magic / directions in Indology?

thompson at thompson at
Thu May 30 00:28:25 UTC 1996

Madhav Deshpande and Michael Witzel both acknowledge that theory is a part
of the package that makes up an Indologist.  Of course, I don't know anyone
who would say otherwise.  Nor do I know anyone who would deny that "Good,
philologically sound,culturally well informed" translations are something
to be desired.  There are certain things about which everyone on this list
would probably agree, like the things mentioned by Deshpande and Witzel.
But there are genuine differences among us too, and I do not think that it
is quite fair to reduce these differences to a simple matter of competence
[i.e., "ours", i.e., editors of texts] vs. incompetence [i.e., of those who
write treatises comparing St John and Ananda].

But notice that Witzel praises Staal's "fieldwork" -- i.e., his "salvage"
work on the agnicayana.  No mention of Staal's theoretical work that
challenges Vedic philology on mantras, ritual, and meaning, etc.  This
perhaps suggests what exactly Witzel values, and I have no trouble with
what Witzel values.  I value these things too.  If the implication is that
Staal's fieldwork will outlive Staal's theory, that may be so.  But I value
Staal's theory, even if I do not necessarily agree with it.  Sorry, but no
matter how "enduring" Griffith's translation of the RV is, I do not value
it as much as the transitory stimulus that I have gotten from arguing with
Staal about mantras.

I will probably never edit a Vedic text.  This may be because I am not
competent.  I am not a Harvard graduate.  But it also has to do with the
fact that I am obliged to do other things, like washing dishes, cleaning
toilets, and teaching dirty things like theory.  If Michael Witzel is
willing to support me financially, I will volunteer to edit some AVP pages
for him.  In the meantime, I will proceed to study the things that interest
me, ignoring the bullying rhetoric that comes from both from the left and
the right....

George Thompson

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