Le Premier, le Second, le Troisième … le Quatre… et l’ ℵ∞


— Georg Cantor —

Parmi les quelques principes logiques qui trouvent parfois une application fondamentale en philosophie ou en métaphysique, il y en a un qui me semble particulièrement puissant, et d’une portée extraordinaire.

Il se décrit avec une grande simplicité apparente, paraissant presque naïve, et peut se formuler sèchement, et logiquement, ainsi: « le Premier, le Second, le Troisième ».

On pourrait certes user d’une formule plus jargonnante, verbeuse, mais techniquement équivalente, comme: « Primauté, Secondarité, Tertiarité ».

Ou encore, pour user d’une métaphore agricole: « Prémisses, Moisson, Croissance », ou botanique: « Germination, Fruition, Efflorescence », — dans cet ordre même, au fondement logique, et non temporel.

Rien de plus général, de plus abstrait, de plus fondamental, que cette trinité « logique », ce triple empilement, cette successive augmentation de niveaux conceptuels, se nouant les uns aux autres en un nœud serré, systémique et évolutif.

Le « Premier » se conçoit comme tout ce qui est ou tout ce qui existe indépendamment de quoi que ce soit d’autre.

Le « Second » se conçoit comme tout ce qui est relatif à, ou dépend de quelque chose d’autre.

Le « Troisième » se conçoit comme tout ce par quoi une entité « première » et une entité « seconde » entrent en relation, c’est-à-dire tout ce qui remplit un rôle d’intermédiaire, tout ce qui agit en médiateur.

Illustrons notre dire par quelques exemples choisis, dans les champs de la cosmogonie, de la philosophie, de la psychologie, de la biologie, de l’anthropologie…

L’origine du monde, considérée en elle-même, contient évidemment l’idée « Première ».

La fin du monde, conjecturée dans sa probabilité inévitable, quoique lointaine, se dénote, en conséquence logique, comme étant une idée « Seconde ».

L’ensemble des processus intermédiaires qui se déroulent entre l’origine du monde et la fin de celui-ci se conçoivent (là aussi logiquement) comme des entités « Troisièmes ».

Une philosophie (ou une religion) qui met a priori l’accent sur l’idée de l’Un, est généralement (sans en être toujours consciente) d’essence dualiste.

L’idée de l’Un comme « unique » porte en effet en elle, bien malgré elle, mais inévitablement, une attention exagérée, une fixation obsessionnelle, à l’idée « Seconde », qu’elle s’efforce de nier et de refouler.

Car « l’Un », qui contient l’idée « Première », est nécessairement aussi déjà un « Autre », — l’Autre de la multiplicité qui, quant à elle, n’est certes pas « une ».

L’idée du « Multiple » est donc essentiellement et indirectement liée à l’idée « Première », parce que le divers, le multiple, le varié, sont en soi arbitraires, et que cet arbitraire est la négation même, l’antagoniste logique de l’idée « Seconde ».

Le Multiple fait son alliance avec l’Un, et donc avec l’idée « Première », tout en refoulant en quelque sorte l’idée « Seconde ». C’est-à-dire que le Multiple, en tant qu’il se rapporte à l’Un, renonce à son propre statut, essentiel, ontologique, qui est d’être une entité véritablement « relative », et ontologiquement « Seconde », entrant en relation « conséquente », logiquement et formellement, avec l’idée « Première ».

En psychologie, la Sensation est « Première ». Le Sentiment (le Sens ou la Conscience) est provoqué par la réaction à cette Sensation, et il est donc qualifié de « Second ». La Conception (ou l’Intellection) qui s’en dégage après coup est, quant à elle, « Troisième », en tant qu’elle représente la médiation ou le lien conçu a posteriori entre la Sensation et le Sentiment.

En biologie, l’idée de rencontres ou de copulations arbitraires et hasardeuses en vue de la reproduction est « Première ». L’hérédité qui en découle est « Seconde », et le processus par lequel des caractères accidentellement hérités finissent par se fixer génétiquement et durablement est « Troisième ».

On peut aussi reformuler le principe « le Premier, le Second, le Troisième » en termes plus anthropologiques:

Le Hasard est « Premier », la Loi est « Seconde », la Coutume (ou l’Habitus) est « Troisième ».

L’Esprit est « Premier », la Matière est « Seconde », l’Évolution est « Troisième ».

Ces diverses illustrations sont empruntées à Charles S. Peirce , qui a fait du principe « First, Second, Third » la base de sa propre représentation de l’état général de la connaissance au 19ème sièclei.

Il estimait que de cette conception pouvait émerger une nouvelle métaphysique, qu’il qualifiait de « Philosophie Cosmogonique » (Cosmogonic Philosophy).

Il fit l’hypothèse cosmogonique suivante: au Commencement, — un commencement se situant dans un temps infiniment éloigné de nous –, régnait un « chaos de sensation impersonnelle » (a chaos of unpersonalized feeling), qui « était », sans liens, sans interconnections, sans règles ni régularités, et donc qui n’ « existait » pas en tant qu’ensemble, en tant que « monde ».

Dans ce chaos de sensations, s’entrechoquant en tout arbitraire, est sans doute apparu le germe initial d’une tendance générale, d’une propension à s’orienter dans un certain sens. La multiple fugacité des chocs, des rencontres et des interactions a alors laissé progressivement la place à des formes d’agrégation, d’accrétion, d’habitudes, puis à des régularités et des croissances, d’où ont émergé enfin ce qu’on pourrait appeler des principes généraux d’évolution de l’univers tout entier.

Charles Peirce affirma que ce schéma, dans sa grande généralité, et dans son abstraction, peut rendre compte des principales caractéristiques de l’univers, comme le temps, l’espace, la matière, la gravitation, les forces électromagnétiques, etc. Il invita en conclusion les « étudiants » du futur à reprendre ce schéma interprétatif pour aller plus loin.

Répondant à cette généreuse invite, je soumets à l’attention du lecteur intéressé par ces spéculations à la fois gratuites et fondamentales, le prolongement possible que voici.

Après « le Premier, le Second, le Troisième », pourquoi ne pas considérer le « Quatre » ou le « Quaternion »?

Le Quaternion est d’ailleurs un terme employé par C.G. Jung dans son analyse des rapports entre les archétypes que les nombres naturels représentent et l’inconscient collectif.

Jung avait vu que les nombres naturels avaient une capacité immanente à ordonner le domaine de la psyché et à le relier à celui de la matière. Il avait décrit comment les nombres peuvent servir d’instrument à notre conscience pour rendre conscients de tels ordonnancements et de tels arrangements. Ces idées furent reprises et développées à sa demande par sa disciple, Marie-Louise von Franz. En ce qui concerne le Quatre, ou Quaternion, il fut particulièrement l’objet d’un chapitre de son livre Nombre et Temps, intitulé: « Le Quatre, modèle de totalité du continuum unitaire dans les structures relativement closes de la conscience humaine et du monde corporel. »ii

Dans son étude sur le symbole de la Trinitéiii, Jung avait donné une description des trois premiers degrés de la conscience (humaine):

« Au stade du un, l’être humain vit encore d’une façon inconsciente et dépourvue de critique au sein de son entourage, subissant les choses comme elles sont. Au stade du deux, on voit apparaître une image dualiste du monde et de Dieu, de la vie, de la nature et de soi-même. La condition du trois correspond à l’intelligence intérieure, la réalisation de la conscience, l’unité retrouvée à un niveau supérieur, bref, à la gnose, la connaissance. Toutefois le stade final n’est pas atteint pour autant: une dimension manque à la pensée trinitaire; celle-ci est plate, intellectuelle, et favorise par conséquent un penchant aux affirmations absolues et intolérantes. »iv

Mais pourquoi s’arrêter au trois, si l’on considère que l’aventure de la conscience (dans l’univers) est loin d’être terminée, et ne fait même que commencer?

Il faut envisager sérieusement le passage à une nouvelle étape de la conscience universelle, telle qu’incarnée en l’homme, et même à une nouvelle métaphysique, qui ne serait plus moniste, dualiste ou trinitaire, mais qui s’inscrirait sous les auspices du Quatre.

« L’attitude psychologique et spirituelle correspondant à ce problème du trois et du quatre est décrite par Jung comme le progrès de la conscience passant d’une image du monde seulement pensée à une autre image où l’observateur se sent impliqué en tant que pensant et vivant l’expérience. La pensée franchit ainsi le pas allant de la construction intellectuelle de théories à la ‘réalisation’ spirituelle. »v

Allons plus loin ! Projetons-nous vers le lointain futur de la pensée!

Comment ne pas imaginer qu’ultérieurement, dans un avenir plus apte à un déploiement d’abstractions plus formidables encore, l’on en viendra à étudier le rôle archétypique, mystérieux et insondable de l’infinie suite des autres nombres naturels, dans la constitution progressive, infiniment évolutive de la Conscience cosmique?

On le pressent aussi, il faudrait méditer sur le rôle cosmogonique et métaphysique de nombres irrationnels, tels que π, ou de nombres transcendants comme e, dans la constitution de l’essence même de la conscience, et de son évolution.

On a pu théoriser pendant des millénaires que la Divinité était essentiellement « une », ou encore « trinitaire ».

Pourquoi ne serait-elle pas également, et sans contradiction, π-tique, e-esque, ou mieux encore, ∞-taire?

Ne faudrait-il pas oser même la symboliser par un aleph à l’indice infini, ℵ, pour reprendre la notation de Georg Cantor en matière de nombres transfinis, tout en l’amplifiant jusqu’à un nombre ‘infiniment transfini’, laissant loin derrière lui, on le conçoit, les premiers niveaux d’abstraction (comme le 1, le 2 ou le 3) conquis par l’Humanité dans ses premiers âges ?

____________

iCharles S. Peirce. Chance, Love and Logic; Philosophical Essays. Harcourt, Brace and Co. New York 1923.

iiMarie-Louise von Franz, Nombre et Temps. Psychologie des profondeurs et physique moderne. Editions La Fontaine de Pierre, 2012. Chapitre VII, pp. 124-143

iiiC.G. Jung. Essais sur la symbolique de l’esprit, pp. 220-221

ivMarie-Louise von Franz, Nombre et Temps. Psychologie des profondeurs et physique moderne. Editions La Fontaine de Pierre, 2012. Chapitre VII, pp. 134-135

vMarie-Louise von Franz, Nombre et Temps. Psychologie des profondeurs et physique moderne. Editions La Fontaine de Pierre, 2012. Chapitre VII, pp. 137

A Voice Cries Out in the Desert


— Henri Meschonnic–

Henri Meschonnici was a formidable polemicist, and even, in this respect, a « serial killer », according to Michel Deguy. Meschonnic proposed « that we leave the word ‘Shoah’ in the dustbin of history. »ii This word was, according to him, « intolerable », it would represent « a pollution of the mind » and would aggravate a « generalized misunderstanding ». For this Hebrew word, which appears thirteen times in the Bible, refers only to thunderstorm, « a natural phenomenon, simply ». « The scandal is first of all to use a word that designates a natural phenomenon to refer to a barbarity that is all human. » Another scandal would be that Claude Lanzmann appropriated the highly publicized use of the word ‘shoah’, while diverting its meaningiii: « The author of the Shoah is Hitler, Lanzmann is the author of Shoah. » iv

Henri Meschonnic also attacked the « idolatry » of the Kabbalah: « Language is no longer anywhere in the Kabbalah. It is only an illusion, a utopia. It is replaced by the letters of the script taken for hieroglyphics of the world. A cosmism. And a theism. Then, paradoxically, one must recognize the sacred, more than the divine. A form of idolatry. »v

In a similar way, he attacked Leon Askenazi (the famous Rabbi ‘Manitou’), for his word games in the Torah, – this « idolatry that passes for thought »vi.

Idolatry. Idolettrism. Quite a sharp point. But, on the other hand, he tempers a little, hinting that this « idolatry » is also a « utopia »: « Kabbalah is a utopia of language. A utopia of the Jew. Since its indefinite and self-referential allegorisation is supposed to have the following effect: ‘A particular link is thus established between the letter yod, the 10th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which represents the ten Sefirot, and the Jewish people, the Yehudimviiviii

What is this « utopia of the Jew »? A fuse formula summarizes it: Hebrew is the « holy language » par excellence (lechon ha-qodech).

We are here in heavy, very heavy stuff. Meschonnic quotes in support the famous medieval cabalist, Aboulafia, and one of his current thurifer, Elliot Wolfson:

« The cabal will be the exclusive property of the Jewish people, (…) the only nation to have real access to the sacred language of creation, revelation and redemption.»ix

For the comparatist, this type of formula (« the only nation to… », the « sacred language of »,…) seems to be an old cliché, to be found in all latitudes, at all times, in most cultures, so much so that exceptionalism seems really not that exceptional…

More than a thousand years before Abraham, and long before the Torah had even begun to be written down, the Vedic tradition already considered Sanskrit as a « perfect » language. Sanskrit holds its name from the word ‘samskṛta‘ , which means « perfect » in Sanskrit). Moreover, the Vedic tradition considered the entire Vedic corpus as pure, divine revelation.

More recently, for hundreds of millions of believers, the Quran, too, is considered « descended » directly from the Divinity into the Arabic language, which is considered by its locutors a « clear » and « perfect » language.

There is, therefore, obviously on this planet, a certain abundance of « perfect languages » and « divine revelations », seemingly indifferent to their putative concurrents.

What should we conclude from this rush? That these revelations, and these languages, contradict and exclude each other? That only one of them is the true one, the only one « chosen »? Or, should we adopt a more diplomatic formulation, that they all contain some truth? Or, to be more pessimistic, should we suppose that they all somehow lack their intended purpose, whose transcendence escapes them?

What strikes one, in these immense religious and intellectual adventures, which often display, in theory and in practice, ambitions of universal scope, is the paradoxically provincial, navel-gazing, somewhat narrow-minded side of their later commentators. There is no shortage of late voices, coming, a few millennia after the founders, to set themselves up as self-proclaimed defenders, arrogating to themselves the monopoly of exception and election.

