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, 586a-570. available: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0138%3Ahymn%3D4%3Acard%3D550))

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 [intlink id=”24″ type=”post”]the last post[/intlink], 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 [intlink id=”596″ type=”post”]the next post.[/intlink])

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.))

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)((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.

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