The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

Postby admin » Sun Dec 27, 2020 2:18 am

The Birth of Orientalism
by Urs App
© 2010 University of Pennsylvania Press

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To my sensei YANAGIDA Seizan (1922-2005)
Fact is Fiction -- And Fiction Is Fact


-- Orientalism, by Edward W. Said

-- Claiming India: French Scholars and the Preoccupation With India During the Nineteenth Century, by Jyoti Mohan

--Essays on the Religion and Philosophy of the Hindus, by Henry Thomas Colebrooke, Esq. (1858)

-- The History of British India, vol. I, by James Mill

-- The History of British India, vol. II, by James Mill

-- The History of British India, vol. III, by James Mill

-- Interesting Historical Events, Relative to the Provinces of Bengal, and the Empire of Indostan. With a Seasonable Hint and Persuasive to the Honourable The Court of Directors of the East India Company. As Also The Mythology and Cosmogony, Facts and Festivals of the Gentoo's, followers of the Shastah. And a Dissertation on the Metempsychosis, commonly, though erroneously, called the Pythagorean Doctrine. Part II. By J.Z. Holwell, Esq.

-- Ezourvedam: A French Veda of the Eighteenth Century, Edited with an Introduction by Ludo Rocher

-- History of Hindostan; From the Earliest Account of Time, To the Death of Akbar; Translated From the Persian of Mahummud Casim Ferishta of Delhi: Together With a Dissertation Concerning the Religion and Philosophy of the Brahmins; With an Appendix, Containing the History of the Mogul Empire, From Its Decline in the Reign of Mahummud Shaw, to the Present Times, by Alexander Dow.

-- Voltaire Fragments on India, Translated by Freda Bedi, B.A. Hons. (Oxon.)

-- Natural Theology and Natural Religion, by Andrew Chignell & Derk Pereboom

-- India Tracts, by Mr. J. Z. Holwell, and Friends.

-- The Black Hole -- The Question of Holwell's Veracity, by J. H. Little, Bengal, Past & Present, Journal of the Calcutta Historical Society, Vol. XI, Part 1, July-Sept., 1915

-- Full Proceedings of the Black Hole Debate, Bengal, Past & Present, Journal of the Calcutta Historical Society, Vol. XII. Jan – June, 1916


Contents:

Preface
Introduction
Chapter 1. Voltaire's Veda
Chapter 2. Ziegenbalg's and La Croze's Discoveries
Chapter 3. Diderot's Buddhist Brahmins
Chapter 4. De Guignes's Chinese Vedas
Chapter 5. Ramsay's Ur-Tradition
Chapter 6. Holwell's Religion of Paradise
Chapter 7. Anquetil-Duperron's Search for the True Vedas
Chapter 8. Volney's Revolutions
Synoptic List of Protagonists
Notes
Bibliography
Index
Figures and Tables
Figures
o 1. Inscriptions, Jesuit residence and church in Zhaoqing, 1584
o 2. Vishnu recovers the Veda from the sea
o 3. Schematic view of Ziegenbalg's classification of religions
o 4. Relics of Saint Josaphat (St. Andrieskerk, Antwerp)
o 5. Kircher's Indo-Japanese divinities
o 6. The earth formation cycle of Burnet (1684)
o 7. Diagram of Engelbert Kaempfer's view of Asian religions
o 8. De Guignes's hieroglyphs and Chinese characters
o 9. Stemma of major Forty-Two Sections Sutra editions
o 10. Bodhidharma crossing the sea on a reed
o 11. Adam's skull underneath the cross
o 12. Newton's map of Solomon's temple
o 13. Yijing trigram charts by Premare
o 14. Paradise near India on Osma world map
o 15. Chapter themes of Holwell's Shastah translation
o 16. Holwell's Shastah in review and published versions
o 17. Genesis of Holwell's Chartah Bhade Shastah of Bramah
o 18. Christianity's transmission line in Eusebius of Caesarea
o 19. Stages of Ezour-vedam creation and dissemination
o 20. Handwriting samples of Deshauterayes
Tables
o 1. Edict of the Duke of Yamaguchi
o 2. Voltaire's Essai sur les moeurs and Asian religions
o 3. Voltaire's edition of Ezour-vedam creation account
o 4. First section of Holwell's Shastah
o 5. Chinese sects in Visdelou's text and Le Gobien's
o 6. Brahmans in Visdelou's text and Le Gobien's
o 7. Section of de Guignes's Forty-Two Sections Sutra translation
o 8. Beginning of de Guignes's Forty-Two Sections Sutra preface
o 9. Inner and outer doctrines according to de Guignes
o 10. Text percentages in Holwell's translations per theme
o 11. Do Couto's Vedas and Holwell's sacred scriptures of India
o 12. Contents of do Couto's first Veda and first book of Holwell's Shastah
o 13. Protagonists of Pondicherry Vedas and transmission lines
o 14. Buddhism in Ezour-vedam and Pons's letter
o 15. Periodization of career of Pondicherry Vedas
o 16. Father Coeurdoux's truthfulness confirmed
o 17. Anquetil's draft translation of Oupnek'hat preface
o 18. Phases in genesis of Volney's Ruins
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Re: The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

Postby admin » Sun Dec 27, 2020 2:51 am

Part 1 of 2

Preface

"Orientalism" has been a buzzword since Edward Said's eponymous book of 1978. Critics have pointed out that Said's "Orient" is focused on the Arab world and excludes most of what Westerners mean by the word. A more recent history of Orientalism, Robert Irwin's For Lust of Knowing, criticizes Said's narrow view of orientalists as "those who travelled, studied or wrote about the Arab world" (2006:294) but goes on to use the same "somewhat arbitrary delimitation of the subject matter" (p. 6), which leaves out India, China, Japan, Tibet, Central Asia, North Asia, and Southeast Asia -- in other words, most of what we mean by Asia and more than half of humankind.

The term "Orientalism" also has many other connotations, for example, in the context of "oriental" fashions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries or the imitation of oriental styles in garden architecture and painting. The Orientalism whose birth process is examined in this book is modern Orientalism, that is, the secular, institutionalized study of the Orient by specialists capable of understanding oriental languages and handling primary-source material. Its genesis -- and, more generally, the history of premodern Europe's encounter with Asia -- is still barely known. The present book does not claim to furnish a history of Orientalism as a whole. Its much more modest aim is to elucidate through relatively extensive case studies a crucial phase of the European encounter with Asia: the century of Enlightenment. The focus is on the European discovery of the regions east of Said's and Irwin's "Orient," in particular on Europe's discovery of non-Islamic Asian religions. The facets of Asian religions treated are, needless to say, determined by the interests of the protagonists of the included case studies. Unlike Immanuel Kant (App 2008a), they showed little interest in Tibetan religion; hence there is little discussion of it in this book.

Why the focus on religion? Because the role of colonialism (and generally of economic and political interests) in the birth of Orientalism dwindles to insignificance compared to the role of religion.
[A] false dichotomy) is a logical fallacy, which occurs when a limited number of options are incorrectly presented as being mutually exclusive to one another.

-- False Dilemmas and False Dichotomies: What They Are and How to Respond to Them, by Effectiviology

Modern Orientalism is the successor of earlier forms of Orientalism involving the study of Asian languages and texts. Christian Europe had been wrestling with Islam for many centuries; from the sixteenth century many of its universities prided themselves on having an "orientalist" professor who specialized in Hebrew and other Bible-related languages such as Aramaic, Syriac, and sometimes even Arabic or Persian. Such premodern academic Orientalism was generally a handmaiden of Bible studies and theology -- which explains its almost exclusive focus on regions, languages, and religions that play a role in the Old and New Testaments. Studies of Oriental texts and languages beyond the "biblical" region usually -- though not exclusively -- occurred in the context of Christian missions.
This essay is about the letters of Jesuit missionaries about their missions in South India, compiled into the Lettres édifiantes et curieuses. The Lettres édifiantes represent the last attempt of men of the cloth to describe India, before the full-scale advent of Imperialism. More than offering a genuine description of south India per se, the Lettres were extensively quoted by other Europeans writing about India and therefore offered a uni-dimensional image of India to the west.

Examining the Lettres fulfils several important aims. Firstly, it fills a gap in the scholarship on pre-colonial India. Secondly, the work of missionaries becomes especially important for this intellectual history, because the aim of French missionaries in India by the late seventeenth-century was as much to record information as amateur scientists as it was to effect conversions to Christianity. The mission writings are representative of the earliest educated western descriptions of India. These early representations were considered so valuable that nineteenth-century works on India relied greatly on missionary accounts of the previous centuries. Citing Pierre Filliozat, William Halbfass in his essay on India and Europe noted:
The birth of Indology as a real science is the result of a collaboration between Indian traditional scholars and French missionaries. The first work that can be recognized as an achievement is a grammar of Sanskrit written in Latin, in about 1733. It is probably the work of J.F Pons, a Jesuit, who resided in India, especially at Chandranagore, Karaikal and Pondicherry, in the first decades of the eighteenth century.

By the seventeenth century, new geographical and scientific discoveries and incipient long distance trade between Europe and the East led to increased vigour in seeking information about new lands. As R. K. Kochhar points out, traders only explored the coastline of India. Geographical exploration was left to the Jesuits, who had the training, time, and opportunity to criss-cross the country. They also had the necessary discipline to make careful observations, record them faithfully, and transmit them regularly. In 1687 Louis XIV sent a mission of fourteen Jesuits to Siam. Designated ‘Mathematicians of the King’ they were to collect whatever information they could about the country and its culture in order to understand the peoples of India, Siam, China, and Japan. Expelled from Siam in 1688, only three Jesuits made it to the coast of India alive, including Pères Bouchet and Richaud. The observations of these missionaries along with others who were travelling in India at the time were recorded in the Lettres édifiantes et curieuses. As Kate Teltscher points out, between the years 1700 and 1750, Europe viewed India primarily through the medium of the letters of the French Jesuits.

It is necessary to point out here that the Lettres exhibit several common characteristics. This indicates that an institutional ‘Jesuit view’ of India was already in place by this time. The first feature of ‘missionary views’ in the Lettres was their anti-Muslim stance....

Another unanimous point lay in proclaiming the antiquity of Indian religion, and the essential unity of a religious power despite polytheism. By the time the Jesuits were writing their letters, the origin of Indian religion was a matter of great interest. Many of the Jesuits who travelled to India were intellectuals and men of science. Several of them were members of the Academia des Sciences and the tone of the Lettres they sent back grew increasingly more scientific as the eighteenth century progressed. The Lettres reflect this trend towards recording information about a country and its people not only for the purpose of conversion but also to further knowledge. For instance, Father Bouchet provided extensive comparisons between Hinduism and Judaism in a long letter. ‘In this present Letter I shall set before you, and I compare some Conjectures, which, I believe, will be thought important. The Design of them is to prove, that the Indians borrowed their Religion from the Books of Moses and the Prophets.’ Bouchet then proceeded to compare and analyze incidents and figures in Hindu religion and mythology to Noah, Abraham, Moses, and incidents in the Old Testament: ‘Among these Customs, which the Indians must necessarily have borrowed from the Jews, and still practice in this Country, I include their frequent Bathings, their Purifications, their extreme Aversion to dead Bodies, the bare touching of which, they imagine to be Pollution. Add to these, the different Order and distinction of Castes; and the inviolable Law, by which all Persons are commanded not to marry out of their own Caste or Tribe.’ He concludes:
I will here end the long Letter which I have taken the Liberty to address to your Lordship. I therein have given you an Account of such Particulars as were told to me by the Indian Nations, who, in all Probability, were antiently [sic for ‘anciently’] Christians, but fell back, many Ages since, into the Errors of Idolatry…You may perceive, that, at the same Time we win over these abandon’d Nations to Christ, we endeavour to be of some Service to the Literati in Europe, by our Discoveries in Countries with which they are not enough acquainted.
...
The fact that missionaries chose to single out Muslim rulers for criticism highlights the antipathy they had for Islam, which, according to Masuzawa stemmed from a long-standing anti-Semitic feeling in Europe....

Additionally, by the time the Lettres were being written, European economic interest in India was well advanced, and trading depots, factories and a flourishing trade in cotton, tobacco, tea, spices and other luxury goods. This was at the time when European traders were scrambling to secure their footing in India by establishing their own colonies. The Lettres were translated into English solely because they provided valuable information—geographical, social, political and religious—which helped English merchants in their dealings with the locals in the south of India. For their part, Jesuit missionaries could not have been unaware or even uninfluenced by the emerging theory that the European, or Christian culture to be more precise was a superior civilization that owed other, lesser civilizations the opportunity to develop through the mission civilisatrice. What is interesting to note in this transition is that the voice of the native was never heard. The Jesuits presented their own understanding of these customs and dismissed native explanations for their performance as proof of their irrationality and backwardness. While Jesuit understanding of native customs could very likely be coloured by Enlightenment discourses about individual rights, their refusal to accept anything other than a European moral compass was a new development of the colonial era. While Indian religion may have held a kernel of truth in origin, the Jesuits described contemporary Hindus as ‘idolaters’ who displayed their ignorance and backwardness in their stubborn adherence to superstitions and ritualistic beliefs....

According to the historian of science R. K. Kochhar, although the spread of Christian faith was the most important plan of the Jesuits, their activities had a scientific dimension about them, being the first European men of learning in India. Kochhar notes that Bouchet was the first person who, having travelled extensively in the southern part of India, was able to produce a reliable map of the peninsula, which the celebrated geographer D’Anville later used as blueprint for his maps of south India. The Jesuit mission sent by Louis XIV made the first attempt to study Indian languages. These men applied themselves with vigour to the study of the local languages in the south, particularly Tamil and Telegu that were spoken by the majority in the areas they served. Bouchet was fluent in Tamil and was considered a scholar by his fellow missionaries. They also applied themselves to the study of Sanskrit believing that this would give them a greater understanding of the foundation of Indian religion and cultural traditions....

In studying these languages and writing detailed accounts of their impressions of Indians they encountered, as well as producing rudimentary grammars, dictionaries and linguistic guides for other missionaries to use, the Jesuits provided an invaluable service to later generations of Indologists who used these works as their base to learn about India. For example, a signal service to the study of local languages was performed by Ariel, missionary in Pondicherry, who had compiled a Tamil grammar and collected a wealth of Tamil manuscripts and sent them to Paris where Charles d’Ochoa organized them. Père Coeurdoux was another missionary in Pondicherry who was in touch with Voltaire, Anquetil-Duperron, and other academics, providing them information about Indian culture, history, science, etc. In fact it is no coincidence that until the notion of the academic as a rational man of science became dominant in the Enlightenment, many scholars of India were deeply religious and began their studies on India as part of an effort to understand a ‘heathen’ religion or to trace the roots of pagan religion....

An examination of the writings of French missionaries who visited India points to the efforts of these men to create an image of India for their western readers. Since they comprised the majority of Europeans who ventured into the country (as opposed to traders who limited themselves to the ports) their writings were virtually the only firsthand accounts of interior regions in India to be available in Europe.
One must remember, however, that the Jesuits were not only steeped in their own religious fervour, but were also subject to the aggressive economic mission that Europe had launched in Asia, particularly in India and China. Jesuit missions to Asia were corollaries to the steady commercial traffic to the East by the late seventeenth-century and the Lettres reflect the need to document the different aspects of the country in order to provide information about the land and people. As outlined in the introduction to each volume of the Lettres, the Jesuits compiled information in order to better effect conversions in India, America and China. Yet the availability of their accounts to the literate public meant that secular writers (such as the philosophes, who cited the Lettres widely) as well as traders and colonialists used them as manuals of information. Many of the missionaries were directly connected to the colonial enterprise, since the French ships usually carried at least one missionary onboard when they voyaged to India. These men were to provide to the spiritual needs of the French, but once they had established their missions, they also actively converted the native population.


-- French Jesuits in India and the Lettres Edifiantes, by Jyoti Mohan

The very first Jesuit mission started in India with the arrival of Francis Xavier (1506–52) in 1542. This is one of the reasons why the first Jesuit historiographies (written exclusively by the Jesuits) were either written in or about India, a geographical term, today corresponding to South Asia, but which in the early modern period often encompassed the entire Asia or at least what the Portuguese, who were the patrons of the Jesuit missions, called Estado da Índia. As a new religious order specifically available for overseas missions by a special vow to the pope, the Jesuits were aware of the need to produce and show the results of their engagement and to publish them, as the use of the printing press was gaining ground, for their European sponsors and benefactors. Jesuit written reports and their correspondence provided materials for the first histories of the order. It is safe to say that the absence of the past stimulated the production of historiography. These histories were meant to be read widely and to edify European audience, and to entice new recruits and provide the template for the missionary action. They were both apologetic and factual, since each detail, whether about missionary successes, obstacles, or martyrdoms, was seen as a step forward to the ultimate triumph. This teleological coloring of the historiographical account was also closely interwoven with Catholic providentialism...

The earliest publications of missionary letters from India, such as the famous Copie d’une lettre missive envoyée des Indes (Paris, 1545) by Francis Xavier, can be taken as the first Jesuit historiographical effort at printing primary sources. Jesuit historiography, therefore, proleptically starts with the present, in which the historical actors were still alive and writing about themselves...The use of history was further divided, as was almost every Jesuit cultural practice, between internal and external. The history for the insiders, besides its apparent edifying and exhortative character, aimed primarily at the integration of an ever-growing and diversifying membership, and consequently at establishing an efficient conflict-solving strategies....

[ It] was during the generalship of Francisco de Borja (in office 1565–73) that Juan Alfonso de Polanco (1517–76), who organized the secretariat and centralized correspondence for the generals, wrote about the necessity to initiate a work on the history of the Society of Jesus: “Since some kind of history of the Society is desired from various parts, it would be appropriate if each college sent information (unless it is already sent) concerning its foundation as well as all remarkable events that happened until now, noting down times and places.”...

The New Historical Reports (Nova relatio historica or Newe Historische Relation) or New Indian Relations (Indische Newe Relation) signal a transitional genre between letter (a witness report) and history. The printing press was therefore accelerating the process of making recent present events into fixed past, controlled by the Jesuit imprimatur...

The manuscript that Joseph Wicki dated to around 1615 is interestingly not simply a history of the Society of Jesus but a combination of a geography and an ethnography of Kerala. It seems to have been written in the first place for the Portuguese colonial administration in order to provide strategic advice for a possible conquest of or at least an attack on one of the rich temples. It was also, of course, directed at the Jesuit missionaries, offering them information and instructions on how to respond to Indian idolatry and customs. These kinds of texts in which Jesuits used their history writing skills, although not necessarily for histories of the order, were many, and some were written in vernacular languages of the missions...

Jesuits were in the early modern period actors in and writers of their own and other peoples’ histories.
They were both local and global heroes for their Catholic audience...


It is clear that in the late seventeenth and the early eighteenth centuries, Jesuit historical writings and what can be called “historical sources” from India, take clearly national and defensive stands. With the arrival of the French Jesuits, sent by the French king and defying Portuguese padroado system, the letters written from the two missions in Tamil Nadu, an already famous Madurai mission under the padroado and the Mission du Carnate, a French mission on the east coast of India, were immediately published in a famous collection entitled Lettres édifiantes et curieuses ["LEC"]. While the publication of the Cartas in the early years of the Society of Jesuit had been haphazard, the French letters in this collection were from the start a self-conscious effort at promoting the new French missions. The letters were not simply reproduced, but retailored by the editors in Paris...

The publication of the LEC was a veritable machine de guerre of the French Jesuits against multiple enemies, both Catholic and Protestant. In addition to Portuguese ecclesiastical padroado, the French Jesuits were also involved in a bitter struggle with Capuchins and the Missions Etrangères de Paris (hereafter MEP) in Pondicherry, and with numerous theologians in Rome, with whom they exchanged “literary” punches concerning the Malabar rites controversy. As the Propaganda Fide strove to replace the padroado in the missionary field in Asia, in particular, the Jesuits found themselves in a difficult position. Inspired mostly by Jesuit strategies and “modernized” by the more extensive use of the printing press, they both cooperated and resisted Roman efforts to centralize missionary activities.

Another front opened by the LEC was to shut down reports by various and increasingly famous travelers in India, French libertines, and Protestants and coming from rival European nations such as Britain, the Netherlands, and Germany...

The Society of Jesus in France was bracing for a fight against very articulate enemies at home, some of whom came straight from the Jesuit colleges and who were eventually associated with the Enlightenment. Epistolary form [letters] in general became a preferred means of expression in the century, in which many certainties were shaken and self-apologetic histories were mistrusted. To win over French literary public, the missionaries in India produced erudite and descriptive texts and letters in which distant peoples and their histories were variously portrayed as congealed in ancient (European) time or as people who “forgot” (or were tricked into forgetting) their own Christian origins. Jesuit speculations about connections between Brahmans and Jews, and many other conjectures were incorporated into some of the most important Enlightenment projects such as Bernard and Picard’s, Cérémonies et coutumes...

[F]rom the early years of the eighteenth century, a rival Christian mission in India, that of the German Pietists from Halle in Tranquebar, a Danish enclave on the Coromandel Coast, started producing, partly in imitation of the Jesuits, their own missionary historiography...Veyssière de la Croze established a very long history of Christianity in India, preserved by the St. Thomas Christians in Kerala, while he portrayed the Jesuits and the Portuguese as those who came to pervert and corrupt the pristine message and this ancient community that had originally resembled a Protestant sect....

Along the large spectrum of the Jesuits’ published historical works, some ranged from melodramatic, romantic, and pious constructions and fictionalization rather than historical scholarship...

In addition to French Jesuit scholarship focusing mainly on South India, which was also their missionary base, in other parts of India Jesuit historians specialized in other missions and in other historical topics having to do with Indian history. Posted in Jesuit colleges turned universities, and later on in Jesuit research institutes established in Bombay, Calcutta, Goa, New Delhi, Pune, and many other places, the Jesuits ceased to be “missionaries” and some became professional historians. A Catalan, Enric Heras de Sicars (1888–1955), or under his better known anglicized name of Henry Heras, became a famous historian and archeologist, and professor of history at the St. Xavier's College in Bombay. The career of Henry Hosten (1873–1935), a Belgian Jesuit, stationed in Darjeeling, was equally rich, since he was another prolific historian and translator. His work still remains in good part unknown since his publications were scattered in different historical journals in British India, such as Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal. He was probably better known as a research source to various famous non-Jesuit British historians such as Edward MacLagan who wrote The Jesuits and the Great Mogul.

-- The Historiography of the Jesuit Missions in India (1500–1800), by Ines G. Županov

The eighteenth century brought a momentous change that opened the door to a new kind of Orientalism, less shackled by theology, Bible studies, the frontiers of the Middle East, and Europe's time-honored Judeo-Christian worldview. This new or "modern" Orientalism was prepared by a growing interest in India as the cradle of civilization, an interest that was promoted by Voltaire (1694-1778) in his quest to denigrate the Bible and destabilize Christianity (see Chapter I).
"If God did not exist, he would have to be invented. But all nature cries aloud that he does exist: that there is a supreme intelligence, an immense power, an admirable order, and everything teaches us our own dependence on it."...

"What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason."...

"The most beautiful of all emblems is that of God, whom Timaeus of Locris describes under the image of 'A circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.'"

-- Voltaire's Deism, by World Union of Deists: "God Gave Us Reason, Not Religion"


After the appearance of a number of purportedly very ancient texts of Indian origin in the 1760s and 1770s (Chapters 6 and 7), the idea of Indian origins of civilization gained ground. The research by early British Sanskritists in Calcutta and their articles in the Asiatick Researches added oil to the fire, and in 1795 Europe's first secular institution for the study of Oriental languages was established: the Ecole Speciale des Langues Orientales Vivantes in Paris. Its first director, Louis-Mathieu Langles (1763-1824), was inspired both by Voltaire's idea of Indian origins and the new approach of the British gentlemen scholars, and he regarded the Bible as an imitation of the far older Veda (see Chapter 8). With the support of Constantin-Francois Volney (1757-1820), the noted Orientalist and author of the law expropriating the French Catholic Church, the Ecole Speciale officially sought to divorce the study of Asia, its languages, and its textual heritage from the realm of theology and biblical studies. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, this school quickly became the Mecca of secular Orientalist philology, and further progress was made with such developments as the creation of the first European university chairs in Indology and Sinology (Paris, 1814). However, as the recent studies of Mangold (2004), Polaschegg (2005), and Rabault-Feuerhahn (2008) show for the case of Germany, the emancipation of Orientalism from theology and its establishment as a discipline in its own right required many decades. Indeed, the complicated relationship between "theology," "religious studies," and "Asian studies" in today's academic environment would indicate that this emancipation process is far from finished.

It is easily forgotten that even in the 1820s Europeans believed with few exceptions that the world is only a few thousand years old, that all the world's peoples can be traced back to Noah's Ark, and that Christianity is the fulfillment and goal of all religion. Even well-informed people like the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) had no doubt about this, as his lectures on the philosophy of history and on oriental religions show (App 2008a). Fundamental views about where we come from, where we stand, and where we are headed played an extraordinary role in the discovery of other cultures and religions. The notion of a soul that, once created, goes on living forever, or of a future state in which acts committed during life will be rewarded or punished, were incomparably more important in the European discovery of Asian religions than were commercial greed and imperialist ambitions.
[R]eligion was an important political aspect of French society and continued to remain so throughout many different historical periods, under many different governments. Starting from the period of pre-revolutionary France, or the Ancien Regime, religion began to take an active role politically. Catholic liturgical rites and ceremonies were especially significant for the use of religion for political power. Under what can be termed as “royal religion, “Catholicism assimilated with the French Monarchy along with its ceremonial practices. As a result, Catholicism gave spiritual validity to the French monarch through the use of liturgical rites during a king’s coronation. At the same time, the Catholic Church was granted status by the French government. The connection between Church and State was a long lasting political relationship as a result of it lasting several hundred years....

Ancien Regime

Many factors played into the growing unpopularity of the Catholic Church during the Ancien Regime. Within the Ancien Regime, the Catholic Church was a dominant political figure and the Catholic clergy were granted exemptions from paying many taxes to the French monarchy due to Catholicism’s position as the official religion of France. The Church was allowed to “collect its own tax, the tithe,” from the French population. As a result, the Catholic Church began to gain special political and social status in France in exchange for its support of the monarchy. With the privileges granted to the Catholic Church economically, its political power grew because of the taxation money allowing the Catholic Church 10% of France’s territory. This ownership of large amounts of French property also led to “seigneurial duties,” of overlooking property and those who reside on it for the Monarchy. Because of this, The French nobility and clergy became intertwined in association. Both groups began to hold equal wealth and status, while the highest positions within the Catholic Church were reserved for members of the nobility. This power structure became unpopular with the Third Estate, part of the French political voting system, which made up of 97% of the French population. The Third Estate was constantly outvoted by the Catholic Church and the nobility, which made up a small part of the population, but held the most voting power. The French public grew tired of the power that the Catholic Church was holding and the political corruption it created. Though supported by the nobility and monarchy, the general distaste for the Catholic Church’s political power over voting rights, land, and taxation became its downfall, making distaste for the church one of the key components for the advent of the French Revolution.

-- God and Revolution: Religion and Power from Pre-Revolutionary France to the Napoleonic Empire, by Alexa Weight

The Society of Foreign Missions of Paris (French: Société des Missions étrangères de Paris, short M.E.P.) is a Roman Catholic missionary organization. It is not a religious institute, but an organization of secular priests and lay persons dedicated to missionary work in foreign lands.

The Society of Foreign Missions of Paris was established 1658–63. In 1659, the instructions for the establishment of the Paris Foreign Missions Society were given by Rome's Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, and marked the creation of a missionary institution that did not depend on the control of the traditional missionary and colonial powers of Spain or Portugal....

The traditional colonial powers of Spain and Portugal had initially received from the Pope an exclusive agreement to evangelize conquered lands, a system known as Padroado Real in Portuguese and Patronato real in Spanish. After some time however, Rome grew dissatisfied with the Padroado system, due to its limited means, strong involvement with politics, and dependence on the kings of Spain and Portugal for any decision....

As early as 1622 Pope Gregory XV, wishing to take back control of the missionary efforts, had established the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, commonly known as Propaganda) with the objective of bringing to the Catholic faith non-Catholic Christians (Protestants, Oriental Christians), but also inhabitants of the American continent and Asia. In order to do so, Rome resurrected the system of Apostolic vicars, who would report directly to Rome in their missionary efforts, and would be responsible to create a native clergy.

On the field, violent conflicts would erupt between the Padroado and the Propaganda during the 17th and 18th centuries (when the first missionaries of the Paris Foreign Missions Society left for the Far East, the Portuguese had orders to capture them and send them to Lisbon). The creation of the Paris Foreign Missions Society was well-aligned with Rome's efforts to develop the role of the Propaganda.

The creation of the Paris Foreign Missions Society was initiated when the Jesuit Father Alexandre de Rhodes, back from Vietnam and asking for the dispatch of numerous missionaries to the Far East, obtained in 1650 an agreement by Pope Innocent X to send secular priests and bishops as missionaries. Alexandre de Rhodes received in Paris in 1653 a strong financial and organizational support from the Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement for the establishment of the Paris Foreign Missions Society....
The Company of the Blessed Sacrament (French: Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement), also sometimes referred to as the Company of the Most Blessed Sacrament, was a French Catholic secret society which included among its members many Catholic notables of the 17th century. It was responsible for much of the contribution of the Catholic Church in France to meeting the social needs of the day.

-- Company of the Blessed Sacrament, by Wikipedia

The Society itself ("Assemblée des Missions") was formally established by the Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement in 1658. The object of the new society was and is still the evangelization of non-Christian countries, by founding churches and raising up a native clergy under the jurisdiction of the bishops. The creation of the Paris Foreign Missions Society coincided with the establishment of the French East India Company.

In order to dispatch the three missionaries to Asia, the Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement established a trading company (the "Compagnie de Chine", founded 1660)....
The Compagnie de Chine was a French trading company established in 1660 by the Catholic society Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement, in order to dispatch missionaries to Asia (initially Bishops François Pallu, Pierre Lambert de la Motte and Ignace Cotolendi of the newly founded Paris Foreign Missions Society). The company was modelled on the Dutch East India Company.

A ship was built in the Netherlands by the shipowner Fermanel, but the ship foundered soon after being launched. The only remaining solution for the missionaries was to travel on land, since Portugal would have refused to take non-Padroado missionaries by ship, and the Dutch and the English refused to take Catholic missionaries.

In 1664, the China Company would be fused by Jean-Baptiste Colbert with the Compagnie d'Orient and Compagnie de Madagascar into the Compagnie des Indes Orientales [French East India Company].

-- Compagnie de Chine, by Wikipedia

The French East India Company (French: Compagnie française pour le commerce des Indes orientales) was a commercial Imperial enterprise, founded on 1 September 1664 to compete with the English (later British) and Dutch East India companies in the East Indies.

Planned by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, it was chartered by King Louis XIV for the purpose of trading in the Eastern Hemisphere.

It resulted from the fusion of three earlier companies, the 1660 Compagnie de Chine, the Compagnie d'Orient, and Compagnie de Madagascar.

The first Director General for the Company was François de la Faye,...
Jean-François Leriget de La Faye (1674, Vienne, Isère – 11 July 1731, Paris) was a French diplomat, wealthy landowner and art collector, poet, and member of the Académie française for a single year.

At one time a musketeer, through social connections La Faye became a member of the court of Louis XIV. His position was head of the royal cabinet, and private secretary and special adviser to the King on matters such as finding a wife for the young Louis XV. He also performed various diplomatic missions in London, Genoa and Utrecht, including involvement in negotiating the Treaty of Utrecht
, and was also a director of the French East India Company.

Often classified first as a poet, La Faye's work was indeed approvingly quoted by his correspondent Voltaire...

La Faye was the owner of an extensive art collection, two hotels in Paris, and another in Versailles. When he acquired the ancient château de Condé in 1719, he commissioned the most fashionable artists of his time and the architect Giovanni Niccolò Servandoni for elaborate improvements....

[[[The Marquis was a member of the French Academy, a director of the French India Company, and accordingly, was a very rich man. In his mansion in Paris, he often received such famous people as Voltaire and Crébillon....

