isis unveiled, vol 2: chapter i (the church)

“Scarcely two even the most learned Sanscrit philologists are agreed as to the true interpretation of Vedic words. Let one put forth an essay, a lecture, a treatise, a translation, a dictionary, and straightway all the others fall to quarrelling with each other and with him as to his sins of omission and commission. Professor Whitney, greatest of American Orientalists, says that Professor Muller’s notes on the Rig Veda Sanhita “are far from showing that sound and thoughtful judgment, that moderation and economy which are among the most precious qualities of an exegete.”

Professor Muller angrily retorts upon his critics that “not only is the joy embittered which is the inherent reward of all bona fide work, but selfishness, malignity, aye, even untruthfulness, gain the upper hand, and the healthy growth of science is stunted.” He differs “in many cases from the explanations of Vedic words given by Professor Roth” in his Sanscrit Dictionary, and Professor Whitney shampoos both their heads by saying that there are, unquestionably, words and phrases “as to which both alike will hereafter be set right.”

In volume 1 of his Chips, Professor Muller stigmatizes all the Vedas except the Rik, the Atharva-Veda included, as “theological twaddle”, while Professor Whitney regards the latter as “the most comprehensive and valuable of the four collections next after Rik.”

To return to the case of Jacolliot. Professor Whitney brands him as a “bungler and a humbug”, and, as we remarked above, this is the very general verdict. But when the Bible dans l’Inde appeared, the Societe Academique de Saint Quentin requested M. Textor de Ravisi, a learned Indianist, ten years Governor of Karikal, India, to report upon its merits. He was an ardent Catholic, and bitterly opposed Jacolliot’s conclusions where they discredited the Mosaic and Catholic revelations; but was forced to say: “Written with good faith, in an easy, vigorous, and passionate style, of an easy and varied argumentation, the work of M. Jacolliot is of absorbing interest…a learned work on known facts and with familiar arguments.”

Enough. Let Jacolliot have the benefit of the doubt when such very imposing authorities are doing their best to show up each other as incompetents and literary journeymen. We quite agree with Professor Whitney that “the truism, that, [for European critics?], it is far easier to pull to pieces than to build up, is nowhere truer than in matters affecting the archeology and history of India.””

H. P. Blavatsky

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