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The Five Mah¡bh£tas

A Semantic Analysis

A. M. Ghatage

By the word mah¡bh£ta we usually understand  the elements out of which all the material things in the world are formed or to which all the material things can be reduced. In this sense, these can be considered as the basic physical elements, the building blocks of the material world. The history of Indian Philosophy has given rise to two distinct trends of thought : One of them, which can be described as materialistic, in which the existence of these elements, is admitted as real, is the view of C¡rv¡ka School (also called Lok¡yata). The other, which is traditionally traced to B¤haspati whose postulates are often quoted for corraboration, admits the existence of mental or psychological entities as being equally real, and can be described as idealistic philosophy. These non-material entities may be either considered as having a fleeting existence, as is done by the Buddhist philosophers or they may be considered as permanent, as is done by the majority of Indian philosophical schools. A further trend of thought was developed later in which the mental or spiritual entity alone was regarded as really existing, thereby implying the non-existence of the material things, giving rise to a kind of monism. But the majority of the philosophical schools in India admitted the existence of both the mental and material elements and drew a sharp distinction between the two, and hence may be designated as realistic in nature. Among them a further distinction can be made between those who regarded the psychic element as being inactive, the activity being confined to the material elements as is done by the S¡Ækhyas, and those who assigned all the activity to the psychic element only, thinking the material elements as being inactive because of being insentient. The concept of the mah¡bh£tas and their proto-types called the tanm¡tras play a  vital role in all philosophical systems of India.

Though these are generally admitted as real elements, the systems differ among themselves as regards their exact number and nature. Five of these are most frequently named, probably under the influence of the analysis to which the microcosm is subjected and wherein the number five plays an important part. Sometimes only four of them are given on the basis of everyday experience and insistence on their concrete form as is done by the C¡rv¡ka, Jain and Buddhist Schools. There are however some indications of an earlier list of only three elements as can be seen from the Ved¡nta doctrine of triv¤tkara¸a as against the later paµc¢kara¸a.

Both these views are based upon the supposition that each element has something of the others in its composition. The Ionian Greek philosophers also refer to only three such elements, water, air and fire as the source of all things (Gr. arkh®), unless we choose to interpret ®peiron of Anaximandros as standing for space which is endless. We may choose to consider only two - earth and waters - if we interpret the passage from B¤had¡ra¸yaka UpaniÀad, V. 5.1 ¡paevedamagra ¡suÅ A it¡ ¡paÅ satyamasrjanta satyaÆ brahma brahma praj¡patim praj¡patirdev¡n as giving the whole list in this concept of cosmogony.

This paper attempts to concentrate on the words mah¡bh£ta and bh£ta and assess their nature from three different points of view, which are generally used in the study of ancient literature. As Bruno Snell points out, the study of early Greek philosophy, usually called pre-Socratic, is to be based on the interpretation of the Greek texts with a view to understand them from a mythological point of view, both as literary works and as showing aesthetic values. Another is a semantic analysis, by looking at the development of the meanings of the important words, leading to the history of ideas or concepts; or from a philosophical viewpoint by fixing the context of the complex system of thought which they reveal. Here we can attempt only one of these approaches, viz., the historical development of the concepts associated with words bh£ta or mah¡bh£ta with the hope that we would be able to clarify them a little better. Here the key-words are studied not in the way in which a linguist  or a lexicographer studies them, an approach in which emphasis is laid on the form of the words and their usage, but to concentrate on the idea itself, trace its origin and follow its development and ramifications.

The method which can be effectively used for this purpose would be to try to ascertain as accurately as possible the etymology of the words pertaining to the ideas in general, then to fix the scope by considering the contexts in which these words are used. Their places in the context of similar words in the same language or a group of closely related languages are also ascertained, so as to build a broad semantic field, and assign a function to the given word. Thus taking up the basic concept one tries to classify it along different scales, which are known as the semantic co-ordinates like concrete or abstract, an individual or a generic type, etc., and build up the history of the meaning of that word.  Each of these steps has its own limitations and hence for arriving at a reasonably acceptable conclusion, it is necessary to supplement it with material obtained from what can be tentatively called a comparative study of word-meanings, which attempts to build up a prototype for its use as does the historical linguistics for the form of the word. Our attempt will be confined to the semantics of the given word. For the present, only one aspect or two of mah¡bh£ta, namely, its predominant use in the field of cosmogony and cosmology and its numerical scope are taken up.