At a later date, the castle belonged to the Count de la Tour du Pin Lachaux, through his marriage with the niece of the Marquis de la Faye.

In 1814, the Countess de Sade, the daughter-in-law of the famous Marquis de Sade, inherited Condé from her cousin, La Tour du Pin. Since this time and up to 1983, the castle remained the property of the Sade family
, who restored it with much care after the two World Wars.

-- Château de Condé, by Wikipedia]]]

[[[Perhaps the most important name connected with the EzV in this early period is that of Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil Duperron (1731-1805), who quotes a long passage from it in the "Discours Preliminaire" to his Zend-Avesta (1771:1, I. lxxxiii-lxxxvii). Anquetil adds the interesting remark, that "the manuscript brought back to France by Mr. de Modave [and delivered to Voltaire] originally comes from the papers of Mr. Barthelemy, second of the Council at Pondicherry, who probably had the original translated by the Company's interpreters under his orders."

Anquetil possessed his own copy of the EzV; it is No. 20 of the Fonds Anquetil, now No. 8876 of the "Nouvelles acquisitions francaises" at the National Library in Paris. This copy is evidently more complete than Voltaire's; the supplementary final section (fol. 55 recto) is introduced: "from the copy of Mr. Tessier de la Tour, nephew of Mr. Barthelemy, a member of the Council at Pondicherry." Folio 2 recto contains a note, in Anquetil's handwriting, in which he mentions the name of the person who introduced him to Tessier's copy: Antoine Court de Gebelin,10 and in which he also speculates on the origin of Maudave's manuscript. "On August 27, 1766, a Swiss (Mr. Court de Gebelin, of Geneva) came to see me. He told me about the Ezour-Vedam which had been brought back from Pondicherry by Mr. Tessier, the nephew of Mr. Barthelemy, second in rank in that town. It had been found in the papers of that councilman who, as reported by Mr. Tessier, had also other Indian books translated. It is probably from there that Mr. de Maudave had derived his. This Swiss has in the meanwhile confirmed that it is the same work and that Mr. Tessier's copy contains one more chapter at the end.
Or else, Mr. de Maudave has obtained his from Mr. Porcher, the commander at Carical whose daughter he had married." I shall come back to the manuscripts of the EzV, their origin and mutual relationship, later in this volume.

Anquetil's interpretation of the EzV and its dialogue between Biache and Chumontou is shown most clearly in a handwritten marginal note in his manuscript (fol. 8 verso). On Chumontou's statement (Text p. 116) that the common interpretation of the terms choto, rozo, and tomo is wrong and ought to be replaced by his own, Anquetil comments: "This is how the Br[ahman] Chumontou proceeds. Later in this treatise he refutes the legends told by Biache, either because they are contrary to good sense, or because they are not found in the ancient books, and he provides a moralistic explanation for those that are based on facts which he agrees to. However, these legends are accepted throughout India (see Abrah. Roger), and Chumontou does no more than confront them with the doubts of a philosopher which cannot be held to represent the religion of India. To prove that they are, he ought to combat authority by authority."

-- Ezourvedam, edited by Ludo Rocher]]]

For the interior decoration he hired François Lemoyne and his disciple François Boucher; Antoine Watteau and his disciple Nicolas Lancret; as well as Jean-Baptiste Oudry.

-- Jean-François Leriget de La Faye, by Wikipedia

who was adjoined by two Directors belonging to the two most successful trading organizations at that time: François Caron, who had spent 30 years working for the Dutch East India Company, including more than 20 years in Japan,...
François Caron (1600–1673) was a French Huguenot refugee to the Netherlands who served the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC) for 30 years, rising from cabin boy to Director-General at Batavia (Jakarta), only one grade below Governor-General. He was later to become Director-General of the French East Indies Company (Compagnie française pour le commerce des Indes orientales) (1667–1673)...

Caron succeeded in founding French outposts at Surat (1668) and at Masulipatam (1669) in India; and Louis XIV acknowledged those successes by awarding him the Order of St. Michael. He was "Commissaire" at Surat between 1668 and 1672. The French East India Company formally set up a trading centre at Pondicherry in 1673. This outpost eventually became the chief French settlement in India.

-- François Caron, by Wikipedia

From 1741 the French under Joseph François Dupleix pursued an aggressive policy against both the Indians and the British until they ultimately were defeated by Robert Clive.

-- French East India Company, by Wikipedia

[T]he establishment of a trading company and the perceived threat of French missionary efforts to Asia was met with huge opposition by the Jesuits, the Portuguese, the Dutch and even the Propaganda, leading to the issuing of an interdiction of the Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement by Cardinal Mazarin in 1660. In spite of these events, the King, the Assembly of the French Clergy, the Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement and private donors accepted to finance the effort, and the three bishops managed to depart, although they now had to travel on land....

The mission had the objective of adapting to local customs, establishing a native clergy, and keeping close contacts with Rome....

Instructions were also given to the effect that respecting the habits of the countries to be evangelized was paramount, a guiding principle of the Missions ever since:
"Do not act with zeal, do not put forward any arguments to convince these peoples to change their rites, their customs or their usages, except if they are evidently contrary to the religion and morality. What would be more absurd than to bring France, Spain, Italy or any other European country to the Chinese? Do not bring to them our countries, but instead bring to them the faith, a faith that does not reject or hurt the rites, nor the usages of any people, provided that these are not distasteful, but that instead keeps and protects them." — Extract from the 1659 Instructions, given to Pallu and Lambert de la Motte by the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.
...

For the Paris Foreign Missions Society the starting point was Siam, with the establishment of a base in its capital Ayutthaya, because Siam was highly tolerant of other religions and was indeed the only country in Southeast Asia where the Catholic Fathers could establish themselves safely. With the agreement of the Siamese king Narai, the Seminary of Saint Joseph was established, which could educate Asian candidate priests from all over the country of the Southeast Asian peninsula, as well as a cathedral. The College remained in Siam for a century, until the conquest of Siam by Burma in 1766.

Besides these events of purely religious interest there were others in the political order: through their initiative a more active trade was established between Indo-China, the Indies, and France; embassies were sent from place to place; treaties were signed....

In 1825, emperor Minh Mạng, the son and successor of Gia Long, prohibited foreign missionaries in Vietnam, on the grounds that they perverted the people....

In 1843, the French Foreign Minister François Guizot sent a fleet to Vietnam under Admiral Jean-Baptiste Cécille and Captain Charner. The action also was related to the British successes in China in 1842, and France hoped to be able to establish trade with China from the south. The pretext was to support British efforts in China, and to fight the persecution of French missionaries in Vietnam.

In 1847, Cécille sent two warships (Gloire and Victorieuse) under Captain Lapierre to Da Nang (Tourane) in Vietnam to obtain the release of two imprisoned French missionaries, Bishop Dominique Lefèbvre (imprisoned for a second time as he had re-entered Vietnam illegally) and Duclos, and freedom of worship for Catholics in Vietnam. As negotiations drew on without results, on April 15, 1847 a fight named the Bombardment of Đà Nẵng erupted between the French fleet and Vietnamese ships, three of which were sunk as a result. The French fleet sailed away.

Other missionaries were martyred during the reign of Emperor Tự Đức, such as Augustin Schoeffer in 1851 and Jean Louis Bonnard in 1852, prompting the Paris Foreign Missions Society to ask the French government for a diplomatic intervention. In 1858, Charles Rigault de Genouilly attacked Vietnam under the orders of Napoleon III following the failed mission of diplomat Charles de Montigny. His stated mission was to stop the persecution of Catholic missionaries in the country and assure the unimpeded propagation of the faith. Rigault de Genouilly, with 14 French gunships, 3,000 men and 300 Filipino troops provided by the Spanish, attacked the port of Da Nang in 1858, causing significant damage, and occupying the city. After a few months, Rigault had to leave due to problems with supplies and illnesses among many of his troops. Sailing south, De Genouilly captured Saigon, a poorly defended city, on 18 February 1859. This was the beginning of the French conquest of Cochinchina....

In the mid-19th century the first western Catholic missionaries began to enter Korea. This was done by stealth, either via the Korean border with Manchuria or the Yellow Sea. These French missionaries of the Paris Foreign Missions Society arrived in Korea in the 1840s to proselytize to a growing Korean flock that had in fact independently introduced Catholicism into Korea but needed ordained ministers....

Bishop Siméon-François Berneux, appointed in 1856 as head of the infant Korean Catholic church, estimated in 1859 that the number of Korean faithful had reached nearly 17,000. At first the Korean court turned a blind eye to such incursions. This attitude changed abruptly, however, with the enthronement of King Gojong in 1864....

Berneux was summoned to the capital, but upon his arrival in February 1866, he was seized and executed. A roundup then began of the other French Catholic priests and native converts.

As a result of the Korean dragnet all but three of the French missionaries were captured and executed...Fortuitously in Tianjin at the time of Ridel's arrival was the commander of the French Far Eastern Squadron, Rear Admiral Pierre-Gustave Roze. Hearing of the massacre and the affront to French national honor, Roze determined to launch a punitive expedition, the French Campaign against Korea, 1866....

Father Auguste Chapdelaine, who was preaching illegally in China, was imprisoned, tortured and killed by Chinese authorities in 1856. This event, named the "Father Chapdelaine Incident" became the pretext for the French military intervention in the Second Opium War....

In Hong Kong there were also a house of spiritual retreat and a printing establishment (Nazareth) which published works of art of the Far East -– dictionaries, grammars, books of theology, piety, Christian doctrine, and pedagogy.


-- Paris Foreign Missions Society, by Wikipedia

The same is true for the conviction that there is a God who created the universe out of nothing, manages its smooth functioning, foresees everything, punishes man's evil deeds by natural disasters such as floods, and sent his son to atone for man's sins. Such notions form the ideological background of the European discovery of Asian religions, and the history of Orientalism is to a substantial degree also a history of the West's gradual detachment from this traditional ideology.
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Re: The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

Postby admin » Sun Dec 27, 2020 3:36 am

Part 2 of 2

The same is true for the conviction that there is a God who created the universe out of nothing, manages its smooth functioning, foresees everything, punishes man's evil deeds by natural disasters such as floods, and sent his son to atone for man's sins. Such notions form the ideological background of the European discovery of Asian religions, and the history of Orientalism is to a substantial degree also a history of the West's gradual detachment from this traditional ideology.

It is a central thesis of this book that Europe's discovery of Asian religions was deeply linked to the development of Orientalism and its gradual emancipation from biblical studies. The birth of modern Orientalism was not a Caesarean section performed by colonialist doctors at the beginning of the nineteenth century when Europe's imperialist powers began to dominate large swaths of Asia. Rather, it was the result of a long process that around the turn of the eighteenth century produced a paradigm change.
Orientalism expresses and represents that part culturally and even ideologically as a mode of discourse with supporting institutions, vocabulary, scholarship, imagery, doctrines, even colonial bureaucracies and colonial styles...

[ B]y Orientalism I mean several things, all of them, in my opinion, interdependent. The most readily accepted designation for Orientalism is an academic one, and indeed the label still serves in a number of academic institutions. Anyone who teaches, writes about, or researches the Orient -- and this applies whether the person is an anthropologist, sociologist, historian, or philologist -- either in its specific or its general aspects, is an Orientalist, and what he or she does is Orientalism...

Orientalism is a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between “the Orient” and (most of the time) “the Occident.”...

Taking the late eighteenth century as a very roughly defined starting point, Orientalism can be discussed and analyzed as the corporate institution for dealing with the Orient -- dealing with it by making statements about it, authorizing views of it, describing it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling over it: in short, Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient. I have found it useful here to employ Foucault’s notion of a discourse... without examining Orientalism as a discourse one cannot possibly understand the enormously systematic discipline by which European culture was able to manage -- and even produce -- the Orient politically, sociologically, militarily, ideologically, scientifically, and imaginatively during the post-Enlightenment period... it is the whole network of interests inevitably brought to bear on (and therefore always involved) any occasion when that peculiar entity “the Orient” is in question...

To speak of Orientalism therefore is to speak mainly, although not exclusively, of a British and French cultural enterprise a project whose dimensions take in such disparate realms as the imagination itself, the whole of India and the Levant, the Biblical texts and the Biblical lands, the spice trade, colonial armies and a long tradition of colonial administrators, a formidable scholarly corpus, innumerable Oriental “experts” and “hands,” an Oriental professorate, a complex array of “Oriental” ideas (Oriental despotism, Oriental splendor, cruelty, sensuality), many Eastern sects, philosophies, and wisdoms domesticated for local European use -- the list can be extended more or less indefinitely. My point is that Orientalism derives from a particular closeness experienced between Britain and France and the Orient, which until the early nineteenth century had really meant only India and the Bible lands. From the beginning of the nineteenth century until the end of World War II France and Britain dominated the Orient and Orientalism; since World War II America has dominated the Orient, and approaches it as France and Britain once did.


-- Orientalism, by Edward W. Said

Our case studies show a centuries-long, gradual broadening of perspectives beyond the sphere circumscribed by Abrahamic religions and the Bible. As in all discoveries, the familiar determined to a large extent the appearance of the new. But Europe's Bible-based worldview with its creation, paradise, fall, deluge, monotheist orthodoxy, and satanic idolatry -- the mirror in which Asian religions appeared -- was also gradually changing. Hence, our case studies reflect not only evolving images of Asia's religious landscape but also a transformation of the worldview of the perceivers. In the course of the eighteenth century, Europe's dominant ideological matrix experienced a deepening crisis, and its hitherto unassailable biblical foundations showed ever more threatening fissures. The loss of biblical authority, which was due to many factors, occurred at a time when Judaism and Christianity themselves began to be increasingly viewed as local phenomena on a dramatically expanded, worldwide canvas of religions and mythologies. At the end of the eighteenth century, Volney -- the subject of our last case study -- portrayed Christianity as a relatively insignificant and young local religion based on local varieties of solar myth, and Langles officially promoted a new Orientalism liberated from the shackles of theology and biblical studies.

The study of the European discovery of Asia's non-Abrahamic religions -- especially religions with sacred scriptures that were possibly older than the Old Testament -- thus not only is crucial for understanding the genesis of modern Orientalism but also opens a hitherto neglected perspective on the profound changes characterizing Europe's age of Enlightenment and path to modernity. Though some of this book's protagonists may on the surface appear to be little concerned with religion, a closer look soon reveals the religious coloring of their convictions and motivations. Each case study aims not only at elucidating the protagonist's sources for and understanding of Asian religions but also the underlying motivations and approaches (such as, in the case of Voltaire and John Zephaniah Holwell, the promotion of deism and reform of Christianity).

The choice of protagonists crystallized over a dozen years of very enjoyable research. Though some of them are hardly household names, they all played significant roles in the genesis of modern Orientalism and deserve to be better known. The case studies do not follow a chronological sequence, but the synoptic list of major figures just before the notes ought to facilitate orientation. Each case study throws light on some facets of premodern views of Asian religions and thus forms a piece of a mosaic contributing to an overall picture unlike any the reader will hitherto have encountered. Other figures might have added detail and color, for example, Nicolas Freret, Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, Johann Gottfried Herder, or Thomas Maurice, but a few have already been studied in detail (Rosane Rocher's studies of Hamilton and Halhed). A chapter on William Jones is published elsewhere1 because of space limitations, and other figures (such as Paulinus a Sancto Bartholomaeo) await further research by indologists. Little effort was expended on disputing or discussing mistaken ideas, for example, the notion of the Egyptian origin of metempsychosis, the view that Buddhist sutras reproduce the words of the historical Buddha, or the legends that Vyasa wrote the Vedas and Moses the Pentateuch. I cheerfully and gratefully delegate this task to authors of textbooks and encyclopedias, while I enjoy tracing the adventures of wayward ideas, traditions made of whole cloth, apocryphal texts, invented saints, and other miracles of imagination.

Almost all the figures studied in this book were very much interested in origins; this question was a central one for the eighteenth century and beyond, and it often arose when the traditional Bible-based answers were questioned and became suspect. Where do European languages and our alphabet come from? Was there ever a descendant of Noah called Tuisco who was the forefather of all Germans? Why do the German and Persian languages seem related? How did marine fossils and sharks' teeth turn up on the peaks of the Alps? How did mountains form, and how long did this take? Why did giant "elephants" and tropical fauna end up frozen in Siberian ice? How much could the creation story of the Old Testament be trusted? Were Christianity and Judaism influenced by far older Egyptian, Persian, or Indian religions? If not the Bible, what are the world's oldest books, and what do they contain? Are there alternative sources for the understanding of ultimate origins?

Since candidates in the competition for the world's oldest book inevitably include religious scriptures, such texts form a second set of protagonists whose fare is traced in the chapters of this book. Most fundamental is, of course, the Bible, particularly its "books of Moses" (the Pentateuch), whose authority as well as its gradual loss determined so much of the outlook of Europeans on Asian religions. But hot candidates in the race for the world's oldest book also come from the antediluvian world and possibly even Paradise (the book of Enoch), from China (the Yijing or Book of Changes), and from mother India (the Vedas, Voltaire's Ezour-vedam, Holwell's Shastah, and Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron's Oupnek'hat). Buddhism also had a book in the race, even though it was only thought to be the oldest Buddhist text: the Forty-Two Sections Sutra. These competitors all play central roles in some of this book's chapters as they were revealed, invented, discovered, studied, unmasked, admired, or despised. Modern Orientalism owes them a great debt that was hitherto rarely explored due to excessive valuation of genuineness, positivism, divine inspiration, and so forth. Yet their biographies can be as touching, funny, wonderful, and interesting as any saint's, and I hope the joy of discovery infects some of my readers as they follow the intertwined fates of men, books, and ideas. The history of religions demonstrates with sufficient clarity that invented facts, dubious claims, and mistaken assumptions can occasionally work wonders. This book shows how much modern Orientalism, too, is indebted to them. More generally, they appear to be central factors in the history of humanity. Indeed, where would we be without them?

Readers used to the Eurocentric horizon of discussion as well as Orientalists will find that this book contains a substantial number of unknown or little known names and texts. It is the fate of pioneering studies to burden the reader with such "unknowns" and much detail that may at first sight seem peripheral and inconsequential. This was also the case, for example, with studies on the role of clandestine literature in the formation of the age of Enlightenment. However, such studies not only put the spotlight on many seminal texts and personages but demonstrated that they formed the pillars on which the Enlightenment was erected. Europe's encounter with non- Abrahamic Asian religions is a far more complex affair whose roots reach back to antiquity; and if the huge crowds flocking to talks by the Dalai Lama in Western stadiums are a valid indicator, it is not only still alive but still young. Though it can without exaggeration be called the largest-scale religio-cultural encounter in human history, it has so far received surprisingly little attention -- which is why some of its major features are here described for the first time. That serious scientific study of this encounter has barely begun may be connected with this encounter's intimidating cultural, religious, historical, and linguistic bandwidth. For example, one of the most influential texts both in East Asian Buddhism and in the religion's Western reception was the Forty-Two Sections Sutra, a Chinese text whose history in the East and West is for the first time traced in this book.

Not just books but also ideas have fates that sometimes deserve to be traced. One of the dominant ideas of eighteenth-century views of Asian religions -- the idea that Brahmanism and Buddhism are two sects of one religion -- was to a substantial extent based on notes from a casual conversation with a Jesuit in China. These notes were used, heavily edited and without attribution, in Charles Le Gobien's book about the Chinese emperor's tolerance edict. Religious tolerance happened to be a theme of extreme interest to Pierre Bayle whose Protestant father had died in a French prison after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Thus, an idea uttered by an obscure missionary in the Chinese boondocks found its way into Bayle's dictionary and reached an enormous public all over Europe. Not only that, it appeared to confirm the opinion of Athanasius Kircher; Johann Jacob Brucker used it in his pioneering history of philosophy; Denis Diderot put it into the limelight in a seminal article of the Encyclopedie; Anquetil-Duperron wanted to go to China because of it; Joseph de Guignes was led astray by it; and Herder built his view of Asian religions on it. Some of the ideas and sources whose roots are for the first time probed in this book were thus very influential despite their humble origins as unpublished notes. That such manuscripts could, under the right circumstances, be powerful forces even before publication is also shown by Voltaire's Ezour-vedam (see Chapters 1 and 7), which was best known and most influential before its 1778 appearance in print. Holwell's Shastah of 1767, too, attracted attention as a partial translation of a supposedly extremely ancient but lost manuscript (see Chapter 6).

There is much material in this book that was translated from a variety of languages into English for the first time.2 Unless another translator is indicated, all quotations from sources with non-English titles were translated into English by me. The inclusion of texts in original languages would have added too much bulk, which is why only a few crucial passages or terms (usually in square brackets) are provided. I trust that Google Books (books.google.com), archive.org, and similar initiatives, which have made a brilliant start particularly with old books, already (or will in the near future) allow access to many primary sources that I was still obliged laboriously to locate, photograph, and even type out at numerous libraries and archives in Asia, Europe, and the United States, whose personnel I wish to thank on this occasion for their kind help. Equal thanks go to the many people involved in the scanning and free Internet publishing of old books.

The spelling of historical texts is often different from that in their modern cousins. A modern reader might be shocked to see words like "le Cahos ou le Vuide" instead of "le chaos ou le vide," as well as "wrong" or missing accents ("matiere," "premiere," etc.) or "superfluous" letters ("bee" instead of "be"). The reader can rest assured that every effort was made to reproduce original spellings accurately and that a sea of sics is therefore unnecessary. Those who suspect insufficient knowledge on my part of spellings, modern and historical, of various languages are welcome to check them against the originals. Inline references consisting only of page numbers always refer to the last given full reference. Unless otherwise noted all illustrations are by the author or reproduce materials from his private library.

Many institutions, colleagues, and friends were of direct and indirect help in the genesis of this book. In its initial stages, I was working at Hanazono University in Kyoto under Prof. Seizan Yanagida, to whom this book is dedicated, and toward the end, I received the financial support of the Swiss National Research Fund (grant No. 101511-116443). Through the years, I benefited from the aid of my parents, my ever generous brother Pius, Akifumi Takagi, the family of Dr. Kazuko Arai in Tokyo, Haruko Torii, and Rev. Taizan Egami in Kyoto. I also wish to thank my son Alexander Huwyler and many friends, including Prof. Steven Antinoff, Prof. Antonino Forte, Prof. Hubert Durr, Prof. Silvio Vita, Naomi Maeda, Prof. Lee Roser, Mark Thomas, John Gorman, Patricia Lutkins, Dr. Joseph Osterwalder, Andre Wicky, Satoshi Sakai, Yves Ramseier, Dr. Rene Bischofberger, Drs. Valerio and Adriana Pozza, Ursula Ilg, Kunio and Yoko Murakoshi, Stefanie Osterwalder, Dr. Pius Bischof, James V. Stokes, Dr. Christine Mollier, Dr. Nathalie Monnet, and Dr. Hubert Delahaye. I am also obliged to the editor of the series, Prof. Victor Mair, and the readers of the University of Pennsylvania Press as well as to Prof. Jonathan Silk for their suggestions and corrections. My deepest gratitude is due to my wife, Dr. Monica Esposito, who continuously encouraged and stimulated my research and helped to improve this book through countless suggestions and discussions.
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Re: The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

Postby admin » Sun Dec 27, 2020 4:13 am

Part 1 of 2

Introduction

When a dozen years ago I began to study oriental influences on Richard Wagner's operas in the mid-nineteenth century, I had no idea where my investigations would lead. Having done some research on the Western discovery of Japanese religions in the sixteenth century, it did not take me long to find traces of this discovery in the nineteenth century. But Raymond Schwab's La renaissance orientale and studies on the history of the Western encounter with Asian religions such as Henri de Lubac's La rencontre du bouddhisme et de l'Occident presented an utterly confusing mass of data arranged according to modern notions such as "Buddhism" or "Hinduism" and to modern geographical units such as "India" or "China."

A major reason for this confusion was the fact that the primary sources seem to come from a different world where such neat delimitations do not exist. They tend, for example, to distinguish between esoteric and exoteric "branches" of a pan-Asian religion or to connect the creeds of various countries of "the Indies" to some descendant of Noah. Another factor that complicated matters was the sheer mass of data in many European languages that used different local pronunciations and transcriptions for the same person or thing. Thus, the Portuguese missionaries in Japan often called the Buddha "Xaca," the French missionaries in China "Xekia" or "Foe," the Italians in Vietnam "Thicca," and so on. Some were aware of their identity, others not; and again, others claimed that the Indian god Vishnu, the Persian prophet Zoroaster, or the Egyptian Hermes Trismegistos were alternative names of Buddha.
An additional complicating factor was the maze of authors and texts. Trying to distinguish the trailblazers from imitators, embellishers, copyists, and plagiarists turned into a laborious enterprise that involved burrowing through heaps of multilingual literature in libraries on several continents in order to find out where specific items of information came from. This often was difficult. However, patient investigative work over a decade clarified matters to a certain extent and allowed me to isolate a number of ideas, figures, and texts that played key roles in the drawn-out and complex process of the premodern European discovery of Asian religions. These I will present in this introduction.

Key Ideas

I. Esoteric and Exoteric Forms of Religion


One of the ideas repeated in countless European sources about Asian religions is the distinction between "outer" or "exoteric" and "inner" or "esoteric" forms. It was already used in early Christian literature, for example, by Eusebius of Caesarea and Lactantius, to characterize heathen creeds around the Mediterranean. But its roots lie in ancient Greek views of Egyptian religion where Egyptian priests are said to have encoded secret esoteric teachings in hieroglyphs while feeding the outer, exoteric bark of religion to the people. This idea gained renewed popularity in the Renaissance when texts attributed to Hermes Trismegistos ("hermetic texts") were translated into Latin and portrayed as vestiges of ancient Egyptian "esoteric" monotheism. In Europe, this inspired proponents of ancient theology (prisca theologia) like the seventeenth- century Jesuit Athanasius Kircher as well as many missionaries.

Several case studies in this book will show how this notion of esoteric and exoteric teachings allied itself with sixteenth-century reports about Japanese Buddhism and became one of the dominant ideas about Asian religions. The Japanese views, in turn, have roots in Chinese and Indian Buddhism and are thus about as old as their European counterparts. Having heard of this Buddhist distinction in the second half of the sixteenth century, the missionaries to Japan used it to classify the Buddhist sects of that country. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, a long-time resident of Japan, Joao Rodrigues, first applied it to all three major religions of China (which today are called Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism). In the 1620s, the Italian Jesuit Cristofo to Borri in Vietnam used the esoteric/exoteric distinction to characterize two phases of the Buddha's life and to classify religious movements in India, Vietnam, China, and Japan. In the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, this distinction became not only the most conspicuous feature of the Buddha's biography (the story of his deathbed confession) but also the dominant way of explaining the connection between various religions of Asia in terms of esoteric and exoteric branches of a huge pan-Asian religion. The importance of this distinction (as well as of other key ideas mentioned below) for the European discovery of Asian religions cannot be overestimated. It had a far deeper influence than the politico-economic motives that tend to stand in the limelight of current "Orientalism" literature.

Bald assertion in advertising, sometimes referred to as non establishment claim, is a subcategory of a literally false advertising claim. A bald assertion is a statement used in marketing, advertising or promotions by a company without proof or evidence of truth. An example of such advertising practices is when a company claims their product is the best on the market.

-- Bald Assertion, by Wikipedia


2. The Bible-Based Perspective

A fundamental factor in the premodern European discovery of Asian religions is easily overlooked just because it is so pervasive and determines the outlook of most discoverers: the biblical frame of reference. All religions of the world had to originate with a survivor of the great deluge (usually set circa 2500 B.C.E.) because nobody outside Noah's ark survived. In Roman times, young Christianity was portrayed as the successor of Adam's original pure monotheism, thus stretching its roots into antediluvian times. In the Renaissance and its aftermath, Egyptian religion, hermetic texts, and other "ancient" writings such as the Chaldaic oracles were seen as a confirmation of, or a threat to, such claims.

After the discovery of America and the opening of the sea route to India at the end of the fifteenth century, new challenges to biblical authority arose. It was difficult to establish a connection between hitherto unknown people and animals and Noah's ark.
But an equally rough nut to crack were the Chinese annals which in the seventeenth century caused much consternation as claims were published that they might be as old as, or even older than, Noah's flood. Our case studies show different ways in which Europeans tried to rise to such challenges: missionaries who attempted to incorporate ancient Asian cultures and religions into Bible-based scenarios; others who tried to move the starting shot of biblical history backward to beat the Chinese annals; people like Isaac La Peyrere and Baruch de Spinoza who concentrated on cracks in the biblical edifice; deists and reformers like Voltaire and John Zephaniah Holwell who attempted to use Asian texts as older and better Old Testaments; and skeptics like Constantin-Francois Volney who came to see the Old Testament as just another outgrowth of the Oriental imagination.

Rise to the challenge: To discover or utilize the strength, determination, or skill necessary to accomplish some difficult task successfully.
I know that you're nervous about taking on such a senior role in the company, but I'm totally confident that you'll rise to the challenge.
The odds were against them, but the home team rose to the challenge and managed to win the championship.

-- Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
Rise to the challenge: Fig. to accept a challenge. (Usually in reference to success with the challenge.)
You can depend on Kelly to rise to the challenge.
We were not able to rise to the challenge and we lost the contract.

-- McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Rise to the occasion/challenge: do something successfully in a difficult situation, emergency, etc:
When the lead singer became ill, Cathy had to take her place. Everyone thought she rose to the occasion magnificently.
This company must be prepared to rise to the challenge of a rapidly changing market.


-- Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017


Authors’ Point of View: An author’s point of view refers to his or her position on an issue or, in other words, the author’s opinion or belief regarding an issue.

-- Determing the Author's Purpose, Tone, Point of View, and Intended Audience, by Englishcreek.weebly.com


Asian phenomena and texts, invented or not, were operative not only in the European discovery of Asian religions but also in that of Europe's own religions, languages, and cultures. Just as a people on an isolated island tends to question its own origin and customs only after contact with aliens, Europe's changing worldview and obsession with origins were intimately linked to its confrontation with other cultures and religions -- particularly with non- Abrahamic religions far older than Islam and possibly even than the religion of Abraham. In the course of this confrontation and the crumbling of previous certainties (for example, that Hebrew is the mother of all languages and the Bible the world's most ancient book), even the traditional sequence from initial paradisiacal perfection to the Fall and eventual regeneration came increasingly under attack. The traditional European worldview and even Christianity itself were in danger of being relativized, destabilized, and marginalized. Of course, the discovery of Asian religions was far from the only factor in this process of erosion. But the influence of this discovery on the view of eighteenth-century opinion leaders and innovators such as Pierre Bayle, Giambattista Vico, David Hume, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Immanuel Kant, and Johann Gottfried Herder is well documented. Nevertheless, it remains little studied. The same can be said of the role of the discovery of Asian religions in the birth of Europe's modern Orientalism. This discovery may appear to be an exotic topic, but in its time it broadened perspectives far more than the Hubble space telescope is expanding ours. It contributed to a change in the very lens apparatus through which the Orient, Europe, the origin of peoples and their cultures, and the world as a whole were seen.

Image
NASA’s Hubble space telescope spots quasar tsunamis ripping across galaxies


Not just traditional religious convictions and ideas about other religions were at stake but the very identity of the Europeans.

Pan-European identity is the sense of personal identification with Europe, in a cultural or political sense ... The model of a "pan-European" union is the Carolingian Empire, which united "Europe" in the sense of Latin Christendom.

Saint-Germain-des-Prés is a parish church located in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter of Paris. Founded by Childebert I in the 540s as the Abbaye Sainte-Croix-Saint-Vincent, by the middle of the 8th century it had taken on the name of Saint Germanus (French: Germain), the man appointed bishop of Paris by Childebert and later canonized.

Originally located beyond the outskirts of early medieval Paris, it became a rich and important abbey complex and was the burial place of Germanus and of Childebert and other Merovingian kings of Neustria....

A New Manuscript: BN Fonds Francais 19117

In the meanwhile, no one seems to have noticed the existence, in the Bibliotheque Nationale, of a third manuscript of the EzV. The catalogue: Ancien Saint-Germain Francais III. Nos. 18677-20064 du Fonds Francais (by L Auvray and H. Omont, Paris: Leroux, 1900), has the following entry: "19117, 'Zozur Bedo'; traduction francaise du YADJOUR VEDA,4c livre des Vedas. En huit livres. XVIIe-XVIIIe. Papier. ) 58 pages. 208 sur 205 millimetres. Cartonne. (Saint-Germain, Harlay 515.)." This is, indeed, another copy of the EzV, in eight books.

