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Max Müller

Then there was not non-existent nor existent:
there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it.
What covered in, and where? and what gave shelter?
was water there, unfathomed depth of water?

Death was not then, nor was there aught immortal:
no sign was there, the day's and night's divider.
That one thing, breathless, breathed by its own nature
apart from it was nothing whatsoever.

Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness,
this All was undiscriminated chaos.
All that existed then was void and formless;
by the great power of warmth was born that unit.

Thereafter rose desire in the beginning,
Desire the primal seed and germ of spirit.
Sages who searched with their heart's thought
discovered the existent's kinship in the non-existent.

Transversely was their severing line extended:
what was above it then, and what below it?
There were begetters, there were mighty forces,
free action here and energy of yonder.

Who verily knows and who can here declare it,
whence it was born and whence comes this creation?
The gods are later than this world's production.
Who knows, then, whence it first came into being?

He, the first origin of this creation,
whether he formed it all or did not form it,
Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven,
he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows it not.

'The Song of Creation', Rig Veda
trans Max Müller

Taken from Poetry for the Spirit:
An Original and Insightful Anthology of Mystical Poems

by Alan Jacobs
(Watkins Publishing, London, 2002)
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Max Muller

Friedrich Max M�ller (1823�1900), was a German philologist and Orientalist, one of the founders of the Western academic field of Indian studies and the discipline of comparative religion. M�ller wrote both scholarly and popular works on the subject of Indology, a discipline he introduced to the British reading public, and the Sacred Books of the East, a massive, 50-volume set of English translations prepared under his direction, stands as an enduring monument to Victorian scholarship.

In 1841 he entered Leipzig University, where he left his early interest in music and poetry in favor of philosophy. M�ller received his Ph.D. in 1843 for a dissertation on Spinoza's Ethics. He also displayed an aptitude for languages, learning the Classical languages Greek and Latin, as well as Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit. In 1844 M�ller went to Berlin to study with Friedrich Schelling. He began to translate the Upanishads for Schelling, and continued to research Sanskrit under Franz Bopp, the first systematic scholar of the Indo-European languages. Schelling led M�ller to relate the history of language to the history of religion. At this time, M�ller published his first book, a German translation of the Hitopadesa, a collection of Indian fables.

In 1845, M�ller moved to Paris to study Sanskrit under Eug�ne Burnouf. It was Burnouf who encouraged him to publish the complete Rig Veda in Sanskrit, using manuscripts available in England.

M�ller moved to England in 1846 in order to study Sanskrit texts in the collection of the East India Company. He supported himself at first with creative writing, his novel German Love being popular in its day. M�ller's connections with the East India Company and with Sanskritists based at Oxford University led to a career in Britain, where he eventually became the leading intellectual commentator on the culture of India, which Britain controlled as part of its Empire. This led to complex exchanges between Indian and British intellectual culture, especially through M�ller's links with the Brahmo Samaj. He became a member of Christ Church, Oxford in 1851, when he gave his first series of lectures on comparative philology. He gained appointments as Taylorian Professor of Modern European Languages in 1854. Defeated in the 1860 competition for the tenured Chair of Sanskrit, he later became Oxford's first Professor of Comparative Theology (1868�1875), at All Souls College.

Max Muller

M�ller attempted to formulate a philosophy of religion that addressed the crisis of faith engendered by the historical and critical study of religion by German scholars on the one hand, and by the Darwinian revolution on the other. M�ller was wary of Darwin's work on human evolution, and attacked his view of the development of human faculties. His work was taken up by cultural commentators such as his friend John Ruskin, who saw it as a productive response to the crisis of the age. He analyzed mythologies as rationalizations of natural phenomena, primitive beginnings that we might denominate 'protoscience' within a cultural evolution; M�ller's 'anti-Darwinian' concepts of the evolution of human cultures are among his least lasting achievements.

M�ller's Sanskrit studies came at a time when scholars had started to see language development in relation to cultural development. The recent discovery of the Indo-European language group had started to lead to much speculation about the relationship between Greco-Roman cultures and those of more ancient peoples. In particular the Vedic culture of India was thought to have been the ancestor of European Classical cultures, and scholars sought to compare the genetically related European and Asian languages in order to reconstruct the earliest form of the root-language. The Vedic language, Sanskrit, was thought to be the oldest of the Indo-European languages. M�ller therefore devoted himself to the study of this language, becoming one of the major Sanskrit scholars of his day. M�ller believed that the earliest documents of Vedic culture should be studied in order to provide the key to the development of pagan European religions, and of religious belief in general. To this end, M�ller sought to understand the most ancient of Vedic scriptures, the Rig Veda.

For M�ller, the study of the language had to relate to the study of the culture in which it had been used. He came to the view that the development of languages should be tied to that of belief systems. At that time, the Vedic scriptures were little known in the West, though there was increasing interest in the philosophy of the Upanishads. M�ller believed that the sophisticated Upanishadic philosophy could be linked to the primitive henotheism of early Vedic Brahmanism from which it evolved. He had to travel to London in order to look at documents held in the collection of the British East India Company. While there he persuaded the company to allow him to undertake a critical edition of the Rig Veda, a task he pursued doggedly over many years (1849-1874), and which resulted in the critical edition for which he is most remembered.

[Source: Max Müller, Wikipedia]

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