Front Page Titles (by Subject) NOTE A. p. 286. - The History of British India, vol. 1
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NOTE A. p. 286. - James Mill, The History of British India, vol. 1 
The History of British India in 6 vols. (3rd edition) (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1826). Vol. 1.
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NOTE A. p. 286.
“5. Thisuniverse existed only in the first divine idea yet unexpanded, as if involved in darkness, imperceptible, undefinable, undiscoverable by reason, and undiscovered by revelation, as if it were wholly immersed in sleep;
“6. Then the sole self-existing power, himself undiscerned, but making this world discernible, with five elements and other principles of nature, appeared with undiminished glory, expanding his idea, or dispelling the gloom.
“7. He, whom the mind alone can perceive, whose essence eludes the external organs, who has no visible parts, who exists from eternity, even he, the soul of all beings, whom no being can comprehend, shone forth in person.
“8. He, having willed to produce various beings from his own divine substance, first with a thought created the waters, and placed in them a productive seed:
“9. The seed became an egg bright as gold, blazing like the luminary with a thousand beams: and in that egg he was born himself, in the form of Brahma, the great forefather of all spirits.
“10. The waters are called nara, because they were the production of Nara, or the Spirit of God; and, since they were his first ayana, or place of motion, he thence is named Narayana, or moving on the waters.
“11. From That Which is, the first cause, not the object of sense, existing every where in substance, not existing to our perception, without beginning or end, was produced the divine male, famed in all worlds under the appellation of Brahma.
“12. In that egg the great power sat inactive a whole year of the Creator, at the close of which, by his thought alone, he caused the egg to divide itself.
“13. And from its two divisions he framed the heaven above and the earth beneath: in the midst he placed the subtil ether, the eight regions, and the permanent receptacle of waters.
“14. From the supreme soul he drew forth mind, existing substantially though unperceived by sense, immaterial; and before mind, or the reasoning power, he produced consciousness, the internal monitor, the ruler:
“15. And, before them both, he produced the great principle of the soul, or first expansion of the divine idea; and all vital forms endued with the three qualities of goodness, passion, and darkness; and the five perceptions of sense, and the five organs of sensation.
“16. Thus, having at once pervaded, with emanations from the Supreme Spirit, the minutest portions of six principles immensely operative, consciousness and the five perceptions, he framed all creatures;
“17. And since the minutest particles of visible nature have a dependence on those six emanations from God, the wise have accordingly given the name of sarira or depending on six, that is, the ten organs on consciousness, and the five elements on as many perceptions, to his image or appearance in visible nature.
“18. Thence proceed the great elements endued with peculiar powers, and mind with operations infinitely subtil, the unperishable cause of all apparent forms.
“19. This universe, therefore, is compacted from the minute portions of those seven divine and active principles, the great soul, or first emanation, consciousness, and five perceptions; a mutable universe from immutable ideas.
“20. Among them each succeeding element acquires the quality of the preceding; and, in as many degrees as each of them is advanced, with so many properties is it said to be endued.
“21. He too first assigned to all creatures distinct names, distinct acts, and distinct occupations; as they had been revealed in the pre-existing Veda.
“22. He, the supreme ruler, created an assemblage of inferior deities, with divine attributes and pure souls; and a number of genii exquisitely delicate; and he prescribed the sacrifice ordained from the beginning.
“23. From fire, from air, and from the sun he milked out, as it were, the three primordial Vedas, named Rich, Yajush, and Saman, for the due performance of the sacrifice.
“24. He gave being to time and the divisions of time, to the stars also, and to the planets, to rivers, oceans, and mountains, to level plains, and uneven valleys.
“25. To devotion, speech, complacency, desire, and wrath, and to the creation, which shall presently be mentioned; for he willed the existence of all those created things.
“26. For the sake of distinguishing actions, he made a total difference between right and wrong, and enured these sentient creatures to pleasure and pain, cold and heat, and other opposite pairs.
