West does not meet East, does it?

« Raimon Panikkar »

For more than two centuries, the West has produced a small but highly committed phalanx of Indianists, Sanskritists and Veda specialists. Their translations, commentaries, reviews, and scholarly theses are generally of good quality and show a high level of scholarship. The specialized departments of some Western universities have been able to promote, year after year, excellent contributions to the knowledge of the enormous mass of documents and texts, Vedic and post-Vedic, belonging to a tradition whose origins go back more than four thousand years.

One is quickly struck, however, by the dazzling diversity of the points of view expressed by these specialists on the deep meaning and the very nature of the Veda. One is surprised by the remarkable differences in the interpretations provided, and in the end, in spite of a smooth harmony of facade, by their incompatibility and their irreconcilable cacophony.

To give a quick idea of the spectrum of opinions, I would like to briefly quote some of the best experts on Vedic India.

Of course, if one wanted to be complete, one would have to make a systematic review of all the research in indology since the beginning of the 19th century, to determine the structural biases, the interpretative flaws, the blindness and the cultural deafness…

I will limit myself to just touching on the issue by evoking a few significant works by well-known specialists: Émile Burnouf, Sylvain Lévi, Henri Hubert, Marcel Mauss, Louis Renou, Frits Staal, Charles Malamoud, Raimon Panikkar.

The following ideas will be found there in a jumble, – surprisingly eclectic and contradictory:

Vāk is the Logos. Or: The Vedic Word (Vāk) is equivalent to the Greek Logos and the Johannine Word.

-The Veda (a.k.a. the « Aryan Bible ») is « coarse » and comes from « semi-savage » people.

-God’s sacrifice is only a « social fact ».

-The Veda got lost in India quite early on.

-The rites (and especially Vedic rites) have no meaning.

-The sacrifice represents the union of the Male and Female.

-Sacrifice is the Navel of the Universe.

Émile Burnoufi: Vāk is the Logos

Active in the second half of the 19th century, Émile Burnouf asserted that the Vedic Aryâs had a very clear awareness of the value of their cult, and of their role in this respect. « Vedic poets state that they themselves created the gods: ‘The ancestors shaped the forms of the gods, as the worker shapes iron’ (Vāmadéva II,108), and that without the Hymn, the deities of heaven and earth would not be. » ii

The Vedic Hymn « increases the power of the gods, enlarges their domain and makes them reign. » iii

But the Hymn is also, par excellence, the Word (Vāk).

In the Ṛg-Veda, a famous hymniv is called « Word ».

Here are some excerpts, translated by Burnouf :

« I am wise; I am the first of those honoured by the Sacrifice.

The one I love, I make him terrible, pious, wise, enlightened.

I give birth to the Father. My dwelling is on his very head, in the midst of the waves (…)

I exist in all the worlds and I extend to the heaven.

Like the wind, I breathe in all worlds. My greatness rises above this earth, above the very heaven. »

Emile Burnouf comments and concludes:

« This is not yet the theory of the Logos, but this hymn and those that resemble it can be considered as the starting point of the theory of the Logos. » v

From Vāk to Logos! From the Veda to the Word of theGospel of John!

Multi-millenium jump, intercultural, meta-philosophical, trans-religious!

Remember that Vāk appeared at least one thousand years before the Platonic Logos and at least one thousand five hundred years before John the Evangelist used the Logos as a metaphor for the Divine Word.

Does Burnouf force the line beyond all measure?

Is this not an anachronism, or worse, a fundamental bias of an ideological nature, unduly bringing religious traditions closer together without any connection between them?

Or is it not rather a great intuition on his part?

Who will tell?

Let’s see what other indianists think about it…

Sylvain Levivi: the « Aryan Bible » is « crude ».

Curious figure that that of Sylvain Lévi, famous indologist, pupil of the Indianist Abel Bergaigne. On the one hand, he seems cheerfully to despise the Brāhmaṇas, which were nevertheless the object of his long, learned and thorough studies. On the other hand, he acknowledges a certain relative value with his lips.

Let’s judge:

« Morality has found no place in this system [of Brāhmaṇas]: the sacrifice that regulates man’s relationship with the deities is a mechanical operation that acts through its intimate energy; hidden within nature, it is only released from it through the magical action of the priest. The worried and malevolent gods are forced to surrender, defeated and subdued by the very force that gave them greatness. In spite of them, the sacrificer rises to the heavenly world and ensures himself a definitive place in it for the future: man becomes superhuman. » vii

We could ask ourselves why eminent specialists like Sylvain Lévi spend so much time and energy on a subject they denigrate, deep down inside?

Sylvain Lévi’s analysis is indeed surprising by the vigor of the attack, the vitriol of certain epithets (« coarse religion », « people of half savages »), mixed, it is true, with some more positive views:

« Sacrifice is a magical operation; the regenerating initiation is a faithful reproduction of conception, gestation and childbirth; faith is only confidence in the virtue of the rites; the passage to heaven is a step-by-step ascent; the good is ritual accuracy. Such a coarse religion supposes a people of half-wild people; but the sorcerers, the wizards or the shamans of these tribes knew how to analyze their system, to dismantle its parts, to fix its laws; they are the true fathers of the Hindu philosophy. » viii

The contempt for the « half-wild ones » is coupled with a kind of more targeted disdain for what Levi calls, with some sharp irony, the « Aryan Bible » of the Vedic religion (reminder: Levi’s text dates from 1898):

« The defenders of the Aryan Bible, who have the happy privilege of tasting the freshness and naivety of the hymns, are free to imagine a long and profound decadence of religious feeling among the poets and doctors of the Vedic religion; others will refuse to admit such a surprising evolution of beliefs and doctrines, which makes a stage of gross barbarity follow a period of exquisite delicacy. In fact it is difficult to conceive of anything more brutal and material than the theology of Brāhmaṇas; the notions that usage has slowly refined and taken on a moral aspect, surprise by their wild realism. » ix

Sylvain Levi condescends, however, to give a more positive assessment when he points out that Vedic priests also seem to recognize the existence of a « unique » divinity:

« Speculations about sacrifice not only led the Hindu genius to recognize as a fundamental dogma the existence of a unique being; they may have initiated him into the idea of transmigrations ». x

Curious word that that of transmigration, clearly anachronistic in a Vedic context… Everything happens as if the Veda (which never uses this very Buddhist word of transmigration…) had in the eyes of Levi for only true interest, for lack of intrinsic value, the fact of carrying in him the scattered germs of a Buddhism which still remained to come, more than one millennium later….

« The Brāhmaṇas ignore the multiplicity of man’s successive existences; the idea of repeated death only appears there to form a contrast with the infinite life of the inhabitants of the heaven. But the eternity of the Sacrifice is divided into infinitely numerous periods; whoever offers it kills him and each death resurrects him. The supreme Male, the Man par excellence (a.k.a. Puruṣa) dies and is reborn again and again (…) The destiny of the Male was to easily end up being the ideal type of human existence. The sacrifice made man in his own image. The « seer » who discovers by the sole force of his intelligence, without the help of the gods and often against their will, the rite or formula that ensures success, is the immediate precursor of the Buddhas and Jinas who discover, by direct intuition and spontaneous illumination, the way to salvation. » xi

The Veda, one sees it, would be hardly that one way towards the Buddha, according to Levi.

Henri Hubert and Marcel Maussxii: The divine sacrifice is only a « social fact ».

In their famous Essay on the Nature and Function of Sacrifice (1899), Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss undertook the ambitious and perilous task of comparing various forms of sacrifice, as revealed by historical, religious, anthropological and sociological studies, affecting the whole of humanity.

Convinced that they had succeeded in formulating a « general explanation, » they thought they could affirm the « unity of the sacrificial system » across all cultures and all eras.

« It is that, in the end, under the diversity of the forms that it takes, [the sacrifice] is always made by the same process that can be used for the most different purposes. This process consists in establishing communication between the sacred and profane worlds through a victim, that is, something destroyed in the course of the ceremony. » xiii

The unity of the « sacrificial system » is revealed mainly as a « social fact », through the « sacralization of the victim » which becomes a « social thing »: « Religious notions, because they are believed, are; they exist objectively, as social facts. Sacred things, in relation to which the sacrifice functions, are social things, and that is enough to explain the sacrifice. » xiv

The study by Hubert and Mauss is based in particular on the comparative analysis of Vedic sacrifices and sacrifices among the ancient Hebrews.

These authors attempt to determine a common principle, unifying extremely diverse types of sacrifice. « In the course of religious evolution, the notion of sacrifice has joined the notions concerning the immortality of the soul. We have nothing to add on this point to the theories of Rohde, Jevons and Nutt on the Greek mysteries, whose facts quoted by M. S. Levi, borrowed from the doctrines of the Brahmanasxv and those that Bergaigne and Darmesteter had already extracted from vedicxvi and avesticxvii texts, must be compared. Let us also mention the relationship that unites Christian communion to eternal salvationxviii. (…) The characteristic feature of objective sacrifices is that the main effect of the rite is, by definition, on an object other than the sacrificer. Indeed, the sacrifice does not return to its point of departure; the things it is intended to modify are outside the sacrificer. The effect produced on the latter is thus secondary. It is the central phase, the sacrifice, which tends to take up the most space. It is above all a question of creating spirit. » xix

This principle of unity takes all its resonance with the sacrifice of the god.

« The types of sacrifice of the god that we have just reviewed are realized in concreto and gathered together in one and the same Hindu rite: the sacrifice of soma. We can see first of all what a true sacrifice of the god is in the ritual. We cannot expose here how Soma god is confused with the soma plant, how he is really present there, nor can we describe the ceremonies in the middle of which he is brought and received at the place of the sacrifice. One carries him on a bulwark, worships him, then presses him and kills him. » xx

The « sacrifice of the god », whatever its possible metaphysical scope, which is absolutely out of the question here, is never really a « social fact » …

Louis Renouxxi: The Veda was lost in India early on.

Louis Renou emphasizes in his Vedic Studies what he considers to be a « striking paradox » about the Veda.

« On the one hand, we revere him, we recognize in him an omniscient, infallible, eternal principle – something like God in the form of « Knowledge », a God made Book (Bible), an Indian Logos – one refers to him as the very source of Dharma, theauthority from which all Brahmanic disciplines are derived. And on the other hand, the traditions, let us say philological traditions, relating to the Veda, the very substance of the texts that compose it, all this has been weakened early on, if not altered or lost. » xxii

In fact, Renou shows that the sharpest enemies of the Veda proliferated very early on in India itself. For example, he lists the « anti-Vedic attitudes » of the Jainas, the Ājīvika and the Buddhists, the « semi-Vedic tendencies » of the Viṣṇuïtes and the Śivaïtes, or the « a-Vedic » positions of the Śākta and the Tāntrika. Renou reminds us that Rāmakrisna has taught: « Truth is not in the Vedas; one must act according to the Tantras, not according to the Vedas; the latter are impure by the very fact that they are pronounced, etc…. « xxiiiand that Tukārām said: « Pride is born from the repetition of the syllables of the Vedaxxiv.

It was with the appearance of the Tantras that the Vedic period came to an end, » explains Renou. It accelerated with a general reaction of Indian society against the ancient Vedic culture, and with the development of popular religiosity that had been bullied by the Vedic cults, as well as with the appearance of Viṣṇuïsme and Śivaïsme and the development of anti-ritualistic and ascetic practices.

The end of the Veda seems to be explained by root causes. From time immemorial it was entrusted to the oral memory of Brahmins, apparently more expert at memorizing its pronunciation and rhythm of cantillation as faithfully as possible than at knowing its meaning or perfecting its interpretations.

Hence this final judgment, in the form of a condemnation: « The Vedic representations ceased early on to be a ferment of Indian religiosity, it no longer recognized itself there where it remained faithful to them. » xxv

From then on, the Vedic world is nothing more than a « distant object, delivered to the vagaries of an adoration deprived of its textual substance. »

And Renou concludes with a touch of fatalism:

« This is a fairly common fate for the great sacred texts that are the foundations of religions. » xxvi

Frits Staalxxvii: Vedic rites make no sense

Frits Staal has a simple and devastating theory: the rite makes no sense. It is meaningless.

What is important in the ritual is what one does, – not what one thinks, believes or says. Ritual has no intrinsic meaning, purpose or finality. It is its own purpose. « In ritual activity, the rules count, but not the result. In ordinary activity, it is the opposite. » xxviii

Staal gives the example of the Jewish ritual of the « red cow »xxix, which surprised Solomon himself, and which was considered the classic example of a divine commandment for which no rational explanation could be given.

Animals also have ‘rituals’, such as ‘aspersion’, and yet they don’t have a language, » explains Staal.

The rites, however, are charged with a language of their own, but it is a language that does not strictly speaking convey any meaning, it is only a « structure » allowing the ritual actions to be memorized and linked together.

The existence of rituals goes back to the dawn of time, long before the creation of structured languages, syntax and grammar. Hence the idea that the very existence of syntax could come from ritual.

The absence of meaning of the rite sees its corollary in the absence of meaning (or the radical contingency) of the syntax.

Frits Staal applies this general intuition to the rites of the Veda. He notes the extreme ritualization of Yajurveda and Samaveda. In the chants of Samaveda, there is a great variety of seemingly meaningless sounds, extended series of O’s, sometimes ending in M’s, which evoke the mantra OM.

Staal then opens up another avenue for reflection. He notes that the effect of certain psychoactive powers, such as those associated with the ritual consumption of soma, is somewhat analogous to the effects of singing, recitation and psalmody, which involve rigorous breath control. This type of effect that can rightly be called psychosomatic even extends to silent meditation, as recommended by Upaniṣad and Buddhism.

For example, controlled inhalation and exhalation practices in highly ritualized breathing exercises can help explain how the ingestion of a psychoactive substance can also become a ritual.

In a previous article I mentioned the fact that many animals enjoy consuming psychoactive plants. Similarly, it can be noted that in many animal species we find some kind of ritualized practices.

There would thus be a possible link to underline between these animal practices, which apparently have no « meaning », and highly ritualized human practices such as those observed in the great sacrificial rites of the Veda.

Hence this hypothesis, which I will try to explore in a future article : the ingestion of certain plants, the obsessive observation of rites and the penetration of religious beliefs have a common point, that of being able to generate psychoactive effects.

However, animals are also capable of experiencing some similar effects.

There is here an avenue for a more fundamental reflection on the very structure of the universe, its intimate harmony and its capacity to produce resonances, especially with the living world. The existence of these resonances is particularly salient in the animal world.

Without doubt, it is also these resonances that are at theorigin of the phenomenon (certainly not reserved to Man) of « consciousness ».

Apparently « meaningless » rites have at least this immense advantage that they are able to generate more « consciousness » .

I would like to add that this line of research opens up unimaginable perspectives, by the amplitude and universality of its implications, at various levels of « life », and from cosmology to anthropology…

Charles Malamoudxxx : Sacrifice is the union of Male and Female.

By a marked and even radical contrast with the already exposed positions of Sylvain Lévi, Charles Malamoud places the Veda at the pinnacle. The Veda is no longer a « grossly barbaric » or « half-wild » paganism, it is in his eyes a « monotheism », not only « authentic », but the « most authentic » monotheism that is, far above Judaism or Christianity !

« The Veda is not polytheism, or even ‘henotheism’, as Max Müller thought. It is the most authentic of monotheisms. And it is infinitely older than the monotheisms taught by the religions of the Book. » xxxi

Once this overall compliment has been made, Charles Malamoud in turn tackles the crux of the matter, the question of Vedic sacrifice, its meaning and nature.

On the one hand, « the rite is routine, and repetition, and it is perhaps a prison for the mind »xxxii. On the other hand, « the rite is to itself its own transcendence »xxxiii. This is tantamount to saying that it is the rite alone that really matters, despite appearances, and not the belief or mythology it is supposed to embody….

« The rites become gods, the mythological god is threatened to be erased and only remains if he manages to be recreated by the rite. Rites can do without gods, gods are nothing without rites. » xxxiv

This position corresponds indeed to the fundamental (and founding) thesis of the Veda, according to which the Sacrifice is the supreme God himself (Prajāpati), and conversely, God is the Sacrifice.

But Charles Malamoud is not primarily interested in the profound metaphysical implications of this double identification of Prajāpati with the Sacrifice.

The question that interests him, more prosaically, is of a completely different nature: « What is the sex of the Sacrifice? » xxxv, he asks …

And the answer comes, perfectly clear:

« The Vedic sacrifice, when assimilated to a body, is unquestionably and superlatively a male. » xxxvi

This is evidenced by the fact, according to Malamoud, that the sequences of the « accompanying offerings », which are in a way « appendages » of the main offering, called anuyajā, are compared to penises (śiśna). The texts even glorify the fact that the Sacrifice has three penises, while the man has only one. xxxvii

Of the « male » body of the sacrifice, the « female » partner is the Word.

Malamoud cites a significant passage from Brāhmaṇas.

« The Sacrifice was taken from desire for the Word. He thought, ‘Ah, how I would like to make love with her! and he joined with her. Indra thought, ‘Surely a prodigious being will be born from this union between the Sacrifice and the Word, and that being will be stronger than I am! Indra became an embryo and slipped into the embrace of the Sacrifice and the Word (…) He grasped the womb of the Word, squeezed it tightly, tore it up and placed it on the head of the Sacrifice. » xxxviii

Malamoud qualifies this very strange scene as « anticipated incest » on the part of Indra, apparently wishing to make the Sacrifice and the Word her surrogate parents…

For us  » westerners « , we seem to be confronted here with a real « primitive scene », in the manner of Freud… All that is missing is the murder…

And yet, murder is not far away.

Crushing soma stems with stones is explicitly considered in Vedic texts as « murder, » Malamoud insists.

« Killing » soma stems may seem like an elaborate metaphor.

It is however the Vedic metaphor par excellence, that of the « sacrifice of God », in this case the sacrifice of the God Soma. The divinized Soma is seen as a victim who is immolated, who is put to death by crushing with stones, which implies a « fragmentation » of his « body », and the flow of his substance, then collected to form the essential basis of the oblation?

This idea of sacrificial « murder » is not limited to soma. It also applies to the sacrifice itself, taken as a whole.

Sacrifice is seen as a « body », subject to fragmentation, dilaceration, dismemberment?

« The Vedic texts say that one kills the sacrifice itself as soon as one deploys it. That is to say, when we move from the sacrificial project, which as a project forms a whole, to its enactment, we fragment it into distinct temporal sequences and kill it. The pebbles praised in this hymn Ṛg-Veda X 94 are the instruments of this murder. » xxxix

If the Word makes a couple with the Sacrifice, it can also make a couple with the Silence, as Malamoud explains: « there is an affinity between silence and sperm: the emission of sperm (netasaḥ siktiḥ) is done silently. » xl

A lesson is drawn from this observation for the manner of performing the rite, – with a mixture of words, murmurs and silences :

« Such a soma extraction must be performed with inaudible recitation of the formula, because it symbolizes the sperm that spreads in a womb »xli.

The metaphor is explicit: it is a question of « pouring the Breath-Sperm into the Word-Matrix ». Malamoud specifies: « In practice, to fecundate the Word by the Breath-Sperm-Silence, this means dividing the same rite into two successive phases: one involving recitation of texts aloud, the other inaudible recitation. » xlii

All this is generalizable. The metaphor of the male/female distinction applies to the gods themselves.

« Agni himself is feminine, he is properly a womb when, at the time of the sacrifice, one pours into the oblatory fire, this sperm to which the soma liquor is assimilated. » xliii

Permanence and universality of the metaphor of copulation, in the Veda… according to Malamoud.

Raimon Panikkarxliv : Sacrifice is the navel of the universe

Panikkar says that only one word expresses the quintessence of Vedic revelation: yajña, sacrifice.

Sacrifice is the primordial act, the Act which makes beings be, and which is therefore responsible for their becoming, without the need to invoke the hypothesis of a previous Being from which they would come. In the beginning, « was » the Sacrifice. The beginning, therefore, was neither the Being nor the Non-Being, neither the Full nor the Empty.

The Sacrifice not only gives its Being to the world, but also sustains it. The Sacrifice is what sustains the universe in its Being, what gives life and hope to life. « Sacrifice is the internal dynamism of the Universe.» xlv

From this idea another, even more fundamental, follows: that the Creator God depends in reality on his own Creation.

« The supreme being is not God by himself, but by creatures. In reality he is never alone. He is a relation and belongs to reality. »xlvi

« The Gods do not exist autonomously; they exist in, with, above, and also through men. Their supreme sacrifice is man, the primordial man. (…) Man is the priest but also the sacrificed; the Gods, in their role as primary agents of sacrifice, offer their oblation with man. Man is not only the cosmic priest; he is also the cosmic victim. »xlvii

The Veda describes Creation as resulting from the Sacrifice of God (devayajña), and the self-immolation of the Creator. It is only because Prajāpati totally sacrifices itself that it can give Creation its own Self.

In doing so, the Divine Sacrifice becomes the central paradigm (or « navel ») of the universe:

« This sacred enclosure is the beginning of the earth; this sacrifice is the center of the world. This soma isthe seed of the fertile horse. This priest is the first patron of the word. » xlviii

The commentator writes:

« Everything that exists, whatever it is, is made to participate in the sacrifice. » xlix

« Truly, both Gods and men and Fathers drink together, and this is their banquet. Once they drank openly, but now they drink hidden.»


The competence of the Indian and Sanskritist scholars cited here is not in question.

The display of their divergences, far from diminishing them, increases in my eyes especially the high idea I have of their analytical and interpretative capacities.

But no doubt the reader will not have escaped the kind of dull irony I have tried to instil through the choice of accumulated quotations.

