According to the early writings of the Shaiva tradition—still alive in India and dating back at least 6,000 years—the arbitrary ideologies and moralistic religions of modern society signal the last days of humanity heading toward destruction. This prediction is only a fragment of the vast knowledge of Shaivism, the religion of the ancient Dravidians. An initiate of the Shaiva wisdom, author Alain Danielou has assimilated and revived essential concepts of the Shaiva philosophy and its predictions. Clearly expressed in the ancient teachings, these concepts are in accord with, yet surpass, the boldest scientific speculations about consciousness, time, the nature of life and matter, and the history and destiny of the human race. Inherent in this body of knowledge is an understanding of the cycles of creation and destruction which, in conjunction with astronomical phases, determine the life span of the species. Since 1939, humankind has been in the twilight of the Kali Yuga age, or at the end of a cycle. The impending cataclysm, Danielou explains, is brought on by our own errors, and its date will be determined by our present and future actions. While the Gods Play examines how the visionaries of ancient times defined our role in creation. It explains why and how we have abandoned this role, and reflects on what action can be taken to consciously and creatively influence our own destiny. Included are chapters on The Religion of Nature and The Religion of the City, The Transmigrant Body, Sexual Rites, the Castes, Sacrifice, Magical Powers, Monastic Orders, and Forestalling the Final Day. One of the most distinguished living orientalists and a friend of Stravinsky, Jean Cocteau, and Nabokov, Danielou spent more than 20 years in India studying music and philosophy. He wrote the acclaimed Gods of India and Shiva and Dionysus and produced a series of ethnic music recordings for UNESCO. Formerly director of the International Institute for Comparative Music Studies in Berlin and Venice, he is a Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur, Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, and Officier du Write National.
WE ARE SO ACCUSTOMED TO REGARDING THE Evolution of humanity as a constant progression, and the development of knowledge over the course of several centuries or even several decades as a continuous forward movement, that we sometimes have difficulty in realizing that contrary forces also exist which periodically return peoples to states of in-credible barbarism. Important civilizations pass away, their highly developed scientific knowledge suddenly annihilated. In such cases, the only lingering echo is the vague remembrance of a Golden Age, or sometimes a few monuments remain which reveal a knowledge so evolved that our ancestors of only a few generations ago were not only incapable of deciphering it but 'en of having any idea of what sort of knowledge they were witnessing. We use the rather vague term tradition to evoke the fragments, which have come down to us through secret and esotric channels, of this ancient and prestigious knowledge, whose substance we have lost even though we have preserved its memory. There are periods in the course of history in which we encounter attempts to recover something of this agent knowledge. The emperor Hadrian gathered together
a great number of scholars to try to recapture the science of the ancient Egyptians. Later on, in Italy, a group of artists, scholars, and philosophers formed the Accademia Vitruviana, then the Accademia Romana, providing the beginning impulse of what is called the Renaissance in Europe. This group had also sought to recover elements of the knowledge of the Egyptians, the Etruscans, and the Pelasgeans. Its members were tortured and massacred by the Borgia popes, and the survivors dispersed, leaving only a few enigmatic writings.
In India, around the time of Christ, there was an astonishing personality called Lakulisha who dared to stand in opposition to official Vedism and Buddhism, and enabled the ancient Shaiva religion to be reborn. With it the sciences and religious and philosophic concepts that had been "under-ground" for nearly two millennia came to the fore and provoked a prodigious effervescence in the domain of culture and the arts. Its representatives were likewise gradually eliminated, and modern Hinduism retains only a degraded remnant of it. The true knowledge is once again enclosed in esotericism. Some texts dating from the pre-Aryan civilization of India were partially recuperated during the period of the Shaiva revival. I have attempted, often with difficulty, to study and understand the conceptions they present of ancient Shaivism concerning the nature of the world and the destiny of man, and to present certain aspects of these conceptions in this book. Obviously I can give here only a brief summary. The upholders of the tradition, always under threat, are reticent and secretive. Their knowledge is often fragmentary, and the level of the concepts sometimes goes quite beyond the sci-entific and philosophic notions with which I am familiar, posing arduous problems of comprehension and terminology. There remains, however, a vast corpus of texts, for the most part unpublished, which represent a body of knowledge com-ing from the depths of the ages. These texts deserve to be studied by people more qualified than I. I have limited myself to the texts that I thought understandable concerning cosmology, the nature of language, and musical semantics. I was not competent to approach the texts on mathematics, astron-omy, or medicine, and hope that others will he able to explore them. What is important in such research is, first of all, to be conscious of the limits of our own knowledge and neither to reject nor to seek to bring to our level notions that seem bizarre or incomprehensible at first approach. The situation is analogous to that of a man of the eighteenth century being able, by a phenomenon of vision, to read certain texts of modern physics.
Vanity on the part of ethnologists and Orientalists often leads them to aberrant interpretations and absurd judgments. My work will be useful if it succeeds in awakening the curiosity of even a few scientists at the forefront of research, several of whom have indicated to me their astonishment at the discovery, clearly expressed in this ancient knowledge, of concepts that they themselves hardly dare to envisage, such as the structural identity of the cells which form the galaxies and the cells which form our bodies, or the necessity of the omnipresence of consciousness as one of the essential com-ponents of interstellar and atomic matter, the relativity of tine, and the purely energetic nature of matter, all of which are concepts familiar to the Samkhya.
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