If you asked many Hindus to identify a cornerstone concept to our faith, I have no doubt that they would cite one word: “Dharma”. Fantastically complex in its applications both theoretical and tangible/practical, there is no getting around its saliency – not just for the Hindusphere, but also for those other religions which have their origin in the Sanskritized milieu such as Buddhism and Jainism.
However, recently I’ve wound up embroiled in a series of arguments with people about the nature and the ‘exclusivity’ of this concept. What it really means, and who really has access to such a thing. I shan’t bore you with the details – except to state that one was a probably well meaning Indian chap who appeared to want to insist that there was an Indian/Hindu monopoly upon Dharma … and the other was a Zoroastrian attempting to push the notion that Hinduism had abandoned Rta [more upon that in a moment] in favour of this ‘new’ concept called Dharma.
The latter is just outright wrong, as we shall soon see – but the former is … correct in some ways, but incomplete and incorrect in others. We shall also see what I mean by that in due course. For now, let us get acquainted with some of the core terms so that we may move on to our comparative explication.
What Is Dharma ?
Dharma is often phrased as being difficult to translate. In some senses, this is true – but I tend to find that “Duty” does a reasonable job of getting across the basic meaning of the term (with additional shades of “Fate”; and, of course, “Righteousness”). The fact that we don’t always think “Duty” can fill in for “Dharma” in English translations of Sanskrit texts – has less to do with the perceived untranslatability of ‘Dharma’, I feel, and rather more to do with the fashion in which “Duty” has become quite the devalued term over the centuries in the West. Once upon a time, giving an Oath, a Word, meant something quite tangible – now it is as insubstantial as the proverbial ‘oral contract’ … not worth the paper it is printed upon. But I digress.
“Duty” is one thing, but a duty *to* what (or, for that matter, whom)? Well, at that point we must introduce another concept – Rta.
Rta in essence means ‘Cosmic Order’ or ‘Cosmic Law’. It is identified out-of-universe with Brahman (the Absolute), and this Absolute is a-priori *to* the Universe, being expressed *in* universe in quite a number of ways … including as the fundamental underpinning to the fact that there is even a universe to speak of to begin with. And I say “to speak of”, because per the wonderful theology of Sayana, Vak Devi may *also* be thought of as an in-universe ‘expression’ of Rta-As-Brahman. Hence, in no small part, why words in the Empowered Speech (and spoken also with Intent for maximum impact and efficacy) have such Power as they do. Because they enable the interaction with this fundamental cogs-and-gears-and-fabric of the world.
There are pretty strong cognate understandings for this notion of “Rta” to be found elsewhere across the Indo-European world. “Orlog”, in Old Norse, is a personal favourite – as it effectively means ‘Supernal Law’ ; and there are a whole sphere of Ancient Greek etc. terms to express the fundamentally contiguous concept in their version of the IE cosmology. Indeed, ‘Cosmos’ itself quite literally refers to the notion of Order [‘Cosmic Order’ thus becoming something of a mutually reinforcing tautology] – and thence, to the expanse *under* said order – the Universe, generally, in our modern parlance – in much the same manner as a “Regime”.
And, further showing just how closely cognate these understandings are in terms both metaphysical as well as mythic – the close identification of Goddess(es) with Cosmic Order is something that continually occurs amidst the various Indo-European descendant peoples: Amongst the Romans, Cybele / Magna Mater is spoken of in such terms amidst the works of Lucretius; we also have the Greek constellation of female divinity linked to their relevant concepts of Justice and Divine Law (and, for that matter, the Avenging of the breaches of same); and I have recently managed to demonstrate a further expression of this amidst the Nordic/Germanic sphere via Skadi (the binding of Loki and the Serpent-expressed punishment of that figure fitting the typology in question quite neatly – consult my recent work on the serpentine form of the Earth Mother deific for additional details); whilst the situation of Frigg as being supremely acquainted with Orlog (c.f Lokasenna 29) is most definitely relevant here also. The situation may reach its highest point with Vedic Aditi – not only directly identified with this aforementioned concept of Rta, this aforementioned concept of Brahman … but spoken of by the Vedic Rsi Sunahsepa in RV I 24 as being also, in effect, the state of Law and Lawfulness to which one should wish to be foundationally in concord *with*. Being returned to the proper paths of piety and modus vivendi is akin to being reunited with Her.