Let us translate the word mah¡bh£ta as 'basic element'. Its use is most conspicuous in speculations on the early cosmogonies and cosmologies in the Indian and Greek traditions. These material elements seem to have grown in number from three to four and then to five and their primitive meanings are preserved in the two well-developed systems of Buddhism and Jainism, the two so-called heterodox systems. In other words, they mark an earlier stage of the concept of the mah¡bh£tas as compared to the other systems of Indian thought, and their primary meaning is better revealed in the growth of these concepts in the early Greek Philosophy.

The traditional list enumerates them as p¤thiv¢ (earth); ¡paÅ (waters); agni (fire); v¡yu (air); and ¡k¡¿a (sky). In its reverse order we find them at Taittir¢ya (2.1): "tasm¡d v¡ etasm¡d ¡tmana ¡k¡¿as sambh£taÅ A ¡k¡¿¡t v¡yuÅ A v¡yoragniÅ A agner¡paÅ A adbhyaÅ p¤thiv¢". Originally they were called merely as bh£tas. The earliest occurrence of the word mah¡bh£ta is found in the Aitareya Ëra¸yaka (3.4): im¡ni ca paµca mah¡bh£t¡ni p¤thiv¢, v¡yuÅ ¡k¡¿aÅ ¡po jyot¢ÆÀi. It is again found in the apocryphal 14th chapter of Nirukta the meaning of which is not at all clear. Another relatively early use is found in Charaka's áar¢rasth¡na (1.27.28): mah¡bh£t¡ni khaÆ v¡yuragnir¡paÅ kÀitistath¡A In the P¡li literature it is found in the S¡maµµaphalasuttaÆ of the D¢ghanik¡ya% ayaÆ kho me k¡yo r£p¢ c¡tumah¡bh£tiko m¡tt¡pettikasambhavo odanakumm¡s£pacayo . . . idaÆ ca pan me viµµ¡¸aÆ ettha sitaÆ ettha pa·ibaddhaÆ; in the SaÆyuttanik¡ya, 22.82 : catt¡ro kho bhikkh£ mah¡bh£t¡ hetu catt¡ro mah¡bh£t¡ paµcayo r£pakkhandhassa paµc¡pan¡ya; in the Paµcaskandha Prakara¸a of Vasubandhu  (as rendered in Sanskrit) yat kincit r£paÆ sarvaÆ tat catv¡ri mah¡bh£t¡ni catv¡ri ca mah¡bh£t¡ni up¡d¡ya. Most of the earlier UpaniÀads and Jain and Buddhist works use the simpler word bh£t¡ni as in Taittir¢ya 3.1: yato v¡ im¡ni bh£t¡ni j¡yante yena j"¡t¡ni j¢vanti yat prayanti; Chandogya, 1.9.1: sarv¡¸i ha v¡ im¡ni bh£t¡ny¡k¡¿¡deva samutpadyante ¡k¡¿aÆ pratyastaÆ y¡nti. (We should note particularly the words sarv¡¸i ¡ll" and ¡k¡¿a as the source); B¤had¡ra¸yaka, 2.4.2 : etebhyo bh£tebhyaÅ samutth¡ya t¡nyeva amvina¿yati (referring to idaÆ mahadbh£tam~), 4.5.13, ávet¡¿vatara, 1.2 : k¡laÅ svabh¡vo niyatiryad¤cch¡ bh£t¡ni yoniÅ puruÀa iti cintyam A

In all other cases where the word bh£ta is used in the eighteen UpaniÀads it means a creature or a being and not the material element. In the P¡li works,       the word, usually used for the material element is not bh£ta but dh¡tu. It is      highly instructive to read BuddhaghoÀa's commentary Papaµcas£dan¢ on Majjhimanik¡ya  which says : tatth¡yaÆ bh£tasaddo paµcakkhaÆdha-amanussa-dh¡tu-vijjam¡na-kh¢¸¡sava-satta-rukkh¡disu dissati. These seven meanings are explained by him with passages from the P¡li canon as (1)(paµcasu kha]mdhesu); (2) 'goblin' (y¡n¢dha bh£t¡ni sam¡gat¡ni); (3) the four material elements (catusu dh¡tusu); (4) any inanimate object (bh£tasmi]m p¡cittiyaÆ); (5) as the predicative use of the verb (bh£ k¡ladhaso bh£to); (6) all beings (sabbe va nikkhipi]msaÆti bh£t¡loke samussaya]m); and (7) the vegetable kingdom, particularly the trees or plants (bh£tag¡map¡tavyat¡y¡).

