MAHABHARATA AND CHRISTIANITY:
2000 YEAR OLD PARALLEL MYTHOLOGIES
Last night my wife and I watched a video we got from the public library, called “Mahabharata”. It’s a three hour production based on Peter Brook’s stage drama by the same name. We were entranced by the production.
The play and movie are based on a 2000 year old Sanskrit poem, “The Great Story of Mankind.” The poem is a Hindu mythological tale about the origins of mankind and its ethical complications just like Genesis is the Biblical mythology of the origins of man and his moral problems. What leaps out to the impartial observer is the similarities between Bible mythology and the Hindu mythology of the poem. One can’t help but see that Bible mythology and Hindu mythology come from a similar preexisting source or tale.
The following list contains the most obvious similarities:
1. a world ending flood
2. a god who gives the miracle of sight to a blind man
3. an infant prince who is set adrift on a river edged with bulrushes to be found and raised by a stranger
4. a son from a virgin birth
5. and, of course, a virgin mother
6. a spirit who tempts a prince with the world
7. a world split between two brothers
8. a prince who fights and kills a giant
9. a promise that death shall be overcome
10. 12 is a magic number like the 12 tribes of Israel
From “Freedom Evolves” by Daniel Dennett (p.55):
“I suspect we find it natural to keep track of the complexities of atoms and the stranger denizens of the world of subatomic physics by treating them rather like tiny agents because our brains are designed to treat everything we encounter as an agent if possible—just in case it really is one. In the early days of human culture... we found it useful to overuse ‘animism’, treating all of nature as made of gods and fairies, malevolent and benevolent sprites, imps and goblins in charge of all the natural processes we observed. It was ‘intentional’ systems all the way down, you might say. [But] now we are quite comfortable thinking of atoms as just little ‘mindless’ bouncing grains. They don’t quite act but they still do things—repelling and attracting, wobbling in one place or dashing off.”
There’s no disputing the fact that early peoples did imagine that almost everything that moved outside of their craniums was motivated, moved, by spirits. Everything we learn from paleontology, history and anthropology builds up a picture of superstitious people who lived in a world haunted by spirits. You can also see, I hope, that most modern religious people (PS. I include astrologers among them.) still think of the world as those primitive pre-Freudians did, as a reality full of gods and demons, witches and devils. They still project their inner reality on the world, just as the primitives did, without reference to the objective world that science tries to supply to our reason. This is at the root of my claim that religious people are dangerously out of touch with the modern world and with reality too.
"It is the final proof of god's omnipotence that he need not exist in order to save us." —Peter De Vries