So how does Rta intersect with Dharma? Well, Dharma expresses this etymologically – the root of the term effectively means “To Hold/Support”, we might even say “depend”.
That is to state – that one’s Dharma is ‘dependent upon’ Rta ; one’s Duty is a contingent understanding to the broader Cosmic Law … but *also* that one’s Duty, properly engaged in, acts to *support and to uphold* the immanency of Rta, *of* Cosmic Law here in this universe of ours. Something quite vital if we wish for our universe to continue to actually be habitable within for our kind – we do not prosper (indeed, nothing but the forces of self-destructive demonic iniquity do well) when Cosmic Law is being actively abjured and sundered. You can see that, to take but one brief example, in the situation entailed in the rise to power of the demon Durgamasur – who wiped out the knowledge of sacral conduct from the minds of men, and presided over an age of starvation and drought as a result …. because the natural order of things had become woefully disrupted, the Gods disempowered, and chaos reigning all around. It was only put an end to (violently) by Vak Devi as Durga , specifically Shakambhari , appearing to personally set things right again – that is to say, Cosmic Order appearing in beautiful, and beautifully destructive, Goddess Form to re-water the cosmos with the blood of slain demon armies and breathe restored life and Law and light back into the worlds. But again I digress.
The point is – how one is supposed to ‘do one’s duty’ to uphold Rta , that is one’s Dharma. And these things can manifest in just as many ways as there are people and subjective personal experiences of living in this universe of ours. It is difficult to really generalize a ‘human Dharma’ all up except in the broadest possible terms (of course, ‘Piety’ is a rather good general start).
Although as we refine down the granularity upon our perspective (say, we go from ‘Human’ to ‘Kshatriya’ .. and by this i mean quite specifically Indian Kshatriyas of a rather particular period and ethos) – we arrive at more specific understandings of just what it is that we are meant to do and how it is we are meant to approach the problems around us in order to more fully make our contribution and uphold our Duty. The Kshatriya example I have cited because one of the most well-known Hindu religious texts – the Bhagavad Gita – is largely a treatise upon what is termed ‘Kshatriya Dharma’. Hence, in part, why it has such emphasis upon doing the right thing regardless of various feelings and ephemeral considerations about the matter – when the Avatar of the God (in this case, Krishna of Vishnu) informs you that your cousins over on the other side of the battlefield and this civil war must be put to the sword in service of the immanency of Dharma in this world [hence why Kurukshetra is occasionally referred to as a Dharma-Yuddha – a war for the saliency of Righteousness in the Age] …. well, you do it, if you are a Kshatriya. Because it is what you are there to do.
Personally, I tend to think that that may very well be Kshatriya Dharma … but not only is there some place for creative, critical thinking within the realms of the Kshatriya in *pursuit* of the righteous and proper principles … but that if we are a Brahmin, say, then as we are acting as the ‘brain’ of the nation and society rather than the ‘arms’, this means that there is quite a lot more necessity for the thinking to be taking place. Although also, of course, a lot of ‘doing’ – and particularly a lot of ‘perceiving’. Including acting as the guides and instructors for those who are more inclined toward the ‘doing’ end of things. The ‘Head’ of society, after all, contains both Memory and major sense organs.
Now this is NOT supposed to be an in-depth meditation upon the Caturvarna / Purusha model of society , so we shall not be examining in depth what everybody is supposed to be doing under that schema – nor how these actually map over occasionally rather usefully to some elements of pre-Modern European culture and society [although it gets … rather complicated as applies the Jarl caste, for instance, in the Nordic model] … however there is something important to that distinction we have just made, that goes right to the heart of what my Indian interlocutor had been attempting to push forward:
Namely, that as various Indo-European societies outside of the Hindusphere have quite different interlocking parts and societal models … it quite naturally follows that they are also going to have rather different understandings of just what it is that the members of those societies are supposed to be doing. If we agree that a Kshatriya and a Brahmin are going to have different (although overlapping) Dharmas – then it stands to reason that even despite the overt similarities between a Kshatriya and a Knight, that some culturally specific understandings are going to also be quite occurrent *within* the specific groupings which have given rise to and informed those identities.
