Yōḥ, Jove, Yah and Yahweh

Mars Ciel ©Philippe Quéau 2020

In the ancient Umbrian language, the word « man » is expressed in two ways: ner– and veiro-, which denote the place occupied in society and the social role. This differentiation is entirely consistent with that observed in the ancient languages of India and Iran: nar– and vīrā.

In Rome, traces of these ancient names can also be found in the vocabulary used in relation to the Gods Mars (Nerio) and Quirinus (Quirites, Viriles), as noted by G. Dumézili.

If there are two distinct words for « man » in these various languages, or to differentiate the god of war (Mars) and the god of peace (Quirinus, – whose name, derived from *covirino– or *co-uirio-, means « the god of all men »), it is perhaps because man is fundamentally double, or dual, and the Gods he gives himself translate this duality?

If man is double, the Gods are triple. The pre-capitoline triad, or « archaic triad » – Jupiter, Mars, Quirinus -, in fact proposes a third God, Jupiter, who dominates the first two.

What does the name Jupiter tell us?

This name is very close, phonetically and semantically, to that of the Vedic God Dyaus Pitar, literally « God the Father », in Sanskrit द्यौष् पिता / Dyauṣ Pitā or द्यौष्पितृ / Dyauṣpitṛ.

The Sanskrit root of Dyaus (« God ») is दिव् div-, « heaven ». The God Dyau is the personified « Heaven-Light ».

The Latin Jupiter therefore means « Father-God ». The short form in Latin is Jove, (genitive Jovis).

The linguistic closeness between Latin, Avestic and Vedic – which is extended in cultural analogies between Rome, Iran and India – is confirmed when referring to the three words « law », « faith » and « divination », – respectively, in Latin: iūs, credo, augur. In the Vedic language, the similarity of these words is striking: yōḥ, ṡṛad-dhā, ōjas. In Avestic (ancient Iranian), the first two terms are yaoš and zraz-dā, also quite similar.

Dumézil states that iūs is a contraction of *ioves-, close to Jove /Jovis. and he adds that this word etymologically refers to Vedic yōḥ (or yos) and Avestic yaoš.

The three words yaoš, yōḥ (or yos) and iūs have the same etymological origin, therefore, but their meanings have subsequently varied significantly.

In Avestic, the word yaoš has three uses, according to Dumézil :

-To sanctify an invisible entity or a mythical state. Thus this verse attributed to Zoroaster: « The religious conscience that I must sanctify [yaoš-dā].”ii

-To consecrate, to perform a ritual act, as in the expression: « The consecrated liquor » [yaoš-dātam zaotram].iii

-To purify what has been soiled.

These concepts (« sanctification », « consecration », « purification ») refer to the three forms of medicine that prevailed at the time: herbal medicine, knife medicine and incantations.

Incidentally, these three forms of medicine are based respectively on the vitality of the plant world and its power of regeneration, on the life forces associated with the blood shed during the « sacrifice », and on the mystical power of prayers and orations.

In the Vedic language, yōḥ (or yos) is associated with prosperity, health, happiness, fortune, but also with the mystical, ritual universe, as the Sanskrit root yaj testifies, « to offer the sacrifice, to honor the divinity, to sanctify a place ».

But in Latin, iūs takes on a more concrete, legal and « verbal » rather than religious meaning. Iūs can be ´said´: « iū-dic« , – hence the word iūdex, justice.

The Romans socialised, personalised, legalised and ‘secularised’ iūs in a way. They make iūs an attribute of everyone. One person’s iūs is equivalent to another person’s iūs, hence the possible confrontations, but also the search for balance and equilibrium, – war or peace.

The idea of « right » (jus) thus comes from a conception of iūs, founded in the original Rome, but itself inherited from a mystical and religious tradition, much older, and coming from a more distant (Indo-Aryan) East. But in Rome it was the juridical spirit of justice that finally prevailed over the mystical and religious spirit.

The idea of justice reached modern times, but what about the spirit carried in three Indo-Aryan languages by the words iūs, yaoš-dā, yōs, originally associated with the root *ioves– ?

One last thing. We will notice that the words yōḥ and Jove, seem to be phonetically and poetically close to two Hebrew names of God: Yah and YHVH (Yahweh).

iG. Dumézil. Idées romaines. 1969

iiYasna 44,9

iiiYast X. 120

The God « Which? »

The ancient Greeks were not content with their twelve principal gods and a host of minor gods. They also worshipped an « Unknown God » (Agnostos Theos, Ἄγνωστος Θεός ).