The manuscripts of the Harlay family were donated, by Achille IV de Harlay (died 23 July 1717) to Louis-Germain de Chauvelin (1685-1762), on 11 August 1716.85 The condition attached to the donation said that the manuscripts should stay with de Chauvelin and his male descendants until one of them died without further male descendants "revetus de charge de judicature." [Google translate: load bearing judicature.] At that time the manuscripts were to become the property of the Benedictines of the abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres. Chauvelin not only allowed the members of the Order to use the materials while he still held the usufruct; he also enriched the collection with documents which were his own full property.86 On 19 March 1755 he decided to transfer the collection to Saint-Germain, together with those manuscripts of which he himself was the owner.87 The manuscripts were transferred from the castle of Grosbois to the abbey. They remained a special fund while deposited there, until they were transferred, together with the other manuscripts of Saint-Germain, to the Bibliotheque Nationale, in 1865.88 There the entire collection was integrated into the "Troisieme Serie" of the Fonds Francais: manuscripts 15370 to 20064.89

These data do not entirely solve the problem of the origin of the third EzV manuscript. The donation of 11 August 1716 was accompanied by a catalogue which is, however, lost, with the result that it is no longer possible to ascertain which particular manuscripts were added to the collection by de Chauvelin.90 We can only presume that the EzV did not belong to the original collection of 1716, and that it was one of the latest additions; it is no. 515 in a collection of altogether 519 items. But, even then, the third EzV manuscript must have belonged to the collection by 1755, five years before Maudave brought his copy to Europe.

The principal problem that remains unsolved in all this is that in two handwritten catalogues at the Bibliotheque Nationale, manuscript "Harlay 515" is described as "Melanges cont. 110. pieces": in the "Catalogue des manuscrits de Monsieur** [Chauvelin]",91 and in the "Catalogue des mss. de la bibliotheque de feu Mre Achilles de Harlay, premier president du Parlement de Paris, passes depuis dans la bibliotheque de feu messire Louis- Germain Chauvelin, ancien garde des sceaux, et actuellement dans la bibliotheque de l'abbaye de Saint-Germain-des-Pres, a Paris, 1762."92 [Google translate: Catalog of mss. of the library of the late Mre Achilles de Harlay, first Speaker of Parliament of Paris, since passed in the library of the late Messire Louis-Germain Chauvelin, former Keeper of the Seals, and currently in the library of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, in Paris, 1762.]

Even assuming that the EzV manuscript did belong to the private collection of Louis-Germain de Chauvelin on 19 March 1755, it is no longer possible to investigate how and when he acquired it. The important fact is that it is the oldest EzV manuscript in Europe, even though no one ever took notice of it. It also shows that the terminus ante quem [Google translate: term before he] for the composition of the EzV, which until now was 1759 -- the time when Maudave left India --, has to be advanced with at least five years and possibly by more than that.

-- Ezourvedam: A French Veda of the Eighteenth Century, Edited with an Introduction by Ludo Rocher


Charlemagne

Clovis converted to Roman Christianity, and an accord was ratified between him and the Roman Church, followed by a great wave of conversion. Clovis was granted the title of New Constantine, presiding over a Holy Roman Empire. Clovis’ successors, however, did not retain his ruthlessness, and instead became mere figureheads, puppets of the Mayors of the Palace, in whose hands was the real power. On Clovis’ death, his son Dagobert, acceded to the kingdom of Austrasia, but was deposed by a conspiracy on the part of Pepin the Fat, the king’s mayor of the palace, which the Church of Rome approved, immediately passing the Merovingian administration of Austrasia to him.

Pepin was followed by Charles Martel, one of the most heroic figures in French history, and who was the grandfather of Charlemagne, according whose name the dynasty came to be known in history as that of the Carolingians. The Carolingians were partly of Merovingian descent, but more importantly, they represented the union of the once divided lineage of the Mithraic bloodline. This lineage had survived in two branches. Julia, the heiress of the Edomite royal bloodline, was the daughter of Herod Phollio King of Chalcis, whose grandfather was Herod the Great, and whose mother was the daughter of Salome, married Tigranes King of Armenia, the son of Alexander of Judea. Their son Alexander married Iotape of Commagene, the daughter of Antiochus IV. From them was descended St. Arnulf, a Frankish noble who had great influence in the Merovingian kingdoms as Bishop of Metz, and who was later canonized as a saint, and who lived from 582 to 640 AD.

In St. Arnulf, this lineage was united with the other branch. That other branch was survived in the priest-kings of Emesa, descended from Claudia, the grand-daughter of the Emperor Claudius, which had also culminated in the person of the Neoplatonic philosopher Iamblichus. Saint Arnulf was the grandfather of Peppin II, the father of Charles Martel.

Charles Martel’s son, Peppin III, was the father of Charles the Great, known as Charlemagne. In 771, Charlemagne assumed the throne and took advantage of his brother’s death to unite the Carolingian territories. Charlemagne’s goal was to unite through conquest all the Germanic people into one kingdom. By 800 AD, the Frankish kingdom included all of modern France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, almost all of Germany and large areas of Italy and Spain.

Charlemagne received substantial help from an alliance with the Pope, who wanted to cut the remaining ties with the Byzantine Empire. In this way, the domains of the Pope became an independent state in central Italy. In the same year, 800 AD, Charlemagne was crowned Emperor by the Pope, becoming the first emperor in the west, since the last Roman emperor was deposed in 476 AD, and thus inaugurating the Holy Roman Empire. Charlemagne’s dual role as Emperor, and King of the Franks, provides the historical link between the Frankish kingdoms and later Germany, as both France and Germany look unto Charlemagne as the founding figure of their respective countries.


-- Terrorism and the Illuminati: A Three Thousand Year History, by David Livingston


The tomb of philosopher René Descartes is located in one of the church's side chapels.

-- Saint-Germain-des-Prés (abbey), by Wikipedia


The original proposal for a Paneuropean Union was made in 1922 by Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi. The term "pan-European" is to be understood not as referring to the modern geographic definition of the continent of Europe but in the historical sense of the western parts of continental Europe sharing the common history of Latin Christendom, the Carolingian Empire and the early modern Habsburg Empire. Coudenhove-Kalergi saw the pan-European state as a future "fifth great power", in explicit opposition to the Soviet Union, "Asia", Great Britain and the United States (as such explicitly excluding both the British Isles and Eastern Europe from his notion of "pan-European").

-- Pan-European identity, by Wikipedia


3. The Oriental System

Boosted by seventeenth-century Jesuits like Rodrigues, Kircher, and Charles Le Gobien, the notion of a pan-Asian "oriental system" or doctrina orientalis with possible Mesopotamian or Egyptian roots became a major factor in eighteenth-century views of Asian religions. Facets of this complex of ideas include theories of an Egyptian origin of Buddhism (Kircher, Mathurin Veyssiere de La Croze, Engelbert Kaempfer, Johann Jacob Brucker, Diderot), the view that Brahmanism is a form of exoteric Buddhism (Diderot, Herder, etc.), the notion that some Buddhist texts of China are translations from the Veda (Joseph de Guignes), and the suspicion that Greek philosophy and particularly Plato were inspired by oriental ideas (A. M. Ramsay) or even by Buddhism (la Crequiniere). The "inner" teachings of this doctrina orientalis were first modeled on the purported monism, emanatism, and "quietism" of Japanese Zen Buddhism and later also of Vedanta and Sufism. In 1688 Francois Bernier linked such oriental quietism to the teachings of Miguel de Molinos, Francois Fenelon, and Madame Guyon as well as the philosophy of Spinoza.

The "Spinoza" article in Bayle's dictionary of 1702 -- one of the most famous and controversial articles in one of the most noted works of eighteenth- century Europe -- is a good example for both the broad use of missionary and secular sources about Asia and the deep influence of the linkage between features of Asian religions and raging theologico-philosophical controversies of Christian Europe. Bayle's influence is palpable not only in Brucker's influential histories of philosophy of the 1730s and 1740s and in Diderot's articles for the Encyclopedie of the 1750s, but also in Johann Lorenz Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History of 1755, Francois Pluquet's Examen du fatalisme of 1757, and many later European works including Herder's philosophy of history (1784-91) and Friedrich Schlegel's pioneering work on the language and wisdom of the Indians (1808). Schlegel, with Volney one of continental Europe's first students of Sanskrit, saw this doctrina orientalis as the ultimate source not only of Oriental philosophy and religion but also of their ancient Greek counterparts (Schlegel 1808:114-23).

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, India had thus for some become not only the cradle of human civilization, as Voltaire had so insistently argued, but of all ancient religion and philosophy -- a notion that inspired Europe's romantic indomania. The birth of modern Orientalism is intimately linked to this idea of Indian origins as an alternative to the biblical narrative.
It is not by chance that one of the most ardent propagators after Voltaire of Indian origins was Louis Langles, director of Bible-independent Orientalism's first institution on European soil, the Ecole Speciale des Langues Orientales Vivantes, founded in 1795.

4. Emanation and Transmigration

Bayle (1702), Brucker (1744), Pluquet (1757), F. Schlegel (1808), and many others identified two of the core features of the "oriental doctrine" as emanation and metempsychosis or transmigration of souls. Both were linked to Platonism, pantheism, and Spinozism; thus, they aroused much discussion when all these came under increasing attack. Bayle's 1702 article on Spinoza explicitly established this link in combining information about Greek philosophers and Christian heretics with extensive data from the Orient (Francois Bernier, Philippe Couplet, Simon de La Loubere, Louis Daniel Le Comte, Le Gobien, Antonio Possevino, Guy Tachard) and became a central source not only for Brucker's and Mosheim's discussion of "oriental doctrine" but also for Diderot's article on "philosophie asiatique" (1751) that is discussed in Chapter 3.

From the feeling that society, and indeed 'everything', was in flux, arose, I believe, the fundamental impulse of his philosophy as well as of the philosophy of Heraclitus; and Plato summed up his social experience, exactly as his historicist predecessor had done, by proffering a law of historical development. According to this law, which will be more fully discussed in the next chapter, all social change is corruption or decay or degeneration.

This fundamental historical law forms, in Plato's view, part of a cosmic law — of a law which holds for all created or generated things. All things in flux, all generated things, are destined to decay. Plato, like Heraclitus, felt that the forces which are at work in history are cosmic forces.

It is nearly certain, however, that Plato believed that this law of degeneration was not the whole story. We have found, in Heraclitus, a tendency to visualize the laws of development as cyclic laws; they are conceived after the law which determines the cyclic succession of the seasons. Similarly we can find, in some of Plato's works, the suggestion of a Great Year (its length appears to be 36,000 ordinary years), with a period of improvement or generation, presumably corresponding to Spring and Summer, and one of degeneration and decay, corresponding to Autumn and Winter. According to one of Plato's dialogues (the Statesman), a Golden Age, the age of Cronos — an age in which Cronos himself rules the world, and in which men spring from the earth — is followed by our own age, the age of Zeus, an age in which the world is abandoned by the gods and left to its own resources, and which consequently is one of increasing corruption. And in the story of the Statesman there is also a suggestion that, after the lowest point of complete corruption has been reached, the god will again take the helm of the cosmic ship, and things will start to improve.

It is not certain how far Plato believed in the story of the Statesman. He made it quite clear that he did not believe that all of it was literally true. On the other hand, there can be little doubt that he visualized human history in a cosmic setting; that he believed his own age to be one of deep depravity — possibly of the deepest that can be reached — and the whole preceding historical period to be governed by an inherent tendency toward decay, a tendency shared by both the historical and the cosmical development. Whether or not he also believed that this tendency must necessarily come to an end once the point of extreme depravity has been reached seems to me uncertain. But he certainly believed that it is possible for us, by a human, or rather by a superhuman effort, to break through the fatal historical trend, and to put an end to the process of decay.

Great as the similarities are between Plato and Heraclitus, we have struck here an important difference. Plato believed that the law of historical destiny, the law of decay, can be broken by the moral will of man, supported by the power of human reason.

It is not quite clear how Plato reconciled this view with his belief in a law of destiny. But there are some indications which may explain the matter.

Plato believed that the law of degeneration involved moral degeneration. Political degeneration at any rate depends in his view mainly upon moral degeneration (and lack of knowledge); and moral degeneration, in its turn, is due mainly to racial degeneration. This is the way in which the general cosmic law of decay manifests itself in the field of human affairs.

It is therefore understandable that the great cosmic turning-point may coincide with a turning-point in the field of human affairs — the moral and intellectual field — and that it may, therefore, appear to us to be brought about by a moral and intellectual human effort. Plato may well have believed that, just as the general law of decay did manifest itself in moral decay leading to political decay, so the advent of the cosmic turning-point would manifest itself in the coming of a great law-giver whose powers of reasoning and whose moral will are capable of bringing this period of political decay to a close. It seems likely that the prophecy, in the Statesman, of the return of the Golden Age, of a new millennium, is the expression of such a belief in the form of a myth. However this may be, he certainly believed in both — in a general historical tendency towards corruption, and in the possibility that we may stop further corruption in the political field by arresting all political change. This, accordingly, is the aim he strives for. He tries to realize it by the establishment of a state which is free from the evils of all other states because it does not degenerate, because it does not change. The state which is free from the evil of change and corruption is the best, the perfect state. It is the state of the Golden Age which knew no change. It is the arrested state.

-- The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper


In the course of the eighteenth century, the old idea that emanation and transmigration had been brought by Pythagoras via Egypt to India got reversed, and India became the ultimate point of origin. Emanation and the thought of a first principle adopting myriad forms had long been linked to the teaching of Buddha, as was the doctrine of transmigration. The idea of the Egyptian origin of such teachings (and by consequence also of Buddhism) -- which had prominent supporters like Kircher (1667), La Croze (1724), Kaempfer (1729), and Brucker (1744) -- lingered on, but in the second half of the eighteenth century, the notion of an Indian cradle carried the day.

Regardless of such controversies about origins, it can be said that, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, the doctrines of emanation and transmigration constituted a crucial link between East and West extending from Japan in the Far East (where these two ideas had since the sixteenth century been associated by missionaries with the esoteric and exoteric teachings of Xaca or Buddha) via China, Vietnam, Siam, India, and Persia to Egypt and Greece. In the thought of Ramsay (Chapter 5) and Holwell (Chapter 6), this link took on a particularly poignant form since these authors identified transmigration as a most ancient and universal pre-Mosaic teaching concerning the fall of angels before the creation of the earth -- a teaching that in their view forms the initial part of the biblical creation story that Moses omitted. They regarded human souls as the souls of fallen angels imprisoned in human bodies who have to migrate from one body to the next until they achieve redemption and can return to their heavenly home.

Urs App has even suggested that Holwell's basic source was not Indian in origin at all, but a work by Diogo do Couto, Decada Quinta da Asia, from 1612. Based on the observation that Holwell himself confessed to holding heterodox religious views, particularly a conviction in the prophecies of the gnostic preacher Jacob Ilive (1705‐1763), App has traced how Holwell found symmetry between Indian ideas and Ilive's account of an earth populated by fallen angels in do Couto's description of the Vedas, and modelled his Shastah accordingly. To this, the discussion below will add some further detail about the orientation of Holwell's own religious beliefs in order to account for the variety of European sources he brought to bear on his construction of the Shastah....

The above explains how Holwell established an authority through the invention of the Shastah, but the question of why he did so remains. The answer lies in his religious outlook. At a basic level Holwell's comments that all different approaches to the deity should be regarded as ‘divine worship’ and that people of other religions, on encountering a different practice, should ‘revere it still’ certainly suggest that he adopted a latitudinarian position to the point of universalism. This has led many to suggest he was a deist. Others, such as App, have suggested that Holwell's creation of the Shastah was designed to service a Christian ‘reformist ideology’ according to Holwell's confession in the text that, before he arrived in India, he had already become ‘a thorough convert’ to the hypotheses of the neo‐Gnostic prophet of eighteenth‐century London, Jacob Ilive. But while Ilive did indeed have an impact on the shape of Holwell's thought, Holwell's Dissertation drew on a range of religiously heterodox European discourses which covered Locke and Leibniz, as well as exploring in greater detail the ideas of various theologians, such as Capel Berrow (1716‐1782) and the Cambridge Platonists. Moreover, we have to take seriously Holwell's claim in the third volume (1771) of Interesting Historical Events that his was the perspective of a ‘Christian deist’. To understand what he meant by this we have to consider the title of the first edition of the text, which promised both an account of ‘The Mythology and Cosmogony, Facts and Festivals of the Gentoos, Followers of the SHASTAH’ and ‘A Dissertation on the doctrine of METEMPSYCHOSIS’.

To Ilive's central claim, that this earth was designed for the rehabilitation of banished angels, Holwell added ‘the doctrine of Metempsychosis’, of which Ilive had been ignorant. Metempsychosis, a term taken from Greek philosophy, refers to the movement of the soul between bodies after physical death. According to Holwell, these ideas had originated with the Shastah, spread by both Pythagoras and Zoroaster, and ‘truly bore the stamp of divine!’. In subsequent years, however, the adaptation of these theories to diverse religious interests and innovations resulted in them becoming ‘wild and incomprehensible!’. The spread and eventual obscurity of the doctrine of metempsychosis thus features as a parallel narrative of decline, outside India, to that of the ‘Gentoo’ religion away from the original Shastah within. The Shastah that Holwell laid out before the public was thus a creation story. It revealed that ‘the Eternal One’ had created the triumvirate of Birmah, Bistnoo, Sieb (Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Śiva) and then Maisasoor (taken from the ‘buffalo demon’ figure Mahīśāsura), followed by a host of angelic beings. In Holwell's account Maisasoor instigated a rebellion among the lower deities, the Debtah‐Logue (devatāloka), in response to which the ‘Eternal One’ condemned them to eternal punishment. With the intervention of Bistnoo this was altered to offer the prospect of returning to grace by earning salvation through successive states of existence, transmigrating through eighty‐eight different forms, the last two stages of which were Ghoji (cow) and Mhurd (man). Consequently, humanity was in fact made up of the spirits of delinquent angels, whose duty it was to purify themselves through a virtuous life (which included vegetarianism). This was the doctrine of metempsychosis. For Holwell it had the advantage of solving some troublesome theological problems, such as the not so insignificant matter of theodicy. The idea that earthly punishments were the just consequences of a pre‐existent lapse, in the form of an angelic rebellion, solved the seemingly incongruous idea of a benevolent God and the admission of moral evil into the world. Thus, in offering his commentary in 1767, he admits that he had ‘hitherto met with no solution of this interesting enquiry, so satisfactory, conclusive, and rational, as follows from the doctrine before us’.

-- Forging Indian Religion: East India Company Servants and the Construction of ‘Gentoo’/‘Hindoo’ Scripture in the 1760s, by Jessica Patterson


The Bogomils

Finally, when these various bloodlines reconnected with their counterparts in the east, they became introduced to the Paulicianism, whose influence produced the heresy of the Cathats, that was adopted by the Guilhemids, and ultimately figuring in the lore of their secret bloodline, the Grail legends. There was one union in particular, which set off the beginning of this relationship, and from which would derive the most important line of descent, and which would later figure at the center of the various covert activities of the early predecessors of the Illuminati. That union was the one between Adiva, the daughter of Edward the Elder, King of England, and Boleslav I, the Duke of Bohemia, and the person produced was a daughter named Dubrawka.

At the end of the eighth century AD, Bohemia, like the neighbouring sates of Great Moravia and Hungary, fell to the invading Magyars, and Boleslav I, known as “the Cruel”, became the first king of an independent Bohemia, after he led a Czech force in alliance with Otto the Great, that was victorious over them in 955 AD.

In 965 AD, a Jewish merchant named Ibrahim ibn Jakub noted that the Jews of Prague, the capital of Bohemia, were important persons and active in both local and long-distant trade. According to the Letter of King Joseph, Hasdai ibn Shaprut, who was foreign minister to Abd al-Rahman, Sultan of Cordova, made first unsuccessful attempt to resort to the Byzantine embassy to transmit his letter to the king of the Khazars. But, the envoys of Boleslav I, who were then in Cordova, and among whom were two Jews, Saul and Joseph, suggested a different plan. They offered to send the letter to Jews living in Hungary, who, in their turn, would transmit it to Russia, and from there through Bulgaria, to its destination at Itl. As the envoys guaranteed the delivery of the message, Hasdai accepted the proposal.

Dubrawka, the daughter of Boleslav and Adiva, married Mieszko I King of Poland, a member of the Piast dynasty. Mieszko and Dubrawka’s daughter, Adelaide, married Geza Arpad. Their daughter Hercegno married Gavril Radomir, the son of Samuil, Tsar of Bulgaria. Samuil was one of four sons of Prince Nikola Kumet, Count of Bulgaria, who was descended from Kubrat the first King of Bulgaria, himself descended from Attila the Hun.

Another branch of the Turks, the Bulgars, during the seventh century AD, had come under domination of the Khazars, with whom they shared a language. The Khazars forced some of the Bulgars to move to the upper Volga River region where the independent state of Volga Bulgaria was founded, while other Bulgars fled to modern-day Bulgaria.

Through Jewish influence, Nikola Kumet’s sons were all given Jewish names, which included David, Moses, and Aaron. Nikola married Rhipsime Bagratuni, the daughter of Ashot II Erkat, Shahanshah of Armenia. Bagratuni was the name of the dynasty that succeed the Mamikonians as rulers of Armenia, in the ninth century AD, and claimed Jewish descent. Moses of Chorene, who wrote a History of Armenia at the request of Isaac Bagratuni, the middle of the fifth century AD, stated that King Hracheye joined Nebuchadnezzar in his first campaign against the Jews, and took part in the siege of Jerusalem. From among the captives he selected the distinguished Jewish chief Shambat, and brought him with his family to Armenia. Shambat was purportedly descended from Nedabiah, the son of Tamar of the Davidic Dynasty, the daughter of Johanan Prince of Judah. It is from this Shambat the Bagratuni claim descent.

These Bulgarian Csars became defenders of Bogomilism, a Gnostic heresy that developed in Bulgaria, in the tenth century AD, from Manichaeism and Pauliciansism. In 970 AD, the Byzantine emperor John Tzimisces, himself of Armenian origin, transplanted as many as 200,000 Armenian Paulicians to Europe, and settled them in the Balkans, which then became the centre for the spread of their doctrines. Settled there as a kind of bulwark against the invading Bulgarians, but the Armenians, instead, converted them to their religion, eventually evolving into what is known as Bogomilism.

Signifying in Slavonic “friends of God”, their doctrine maintained that God had two sons, the elder Satanael, the younger Jesus. To Satanael, who sat on the right hand of God, belonged the right of governing the celestial world, but, filled with pride, he rebelled against his Father and fell from Heaven. Then, aided by the companions of his fall, he created the visible world, the image of the celestial, having like the other its Sun, Moon, and stars, and last he created man and the serpent which became his minister.

Later Christ came to earth in order to show men the way to heaven, but His death was ineffectual, for even by descending into Hell he could not defeat the power of Satanael. The belief in the impotence of Christ and the need therefore to appease Satan, led to the doctrine that Satan should be worshipped. Nicetas Choniates, a Byzantine historian of the twelfth century, described the followers of this cult as Satanists because, “considering Satan powerful they worshipped him lest he might do them harm.”

In the first half of the tenth century, Bogomil teaching, led by the priest Bogomil, appeared in Macedonia. Within a short period of time Bogomilism had grown into a large-scale popular movement. The Byzantine Empire was unable to eradicate the heresy, and David, Moses, Aaron and Samuil, began a rebellion in 869 to defend Bogomilism against its enemies, resulting in breaking Macedonia away from the Bulgarian Empire, establishing the first Slavic-Macedonian state. After their considerable territorial conquests Samuil was proclaimed Emperor and was crowned by the Pope of Rome.


-- Terrorism and the Illuminati: A Three Thousand Year History, by David Livingston
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Re: The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

Postby admin » Sun Dec 27, 2020 4:13 am

Part 2 of 2

5. Origins and Lines of Transmission

Almost all European writers about Asian religions addressed questions of origin and transmission. They were concerned, among other things, with the connection between secular and sacred history and the problem of national and religious identity. In 1498, just after the discovery of America, Annius of Viterbo produced a number of forged texts that linked the national histories of Spain, Italy, France, and Germany to Noah. While European kings and nations were beneficiaries of the "good" transmission line originating with Adam, his good son Seth, and Noah (who according to Annius had traveled to blessed Italy to transmit antediluvian wisdom), other nations were not so lucky since they received their religion from Noah's son Ham, the pivotal member of the "evil" transmission line originating with Cain. Though Annius did not invent the idea that Noah's son Ham is identical with Zoroaster, as Schmidt-Biggemann claims (2006:93), he certainly gave new life to an idea already popular with Clement of Alexandria and other early Christian writers (Rodrigues 2001:356).

Annius published his concoctions just when Vasco da Gama was sailing around Africa to India. Though he knew little about Oriental religion, Annius must have sensed its subversive potential and cleared a path to its understanding that was adopted by many. Among them was Joao Rodrigues, who in the early seventeenth century also identified Zoroaster with Ham and regarded the Chinese as his descendants (p. 356). This meant that the religions of India, China, and Japan were seen as part of a kind of "axis of evil." In this respect, Rodrigues was opposed to Matteo Ricci and the "accommodationist" Jesuit missionaries who, like their extremist figurist successors, put China in the "good" transmission line of original monotheism and Adamic wisdom. These two opposing views form the heart not only of the famous Chinese Rites controversy around the beginning of the eighteenth century but also of the black-and-white pattern underlying the vast majority of European views of Asian religions.

The question of transmission was often linked to ancient texts. The oldest ones were said to have been carved on two pillars even before the deluge, and Rodrigues was not the only European to think that the ancient Chinese had inherited their mysterious writing system and astronomical knowledge from antediluvian times. As the age of Moses and the Old Testament dwindled in the face of Asian claims of antiquity, the search for older texts and records of divine revelation became ever more urgent. The focus of this search moved from Egyptian hermetic texts, Chaldaic oracles, and so on toward the Chinese Yijing and eventually to the Indian Vedas.

This overall movement reflects major stages in the evolution of European interest in Asian religions and its oldest texts, and I argue in this book that this interest formed a decisive factor in the genesis of modern Orientalism. One of its many effects was that it furnished the motivation for Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron's 1754 trip to India, the first journey of a European beyond the Middle East with the sole objective of finding and translating ancient sacred texts. But even European opinion leaders like Bayle and Voltaire, who only traveled within Europe, tended to be profoundly affected by the discovery of Asian religions and ancient sacred texts. The impact of this discovery in such domains as the genesis of European atheism, the formation of the modern conception of religion, and the quest for a modern, less Bible-dependent European identity cannot be grasped on the basis of a few case studies. However, my studies indicate that this hitherto neglected perspective has a considerable potential to enhance our understanding of such developments.

6. Ur-Traditions

An increasing number of studies focus on the role of "ancient theology" (often called prisca theologia or prisca sapientia and linked to the philosophia perennis) in Europe's history of ideas. Since D. P. Walker's The Ancient Theology, which focused on Christian Platonism from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century and devoted a chapter each to the Jesuit figurists and to Chevalier Ramsay, this movement was usually associated with "a certain tradition of Christian apologetic theology that rests on misdated texts" (Walker 1972:1) and that flourished from the early Church fathers to the early eighteenth century. This grounding in Christian theology and Neoplatonism is also apparent in the case studies ranging from Proklos in the fourth century to Friedrich Schelling in the nineteenth featured in Schmidt-Biggemann's Philosophia perennis (1998). Though Schmidt-Biggemann draws the circle somewhat wider and also mentions Judaism and Islam, the overall scope remains thoroughly theological and Christian.

In the course of my studies on this subject, I noticed that Church fathers like Eusebius and Lactantius, Renaissance admirers of hermetic literature like Marsilio Ficino, Jesuits like Athanasius Kircher and the figurist Joachim Bouvet, and numerous other "ancient theologians" including Chevalier Ramsay (Chapter 5) were all confronting other religions and tried to link their own religion to an "ancient" (priscus), "original," and "pure" teaching of divine origin. Reputedly extremely ancient texts such as hermetic literature, Chaldaic oracles, and the Chinese Yijing (Book of Changes) played a crucial role in establishing this link to primordial wisdom. However, I found the same endeavor also in non-Abrahamic religions such as Buddhism where neither the creator God nor Adam, Noah, or the Bible plays a role.

A good example is the Forty-Two Sections Sutra, one of the most important texts in East Asian Buddhism, which also happens to be the first Buddhist sutra translated into a European language. Though the text originated roughly 1,000 years after the birth of Buddhism and in China, it came to be presented as the original teaching of the Buddha (his first sermon after enlightenment) and thus also formed a link to an "original teaching." The case studies of this book show that such misdated texts -- and the urge to establish a link between one's own creed and a most ancient teaching -- played an extraordinary role in the Western discovery of Asian religions.


Many texts mentioned in our pages are concerned with some "Ur-tradition" -- God's instructions to Adam, Buddha's instructions to his closest disciples, the "original" doctrine of the Vedas revealed by Brahma, and so on. These texts are covered with the fingerprints of various reformers and missionaries. On the Forty-Two Sections Sutra I found fingerprints of an eighth-century reformist Zen master; on the Yijing those of Jesuit figurists; on the Upanishads those of Shankara and the Sufi Prince Dara; on the Ezour-vedam those of Jean Calmette and Voltaire; and on the Shastah of Bramah those of Holwell. As much as their respective agendas differ, they possess a common denominator in the obsession with vestiges of an ancient true religion that happens to support their mission. As discussed in Chapter 5, "ancient theology" thus reveals itself not as a unique European phenomenon but rather as a local form of a universal mechanism operative in the birth of religious or quasi-religious movements. This mechanism is characterized by the use of supposedly very ancient texts and unique transmission lines designed to legitimize new or reformist views by linking such views to a founder figure's old, "original" teaching.

Key Figures and Texts

I. The Japanese Impetus (Sixteenth Century)


Numerous recent publications stress the role of the nineteenth century when religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism became known under their modern names to a broader public. But the case studies of this book show that such identities were not suddenly discovered (or even "invented") by Europeans in the first decades of the nineteenth century. They developed over centuries, and even searching for roots as far back as the thirteenth century and the writings of people like William Rubruck and Marco Polo would be appropriate. This book argues that the systematic study of non-Abrahamic oriental religions and languages by Europeans began in sixteenth-century Japan, and that several key ideas shaping the European discovery of Asian religions in the subsequent centuries have their roots there. Helped by learned native informers familiar with Buddhist literature, the Jesuits wrote reports and letters about Japanese sects that were published in various languages and compendia across Europe. Unlike sixteenth-century reports from Africa, India, and America, they described a religious culture that was surprisingly similar to Europe's. It featured monks and nuns, monasteries and bells, rosaries and sermons, sects and sacred texts, baptisms and funerals, processions and temple services, and even heaven and hell. The dominant Buddhist denomination among Japan's ruling class was Zen. Its cartooned teachings became Europe's model for the "esoteric" doctrine of the Orient: quiet meditation, passivity, nothingness, all-oneness, no meritorious acts, no yonder. Such were, according to mid-sixteenth-century reports, the "real" teachings of Buddhism's founder Xaca, whose creed had come from India via China to Japan. But other sects of the same religion stressed worship, merit, retribution in a future state, and transmigration, and they even mentioned heaven and hell. These were said to be "outer" or "provisional" teachings of the founder. In Alessand to Valignano's catechism of 1586, this distinction between real/ esoteric and provisional/exoteric teachings was touted as the master key to understanding Japanese religions. This catechism was reprinted in Possevino's Bibliotheca selecta of 1593, a textbook used by every aspiring Asia missionary and every student in Jesuit schools. It is one of the hitherto overlooked key texts of the European discovery of Asian religions. Early European perceptions of Japanese religion were extremely influential and also shaped the perception of Chinese religions (from the 1590s) and Indian religions (particularly by Roberto de Nobili in the first decades of the seventeenth century). They created patterns of understanding whose effects are shown to be pervasive in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and did not abate in the nineteenth century.