Indeed – we often take things rather further and assay that just as a Kshatriya and a Brahmin have different usual manners to make their Dharmatic contribution to the immanency of Rta … so, too, may different descendant Indo-European societies and their religious complexes have different ways to do things likewise. Not “wrong” or “superior/inferior” necessarily (although some of these shall obviously have become degraded and mis-aligned mis-understandings via the passage of the ages, human error and interpolation) , just “different”.
In this sense, then, I do not think it inaccurate to agree that as applies “Dharma” … it is a Hindu concept (although occurrent in somewhat different senses in other Sanskrit-shaped religious spectra, as briefly noted above), and that we should tread lightly about presuming to speak of the “Dharma” of a Greek man practising the Hellenic religion, or a Nordic revivalist engaged likewise. If we want to push it, then it is not (necessarily) inaccurate to say that they *have* a Dharma each , in the generalized sense … but the actual interpretation of that, and the conceptual nuances brought to bear when unpacking the term, are going to be different to what a Hindu would have taken as the face-value application of the term in specia. So yes – endeavouring to just extract out a term such as “Dharma” and apply it everywhere does de-contextualize the notion and make something more particularly “Indian” into something “Indo-European”, arguably unnecessarily.
I say “arguably unnecessarily”, because the conceptual understanding – at its core – communicated by “Dharma”, is not unique to the term Dharma, nor to the Hindusphere. There are quite an array of other Indo-European terms more specific to those descendant cultures in question which convey quite the same general idea.
The Closely Comparative Conceptry Of The Greeks – Eusebia, Dikaiosune, Themis, Moira
One that a recently met associate has pointed out to me is Eusebia – an Ancient Greek term actually used quite directly to translate “Dharma” into Ancient Greek by Ashoka in one of his more famous inscriptions. It is actually a rather good fit (and, indeed, the notion of the “Good Fit” is quite important for “Rta” – Sukha, for instance, being understandable as the joy derived from moving well in congruence with one’s Dharma); with the essential underpinning meaning of it being “To Do The Righteous Thing” – “Eu-” as in “Good”; “-Sebia” , from “Sebomai”, effectively meaning a sense of being “God-Fearing” [and that is .. rather literal for the Greeks], and thence undertaking action aware of both the Awe of the Divine , and the Holy Terror of what happens to you should you attempt to actively go against Same. We might think of it as “Applied Piety” in that sense – for it took on a broad range of particular areas under its aegis in terms of social relationships and cultural custom, all of which were underpinned and overseen by The Gods. [And, as we have noted above – with both Divine figures, Goddesses for the most part, as the *positive* expressions of these … as well as, via the Erinyes and Nemesis (Who could also preside over ‘positive’ deserts), the ‘Negative’ and ‘Enforcement’ aspect, likewise].
I tend to point to ‘Dikaiosune’ when I am after a Greek rendering for Rta – as what it means, “That Which Is Pointed Out” [from Proto-Indo-European ‘Deyk’ – the root for Greek ‘Dactyl’ (‘Finger’/’Digit’), Germanic ‘Teach’ (via D => T sound-shift), and Latinate “Dictate”, “Dictator”, etc.; all of which effectively build from its ‘Pointing’ original kernel of meaning], nicely conveys the sense of something which is already immanent , yet which not all of us may be able to perceive … thus requiring the Seer to do just exactly that : “point out” what it is that is Just. And certainly, “Justice” is what the term most usually means, the “Fulfilment of the Law” , but also the general essence-tial quality *of* the Law to begin with. Which, again, takes us back to Ancient Greek ‘Dike’ – and the Goddess of that particular name.
Astraea, for those of you taking an interest in the Heavens, forms the figure of Virgo in Western Astrology precisely due to this concept – ‘pointing out’ the righteous conduct … and hence also pointing , perhaps, at Libra, the bearer of the Scales of Justice. The situation of Astraea having vanished from this mortal globe of ours in order to take up stance and station ‘midst the Heavens is also quite relevant – as in a similar manner to how the saliency of Rta declines and diminishes over the course of the Yuga cycle , eventually seeming much more seriously, significantly absent during the Current Yuga … so too does it appear that the Greeks thought that Cosmic Order became an ever more remote ‘Graha’ [body exerting ‘gravity’, we might say – from the same root, and also tends to mean a celestial object] – although never *quite* vanishing entirely, and still being very much visible *if* you knew where to look. Pointing upward, we might say, to the Celestial Spheres. Where She still stands to this day, to inspire and lift our gazes and our aspirations for the ‘good life’, the pious life, likewise. Illuminating our dark night.
