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NOTE A. p. 71. - James Mill, The History of British India, vol. 2 
The History of British India in 6 vols. (3rd edition) (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1826). Vol. 2.
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NOTE A. p. 71.
The most authentic source of information, yet open to the research of the European scholar, on the metaphysical, as on other ideas of the learned Hindus, is the volume of the Institutions of Menu. This celebrated, authoritative, and divine work contains, as is usual with the sacred books of the Hindus, a specimen of all their knowledge; cosmogony, theology, physics, metaphysics, government, jurisprudence, and economics. From the account which in this work is rendered of the origin of the mind and its faculties, very sure conclusions may be drawn respecting the extent and accuracy of the psychological knowlege of the people by whom that account is delivered and believed.
The inspired author of this divine work informs the believing Hindu that, “From the supreme soul, Brahma, the Creator, drew forth mind, existing substantially, though unperceived by sense, immaterial.”1 The principal words here employed are vague and obscure, and no distinct meaning can be assigned to them. What is meant by “existing substantially?” What is meant by “immaterial?” “To exist substantially,” if it have any meaning, is to be a substance. But this is inconsistent with the idea which we ascribe to the word immaterial; and there is in many other passages, abundant reason to conclude that the word, with its usual leanings, here translated, “immaterial,” by Sir William Jones, meant nothing, in the conception of a Hindu, but a certain air, or ether, too fine to be perceived by the organs of sense.
Immediately after the words we have just quoted, it is added; “And before mind, or the reasoning power, he produced consciousness, the internal monitor, the ruler.”2 Consciousness, a faculty of the mind, is here represented as created before the mind, the quality before the substratum. It is subjoined in the next words; “And before them both” (that is, before the mind and consciousness) “he produced the great principle of the soul, or first expansion of the divine idea.”3 Here is a third production, which is neither the mind, nor consciousness. What is it? to this we have no answer. As to the term “first expansion of the divine idea,” which may be suspected to be a gloss rather than a translation, it is mere jargon, with no more meaning than the cawing of rooks. “In the same manner”—(that is, according to the construction of the sentence, before mind and consciousness—) “he created the five perceptions of sense, and the five organs of perception.”1 Another faculty of the mind, perception, is thus a creation antecedent to mind. The organs of perception, too, or bodily part, are a separate creation; perceiving organs which belong to no perceiving being.
The following text, which are the words next in order, exhibits a curious sample of metaphysical ideas. “Having at once pervaded, with emanations from the supreme spirit, the minutest portions of six principles immensely operative, conciousness, and the five perceptions, the Creator framed all creatures.”2 Consciousness, and the five perceptions, existed antecedently to all creatures; consciousness and perception, without conscious and perceiving beings. What is meant by the minute portions of consciousness? How can consciousness be supposed divided into portions either minute or large; especially when we are told that the mind is immaterial? What, too, are we to understand by the minute portions of a perception? As to the mere jargon, such as “pervading consciousness, and the five perceptions with emanations from the supreme spirit,” it is unnecessary to offer on it any remarks.
We are next informed, that “the minutest particles of visible nature have a dependance on those six emanations from God.” What is meant by these six emanations is not very definitely expressed. The six things that are spoken of are consciousness and the five perceptions; and it is probable that they are meant. But how visible nature should depend upon consciousness and the five perceptions, does not appear. Certain other emanations from God, however, are spoken of, with which consciousness and the five perceptions were pervaded; and perhaps it was meant that the minutest particles of matter depend on them. But this is only barbarous jargon.3
In the following verse it is said, that “from these six emanations proceed the great elements, endued with peculiar powers, and mind with operations infinitely subtle, the unperishable cause of all apparent form.”4 It is still a difficulty, what is meant by the six emanations. If those are meant with which consciousness and the five perceptions are pervaded, no ideas whatever can be annexed to the words; they are totally without a meaning; and that is all. If consciousness and the five perceptions be, as seems probable, the emanations in question; in what manner do the great elements and mind proceed from consciousness and the five perceptions? Mind would thus proceed from certain of its own operations.
It is added in the succeeding sentence, “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.”1 Here it appears that the great soul, as well as consciousness and the perceptions, can be divided into portions. The great soul is not therefore immaterial, according to our sense of the word; and still less can either that, or the perceptions and consciousness be immaterial, if the universe, a great part of which is surely material, can be compacted from portions of them. “A mutable universe,” it is said, “from immutable ideas;” therefore, the great soul, consciousness, and the five perceptions, are not realities, though divisible into portions; they are only ideas! What conclusions are we entitled to form respecting the intellectual state of a people who can be charmed with doctrine like this?2
In the following passage, and there are others of a similar import, we find a specimen of those beginnings which are made at an early stage of society, to refine in the modes of conceiving the mental operation. “Self-love,” it is said, “is no laudable motive; yet an exemption from self-love is not to be found in this world: on self-love is grounded the study of scripture, and the practice of actions recommended in it.”3 The absurdity lies, in not perceiving, that if no action proceeding from self-love is virtuous; and if there is no action which does not proceed from self-love; then is there no virtue in the world, which is far from being the subject of Hindu belief.
[1 ]Laws of Menu, ch. i. 14. See the passage quoted at length, supra, vol. i. p. 425.
[2 ]Laws of Menu. ch. i. 14.
[3 ]Ibid. 15.
[1 ]Laws of Menu, ch. i. 15.
[2 ]Ibid. 16.
[4 ]Ibid. 18.
[1 ]Laws of Menu, ch. i. 19.
[2 ]Not only are consciousness and the five perceptions regarded as separate existences, and separate products of creative power, but various other operations of the mind, and even states of the affections. Thus, among the other creations, it is said, that the Creator “gave being to devotion, speech, complaceny, desire, and wrath.” (Laws of Menu, ch. i. 25.)
[3 ]Ibid. ch. ii. 2.