What The All-Father Means

Readers of this weblog may sometimes notice that I break out in pompous and self-important declarations of being a “scion of the All-Father.” This is basically a joke. But, it’s a joke that draws from a legitimate basis of science and mythology. The “All-Father” is another name for Odin. I’m really talking about Indra, who is probably more like Thor. And obviously, Norse paganism is only distantly related to the mythology of the Indo-Aryans. As someone more familiar with the lineaments of Northern European mythology than Indian, of course, it’s easier for me to draw on the motifs of the former to relate to the latter.

R1a distribution

The scientific component has to do with R1a. Specifically, R1a1a, defined by the M17 mutation (discovered by my boss at my day-job 20 years ago). There are two very closely related “clades,” that is, families of pedigrees, of this Y chromosomal lineage, passed from father to son. One of them defines mostly European R1a1a, Eastern Europeans, and to a lesser extent Western Europeans. Another branch is found mostly in Central and South Asia.

When I first saw this distribution around the year 2000 it left me scratching my head. Of course, I knew about the Indo-European languages. But I had always assumed that the demographic impact of the original Indo-Europeans was relatively marginal. And yet this Y chromosome was found at frequencies in the 10-50% range across vast swaths of Eurasia.

Much of the 2000s was spent on arguments as to whether R1a was indigenous to South Asia or to Central Eurasia. Ultimately these arguments were not resolvable due to limitations of the data. To calibrate dates and diversity researchers relied on microsatellites, which are useful due to their high mutation rates, but also erratic for the same reason (not only were confidence intervals wide, some of the assumptions of the model parameters were guesses).

In the early 2010s, whole-genome sequences of Y chromosomes came online. It became very clear that the most common R1a1a lineages exhibited the “star phylogeny.” Demographically, what this means is that men carrying this lineage underwent very rapid population expansion for a short period of time. So rapid that a “father” lineage would give rise to numerous “son” lineages one mutational step away

You can see in the figure that node “A” has given rise to a “star phylogeny.” A large number of individuals are one mutational step away from that genotype. A more normal phylogeny would produce a complex structured tree which accrues mutations across the various branches gradually.

In the South Asian context, a paper from 2004, Independent origins of Indian caste and tribal paternal lineages, introduced a result which prefigured what we now know:

Analyses of molecular variance also suggest that caste groups are more homogeneous for Y chromosome variation than tribal groups, since the variance among caste groups (sampled from all over India) is 3-fold less than that observed among tribal groups and 2-fold less than that observed among all Indian populations grouped together (Table 3). Moreover, if only north caste groups are considered, the variance among populations is not significantly different from zero (Table 3), indicating that spread over the Indian subcontinent although they are located up to ∼1500 km away from each other, these populations have highly homogeneous Y chromosome compositions.

The implications of the lack of structure of R1a on the Indo-Gangetic plain is always something that struck me. It suggested that the paternal lineages only recently expanded since they didn’ have time to build up distinct regional mutations. In contrast, the adivasi populations had a wider distribution of Y chromosomal haplogroups, and they exhibit a lot deeper diverged lineages.

Which brings me to the personal angle. In the spring of 2010, I did my first personal genomic test. I got my Y and mtDNA results back first. It turned out my Y was R1a1a, and my mtDNA was U2b. I was surprised by both. Eastern Bengali has the highest fraction of mtDNA macrohaplogroup M in the world. R1a1a was less surprising. But, it was very strange to have a concrete, personal, connection to this lineage which had been on my mind for a decade or so.

My funny attachment to my haplogroup is probably a function of my upbringing. Growing up as brown in the United States, I wasn’t exposed to Indian culture, nor was I well versed in the details of South Asian communalism. My family is pretty conventional in being upper-middle-class Bengali Muslims, so there is not a jati identity or anything like that I could identify with (and though my parents are Muslim, they are not extremely so, therefore religious identity was a background and not foreground variable). When I looked at my overall genome in 2010 it was clear I didn’t have the “runs of homozygosity” that characterize many people from South Asian backgrounds who come from endogamous communities. I know some of my ancestors were Kayasthas, and my father has some Brahmin ancestry, but the most distinctive thing about me in hindsight is I’m a typical east Bengali with more than a usual dollop of East Asian ancestry (my family is from Comilla).

My Y chromosomal haplogroup, in contrast, is something clear, distinct, and precise. It is an anchor, something which I use to channel my preoccupations and concerns. I don’t have Omar’s Gujar tribal ancestry, or Zach’s Muhajir/Persian origins. I’m just a brown American whose parents did not instill him a patriotism about the “motherland” (Bangladesh), because they themselves didn’t even live a decade in that nation. Though there is a spectrum, it is clear that many South Asian Americans are less “coconut” than I am, and are attuned to fine differences of status, origin, and background. Growing up around only white people my identity was racialized, not ethnicized.

I have never felt superior or inferior to any community or ethnicity of South Asian because I never belonged to any community, have weak ethnic identity, and don’t believe in any religion. The religious prejudices I do have are probably Anglo-Protestant ones against Catholicism, because of the implicit assumptions and background facts of America’s Whig culture.

What R1a1a symbolizes to me is that I have a concrete connection to a semi-historical phenomenon between the end of prehistory and before the written word, which we have not grasped or understood very well. Though it is true R1a1a is found at higher concentrations in “upper castes,” as well as in the north and west of the subcontinent, and among Indo-Aryan speakers, the reality is it is found in almost every community in South Asia (the main exception being among Tibeto-Burmans and Munda). There are many communities, such as Chenchus, which have very little steppe ancestry but retain a substantial proportion of R1a1a.

For obvious reasons this haplogroup is associated with Indo-Aryans (the earliest find of R1a1a-Z93 is from the Bronze Age Volga Srubna culture), but its reach is far beyond current areas of Indo-Aryan speech. Its ubiquity is a testament to a broader South Asia cultural matrix that emerged in the centuries after 1500 BC, from north to south.

This is of course not a moral judgment. The expansion of this paternal lineage at the expense of others likely occurred through a process of aggression and social exclusion. This is nothing to be proud of…or ashamed of. It’s just a description.

85 thoughts on “What The All-Father Means”

  1. ” It is an anchor, something which I use to channel my preoccupations and concerns. ”

    I get what you are saying. At the end of day we all need that one identity to be our North star, to hold on to.

    But does something as theoretical as genome type do it for you? I feel it just lacks something. Something which an ethnicity/culture identity gives.

    1. well, it’s kind of a joke 😉 but i am literally a geneticist!

      also, i think of the all-father when i go and lift. he wasn’t a nerd…

  2. I’m also U2b, we share both haplogroups. Is U2b west eurasian or indigenous Indian?

      1. How do we know this? Has it been found in ancient skeletons dated to the Paleolithic? Because it’s found west of India too. It may have prospered in India the most, but that’s not proof its indigenous to India.

        Razib is a geneticist so I take his word that he knows his own haplogroup.

        1. Even certain M clades are found West of India. Means nothing really.

          U2a, U2b and U2c found in the subcontinent have Paleolithic coalescence dates.. if you understand what that means.

          U2a is the only one with significant distributions in the NW.

          U2b is very Indian, it’s highest frequency is in Central India.