In the Babel of languages, Hebrew certainly does not escape the shocking statements about its absolute specificity and its intrinsic superiority over all other languages.

« Divine consonants, human vowels, is the high revelation of Hebrew. »x

The « sanctity » of the Hebrew language is contagious. It extends to the people who speak it.

Hence a sharp alternative:

« The truth that Hebrew is the holy language of a holy people, and the untruth that it is the spoken language of a people like all peoples, seem irreconcilable. » xi

Franz Rosenzweig asked a binary question. There is no way out.

On one side a « holy language » and a « holy people », and on the other side « all peoples » and all other languages, immersed in the no-man’s-land of « untruth » (and un-holiness). Faced with this alternative, what is the answer?

The issue deserves attention.

Franz Rosenzweig seems very sure of his fact: he provides some elements of idiosyncratic argumentation, the scathing lesson of which could perhaps also be of interest to speakers of English, German or Latin – and why not, for good measure, Greek, Arabic or Sanskrit?

« To read Hebrew means: to be ready to gather the entire heritage of the language; to read German, English or Latin, one reaps only the harvest given by the furrows of the language of one season: of one generation. »xii

Franz Rosenzweig does not seem to suspect that the few ‘languages of a season’ he quotes are only the most recent, among a large and immemorial ‘harvest’ of other Indo-European languages, much more original, and some of them with sophisticated grammars, and incidentally with a vocabulary twenty times richer than the biblicalxiii lexicon. Among these languages, Avestic and Sanskrit go back to several millennia before our era, and have both served to compose « sacred » texts (respectively the Avesta and the Veda), which testify to very ancient « revelations », certainly older than the revelation « mosaic ».

It may be argued that Avestic and Sanskrit are nowadays only « dead languages », and that the Avesta or Veda no longer irrigate living times, but only celebrate forgotten Gods…

In contrast, it should also be noted, biblical Hebrew has « risen » again with modern Hebrew, while the Torah continues to live on through the people who bear it and the religions that draw inspiration from it.

These are indeed crucial points.

One could however answer that the Veda religion has not completely disappeared from the world consciousness… or from the depths of the collective unconscious. The history of the Spirit has only just begun. The Vedanta, the Upanishads, Baghavad Gîta, – forever under a bushel? The future, the distant future, will tell.

On the other hand, it can also be argued that the « spirit » of Sanskrit is not really dead, but that it is still very much alive today, and that it is constantly regenerating itself in the vast body of Indo-European languages that are spoken throughout the world, and through their own genius.

The « spirit » of Sanskrit. The « spirit » of Indo-European languages…

Is there a « spirit » of languages? And what does it mean?

Franz Rosenzweig asked this question in a lecture on « the spirit of the Hebrew language ».

« What is the spirit of the German language? Does a language have a ‘spirit’? The answer is: only the language has a spirit. As many languages we know, as many times we are a man. Can you ‘know’ more than one language? Our ‘knowledge’ is just as flat as French ‘savoir‘ (knowledge). We live in one language.» xiv

The word ‘knowledge’, – a ‘flat’ word?

To live is to react…

The French word ‘savoir’ comes from the Latin sapio, sapere, « to have flavor », and figuratively « to have taste, sense, reason ». This Latin word gave in French the words ‘sapience’, ‘saveur’, ‘sève’, ‘sapide’ (and its antonym ‘insipide’). Its etymological origin goes back to the Sanskrit सबर् sabar, « nectar, sap, milk », from which the words Saft in German, sap inEnglish, sapor in Latin also derive.

There is an irony here, a sort of ‘meta-linguistic’ irony, to note that the words ‘flavor’, ‘taste’, are translated ta’am inHebrew, in the plural te’amim.

Now it just so happens that Henri Meschonnic advocated a close attention to the presence in the biblical language of the signs of cantillation, the טְעָמִים, te’amim, supposed to enlighten the deep meaning of the verses by giving them their true rhythm, their melody. « The word, already used by Rabbi Akiva, of te’amim, (…) is the plural of ta’am, which means the taste, in the gustatory sense, the taste of what one has in the mouth.xv In medieval Hebrew, the word also referred to the ratio. It is of capital importance that this word, which designates the junctions-disjunctions, groupings and ungroupings of discourse, with for each ‘accent’ a melodic line, be a word of the body and the mouth. The mouth is what speaks. »xvi

The irony, then, is that the French word ‘savoir’ (which Rosenzweig found ‘flat’) and the Hebrew word te’amim share the same connotations, associating ‘taste’, ‘flavor’ and ‘ratio’...

We quickly return to provincialism and navel-gazing, as we see. One must resolve to understand, once and for all, that outside of Hebrew, there is no salvation. Literally. The Hebrew language holds the divine in it…

Rosenzweig puts it this way:

« The spirit of the Hebrew language is ‘the spirit of God’. (Es ist Geist Gottes). » xvii

Difficult to make more synthetic and more exclusive.

In search of this ‘spirit’ (of the Hebrew language), and interested in the interpretative power attributed to the te’amim, I looked for some possible examples of reference in Meschonnic’s writings.

He particularly emphasizes a verse from Isaiah, usually translated, for centuries, in the Gospels:

« A voice cries out in the desert: prepare a way for the Lord. « (Is. 40:3)

Meschonnic says of this translation: « It is the ‘Christian way’, as James Kugel says. The identification with John the Baptist in Matthew (3:3), Mark (1:3) and John (1:23) depended on it. »

It is true that there is a discrepancy of interpretation between the passages of the Gospels quoted and what we read in the Jerusalem Bible, which gives the following translation:

« A voice cries out, ‘In the desert, make way for the LORD’. »

So? What is the rigjht reading?

 » A voice cries out in the desert »?

Or: « A voice cries out: ‘in the desert etc.' »?

Meschonnic notes that in the Hebrew original, there is a major disjunctive accent (zaqef qatan) after « a screaming voice » (qol qoré):

« So ‘in the desert’ is related to ‘make way’, not about the preceding verb. I translate: ‘A voice cries out in the desert make way for Adonaï’. This text is liked to the exile in Babylon, and calls for a return to Jerusalem. Its meaning is geographical and historical, according to its rhythm in Hebrew. But when cut after ‘desert’, it becomes the Christian and eschatological call. Quite another theology. It is the rhythm that makes, or undoes, the meaning.»xviii

Meschonnic concludes his development with a shock formula :

« Rhythm is not only the Jew of the sign, it is also the Jew of the Jew, and it shares the utopia of the poem by being the utopia of meaning. »xix

The rhythm, the ta’am, is the « Jew of the Jew ». Difficult to find a formulation less goy, and more irrefutable…

However, the rhythm is not enough.

If we place the same verse (Is 40:3) in the immediate context of the first ten verses of the « second » Isaiah (Is 40:1-10), we suddenly see a rich density of possible meanings, proliferating, allusive, elusive, carried by voices, words, utterances, cries, repetitions, variations, ellipses, obscurities and openings.

A textual criticism, aimed at semantics, syntax, allegories and anagogy, would encourage a multiplication of questions – far beyond what the ta’am ta’am is.

Why is God twice named « our God » (אלֹהֵינוּ Elohei-nou) xxin Is 40:3 and Is 40:8, and twice named « your God » (אֱלֹהֵיכֶם Elohei-khem)xxi in Is 40:1 and Is 40:9?

Is « ours » also « yours », or is it not?

Why is God named ‘YHVH’ five times in Isaiah 40:2, Isaiah 40:3, Isaiah 40:5 (twice), and Isaiah 40:7, but only once ‘YHVH Adonai’ in Isaiah 40:10xxii? In other words, why is God here named six times ‘YHVH’, and once ‘Adonai’?

In what way do the expression « all flesh » כָל-בָּשָׂר khol-bachar, in Is 40:5, and the expression « all flesh » כָּל-הַבָּשָׂר kol-ha-bachar, in Is 40:6, differ? xxiii

Why is the article defined in one case and not in the other?

Could it be that the expression « all flesh will see it » וְרָאוּ כָל-בָּשָׂר vé-raou khol-bachar, implies a universality (total, inclusive) of the vision of the glory of YHVH, – « all flesh » then meaning « all creatures made of flesh »?

Whereas the expression « all flesh, – grass », כָּל-הַבָּשָׂר חָצִיר kol-ha-bachar ḥatsir, only implies that « everything » in the flesh is like « grass »?

Why do two voices, undefined, come from unnamed mouths (Is 40:3 and Is 40:6), – when the spoken word is from « the mouth of YHVH », כִּי פִּי יְהוָה דִּבֵּר, ki pi YHVH dibber (Is 40:5), and « the word of our God »,וּדְבַר-אֱלֹהֵינוּ devar Elohenou, (Is 40:8), are they duly and by name attributed to God?

Why does the first of these two (undefined) voices shout :

« A voice cries out: ‘In the desert, make way for YHVH; in the wilderness, make a straight road for our God’. »(Isaiah 40:3)

Why does the second, undefined voice first say: ‘Cry out’, – before saying what to cry out?

« A voice said, ‘Cry out’, and I said, ‘What shall I cry out?’ – ‘All flesh is grass and all its grace is like the flower of the field. « (Isaiah 40:6)

To whom does « your God » address himself when Isaiah says :

« Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

נַחֲמוּ נַחֲמוּ, עַמִּי–יֹאמַר, אֱלֹהֵיכֶם (Is 40,1)

Who is speaking here? Who ‘says’ what ‘your God’ says?

Who exactly is « my people »? Is « my people » the people of ‘your God’ or the people of ‘our God’?

In other words, is « my people » just « grass »? xxiv

Or is it only « the people », which is « grass »?

Last but not least, who is consoling whom, on whose behalf?

____________

iHenri Meschonnic (1932-2009), essayist, linguist, poet, translator.

iiHenri Meschonnic. « Pour en finir avec le mot « Shoah » », Le Monde, dated February 20-21, 2005. cf. https://www.larevuedesressources.org/pour-en-finir-avec-le-mot-shoah,1193.html

iii: Henri Meschonnic. « Pour en finir avec le mot « Shoah » », Le Monde, dated February 20-21, 2005. cf. https://www.larevuedesressources.org/pour-en-finir-avec-le-mot-shoah,1193.html

iv Claude Lanzmann writes: « I fought to impose ‘Shoah’ without knowing that I was thus proceeding to a radical act of nomination, since almost immediately the title of the film became, in many languages, the very name of the event in its absolute singularity. The film was immediately eponymous, people everywhere began to say « the Shoah ». The identification between the film and what it represents goes so far that daring people speak of me as « the author of the Shoah, » to which I can only reply: « No, I’m « Shoah », the Shoah is Hitler. » Le Monde, February 26, 2005

vHenri Meschonnic. The Utopia of the Jew. Desclée de Brouwer. Paris, 2001, p.127

viHenri Meschonnic. The Utopia of the Jew. Desclée de Brouwer. Paris, 2001, p.132

viiH. Meschonnic quotes here Elliot R. Wolfson. Abraham Aboulafia cabalist and prophet. Hermeneutics, theosophy and theurgy. Trad. J.F. Sené. Ed. de l’Eclat, 1999, p.123.

viiiHenri Meschonnic. The Utopia of the Jew. Desclée de Brouwer. Paris, 2001, p.128

ixElliot R. Wolfson. Abraham Aboulafia cabalist and prophet. Hermeneutics, Theosophy and Theurgy. Trad. J.F. Sené. Ed. de l’Eclat, 1999, p. 57, quoted by H. Meschonnic, op. cit. p. 128.

xRaymond Abelio. In a soul and a body. Gallimard, 1973, p.259. Quoted by Henri Meschonnic. The Utopia of the Jew. Desclée de Brouwer. Paris, 2001, p.137

xiFranz Rosenzweig. New Hebrew ? On the occasion of the translation of Spinoza’s Ethics. Collected Writings III p. 725. Cité par Henri Meschonnic. L’utopie du Juif. Desclée de Brouwer. Paris, 2001, p.138

xiiFranz Rosenzweig. « Neo-Hebrew » in L’écriture, le verbe et autres essais. p.28. Quoted by Henri Meschonnic. The Utopia of the Jew. Desclée de Brouwer. Paris, 2001, p.138

xiiiTo get an idea of this, just compare the Sanskrit-English dictionary by Monier Monier-Williams and the Hebrew-English dictionary by Brown-Driver-Briggs, both considered as references in the study of Sanskrit and Biblical Hebrew.

xivFranz Rosenzweig. « On the Spirit of the Hebrew Language. – es a language have a ‘spirit’ ? The answer is: only the language has spirit. As many languages as one can, so much one can be human. Can one ‘know’ more than one language ? Our ‘can’ is as shallow as the French ‘savoir’. One lives in a language. « Collected Writings III p. 719. Cité par Henri Meschonnic. L’utopie du Juif. Desclée de Brouwer. Paris, 2001, p.139-140

xvMeschonnic notes that in Arabic, mat’am means « resaturant ».

xviHenri Meschonnic. The Utopia of the Jew. Desclée de Brouwer. Paris, 2001, p.147-148

xviiFranz Rosenzweig. « Vom Geist der hebräische Sprache. « Gesammelte Schriften III p. 721. Quoted by Henri Meschonnic. The Utopia of the Jew. Desclée de Brouwer. Paris, 2001, p. 140

xviiiHenri Meschonnic. The Utopia of the Jew. Desclée de Brouwer. Paris, 2001, p. 165

xixHenri Meschonnic. The Utopia of the Jew. Desclée de Brouwer. Paris, 2001, p. 171

xx« A way cries out: ‘In the desert, make way for YHVH; in the steppe, smooth a road for our God. « קוֹל קוֹרֵא–בַבַּמִּדְבָּר, פַּנּוּ דֶּרֶךְ יְהוָה; יַשְּׁרוּ, בָּעֲרָבָה, מְסִלָּה, לֵאלֹהֵינוּ (Is 40,3)

« The grass withers, the flower withers, but the word of our God endures forever. « יָבֵשׁ חָצִיר, נָבֵל צִיץ; וּדְבַר-אֱלֹהֵינוּ, יָקוּם לְעוֹלָם (Is 40,8)

xxi« Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. נַחֲמוּ נַחֲמוּ, עַמִּי–יֹאמַר, אֱלֹהֵיכֶם (Is 40,1)

« Lift up your voice, fear not, say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!' » הָרִימִי, אַל-תִּירָאִי, אִמְרִי לְעָרֵי יְהוּדָה, הִנֵּה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם (Is 40,9)

xxii« הִנֵּה אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה (Is 40:10)

xxiii« Then the glory of YHVH will be revealed and all flesh will see it, together, for the mouth of YHVH has spoken. »

וְנִגְלָה, כְּבוֹד יְהוָה; וְרָאוּ כָל-בָּשָׂר יַחְדָּו, כִּי פִּי יְהוָה דִּבֵּר (Is 40,5)

« A voice said, ‘Cry out’, and I said, ‘What shall I cry out?’ – ‘All flesh is grass and all its grace is like the flower of the field. « קוֹל אֹמֵר קְרָא, וְאָמַר מָה אֶקְרָא; כָּל-הַבָּשָׂר חָצִיר, וְכָל-חַסְדּוֹ כְּצִיץ הַשָּׂדֶה (Is 40,6)

xxiv« The grass withers, the flower withers, when the breath of YHVH passes over them; yes, the people are grass. »

יָבֵשׁ חָצִיר נָבֵל צִיץ, כִּי רוּחַ יְהוָה נָשְׁבָה בּוֹ; אָכֵן חָצִיר, הָעָם (Is 40,7)

Virus Metaphysics


-Coronavirus-

The Latin word virus, of the neutral gender, has no plural. This word initially meant « juice » but also « sperm », « venom », « poison », « pungency », and « bitterness ».

