The Lord of Creatures

In Hermes in India a discussion began about the Lord of Creatures.  It is now obvious that this subject is more difficult than I imagined. There are several related terms that have to do with the nature of God. They have similar meanings, but they can belong to completely different gods.

Dumézil said the name paśupati (Lord of Animals) might be the name of the demon who opposed Kṛṣṇa–the demon’s name was Śiśupāla, but it might be a ‘transposition’ of Paśupati. According to a Wikipedia article, paśupati is Sanskrit for Pashupati. This is one of the names of Siva. Definitions differ, but some say it means the Lord of all Created Beings.  Here Śiśupāla is associated with Siva.

The name given in the Hindu Pantheon is Prajapati and it belongs to Brahma. It means the Lord of Creatures, or Lord of all Created Beings. Prajapati can also refer to the three major deities together–Vishnu, Siva and Brahma. It seemed reasonable to associate paśupati with Prajapati–both terms denote lordship over animals. Also Śiśupāla possessed a ‘sublime radiance’ which passed to Kṛṣṇa.

In The Names of God another term entered the discussion by way of a new translation of the Book of Job. It was argued that the god who spoke out of the whirlwind was not the sky-god that we normally associate with the Old Testament but a Master of Animals–he was a deity equally concerned with humans and animals–a Paleolithic, hunter-gatherer Master of Animals. This idea led to more research on the archaeological evidence for this deity. The name of Hermes is prominent in discussions about the Master of Animals.

The next set of clues comes from a legend told in “The Hindu Pantheon” and has to do with the nature of the war described in the Puranas. It is said that the conflict arose between the worshipers of the female principle and the worshipers of the male principle. It was “a battle of cosmic proportions” in which the earth lords resisted the rise of a sky god. The war started in India and spread all over the world. It was discussed by Wilford in “Egypt and the Nile”, and repeated by Moor, and also by Christian missionaries in a publication called the Chinese Recorder. Versions differ, but the theme is the same. This was the basis of Grecian mythology with its battles between the gods led by Jupiter; and the giants or sons of the earth. The gods led by Jupiter were the followers of Iswara, worshipers of the sky-god. The giants were the men produced by Prit’hivi, a power or form of Vishnu, (see more on this below) who acknowledged no other deities than Water and Earth.

This conflict is to blame for the rise of theological and physiological contests, veiled by the use of allegories and symbols. Wilford offers the following example of allegorical mythology: “On the banks of the Nile, Osiris was torn in pieces; and on those of the Ganges, the limbs of his consort, Isi, or Sati, were scattered over the world, giving names to the places where they fell…In the Sanskrit book, entitled Maha Kala Sanhita, we find the Grecian story concerning the wanderings of Bacchus; for Iswara, having been mutilated through the imprecations of some offended Munis, rambled over the whole earth bewailing his misfortune: while Isi wandered also through the world, singing mournful ditties in a state of distraction.”

The Servarasa is more specific and says that the conflict involved Siva and Parvati:

When Sati, after the close of her existence as the daughter of Dacsha, sprang again to life in the character of Parvati, or Mountain-born, she was reunited in marriage to Mahadeva. This divine pair had once a dispute on the comparative influence of sexes in producing animated beings; and each resolved, by mutual agreement, to create apart a new race of men. The race produced by Mahadeva was very numerous, and devoted themselves exclusively to the worship of the male deity; but their intellects were dull, their bodies feeble, their limbs distorted, and their complexions of different hues. Parvati had at the same time created a multitude of human beings, who adored the female power only; and were all well shaped, with sweet aspects and fine complexions. A furious contest ensued between the two races, and the Lingajas (worshipers of Siva) were defeated in battle. But Mahadeva, enraged against the Yonijas (worshipers of Parvati), would have destroyed them with the fire of his eye, if Parvati had not interposed, and appeased him: but he would spare them only on condition that they should instantly quit the country, to return no more. And from the Yoni, which they adored as the sole cause of their existence, they were named Yavanas.

The declared victors of the contest differ depending on the storyteller’s point of view. Wilford thought this version must have been written by the Yonyancitas, or votaries of Devi because the Lingancitas say that Siva’s offspring were the most beautiful. The most numerous sect of Hindus are those who attempt to reconcile them, saying that both principles are necessary, and so the navel of Vishnu is worshipped as identical with the sacred Yoni. But it is important to mention, in light of our interest in the Lord of Creatures, that Brahma is ignored.

Brahma was the creator. In the Hindu solar religion, he represents one aspect of the Sun and corresponds to the early part of the day, from sunrise until noon. His realm is the earth, and fire.  However, in Hinduism Brahma is not as familiar a figure as Siva and Vishnu, or even mentioned as much as the incarnations and lesser deities.  The reason given in “The Hindu Pantheon” is that the act of creation is past.  The creator has no further role in the “continuance or cessation of material existence, or, in other words, with the preservation or destruction of the universe.”  Now this is the basic premise of Deism.  Deism was the religion of the Enlightenment.