Which? Series a3 ©Philippe Quéau. 2019

Paul of Tarsus, in his efforts to evangelise, was aware of this and decided to take advantage of it. He made a speech on the Agora of Athens:

« Athenians, in every respect you are, I see, the most religious of men. Walking through your city and considering your sacred monuments, I found an altar with the inscription: « To the unknown god ». Well, what you worship without knowing it, I have come to tell you. »i

He had little success, however, with the Athenians. Perhaps his rhetoric was not sufficiently sharp. The tradition of the « unknown God » was, it is true, already very old, and known far beyond Greece. For example, in India, in the texts of the Vedas, some two thousand years before Paul discovered it in Athens.

The Vedic priests prayed to a God whom they called « Which? », which was a very grammatical solution to signifying their ignorance, and a subtle way of opening wide the doors of the possible.

The God « Which » alone represented all the known and unknown gods with a single interrogative pronoun. Remarkable economy of means. Strong evocative power, subsuming all possible gods, real or imaginary, gods of all ages, peoples, cultures.

The Vedic priests used to repeat as a refrain: « To which God shall we offer the holocaust? », which may be in a way equivalent to saying: « To the God ‘Which’, we shall we offer the holocaust…”ii

The Vedas made of this « question » a repeated invocation, and a litany simultaneously addressed to the one God, the only Sovereign of the universe, the only life-giving God, the only God above all gods, and indeed « blessed » by them all.

« In the beginning appears the golden seed of light.

He alone was the sovereign-born of the world.

He fills the earth and the sky.

– To which God shall we offer the holocaust?

He who gives life and strength,

him whose blessing all the gods themselves invoke,

immortality and death are only its shadow!

– To which God shall we offer the holocaust?


He whose powerful gaze stretched out over these waters,

that bear strength and engender salvation,

he who, above the gods, was the only God!

– To which God shall we offer the holocaust? »iii

There are several monotheistic religions that claim to know and state the name of the God they claim as their God. But if this God is indeed the one, supreme God, then is not His Name also essentially One? And this Name must be far above all the names given by men, it obviously transcends them. But many religions, too self-assured, do not hesitate to multiply the names « revealed », and to this unique God they give not one name, but three, ten, thirteen, ninety-nine or a thousand.

A God whose « reign », « power » and « glory » fill heaven and earth, no doubt the epithets and attributes can be multiplied, giving rise to the multiplicity of His putative names.

It seems to me that in the Veda, the idea of God, the idea of a God as being too elusive in the nets of language, perhaps comes closest to its essence when named as a question.

We will say again, no doubt, long into the distant future, and beyond the millennia, with the Vedas: Which God?

The God Which?

– The God “Which ?”

iAct. 17.22-24

iiRig Veda. X, 121.

iiiRig Veda. X, 121.

Which? Series, b2. ©Philippe Quéau. 2019

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.

The Divine, – Long Before Abraham

More than two millennia B.C., in the middle of the Bronze Age, so-called « Indo-Aryan » peoples were settled in Bactria, between present-day Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. They left traces of a civilisation known as the Oxus civilisation (-2200, -1700). Then they migrated southwards, branching off to the left, towards the Indus plains, or to the right, towards the high plateau of Iran.

These migrant peoples, who had long shared a common culture, then began to differentiate themselves, linguistically and religiously, without losing their fundamental intuitions. This is evidenced by the analogies and differences between their respective languages, Sanskrit and Zend, and their religions, the religion of the Vedas and that of Zend-Avesta.

In the Vedic cult, the sacrifice of the Soma, composed of clarified butter, fermented juice and decoctions of hallucinogenic plants, plays an essential role. The Vedic Soma has its close equivalent in Haoma, in Zend-Avesta. The two words are in fact the same, if we take into account that the Zend language of the ancient Persians puts an aspirated h where the Sanskrit puts an s.

Soma and Haoma have a deep meaning. These liquids are transformed by fire during the sacrifice, and then rise towards the sky. Water, milk, clarified butter are symbols of the cosmic cycles. At the same time, the juice of hallucinogenic plants and their emanations contribute to ecstasy, trance and divination, revealing an intimate link between the chemistry of nature, the powers of the brain and the insight into divine realities.

The divine names are very close, in the Avesta and the Veda. For example, the solar God is called Mitra in Sanskrit and Mithra in Avesta. The symbolism linked to Mitra/Mithra is not limited to identification with the sun. It is the whole cosmic cycle that is targeted.

An Avestic prayer says: « In Mithra, in the rich pastures, I want to sacrifice through Haoma.”i

Mithra, the divine « Sun », reigns over the « pastures » that designate all the expanses of Heaven, and the entire Cosmos. In the celestial « pastures », the clouds are the « cows of the Sun ». They provide the milk of Heaven, the water that makes plants grow and that waters all life on earth. Water, milk and Soma, all liquid, have their common origin in the solar, celestial cows.

