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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Raimon Panikkar's Limitations

Portrait of Raimon Panikkar (pencil on paper), Wikimedia Commons

This essay is the second in a series on the failure of leading 20th century mythologists or religionists to uncover significant antecedents of the religions they studied. The first considers the work of Joseph Campbell, the third addresses Carlos Castaneda's Limitations, and the fourth looks at Mircea Eliade's Limitations.

Dr. Alice C. Linsley

Mr. Raimon Panikkar (1918-2010) was a Roman Catholic priest and a professor of philosophy at the University of Madrid. His first trip to India in 1954 was a turning point in his life and a connection to the spiritual roots of his Hindu father. Panikkar's Spanish mother was Roman Catholic. As a scholar, Panikkar specialized in comparative religion.

While studying Indian philosophy at the University of Mysore and Banaras Hindu University, Mr. Panikkar began conversation about Eastern expressions of Christianity with several Western monks. About that experience Panikkar later wrote, “I left Europe as a Christian, I discovered I was a Hindu and returned as a Buddhist without ever having ceased to be Christian.”

The rest of his life was dedicated to promoting an expansion of the Judaic and Greco-Roman foundations of Christianity to embrace the insights of non-Western religions.

Joseph Prabhu, a professor of philosophy at California State University, Los Angeles, and the editor of “The Intercultural Challenge of Raimon Panikkar” (1996) concerning Panikkar:

“He was one of the pioneers in opening up Christianity to other religions and learning from them,” and “We can see the new waves of Christianity moving toward the non-European world in the 21st century, and he prepared the ground for an authentic dialogue between Christianity and other faiths, and beyond that for the cross-cultural conversation which marks our globalized world.”


Panikkar was a prolific writer. He wrote more than 40 books and 900 articles. His complete works are being published in Italian. His 1989 Gifford Lectures were published in English by Orbis in 2009 under the title "The Rhythm of Being." His books include “The Trinity and the Religious Experience of Man” (1973), “The Cosmotheandric Experience: Emerging Religious Consciousness” (1993), “Christophany: The Fullness of Man” (2004) and “The Experience of God: Icons of the Mystery” (2006).

He explained, “Writing, to me, is intellectual life and also spiritual experience… it allows me to ponder deeply the mystery of reality.”

Panikkar's limited scope

As with many who study world religions, Panikkar's research and experiences were limited to the religions that emerged in the Axial Age (c. 1000-200 BC). He did not delve into the earlier religions of the ancient world, which would have exposed the Messianic elements in Vedic texts

Hinduism is older than Judaism, but not older than the religion of the early Hebrew (4200 BC) who dispersed out of the Nile Valley into Arabia, Canaan, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and the Indus Valley. The Rig Veda, the oldest Vedic text dates to between 1900 and 1200 BC, about 1000 years after the time of Abraham the Hebrew. Judaism emerged closer to 600 BC. The term "samhita" refers to the most ancient layer of text in the Vedas. Parts of the Vedic Samhitas constitute the oldest layer of Hindu tradition and include material that resembles early Hebrew concepts.

In the Rig Veda, for example, the number seven is sacred, and the Word of God is called Speech and is described as "a loving wife, finely robed." She resembles the Wisdom of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), personified as a female (Sirach 24:8). In Sirach, Wisdom declares that she “came forth from the mouth of the Most High” as the first-born before all creatures.

In Srimad Bhagavatam 10:16 we find a parallel to Genesis 3:15 where we are told that the serpent's head will be crushed under the feet of the Woman's Son. The Hindu text reads: "The Ancient Man danced on the serpent, who still spewed poison from his eyes and hissed loudly in his anger, and he trampled down with his feet whatever head the serpent raised, subduing him calmly..." (Cited in Andrew Wilson, Ed. World Scriptures, p. 449.)

The same idea is found in Psalm 91:12-13 - "They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down."

However, this expectation was expressed about 1000 years before Psalm 91 in the Pyramid Texts, a collection of mortuary texts. Utterance 388 says, "Horus has shattered (tbb, crushed) the mouth of the serpent with the sole of his foot (tbw)." 

Scholars from India acknowledge the Nile-Indus connections. The Indian linguist Ajay Pratap Singh explains, "Comparisons of Akkadian and Sanskrit words yielded at least 400 words in both languages with comparable phonetic and semantic similarities. Thus, Sanskrit has, in fact, descended from Akkadian."

The Indian scholar Malati J. Shendge has concluded that the language of the Harappans of the Indus Valley was Akkadian, the language of the territory of Nimrod the Kushite Hebrew. 

Akkadian is the oldest known Semitic language. he Bible scholar, E.A. Speiser, found that names taken to be Indo-European were often labeled "Hurrian" [Horite] only to be identified eventually as Akkadian. The Horite Hebrew were widely dispersed and spoke the languages of the people among whom they lived. Scholars today use terms like Hurro-Akkadian, Hurro-Urartian, and Canaano-Akkadian.

Further evidence of the connection between the Nile Valley and the Indus Valley is demonstrated by comparing early Egyptian and Indus pottery inscriptions. Note that 17 figures under the headings "Indus Valley" and "Egyptian" are almost identical.

The Indian archaeologist, B. B. Lal contends that the Dravidians came from the Upper Nile (Nubia/Kush). Lal writes:
"At Timos the Indian team dug up several megalithic sites of ancient Nubians which bear an uncanny resemblance to the cemeteries of early Dravidians which are found all over Western India from Kathiawar to Cape Comorin. The intriguing similarity extends from the subterranean structure found near them. Even the earthenware ring-stands used by the Dravidians and Nubians to hold pots were identical."


Some old Hindu fire altars were constructed in the shape of a falcon. The falcon was the totem of Horus (HR), who among the Horite Hebrew was the archetype of the son of the High God. This explains why the Shulba Sutras state that "he who desires heaven is to construct a fire-altar in the form of a falcon."

 Anatomical Evidence

The German archaeologists Friedrichs and Muller identified some of the skulls of Mohenjo-Daro as "Hamitic." The term "Nilotic" would be more accurate.

Paleontologists B.K. Chatterjee and G.D. Kumer reported in "Comparative Study and Racial Analysis of the Skeletal Remains of the Indus Valley Civilization" that the 18 Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa skulls that they examined are "similar to skulls from Nubia during the third to second Millennium B.C." (See Wayne Chandler: "The Jewel in the Lotus: The Ethiopian Presence in the Indus Valley Civilization" in African Presence in Early Asia, Ivan Van Sertima et. a1. eds., 1985 p. 87)


I propose that the universality of what we might call the "Proto-Gospel" is due to the wide dispersion of the early Hebrew ruler-priest caste that moved out of Africa well before 3000 BC. It appears that the widely dispersed early Hebrew caste spread elements of their belief in God Father and God Son wherever they settled in the service of high kings. They expected a universal ruler to overcome death. The idea of a universal king who is divinely appointed to rule is found in the oldest layers of Hindu thought. The Sanskrit word cakravartin and the Pali word cakkavattin refer to a righteous king who rules over the entire world. His "messianic" rule is called sar-vabhauma. From Africa to Nepal the words sar and sarki refer to rulers and priests. This is the root of the royal title Sar-gon, which means High King or King of Kings. Nimrod's Akkadian name was Šarru-kīnu, which is usually translated “the true king.”

These words are related to the Akkadian words šarratum - queen, šarri - divine, and šarrum - king.

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