2. The Chinese Model (Seventeenth Century)

The man who most systematically applied Japanese insights to Chinese religions, Joao Rodrigues, did extensive research on Japanese and Chinese religions and was an exceptional linguist capable of handling primary sources in both languages. He is a hitherto mostly ignored key figure whose views exerted a profound and lasting influence on European perceptions of Asian religions. Unlike Matteo Ricci, whose 1615 report about China and its religions had gained a broad readership in Europe and opened many a European's eye, Rodrigues remained in the background. His groundbreaking research on the history of Chinese religions, chronology, and geography was used by others but rarely credited to him. However, in the form of Martino Martini's publications and of documents that proved decisive in the Chinese Rites controversy, Rodrigues's ideas reached a relatively broad readership. His reports were intensively studied in missionary circles, and his distinction between esoteric and exoteric forms of Chinese and Japanese religions became widely adopted.

The two major divergent views of the China and India missions -- Ricci's and de Nobili's "good" monotheist transmission model versus Rodrigues's "evil" idolatry model -- spilled over into other realms and also had important repercussions in Rome, where Athanasius Kircher in 1667 published under the title of China Illustrata a synthesis of an enormous amount of data from the Jesuit archives and personal communication with travelers and missionaries. He thought, like Rodrigues, that the Brahmans of India were representatives of Xaca's religion who had infected the entire East with their creed. A Chinese Buddhist text helped in fostering this mistaken view: the Forty-Two Sections Sutra. Its preface explained that Buddhism was introduced to China from India in the year 65 C.E. This text played an extraordinary role not only in the European discovery of Buddhism but also in that of China, Japan, and even America (see Chapter 4).

Of course, books attributed to Confucius also elicited major interest in Europe when they appeared in Latin translation, but even more influential was the portrait of Chinese religions in the preface to Couplet's Confucius Sinarum philosophus of 1687 (see Chapters 2 and 3). This book appeared at a time when scholarly journals such as the Acta eruditorum and the Journal des scavans published extensive reviews of books on Asia and disseminated such information in the pan-European "republic of letters." The entries on "Spinoza," "Brachmanes," and "Japan" in Bayle's dictionary (1702 edition) quoted such reviews at length and drew a compelling picture of Asian religions while linking them to some of the hottest topics of European philosophical controversy. Bayle used reports from sixteenth-century Japan and seventeenth-century China along with information from Vietnam, Siam, Tibet, and India; among his sources was also Le Gobien's 1698 report about the religious tolerance edict of the Chinese emperor. Rodrigues had in his Historia da Igreja do Japao of 1620-21 already called the Brahmans "disciples of Shaka's doctrine" (Rodrigues 2001:360), but it was Le Gobien's preface to the book on China's imperial tolerance edict that became the main European conduit for the idea that Brahmans were Buddhist missionaries. This identification became one of the key ideas of the eighteenth-century pan-European reception of Asian religions, and it is a major reason why studies about "British," "French," or "German" discoveries of "Hinduism" or "Buddhism" in "India" or "China" are largely modern fictions.
non sequitur: a conclusion or statement that does not logically follow from the previous argument or statement: "his weird mixed metaphors and non sequiturs"

-- Non sequitur, by Google Dictionary

3. The Indian Connection (Eighteenth Century)

The need to understand Japanese religions in order to criticize them had promoted the study of Japanese and classical Chinese among missionaries to Japan in the sixteenth century and led to the production of grammars and dictionaries. In the seventeenth century, the European spotlight had turned to China. The controversy about ancient Chinese religion had elicited acute interest in Chinese historical annals, in ancient texts such as the Yijing, and in philological methods to deal with such ancient sources. Claude de Visdelou and other talented French Jesuits were obliged to become competent Sinologists in order to translate and analyze such texts in a reliable fashion, and two of them (Jean-Francois Foucquet and Joseph-Henri Premare) became informants of Voltaire (Chapter 1) and Ramsay (Chapter 5). But their know-how, books, and manuscripts were also used -- though mostly without explicit acknowledgment -- by Paris-based Sinologists such as Etienne Fourmont, Joseph de Guignes, and Michel-Ange-Andre Deshauterayes (see Chapter 4).

In the course of the eighteenth century, the spotlight turned to India. Early in the century, the German Protestant missionary Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg engaged in the study of South Indian religion, and his reports about India's monotheism caused a sensation. Ziegenbalg was standing on the shoulders of seventeenth-century Catholic as well as Protestant missionaries,1 but he made extensive use of native informers and teachers and became able to study Indian texts independently. Many results of Ziegenbalg's specialized research were published later; but his manuscripts were made available to the royal librarian of Prussia, the noted linguist Mathurin Veyssiere de La Croze, who recognized the novelty and extraordinary value of Ziegenbalg's work and intensively used his manuscripts for a groundbreaking treatise about Indian religions (La Croze 1724). Ziegenbalg and La Croze played important roles in the delimitation of the traditions that are now called "Hinduism" and "Buddhism" (see Chapter 2).

If the seventeenth century had its "good" and "bad" transmission factions, the eighteenth tended to pitch proponents of a single pan-Asian religion with different branches against people who, in the wake of Ziegenbalg and La Croze, distinguished the followers of Buddha in various regions of Asia outside India from the religions of India proper. An influential member of the "pan-Asian" faction was the German medical doctor Engelbert Kaempfer, who saw an "Oriental paganism" extending from Egypt via India and Siam to China and Japan
(see Chapter 3). The English translation of Kaempfer's manuscript was published in 1727. Soon afterward, in the 1730s, the French missionaries and early students of Sanskrit Jean Francois Pons and Jean Calmette got hold of a copy of the hitherto elusive Vedas and researched India's oldest religious literature. A testament of their study is catechetic material such as the Ezour-vedam, whose main publicist was Voltaire. Voltaire used this text for his campaign to marginalize Judeo-Christianity by claiming Indian origins (see Chapter 1).

Just around that time, the British exploited the 1756 Black Hole of Calcutta incident as a starting shot for their empire. The writer of that report, John Zephaniah Holwell, also made a name for himself as publisher of a mysterious text: the Shastah of Bramah. The published fragments were introduced by the stunning claim that this text was far older than the Veda. Though the Ezour-vedam (published by Guillaume Sainte-Croix in 1778) and Holwell's Shastah (published in 1767) are not exactly divine revelations (see Chapters 6 and 7), they played an extraordinary role in focusing attention on India and its ancient religious literature. The study of Sanskrit texts by the English, which began in the 1780s and astonished Europe by such gems as Charles Wilkins's Bhagavad gita (1785) and William Jones's Institutes of Hindu Law (1796), opened the era of modern Indology.

Just before the first Europeans began receiving Sanskrit lessons from Alexander Hamilton in Paris, the last major translation of a Persian version of an Indian text was published: Anquetil-Duperron's pioneering Latin translation of the Upanishads (1801-2; see Chapter 7). It marked the end of an era, not only because ancient India, thanks to the study of Sanskrit, finally began to reveal its secrets but also because Anquetil-Duperron once more sought to prove the existence of an ancient pan-Asian monotheistic religion. By that time, the first secular institutions offering systematic instruction in oriental languages already existed: the Benaras Hindu College (1791; J. Duncan), the Ecole Speciale des Langues Orientales Vivantes in Paris (1795; Louis-Mathieu Langles), and Fort William College (1800-1801; H. T. Colebrooke). They were soon followed by the East India College of London (1805-6; Hamilton) and, finally, in 1814 by the creation of Europe's first university chairs in Sanskrit (Antoine Leonard de Chezy) and Chinese (Jean- Pierre Abel-Remusat) in Paris.

The Case Studies

The first of the included case studies explores Voltaire's role in the promotion of India as the perceived cradle of human culture. This idea played a major role in the second half of the eighteenth century and in the genesis of modern Orientalism. This chapter introduces some of the key ideas, figures, and texts and points to the importance of the contribution by missionaries. The second chapter focuses on the role of an early Protestant Indologist, Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg, whose ideas and writings were falsely thought to have had little impact. They were used, partly in manuscript form, by the linguist La Croze. These two men played pioneering roles in the delineation of Hinduism and Buddhism. The third case study presents Denis Diderot's view of Asian philosophy as presented in the French Encyclopedie. While tracing some of its sources back in time, it shows how the idea of a pan-Asian religion gained traction. The fourth chapter looks at a man who usually goes unmentioned in histories of Orientalism: Chevalier Andrew Ramsay, a pioneering freemason and secretary of two famous "quietists." It throws light on the European search for humanity's oldest religion and the role of Chinese and other ancient Asian sources in this quest. Chapter five shows how Joseph de Guignes, a pioneering Paris-based Sinologist, produced the first European translation of a Buddhist sutra (the Forty-Two Sections Sutra) and attempted to elucidate Asia's ancient religious landscape (and to confirm biblical authority) with the help of Chinese Buddhist sources. The sixth case study focuses on an early member of the British colonial enterprise, John Zephaniah Holwell, and his connection to a text that he hailed as the world's oldest sacred scripture, the Shastah of Bramah. The seventh case study looks at the motivations and aims of the first European who traveled to India in search of ancient sacred scriptures, Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron, and discusses what he found (as well as what he thought he found). The eighth and last case study examines the evolution of views about Asian religions in the work of Constantin-Francois Volney, who was nor only a prime mover of the French Revolution, bestselling author, and friend of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson bur also a well-known Orientalist and promoter of the institutionalization of modern, Bible-independent Orientalism.
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Re: The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

Postby admin » Sun Dec 27, 2020 5:22 am

Part 1 of 4

Chapter I: Voltaire's Veda

Francois Marie Arouet -- better known as VOLTAIRE(1694-1778) -- was a superstar in eighteenth-century Europe and for a time one of its most read and translated authors. His plays were performed across the continent, and his view of world history was so influential that the Russian Czar, upon reading Voltaire's Essai sur les moeurs, sent an embassy to China to verify some of its claims. This chapter will highlight a little known side of this multifaceted man. Though current histories of Orientalism barely mention him,1 Voltaire played an important role in the genesis of modern Orientalism. Since some of Voltaire's sources and his particular approach are deeply connected with the missionary discovery of Asian religions and mission literature, relevant facets of this missionary basis will first have to be examined in some detail. In Voltaire's time, much of Asia was still called "the East Indies," and the focus of previous scholarly discussion on India proper and on religions that are today associated with the Indian subcontinent must be widened in order to understand eighteenth-century views and images. The influence and staying power of old ideas have hitherto been underestimated. Not just the study of the Orient in Voltaire's time but even modern Orientalism is shaped by earlier impressions and approaches in profound and sometimes pernicious ways. It is a mistake to regard -- in the manner of Schwab (1950), de Jong (1987), and many others -- the onset of modern Orientalism as a clean break from a "nonscientific" past. As the examples of William Jones (App 2009) and Anquetil-Duperron (see Chapter 7) show, the pioneers of modern Orientalism raised the curtains and set a new stage; but much of the stage set seems recycled from earlier productions, and many actors in this play wear costumes of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries while expressing ideas that fit those times. The lack of appreciation regarding some of the crucial underpinnings of Voltaire's venture -- particularly of missionary approaches and sources -- gave rise to misunderstandings not only concerning his use of India-related sources but also the role he played in the genesis of modern Orientalism. Hence, the first task will be to discuss in some derail a number of facets of the missionary discovery of Asian religions that came to influence Voltaire's views and sources.

Valignano's Catechism

Image

TABLE 1. EDICT OF THE DUKE OF YAMAGUCHI TRANSLATED FROM JAPANESE AND PORTUGUESE

English translation of Japanese text (actual content of edict) / Translation of published Portuguese text (how missionaries translated edict)


The bonzes[a] who have come here from the Western regions may, for the purpose of promulgating the Buddhist law, establish their monastic community [at the Buddhist monastery of the Great Way]. / [The Duke] accords the great Dai, Way of Heaven, to me fathers of the occident who have come to preach the law that produces Saints in conformity with their wish until the end of the world.

a. The term "bonze" (from Jap. bozu) has been in use since [he sixteenth century for Buddhist priests or monks (originally of Japan or China, but later increasingly as a generic term). In this book we will also encounter such equivalents as "heshang" for China, "lama" for Tibet, and "talapoin" for Southeast Asia.


Partly due to the summary dismissal of missionary portrayals of Asian religions as biased, some of the basic events of the missionary discovery of these religions are still ignored even by today's Orientalists. It is, for example, a fact that the first systematic exploration of non-Islamic Asian religions happened not in India or some other land at a manageable distance from continental Europe but at the very end of the world as it was known at the time, namely, in sixteenth-century Japan. From the beginning of the sixteenth century, Catholic missionaries had settled in India and subsequently in various parts of Southeast Asia; but these were regions where even knowledge of the local vernacular did not yet entail access to sacred literature. Besides, the heathen cults were regarded as works of the devil to be exterminated rather than studied. In Japan, by contrast, the need for study arose from the fiasco of Sr. Francis Xavier's Jesuit mission.2 FRANCIS XAVIER(1506-1552) and his Jesuit companions had arrived in the summer of 1549 in Japan with high hopes and accompanied by Anjiro, a Japanese man of modest education who served as their interpreter. He had translated "God" as "Dainichi" (the Sun-Buddha, the principal Buddha venerated by the Shingon sect of Buddhism), "heaven" and "paradise" as jodo (the Pure Land of Buddhism), and "Christianity" as buppo (the Buddha dharma or Buddhist law); consequently, the Japanese were convinced that the Jesuits were Buddhist sectarian reformers from India. They had indeed come to Japan from Goa in India, and the Japanese (whose world at the time ended in India alias "Tenjiku") consistently called Xavier and his companions "Indians" ("Tenjiku's" or "Tenjikujin") (App 1997a:55-58). The Japanese Shingon priests were so delighted with their new cousins from India that the Jesuits became suspicious; but even after Francis Xavier's departure toward the end of 1551, the missionaries were still viewed as a bunch of zealous Buddhist sectarians. The document that supposedly proves their most notable success, the donation of a "church" (in reality, a Buddhist monastery) by the regent of Yamaguchi, became an object of widespread interest in Europe as i( was printed in various letter collections all over the continent and became the first document in Chinese characters to be printed in Europe (Schurhammer 1928:26-27; App 1997b:236). The confrontation of the crucial portion of the published Portuguese rendering with my translation of the original Japanese text in Table 1 illustrates the heart of the problem: the Japanese regarded the missionaries as Buddhist bonzes intent on promulgating the Buddha dharma, whereas the Jesuit missionaries believed that the donation of a Buddhist temple signaled acceptance of (heir slated aim of producing Christian saints.3

Only in 1551,when Francis Xavier was getting ready to leave Japan in order to convert the Chinese, did me missionaries begin to use the word "Deus" instead of "Dainichi" (App 1997b:241-42). Their fiasco triggered a "language reform" that consisted in figuring out which terms were Buddhist, what they signified, and which were safe for use in a Christian context. This could only be achieved by some degree of systematic study and with the help of native informers familiar with Buddhist doctrine and texts. By 1556, eight years after the beginning of the Japan mission, the first report about the country's religions was sent via Goa to Europe, where it arrived in 1558 (Bourdon 1993:261).4 This Sumario de Los errores (Summary of Errors) contained a first survey of Japanese religions including Shinto and listed eight seers of Japanese Buddhism. They were all identified as belonging to "bupo" (Buddha dharma) and associated with a founder called Shaka (Shakyamuni Buddha) (Ruiz-de-Medina 1990:655-67). The Sumario also furnished information about the clergies of these sects, the texts they used, and some of their doctrines including a topic that was to have extraordinary repercussions well into Voltaire's time: the distinction between two significations of Buddhist doctrines, an exoteric or outer one for the simple-minded people and an esoteric or inner one for the philosophers and literati (pp. 666-67). The esoteric teaching, which was associated with Zen Buddhism and its use of meditation and koans, was said to lead to the realization that there is nothing beyond life and death and that "all is nothing" (p. 666). This is an early seed of the European misconception of an esoteric "cult of nothingness"5 with a secret teaching that later turned into the legend about the Buddha's deathbed confession (see Chapter 3).

When the Jesuit Alessand to VALIGNANO (1539-1606) visited Japan for the first time between 1579 and 1582, he quickly realized that the study of the native language and religions was of paramount importance. He reported, "The first thing that I addressed and ordered after arriving in Japan ... was that the European brothers study [the language] with great care and that a grammar and vocabulary of Japanese be produced" (Schutte 1951:321).Valignano promoted the admission of Japanese novices and, helped by P. Luis Frois who translated his words into Japanese, in 1580-81 held a course of intensive instruction for both European and Japanese novices (Schutte 1958:84-85). One of Valignano's eight new novices, the middle-aged Japanese doctor Paulo Yoho, was knowledgeable about Japanese religions and provided information about Buddhism to both Valignano and the novices. Together with his son Vicente Toin, Paulo helped Valignano craft a catechism whose overall structure interests us here. Since Valignano had studied Francis Xavier's fiasco and realized the importance of clearly separating truth from error, he decided to write a catechism and devote the first of its two books to the sects and religions of the Japanese in order to build a firm basis for their refutation through rational argumentation (Valignano 1586:3-76). It is a detailed presentation and critique of (mostly Buddhist) Japanese religious doctrine and shows how much knowledge the Jesuits had accumulated since the days of Francis Xavier. The catechism's second book then treats of Christian life and its basis in the Ten Commandments and other doctrines.

An interesting and influential observation that Valignano made at the beginning of the first part was that, in spite of the multitude of sects in Japan and the confusing doctrines of Buddhism, there was a key that facilitated understanding all of them. This key was the distinction between an "outer" or provisional teaching for the common people (Jap. gonkyo) and the "inner" or true teaching for the clergy (Jap. jikkyo) (p. 4V).6 Valignano's entire presentation of doctrines and sects is based on this "gon-jitsu" distinction, which he, of course, decries as "fallacious, mendacious, and deceptive" (fallax, mendax, hominum deceptrix) (p. 34v).

Without going into more detail, we note that this catechism is proof that Buddhism was already quite intensively studied by Westerners in the sixteenth century with the help of native experts. For his reform of the Jesuit Japan mission, Valignano even researched and copied some features of the organizational structure of Zen monasteries. Such study continued in the following decades until the expulsion of all missionaries from Japan in the early seventeenth century, and among its major fruits was a Japanese-Portuguese dictionary with about 32,000 entries (Vocabulario da Lingoa de Iapam, 1603; Jap. Nippo jisho). In this dictionary, all Buddhist terms are identified by the marker "Bup," for buppa (Buddhism) -- which proves how aware the missionaries were of Buddhism's identity as a religion. This dictionary alone should lay forever to rest all claims that Buddhism was not perceived as a religion by Westerners before the nineteenth century. It is easy, however, to overestimate the influence of such mission documents since many of them soon ended up in dusty mission archives. While reports such as the Sumario de Los errores got relatively little public exposure, Valignano's catechism enjoyed the opposite fate. Its first edition, printed in Lisbon in 1586, is exceedingly rare, but the work was included almost unchanged in Antonio Possevino's Bibliotheca selecta of 1593, a major textbook for generations of Jesuits and for Europe's educated class (Possevino 1593:459-529; Muhlberger 2001:137-38). At the time, this was just about the most powerful megaphone anyone could wish for, and all the Jesuit protagonists in this chapter heard the message.

Ricci's Rebranding

When Matteo RICCI (1552-1610) arrived in China in the summer of 1582 and began to learn Chinese, he benefited from a special introduction to Asian religions since Valignano, who was also in Macao at the time, made him copy the conclusions ("Risolutioni") that he had drawn from his three-year stay in Japan (Schutte 1958:63). But when Ricci in the same year moved with another Italian missionary, Michele Ruggieri,7 to Canton and then to Zhaoqing in South China, history seemed to repeat itself with a vengeance: the two Jesuits adopted the title and vestments of the Chinese seng -- that is, they identified themselves and dressed as ordained Buddhist bonzes. Even their Ten Commandments in Chinese contained Buddhist terms; for example, the third commandment read that on holidays it was forbidden to work and one had to go to the Buddhist temple (si) in order to recite the sutras (jing) and worship the Master of Heaven (tianzhu, the Lord of devas).8 Ruggieri's and Ricci's first Chinese catechism, the Tianzhu shilu of 1584-the first book printed by Europeans in China -- also brimmed with Buddhist terms and was signed by "the bonzes from India" (tianzhuguo seng) (Ricci 1942:198). The doorplate of the Jesuit's residence and church read "Hermit-flower [Buddhist] temple" (xianhuasi), while the plate displayed prominently inside. the church read "Pure Land of the West" (xilai jingdu).9 As can be seen in the report about the inscriptions on the Jesuit residence and church of Zhaoqing (Figure 1),10 Ruggieri translated "hermit" (xian), a term with Daoist connotations, by the Italian "santi" (saints), and the Buddhist temple (St) became an "ecclesia" (church). Even more interesting is his transformation of the Buddhist paradise or "Pure Land of the West" into "from the West came the purest fathers."11 This presumably referred to the biblical patriarchs, but it is not excluded that a double-entrendre Jesuit fathers from the West) was intended.

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Figure 1. Inscriptions for the Jesuit residence and church in Zhaoqing, 1584.

Nine years later, in 1592, when Ricci was translating the four Confucian classics, he decided to abandon his identity as a Buddhist bonze (seng); and during a visit in Macao, he asked his superior Valignano for permission also to shed his bonze's robe, begging bowl, and sutra recitation implements. The Christian churches were renamed from si to tang (a more neutral word meaning "hall"), and in 1594 the final step in this rebranding process was taken when Ricci received Valignano's permission to present himself and dress up as a Chinese literatus (Duteil 1994:85-86). It was the year when Ricci finished his translation of the four Confucian classics, the books that any Chinese wishing to reach the higher ranks of society had to study. In Ricci's view, these books contained unmistakable vestiges of ancient monotheism. In his journals he wrote,

Of all the pagan sects known to Europe, I know of no people who fell into fewer errors in the early stages of their antiquity than did the Chinese. From the very beginning of their history it is recorded in their writings [hat they recognized and worshipped one supreme being whom they called the King of Heaven, or designated by some other name indicating his rule over heaven and earth .... They also taught that the light of reason came from heaven and that the dictates of reason should be hearkened to in every human action. (Gallagher 1953:93)


The Jesuit language reform in China took a different direction from the earlier one in Japan; instead of intensively studying the Buddhist and Daoist competition in order to defeat it, Ricci and his companions focused on cozying up to the Confucians. On November 4, 1595, Ricci wrote to the Jesuit Father General Acquaviva: "I have noted down many terms and phrases [of the Chinese classics] in harmony with our faith, for instance, 'the unity of God,' 'the immortality of the soul,' the glory of the blessed,' and the like" (Ricci 1985:14). Ricci intended to identify appropriate terms in the Confucian classics to give the Christian dogma a Mandarin dress and to illustrate his view that the Chinese had successfully safeguarded an extremely ancient knowledge of God. The portions of Ruggieri and Ricci's old "Buddhist" catechism dealing with God's revelation and requiring faith rather than reason were removed, while topics such as the "goodness of human nature" that appealed to Confucians were added (p. 15). Ricci systematically substituted Buddhist terminology with phrases from the Chinese classics. But rather than as a revision of his earlier "Buddhist" catechism, Ricci's True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven should be regarded as a new work reflecting his view of China's ancient theology. It was crafted in the mold of the first pan of Valignano's catechism of 1586, and exactly ten years after the publication of that work, Ricci's supervisor Valignano examined and approved Ricci's new text for use in China. It was not a catechism in the traditional sense but a praeparatio evangelica: a way to entice the rationalist upper crust of Chinese society and to refute the "superstitious" and "foreign" forms of Chinese religion (such as Daoism and Buddhism) by logical argument while interpreting "original" Confucianism as a kind of Old Testament to Christianity. Ricci's "catechism" was thus not yet the Good News itself but a first step toward it. It argued that Chinese religion had once been thoroughly monotheistic and that this primeval monotheism had later degenerated through the influence of Daoism and Buddhism. In Ricci's view Christianity was nothing other than the fulfillment of China's Ur-monotheism.

Ricci decided to cast this preparatory treatise in Renaissance fashion as a dialogue between a Western and a Chinese scholar who discuss various aspects of Chinese religion. Ricci's Western scholar analyzes Daoist, Buddhist, and Neoconfucianist beliefs and practices and proceeds to demolish them by rational argument, thus exposing their inconsistency and irrationality. When Ricci's work was completed and his new manuscript began to circulate in preparation for the printing, the old "Buddhist" catechism was no longer used.

Rodrigues's Two Transmissions

When the first copies of Ricci's True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven arrived in Japan, one of Valignano's erstwhile novices, Joao RODRIGUES(1561-1633), studied it with much interest. Having arrived in Japan in 1577 at the young age of 16, he had at the turn of the seventeenth century already spent a quarter-century in the Far East and had become the best foreign speaker, reader, and writer of Japanese in the Jesuit mission. He had become not only procurator of the Japan mission but also court interpreter for Japan's autocratic ruler Tokugawa leyasu. When Valignano left Japan for the last time in 1603, Rodrigues was just purring the finishing touches on his remarkable Japanese grammar Arte da Lingoa de Iapam, which was first printed in 1604 (Cooper 1994:228). Like any educated Japanese of the time, Rodrigues had also studied classical Chinese and sprinkled his grammar with examples from Confucius's Analects. The depth of his knowledge of Japanese language and religion is apparent in his advice on letter writing style, which includes an introduction to the various kinds and degrees of Buddhist clergy and the correct ways of addressing them (Rodrigues 1604:199r-20rr). His grammar also features a masterly treatise on Japanese poetry that is "the first comprehensive description of Far Eastern literature by any European" and includes a section on the translation of Chinese poetry into Japanese (Cooper 1994:229-30). Rodrigues was very much interested in the origins of Asian religions and peoples, and for this a firm grasp of chronology was needed. The third part of his grammar (Rodrigues 1604:232v-239r) contains Rodrigues's chronological tables based on both Western and Far-Eastern sources.12 In the section on Chinese chronology, Rodrigues made the first known attempt to relate Japanese, Chinese, and Western chronologies. His aim was to position the founders of China's three major religions (Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism) in the framework of biblical history and its accepted chronological sequence (pp. 235f-236r).

After being forced out of Japan in 1610, he spent the rest of his life in China. He thus lived a total of thirty-three years in Japan and twenty-three in China. Even though his name is seldom if ever mentioned in books about the discovery of Oriental religions, it is clear that, during his fifty-six years in Asia, he became by far the most knowledgeable Westerner of his time about the religions of Japan and China. Even in his late teens, he had the chance of participating in Valignano's lecture series leading to the 1586 catechism and was instructed by Japanese experts on Buddhism.13 When Ricci's Chinese books made their way to Japan, Rodrigues thus was one of the few people capable of studying and criticizing them.14 He noticed a number of "grave things":

These things arose on account of the lack of knowledge at that time and the Fathers' ways of speaking and the conformity (as in their ignorance they saw it) of our holy religion with the literati sect, which is diabolical and intrinsically atheistic, and also contains fundamental and essential errors against the faith. (Cooper 1981:277)


Rodrigues's early doubts about Ricci's view of Confucianism as a vestige of primeval monotheism were reinforced when he spent two entire years 0une 1613-June 1615) traveling in China "deeply investigating all these sects, which I had already diligently studied in Japan" (p. 314). His "three sects of philosophers" are Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism, which Rodrigues not only studied in books but also through extensive field research: "To this end I passed through most of China and visited all our houses and residences, as well as many other places where our men had never been so far" (p. 314). The catechism that Rodrigues compiled (pp. 306, 315), a detailed atlas of Asia with tables of longitudes and distances (pp. 302-3), and a small report (p. 321) as well as a voluminous treatise (pp. 310, 277) about Far Eastern religions seem to be lost. However, some of their content survived. Maps and other geographical materials by Rodrigues were used without attribution by his ambitious fellow Jesuit Martino Martini,15 and his reports about Asia's religions formed a principal source of Niccolo Longobardi's famous essay that was written in the early 1620S but published in 1701 at the height of the "Chinese Rites" controversy raging in Voltaire's youth.16 A number of Rodrigues's letters from China survived and are of considerable help in our reconstruction of the basic direction of his argument.

Contradicting Ricci, Rodrigues maintained that all reigning religions of China, including Confucianism, were fundamentally atheist and thus incompatible with Christianity. Influenced by what he had learned about the provisional (outer) and true (inner) teachings of Buddhism in Japan (the gonjitsu dichotomy underlying the first part of Valignano's catechism), Rodrigues detected the same two types of doctrines in all China's religions (pp. 311-12). According to Rodrigues, Ricci's problems were a result of his failure to understand this fundamental distinction and of his ignorance about the inner teachings:

Until I entered China, our Fathers of China knew practically nothing about this [distinction between exoteric and esoteric teachings] and about the speculative doctrine. They knew only about the civil and popular doctrine, for there was nobody to explain it to them and enlighten them, The above-mentioned Fr. Matteo Ricci worked a great deal in this field and did what he could, but, for reasons only known to Our Lord, he was misled in this matter. All these three sects of China are totally atheistic in their speculative teaching, denying the providence of the world. They teach everlasting matter, or chaos, and like the doctrine of Melissus, they believe the universe to contain nothing but one substance. (pp. 311-12)


The disappearance of Rodrigues's religion report is very likely due to his fierce opposition to a Ricci-style accommodation with Confucianism that was the central bone of contention in the controversy about Chinese Rites that filled so many book shelves from the mid-seventeenth century onward. The whole question of the acceptability of Confucian rites depended on Confucianism's pedigree. If it could be traced to monotheism, as Ricci thought it could, then its ancient rites posed hardly a problem. But if Rodrigues was right and Confucianism's inner doctrine was pure atheism (complete with eternity of matter, lack of a creator God, and absence of providence), then any rite connected to such a religion was to be condemned.

In his letters from China and some of his printed works, Rodrigues identified all three major religions of China as descendants of ancient heathen cults of the Middle East. While Ricci viewed Confucianism as a child of original monotheism and the Chinese literati as relatively free from heathen superstition prior to the influence of Daoism and Buddhism, Rodrigues envisioned a very different pedigree reaching back to Chaldean diviners:

There does not seem to be any other kingdom in the whole world that has so many [superstitions] as this kingdom [of China], for it appears that all the ancient superstitions that ever existed have gathered here, and even modern superstitions as well. The sect of Chaldean diviners flourishes here. The Jesuits call it here the Literati Sect of China. Like them it philosophizes with odd and even numbers up to ten and with hieroglyphic symbols and various mathematical figures, and with the principal Chaldean deities, Light and Darkness, and these two deities are called the Virtue of Heaven and the Evil of Earth. This sect has thrived in China for nearly four thousand years, and it seems to have originated from Babylon when those people came to populate this kingdom. (p. 239)17


Daoism, by contrast, was identified as "the sect of the Magicians and Persian evil wizards" that "seems to be a branch of the ancient Zoroaster" and Buddhism as "the sect of the ancient Indian gymnosophists" that spread allover Asia but had Egyptian roots since it professes "a part of the doctrine of the Egyptians" (p. 238). This may well be the earliest example of an Egyptian genealogy for Buddhism -- an idea that had a great career in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (see Chapters 2, 3, and 4). For Rodrigues, all three Chinese religions thus had their roots in the Middle East: Confucianism in Mesopotamia, Daoism in Persia, and Buddhism in Egypt.

Since no one except Noah and his family had survived the great deluge, all three religions could not but have their ultimate origin with someone on the ark. The usual suspect was Ham, the son of Noah who had seen his father naked while drunk and whose son Canaan had been cursed by Noah (Genesis 9:25). According to Rodrigues, the Chinese people were descendants of Belus who "is the same as Nimrod, the grandson of Ham" who began to reign just after the confusion of tongues in Babel. The Chinese settled in their land after traveling "from the Tower of Babel straight after the Confusion of Tongues" and were "the first to develop ... astrology and other mathematical arts and other liberal and mechanical arts" (Rodrigues 2001:355). Especially the "science of judicial astrology" that Chinese Confucians still practice "after the fashion of the Chaldeans with figures of odd and even numbers" was "spread throughout the world by Ham, son of Noah" (p. 356). All this led Rodrigues to the expected conclusion:

According to this and the other errors that they [the Chinese] have held since then concerning God, the creation of the universe, spiritual substances, and the soul of man, as well as inevitable fate, the Chinese seem to be descendants of Ham, because he held similar errors and taught them to his descendants, who then rook them with them when they set off to populate the world. (p. 356)


But how did such knowledge reach China? As Noah's descendants dispersed to populate the world after the Confusion of Tongues in Babylon, "the wiser families" according to Rodrigues rook along such knowledge (and possibly also books) and proceeded to spread them throughout the world. In some places this knowledge was lost, but in others (like China) it was preserved (p. 378). If the transmission of genuine religion extended from God via Adam, Seth, and Enoch to Noah, how about the antediluvian transmission of false religion?