The Soma and Haoma cults are inspired by this cycle. The components of the sacred liquid (water, clarified butter, vegetable juices) are carefully mixed in a sacred vase, the samoudra. But the contents of the vase only take on their full meaning through the divine word, the sacred hymn.

« Mortar, vase, Haoma, as well as the words coming out of Ahura-Mazda‘s mouth, these are my best weapons.”ii

Soma and Haoma are destined for the Altar Fire. Fire gives a life of its own to everything it burns. It reveals the nature of things, illuminates them from within by its light, its incandescence.

« Listen to the soul of the earth; contemplate the rays of Fire with devotion.”iii

Fire originally comes from the earth, and its role is to make the link with Heaven, as says the Yaçna.iv

« The earth has won the victory, because it has lit the flame that repels evil.”v

Nothing naturalistic in these images. These ancient religions were not idolatrous, as they were made to believe, with a myopia mixed with profound ignorance. They were penetrated by a cosmic spirituality.

« In the midst of those who honor your flame, I will stand in the way of Truth « vi said the officiant during the sacrifice.

The Fire is stirred by the Wind (which is called Vāyou in Avestic as in Sanskrit). Vāyou is not a simple breath, a breeze, it is the Holy Spirit, the treasure of wisdom.

 » Vāyou raises up pure light and directs it against the dark ones.”vii

Water, Fire, Wind are means of mediation, means to link up with the one God, the « Living » God that the Avesta calls Ahura Mazda.

« In the pure light of Heaven, Ahura Mazda exists. »viii

The name of Ahura (the « Living »), calls the supreme Lord. This name is identical to the Sanskrit Asura (we have already seen the equivalence h/s). The root of Asura is asu, “life”.

The Avestic word mazda means « wise ».

« It is you, Ahura Mazda (« the Living Wise One »), whom I have recognized as the primordial principle, the father of the Good Spirit, the source of truth, the author of existence, living eternally in your works.”ix

Clearly, the « Living » is infinitely above all its creatures.

« All luminous bodies, the stars and the Sun, messenger of the day, move in your honor, O Wise One, living and true. »x

I call attention to the alliance of the three words, « wise », « living » and « true », to define the supreme God.

The Vedic priest as well as the Avestic priest addressed God in this way more than four thousand years ago: « To you, O Living and True One, we consecrate this living flame, pure and powerful, the support of the world.”xi

I like to think that the use of these three attributes (« Wise », « Living » and « True »), already defining the essence of the supreme God more than four thousand years ago, is the oldest proven trace of an original theology of monotheism.

It is important to stress that this theology of Life, Wisdom and Truth of a supreme God, unique in His supremacy, precedes the tradition of Abrahamic monotheism by more than a thousand years.

Four millennia later, at the beginning of the 21st century, the world landscape of religions offers us at least three monotheisms, particularly assertorical: Judaism, Christianity, Islam…

« Monotheisms! Monotheisms! », – I would wish wish to apostrophe them, – « A little modesty! Consider with attention and respect the depth of the times that preceded the late emergence of your own dogmas!”

The hidden roots and ancient visions of primeval and deep humanity still show to whoever will see them, our essential, unfailing unity and our unique origin…

iKhorda. Prayer to Mithra.

iiVend. Farg. 19 quoted in Émile Burnouf. Le Vase sacré. 1896

iiiYaçna 30.2

ivYaçna 30.2

vYaçna 32.14

viYaçna 43.9

viiYaçna 53.6

viiiVisp 31.8

ixYaçna 31.8

xYaçna 50.30

xiYaçna 34.4

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

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

Religions of blood and religion of milk

The ancient Jewish religion, from its origin, favored the oblation of blood, the animal sacrifice to God. A lamb, a goat, a heifer or a dove could do the trick. The Egyptologist Jan Assmann argues that the sacrifice of sheep or cattle was conceived by Moses as a way of affirming the symbolism of a « counter-religion », in order to stand out as far as possible from the ancient Egyptian religion. In fact, the ancient Egyptian religion considered the Bull (Serapis) as a divine avatar, which it was obviously a “sacrilege” to sacrifice. Taking the exact opposite side by choosing the sacrifice of blood was an effective way of cutting all bridges with the past.

Much further to the East, in the Indus basin, and long before the time of Abraham or Moses, the even older religion of the Veda excluded any animal sacrifice. On the contrary, the Cow was (and still is) sacred. This is why only the milk of the cow was sacrificed, not its blood.

The Cow was considered as a divine symbol, because it represented the cosmic cycle of life. And milk embedded its essence.

How so?