It seemed to me that the West still has a long way to go to begin to « understand » the East (– here the Vedic Orient).

It so happens that sometimes, in reading some Vedic texts (for example the hymns of the 10th Mandala of Ṛg Veda, and some Upaniṣad), I feel some sort of deep resonances with thinkers and poets who lived several thousands of years ago.


iEmile Burnouf. Essay on the Veda. Ed. Dezobry, Tandou et Cie, Paris, 1863.

iiEmile Burnouf. Essay on the Veda. Ed. Dezobry, Tandou et Cie, Paris, 1863. p.113

iiiEmile Burnouf. Essay on the Veda. Ed. Dezobry, Tandou et Cie, Paris, 1863. p.112

ivRV iV,415

vEmile Burnouf. Essay on the Veda. Ed. Dezobry, Tandou et Cie, Paris, 1863. p.115

viSylvain Lévi. The doctrine of sacrifice in the Brāhmanas. Ed. Ernest Leroux.1898.

viiSylvain Lévi. The doctrine of sacrifice in the Brāhmanas. Ed. Ernest Leroux.1898.p. 9

viiiSylvain Lévi. The doctrine of sacrifice in the Brāhmanas. Ed. Ernest Leroux.1898.p. 10

ixSylvain Lévi. The doctrine of sacrifice in the Brāhmanas. Ed. Ernest Leroux.1898.p. 9

xSylvain Lévi. The doctrine of sacrifice in the Brāhmanas. Ed. Ernest Leroux.1898. p.10-11

xiSylvain Lévi. The doctrine of sacrifice in the Brāhmanas. Ed. Ernest Leroux.1898. p.11

xiiHenri Hubert and Marcel Mauss. Mixed history of religions. From some results of religious sociology; Sacrifice; The origin of magical powers; The representation of time. Collection: Works of the Sociological Year. Paris: Librairie Félix Alcan, 1929, 2nd edition, 236 pages.

xiiiHenri Hubert and Marcel Mauss. Essay on the nature and function of sacrifice. Article published in the review Année sociologique, tome II, 1899, p.76

xivHenri Hubert and Marcel Mauss. Essay on the nature and function of sacrifice. Article published in the review Année sociologique, tome II, 1899, p.78

xvDoctr, pp. 93-95. We absolutely agree with the rapprochement proposed by M. L., between the Brahmanic theory of escape from death by sacrifice and the Buddhist theory of moksà, of deliverance. Cf. Oldenberg, The Buddha, p. 40.

xviVoir Bergaigne, Rel. Véd., sur l’amrtam « essence immortelle » que confère le scma (I, p. 254 suiv., etc.). Mais là, comme dans le livre de M. Hillebr. Ved. Myth., I, p. 289 et sqq. passim, les interprétations de mythologie pure ont un peu envahi les explications des textes. V. Kuhn, Herabkunft des Feuers und des Göttertranks. Cf. Roscher, Nektar und Ambrosia.

xviiCf. Darmesteter, Haurvetât et Amretât, p. 16, p. 41.

xviiiBoth in dogma (e.g. Irenaeus Ad Haer. IV, 4, 8, 5) and in the most well-known rites; thus the consecration of the host is done by a formula in which the effect of the sacrifice on salvation is mentioned, V. Magani l’Antica Liturgia Romana II, p. 268, etc., etc. – One could also relate to these facts the Talmudic Aggada according to which the tribes who have disappeared in the desert and who have not sacrificed will not have a share in eternal life (Gem. to Sanhedrin, X, 4, 5 and 6 in. Talm. J.), nor the people of a city which has become forbidden for having indulged in idolatry, nor Cora the ungodly. This talmudic passage is based on the verse Ps. L, 5: « Bring me together my righteous who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice. »

xixHenri Hubert and Marcel Mauss. Essay on the nature and function of sacrifice. Article published in the review Année sociologique, tome II, 1899, p.55-56.

xxHenri Hubert and Marcel Mauss. Essay on the nature and function of sacrifice. Article published in the review Année sociologique, tome II, 1899, p.72-73

xxiLouis Renou. The fate of the Veda in India. Vedic and Paninean studies. Volume 6. Ed. de Boccard. Paris. 1960

xxiiLouis Renou. The fate of the Veda in India. Vedic and Paninean studies. Volume 6. Ed. de Boccard. Paris. 1960, p.1

xxiiiThe teaching of Ramakrisna. p. 467, cited in Louis Renou. The fate of the Veda in India. Vedic and Paninean studies. Tome 6. Ed. de Boccard. Paris. 1960, p4.

xxivTrad. of the Pilgrim’s Psalms by G.-A. Deleury p.17

xxvLouis Renou. The fate of the Veda in India. Vedic and Paninean studies. Volume 6. Ed. de Boccard. Paris. 1960, p.77


xxviiFrits Staal. Rituals and Mantras. Rules without meaning. Motilar Banasidarss Publishers. Delhi,1996

xxviiiFrits Staal. Rituals and Mantras. Rules without meaning. Motilar Banasidarss Publishers. Delhi,1996, p.8

xxixNo. 19, 1-22

xxxCharles Malamoud. The dance of the stones. Studies on the sacrificial scene in ancient India. Seuil. 2005.

xxxiCharles Malamoud. The dance of the stones. Studies on the sacrificial scene in ancient India. Seuil. 2005. p.109

xxxiiCharles Malamoud. The dance of the stones. Studies on the sacrificial scene in ancient India. Seuil. 2005. p.45

xxxiiiCharles Malamoud. The dance of the stones. Studies on the sacrificial scene in ancient India. Seuil. 2005. p.45

xxxivCharles Malamoud. The dance of the stones. Studies on the sacrificial scene in ancient India. Seuil. 2005. p.58

xxxvCharles Malamoud. The dance of the stones. Studies on the sacrificial scene in ancient India. Seuil. 2005. p.62

xxxviCharles Malamoud. The dance of the stones. Studies on the sacrificial scene in ancient India. Seuil. 2005. p.64

xxxviiSB XI,1,6,31

xxxviiiSB III,2,1,25-28, cited in Charles Malamoud. The dance of the stones. Studies on the sacrificial scene in ancient India. Seuil. 2005. p.55

xxxixCharles Malamoud. The dance of the stones. Studies on the sacrificial scene in ancient India. Seuil. 2005. p.146

xlCharles Malamoud. The dance of the stones. Studies on the sacrificial scene in ancient India. Seuil. 2005. p.74

xliCharles Malamoud. The dance of the stones. Studies on the sacrificial scene in ancient India. Seuil. 2005. p.74

xliiCharles Malamoud. The dance of the stones. Studies on the sacrificial scene in ancient India. Seuil. 2005. p.74

xliiiCharles Malamoud. The dance of the stones. Studies on the sacrificial scene in ancient India. Seuil. 2005. p.78

xlivRaimon Panikkar. I Veda. Mantra mañjari. Ed. Bur Rizzali, 2001

xlvRaimon Panikkar. I Veda. Mantra mañjari. Bur Rizzali, ed. 2001, p. 472.

xlviRaimon Panikkar. I Veda. Mantra mañjari. Bur Rizzali, ed. 2001, p. 472.

xlviiRaimon Panikkar. I Veda. Mantra mañjari. Bur Rizzali, ed. 2001, p. 480.

xlviiiRV I,164.35

xlixSB III,6,2,26

The Oosphere and the Noosphere

« Oospheres »

Marcel Conche writes somewhere, with a kind of cheerful irony: « I like medlar very much. There is nothing to eat. It is the most metaphysical fruit. For metaphysics comes down to the fact that, in any case, we know nothing about anything. » i

For my part I prefer peach, as a fruit. It is very juicy, with tender and tasty flesh. Some have smooth skin, others are fluffy, but all of them have an inviting slit, and a hard core, mobile or adherent. It is, in my humble opinion, a much more metaphysical fruit than the medlar: at the end of the endings, we know that we are going to take some more without getting tired of it, so much the flavor is not forgotten, and so much the mystery of this closed slit and this hard core can only mystify the spirits less able to grasp the immanent transcendence of the peach tree, from its flower to its fruit…

It really is a great mystery that human brains, at least some of them, can open up to metaphysics, that of medlar, or that that flies over the worlds, and reflects on what was before nothing was …

One of the oldest myths in the world dates back at least six thousand years, four thousand years before our era, and three thousand years before Moses. It is the Vedic myth of Prajāpati, a name that means « Father, or Lord of creatures ». Prajāpati was then thought as the supreme God, the One who created the world. But, unlike the biblical God, the creation of the Universe and all creatures, according to the Veda, could only be done through the sacrifice of Prajāpati.

In the beginning, having nothing from which to create the world, since everything was nothingness, Prajāpati had to resort to Himself, dismembering, offering Himself as a sacrifice, and dividing Himself so that from Him could flow the Universe and Life.

The Veda explains the creation of the universe as the Creator’s self-immolation, and designates this sacrifice as « the navel of the Universeii.

« Now the Lord of creatures, after having begotten the living creatures, felt as if He had been emptied. The creatures departed from Him; they did not stay with Him for His joy and sustenance. « iii

The supreme God gives Himself completely, and He suffers the torments of death: « After He begat all that exists, He felt emptied and was afraid of death. » iv

Why this Sacrifice of the Supreme God?

Perhaps because a « greater good » can be expected from it?

Does God (Theos) sacrifice Himself to make possible not only the existence of the Cosmos and Anthropos but also their future « divinization »?

TheTheos sacrifices Himself to extend modes of divinization to other beings than Himself. Thus one sees that the essence of the Sacrifice is entirely in the general becoming. The God sacrifices Himself so that the future can come to be. The God sacrifices Himself entirely, He takes this supreme risk, so that the « Future » and the « Other » can also be?

But then, does that mean that God is not eternal?

He sacrifices His solitary eternity so that He can become a shared, common « becoming ». To eternity, of which He was the sole custodian, He adds Time, the Future, the Process… and therefore Freedom.

He transforms His stable, immobile essence from a being a « First Engine » into a risky, unstable, uncertain process. He voluntarily gives a freedom proper to the Cosmos, as well as to the Anthropos.

God creates the universe with great precision (cf. the incredible finesse with which the « constants » of the Universe have been shaped). However, the universe is not a deterministic mechanics. There is « chance » in it. Let us simply say that there is « freedom ». God threw, whether Einstein likes it or not, an anthropo-cosmic die…

Hence this special mystery, unique to the human brain: how can we presume to know what Prajāpati has concocted before the dawn of time? How do we know that He sacrificed Himself, that He felt emptied, that He was afraid of death? How could the brains of the Veda visionaries conceive of this divine sacrifice and appreciate all its consequences?

There are two possible answers.

Either the Theos allowed this mystery to be « revealed » directly to the souls of certain representatives of Anthropos (such as biblical prophets).

Either there is, more immanently, and more anthropologically, a congruence, a sympathy, an obviousness, which seems to imbue the human brain.

The brains of the Vedic prophets felt internally, intuitively, through a kind of analogy and anagogy, the divine drama at stake. This intuition was undoubtedly based on the observation of phenomena that appeared in the human environment, and which are among the noblest, most striking, most counter-intuitive that can be conceived: sacrifice for love, the gift of one’s life for the survival of those one loves…

In any case, let us conclude that the human brain, through its antennas, its pistils, its « oospheres », is capable of navigating freely in the eternal « noosphere », and that it is given, sometimes, to penetrate its essence…


iMarcel Conche. Regain. Ed. Hdiffusion. 2018, p.65

ii R.V. I,164.35

iii N.B. III, 9.1.1

iv S.B. X, 4.2.2

Panspermia and Noosphere’s Embryos

Is the sea conscious of her shores? Does she feel that, stung with sunlight, clouds are born from her womb?

Does she now that her waves travel a long way, but always break and end up as light foam ?

Seas, waves, clouds, foam form a whole, of which the spirit of man sometimes becomes aware. But is man also aware that his own consciousness is at the same time like foam and like a cloud? Consciousness depends entirely on the evaporation and distillation of the ocean’s amplitude, before spreading out in beneficial or destructive rains, and its foam is the proof of the final fold of its inner waves.

Clouds, waves, foam are good metaphors of consciousness confronted with what is infinitely larger than itself, the ocean, the earth and the sky.

Consciousness only feels « consciousness » at the borders, at the interfaces.

The roll of the wave feels the sand under the blade, and at the end it comes to lick the heat of the sun, offered by the slow sand, which it penetrates by the bubbling foam.

The immemorial meeting of sea, land and sky is done on the beach or the rock. It is a three-phase place, where water, sand and bubble briefly unite. Mythical place! From here emerged long ago forms of marine life that had decided to try the land adventure! Metaphor still of our soul, charged with sleepy consciousness, and waking up abruptly in contact with the hard (the rock, or the shore) so that the impalpable (the air and the bubbles) emerges…

Man too is a sea shore. Man too is multi-phase. He represents the meeting point of several worlds, that of life (bios), that of the word (logos) and that of the spirit (noos). The metaphor of these three phases can be explained as follows. The immense sea, the deep sea, is Life. The tumultuous wave that faces the rock, or flows languidly on the shore, is the Logos, the word striking the world, splashing it with foam. As for the cloud bathing in its vapors, it proves that molecules previously buried in the darkness of the sea chasms were allowed to ‘ascend to heaven’, sucked up by heat of which they had no idea, before realizing that they were indeed ascending to inconceivable altitudes and crossing infinite horizons for a long, seemingly endless journey. These molecules chosen for the great journey most of them will go to irrigate the mountains and the plains, and some of them will moisten thirsty gullets and will inhabit for a time bodies made of water first, and of some other molecules too, and will come to feed human brains… Metaphors! Where are you taking us?

To a new metaphor, that of panspermia.

The brain, I wrote in a previous post, is a kind of antenna. But we could also use a more floral image, that of the pistil, for example.

The pistil, from the Latin pistillum, pestle, is the female organ of flower reproduction. It stands up like a small antenna waiting for flying pollen.

The brain-pistil is in multiple communication with the world, and it receives clouds of pollen at all times, invisible or visible, unconscious or, on the contrary, destined to impose itself on the consciousness. The brain is bathed in this ocean of pollen waves, which can be described as panspermic. There are sperm of life and sperm of consciousness. There are sperm of knowledge and sperm of revelation. All pistils are not equal. Some prefer to be content with transmitting life, others do better and fertilize new oospheres. i

Let us move here, through the miracle of metaphor, from the oosphere to the noosphere.

The panspermia whose « world » is saturated continually reaches our numb brains, and titillates our pistils. Many things result from this global titillation. Not all flowers are given the joy of true, pure, limitless enjoyment.

For those among the human flowers that lend themselves and open themselves entirely to these « visitations », the panspermic waves come to fertilize in their interior the birth of new noospheric embryos..


iThe oosphere is the name given to the female gamete in plants and algae. It is the homologue of the ovum in animals.

Brain Antennas

At what point in evolution did consciousness emerge? Does the special form of consciousness that humans enjoy represent a singular, unique leap, or is it only one step in a long evolutionary series? Must we admit that other animals, plants, and, why not, minerals themselves have specific forms of consciousness that could, if we were able to observe them effectively, allow us to better understand the nature of our own consciousness, its particular advantages, and its as yet unrevealed potentialities?

One thing is sure : today, the neurosciences are still unable to explain consciousness itself, its nature and its essence.

There is also the question of reason (which unfolds quite differently in everyday life, and in other fields, such as philosophy, or mathematics). Human reason seems capable of constructing specifically « human » worlds, based on its own imagined rules. But, very surprisingly, reason seems capable of formulating fundamental laws of nature based on completely abstract reasoning. There lies a mystery, in this strange adequacy of formal reason with the very structures of nature, as testified from its successes ranging from microphysics to cosmology.

We must also consider that there is the mystery of revelation, and of visions apparently reserved for prophets, mystics or poets, but whose very universal potentiality cannot be put easily under a bushel.

The multitude ignores it or does not care, especially in the present period, but it is an undeniable fact that the prophecies of Moses, Buddha, Jesus or Muhammad have proved capable of penetrating the consciousness of countless generations. They continue to animate, long after the disappearance of the living men who originally bore them, the consciousness of immense masses and singular personalities. The mystics have left burning traces of their visions in their testimonies, which are not without analogy with those of the shamans, who have practiced the art of ecstasy and communion with higher powers for tens of thousands of years, and in all regions of the globe.

Consciousness, reason, revelation represent three very specific modes of interaction of the human brain with the world : a neurobiological mode, a mental mode and a spiritual mode. In these three cases, the mystery is that there are effective correspondences, to varying degrees, between the human brain and, respectively, the entire cosmos, the hidden laws that seem to govern it, and the yonderworld, or some other meta-worlds, that hide even further away from what one can experience in everyday life.

The very existence of reason, and above all its effectiveness in relation to the understanding nature, raises innumerable questions, which the greatest philosophers have failed to resolve (e.g. Kant’s admission of failure of understanding the ultimate essence of pure reason).

Why is it that perfectly « abstract » mathematics, developed for its formal beauty alone or for the rigorous exploration of the internal logic of certain systems of axioms, is also capable, in a completely unexpected way, of elegantly and powerfully solving complex problems of quantum physics or cosmology?

The modern worldvision seems to be universally materialistic, agnostic, atheist. But in reality, the penetrating power of the great world religions is constantly asserting itself. How could we understand the state of the world without taking into account the influence of monotheisms (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), Buddhism or Hinduism?

Perhaps more surprisingly, within the camp of the most rigorous rationality, many scientists of the highest rank (Einstein, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Pauli, Eddington,…) have resorted to various forms of mysticism to try to answer the ultimate questions that the (ultimately insufficient) results of their very scientific approach always ended up confronting them.

From the parallels between consciousness, reason and revelation, we can draw by induction that the human brain is somehow capable of correlating with the universe, in various modalities.

The subtle intertwining of DNA and protein molecules apparently explains the development of life on earth, but it is very difficult to imagine why this intertwining, pushed to a certain level of complexity, leads to a phenomenon that transcends biological life alone, namely the irruption of consciousness at the heart of neurobiology. Consciousness represents, in relation to life, a leap at least as great as that of life in relation to organic chemistry alone.

But this mystery only prepares the way for an even deeper question, the one that the human brain embodies when it is able, by its own forces alone, to invent (or « discover »?) mental models that prove to be able to « explain » some of the most complex structures in the universe.

Finally, the phenomenon of «vision» is certainly not the least mysterious in truth, if we accept, for the sake of our reasoning, to consider what so many witnesses have been telling us for so many millennia: namely the « revelation » of a possible communication between men and a « spiritual » yonderworld.

It is possible to deduce from these observations some hypotheses on the deep structure of the human brain. Consciousness, reason and vision cannot be explained by a mechanistic/materialist neurobiology alone.

The human brain is obviously capable of correlating (effectively) with the « world »i, and this through multiple modalities, including neurological, mental, spiritual ones … There are undoubtedly other modes of brain-world correlation of which we are not necessarily aware, – starting precisely with the powers of the unconscious (whether individual or collective), or those of dreaming or premonition.

In any case, the important thing is that these multiple forms of correlation imply a set of more or less integrated links between the brain and the « world ». We can deduce from this that the brain cannot be reduced to a solipsistic organ, splendidly isolated, reigning as absolute master in the midst of Cartesian certainties, such as « I think therefore I am ».

The brain is naturally in flux, in tension, in permanent interaction with multiple aspects of an eminently complex, rich, and ultimately elusive reality.

In our modern world where quasi-instantaneous electronic communication has become ubiquitous, it may be easier to propose here the metaphor of the « antenna ». The brain can indeed be seen as a kind of multi-band, multi-frequency antenna, able to receive and process sensory information (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell), but also to « discover » (as opposed to « invent ») other abstract mental spaces (such as those that mathematics abstractly gives us to « see »).

These other spaces of meaning seem at first to belong only to the human sphere, but they also reveal themselves, unexpectedly, surprisingly and mysteriously, capable of helping us to « grasp » in a specific way structural aspects of the « world » and the « cosmos ». These aspects would have remained « hidden », if the mathematical structures that the brain is capable of generating had not come at the right time to allow it to « understand » them in some way, that is, to allow it to determine forms of effective adequacy between the brain’s intellection capacities and the intelligible potentialities of the « world ».

The newborn child slowly but surely develops a multi-sensory map of the world, through touch, taste and smell, sounds and lights, but he is first immersed in a small amniotic world, from which he emerges with some difficulty to be immediately plunged into another « world », the emotional, loving, warm world that his parents offer him at birth. This first (and double) experience, of immersion « in » a limited, inexplicable, constraining world (due to the narrowness of the uterus and the impossibility of deploying apparently cumbersome, useless, superfluous limbs), and of emergence, of passage « towards » another world, where millions of completely different stimuli suddenly reveal themselves, is a founding experience, which must remain forever engraved in the newly born brain.

It is a founding experience, but also a formative one. It secretly prepares us to face other mysteries to come, because the world reserves for us throughout life many other (metaphorical) experiences of « births » and « passages » of a symbolic or cognitive nature. This experience is so well engraved and « engrammed » into the brain that the prospect of death, in many spiritual traditions, seems to be itself only a new « birth », a new « passage ».

The metaphor of the brain-antenna was already proposed at the end of the 19th century by William James in a famous textii . It is a stricking image because it suggests the possibility of a complex continuum between the brain and the world (taken in its broadest possible sense). But it also lends itself to a powerful generalization, along the lines of Teilhard de Chardin’s noosphere, if one understands that each « antenna » can be put in communication with the billions of other brains currently living on this planet, and, why not, with the billions of billions of « brains » probably sailing in other galaxies, and other nebulae.

