A study of the way of writing of the Vedic mystics, their philosophic system, their system of symbols and the truths they figure, and translations of selected hymns of the Rig-Veda.
“Is there at all or is there still a secret of the Veda?” Sri Aurobindo asks in the opening sentence of this book. He examines the ritualistic and naturalistic theory of nineteenth-century European scholars and then sets forth his own view: “The hypothesis I propose is that the Rig-veda is itself the one considerable document that remains to us from the early period of human thought of which the historic Eleusinian and Orphic mysteries were the failing remnants, when the spiritual and psychological knowledge of the race was concealed, for reasons now difficult to determine, in a veil of concrete and material figures and symbols which protected the sense from the profane and revealed it to the initiated… To disengage this less obvious but more important sense [of the Vedic ritual system] by fixing the import of Vedic terms, the sense of Vedic symbols and the psychological functions of the Gods is thus a difficult but necessary task, for which these chapters and the translations that accompany them are only a preparation.”
Contents: The Problem and its Solution: A Retrospect of Vedic Theory; Modern Theories; The Philological Method of the Veda; Agni and the Truth; The Victory of the Fathers; The Conquest over the Dasyus; Selected Hymns; Hymns of the Atris; “The Origins of Aryan Speech”.
“Is there at all or is there still a secret of the Veda?
According to current conceptions the heart of that an cient mystery has been plucked out and revealed to the gaze of all, or rather no real secret ever existed. The hymns of the Veda are the sacri?cial compositions of a primitive and still barbarous race written around a system of ceremonial and propitiatory rites, addressed to personified Powers of Nature and replete with a confused mass of half-formed myth and crude astronomical allegories yet in the making. Only in the later hymns do we perceive the first appearance of deeper psychological and moral ideas – borrowed, some think, from the hostile Dravidians, the “robbers” and “Veda-haters” freely cursed in the hymns themselves, – and, however acquired, the first seed of the later Vedantic speculations. This modern theory is in accord with the received idea of a rapid human evolution from the quite recent savage; it is supported by an imposing apparatus of critical research and upheld by a number of Sciences, unhappily still young and still largely conjectural in their methods and shifting in their results, – Comparative Philology, Comparative Mythology and the Science of Comparative Religion.
It is my object in these chapters to suggest a new view of the ancient problem. I do not propose to use a negative and destructive method directed against the received solutions, but simply to present, positively and constructively, a larger and, in some sort, a complementary hypothesis built upon broader foundations, – a hypothesis which, in addition, may shed light on one or two important problems in the history of ancient thought and cult left very insufficiently solved by the ordinary theories.”
– Sri Aurobindo, from The Secret of the Veda, p.3
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Hymns to the Mystic Fire companion volume to The Secret of the Veda