The sunlight floods the earth, makes the grass grow, which feeds the cow, which produces the milk. In the final analysis, this milk comes from cosmic, solar forces. It is then used in the sacrifice in the form of « clarified butter ». Sôma is composed of this liquid, flammable butter and other psychotropic vegetable juices. By burning in the sacred fire, the butter from the cosmos returns to its origin, in the form of flame, smoke and odor, and embodies the homage paid to the universal Divinity.

The 9th Mandala of the Rig Veda is dedicated to this Vedic worship of the Sôma. It contains hymns and prayers to the Divine Sôma:

« You who flows very gently, perfectly liquid, light up, O Sôma, you who has been poured out as a libation to the Burning One ». (Hymn I,1)

“Burning” or “Ardent” is one of the Names of the Divine.

The Sôma flows to regale Heaven, it flows for « comfort » and for the « voice » (« abhi vajam uta çravah« ). The Sôma is divine. The sacrifice of Sôma is an image of the union of the divine with the divine through the divine: « O Sôma, unite with you through you. »

The sacrifice of the Sôma is a metaphor of life, which is transmitted incessantly, constantly diverse, eternally mobile.

« The daughter of the sun lights the Sôma, which comes out of the fleece and flows around what remains constant and what develops.”

The « daughter of the sun » is a figure of the sacred fire. The « fleece » is the envelope of skin that was used to preserve the Sôma. What is « constant » and what « develops » are metaphors of the sacred fire, or a figure of the sacrifice itself, an image of the link between the Divinity and mankind.

The Sacred Fire is also divine. It is a God, who manifests the sacrifice and transcends it. It flies towards the woods of the pyre, before rising ever higher, towards the sky.

« This undead God flies, like a bird, to the woods to sit down. « (Rig Veda, 9th Mandala, Hymn III, 1)

« This God, who is on fire, becomes a chariot, becomes a gift; he manifests himself by crackling. « (Ibid. III,5)

The liquid Sôma is given to the Sôma that catches fire. Having become a flame, it gives itself to the Fire.

The Veda sees libation, the liquid Sôma, as a « sea ». This sea in flames « crackles », and the Fire « neighs like a horse ». The Fire gallops towards the divine, always further, always higher.

« By going forward, this has reached the heights of the two Brilliant Ones, and the Rajas which is at the very top. « (Ibid. XXII, 5).

The « Two Brillant » and the « Rajas » are other Names of God.

« This flows into Heaven, liberated, through darkness, lit with generous oblations. This God poured out for the Gods, by a previous generation, of gold, flows into that which enflames it.  » (Ibid. III,8-9).

The marriage of somatic liquor and burning fire represents a divine union of the divine with itself.

« O you two, the Ardent and the Sôma, you are the masters of the sun, the masters of the cows; powerful, you make the crackling [the thoughts] grow ». (Ibid. XIX, 2)

The meanings of words shimmer. The images split up. The flames are also « voices ». Their « crackling » represents the movement of thought, which is synonymous with them.

« O Fire, set in motion by thought [the crackle], you who crackle in the womb (yoni), you penetrate the wind by means of the Dharma (the Law) ». (Ibid. XXV,2)

Erotic metaphor ? No more and no less than some images of the Song of Songs.

They are rather figures of thought referring to a philosophical, or even theological system. In the Veda, Fire, Thought, Word, Cry, Wind, Law are of the same essence.

But the yoni also puts us on the trail of Vedic mysticism. The yoni, the womb, is the name given to the stone crucible that receives the burning liquor. The yoni, by its position in the sacrifice, is the very cradle of the divine.

A Vedic Divine, born of a yoni bathed in divine liquor and set ablaze with divine flames.

« This God shines from above, in the yoni, He, the Eternal, the Destroyer, the Delight of the Gods » (Ibid. XXVIII, 3).

God is the Highest and He is also in the yoni, He is eternal and destructive, He is gold and light, He is sweet and tasty.

« They push you, you Gold, whose flavour is very sweet, into the waters, through the stones, – O Light, libation of Fire. « (Ibid. XXX, 5).

Light born from light. God born of the true God.

These images, these metaphors, appeared more than a thousand years before Abraham, and more than two thousand years before Christianity.

Nothing really new under the sun..

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

A God with no Name

The intuition of mystery has touched humanity from the earliest ages. Eight hundred thousand years ago, men carried out religious rites accompanying the death of their loved ones, in a cave near Beijing, at Chou Kou Tien. Skulls were found there, placed in a circle and painted in red ochre. They bear witness to the fact that almost a million years ago, men believed that death was a passage.

Fascination with other worlds, a sense of mystery, confrontation with the weakness of life and the rigor of death, seem to be part of the human genetic heritage, since the dawn of time, inhabiting the unconscious, sculpting cultures, knotting myths, informing languages.