In addition to this astrological truth acquired through experience by the good sons of Seth, the wicked sons of Cain invented many conceits, innumerable superstitions, and errors .... they would commit many evil deeds and offences against God with the encouragement of the devil, to whom they had given themselves. For as it is written about him [Ham] and Cain, they were the first idolaters in the world and inventors of the magical arts. As he was evilly inclined, Ham, the son of Noah, was much given to this magical and judicial art, which he learnt from Cain's descendants before the Flood. (p. 378)


While the Chinese had safeguarded some useful scientific knowledge and the use of writing (p. 331) from the good transmission and thus had possibly managed to develop the world's earliest true writing system (p. 350), their religions, including Confucianism, unfortunately carried the strong imprint of Ham and the evil transmission. Rodrigues knew little about India, which he had only briefly visited on the way to Japan as a teenager. For him India's naked philosophers or gymnosophists and the Brahmans were all "disciples of Shaka's doctrine" (p. 360), and since Shaka (Shakyamuni Buddha) had "lived long before them," it was from him that they had learned such mistaken doctrines as that of a multitude of worlds (p. 360)-one of the views, nota bene, that around this time (1600) landed Giordano Bruno on the stake. Rodrigues thus regarded all three religions of China as descendants of the Hamite line that ultimately goes back to Cain, the slayer of his brother Abel. Though Buddhism was transmitted via India and reached China later than Confucianism and Daoism, it had the same ultimate root and atheist core. As we will see in Chapter 3, Rodrigues's vision of an underlying unity of Asian religions had a great future in the eighteenth century.

While Rodrigues fought against the ancient theology of Ricci and other Jesuits in China, a similar battle unfolded on the Indian subcontinent. In India, too, missionaries who were convinced that India's ancient religion belonged to the evil transmission fought against colleagues who believed that India had once been strictly monotheistic. The latter saw it as a land of pure primeval monotheism that, alas, had in time become clouded by the fumes of Brahmanic superstition.18 The most famous Jesuit in India to hold the latter view was Roberto DE NOBILl (1577-1656), who was later falsely accused of having authored Voltaire's Ezour-vedam. The real authors of the Ezourvedam, French Jesuit missionaries in India,19 were also partisans of Indian Urmonotheism -- and so was their contemporary and critic in France, Voltaire.
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Re: The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

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Part 2 of 4

Abrahamic Brahmans

One of Voltaire's favorite teachers at the Jesuit college Louis-le-Grand in Paris was Father Rene Joseph DE TOURNEMINE(1661-1739), the chief editor of the journal Memoires de Trevoux. Father Tournemine had been involved in the controversy about the Chinese Rites that culminated in 1700 with the banning of several books on China at the Sorbonne. This so-called Querelle des rites had been accompanied by the publication of reams of pamphlets and books and is a striking example of public attention to oriental issues in Voltaire's youth and of their impact on the established religion in Europe (Etiemble 1966; Pinot 1971; Cummins 1993).

On the losing side of the rites controversy, which came to a peak one century after Ricci in Voltaire's school years, were those who agreed with his idea that the ancient Chinese had from remote antiquity venerated God and abandoned pure monotheism only much later under the influence of Persian magic (Daoism) and Indian idolatry (Buddhism). They liked to evoke Ricci's statement about having read with his own eyes in Chinese books that the ancient Chinese had worshipped a single supreme God. In order to explain how this pure ancient religion had degenerated into idolatry, they cited Ricci's Story about the dispatch in the year 65 C.E. of a Chinese embassy to the West in search of the true faith (Trigault 1617:120-21). Instead of bringing back the good news of Jesus, the story went, the Chinese ambassadors had stopped short on the way and returned infected with the idolatrous teachings of an Indian impostor called Fo (Buddha). In the following centuries, this doctrine had reportedly contaminated the whole of East Asia and turned people away from original monotheism. Since Ricci's Story20 was told in one of the seventeenth century's most widely translated and read books about Asia, Nicolas Trigault's edition of Ricci's History of the Christian Expedition to the Kingdom of China (first published in Latin in 1615), it had an enormous influence on the European perception of Asia's religious history.

Ricci's extremist successors, the so-called Jesuit figurists (see Chapter 5), sought to locate the ancient monotheistic creed of the Chinese not just in Confucian texts but also in the Daoist Daodejing (Book of the Way and Its Power) and of course in the book that some believed to be the oldest extant book of the world, the Yijing (or I-ching; Book of Changes). These figurists included the French China missionaries Joachim Bouvet (1656-1730), the correspondent of Leibniz, and younger Jesuit colleagues like Joseph-Henri Premare (1666-1736) and Jean-Francois Foucquet (1665-1741), the man to whom Voltaire later falsely attributed the translation of his own "Chinese catechism."21 The Jesuits of the Ricci camp thought that since genuine monotheism had existed in a relatively pure state at least until the time of Confucius, their role as missionaries essentially consisted in reawakening the old faith, documenting its "prophecies" regarding Christ, identifying its goal and fulfillment as Christianity, and eradicating the causes of religious degeneration such as idolatry, magic, and superstition. Ritual vestiges of ancient monotheism were naturally exempted from the purge and subject to "accommodation."

By contrast, the extremists in the victorious opposite camp of the Chinese Rites controversy held that -- regardless of possible vestiges of monotheism and prediluvian science -- divine revelation came exclusively through the channels of Abraham and Moses, that is, the Hebrew tradition, and was fulfilled in Christianity. This meant that the Old and New Testaments were the sole genuine records of divine revelation and that all unconnected rites and practices were to be condemned. From this exclusivist perspective, the sacred scriptures of other nations could only contain fragments of divine wisdom if they had either plagiarized Judeo-Christian texts or aped their teachers and doctrines.

But China was not the only country whose religious pedigree was questioned. As early as the Renaissance, Marsilio Ficino (1433-99) had pored over the texts attributed to Hermes Trismegistos and oracular texts reputed to contain vestiges of pre-Judaic monotheism. In those days the focus of interest was mostly on Egypt, which (at least in heathen circles) had long been regarded as the cradle of humankind. After the discovery of the Americas ("West Indies") (1492) and the exploration of the "East Indies" following Vasco da Gama's circumnavigation of Africa and arrival in India (1498), the possibility of finding pre-Mosaic texts containing vestiges of God's revelation in other civilized regions had to be considered seriously. Following the lead of Epiphanius, who had first identified the Brahmans as descendants of Abraham and Keturah (Paulinus a Sancto Banholomaeo 1797:63), Guillaume Postel ([510-81) speculated in his interesting book De originibus (On the Origins) that the Indian Brahmans ("Abrahmanes") are direct descendants of Abraham (Postel 1553b:68-69). Postel was the first to suggest that India might harbor extremely ancient scriptures that could finally bring "absolute clarity" to the Mosaic narrative (p. 72). He thought that India was a land in which "infinite treasures of history and antediluvian books are hidden" and surmised that Enoch's books could be found there (p. 72). Though his idea was not exactly orthodox, Postel clearly stayed within the biblical framework since Enoch is one of the antediluvian heroes praised in the Bible and revered in Christianity as a pre-Judaic "pagan saint."22 However, the emphasis on antediluvian texts by Enoch and possibly even older figures such as Seth, the good son of Adam, could also be interpreted as an attack on Mosaic authority and the Old Testament. At any rate, Postel postulated two Abrahamic transmissions: a familiar one in the Middle East and an alternative one to the "sons of the Orient" (p. 64) who were none other than the Indian Brahmans. Though it remained unclear what texts and doctrines this oriental lineage of Abraham had actually transmitted or produced, the tantalizing possibility remained in the air that a kind of alternative (and possibly more ancient) Old Testament could exist in India.

Postel's Abrahamic Brahmans soon became the object of criticism, for example, in Henry Lord's A Discoverie of the Sect of the Banians, which asserted that the Indians had never heard of Abraham (Lord 1630:71-72). Despite the criticism, in Voltaire's time there were still supporters of this rather effective way of incorporating the Indians (and other Asians linked to them) into the biblical lineage. One of them was Isaac Newton,23 who wrote in his famous Chronology that was studied by Voltaire,

This religion of the Persian empire was composed partly of the institutions of the Chaldaeans, in which Zoroastres was well skilled, and partly of the institutions of the ancient Brachmans; who are supposed to derive even their name from the Abrahamans, or sons of Abraham, born of his second wife Keturah, instructed by their father in the worship of ONE GOD without images, and sent into the east, where Hystaspes was instructed by their successors. (Newton 1964:5.247)


Another supporter of Postel's hypothesis was the Jesuit Jean Venant Bouchet (1655-1732), one of the major contributors to the large collection of Jesuit mission letters entitled Lettres edifiantes et curieuses, which was required reading for men like Voltaire, Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron, Constantin- Francois Volney, William Jones, and anyone interested in Asia and its religions. The India part of this collection contains a total of nine letters by Boucher. By far the most famous and influential ones are those to the bishop of Avranches, Pierre-Daniel Huer (1630-1721). Huer's Demonstratio evangelica of 1678 attempted to prove the unbearable antiquity of the Old Testament by asserting that all pagan gods derive from Moses (and occasionally other Hebrew patriarchs) or from Moses's wife or sister. D. P. Walker ([972:216) wrote of being "lulled into a coma by the monotony of 'Vulcanus idem ac Moses. Typhon idem ac Moses ... Zoroastres idem ac Moses ... Apollo idem ac Moses. Pan idem ac Moses .. .'."24 Huer's purpose was not the coma of his readers bur the fortification of his (and some readers') wobbling faith in the trustworthiness of Moses. The onslaught could not be ignored: there were, of course, Isaac La Peyrere (1596-1676) with his theory of pre-Adamites (1655) and Baruch de Spinoza (1632-77) with his Tractatus theologico-politicus (1670), who both attacked the Old Testament's value as a textual source. Bur hardly less dangerous were assertions by the likes of Martino MARTINI (1614-1661), the Jesuir missionary who shocked Europe by his report that Chinese historical records reached back to antediluvian rimes (Martini 1658; Collani 2000). Huer's herculean effort had filled his house with so many books that it ended up collapsing, and Boucher's letters from India may have been designed to prevent Huer's precarious faith (Walker 1972:219) from suffering the same fare. Additionally, these letters mark the onset of a gradual shift from interest in China -- which had dominated the second half of the seventeenth century and the first decades of me eighteenth century -- to the focus on India promoted by Voltaire that fed the orientalist revolution described in this book.

Deist Mission and Universal History

Voltaire's Sermon des cinquante, the earliest print of which has been backdated to 1749,25 is something like a prayer book of a society of fifty "pious and reasonable learned people" who meet every Sunday, pray together, and then listen to a sermon before dining and collecting money for the poor. If one replaces "dining" by "breaking bread," one immediately gets Voltaire's point: this is the Sunday service of his religion for "reasonable learned people." After the initial prayer to me one unborn and undying God who rewards good and punishes evil, the president of the society begins his sermon as follows:

My brothers, religion is the secret voice of God who speaks to all human beings; it must unite them all, not divide them. Thus any religion that belongs only to a single people is false. Ours is in principle the religion of the entire universe; because we venerate a Supreme Being, like all nations do; we practice the justice which all nations teach, and we reject all the lies that the peoples accuse each other of. In agreement with them about the principle that unites them, we differ from them with regard to everything that makes them fight. The point that unites all people of all times must necessarily be the unique core of truth, and the points in which they differ, the standards of lie: religion must be in accordance with morality, and it must be universal like morality. Thus any religion that offends morality is necessarily false. It is under this double perspective of perversity and falsity that in this discourse we will examine the books of the Hebrews and those who have succeeded to them. (Voltaire 1749:4-5)


This pamphlet is Voltaire's deist manifesto, whose beginning already indicates that it entails a harsh indictment against Jewish and Christian exclusivism. It is an impassioned plea against the sects of Moses and Jesus and all their superstitions, divisions, hatred, persecutions, and brutality, and ends with a call to return to a pure, united religion:

Oh my brothers! can one commit such outrages against mankind? Have not our fathers already relieved the people from transsubstantiation, the veneration of creatures and bones of the dead, and from oral confession, indulgences, exorcisms, false miracles, and ridiculous images? Have not the people become accustomed to be deprived of such superstition? One must have the courage to take some further steps. The people are not as idiotic as one might think. They will easily accept a wise and simple cult of a unique God that, we are told, the sons of Noah professed and all the sages of antiquity practiced, as all scholars in China accept. (p. 26)


Voltaire was a convinced deist, and the deists' creed was thoroughly inclusive: not just those born into a certain region or era or religion had received God's revelation but all humankind. True religion thus had to be natural religion, that is, the religion that God had poured into the heart of every human being. For this religion, the concept of universal consent was crucial, as the beginning of Voltaire's sermon shows: all nations and men belong to God's axis of good. Voltaire was nor only in search of a universal history but also of a universal religion; and as soon as he embarked on his quest for a universal history during the 1740s, he also began to examine the religions of the world, particularly those of ancient Asia. Thanks to the writings of Ricci and his successors, he found that in China a pure veneration of God without any superstition and accompanied by excellent morality had once existed. However, as in other countries, this initial purity had become adversely affected through priestcraft and "the superstition of the bonzes" (Pomeau 1995:158). Voltaire was not interested in a simple extension of the biblical narrative to other countries, as was the case with the figurists in China or Father Bouchet in India who sought a link to a "good" son of Noah. That would have been tantamount to letting the Jews and their exclusivist divinity continue monopolizing human origins. For him it was not a question of the transmission of exclusively revealed truths or of the plagiarism of sacred scriptures in the sole possession of one people. Voltaire's eye was set on a true universal religion, a pure theism forming the root of all creeds. Already in a pamphlet of 1742 he had written,

Deism is a religion that is present in all religions; it is a metal that alloys with all others and whose veins run underground to the four corners of the world. This mine is more exposed, more dug in China; everywhere else it is hidden and the secret is only in the hands of the adepts. There is no land with more adepts than England. (p. 159)


One of these "adepts" was Edward HERBERT, Baron of Cherbury (c. 1600- 1655), who had built his central argument on "universal consent," that is, a common (monotheist) denominator to all religions of past and present. Voltaire thought that a pure, uncluttered monotheism suited to the taste of modern deists had existed in the remote past and that traces of it could be found in the most ancient cultures. Like his teacher Tournemine, Voltaire had with much interest studied the observations of Thomas HYDE (1636- 1703) on the religion of Persia (1700) and found himself in agreement with the English scholar's argument that monotheism had anciently existed everywhere and left vestiges in the form of texts, myths, and rituals far older than those of Judaism. Of course he was also interested in such vestiges because they offered a chance to undermine biblical authority and its monopoly on ancient history. Was God less intolerant, cruel, and vindictive in texts other than the Old Testament -- texts that were potentially much older than the scribblings of Moses and far less offensive to a modern deist who believed in God's universal revelation in the form of natural law for all rather than a secret communication to an individual or tribe?

Voltaire's search for vestiges of ancient monotheism thus formed pan and parcel of his quest for a universal history that began in earnest in the 1740s. "Universal histories" such as the pioneering work by Jacques-Benigne BOSSUET(1627-1704) tended to begin with the creation of the world in 4004 B.CE. (Bossuet 1681:7) and to feature events such as Enoch's miraculous ascension in 3017 B.CE. (pp. 8-9) and the universal deluge of 2348 B.CE. For Bossuet, the time up to 1491 B.CE., when Moses wrote down God's law, was "the period of natural law [Loy de Nature] when people had only natural reason [la raison naturelle] and the traditions of their ancestors to govern themselves" (pp. 17-18). From Bossuet's perspective, the histories and religions of all people were rooted in the events described in the Old Testament. Bossuet was well informed about the Chinese and had a hand in the campaign to condemn the Chinese Rites as idolatrous; indeed, it was through his offices that a "Letter to the Pope about the Chinese idolatries and superstitions" was printed (Hazard 1961:197). He was incensed that the Jesuits had dared to write of a "Chinese church" and thundered, "Strange kind of church without faith, without promise, without covenant, without sacraments, without the slightest sign of divine testimony .... After all, this is nothing but a confused pile of atheism, politics, irreligion, idolatry, magic, divination, and spells!" (p. 197). In the first edition of his universal history, Bossuet simply ignored this pile of refuse. But when he published the third edition of his history in 1700, at the height of the Chinese Rites controversy, he was forced to add alternative year numbers from the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. The Jesuit China missionaries had long made use of Septuagint chronology because it added 959 years to the world's age and thus guaranteed that the starting shot of biblical history rang before that of the Chinese annals. Thus Bossuet's pupil, the French royal heir apparent, and his numerous other readers needed to be informed that there was a second biblically supported date for the world's creation, namely, 4963 B.CE. Bossuet's twelve epochs of world history, which so beautifully show his biblical and Mediterranean bias (I. creation; 2. deluge; 3. Abraham; 4. Moses; 5. Troy; 6. Salomo; 7. Romulus and Rome; 8. Cyrus; 9. Scipio and Carthago; 10. Jesus; 11. Constantine; 12. Charlemagne), thus all received a second, alternative date. As Kaegi (1938:82) aptly put it, these double numbers exposed "a small crack in the royal edifice that within a few decades deepened and eventually led to its collapse." But Bossuet's universal history was nor the only one that featured a staunchly biblical narrative of origins. Even some more recent works such as the gigantic English An Universal History from the Earliest Accounts to the Present whose publication began in 1730 featured chapters titled "From the Creation to the Flood" and "From the Deluge to the Birth of Abraham" (Sale et al. 1741:I.I-153).

When Voltaire in the early 1740s set out to write his Essai sur les moeurs et l'esprit des nations et sur les principaux faits de l'histoire depuis Charlemagne jusqu'a Louis XIII (which in the following will simply be called Essai), he intended not to supplant Bossuet's history but rather to supplement it; but it irked him no end that a few rather insignificant nations around the Mediterranean Sea had hijacked the early history of humankind. In the introduction  to the first fragments for his new beginning of universal history, Voltaire wrote,

Until now, the majority of Universal Histories treated other peoples as if they did not exist at all. Greece and the Romans have seized all of our attention, and when the famous Bossuet says a word about the Mohammedans, he speaks of them only as an inundation of barbarians, even though many of these nations possessed useful arts that we inherited from them .... We are neither just nor wise to ignore them. (Voltaire 1745:8)


While getting ready to remedy this state of affairs, Voltaire wanted to collect what his predecessors had neglected (p. 5) in order to furnish a truly universal history of "the customs of man and the revolutions of the human spirit" (p. 5). The first draft chapters of this new history dealt not with Adam and creation but with China and India, which pointed to a looming revolution in Europe's perception of origins. Voltaire's central and most influential work is without any doubt the Essai. With regard to his view of Asian religions and to the development of his vision of India and its religions, the Essai is most interesting because its different editions reflect different stages of Voltaire's outlook. We will thus focus on this central text of Voltaire and adduce other works as needed. Table 2 lists the stages of the Essai's genesis with brief remarks about the relevance for our inquiry.

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TABLE 2. VOLTAIRE'S ESSAI SUR LES MOEURS AND ASIAN RELIGIONS

1745 / The 1745 fragments (later used in the Essai) published in the Mercure de France contain an introduction and the first two chapters on China and India which reflect Voltaire's early view of Asian religions and literature.

1756 / The first edition of the Essai sur Les moeurs contains many changes and additions to the 1745 texts on China and India reflecting Voltaire's intensive study of missionary and travel literature before his encounter with the Ezour-vedam. Apart from the China and India chapters, ch. 120 on Japan contains information about Voltaire's view of India and its sacred literature.

1761 / The second edition of the Essai sur Les moeurs reflects Voltaire's study of the Ezour-vedam and contains -- apart from a new chapter on the Brahmans, the Veda, and the Ezour-vedam -- also many interesting revisions and additions. The Indies parr of the Japan chapter now forms a separate chapter (ch. 139) and contains some revisions and additions.

1765 Voltaire's La philosophie de l'histoire (published separately under the pseudonym of Abbe Bazin but in 1769 incorporated into the Essai sur Les moeurs) contains Voltaire's views on the early history of religion and contains a chapter on "Bram, Abram, Abraham" and one each on India and China. (Voltaire's 1767 La defense de mon oncle is a defense against a critic of the La philosophie de l'histoire and, besides adding some relevant information, represents the apex of Ezour-vedam influence)

1769 / The third edition of the Essai sur Les moeurs newly features the 1765 La philosophie de l'histoire as Introduction to the Essai. The Essai itself also contains numerous passages reflecting Voltaire's study of Holwell's Interesting historical events and its fragments of the Chartah Bhade.

1775 / For collective editions of his works, Voltaire revised his Essai text three more times and added some polemics (Pomeau 1963:xviii); these revisions are of little importance to our inquiry.


China and India in 1745

Voltaire's admiration of India is often described in the context of his purported shift from a similar but earlier admiration of China. In the eyes of Wilhelm Halbfass, this transition from infatuation with China to indomania happened in 1760 on contact with the Ezour-vedam:

China at first appeared much more attractive and important than India in Voltaire's eyes, and he played an active role in helping to idealize the "practical philosophy" and civic institutions of the Chinese. However, after studying the manuscript of the Ezourvedam which the Chevalier de Maudave had given him in 1760, he became convinced that the world's oldest culture and most pristine religious thought was to be found in India and not in China. (Halbfass 1990:57)


However, Daniel Hawley detected some admiration for India already in the 1756 version of Voltaire's Essai. But in support of his thesis that until the encounter with the Ezour-vedam Voltaire's India was the "exotic India" of Bababee and the Fakirs (1750), Hawley states that "before 1756 the majority of references to India in the Essai were no more than exotic details" (1974:166). A closer look at Voltaire's 1745 Essai chapters on China and India, however, results in a completely different picture.

Since Voltaire took the revolutionary step of beginning his universal history not with the creation story and Adam bur rather with a chapter on China, questions of chronology were of great importance. Voltaire used information furnished by the learned Father Antoine Gaubil of the Jesuit China mission to characterize the accuracy of Chinese historiography as "indisputable" because it is "the only one based on astronomical observations" (Voltaire 1745:9). As we have seen, Bossuet (1681:17-18) had Moses write down God's law in 1491 B.C.E. or, if one used the Septuagint-based calculation, in 2450 B.C.E. At the beginning of Voltaire's China chapter of 1745, Gaubil's information is used to show that China's first king reigned twenty-five centuries before Christ. The fact that he already united fifteen kingdoms, Voltaire wrote, "proves that several centuries earlier this region was very populated, governed, and partitioned in numerous sovereign countries" (p. 11). Voltaire adduced China's gigantic population and towns, the Great Wall, its ancient use of paper and printing, and many other facts to convince his readers of both the antiquity and excellence of Chinese civilization (pp. 11-18). But near the end of his litany comes the surprising statement that there is one thing that might merit more attention than all China's mentioned achievements: "that from time immemorial they partition the month in weeks of seven days" (p. 18). This statement persisted unrevised through all subsequent editions of the Essai, bur an explanation added in the 1769 version clarifies its significance: "The Indians used this; Chaldea modeled its method on it and passed it on to the small country of Judea; but it was not adopted in Greece" (Voltaire 1829:15.268).26 The fact that Voltaire paid so much attention to this and mentioned it once more in his India chapter of 1745 ("their weeks always had seven days," Voltaire 1745:29) indicates that already in 1745 Voltaire was determined to use ancient India and China to destabilize biblical authority. The idea that the basic scheme of the Old Testament's creation story, the tale of seven days, was derived from far older peoples further east was a direct attack on Judeo-Christianity.

While Judea clearly was no more in competition for the oldest human culture, Voltaire was at this point still vacillating between India and China. Yet there were already signs that India was about to gain the upper hand. Voltaire mentioned that the ancient Greeks had traveled to India for instruction in the sciences and that the Arabs had adopted Indian numbers; but what most attracted his interest was the report that the Chinese emperor treasured Indian antiquities: "Perhaps the ancient Indian medals, which the Chinese make such a fuss about, are proof that the arts were cultivated in India before they became known to the Chinese" (p. 8). Regarding the other competitor, Egypt, Voltaire argued,

If one had to decide between the Indies and Egypt, I would think that the sciences are much older in the Indies; my conjecture is based on the fact that the land of the Indies is much easier to inhabit than that in the vicinity of the Nile River whose inundations doubtlessly deterred the first colonizers until they tamed this river by digging canals; besides, the soil of the Indies shows a much more varied fertility and must have stimulated human curiosity and industry to a greater degree. (p. 29)


Even though Voltaire as early as 1745 suspected that the earliest human civilization was in India, his idealization of China held up as he added to the above quotation that in India "the science of government and of morals does not seem to have been as sophisticated as with the Chinese" (p. 29). But the question of origins was far from solved in Voltaire's mind. Eleven years later, in the 1756 version, he was to replace this last sentence about Chinese sophistication with the following:

Some have believed that the human race originated from Hindustan, arguing that the weakest animal had to be born in the mildest climate; but all origin is veiled for us. Who is able to say that there were no insects, no grass, no trees in our climates when they were present in the orient? (p. 30)


This argument about insects points to Voltaire's belief that human beings of different races could, just like insects, have originated anywhere on the globe. In the 1761 version, he added a long paragraph in which he mocked Bible-inspired monogenetic ideas, including that of the Ezour-vedam. Voltaire's dismissive attitude toward the Ezour-vedam is at odds with the kind of admiration and complete trust that Halbfass's and Hawley's narratives make readers expect. Voltaire's trenchant critique of the Ezour-vedam tale of Adimo (here misprinted Damo but later corrected) clearly shows his unwillingness to replace biblical monogenesis with an Indian equivalent:

All these considerations [about the fertility and easy life in India] seem to strengthen the old idea that mankind was born in a land where nature did everything for men and left them with almost nothing to do; but this only proves that the Indians are indigenous, and it does not prove at all that other kinds of people came from these regions. The whites, negroes, reds, Laplanders, Samoyedes, and Albinos certainly do not stem from the same land. The difference between all these species is as marked as that between a greyhound and a mullet; thus, only a badly instructed and pigheaded Brahman would pretend that all humans descend from the Indian Damo and his wife. (Voltaire 1761:1.44)


Returning to the 1745 India chapter after this foretaste of Voltaire's critical attitude toward the Ezour-vedam and his rejection of any monogenetic conception of origin, we note that in 1745, too, Indian religion was harshly criticized. From 1745 to the end of his life, Voltaire used the term "Bracmanes" or "Brachmanes" for the ancient clergy of India and "Bramins" for their modern successors. In 1745, he accused both the "Bonzes" (Buddhist clergy) and Brachmanes of fostering superstition, believing in metempsychosis or transmigration of souls and thus "spreading mindless stupidity [abrutissement] together with error" (Voltaire 1745:30): "Some of them are deceitful, others fanatic, and several of them are both;" and all "still prod, whenever they can, widows to immolate themselves on the body of their husbands" (p. 30).

We have already encountered several avatars of the idea that priests believe in a secret "inner" doctrine while misleading the people with "outer" lies and superstitious practices. This idea did not originate in the missions but already forms the basis of Plutarch's portrayal of Egyptian priests in his Isis and Osiris and runs like a thread via Lactantius, Augustine's City of God, and many other texts to the eighteenth century with its Jesuit figurists, John Toland's Letters to Serena (1704), and Ramsay's voyages de Cyrus (1728) to Voltaire's Essai. We will see in Chapters 2, 3, and 5 that one of these avatars, the Buddha's deathbed confession story, played an important role throughout the eighteenth century. Of course, the conception of an "inner" doctrine appreciated by the elite and an "outer" one for the ignorant masses was also fundamental for Ricci and other missionaries who portrayed Chinese or Indian religions in this manner and produced the reading material that inspired Voltaire. Thus, it is by no means surprising that he adopted this very scheme in his 1745 portrait of Indian and Chinese religions. With regard to the Indians, Voltaire wrote,

These Brahmins, who maintain the populace in the most stupid idolatry nevertheless have in their hands one of the most ancient books of the world, written by one of their earliest sages, in which only one Supreme Being is recognized. They preserve with great care this testimony that condemns them. (Voltaire 1745:30)


As Pomeau (1995:161) pointed out, Voltaire here probably amalgamated information about two Indian books from a letter of January 30, 1709, by Father Lalane included in the Lettres edifiantes et curieuses collection. The first concerns a book called Panjangan that proves the Indian recognition of one supreme being. Very much in the tracks of his Jesuit colleagues in China, Father Lalane wrote,

Based on the evidence from several of their books, it seems evident to me that they [the Indians] formerly had quite distinct knowledge of the true God. This is easy to see from the beginning of a book called Panjangan whose text I have translated word for word: "I venerate this Being that is subject neither to change nor anxiety [inquietude]; this Being whose nature is indivisible; this Being whose simplicity does not admit of any composition of qualities; this Being who is the origin and the cause of all beings and who surpasses all in excellence; this Being who is the support of the universe and the source of the three-fold power." (Le Gobien 1781-83:11.219)27


The second refers to the Veda, which Father Lalane described as follows:

The most ancient books, which contained a purer doctrine and were written in a very ancient language, were gradually neglected, and the use of this language has entirely disappeared. This is certain with regard to the book of religion called Vedam, which the scholars of the land understand no more; they limit themselves to reading it and to learning certain passages by heart, which they then pronounce in a mysterious manner to dupe the people more easily. (p. 220)


For Voltaire's China the same distinction applied. On one hand, he was enchanted with China's "morality, this obedience to the laws joined to the veneration of a supreme Being" that "form the religion of China, of its emperors and scholars [lettres]" (Voltaire 1745:22). In the 1745 Essai fragments, Confucius is said to have "established" this religion "which consists in being just and benevolent [bienfaisant]" (p. 22) and conveyed "the sanest ideas about the Divinity that the human spirit can form without revelation" (p. 23). As Voltaire did not believe in any divine revelation other than the laws of nature, reason, and the moral principles in everyone's heart, it is clear that in 1745 he regarded this idealized Confucianism as the model of a religion. On the ocher hand, China also had its superstitions for the masses. Sects like the cult of "Laokium" (Laozi; Daoism) that "believe in evil spirits and magic spells [enchantements]" and "the superstition of the Bonzes" who "offer the most ridiculous cult" to the Idol Fo (Buddha) (p. 23) are certainly not to the liking of the "magistrates and scholars who are altogether separate from the people." But these members of the elite who "nourish themselves with a purer substance" nevertheless insist that superstitious sects "be tolerated in China for use of the vulgar people, like coarse food apt to feed them" (p. 25). In Voltaire's religion there was no tolerance for intolerance.
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Re: The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

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Part 3 of 4

The 1756 Essai and Dreams of the Veda

Unlike the scattered chapters published in 1745, the 1756 Essai was the first complete version that Voltaire submitted to the public. It resounded, as we will see in Chapter 7, not only throughout Europe but even elicited an interesting echo in far-away India.