Until now, we have used the word « brain », without really trying to define what we mean by this word. The neurosciences have recently made significant progress in the analysis of this essential organ, but have undoubtedly failed to explain its very essence, i.e. the nature of « consciousness ». In today’s materialistic and scientific world, research trends aim at demonstrating (without notable success so far) that consciousness is merely a property emerging « naturally » from the « complexity » of neuronal entanglement, and resulting from some neuro-biological « auto-poiesis ». This explanation undoubtedly proposes elements necessary for understanding, but these are far from being sufficient.

They don’t really help to give an account of the most extraordinary things mankind has been able to generate (symbolized, to be short, by names such as Mozart and Vinci, Newton and Einstein, Plato and Pascal…).

The brain-antenna metaphor, on the other hand, far from focusing on the neurochemical soup and neuro-synaptic entanglement, aims to establish the existence of reproductive, organic and subtle links between brains of all kinds and of all conditions and the rest of the « world ».

The perspectives of reflection then change radically.

The « normal » brain of a human being should therefore be considered simply as a minimal platform from which extraordinary potentialities can develop, under certain conditions (epigenetic, social, circumstantial, …).

The immense world of mathematics, with its incredible insights and perspectives, can be described not just as the result of brilliant « inventions » by particularly gifted personalities, but rather as the subject of true « discoveries ».

So, too, can the even greater world of « visions », « revelations » and spiritual, mystical, poetic « intuitions » be described not as a world « invented » by unique personalities like Moses, Buddha or Jesus, but as a world « discovered », of which we only glimpse the infinite virtualities.

The brain can therefore be understood as an organ that constantly emerges beyond its initial limits (those posed by its neuro-biological materiality). It does not stop growing outside its own confines. It generates itself by opening itself to the world, and to all worlds. It is in constant interaction with the world as the senses give us to see it, but also with entire universes, woven of thoughts, intuitions, visions, revelations, of which only the « best among us » are capable of perceiving the emanations, the efflorescences, the correspondences…

Consciousness emerges in the newborn brain, not only because the neuro-synaptic equipment allows it, but also and especially because consciousness pre-exists in the world in myriad forms.

Consciousness pre-exists in the universe because the universe itself is endowed with a kind of consciousness. It is futile to try to explain the appearance of consciousness in the human brain only by a specially efficient molecular or synaptic arrangement.

It is easier to conceive that individual consciousness emerges because it draws its youthful power from the fountain of universal consciousness, which communicates with each of us through our « antennas ».

What has just been said about consciousness could be repeated about the emergence of reason in each one of us, but also about the gift of vision (apparently reserved to some « chosen few »).


i The « world » is all that the brain can effectively correlate with. It goes without saying that the limits of this definition of « world » also point to all those aspects of the « world » that remain decidedly impenetrable to the human brain, until further informed…

ii William James. Human Immortality. 1898. Ed. Houghton, Mifflin and Company, The Riverside Press, Cambridge.

Réalité et conscience (Explication et implication)

« David Bohm »

La compréhension de la réalité telle qu’elle nous est donnée ne peut s’accomplir sans une compréhension au moins égale de la conscience. Autrement dit, la compréhension de la réalité et celle de la conscience semblent indissolublement liées. Ceci nous amène à subodorer que la réalité et la conscience elles-mêmes sont liées, ou intriquées, à un certain niveau de profondeur. Les hypothèses les plus avancées des théoriciens de la physique quantique cherchent à cerner la nature de cette intrication.

Le « tout » que forment, en un sens, la réalité du monde et la conscience humaine n’est pas statique ou accompli, mais toujours en mouvement, sans cesse en transformation, en métamorphose, en déploiement.

La conscience observe la réalité, et par là même agit sur elle, et prépare les voies de sa propre transformation vers un état « plus conscient ». Plus conscient de quoi? Plus conscient, non seulement de la réalité en tant que telle, mais aussi de la réalité en tant qu’elle se modifie sous le regard de la conscience, et plus conscient également de la nature profonde de la conscience, qui semble pouvoir aller toujours plus loin ou plus haut, ou plus profondément, dans l’exploration sans fin de sa propre nature.

La conscience, telle qu’elle s’exprime en des pensées naturellement en mouvement, ou telle qu’elle s’imprime toujours à nouveau dans son dépassement permanent, est d’une manière ou une autre confrontée à sa propre vie interne, sa propre métamorphose. Sa figure (impermanente) est à chercher dans sa transfiguration (permanente). Son image est sans cesse cinétique. Sa forme est épigénétique.

Cette épigenèse, cette cinétique, cette transfiguration ne sont pas solipsistes, mais font elles aussi partie de la réalité totale, et font sans doute partie de ses ferments actifs, de ses enzymes catalyseurs, de ses agents effecteurs.

La pensée, loin d’être simplement un outil de découverte du moi pensant, façon Descartes, ou de description analytique du monde, et de modélisation abstraite, est donc pourvue, par le biais de la conscience qui la subsume, d’un pouvoir de « compréhension » (au sens propre : « prendre ensemble ») de la réalité, en tant qu’elle est effectivement intriquée avec la conscience.

A quoi mène cette intrication ? Quel en est le sens profond?

Tout d’abord elle mène à la conscience plus claire d’une nouvelle sorte de totalité, qui englobe la totalité « classique » de la réalité avec la totalité « virtuelle », mais non moins réellei, de l’ensemble des états de conscience (– et donc aussi des états d’inconscience, si l’on admet que l’inconscient est une forme très profonde, très ancienne et très secrète de « conscience »).

Il faut évidemment renoncer à se contenter de la vision cartésienne du moi qui ‘doute’ et qui ‘pense’ pour en déduire avec satisfaction qu’il ‘est’. Il faut adopter une vision plus intégrée. Le moi qui doute, qui pense et qui est conscient de ce doute et de cette pensée, crée par là-même une nouveauté radicale, qui vient s’ajouter comme un élément vivant, impérissable, actif, à la totalité existante.

Au grand peuple universel des étants (toutes les étoiles, les pierres, les fleurs, les abeilles, les hommes, etc.) vient s’ajouter sans cesse le peuple plus universel encore des états (de conscience).

Il ne peut y avoir en conséquence de séparation nette entre le moi de la conscience et le soi du monde. Soi et moi sont indissolublement liés, impliqués, intriqués.

D’un côté, cette intuition ne manque pas de références historiques et philosophiques, notamment du côté des sources orientales (taoïsme, bouddhisme). De l’autre, elle semble contraire à une autre intuition (souvent présentée dans les philosophies occidentales), celle de la fragmentation irrémédiable des consciences, des individus, des nations, des cultures et des religions.

L’idée de fragmentation peut être aisément généralisée, du moins en principe, à l’ensemble de la réalité. Tout serait donc, a priori, divisé, déconnecté, pulvérisé en autant de petites parcelles que possibles, elles-mêmes à nouveau divisibles, brisables, pulvérisables.

Et, in fine, les plus petites parties ou particules auxquelles ce processus de division et de fragmentation conduit, doivent être considérées comme « indépendantes », existant par elles-mêmes, ultimes « constituantes » de la réalité.

Par contraste, tout autre est l’idée d’une totalité englobant la réalité et la conscience dans un « tout » dynamique, métamorphique, auto-génératif, sans cesse en épigenèse.

Certains objecteront : on voit bien que partout se multiplient les guerres, les divisions, les déchirements, les séparations, les antagonismes, les oppositions. Le rêve d’un grand « tout » fait de communion pacifiée est une utopie orientale, bonne seulement pour des moines extatiques.

On peut répondre à cela en prenant encore plus de recul (zoom arrière) ou de hauteur (zoom avant) ou de profondeur (zoom macro).

On répondra qu’on peut inclure les divisions, les séparations, les oppositions dans la totalité puisqu’elles en font déjà objectivement partie.

D’ailleurs il est possible de montrer (philosophiquement) qu’elles sont des éléments actifs, virulents même, d’un « tout » en genèse, auquel elles contribuent par leur fièvre propre. De Héraclite à Hegel, de Marx à C.G. Jung, nombreux sont les penseurs de la contradiction et du rôle actif des contraires.

Si l’on adopte un point de vue strictement scientifique, il est facile de voir que les derniers résultats de la science moderne (théories de la relativité, théories quantiques) exigent la prise en considération de notions impliquant la totalité indivisible de l’univers.

Les crises aiguës qui frappent aujourd’hui notre monde (climat, pandémies, guerres, inégalités, injustices) exigent que l’humanité se donne à elle-même une vision holistique du monde. Seule cette vision et cette compréhension holistiques sont à même de nous mettre sur la voie de solutions intégrées, prenant en compte les multiples interdépendances en cause, et notamment l’interdépendance des consciences et de la réalité.

Nous sommes à l’évidence confrontés, à l’échelle planétaire, à de multiples divisions, séparations, fragmentations, qui ne font que renforcer la confusion générale, elle-même source d’inaction.

Pour agir, nous avons besoin de plus de clarté, de plus de compréhension en profondeur des interdépendances à l’œuvre, des complexités multi-dimensionnelles, inaccessibles aux spécialistes d’une seule discipline (ou d’une seule culture).

L’idée de « totalité » n’est pas totalement nouvelle, bien entendu.

Mais ce qui est nouveau, me semble-t-il, est la prise de conscience que la « totalité » n’est pas fermée, mais ouverte. La « totalité » est même « totalement » ouverte.

Autrement dit, il existe plusieurs niveaux de totalités. Toute vision « holistique » du monde n’est au fond qu’un premier état de conscience d’un holisme provisoire qui ne demande qu’à se complexifier.

Il n’y a pas d’« entièretés » qui soient totalement et définitivement « entières », c’est-à-dire complétées, fermées.

Pour faire image, Dieu Lui-même, oserons-nous avancer, n’est pas « complet ». Il n’est pas « entier ». Il est en devenir. C’est d’ailleurs la raison profonde pour laquelle Il a créé une Création (dont Il aurait peut-être pu se passer, s’Il avait été « complet »). Il a créé cette Création comme un moyen d’élargir et d’enrichir Sa propre « entièreté » initiale, celle qui était avant le « Commencement ». Cette « entièreté » n’était sans doute pas assez « complète » à Ses yeux. Et dans Sa grande sagesse, Il a vu qu’un nouveau niveau de complexité pouvait émerger, par le biais d’une extériorité à Sa propre essence, par le moyen d’une différence entre Lui et d’autres consciences…

Le nouveau complexe ainsi créé (Theos + Cosmos + Anthropos) est l’invention divine, inouïe mais nécessaire, pour développer de nouveaux niveaux de « réalité », de nouveaux niveaux de « totalité », de nouveaux niveaux de « conscience ».

Dans un très beau livre, David Bohm a résumé ses idées révolutionnaires sur la totalité et « l’ordre impliqué »ii.

En liaison avec sa théorie des « variables cachées » qui expliqueraient (en dernière analyse?) le comportement des ondes/particules guidées par leurs « informations actives », Bohm oppose l’ordre « expliqué » ou « déplié » (« explicate or unfolded order ») du monde cartésien de la physique classique et l’ordre « impliqué » ou « replié » (« implicate or enfolded order ») du monde quantique. Les notions ordinaires de temps et d’espace n’ont plus cours dans cet ordre « impliqué ».

Il me vient à l’idée que l’ordre « expliqué » que Bohm veut remplacer par un ordre « impliqué », est peut-être en soi un passage obligé, une première « explication » que la raison se propose, en réponse à laquelle une implication plus profonde de l’ordre du monde devient alors nécessaire.

Il s’en déduirait une dialectique permanente « explication-implication », conduisant d’étapes en étapes à des implications (et donc à des explications) toujours plus profondes.

En tout point de l’univers, que mille plis se déplient ! Afin qu’en leur sein, dix mille se replient et s’intriquent !

Explication, implication et intrication sont les conditions pour la lente émergence d’une méta-conscience.


iPour une réflexion plus approfondie sur la notion de « virtuel », considéré comme non pas s’opposant au réel, mais comme permettant de l’accomplir, on se rapportera à mon livre : Le Virtuel, Vertus et Vertiges, Editions INA/ ChampVallon. 1993

iiDavid Bohm. Wholeness and the Implicate Order. Routledge, 1980.

Life after Death (a Short Review)

In a famous passage from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul recounts his rapture in paradise in a strangely indirect way:

« I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago – was it in his body? I don’t know; was it outside his body? I don’t know; God knows – … that man was taken up to the third heaven. And that man – was it in his body? Was it without his body? I don’t know; God knows; I know that he was taken up to heaven and heard words that cannot be spoken, that a man is not allowed to say again.»i

Augustine commented specifically on the « third heaven », where Paul was delighted.

According to him, there are indeed three « heavens » corresponding to three different levels of « vision ». There are the heaven of the body, the heaven of the mind and the heaven of the soul.

In the third heaven, at the third level of vision, one can « see the divine substance ».

Augustine exercises in passing his critical mind about the « rapture » of which Paul was apparently the beneficiary. Quite acid is his comment:

« Finally, even though the Apostle who was taken away from the bodily senses and then was taken up to the third heaven and into paradise, he certainly lacked one thing to have this full and perfect knowledge, such as is found in the angels: not knowing whether he was with or without his body. »ii

The body seems to be a hindrance to the full consciousness of the delighted soul. If one can access through ecstasy or rapture to the contemplation of divine things by the soul, what is the use of the body in these exceptional circumstances?

« Perhaps the objection will be made: what need is there for the spirits of the dead to recover their bodies at the resurrection, if, even without their bodies, they can enjoy this sovereign bliss? The question is undoubtedly too difficult to be perfectly dealt with in this book. There is no doubt, however, that the intellectual soul of man, both when rapture takes it away from the use of the carnal senses and when after death it abandons the remains of the flesh and even transcends the similarities of the bodies, cannot see the substance of God as the holy angels see it. This inferiority is due either to some mysterious cause or to the fact that there is a natural appetite in the soul to rule the body. This appetite somehow delays it and prevents it from reaching for that supreme heaven with all its might, as long as the body is not under its influence. »iii

The delighted soul, therefore, sees the substance of God, but in an incomplete way, in any case less than that which the angels enjoy. The body corrupts and burdens the soul, and binds it.

These limitations come from the special relationship (« the natural appetite ») that in men, is established between the soul and the body.

We can deduce that death brings deliverance and gives the soul a power of transformed vision.

But then, if this is the case, why desire the resurrection? Won’t finding one’s body bind the soul again?

Augustine answers that « mysterious » transformations of the glorious body will change its relationship with the soul after the resurrection. The soul will no longer be hindered, but on the contrary energized, and perhaps even capable of contemplating the divine substance in a more active or perfect way, surpassing then that of the angels. iv

In an epistle to the Corinthians, Paul gives his own explanation.

« Other the brightness of the sun, other the brightness of the moon, other the brightness of the stars. A star itself differs in brightness from another star. So it is with the resurrection of the dead: one is sown in corruption, one resurrects in incorruptibility; one is sown in ignominy, one resurrects in glory; one is sown in weakness, one resurrects in strength; one is sown in the psychic body, one resurrects the spiritual body.

If there is a psychic body, there is also a spiritual body. This is how it is written: The first man, Adam, was made a living soul; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that appears first; it is the psychic, then the spiritual. The first man, who came from the ground, is earthly; the second comes from heaven. Such was the earthly, such will also be the earthly; such will also be the celestial, such will also be the celestial. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly, so shall we also bear the image of the heavenly. »v

The first Adam is made a living soul. The last Adam is made a life-giving spirit, for Paul.

For Augustine, the vision of the « spirit » reaches the second heaven, and the vision of the « intellectual soul » reaches the third heaven.

Strangely enough, everything happens as if Paul and Augustine had switched their respective uses of the words « soul » and « spirit ».

Perhaps a return to Biblical Hebrew, which distinguishes neshma, ruah, and nephesh, (breath, spirit, soul), will be helpful?

In Gen. 2:7 we read precisely two different expressions:

נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים , breath (neshma) of life,

and :

לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה, soul (nephesh) alive.

Here is Gen 2:7:

ז וַיִּיצֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם, עָפָר מִן-הָאֲדָמָה, וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו, נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים; וַיְהִי הָאָדָם, לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה.

The French Rabbinate offers a French translation, of which I propose this translation in English:

« The Eternal-God fashioned man from dust detached from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and man became a living soul. »

The Jerusalem Bible gives :

« Then YHVH God molded man with the clay of the ground, breathed into his nostrils a breath of life and man became a living being. »

Rachi comments on this verse as follows:

« HE FASHIONED (the word is written וַיִּיצֶר with two יּ). Two formations, one for this world, one for the resurrection of the dead. But for the beasts that will not appear on Judgment Day, the same word has only one י (verse 19).

DUST FROM THE GROUND. God has gathered dust from all the earth at the four cardinal corners. In every place where man dies, the earth agrees to be his grave. Another explanation: it was dust taken from the place where it says, « You will make me an altar OF THE EARTH » (Ex. 20:24). God said, « May it be an atonement for him, and he will be able to remain ».

AND HE BREATHED INTO HIS NOSTRILS. He formed it from elements from below and elements from above. The body from below; the soul from above.

For on the first day the heavens and the earth were created. On the second day He said, « Let the earth appear beneath. On the fourth day He created the lights above. On the fifth day He said, « Let the waters swarm and so forth, below. On the sixth day, He had to finish with the world above and the world below. Otherwise there would have been jealousy in the work of creation.

A LIVING SOUL. Pets and field animals are also called living souls. But man’s soul is the most living soul, because it also has knowledge and speech. »

We can see that what matters for Rashi is not so much the distinction between nephesh and neshma, but the life of the soul, which is « more alive » in the case of man.

It is not enough to be alive. It is important that life be « as alive » as possible.

And there is a connection between this « more alive » life and God’s vision.

In a note by P. Agaësse and A. Solignac – « Third Heaven and Paradise » – added to their translation of Augustine’s Genesis in the literal sense, there is a more complete analysis which I summarize in the following paragraphs.

If the third heaven that St. Paul saw corresponds to the third kind of vision, it may have been given to Paul’s soul to see the glory of God, face to face, and to know His very essence. This is Augustine’s interpretation.

But if we make the third heaven one of the celestial spheresvi, among many others, we can in this hypothesis, admit a hierarchy of spiritual and intellectual visions with numerous degrees. Augustine, rather dubious, admits that he himself does not see how to arrive on this subject at a knowledge worthy of being taught.

If most modern exegetes adopt Augustine’s interpretation, the history of ideas is rich in other points of view.

Ambrose affirms that man « goes from the first heaven to the second, from the second to the third, and thus successively to the seventh, and those who deserve it to go to the top and to the vault of the heavens ». vii

He admits the existence of more than three heavens. And he criticizes the idea that Paul only ascended to the « third heaven », which would be only that of the « moon ».

Origen also evokes Paul’s vision to show that man can know heavenly things. But, he says, it is not man by himself who accesses this knowledge, it is the Spirit of God who illuminates man.viii

Origen also says that the friends of God « know him in His essence and not by riddles or by the naked wisdom of voices, speeches and symbols, rising to the nature of intelligible things and the beauty of truth. » ix

Origen also believes that it is reasonable to admit that the Prophets, through their hegemonikon (which is another Greek name for the noos, the spirit), were able to « see wonders, hear the words of the Lord, see the heavens opened »x, and he gives the rapture of Paul as an example of those who saw the heavens open.

From all this we can infer that there is some confusion about the nature of the « heavenly visions », their hierarchy, and their actual ability to « know » the divine essence.

This confusion is somehow symbolized by the fact that Augustine calls spiritual and intellectual what other authors call psychic and spiritual.

Paul himself distinguishes, as we have seen, the living soul of the « first Adam » and the life-giving spirit of the « last Adam » .

Are these only battles of words? No, they bear underlying witness to a fundamental question: what is the nature of the bond between soul and body?

This is a very old question, but also a hyper-modern one, as it highlights the powerlessness of neuroscience to deal with this kind of subject.

The three kinds of visions proposed by Augustine shed light on the nature of the « place » that the soul reaches after death. This place, in which the soul finds rewards, or punishments, is essentially spiritual. There is therefore a corporeal Paradise or Hell, such as the Jewish Gehenna, one of whose entrances is in Jerusalem, and Eden, whose entrance is in Damascus or Palestine, according to the Talmud?

The separated soul no longer has a body, but it keeps a mysterious link with the body in which it lived, as a « living soul », and retains a certain similarity with it.

The body is a cocoon, and the soul separates from it to continue its progression.

« It is a whole theory of knowledge that Augustine develops (with the three kinds of visions), in all its dimensions, sensitive, imaginative and intellectual, normal and pathological, profane and mystical, intramural and celestial.

The three kinds of visions mark the stages of the soul’s journey from the corporeal to the intelligible, reveal the structure of its essence in its triple relationship to the world, to itself, to God, and develop the dialectic of transcendence that fulfills its destiny. »xi

Let’s give Paul the benefit of the last word. The first Adam was made a « living soul ». His destiny, which sums up Man, is to metamorphose, through life, death, and resurrection, into the last Adam, who is « life-giving spirit ».