          M3a is very common in NW and Pakistan, and also there’s some in Iran and further West.

          If you insist U2b is West Eurasian, then M3a must be more Western (which we know is unlikely).

          Razib is not the Bible. Do your own research.

  3. “I wasn’t exposed to Indian culture, nor was I well versed in the details of South Asian communalism.”

    I honestly don’t think too many diasporan South Asians are well-versed in this, because it doesn’t matter in a world where our communities are so small and most people are Brahmin/Baniya anyways. Hell, I only found out I *was* Brahmin when I was in my early teens, and I didn’t quite grasp what it meant until later.

    Regarding religion at large, there’s definitely an understanding between both the Hindu and Muslim diasporas that we should stay separate, on cordial but distant terms. I understand the historical reasons for this, and I have no desire to change it.

    It won’t matter in the future anyways. Intermarriage, assimilation, and low fertility will mean the end of Hindu America before long. Muslims will probably bifurcate among liberal vs. traditional lines, with the former following our path.

    1. ‘Hindu America’ was always going to be a moment, not an eternity, due to the sheer distance between India and the US (both geographically and culturally), and the relatively small number of Indians who immigrate.

      But the Americans have helped us kickstart our economy and recover our self confidence.

    2. Intermarriage, assimilation, and low fertility will mean the end of Hindu America

      Strange you feel that way. I fee just the opposite. I thought constantly increasing influx of Indians in US will make Hindu America a permanent reality.

      (I recently read somewhere that Telugu is the fastest growing language in US).

    3. I don’t think Hinduism in America dies with the assimilation of Indian Americans.

      There is a Hindu American woman of non-Indian origin running for leadership of the Democratic party right now (Tulsi Gabbard).

      I myself used to be an atheist materialist, before getting into Buddhist meditation. Initially I learned from a white guy (Daniel Ingram) who at the time worked as an emergency room physician in Alabama.

      This later got me more interested in other dharmic and non-dharmic spiritual practices.

      I hope the transformative aspects of the religion will survive, and that the regressive aspects will be discarded in New World Dharma.

      1. I want to agree with you, but honestly non-brown Hindus are few and far-in-between, and it’s tough to see that changing.

        Of course what COULD happen is that 2100 Hinduism is an Arya Samaj/ISKCON-ized entity that does win followers here and there (but obviously never makes major inroads anywhere.)

        If it does go that route, I’m curious to see what their USP will be (given that they are competing against Buddhism and Christianity.)

        1. Hinduism has too much baggage, like Mormonism. It’s unlikely to have more than a fringe presence outside its homeland/core area

          1. don’t know about hinduism, but well over 50% of mormons now live outside of the USA. a lot of pacific islanders are mormon. far higher % in samoa than uSA

          2. well over 50% of mormons now live outside of the USA. a lot of pacific islanders are mormon.

            I didn’t know that, thanks for the info. I thought Mormonism would be a hard sell in countries dominated by an Abrahamic religion, but I guess its as appealing (or unappealing) as mainstream Christianity to people from other traditions. (I should read more about this topic.)

          3. /Mormonism would be a hard sell in countries/

            Mormon polygamy and large families have an appeal to traditional societies. I knew a Chinese guy from PRC who was attracted by it’s large families in contrast to PRC policy of 1 child per family.

        2. Also what passes of as Hinduism (or the good parts of it at least) in the west can be subsumed by Buddhism. Buddhism has additional stuff and better PR.

          1. I think the main difference is that:

            1. Hinduism priviledges the illuminating aspect of consciousness considering it to be divine (awareness, oneness).

            2. Buddhism is non-theistic and doesn’t privilege the illuminating aspect of consciousness.

            I can see them appealing to a different sorts of people. I think Buddhism appealed to me initially because I tend to have atheistic leanings, also didn’t find Indian cultural stuff appealing.

            But I think most people have more theistic leanings, and want to believe in the divine. And some people like the exotic cultural stuff.

            It would be nice to see dharmic ideas and practices live on in terms of helping people become happier and more functional.

            I don’t really care about the Hindu identity, or Buddhist identity surviving or competing with other identities, except to the extent where having a cohesive identity helps promulgate the ideas and practices.

        3. /doesn’t privilege the illuminating aspect of consciousness/
          Mahayana explicitly privileges no-conscious. That can appeal to some and frighten many more. OTOH that is what appealed in China and Japan.

          1. “Mahayana explicitly privileges no-conscious”

            Can you elaborate ? I don’t think this makes sense.

          2. \Can you elaborate ?\
            Mahayana has shunyavada at it’s core, Shunya, Emptiness, Satori are the stuff of mahayana . It is also called ‘madhyamika’ philosophy. Once you understand the ultimate shunya of all consciousness , you become prajñāpāramitā, the perfection of wisdom.. Chan or Zen meditations help us in this path – if you need such a help.

            That is why meditating Buddha occupies an outsized role in Buddhist iconography.

            Hinduism does not have corresponding elevation of consciousness as someone was saying.

          3. Don’t mean this in a harsh way, but based on what you wrote you have completely misunderstood Shunyata, and Madhyamaka.

            It is honestly quite tricky to explain. But Buddhist emptiness is probably best understood conceptually as meaning all phenomenon are interdependent, and don’t have an essence (aside from that which is imputed by the human mind).

            Here is a comparison with Advaita:

            If you understand why shunyata solves the Ship of Theseus type problems, then you probably are starting to have a correct understanding. IMO

          4. @Sumit
            Just say in a few words your understanding of Buddhsim vis-a-vis no-consciousness . Saying it is too-tricky or giving internet references (which i am not going to read) or some other obfuscations and evasions don’t help.

            There is no right or wrong answers.

            A proper mahayana answer would be it is beyond words.

          5. Sumit and VijayVan you are discussing things that life times are spent meditating on, studying, exploring and analyzing. I have been obsessed with this topic since I was 4.

            Have you discussed this topic with several Buddhist practitioners?

            There are many different Mahayana paramparas. And they describe these things in subtly different ways. Not that they are in conflict mind you.

            Emptiness in Mahayana is not “nothing”. But “no” “thing” that can be described. I would describe it as that which is beyond the 31 heavens or Samadhis. The 31 heavens are cannon for all ancient Teravada and Mahayana Buddhists.

            I read Greg Goode’s article. I would describe these things differently.

            1. Hinduism privileges the illuminating aspect of consciousness considering it to be divine (awareness, oneness).

            2. Buddhism is non-theistic and doesn’t privilege the illuminating aspect of consciousness.”

            Sanathana Dharma has over a thousand religions or paramparas inside it. These are loosely categorized in at least 10 major bundles. One of which is “Buddhism”. One of which is “Jainism”. One of which is “Samkhya”. One of which is “Yoga” {which I consider to be a subset within the superset of Samkhya}. One of which is “Chaarvaaka”. One of which is “Ajivika”. And so forth.

            Buddhism alone has hundreds of religions or paramparas inside it.

            They exist along a continuum and are interconnected.

            “Hinduism privileges the illuminating aspect of consciousness considering it to be divine (awareness, oneness).”

            What does this mean? Which of the over 1000 religions are you referring to?