The idea of the power of the divine is an extremely ancient idea, as old as humanity itself. It is equally obvious that the minds of men all over the world have, since extremely ancient times, turned towards forms of animism, religions of immanence or even religions of ecstasy and transcendent trance, long before being able to speculate and refine « theological » questions such as the formal opposition between « polytheism » and « monotheism ».

Brains and cultures, minds and languages, were not yet mature.

Animism, shamanism, polytheism, monotheism, and the religions of the immanence try to designate what cannot be said. In the high period, the time of human dawn, all these religions in -isms obviously came together in a single intuition, a single vision: the absolute weakness of man, the irremediable fleetingness of his life, and the infinite greatness and power of the unknown.

Feeling, guessing, fearing, worshipping, revering, this power was one and multiple. Innumerable names throughout the world have tried to express this power, without ever reaching its intrinsic unity.

This is why the assertion of the monotheisms that « God is One » is both a door that has been open for millions of years and at the same time, in a certain way, is also a saying that closes our understanding of the very nature of the « mystery », our understanding of how this « mystery » has taken root in the heart of the human soul, since Homo knew himself to be a sapiens

In the 17th century, Ralph Cudworth was already tackling the « great prejudice » that all primitive and ancient religions had been polytheistic, and that only « a small, insignificant handful of Jews »i had developed the idea of a single God.

A « small insignificant handful of Jews »? Compared to the Nations, number is not always the best indicator. Another way to put the question is: was the idea of the One God invented by the Jews? If so, when and why? If not, who invented it, and for how long was it there around the world?

If we analyse the available sources, it would seem that this idea appeared very early among the nations, perhaps even before the so-called « historical » times. But it must be recognized that the Jews brought the idea to its incandescence, and above all that they « published » it, and « democratized » it, making it the essential idea of their people. Elsewhere, and for millennia, the idea was present, but reserved in a way to an elite.

Greek polytheism, the Sibylline oracles, Zoroastrianism, the Chaldean religion, Orphism, all these « ancient » religions distinguished a radical difference between multiple born and mortal gods, and a Single God, not created and existing by Himself. The Orphic cabal had a great secret, a mystery reserved for the initiated, namely: « God is the Whole ».

Cudworth deduced from the testimonies of Clement of Alexandria, Plutarch, Iamblichus, Horapollo, or Damascius, that it was indisputably clear that Orpheus and all the other Greek pagans knew a single universal deity who was « the One », and « the Whole ». But this knowledge was secret, reserved for the initiated.

Clement of Alexandria wrote that « All the barbarian and Greek theologians had kept the principles of reality secret and had only transmitted the truth in the form of enigmas, symbols, allegories, metaphors and other tropes and similar figures. « ii And Clement made a comparison between the Egyptians and the Hebrews in this respect: « The Egyptians represented the truly secret Logos, which they kept deep in the sanctuary of truth, by what they called ‘Adyta’, and the Hebrews by the curtain in the Temple. As far as concealment is concerned, the secrets of the Hebrews and those of the Egyptians are very similar.”iii

Hieroglyphics (as sacred writing) and allegories (the meaning of symbols and images) were used to transmit the secret arcana of the Egyptian religion to those who were worthy of it, to the most qualified priests and to those chosen to succeed the king.

The « hieroglyphic science » was entirely responsible for expressing the mysteries of theology and religion in such a way that they remained hidden from the profane crowd. The highest of these mysteries was that of the revelation of « the One and Universal Divinity, the Creator of the whole world, » Cudworth added.

Plutarch noted several times in his famous work, On Isis and Osiris, that the Egyptians called their supreme God « the First God » and considered him a « dark and hidden God ».

Cudworth points out that Horapollo tells us that the Egyptians knew a Pantokrator (Universal Sovereign) and a Kosmokrator (Cosmic Sovereign), and that the Egyptian notion of ‘God’ referred to a « spirit that spreads throughout the world, and penetrates into all things to the deepest depths.

The « divine Iamblichus » made similar analyses in his De Mysteriis Aegyptiorum.

Finally, Damascius, in his Treatise on First Principles, wrote that the Egyptian philosophers said that there is a single principle of all things, which is revered under the name of ‘invisible darkness’. This « invisible darkness » is an allegory of this supreme deity, namely that it is inconceivable.

This supreme deity has the name « Ammon », which means « that which is hidden », as explained by Manetho of Sebennytos.

Cudworth, to whom we owe this compilation of quotations, deduced that « among the Egyptians, Ammon was not only the name of the supreme Deity, but also the name of the hidden, invisible and corporeal Deity ».