The destiny of the soul, therefore, is to metamorphose not into a merely « living » spirit, but into a spirit that « invigorates », a spirit that gives life and « makes live ».


i2 Cor. 12, 2-4

iiS. Augustine. Genesis in the literal sense. Book XII, 36, 69. Desclée de Brouwer. 1972, p.455.Augustine concedes, however: « But this knowledge will no longer fail him when, once the bodies are recovered at the resurrection of the dead, this corruptible body will be clothed with incorruptibility and this mortal body clothed with immortality (1 Cor. 15:53). For all things will be evident and, without falsity or ignorance, will be distributed according to their order – both bodily and spiritual and intellectual – in a nature that will have recovered its integrity and will be in perfect bliss. »

iiiIbid. Book XII, 35, 68, p.451.

iv« Afterwards, when this body is no longer an animal body, but when the coming transformation has made it a spiritual body, the soul, equal to the angels, will acquire the mode of perfection proper to its nature, obedient and commanding, invigorated and invigorating, with such ineffable ease that what was a burden to it will become for it an added glory. Even then, these three kinds of vision will subsist ; but no falsehood will make us take one thing for another, neither in bodily nor in spiritual visions, much less in intellectual visions. These will be so present and clear to us that in comparison the bodily forms which we reach today are much less obvious to us, they which we perceive with the help of our bodily senses and to which many men are so enslaved that they think that there are no others and figure that, all that is not such, does not exist at all. Quite different is the attitude of the sages in the face of these bodily visions: although these things appear more present, they are nevertheless more certain of what they grasp is worth to them by intelligence beyond the bodily forms and similarities of bodily things, although they cannot contemplate the intelligible with the intellectual soul as they see the sensible with the bodily sense. « » S. Augustine. Book XII, 35-36, 68-69. Desclée de Brouwer. 1972, p.451

v1 Cor. 15, 41-49

vi Some have seven, others eight, nine or even ten. One can refer to Plato’s theses on this subject.

In addition, P. Agaësse and A. Solignac recall that the Ambrosiaster rejects the opinion that Paul was raised to the third heaven, that of the moon.

viiIn Ambrose’s commentary on Ps. 38:17.

viii De Orat. 1, P.G.11,416 BC citing 2 Cor. 12,4 and 1 Cor. 2, 11-16

ixExhort. ad Mart. 13, P.G. 11,580 C

x C. Cels. 1,48

xiP. Agaësse and A. Solignac. Note in La Genèse au sens littéral, op.cit. p. 585.

Agni Alive

Etymology goes back further to the dawn of thought, much further than archaeology or paleography.

The root of the oldest words is all that remains of time that no memory can imagine. These roots are the minute, ineffaceable traces of what was once pure intuition, radiant knowledge, sudden revelation, for singular men and moving crowds.

The ancient roots, still alive, like verbal souls, speak to us of a vanished world.

Among the most powerful roots are those that inform the names of the Gods.

In the Veda, Agni is said to be « Fire ».

But the truly original, etymological meaning of the word « agni » is not « fire », it is « alive », and « agile ».

The idea of « fire » is only a derivation from this primeval sense. The oldest intuitions associated with the word « agni » then are « life » and « movement », as opposed to « rest » and « death ».

The divine Agni, had indeed many other names, to tell of his other qualities: Atithi, Anala, Dahana, Vasu, Bharata, Mātariśvā, Vaiśvānara, Śoṣaṇa, Havyavah, Hutabhuk…

Agni’s names all have a distinct, specific meaning. Atithi is « Host », Anala is « Longevity », Dahana is « Burning », Tanūnapāt : « Self-Generated », Apāṃnapāt : « from the waters ».

So many attributes for such a hidden God!

« Two mothers of a different color and walking quickly, each giving birth to an infant. From the breast of one is born Hari [yet another name of Agni], honored by libations; from the breast of the other is born Soucra (the Sun), with a bright flame ». i

Agni is indeed « visible », He was born as a child, – but very clever, very wise is whoever can really « see » Him !

« Which of you has seen Him, when He is hiding? As an infant just now, there He is who, by the virtue of sacrifice, now gives birth to His own mothers. Thus Agni, great and wise, honored by our libations, generates the rain of the cloud, and is reborn in the bosom of deeds.» ii

Agni is everywhere. Agni is not only « alive », « agile », He is not only « Fire », not only « God ».

He is also the flickering glow, the sparkling lightning, the blazing forest, the fatal lightning, the evening sun, the pink dawn, the inflexible flint, the warmth of the body, the embers of love…

To understand the Veda, it helps to be a poet, to expand one´s mind to the universe, and even farther away.

iRigVeda 1,7,1,1.

iiRigVeda 1,7,1,4.

Bouche délirante

« Lunes de Cumes »

La façon la plus ramassée dont les Modernes ont traduit l´antique idée selon laquelle « tout est plein de dieux » est d’affirmer l´intrication quantique de toutes les particules de l´univers, — depuis le Big Bang. Le constat, originellement fait par Thalès, philosophe, astronome et géomètre, « πάντα πλήρη θεῶν εἶναι », implique logiquement que les multitudes divines sont toutes unies, ou « intriquées », pour reprendre le jargon quantique.

Toutes ces myriades de dieux, d’anges ou d’ondes, sont liées, enlacées, embrassées, enchevêtrées. Un nœud numineux noue leur être en l´Un.

Mais à la différence des particules quantiques, les dieux infiniment innombrables restent subtilement « séparés » des choses et des corps, dont ils accompagnent pourtant, sans cesse, l´émergence.

La nappe des « dieux », finement tissée, sans couture, enveloppe une souple base de matière et d´énergie.

Elle s´immisce dans ses interstices et ses vides.

Deux ordres de réalité se voisinent, sans se confondre, mais parfois s’intersectent, comme des plis, des angles, ou des croix.

Où trouve-t-on ces lieux de rencontre? Dans les hasards, les augures, les pythies, les temples et les invocations ? Peut-être.

Plus sûrement dans les cœurs, battants et clos.

Et sans doute aussi dans l’indicible silence, blotti entre les mots, caché dans l’absence.

Ou encore celés sous les symboles qui ne montrent, — signes cois.

Ou parfois dans le grand fond, l’abysse abaissé. Ou dans les nues lisses, hautes et fines.

Ou simplement dans une âme, mue d’épigenèse, embryon d’elle-même, sans sol ni ciel.

Âme capable d’approcher toute chose. De la connaître. Et de s’en détacher, légère.

Ce n’est pas l’éveil, mais le sommeil, qui lui révèle les rares mystères, dont elle est douée.

Pauvre en esprit, elle cache sa nature dans l’opulence des désirs. Éveillée, elle la couvre de conscience comme d’un voile.

En son sommeil, elle est exil, allée en des rêves indociles, elliptiques.

Abeille, elle butine, cherchant des sucs neufs, loin de la ruche connaisseuse.

Miel à son retour, vers la reine endormie, la connaissance assoupie.

Qui dira son vol nocturne ? La conscience est collée à l’aire et n’a pas d’ailes.

Double vie, double face de l’âme. L’une de lumière et de soleil, l’autre de lune et d’ombre.

Mais c’est la nuit qui est grosse, non le jour qui s’ignore.

C’est dans la nuit des sens, dans cette ténèbre du sens, qu’elle monte le plus haut, loin des steppes plates, des chotts et des ergs.

Alors elle explore, non une évidence, une révélation, mais l’exode.

Elle quête les passages, les chenaux, les détroits, les « trous de ver » (noirs ou blancs). Tout ce qui ouvre la fuite et l’impensé, l’angoisse de l’angustai

Toutes les nuits, elle voyage comme une colombe noachique, loin de l’arche immobile, échouée sur quelques hauts fonds, attendant la décrue. Rares alors les retours fructueux, mais non impossibles. Telle branche, telle olive en disent la trace.

C’est dans ces envols nocturnes, loin des rêves de glu, qu’elle s’approche des terres supérieures et des dieux occupés.

C’est alors qu’elle grappille des parcelles de génie, qu’elle découvre la gravité et la danse,

qu’elle sait la symphonie immense, qu’elle sent la puissance des sèmes,

qu’elle suce le sein nébuleux, le lait cosmique, la sève galactique.

Elle voit soudain l’idée, nue comme un buisson qui brûle, une sylve d’odeurs et d’épines…

Elle vole aux dieux mêmes leur vol et leur envol.

Cinglant larcin, à la Prométhée, payé du foie.

Rapt utile, pourtant, au retour célébré de caresses méritées.

Nimbée d’aura, constellée de cieux, l’âme à la fin retourne à la glèbe, fait verdir la boue, exhausse le lotus.

L’âme est double, et ce double s’enlace en elle, comme deux amants doux, deux courbes magnétiques.

Mais quand elle se dédouble, se désenlace, quand cesse l’union avec les lointains, elle se réalise, pénétrée de connaissance, gorgée de possession, se sachant libre.

Se sachant aussi possédée, absolument possédée, et pourtant à cet instant, plus libre que jamais, d’aller toujours plus haut.

Comme en la forge le fer en feu bout, fusionne, coule et s’évapore, sublimé, — atomes par atomes, fer encore, quoique quantique.

L’âme de fer fut un instant centre de l’âtre ultime.

Il lui faudra des jours et des ans pour guérir sa brûlure, penser sa plaie, combler de cicatrices sa conscience sauve et balafrée.

Ce n’est pas la pensée qui s’est mue, dans cette mouvance ignée.

Ce n’est pas d’un vol extatique, d’un vain délire, que l’âme a franchi les mondes.

Son calme est froid comme un lac. Maintenant, elle entre dans le cratère, elle plonge dans la lave, comme une goutte d’eau nue.

Pourtant ne se vaporise. L’eau est lourde, comme une bombe.

Œil et boson, iris irradié. Entière entéléchie. Théophanie non-humaine.

« Bouche délirante »ii .

En elle, langue, larynx, glotte et incisives unissent l’haleine et la parole.


i« Ad augusta per angusta » (Vers l’auguste par l’étroit).

iiHéraclite Fr. 92

Varieties of Ecstasy

Ezekiel’s Vision. Raphael

Man is an « intermediary being » between the mortal and the immortal, says Plato. This enigmatic phrase, rather inaudible to modern people, can be understood in several senses,.

One of these is the following. « Intermediary » means that man is in constant motion. He goes up and down, in the same breath. He ascends towards ideas that he does not really understand, and he descends towards matter that he does not understand at all. Inhaling, exhaling. Systole of the spirit, diastole of the soul.

Ancient words still testify to these outward movements of the soul. « Ecstasy », from the Greek ἒκστασις (ekstasis), means firstly « coming out of oneself ». The spirit comes out of the body, and then it is caught up in a movement that takes it beyond the world.

Ekstasis is the opposite of stasis, ‘contemplation’, — which is immobile, stable, and which Aristotle called θεωρία (theoria). The meaning of θεωρία as ‘contemplation, consideration’ is rather late, since it only appears with Plato and Aristotle. Later, in Hellenistic Greek, this word took on the meaning of ‘theory, speculation’ as opposed to ‘practice’.

But originally, θεωρία meant ‘sending delegates to a religious festival, religious embassy, being a theorist’. The ‘theorist’ was the person going on a trip to consult the oracle, or to attend a religious festival. A ‘theory’ was a religious delegation going to a holy place.

The words ekstasis and theoria have something in common, a certain movement towards the divine. Ekstasis is an exit from the body. Theoria is a journey out of the homeland, to visit the oracle of Delphi.

These are images of the free movement of the soul, in the vertical or horizontal direction. Unlike the theoria, which is a journey in the true sense of the word, ekstasis takes the form of a thought in movement outside the body, crossed by lightning and dazzle, always aware of its weakness, its powerlessness, in an experience which goes far beyond its capacities, and which it knows it has little chance of really grasping, few means of fixing it and sharing it on its return.

The word ekstasis seems to keep the trace of a kind of experience that is difficult to understand for those who have not lived it. When the soul moves to higher lands, generally inaccessible, it encounters phenomena quite different from those of the usual life, life on earth. Above all, it runs an infinitely fast race, in pursuit of something that is constantly ahead of it, that draws it ever further away, to an ever-changing elsewhere, which probably stands at an infinite distance.

Human life cannot know the end of this race. The soul, at least the one that is given the experience of ekstasis, can nevertheless intuitively grasp the possibility of a perpetual search, a striking race towards an elusive reality.

In his commentaries on the experience of ecstasyi, Philo considers that Moses, despite what his famous visionii, reported in the Bible, did not actually have access to a complete understanding of the divine powers.

But Jeremiah, on the other hand, would testify to a much greater penetration of these powers, according to Philo. However, despite all his talent, Philo has difficulty in consolidating this delicate thesis. The texts are difficult and resistant to interpretation.

Philo cautiously suggests extrapolating certain lines from Jeremiah’s text to make it an indication of what may have been an ecstasy. « This is how the word of God was addressed to Jeremiah”iii. This is rather thin, admittedly. But another line allows us to guess God’s hold, God’s domination over Jeremiah: « Dominated by your power, I have lived in isolation »iv.

Other prophets have also declared to have lived in ecstasy, using other metaphors. Ezekiel, for example, says that « the hand of God came »v upon him, or that the spirit « prevailed »vi.

When the ecstasy is at its height, the hand of God weighs more than usual: « And the spirit lifted me up and carried me away, and I went away sad, in the exaltation of my spirit, and the hand of the Lord weighed heavily on me.”vii

In a cynical, materialistic and disillusioned time, like our time, one cannot be content with just words, even prophetic ones, to interest the reader. Facts, experiments, science, rationality are needed.

Let’s start with a ‘technical’ definition of ecstasy according to the CNRTL :

« A particular state in which a person, finding herself as if transported out of herself, is removed from the modalities of the sensible world by discovering through a kind of illumination certain revelations of the intelligible world, or by participating in the experience of an identification, of a union with a transcendent, essential reality. »

This definition evokes enlightenment, identification or union with transcendental realities. This vocabulary is hardly less obscure than the biblical expressions ‘dominion by power’, or ‘hand of God’.

Moreover, this definition cautiously employs what appears to be a series of euphemisms: ‘to be as if transported’, ‘to be removed from the sensitive world’, ‘to discover a kind of enlightenment’, ‘to participate in an experience’.

If we return to the memories of ecstasy bequeathed to us by the prophets, the true ‘experience’ of ecstasy seems infinitely more dynamic, more overwhelming, ‘dominated’ by the immediate, irrefutable intuition of an infinite, transcendent ‘power’.

Bergson, a true modernist, if ever there was one, and philosopher of movement, paradoxically gives a rather static image of ecstasy: « The soul ceases to turn on itself (…). It stops, as if it were listening to a voice calling out to it. (…) Then comes an immensity of joy, an ecstasy in which it is absorbed or a rapture it experiences: God is there, and it is in him. No more mystery. Problems fade away, obscurities dissipate; it is an illumination.”viii

Can ecstasy only be associated with a moment when the soul ‘stops’, when it ‘stops spinning’? Is it not rather carried away without recourse by a fiery power, which suddenly sweeps away all certainty, all security? Bergson certainly falls far short of any essential understanding of ecstasy, perhaps because he has never experienced one.

Who will report today in audible words, in palpable images, the infinite and gentle violence of ecstasy? Who will say in raw terms the light that invades the intelligence, as in love the whole body? Who will explain the narrow bank from which the pulse of death is measured? Who will tell us how to kiss the lips of infinity? Who will grasp in one stroke the face of which time is but a slice, and the world, but a shadow?


iPhilon. De Monarch. I, 5-7

iiEx., 33, 18-23

iiiJér. 14,1

ivJér. 15,17

vEz. 1,3

viEz. 3,12

viiEz. 3,14

viiiH. Bergson, Deux sources,1932, p. 243.


The Descent from Mount Sinai, by Cosimo Rosselli, the Sistine Chapel, Rome

Under Tiberius, in the year 16, soothsayers, astrologers and magi were expelled from Italy. Divination had become a capital crime that one would pay with one’s life. A new millennium had begun, but no one suspected it. Times were changing faster than people’s minds. And the Roman religion had to defend itself foot to foot against barbaric ideas from elsewhere.

Long gone was then the time of Moses, who saw in the light what thought could not embrace. Long gone, the time of the prophets, who received dreams and visions, images and words.

Long gone also, was the time of the Chaldean magi and the Avestic and Vedic priests. Possessed of a divine madness, they could, it is said, predict the future by their power of enthusiasm, their capacity for ecstasy.

The words ‘enthusiasm’ and ‘ecstasy’ translate by means of Greek words and roots experiences of a probably universal nature. But do these words adequately reflect the variety of ‘visions’ and the diversity of ‘seers’ throughout the world and throughout history? How can this be ascertained? How can we organize the timeless archaeology of enthusiasm, launch the worldwide excavations of the ecstatic states?

When the divine penetrates the human, it overturns all that is known, all that is acquired, all that can be expressed, all that can be dictated. Everything is overturned, but it also seems that the mind receives, if we believe the testimonies, a capacity for understanding, comprehension and conviction, without any possible comparison. The prophet ‘hears’ or ‘sees’ in an instant thoughts which he considers ‘divine’ but which he makes his own, and to a certain extent he can communicate them to others and find attentive ears. This is where the true prophet is revealed.

After God breathed thoughts and laws into Moses’ mind, Moses in turn repeated them to Aaron. This double operation (first through divine breath, then through human speech) can be understood as an allegory. Moses is above all God’s interpreter. Firstly, he represents His Intelligence, then His Word. The Intelligence first grasps Moses entirely. What can be said of this? The texts are opaque, difficult to interpret. As for the Word that Moses repeated to Aaron, it represented the prophetic act itself, the decisive leap out of the sanctuary of ecstasy into freedom.

Free, the prophet is also bound, from above and below, – bound to heaven by Intelligence, bound to earth by the Word. Philo sums up: « The soul has an earthly base, but it has its summit in pure Intelligence.”i

For my part, I would add that the most important thing is not in fact to be found in Intelligence, which assails the soul entirely and subjugates it, nor in the Word, whose task is to give meaning to the unspeakable and then bring the worlds together.

What is really important, for the rest of the ages, and for its truly unspeakable implications, is the absolute freedom of the soul (here the soul of Moses) which has been able to free itself from ecstasy, then to transcend the innumerable constraints of the human word, and finally to launch a bridge over unfathomable chasms.

What a lesson!

What an encouragement!

iPhilo, De Somn. 1. 146

Angelus novus

Angelus Novus. Paul Klee

Paul Klee’s Angelus novus has an undeniably catchy title. « The new angel », – two simple words that sum up an entire programme. But does the painting live up to the expectation created by its title? A certain ‘angel’, with a figure like no other, seems to float graphically in the air of mystery, but what is he? What does he say? It is said that there are billions of angels on the head of a single pin. Each boson, each prion, has its angel, one might think, and each man too, say the scholastics. How, under these conditions, can we distinguish between new and old angels? Aren’t they all in service, in mission, mobilised for the duration of time? And if there are « old angels », are they not nevertheless, and above all, eternal, timeless, always new in some way?

Walter Benjamin has commented on this painting by Klee, which undoubtedly ensured its paper celebrity more than anything else.

« There is a painting by Klee entitled Angelus novus. It depicts an angel who seems to have the intention of moving away from what his gaze seems to be riveted to. His eyes are wide open, his mouth open, his wings spread. Such is the aspect that the angel must necessarily have of history. His face is turned towards the past. Where a sequence of events appears before us, he sees only one and only one catastrophe, which keeps piling up ruins upon ruins and throwing them at his feet. He would like to linger, awaken the dead and gather the defeated. But a storm is blowing from paradise, so strong that the angel can no longer close its wings. This storm is constantly pushing him towards the future, to which he turns his back, while ruins are piling up all the way to heaven before him. This storm is what we call progress.”i

Striking is the distance between Benjamin’s dithyrambic commentary and Klee’s flatter, drier work. Klee’s angel actually appears static, even motionless. No sensation of movement emanates from him, either backwards or forwards. No wind seems to be blowing. His ‘wings’ are raised as if for an invocation, not for a flight. And if he were to take off, it would be upwards rather than forwards. Its « fingers », or « feathers », are pointed upwards, like isosceles triangles. His eyes look sideways, fleeing the gaze of the painter and the spectator. His hair looks like pages of manuscripts, rolled by time. No wind disturbs them. The angel has a vaguely leonine face, a strong, sensual, U-shaped jaw, accompanied by a double chin, also U-shaped. His nose seems like another face, whose eyes would be his nostrils. His teeth are wide apart, sharp, almost sickly. It even seems that several of them are missing. Do angels’ teeth decay?

Klee’s angel is sickly, stunted, and has only three fingers on his feet. He points them down, like a chicken hanging in a butcher’s shop.

Reading Benjamin, one might think he’s talking about another figure, probably dreamt of. Benjamin has completely re-invented Klee’s painting. No accumulated progress, no past catastrophe, seems to accompany this angelus novus, this young angel.

But let us move on to the question of substance. Why should history have only one ‘angel’? And why should this angel be ‘new’?

Angelology is a notoriously imperfect science. Doctors rarely seem to agree.

In Isaiah (33:7) we read: « The angels of peace will weep bitterly. » Do their renewed tears testify to their powerlessness?

In Daniel (10:13) it is said that an archangel appeared and said to Daniel: « The Prince of the Persians resisted me twenty-one days ». This archangel was Gabriel, it is said of him, and the Prince of Persia was the name of the angel in charge of the Persian kingdom.

So the two angels were fighting against each other?

It was not a fight like Jacob’s fight with the angel, but a metaphysical fight. S. Jerome explains that this angel, the Prince of the Persian kingdom, opposed the liberation of the Israelite people, for whom Daniel prayed, while the archangel Gabriel presented his prayers to God.

S. Thomas Aquinas also commented on this passage: « This resistance was possible because a prince of the demons wanted to drag the Jews who had been brought to Persia into sin, which was an obstacle to Daniel’s prayer interceding for this people.”ii

From all this we can learn that there are many angels and even demons in history, and that they are brought to fight each other, for the good of their respective causes.

According to several sources (Maimonides, the Kabbalah, the Zohar, the Soda Raza, the Maseketh Atziluth) angels are divided into various orders and classes, such as Principalities (hence the name « Prince » which we have just met for some of them), Powers, Virtues, Dominations. Perhaps the best known are also the highest in the hierarchy: the Cherubim and the Seraphim. Isaiah says in chapter 6 that he saw several Seraphim with six wings « shouting to one another ». Ezekiel (10:15) speaks of Cherubim.