            Many traditions have secret teachings. The secret teachings involve the many levels of Samadhi or the many lokic and alokic heavens. These teachings are not emphasized to the general public. The thinking might be . . . “reach Samadhi first”. And then the deeper secret teachings begin. Vivekananda use to say that religion begins with Samadhi. This appears to be a consensus among the large majority but not all of the over 1000 religions of Sanathana Dharma. Religion does not end with Samadhi. After Samadhi there is an infinitude. The process barely begins.

            Buddha declassified many of the secret teachings and made them available to the general public. Including with respect to Tantra, Yoga (Yoga-chaara), Siddhis, the 31 heavens, Jnaan maarg, Karma maarg, Bhakti maarg.

            Buddha in my opinion broke down Nirvikalpa Samadhi or Asamprajnata Samadhi, or Dharma Megha Samadhi or Nirbija Samadhi or the 12 highest Tattvas out of the 36 Tattvas of Kashmiri Shaivism or the Alokic heavens into multiple different heavens. Buddha did this because many spiritual masters were stuck in intermediate but not highest states.

            Buddha inspired all of us to transcend all of these 31 heavens.

            The highest of the 31 heavens or the highest of the Aaruupyadhaatu Swargas is Naivasaṃjñaanaasaṃjñaayatana Swarga. The life span of the highest heaven is about 102.4 quadrillion years. [84 K Maha Kalpas.]

            Sumit and VijayVan, can you share your thoughts on the 31 heavens?

            Sumit, are you familiar with the 7 heaven concept? Most paramparas posit that there is an infinitude beyond them. The Alokic heavens. Implicitly this acknowledges that there can be things beyond atma. What the Buddha said about Atma and Anatma was not new, nor was it inconsistent with existing paramparas.

          6. Anan

            Best of luck with your quest for Naivasaṃjñaanaasaṃjñaayatana Swarga . Kindly continue to enlighten BP from there. I am sure 32nd heaven suits your tastes

            I am afraid I have not seen even 1 heaven, forget about 31.

          7. Sorry, words is the best I can currently do for communication, don’t have shaktipat powers 🙂

            The best way to understand it conceptually is as ‘interdependence’…

            1. Never heard any one translate shunyata / emptiness translated as ‘no-consciousness’. I am assuming that’s what you mean by ‘no-consciousness’.

            2. The fully vivid everyday experience of reality is equally as shunya as any exhaled meditative state.

            3. It denies any absolute, truth or phenomenon that stands on its own (like awareness in Advaita).

            4. However it acknowledges conventional, empirical, etc truths as being true in an interdependent sense.

            5. It is practically useless except with regards to reducing suffering caused by the common intuitive model of reality.

            Btw this is my take on the two truths doctrine, also a traditional Mahyana Buddhist answer.

          8. AnAn,

            I was speaking of Advaita and Vishisht-Advaita.

            Tantric Hinduism and Shaivism I think are more secretive as you said. Similar to Tantric Buddhism.

            “Sumit and VijayVan, can you share your thoughts on the 31 heavens?”

            I think of them as states of mind that can be attained.

            Not too caught up on the 31 part. I always found it curious why the old Dharmic traditions like to enumerate things so much.

            I don’t actually know or have as much experience in the Hindu traditions as I do in the Buddhist traditions.

            So apologies for any mis-charecterization.

  4. Anglo-Protestant ones against Catholicism,

    Most other adherents of other religions dont realize the antipathy of Protestants, specially American Evangelical types to Catholics.

    Church of England (Anglican) has not much antipathy to Catholics. Anglican high church rituals, churches are similar to Catholic rituals. incense, statues etc, with probably one big difference Anglican priests can marry (Thanks to Henry Tudor).

    To Evangelicals, the Pope is almost the devil and Catholics heretics. Basic reasons
    a) Statues, saints, Virgin Mary (as mother of God); all no nos for Evangelicals
    b) Catholic lay were not allowed to read the bible (past). The priest read and interpreted the bible.
    c) Catholics had to direct their Prayers to god thru the Pope. Evangelicals believe you have a personal relationship with god. Hence, Pastor (not Priest/Father) to guide you, not an intermediary (Pope, Father) (yes, does not appear so now, with Televangelists) .

    1. this is somewhat misleading. the anglo-catholic ‘high church’ movement is a relatively late development of the 19th-century. the english had a long history of anti-catholicism and fear of popery, as evident in the gordon riots of the late 18th-century. despite henry viii’s ‘catholic’ leanings, the church had a strong calvinist streak by the 17th century (edward vi was a very radical protestant reign), with the arminians losing out.

      this more ‘puritan’ strain in the english church was much stronger in the americas, and that’s the implicit anti-catholicism i’m talking about. and it’s not even explicit. it’s just the idea that catholicism is backward, the past, and the protestant reformation was an advance, is pretty well telegraphed growing up even in the secular north (where i grew up). most of my classmates were actually irish catholic.

      the south’s evangelical anti-catholicism is somewhat a different think, and not tacit.

      1. Even American Catholics are quite “Protestant” in their thinking, aren’t they? With affiliation to the Pope and the Vatican being more totemic than an article of faith?

        1. Given that downstream markers for Z93 are starting to become better identified, do you think there’s any geographical correlation?

          there has to be at some level.

          Managed to isolate a better source of local tribes from whence it came? Using Dai or Naxi seems rather unsatisfying..

          it’s like burman. so dai are not as good as you’d think.

      2. the english had a long history of anti-catholicism and fear of popery,


        However, need to separate out antipathy between these sects due to
        a) Political Affiliation
        b) Differences in Doctrine

        In general Englands, anti-Catholicism is more political, as her enemies were France and Spain were Catholic. Of course Anglicans might try to justify based on doctrine.

        Protestants, started with the Martin Luthers Reformation in 1521. Basic points

        a) Belief in Christ was only way
        b) direct personal relationship with god. No intermediary priest needed.
        c) Belief in the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost
        d) Rejection of Mary, as Mother of God (Church of England accepts Mary, as Mother of God )
        e) Rejection of Saints (Church of England has saints)

        For Evangelicals pretty much all of the above, except they (most) believe a proper believer can receive the Holy Ghost into them. This would then enable to speak in Tongues, prophesize etc.

        the south’s evangelical anti-catholicism is somewhat a different think, and not tacit.

        The difference is explicit because of the points a) to d)
        To Evangelicals, Catholics are heretics because they have twisted the word of God. In some ways worse than Buddhists or Hindus, because Buddhists or Hindus dont know the truth.

        most of my classmates were actually irish catholic.
        My maternal side are third gen Evangelicals. My maternal grandparents were part of the initial lot that helped found Evangelical Churches , the Penetecost Mission and Assembly of God in particular. A cousin (very close) is a pastor who does outreach work in villages of the deep south. My sisters are religious nuts.

        My whole schooling (Grade 2-12) was at one of two premier Anglican schools. I had to attend Church thrice a week during school. The Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim boys had a different venue. I got caught attending the Buddhist thing (often no teacher/preacher and plenty of fun. Stated was no longer a believer in God. The Chaplain was cool, “Thats fine, just bring a letter from your parents”.

