Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

George Pullman

Second Advisor

Keith Lloyd

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Burmester


Our “terministic screens,” learned attitudes and assumptions that screen what we see, render much data invisible and thus hinder the study of South Asian rhetorics. I hypothesized that by using two terms central to the Vedic worldview—Ṛta and levels of speech theory—as a terministic key, a touchstone, I could better identify and study Vedic rhetoric on its own terms and understand its modes and methods. This study finds that together these terms give insight into the Vedic paradigm as a whole. Chapter two explores these terms, noting that beyond audible speech and silent speech-in-thought theorized in Western rhetoric, Vedic empirical study finds two deeper levels: Paṣyantī, sensing an idea as a gestalt, and Parā, the transcendental source of speech, and includes methods for using the full range and power of speech, an embodied literacy. String theory of quantum physics echoes the Vedic cosmology of speech and its power, and illustrates the principle that drives the Vedic rhetorical modes and methods, which the next chapters explore: chapter three, the nondiscursive rhetorics of mantra, chapter four, the didactic rhetorics of dance and of the guru-disciple dynamic, and chapter five, collaborative debate toward truth, and cosmic citizenship in the governing assembly. All are driven not by persuasion but attunement with Ṛta—Truth/all the laws of nature/Brahman—an eloquence that embodies cosmic harmony. Being vs. seeming, truth vs. truthiness: Could an alternate approach to current practice advance our understanding and teaching of rhetoric and raise the level of our civic discourse?


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