Common Ground: The Kinship of Metaphysicians

A syncretic approach to esoteric teachings - the golden threads that connect Pagans, Yogis, Rosicrucians and Masons.

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Our Cultural and Religious Roots in Sanskrit

The writing scripts of humankind may look completely different from one another, but the sounds formed by human mouths can be very similar. For example, the sound Ma—and variations thereof—mean Mother all over the world. 

J. Robert Oppenheimer said that when the first atomic bomb was detonated, he remembered a quote from the Bhagavad-Gita: "Now I have become Death, destroyer of worlds." That ancient sentiment was written in Sanskrit—not the oldest language of humankind, but one of the few which are still in use today. 

While it seems certain that there was once a Proto-Indo-European Mother Tongue (memorialized in human mythology as the "Language of the Birds" which pre-dated the Tower of Babel), Rosicrucians believe that Sanskrit is the closest thing we still have to the original language of Atlantis. 

In high school, I was taught that similarities between English, French and German were due to their common ancestry in Latin or Greek, which made them "Romance Languages." But today we know that Latin and Greek are new kids on the block, deriving much of their vocabularies from that same ancient Sanskrit. 

It was easy to infer that our words omniscient and omnipresent derived from the Greek omni. But it wasn't until the late eighteenth century that scholars recognized their true origin—the great Sanskrit mantra, OM. Even though this connection was pretty well established by 1861, my reactionary private school was still flogging the Romance Language hypothesis one hundred years later. 

(And now I know why Simon and Garfunkel sang, "When I think of all the crap I learned in high school.") 

But we are connected to the past by far more than words. The philosophical, spiritual and emotional concepts expressed in language resonate in our souls. They are timeless. 

In Sanskrit, Shiva (also written Siva but pronounced "Sheeva") is a God. He is the third persona of the Hindu trinity, in charge of change and dissolution—"Death, destroyer of worlds." With Parvati or Shakti or Kali as his female counterpart, he is also the Great Ascetic, master of Kundalini Yoga. But Shiva may also be considered the Life Force itself—the cosmic dancer, equal parts masculine and feminine, beating out the eternal rhythms of Creation, Dissolution, and Creation again. Life is followed by death, but death is followed by life. Or, as we Pagans are fond of saying, the Wheel turns. 

Even the ancient language of Hebrew seems to have Indo-European connections. When pronounced with a short "i" as in "ship," the word shiva is Hebrew for seven, and refers to the Jewish mourning period of seven days following the death of a close family member. Normal daily activities come to a grinding halt as the mourners acknowledge Death, destroyer of the world they knew. But when the mourning period is over, they clean themselves up and go back into life—not that the past will ever be forgotten, but those who survive must fulfill their obligations to those who are still here. The Wheel turns. 

Our dead are always part of us; the very way in which we continue to live is testament to what they taught us. Theodore Roethke wrote, "What falls away is always. And is near." The Wheel turns; everything will come around again. 

In a whimsical aside, the slang word "shiv" means a knife—usually hand-made by convicts. It can be argued that a shiv is an instrument of change: death for some and life for others. 

Sanskrit nomenclature is even hidden in Celtic words, lurking within the various Gaelic languages of Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, The Isle of Man, Scotland and Ireland! This has been discussed at length in many scholarly papers. The website of The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids contains the following statement: 

"Many followers of Druidry today feel a great affinity with one or more of the religions of India, and research shows that this feeling may be based upon more than simply a sense of spiritual or philosophical resonance. There is now considerable evidence to suggest that Celtic and European cultures share a common origin with cultures which emerged in India thousands of years ago, and gave birth to the 'Dharmic religions' of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. Spiritual seekers who find their inspiration in both Druidism and the Dharmic religions may well be reuniting strands of a common cultural and spiritual heritage." 

The website also carries a quote from Peter Beresford-Ellis: "The very name Druid is composed of two Celtic word roots which have parallels in Sanskrit. Indeed, the root vid for knowledge, which also emerges in the Sanskrit word Veda, demonstrates the similarity. The Celtic root dru which means 'immersion' also appears in Sanskrit. So a Druid was one 'immersed in knowledge.'" 