        The liturgical worship style of the Chapel is decidedly Anglo-Catholic and is supported by a world famous all boys choir that maintains a high standard of Anglican choral music and is affiliated to the Royal School of Church Music in the UK.


        1. In general Englands, anti-Catholicism is more political,

          this is more or less true. the main qualification is that your depiction seems to ignore that from edward vi reign there was a large faction of ideological calvinists (‘puritans’) who were still within the anglican fold for many generations.

          the ‘anglo-catholic’ tendency is something of an anachronism that emerged in the wake of methodism ‘low church’ revivalism.

          1. . the main qualification is that your depiction seems to ignore that from edward vi reign there was a large faction of ideological calvinists (‘puritans’) who were still within the anglican fold for many generations.

            Yes, there were attempts (eg Cromwell) to merge/accommodate Puritans within the Anglican fold. But the differences are too huge, not just on doctrine.

            Based on doctrine a Calvinist (‘Puritan’) cannot be an Anglican. To repeat Anglican believe in Mary as mother of God and in Saints, all anathema to Puritans.

            Anglican Bishops etc used to wield huge amounts of power, own vast tracts of land. Church services were elaborate, basically no different from the Catholic ceremonies and power hierarchy. Again a vast difference from Puritan austere version of worship.

            Ever been to an proper Anglican Church (not the watered down Episcopalian version in the US). Even the Catholic ceremony in the US (St. Sebastians, Queens, Irish Catholic) seem rather lite.

            Anglican and Catholic church services (specially old and large) in Sri Lanka (at least) are all impressive grandeur, incense, deep church organ music and fancy costumes by the clergy etc. Well worth a visit, specially weddings and festivals.

            In contrast Evangelical a just not all that much unless you are a believer. Maybe if many do talking in tongues, getting into trance may provide some entertainment.

          2. Vaguely recalled, the King/Queen of England was the Head of the Church of England.

            Not quite but close now.

            The Queen and the Church of England

            The Sovereign holds the title ‘Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England’. These titles date back to the reign of King Henry VIII, who was initially granted the title ‘Defender of the Faith’ in 1521 by Pope Leo X. When Henry VIII renounced the spiritual authority of the Papacy in 1534 he was proclaimed ‘supreme head on earth’ of the Church of England.

            The Queen’s relationship with the Church of England was symbolised at the Coronation in 1953 when Her Majesty was anointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and took an oath to “maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England”.

            On the advice of the Prime Minister The Queen appoints Archbishops, Bishops and Deans of the Church of England, who then swear an oath of allegiance and pay homage to HerMajesty. Church of England deacons and parish priests also swear an oath of allegiance to the Sovereign.

            Do you think any Puritan would agree to the above.


  5. Getting back to the subject of your post. I am increasingly convinced that the sintashta where indo-aryan rather indo-iranian. Indra was a Sintashta god and the Saraswati river was the Volga. The rigveda itself was written hundreds of years later in India. The Avestans (iranian) where offshoots of indo-aryans.

    Looking at the genetics Sintashta and indo-aryans and avestans are all R1a-Z93.

    And when you include the Mitanni and the timing it is clear that the sintashta religion (indo-aryan) spread from syria to south asia somewhere between 2000 to 1500 BC. Avestans broke off from indo aryans.

    Looks like the linguistic map of Indo-Iranians languages needs to turned upside down.

    1. AtheistMallu,

      Homo Sapien moderns have been around for about 400 K years. Are you sure that other great civilizations haven’t come and gone? Are you sure that no great civilizations were destroyed by the great global flood circa 12 K years ago?

      When do you think the narratively described “Yayati” lived?

      Do you see this as a possible source of the DNA connection between Tushara (I am guessing Xinjiang and Northern Turan . . . but maybe further east is possible), Yavana (I think Serbs . . . maybe Greeks too), Yadavas, Kurus and others?

      Why are you sure that the great ancient sages are not AASI or have other DNA haploid admixtures?

      When do you think was the time period of the Ramayana? Mahabharata?

    2. AtheistMallu wrote:

      “Looking at the genetics Sintashta and indo-aryans and avestans are all R1a-Z93.”

      This isn’t the Eurogenes blog (!) or Carlos Quiles’ blog which lately have fallen silent about South Asia. They are running out of steam and out of data.


      “Pamjav (2012) was able to find finer details about the branches of the R1a1 lineage. He noted that the M458, earlier identified by Underhill, and another branch Z280 were found in Europe, whereas the branch Z93 had split from the main trunk in India. Thus it became clear that the main trunk M198, gave birth to branch Z93 in India from where it spread to Uzbekistan and Mongolia, as well as to Southeast Asia (Pamjav 2012:2). Some members of this Indian branch Z93 also reached up to Hungary independently of any Roma migration (ibid: 3). This means Indians certainly migrated to Mongolia, Central Asia and Hungary after the birth of this branch. And of course they could have migrated before the birth of this lineage in the earlier eras.”

      “The European branches of R1a1 namely M458 and Z280 originated while the main trunk was passing through the Caucasus region and the steppe (Pamjav 2012:Abstract). Then the whole group of people moved forward into Europe through the North Black Sea region. Hence we get M458 and also Z280 in the steppe, East Europe and Central Europe but not in India or Iran. “Inner and Central Asia seem to be the overlap zones for the R1a1-Z280 and R1a1-Z93 chromosomes as both forms were observed at low frequencies.” (ibid:3).”

      “This is because the Indian branch Z93 also migrated into Central Asia along with its parent main trunk M198. But the European branches found in Central Asia and the steppe NEVER came to India. It is big evidence which clarifies the direction of human movement. Hence the Indian branch can be found today in Mongolia, Central Asia and even in Hungary today. But the European branches (M458 and Z280) cannot be found in India. This finding IRREFUTABLY fixes the direction of migration as to be from India to Europe, and leaves no room to any further argument in the matter (emphasis added).”

      1. watch the extensive attempt to bullshit-through-fillibuster. might just trash your comments.

        2012 papers are not too useful. ancient DNA has discovered z93 in sbruna in the volga 4,000 years ago. no south asian ancestry in these people that is distinctive (AASI).

  6. Razib,

    Given that downstream markers for Z93 are starting to become better identified, do you think there’s any geographical correlation? Anecdotally Y7 seems less frequent in the region compared to Y6. And certainly Z2124 compared to L657.

    Also, the extra dollop of East Asian you score in Comilla and generally Northern and SE regions of Bangladesh… Managed to isolate a better source of local tribes from whence it came? Using Dai or Naxi seems rather unsatisfying..

  7. Very quickly:

    Odin or Wodin is Mercury. In the current cycle Mercury is occupied by Budha–son of Tara. De facto father Chandra/Soma (son of Atri/Anasuya, brother of Durvasa/Dattatreya). De jure father brihaspati (Jupitor).

    My view is that Odin narratively refers to the occupier of Mercury from a previous cycle.

    A great all-father. The Norse remember him. But this all-father has been mostly forgotten by the rest.

    This is who Wednesday or Wodensday is named after in most of the world.

  8. Being totally ignorant of genetics, and pretty well-versed in the varieties of Christianity — my first mentor was eventually a “high Anglican” Archbishop, my BA/MA is in Theology with a brilliant Evangelical scholar as my tutor, and more recently I’ve been working with the now-defunct Center for Millennial Studies at Boston U — I’ve been fascinated by both the comments on religion and by your post, Razib.

