Random Quote #64 topic: voltaire-dict, Philosophical Dictionary by Voltaire, 1694-1778


Is it not probable that the Brahmins were the first legislators of the
earth, the first philosophers, the first theologians?

Do not the few monuments of ancient history which remain to us form a
great presumption in their favour, since the first Greek philosophers
went to them to learn mathematics, and since the most ancient
curiosities collected by the emperors of China are all Indian?

We will speak elsewhere of the "Shasta"; it is the first book of
theology of the Brahmins, written about fifteen hundred years before
their "Veidam," and anterior to all the other books.

Their annals make no mention of any war undertaken by them at any time.
The words for _arms_, to _kill_, to _maim_, are not to be found either
in the fragments of the "Shasta" which we have, or in the "Ezourveidam,"
or in the "Cormoveidam." I can at least give the assurance that I did
not see them in these last two collections: and what is still more
singular is that the "Shasta" which speaks of a conspiracy in heaven,
makes no mention of any war in the great peninsula enclosed between the
Indus and the Ganges.

The Hebrews, who were known so late, never name the Brahmins; they had
no knowledge of India until after the conquests of Alexander, and their
settling in Egypt, of which they had said so much evil. The name of
India is to be found only in the Book of Esther, and in that of Job
which was not Hebrew. One remarks a singular contrast between the sacred
books of the Hebrews, and those of the Indians. The Indian books
announce only peace and gentleness; they forbid the killing of animals:
the Hebrew books speak only of killing, of the massacre of men and
beasts; everything is slaughtered in the name of the Lord; it is quite
another order of things.

It is incontestably from the Brahmins that we hold the idea of the fall
of the celestial beings in revolt against the Sovereign of nature; and
it is from there probably that the Greeks drew the fable of the Titans.
It is there also that the Jews at last took the idea of the revolt of
Lucifer, in the first century of our era.

How could these Indians suppose a revolt in heaven without having seen
one on earth? Such a jump from human nature to divine nature is barely
conceivable. Usually one goes from known to unknown.

One does not imagine a war of giants until one has seen some men more
robust than the others tyrannize over their fellows. The first Brahmins
must either have experienced violent discords, or at least have seen
them in heaven.

It is a very astonishing phenomenon for a society of men who have never
made war to have invented a species of war made in the imaginary spaces,
or in a globe distant from ours, or in what is called the "firmament,"
the "empyrean." But it must be carefully observed that in this revolt of
celestial beings against their Sovereign no blows were struck, no
celestial blood flowed, no mountains hurled at the head, no angels cut
in two, as in Milton's sublime and grotesque poem.

According to the "Shasta," it is only a formal disobedience to the
orders of the Most High, a cabal which God punishes by relegating the
rebellious angels to a vast place of shadows called "Ondera" during the
period of an entire mononthour. A mononthour is four hundred and
twenty-six millions of our years. But God deigned to pardon the guilty
after five thousand years, and their ondera was only a purgatory.

He made "Mhurd" of them, men, and placed them in our globe on condition
that they should not eat animals, and that they should not copulate with
the males of their new species, under pain of returning to ondera.

Those are the principal articles of the Brahmins' faith, which have
lasted without interruption from immemorial times right to our day: it
seems strange to us that among them it should be as grave a sin to eat a
chicken as to commit sodomy.

This is only a small part of the ancient cosmogony of the Brahmins.
Their rites, their pagodas, prove that among them everything was
allegorical; they still represent virtue beneath the emblem of a woman
who has ten arms, and who combats ten mortal sins represented by
monsters. Our missionaries have not failed to take this image of virtue
for that of the devil, and to assure us that the devil is worshipped in
India. We have never been among these people but to enrich ourselves and
to calumniate them.

Really we have forgotten a very essential thing in this little article
on the Brahmins; it is that their sacred books are filled with
contradictions. But the people do not know of them, and the doctors have
solutions ready, figurative meanings, allegories, symbols, express
declarations of Birma, Brahma and Vitsnou, which should close the mouths
of all who reason.


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