The Kabbalists propose ten classes of angels in the Zohar: the Erelim, the Ishim, the Beni Elohim, the Malakim, the Hashmalim, the Tarshishim, the Shinanim, the Cherubim, the Ophanim and the Seraphim.

Maimonides also proposes ten classes of angels, arranged in a different order, but which he groups into two large groups, the « permanent » and the « perishable ».

Judah ha-Levi (1085-1140), a 12th century Jewish theologian, distinguishes between « eternal » angels and angels created at a given time, for a certain duration.

Among the myriads of possible angels, where should we place Klee’s Angelus novus, the new angel whom Benjamin called the « angel of history » with authority? Subsidiary question: is a « new angel » fundamentally permanent or eminently perishable?

In other words: is History of an eternal essence or is it made up of a series of moments with no sequel?

Benjamin thinks, as we have seen, that History is represented, at every moment, at every turning point, by a « new Angel ». History exists only as a succession of phases, it is a wireless and random necklace of moments, without a sequel.

Anything is always possible, at any moment, anything can happen, such seems to be the lesson learned, in an age of absolute anguish, or in a serene sky.

But one can also, and without any real contradiction, think that History is one, that it builds its own meaning, that it is a human fabrication, and that the divine Himself must take into account this fundamental freedom, always new, always renewed, and yet so ancient, established since the origin of its foundation.


iWalter Benjamin, Thèses sur la philosophie de l’histoire. Œuvres III, Paris, Gallimard, 2000, p. 434

ii Summa Theol. I, Q. 113 a.8

Surviving Self

How to survive our Self?

Are we essentially alone in the face of the porous mysteries of the unconscious? Are we always alone in front of what could suddenly be discovered or revealed there, after long and slow maturation? Are we alone in front of the flagrant repression of what will remain buried there forever?

Many wander in sorrow in the deserts of their own minds, they wander lonely in the ergs of understanding. Fleeing the austerity of the silent void, they flee to the hubbub.

Others think alone, against the norm, against opinion, against the crowd. « I cross the philosophical space in absolute solitude. As a result, it no longer has any limits, no walls, it doesn’t hold me back. This is my only chance.”i

But if it is difficult to think alone, it is even more difficult to think with others.

The common brings us closer and warms us up. It doesn’t encourage people to try to reach cold peaks. The community compensates for isolation, and offers fusion in the mass. But something resists. It is the haunting, extreme, demanding feeling that the ‘self’ is not the ‘us’. The ideological, collective, social ‘us’ does not intersect with the inner, personal, singular ‘self’…

Cultures, religions and civilizations are ‘us’, fleeting in essence.

They fictitiously envelop billions of solitary ‘selves’, in essence. All these ‘us’ become lifeless shells, skinless drums, after a few millennia.

The mystery is that only the ‘self’ will survive them.

A deeper mystery yet: how to survive our Self?


iCatherine Malabou, Changer de différence, – cit. in Frédéric Neyrat , Atopies.

Cosmos Hole

The WISEA J171227.81-232210.7 black hole — several billion times as massive as our sun, exploding in Ophiuchus galaxy cluster,

Claude Lévi-Strauss is a good representative of contemporary thought. He displays its salient characteristics: despair of thought, insignificance of being, erection of non-knowledge as the ultimate « knowledge », universal doubt (doubt of meaning and doubt of doubt itself), all this in a sardonic and cheerful tone. « Let humanity disappear and the earth disappear, nothing will be changed in the march of the cosmos. Hence a final paradox: we are not even sure that this knowledge that reveals our insignificance has any validity. We know that we are nothing or not much, and, knowing this, we no longer even know if this knowledge is one. To think of the universe as immeasurable to thought forces us to question thought itself. We don’t get out of it.”i

What will be the thought of the universe in a thousand or two thousand years from now, who can claim to know it today? And who can think in the languages of the day what will be thought here and there, in the universe, in eight hundred thousand years or in a hundred million centuries? These ages seem distant only because of a lack of imagination.

We are really tired of the old marquis who are tired of dreaming. Post-modern doubt is a paper origami. We yearn for fresh and lively intuitions, for other universes, for horizons with naked orients, for stars without north, and the worn-out metaphors of extra-galactic confines or exo-biological chimeras already bore us with their brash roundness and frank blandness.

To think far away, however, little is enough. We need to change the signs, to swap the senses, and to dream of hurricanes. Everything quickly becomes different then. The thoughts of the day seem like slow caterpillars, far from the butterfly that is sensed, and very unworthy of the pensive eagle, high in the cloud.

It is tempting to believe that thought is immeasurable to the universe, and, diagonally agonistic, line of fire, that it transcends it easily. The humblest thought goes further than the white dwarves stars, and it pierces the fabric of the world with a hole blacker than the whole dark matter.

Any thought that is a little audacious obliges us to question the universe itself, its meaning and its essence. Every thought then cries out: « We are getting out of it immediately », – and not: « we are not getting out of it ».

The whole universe is in itself « insignificant ». By contrast, thought “means”, it has “meaning”, and it gives “meaning”.

If the entire universe ever receives one day some meaning, that meaning will not come from cosmic background noise, the shape of nebulae, or the sanctification of the boson (the so-called « God’s particle »).

If a demiurge created the world, the cosmos has no meaning of its own. Its meaning is obviously to be found elsewhere than in it.

And if the world created itself, by some kind of automatism, how could it give itself its own meaning, suck its own blood? Does the baby child at the breast suck herself?

The cognitive and ontological pessimism of post-modernism is equivalent to its opposite, from the point of view of the free play of radical hypotheses. The pessimism of insignificance has no logical weight of its own.

The existence of human consciousness, the irrefutable manifestation of being, must be placed far above the imperfect dreams of putative multiverse.

Universe, multiverse, it doesn’t matter what they are or how many they are, because in reality « you can’t get out of it ».

Consciousness, in essence, its deepest mystery, is that the deeper you get into it, the more you « come out », — as from an eternal Egypt.

iClaude Lévi-Strauss, De près et de loin. Ed. O. Jacob, Paris, 1988

Icy Skies

Visage. Henri Michaux

It is important to know whether the world is one or not. On this difficult matter Henri Michaux is quite assertive: « There are four worlds (apart from the natural world and the alienated world). Only one appears at a time. These worlds categorically exclude the normal world, and exclude each other. Each of them has a clear, unique correspondence with a place in your body, which is taken to another level of energy, and receives instantaneous nourishment, rejuvenation and warmth.”i

Why only four worlds then, and not many more ?

The human body possesses, in several precise points within the spinal cord, energy nodes, moose nests, areas of illumination, seats of pleasure, sacred vertebrae, unfolded plexuses, where perhaps some special and subtle gateways, wirelessly connected to other worlds, are initiated. In India, these points are known as chakras.

The spinal column is not alone, moreover, in concealing mysteries (in this case medullary ones). The human brain welcomes other secrets, lodged between the medulla oblongata and the thalamus. But there is not enough room to describe them here, and the words are too worn and connoted.

Misunderstood, Michaux the poet is too much elsewhere, dilated, honest. He is really elsewhere than in an Orient or an Occident of paper. He pays with his person, takes risks, puts himself in danger.

Michaux has taken drugs like a taxi. How can one go higher than the stars when the meter is running, when time is running out, when the arteries are congested?

How to describe what has never been put into words, the unstoppable?

There are undoubtedly other ways than spinal or synaptic, freer, less congested.

Michaux knew this, in a sense. He kept a cool head when the force rose. He went very far, very high, and came back. He wandered for a long time in the tangled infinity, slipped into the sealed space. Others would have perished, got lost. He drew some maps of it. He thickened his blood, he marked his trace, accumulated reminiscence, then came back to lay down his nights on paper.

« There are still two other ‘beyond’, equally exclusive, closed, where one only enters thanks to a kind of cyclone, and to arrive at a world that is itself a cyclone, but the center of a cyclone, where it is liveable and where even it is Life par excellence. You get there by transport, by trance.”ii

One transport for two ‘beyond’. What a masterstroke.

The « cyclone » is a meteorological phenomenon whose characteristic feature is the whirlwind.

« Life » is a biological phenomenon whose image is the spiral, such as that of DNA, or the kundalini.

« Trance » is a psychological phenomenon whose trajectory can take the form of a parable, hyperbola or ellipse, among others. These mathematical figures are also figures of speech. This leads to a more difficult question: what is the trance itself the figure of?

Trance is a ‘transport’, Michaux asserts.

Every expanse requires a means of transport. Trance meets this need. It is a means of transport, a figure of tension towards transcendence. « If the expanse is one of the characters of the divine, much more so is the tension.”iii

It’s a desire to see the truth, to see the whole of nothingness. « The insignificance of the constructions of the mind appears. Contemplation without mixing. We no longer think about affiliations, designations, determinations, we can do without them; the wind has passed over them, a psychic wind that undoes them before determinations, categories are born. “iv

A finding of sarcastic impotence. The spirit means nothing by itself. It is free like a whip antenna.

A « wind » passes far above the human brain, undoing everything that is not born, everything that is content with the static. In exchange, without mixing, what Michaux calls « contemplation ». Undoing rather than doing, the lot of the poet on the hunt.

« Every man is a « yes » with « no ». After the unheard of and somehow unnatural acceptances, one must expect returns of « no », while something continues to act, which cannot be erased, nor can it go back, living in the shadows of the Unforgettable. Ongoing evolution… »v

Man is a « yes », with « no », and perhaps with « maybe », and no doubt with doubts. But surely there is something else again, that neither « yes » nor « no » can say, and « perhaps » even less so, and doubt, not at all.

Man is also, without knowing it, that « something » living in secret.

This living « something » separated from the unforgettable.

That unforgettable, which we have never seen, and which we have forgotten, and which is alive.

In close order, on the white sheet of paper, many small pieces of black diamonds. Badly cut, they vibrate in obtrusive variations, they play with accents and margins. This is all that remains of « mescaline speed »:

« Drugs, let us remember, are more revealing than creative.”vi

The poet dreams alone, but we can think, being many.

Let’s go back for a moment: « I would like to unveil the ‘normal’, the unknown, the unsuspected, the incredible, the enormous normal. The abnormal has made it known to me (…) I would like to unveil the complex mechanisms that make man above all an operator.”vii

« Normal »… « Operator »… « Mechanisms »…

How do these standard, normal words fit in with the mescaline experience?

« It was always about going beyond, superhumanizing, transmuting, transubstantiating everything, sometimes opening up to the sacred, the sacred is a mode, the one according to which we receive.”viii

The poet is a mystery to himself and to others. He opens doors and worlds, takes away their veils from the heavens, strips the spirit from his herds, fills the books with black and ochre battalions, and sets up his fame as an ascetic. And yet nothing, really nothing of what really matters, shows through the tidy fog of the pages.

Man, poet or not, still has a long way to go, before reaching parallel universes, which are far beyond « icy skies »ix, and which no language has ever touched.


iHenri Michaux Les Grandes Épreuves de l’Esprit. Œuvres complètes, tome III .Gallimard, 2004. p.418

ii« Il existe encore deux autres « au-delà », tout aussi exclusifs, fermés, où l’on n’entre que grâce à une sorte de cyclone, et pour arriver à un monde qui est lui-même un cyclone, mais centre de cyclone, là où c’est vivable et où même c’est par excellence la Vie. On y accède par transport, par transe. » Henri Michaux Les Grandes Épreuves de l’Esprit, et les innombrables petites. Œuvres complètes, III .Gallimard, 2004. p.422

iiiIbid. p.425

ivIbid. p.425-426

vIbid. p.428

viIbid. p.327

viiIbid. p.313

viiiHenri Michaux Émergences-résurgences. Œuvres complètes, tome III .Gallimard, 2004. p.682

ixHenri Michaux Déplacements, dégagements. Œuvres complètes, tome III .Gallimard, 2004. p.1322

The Abyss and the Mountain

Henri Michaux

Not only prophets have visions. Poets also are « seers ». Thus, Henri Michaux. He has gone up to the « silent theater of the heights (…) towards the beyond that appears, disappears and reappears.”i

But what did Michaux really « see »?

The afterlife is not within everyone’s reach. One needs calm eyes, gentle nerves. Rare are the direct witnesses, those who have seen the beyond of the world, the infinite, acute, nascent, initial abyss, rising straight up beyond the heavens, effortlessly eluding all known peaks.

The effort is above all in coming back. The memory is overwhelmed. Intelligence wavers in its doubt. Faith is blind. Returning, whoever has seen it recognizes it here and there, in obscure verses, heard silences, allusive sentences.

In the middle of a page, a word, an echo perhaps, an infinitesimal resonance.

« Perhaps the heavens are opening up.”ii This is not a hypothesis, it is an observation. « An Auguste Presence came to the destitute.” The following question is not formal:

« For the daughter of the mountain

secret, reserved

the apparition was a person,

a goddess? » iii

Then comes the answer:

« especially light,

only light

as light it remained ».

Only word, only light. It’s not much, but it’s everything. Without end, this key opens all doors. Millions of doors.

« Simultaneously

as the ground on the slopes of an awakening volcano tears away

the general unzipping inside and around it took place.

singular retrenchment, unknown

that can’t be compared to anything

……..……………………………… » iv

Michaux, who knows the weight of words, finally gives up and multiplies the « suspension points », as many points as it takes to equal the last line.

Perhaps they are more suitable than ‘unzipping’?

The poet takes the risk of words. He tries to say what he may not have seen, what he may have sensed. He embarks on a narrow path, in the Paris of the avenues, the city of lights. He calls for his help, the skilful writer, words in capital letters:

« In the young and pure face, the initiated gaze,

Mirror of Knowledge

contemplation of the True, ignored by others ».v

The ‘True’! The ‘Knowledge’!

How daring to say these words in a nominalist time!

Capital letters are used to dot the page:


How could Michaux, with his capital letters, have lived in « modern » times? There is so much inaudibility, so much darkness in the false lights.

And who is this « daughter of the mountain »?

Perhaps it is Pârvatî, daughter of Himavân (the Himalayas), and wife of Çiva? Indeed, in Sanskrit Pârvatâ means « of the mountain ».

Perhaps Lokenath Bhattacharya had spoken about her to Michaux?

Or, more likely, was it Rita of Cascia, born in Umbria in the Middle Ages, and beatified by Urban VIII?

The end of the text is in fact hagiographical, and includes some elements from the life of the saint:

« Near the inert stranger

became helpful

we come for LIFE.”vii

Capital letters, again, this is a serious matter. Michaux found his mistress in vision, without mescaline, — and he asks questions:

« To whom does the supernatural appear?

Commonly to children, not at all brilliant, far from the cities, from the walls. Not very enviable, one would not distinguish them, neither too studious, nor very pious, without any special quality, from a modest environment, knowing especially the discomfort, in a small lost village. They are not liars.”viii

But the appearance does not stop there. The vision is only a step. There is the rest. The healing, which strikes the crowds, and even the devious clergymen:

« And who heals? In whom does the supernatural healing take place? »

We are no longer in the realm of convention. Already in their afterlife.

« In a multi-religious country, while many pious people pray in vain near the tomb of a Catholic monk, as they themselves are, a Shiite woman who knows nothing about the Christian religion is healed in the moment (but does not convert). She had confidence and a faith as one should have it, overwhelming, a rare, exceptional treasure.”ix

Michaux wonders: « In whom exactly did she have faith? Secret.”x

Can « modern » people help to see things clearly?

« What about scientists?

One day perhaps, taking the embarrassing problem from another angle, science will find in the brain, thanks to a more precise location of a point in the organism that controls a self-healing function (under the effect of intense emotion), and will in turn approach the miracle with its own means and will even want to produce it coldly, in some cases replacing in its own way the exaltation of faith. Spoiling here, improving there in the unexpected, opening the door to new mysteries.”xi

Miracle, exaltation, unexpected, mystery: all the words point to still other questions. There is never an end to it. It’s better this way. The victories (in this case putative) of science would be, in this matter, pyrrhic. Or a miracle point nested at the bottom of the pineal gland. What if it is? Why does this point activate? Under the effect of an « intense emotion »? But where does this emotion come from? What creates it, what gives it its energy? The body is not an island. The soul is linked to the body, a little, and to the beyond, even more so, if we believe the « daughter of the mountain ».

Not that she said anything later. She discouraged questions. She avoided declarations of faith. Her silence still speaks.

« If she doesn’t speak any more,

it is out of respect

for Unknown Beauty

from the sight of which she was gratified

to which it was united, conjugated

Beauty as knowledge

a higher degree of knowledge. »xii

Michaux. Pârvâti. Rita.

An improbable line linking worlds, times. This great poet, lost in the century, wanders for a long time in « abysses », and recognizes the strength of what is born of the mountain.


iHenri Michaux. Fille de la montagne. (1984) [Text dedicated to Lokenath Bhattacharya]. (in Œuvres complètes, t.3, Gallimard, 2004, p.1290)

iiIbid. p.1291

iiiIbid. p.1291










The Trans-Human Essence of Humanity

Trans-human a22©Philippe Quéau 2020

There are cultures that value prose, argument, dialectics and rhetoric in the search for clear truths. Others prefer hymns, psalms, symbols, enigma, and seek first of all to praise and honor mystery.

Some peoples have pushed reason, wisdom and philosophy as far as possible – as maieutic powers.

Other peoples have preferred revelation, prophecy and mystery, subordinating the work of the spirit to transcendence, to its criticism and interpretation.

The paths of truth are multiple.

Perhaps one day one will describe how favorable climates, comfortable summers, open landscapes may help change worldviews. Scattered archipelagos, alluvial plains, secret deserts, wide and ample valleys, have respective affinities for different ways of thinking. Do the plains of the Indus have the same light than the islands of Greece? Does the Nile valley compare with the Jordan valley?

The tribes of Noah, Shem, Cham or Japhet each had their own way of seeing the sea and the stars, the sun, the mountains, the cow, the lamb and the night, fire, milk and sacrifice. These are only facts and images for some, but metaphors, intuitions, for others. The arid desert fits in with a mineral religion. The linear, naked horizon leads geometrically to monotheism. The smiling myriads of sea waves and the profusion of scattered islands probably may evoke more easily polytheistic thoughts – the solar unit diffracts into billions of labile splinters, and the earth crumbles into the sea.

The idea of a single God does not belong to the mind alone; the climate also exudes it, the landscape shapes it, and a suitable language is needed to exalt it.

The Semitic religions did not recognize the divine essence of variety; they did not admire the plurality of the divine within them. The names El, Eloh, YHVH, Adonai, Baal, Elion, El Shaddai, or Allah concentrate all the intuition, all the meaning, in the One.

But the multiple names of the One proclaim it, they repeat it in all tones: their number bears witness to this: – all these names of the One are not themselves one.

All these names of the One are as many multiple veils.

The Elohim, a plural noun of the One – proclaimed this in the language itself.

Of pure and clear monotheism, one can undoubtedly say that it requires, to put it bluntly, intransigence. One, only one, not two, three, twelve, a thousand or billions. How could one be the two? Or the three? Or infinity?

But is God only One? Isn’t He also Infinite? If He is One and Infinite, then He is also Two, at least conceptually-wise. And One, and Two and Infinite make Three. Etc.

The world is wider than flat deserts, deeper than open seas. Over there, towards the Indus, or near the banks of the Oxus, people have for millennia seen the divine wherever they looked, wherever the spirit set its wing.

The complexity of grammar, the richness of words, the spirit of research, the freedom of thought, the critical capacity, were not an obstacle, but other wings still, making the divine glimmer through many other prisms.

Finesse is not useless in these matters. The mind must become tolerant when one becomes aware of human destiny, of its variegated unity.

Only the north makes the south possible. East and west stand together at both ends of the day. The one and the multiple find their complement, their inner duality in each other.

The infinity of possibilities is said to be found in the unity of being.

If God is really One, why is humanity not yet One? For what reason? For what purpose?

Renan said in his provoking style: “Who will dare to say that by revealing the divine unity and definitively suppressing local religions, the Semitic race has not laid the fundamental stone for the unity and progress of humanity?”i

In the Semitic system, God, in essence, is far from mankind, immensely far. But God chose a Nabi, a prophet, an anointed one, and revealed Himself to him, and through the Nabi to mankind. The Semites see in the world, always, everywhere, only the fulfillment of this unique revelation, the revealed will of a unique Being infinitely transcendent to those multiple beings to whom the revelation of unity is made.

The One revealed the “Oneness”.

And yet, by essence, the multiple, the diverse, the far, the near, are not « one ». They are here and now, or there and far. And the here and there are essentially multiple. Only the One is not “multiple”.

Fundamental contrast. One must then recognize a double state of being, the multiple here or there, and the One elsewhere.

Mankind in the future will no doubt try again to « unify » by some transcendental intuition, this double state of being, the One and the Multiple, the far and the near, transcendence and immanence.

The earth and the stars, the desert and the seas, the mountain and the plain – are all multiple metaphors of this unique intuition, – the universe is also a multi-verse, i.e. it hides its essence.

By analogy, we may infer that a unique and diverse humanity is bound to be, in essence, trans-human.

iErnest Renan. Histoire générale et système comparé des langues sémitiques. (1863)

Wriggling Fry

In a short, strange, visionary book, « Bible of Mankind », Jules Michelet wrote in 1864 about the future of religions, considered as a whole. His angle? The comparison, in this respect, between East and West.

« My book is born in the sunlight among the sons of light, the Aryas, Indians, Persians and Greeks”, says Michelet.