The most striking change in the Essai's India chapter is found at its end where Voltaire eliminated two passages that were cited above. The first is about the bonzes and brachmanes who spread mindless stupidity and are deceitful, fanatic, or both; and the second is about the brahmins who maintain the populace in the most stupid idolatry even though they safeguard a book that recognizes a supreme being. In place of such critique, Voltaire in 1756 almost justifies the Brahmins:

It would still be difficult to reconcile the sublime ideas which me brahmins preserve about the supreme being with their garrulous mythology [mythologie fabuleuse] if history would not show us similar contradictions with the Greeks and Romans. (Voltaire 1756:1.32)


What had happened in the eleven years between 1745 and 1756? How did the Brahmins get rid of their superstitions, fanaticism, and evil instigation of the ritual suicide of widows (sati)? And how did the "most stupid idolatry" get transformed into a "garrulous" or "fabulous" mythology whose contradictions are not worse than those of the Greeks and Romans? A partial answer is not found in the India and China chapters at the beginning of the 1756 Essai but rather way back in chapter 120, "On Japan." For some reason, in this unlikely place Voltaire included new information on India, and here he also mentions a lesson learned through experience:

It is true that one must read almost all reports that arrive from faraway lands with a spirit of doubt. People are busier sending us goods from the coasts of Malabar than truths. A particular case is often portrayed as a general custom. (Voltaire 1756:3.203)


Voltaire was now informed about some of me most striking features of Asian religions. He saw "almost all peoples steeped in the opinion that their gods have frequently joined us on earth": Vishnu had gone through nine incarnations, and the god of the Siamese, Sammonocodom (Buddha), reportedly took human form no less than 150 times (p. 204). Voltaire noted that the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans had very similar ideas, and he sought to interpret this "error" amiably and monotheistically:

Such a rash, ridiculous, and universal error nevertheless comes from a reasonable feeling that is at the bottom of all hearts. One feels naturally one's dependence on a supreme being; and the error which always joins truth has almost everywhere caused people to regard the gods as lords who came at times to visit and reform their domains. (p. 205)


Another characteristic common to many religions is identified as atonement: "Man has always felt the need for clemency. This is the origin of the frightening penances to which the bonzes, brahmins, and fakirs subject themselves" (p. 205). For the Indian cult of the lingam, he also found Mediterranean counterparts in "the procession of the phallum of the Egyptians and the priapus of the Romans" (p. 205). Voltaire thought it "probable that this custom was introduced in times of simplicity and that at first people only thought of honoring the divinity through the symbol of the life it gave to us" (p. 205). These interpretations show how eager Voltaire was to find vestiges of monotheism even in ideas and cults that not so long ago would have elicited harsh words of condemnation or ridicule. Now he not only tried to interpret them as signs of ancient monotheism but also pointed to an ancient source:

Would you believe that among so many extravagant opinions and bizarre superstitions these Indian heathens all recognize, as we do, an infinitely perfect being? Whom they call the being of beings, the sovereign being, invisible, incomprehensible, formless, creator, and preserver, just and merciful, who deigns to impart himself to the people to guide them to eternal happiness? These ideas are contained in the Vedam, which is the book of the ancient brachmanes. They are spread in modern books of the brahmins. (p. 206)


Voltaire then hints at the source of this information: "A learned Danish missionary on the coast of Tranquebar" who "cites several passages and several prayer formulae that seem to come from straightest reason and purest holiness." Had he finally found an alternative to the Jewish Old Testament? While in 1756 he had quoted only the first five words of a single prayer from a book called Varabadu -- "O sovereign of all beings, etc." (p. 206) -- the 1761 Essai features the whole prayer; and though the source is not further identified, it appears that Voltaire got all this information from the book published in 1724 by Mathurin Veyssiere de LA CROZE(1661-1739) that will be analyzed in the next chapter.

Voltaire already appears to have used La Craze's book when writing his brief 1745 portrayal of the cult of Fo or Foe (Ch. Buddha) that described its Indian origin around 1000 B.C.E. and its popularity in most of Asia (Voltaire mentions Japan, China, Tartary, Siam, and Tibet; 1745:23-25). Such information was found in La Croze's survey of "Indian idolatry" ([724:424-519) that contained an early synthesis of ancient and contemporary information about phenomena that we today associate with Buddhism. But it also featured much information on Indian religion that Voltaire used for the 1756 version of his Essai. La Croze, a former Benedictine monk who had converted to Protestantism, had read early accounts of the sacred scriptures of India, the Vedas, and his status as Prussia's royal librarian helped him get access to a treasure trove of recent information on India's religions. These were the unpublished manuscripts of the German Lutheran missionary Bartholomaus ZIEGENBALG (1682-I719), who in 1706 had arrived in South India as India's first Protestant missionary and spent thirteen years in the Danish enclave of Tranquebar on India's southeastern coast (Tamil Nadu). Just two months after his arrival, Ziegenbalg proclaimed in a letter what was to become the tenor of his extensive studies of Hinduism: "They have many hundreds of gods yet recognize only a single divine Being as the origin of all gods and all other things" (Bergen 1708:19).28 This assertion of ancient Indian monotheism was not only repeated and documented in Ziegenbalg's manuscripts but also found its way into two of Voltaire's major sources, namely, La Croze (1724) and Niecamp (I745).

Near the beginning of La Croze's investigation about the "idolatry of the Indies," Voltaire read that "in spite of the grossest idolatry, the existence of the infinitely perfect Being is so well established with them [the Indians] that there is no room for doubt that they have preserved this knowledge since their first establishment in the Indies" (La Croze 1724:425). Calling the Indians "one of the oldest people on earth," La Croze thought it "a very probable fact that in ancient times they had a quite distinct knowledge of the true God and that they offered an inner cult [culte interieur] to him which was not mixed with any profanation" (p. 426). To find out more about this, La Croze suggested, one would have to get access to the Vedam, "which is the collection of the ancient sacred scriptures of the Brachmanes" (p. 427). In the Vedam "in all likelihood one would find the antiquities [Antiquitez] which the superstitiously proud Brahmins conceal from the people of India whom they regard as profane" (p. 427). Consequently, the Brahmins (the modern successors of the ancient Brachmanes) introduce ordinary people only to "the exterior of religion enveloped in legends [fables] that are at least as extravagant as those of Greek paganism" (p. 428). According to La Croze, the Vedam, which can be read only by Brahmins who are its guardians, "enjoys the same authority with these idolaters as the Sacred Writ does with us" (p. 447). Always following Ziegenbalg's and his fellow missionaries' manuscripts, La Croze quoted a passage "from one of the [Indian] books" about God whom the Indians call "Barabara Vistou, that is, the Being of Beings" (p. 452).29 La Croze did not identify this book, but Voltaire must have been so impressed by the information about the monotheistic Vedas that, in the 1756 Essai, he jumped to the conclusion (Voltaire 1756:3.206): "These ideas are contained in the Vedam, which is the book of the ancient brachmanes."30 In fact, the ideas mentioned by Voltaire -- "the being of beings, the sovereign being, invisible, incomprehensible, formless, creator, and preserver, just and merciful, who deigns to impart himself to the people to guide them to eternal happiness" -- were culled in almost identical sequence from a longer passage in La Croze, which reads as follows (words taken over by Voltaire are italicized):

The infinitely perfect Being is known to all these gentile pagans. They call it in their language Barabara Vastou, that is, the Being of Beings. Here is how they describe it in one of their books. "The Sovereign Being is invisible and incomprehensible, immobile and without shape or exterior form. Nobody has ever seen it; time has not included it: his essence fills all things, and all things have their origin from him. All power, all wisdom, all knowledge [science], all sanctity, and all truth are in him. He is infinitely good, just, and merciful. It is he who has created all, preserves all, and who enjoys to be among men in order to guide them to eternal happiness, the happiness that consists in loving and serving him." (La Croze 1724:452)


With regard to the lingam cult Voltaire also followed La Croze and indirectly Ziegenbalg. La Croze had explained that "the lingum ... is a symbolic representation of God ... bur only represents God as he materializes himself in creation," (p. 455) while Voltaire speculated that this cult "was introduced in times of simplicity and that at first people only thought of honoring the divinity through the symbol of the life it gave to us" (Voltaire 1756:3.205).

At this point, Voltaire leaned toward India as the earliest human civilization (1756:1.30) and believed that the most ancient text of this civilization was called Vedam and contained a simple and pure monotheism. So he must have been elated when a reader of his 1756 Essai, Louis-Laurent de Federbe, Chevalier (later Comte) DE MAUDAVE (1725-77), wrote to him from India two or three years after publication of the Essai. Maudave had left in May 1757 for India and in 1758 participated in the capture of Fort St. David and the siege of Madras (Rocher 1984:77). While stationed in South India, Maudave had gotten hold of French translations from the Vedam and decided to write a letter to Voltaire. Having read the Japan chapter of the 1756 Essai, he knew how interested Voltaire was In finding documentation for ancient Indian monotheism through the Vedam. In the margin of a page of his Ezour-vedam manuscript (which he later passed on to Voltaire), Maudave scribbled next to two prayers to God: "Copy these prayers in the letter to M. de Voltaire" (p. 80).32 Though these prayers are nor found in the extant fragment of Maudave's letter, it is likely that Maudave included them in order to document the existence of pure monotheism in the Vedam. The second major point of Voltaire's 1756 Essai that Maudave addtessed in his letter was the cult of the lingam.33 In his discussion, Maudave quoted the Ezour-vedam as textual witness and offered to send Voltaire a replica of a Linga and a copy of the Ezour-vedam (Rocher 1984:48).

Discoveries of the Ezour-vedam

Maudave's letter to Voltaire described the Ezour-vedam as a dialogue written by the author of the Vedas: "This Dialogue presupposes that Chumontou is the author of the Vedams, that he wrote them to countervail the empty superstitions that spread among men and, above all, to halt the unfortunate progress of idolatry" (p. 49). Maudave also specifically mentioned the author of the text's French translation: "Its author is Father Martin, the former Jesuit missionary at Pondichery" (p. 49). Since this missionary had died in Rome in 1716, Maudave must have thought that the translation from the Sanskrit original was about fifty years old. This missionary connection clearly disturbed Maudave. First of all, a strange agreement with Christian doctrine made Maudave suspicious about the quality of the translation. More than that, he let Voltaire know that his doubts were specifically connected with the tendency of the translator's Jesuit order to find traces of their own faith in just about every part of the world -- in Chinese books, in Mexico, and even among the savages of South America (p. 80)! Maudave had carefully studied the Jesuit letters including those of Calmette that announced the dispatch of the four Vedas to Paris and wrote the following about their content to Voltaire:

This body of the religion and regulations of the country is divided in four books. There is one at the Royal Library. The first contains the history of the gods. The second the dogmas. The third the morals. The fourth the civil and religious rites. They are written in this mysterious language which is here discussed and which is called the Samscrout. (Ms 1765, Musee d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, 118v)


What puzzled Maudave above all was that this information about the content of the Vedas was in total contradiction with what he saw in the Ezourvedam. He wrote to Voltaire that the Ezour-vedam was a dialogue between two Brahmes, one of whom "believes in the religion of the Indies" while the other "defends the unity of God" (p. 122r). Maudave thought "this dialogue assumes that Chumontou is the author of the Vedams and that he wrote them to remedy the vain superstitions that spread among men and above all to stop the unfortunate progress of idolatry" (p. 122r). The Chumontou of the Ezour-vedam was both a fierce critic of rites and seemed to be the author of the Vedams. Maudave observed, "Here there is a very manifest contradiction since one book of the Vedams contains all the religious rites of which the cult of God forms a part" (p. 122V).

Maudave felt a problem that bothered many who read the Ezour-vedam and that will be explained in Chapter 7: somehow Chumontou seemed to be both the author of the Veda and its critic. At any rate, what Maudave knew about the content of the Veda must have made him think that the Ezourvedam was not the real Veda. He was suspicious of some kind of foul play and continued:

In spite of this [contradiction], I admit that the manuscript is quite singular. But I find in it propositions about the unity of God and the creation of the universe that are too direct and too conforming to our sacred scriptures to have complete trust in the fidelity of the translation. If you have some interest in seeing this manuscript, I will have it copied and will send it to you. (p. 122V)


Maudave thus expressed his doubts about the authenticity of the Ezourvedam, the quality of Father Martin's translation, and the general tendency of Jesuits to find in texts exactly what they needed to find. Though by his own admission Maudave lacked the knowledge necessary to explain "the foundations of Indian religion" and wrote to Voltaire that the subject "had roused my curiosity only intermittently," he expressed his disapproval of Jesuit accommodation strategy and let the patriarch of Ferney know that "the abominable superstitions of these peoples arouse my indignation" (Rocher 1984:79). Maudave knew of Voltaire's strong interest in the Veda, and in this letter he both maintained that it must have been translated from Sanskrit and found that this text did not at all match his idea of the four Vedas. The depth of Maudave's doubts about the Ezour-vedam's quality of translation and possibly its authenticity was such that he offered to have a copy made for Voltaire only if he was at all interested in the manuscript (p. 48).

On the occasion of Maudave's visit to Voltaire in late September or early October 1760, Voltaire received the Ezour-vedam along with an additional text called Cormo-Vedam.34 During the winter he studied the manuscript, and in the following spring, he reported that he had found a way to "make good use of it" (Voltaire 1980:6.287). He had decided to include a new chapter about "the Brachmanes, the Vedam, and the Ezourvedam" in the Essai's 1761 edition and wrote this chapter during the summer of 1761. He then had a copy of Maudave's texts made and on August 14 sent the original Maudave manuscripts to the Royal Library in Paris (Sinner 1771:128-29).

In 1762 Voltaire's nephew, Abbe Vincent Mignot, mentioned the Ezourvedam in two of his five papers read at the Royal Academy of Inscriptions about the ancient philosophers of India. He thought that India had been inhabited earlier than Egypt but traced both the Indian and Egyptian religions back to the plain of Shinar (Sennaar) near the landing spot of Noah's ark (Mignot 1768:122, 144). For Mignot the Ezour-vedam proved the early presence of monotheism in ancient India; in support of this view, he quoted one of its prayers: "You are the savior, the father, and the lord of the world; you see everything, you know everything, you rule over everything" (p. 263; transl. Rocher 1984:7). But some readers of the Ezour-vedam manuscript also noted a number of strange passages that betrayed a Western author. For example, Anquetil-Duperron35 remarked that Chumontou "does no more than to confront them [Indian legends] with the doubts of a philosopher who cannot be held to represent the religion of India" (Rocher 1984:8-9) and detected some passages that clearly stemmed from a European.36 But as early as 1762, Abbe Mignot made the connection betweeen the Ezour-vedam and the monotheistic "gnanigol."37 In one of his papers on the ancient philosophers of India, he described these Indians as modem successors of the ancient Brachmans. They are "intimately convinced of God's oneness" and are regarded as "the sages and saints of India" who "openly reject the cult of idols and all superstitious practices of the nation in order to worship only God whom they call 'Being of beings' [l'etre des etres]" (Mignot 1768:218-19). In 1771 Anquetil-Duperron published his opinion that the text's author was one of these "Ganigueuls" or "gnanigol" described by Ziegenbalg and La Croze (Anquetil-Duperron 1771:I.lxxxv), and this opinion was later supported in the preface to the Ezour-vedam's first primed edition of 1778 where Sainte- Croix informed the readers:

Everywhere in the Ezour-Vedam we find the principal articles of the doctrine of the Ganigueuls ... and therefore one cannot doubt that it was a philosopher of this sect who composed this work. A man immersed in the darkness of idolatry reports, under the name of Biache, the most accepted fables of India and exposes the entire system of popular theology of this country. The philosopher Chumontou rejects this mythology as contrary to good sense, or because he has nor read of it in the ancient books, and expounds the fabulous accounts in a moral sense .... Responding w the questions of Biache, the Ganigueul philosopher explains the doctrine of the unity of God, creation, the nature of the soul, the dogma of punishment and reward in a future state, the cult appropriate for the supreme being, the duties of all states, ere. (Sainte-Croix 1778:I.146-47)


The association of these Gnanigol with the Ezour-vedam will be discussed in Chapters 2 and 7; here I just note that anybody familiar with the arguments of deists and their opponents will immediately recognize the themes mentioned in this last phrase as central to the debate about Christianity. Though Sainte-Croix did nor ascribe the text to a missionary, he regarded this teaching as quire different from that of the Vedam and explained that "Chumontou pretends to reach the Vedam by establishing his own system, and he does nor bother to prove if it is really conform to the doctrine of that sacred book" (I.149). Such doubts led to the following conclusion about the text's authorship and age: "This work which contains the exposition of the principles of the philosophy of the Ganigueuls, as opposed w the actual beliefs of Indian people, can certainly nor be very old" (1.150). In his footnotes w the text of the Ezour-vedam, Sainte-Croix also added various critical remarks; for example, an argument of Chumontou is dismissed in the editor's note by "Nothing more arbitrary and worse reasoned than this" (1.211),and exclamations such as "bad reasoning" (1.284) or "funny cosmography!" (1.254) pepper the notes. Furthermore, Sainte-Croix omitted some passages from the Ezour-vedam text because of his conviction that they were interpolations written by a European (1.267; 2.163).

Four years after the Ezour-vedam's 1778 publication, Sonnerat (1782:1.215) described it as "definitely not one of the four Vedams" and as "a book of controversy, written by a missionary of Masulipatam" who "tried to reduce everything to the Christian religion" (Rocher 1984:13). In 1784, Gottfried Less wrote that the text reminds us of the Bible, must be based on that source, and is distinctly European and specifically French both in content and expression (pp. 15-16). Barely eight years after the Ezour-vedam's publication and Voltaire's death, August Hennings claimed that "today no one believes any longer in the authenticity of the Ezurvedam" (p. 16). Although this statement is exaggerated,38 it shows that harboring doubts about the text was normal among men who were far less skeptical and discerning about historical sources than Voltaire and had no inkling of Maudave's reservations before he brought this manuscript to Europe. Like Maudave in the late 1750s, these readers tended to become suspicious as soon as they studied the text with some attention.

The Ezour-vedam is set up as a conversation between Chumontou (Sumantu) and Biache (Vyasa). Like Ricci's Western scholar, Chumontou presents himself as a reformer who wants to restore primeval monotheism to its pristine purity. The interlocutor Biache represents the degeneration of primeval purity into idolatry, polytheism, and priestcraft. Many of the themes discussed in the Ezour-vedam show such a strong Christian slant that one readily understands why Maudave wrote to Voltaire from India that he found the manuscript strange because it reminded him so much of the Bible and conformed so suspiciously to Jesuit mission strategy. A good example is the following explanation by Chumontou about the difference between man and animal that could hardly be more un-Indian:

In creating man, God has created everything for his use. The animals have been created to serve him. Trees, plants, fruit, the different foodstuffs and in the end everything on earth has been made to cater to his needs. The distress and pain that animals feel is inseparable from their state since they are made to serve man; but they are not a [karmic] effect or consequence of sin. Here is why: the punishment of sin is eternal in its nature bur the distress that animals feel is only temporary. Trees, etc., do not have a soul and are thus incapable of committing sins. However vile and despicable man may be, he has a soul and is always endowed with reason. He has a propensity for sin, commits it, and after death he reaps eternal punishment. Likewise with virtue: a good man practices it during his life; and the moment of death is the happy instant when he begins to taste the fruit [of virtue] and to enjoy it in all eternity. (Sainte- Croix 1778:2.9-11)


Even a person like Maudave -- who admitted at the end of his letter to Voltaire mar he was more interested in the political situation of the country and in commerce (Rocher 1984:79) -- must have felt skeptical when reading such an obviously Christian view of man's relation to animals and of soul, hell, and paradise along with such an unequivocal refutation of rebirth and karma. But what would a man like Voltaire, the famous critic of the Jesuits and one of the most discerning and mischievous readers of religious texts of his rime, see in this text?.58

Voltaire's Indian Gospel

If Maudave "was puzzled by the French Ezour-vedam to the point of doubting its authenticity" (Rocher 1984:80), Voltaire's reaction on receiving the text from Maudave in the fall of 1760 is even more puzzling. We do nor know what Maudave raid him during his visit, bur there is no doubt that he had informed Voltaire in writing (1) that the translator of the text was the Jesuit Pierre Martin (who had died in 1716) and (2) that he had doubts about the accuracy of the translation because of Jesuit involvement. However, shortly after Maudave's visit, Voltaire wrote in a letter that he was going to establish contact with the Indian translator ("my brahmin") and joked that he hoped that this Brahmin would be more reasonable than the professors at the Sorbonne (Voltaire 1980:6.20; October 10, 1760). Four months later, when he had thoroughly studied the text and expressed his confidence that he could "make good use of it," he described the translator as a "Brahmin of great esprit" who knows French very well (6.287; February 22, 1761) and who produced "a faithful translation" (6.298; March 3, 1761). In July 1761, at the rime when he had decided to add a new chapter to the Essai about the Ezourvedam and then to present his copy of the manuscript to the Royal Library in Paris, he claimed that Maudave had received the Ezour-vedam from a Brahmin who was a correspondent of the French Compagnie des Indes and had translated it (6.470; July 1761). After sending the manuscript to the Royal Library, Voltaire for the first rime located this Brahmin translator in Benares, the center of Brahman orthodoxy (6.602; October 1, 1761). He repeated this last version until he encountered Holwell's work and learned that the Shastah was far older than the Vedam and its commentary, the Ezour-vedam. As we will see in Chapter 6, Holwell claimed that the Vedam contained the relatively corrupt teaching of South India, whereas his Shastah was expounded by the orthodox Brahmins of Benares in the north. In 1769, after having read this, Voltaire once more changed his translator Story. Since (according to Holwell) Benares and Northern India are the home of the ancient Shastah and Southern India that of the far younger Vedam, Voltaire came up with a new narrative: the man who had translated the Ezour-vedam from the sacred Sanskrit language into French was now suddenly no more an orthodox successor to the oldest Brachman tradition from Benares but rather a mysterious "old man, 100 years of age" who was "arch-priest [grand pretre] on the island of Seringham [Cherignan] of Arcate province" in South India -- a man "respected for his incorruptible virtue" who "knew French and rendered great services to the Compagnie des Indes" (Voltaire 1769:2.68).39 One would expect such a rare creature -- an eminent old Brahmin heading a huge clergy who wrote perfect French and rendered great services to the colonial administration -- to turn up somewhere in the French colonial records; but Rocher (1984:28) failed to find any trace of this man, even though, according to Voltaire, he had been a witness for the chevalier Jacques Francois Law in his conflict with Joseph Francois Dupleix.

What are we to make of this? Today we know, thanks ro the efforts of many scholars, that Voltaire's Ezour-vedam was definitely authored by one or several French Jesuits in India, and Ludo Rocher has convincingly argued that the text was never translated from Sanskrit but written in French and then partially translated into Sanskrit (Rocher 1984: 57-60). Consequently, there never was a translator from Sanskrit to French-which also makes it extremely unlikely that any Brahmin, whether from Benares in the north or Cherignan (Seringham) in the south, ever gave this French manuscript to Maudave. Whether Maudave was "a close friend of one of the principal brahmins" and how old and wise that man was appear equally irrelevant. Voltaire's story of the Brahmin translator appears to be entirely fictional and also squarely contradicts the only relevant independent evidence, Maudave's letter to Voltaire, which (rightly or wrongly; see Chapter 7) named a long-dead French Jesuit as translator and imputed Jesuit tampering with the text. Since it is unlikely that Maudave would arbitrarily change such central elements of his story when he met Voltaire, the inevitable conclusion is that Voltaire created a narrative to serve a particular agenda and changed that Story when the need arose.

In this light it is doubly surprising that Voltaire has hitherto almost unanimously been accused of uncritical trust in tainted sources. Raymond Schwab, who rightly credited Voltaire with the "launch of India," took him severely to task: "Voltaire, as usual, was simplifying and ... poses no questions of authenticity; never has a mind been less bothered by critique, never has critique been more hasty: as long as a text was not of semitic origin, he saw no reason to discuss its value" (Schwab 1950:146).

Schwab, an ardent Christian himself, reveled in the irony that "the main weapon of his [Voltaire's] arsenal," the supposedly very ancient Ezour-vedam, was unmasked by Ellis (1822) as a modern Jesuit creation (Schwab 1950:168). Leslie Willson's book about the creation of an idealized image of India in romantic Germany also hails Voltaire as a pioneer who affirmed the probability that "the Persians, the Egyptians, the Greeks themselves, and perhaps the Chinese originally received their wisdom from Hindustan" and derides him for his trust in fake texts (1964:25). Likewise, Alex Aronson's Europe Looks at India lauds him for his pioneering role in claiming "that India was once the cradle of civilization" (1946:20) but scolds him as superficial and ignorant: "Voltaire was not what we could call today a profound writer. He could hide, with a cleverness which seems to us incredible today, his own ignorance as well as the utter stupidity of the sources from which he gathered his information about India" (p. 16). More recent publications tend to rely on Daniel S. Hawley's groundbreaking study "L'Inde de Voltaire" of 1974, which states that it was Voltaire "who launched the India craze [la mode de l'Inde] in France" (1974:173) and describes his involvement with India in four phases (p. 140): an initial phase of exoticism (before 1760); a second phase under the spell of the Ezour-vedam (1761-66); a third phase influenced by Holwell (1767-69); and a final blossoming of Voltaire's India (1770-78). Like virtually all recent authors, Hawley takes it as a fact that Voltaire was blindly trusting spurious sources,40 especially the Ezour-vedam -- "unfortunately ... only a literary hoax" (p. 144)-and Holwell, whose work is described as a "twaddle [galimatias] of puranic, vedic, and even Persian traditions without resemblance  to any Indian cosmogony" (p. 146). Though Hawley took some note of Voltaire's manipulation of such sources, he was utterly convinced that "Voltaire trusted his Ezour-Vedam" and other supposedly ancient texts (p. 153). While such criticisms certainly have some justification, we must ask what exactly Voltaire meant by "making good use" of the Ezour-vedam and how he portrayed the text over time. Immediately after Maudave's visit, Voltaire was already fully aware that the two texts that he had received were not the Veda itself but rather commentaries. In his letter to Jean le Rond d'Alembert (who had introduced Maudave to him), Voltaire remarked with his customary dose of sarcasm that Maudave gave him "commentaries of the Vedam which are every bit as good as others, and a god (hat is every bit as good as another one. It is the phallum" (Voltaire 1980:6.14; October 8, 1760). A few months later, when Voltaire knew what use he was going to make of the manuscript, he portrayed the Ezour-vedam not as a simple commentary but as "the Gospel of the ancient brachmanes" and "the most curious and most ancient book that we possess, except for the Old Testament whose sanctity, truth, and antiquity you know" (6.289; February 24, 1761). Since his addressee was, of course, familiar with Voltaire's scathing critique of the sanctity, truth, and antiquity of the Old Testament, we can imagine what his friend thought about (his Indian gospel. In July of the same year, Voltaire promised to donate the Ezour-vedam manuscript to the Royal Library and informed librarian Jean-Augustin Capperonnier that this "commentary of the Vedam is for the Indians what the Sader is for the Guebres" -- that is, an important foundational religious text -- and that it was "in all likelihood older than the expedition of Alexander" (6.470; July 13, 1761). But inflation soon struck also in this respect: in mid-September, when he sent his new Essai chapter to the Marquise Deffand, he called the Ezour-vedam "possibly the oldest book in the world" (6.579; September 16, 1761), and two weeks later he dated it to "several centuries before Pythagoras." Boasting that "it will be the only treasure that will survive of our Compagnie des Indes," he even claimed that the Royal Library regarded his "very authentic" Ezour-vedam manuscript as "the most precious monument it possesses" (6.602-3; October 1, 1761)!

The World's Oldest Monotheism

The new fourth chapter of the 1761 Essai, "On the Brachmanes; of the Vedam; and the Ezourvedam," begins with Voltaire's influential assertion about the antiquity of Indian culture and religion:

If India, of which the entire earth is dependent and which alone is nor in need of anybody, must, on account of this very fact, be the most anciently civilized region, then it must also have had the most ancient form of religion. It is very likely that for a long time this religion was the same as that of the Chinese government and consisted only in a pure cult of a supreme Being, free of any superstition and fanaticism. (Voltaire 1761:49)


This oldest religion of the world was "founded by the Bracmanes" and subsequently "established in China by its first kings" (p. 49). Voltaire portrayed this religion as if it were his own: since it was built on "universal reason" (p. 50), it "had to be simple and reasonable," which was easy enough since "it is so natural to believe in a unitary God, to venerate him, and to feel at the bottom of one's heart that one must be just" (p. 49). Long before Alexander's India adventure, this pure, original monotheism began to degenerate when the cult of God "became a job" and the divinities multiplied; but even under the reign of polytheism and popular superstition, a "supreme God was always acknowledged" (p. 50) and is still venerated today (p. 51).

Luckily, an authentic record of India's ancient pure monotheism had fallen precisely into the hands of the person whose religion resembled it most:

I have in my hands the translation of one of the most ancient manuscripts in the world; it is not the Vedam which in India is so much talked about and which has not yet been communicated to any scholar of Europe, but rather the Ezourvedam, the ancient commentary by Chumontou on the vedam, the sacred book which was given by God to humans, as the Brahmins pretend. This commentary has been redacted by a very erudite Brahmin who has rendered many services to our Compagnie des Indes; he has translated it himself from the sacred language into French. (pp. 52-53)


To prove his point, Voltaire in the 1761 Essai for the first time published eight "quotations" from the Ezour-vedam.41 In view of his privileged access to the text and his assurances about the authenticity and age of the Ezour-vedam, one would expect faithful quotations from the sacred scripture. But already Voltaire's first two "quotations" (which he used again in several other works) prove such expectations wrong. The first ends with "etc."; though it might seem otherwise because of the table-form arrangement shown, Voltaire presents both passages as continuous quotations from the Ezour-vedam that supposedly furnish "the very words of the Veidam" rather than those of two interlocutors. In the juxtaposition in Table 3, text omitted by Voltaire is shown on gray, and added or changed text is underlined.

Some of Voltaire's numerous omissions are clearly related to his presentation of this creation account as continuous quotations from the Vedam. In the Ezour-vedam text, however, Chumontou does not quote anything but simply responds to Biache's questions. To maintain his fiction, Voltaire had to omit not only the questions but also phrases (for example, those before the "four different ages") that clearly show this text to be part of a conversation. The Ezour-vedam "quotation" beginning with "At the time when God alone existed" shows that he systematically misled his readers: the text that Voltaire presents as a continuous quotation from the Ezour-vedam actually shrinks eight pages of the Sainte-Croix edition (1778:I.189-96) to a fraction of their original volume. Some of Voltaire's additional changes are stylistic; but the majority is clearly related to content that Voltaire chose to omit or add for a variety of reasons. For example, he cut the Ezour-vedam's explanation that after the creation of time, water, and earth, "the earth was completely submerged" and omitted God's order "that the water retract on one side and that the earth become stable and solid" (I.I89-90). This passage did nor please Voltaire who opposed theories of universal flood and models of earth formation that involved total submersion in water.42 Likewise, Voltaire did not like the idea that God created three worlds, which is why he eliminated the information about the superior, inferior, and central world. The idea of monogenesis and primitive man's god-given wisdom also bothered him (Voltaire 1969:59.121); thus, he omitted the Ezour-vedam's "In creating him he endowed him with extraordinary knowledge and put him on earth in order to be the principle and origin of all other men." The presentation of Adimo as father of Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu and of their birth from his navel and flanks certainly fit the agenda of the Ezour-vedam's Jesuit author(s) who wanted to highlight the absurdity of Indian mythology; but this was very much contrary to Voltaire's intention of presenting the wisdom of the Vedam as somewhat conforming to a deist's ideal of rationality. Therefore, he drastically demoted Adimo from father of India's three supreme gods to father of "Brama who was the legislator of nations and the father of the brahmins."

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TABLE 3. VOLTAIRE'S EDITION OF THE EZOUR-VEDAMS CREATION ACCOUNT

Voltaire (Essai 1761:53)

In this Ezour-Veidam, in this commenrary, Chumontou fights against idolatry quoting the very words of the Veidam. "It is the Supreme Being that has created everything, the perceptible and the imperceptible; there were four different ages; everything perishes at the end of each age, everything is submerged, and the deluge is a passage from one age to the other, etc."

"At the time when God alone existed and no other being existed beside him, he formed the plan to create the world: he first created time, then water and the earth; and from the mixture of the five elements, i.e., earth, water, fire, air, and light he formed different bodies and gave them the earth as their base.
He made the earth which we inhabit in an oval form like an egg. At the center of the earth is the highest of all mountains, called Merou (that is Immaus).

Adimo is the name of the first human issued from the hands of God: Procriti is the name of his wife.

From Adimo was born Brama, the legislator of nations and father of the brahmans [brames]."


Ezour-Vedam (1.188-196)

Chumontou. It is God, it is the Supreme Being that has created everything, the perceptible and the imperceptible things. In a word, all that exists owes him its being and life. It's beyond me to give you the exact details, but I will nevertheless give you a short summary. So give up all other affairs and lend all your attention to what the Vedam taught us about it.