The Greek word for virus is ῑός, « venom », but also « rust ».

The etymologyi of these two words goes back to the Sanskrit word विष viṣa, which means, in the neutral gender: « poison, venom ». But the root of this Sanskrit word, viṣ-,basically means « to be active, to act, to do, to accomplish »ii. It thus had originally no negative connotation. It rather implied an idea of action, efficiency, accomplishment. The word विष viṣa, when in the masculine gender, means « servant » (implying the idea of being « active, zealous »).

One may learn from these etymological roots a useful lesson.

As one knows, when viruses infect living beings, they transmit to their genome some bits of their RNA, for example in the form of plasmids.

The COVID-19 pandemic is actually infecting a huge percentage of the entire human race, which will now share fragments of this widely distributed and constantly mutating ‘genetic heritage’.

The virus and its variants are then partly contributing to the overall, on-going mutation of human genome, and are also forcing humankind to be « active and zealous », in order to politically mutate and adapt its global ‘governance’ to reach a level of efficiency that should be higher, hopefully, than the genetic efficiency of the virus itself.

What is happening before our eyes can be undersood as a real-time ‘mutation’ affecting potentially the whole of humanity, genetically, but also politically, and even metaphysically, I would try to argue.

On a metaphorical level, this global pandemic could be compared to a form of incarnation (etymologically, a ‘penetration into the flesh’, an ’embodiment’).

The plasmids that we may inherit from the COVID-19 embody not just an ‘infection’ but also a metaphysical metaphor at work, — that of a continuous, immanent process of symbiotic incarnationof the « inanimate-unconscious » viral reign into the « animate-conscious » human species.

While using the word ‘incarnation’, a quote comes to my mind:

« The true history of the world seems to be that of the progressive incarnation of the divinity »iii.

It is certainly not my intention to compare the putative incarnation of the « divinity » in world ‘true history’ to a slow viral infection, but this metaphor offers some food for thought.

It links in a single knot the « inanimate-unconscious » viral reign, the « animate-conscious » human species, and the « animate-unconscious » divine reign.

The ‘progressive incarnation’ of the virus has its own way and timeline. Likewise the ‘progressive incarnation’ of the divinity. The word incarnation, in both cases, reveals an analogous process at work, in the respective natures of the divinity, the humankind and the allegedly ‘inanimate’, material world.

Undoubtedly, at a given moment, for some reasons of Her own, the Divinity has, in a way, resolved to come out of Herself, if only to allow Her own ‘Creation’ to exist, more or less independently from Her.

Was the eternal « confinement » of the Divinity no longer suitable, at one point? Did Her absolute, compact, total perfection appear to Her somewhat incomplete, notwithstanding Her apparent completeness?

One may conjecture that the Divinity got out of Herself, in order to break the tautology of her Being alone, the repetition of the Sublime, the circularity of the Supreme, the loneliness of the Holiness.

Before the world was even created, what did the Godhead do? She was, one may assume, bathed in an holy, infinite Unconscious. For what is called ‘consciousness’, and of which Man is so proud, is really a term that is not worthy of the supreme Divinity.

The Divinity is so infinite that She cannot know Herself like a mere ‘consciousness’ would. If the Divinity fully knew Herself in such a conscious way, then She would in some subtle manner be limited by this very ‘knowledge’ of Herself, by this projected ‘consciousness’ of Herself that would infringe on Her absolute freedom. This limitation is not conceivable in a divine context.

The Divinity must be beyond any form of consciousness. In other words, She is ‘unconscious’ of Her own, absolute infinity.

To put it another way, before the world or time was created, the Divinity did not yet know the scope of Her own Wisdom, let alone the sound of Her own Word, which had never been uttered (since there was really no ear up there and then to hear).

This is expressed in the Kabbalah’s image of the Divine Wisdom as standing ‘near’, besides the Divinity. There is not identity, but a separation.

In the unconsciousness (of the infinity of Her own Wisdom), the Divinity stood in a state of absolute timelessness.

She stood as a living Entity.

Ignoring Death.

Ignoring Darkness.

This ‘ignorance’ hid the mystery of Her unconsciousness from the Light of Her otherwise absolute knowledge.

________

iSee Alfred Ernout and Antoine Meillet. Etymological dictionary of the Latin language. Klincksieck, Paris, 2001, p.740, and cf. Pierre Chantraine. Etymological Dictionary of the Greek Language. Klincksieck, Paris, 1977, p.466.

iiGérard Huet. Sanskrit-French dictionary. 2013. p. 559

iiiC.G. Jung. The Divine in man. Albin Michel. 1999, p.134

The Irony of the Bráhman


-Friedrich Max Müller-

One day, according to the Bhagavadgītā (भगवद्गीता), the Supreme Lord came down to reveal to a man named Arjuna, the « most secret wisdom », the « secret of secrets », the « purest knowledge », a « knowledge, queen among all sciences ».

In a few decisive words, human reason was then stripped of everything and reduced to begging. Human nature was compared to « dust », but, more inexplicably, it was also promised to a very high destiny, a putative glory, though still infinitely distant, embryonic, potential. Faced with these impassable mysteries, she was invited to scrutinize endlessly her own background, and her own end.

« This entire universe is penetrated by Me, in My unmanifested form. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them. At the same time, nothing that is created is in Me. See My supernatural power! I sustain all beings, I am everywhere present, and yet, I remain the very source of all creation.»i

We also learn from Bhagavadgītā that the supreme God may descend in person into this world, taking on human form. « Fools denigrate Me when I come down to this world in human form. They know nothing of My spiritual and absolute nature, nor of My total supremacy.»ii

It is not without interest to recall here that the Hebrew Bible, for its part, repeatedly expressed a strangely similar idea. Thus, three « men », posing as « envoys » of the Lord, came to meet Abraham under the oak tree of Mamre. One of them, called YHVH in the Genesis text, spoke to Abraham face to face.

In the Veda, the supreme God is infinitely high, transcendent, absolute, but He is also tolerant. He recognizes that multiple modes of belief can coexist. There are men for whom God is the supreme, original Person. There are those who prostrate themselves before God with love and devotion. There are those who worship Him as the One, and others who worship Him in Immanence, in His presence among the infinite diversity of beings and things, and there are still others who see Him in the Universal. iii

In the Veda, the supreme God is at once unique, absolute, transcendent, immanent, universal; He is All in all.

« But I am the rite and the sacrifice, the oblation to the ancestors, the grass and the mantra. I am the butter, and the fire, and the offering. Of this universe, I am the father, the mother, the support and the grandfather, I am the object of knowledge, the purifier and the syllable OM. I am also the Ṛg, the Sāma and the Yajur. I am the goal, the support, the teacher, the witness, the abode, the refuge and the dearest friend, I am the creation and the annihilation, the basis of all things, the place of rest and the eternal seed (…) I am immortality, and death personified. Being and non-being, both are in Me, O Arjuna ». iv

In his third lecturev on Vedanta given in London in 1894, Max Müller recalled that the Supreme Spirit, the bráhman, ( ब्रह्मन्, a name of the neutral gender, with the tonic accent on the verbal root BRAH-, taken to the full degree – ‘guṇa’) said: « Even those who worship idols worship Me », as reported by Bhagavadgītā.

And Müller added that, within the framework of Vedanta philosophy, the bráhman, this supreme principle, must be distinguished from the brahmán (with the tonic accent on the second syllable), who represents a male agent name meaning « Creator ». According to the Vedanta philosophy, the bráhman could even state of himself: « Even those who worship a personal God in the image of an active creator, or a King of kings, worship Me or, at least, think of Me ».

In this view, the brahmán (the Creator) would be, in reality, only a manifestation of the bráhman (the Supreme Principle). The bráhman also seems to hint here, not without a certain irony, that one could perfectly well support the opposite position, and that would not bother Him…

Here again, with the famous opening of the first verse of Genesis: Bereshit bara Elohim (Gen 1:1), Judaism professed an intuition strangely comparable.

This verse could be read, according to some commentators of the Bereshit Rabbah:  » ‘Be-rechit’ created the Elohim«  (i.e.  » ‘In the principle‘ created the Gods »).

Other commentators even proposed to understand: « With the Most Precious, *** created the Gods ».

I note here by means of the three asterisks the ineffability of the Name of the Supreme Principle (unnamed but implied).

Combining these interpretations, one could understand the first verse of Genesis (berechit bara elohim) in this way:

« The Principle, withthe ‘Most Precious’, created the Elohim. »

The Principle is not named but implied.

The particle be- in the expression be-rechit can mean ‘with’.

One of the possible meanings of the word rechit can be ‘primal fruit’ or ‘most precious’.

For the comparatist, these possibilities (however slight) of convergence between traditions as different as Vedic and Hebrew, are sources of endless meditation and tonic inspiration…

One of the greatest commentator on Vedic heritage, Ādi Śaṅkara (आदि शङ्कर ) explained: « When bráhman is defined in the Upanishads only in negative terms, excluding all differences in name and form due to non-science, it is the superior [bráhman]. But when it is defined in terms such as: « the intelligence whose body is spirit and light, distinguished by a special name and form, solely for the purpose of worship » (Chand., III, 14, 2), it is the other, the lower brahmán. » vi

If this is so, Max Müller commented, the text that says that bráhman has no second (Chand., VI, 2, 1) seems to be contradicted.

But, « No, answers Śaṅkara, because all this is only the illusion of name and form caused by non-science. In reality the two brahman are one and the same brahman, oneconceivable, the other inconceivable, one phenomenal, the other absolutely real ». vii

The distinction made by Śaṅkara is clear. But in the Upanishads, the line of demarcation between the bráhman (supreme) and the brahmán (creator) is not always so clear.

When Śaṅkara interprets the many passages of the Upanishads that describe the return of the human soul after death to ‘brahman‘ (without the tonic accent being distinguished), Sankara always interprets it as the inferior brahmán.

Müller explained: « This soul, as Śaṅkara strongly says, ‘becomes Brahman by being Brahman’viii, that is, by knowing him, by knowing what he is and has always been. Put aside the non-science and light bursts forth, and in that light the human self and the divine self shine in their eternal unity. From this point of view of the highest reality, there is no difference between the Supreme Brahman and the individual self or Ātman (Ved. Sutras, I, 4, p. 339). The body, with all the conditions, or upadhis,towhich it is subordinated, may continue for some time, even after the light of knowledge has appeared, but death will come and bring immediate freedom and absolute bliss; while those who, through their good works, are admitted to the heavenly paradise, must wait there until they obtain supreme enlightenment, and are only then restored to their true nature, their true freedom, that is, their true unity with Brahman. » ix

Of the true Brahman, the Upanishads still say of Him: « Verily, friend, this imperishable Being is neither coarse nor fine, neither short nor long, neither red (like fire) nor fluid (like water). He is without shadow, without darkness, without air, without ether, without bonds, without eyes, without eyes, without ears, without speech, without spirit, without light, without breath, without mouth, without measure, He has neither inside nor outside ».

And this series of negations, or rather abstractions, continues until all the petals are stripped off, and only the chalice, the pollen, the inconceivable Brahman, the Self of the world, remains.

« He sees, but is not seen; He hears, but is not heard; He perceives, but is not perceived; moreover, there is in the world only Brahman who sees, hears, perceives, or knows. » x

Since He is the only one to ‘see’, the metaphysical term that would best suit this Being would be ‘light’.

But this does not mean that Brahman is, in itself, « light », but only that the whole light, in all its manifestations, is in Brahman.

This light is notably the Conscious Light, which is another name for knowledge, or consciousness. Müller evokes the Mundaka Upanishad: « ‘It is the light of lights; when it shines, the sun does not shine, nor the moon nor the stars, nor lightning, much less fire. When Brahman shines, everything shines with Him: His light illuminates the world. Conscious light represents, as best as possible, Brahman’s knowledge, and it is known that Thomas Aquinas also called God the intelligent sun (Sol intelligibilis). For, although all purely human attributes are taken away from Brahman, knowledge, though a knowledge without external objects, is left to Him.»xi

The ‘light’ of ‘knowledge’ or ‘wisdom’ seems to be the only anthropomorphic metaphor that almost all religions dare to apply to the Supreme Being as the least inadequate.