“27. With very minute transformable portions, called natras, of the five elements, all this perceptible world was composed in fit order;
“28. And in whatever occupation the supreme lord first employed any vital soul, to that occupation the same soul attaches itself spontaneously, when it receives a new body again and again:
“29. Whatever quality, noxious or innocent, harsh or mild, unjust or just, false or true, he conferred on any being at its creation, the same quality enters it of course on its future births;
“30. As the six seasons of the year attain respectively their peculiar marks in due time, and of their own accord, even so the several acts of each embodied spirit attend it naturally.
“31. That the human race might be multiplied, he caused the Brahmen, the Cshatriya, the Vaisya, and the Sudra (so named from the scripture, protection, wealth, and labour) to proceed from his mouth, his arm, his thigh, and his foot.
“32. Having divided his own substance, the mighty Power became half male, half female, or nature active and passive; and from that female he produced Viraj:
“33. Know me, O most excellent of Brahmens, to be that person, whom the male power VIRAJ, having performed austere devotion, produced by himself; me, the secondary framer of all this visible world.
“34. It was I, who, desirous of giving birth to a race of men, performed very difficult religious duties, and first produced ten lords of created being, eminent in holiness,
“35. Marichi, Atri, Angeras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Cratu, Prachetas, or Dacsha, Vasishtha, Bhrigu, and Narada:
“36. They, abundant in glory, produced seven other Menus, together with deities, and in the mansions of deities, and Maharshis, or great Sages, unlimited in power.
“37. Benevolent genii, and fierce giants, blood-thirsty savages, heavenly quiristers, nymphs and demons, huge serpents, and snakes of smaller size, birds of mighty wing, and separate companies of Pitris, or progenitors of mankind;
“38. Lightnings and thunder-bolts, clouds and coloured bows of Indra, falling meteors, earth-rending vapours, comets, and luminaries of various degrees;
“39. Horse-faced sylvans, apes, fish, and a variety of birds, tame cattle, deer, men, and ravenous beasts with two rows of teeth;
“40. Small and large reptiles, moths, lice, fleas, and common flies, with every biting gnat, and immovable substances of distinct sorts.” (Instit. of Menu, ch. 1.)
Such is the account of the creation which is contained in one of the principal standards of Hindu faith; such is one of the chief documents from which we can draw precise ideas respecting the religious principles of the Hindus. The darkness, the vagueness, and the confusion, which reign in it, need not be remarked; for by these the Hindu mythology is throughout distinguished. The first of the propositions, as it now stands, can be adequately designated only by the familiar appellative, nonsense; the ideas are heterogeneous, and incompatible. “This universe” it is said, “existed only in the first divine idea.” When any thing is said to exist in idea, the meaning is, that it is conceived by the mind, or, in common language, that it is an idea in the mind. This universe then, according to the above passage, was conceived by the divine mind before it was actually produced, or, in other words, it was an idea in the divine mind. This idea existed in the divine mind “yet unexpanded.” But what are we to understand by an idea in the divine mind “unexpanded?” In regard to human thought an idea may be said to be unexpanded, when something is conceived very generally and obscurely; and it may be said to be expanded when the thing is conceived minutely, distinctly, and in all its parts. Are we then to understand by the idea of the universe being unexpanded in the divine mind, that the universe was conceived by it only generally, obscurely, indistinctly, and that it was not till creation was actually performed, that the divine idea was clear, full, and precise? How infinitely removed is this from the sublime conception which we entertain of the Divine Being; to whose thoughts all his works past, present, and to come, and every thing in the universe from eternity to eternity, are present always, essentially, perfectly, in all their parts, properties, and relations! This divine idea is still farther described: it existed “as if involved in darkness.” When an idea is involved in darkness, it is an idea not perfectly understood; an apprehension only compatible with the most imperfect notions of the divine nature. It existed “imperceptible.” If this means by the senses, all ideas are imperceptible; if it means by the mind, it is impossible, for the very essence of an idea consists in its being perceived by the mind. It existed “undefinable, undiscoverable by reason, undiscovered by revelation, as if it were wholly immersed in sleep.” What sort of an idea could that be in the divine mind which the divine mind could not define, that mind by which it was formed? If the meaning be, that it could not be defined by any other mind; neither can the idea, not yet expressed, which exists in the mind of the most foolish of men. “Not discoverable by reason;” does this mean that the divine reason did not discover the divine idea; or does it mean that human reason could not discover it? An idea in the mind of another being is not discoverable to man by reason, but by enunciation. The last expression is the most extraordinary; “as if immersed in sleep:” “an idea immersed in sleep!” An idea too in the divine mind immersed in sleep! What notion can be formed of this?