It has only been two hundred and thirty-four years since British judge William Jones, stationed in India in 1780, became the first to discover the similarities between Sanskrit and Western languages—and even less time since philologists traced the connections to Norse, Slavic, Gothic, Germanic and Old Irish. Can you imagine how much more knowledge of our roots will be at our disposal, the next time we reincarnate?

 

 

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A student of esoteric traditions since the age of 16, Ted Czukor (Theo the Green) taught Yoga for 37 years until retiring in 2013. For 26 years he was adjunct faculty for the Maricopa, AZ Community Colleges, teaching Gentle Yoga and Meditation & Wellness. Raised in the Methodist Church but drawn to Rosicrucianism, Hinduism and Buddhist philosophy, he is a devotee of the Goddess in all Her forms. Ted has been a Shakespearean actor, a Masonic ritualist and an Interfaith wedding officiant. He is the author of several books, none of which made any money and two of which are available as .pdf files. He lives with his wife Ravyn-Morgayne in Sun City, Arizona. Their shared dream is to someday relocate to Glastonbury, England. theoczukor@cox.net.

Comments

  • Danu Forest
    Danu Forest Saturday, 28 June 2014

    A wonderful post Ted, really fascinating. I find the links between the Celtic languages and traditions and Sanskrit amazing...thanks for posting.

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Saturday, 28 June 2014

    Your encouragement means a lot to me, Danu. My wife Ravyn and I loved your latest post on Avalon Midsummer. We hope to get the opportunity to climb the Tor ourselves, someday.

  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Sunday, 29 June 2014

    Despite a century of misinterpretation, humans are not evolved from chimpanzees. We both share ancestry with some common ancient primate, but went our separate ways long ago. It is clear that western languages shares many words with Sanskrit, and western pagan religion shares a lot of commonality with Hindu. Numerous scholars have hypothesized an aboriginal "Proto-Indo-European" language and people who supposedly once lived and hunted on the great planes south of the continental ice sheets. My interpretation is that Sanskrit and Hindu originated in the Proto-Indo-European culture as did western languages and culture. It does not mean that we have cultural roots in Sanskrit any more than we have biological roots in Chimpanzees. Our common origins are older than that.

    We do share much still with Hindu and the Gods of Babylon. Blessed Be.

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Sunday, 29 June 2014

    Your point is taken, Greybeard, and it may well be as you interpret. After re-reading, I understand that you were using the chimpanzee simile as an example of misinterpreted evolution, and not to equate them with Hindus. We have to be careful how we throw words around!

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Sunday, 29 June 2014

    Blessed Be to you, too.

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Sunday, 29 June 2014

    Ted, lovely article, thank you!

    I love Latin, and learning more about its roots was awesome.

    I also loved hearing about the Celt/India relationship. Before world music was a "thing," I tried to get a Doumbek player to play along with some Celtic music. Unfortunately, she felt there was no way they could combine. But I could hear them work beautifully together in my imagination, and knew deep in my soul that the two belonged together.

    Things have changed since then, so my musical idea would no longer be considered a radical one. But I knew about the cultural connection from past lives, and just from common sense, so your words about the connection are still very affirming for me to read.

    Thanks again.

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Sunday, 29 June 2014

    Francesca - It's a lonely feeling, to be ahead of your time with ideas that you can't get anybody to listen to - and then to find out, years later, that somebody else came up with the same thing when people were more ready to accept it. In sixth grade my common sense told me that South America fit into Africa - 8 years before the scientific community would come to accept Plate Tectonics theory.

    As always, I appreciate you.

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Monday, 30 June 2014

    Ted, you are so sweet, thank you. Yeah, it does get lonely, as you clearly have experienced. But I am also grateful for deep thinkers like you, who see beyond the narrow little boxes some people insist reality fits into. You see a larger, more complex, and wondrous weave.

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