Goodbye fogs, goodbye dark clouds. The light! The light!

It’s all about returning to the dawn of the world, which is perhaps best celebrated in the Vedas. It is about evoking a « Bible of light », not a Bible of words.

For Michelet, who was stuck in a colonialist and imperialist century, it was above all a question of escaping as far as possible from the conceptual prison of stifling ideas, of escaping from too many conventional clichés.

« Everything is narrow in the West. Greece is small: I’m suffocating. Judea is dry: I am panting. Let me look a little at the side of high Asia, towards the deep East.”

Michelet, panting!

He was, though, a man who had a lot of breath. But no more. His ode to light came from an asthma of the soul.

One hundred and fifty years after Michelet, his naive cry is still moving. His panting signals a deep shortness of breath, for our entire era.

One hundred and fifty years after Michelet, we too are panting. We too are suffocating.

We would like to breathe. To fill our retinas with light.

But where are the sea winds? Where are the promised dawns?

The West is today, much more than yesterday, in crisis. But the East is probably not much better off. We are more or less persuaded of the absence of an enlightened horizon west of Eden. But one does not believe either in the supposed depths of Asia.

One may only be sure of the thinness of the earth’s crust, under which a sun of lava roars.

Everything is narrow in this world. The planet is too small. And we are all suffocating. The West? The East? Eurasia? Old-fashioned clichés. Simple and false slogans.

Where are the thinkers ? Where are the prophets?

We are suffocating. The breathing of the people is wheezy, hoarse, corseted… Everything is dry, cracked, dusty.

Water is lacking, air is scarce.

No depths in the crowded pools, where the crocodiles kindly bite themselves, while the fry wriggle.

A Smell of Putrefaction

Scars c4@Philippe Quéau2017

« Already long before 1933, something like a scorching smell was in the air », recalled Carl Gustav Jung shortly after the Second World War, when a collection of his texts from the 1920s, 30s and 40s was republishedi.

A scorched smell? What a euphemism!

In the trenches of the Great War, smells hovered over the dead and the living, but to smell the air then was to die.

Human memory is short and long. Short, in its race to the immediate, its fascination for the event of the moment. Long by its roots in the humus of cultures, in the unconscious of peoples, it even penetrates the memorable, un-forgetting DNA.

All the horrors in History, all the massacres, all the wars, all the infamies committed in the world, leave deep, mnemonic traces in the soul of the species and in the DNA of each man.

Jung attests to this: « An ugly thing generates something vile in our soul. We become indignant, we cry out for the punishment of the murderer, all the more vividly, passionately and hatefully, as the sparks of evil bawl more furiously within us.

It is an undeniable fact that the evil committed by others has quickly become our own vileness, precisely by virtue of the formidable power it has to ignite or fan the evil that lies dormant in our souls.

In part, the murder was committed on the person of each one of us, and in part, each one of us perpetrated it. Seduced by the irresistible fascination of evil, we have helped to make possible this moral attack on the collective soul […].

Are we morally outraged? Our indignation is all the more venomous and vengeful as the flame lit by evil burns more strongly within us.

No one can escape it, for everyone is so steeped in the human condition and so drowned in the human community, that any crime secretly causes a flash of the most intimate satisfaction to shine in some fold of our soul, with her innumerable facets… and – if the moral constitution is favorable – triggers also a contrary reaction in the surrounding compartments.”ii

When hundreds of thousands of dead, in the recent wars, begin to haunt the unconscious consciousness, the terrible soil of horror slowly prepares future germination.

When, day after day, migrants, chased away by wars waged elsewhere, drown in the blue waters of the Mediterranean or in any other of the Seven Seas, in deaf and blind indifference, a deleterious mutation operates its silent and deep chemistry in the stuffed souls of the weighed down peoples.

Yet the world migrants will arrive, whatever happens, and they will camp forever in the collective memory, – and no Styx will be wall, or barbed wire for them.

A wave of impotent pessimism has been sweeping the Western world since the beginning of the century. There is nothing to be done. TINA. « There Is No Alternative”, they say. The fall of confidence, the corruption of minds, the betrayal of politicians, the pursuit of lucre, the absence of meaning, are killing people’s souls, ill-informed, lost in complexity, deprived of light.

There is no national solution to global problems. But nationalist populism proliferates. The planet is too small, and they want to make it even smaller, to strangle it with partitions, with narrow stacks.

During the last centuries of the Roman Empire, paganism began to decline, along with virtues. A strange ideology, coming from the East, occupied people’s minds. The Gnostics preached the end of the ancient world. They proclaimed themselves « a chosen foreign people », they claimed « foreign knowledge » and wanted to live in a « foreign », « new » land.

The Epistle to Diognetus evokes the « strangeness » in a world that is coming to an end: « They reside each in their own country, but as foreigners in their own land, and every foreign land is a homeland to them, and every homeland is a foreign land.”

O prophetic words! And Rome was on the move, soon to succumb.

There is no more Rome now, nor virtues to destroy. Only smells, deadly, putrefied.

And the whole world is plugging its nose, thinking that it will pass.

i C.G. Jung. Aspects du drame contemporain (1947).


World Circumcision

A French, self-styled “philosopher”, Michel Onfray, affirmed recently that « the Judeo-Christian civilisation is in a terminal phase.”i

His statement is ruthless, definitive, without appeal: « Judeo-Christianity has reigned for almost two millennia. An honourable length of time for a civilisation. The civilization that will replace it will also be replaced. A question of time. The ship is sinking: we still have to sink with elegance »ii.

Onfray uses the metaphor of « sinking ». The ship “sinks”. This is not, I think, a good image to depict « decadence ». The sinking is sudden, rapid, terminal. Decadence is long, soft, indecisive, and sometimes it even generates rebirths.

It is precisely the possible rebirth of our civilization that deserves reflection. History is teeming with « decadent » periods. Rebirths are rarer, but possible, and merit attention.

A century ago, Oswald Spengler famously glossed over The Decline of the West, a two-volume book published in 1918 and 1922.

In the previous century, Nietzsche had powerfully erupted against the « decadence » of Western culture. He had a piercing vision, and according to him, Euripides was the first to detect the premises of this, with the « decadence of the Greek tragedy », which was a sign of what was to follow.

The metaphor of decadence, as we can see, easily flourishes under the pen of « thinkers ».

But what seems more interesting to me, assuming that decadence is effective, is what may happen afterwards. After the darkening of the misleading suns, is a new dawn conceivable? After the general collapse, what renewal is possible? Where to find the forces, the energy, the resources, the ideas, to invent another world?

Onfray, a convinced atheist, and aggressively anti-Christian, thinks on this subject that Islam has a role to play. « Islam is strong with a planetary army made up of countless believers ready to die for their religion, for God and his Prophet.”iii

Alongside this strength, what Jesus represents is only « a fable for children », says Onfray.

In Moscow, when I lived there, on assignment for UNESCO, I sometimes met real tough Russians, of the kind FSB or ex-KGB, who spoke directly :  » You Westerners, you are like children.”

Is Russia herself decadent? I don’t know. What is certain is that Russians are proud of their history and geography. They stopped the Mongol invasions, beat Napoleon, resisted at Stalingrad, and hunted Hitler down in his bunker. And their country covers eleven time zones, giving meaning to the political and philosophical utopia of a « Eurasia » of which Russia would be the soul.

The West, condemned by Mr. Onfray to its impending demise, also has some occasions for pride. It has a number of inventions, several masterpieces, and social and political institutions, which are apparently healthier and more « democratic » than elsewhere. And yet, decadence is on the horizon, says Mr. Onfray.

That may be possible. There are some worrying signs. But the world is changing fast, and it is shrinking rapidly, as we all know. The metaphor of decadence, because it is a metaphor, is not very original. What is most lacking today is not to shed crocodile tears over the past, but to propose new ideas, a new breath of fresh air, not for the benefit of the « West », but on a whole human scale. The world needs a « great narrative », a global vision, and a credible utopia, for urgent global issues, such as that of a world union of governments, and finances fair taxation, on a global scale. “Childish dreams” as would say FSB guys?

Planet Earth is overpopulated, in a state of accelerated compression. Massive urbanization, climate change, and the phenomenal impoverishment of the world’s fauna and flora deserve a reflection of planetary scope.

The challenges are also economic and social. The 4th industrial revolution has begun. Massive unemployment due to the ubiquitous applications of artificial intelligence, to large-scale robotization, to deficient or misguided policies based without shame on misinformation or systematic lies, to sidereal inequalities: all the components of a global civil war are there, in potency.


Unless an astounding, superior, unheard of idea emerges, bearing a common vision for Humankind as a whole.

Yesterday, socialism, communism, the idea of equality, fraternity or solidarity could make the « masses » dream for a few decades. On the other hand, conservatism, individualism, capitalism, entrepreneurial freedom, have played their cards in the world liar’s poker.

What does the future hold? More and more conservatism, capitalism and individualism? Or openly fascist forms of social control? We know today more than yesterday the limits, the deviations, the diversions and excesses of the old ideals.

Threats are rising on all sides. The old ideologies have failed. What can be done?

Humanity must become aware of its nature and its strength. It must become aware of its destiny. Humanity has a vocation for ultra-humanity, surpassing itself in a new synthesis, a new emergence, a mutation of world civilization.

General unemployment, for example, could be excellent news: it signals the assured end of the current model, the establishment of a universal income, and the end of predatory capitalism. Billions of unemployed and increasingly educated people cannot be ignored. They will not let themselves starve at the doors of banks and ultra-rich ghettos. There is bound to be a reaction.

The immense and global massa damnata, created by a lawless capitalism, will necessarily regain « common » control over the world’s wealth, which is immense but now monopolized by the 0.01%, and will find a way to distribute it equitably in order to provide a human income for all.

The enormous amounts of time freed up by the « end of work » will then be able to be mobilized to do everything that machines, algorithms and capital cannot do: better educate, care for people, freely invent, really create, humanely socialize, sustainably develop, obviously love.

The promiscuity of religions, races and peoples will impose – by force – a new ultra-human, meta-philosophical, meta-religious civilization.

Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, will have to move together to a higher level of understanding of their respective doctrines, to reach their essential and already common core, the unique core of what still stands as the “mystery” of the universe.

All this will happen in the coming decades. Let there be no doubt about it. Not that men will become wiser. But the osmotic pressure of necessity will make the eyes open, make the scales fall off, will circumcise the minds.

iMichel Onfray.Décadence. De Jésus au 11 septembre, vie et mort de l’Occident. Flammarion. 2017



What Will be Left of Modernity, 40 000 Years From Now?

Aristotle says that happiness lies in contemplationi. Contemplation is for man the highest possible activity. It allows him to reach an otherwise unreachable level of consciousness, by fully mobilizing the resources of his own « noos ».

Greek philosophy places the « noos » or “noûs” (νοῦς ) well above the « logos » (λόγος), just as it privileges intuition over reason.

The νοῦς represents the faculty of vision, contemplation, – of the mind.

The word contemplation comes from the Latin templum, which originally means « the square space delimited by the augur in the sky and on earth, within which he collects and interprets omens ».ii

By extension, the templum can mean the entire sky (templa caeli, literally: « the temples of the sky »), but also the infernal regions, or the plains of the sea.

« To contemplate » initially means, therefore, « to look at the sky », — in order to watch for signs of the divine will.

Christianity has not hesitated to value the idea of contemplation, even though it is borrowed from Greek and Latin « paganism ». S. Augustine proposed a classification of the degrees of growth and consciousness of the soul. In a scale of seven levels, he places contemplation at the pinnacleiii.

Degree 1: The soul « animates » (plants).

Degree 2 : The soul « feels and perceives » (animals).

Degree 3 : The soul produces « knowledge, reason and the arts » (men).

Degree 4: The soul gains access to the « Virtus » (virtue, moral sense).

Degree 5: The soul obtains « Tranquillitas » (a state of consciousness in which death is no longer feared).

Degree 6: The soul reaches the « Ingressio » (« the approach »).

Degree 7 : The soul surrenders to the « Contemplatio » (the final « vision »).

Ingressio implies an appetite for knowledge and understanding of higher realities. The soul directs its gaze upwards, and from then on, nothing agitates it or distracts it from this search. It is taken by an appetite to understand what is true and sublime (Appetitio intellegendi ea quae vere summeque sunt).

At the very top of this ladder of consciousness is « contemplation », that is, the « vision of the divine ».

Modern thought is rather incapable of accounting for this « contemplation » or « vision ». But this does not prevent some “modern” thinkers from being somewhat titillated by the general idea of contemplation.

For example, Gilles Deleuze said a few words about contemplation in one of his courses, -though in a rather clumsy style, which I am rendering here as faithfully as possible: « This is exactly what Plotinus tells us: everything rejoices, everything rejoices in itself, and it rejoices in itself because it contemplates the other. You see, – not because it rejoices in itself. Everything rejoices because it contemplates the other. Everything is a contemplation, and that is what makes everything happy. That is to say, joy is full contemplation. Joy rejoices in itself as its contemplation is filled. And of course it is not itself that joy contemplates. As joy contemplates the other thing, it fills itself up. The thing fills with itself as it contemplates the other thing. And he [Plotinus] says: and not only animals, not only souls, but you and I, we are self-filled contemplations. We are small joys.”iv

“Self-filled contemplations »? Small joys »? Is that it?

Deleuze is far more modest in his ambition than any past auguries, or Augustine! Quite shy of ever contemplating the divine!

From this, I infer that ´modernity´ is not well equipped, no doubt, to take up the thread of a meditation that has continuously obsessed seers since the dawn of humanity.

The shamans of the Palaeolithic, in the cave of the Pont d’Arc, known as the Chauvet cave, painted inspired metaphors by the glow of trembling torches. From which imagined vision, from which cervical lobe, did their inspiration come from?

Feminine Sex. Chauvet Cave

The prophets of the Aurignacian « contemplated » under their fingers the appearance of « ideas » with a life of their own… They also saw the power that they had received, – to create worlds, and to share them, beyond tenths of millennia.

These ideas, these worlds, come now to move us, forty thousand years later.

How many “images” our own “modernity”, how many contemporary “ideas”, I ask, will still « move » humanity in forty thousand years from now?

Wild Herds. Chauvet cave

iAristotle. Nichomachean Ethics, X.

iiA. Ernout, A. Meillet. Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine.

iiiS. Augustine. De Quantitate Animae, §72-76

ivGilles Deleuze, Lesson of March 17th 1987 At University of Vincennes

The Transhuman Metaphor

« Scientific revolutions are in fact metaphorical revolutions. »i

I´d like to reverse this assertion and to generalize it. Any metaphorical revolution opens the door to scientific, philosophical and political revolutions.

Any truly new and powerful metaphor bears a vision, a projected, imaginary view of the world, and therefore, in favorable circumstances, can engender new changes in the real world, or even new worlds.

A good metaphor carries the seeds of a new « narrative », of which it is only the first image, the initial élan. Any truly revolutionary vision is the first sign of an archipelago of new concepts in the making, with their potentially disruptive power.

For example, the idea of a « noosphere »ii, coined by Teilhard de Chardin, reveals an « envelope » of thoughts, bathing humanity with its flows and energies, and will have unimaginable implications on the social and political level.

The metaphor of the « transhuman » (trasumanar), first used by Dante in the Divine Comedy, is perhaps even more brilliant, since it points to the actual existence of a « meta-sphere » of consciousness and life.

“Trans-humanity » is in perpetual transhumance. It has a vocation to reach unheard of worlds.

Dantesque « transhuman » and modern « transhumanism » should not be confused. “Transhumanism », a recent word, embedding a new ideology, has nothing to do with the metaphor initially proposed by Dante more than seven centuries ago.

There is nothing metaphysical about “transhumanism”. It only contains the idea that technical and scientific evolution will, it is assumed, favor the appearance of a « singularity ». Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil are its prophets. This « singularity » will embody a tipping point towards an intellectually and physically « augmented » humanity.

This « transhumanism », it seems to me, is flatly reductive. Science and technology are the bearers of considerable openings, but it is naïve to believe that they alone will determine the conditions for a transformation of humanity, its leap, its passage towards transhumanity.

More than forty thousand years ago, the caves of the Palaeolithic were already secret, deep sanctuaries, frequented by shamans, some of whom were also artists.

The Palaeolithic religion, to which the cave paintings bear witness, still escapes the best informed analyses today (the enlightening work of Alain Testart show the intrinsic limits of the modern approach of paleo-anthropology).

All of these paintings, whose execution is spread out without discontinuity over a period of many thousands years, testify to an assumed perception of a ´transcendence´ by men in the Palaeolithic. Cro-Magnon Man, already a Homo Sapiens, was perhaps wiser than modern man, in this regard, — wiser by a wisdom of which the world today has no idea.

BirdMan Lascaux

The former President of the French Republic, François Hollande, was not known to be a specialist in transcendence. But, in a speech delivered before a Freemasonic Lodge, he ventured into a few considerations on the future of humanity.

He declared in particular :

« You also wanted to think about the incredible mutations that the new technologies of the living allow us to guess: this is what is called transhumanism or augmented man. This is a formidable question: how far to allow progress, because progress must not be suspected, we must encourage it. How can we master these serious ethical questions? What is at stake is the very idea of humanity, of choice, of freedom. So in the face of these upheavals that some people hope for, that others fear, the vision of Freemasonry is a very precious compass in these times, and a light that helps to grasp the issues and to respond to them. »

When it comes to metaphors, there is a great deal of freedom allowed, of course, but it is important to maintain a minimum of coherence.

Comparing the « vision » to a « compass » and a « light » seems to be a somewhat twisted trope.

The « gaze » of the pilot is guided in the direction indicated by the « compass ».

But the compass depends on the law of magnetism, not optics.

It is then strange, baroque, to suggest that a « gaze » or a « vision » may be a « compass », as if it could create an imaginary North, at will, and as if it could moreover and ipso facto generate an illuminating light.

Throwing metaphors around without care, just brings more disorder in the great circus of the world.

iMichaël Arbib, Mary Hesse. The Constructions of Reality. 1986

iiCf. The work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Hidden Evidence in Plain Sight

A famous « mystic », possessed by « transcendence », – Ludwig Wittgenstein – , once wrote: « The meaning of the world must be outside it. In the world everything is as it is, and everything happens as it happens; there is no value in it – and if there were, it would be worthless. If there is a value that has value, it must be outside everything that happens, and outside any particular state. For everything that happens and every particular state is accidental.

What makes it non-accidental cannot be in the world, because it would be accidental again.

It has to be out of the world.

That is why there can be no ethical proposals. Proposals cannot express anything superior.

It is clear that ethics cannot be expressed. Ethics is transcendental. (Ethics and aesthetics are one and the same thing).

How the world is, this is for the Superior perfectly indifferent. God does not reveal Himself in the world.(…)

There is certainly something unspeakable. It shows itself, it is the Mystic.”i

Terre, eau, feu

Starting from these radical phrases, I come to aspire to a kind of exit, an exodus of thought from the world, a rush to the elsewhere – not a suspension of belief, like Husserl and the phenomenologists, but a sudden plunge upwards, an incredible angelic leap, a Pascal-like flight (« Fire! Fire! »).

The Unspeakable interests me, like a higher point. Of the Unspeakable, nothing can be said about it. But one can at least say that it cannot be silenced. We can at least say this: « It shows itself ».

It’s meager, but it’s a beginning, tiny, and somewhat tangible.

You have to hold on to this hold, start climbing, initiate the climb, without a guide or a rope.

All religions, all of them, are based in their origin on something that, one day, « showed » itself.

It is useless to prioritize today the ancient outpourings of meaning, which made them so confident in their destiny. It is even more useless to use them, these same outpourings, to justify long afterwards the hatred and the self-stated difference that their followers « show » to “others”.

However, in order to show what was « shown » then, and what is still « shown » now, words are not completely useless.

But words are not enough. To attempt an anthropology of the sacred, which would cover a vast space of time, we must also rely on the clues found in the caves of the Palaeolithic, add to them the concomitant revelations of Akhenaten, Zoroaster, Hermes Trismegistus, Moses, Buddha or Jesus, and integrate in addition the dreams of a universal religion, the intuition of the emergence of a “Noos-sceneii.

If nothing unspeakable is indeed to be found in the world, humanity as a whole has, however, for at least a million years now, been welcoming in its bosom continuous evidence of the subtle monstration of who cannot be designated otherwise than by this epithet.

Reality is therefore not « nothing », it is not « empty », without any « value ». It is, to be sure, very short of its own meaning. But it is also capable, fertile breast, warm belly, of welcoming what is decidedly not speakable. Reality is easily pierced by the presence of an absence, or only its signs.

Karl Barth once had this rather arrogant formula:

« I hold the analogia entis for an invention of the Antichrist.”iii

To refuse the « analogy of being » is to refuse the essential principle of medieval theology, that of believing that an « analogy » between nature and the supernatural, the lower and the higher, is possible.

Karl Barth thus reveals the essence of his own soul: he is a « Gnostic », – like so many other so-called « modern » thinkers, moreover.

A brief reminder: for « Gnosis », the world is separated, divided. The « good », the « evil ». The « chosen ones » who know, and the « rest », blind and doomed to nothingness. No links, no possible analogies. Relentless cut, a metaphysical wall.

I, myself, am not a Gnostic. I don’t believe in Gnosis.

On the other hand, it seems to me as clear as a thousand Milky Ways, as luminous as a million Orions, that if the world does not contain any meaning in it, and does not seem to have any, it nevertheless incarnates, in spite of itself, by its existence and its entirety, a hidden evidence.

i Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus logico-philosophicus (6.41, 6.42, 6.432, 6.522)

ii Cf. The work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

iii Karl Barth. Dogmatique de l’Église protestante. T.1 (1953)

The Bow, the Arrow, the Target

The Earth is yellow, the Water is white, the Fire is red, the Upanishads say. They add that the Air is black and the Ether is blue.