Cudworth concludes that long before Moses, himself of Egyptian culture, and brought up in the knowledge of ‘Egyptian wisdom’, the Egyptians were already worshipping a Supreme God, conceived as invisible, hidden, outside the world and independent of it.

The One (to Hen, in Greek) is the invisible origin of all things and he manifests himself, or rather « hides » himself in the Whole (to Pan, in Greek).

The same anthropological descent towards the mysterious depths of belief can be undertaken systematically, notably with the oldest texts we have, those of Zend Avesta, the Vedas and their commentaries on Upaniṣad.

« Beyond the senses is the mind, higher than the mind is the essence, above the essence is the great Self, higher than the great [Self] is the unmanifested.

But beyond the unmanifested is Man, the Puruṣa, passing through all and without sign in truth. By knowing Him, the human being is liberated and attains immortality.

His form does not exist to be seen, no one can see it through the eye. Through the heart, through the intelligence, through the mind He is apprehended – those who know Him become immortal. (…)

Not even by speech, not even by the mind can He be reached, not even by the eye. How can He be perceived other than by saying: « He is »?

And by saying « He is » (in Sanskrit asti), He can be perceived in two ways according to His true nature. And by saying « He is », for the one who perceives Him, His true nature is established.

When all the desires established in one’s heart are liberated, then the mortal becomes immortal, he reaches here the Brahman.”iv

The Zohar also affirms: « The Holy One blessed be He has a hidden aspect and a revealed aspect. »

Aren’t these not « two ways » of perceiving the true nature of « He is »? Rabbi Hayyim of Volozhyn affirms: « The essence of the En-Sof (Infinite) is hidden more than any secret; it must not be named by any name, not even the Tetragrammaton, not even the end of the smallest letter, the Yod.” v

So what do all these names of God mean in the purest monotheism?

« R. ‘Abba bar Mamel says: The Holy One blessed be He says to Moshe: Do you want to know my Name? I name Myself after my deeds. Sometimes my name is El Shadday, Tsebaoth, Elohim, YHVY. When I judge creatures my name is Elohim, when I fight the wicked I am called Tsebaoth, when I suspend the faults of men I am El Shadday and when I take pity on the worlds I am YHVH. This Name is the attribute of mercy, as it is said: « YHVY, YHVH, merciful and compassionate God » (Ex. 34:6). Likewise: ‘Ehyeh, asher ‘Ehyeh (I am who I am) (Ex. 3:14) – I name myself after my deeds.”vi

These are very wise words, which invite us to ask ourselves what was the name of YHVH, 800,000 years ago, at Chou Kou Tien, when He saw the sorrow of these men and women, a small group of Homo sapiens in affliction and grief, assembled at the bottom of a cave.

iRalph Cudworth, True Intellectual System of the Universe (1678), quoted in Jan Assmann, Moïse l’Égyptien, 2001, p.138

iiClement of Alexandria, Stromata V, ch. 4, 21,4

iiiClement of Alexandria, Stromata V, ch.3, 19,3 and Stromata V, ch.6, 41,2

ivKaha-upaniad 2.3. 7-9 and 12-14. Upaniad. My translation into English from the French Translation by Alyette Degrâces. Fayard. 2014. p. 390-391

vRabbi Hayyim de Volozhyn. L’âme de la vie. 2ème Portique, ch. 2. Trad. Benjamin Gross. Verdier. Lagrasse, 1986, p.74

viIbid. 2ème Portique, ch. 3, p. 75.


In the Veda, Thought (manas) is one of the deepest metaphors of the Divine. Many other religions later celebrated the Divine Thought and sought to define some of its attributes. But reading in the Veda this original intuition, in all its emerging force, reinforces the idea that, for anyone, ones’ own thought, ones’ own faculty of thinking, has always been the source of a powerful astonishment, puts on the track of our origins, and uncovers the roots of our freedom.

« She in whom rest prayers, melodies and formulas, like the grapes at the hub of the chariot, she in whom is woven all the reflection of creatures, – the Thought: may what She conceives be favorable to me!”i

iṚgVéda X,71

Loving Word

« In the beginning was the Word » (Jn 1,1)

More than thousand years before the Gospel of John, the Veda was already considering the Word as having a life of its own, a divine essence. The Vedic Word was a Divine Person. The Vedic Word was a prefiguration of the Psalms of David where, as in the Veda, Wisdom is personified as a female figure associated with the One God.

The Word (vāc) is the very essence of the Veda. « More than one who sees has not seen the Word. More than one who hears does not hear it. She has opened her body to him as she did to her husband, a loving woman in rich attire.”i

The Word, or Wisdom, or Vāc, is like the loving Sulamite of the Song of songs.