In doing so, these religions, such as Vedic, Hebrew, Buddhist or Christian, often forget what the narrow limits of human knowledge or wisdom are, even at their highest level of perfection, and how unworthy of Divinity these metaphors are in reality.

There is indeed in all knowledge as in all human wisdom an essentially passive element.

This ‘passivity’ is perfectly incompatible with the Divinity… At least, in principle.

One cannot help but notice in several religions the idea of a sort of (active) passivity of the supreme Divinity, who takes the initiative to withdraw from being and the world, for the sake of His creature.

Several examples are worth mentioning here, by order of their appearance on world stage.

-The Supreme Creator, Prajāpati, प्रजापति, literally « Father and Lord of creatures », felt « emptied » right after creating all worlds and beings.

-Similarly, the Son of the only God felt his « emptiness » (kenosis, from the Greek kenos, empty, opposing pleos, full) and his « abandonment » by God just before his death.

-In the Jewish Kabbalah, God also consented to His own « contraction » (tsimtsum) in order to leave a little bit of being to His creation.

In this implicit, hidden, subterranean analogy between the passivity of human wisdom and the divine recess, there may be room for a form of tragic, sublime and overwhelming irony.

The paradox is that this analogy and irony, then, would also allow the infinitesimal human ‘wisdom’ to approach in small steps one of the deepest aspects of the mystery.

___________

iBhagavadgītā 9.4-5

iiBhagavadgītā 9.11

iii« Others, who cultivate knowledge, worship Me either as the unique existence, or in the diversity of beings and things, or in My universal form. « Bhagavadgītā 9,15

ivBhagavadgītā 9.16-19

vF. Max Müller. Introduction to the Vedanta philosophy. Three lectures given at the Royal Institute in March 1894. Translated from English by Léon Sorg. Ed. Ernest Leroux, Paris 1899.

viF. Max Müller, op. cit. 3rd conference, p.39

viiF. Max Müller, op. cit. 3rd conference, p.39-40

viiiIt should probably be specified here, thanks to the tonic accents: « The soul becomes Brahman by being Brahman. « But one could also write, it seems to me, by analogy with the ‘procession’ of the divine persons that Christian theology has formalized: « The spirit becomes Brahman by being Brahman. »

ixF. Max Müller, op. cit. 3rd conference, p. 41

xF. Max Müller, op. cit. 3rd conference, p. 44

xiF. Max Müller, op. cit. 3rd conference, p. 45

The Essence of Being


It is said that Being is. Apart from being a tautology, nothing is less certain. Rather, one should say that Being is also what is becoming, and therefore what it is not, yet. One could also say that it is, at least partly, what has been, and therefore what it is no longer. We should not, therefore, just say that Being is (strictly speaking).

Being is indeed all that it is in essence, and in potency, including all that it will be and all that it has been.

The essence of Being is not only to be, but to have been, in some ways that may be not fully understood, and also to contain some potentialities that may be revealed sometime in the future. Now, admittedly, ‘being in potency’ or ‘having been’ are not, strictly speaking, ‘being’, but one can however think and say that ‘being in potency’ or ‘having been’ are a certain way of being.

From that I infer that a part of the essence of Being lies in what is ‘thought‘ and ‘said‘ about it. The essence of Being has something to do with thought and words.

One may then expand this idea and state that there is no unspeakable Being, just as there is no Being without essence and existence, and just as there is no abstract Being.

A ‘mere’ Being, a Being that would be absolutely unthinkable, and absolutely unspeakable, is just a play on words, a mental chimera.

A ‘mere’ Being would necessarily refer to some other prior entity that would be ‘before’ it, — an entity that would be also in essence unspeakable and would moreover not be called ‘Being’, because this would be a name, – and there could not be any speakable name, starting with the name ‘Being’, for an entity that would be in essence unspeakable.

Hence, I assume that Being can only be conceived by the word, and with the word. A ‘Being without word’, or ‘before all words’, would not be ‘Being’, but something more original than ‘Being’, an entity without the need for any words (even the word ‘Being’), an entity for which no word exists, for which no word is suitable.

No word can designate what is before or beyond Being. Words can only suit what is, what has been or what will be, — not what is beyond Being.

Being and Wording are therefore linked. Said otherwise, Being and the Word make a couple. They are of the same essence. A reciprocal essence links these two entities. One constitutes a part of the essence of the other. The Word is part of the essence of Being, and Being is part of the essence of the Word.

Is the Word first? No, because if the Word were first, if it were before Being, then it would be before Being is, which is a logical contradiction.

Is Being first? No, for how could it be called ‘Being’ before the Word was? If we can say that Being is, if we can say that the Being is Being, then it implies that the Word is also already present, — in the presence of Being. The presence of the Word would be necessary to say the existence of Being.

As I said, Being and Word are linked to each other, they are and they say together.

From the outset, Being is not just Being, but is to be this whole, this linked, compact couple of Being and Word.

Being is to be from the outset all that is implied in being Being and being Word.

Being is to be from the outset the whole of Being, ‘all’ the essence of Being, all that is Being, all that constitutes it.

Being implies being ‘con-sistent‘ (from the Latin cum-sistere).

Being implies to be ‘co-existent‘ with all that is proper to being.

Being is with itself, it is in the presence of itself, in the presence of everything that constitutes its essence, including the Word that tells this essence.

Being involves Being-With-Oneself and Being-Word. If Being is consistent, and it has to be, it coexists with all that is ‘being’ in itself and all that is « thoughtable » and  »speakable » in it.

The coexistence of Being with the whole of Being and all its parts constitutes the immanent ‘self’ of Being. This immanent ‘self’ resonates with itself. It is this resonance that constitues the Word.

Hence the deepest origin of consciousness.

Hence also the origin of transcendence, which is constituted by the consciousness of immanence.

Being implies the immanence of Being, and immanence implies immanent consciousness, and the consciousness of immanence.

The immanent consciousness and the consciousness of immanence are already potential steps towards transcendent consciousness (in relation to Being).

The fact for Being to be-with-oneself carries in potency the appearance of the consciousness of being, of the awareness of the self by the self.

Being implies a fold of Being upon itself. This fold is an implication-explanation, which is also the beginning of a reflection, to move on to an optical metaphor.

At the beginning of Being, then, is this fold, this reflection, which can also be called ‘spirit’ (in Sanskrit manas), because the spirit is what ‘unfolds’, or what ‘reflects’.

And in this unfolding fold, the Vedic Word (वाच् vāc) was born.

Foi et Loi


– Le rabbin Chaoul, disciple du rabbin Gamaliel –

A un moment crucial de l’Exode, juste après que Moïse lui eut lu le « livre de l’Alliance », le peuple d’Israël, tout entier rassemblé, prononça d’une voix ces paroles : נַעֲשֶׂה וְנִשְׁמָע na’assèh vé-nichma’, « Nous ferons et nous entendrons » (Ex 24,7).

Quelque temps auparavant, le peuple avait déjà utilisé, seule, l’expression: vé-nichma’, « Nous entendrons » (Ex 20,15).

Elohim venait de dire les « Dix Paroles » au mont Sinaï, au milieu des tonnerres, des feux et des fumées. Pris de peur, le peuple avait demandé à Moïse de servir désormais d’intermédiaire : « Toi, parle-nous et nous entendrons, mais qu’Elohim ne nous parle plus car nous en mourrions. » (Ex 20,15).

Peu après, le peuple avait clamé d’une voix l’autre expression : na’assèh, « Nous ferons » (Ex 24,3).

Moïse était revenu vers le peuple, après sa rencontre solitaire avec YHVH, et il lui avait transmis « toutes les paroles de YHVH » : כָּל-דִּבְרֵי יְהוָה kol dibri Adonaï.

« Et tout le peuple (כָּל-הָעָם, kol ha-’am) cria d’une seule voix (קוֹל אֶחָד , qol éḥad), et ils dirent : toutes les paroles que YHVH a dites (kol ha-devarim acher dibber Adonaï), nous ferons (נַעֲשֶׂה , na’asseh) » (Ex 24,3).

Lorsque le peuple d’Israël fut confronté directement, une première fois, aux paroles de YHVH, il demanda la médiation de Moïse pour pouvoir les entendre. Et lorsqu’il les entendit une deuxième fois, Moïse lui ayant communiqué oralement toutes les paroles de YHVH, le peuple dit qu’il ferait.

C’est seulement lorsque Moïse mit toutes ces paroles divines par écrit (Ex 24,4), constituant ainsi le livre de l’Alliance, סֵפֶר הַבְּרִית , sefer ha-brit, que le peuple s’écria : na’asséh vé-nichma’, « nous ferons et nous entendrons » (Ex 24,7).

« Nous entendrons », d’abord, « nous ferons », ensuite, « nous ferons et nous entendrons » enfin…

Le verset Ex 24,7 fait partie de ceux qui condense et résume le mieux l’essence de la foi juive, – de laquelle on dit souvent qu’elle prône une orthopraxie plutôt qu’une orthodoxie. Autrement dit, le judaïsme se caractériserait d’abord par la fidélité envers la pratique.

Ce verset est l’un des plus scrutés par les générations successives de commentateurs, sans doute parce qu’il donne apparemment la précellence au verbe עָשָׂה, ‘assah « faire, accomplir » sur le verbe שָׁמַע, chama’ « entendre, comprendre, obéir », – ce dernier verbe n‘étant pas d’ailleurs dénué d’une certaine ambiguïté sémantique.

L’ordre choisi pour énoncer les deux verbes peut être interprété comme privilégiant le ‘faire’ (l’accomplissement de la Loi) sur son ‘écoute’ ou sa ‘compréhension’, qui s’en déduirait donc a posteriori.

Abraham ibn Ezra (1089-1164), célèbre commentateur du Moyen âge, a livré quatre explications possibles de l’ordre d’énonciation de ces deux verbesi.

-La mise en pratique de la loi écrite doit s’accompagner de sa répétition orale : ‘nous ferons’ tout ce qui est écrit et ‘nous écouterons’ en permanence la loi prononcée de notre bouche, pour ne pas l’oublier.

-Autre explication: ‘nous ferons’ les commandements plantés dans notre cœur, et ‘nous écouterons’ les commandements reçus de la tradition.

-Autre explication: ‘nous ferons’ tous les commandements qui nous ont été ordonnés jusqu’à présent, et ‘nous écouterons’ tous les commandements futurs.

-Autre explication: ‘nous ferons’ les commandements positifs, et ‘nous écouterons’ les commandements négatifs.

Ces quatre interprétations ouvrent des pistes fort différentes, et qui vont bien au-delà du primat du ‘faire’ sur le ‘comprendre’. Elles jouent sur les diverses dialectiques de la mémoire écrite et de la mémoire orale, des injonctions venant du cœur et de la tradition, des lois déjà données et de celles à venir, et encore sur la différence entre lois positives, à ‘faire’, et négatives, à ‘ne pas faire’.

Abraham ibn Ezra ouvrit encore une autre question, aux répercussions profondes: faut-il donner un poids équivalent à toutes les lois ? Autrement dit, faut-il considérer que le serment de ‘faire’ et ‘entendre’ (ou ‘comprendre’) s’applique à l’intégralité des lois mosaïques, ou bien faut-il séparer ces dernières en plusieurs catégories, notamment celles qu’il faut ‘faire’, et celles qu’il faut ‘entendre’ (ou ‘comprendre’) ?

Une lignée de commentateurs relève à ce sujet une différence de nature entre les lois (michpatim) qu’ils jugent ‘rationnelles’ et les commandements (ḥouqim), considérés comme ‘irrationnels’ ou du moins ‘difficiles à comprendre’. A ces derniers appartiennent par exemple les lois sur la pureté, la référence à la vache rousse, l’interdiction de mêler la laine et le lin dans un habit, etc.

D’autres commentateurs, y compris des auteurs contemporains comme Yeshayahou Leibowitz, ne font pas acception de ces nuances entre divers types de lois. Ils considèrent que si la religion juive peut en effet être considérée comme ritualiste, le système des commandements pratiques (les mitsvot) ne relève pas d’une logique déterminée. Les mitsvot doivent simplement être respectés en tant que tels, pour eux-mêmes, de façon totalement désintéressée, sans y mettre l’attachement ‘affectif’ ou même ‘idolâtrique’ que la Kabbale ou les courants de pensée équivalents, ainsi qu’une certaine piété populaire, leur accordent. L’essence du système des mitsvot ne doit pas se chercher dans ses détails ou dans son improbable logique. Ce système doit être accepté comme tel, et ‘compris’ comme un tout. Sa légitimité réside surtout dans le fait qu’il a été jadis reçu par les fidèles, qui ont choisi, génération après génération, de reproduire la manière de vivre qui lui est associée, et qui est transmise par la loi orale.

« La spécificité du judaïsme ne se situe pas dans un système de mitsvot et règles établies a priori, mais dans le fait qu’il adopte ce système. […] On peut donc dire que le judaïsme historique n’existe que dans la mesure où il impose au fidèle un certain mode de vie quotidien, même si sa traduction dans les actes découle directement de la tradition orale, qui émane elle-même de la perception et de la connaissance d’hommes qui ont choisi de vivre selon la Torah – et de ce fait, elle est loin d’être un code rigide. […] Les mitsvot pratiques sont le judaïsme et le judaïsme n’existe pas sans elles ».ii

Ajoutons que des commentateurs ont suggéré que les Anciens n’ont en fait vu et ‘compris’ qu’une partie seulement de la vérité qui leur a été révélée. C’est pourquoi s’il faut faire ce qu’édicte la loi écrite, il faut aussi toujours à nouveau écouter la loi orale, et la comprendre, dans son essence plurielle, vivante, évolutive.