One must first of all distinguish four different ages. At the end of each age everything perishes, everything is submerged; this is why the passage from one age to the other is called deluge. Time is also regarded as a kind of sleep of the Supreme Being because he is the only one that exists, and nothing exists beside him.

Thus
, at the time when God alone existed and no other being existed beside him, having formed the plan to create the world, he first created rime and nothing else; then he created water and the earth.

When he examined his work he saw that the earth was completely submerged and that it was not yet inhabited by any living being. He thus ordered that the water retract on one side and that the earth become stable and solid.

From the mixture of the five elements, i.e., earth, water, fire, air, and light he formed different bodies and gave them the earth as their base.

It is also on this earth that the Master of the universe has created the three worlds, i.e., the Chvarguam or superior world, the Patalan or inferior world, and the Mortion or central world which is the one that we inhabit.

The earth is of round shape, bur a bit oblong; which is why the scholars have compared it to an egg, At the center of the earth is the highest of all mountains, called Merou; that is where the country named Zomboudipo is situated, India. (here follow more than four pages of geographical explanations)

Biache. Nothing escapes your knowledge and you weigh everything on the scale of reason. Now tell me, who is the first human whom God created? What are the orders he gave to him? Who was his wife, and what is her name?
Chumontou. Adimo is the name of the first human issued from the hands of God. In creating him he endowed him with extraordinary knowledge and put him on earth in order to be the principle and origin of all other men. Prokriti is the name of his wife. That's what the Vedam teaches us. You have hitherto cheated the world by teaching that Rada, Dourga, Chororboti, etc. were this Prokriti. But I've agreed to drop the curtain on all this. But from now on you must disabuse men of the errors you have plunged them into, or at least you must be wise enough to keep them hidden and nor talk of them anymore.

From Adimo first Dokio-Bramma was born. He was the father of several children and was born of his [Adimo's] belly button. From the right flank of the same Adimo Vichnou was born, and from his right flank Chib. One gave them the names of creator, preserver, and destroyer. I will prove to you later that they are nothing of all this. That's all regarding the first creation.


This pattern of Voltaire's editorial policy is repeated in much of the rest of his "quotations" from the Ezour-vedam. A passage that explains the origin of the four Indian castes is falsely portrayed by Voltaire not as Chumontou's commentary but as "one of the most singular pieces from the Vedam" (Voltaire 1761:54) -- but, singular or not, Voltaire decided to omit about half of the Ezour-vedam's text (which, of course, was no Vedic quotation at all). Another flagrant example is Voltaire's fifth excerpt (p. 55), which is a hodgepodge from the Ezour-vedam's sixth and seventh chapters (Sainte-Croix 1778:1.222-26) presented as a continuous citation from the Vedam. Voltaire introduces this as follows:

The Vedam continues and says: "The supreme Being has neither body nor form," and the Ezourvedam adds: "All those who ascribe him feet and hands are insane." Chumontou then cites the following words of the Vedam: ... (p. 55)


However, in the text of the Ezour-vedam all this forms part of Chumontou's conversation. Once again, Voltaire's transmutation forced him to eliminate all phrases proving that Chumontou was not citing the Veda but simply talking to Biache. Thus, he had to delete statements like "That's what the Vedam teaches. The sun which you have divinized is no more than a body" (Sainte-Croix 1778:1.226). More than half of the Ezour-vedam's text (pp. 222- 27) in this supposedly continuous quotation suffered the same fate. Instead of a faithful presentation of "Vedic" text, Voltaire's readers thus got a blatantly tendentious pastiche of conversation fragments taken from two different chapters of a "commentary" containing not a single genuine quotation from the Veda.

In contrast to the Ezour-vedam, which in Voltaire's 1761 Essai was massaged until it fit Voltaire's idea of ancient monotheism and could please a deist, the "Cormoredam" (which is a misprint for Cormovedam) is severely criticized as a product of degeneration. This second text that Voltaire received from Maudave was presumably also donated to the French national library. In his 1761 Essai, Voltaire describes it as follows:

The Brahmins degenerated more and more. Their Cormoredam, which is their ritual, is a bunch of superstitious ceremonies that make anybody who is not born on the banks of the Ganges or Indus laugh-or rather, anyone who, not being a philosophe, is surprised about the stupidities of other peoples and not amazed at those of his own country. As soon as an infant is born, one must recite the word Oum over him to prevent his being unhappy forever; one must rub his tongue with consecrated flour, say prayers over him, and pronounce at each prayer the name of a divinity. Subsequently one must put the infant outside on the third day of the moon and turn his head toward the north. The minute detail is immense. It is a hodgepodge of all the lunacies with which the senseless study of judicial astronomy could inspire ingenious but extravagant and deceitful scholars. The entire life of a Brahmin is devoted to such superstitious ceremonies. There is one for each day of the year. (Voltaire 1761:57)43


It is possible that Maudave gave Voltaire a copy of the manuscript described by Ellis (1822:19) as follows: "This manuscript [No. 2] is a quarto volume bound in black leather. It contains that part of the "Zozochi Kormo Bedo," which treats on the Sandhya, &c. the whole of the Ezour Vedam ... and the supplement of the Ezour vedam. All in French only without the Sanscrit." However, Voltaire's description of the Cormo Veidam has a perfect match in another Pondicherry text, the "Zozochi Kormo Bedo," whose first part is entitled "Rite of the Ezour Vedam" (Castets 1935:26-27). According to the Jesuit Jean Castets, this part features detailed descriptions of rites (including those required at the birth of a male child) as well as long lists of prescribed/ auspicious or prohibited/inauspicious activities on particular days of the year (pp. 28-32).

Bowing to Voltaire's will, the Ezour-vedam thus became a monument of a protodeist's monotheistic Ur-religion (primeval religion), while the Cormo- Vedam had the role of representing what India's deceitful clergy is catering to the superstitious masses. Voltaire's commentary shows to what degree he identified with the reformer Chumontou:

The ancient purity of the religion of the first Bracmanes survived only with some of their philosophers; and they do not make the effort to instruct a people that does not want to be taught and does not merit it either. Disabusing it would even carry a risk; the ignorant Brahmins would rise up, and the women attached to their temples and their little superstitious practices would cry heresy. Whoever wants to teach reason to his fellow citizens is persecuted unless he is the strongest; and it almost invariably happens that the strongest redoubles the chains of ignorance instead of breaking them. (Voltaire 1761:59)

In the years between the publication of the 1761 Essai and the Homelies of 1767, Voltaire continued to exploit the Ezour-vedam for his purposes. Chapter 13 of the Defense de mon oncle (1767) is the last statement of his views before the effect of Holwell set in. Here the Ezour-vedam is called "the most precious manuscript of the Orient" that "indisputably is from the time when the ancient religion of the gymnosophists began to be corrupted" and represents "apart from our sacred scriptures the most respectable monument of faith in the unity of God" (Voltaire 1894:27.164). Voltaire once more presented the first two of his sanitized quotations from the Ezour-vedam and defended his absurd argument from the Philosophie de l'histoire (1765) that the Ezour-vedam had to stem from the period before Alexander because its place names are nor Greek-influenced.
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Re: The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

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Part 4 of 4

Transformations

Discussions of Voltaire's view of the Ezour-vedam have hitherto been marred by the assumption that Voltaire's propaganda campaign for the Ezour-vedam implied his unquestioning trust in the text's authenticity. Paulinus a Sancto Bartholomaeo was already of this opinion when he wrote in 1791: "Does he [Voltaire] know what is in the book? Does he know its author? Has he read the book? Did he make sure that it is an authentic book?" (Rocher 1984:16). If Voltaire made such a fuss about this text and regarded it as such a powerful weapon against biblical authority, so the argument went, he must have believed it genuine. But Voltaire was certainly a much more discerning reader of religious texts than young Maudave and a better informed critic of the Jesuits to boot. His selection of a few fragments of the Ezour-vedam and his vety invasive editing of them lead one almost to suspect that he sensed Jesuit involvement and perhaps even relished the thought of surreptitiously perverting their fundamental intention. The student and enemy of the Jesuits, it turns out, had a missionary agenda of his own. He, too, was eager to advocate ancient monotheism and to denounce its later degeneration. But for him such degeneration included not just the theology of the "stupid Brahmins" but rather the infame itself: Judeo-Christianity, complete with its cruel God, deluded prophets, plagiarized texts, degenerate clergy, intolerant worldview, and parochial conception of history.

Voltaire's "transformations" as well as his remarks about the Ezourvedam indicate a cynical rather than a credulous stance and may reflect Father Bouchet's view that "even lies serve us to make truth known" (Le Gobien 1781-83:12.238). As mentioned above, Voltaire mocked the text's Story about the first man Adimo already in 1761 by calling it the tale of a "badly instructed and pigheaded Brahmin" (Voltaire 1761:44). In the Ezour-vedam chapter of his 1761 Essai, Voltaire showed his hand when writing of St. Ambrose's method:

Perhaps it is one of these exaggerations that one indulges in sometimes to make one's fellow citizens ashamed of their mess; one praises the bracmanes in order to correct the [Christian] monks: and if Saint Ambrose had lived in India, he probably would have praised the monks to put shame on the bracmanes. (p. 51)44


Voltaire's use of short and heavily edited excerpts of the Ezour-vedam certainly seems designed to employ Chumontou's religion as a whip to chastise Europe's conventional Christians. The Ezour-vedam was far from an ideal candidate as an Old Testament for Voltaire's religion; judging from the very few (and heavily edited) excerpts that he presented of this supposedly extremely important and unique source, it would seem that, for Voltaire's taste, it simply contained too much rubbish. He wrote that in spite of their sublime morality, "the ancient brahmins were without any doubt just as terrible metaphysicians and ridiculous theologians as the Chaldeans and Persians and all the nations west of China" (Voltaire 1767:318). In his view, the Chinese should have done a bit better; but Confucius was too prosaic, the Chinese emperor's "Adore God and be just" (p. 319) admirable but no substitute for a gospel, and the Yijing ancient but full of superstition. But it so happened that the Ezour-vedam-which, as already Maudave had noted, reflected the Jesuit agenda of emphasizing primeval monotheism and its subsequent degeneration -- fell into Voltaire's hands just when he needed it most, that is, when the battle against "l'infame" heated up and he was eager to get whatever ammunition against biblical authority that he could lay his hands on. Since the Ezour-vedam was still unpublished,45 he could cherry-pick and massage the text at will to suit his purpose. When even his short, edited extracts proved unsatisfactory, Voltaire did not shy away from cruder methods in pursuit of his goals. For example, in the "Defense of my uncle" of 1767,46 he quoted the Ezour-vedam to the effect that each world age ends in a deluge in which everything is submerged (Voltaire 1894:27.165). But a few pages later, he brazenly stated:

There are even those who pretend that the Indians mentioned a universal deluge before that of Deucalion. It is said that several brachmanes believed that the earth had experienced three deluges. Nothing of that is said in the Ezour-Veidam nor in the Cormo-Veidam which I have read with great attention; but several missionaries who were sent to India agree that the brahmins recognize several deluges. (27.183)


It had certainly not escaped Voltaire's "great attention" that the Ezourvedam contains no less than four passages47 that unequivocally speak of universal deluges and that he had quoted one of them repeatedly since the 1761 Essai -- even in the very book containing this denial! Sainte-Croix was so incensed about this blatant contradiction and Voltaire's custom of "suppressing some details that in his eyes did not do enough honor to the Indian work" that he denounced this whopper in a detailed "clarification" (Sainte Croix 1778:2.203-6). Since Voltaire had sanitized the deluge quotation so carefully and used it several times, it certainly was not a "copyist's mistake" (as Sainte-Croix politely suggested). Rather, it is an example of Voltaire's "making good use" of the text on St. Ambrose's line. Had he been such an ardent believer in the Ezour-vedam's authenticity, he would without any doubt have been eager to supply the curious public with more (and more accurate) quotations from this most valuable text of antiquity.

Exactly in the year when Voltaire received his Ezour-vedam manuscript, James Macpherson's famous forgery of the poems of Ossian (1760) made its appearance. Though these two texts had a similar fate and share some characteristics, the Ezour-vedam does not belong in the category of literary hoaxes. In fact, it exhibits many characteristics of a genre of missionary literature cultivated by the Jesuits in Asia. Exactly like the Western scholar in Ricci's catechism, Chumontou in the Ezour-vedam explains that pure monotheism once reigned in the land and needs to be restored now. The first step toward such a restoration consists in the careful examination of the teachings that had clouded and perverted the original creed and in their refutation on rational grounds -- exactly what the Ezour-vedam tries to do. The Evora fragments of Japan mentioned above48 show that detailed presentations of native religions and their dogmas, rites, myths, and terminology were employed in the education of missionaries and catechists. They presented the best strategies to demolish them rationally in order to prepare the ground for the presentation of genuine (that is, Christian) truth. Since the early days of the Japan mission, explanations about the reasons for various natural phenomena and news about geography and history were used as effective means to prove the superiority of the missionaries' knowledge of the here-and-now (and by implication, their knowledge of the remote past and future as well as heaven and hell). The Ezour-vedam also appears to use fictional dialogues about local religions and the world at large for the education of native catechists and missionaries (see Chapter 7).

Sonnerat showed an intuition of this when he characterized the Ezourvedam in 1782 as "a book of controversy written ... by a missionary" (Sonnerat 1782:I.360), and in 1791 Paulinus a Sanc to Bartholomaeo stated that "the book in question is more likely a Christian catechism than a Brahmanic book" (1791:316). Paulinus's opinion was based on his experience as a missionary and especially his perusal of the Pondicherry manuscripts and was far more informed than that of his critics.49 Since questions related to the genesis and authorship of the Ezour-vedam will be discussed in Chapter 7, the focus is here on Voltaire's role in its rise to fame. Whatever the intentions of its authors were, it was Voltaire who almost single-handedly transformed some missionary jottings from the South Indian boondocks into the "world's oldest text," the Royal Library's "most precious document," and (as a well-earned bonus for the promoter) into the Old Testament of his deism! So far, there is no evidence of any influence of this text before Maudave and Voltaire. But soon after Maudave's manuscript got into Voltaire's hands, the Ezour-vedam's brilliant career began. For Voltaire it was, for a few years, a potent weapon to undermine biblical authority and to attack divine partiality for Judeo-Christianity. It was no Jesuit missionary but rather Voltaire, the missionary of deism, who trumpeted extraordinary claims into the world about the Ezour-vedam's authenticity, antiquity, and supreme value. Paulinus a Sancto Bartholomaeo saw this quite clearly when in 1791 he called the Ezourvedam "the notorious gift from the most learned prince of philosophers, Voltaire" -- a poisoned gift "that found its way into the Royal library in Paris, or rather which he pressed upon them to use it as the foundation for his own philosophical superstructure" (Rocher 1984:16). It was a calculated move on the Indian flank of Voltaire's war against "l'infame," and as we will see in the remainder of this book, it was rather successful in inciting European enthusiasm for India as the cradle of civilization and preparing the ground for "indomania." 50 Further boosted by virulent orthodox reactions near the end of the eighteenth century, Voltaire's "Indian" campaign ended up playing a crucial role in raising the kind of questions about origins and ancient religions that played at least as important a role in the establishment of state-supported, university-based Orientalism as did the much-touted colonialism and imperialism. Rather than thirst for political and economic power, what was primarily at work here was ideological power: the power of Europe's long-established worldview and religious ideology that Voltaire provocatively labeled "l'infame" and that he tried to destabilize through an avalanche of articles, pamphlets, and books.

History Versus Propaganda

For Europeans, the first chapters of the Old Testament had for many centuries conclusively explained the origin of the world and of humankind, including its achievements such as language, religion, and civilization. Such certainties gradually came to be undermined not only through critique of the Bible by the likes of Baruch de Spinoza, Richard Simon, and Pierre Bayle but also through discoveries about our earth and its inhabitants. By the middle of the eighteenth century, the time was ripe for an overall reassessment, which is what Voltaire undertook in La philosophie de l'histoire of 1765.51 The work begins with an examination of the geological history of the earth that includes Voltaire's theory of fossils, his rejection of the idea that the whole earth was once covered by water, and his critique of the theory by Buffon and others that the earth had anciently been hot and luminous (Voltaire 1969:59.39).52 Voltaire drew an overall picture that was diametrically opposed to the biblical scenario. His chapter on "The Savages" provides a glimpse of a chronology that pulverizes all biblical limits. Voltaire regarded the human race as immeasurably old, thought it "very likely that man has been rustic for thousands of centuries," and was convinced that that all nations were once savages roaming the forests (p. 112). "Without any doubt," he stated, early man spoke "for a very long time no language" and communicated only by "shouts and gestures" (p. 113).

Religion, too, began only "after a great many centuries" when "some societies had been established" and "some kind of religion, a sort of gross cult" formed (p. 99). "All peoples were thus what the inhabitants of several southern coasts of Africa, some islanders, and half of the Americans are today. These people have not the slightest idea of any unitary God" (p. 100). Ignorant of the reasons for good and bad events, people began to appease unknown powers and venerate all kinds of beings until they came up with the idea of a single Master or Lord (pp. 100-101). According to Voltaire, the recognition of a punishing and rewarding creator God was thus a very late development in human history (p. 100). It first arose in temperate regions like India, China, and Mesopotamia that had long been densely populated while the rest of the globe still was almost deserted (p. 97). In Voltaire's view, "the Indians around the Ganges River were possibly the earliest humans forming a people" (p. 145), and he regarded Indian civilization as substantially older than its Egyptian (p. 159), Greek (p. 146), and probably even Chinese (p. 146) counterparts. The three regions with the earliest mass population also produced the oldest writing systems and sacred texts. According to Voltaire, who praised the Chinese religion as "simple, wise, august, free from all superstition and barbarism" (p. 155), the Indian religion was still the least known:

We know almost nothing of the ancient brahmanic rites that are preserved today. [The brahmins] communicate little about the Sanskrit books that they still possess in this ancient sacred language; for a long time, their Veidams remained as unknown as the Zend of the Persians and the five Kings of China. (p. 149)


Voltaire's portrayal of the history of religion in 1765 was deeply influenced by David Hume's Natural History of Religion (1757) and stands in marked contrast to his "propaganda mode" output. Propaganda is, of course, not absent in the Philosophy of History, but the tone is rather sober:

A stroke of luck has brought an ancient book of the brahmans to the library in Paris: the Ezour-Veidam that was written before the expedition of Alexander to India, with a ritual of all ancient rites of the brachmanes with the title Cormo-Veidam. This manuscript, translated by a brahman, is not really the Veidam itself, but a summary of the opinions and the rites contained in this law.... [The author] certainly does not flatter his sect; he does not attempt to disguise his superstitions, to give them some plausibility through forced explanations, or to excuse them via allegories. He describes the most extravagant laws with the simplicity of candor. Here the human spirit appears in all its misery. (pp. 149-50)


In Voltaire's "historical mode," the world's "oldest religion" was not pure monotheism but rather a primitive cult by people wholly ignorant of a unitary God -- a cult designed to appease unknown powers. Monotheism was a comparatively late phenomenon that possibly first arose in India and was possibly documented in the still unknown Veidam. In Ambrosian "propaganda mode," by contrast, this late development in India acquired disproportionate importance since, appropriately massaged and edited, even a flawed and relatively recent text like the Ezour-vedam could serve to show that far younger religions such as Judaism and Christianity had borrowed central doctrines and rites from India and to portray the Bible as a late and derivative product. This view undermined claims of a Hebrew "chosen people" and contradicted the vision of a God partial to a single people -- a God who continually interferes in history by teaching, guiding, and indulging a group of uncivilized, stubborn peasants and nomads around the eastern Mediterranean.

However, by 1765 Voltaire's propaganda campaign began to show signs of stress, as he had to struggle on two fronts. On one hand, he was fighting against biblical authority and was in need of monotheistic religions, rites and especially sacred scriptures that were old and flexible enough to serve as Ambrosian whips for Judaism and Christianity. The second front had opened among Voltaire's erstwhile sympathizers and friends in Paris who were resolutely materialist and atheist (see Chapter 8). Their view of the history of humankind and of primitive religion was rather similar to the first chapters of Voltaire's Philosophy of History, but they regarded Voltaire's insistence on a punishing and rewarding creator God and on inspired scriptures, whether from Israel or India, as a ridiculous and an old-fashioned obsession. On both fronts Voltaire felt the need for historical evidence in the form of ancient texts proving the widespread presence of pure monotheism and excellent morality. If a good creator God had, like a supreme mechanic, fashioned a world as he intended it to remain, that is, a world without any need for further intervention and maintenance, then the religion and morality he had endowed humanity with needed somehow to show up in history. Like his fellow English deists, Voltaire was thus keen to find signs of "universal consent" in different civilizations, particularly ancient and important ones. Had not all of them come to believe in monotheism? Did they not all follow identical, universal rules of morality and justice? And were they not all devoted to the reign of universal reason and the ideal of tolerance? Or, in starker terms, could history not be forced to cough up a decent proof (or at least support) of Voltaire's own religion? Voltaire's vision of humanity's very slow progress from total primitivity to a semblance of civilization squarely contradicted his championship of a purely monotheistic Ur-religion, but this does not seem to have overly bothered him; the "Ambrosian" use of India and the Ezour-vedam in his propaganda war against the "infame" apparently did not affect this level-headed acceptance of humanity's slow progress from primitivity to some kind of rationality and eventually to the watchmaker argument or some other "proof" of the existence of a creator God. Faced with French Catholics who supported and justified the execution of innocent men like Jean Calas, Voltaire was not too picky about countermeasures. His unrelenting effort to promote India as the cradle of civilization formed part of this battle, and -- as in most wars -- the ends tended to justify the means.

Veidam Versus Shastah

The editors of the Annual Register of 1766 published part of Voltaire's Philosophy of History in English translation, and in that very issue Voltaire discovered lengthy excerpts from a text that soon was to replace the Ezour-vedam in his propaganda war: the so-called Shastah of Bramah contained in John Zephaniah Holwell's Interesting historical events (see Chapter 6). The review of Holwell's book mentioned that he had spent thirty years in Bengal and procured "many curious manuscripts relating to the philosophical and religious principles of the Gentoos, particularly two correct copies of their Bible, called the Shasta" (Burke 1767:306-7). Having lost both the originals and his translation at the capture of Calcutta in 1756, Holwell "recovered some MSS. by accident" during his last eight months in Bengal. This enabled him to repair his loss "in some degree" and to present the hitherto best account "of the religion of the Gentoos, both in its original simplicity, and its present corruption" (p. 307). After an outline of the content of the Shastah's creation story and Holwell's genealogy of Indian sacred literature (pp. 317-19), the Annual Register's anonymous reviewer (Edmund Burke) included the entirety of Holwell's translation from the Shastah (pp. 310-16) along with his lengthy report of the burning of a widow (pp. 317-19).

Daniel Hawley argued that Voltaire had "blind faith in what Holwell asserted" (Hawley 1974:161) and that his "enthusiasm for Holwell became more and more marked each time he cited him" (p. 161). In the terminal phase of Voltaire's infatuation with India, according to Hawley, Voltaire's trust in Holwell's and Alexander Dow's translations from Indian texts was so complete that he compared doubts about them to the skepticism and stupid disbelief that greeted Newton's experiments in Paris: "That Voltaire would put Newton's experiments and the books of Dow and Holwell on the same level cannot but astonish us and must convince us of the great importance that Voltaire attached to the veracity of his sources" (p. 162).

Even Voltaire's decision to overlook Dow's devastating critique of Holwell and to pass silently over the grave differences between Dow's and Holwell's portrayals of Indian religion were interpreted by Hawley as proofs of Voltaire's complete trust in his sources:

Leaving aside the contradictions between the two Englishmen, Voltaire's attitude toward the work by Dow is exactly identical to his judgment about the work by Holwell: blind faith and frank admiration. After having quoted some passages from Dow's Bedang shaster, Voltaire notes, "Such is this catechism, the most beautiful monument of all antiquity!" (p. 162)


The question of Voltaire's attitude toward his sources is, of course, also crucial for any judgment about his particular use of them. Hawley noted that Voltaire's three major sources (the Ezour-vedam, Holwell's Shastah, and Dow's Bedang shasta) "gave so very different accounts of the first creation" (p. 164) that Voltaire's indiscriminate praise poses a problem. How could a man as critical as Voltaire proclaim complete trust in sources that so blatantly contradicted each other? If Voltaire simply "made use of India rather than studying it" (p. 139), what were his motives? Hawley identified four major goals of Voltaire:

The attack of Voltaire focuses on four problems: the chronology of the sacred scriptures; the election of the Jews by Jehovah according to which they alone know the divine revelation; the true origin of our religious traditions; and the genesis and diffusion of our mythology which involves the problematization of the historical importance of the Jews. (Hawley 1974:140-41)


This portrayal again relies on the question of Voltaire's evaluation of his sources since, for Hawley, Voltaire's admiration of "the sublime character of Indian philosophy and morality" forms the basis for the "justification and verification of his new interpretation of the historical value of the Judeo- Christian tradition which, according to him, is but an insipid imitation of Indian wisdom" (p. 140).

But if Voltaire's use of the Ezour-vedam has made us suspicious, we might as well ask to what degree he trusted Holwell's revelations. Voltaire first mentioned this new source in the Homily on Atheism (Voltaire 1768:293- 316), which is an early effort on his second front. After stating flatly that "we must begin with the existence of a God" and that this "subject has been treated by all nations" (p. 293), Voltaire lectures his atheist readership that "this supreme artisan who has created the world and us" is "our master" and "our benefactor" because "our life is a benefit, since we all love our life, however miserable it might get" (p. 298). Thus, "one must recognize a God who remunerates and avenges, or no God at all." For Voltaire there was no middle ground: "either there is no God, or God is just" (p. 303). To support his radical theism, Voltaire always used the argument of universal consent: "all civilized people [peuples polices], Indians, Chinese, Egyptians, Persians, Chaldeans, Phoenicians: all recognized a supreme God" (p. 311). And it is exactly here that the sacred literature of such people as Holwell's ancient Indians came in handy. Voltaire wrote,

The Indians who boast of being the oldest society of the universe still have their ancient books that according to their claim were written 4,866 years ago. According to them, the angel Brama or Abrama, the envoy of God and minister of the supreme Being, dictated this book in the Sanskrit language. This sacred book is called Chatabad, and it is much more ancient than even the Vedam that since such a long time is the sacred book on the banks of the Ganges. These two volumes [the Chatabad and the Vedam], which are the law of all sects of the brahmans, [and] the Ezour-Vedam which is the commentary of the Vedam, never mention anything other than a unique God. (p. 310).


As an illustration of universal consent on monotheism, Voltaire presented the first section of his newly found "oldest" text, Holwell's Chartah Bhade Shastah, which "was written one thousand years before the Vedam" and ''treats of God and his attributes" (pp. 310-11). But, as seen in Table 4, already Voltaire's first quotation from this oldest testament shows that he had not abandoned his efforts to improve on supposedly genuine ancient texts.

As with the Ezour-vedam, Voltaire molded the text to suit his views; but since Holwell's text had already appeared in print, the changes needed to be a bit more subtle. Voltaire did not like that the God of Holwell's Shastah rules the world by providence and replaced "providence" by "general wisdom." As he was intent on proving the existence of God to atheists, he transformed the Shastah's prohibition to inquire into "the essence and nature of the existence of the Eternal One" into one that concerned only "his essence and his nature." As a Newtonian, he was -- unlike Holwell -- in favor of exploring the laws of nature; thus, the prohibition to inquire "by what laws he governs" was not acceptable to him and had to be eliminated. Since Voltaire missed God's goodness in Holwell's Shastah text and firmly believed in divine punishment and reward, he replaced Holwell's "mercy" by "goodness." Finally, Voltaire's religion focused not on base self-benefit but rather on devoted worship of God and excellent morality -- which may be why Holwell's "benefit thereby" was supplanted by "Be happy in worshipping him."

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TABLE 4. FIRST SECTION OF HOLWELL'S SHASTAH WITH TWO DIFFERING TRANSLATIONS BY VOLTAIRE IN HIS FIRST HOMELlE (1768) AND THE FRAGMENS SUR L'INDE (1774)

Holwell, vol. 2, p. 31

"God is ONE. -- Creator of all that is. --
God is like a perfect sphere, without beginning or end. --

God rules and governs all creation by a general [b]providence resulting from first determined and fixed principles. --


Thou shalt not make inquiry in to the essence and nature of the existence of the ETERNAL ONE, nor by what laws he governs. --

An inquiry into either is vain, and criminal. --

It is enough, that day by day, and night by night, thou seest in h is works, his wisdom, power, and his mercy. --

Benefit thereby."


Voltaire 1768:6.311

God is one; he has formed all that is.

He resembles a perfect sphere without beginning or end.

He governs everything by a general wisdom.

You shall not seek his essence and his nature,

this enterprise would be vain and criminal.

It is enough for you to admire day and night his works, his wisdom, his power, his goodness.

Be happy in worshipping him.


Voltaire 1774:143 [a]

God is the one who always was; he created all that is.

A perfect sphere, without beginning or end, is his feeble image.

God animates and governs all creation by the general providence of his unchanging and eternal principles.

Do not probe the nature of the existence of him who always was:

such inquiry is vain and criminal.

It is enough that day by day and night by night his works announce to you his wisdom, his power, and his mercy.

Benefit thereby.


a. For this translation in the 1774 Fragmem sur l'Inde, Voltaire used the text of the 1766Annual Register (p. 310)whose first paragraph differs from Holwell's 1767 edition. It reads: "God is the one that ever was, creator of all that is. --" (see Chapter 6). In his Lettres chinoises of 1776 he once more sang the praises of "the Shasta-bad, the most ancient book of Hindustan and of the entire world" and included another translation modeled on that of 1768; he also eliminated the prohibition to inquire about the existence of God (Voltaire 1895:30.149-50).

b. Voltaire's translation shows that for this translation of the Homelies he used the 1767 edition of Holwell's book and not, as Hawley argued (1974:154), the text in the Annual Register.


In 1774 Voltaire published another translation of this text (see the right column of Table 4). It was destined for a different public, and Voltaire had heard that a French translation of Holwell's Shastah had in the meantime appeared in Amsterdam (Holwell 1768).53 Voltaire's new translation proves that the changes in his first translations were not due to the level of his knowledge of English. Rather, as is also evident from many letters containing very different portrayals of particular events depending on the addressee, Voltaire was extremely adept at tailoring information to fit specific needs (Stackelberg 2006:21-32). As if to prove this last point, Voltaire published one more translation in 1776 that again edits out the Shastah's prohibition to inquire about God's existence.

After his discovery of Holwell's Shastah, Voltaire's interest in the Ezourvedam abruptly ceased. It had done its duty and was rather unceremoniously dismissed before it was even published. The article on the Ezour-vedam in Voltaire's Questions sur l'encyclopedie of 1771 is exceedingly short (Voltaire 1775:4.255-56); in fact, almost the only information it offers is a joke about Adimo and his wife. Voltaire, whose critique of such monogenetic tales invented by pigheaded Brahmins has already been mentioned, asked the reader whether the Jews had copied their Adam and Eve story from the Indians or the Indians their Adimo story from the Jews-only to add sarcastically a third possibility: "Or can one say that both have originally invented it and that the beautiful minds have met?" (pp. 256). While the Ezour-vedam passed into oblivion because the Veda is only "a recent law given to the brachmanes 1,500 years after the first law called shasta or shasta-bad' (Voltaire 1775:1.52), Voltaire turned into an ardent champion of Holwell's Shastah whenever the argument required it. In his letter to Bailly of December 15, 1775, he calls the fragments of the Shastah that were "written about 5,000 years ago" nothing less than "the only monument of some antiquity that is extant on earth" (Bailly 1777:3).

