By James Thrower
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Extra resources for The Alternative Tradition: Religion and the Rejection of Religion in the Ancient World
Occasionally one god is evoked as supreme and the attributes of other gods are transferred to him. We see this happening in the case of Varuna and also of Indra. We also have references to 'the One', or simply to 'He' or 'It'—a tendency which passes easily, as it did in ancient Greece, into either monotheism or pantheistic monism, especially when it is combined both with a resurgence of interest in Rta, the principle of cosmic order to which both gods and men are subject, and with speculation regarding the primary substance or 'stuff out of which the multiplicity of the world as we observe it came.
6 SOME EARLY FREETHINKERS Purana Kassapa — a wandering ascetic — attacked the fundamental Hindu doctrine of karma and held that there was no such thing as virtue or vice and thus that no action could lead, as the doctrine of karma taught, to any fruit hereafter. In reply to King Ajatasatru, who asked him what visible reward their was in the life of a recluse, he answered: To him who acts, king, or causes another to act, to him who mutilates or causes another to mutilate, — to him who causes grief or torment, ...
To the gods goes the oblation bearer. Have I not drunk of the soma? (Rg Veda X. 119 [Thomas]) Other stories tell us of Indra's assuming the guise of the husband of a girl whom he desires in order to seduce her! It is not, therefore, surprising that in the Rg Veda we find those who mock and criticise him, as well as those who feel the need to apologize for him (cf. Rg Vedall. 12. v. 5). The difficulties of speculation, particularly upon such topics as the origin of the world, is also recognized in the Rg Veda, and nowhere The Beginnings of Speculation: Scepticism and Agnosticism 43 better than in superb Hymn of Creation, known as the NäsacKya, which one noted scholar has called One of the oldest surviving records of philosophical doubt in the history of the world' (Basham 1954:247): Non-being then existed not, nor being: There was no air, nor heaven which is beyond it.
The Alternative Tradition: Religion and the Rejection of Religion in the Ancient World by James Thrower