But it must be explained that this incoherence and absurdity is not the work of Menu, or of the author, whoever he was, of the treatise which goes by his name. It is a common plan in India, for a commentator who is explaining a book, to insert between the words of the text such expressions as to him appear necessary to render the sense of the author clear and distinct. This has been done by a commentator of the name of Culluca, in regard to the ordinances of Menu; and his gloss or commentary, interworded with the text, Sir William Jones has translated along with his author. As he has, very judiciously, however, printed the interwoven expressions of the commentator in italics, it is easy for the reader to separate them, and to behold the sense of the original unadulterated. According to this expedient, the words of Menu appear thus: “This existed only in darkness, imperceptible, undefinable, undiscoverable, undiscovered, as if it were wholly immersed in sleep.” It seems remarkably the genius of the ancient Sanscrit writings to be elliptical, and the adjective pronouns specially are very frequently used without a substantive. “This,” in the passage which we are now examining, is in that situation. The mind of the reader is left to supply the word which the sense of the context demands. This—every thing; this—whole; this—universe; such is the manner in which the mind easily here suggests the requisite idea; and when this is done, the incoherence and absurdity which the supplement of Culluca engendered, is entirely dispelled. The passage presents clearly and unambiguously, a description, a very vague and unmeaning description, it must be owned, of that chaos of which the Greeks and Romans drew so striking and awful a picture, and of which the belief appears to have been so widely and generally diffused. The notion which Culluca endeavoured to engraft, is remarkable. It is no other than the celebrated Platonic principle of the preexistence of all things in the divine mind, which Culluca, it is evident, neither understood nor could apply, and with which he made such havoc on the genuine sense of his author. It is probable that he borrowed the idea from some foreign source, that it pleased him as preferable to the more rude conception of a chaos, and that he resolved, according to the invariable rule of the Brahmens, to give his own order the credit of it, by incorporating it with the doctrines of the sacred authors.
There is a remarkable coincidence, and there is a remarkable discrepancy, between this passage in the Institutes of Menu, and the following at the beginning of the book of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” The coincidence appears in the chaotic description here applied to the earth: the discrepancy consists in this, that the Jewish legislator informs us of the previous creation of the shapeless mass, the Hindu legislator describes it as antecedent to all creation.
This chaos, this universe, then, in its dark, imperceptible, undefinable state, existed according to Menu, antecedent to creation. This too was the idea of the Greeks and Romans, who thence believed in the eternity of matter. It is doubtful, from the extreme vagueness of the Hindu language, whether they had carried their thoughts so far as to conceive the question respecting the origin of matter; but as its eternity is implied in several of their doctrines, so it appears to be recognized in some of their expressions. It appears, indeed, that they were unable to make any clear distinction between matter and spirit, but rather considered the latter to be some extraordinary refinement of the former. Thus even the Divine Being, though they called him soul, and spirit, they certainly regarded as material. In the passage already quoted, it is said, “that he willed to produce various beings from his own divine substance.” Now what can be meant by substance, if not material substance? Besides, from material substance alone can material beings be produced. But the first thing which we are told was produced from the divine substance, was water. It is worth remarking, at the same time, that in other places water appears to be spoken of as uncreated, and as the material out of which all other things were produced. A passage describing the creation, translated from the Yajur Veda by Mr. Colebrooke, commences thus: “Waters alone there were; this world originally was water. In it the lord of creation moved, having become air.” [Asiat. Res. viii. 452.]