La loi écrite et la loi orale ont un point commun, elles demandent à être entendues et comprises. ‘Entendre’ et ‘comprendre’ se dénotent par un même verbe en hébreu, chama’, verbe qui doit lui-même être entendu et compris à son propre niveau de profondeur, qui est plus abyssal que ce que l’on imagine a priori.

La formule na’asséh vé-nichma’ exprime en apparence seulement la primauté du faire sur le comprendre, mais aussi, dans sa spontanéité et sa compacité, un lien consubstantiel entre la foi et la Loi.

Par foi, le peuple juif s’engage dans la Loi, – en action et en esprit.

Il y a encore autre chose à en dire, selon le rabbin Chaoul, disciple du rabbin Gamaliel.

Chaoul, aussi connu sous le nom de Paul, niait la primauté des actes (les mitsvot) sur la foi. Il se référait à la promesse faite à Abraham, plus ancienne que celle faite à Moïse, et surtout plus universelle, puisque adressée à travers Abraham à sa descendance et à l’ensemble des Nations  :
« En effet, ce n’est pas par la loi que l’héritage du monde a été promis à Abraham ou à sa postérité, c’est par la justice de la foi. Car, si les héritiers le sont par la loi, la foi est vaine, et la promesse est anéantie ».iii

L’interprétation de Chaoul était radicale, révolutionnaire, — et aux yeux des Juifs ses contemporains, tant pharisiens que sadducéens, elle fleurait l’hérésie.

A quoi sert exactement la Loi ? La Loi est un joug et un fardeau. Elle est si difficile que personne n’est en mesure de la suivre intégralement, ce qui implique qu’elle est toujours occasion de susciter la colère de Dieu, puisqu’il est impossible de la respecter, tant formellement qu’en esprit.

La Loi est trop lourde pour l’homme. Elle ne fait que l’écraser de son poids. Elle le rend pécheur, sans cesse.

« Par la pratique de la Loi, personne ne deviendra juste devant Dieu. En effet, la Loi fait seulement connaître le péché. »iv

C’était là, d’ailleurs, reprendre une ancienne leçon du Psalmiste : « N’entre pas en jugement avec Ton serviteur, nul vivant n’est justifié devant Toi » (Ps 143,2). Ou encore: « Si tu retiens les fautes, Adonaï, Seigneur, qui subsistera ? » (Ps 130,3)

Il y avait aussi ce paradoxe. Les nations, qui n’ont pas reçu la Loi, ne peuvent être jugées coupables de la transgresser.

« Car la Loi aboutit à la colère de Dieu, mais là où il n’y a pas de Loi, il n’y a pas non plus de transgression. »v

C’était une question d’une portée universelle. La foi seule peut-elle servir à justifier l’homme qui n’a pas reçu la Loi?

« En effet, nous estimons que l’homme est justifié par la foi, sans la pratique de la Loi.  Ou bien, Dieu serait-il seulement le Dieu des Juifs ? N’est-il pas aussi le Dieu des nations ? Bien sûr, il est aussi le Dieu des nations.»vi

Dieu est en effet le Dieu des nations, du moins si l’on se réfère à la promesse jadis faite à Abraham.

« Voilà pourquoi on devient héritier par la foi : c’est une grâce, et la promesse demeure ferme pour tous les descendants d’Abraham, non pour ceux qui se rattachent à la Loi seulement, mais pour ceux qui se rattachent aussi à la foi d’Abraham, lui qui est notre père à tous. »vii

Il ne s’agit pas de renoncer à la Loi, mais d’invoquer à la fois la Loi (écrite par Moïse) et la foi, bien plus originelle, d’Abraham.

La Loi, certes, est ce qu’il y a de plus haut : « Ainsi, la Loi est sainte ; le commandement est saint, juste et bon ».viii

Mais cette sainteté, cette justice et cette bonté se situent bien au-delà des capacités de l’Homme.

De plus, si la Loi est ce qu’il y a de plus saint, de plus juste et de meilleur, il y a quelque chose d’encore plus saint, de plus juste et de bien meilleur…

Quoi? — La grâce.

« Vous n’êtes plus sujets de la Loi, vous êtes sujets de la grâce de Dieu ».ix

La Loi doit-elle être remplacée par la grâce ? Non. Les deux sont indissolublement liées. De même, d’ailleurs, que le sort des Juifs et des Nations.

« Ainsi, entre les Juifs et les païens, il n’y a pas de différence : tous ont le même Seigneur, généreux envers tous ceux qui l’invoquent ».x

Des païens qui ne cherchaient pas à devenir des justes ont obtenu de le devenir, par la foi. Israël qui a gardé et qui cherche à observer la Loi, pour devenir « juste », n’y est pas toujours parvenu, apparemment. Il y avait une pierre d’achoppement…

« Au lieu de compter sur la foi, ils comptaient sur les œuvres. Ils ont buté sur la pierre d’achoppement dont il est dit dans l’Écriture : Voici que je pose en Sion une pierre d’achoppement, un roc qui fait trébucher. Celui qui met en lui sa foi ne connaîtra pas la honte ».xi

Isaïe avait déjà prophétisé que YHVH serait « un piège, un rocher qui fait tomber, une pierre d’achoppement pour les deux maisons d’Israël, un filet et un piège pour les habitants de Jérusalem. »xii

Mais Isaïe avait aussi parlé d’une autre pierre que le Seigneur allait poser en Sion, non pas une pierre d’achoppement cette fois, mais une pierre de fondation.

« Ainsi parle le Seigneur YHVY : Voici que je vais poser en Sion une pierre, une pierre de granite, pierre angulaire, précieuse, pierre de fondation bien assise : celui qui s’y fie ne sera pas ébranlé. »xiii

Ces deux pierres, l’une d’achoppement, l’autre de fondation, ne sont-elles pas comme deux métaphores? Qui en révélera le sens?

Le rabbin Chaoul, disciple du rabbin Gamaliel, admira « l’audace » d’Isaïe admonestant Israël. Cela lui donna peut-être le désir d’être « audacieux », lui aussi, par une autre provocation bien dans sa façon:

« Je pose encore la question : Israël n’aurait-il pas compris ? Moïse, le premier, dit : Je vais vous rendre jaloux par une nation qui n’en est pas une, par une nation stupide je vais vous exaspérer.xiv Et Isaïe a l’audace de dire : ‘Je me suis laissé trouver par ceux qui ne me cherchaient pas, je me suis manifesté à ceux qui ne me demandaient rien’xv, tandis qu’il dit à l’adresse d’Israël : ‘Tout le jour j’ai tendu les mains vers un peuple désobéissant et rebelle’xvi. »xvii

Dans son audace, Chaoul a l’intuition d’un mystère plus profond.

« C’est ainsi qu’Israël tout entier sera sauvé, comme dit l’Écriture : De Sion viendra le libérateur, il fera disparaître les impiétés du milieu de Jacob. Certes, par rapport à l’Évangile, ils sont des adversaires, et cela, à cause de vous ; mais ils sont, selon l’Élection, des bien-aimés, et cela, à cause de leurs pères. Les dons gratuits de Dieu et son appel sont sans repentance. »xix

Ce mystère scelle la communauté de destin entre les Juifs et la totalité des Nations.xviii

Les Juifs et les Nations, un jour, proclameront d’une voix commune l’abasourdissante, insondable et impénétrable vérité:

« Quelle profondeur la sagesse et la connaissance de Dieu ! Ses décisions sont insondables, ses chemins sont impénétrables ! »xx

_________________

ihttp://www.akadem.org/medias/documents/Naasse-venichma-Doc4.pdf

iiY. Leibowitz, Judaïsme, peuple juif et État d’Israël, Paris, Jean-Claude Lattès, 1985. Cité in Sylvie Anne Goldberg, « Na‘assé vé-nishma. Nous ferons et nous entendrons ». De la croyance dans le judaïsme. P. Gisel, S. Margel (éds), Le Croire au cœur des sociétés et des cultures, Bibliothèque des Sciences Religieuses, Turnhout, Brepols, 2011, p. 43-63

iii Rm 4, 13-14

ivRm 3,20

vRm 4,15

viRm 3,28-29

viiRm 4, 16

viiiRm 7,12

ixRm 6,14

xRm 10,12

xiRm 9, 32-33

xiiIs 8,14

xiiiIs 28,16

xivDt 32,21 : « Ils m’ont rendu jaloux avec un néant de dieu  (בְלֹא-אֵל, littéralement « avec un non-dieu ») , ils m’ont irrité par leurs êtres de rien (בְּהַבְלֵיהֶם ) ; eh bien ! Moi, je les rendrai jaloux avec un néant de peuple (בְּלֹא-עָם) , je les irriterai avec une nation stupide  (בְּגוֹי נָבָל) . »

xvIs 65,1

xviIs 65,2

xviiRm 10, 19-21

xviiiRm 11,25

xixRm 11, 26-29

xxRm 11,33

An Ugly Black Sun From Which the Night Radiates


-Victor Hugo-

Victor, thoughtful, once stood near the dolmen of Rozel. A dark and talkative ghost appeared to him. From his mouth of night flowed a powerful, agitated stream, mixing raw and chosen words, where dead trunks and black silt layed. The nyctalope poet was even more loquacious, and his verses sprang, in hurried theories, out of their grassy, wordy bushes.

The images added up, like glasses at the bar:

The immense can be heard. Everything speaks. Everything has consciousness. The tombs are dressed in grass and night. The abyss prays. All lives. The depth is imperfect. Evil is in the universe. Everything goes to the worst, always, without ceasing. The soul chooses. The tree is religious. The pebble is vile, blind, hideous. Matter is evil, – fatal fruit. The incontinent poet rhymes ‘ombre‘ (shadow) with ‘sombre‘ (dark) several times without any shame. And, to compensate, ‘vivant‘ (alive) with ‘en avant‘ (forward).

He had a sad forehead, this great man, this exile with sad sweats, funeral impulses. He bent, this poet, from the weight of the infinite, nothing less, and from the silly light of the gloomy suns.

God is here. Are we so sure? Of course we are! He is not out of anything, by the way. The azure, and the rays, hide His wingspan.

Interpelled in vain, the Spirit continues his way, without wanting to hear Man alone, despising his ‘vile flesh’. The word ‘vile’ returns like an antiphon. The enormous life always continues, it enters the invisible, it ascends to the heavens, it travels ‘millions of leagues’, it reaches even to the ‘radiant toe’ of the ‘archangel sun’ and vanishes in God. Yes ‘in God’! That is, in the depths! Jacob and Cato have already passed through these ladders, with their future of duty, mourning, and exile. They have passed through these precipices and abysses, where the larvae and the mysteries, the vapors and the hydrants, are hurried.

Following them, the seers and angels plunged, towards the winged souls.

But for the banished who remain stuck in the nadir, shipwreck is promised, and the ‘rimless abyss’, full of ‘rain’, opens up.

« Of all that lived rains unceasingly the ashes;

And one sees everything at the bottom, when the eye dares to go down there,

Beyond the life, and the breath and the noise,
An ugly black sun from which the night radiates! »i

The Spirit thunders and threatens. As a prophet, he says: the top goes down, the ideal goes to matter, the spirit falls to the animal, the great crashes into the small, the fire announces the ashes, blindness is born of the seer, and darkness of the flamboyant.

But the rhymes save! ‘Azure’ goes with ‘pure’.

Above is joy, below is filth and evil.

It’s perfectly binary. Structurally binary.

In the infinite, one goes up, – or one falls.

Every being is in balance, and weighs its own weight. For elevation, or fall.

Let man contemplate, then, the cesspool or the temple!

Underneath even the worst of the rough ones, there are still the plants without eyelids, and under the stones, there is chaos.

But, always, the soul must continue to descend, towards the dungeon, the punishment and the scaffold.

Ah! Victor! How your hard and funny verses judge worlds and History!

With a light gesture, you cut down your cleaver, soaked with unbelievable alexandrines!

« Once, without understanding it and with a dazed eye

India has almost glimpsed this metempsychosis. »ii

‘India has almost glimpsed this metempsychosis’. Seriously ???

You Victor, you saw! You Clarified Poet, young Genius of Jersey! You, Seer, you knew, much better than her, this old India, that the bramble becomes a claw, and the cat’s tongue becomes a rose leaf, – to drink the blood of the mouse, in the shadows and the shouts !

Ah, Victor, seeing from your higher heaven, you contemplate the unheard-of spectacle of the lower regions, and you listen to the immense cry of misfortune, the sighs of the pebbles and the desperate.

You see ‘everywhere, everywhere, everywhere’, angels ‘with dead wings’, gloomy larvae, and ragged forests. Punishment seeks darkness, and Babel, when it is overthrown, always flees into the depths of the night. The man for you, O Victor, full of victories, glory and knowledge, is never but a brute drunk with nothingness, who empties the drunken glass of his sleeps, night after night.

But there is a but. When you think twice, man is in prison but his soul remains free. The magi thought that legions of unknown and enslaved souls were constantly trampled underfoot by men who denied them. The ashes in the hearth, or the sepulchre, also claim that a heap of evil sleeps in them.

Man says: No! He prostitutes his mouth to nothingness, while even his dog lying in the night (that sinister constellation) sees God. This is because man is nothing, even if the starry beast is little. He denies, he doubts, in the shadow, the dark and gloomy, the vile and hideous, and he rushes into this abyss, this universal sewer.

Ah! Victor! Why didn’t you crush, with a heavy foot, that immortal worm that was gnawing at your overripe soul?

Alas! Alas! Alas! All is alive! Everything thinks!

Triple complaint, quintuple exclamation. One must cry over all the hideous ugliness of the world.

The spider is filthy, the slug is wet, the aphid is vile, the crab is hideous, the bark beetle is awful (like the sun!), the toad is scary.

But there is still hope at the end!