The conclusion from this evidence can be easily drawn. Mah¡bh£ta is the latest term to be used for the physical elements, which are taken collectively and hence mostly used in plural. This should be distinguished from its other use, where it is  found without forming a sam¡sa and means  the 'great being'evaÆ v¡ ar«e idaÆ mahad bh£tam anantam ap¡raÆ vijµ¡naghana eva - B¤had¡ra¸yaka, 2.4.12, immediately followed by the other use of bh£ta  in Aitareya: bh£tebhyaÅ samutth¡ya. It thus replaces the earlier word bh£ta in the same sense. The Buddhists found the word bh£ta in the sense of the material element confusing, because the primary and usual sense of the word was 'living being'. Hence they replaced it with the word dh¡tu which has the required meaning of a material substance. In its turn the word bh£ta had the meaning of an embodied being, a living creature and incidentally Ë tree' when it is thought to possess life. It may be noted that the use of the word bh£ta in this sense does not make a distinction between the material body and the animating soul, and thus represents a stage where both were inextricably mixed up, a stage in which these two aspects were not separated.

In the Jain philosophical writings both in Sanskrit and Pr¡k¤t, the word mah¡bh£ta is used while referring to the non-Jain systems of philosophy. Thus in the S£yagada, 1.1.1 called the samayajjhaya¸a a reference to the Lok¡yata system is found in the following two verses: santi paµca mahabbh£y¡ ihamegesim¡hiy¡A ete paµca mahabbh£y¡. . . ¡yachadd¡ pujeg¡tu A all of which refer to the C¡rv¡ka system and again at 2.1.654 : iha khalu paµca mahabbh£y¡ jehi]m no kijja¢ kiriy¡ A It also uses the word paµchamahabbh£iye to refer to an adherent of this system. In all other cases the word bh£y¡ or bh£y¡¢Æ is used to refer to all kinds of living beings, metti]m bh£«esu kappa«e bh£«ehi]m na virujjhejjh¡ and to groups of various grades of living beings ¶h¡¸a]mga 3.359: dev¡¸¡g¡ jakkh¡ bh£y¡ and the word  bh£yag¡ma is used as a collective term. In fact, the phrase sabbb«e p¡¸¡, sabb«e bh£y¡ sabbe j¢v¡ sabbe satt¡ occurs hundreds of times in the Ardham¡gadh¢ canon. In the later philosophical writings exemplified by the Ga¸adharav¡da of the Vi¿eÀ¡va¿yakabh¡Àya of Jinabhadra the words paµcabh£ya or bh£ya are used to remove the doubts of the fourth, Ga¸adharaÆ Viyatta: kim ma¸¸e paµcabh£y¡ atthi va nathitti sansao tujjha (1649); paµcakkhesu ¸a jutte tuha bh£mijal¡¸alesu sa´deho A a¸il¡g¡sesu bhave so vi¸a kajjo¸um¡¸¡o (1748). We may note in passing that Jinabhadra appears to believe that while the earth, water and fire are directly observable, wind and sky are only to be inferred being not perceptible. What he means can only be clarified in the context of the atomic theory of the Jain philosophers.

The usually accepted five material elements are rubricated in the classical philosophy of the Jains and are elaborated in the famous authoritative work, the Tattv¡rthas£tra of Um¡sw¡ti in a peculiar way thus differing from all other philosophical systems. Four of them are included in the concept of pudgala which stands for matter in general and the last one called ¡k¡¿a gets its place along with two other elements called dharma and adharma as non-sentient entities and coupled with the sentient living beings, j¢vas, they form the group of five astik¡yas. This group is then opposed to k¡la (time) which is regarded as an immaterial non-living thing. Altogether they make up the six dravyas and constitute the whole universe called loka tattv¡rtha, tatra lokaÅ kaÅ katividho v¡ ki]m sa]mstho v¡ A atrocyate paµc¡stik¡yasamudayo lokaÅ (3-6). The space beyond the loka is called alok¡k¡¿a which is said to be completely void, which makes the place of ¡k¡¿a incompatible with the other four material elements. The latter forms a group by themselves to be contrasted with the living elements on the basis of their atomic structure. The current word used for them is astik¡ya 'having body'. Kundakunda, in his Paµc¡stik¡ya points out that the a¸u or param¡¸u is the cause of the four dh¡tus (another term for the four material elements) and explains that they are constituted by the molecular units formed of the atoms. Each atom is supposed to possess one of the tastes tikta, ka¶uka, kaÀ¡ya, ¡mla and madhura, one of the five colours ¿veta, p¢ta, harita, aru¸a and k¤À¸a, one of the two smells sugandha and durgandha and at least two pairs of touch, karka¿a, m¤du, guru, laghu, ¿¢toÀ¸a, snigdhar£kÀa  the last two pairs being compatible with each other, which means that a param¡¸u can be either cold or hot, wet or dry. It is also credited with various shapes like parima¸·ala, triko¸a, caturasra, ¡yata etc. This description of the atom appears to have a close resemblance with the description given by Leukippos and elaborated by Demokritos. In their view an atom is round and warm, white and rough, black and smooth, sour and angular, and sweet and large, round.  This can hardly be an accident. This stage of thought is nearer the concept of animatism than animism, the first and second stages of the semantic development.

