South Asian R1a1 ever moved from the subcontinent. It needs clarification but I'm each day more inclined to understand it this way, partly because otherwise it'd imply a massive demic flow of nomads into farmer territory that I find most unlikely to believe. Pakistan and North India are not like Poland or Russia or Central Asia: the population densities when IEs arrived must have been very high, while the horse-riding nomads could never be many.

"Priesthood/philosophy/mathematics/rationalism : J2a people from Sumeria/Mesopotamian region".

Priesthood possibly, along with the so-called "Asian production mode" (state-planned economy). The rest I have no reason to believe it's the case, regardless that West Asia acted indeed at different times as venue for the transmission of knowledge and ideas.

Besides, Sumerians were not that influential, were they?