The underworld will refer to itself as eden. It will be the real day. Beauty will flood the night. The pariah universe will stutter in praise. Mass graves will sing. The mud will palpitate.

The pains will end, – as this poem ends: with the ‘Beginning’!

To Victor, however, I would like to address a short message from beyond time, a brief word from beyond the age, a distant sign from India, who ‘glimpsed’ something that Hugo neither saw nor suspected:

Before the very Beginning, there was neither being nor non-being, and ‘all darkness was enveloped in darkness.’ iii

Wise men commented: the spirit (in Sanskrit: manas) is the one and only thing that can be both existing and non-existent. The spirit exists, they said, only in things, but things, if they have no spirit, then they are non-existentiv.

The seers have long sought wise views on these difficult questions.

They thought, for example, that there was a hidden, deep, obscure link between Being and Non-Being. And they asked themselves: What link? And who could really know anything about it?

They replied ironically: « He certainly knows it – or maybe He Himself doesn’t even know it ! »v

_____________

i Victor Hugo. Contemplations. XXVI , « What the Mouth of Shadow Says ».

ii Ibid.

iiiRV X,129.3

ivCf. SB X,5,3, 1-2

v RV X,129.7

Three Beginnings


« Genesis »

The anthropology of the ‘beginning’ is quite rich. A brief review of three traditions, Vedic, Jewish and Christian, here cited in the order of their historical arrival on the world stage, may help to compare their respective myths of ‘beginning’ and understand their implications.

1. The Gospel of John introduced the Greek idea of logos, ‘in the beginning’.

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ὁ λόγος.

« In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ». (Jn 1:1)

It is certainly worth digging a little deeper into the meaning of the two words ἀρχῇ (arkhè) and λόγος (logos), given their importance here.

Ἐν ἀρχῇ. En arkhè.

What is the real (deep) meaning of this expression?

Should one translate by « In the beginning »? Or « In the Principle »? Or something else?

The original meaning of the verb arkho, arkhein, commonly used since Homer, is ‘to take the initiative, to begin’. In the active sense, the word means ‘to command’.i With the preverb en-, the verb en-arkhomai means ‘to begin the sacrifice’, and later ‘to exercise magistracy’. The notion of sacrifice is very present in the cloud of meanings associated with this word. Kat-arkho : ‘to begin a sacrifice’. Pros-arkho, ‘to offer a gift’. Ex-arkho means ‘to begin, to sing (a song)’. Hup-arkho, ‘to begin, to be in the beginning’, hence ‘to be fundamental, to exist’, and finally ‘to be’.

Many compounds use as first term the word arkhè, meaning either ‘who starts’ or ‘who commands’. The oldest meaning is ‘who takes the initiative of’. There is the Homeric meaning of arkhé-kakos, ‘who is at the origin of evils’. The derived word arkhosgave rise to the formation of a very large number of compounds (more than 150 have been recordedii), of which Chantraine notes that they all refer to the notion of leading, of command, — and not to the notion of beginning.

The feminine noun arkhe, which is the word used in the Gospel of John, can mean ‘beginning’, but philosophers use it to designate ‘principles’, ‘first elements’ (Anaximander is the first to use it in this sense), or to mean ‘power, sovereignty’.

Chantraine concludes that the meanings of arkhè whicharerelated to the notions of ‘taking the initiative’, of ‘starting’, are the oldest, but that meanings that express the idea of ‘command’ also are very old, since they already appear in Homer. In all the derivations and subsequent compositions, it is the notion of ‘commanding’ that dominates, including in a religious sense: ‘to make the first gesture, to take the initiative (of sacrifice)’.

One may conjecture from all this, that the Johannine expression ‘en arkhèdoes not contain the deep idea of an ‘absolute beginning’. Rather, it may refer to the idea of a (divine) sacrificial initiative or inauguration (of the divine ‘sacrifice’), which presupposes not an absolute, temporal beginning, but rather an intemporal, divine decision, and the pre-existence of a whole background necessary for the conception and execution of this divine, inaugural and atemporal ‘sacrifice’.

Now, what about λόγος, logos ? How to translate this word with the right nuance? Does logos mean here ‘verb’ ? ‘Word’ ? ‘Reason’ ? ‘Speech’ ?

The word logos comes from the Greek verb lego, legein, whose original meaning is ‘to gather, to choose’, at least in the ways Homer uses this word in the Iliad. This value is preserved with the verbal compounds using the preverbs dia– or ek– (dia-legeinor ek-legein,‘to sort, to choose’), epi-legein ‘to choose, to pay attention to’, sul-legeintogather’. Legeinsometimes means ‘to enumerate’ in the Odyssey, and ‘to utter insults’, or ‘to chat, to discourse’ in the Iliad. This is how the use of lego, legein in the sense of ‘to tell, to say’ appeared, a use that competes with other Greek verbs that also have the meaning of ‘to say’: agoreuo, phèmi.

The noun logos is very ancient and can be found in the Iliad and Odyssey with the meaning of ‘speech, word’, and in Ionic and Attic dialects with meanings such as ‘narrative, account, consideration, explanation, reasoning, reason’, – as opposed to ‘reality’ (ergon). Then, much later, logos has come to mean ‘immanent reason’, and in Christian theology, it started to mean the second person of the Trinity, or even God.iii

Usually Jn 1:1 is translated, as we know : ‘In the beginning was the Word’. But if one wants to remain faithful to the most original meaning of these words, en arkhè and logos, one may choose to translate this verse in quite a different way.

I propose (not as a provocation, but for a brain-storming purpose) to tranlate :

« At the principle there was a choice. »

Read: « At the principle » — [of the divine sacrifice] — « there was a [divine] choice ».

Explanation: The divine Entity which proceeded, ‘in the beginning’, did not Itself begin to be at the time of this ‘beginning’. It was necessarily already there, before any being andbefore any beginning, in order toinitiate and make the ‘beginning’ and the ‘being’ possible. The ‘beginning’ is thus only relative, since the divine Entity was and is always before and any beginning and any time, out of time and any beginning.

Also, let’s argue that the expression ‘en arkhe‘ in Jn 1:1 rather refers to the idea and initiative of a ‘primordial sacrifice‘ or a primal ‘initiation’, — of which the Greek language keeps a deep memory in the verb arkhein, whencompounded with the preverb en-: en-arkhomai, ‘to initiate the sacrifice’, a composition very close to the Johannine formula en arkhe.

As for the choice of the word ‘choice‘ to translate logos, it is justified by the long memory of the meanings of the word logos. The word logos only meant ‘word’ at a very late period, and when it finally meant that, this was in competition with other Greek words with the same meaning of ‘to say’, or ‘to speak’, such as phèmi, or agoreuo. as already said.

In reality, the original meaning of the verb lego, legein,is not ‘to speak’ or ‘to say’, but revolves around the ideas of ‘gathering’ and ‘choosing’, which are mental operations prior to any speech. The idea of ‘speaking’ is basically only second, it only comes after the ‘choice’ made by the mind to ‘gather’ [its ideas] and ‘distinguish’ or ‘elect’ them [in order to ‘express’ them].

2. About a thousand years before the Gospel of John, the Hebrew tradition tells yet another story of ‘beginning’, not that of the beginning of a ‘Word’ or a ‘Verb’, but that of a unity coupled with a multiplicity in order to initiate ‘creation’.

The first verse of the Torah (Gen 1:1) reads:

בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ.

Berechit bara elohim et ha-chamaïm v-et ha-arets.

Usually Gn 1.1 is translated as :

« In the beginning God created heaven and earth ».

The word אֱלֹהִים , elohim, is translated by ‘God’. However, elohim is grammatically a plural (and could be, — grammatically speaking –, translated as  »the Gods »), as the other plural in this verse, ha-chamayim, should be translated bythe heavens’. The fact that the verb bara (created) is in the singular is not a difficulty from this point of view. In the grammar of ancient Semitic languages (to which the grammar of classical Arabic still bears witness today, for it has preserved, more than Hebrew, these ancient grammatical rules) the plurals of non-human animated beings that are subjects of verbs, put these in the 3rd person singular. Elohim is a plural of non-human animated beings, because they are divine.

Another grammatical rule states that when the verb is at the beginning of the sentence, and is followed by the subject, the verb should always be in the singular form, even when the subject is plural.

From these two different grammatical rules, therefore, the verb of which elohim is the subject must be put in the singular (bara).

In other words, the fact that the verb bara is a 3rd person singular does not imply that the subject elohim should grammatically be also a singular.

As for the initial particle, בְּ be, in the expression be-rechit, it has many meanings, including ‘with’, ‘by’, ‘by means of’.

In accordance with several midrachic interpretations found in the Bereshit Rabbah, I propose not to translate be-rechit by ‘in the beginning’, but to suggest quite another translation.

By giving the particle בְּ be- the meaning of ‘with‘ or ‘by, be-rechit may be translatedby: « with [the ‘rechit‘] ».

Again in accordance with several midrachic interpretations, I also suggest giving back to ‘rechitits original meaning of ‘first-fruits‘ (of a harvest), and even giving it in this context not a temporal meaning but a qualitative and superlative one: ‘the most precious‘.

It should be noted, by the way, that these meanings meet well with the idea of ‘sacrifice’ that the Greek word arkhé in theJohannine Gospel contains, as we have just seen.

Hence the proposed translation of Gn 1.1 :

« By [or with] the Most Precious, the Gods [or God] created etc… »

Let us note finally that in this first verse of the Hebrew Bible, there is no mention of ‘speaking’, or ‘saying’ any ‘Verb’ or ‘Word’.

It is only in the 3rd verse of Genesis that God (Elohim) ‘says’ (yomer) something…

וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, יְהִי אוֹר; וַיְהִי-אוֹר

Va-yomer Elohim yéhi ‘or vé yéhi ‘or.

Literally: « Elohim says ‘let there be light’, and the light is [and will be]. »

Then in the 5th verse, God (Elohim) ‘calls’ (yqra), i.e. God ‘gives names’.

וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים לָאוֹר יוֹם

Va-yqra’ Elohim la-‘or yom

« And Elohim called the light ‘day’. »

The actual « word » of God will come only much later. The verb דָּבַר davar ‘to speak’ or the noun דָּבָר davar ‘word’ (as applied to YHVH) only appeared long after the ‘beginning’ had begun:

« All that YHVH has said » (Ex 24:7).

« YHVH has fulfilled his word » (1 Kings 8:20).

« For YHVH has spoken » (Is 1:2).

3. Let us now turn to the Vedic tradition, which dates (in its orally transmitted form) to one or two millennia before the Hebrew tradition.

In the Veda, in contrast to Genesis or the Gospel of John, there is not ‘one’ beginning, but several beginnings, operating at different levels, and featuring various actors …

Here are a few examples:

« O Lord of the Word (‘Bṛhaspati’)! This was the beginning of the Word.  » (RV X, 71,1)

« In the beginning, this universe was neither Being nor Non-Being. In the beginning, indeed, this universe existed and did not exist: only the Spirit was there.

The Spirit was, so to speak, neither existing nor non-existent.

The Spirit, once created, desired to manifest itself.

This Spirit then created the Word. « (SB X 5, 3, 1-2)

« Nothing existed here on earth in the beginning; it was covered by death (mṛtyu), by hunger, because hunger is death. She became mental [she became ‘thinking’]: ‘May I have a soul (ātman)‘. »(BU 1,2,1).

Perhaps most strikingly, more than two or three millennia before the Gospel of John, the Veda already employed formulas or metaphors such as: the ‘Lord of the Word’ or ‘the beginning of the Word’.

In Sanskrit, the ‘word’ is वाच् Vāc. In the Veda it is metaphorically called ‘the Great’ (bṛhatī), but it also receives many other metaphors or divine names.

The Word of the Veda, Vāc, ‘was’ before any creation, it pre-existed before any being came to be.

The Word is begotten by and in the Absolute – it is not ‘created’.

The Absolute for its part has no name, because He is before the word. Or, because He is the Word. He is the Word itself, or ‘all the Word’.

How then could He be called by any name? A name is never but a single word: it cannot speak thewhole Word’, – all that has been, is and will be Word.

The Absolute is not named. But one can name the Supreme Creator, the Lord of all creatures, which is one of its manifestations, – like the Word, moreover.

The Ṛg Veda gives it the name प्रजापति Prajāpati,: Lord (pati) of Creation (prajā). It also gives itthe name ब्र्हस्पति Bṛhaspati, which means ‘Lord of the Wordiv, Lord (pati) of the Great (bṛhatī )’.

For Vāc is the ‘greatness’ of Prajāpati: « Then Agni turned to Him with open mouth; and He (Prajāpati) was afraid, and his own greatness separated from Him. Now His very greatness is His Word, and this greatness has separated from Him. »v

The Sanskrit word bṛhat, बृहत् means ‘great, high; vast, abundant; strong, powerful; principal’. Its root ब्र्ह bṛha means‘to increase, to grow; to become strong; to spread’.

The Bṛhadāraṇyaka-upaniṣad comments: « It is also Bṛhaspati: Bṛhatī [‘the great one’] is indeed the Word, and he is its Lord (pati). « vi

The Word is therefore also at the « beginning » in the Veda, but it precedes it, and makes it possible, because the Word is intimately linked to the (divine) Sacrifice.

The Ṛg Veda explains the link between the supreme Creator, the Word, the Spirit, and the Sacrifice, a link that is unraveled and loosened ‘in the beginning’:

« O Lord of the Word! This was the beginning of the Word,

– when the seers began to name everything.

Excellence, the purest, the profoundly hidden

in their hearts, they revealed it through their love.

The Seers shaped the Word by the Spirit,

passing it through a sieve, like wheat being sifted.

Friends recognized the friendship they had for each other,

and a sign of good omen sealed their word.

Through sacrifice, they followed the way of the Word,

and this Word which they found in them, among them,

– they proclaimed it and communicated it to the multitude.