This complex theory of the atoms was not known to the earlier Jain writings, and they used the material elements as a part of their doctrine  of Chajj¢vani-k¡ya the standard description of which is found in the 4th chapter of Dasavey¡liya, a m£las£tra. The text says these six are pu·havik¡iy¡, ¡·ak¡iy¡, te·ak¡iy¡, va¸assaik¡iy¡ and tasak¡iy¡. This view is completely animistic in nature. The elements are conceived as animated beings and only as an afterthought the body is thought to be made of the various elements. The Vai¿eÀika theory that all the elements have a threefold form viz. ¿ar¢ra-indriya-viÀaya-bhed¡t and the view that the earth-body is what we find here, while the bodies of other elements are located in the Varu¸aloka, the Ëdityaloka and the V¡yuloka is a result  of this secondary interpretation. Ëk¡¿a being incorporeal is excluded from this scheme. The interrelation between the views of the C¡rv¡kas, Buddhists, the Jains and the Vai¿eÀikas is not yet fully worked out in detail.

Before we are able to decide the exact stage of semantic development of these elements called bh£tas it is necessary to fix the earliest meaning of this word. It occurs in all Indian philosophical systems and in the so-called scientific cosmogonies of the pre-Socratic philosophers in Greece. It may be pointed out that there is no common word found in Greek to cover all the elements together and they are considered as having their own ph«usis. The surest example of the reconstruction of a root in IE period is supplied by the equation Gr. ph«usis and Skt. bh£ta and a number  of verbal and adjectival forms derived from this root. These can be listed as follows:


Skt. abh£ta, Gr. «eph£ aorist 3rd sg., Skt. Bh£y¡t, Gr. phui"e benedictive, Skt. babh£v¡n, Gr. pephu"os perfect  part., and its fem. Skt. babh£v«uÀ¢, Gr. pephun"ea. From these forms it is easy to set up the equation IE bhe ¶ - Skt bh£, Gr. ph«u"o. There is a minor point of sound change in this, because the vowel is long in Sanskrit but short in Greek. The most likely explanation for it is to consider the root as having a dissyllabic structure. The root vowel was originally short, which has been set up as a long £ in Skt., for purely technical reasons that the root is to be given in the form in which it occurs in the past passive participle. That the vowel was originally short is reflected in the s£tra of P¡¸ini bh£v¡dayo dh¡tavaÅ, 1.3.1. where, in spite of Pataµjali, the V-sound was a mere glide between bh£ and ¡di.

The main purpose of this comparison is to find out the original meaning of this root. Without going into details I am inclined to think that the suppletion between the two Indo-European roots bhe ¶ and es tell us their semantic relationship. While as - has the meaning of a verb of existence, the root bhe ¶ - expresses the idea of growth, development, change. This is reflected in the P¡¸ini's S£tra 2.4.52 asterbh£Å by which the root bh£ replaces the root as in all non-conjugational tenses, which can be explained only on the assumption that as has a stative aspect, confirming the fact as it is, while bhe ¶ has a progressive aspect, stating what the thing is growing or developing into. The first is static while the second is dynamic. This is quite clear in Sanskrit where bhavati means 'it grows', while asti means 'it exists'. Prof. Burnel appears to think that the corresponding root in Greek and its noun form ph«usis means 'the stuff out of which a thing is made', thus having nearly the same meaning which arkh"e has. Most linguists however believe that the root means 'to grow', and the noun means 'growth'. The meaning of ph«usis as 'nature of a thing' is a later development due to its contrast with the other word th«esis which means what is attributed or assigned to a thing, in fact, the association of a word with its meaning which corresponds to the Sanskrit concept of v¤tti or saÆketa. Its exact Skt. correspondence is bh£ti which never has the meaning of existence but that of growth and hence prosperity. On the other hand, the passive participle of the root bhe ¶ gives us in Sanskrit bh£ta which has been all along used to refer to living beings. Only on this suffixation can we explain the meaning 'a tree' of this word as attested by BuddhaghoÀa in P¡li and the meaning of the Greek word ph«uton to mean a plant or tree as can be seen from its use in words like zoophyte - 'a plant resembling an animal' and phyto-graphy which means descriptive botany. This original meaning plays an important role in the context of cosmogony both in India and Greece where we are told that one thing gives birth to another or one thing merges into another, which are the basic concepts of the cosmogony of the elements.