Another point of relevancy would, of course, be Themis – both in terms of the Goddess by that name, but also the notion of ‘Divine Law’ directly entailed by the theonym and accompanying noun. Themis means both Divine Law (and Divine Justice) – but also the active expression of that law , via custom and our adherency thereto ; as well as, going the other way, via various sendings and oracular manifestations to man from the Gods and the broader Divine Realm. “That Which Is Pointed Out”, indeed (Which implies that certain oracular events are actually somebody correctly perceiving the underlying ‘plan’ and ‘order'[ing] of the Universe – getting a peak at the ‘script’ for the Cosmic Drama/Divine Play, perhaps we may suggest).
I mention Themis here because there is actually a rather good fitting (again) between what is understood by Rta (wherein the Divine Order, Cosmic Law is in fact ‘over and above’ the Gods – and also binding upon Them), and what we get from the Greeks’ perspectives upon Her. In Antoninus Liberalis’ Metamorphoses, for instance, we find Zeus wanting to smite some humans who have disturbed the sanctity of a holy site to make off with the wealth contained therein … and being told sternly by Themis et co that even He is unable to kill anybody upon such incredibly sacred ground. And so, relenting, He instead turns the impious would-be desecrators into birds instead [as it happens, the theme of sacred ground being inviolable to killing is a broadly pan-IE one – a major example that many shall be familiar with concerns the Aesir not putting the Fenris Wolf to death precisely because said wolf was in such a space and to do so would be to violate the Cosmic Law].
The concept of the Moirae , and of Moira , is also relevant here – we would know these in modern English, perhaps, as the Fates and Fate, respectively. Dharma in the sense of one’s fate’ (or, if we are being less heavy-handed, perhaps one’s “calling”) has obvious conceptual symmetry to this notion – as, after all, the mode of one’s contributionary duty being ‘allotted’ and apportioned to one is fairly exactly what the ‘Moira’ in question is also intended to encompass. We are simply taking the broader view and extrapolating it from ‘just’ the ultimate outcome to also the processes via which said outcome may be reached and entailed. Something quite reasonably in concordancy with what the Greeks had actually understood via the concept.
All things considered, while it is evident that we are dealing with multiple terms in the Ancient Greek lexicon of considerable coterminity to what we are meaning by “Dharma” and “Rta” in various ways – I have little doubt that the same *ultimate* underpinning Indo-European understandings – that of an overarching Divine Law / Cosmic Order with an array of in-universe, in-community, and indeed *in-person* tangible expressions and pathway-guides for virtuous action in congruence thereto – are being communicated in each cultural context. Enough so that, historically speaking at least, some degree of simple direct translation was even evidently viable between them.
The Lexical Language of the Latins – Piety Made Manifest Amongst Men
There are, similarly, multiple terms, concepts, and theistic embodiments of each which are relevant for us from the Romans. However, for reasons of space (because I have perhaps waxed over-lyrical in my preceding comparanda) … as well as the fact that the ‘proper’ Latin cognate is quite direct – mean that I shall focus upon only the one.
That is ‘Pietas’ (also known via its adjectival form – ‘Pius’); and its definitional ambit matches up strikingly well with what we comprehend via ‘Dharma’. Whereas ‘Dharma’ we may approach as being the duty-bound adherence to the Divine Law – and consequent conduct in support of the proper immanency of same here in this reality-sphere of ours … Pietas connotes the congruence of the individual, their deeds and direction in life, with the Ius Divinum (the Divine Law). It is also, absolutely uncoincidentally, the root for modern English – “Piety”. Although again, the terms have shifted in scope down the ages … so whereas once, “Piety” and “Duty” were effectively the same (or at least strongly coterminous and therefore overlapping) conceptry – in the modern age, the two are seen as quite significantly separate, at least in the secular, civic sphere.