Together, the Seven Singers sing it. »vii

In the Śatapatha brāhmaṇa which is a later scholarly commentary, the Word is presented as the divine entity that created the « Breath of Life »:

« The Word, when he was created, desired to manifest himself, and to become more explicit, more incarnated. He desired a Self. He concentrated fervently. He acquired substance. These were the 36,000 fires of his own Self, made of the Word, and emerging from the Word. (…) With the Word they sang and with the Word they recited. Whatever rite is practiced in the Sacrifice, the sacrificial rite exists by the Word alone, as the utterance of voices, as fires composed of the Word, generated by the Word (…) The Word created the Breath of Life. »viii

In the Bṛhadāraṇyaka-upaniṣad, one of the oldest upaniṣad, the Vedic Word is staged as born of death, or rather of the soul (ātman)of death.

This Word is the prayer or hymn (ṛc), or ritual recitation (arc, of the same root as ṛc). Through the play of assonances, homophonies and metaphors, it is associated with arca, the‘fire’ and ka, the‘water’ (both essential elements of the sacrifice), and also with ka, the ‘joy’ it brings.

« Nothing existed here on earth in the beginning; it was covered by death (mṛtyu), by hunger, for hunger is deathix. She made herself mental [thinking]: ‘May I have a soul (ātman)‘. She engaged in a ritual recitation [bow, a prayer]. While she was in the ritual recitation the water was bornx. She thought] ‘Truly, while engaged in this ritual recitation (arc), the water [or joy] (ka) came’. This is the name and being (arkatva) of the ritual recitation [or fire] (arka). Water [or joy] (ka) really happens to the one who knows the name and being of the virtual recitation [or fire]. »xi

From these quotations, one sees clearly that, in the Vedic tradition, the Word is not « in the beginning », but he is « the beginning ». The beginning of what? — The beginning of Sacrifice.

The Word ‘begins’ to reveal, he ‘initiates’, but he also hides all that he does not reveal.

What is it that he does not reveal? – He does not reveal all the depth, the abyss of the (divine) Sacrifice.

The Word is a ‘place’ where is made possible an encounter between clarity, light, brilliance (joy) and Man. But the Word also makes heard, through his silence, all the immensity of the abyss, the depth of the darkness, the in-finite before any beginnings.

__________

iCf. The Greek Etymological Dictionary of Chantraine

iiBuck-Petersen, Reverse index 686-687

iiiCf. Lampe, Lexicon, Kittel, Theological Words.

ivRV X.71

vSB II, 2,4,4

vi Cf. BU,1,3,30. This Upaniṣad further explains that the Word is embodied in the Vedas in the Vedic hymn (Ṛc), in theformula of sacrifice (yajus) and in the sacred melody (sāman). Bṛhatī is also the name given to the Vedic verse (ṛc) and the name of the Brahman (in the neutral) is given to the sacrificial formula (yajus). As for the melody (sāman) it is ‘Breath-Speech’: « That is why it is also Bṛhaspati (Ṛc). It is also Bhrahmaṇaspati. The Brahman is indeed the Word and he is the lord (pati) of the [Word]. That is why he is also Bhrahmaṇaspati (= Yajus). He is also the melody (sāman). The melody is truly the Word: ‘He is she, (the Word) and he is Ama (the breath). This is for the name and nature of the melody (sāman). Or because he is equal (sama) to a gnat, equal to a mosquito, equal to an elephant, equal to the three worlds, equal to this all, for this reason he is sāman, melody. It obtains the union with the sāman , theresidence in the same world, the one that knows the sāman. »(BU 1,3,20-22)

vii RV X, 71, 1-3.

viii SB X 5, 3, 1-5

ix A. Degrâces thus comments this sentence: « The question of cause is raised here. If nothing is perceived, nothing exists. Śaṅkara is based on the concepts of covering and being covered: ‘What is covered by the cause is the effect, and both exist before creation… But the cause, by destroying the preceding effect, does not destroy itself. And the fact that one effect occurs by destroying another is not in opposition to the fact that the cause exists before the effect that is produced….Manifestation means reaching the realm of perception… Not being perceived does not mean not existing… There are two forms of covering or occultation in relation to the effect… What is destroyed, produced, existing and non-existing depends on the relation to the manifestation or occultation… The effort consists in removing what covers… Death is the golden embryo in the condition of intelligence, hunger is the attribute of what intelligence is… ». (BAUB 1.2) Alyette Degrâces. The Upaniṣad. Fayard, 2014, p.222, note n° 974.

x Water plays an essential role in the Vedic sacrifice.

xiBU 1,2,1 (My adaptation in English from a French translation by Alyette Degrâces. The upaniṣad. Fayard, 2014, p.222)

The God « Ka » (« Who? »)


« Raimundo Panikkar »

More than two millennia before the times of Melchisedechi and Abraham, other wandering and pious men were already singing the hymns of Ṛg Veda. Passing them on faithfully, generation after generation, they celebrated through hymns and prayers, the mysteries of a Supreme God, a Lord creator of worlds, of all creatures, of all lives.

Intelligence of the divine did just not begin in Ur in Chaldea, nor sacred wisdom in Salem.

They probably already reigned, more than five thousand years ago, among chosen, attentive, dedicated spirits. These men left as a legacy the hymns they sang, in precise and chiselled phrases, evoking the salient mysteries that constantly assailed them:

Of the Creator of all things, what can be said? What is his name?

What is the primary source of « Being »? How to name the primordial « Sun », from which the entire Cosmos emerged?

‘Who’ is the Lord imposing his lordship on all beings, – and on the ‘Being’ itself ? But who is ‘Who’?

What is the role of Man, what is his true part in this Mystery play?

A Vedic hymn, famous among all, summarizes and condenses all these difficult questions into one single one, both limpid and obscure.

It is Hymn X, 121 of Ṛg Veda, often titled « To the Unknown God ».

In the English translation by Ralph T.H. Griffith, this Hymn is entitled « Ka ».ii Ka, in Sanskrit, means « who ? »

This Hymn is dedicated to the God whom the Veda literally calls « Who? »

Griffith translates the exclamation recurring nine times throughout this ten-verses Hymn as follows :

« What God shall we adore with our oblation ? »

But from the point of view of Sanskrit grammar, it is perfectly possible to personify this interrogative pronoun, Ka, as the very name of the Unknown God.

Hence this possible translation :

To the God ‘Who?’

1. In the beginning appeared the Golden Germ.

As soon as he was born, he became the Lord of Being,

The support of Earth and this Heaven.

What God shall we adore with our oblation ? 

2. He, who gives life force and endurance,

He, whose commandments are laws for the Gods,

He, whose shadow is Immortal Life, – and Death.

What God shall we adore with our oblation ? 

3. ‘Who?iii – in His greatness appeared, the only sovereign

Of everything that lives, breathes and sleeps,

He, the Lord of Man and all four-membered creatures.

What God shall we adore with our oblation ? 

4. To Him belongs by right, by His own power,

The snow-covered mountains, the flows of the world and the sea.

His arms embrace the four quarters of the sky.

What God shall we adore with our oblation ? 

5. ‘Who?’ holds the Mighty Heavens and the Earth in safety,

He formed the light, and above it the vast vault of Heaven.

‘Who?’ measured the ether of the intermediate worlds.

What God shall we adore with our oblation ? 

6. Towards Him, trembling, forces crushed,

Subjected to his glory, raise their eyes.

Through Him, the sun of dawn projects its light.

What God shall we adore with our oblation ? 

7. When came the mighty waters, carrying

The Universal Germ from which Fire springs,

The One Spirit of God was born to be.

What God shall we adore with our oblation ? 

8. This Unit, which, in its power, watched over the Waters,

Pregnant with the life forces engendering the Sacrifice,

She is the God of Gods, and there is nothing on Her side.

What God shall we adore with our oblation ? 

9. O Father of the Earth, ruling by immutable laws,

O Heavenly Father, we ask You to keep us,

O Father of the ample and divine Waters!

What God shall we adore with our oblation ? 

10. O Lord of creaturesiv, Father of all things,

You alone penetrate all that is born,

This sacrifice that we offer you, we desire it,

Give it to us, and may we become lords of oblation!

_________

What is this divine Germ (Hiraṇyagarbha , or ‘Golden Germ’, in Sanskrit), mentioned in verses 1, 7 and 8?

One does not know, but one can sense it. The Divine is not the result of a creation, nor of an evolution, or of a becoming, as if it was not, – then was. The Veda here attempts a breakthrough in the very nature of the divinity, through the image of the ‘germ’, the image of pure life. The idea of a ‘God’ is only valid from the creature’s point of view. The idea of ‘God’ appears only through its relation to the idea of ‘creature’. For Himself, God is not ‘God’, – He must be, in His own eyes, something completely different, which has nothing to do with the pathos of creation and the creature.

One can make the same remark about « Being ». The « Being » appears only when the beings appear. God creates the beings and the Being at the same time. He Himself is beyond Being, since it is through Him that Being comes. And before the beings, before the Being itself, it seems that a divine, mysterious life ‘took place’. Not that it ‘was’, since the Being was not yet, but it ‘lived’, hidden, and then ‘was born’. But from what womb? From what prior, primordial uterus? We do not know. We only know that, in an abyssmal mystery (and not in time or space), an even deeper mystery, a sui generis mystery, grew, in this very depth, which was then to come to being, but without the Mystery itself being revealed by this growth and by this outcoming of being.

The place of origin of the mystery is not known, but the Veda calls it ‘Golden Germ’ (hiraṇyagarbha). This metaphor of a ‘Germ’ implies (logically?) some ovary, some womb, some desire, some life older than all life, and older than the Being itself.

Life came from this Living One, in Whom, by Whom and from Whom, it was given to the Being ; it was then given to be, and it was given thereby to beings, to all beings.

This mysterious process, which the word ‘Germ’ evokes, is also called ‘Sacrifice’, a word that appears in verse 8: Yajña (यज्ञ). The Seed dies to Himself, He sacrifices Himself, so that out of His own Life, life, all lives, may be born.

May God be born to Himself, through His sacrifice… What a strange thing!

By being born, God becomes ‘God’, He becomes the Lord of Being, for the Being, and the Lord of beings. Hymn 121 takes here its mystical flight, and celebrates a God who is the Father of creatures, and who is also always transcendent to the Being, to the world and to his own ‘divinity’ (inasmuch as this divinity allows itself to be seen in its Creation, and allows itself to be grasped in the Unity that it founds).

But who is this God who is so transcendent? Who is this God who hides, behind the appearance of the Origin, below or beyond the very Beginning?

There is no better noun, one might think, than this interrogative pronoun: ‘Who?’. Ka.

This ‘Who?’ , this Ka, does not call for an answer. Rather, it calls for another question, which Man addresses to himself: To whom? To whom must Man, seized by the unheard-of depth of the mystery, in turn offer his own sacrifice?

A haunting litany: « What God shall we adore with our oblation ? » 

It is not that the name of this God is strictly speaking unknown. Verse 10 uses the expression Prajāpati , ‘Lord of creatures’. It is found in other texts, for example in this passage from Taittirīya Saṁhitā :

« Indra, the latest addition to Prajāpati, was named ‘Lord of the Gods’ by his Father, but they did not accept him. Indra asked her Father to give her the splendor that is in the sun, so that she could be ‘Lord of the Gods’. Prajāpati answered her:

– If I give it to you, then who will I be?

– You will be what You say, who? (ka).

And since then, it was His name. »v

But these two names, Prajāpati , or Ka, refer only to something related to creatures, referring either to their Creator, or simply to their ignorance or perplexity.

These names say nothing about the essence of God. This essence is undoubtedly above all intelligibility, and above all essence.

This ka, ‘who?’, in the original Sanskrit text, is actually used in the singular dative form of the pronoun, kasmai (to whom?).

One cannot ask the question ‘who?’ with regard to God, but only ‘to whom? One cannot seek to question his essence, but only to distinguish him among all the other possible objects of worship.

God is mentally unknowable. Except perhaps in that we know that He is ‘sacrifice’. But we know nothing of the essence of His ‘sacrifice’. We can only ‘participate’ in the essence of this divine sacrifice (but not know it), more or less actively, — and this from a better understanding of the essence of our own sacrifice, of our ‘oblation’. Indeed, we are both subject and object of our oblation. In the same way, God is both subject and object of His sacrifice. We can then try to understand, by anagogy, the essence of His sacrifice through the essence of our oblation.

This is what Raimundo Panikkar describes as the ‘Vedic experience’. It is certainly not the personal experience of those Vedic priests and prophets who were chanting their hymns two thousand years before Abraham, but it could be at least a certain experience of the sacred, of which we ‘modern’ or ‘post-modern’ could still feel the breath and the burning.

____________________

iמַלְכֵּי-צֶדֶק , (malkî-ṣedeq) : ‘King of Salem’ and ‘Priest of the Most High (El-Elyôn)’.

iiRalph T.H. Griffith. The Hymns of the Rig Veda. Motilal Banarsidass Publihers. Delhi, 2004, p.628

iiiIn the original Sanskit: , Ka ? « To Whom ? »

iv Prajāpati :  » Lord of creatures « . This expression, so often quoted in the later texts of the Atharva Veda and Brāhmaṇa, is never used in the Ṛg Veda, except in this one place (RV X,121,10). It may therefore have been interpolated later. Or, – more likely in my opinion, it represents here, effectively and spontaneously, the first historically recorded appearance (in the oldest religious tradition in the world that has formally come down to us), or the ‘birth’ of the concept of ‘Lord of Creation’, ‘Lord of creatures’, – Prajāpati .

vTB II, 2, 10, 1-2 quoted by Raimundo Panikkar, The Vedic Experience. Mantramañjarī. Darton, Longman & Todd, London, 1977, p.69

L’Or de Verlaine, — métaphore de l’Unique


« Paul Verlaine »

De ses phrases courtes, dures, gorgées

de sang, de sève et de clichés,

dressées sans façon, sans trêve,

vers des cieux de rimes-rêves,

et de cris étranglés,

de pleurs d’orages,

fulgurent des idées,

spermes et glus dans la nuit,

et de l’or par millions, dans la fosse aux lions.