The speculations of a cosmological nature which are found scattered in the major UpaniÀads have been clearly summarised by Prof. R.D. Ranade in his well-known work, A Constructive Survey of Upanisadic Philosophy, in which he has also drawn attention to similar ideas found in early Ionian philosophers from the seventh century onwards. Thales the earliest among them considered that all things came out of water. Anaximenes thought that air is the primary substance out of which arose all others by the process of man«osis 'thinning' and p«ullnosis 'the process of thickening'. Anaximander considered the primary substance to be infinite or indeterminate, calling it a-peiron 'endless', which was intermediate between earth and water on the one side and air and fire on the other, from which developed all these four elements.

Heracleitos of Ephesos championed the claim of fire as the source of the other elements by saying that fire first transformed itself into sea and this changed partly into earth and partly into air (pr"est"«er) as can be seen from his fragments 20 to 26. With these can be compared B¤had¡ra¸yaka, V.5.1: ¡pevedamagre ¡suÅ A t¡ ¡paÅ satyamas¤janta. Ch¡ndogya, IV.3.1: v¡yurv¡va saÆvargo A yad¡ v¡ agnirudv¡yati v¡yumeva apyeti A yad¡ ¡paÅ ucchuÀyanti v¡yumeva apiyanti. We find in Ch¡ndogya, VI. 8.4 the suggestion that the first evolute was fire from which came water and food (which stands for the earth) on the analogy of the root and the shoot of a tree: evameva khalu somya annena ¿u´gena ¡pom£lamanviccha, adbhiÅ somya ¿u´gena tejom£lamanviccha tejas¡ somya ¿u´gena sanm£lamanviccha. There are a couple of passages where ¡k¡¿a (is it sky? heaven, or space?) is considered as the source of all the other elements. Ch¡ndogya 1.9.1: sarv¡¸i ha v¡ im¡ni bh£t¡ni ¡k¡¿¡deva samutpadyante ¡k¡¿aÆ pratyastaÆ yanti. As thought progressed, the UpaniÀads suggested some abstract or psychological objects as the real source of all these elements. Like Anaximander's «a-peiron ¡k¡¿a is taken as the source of all. Similarly asat (Gr. m"e «on), sat (Gr. «on), pr¡¸a, ¡tman and still later a creator was taken as the original point of departure. All these speculations suggest some further progress of thought, but do not explain or clarify the older ideas of taking the elements as basic, which certainly was the earlier stage.

To understand the conceptual background of these earlier cosmogonies, we have to look at the history of the meanings of the words used for the elements. In other words, we have to fix the original meanings of the names of these elements. A few facts about them may be stated without much discussion. The words p¤thiv¢, ap, tejas, v¡yu and ¡k¡¿a appear to be their original designations. Only at a later stage, when these words lost their cosmological affiliations are they replaced by other words having the same meaning. From being of specific connotations, they acquired more generalised meaning and then it became unimportant which word could be used for them. One can compare the original words with the words used in a text like Caraka SaÆhit¡ : kha, ap, v¡yu, agni, kÀiti, mah¢ and bh£mi are used only  in the Jaimin¢yopaniÀad, 1.10.10, while kÀiti is found in the older UpaniÀads. Maitr¡ya¸¢ has the list in the form ¡k¡¿av¡yvagnyudaka bh£my¡dayaÅ 6.4; v¡ta is not used in this context, as also udaka. In Mu¸·aka, 2.1.3 we read: etasm¡t (puruÀ¡t) j¡yate pr¡¸o manaÅ sarvendriy¡¸i ca A khaÆ v¡yurjyotir¡paÅ p¤thiv¢ vi¿vasya dh¡ri¸¢ A which is a very late form of cosmogony and these things never play the role of a source. Long ago Meillet showed that while udaka means water in a secular sense, ¡paÅ has religious and cosmological associations. Of the two IE words for fire, agni (IE ognis) and p«ur, the first is the older being found in the marginal areas while pur (e.g. fire) is an innovation.

The situation is very similar to this in  Greek as well. For earth both and khth°n are used but the first gets a place in the cosmology as one member of the primeval pair, and is used as an element. khth°n cognate with Skt. kÀm¡ mostly refers to the surface of the earth, as a place of habitation. In the Iliad, XIX-259 it is associated with the seen and the Erinys and occurs in the utterance of an imprecation (g® te K¡i  h®lios K¡i Evineies). For wind «aveimos (root - ave- to blow) is used which suggests its origin in breathing, while Sanskrit v¡yu corresponds to a"er and originally meant mist, or lower atmosphere, as against the upper vault or firmament, which corresponds to Sanskrit "¡k¡¿a 'the shining one'. The word used in the building up of the Greek mythology is however Ouranos 'heaven'. Aith«er is used as a feminine noun to refer to the upper air or heaven. Thus air and sky did not occur as different elements in Greek cosmogony. Here either one or other element is taken as the original substance which in the Greek mythology is concerned as a living thing, and in no way different from the anthropomorphic gods.

The situation is slightly different in the UpaniÀadic cosmogonies. While commenting upon Ch¡ndogya, III.14.1: tajjal¡niti ¿¡nta up¡s¢ta the cryptic word tajjal¡n is explained by áa´kara with the words, kathaÆ sarvasya brahmatvam-ityata ¡ha tajjal""¡niti A tasm¡d brahma¸o j¡taÆ tejo'bann¡dikrame¸a sarvam A atastajjam A tath¡ tenaiva jananakrame¸a pratilomatay¡ tasminneva brahma¸i l¢yate tad¡tmatay¡ ¿liÀyate iti tallam A tath¡ tasminneva sthitik¡le'niti pr¡¸iti ceÀ¶ate iti A

Whatever the value of such an explanation, taking the word-element ja from   j¡ta, la from l¢yate and an from aniti, it is obvious that the cosmogonies use two methods of evolution and involution to describe the  process of creation or dissolution, which is only partly true of the Greek cosmogonies. Obviously the process is built on the model of the birth, existence, and death of a man or a living being. A close scrutiny of the wording of the cosmogonies reveals the fact that in all of them, the process of birth and also that of absorption or end on the part of these basic elements is used in the active sense, as something which they do. This means they are animate things acting on their own. In this context we should consider expressions like: t¡ ¡paÅ satyamas¤janta tadaikÀata bahu sy¡Æ praj¡yeyeti, tattejo's¤jata while creating and apyeti, prayanti, abhisaÆvi¿anti while merging, which attribute to them conscious acts of origination and dissolution.

Let us summarise the semantic development discussed so far. The four elements or mah¡bh£tas were originally considered as living objects like men and animals, and hence could do all the activities which were expected of them as living beings. This stage of thought is given the name of animatism by the anthropologists while dealing with the origins  of religion.  At this stage no distinction was drawn between the living and lifeless. This was the stage at which these four or five mah¡bh£tas were conceived.

In the next stage occurred a differentiation between those who were endowed with the power of conscious activity which gave rise to anthropomorphism and there emerged mythological stories when these elements, particularly the earth, water, air and  sky were personified to produce the stories of creation. This marked the second stage of thought where a distinction was drawn between the sentient element and the non-sentient part which was conceived as the bodies of these elements. This gave rise to what are known as the scientific cosmogonies of the early Greek thinkers, and also some of the early cosmogonies found in the UpaniÀads.

The third stage of development further emphasized the part played by the psychic element in creation and the cosmologies were so adjusted as to give to these elements the real activity of production, while their bodies were regarded as inanimate by nature. This completed the distinction between living and lifeless things. Further growth of thought centred round the ephemeral or permanent nature of the psychic element called the soul. The semantic history of the Greek word ps£khe epitomises this development in  its three successive meanings breath, life and soul, while others like g®, herd«or, p«ur, «anemos, aith"er or ouran«os became fixed in their meanings at the end of the second stage of development.

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