Those who know will understand.

iṚgVeda X,71

Metaphysics of Butter

The Rig Veda is the most ancient source we can draw from to try to understand what the nascent state of humanity was, – and to grasp the permanence of its dreams. Religion and society, then, were in a childhood that did not exclude a profound wisdom, more original than anything that antiquity could conceive of later, and of which Solomon himself was a distant heir.

For a long time unwritten, transmitted orally for millennia by pure thinkers and ascetics without fail, the memory of the Veda bears witness to a moment in humanity much older than the time of Abraham. When this prophet of the monotheism left Ur in Chaldea, around 1200 BC, for his exile to the North then to the South, many centuries had already passed over the Oxus valleys and the Indus basin. More than a millennium before Abraham, time had sedimented the deep memory of the Veda. Long before Abraham, Vedic priests celebrated the idea of a unique and universal deity. And Melchisedech himself, the oldest prophetic figure quoted in the Bible, is a partridge of the year, if we compare him to the obscure continuation of the times that preceded him, and which allowed his coming.

These ideas must be penetrated if we want to put an end to the drama of the exception and of history, and understand what humanity as a whole has been carrying within it from the beginning.

Man has always been possessed by an intuition of the Divine, and this intuition must be grasped by opening up to what remains of its origin. The Bible is a fairly recent document, and its price should not make us forget its relative youth. Its age goes back at most to a thousand years before our era. In contrast, the Veda is one or even two millennia older.

This is why I believe it is important to rely, even today, on the soul of the Veda, to try to understand the unity of the human adventure. And to sense its possible evolution – so much so that the past is one of the potential forms of the future.

To illustrate this point, I would like to propose a quick review of some of the images celebrated by the Veda, to show its universality and depth.

In ancient times, the melted butter (ghṛita) alone represented a kind of cosmic miracle. It embodied the cosmic alliance of the sun, nature and life: the sun, source of all life in nature, makes the grass grow, which nourishes the cow, which exudes its intimate juice, the milk, which becomes butter by the action of man (churning), and finally comes to flow freely as sôma on the altar of sacrifice to mingle with the sacred fire, to nourish the flame, to generate light, and to spread the odor capable of rising to the heavens, concluding the cycle. A simple and profound ceremony, originating in the mists of time, and already possessing the vision of the universal cohesion between the divine, the cosmos and the human.

“From the ocean, the wave of honey arose, with the sôma, it took on the form of ambrosia. This is the secret name of ‘Butter’, the language of the Gods, the navel of the immortal. (…) Arranged in three parts, the Gods discovered in the cow the Butter that the Paṇi had hidden. Indra gave birth to one of these parts, the Sun the second, the third was extracted from the wise man, and prepared by the rite. (…) They spring from the ocean of the Spirit, these streams of Butter a hundred times enclosed, invisible to the enemy. I consider them, the golden rod is in their midst. (…) They jump before Agni, beautiful and smiling like young women at the rendezvous; the streams of Butter caress the flaming logs, the Fire agrees with them, satisfied.”i

If one finds in ‘Butter’ connotations that are too domestic to be able to bear the presence of the sacred, it is thought that the Priests, Prophets and Kings of Israel, for example, did not fear being anointed with sacred oil, butter and chrism, the maximum concentration of meaning, where the product of the Cosmos, the work of men, and the life-giving power of God magically converge.

igVéda IV,58

Metaphysics of Hair

Hair is one of the oldest metaphors ever devised by the human brain. It is also a metonymy. The hair, is on the head, at the top of the man, above his very thoughts, also links with the divine sphere (this is why the Jews cover themselves with the yarmulke). But the hairs also covers the lower abdomen, and announces the deep transformation of the body, for life, love and generation. Finally, the fertile earth itself covers itself with a kind of hair when the harvest is announced. Here again, the ancient genius combines the Divine, Man and Nature in a single image.

A hymn from the Veda combines these images in a single formula: « Make the grass grow on these three surfaces, O Indra, the head of the Father, and the field here, and my womb! That field over there, which is ours, and my body here, and the head of the Father, make it all hairy!”i

But hair has other connotations as well, which go beyond the simple metonymy. Hair, in the Veda, also serves as an image to describe the action of God himself. It is one of the metaphors that allow us to qualify it indirectly, as other monotheistic religions would do much later, choosing its power, mercy or clemency.

“The Hairy One carries the Fire, the Hairy One carries the Soul, the Hairy One carries the worlds. The Hairy One carries all that can be seen from heaven. Hair is called Light.”ii

igVéda VIII,91

iigVéda VIII,91

Anthropological Trinity

The Veda is about knowledge and vision. The Sanskrit word veda has for its root विद् vid-, as does the Latin word video (“I see”). This is why it is not untimely to say that the Ṛṣi have ‘seen’ the Veda. However, seeing is not enough, we must also hear. « Let us praise the voice, the immortal part of the soul » says Kālidāsa.