The scope of Roman ‘Pietas’ was not merely confined to what we, with modern eyes, might have thought to be the realm of the more overtly divine – but also found itself capaciously exercised with relation to various other spheres of human society, activity, values, and endeavour. One could express pietas in one’s proper conduct toward one’s Parents, for instance – and quite prominently, in one’s relationship to the State. These are, in truth, also very much ‘Divine’ relevant actions and engagements – it is only that we fail to see, these days, our interactions with our forebears (whether the immediate ones – our parents; or the ones of far further back – our Ancestors, Pitrs, etc.) or with the nation around us in such breathtakingly luminous terms.
The Hindu understandings of Dharma have, as should be entirely unsurprising to us by now, directly comparable comprehensions. For us, the highest act of piety is the devotion to and service of one’s Parents (as beautifully explicated via the myth of Skanda & Ganesha having a race around the world – and little Ganesha beating His Brother , as whilst Skanda had rushed off to circumambulate the globe … Ganesha had instead simply marched around His Parents – for to Him, They were His World); and in a suitably paired maxim we also state that – “जननी जन्मभूमिश्च स्वर्गादपि गरीयसी” : “Mother & Motherland Are Superior Even To Heaven” [and see my analysis in “‘Mother And Motherland Are Higher Than Heaven’ – An Arya Akasha Analysis Of A Beauteous Maxim”; as well as, perhaps, the Bharat Mata (A)Arti-cle I had penned for Indian Independence Day 2018, for further explication upon these Maters].
Again, we could if we wished go into much more expansively expressive elocution upon the subjects of the metaphysical, reputational, and ethical fundaments of the life of the Roman in antiquity which would further flesh out our Latin comparanda to the Hindu concepts of Dharma & Rita – but for now, it is enough.
Orlog & Orloglausa Amongst The Old Norse
One of the most revealing – and revealingly direct – expressions for the understanding we are after, amidst any Indo-European people … occurs in the Nordic scriptural canon, in the Voluspa. I have written upon the passage it is from, detailing the ‘creation’ and investiture of Humankind elsewhere [see my earlier work : “On The Indo-European Symbolism Of The Ash Tree – And The Ensuing Origins Of The Spear-Race Of Man”] , however it is mos definitely worth zeroing in upon this particular element … this one word, which so succinctly encapsulates what we are on about here.
That word ? ‘Orloglausa’ [or, contingent upon which version of the text we are using – ørlǫglausa , örlöglausa , etc.].
What does it mean ? Well, the more usually encountered translation for it is not a bad one – although it is perhaps somewhat ‘incomplete’; as is inevitably the case with most translations from just about any liturgical language into modern English. You shall frequently find it written as “Fateless”. Lacking in ‘Wyrd’ / Urðr.
What does it mean in context? At this point in the Voluspa, Odin, Hönir, and Lóðurr have encountered two barely-alive beings – the primogenitor pairing of Askr & Embla. They are described as being barely alive – wood, prior to its shaping and sculpting by the master craftsman to speak somewhat figuratively. More literally, we are given a list of characteristics emblematic of living, sentient beings which the Pair at that stage so lack; and, correspondingly, a list of qualities imparted into them by the attendant Gods. There are a few intriguing elements to these – and I’ve considered a number of those elsewhere (such as the ‘investiture of Breath’ [Önd – also translated, aptly enough, as Soul ; c.f the Vyomakesha conceptry] by Odin, resonating with the similar Vedic understanding); however what is relevant for our purposes is a more implicit understanding – between the concluding lines of verse 17 and those of verse 20.
There we see that along with the explicit list of characteristics imbued into the ancestors of the race of mankind, there is another element. The one that takes us from the status of “Orloglausa” to [having] “örlög seggja” – the latter meaning something akin to the Orlog of Men; although with ‘Seggja’ (which I am presuming to be a genitive indicative plural for Seggr) actually having a slightly more nuanced set of meanings contingent upon the era – in more modern Nordic speech, frequently referring to a hero or soldier; in Old Norse itself, to a man, in in its Proto-Germanic antecedent (‘Sagjaz’) to a warrior or a retainer, and hailing ultimately from Proto-Indo-European ‘Sekw’, meaning “to follow”. It would be tempting, therefore, to presume that something quite archaic had been preserved via the Voluspa’s particular, piquant choice of phrasing – notionally, that which makes a man (or, for that matter, a woman) is his (or her) ‘following’ of their connexion to the Orlog, their Wyrd. And this is something which must be adhered to with the duty-bound allegiancy and stirling protectiveness of the soldier – just as a warrior of the high Germanic age would have zealously protected his Lord of whose household he was a part. Or perhaps it is merely a poetic means to say ‘man’ in this context, and I am over-reading things wildly.