In this vision of the world, everything is part of a system.

Everything fits together, colors, elements, sounds, bodies, gods.

There are five elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Ether), and the human body has five parts that correspond to them. Between the feet and the knees is the level of the Earth. Between the knees and the anus is the level of Water. Between the anus and the heart, that of Fire. Between the heart and the eyebrows, that of Air. Between the eyebrows and the top of the skull, the Ether reigns.

That is not all. These five elements and these five parts of the body have divine correspondences.

Brahman rules the Earth, Viṣṇu Water, Rudra the Fire, Iṥvara Air and Ṥiva Ether.

What does this tight network of disparate relationships imply about the mutual relationships of these five Gods?

Iṥvara is the « Supreme Lord », but it is only one of Brahman‘s manifestations. If Brahman is the ultimate cosmic reality, why is it found between the feet and the knees, rather than at the top of the skull?

These questions are interesting, but they do not touch the essence of the problem. Symbolic systems have their own logic, which is an overall logic. It aims to grasp a Whole, to grasp a meaning of a higher order. What is important is to understand the general movement of symbolic thought, to catch its essential aim.

For example, let us consider the symbolism of the number 3 in the Vedic texts, – the symbolism of the triad.

« Three are the worlds, three are the Vedas, three are the functions of the Rite, all three are ‘three’. Three are the Fires of Sacrifice, three are the natural qualities. And all these triads are based on the three phonemes of the syllable AUṀ. Whoever knows this triad, to which we must add the nasal resonance, knows that on which the entire universe is woven. That which is truth and supreme reality.”i

The idea of the triad, which may appear a priori as nothing more than a systemic tic, refers in the Veda to a deeper idea, that of trinity.

The most apparent divine trinity in the Veda is that of Brahman, the Creator, Viṣṇu, the Protector and Ṥiva, the Destroyer.

Here is a brief theological-poetical interpretation, in which we will note the symphonic interpenetration of multiple levels of interpretation:

« Those who desire deliverance meditate on the Whole, the Brahman, the syllable AUṀ. In phoneme A, the first part of the syllable, Earth, Fire, Rig Veda, the exclamation « Bhūr » and Brahman, the creator, are born and will dissolve. In phoneme U, second part of the syllable, Space, Air, Yajur-Veda, the exclamation « Bhuvaḥ » and Viṣṇu, the Protector, are born and will dissolve. In the phoneme Ṁ are born and will dissolve Heaven, Light, Sama-Veda, the exclamation « Suvar » and Ṥiva, the Lord.”ii

In a unique, single syllable, the Word, the Vedas, the Worlds, the Gods are woven from the same knots, three times knotted.

Why three, and not two, four, five or six?

Two would be too simple, a metaphor for combat or the couple. Four forms two couples. Five is a false complexity and is only the addition of a couple and a triad. Six represents a couple of triads.

The idea of Three is the first simple idea, which comes after the idea of One, – the One from which everything comes, but about which nothing can be said. Three, in its complex simplicity, constitutes a kind of fundamental paradigm, combining the idea of unity and that of duality in a higher unity.

Long after the Vedas, Christianity also proposed a Trinity, that of the Creator God, the Word and the Spirit. It might be stimulating to try to see possible analogies between the Word and Viṣṇu, or between the Spirit and Ṥiva, but where would this ultimately lead us? To the conclusion that all religions come together?

It also seems very interesting to turn to the uncompromising monotheism(s), which apparently refuse any « association » with the idea of the One. Judaism, as we know, proclaims that God is One. But rabbinism and Kabbalah have not hesitated to multiply divine attributes or emanations.

The God of Genesis is a creator, in a way analogous to the Brahman. But the Bible also announces a God of Mercy, which recalls Viṣṇu, and it also proclaims the name of Yahweh Sabbaoth, the Lord of Hosts, which could well correspond to Ṥiva, the Lord Destroyer.

One could multiply comparable examples and use them to make the hypothesis that rather recent religions, such as Judaism or Christianity, owe much to the experience of previous millennia. Anyone concerned with paleo-anthropology knows that the depths of humanity’s times possess even greater secrets.

But the important point I would like to stress here is not, as such, the symbol of the triad or the Trinitarian image.

They are, in the end, in the face of the mystery itself, only images, metaphors.

The important thing is not the metaphor, but what it leads us to seek.

Perhaps another triadic metaphor will help us to understand the very nature of this search:

« AUṀ is the bow, the mind is the arrow, and the Brahman is the target.”iii

iYogatattva Upanishad, 134.

iiYogatattva Upanishad, 134.

iiiDhyānabindu Upanishad, 14.

Drunken Love, a metaphor of Divine Love

Soma is a flammable liquid, composed of clarified butter and various hallucinogenic plant juices. On a symbolic level, Soma is both a representation of the living God, the embodiment of the essence of the cosmos, and the sacrifice par excellence to the supreme God.

Vedic hymns, composed to accompany the sacrifice of the Soma, abound in metaphors, attributes and epithets of the divinity. Verbs such as to pour, to flow, to come, to abide, to embrace, to beget are used to describe the action of God.

Many hymns evoke, in a raw or subliminal way, the dizziness of (divine) love. Words such as lover, woman, womb, ardour, pleasure. But here again, they are metaphors, with hidden meanings, which must be carefully interpreted.

The sacrifice of the divine Soma can be summed up as follows: a mixture of oil, butter and milk flows in flames towards the « matrix » (the crucible where the fire blazes with all its strength), then rises in smoke and fragrance towards Heaven, where it participates in the generation of the divine.

The 9th Mandala of the Rig Veda, entirely dedicated to the sacrifice of the Soma, considered as a God, explains the profound meaning of what is at stake and its cosmic effects. Here are a few quotes, which, I believe, capture the essence of what’s at stake:

« The poured Soma flows for the Ardent, for the Wind, for that which envelops, for the Spirits, for the Active.»i

« This golden light, support, flows into that which ignites it; that which crackles flows into the matrix.”ii

« He who is here [the Soma] has come like an eagle to take up his abode, like the lover to the woman.”iii

« This gold that one drinks, and which flows rumbling towards the matrix, towards pleasure.”iv

« That which flows from desire, comes from that which moves away and from that which comes near, – the sweetness poured out for the Ardent.”v

« Those who go together shouted. They made the gold flow with the stone. Take up residence in the matrix where it flows.”vi

« The sound of the burning Ardent, like the sound of rain; lightning goes into the sky.”vii

« Bringing forth the lights of the sky, generating the sun in the waters, gold envelops milk and waters.”viii

« Coming from the original milk, He flows into the hearth, embracing it, and by crying He generates the Gods.”ix

« Soma, as He lights up, flows towards all the treasures, towards the Gods who grow through the oblation.”x

Other mystical traditions, the Jewish for example, share with the Vedic language comparable semantic elements, similar metaphors (oil, honey, milk, entrails, bosom, matrix, water, wine or liquor, pouring out, flowing into, ).

Particularly interesting in this respect is the Song of Songs, composed between six and eight centuries after the Rig Veda.

« Your name is an oil that pours out.”xi

« Your lips, O bride, distil the virgin honey. Honey and milk are under your tongue.”xii

« Myrrh and aloes, with the finest aromas. Source of the gardens, well of living water, runoff from Lebanon!”xiii

« I gather my myrrh and my balm, I eat my honey and my comb, I drink my wine and my milk.”xiv

« From my hands dripped myrrh, from my fingers virgin myrrh.”xv

« His head is of gold, pure gold. “xvi

« Her eyes are doves, at the edge of rivers, bathing in milk, resting on the edge of a basin.”xvii

« Your bosom, a rounded cut, let there be no lack of wine! »xviii

« I will make you drink a fragrant wine.”xix

We can see that the Rig Veda and the Song of Songs, centuries apart, share, despite their distance, a comparable atmosphere of loving fusion with the divine.

This should come as no surprise. There is no doubt that this is an indication of the existence of an extremely profound anthropological constant.

The traces left in the Palaeolithic by prehistoric religions, which show comparable metaphors, bear witness to this.

The Venus of Laussel is 25,000 years old. Naked, she brandishes a horn to drink it. This gesture, always young, reminds us that in the oldest ages of humanity, the divine was already perceived in the guise of love, – and (infinite) drunkenness, a spiritual one of course, but in a strange sort of way, associated to a more mundane one.

iRig Veda. Mandala 9. Hymn 34,.2. For reference, the translation of Ralph T.H. Griffith (1889) gives : « Poured forth to Indra, Varuṇa, to Vāyu and the Marut host, to Viṣṇu, flows the Soma juice. »

iiIbid. Hymn 37,2. For reference, the translation of Ralph T.H. Griffith (1889) gives : « Far-sighted, tawny-coloured, he flows to the sieve, intelligent, bellowing, to his place of rest. »

iiiIbid. Hymn 38,4. For reference, the translation of Ralph T.H. Griffith (1889) gives : « He like a falcon settles down amid the families of men. Speeding like lover to his love. »

ivIbid. Hymn 38,6. For reference, the translation of Ralph T.H. Griffith (1889) gives : « Poured for the draught, this tawny juice flows forth, intelligent, crying out, unto the well-beloved place. »

vIbid. Hymn 39,5. For reference, the translation of Ralph T.H. Griffith (1889) gives : « Inviting him from far away, and even from near at hand, the juice for Indra is poured forth as meath. »

viIbid. Hymne 39,6. Ralph T.H. Griffith (1889) translates: « In union they have sung the hymn ; with stones they urge the Tawny One. Sit in the place of sacrifice. »

viiIbid. Hymn 41,3. Ralph T.H. Griffith (1889) translates: « The mighty Pavamāna’s roar is heard as ‘twere the rush of rain. Lightnings are flashing to the sky. »

viiiIbid. Hymn 42,1. Ralph T.H. Griffith (1889) translates: « Engendering the Sun in floods, engendering heaven’s lights, green-hued, robed in the waters and the milk. »

ixIbid. Hymn 42,4. Ralph T.H. Griffith (1889) translates: « Shedding the ancient fluid He is poured into the cleansing sieve ; He, thundering, hath produces the Gods. »

xIbid. Hymn 42,5. Ralph T.H. Griffith (1889) translates: « Soma, while purifying, sends hither all things to be desired, He sends the Gods who strenghten Law. »

xi So 1,3

xii So 4,11

xiii So 4,14-15

xiv So 5,1

xv So 5,3

xvi So 5,11

xvii So 5,12

xviii So 7,3

xix So 8,2

Death in the Palaeolithic and the Future of Mankind

The world would have been created about 6000 years ago, according to Jewish tradition. However, modern science estimates that the Big Bang took place 13.8 billion years ago. These both claims seem contradictory. But it is easy to retort that the biblical years could just be metaphors. Moreover, the alleged age of the Big Bang is itself questionable. Our universe may have had earlier forms of existence, impossible to observe from our present position in space-time, because the cosmological horizon forms an impenetrable barrier.

Science has its own intrinsic limits. It can definitely not go beyond the walls of the small cosmological jar in which we are enclosed, apparently. What about the meta-cosmic oceans which undoubtedly exist beyond the horizons perceived by current science?

For those who nevertheless seek to contemplate the possibility of origins, there are other ways of meditation and reflection. Among these is the exploration of the depth of the human soul, which in a sense goes beyond the dimensions of the cosmological field.

When Abraham decided to emigrate from Ur in Chaldea, around the 12th century BC, it was already more than two thousand years that Egypt observed a religion turned towards the hope of life after death. Ancient Egyptians worshiped a unique God, Sovereign of the Universe, Creator of the world, Guardian of all creation. Archaeological traces of funerary rites testify to this, which have been discovered in Upper Egypt, and which date from the 4th millennium BC.

But can we go even further back into the past of mankind?

Can we question the traces of prehistoric religions in order to excavate what is meta-historical, and even meta-cosmic?

In the caves of Chou-Kou-Tien, or Zhoukoudian according to the Pinyin transcription, 42km from Beijing, archaeologists (including Pierre Teilhard de Chardin) discovered the remains of hominids in 1926. They were given the name Sinanthropus pekinensis, then Homo erectus pekinensis. Dating is estimated at 780,000 years. These hominids mastered hunting, tool making and fire. They managed to live for hundreds of thousands of years and to face successive periods of glaciation and warming. The successive geological strata that contain their remains and those of animals from those distant times bear witness to this.

The geological earth is like a memorial and trans-generational Noah’s Ark.

Skulls have been found at the Chou-Kou-Tien site, but none of the other bones of the human skeleton. According to some interpretations, these are therefore the remains of cannibal feasts, carried out for religious purposes.

“The bodies had been decapitated after death, buried until they had decomposed, and the heads were then carefully preserved for ritual purposes, doubtless, as in Borneo today, because in them it was supposed that soul’substance resided having the properties of a vitalizing agent. As the skulls show signs of injuries they may have been those of victims who had been killed and their crania broken open in order to extract the brain for sacramental consumption. If this were so, probably they represent the remains of cannibal feasts, organized cannibalism in that case having been an established feature of the cult of the dead in the Mid-Pleistocene in North China in which the cutting off and preservation of the head, skull or scalp was a prominent feature during or after the sacred meal, either to extract its soul substance or as a trophy.”i

This theory takes on more weight if we consider a number of other discoveries in other parts of the world.

In the caves of Ofnet in Bavaria, 33 prehistoric skulls have been discovered, arranged « like eggs in a basket », as one of the discoverers put it. Of these skulls, 27 of them were covered in red ochre and facing west. It has been established that the skulls were detached from the bodies with the help of carved flints.

The manner in which the skulls were detached from the skeleton and the traces of trepanation suggest that the brains were ritually extracted and probably consumed during funeral meals, as a sign of « communion » with the dead.

This cannibalism would therefore not be directed against enemy hordes. Moreover, on the same site, 20 children’s skeletons adorned with snail shells, 9 women’s skeletons with deer tooth necklaces, and 4 adult men’s skeletons were found. This reinforces the idea of funeral ceremonies.

In Jericho, 7 skulls were found whose features had been cast in plaster and then carefully decorated with shells (cowries and bivalves representing the eyelids, vertical slits simulating the pupil of the eye).ii

In Switzerland, in the Musterian Caves of Drachenloch, a set of bear heads looking to the east has been found, and in Styria, in Drachenhöhle, a Musterian pit with 50 bear femurs also looking to the east.

Similar traces of ritual burial have been found in Moustier (Dordogne), La Chapelle-aux-Saints (Corrèze) and La Ferrassie (Dordogne).iii

It can be deduced from these and many other similar facts, that in the Palaeolithic, for probably a million years, and perhaps more, the cult of the dead was observed according to ritual forms, involving forms of religious belief. Certain revealing details (presence of tools and food near the buried bodies) allow us to infer that hominids in the Palaeolithic believed in survival after death.

In these caves and caverns, in China or Europe, Palaeolithic men buried their dead with a mixture of veneration, respect, but also fear and anxiety for their passage into another world.

From this we can deduce that, for at least a million years, humanity has been addressing an essential question: what does death mean for the living? How can man live with the thought of death?

For a thousand times a thousand years these questions have been stirring the minds of men. Today’s religions, which appeared very late, what sort of answers do they bring ?

From a little distanced point of view, they bring among other things divisions and reciprocal hatreds, among peoples packed into the narrow anthropological space that constitutes our cosmic vessel.

None of today’s religions can reasonably claim the monopoly of truth, the unveiling of mystery. It is time to return to a deeper, more original intuition.

All religions should take as their sacred duty the will to ally themselves together, to face in common the mystery that surpasses them entirely, encompasses them, and transcends them.

Utopia? Indeed.

iE.O. James, Prehistoric Religion, (1873), Barnes and Nobles, New York, 1957, p.18

iiKinyar. Antiquity, vol 27, 1953, quoted by E.O. James, Prehistoric Religion, (1873), Barnes and Nobles, New York, 1957

iiiE.O. James, Prehistoric Religion, (1873), Barnes and Nobles, New York, 1957

The « Book » and the « Word ».

The high antiquity of the Zend language, contemporary to the language of the Vedas, is well established. Eugène Burnoufi even considers that it presents certain characteristics of anteriority, which the vocal system testifies to. But this thesis remains controversial. Avestic science was still in its infancy in the 19th century. It was necessary to use conjectures. For example, Burnouf tried to explain the supposed meaning of the name Zarathustra, not without taking risks. According to him, zarath means « yellow » in zend, and uchtra, « camel ». The name of Zarathustra, the founder of Zoroastrianism, would thus mean: « He who has yellow camels »?

Burnouf, with all his young science, thus contradicts Aristotle who, in his Treatise on Magic, says that the word Ζωροάστρην (Zoroaster) means « who sacrifices to the stars ».

It seems that Aristotle was right. Indeed, the old Persian word Uchtra can be related to the Indo-European word ashtar, which gave « astre » in French and « star » in English. And zarath can mean « golden ». Zarathustra would then mean « golden star », which is perhaps more appropriate to the founder of a thriving religion.

These questions of names are not so essential. Whether he is the happy owner of yellow camels, or the incarnation of a star shining like gold, Zoroaster is above all the mythical author of the Zend Avesta, of which the Vendidad and the Yaçna are part.

The name Vendidad is a contraction of Vîdaêvo dâta, « given against demons (dêvas) ».

The Yaçna (« sacrifice with prayers ») is a collection of Avestic prayers.

Here is an extract, quite significant.

« As a worshipper of Mazda [Wisdom], a sectarian of Zoroaster, an enemy of the devils [demons], an observer of the precepts of Ahura [the « Lord »], I pay homage to him who is given here, given against the devils, and to Zoroaster, pure, master of purity, and to the yazna [sacrifice], and to the prayer that makes favorable, and to the blessing of the masters, and to the days, and the hours, and the months, and the seasons, and the years, and to the yazna, and to the prayer that makes favorable, and to the blessing!”

This prayer is addressed to the Lord, Ahura. But it is also addressed to the prayer itself.

In a repetitive, self-referential way, it is a prayer to the yaçna, a ‘prayer praying the prayer’, an invocation to the invocation, a blessing of the blessing. A homage from mediation to mediation.

This stylistic formula, « prayer to prayer », is interesting to analyze.

Let us note from the outset that the Zend Avesta clearly recognises the existence of a supreme God, to whom every prayer is addressed.

« I pray and invoke the great Ormuzd [= Ahura Mazda, the « Lord of Wisdom »], brilliant, radiant with light, very perfect, very excellent, very pure, very strong, very intelligent, who is purest, above all that which is holy, who thinks only of the good, who is a source of pleasure, who gives gifts, who is strong and active, who nourishes, who is sovereignly absorbed in excellence.”ii

But Avestic prayer can also be addressed not only to the supreme God, but also to the mediation that make it possible to reach Him, like the sacred Book itself: « I pray and invoke the Vendidad given to Zoroaster, holy, pure and great.”iii

The prayer is addressed to God and all his manifestations, of which the Book (the Vendidad) is a part.

« I invoke and celebrate you Fire, son of Ormuzd, with all the fires.

I invoke and celebrate the excellent, pure and perfect Word that the Vendidad gave to Zoroaster, the sublime, pure and ancient Law of the Mazdeans.”

It is important to note that it is the Sacred Book (the Vendidad) that gives the divine Word to Zoroaster, and not the other way round. The Zend Avesta sees this Book as sacred and divine, and recognizes it as an actor of divine revelation.

It is tempting to compare this divine status of the Book in the Zend Avesta with the divine status of the Torah in Judaism and the Koran in Islam.

The divine status of sacred texts (Zend Avesta, Torah, Koran) in these monotheisms incites to consider a link between the affirmation of the absolute transcendence of a supreme God and the need for mediation between the divine and the human, – a mediation which must itself be « divine ».

It is interesting to underline, by contrast, the human origin of evangelical testimonies in Christianity. The Gospels were written by men, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. The Gospels are not divine emanations, but human testimonies. They are therefore not of the same essence as the Torah (« revealed » to Moses), or the Koran (« dictated » to Muhammad, who was otherwise illiterate) or the Zend Avesta (« given » to Zoroaster).

In Christianity, on the other hand, it is Christ himself who embodies divine mediation in his person. He, the Anointed One, Christ, the Messiah, incarnates the divine Word, the Verb.

Following this line of thought, one would have to conclude that Christianity is not a « religion of the Book », as the oversimplified formula that usually encompasses the three monotheisms under the same expression would suggest.

This formula certainly suits Judaism and Islam, as it does Zend Avesta. But Christianity is not a religion of the « Book », it is a religion of the « Word ».

iEugène Burnouf, Commentaire sur le Yaçna, l’un des livres religieux des Parses. Ouvrage contenant le texte zend. 1833

iiZend Avesta, I, 2

iiiZend Avesta, I, 2

The most pathetic verses in literature

The poet was guided in his long quest by Virgil, then by Beatrice, to the threshold of the Empyrean. The supreme vision, he has not yet seen it, however. What appears to him then, in the shape of a white rose, is the « holy militia that Christ espoused in his blood ». And in this great flower, plunges, like a swarm of bees, another army of angels, flying and singing the glory of him who sets them ablaze with love. And all these angels « had faces of bright flame, and wings of gold, and the rest so white that no snow comes to this end ».i

Dante marveled at the « triple light », divine, penetrating, which shines « like a star » in this quiet kingdom, – and he thought back on all the road he had already traveled, from the human to the divine, from time to eternity, from corruption to justice, and on what still awaits him…

« I, who had come to the divine

from the human, from time to eternity,

and from Florence to the just and healthy people,

of what astonishment I should be filled with! »

Mute with stupor, indeed, Dante sees « eyes, inviting to love, shining with the light of another and their own laughter ». He also sees with a single glance « the general shape of Paradise ». He turns to Beatrice, to question her, but she is no longer there! In her place, an old man, dressed in glory.