Siva, on the other hand, in his aspect of the destroyer, is said to have a sort of “unity of character” with Brahma, although they are usually found in hostile opposition.  It is said that destruction is inevitable.  It is actually another form of creation.

As mentioned in American Civil Religion and the Enlightenment one of the criticisms of the Enlightenment is that Reason has replaced God.  However, it seems that Reason is not just an abstract principle; Reason is a god.  In The Hindu Pantheon Reason is an attribute of Nareda.

If Brahma is Prajapati and Śiśupāla is paśupati, Śiśupāla must have been associated with Brahma, not Siva. If the Grecian giants are part of the same conflict, they should also have been associated with Brahma, not Vishnu.  So it shouldn’t be surprising that Śiśupāla is not a solar figure.  In the Mahabharata, the would-be king whom Kṛṣṇa supported forced Śiśupāla and his fellow kings to attend a sacrificial ceremony where he claimed for himself universal kingship. The original kings were to be his subjects and accept a subordinate relationship to him. During the ceremony Kṛṣṇa was honored all out of proportion to the kings, and Śiśupāla objected. The highest honor being given to Kṛṣṇa was not appropriate, he said, in the presence of “great spirited earth lords”.

 

The Names of God

In Greek mythology Hermes received the following mandate from Zeus.

And from heaven father Zeus himself gave confirmation to his words, and commanded that glorious Hermes should be lord over all birds of omen and grim-eyed lions, and boars with gleaming tusks, and over dogs and all flocks that the wide earth nourishes, and over all sheep; also that he only should be the appointed messenger to Hades, who, though he takes no gift, shall give him no mean prize.

Homer, Hymn 4 to Hermes

There is a comparable command in the Book of Genesis, which gave humans dominion over every living thing, including all animals, wild or domesticated.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over all the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female he created them.

God blessed them, and God said unto them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

(Gen. 1:26-28)

Although the religious traditions are fundamentally different, they both indicate the importance of the relationship between humans and animals.

The purpose of this essay is to examine three similar terms describing the deity involved in these relationships: the Lord of Creatures in the Hindu Pantheon; the Lord of Animals or paśupati, a name of Rudra, (and later of Rudra-Śiva); and the Master of Animals.

Moor mentioned the impossibility of correctly interpreting the complex meanings in the Hindu Pantheon. The stories about the deities and their natures are not simple to properly define or even describe. Dumézil must have been expressing the same sentiment when he prefaced an idea by saying, “If this comparison is correct…” The problem with writing briefly about the deities in the Hindu Pantheon is that Moor’s entire book is a treatise on God in all his various aspects. Here are some of the similarities and differences in these mythological and religious figures.  Sources are provided for further research.

The Lord of Creatures

There are three deities in the Hindu pantheon and their places are the earth, the intermediate region, and heaven. These are associated with fire, air and the sun. They are Prajapati collectively. Only Brahm, the Supreme One exists absolutely. The others are Maya or delusion. The body of the Sun is also considered as Maya, but the Sun is the “active emblem of God” and therefore receives veneration. In Mythology, Brahma is the first of the three “personified attributes of Brahm.” He is called the first of the gods, framer of the universe and guardian of the world, and he has also been referred to as Prajapati. In him the universe pre-existed. Here Moor quotes Darwin:

Grain within grain, successive harvests dwell,
And boundless forests slumber in a shell.

Brahm is said to be incomprehensible, although it is stated in one place that he is neither male nor female (“neuter”). He manifests his power by the operation of his divine spirit, Vishnu, the pervader, and Narayan, or moving on the waters; both in the masculine gender. For this reason, he is often denominated the first male.

In the last post, Mahadeva was pictured as Ardha Nari, or half woman. This is a typical characteristic of a god who creates by himself from nothing. But apparently, the creation can be discussed without this information. According to Moor, “there is no general orthodoxy among Hindus, any more than among Christians.”

Brahma is sometimes called Kamalayoni. “Kamal is the lotos, Yoni the pudendum muliebre, the mystical matrix, into which is inserted the equally mysterious Linga of Siva.” According to the Vaishnavas, or worshippers of Vishnu, Brahma appeared on a Lotus, which sprung from the navel of Vishnu.

