RV reading

thompson at jlc.net thompson at jlc.net
Tue Feb 25 20:12:25 UTC 1997

Perhaps I can respond *briefly* to Dominique Thillaud's recent post:

>        I agree with his whole mail, except a small reserve about the use
>of the word 'metaphor'. We are not here in a profan text, but in a
>religious, mythological one. The correspondance 'Agni / fire' is not the
>same as 'snow / white curtain'. The last is logos, the first is muthos:
>Agni IS fire, not like fire. We are all in a deep fascination when seeing a
>fire, this alogic fascination has here a name: Agni.

Dominique's point, which I accept as a good one, echoes those of a few
other off-list responses.  To clarify:

I consider metaphor to be a basic process in *all* language, religious,
mythological, secular or analytic [i.e., both muthos and logos].  My use of
the term does not intend any implications about the ontological status of
Agni or anyone else. I don't think of metaphor as a mere "figure of speech"
which implies the unreality of the assertion in which it is embedded.  I
did not mean to suggest that the equation "Agni = a god" is a metaphor.  I
meant that "Agni [whether as a god or as a concept or as a terrestrial
fire] = eater of food" is a metaphor.

While all metaphors involve equations [expressed or not], not all equations
are metaphors.  E.g., "1 + 1 = 2" or "Indra is a prominent Vedic god" are
obviously  not metaphors.

"Agni is an eater of food" would not be a metaphor, either, *if* it is
understood that the attribute "eater of food" is an essential attribute of
Agni, rather than a transferred attribute.  It seems to me to be a
transferred attribute, just as  "Soma is a bull" seems to transfer the
features of a bull to the god Soma [whereas "Soma has a stalk and a rasa
and is golden" is proper both to Soma the god as to soma the plant, and
thus is not metaphorical].  In either case, no doubts about Agni's or
Soma's ontological status are implied.

Maybe this is just another way of talking about the issue of the transfer
of epithets in the RV....


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