In his campaign for Indian origins, Voltaire in the 1770s kept evoking the perfect accord of two excellent Englishmen who both had studied Sanskrit, spent decades in India, and supposedly translated the same extremely ancient Indian text called Shastah or Shastah-bad. However, the two gentlemen in question, John Zephaniah HOLWELL (1711-98) and Alexander Dow (1735/6-76), never claimed that they knew Sanskrit; in fact, Dow unequivocally states at the beginning of his "Dissertation concerning the customs, manners, language, and religion of the Hindoos" of 1768 that he originally intended to acquire "some knowledge in the Shanscrita language" bur soon found that his time in India "would be too short to acquire the Shanscrita," which is why he decided to inform himself "through the medium of the Persian language, and through the vulgar tongue of the Hindoos" about the mythology and philosophy of the Brahmins (Dow 1770:xxi). Dow even explained his procedure: he "procured some of the principal Shasters, and his pundit explained to him, as many passages of those curious books, as served to give him a general idea of the doctrine which they contain" (p. xxii). Dow's "most beautiful monument of antiquity" (Voltaire 1774:172) was thus by no means a "translation" from the "sacred Sanskrit language," as Voltaire claimed.

In fact, the two English gentlemen whose "translations" replaced the Ezour-vedam as the world's oldest book were so much at odds about Indian religion that Dow felt "obliged to differ almost in every particular concerning the religion of the Hindoos, from that gentleman [Holwell]" (Dow 1770:xxx). These differences, consistently papered over by Voltaire, also extend to the crucial "oldest text of the world" (see chapter 6). Holwell usually called it Shastah or Shasta-bad and portrayed it as a single text, far older and more authentic than the Vedas, of which he supposedly had salvaged and translated some fragments. Dow, by contrast, stressed that there are many Shasters since that word simply "signifies Knowledge":

There are many Shasters among the Hindoos, so that those writers who affirmed, that there was but one Shaster in India, which, like the Bible of the Christians, or Koran of the followers of Mahommed, contained the first principles of the Brahmin faith, have deceived themselves and the public. (p. xl)


This critique is without any doubt directed at Holwell; but Dow does not help his case when later in his dissertation he explains that "the most orthodox, as well as the most ancient" of the "two great religious sects" of the Hindoos are "the followers of the doctrine of the Bedang" (p. xl) and then presents "extracts literally translated from the original Shaster, which goes by the name of Bedang" (p. xli). If the reader is not confused by now, he or she should be. Not so, apparently at least, Voltaire who -- in spite of Dow's wholesale critique of Holwell and their totally different creation accounts -- happily continued to assert that both Englishmen had translated the same text. He even turned Dow's dire view of Holwell on its head, claiming without any foundation that Dow had "recognized the faithfulness of [Holwell's] translation" and noting that Dow's "avowal carries even more weight since the two differ with regard to some other articles" (Voltaire 1774:143). These "other articles," he explains in a passage that proves how closely he had read both texts, include the dispute "about the way of pronouncing shasta-bad or shastra-beda, and if beda signifies science or book" (p. I72).

The Indian Cradle

Toward the end of his life, in the Lettres chinoises, indiennes et tartares of 1776, Voltaire recapitulated his view of Indian sacred literature. The oldest source, "written in the sacred language during the present world-age [iogue] by a king on the banks of the Ganges named Brama," is the holy Shasta-bad translated by Holwell and Dow; it is 5,000 years old. As much as 1,500 years later "another brachmane who, however, was not king" proclaimed the "new law of the Veidam" (Voltaire 1895:40.154). What Voltaire had long regarded as the world's most valuable and ancient sacred text, the Veda, was now presented as a much later product, a "new law" that Voltaire butchered as follows:

This Veidam is the most boring hodgepodge [fatras] that I have ever read. Imagine the Golden Legend, the Conformities of St. Francis of Assisi,54 the Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignace, and the Sermons of Menot [1506] all put together, and you will still only have a faint idea of the impertinence of the Veidam. (p. 154)55


The Ezour-vedam, which Voltaire had long showered with praise as a commentary of the Veda that supposedly contained genuine Vedic quotations, was now elegantly moved to the realm of enlightened philosophy:

The Ezour-Veidam is a completely different thing. It is the work of a true sage who powerfully rises up against the stupidities of the brachmanes of his time. This Ezour-Veidam was written some time before Alexander's invasion. It is a dispute of philosophy against Indian theology; but I bet that the Ezour-Veidam receives no credit at all in its country and that the Veidam is regarded as a heavenly book. (p. 154)


But neither India's philosophy nor its ancient theology managed to live up to Voltaire's idea without considerable help. Although Voltaire praised Dow's text as the "catechism" of India and "the most beautiful monument of all antiquity" (p. 172), he sanitized it in his usual manner (pp. 168-71) and concluded: "You can traverse all nations of the universe, and there will not be a single one whose history does not begin with fables worthy of the four sons of Aymon and Robert-the-devil" (p. 191). Holwell's Shasta-bad, the Ezour-vedam's successor as "India's and the whole world's oldest book" (Voltaire 1895:30.149), also received its share of criticism.

Already in 1771, while Voltaire continued to trumpet the wonders of the Shasta-bad, he slipped an insidious couple of questions into his discussion of Indian sacred doctrine (Voltaire 2006:352): "How could God provide a second law in his Veidam? Was his first one [in the Shasta-bad] therefore no good?" A year later he targeted Holwell's Shasta-bad when he joked about "novels [romans] about the origin of evil" whose "extreme merit" is that "there never was a commandment that one must believe them" (Voltaire 1894:29.2°3). Thus, even Holwell -- the man who according to Voltaire "had not only learned the language of the modern brahmins but also that of the ancient bracmanes, who has since written such precious treatises about India and who translated sublime pieces from the oldest books in the sacred language, books older than those of Sanchuniathon of Phoenicia, Mercury of Egypt, and the first legislators of China" -- even the heroic Holwell "cannot be trusted blindly" (Voltaire 1774:72). And in an aside that reveals for a moment his true opinion about Holwell's Shasta-bad, Voltaire mischievously added, "But at any rate he has demonstrated to us that 5,000 years ago the people living on the Ganges [Gangarides] wrote a mythology, whether good or bad" (p. 72).56

However Voltaire evaluated such "oldest texts of the world," his conviction that India is the world's oldest civilization did not budge even when Jean Sylvain Bailly challenged it in a series of letters. They were published in 1777, one year before Voltaire's death, in Bailly's Letters on the origin of the sciences and of the peoples of Asia. Insisting that Holwell is "truth and simplicity in person" (Bailly 1777:4) Voltaire used Holwell's Shastah to support his rejection of Bailly's argument for the Siberian origins of humankind. Whatever arguments Bailly pressed upon him, Voltaire politely but firmly clung to his idea and declined to change his view of India as the cradle of civilization (pp. 9-14). It was this opinion of his that, hammered into public consciousness through a ream of books and pamphlets, played a seminal role in turning the European public's gaze toward India and its religious literature. Voltaire's influence is conspicuous in several figures studied in this book. Joseph de Guignes, Anquetil-Duperron, Gaston Laurent Coeurdoux, Volney, Louis- Mathieu Langles, and William Jones were all readers of Voltaire and reacted to his views in one way or another. Countless quotations from his books and numerous reactions to his views show that his propaganda campaign was, for his time and purpose, a smashing success. Even in the nineteenth century, long after the Ezour-vedam's publication by Sainte-Croix, there are instances where Voltaire's doctored "quotations" from the Ezour-vedam rather than the correct text were used (Fortia d'Urban 1807:289-89). His propaganda, as well as the reaction it created among Christians (including, for example, Johann Gottfried Herder, Thomas Maurice, and Joseph Priestley), was instrumental in promoting interest in India and its ancient texts. Whether these texts, in retrospect, are regarded as genuine or not, this interest fertilized the soil for the phenomenon that Thomas Trautmann aptly labeled "indomania" and for the "new Orientalism" it helped foster. Discoveries of Asian sources promising Bible-independent insight into the history of humanity (and generally into questions of origin) were intimately linked to a crisis of biblical authority and an upheaval of Europe's long-dominant worldview. While the Bible's explanatory power was still intact, many of these questions neither arose nor required a new answer. But as a string of non biblical texts were touted as "the world's oldest" -- the Chinese Yijing in the late seventeenth century and the eighteenth century's Ezour-vedam of Voltaire, Shasta-bad of Holwell, Desatir of William Jones,57 and Zend Avesta as well as Oupnek'hat of Anquetil-Duperron -- the solid study of Asian languages and literatures became ever more pressing. Voltaire's Indian campaign was an important force in the momentous shift of focus away from the biblical area toward India that prepared the ground for the modern, Bible-independent Orientalism envisaged by an outspoken admirer of Voltaire's view, Louis-Mathieu Langles, the founding director of modern Orientalism's first institution, the Ecole Speciale des Langues Orientales Vivantes in Paris.
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Re: The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

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Part 1 of 4

Chapter 2: Ziegenbalg's and La Croze's Discoveries

Studies about the European discovery of Buddhism rend to belong to one of two categories. The first depicts a gradual unveiling of what we today know about Buddhism (its founder, history, geographical reach, texts, rituals, art, and so forth) in form of a three-act play. Act I deals with antiquity and the Middle Ages, act 2 with the missionary discovery until about 1800, and act 3 with the "scientific" discovery of Buddhism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Such a three-stage scenario characterizes, for example, the studies of de Lubac (2000) and Batchelor (1994). Lately this kind of scenario came to be replaced by one that begins in the early nineteenth century and features a single act with an inconsequential prelude. Such one-act scenarios claim that the "phenomenon" of Buddhism only became a reality for Europeans around 1820 when the term "Buddhism" (and its equivalents in other languages) came into common use in Europe. They underlie, for example, the studies of Almond (1988) and Droit (1997 and 2003). The first decades of the nineteenth century represent a crucial turning point in both scenarios since they mark the beginning of modern "scientific" study of Buddhism. Welbon's The Buddhist Nirvii1}a and Its Western Interpreters devotes fewer than five pages to the eighteenth century and squarely focuses on the "beginnings of a scientific study" in the nineteenth century, which it portrays as a clean break from a worthless prelude of "fabulous reports, desultory descriptions, and unfounded conjectures" (Welbon 1968:23).

The ideas and discussions of pre-nineteenth-century "commentators" on Buddhism-whatever their interest may be for antiquarians of our own time -- patently had nor been widely circulated, nor had they aroused sustained interest on the part of scholars and laymen. Only the most ingenious enthusiast would attempt to make a case for the ordered development of a body of knowledge concerning Buddhism before the end of the eighteenth century. (p. 23)


A similar "sudden" scenario has come to dominate portrayals of the discovery (or, to underline the break with the past, the "creation") of Hinduism by Europeans. Interestingly, this discovery is usually regarded as a separate play on a different stage and with a different set of actors. Since Buddhism was supposedly discovered later than Hinduism, publications about the discovery of Hinduism usually make no mention at all of Buddhism. Numerous recent publications place the "discovery" or "creation" of Hinduism some decades earlier than that of Buddhism. According to Will Sweetman, "the concept of a unified pan-Indian religion is firmly established by the I77os, when 'Holwell's Gentooism' appeared," and the first use of the word "Hindooism" occurred in 1787 (200p63). In this view the identification of "Hinduism" as India's "national religion" ran parallel to the establishment of "India" as a meaningful geographical entity: "The concept of 'Hinduism' and the concept of 'India' in its modern sense, are coeval" (p. 163). This roughly coincides with the period when, according to Thomas Trautmann, a "new Orientalism" raised its head. It is characterized by a double shift: a shift of interest from "European fascination with China that was so marked in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries" to "a fascination with India" and, second, "a titanic shift of authority" (Trautmann 1997:30) involving the knowledge of indigenous languages and texts. This "new claim of authority" focused first on Persian and then on Indian texts; and the pioneers of this "new Orientalism" were, according to Trautmann, a Frenchman and three Englishmen:

The first works of the new Orientalism, prior to the formation of the Asiatic Society at Calcutta, were mostly translations from Persian: Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron's translation of the Zend-Avesta (1771) with the help of Parsi scholars in India; John Zephaniah Holwell's Interesting historical events, relative to the provinces of Bengal, and the empire of Indostan (1765-71), which relies on Persian sources in part, although it also contains what purport to be translations from a mysterious ancient Hindu text, Chartah Bhade Shastah (Sanskrit, Catur veda Sastra), a work not heard of since; Alexander Dow's translation of Firishtah's Persian History of Hindostan (1768); and the Code of Gentoo laws (1776 translated by Nathaniel Brassey Halhed from a Persian translation of a Sanskrit digest of Hindu law compiled by pandits on commission from the East India Company. (Trautmann 1997:30)


Since it was "based on direct interchange with the pandits in India" who taught the pioneers the necessary languages, this new Orientalism "in its own propaganda ... drew its authority from its knowledge of the languages of India and opposed it to that of the travelers and missionaries" (p. 32).

However, studies such as those by Rubies (2000) and Sweetman (2003) amply document that this "discovery" play of the latter half of the eighteenth century had significant earlier acts. For example, Sweetman shows that Jesuit letters of the early eighteenth century already exhibit an understanding of Hinduism avant la lettre and states that the speculations of Father Jean Venant Bouchet around 1702 (see Chapter I) "strongly suggest a unified conception of 'the system of religion recognized among the Indians'" (Sweetman 2003:140). But what about the "titanic shift of authority" that, according to Trautmann (1997:30), took place in the second half of the eighteenth century? Were Holwell's publications of 1765-71 really "one of the first statements of this new authority claim" (p. 33)? And was Anquetil-Duperron's translation of the Zend-Avesta of 1771 indeed "the first approach to an Asian text that was totally independent both of the biblical and the classical tradition," as Raymond Schwab claimed in his groundbreaking study La Renaissance orientale (1950:25)?

Many questions about the development of Western conceptions of "Buddhism" and "Hinduism" during the eighteenth century have either not yet been posed or remain unanswered. The retroprojection of a strict separation of "Hinduism" and "Buddhism" may form a major stumbling block. Other (seemingly solid) boundaries such as those between nations and languages are also frequently brought into play and led to book titles such as The British Discovery of Buddhism (Almond 1988), The British Discovery of Hinduism in the Eighteenth Century (Marshall 1970), or Nirwana in Deutschland (Lutkehaus 2004). Regardless of their value as collections of sources, such endeavors convey the wrong impression that such discoveries had much to do with national boundaries and particular languages. The two protagonists of this chapter, Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg and Mathurin Veyssiere de La Croze, show how effortlessly such boundaries were crossed. Ziegenbalg was a German working for a Protestant Danish mission in India whose correspondence was first published in German but found a broad pan-European readership through English, French, and Latin translations. La Croze was a multilingual Frenchman living in Berlin who wrote in French and Latin, was read by many intellectuals throughout Europe, and deeply influenced the Western perception of Asian religions from the 1720s well into the nineteenth century.

While Bartholomaus ZIEGENBALG (1682-1719) received some attention from Indologists and researchers of Hinduism (for example, Dharampal-Frick 1994, Jeyaraj 2003, and Sweetman 2003), the influence of his work on the discovery of Buddhism remains unexplored. Mathurin Veyssiere de La CROZE (1661-1739) usually plays no role at all in the fashionable "discovery of Buddhism" and "discovery of Hinduism" tales. He died in 1739, half a century before the first use of the word "Hindooism," and his Histoire du Christianisme aux Indes (whose sixth chapter we will mainly examine) was published in 1724, that is, a full century before -- according to Roger-Pol Droit -- the "word Buddhism" and the "phenomenon itself" were "simultaneously" born in the "scholarly gaze" of Europe (1997:36). What did Ziegenbalg and La Croze discover? Can one speak at all of a discovery of Hinduism and of Buddhism in the first decades of the eighteenth century? And if one can, how did such discoveries take place? Did they happen decades apart on separate stages and with different scripts, stage sets, and actors?

Indian Monotheism

Chapter 6 of La Croze's History of Christianity of the Indies has the title "Of the idolatry of the Indies," and it is worth noting that "idolatry" is in the singular and "Indies" in the plural. These are symptoms of La Croze's view of a pan-Asian phenomenon whose history, character, and dimensions will be explored in this chapter. He felt that this "idolatry of the Indies" merited at least as much attention by Europeans as its Greco-Roman counterpart, since "one finds in it vestiges of antiquity that lead to solid research about ancient history and the origin of errors in the field of religion" (La Croze 1724:425). The question of origins concerned not only idolatry but also monotheism. Like Voltaire three decades later, La Croze was convinced that vestiges of early monotheism could be found in the Indies and that they would throw light on the earliest phase of human history:

Nothing ... should evoke more interest for them [the Indians] than to see that, in spite of the grossest idolatry, the existence of the infinitely perfect Being is so well established with them that there can be no doubt that they have preserved such knowledge since their first establishment in the Indies. (p. 425)


Whereas with the Greeks and Romans "the existence of the true God" was "known only to a small number of philosophers and played no role at all in the religion of the people," evidence from India indicated to La Croze that the Indians not only had pure monotheism in the remote past but preserved it ever since. Their antiquity far surpassed that of the Greeks:

One sees them form a large crowd [multitude nombreuse] from the centuries when Greek history begins to emerge from the darkness of ancient mythology, and this-in combination with other reflections-gives one the right to regard them as one of the most ancient peoples of the world. (p. 426)


While La Croze did not want to discuss the exact origin of this monotheism and found that it would be "badly managed erudition" to pinpoint exactly which son of Noah had transmitted his religion to the Indies (p. 426), it is clear that the ark of Noah and the biblical creation Story loomed in the back of his mind. All signs indicated that Noah's pure religion had made its way to the Indies soon after the deluge and was preserved there:

One can even suppose, as a very probable fact, that in ancient times they had a quite distinct knowledge of the true God and that they worshipped him in an inner cult [culte interieur] that at the time was mixed with no profanation at all. Some of their sages who until today preserve this doctrine ... make this conjecture so probable that there seems to be no possible counterargument. (p. 426)


The other momentous transmission from the shores of the Mediterranean to larger Asia was that of idolatry. La Croze's view of it resembles that of Athanasius Kircher (1667) and of Francois Catrou (1708:54) and needs to be discussed briefly before we return to pure original monotheism and its vestiges in the Indies. La Croze was convinced "that the ancient Indians had been colonies of Egypt" and that "the origin of the superstitions of the Indies must be attributed to those of the Egyptians with which they maintain to this day a surprising conformity" (La Croze 1724:427). Among the superstitions mentioned by La Croze, we find not only "Egyptian-style" metempsychosis or transmigration of souls1 but also the mortifications that fascinated and repelled so many Europeans:

Furthermore, the Egyptians professed marvelous abstinence and treated their body as enemy. This is what we will later see practiced by the Indians, not only in antiquity but until the present times. No slackening whatsoever has since taken place in the observation of these mortifications that are so contrary to sane reason and to the affection that should make every human interested in self-preservation. (pp. 428-89)


La Croze also saw an Egyptian origin of Indian phallic worship, animal worship, the distinction of castes, vegetarianism, and monasticism complete with tonsure and celibacy (pp. 430-37). All this convinced La Croze -- who as a Protestant of course also remarked on the Egyptian origins of Catholic monasticism and rites -- that Egypt is "the mother and the origin of ancient superstitions and of all sorts of errors and idolatries" (p. 436). If this was the source of a misguided cult that "the Bramines entertain for their own particular interests" (p. 462), they were also the guardians of an ancient monotheistic teaching that the priests kept hidden from the common people (pp. 454-59). This theme of an exoteric and an esoteric teaching (the latter of which is hidden and encoded by priests) was already present in Plutarch's book on Isis and Osiris and was widely regarded as a characteristic feature of Egyptian religion. In Kircher's misguided efforts to translate Egyptian hieroglyphs -- for example, in his Obeliscus Pamphilius of 1650 -- it played a central role, since his whole method rested on the dichotomy of exoteric and esoteric teachings and the idea that the latter represented primeval monotheism encoded in sacred symbols. Kircher detected few signs of humankind's original monotheism in Asia and saw the continent as a vast repository of Egyptian superstition; but believers in a God with a less discriminatory revelation policy emphasized, in the footsteps of Matteo Ricci and Roberto de Nobili, the ancient monotheistic heritage of China and India.

Already in Ricci's and de Nobili's time, around the beginning of the seventeenth century, the claim surfaced that the Vedas of India were the repository of ancient Indian monotheism. Of course, the approach of Nobili and his successors in the Jesuit Madurai mission was anchored in the idea that India had once been a land reigned by pure monotheism; but the locus classicus for the monotheism of the Vedas is the description in Diogo do Couto's Decada Quinta da Asia of 1612 (124Vff.). Schurhammer (1977:614-18) has shown that Couto plagiarized the report by the Augustinian missionary Agostinho de Azevedo, but it was through Couto that this view of the Vedas as a monotheistic scripture, hidden by the Brahmans from the people to whom they preached polytheism, became popular. Since Couto's description was a central source for Holwell, I will discuss it in more detail in Chaptets 5 and 6; here its summary by Philip Baldaeus will suffice:

The first of these Books treated of God and of the Origin and Beginning of the Universe. The second, of those who have the Government and Management thereof. The third, of Morality and true Virtue. The fourth of the Ceremonials in their Temples, and Sacrifices. These four Books of the Vedam are by them call' d Roggo Vedam, Jadura Vedam, Sama Vedam, and Tarawana Vedam; and by the Malabars Icca, Icciyxa, Saman, and Adaravan. The loss of this first Part is highly lamented by the Brahmans. (Baldaeus 1703:891)


Though various descriptions based on Azevedo and Giacomo Fenicio made the rounds, no European had yet managed to get access to more than fragments of these prized Vedas. Some hoped that eventually an apostate Brahman would communicate them in toto, and La Croze was certain that this would bring about a revolution in knowledge not only about India but also antiquity in general:

There is hardly any doubt that in this respect one could go much further if the Vedam, which is the collection of the ancient sacred books of the Brachmans, was translated into Latin or one of Europe's [living] languages. It is likely that one would find in it antiquities [Antiquitez] that the superstitiously proud Brahmins withhold from the people of the Indies whom they regard as profane and to whom nothing but the exterior [exterieur] of religion is conveyed, buried in fables that are at least as extravagant as those of Greek paganism. (La Croze 1724:427-28)


Image
Figure 2. Vishnu recuperates the Veda from the sea (Baldaeus 1703:844).

For La Croze, the Vedas represented the monotheistic core of Indian religion that the Brahmans jealously guarded as a secret while feeding the exoteric surface to the crowds. But since this "interior" doctrine of the Vedas was still unknown, information from other sources was all the more important. As royal librarian of Prussia, La Croze could make use of a very broad range of publications, but as a linguist and philologist, he was partial to authors who could read local languages. Abraham ROGER (d. 1649), though "having given a kind of system" of the religion of the Brahmans in a "work that was composed with care" and "translated into several languages," is criticized because "he did not himself read the religious books of the Indians and admits having relied on what he learned from the mouth of a Brahmin called Padmanaba" (p. 444). Philip BALDAEUS (1632-72), the Dutch missionary and author of a description of South India and Ceylon (1672), is reprimanded for having "based his dissertations [Memoires] about the island of Ceylon on the manuscripts of Portuguese missionaries who disfigured the Indian pronunciation to accommodate their way of writing and in various respects were not exactly well enough informed about the facts" (pp. 444-45). Vincenzo MARIA (d. 1680), the Carmelite author of Il viaggio all'Indie orientali (1678) "also described at length the religion of the Indians in Malabar and even gave some extracts from some of their books"; but he "ignored the language of the land and frankly admitted to have done no more than copy the Portuguese dissertations communicated to him by Don Francis Garzia, the Jesuit archbishop of Cranganor" (p. 445).

Ziegenbalg's Evidence

While using all these major authors, La Croze prized the information furnished by Bartholomaus ZIEGENBALG most highly: "He is preferable due to his accuracy and the care he took to report only what he had himself observed and what he read in the books written in a language that had become as natural to him as the one he sucked with his mother's milk" (p. 445). This is exactly the kind of new authority claim that, according to Trautmann, characterized the rise of a "new Oriental ism" in the second half of the eighteenth century (1997:32-34). But fifty years before the publication of Holwell's dubious work, La Croze had already corresponded with Ziegenbalg, who recommended the perusal of the manuscript of his Bibliotheca Malabarica (letter of February 1716; Jeyaraj 2003:317). This was an annotated list of 119 Indian texts in the Tamil language collected by Ziegenbalg in the two-year span between his arrival in India (1706) and 1708.2 A modern expert on Tamil literature, Kamil Veith Zvelebil, described this as "a relatively complete account of Tamil literature" (Zvelebil 1973:2), and we can imagine how impressed an early eighteenth-century linguist such as La Croze must have been. While the larger European public got news about the Danish Malabar mission mainly via the Malabar Correspondence and related materials that were first published in German and then partly translated into English (Philipps 1717; Ziegenbalg and Grundler 1719) and French (Niecamp 1745), La Croze enjoyed full access to all the major manuscripts that Ziegenbalg had sent to Europe: his travel account, the Bibliotheca Malabarica, the translations from Tamil morality books, the Malabar Correspondence, the manuscript of the Malabar Heathendom, and of course also the manuscript of the second main work of Ziegenbalg, the Genealogy of Malabar Divinities (Jeyaraj 2003:318).

Ziegenbalg had studied Baldaeus (1672) before arriving in India as a young man of twenty-four years, and in his first letter (September 2, 1706); he described "the content of the four books of law [Vedas] according to his opinion" (Ziegenbalg 1926:14). But he soon realized that Baldaeus "got most [of his information] from the Portuguese fathers who were forced to leave it when they were chased out of Ceylon by the Dutch" and that the rest stemmed "from his dealings with Brahmans who oftentimes know very little of their dogmas" (pp. 14-15). His own work, so the young man decided, would not be such a pastiche (Schmierewerck) cobbled together from other authors but had to be based on reliable sources: "Everything that I have written I have either transcribed word for word from their own books and translated from the Malabar language into German, or I have heard it during frequent discussions from the very mouth of the heathen and had it told to me by people of understanding" (p. 15). That Ziegenbalg knew very little about the Vedas is evident from his manuscript on Malabar heathendom (1711) where he described them as "four small books of law" called "I. Urukkuwedum. 2. Iderwedum. 3. Samawedum. 4. Adirwannawedum" (p. 34).3 But while "the four law books and the six Sastirangol [castirankal] get into the hands of few persons and are only found with some priests who show such books to nobody," he wrote, "the eighteen Paranen [puranas]and other history books are ubiquitous, and parts of them can also be found with the common people" (p. 36).

It was thus not in Vedic literature that Ziegenbalg found support for his idea of Indian monotheism but rather in certain Tamil texts (see below) and in assertions of his Indian informants. Via the Malabar Correspondence in the Hallesche Berichte, its translations and summaries, and through passages of Ziegenbalg's works quoted in La Croze, such information from southern India eventually reached the desks of men like Voltaire, Joseph de Guignes, Anquetil-Duperron, Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottfried Herder, William Jones, and Constantin-Francois Volney.4

While partly modeling his Genealogy of Malabar Divinities of 1713 on the lists of gods in the "Diwagaram [Tivakaram]" (p. 286), Ziegenbalg omitted the "symbol of Tamil religiosity," Murukan, from his list (p. 299). Instead he began his Genealogy in the manner of a Christian theology book, with a chapter on "Barabarawastu" who in Ziegenbalg's view is "the supreme divine being and origin of all divinities" [das hochste gottliche Wesen und der Ursprung aller Gotter] (p. 37), even though it is not listed in the Tivakaram. As natural monotheists, so Ziegenbalg thought, the Indians must since antiquity have worshiped a supreme divine being who was not just one god among others but rather the very origin of all gods and the world.

These heathen know by the light of nature that there is one God. This truth has not only been communicated to them by Christians but is so firmly implanted in their mind [Gem lithe] by the evidence of their conscience that they would regard it as the greatest impiety [Gottlosigkeit] if they would learn that there are people in this world who do not posit a divine being who is the origin of everything, preserves everything, and reigns over everything-the kind of atheism [Atheistrey] that has found entry even among Christians and particularly among learned people here and there. (Ziegenbalg 2003:37).


Ziegenbalg compared such European atheists of the early eighteenth century with "heathen" Indians who are not only naturally monotheist but even profess faith in the very same God that the German pastors evoked in their sermons: "a God who created everything, reigns over everything, punishes evil, rewards good deeds, and who must be feared, loved, worshipped, and prayed to" (p. 37). The faith in this God had not only led the Indians to "establish a law and write many books of religion" but also to "introduce all kinds of sacrifices, build pagodas, and establish everywhere in their lands a formal service that in their opinion serves God" (p. 37). Because they relied exclusively on reason that "since the Fall is entirely misguided and spoiled," they eventually "let themselves be seduced by Satan in various ways." Nevertheless, from time immemorial, they fundamentally accept and worship an invisible divine being and have texts to prove this:

Such truth gained from the light of nature is not a recent thing with them but a very ancient one; they have books that are said to be more than 2000 years old. These form the basis of their opinions in these matters, and they hold that their religion is the oldest of all; it may have originated not long after the deluge. They not only believe in one God but have by the light of nature come so far as to accept no more than one single divine being as the origin of all things. Even though they worship many gods, they hold that all such gods have sprung from a single divine being and will return therein; so that in all gods only that single divine being is worshipped. Those among them who are a bit learned will defend this very obstinately even though they cannot deliver any proof of it. (pp. 37-38)


The best among the Indians regard "this Barabarawastu, which means Highest Being [Ens Supremum] or Being of beings [Ens Entium]" as an immaterial being [unmaterialisches Wesen] without any shape. They have hundreds of names for it, for example "Savuvesuren, the Lord over everything; Niddia Anander, the eternally supreme one; or Adinaiagen, the first lord of all who is supreme" (pp. 38-39).5 Asked what this supreme God or Being of all Beings (Wesen aller Wesen] is, an Indian informer wrote in a letter to Ziegenbalg:

The supreme God, or the Being of all Beings, has a form yet is without form. He cannot be compared to anything. One cannot describe him nor say that he is this or that. He is neither male nor female, neither heaven nor earth, neither man nor any other creature. This God is not subject to destruction or death. He does not need to rest or sleep. He is omnipotent and omnipresent. He is without beginning and remains unchanged in eternity. His form can neither be seen nor described nor pronounced, etc. (pp. 39-40)


Together with excerpts from Indian scriptures, such letters by Indian "heathen" to Ziegenbalg constituted evidence that deeply impressed European readers including Voltaire. The Malabar Correspondence contained numerous Indian descriptions of God and prayers that for the first time gave voice to the Indians themselves. Bothered by resistance both of Danish administrators in Tranquebar on India's southeastern coast and of Pietist Europeans who questioned the value of the mission, Ziegenbalg and his companion Johann Ernst Grundler had decided to drum up support by having Indians answer written questions and ended up sending translations of no fewer than I04 such letters by Indians to Europe. Ninety-nine of them were published in two installments (1714 and 1717). Some of them appeared also in English and French, and central passages (such as the one just cited) were quoted in Ziegenbalg's manuscripts and in La Croze's book. Given the deist leanings of many European intellectuals, including Voltaire, such documentation of natural monotheism in one of the world's oldest nations did not go unnoticed and substantially contributed to eighteenth-century Europe's gradual shift of interest from China to India. It probably also formed a reason for August Hermann FRANCKE (1663-1727) to decide against the immediate publication of Ziegenbalg's manuscripts. Ziegenbalg may have been unaware of this problem, and his introduction to Malabar Heathendom shows him more concerned about atheists than deists:

The fourth reason [for transmitting such information] is that teachers and preachers of atheism, which is fashionable among many in Europe, can be refuted through the principles of these heathen. Even though they are heathen, one will see consistently in these books that they believe in a divine Being who created all, reigns over everything, and eventually will reward virtue and punish evil; and that bliss awaits the faithful and damnation the evil. All of this, as a matter of fact, is denied by many Christians who rely on chance [fortuitum] and live much worse than the heathen. (Ziegenbalg 1926:13)


This sounds a bit like Voltaire's "Ambrosian" method of praising the heathen Indians in order to chastise degenerate European Christians. We have seen in Chapter 1 that, in order to support his claims of ancient Indian monotheism, Voltaire first used Indian prayers and quotations from Indian texts that he found in La Croze; subsequently, it was the Ezour-vedam that provided additional evidence; and finally, Voltaire lionized the pure monotheism of the "Indian" texts by Holwell and Dow. Though Ziegenbalg's admiration for monotheism in India resembles that of Voltaire, the German clergyman's mission was more straightforward. But he also had a little problem with his sources.
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