 

Vishnu on Ananta Nāga

But the Saivas, or worshippers of Siva, tell a different story. Brahm willed the creation of the world and produced two beings, male and female, Purusha and Pracriti. These were later called Narayana and Narayani. The lotos grew from Narayana’s navel, bearing Brahma, “and from her sprung Vishnu.”  A quarrel ensued between Vishnu and Brahma, and the Linga arrived to reconcile them. In this Purana, Brahma is associated with Siva. Also in this account, another form similar to Siva’s sprang from a wrinkle in Brahma’s forehead and was named Rudra with all of the same characteristics as the three deities–Siva, Brahma and Vishnu. ((Moor, Edward. The Hindu Pantheon. T. Bensley, Bolt-court, Fleet Street, London. 1810))

Paśupati, The Lord of Animals

Previously I assumed that Dumézil’s paśupati was the same as the Lord of Creatures and therefore the deity of humans as well as animals. This seemed to make sense in the story of Kṛṣṇa who received the luminous essence of Śiśupāla, and was thereafter deified as the Lord of the Universe. However, based on the structure of the story, it wasn’t necessary for Śiśupāla himself to be the Lord of Creatures, as Kṛṣṇa was connected to Brahma by his birth and also to Viṣṇu as his avatara. I haven’t found ‘the Lord of Animals’ as a name of Siva, but then he has 1000 names, and as it turned out, my assumption that he is the same as the Lord of Creatures was not correct. Online definitions of paśupati give the meaning as ‘the Lord of tethered or sacrificed animals’. (Paśupati can have a similar meaning to the Lord of Creatures.  See (the next post)

The Master of Animals

Please see this footnote for a download. The focus is on archaeological evidence. (The Master of Animals in Old World Iconography. Ed. Counts, Derek B. and Bettina Arnold. Archaeolingua Foundation, Budapest. 2010. Available: https://www.harappa.com/sites/default/files/pdf/Kenoyer%202010%20Master%20of%20Animals.pdf)

Is the Master of Animals in the Bible?

I became aware of the Master of Animals concept through a new translation of the Book of Job. I include it here because it proposes a theory about the changing relationship between humans and animals.

At the time the Book of Job was written there were many reasons for disillusionment among the Hebrews. “Israel had lost its land for two generations and its autonomy forever.” Apparently, Job is considered heroic in this story, not because of his patience but because of his loyalty to a conception of God as both all-powerful and fair, even though this conception does not match reality. We aren’t told if this is a good thing or a bad thing and are again left to contemplate the mystery of it. The only explanation offered by this author is that Job was written as a comedy.

In any case, the content of the story suggests a different type of deity. Job addresses God as a sky-god, but judging from the answer he receives God is nothing like Canaanite El, the sky-god, nor Baal, the storm-god. The content of God’s answer to Job identifies him as the Master of the Animals, “an order of deity who is associated with Paleolithic hunter-gatherer society, and who guarantees the well-being and fecundity of life and has no especial concern with humans–this is a god neither of the sky nor of the land, but of the superabundance of life, the cosmic generosity.”

However, a discordant element has been added to the story by Elihu, who unlike Job’s other friends, develops a new concept of man as The Reasoner. It is argued that the supremacy of reason at the expense of custom has had direct bearing on the relationship between humans and animals. Elihu was not an original part of the story. His ideas are Greek, not Hebrew. Also his speeches have stylistic differences. Finally, they completely change the story’s conclusion and also its assertions about the nature of God. These points have been generally accepted, yet current Rabbinic and Christian translations force the rest of the book to conform to Elihu’s ideas. For this reason, it shouldn’t be surprising that the Master of Animals is not in the Jewish Encyclopedia.

Elihu calls reason ruah El, “the spirit of God.” He considers ‘pure knowledge’ superior to customary belief.

But there is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth understanding.
The majority are not always wise, nor do the aged always understand what’s right.

(Job 32:8-9)

By contrast, Job’s friends appealed to customary belief and the experience of elders. There has been a tremendous cost involved in this redefinition of man, the one most relevant to this article being, “The definition of man as a rational being entails a distinction made between him and the animals.”

But none saith, where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night,
Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser
than the fouls of heaven.

(Job 35:10-11)

In the Book of Genesis man was given dominion because of God’s will, not because man had superior reason.

Elihu also redefines sin as arrogance. “Once rationality becomes the queen of the faculties, its opponent is the non-rational in Man: desire, passion, willfulness.” The definition of Man as the Reasoner is a partial definition because it omits those things, along with imagination, giving Man an impossible ideal that can never be achieved–a “robotic self-mastery”.

Psalms 8:4-6 is quoted to illustrate the Biblical concept of man’s nature.

What is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that thou
visitest him?
For thou has made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned
him with glory and honor.
Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands: thou has
put all things under his feet.

The idea of man The Reasoner is better illustrated by another author.

What a piece of work is man, how noble in reason, how infinite
in faculties, in form and moving, how express and admirable in
action, how like an angel in apprehension, how like a god! the
beauty of the world; the paragon of animals…

(Hamlet, 2:303-307)Quoted by: Rabinowitz, Jacob. The Unholy Bible. Autonomedia. Brooklyn, New York. 1995.)

Concerning the Master of Animals as the god of the “superabundance of life, the cosmic generosity” I have only questions. This needs further research.