Voilà Verlaine en son tombeau.

Son couteau de mots le blessent vers son aine,

et son âme zèbre son rein beau.

S’envolent-ils d’Arthur vers Paul ou au-delà,

ces « millions d’oiseaux d’or »?

Cet or, cet Ô, prometteur de « futures vigueurs » ?

Le poète dit vrai,

qui donne sa vie pour ses visions,

et distribue à tous son or et ses raisons.

Ah ! La lumière d’or ! Pure de mots, elle arrose toutes choses.

Ah ! La terre et la mer et le ciel, purs encor

Et jeunes, qu’arrosait une lumière d’or i

On la trouve en Hellas, dans son ciel.

Et sous tes cieux dorés et clairs, Hellas antique,

De Sparte la sévère à la rieuse Attique ii

Et dans la bouche des poètes combattants.

……..Et le Laërtiade

Dompta, parole d’or qui charme et persuade,

Les esprits et les cœurs, et les âmes toujours iii.

Car l’or c’est le style,

Je suis l’Empire à la fin de la décadence,

Qui regarde passer les grands Barbares blancs

En composant des acrostiches indolents

D’un style d’or où la langueur du soleil danse.iv

L’or enferme des parfums, des harems, et couvre de son toit tout désir.

Mon désir créait sous des toits en or,

Parmi les parfums, au son des musiques,

Des harems sans fin, paradis physiques ! v

Il y a de l’or dans un nom même,

Nevermore.

Mais cet or de son seul est-il vrai ?

Redresse et peins à neuf tous les arcs triomphaux :

Brûle un encens ranci sur tes autels d’or faux ;vi

Ou seulement mordoré ?

Couvre-toi de tapis mordorés, mur jauni ;

Pousse à Dieu ton cantique, ô chantre rajeuni.vii

L’or n’est vrai que s’il est en vie.

Soudain, tournant vers moi son regard émouvant :

« Quel fut ton plus beau jour ? » fit sa voix d’or vivant.viii

Ou caché dans la caresse du cheveu,

Ah ! les oarystis ! les premières maîtresses !

L’or des cheveux, l’azur des yeux, la fleur des chairs ix

ou l’eau de la chevelure,

Et de toi j’aime toute chose

De la chevelure, fontaine

D’ébène ou d’or (et dis, ô pose-

Les sur mon cœur) aux pieds de reine.x

Car si le cheveu coule, il est aussi de feu.

Avec ses cheveux d’or épars comme du feu,

Assise, et ses grands yeux d’azur tristes un peu xi.

L’or est aussi dans les cils.

Et mon âme palpite au bout de tes cils d’or…

A propos, croyez-vous que Chloris m’aime encor ? xii

Ou lové dans les yeux aimés.

Je chanterai tes yeux d’or et d’onyx

Purs de toutes ombres,

Puis le Léthé de ton sein, puis le Styx

De tes cheveux sombres. xiii

Ou sonnant dans son cœur.

Mais dans ton cher cœur d’or, me dis-tu, mon enfant,

La fauve passion va sonnant l’oliphant !… xiv

Même si c’est un parfait cliché, le poète n’en a curexv.

Cœur d’or, comme l’on dit, âme de diamant xvi

Car il le sait, l’or luit dans l’oeil des vagabonds,

(les amoureux de l’éternel, des vieux morts, et des dieux).

Leurs jambes pour toutes montures,

Pour tout bien l’or de leurs regards. xvii

L’or, c’est sûr, aime les pauvres et les poètes.

Et l’or fou qui sied aux pauvres glorieux,

Aux poètes fiers comme les gueux d’Espagne xviii.

Mais pour le Pauvre l’or est vain.

La sale vanité de l’or qu’on a, l’envie

D’en avoir mais pas pour le Pauvre, cette vie xix.

On trouve de l’or partout.

Dans le ciel du sommeil,

L’or dilaté d’un ciel sans bornes

Berce de parfums et de chants,

Chers endormis, vos sommeils mornes ! xx

Et dans les cieux tout court.

Emportant son trophée à travers les cieux d’or!xxi

Ou encore dans la mer,

L’atmosphère est de perle et la mer d’or fané.xxii

Ou dans les nuages.

Ces clochers, cette tour, ces autres, sur l’or blême

Des nuages à l’ouest réverbérant l’or dur xxiii

Et dans les étoiles.

Tournez, tournez ! Le ciel en velours

D’astres en or se vêt lentement.xxiv

Dans le soleil lui-même,

Que lui fait l’astre d’or, que lui fait la charmille xxv,

surtout lorsqu’il paraît,

Car voici le soleil d’or. — xxvi

Mais le soleil même peut être dépassé par l’aimée.

Le soleil luisait haut dans le ciel calme et lisse,

Et dans ses cheveux blonds c’étaient des rayons d’or. xxvii

Ou par le noir de son propre soir,

Les yeux noirs, les cheveux noirs et le velours noir

Vont contrastant, parmi l’or somptueux d’un soir. xxviii

quand il semble à l’agonie,

Et le soleil couchant, quand dans l’or il s’effondre,

Pleure du sang de n’ouïr plus, les soirs d’été,

Monter vers lui l’air sombre et gai répercuté.xxix

mais où il trouve enfin sa fin:

Le couchant d’or et d’améthyste

S’éteint et brunit par degré. xxx

Le plus bel or, c’est l’aurore.

De fauve l’Orient devient rose, et l’argent

Des astres va bleuir dans l’azur qui se dore

L’alouette a volé stridente : c’est l’aurore ! xxxi

L’or illumine et voile le lit du (futur) mort.

Des rideaux de draps d’or roides comme des murs xxxii

Il est le compagnon de l’Inspiration, comme

L’Ange des vieux tableaux avec des ors au fond. xxxiii

L’or est partout. Il faut le dire.

L’or sur les humbles abîmes. xxxiv

Il est aussi là où il n’est pas.

Monsieur, vous raillez mieux encor

Que vous n’aimez, et parlez d’or;

Mais taisons-nous, si bon vous semble ? xxxv

Ou dans l’envol frivole d’un

papillon de pourpre et d’or. xxxvi

Ou parmi la moisson.

L’or des pailles s’effondre au vol siffleur des faux xxxvii

Ou dans le bruit clair d’un cuivre,

La note d’or que fait entendre

Un cor dans le lointain des bois xxxviii

ou le son tendre d’une voix.

Mon oreille avide d’entendre

Les notes d’or de sa voix tendre. xxxix

L’or et le tendre aiment bien se marier ensemble.

Et de noces d’or et du tendre xl

On trouve l’or aussi sous le sang de la cuirasse.

Voix de l’Orgueil ; un cri puissant, comme d’un cor.

Des étoiles de sang sur des cuirasses d’or xli

L’or est souvent lié au sang,

Ton sang qui s’amasse

En une fleur d’or xlii,

à la myrrhe, à l’encens,

La myrrhe, l’or et l’encens

Sont des présents moins aimables

Que de plus humbles présents

Offerts aux Yeux adorables.xliii

et avec la soie

Dans un palais, soie et or, dans Ecbatane,

De beaux démons, des satans adolescents, xliv

Ainsi qu’avec l’ombre,

D’arbres au vent et de poussière d’ombre et d’or.xlv

avec le feu,

Avec de l’or, du bronze et du feu dans la voix xlvi

et la bataille,

C’est le contact, c’est le conflit

Dans le sens, pur alors, qu’on lit

Sur l’or lucide des batailles.

Fi des faciles compromis! xlvii

L’or est liquide.

L’or fond et coule à flots et le marbre éclate xlviii

Il coule dans le sexe,

Et tumultueuse et folle et sa bouche

Plonge sous l’or blond, dans les ombres grises; xlix

— ici évasive allusion, mais là nommé vase:

À ton étreinte, bras très frais, souple et dur flanc,

Et l’or mystérieux du vase pour l’extase. l

L’or est doux.

Son âme en blanc linceul, par l’espace éclairci

D’une douce clarté d’or blond qui flue et vibre

Monte au plafond ouvert désormais à l’air libre

Et d’une ascension lente va vers les cieux. li

L’or, l’or, toujours l’or, et encore de l’or.

La Gueule parle: « L’or, et puis encore l’or,

Toujours l’or, et la viande, et les vins, et la viande,

Et l’or pour les vins fins et la viande, on demande

Un trou sans fond pour l’or toujours et l’or encor ! »

La Panse dit : « À moi la chute du trésor !

La viande, et les vins fins, et l’or, toute provende,

A moi ! Dégringolez dans l’outre toute grande

Ouverte du seigneur Nabuchodonosor ! lii

Qu’est-ce que l’or, enfin?

C’est le temps.

A ce mien passé d’or vanné représenté

Par un Génie en l’air, misère et liberté liii

C’est l’âme.

On fut jeune et on l’est encor,

Cœur de diamant, âme d’or

Pur et dur, un trésor à prendreliv

L’Or c’est l’Unique.

_______________________

iVerlaine. Poèmes saturniens. Prologue

iiVerlaine. Poèmes saturniens. Prologue

iiiVerlaine. Poèmes saturniens. Prologue

ivVerlaine. Jadis et naguère. Langueur

vVerlaine. Poèmes saturniens. Résignation

viVerlaine. Poèmes saturniens. Nevermore

viiVerlaine. Poèmes saturniens. Nevermore

viiiVerlaine. Poèmes saturniens. Nevermore

ixVerlaine. Poèmes saturniens. Voeu

xVerlaine, Chair, Chanson pour elle.

xiVerlaine. Cellulairement. Amoureuse du diable.

xiiVerlaine. Jadis et naguère. Les uns et les autres. Scène 8

xiiiVerlaine. Poèmes saturniens. Sérénade

xivVerlaine. Poèmes saturniens. Lassitude

xvVerlaine use à l’occasion de clichés, sans trop de modération, mais pour s’en détacher aussitôt, en une pirouette. Voici quelques exemples de clichés choisis (« franc comme l’or », « rouler sur l’or », « le veau d’or », « le silence d’or »), et de leurs envols ultérieurs:

 » (…) franche

Comme l’or, comme un bel oiseau sur une branche ».

Bonheur, Œuvres complètes, Tome II.

« Tu nageais dans l’argent et tu roulais sur l’or,

Et, pour te faire heureuse et belle mieux encor,

Une passion vraie et forte t’avait prise,

Qui t’exalta longtemps comme un bon vin qui grise. »

Élégies, Œuvres complètes, Tome III.

« Vous voulez tuer le veau gras

Et qu’un sonnet signe la trêve.

Très bien, le voici, mais mon rêve

Serait, pour sortir d’embarras

Et nous bien décharger les bras

De la manière la plus brève,

— Tel un lourd fardeau qu’on enlève—

Que ce veau fût d’or et très gras. »

Dédicaces, A Léon Vanier, Œuvres complètes, Tome III.

« Le bruit de ton aiguille et celui de ma plume

Sont le silence d’or dont on parla d’argent.

Ah ! cessons de nous plaindre, insensés que nous fûmes,

Et travaillons tranquillement au nez des gens ! »

Vers sans rimes, Œuvres complètes, Tome III.

xviVerlaine. Cellulairement. Amoureuse du diable.

xviiVerlaine. Poèmes saturniens. Grotesques

xviiiVerlaine. Jadis et naguère. Sonnets et autres vers

xixVerlaine. Amour. Angélus de midi

xxVerlaine. Poèmes saturniens. Sub urbe

xxiVerlaine. Poèmes saturniens. Epilogue

xxiiVerlaine. Amour. Bournemouth

xxiiiVerlaine. Sagesse. XIX

xxivVerlaine. Romances sans paroles. Bruxelles. Chevaux de bois.

xxvVerlaine. Poèmes saturniens. Monsieur Prudhomme

xxviVerlaine. La bonne chanson. Avant que tu ne t’en ailles

xxviiVerlaine. Romances sans paroles. Beams

xxviiiVerlaine. Poèmes saturniens. César Borgia

xxixVerlaine, Épigrammes, 11, Œuvres complètes, Tome III.

xxxVerlaine. Jadis et naguère. Les loups

xxxiVerlaine. Jadis et naguère. Les vaincus

xxxiiVerlaine. Poèmes saturniens. La mort de Philippe II

xxxiiiVerlaine. Poèmes saturniens. Epilogue

xxxivVerlaine. Romances sans paroles. Bruxelles. Simples fresques.

xxxvVerlaine. Fêtes galantes. Les indolents.

xxxviVerlaine. Fêtes galantes. L’amour par terre

xxxviiVerlaine. Sagesse. XX

xxxviiiVerlaine. La bonne chanson. VIII

xxxixVerlaine. La bonne chanson. XI

xlVerlaine. Sagesse. Ecoutez la chanson bien douce.

xliVerlaine. Sagesse. XIX

xliiVerlaine. Sagesse. Du fond du grabat

xliiiVerlaine. Liturgies intimes. Rois

xlivVerlaine. Jadis et naguère. Crimen amoris

xlvVerlaine. Sagesse. Parisien, mon frère à jamais étonné

xlviVerlaine. Amour. Bournemouth

xlviiVerlaine. Épigrammes, 10, Œuvres complètes, Tome III.

xlviiiVerlaine. Jadis et naguère. Les vaincus

xlixVerlaine. Parallèlement. Pensionnaires

lVerlaine. Prologue supprimé à un livre « d’invectives ».Œuvres complètes, Tome II.

liVerlaine. Jadis et naguère. La grâce

liiVerlaine. Amour. Sonnet héroïque

liiiVerlaine. Dédicaces. A Armand Sinval, Œuvres complètes, Tome III.

livVerlaine. Épigrammes, Œuvres complètes, Tome III, p.236.