Filliozat, etc.

thompson at thompson at
Mon May 6 00:20:02 UTC 1996

Having had a little time to check, I now realize that the article by
Filliozat which I was vaguely recalling was "La doctrine des BrAhmanes
d'après saint Hippolyte" in Revue de l'Histoire des Religions [cxxx, 1945]..
That article [which I no longer have access to] and the related discussion
in Filliozat's "Classical Doctrine of Indian Medicine" allude to a popular
and apocryphal tale of a dialogue between Socrates & an Indian sage
concerning knowledge of self as knowledge of god [in Philostratos's Life of
Apollonius, this Indian sage is named Iarchus].  So I am mistaken about
Plato [perhaps it is more accurate to call my "recollection" wishful
thinking!].  But Filliozat's observation re this legend, it seems to me,
remains cogent: whether or not such a dialogue ever really happened, the
dialogue in any case attributes a *genuinely* Indic doctrine [i.e., Atman
= brahman] to an Indian sage, and even if such a doctrine can be found
independently among Greek philosophers, the attribution of such a teaching
to such a figure must rest on an accurate knowledge of the Indic doctrine
[i.e., even if the doctrine itself can be derived from purely Greek
sources, e.g., Socrates himself, it is unlikely that accurate attribution
of the same doctrine to Indic philosophers can be accidental, or the
product of fantasy].  The authors of such stories must have had more or
less accurate information re the wisdom of Indian sages.

I have also been digging around in dictionaries & in Schwanbeck's
"Megasthenes Indica", and observe that terms like Brachma^nes [= Latin
Brachmanae], Sarma^nai [= Skt. Zramana], and Bou´tta [= Buddha] are all
probably directly attributable to Megasthenes [c.the end of the 4th cent.
BCE].  As far as I know, distinctive culture terms like Skt. mantra,
karman, dharman, nirvANa, etc., are unattested in classical Greek.  But I
am confident that if such terms *were* to appear as borrowings into Greek,
there would be little dispute about "the borrowing of ideas".  Enrica
Garzilli informs me that she believes that there was a certain amount of
borrowing in the other direction [i.e., from Greek to Indic]. No doubt,
there was.  But I am confident that subsequent research will show that the
Greeks learned a quite few things from those dark-skinned, scantily-attired
"gymnosophists" and philosophers, from India, as well as from other peoples
from other places in the larger world of classical antiquity [I am thinking
of the debate that is now raging re Afrocentric revisions of the Greek

In contrast, the discussion in this group has been uniformly both civilized
and  perceptive. Very refreshing.

George Thompson

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