« Where is she? « asks Dante at once. The old man replies that Beatrice has brought him down in her place, to bring Dante’s desire « to an end ».

But, adds the old man, – who is, in reality, St. Bernard:

« If you look at the third row

from the highest tier, you will see her again.

on the throne won by her merits. »

Dante looks up and sees her, « who made herself a crown of eternal rays reflected in her. »

Beatrice was at an immeasurable distance from Dante; she was very high, far beyond the reach of a mortal eye, – but it was like nothing, « for her image came down to me unmixed ».

From his abyss of remoteness, Dante addresses Beatrice:

« O lady, in whom my hope comes alive,

and who suffered for my salvation

to leave in Hell the trace of your footsteps,

of so many things I have seen

by your power and kindness,

I recognize grace and virtue.

You pulled me from bondage to freedom

by all these ways, by all these modes

that you had the power to use.

Preserve in me your magnificence,

that my soul, which thou hast healed,

is untied from my body by pleasing you. »

The tone is high, the prayer urgent, the love burning. The poet already despairs of his misfortune. He has just been abandoned by his lover at the very moment when he thought he was reaching Paradise, in her company.

What happens then? Three verses say it, – « the most pathetic verses that literature has ever given us », according to J.L. Borgèsii.

« Cosi orai; e quella, si lontana

come parrea, sorrise e riguaradommi ;

poi si torno a l’etterna fontana. »

« I prayed like this, and so far away

that she seemed, she smiled and looked at me ;

then she turned back to the eternal fountain. »

Beatrice smiles at Dante one last time, then turns her back on him to devote herself to the divine vision.

Borgès was so moved by these verses, that he collected comments about them from various authors. For Francesco Torraca: « Last glance, last smile but a sure promise ». Luigi Pietrobono, in the same vein: « She smiles to tell Dante that her prayer has been answered; she looks at him to prove once again the love she has for him. « 

Ozanam goes in another direction and considers these verses to be a modest description of « Beatrice’s apotheosis ». But Borgès is not satisfied. He wants to go further. It is really a question for Dante, he says, to let us glimpse the « nightmares of delight ».

The « nightmare », in the Empyrean, on the threshold of ultimate happiness? What a strange idea, that this Borgesean incision!

At this point, a little biographical reminder is perhaps necessary.

One day, in a street in Florence, Beatrice de Folco Portinari did not respond to a greeting from Dante. Did she only love him? It must be thought that she did not. She had already married Bardi. And shortly after this incident she died, at the age of twenty-four.

Dante had always loved her, but in vain.

And now he had found her again, a little later, in his long literary quest. He even thought he had found her again forever, before the eternity of Paradise opening up to him, in his close company.

Suddenly, « horror »… Beatrice smiles at him but turns around and prefers the eternal fountain of light.

Francesco De Sanctis, for his part, had commented on this passage as follows: « When Beatrice walks away, Dante does not let a complaint escape; all earthly residue has been burnt in him and destroyed. »

But this interpretation is false, says Borgès. Nothing has been destroyed, and all the « horror » of the situation is contained in the expression: « so far away that she seemed ».

The smile seems close, like the last glance, but Beatrice is in fact so far away that she becomes forever inaccessible, once again sending Dante back to his solitude.

I would like to propose yet another interpretation, which has nothing romantic about it, but rather aims at metaphysics. Dante’s love for Beatrice, however high it may be, is only a metaphor, it seems to me. Beatrice died in 1290, and Dante wrote The Divine Comedy from 1307 to 1321. The last pages, the very ones that are commented on here, were therefore written more than thirty years after the death of the beloved.

For Dante, the Beatrice in The Divine Comedy is a figure, an image, a trope, a vision at last, which refers not to the memory of a certain Florentine of the Middle Ages, but to his own soul.

Dante is not guided by the appearance of an imaginary and inaccessible Beatrice, descended from the Empyrean, but by his soul, which brings her back to life and is inspired by her.

Dante’s soul, at the end of his quest, is already burning with divine fire. Suddenly, he sees her moving away. She separates from him. She leaves him! But Dante is not dead. He has crossed Hell, Purgatory and here he is in the Empyrean. He is alive, like Aeneas, Orpheus, and other explorers of the beyond. Not being dead, Dante’s soul is still united to his body. And yet she rises, on the advice of Saint Bernard.

« From this point on my vision went further

than our speech, which yields to vision,

and memory gives way to this excess. »iii

In this strange, intermediate state, Dante’s soul lacks the mobility proper to souls who have actually passed to the other side of the experience of death.

Dante describes Beatrice’s departure as if it were the flight of her own soul. The last smile, the last glance, are not “”promises: they are rather delicate metaphors (of death).

Why does Dante confide such ringing certainties, confronting Florentine cynicism and the indifference of the world, unhesitatingly revealing his secret?

Dante has written a work that is not only the product of his creative imagination, but which also recounts Dante’s experience of death, his journey beyond what can be told.

But which can be somewhat evoked, however.

« Such is he who sees in dreams,

and, the dream being over, the impregnated passion

stays, and he doesn’t remember anything else,

such as I am now, for my vision

almost completely ceases, and in my heart

still flows the softness that was born from her.”iv

The vision almost has ceased. In the light leaves the sentence of Sibyl was lost. But Dante did not forget everything.

« O sovereign light that so much raises you up

above mortal thoughts, repeat a little bit

to my mind of what you looked like,

and make my tongue so powerful

that a spark of your glory

can reach to future people.”v

On the brink of death, Dante was very bold. He resisted. He knew how to « unite his gaze with the infinite value ». He planted his eyes in the eternal fire.

How well I understand these verses! How faithfully I follow Dante in the memory of his journey!

« In its depths I see that is recollected,

lovingly bound in one volume,

what in the universe is disseminating itself :

accidents and substances and their modalities

as fused together, so that

that what I’m saying about it is just a glimmer.

I do believe that I saw the universal form

of this knot, for in saying these words

I feel in me a widening of the enjoyment.”vi

Dante! Very human brother! Discoverer of heights! You have not failed in any way, you have been able to transmit the spark that remained to the people of the Future.

« Thus my soul, all in suspense,

stared, motionless, attentive,

and was constantly on fire looking again.

In this light one becomes such

than to turn away from it for another vision

is impossible to consent to forever.”vii

Like Dante’s, from now on my words will be « short compared to what I remember ».

O how little is enough to say! How the look afterwards laughs! I myself was bound in the night to this eternal view, and « for this flight my wing was too weak ». My wing, yes, but not my soul.

O Dante! Hail to thee through the ages. You have given me the strength to say again, in veiled words, what you proclaim in incandescent verses! Your « high fantasy » has lost none of its power! You have propelled my desire through the ages like a wheel wider than any world!

iDivine Comedy. Paradise, XXXI

iiJ.-L. Borgès. Neuf essais sur Dante. Le dernier sourire de Béatrice. In Œuvres complètes t.2. Gallimard. 2010, p.861

iiiDivine Comedy. Paradise, XXXIII

ivDivine Comedy. Paradise, XXXIII

vDivine Comedy. Paradise, XXXIII



The Secret Teaching of Hermes

In a short dialogue, Hermes addresses his son Tati to summarize some ancient, and quite essential ideas. We learn that man is made up of separate envelopes, body, mind, soul, reason, intelligence. As he gradually emerges from these envelopes, man is called upon to « know » better and better. His final vocation is « apotheosis », a word that must be taken literally i.e. to go « above the gods ».


– The energy of God is in His will. And God wants the universe to be. As Father, as Good, He wants the existence of that which is not yet. This existence of beings, there is God, there is the Father, there is the Good, it is no other thing. The world, the sun, the stars participate in the existence of beings. But they are not, however, for the living the cause of their life, or the origin of the Good. Their action is the necessary effect of the will of the Good, without which nothing could exist or become.

[My comment: Hermes does not believe in the immanence of the divine in the world. The divine is absolutely transcendent, and only His Will, whose effect can be observed through the existence of His creation, bears witness to this transcendent remoteness.]


It must be recognized that the vision of the Good is above our strength. The eyes of our intelligence cannot yet contemplate its incorruptible and incomprehensible beauty. You will see it a little, perhaps, when you at least know that you can say nothing about it. For true knowledge is found in the silence and rest of every sensation. Whoever achieves it can no longer think of anything else, nor look at anything, nor hear anything, nor even move his body. There is no more sensation or movement for him.

[My comment: There are two kinds of spirits. Those who have « seen » the Good, but cannot say anything about it, and those who have not « seen » it, but who will perhaps one day see it, under certain conditions. Hermes belongs to the first group. He can only express himself by allusion. He cannot say anything about it, which is already a lot …].


– The splendor that inundates all his thought and his soul tears man from the bonds of the body and transforms him entirely into divine essence. The human soul reaches the apotheosis when he has contemplated this beauty of Good.

Tat :

– What do you mean by « apotheosis », Father?

[My comment: Tat’s question is not a lexicographical one. He is waiting for a full description of the phenomenon. The word « apotheosis » is not a neologism, a word invented by Hermes. The word was used, for example, previously by Strabo to describe the death of Diomedes, which he also describes as « apotheosis », but in a sense that seems to transcend the reality of his « death ». « Some authors add to the subject of Diomedes that here he had begun to dig a canal leading to the sea, but having been called back to his homeland he was surprised by death and left this and many other useful undertakings unfinished. This is a first version about his death; another makes him stay until the end and die in Daunie; a third, purely fabulous, and which I have already had occasion to recall, speaks of his mysterious disappearance in one of the islands that bear his name; finally, one can look at this claim of the Henetians to place in their country, if not death, at least the apotheosis of the hero, as a fourth version…. « (Strabo, Geogr. VI, 3,9)].


– Every unfulfilled soul, my son, is subject to successive changes. The blinded soul, knowing nothing of beings, neither their nature nor the Good, is enveloped in bodily passions. The unfortunate soul, unaware of herself, is enslaved to foreign and abject bodies. She carries the burden of the body. Instead of commanding, she obeys. This is the evil of the soul. On the contrary, the good of the soul is knowledge. He who knows is good, and already divine.

[My comment: The body is a veil whose envelope prevents access to knowledge. In the body, the soul is enslaved. Not only can she not ‘see’, but she cannot ‘know’. She can only know her slavery, her enslavement. Which is already a lot, because it is the beginning of her liberation].


– Beings have sensations because they cannot exist without them; but knowledge is very different from sensation. Sensation is an influence that one undergoes. Knowledge is the end of a search, and the desire to search is a divine gift. For all knowledge is incorporeal.

[My comment: The sensation is imposed from the outside. Knowledge is first and foremost a desire for knowledge. To know is first of all a desire to know. But where does this desire come from, if one has no knowledge of what one can desire? « The desire to seek is a divine gift ». But isn’t it unfair to those who are deprived of the grace of this desire? No, this desire is in everyone, in latent form. The desire to know only asks to be born. It only needs to be set in motion, and it grows stronger with every step].


– All knowledge is a form, which grasps the intelligence, just as the intelligence uses the body. Thus both use a body, either intellectual or material. Everything comes down to this combination of opposites, form and matter, and it cannot be otherwise.

[My comment: Form and matter can be considered, as Hermes does, as a « combination of opposites ». One could also say « alliance of opposites », to mean that their whole is more than the sum of their parts. There is also the idea that intellectual representations can be described as having a « body », which itself is endowed with a spirit and perhaps a soul. This leads us to imagine a whole ascending hierarchy, of souls and spirits, up to a supreme root, of all souls and spirits. Two thousand years after these ideas began to be formulated, the Jewish Kabbalah of the European Middle Ages took up exactly the same ideas ].


– What is this material God?


– The world is beautiful but it is not good, because it is material and passive. It is the first of the ‘passive’, but the second of the beings, and is not self-sufficient. It is born, though it is always, but it is in birth, and it becomes perpetual. Becoming is a change in quality and quantity – like any material movement.

[My comment: Here the influence of Gnosis is revealed. The world is beautiful, but it is not good. The assertions of Genesis are therefore contradicted head-on: ‘And God saw that it was good.’ (Cf. Gen. 1:4, Gen. 1:10, Gen. 1:12, Gen. 1:25). The first chapter of Genesis even concludes as follows: ‘And God saw everything that He had made, and it was very good.’ (Gen. 1:31). But this Gnosis can be interpreted. The world is not « good », admittedly, but it does not necessarily mean that it is « bad » either. If it is not « good » it is because it is always « becoming », it is always being « born ». Besides, one can argue that ‘Only God is good’, as Jesus said. This Gnosticism is therefore not incompatible with an interpretation of Creation as a living process, as an eschatological aim].


– The world is the first of the living. Man is second only to the world, and first among mortals. Not only is man not good, but he is evil, being mortal. Nor is the world not good, since it is mobile; but being immortal, it is not evil. Man, being both mobile and mortal, is evil. »

[My comment: Here, the vision of Gnosis becomes even more precise. The world is not evil, but Man is. The difference between the world and Man is that the world is always born, it is always alive and reborn, whereas Man is mortal. The only possibility, however, of escaping this fundamental evil is resurrection. If it is possible, then Man is also reborn, again, he escapes death, – and evil].


– It is necessary to understand how man’s soul is constituted: intelligence is in reason, reason in the soul, the soul in the mind, the mind in the body. The spirit, penetrating through veins, arteries and blood, moves the animal and carries it, so to speak. The soul infuses the spirit. Reason is at the bottom of the soul. And it is Intelligence that makes reason live.

[My comment: Man is a kind of metaphysical onion, containing deep down within him, in his inner core, a divine principle, – Intelligence, which is another name for Divine Wisdom.]


– God does not ignore man; on the contrary, He knows him and wants to be known by him. The only salvation of man is in the knowledge of God; this is the way of ascent to Olympus; only by this alone does the soul become good, not sometimes good, sometimes bad, but necessarily good.

[My comment: The ascent to Olympus is another metaphor for apotheosis].


“Contemplate, my son, the soul of the child; the separation is not yet complete; the body is small and has not yet received full development. It is beautiful to see the child, not yet sullied by the passions of the body, still almost attached to the soul of the world. But when the body has developed and holds her [the soul] in its mass, separation is accomplished, oblivion occurs in her, she ceases to participate in the beautiful and the good.”

[My comment: the loss of innocence of the soul begins from the first days of her apprenticeship in the body she has inherited. This loss of innocence can also be interpreted as the first steps in the long « ascent » that still awaits her].


« The same thing happens to those who come out of their body. The soul enters into herself, the spirit withdraws into the blood, the soul into the spirit. But the Intelligence, purified and freed from its envelopes, divine by nature, takes a body of fire and travels through space, abandoning the soul to its tribulations. »

[My comment: These words are a striking summary of the highest wisdom attained over tens of thousands of years by shamans, visionaries, prophets, poets, all over the world. They must be taken for what they are: a naked revelation, destined only to those souls predisposed, by their abysmal and primordial desire, to understand what it is all about].


– What do you mean, O Father? Does intelligence separate from the soul and the soul from the spirit, since you said that the soul is the envelope of intelligence and the spirit is the envelope of the soul?

[My comment: Tat listens to his father very well, and he remains faithful to logic itself. His question is a request for clarification. The difference between the spirit and the soul and the difference between the soul and the intelligence may need to be explained more clearly. But how to explain “intelligence” to those who cannot imagine the power of its infinite possibilities? Hermes knows this difficulty well. He will try another way of explanation].


– It is necessary, my son, that the listener follow the thought of the speaker and associate himself with it; the ear must be finer than the voice. This system of envelopes exists in the earthly body. The naked intelligence could not be established in a material body, and that body could not contain such immortality or carry such virtue. The intelligence takes the soul as its envelope; the soul, which is divine itself, is enveloped in spirit, and the spirit is poured into the animal. »

[My comment: The key expression here is « naked intelligence ». What is revealed in these words is that even intelligence, in its highest, most divine form, can still remain « veiled ». Nothing can be said about this here, for the moment. We are only alluding to the fact that the process of ascension, of apotheosis, is certainly not finished, but that it is itself susceptible to other, even more radical forms of spiritual nakedness, unclothing].


– When the intelligence leaves the earthly body, it immediately takes its tunic of fire, which it could not keep when it inhabited this earthly body; for the earth cannot withstand fire, of which a single spark would be enough to burn it. This is why water surrounds the earth and forms a rampart that protects it from the flame of fire. But intelligence, the most subtle of divine thoughts, has the most subtle of elements, fire, as its body. It takes it as an instrument of its creative action.

[My comment: One of the garments of intelligence, described here under the metaphor of the « tunic of fire », is a way of describing one of its essential attributes: creative ability. But there are certainly many others. Other metaphors, other « garments » would be needed to try to account for them].


– The universal intelligence uses all the elements, that of man only the earthly elements. Deprived of fire, it cannot build divine works, subject as it is to the conditions of humanity. Human souls, not all of them, but pious souls, are « demonic » and « divine ».

[My comment: The idea that the soul is « demonic » is an idea that Plato communicated to us through the speech of Diotima in the Symposium. There can be found also another fundamental idea, to which I have been attached all my life – the idea of metaxu].


– Once separated from the body, and after having sustained the struggle of piety, which consists in knowing God and harming no one, such a soul becomes all intelligence. But the unholy soul remains in its own essence and punishes herself by seeking to enter into an earthly body, a human body, for another body cannot receive a human soul, it cannot fall into the body of an animal without reason; a divine law preserves the human soul from such a fall.

[My comment: Here we find the idea of metempsychosis. Since ages, these ideas circulated from the Far East to Greece].


– The punishment of the soul is quite different. When the intelligence has become a « daimon », and by God’s command has taken on a body of fire, she [the intelligence] enters the ungodly soul and is scourged with the whip of its sins. The unholy soul then rushes into murder, insults, blasphemy, violence of all kinds and all human wickedness. But by entering the pious soul, the intelligence leads her to the light of knowledge. Such a soul is never satiated with hymns and blessings for all men.

[My comment: A distinction must therefore be made between light, knowledge and the « light of knowledge ». The latter form of consciousness is the possible source of a meta-apotheosis, – for the moment, this word is a neologism, which I propose, because here it is very necessary].


– This is the universal order, the consequence of unity. Intelligence penetrates all the elements. For nothing is more divine and more powerful than intelligence. She unites Gods with men and men with Gods. It is the intelligence that is the good « daimon« ; the blessed soul is full of her, the unhappy soul is empty of her.

[My comment: intelligence is the « metaxu » par excellence. The Hebrews gave it the name neshamah. But what a name is, it is its essence that we must try to understand].


– The soul without intelligence could neither speak nor act. Often intelligence leaves the soul, and in this state the soul sees nothing, hears nothing, and looks like an animal without reason. Such is the power of intelligence. But it does not support the vicious soul and leaves it attached to the body, which drags it down. Such a soul, my son, has no intelligence, and in this condition a man can no longer be called a man. For man is a divine animal which must be compared, not to other terrestrial animals, but to those in heaven, who are called Gods.

[My comment: Aristotle said that « man is an animal who has reason (logos) ». We can see that Hermes rises several notches above Aristotle in his intuition of what man is, in essence. Aristotle is the first of the moderns. Plato is the last of the Ancients. But in these difficult matters, the Ancients have infinitely more to teach us, with their million years of experience, than the Moderns, really out of their depths in these matters].


– Or rather, let’s not be afraid to tell the truth, the real man is above them, or at least equal to them. For none of the heavenly Gods leaves his sphere to come to earth, while man ascends into heaven and measures it. He knows what is above and what is below; he knows everything accurately, and what is better is that he does not need to leave the earth in order to ascend. Such is the greatness of his condition. Thus, dare we say that man is a mortal God and that a heavenly God is an immortal man. All things will be governed by the world and by man, and above all is the One.

My comment : There is a strikingly equivalent intuition in the Veda. In the Veda, Puruṣa, devanāgarī : पुरुष, means « man, person, hero, vital principle, spirit » but also and foremost : « the Soul of the Universe »…

There is yet another, essential aspect.

The sacrifice of Puruṣa, the death and dismemberment of Osiris, the crucifixion of Christ do share a deep, structural analogy.

iCorpus hermeticum, X.

Absent Dream

The Song of songs, at the core of the Hebraic Bible, has accustomed the faithful, in Judaism and in Christianity, to the idea that the celebration of love, with human words and not without quite crude images, could also be a metaphor for the Love between the soul and God.

However, this very idea can also be found in the Veda, – with an anteriority of at least one thousand years over the Bible. This incites us to consider why, for so many millennia, persisted the metaphor of human love as applied to the union of the human soul with the Divinity.

The Veda is the oldest text, conserved for the benefit of mankind, that testifies to the idea of the Divinity’s love for the human soul, – as improbable as it may be thought, considering the nothingness of the latter.

« As the creeper holds the tree embraced through and through, so embrace me, be my lover, and do not depart from me! As the eagle strikes the ground with its two wings, so I strike your soul, be my lover and do not depart from me! As the sun on the same day surrounds heaven and earth, so do I surround your soul. Be my lover and do not depart from me! Desire my body, my feet, desire my thighs; let your eyes, your hair, in love, be consumed with passion for me!”i

A comparative anthropology of the depths is possible. Its main advantage is that it allows us to give some relativity to much later, idiosyncratic and ‘provincial’ assertions, and above all to confirm the fruitfulness of research into the very essence of common human intuition.

This research is one of the bases of the Future Dream, whose’ absence crushed, wounded modernity suffers so much from.

iA.V. VI, 8-9