However, what we *can* say – is that the dominant theme of the final third of of verse 20 is also the provision of ‘life’ to Mankind by the Ash-Maidens of Yggdrasil … something done not only via the unfurling of the general sphere of Law out from that radiating central Axis Mundi – but also via the specific ‘spark’ of connexion to the general Orlog which is imbued therefrom to each of us.
For you see – that is just what the Axis Mundi represents in the Indo-European cosmological schema. It is the immanency of Cosmic Law from Above and Beyond the universe, running through our universe, and about which our Universe rotates according to its rhythm and regulating regimen [indeed, there is an archaic Vedic understanding of this Post as being the Axle of a mighty chariot-wheel revolving in just such a manner]. This is why we find such pointed remarks in, say, the Grimnismal about the demonic dragons which gnaw upon the Tree that is Yggdrasil – for the forces of chaos ever strive to undermine, usurp, and ultimately to destroy this saliency of the Law within our worlds; and it is also why, elsewhere in the Germanic canon, we find otherwise cryptic mentions for the oblations and applications of the white liquid of the Well of Urdr *to* the limbs of the Tree – because, in a manner akin to the usage of Milk / Panchamrut in ShivLingPuja [the ritual offerings upon the ShivLing – itself a miniature Axis Mundi resonant, to the same God as that of the Irminsul], it represents the nourishment and revitalization of this Tree of Law … the re-application of something from the wellspring of light and life and law that is directly comparable to this symbolic pouring of the Amrit-allegorical – so as to help to repair and stabilize the damage from the ongoing demonic-chaotic attack.
And that is why I say that the Nordic presentation-preservation of these concepts is both succinct and seriously profound. For within it, we see the essential truths – that what makes us human is, in fact, not merely the possession of the relevant DNA nor even the ability to speak : but our essence-tial imbued spark of Duty, the Cosmic Order conduit which is within us; and with that Duty also entailing the protection, maintenance, and serving of the Cosmic Law which makes life within this universe of ours possible in the first instance – through the tangible applications of Piety and following our Fate … which may also incorporate that more actively militant understanding of “Seggr” , as applies dealing to those malefic forces of chaos and iniquity which would seek the ruination of Same, the casting down of the Tree and the DevaRajya which stands thereupon. Hence why I made such a point of noting the relevant linguistics and previous and post formulations for “Seggr” above – because the relationship of a Lord to his (although really, this is a case of a Queen to *Her*) warriors, that is the situation of Orlog, Cosmic Order, to Mankind.
*If* we choose to take up this responsibility. And if we do not – well, then we are not really, in that Germanic sense, living up to the standards set down for us of what it is which constitutes “Mankind”.
The Log-ical Labelling Of Lore And The Evanescence of Essence
I began this (A)Arti-cle by noting that it had been sparked through a series of conversations slash conflagrations I had been party to over the past few days. One of them, was with a presumably well-meaning Indian man who appeared to wish to argue that as ‘Dharma’ itself was only directly found in the Hindusphere – that this meant that Dharma *itself* [i.e. the core concept, rather than the ‘mere’ labelling – although we are, as ever, acutely conscious that words have power, nominative determinism is a thing, and as my associate Aldo Rapace just pithily observed – that means that “Linguistics *Is* Theology”], was similarly something effectively exclusive to those environs.
We have, I think, reasonably conclusively demonstrated that whilst the precise *shapings* and applications of some of the understandings of this core element *do* vary amidst the different descendant Indo-European peoples … the most important components, the seed, the root, the bough, the lifeblood of the Tree are very much shared amongst us all. Even though up here amidst the branches and the leaves of letterings, it can occasionally be a bit easy to lose sight of the wood *and* the tree amidst the squabblings of sparrows nor squirrel(s) seated amidst the twiggery. The labels are different – but these are exterior flowerings and blossomings from this central and incredibly ancient Same. Samrajya, indeed – “Same Rule, Everywhere” – as the Divine Imperium , the Empire of Eternity , is known. And where the ‘Essence’ runs True – the ‘Expression’ can indeed be permitted some necessary leeway in how it is put across in order to protect and preserve it in amidst different lands, times, and circumstances.