    I could make a few detailed tweaks about the former, but my comments wouldn’t add or erase much, and the fact that my observations come from a slightly different vantage point wouldn’t grant me greater “rightness” than the individual commentators whose views I might mildly dispute or affirm.

    Your post, however, with its clear presentation of a detailed application of genetics to religious questions — quite aside from your view of Odin or Mercury / Hermes or their possible Vedic analogs — is fascinating and at first glance of immense importance. I wonder whether you know of anyone who has published a book or posted a thesis expanding on this intersection? — I see your review of David Sloan Wilson’s & EO Wilson’s books, but I’d be interested specifically in a cross-over between genetic and religion scholars.

    Or is that the book you’re writing?

    1. Charles Cameron, I would be curious to learn about your perspectives on the gnostic gospels, their connection with eastern philosophy and with the latest in scientific study on psychic phenomena and consciousness.

      What Christian denomination theologies are you most familiar with?

      1. AnAn —

        I was brought up Anglican (ie Episcopalian), my first mentor Fr Trevor Huddleston, was an Anglican monk (ie “high church”) while my tutor in theology at Christ Church, Oxford, was the Evangelical (“low church”) New Testament scholar AE Harvey. While at Oxford I converted toi Catholicism. I also met and befriended Trungpa Rinpoche. and became interested in Buddhism, starting from its Tibetan vajrayana variant. I was taught meditation by a devotee of Prem Rawat at a time when his organization had a thick Hindu overlay, and grew in my affection for Tulsidas, Kabir &c. I was also deeply moved by AJ Arberry’;s translations of Rumi, beginning my interest in Sufism. Later I met the Lakota (Sioux) shaman Wallace Black Elk, and studied with him off and on for a decade. Over the 1999/2000 changeover I was a Senior Researcher with the Center for Millennial Studies, researchuing all forms of eschatology, and spent fifteen or so years tracking extremists, with a particular focus on the theologies of Al Qaida (and the hadith of the black banners from Khorasan) and ISIS (with the obscure Dabiq hadith). I continued my interest in peaceable Islam, and have been a long-time member of Dr Alan Godlas’ Sufis Without Borders mailing list, as I have of the list for scholars of NRMs (new religious movements). Within American Christianity, I also researched and tracked Dominionist, Christian Identity, and other extremist tendencies. When Will McCants published his detailed account of ISIS’ apocalyptic teachings, I prepared to shift my focus again, this time back to poetry and to Hermann Hesse and his Glass Bead Game – drawing together my interests in cultural anthropology, comparative religion, and depth psychology, combined now with a wish to explore its potential application to intelligence analysis.. And here I am at Brown Pundits, at Omar Ali’s invitation, beginning from scratch all over again, hoping to learn about Pakistan, India, genetics, AI and whatever else you guys are up to.

  9. Unless one is a Brahmin or from the NW, most R1a in other groups come from Non Parental Event (NPEs).

    The R1a in Christian and Muslim population are almost wholly from these groups.

      1. You know I’m right. 😉

        That’s how European haplogroups got into US Blacks in large numbers, also why European haplogroups dominate Mestizos. NPEs man.

        1. They were raped or in polygamous concubinage (usually & respectively).
          This well attested. How fucking dumb are u that u don’t know this??? (Unfortunately I suspect that latter situation explains R1a dumbfuck; the past was brutal).

      2. Phylogeography

        I guess what JK is trying to imply is some (or non Brahmin) R1a is recent from Western Europe, brought in by mainly the Brits and Portuguese (in Western India).

        Razib, says Phylogeography shows (implies?) that R1a is ancient (2K+ year old) intrusion from the steppes or where ever.

        Isnt Phylogeography an indirect method, i.e implying.

        Is there a way of directly finding if an individuals R1a is from Western Europe.

        Also how can one say the Muslim Invasions (and armies) did not make fresh infusions of R1a into the NW. Can old R1a and recent Muslim invasion R1a be separated.

        1. I guess what JK is trying to imply is some (or non Brahmin) R1a is recent from Western Europe, brought in by mainly the Brits and Portuguese (in Western India).

          no. i wish he was that stupid. it would be a different lineage. z93 very rare in europe.

          Razib, says Phylogeography shows (implies?) that R1a is ancient (2K+ year old) intrusion from the steppes or where ever.

          NPE occurs through introgression of 1-10% per generation. it has a distinctive pattern in lineage groups. the pattern of r1a in north india is not like that. it’s star-shaped, which means it happened rapidly and all at once.

          unfortunately the most likely model is that of latin america, where local males were killed or enslaved, and indigenous women entered into relationships of concubinage with spanish males (the historical record is clear that common-law polygyny seems to have been very normative in the first century or so in much of latin american).

          JK, being a dumbfuck, does not understand that this is not a ‘non-paternity event.’ the women who were bearing children by spanish or protuguese males were not married to indigenous males. those males were dead or enslaved.

          perhaps JK should change their handle to “DK” for dunning-krueger?

          1. “the pattern of r1a in north india is not like that. it’s star-shaped, which means it happened rapidly and all at once.”

            Yes but that was only for a short while after R1a entrance to India.

            The products of this star-shaped expansion were tribes that later morphed into upper caste groups like Brahmins and Kshatriyas.

            It’s only much later that these R1a seeped into other high AASI, tribal and lower caste groups (incl. Christians/Muslims) with NPEs, whatever the rate of introgression. It didn’t all happen in a single day.

  10. Coincidentaly saw this topic. West Eurasians, Eastern Europeans are euphesims for – ancient Serbs. It includes some Serbian tribes which moved from Vincha in all directions including Iberria and British Isles. The above map presents teritories where ancient Serbs lived (now Slavic people, mostly Russians, who were Serbs until 8th c.AC). R1a in today’s Serbia is 12000 years old, in Russia about 4500 years old. One estimate is that about 16% of India’s population have R1a which is 3850 years old. It means, about 150 – 200 millions of people. Aryans were ancient Serbs. It took them sometimes several hundred of years to come to SA. Those who object this should clearly state who Aryans were, which genes they had and which language they spoke. Today’s Western Europeans are mostly R1b, they were not Aryans. Razib is right, that guy has some hidden agenda and is trying to fulfil it by bullshiting.

      1. Did you say something? Obviously not! You would be happy to have one half of my education. Come forward, don’t hide behind your initials. Say, who brought R1a to SA, spoke a Sanskrit like language and had mythology similar to Hindu? Interested to study couple thousands of Serbian toponyms in SA? Have a look photos of Serbian national teams (or Polish or Russian or Czech or Croatian or Prussian ) in basketball, voleyball, waterpolo, handball, athletics, NBA basketball players…and you will see how much Razib was gentle in qualifying you.

  11. Kind of borderline off topic, but speaking of Indra, I wonder, why he replace Prajanya? Could this be indication of a hypothetical BMAC cultural influence on the Andronovo/Aryan religion?

  12. It’s only much later that these R1a seeped into other high AASI, tribal and lower caste groups (incl. Christians/Muslims) with NPEs, whatever the rate of introgression. It didn’t all happen in a single day.

    no, it doesn’t look like ‘seepage.’ indian caste groups have really high endogamy rates. this is genetically validated. this is confirmed by high btwn group stratification of haplogroups too.

    if you have a model where NPE occurs from a “donor” group in a random manner to non-donor groups (e.g., high caste tam brahms => all-brahmin groups in TN) you’ll see a certain base rate of donor haplogroups. but what you see is high btwn group variance indicative of founder effects very strong endogamy.

    also, constant NPE to result in this sort of gene flow would break up the high btwn pop Fst we see in south asia.

    a simpler model than totally fantasized high NPE rates (which are uncommon in eurasia) is that indo-aryan males were integrated into non-indo-european groups btwn 2000 and 500 BCE, analogous to what happened in europe (e.g., basque, sardinia) to in eastern eurasia (iranic groups were integrated into various altaic groups early one).

    stop making shit up.

    1. If I may ask you this rather personal question Mr. Razib Khan, do you come up with the correct alternatives to the erroneous models for things presented by some of us on this website on the spur of the moment or is it the case that you have already reached all these conclusions and considered thoroughly and refuted for yourself the alternative erroneous models long ago?

      1. both.

        sometimes ppl have novel bullshit ideas which i engage (e.g., NPE Y introgression).

        but probably more often it’s the same bullshit over and over (out-of-india).

    2. Sri Lankan dynamics I guess are different. NPE in Kandyan upper classes post 1815 Brit conquest of the Kandyan Kingdom

      Old as in mid-late 1800, photos of upper class, Kandy chiefs (radala) show extremely dark people.

      Present day descendants of the Kandy chiefs (eg First woman PM, Srimavo Bandaranaike nee Ratwatte) are light skinned to extremely light skinned for Sri Lanka.

      upper class, Kandy chiefs (radala)

      The Ratwatte’s now

  13. There is this somewhat weird theory about the ethnogenesis of Chenchus – that they were an upper-caste group sort of demoted to tribal status for some reason. I don’t know if this is academic – the most important person whom I saw arguing this is the author of the Manasataramgini blog (who seems to me to have a kind of significantly racial-apartheid-leaning and generally Indo-European-supremacist understanding of the interactions between even Early Indo-Aryan speakers and contemporary non-Indo-Europeans). One of the reasons cited is that apparently Chenchus have a high cultural and ritual importance for (sufficiently Brahminical?) Hindu Telugus in the part of the Nallamala area in which they inhabit – in the Shrishailam temple for example – and the argument seems to be that they would not have been able to manage this if they had not had earlier connections with the broader Hindu society in some manner.

    From the linguistics side, they are not at all interesting unlike say Gonds or Kui speakers in that they speak a dialect of Telugu as their mother tongue and not any divergent South-Dravidian-II language (which Gondi, Kui, etc. are). I don’t know if there are any substratum studies on their dialect that would possibly point to language shift from some type of archaic South-Dravidian-II (or even South-Dravidian-I) to the later Telugu branch-off of South-Dravidian-II.

    1. Regarding the language aspect though, I don’t know what the MRCA of Standard+Regional+other Telugu dialects and the Chenchu language dates to – it could be quite old and it is certainly possible that the Pre-Chenchu language branched off from Proto-Telugu-Chenchu just a short while after Pre-Telugu-Chenchu branched off from Proto-South-Dravidian-II.

    2. “There is this somewhat weird theory about the ethnogenesis of Chenchus – that they were an upper-caste group sort of demoted to tribal status for some reason. ”

      It’s funny though that demotion also changes their autosomal makeup.

      The Chenchus are seen as “clean Shudra” by upper caste. They were allowed to be in close proximity to the upper castes they served, unlike other groups who were considered unclean and impure and not allowed to come into contact with Brahmins.

      The above also explains the high incidence of R1a in Chenchus, despite low Steppe. NPEs man!

      1. Well I am probably less knowledgeable (and also with less general intelligence) than both you and Mr. Razib Khan so please don’t cringe at my stupidity lol! But my major doubt is the following: how would NPEs (am going by my folk understanding and did not look it up in a detailed manner) involving some type of upper caste males bring closer those upper caste groups and an outcaste/tribal population socially? I think I can visualise the dynamics (would they be similar to the Nair-Brahmin interactions of medieval Kerala and the close social connections between the two groups speaking with respect to the Sambandham phenomenon (where all non-eldest-child Brahmin males of a family married Nair women and the resulting progeny belonged to Nair families)? But kinda most importantly, as I realised after an afterthought after writing the whole comment, notice here that NPEs were not at all involved in this example and this actually makes me think if it is really possible that NPEs would lead to close social connections between groups like that; but it is also possible here that the definitions we both are using maybe slightly different and I am lazily using my folk-understanding-based definition for the term NPE which is like a progeny-yielding event arisen by rape/adultery involving a married woman and a male who is not her husband?) but want to know how likely this type of a situation would be for other places in India especially with very strict caste endogamy and as strict of a prohibition of upper caste males marrying or raping or mating out of marriage with lower caste women as of lower caste males marrying or raping or mating out of marriage with upper caste women to beget children.

        (I think what Mr. Razib Khan may be saying is that R1a was involved in the ethnogenesis of Chenchus itself and may have been carried by them to south India after they began migrating from the northwest (oh the implications for the ancestral homeland of the South Dravidian subfamily lol!) and later founder effects or something (I don’t know what I’m talking about when I say “founder effects” lol) may be showing higher than expected R1a in them. Could you let me know if possible why you don’t find this explanation attractive (if you do not)? But I may be wrong of course in understanding what Mr. Razib Khan wrote and I hope everyone reading this get relatively less amount of angry with my stupidity and lack of even simple comprehension skills lol.)

  14. I don’t know much about the Nair-Brahmin historical interaction but based on what I know about Nair genetics — they seem to be rich in R1a and Steppe autosomal component compared to neighboring population which could mean either one of two things: 1) Nairs are post-Iron age migrants from the North, or 2) the Nair-Brahmin interaction could be responsible for the elevated R1a and Steppe component.

    “but want to know how likely this type of a situation would be for other places in India especially with very strict caste endogamy and as strict of a prohibition of upper caste males marrying or raping or mating out of marriage with lower caste women as of lower caste males marrying or raping or mating out of marriage with upper caste women to beget children.”

    NPEs can be very ubiquitous without disrupting the traditional social fabric. Males of a higher status social groups with easy access to lower caste females — in whatever capacity (priest? landlord? tax collector?) could (unintentionally) impregnate the women and get away with it. No one would know.

    1. I don’t know much about the Nair-Brahmin historical interaction but based on what I know about Nair genetics — they seem to be rich in R1a and Steppe autosomal component compared to neighboring population which could mean either one of two things: 1) Nairs are post-Iron age migrants from the North, or 2) the Nair-Brahmin interaction could be responsible for the elevated R1a and Steppe component.

      there is autosomal structure WITHIN nair. i have seen it in my analyses of ppl who submitted. so it’s definitely #2.

    2. This sounds rather reasonable to me but my question is majorly about the linkage between the phenomenon of formation of more amicable and friendly relationships between two different groups and the phenomenon of males from high-status groups mating with females from another, lower-status group and the resulting progeny forming part of the lower-status mother’s group. May make sense in a feudalistic class-based society but does not in a strict-endogamy-favouring caste-based society. If anything, the relevant upper caste to which the males involved belonged would have been more likely to condemn and disown the males who associated themselves with lower caste women and the relationship between the two caste groups would have become more strained and unfriendly later on.

      I’m not contesting what you say about the broad possibility of occurrence of NPEs involving high-status males and low-status females (though it seems this thing would also have been attenuated to some extent in a rigidly caste-based endogamous society like India; though India was also feudal in the medieval period); I have my questions only about the nature of the relationships (whether overly amicable or unfriendly) that would develop between the two groups involved in scenarios such as these.

  15. @JK

    Going by your hypothesis, is the presence of Y haplogroup H in Brahmins indicative of NPE too?

    Not a trick question or something. I am novice to genetics and genuinely trying to understand the complete picture.

    1. Possible, but not probable.

      Traditional upper caste social norms would not allow their women to be left alone with males of other groups (servants or in w/e other role).

      Neither Brahmin women would carry out any priestly duties and so there is little scope for prolonged contact with non-Brahmin men.

      The distribution of H in Brahmin is interesting.

      H in Brahmins is highest (11 – 15%) close to their western Gangetic homeland. The groups further away have less H (founder effects).

      Most of these H were probably there at the time of their ethnogenesis in the western Gangetic plains. (which in most likelihood was long after initial Indo-Aryan expansion).

      1. So if H was present in ethnogenesis of Brahmins, why cant R1a be present in the ethnogenesis of non-Brahmin castes?

        My understanding is that endogamy set in much later than the spread of steppe population throughout India. So R1a would have reached in all proto-caste groups before the castes crystallized.

        1. I have a hard time understanding this. If R1a mixed with everyone, what was the catalyst for endogamous castes?

          If AASI or IVC already had caste, they wouldn’t have integrated R1a into their castes but made them into a special R1a caste. Why would the strongly patriarchal steppes take up their mother’s caste instead of their father’s?

          If it is steppes who brought in caste, how can they have undifferentiated mix with everyone? And let their sons belong to their mother’s caste? For herders, aren’t sons who can ride horses important to keep?

          If neither group had caste and everyone (strong) can have anyone, then what was the basis for castes? Then, castes have no relationship with whether or not steppes invaded and Brahmins having higher steppe could just be an artefact and accident of history.

          I don’t know what I am missing to sort this out.

  16. To finish my commenting here (appology for its length) with a reference on ‘All-father’. If you follow the link in wiki you can see references on much younger and instant replicas (Zeus, Jupiter) but the thousands of years older original is missing. If you follow further some links, you can see that some gods from Odin’s pantheon are known as former Geatish kings. It means that Geats (better known as Goths or later – Celts) were older than Odin. There are pretty extensive writings about them (I also wrote in the past). There is a historic falsification that they are Germanic people. It would be an absurd that Germanic people went to Iberia (where built kingdoms) and British Isles where later were subjected to the genocide by Germanic Angles.

    What WIKI says:

    “ Today, the merger of the two nations (‘MT: Swedes and Gaets’) is complete, as there is no longer any tangible identification in Götaland with a Geatish identity, apart from the common tendency of people living in those areas to refer to themselves as västgötar (West Geats) and östgötar (East Geats). The city Göteborg, known in English as Gothenburg, was named after the Geats (Geatsburg or fortress of the Geats), when it was founded in 1621….

    … Until 1973 the official title of the Swedish king was King of Sweden (earlier: of the Swedes), the Geats/Goths and the Wends (with the formula “Sveriges, Götes och Vendes konung”). The title “King of the Wends” was copied from the Danish title, while the Danish kings called themselves “King of the Gotlanders” (which, like “Geats”, was translated into “Goths” in Latin) were also used by Danish royalty. The WENDS is a term normally used to describe the Slavic peoples who inhabited large areas of modern east Germany and Pomerania.

    The titles, however, changed when the new king Carl XVI Gustaf in 1973 decided that his royal title should simply be King of Sweden. The disappearance of the old title was a decision made entirely by the king. The old title in Latin was “N.N. Dei Gratia, Suecorum, Gothorum et VANDALORUM Rex. ”

    Well, Slavic people did not exist before the 7th c.AC, there were only Serbs, i.e. Wends (remember: Wends-Veneti-Venezia-vendare-vending machines!). I also wrote about culturally advanced Serbian tribe Vandals (remember Djerba i.e. Serba island in Tunisia) who practiced Aryanism.

    And, finally, as I wrote before, some of these Gaets i.e. (Massa-Geats) i.e. Hets i.e. Goths came to SA and some of their descendants are Jats. Some Hets previously fought Egyptian pharos (Ramses, Sestrosis) what was written on their tombstones. Small world, isn’t it? In spite of falsifications, if you go step by step you may get things right.

    If you see the above distribution map, the violet color in Scandinavia, Gotland and Pomerania (all Serbian names) are the above mentioned Serbian R1a tribes.

  17. I replied above to a part of @AnAn’s question for me, describing the areas my theological investigations have taken me to. Here I’d like to say something in response to his question about my opinion of the Gnostic gospels.

    I think of the Gnostics as the visionaries and poets devoted to Christ who were a bit too individualistic for the emerging orthodoxy, and therefore rigorously suppressed, Their writings are fascinating, and IMO the Nag Hammadi trove of Gnostic and related writings is at least as significant as that of Qumran with its possibly Essene-influenced library.

    Okay, I’m going to be long-winded, and get into some wonderful stuff — so skip this unless gnosis / ‘irfan / the poetry of the divine / the music of the spheres interests you..


    One Gnostic text is of particular interest to me — the so called Round Dance and Hymn of Jesus. For one thing, there’s some sublime poetry in this text, and I prefer my religion at the level of poetry — Rumi, John of the Cross, Kabir…

    The canonical gospels state that after the Last Supper, a hymn was sung [Matthew 26.30; Mark 14.26] — and the very idea of Jesus singing is a bit of a stunner for many Christians. . Orthodox scholarship would suggest the hymn in question would be the second section of the Hallel Psalms, ie Ps 115-118, which would have been sung after the fourth cup of wine in the Passover supper.

    The approximately 180 CE gnostic Acts of John differs vividly from the canonical gospels, though it shows some affinity with John’s gospel and particularly the Prologue. In its account of the Last Supper, it describes the disciples joining hands in a circle with Jesus in the center, and gives the text of a responsorial hymn which is then sung by them while dancing around him. The poetry of the hymn is astonishing – as is its setting to music during World War I by the composer Gustav Holst.

    After the disciples have danced and sung the hymn, the Acts of John continues:

    “Thus, my beloved, having danced with us the Lord went forth. And we as men gone astray or dazed with sleep fled this way and that. I, then, when I saw him suffer, did not even abide by his suffering, but fled unto the Mount of Olives, weeping at that which had befallen. And when he was crucified on the Friday, at the sixth hour of the day, darkness came upon all the earth. And my Lord standing in the midst of the cave and enlightening it, said: John, unto the multitude below in Jerusalem I am being crucified and pierced with lances and reeds, and gall and vinegar is given me to drink. But unto thee I speak, and what I speak hear thou. I put it into thy mind to come up into this mountain, that thou mightest hear those things which it behoveth a disciple to learn from his teacher and a man from his God.”

    In my reading of this text, Christ is both below the cave on the Mount, suffering crucifixion in his bodily form, and above, in the cave, in an etherial and thus imperishable, immortal form.

    The text continues to describe a cross of light, and says:

    “And the Lord himself I beheld above the cross, not having any shape, but only a voice: and a voice not such as was familiar to us, but one sweet and kind and truly of God, saying unto me: John, it is needful that one should hear these things from me, for I have need of one that will hear.

    This formless but voiced form of Christ then speaks of the “cross of light” with which he is clearly identified:

    “This cross of light is sometimes called the (or a) word by me for your sakes, sometimes mind, sometimes Jesus, sometimes Christ, sometimes door, sometimes a way, sometimes bread, sometimes seed, sometimes resurrection, sometimes Son, sometimes Father, sometimes Spirit, sometimes life, sometimes truth, sometimes faith, sometimes grace. ”

    This dual nature of Christ – as both the physical body crucified, and an etherial presence known by many names, corresponds with the author’s comments on walking with Jesus during his earthly life:

    “Sometimes when I meant to touch him [Jesus], I met with a material and solid body; but at other times when I felt him, his substance was immaterial and incorporeal, as if it did not exist at all .. ”

    To my reading, this is not a docetic understanding of Christ but a christology in which the divine and human elements can be separately perceived, at times by the senses (as when Thomas touches Christ’s resurrected body to verify its physicality) and at times by the revelatory eye of faith (as at the Transfiguration). Christ, in this doctrine, is both material and immaterial, both mortal and immortal, both Son and Father, a way, bread, and grace.

    That’s all context — but the poetry, the poetry. You have to read the poetry..

    For the text, see Philip Jenkin’s brief commentary in “Alternative Scriptures: Gustav Holst’s Hymn of Jesus”:


    And I invite you to listen to Holst’s setting of those remarkable, poetic, koan-like words in his Hymn of Jesus, at:


    1. Charles Cameron,

      Would love to touch base offline.

      I have not asked Omar Ali. But I am sure he (and certainly I) would love to have you as a regular content contributor at Brown Pundits, posting your own articles.

      I might also like to collaborate with you on some things.

      I read Christian theology (and excerpts from the Gnostic gospels) long ago and do not clearly remember them. I interpreted them as extensions of eastern art, poetry, song and music. (I consider all spiritual and religious literature to be art, poetry, song and music.) And I had similar responses to yours. Although some of your comments were about things I have not read or do not remember.

      Would it be correct to assume you have visited SAARC many times?

    2. Charles Cameron,

      I think all of us can experience Christ (or deep meditation or Samadhi or Satori or heaven or whatever someone wishes to call it)

      Jesus feels . . . awe words cannot describe. Soft sweetness. Strong and steady. Unchanging and flowing. Sthira (stillness.) Poetics only. Poetics only. Love 🙂

      Perhaps art might partially actualize a hazy distant memory in the living present. But the experience is no memory. The experience is no poetry.

      Krishna, Rama, Buddha, Gareeb Nawaz, Shirdi Sai, Fatimah/Ali/Hassan/Hussein, Kabir, Nund Rishi. How to describe?

      “not a docetic understanding of Christ but a christology in which the divine and human elements can be separately perceived, at times by the senses (as when Thomas touches Christ’s resurrected body to verify its physicality) and at times by the revelatory eye of faith (as at the Transfiguration). Christ, in this doctrine, is both material and immaterial, both mortal and immortal, both Son and Father, a way, bread, and grace.”

      Is eye of faith = eye of wisdom = brow point = forehead = third eye = Yintang = Ajna Chakra = bhrumadhya = Tapa Loka = eye of shiva?

      Many recent neuroscience papers hypothesize that we have either 33 or 22 sensory inputs instead of 5 sensory inputs. Many of which are involuntary in most humans. Through the conscious observation and awareness of our many sensory inputs, the autonomous nervous system, its subset the parasympathetic nervous system, its subset the Vagus nerve), and other parts of the normally unconscious parts of the brain and nervous system, can we watch both the divine and human elements?

      When we do this many neuroscientists believe we slow our heart rate, slow our breath, lower the Oxygen level in the blood. Our bodies start to manufacture psychodelic chemicals, causing a psychedelic high.

      Swami Vivekananda use to say that religion begins with “Samadhi.”

  18. @AnAn —

    Your question about the forehead / ajna chakra reminded me of Robert Graves’ fury — he’d written The White Goddess to declare Goddess devotion the true religion of all poets — when he heard that Totapuri had “converted” (initiated) Ramakrishna from Kali samadhi to samadhi without form.

    Here’s my poem today, sparked by your question:

    That day

    Totapuri drove a shard of glass
    into, what? Between, at least, the eyebrows
    of Ramakrishna, Concentrate here!
    All manner of the goddess form
    and forms, beloved, dissipated, forms
    turning to light, pure light.
    A shard of glass? That’s
    an invasive proselytization indeed!

    The physician’s oath, which we all
    might recite says, Do no harm,
    not Do no hurt. Hurt
    may be a necessity, surgeons cut.
    So – was Totapuri a surgeon
    that day, or an invading bloody army?


    Yes, Omar has given me the keys to the kingdom, and I can post here — have you seen my posts about my games?


    No, I’d never visited SAARC until you mentioned it.

    Every grain of knowledge I gain on the edge of my knowing shows me a further expanse of the ocean of my ignorance.

  19. The nurses at my facility don’t like it when I say I prefer to get my heart rate below 60 at the very least, and can bring my breathing to two breaths a minute with care and attention, and wish I could slow it a little further.

    Meditation’s a strange business. I used to do it very willfully, for an hour twice a day, but eventually it wore my will down and now I — but do you know Chuang-tzu’s story of Cook Ding? I’ll give it in the Burton Watson translation:

    “When I first began cutting up oxen, all I could see was the ox itself. After three years I no longer saw the whole ox. And now – now I meet it with my spirit and don’t look with my eyes. Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants. I go along with the natural makeup, strike in the big hollows, guide the knife through the big openings, and follow things as they are. So I never touch the smallest ligament or tendon, much less a main joint.

    “A good cook changes his knife once a year – because he cuts. A mediocre cook changes his knife once a month – because he hacks. I’ve had this knife of mine for nineteen years and I’ve cut up thousands of oxen with it, and yet the blade is as good as though it had just come from the grindstone. There are spaces between the joints, and the blade of the knife has really no thickness. If you insert what has no thickness into such spaces, then there’s plenty of room – more than enough leeway for the blade to play about. That’s why after nineteen years the blade of my knife is still as good as when it first came from the grindstone.”

    Tese days I don’t practive meditation deliberately — but when I reach a tricky passage, troubled waters, white water rapids, I happily turn to my breath, which eases my way through..

    Chuang Tzu gives me quiet satisfaction these days — he used to make me laugh out loud.

    The full story is here:


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