From August Wilhelm Schlegel, Über die Sprache und Weisheit der Indier, Heidelberg, 1808. [Click on 'continue reading' below to read the original German. Expanded translation and explanatory notes to follow]
Pantheism is the system of pure reason, and to this extent it already brings about the transition from Oriental to European philosophy. It flatters the self-obscurity of man, as well as his indolence. As soon as this great discovery is made --this all-encompassing, all-denying, and yet so simple system of knowledge and rational wisdom--, that all is one, then no more seeking and inquiring is needed; everything that others know or believe by other paths is simply error, fallacy, and weakness of the understanding, just as all change and all life is empty appearance.
Of course, if power and depth of feeling are still present, and the doctrine is truly put forth in full seriousness, then it takes on another, wholly different and fruitful character: there then appear those men, not uncommon in India, and so hard to comprehend by cold observers, the martyrs of the yogis and the sannyāsis, who destroy their own spirits of their own free will, setting up the goal of self-annihilation as their highest good. For colder or more weakened natures, however, this leads on the contrary to the conviction that all evil is only fallacy, and that everything, to the extent that it is One, is also entirely equal, a conviction that brings with it a false appearance of exhiliration and contentment.
Perhaps however it was only in China, where pantheism arose long before the religion of the Buddha was introduced, that something of the sort was adopted. In other lands we find much in the generally very mixed doctrine that comes from the worship of Śiva; hitherto the more horribly distorted image of a terrible and destructive divinity has been noticed among the Buddhist Tatars. In Tibet, Turner found celebrations of Kali, the adoration of Kārthikeya and Gaṇeśa: the entire entourage of Śiva...
If pantheism is not merely thought and disposition, as with many yogis and sannyāsis, but rather comes forth as a more or less scientific system, then it is never anything more than... a game of combination, which advances according to a mere mechanism of reason, from a positive and a negative [principle], which is fundamentally better represented by a number symbolism such as [Chinese numerology] than words are able to do. Now since this is found in this most ancient form of pantheism [i.e., that of China], it is very possible that this itself arose out of dualism, through later reinterpretation and elaboration. As soon as the doctrine of the two principles was no longer religion, but rather system, the thought of the two basic powers could be united in something higher...
That the spirit of the Sāṃkhya teachings is thoroughly pantheistic can at least not be doubted from the Bhagavad Gītā... In the Bhagavad Gītā, as presumably in all of the works attributed to Vyāsa, it is the doctrine of Vedānta, of which he was the founder, that prevails. Thus it is this that we know best of all Indian philosophies.
That it is nothing other than a pure, perfect pantheism can easily
be seen by anyone from the translation [contained in this volume]. In the philosophical
determinateness of the original text many passages are even stronger. Yet it was, as the name 'Vedānta' [i.e., 'appendix to the Vedas'] shows, simply a
reinterpretation of the old Indian system that had been worshipped in
The old text will thus leave the old conception standing, yet with the new sense inserted, to the extent possible, and everything referring back to that great One --the highest, Brahmā, or the object of knowledge-- which here is defined as indifference between being and non-being, between sat and asat. Yet there are also many passages that go fairly clearly against the Vedas. From the immoderate praise that the author everywhere gives to the Sāṃkhya philosophy, there seems to emerge a true agreement in the manners of thinking [between the Vedas and the Bhagavad Gītā].
Some authors, meanwhile, maintain that Sāṃkhya is the physics, as Mīmāṃsā is the moral teaching, and Nyāya the dialectics, while others in contrast describe them each as different philosophies and systems, in which connection Nyāya deserves particular attention, which along with Mīmāṃsā is alone mentioned in Manu's Book of Laws,and along with it is classified among the Upangas. The moral spirit of Mīmāṃsā, and the speculative consistency of Sāṃkhya, agree with the place that we have ascribed to them in the ordering of the systems. Soon a more certain determination will be able to be made, as we come to learn of more original Indian texts. For now it is already a great deal that we know the oldest Indian beliefs, which underlie the entire corpus, fairly comprehensively from Manu's Book of Laws, and we know sufficiently the doctrine of Vedānta, which finishes off the entire system as the most recent branch of Indian literature, and determines the fundamental character of the Bhagavad Gītā.
In general we can divide the entirety of Indian literature, for the sake of easy overview, preliminarily into four epochs: the oldest epoch includes the Vedas and what follows immediately after these, such as Manu's Book of Laws. That the Veda's were here and there falsified through particular additions is strongly confirmed by the fact that so long ago there were already dictionaries to aid in the comprehension of the Vedas. To the Rig Veda and the Yajurveda, which are written in prose, is ascribed variously a cosmogonical, a magical, and a liturgical content; to that of the Sāmaveda, which is written is verse, is ascribed a moral content, though presumably with many mythical and historical admixtures...
Another great epoch is constituted from all of those works that are attributed to Vyāsa: the eighteen Purāṇas, the Mahābhārata, and the Vedānta philosophy. Although there are more works here than a single person could ever possibly touch, all of themare characterized by the same doctrines and beliefs, and give no sign of differences of style, though theirs is already so different from that of Manu's Book of Laws.