However, I also mentioned *another* encounter I had had which played significant role in stirring my thoughts to action upon this score – one of an occasional unpleasantness of having to deal with a Zoroastrian who purported to place their own faith above ours … snidely deriding Hinduism for purportedly engaging in dereliction of Rta in favour of a more exclusive exaltation of Dharma. As if these were two different concepts! And then adding insult to earlier insult (I hesitate to call it “injury” – except perhaps to my patiency) by proclaiming that the Zoroastrians had the greater and the grander still-living emphasis upon Rta (via a cognate Avestan term) in their religion – as if this somehow meant, I suppose, they were the ‘true’ (post-Andronovo, indeed downright post-PIE) Indo-Iranian ‘orthodox continuance’ religion.
Perish the thought !
I mention this particular incident here not simply in passing – but because it illuminates something quite substantively important, that also goes back toward responding to my Indian interlocutor from this other exchange.
In the Zoroastrian case, I have little doubt that – as with various of their religious terminology – they do indeed have the *words* maintained … but what of the actual concepts they are supposed to represent?
Well, to approach the matter directly – I absolutely refuse to believe that a creed which, at its foundational stages, sought to have Priests *of* the old Indo-Iranic (and therefore, Indo-European) faith killed and slandered where they were not slain outright, which overtly demonized The Gods and otherwise sought to disrupt various of the fundaments of the Indo-European man’s relationship with the Divine (i.e. prime vectors via which Cosmic Order is immanentized out into us and out into the worlds under our dominion and stewardship) … I refuse to believe that simply because they may so happen to have ‘borrowed’ the linguistically cognate phrasing for “Rta” etc., that this therefore means that they, too, have the ‘essence’ to go with the ‘labelling’.
In fact, their use for it – I would contend to be something more akin to the Sanskrit द्रुह् (‘Druh’; in their language it is ‘Druj’ – cognate, as it happens, with Old Norse ‘Draugr’) : a term which, at once, means a demon and an enemy, an injury and an infliction, violence and more pointedly a *violation*. It also means a “lie”, a “falsehood” – a sense that the Zoroastrians have latched on to as the major understanding to the term (and in truth, this is indeed effectively what its Proto-Indo-European origin – PIE ‘Dhrewgh’ – refers to); although which is somewhat less prominent in Sanskrit – and instead, for us, more implicit. We understand that the demon, via its actions against Cosmic Law, is against truth and continuously undermining same. But that is a rant for another time.
The point is – it is easy to focus only upon labels and lose sight of what is actually contained within them. And therefore, to end up in a situation wherein because Ancient Greek or Latin or Old Norse doesn’t use a suitably obvious *direct linguistic* cognate for ‘Dharma’, one presumes that these Indo-European peoples had no such concept amongst themselves likewise. Or to presume that Dharma and Rta are somehow separate things, one supplanting the other – rather than the former being the active engagement with and continuous re-immanentization of the (a-priori, in truth) latter.
Each Indo-European perspective upon this similar underlying concept is somewhat different – in how it is expressed, and some piquant details of its interpretation and lived relationship of understanding, no doubt. Just as each Indo-European religion and each Indo-European language are similarly distinctive in their flavouring and the native earth they have come to call Home.
Yet we are all, also, united and bonded – not merely by chains of descent running back to the Urheimat in linguistic nor even genetic and cultural senses.
But by something far more fundamental – both to us, to ourselves (indeed, our ‘sense of self’, likewise), and to the Universe Entire.
We are brought back together, by the sense of connection we all share – to that which we are all , foundationally, connected *to*.
Cosmic Order – Rta , Orlog , Dikaiosune , and still other terms besides.
However one chooses to phrase it, and via whichever of the multitude of intermediary meta-forms one chooses to engage with its notion through, *that’s* what we’re here for … and here *from*, as well.
For to be Indo-European – in this case, Aryan in the actual, proper sense [not an ethnonym, a race-adjective – but something which instead means to know and to do the proper thing, to uphold the heritage and perform the pious rites] – is to be a Defender of Cosmic Order.
As we would say in Sanskrit –
धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः !