Why focus on Consciousness to understand the concepts of Devas and Devatas ?
The word "Vedas" is translated in English to mean "Knowledge." The verb "Vid" to know or comprehend is the root in the "noun," when transformed to "Vedas," meaning that which is known
or comprehended (or realized).
Vedas are thus the expressions of "what is known" in poetic form. What is known and expressed is the
content of consciousness. The cognition in Vedas is not anything different than the representation
of internal and external reality. The knowledge in Vedas may be viewed as representation of inner
reality, or outer reality, and of course, we cannot dismiss the subject expressing it (Rishi) who will necessarily reveal his/her "relationship or reaction" (subjectivity) to the perception and comprehension as well as his own emotional experience of the inner or outer reality as realized. So if the Rishi is describing in a poetic format any revelation which he may call Sookta he may appropriately name it as a revelation of his experience which may be narrowed down to a devata, and it would be proper to name the Rishi as its composer, and the Chhanda in which the Sookta is composed (the meter, and the inflections, etc.).
All of the Vedas are to be viewed as the content of consciousness and the task is to understand which inner or outer reality they represent or describe.
These realities may assume the status of devas or devatas, and if addressed in any Sookta, the sookta
may be assigned or dedicated to that devata.
Some of these devatas may have correspondence with outer objective phenomena, forces of nature, that have deep impact on the lives of humans then or then and now. They have to be graphically described for generational transmission of cultural memories. These cultural memories cannot be transmitted from one generation to the next unless the compositions are elevated to "sacred" and the duty to transmit them in the authentic format is also recognized as a sacred duty. That is the wisdom behind the oral transmission of Vedas in their purity for many millennia un-adulterated and non-distorted forms from one generation to the other. More on the inherent sacredness and assigned sacredness later.
The people of the 'religions of the book' projected that "The Vedas," so very revered by Hindus, must be similar to the Bible or Koran for the Hindus and some Hindus went along to humor them in this perception. Vedas themselves have to my best knowledge never claimed to have founded a religion or are described as the authoritative book of any "religion." The fact that they reveal their deeper understanding of nature and deeper spiritual knowledge does not it in itself make them the "Dharma shaastra". That does not mean that a dharma shastra may never be evolving or may not have evolved from the wisdom revealed in Vedas in some measure or in some parts. The practical utility of the knowledge revealed if known to the composer will be be described as "Viniyoga."
Since the concepts of devas and devatas are older than the concept of GOD and GODDESSES
it would be imperative that these newer concepts be not projected on the devas and devatas but
examine them with a mind that is not tainted with the concepts of God or Goddesses.
If a mind of a rishi comprehended these phenomena of consciousness or knowledge as worth
preserving for perpetual cultural memory it would be included in the Vedas. It must be presumed
that there was a consensus for including that insightful knowledge in the form of Sookta or other
forms in the Vedas for oral transmission.
Phenomena of consciousness or knowledge must be recognized as representation of inner
and/or outer realities. So these important realities that will affect the human race were to
be given the status of devatas. Not all of them may be worshiped by everyone and may not be worshipped by anyone at all.
However, if they attained the super-odinate value in human consciousness they were to be recognized
as "Devas". That special place in human consciousness leads to their sacredness, and elevation in positive transference to images to be loved and worshipped.
To understand Devas and Devatas one must focus on human consciousness and its contents. One must abandon the concept of God and Goddesses to understand and interpret the images representing these concepts, devas and devatas, even though they may be worshiped by their Bhaktas or worshippers. Such worship is what makes them look like the Gods and Goddesses of some other cultures or the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God or Allah.
In simplistic terms what looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck is a duck.
One could use such simplistic argument to dismiss this assertion as meaningless and still maintain
that the devas and devatas are indeed nothing but Gods and Goddesses. The latter are presumed to be
outside the realm of consciousness in the West, and until the West came into contact with East
in the last couple or three centuries the Western theology had no mention of "Consciousness" but now it is not uncommon to hear the words like "Christ Consciousness." The west needs these borrowed concepts to sell their Gods. In contrast the word chit or chid to denote the sentient nature of Brahman is indigenous to Hindu philosophy in describing the nature of Brahman.
Viewing Devas and Devatas as phenomena of consciousness do not devalue them but in fact
raises questions about any spiritual science that bypasses consciousness.
While God is an elaborated projection of infantile memories of a child of his/her father, devas and devatas are real phenomena and exist in the outer or inner world.
(Please see the soon to be published and released book, "Introduction to Vedas" by Dr. Pramod Pathak.)