In the Veda, the word ‘word’ (vāc) is feminine. And the ‘spirit’ is masculine. This means both can along together and unite intimately, as in this verse from the Satabatha-Brāhmana: “For the spirit and the word, when harnessed together, carry the Sacrifice to the Gods.”i

This Vedic formula combines in the same sentence the Spirit, the Word and the Divine.

A Christian may think of this alliance of words as a kind of Trinity, two thousand years before the Holy Spirit came to the Verb sent by the Lord.

Could it be that some deep, anthropological constant, worthy of being observed, is here revealing itself, in times of profundity?

iS.B. I,4,4,1


The idea of an infinite, hidden God, on whom everything rests, was conceived by Mankind long before Abraham or Moses. The Veda testifies that this idea was already celebrated millennia before these famous figures.

« Manifest, It is hidden. Ancient is Its name. Vast is Its concept. The whole universe is based on It. On It rests what moves and breathes. (…) The Infinite is extended in multiple directions, the infinite and the finite have common borders. The Guardian of the Heavenly Vault runs through them, separating them, He who knows what has passed and what is to come. (…) Without desire, wise, immortal, born of Himself, satiating Himself with vital sap, suffering from no lack – He who has recognized the Ātman, wise, not of old age, always young, does not fear death.”i

iA.V. X, 8

Breath and Word in Veda and Judaism

The Vedic rite of sacrifice required the participation of four kinds of priests, with very different functions.

The Adhvaryu prepared the animals and the altar, lit the fire and performed the actual sacrifice. They took care of all the material and manual part of the operations, during which they were only allowed to whisper a few incantations proper to their sacrificial activity.

The Udgatṛi were responsible for singing the hymns of Sama Veda in the most melodious manner.

The Hotṛi, for their part, had to recite in a loud voice, without singing them, the ancient hymns of the Ṛg Veda while respecting the traditional rules of pronunciation and accentuation. They were supposed to know by heart all the texts of the Veda in order to adapt to all the circumstances of the sacrifices. At the end of the litanies, they uttered a kind of wild cry, called vausat.

Finally, remaining silent throughout, a Brahmin, a referent of the good progress of the sacrifice, guarantor of its effectiveness, supervised the various phases of the ceremony.

These four kinds of priests had, as one can see, a very different relationship to the word of the Veda. The first murmured (or mumbled) it, the second sang it, following a melody, mingled with music, the third proclaimed it, concluding with a shout. Finally, silence was observed by the Brahmin.

These different regimes of vocal expression can be interpreted as so many possible modalities of the relationship of the word to the divine. They accompany and give rhythm to the stages of the sacrifice and its progression.

The chant is a metaphor for the divine fire, the fire of Agni. « Songs fill you and increase you, as the great rivers fill the sea » says a Vedic formula addressed to Agni.

The recitation of Ṛg Veda is a self-weaving narrative. It can be done word for word (pada rhythm), or in a kind of melodic path (krama) according to eight possible varieties, such as the « braid » (jatā rhythm) or the « block » (ghana rhythm).

In the « braid » style, for example, a four-syllable expression abcd was pronounced in a long, repetitive and obsessive litany: ab/ba/abc/cba/bc/cb/bcd/dcb/bcd

When the time came, the recitation finally « burst forth » like thunder. Acme of sacrifice.

The Vedic word appears in all its successive stages a will to connect, an energy of connection. Little by little set in motion, it is entirely oriented towards the construction of links with the Deity, the weaving of close correlations, vocal, musical, rhythmic, semantic.

It is impregnated with the mystery of Deity. It establishes and constitutes by itself a sacred link, in the various regimes of breath, and by their learned progression.

A hymn of Atharvaveda pushes the metaphor of breath and rhythm as far as possible. It makes us understand the nature of the act in progress, which resembles a sacred, mystical union: « More than one who sees has not seen the Word; more than one who hears has not heard it. To the latter, she opened her body as to her husband, a loving woman in rich finery.»

The Vedic Word is at the same time substance, vision, way.

A comparison with the divine Word and Breath in the biblical texts can be interesting.

In Gen 2:7, God breathes a « breath of life » (neshmah נשׁמה) so that man becomes a living being (nephesh נפשׁ ). In Gen 1:2, a « wind » from God blows (rua רוּח). The « wind » is violent and evokes notions of power, strength, active tension. The « breath » of life, on the other hand, can be compared to a breeze, a peaceful and gentle exhalation. Finally, God « speaks », he « says »: « Let there be light! ».

On the subject of the breath and wind of God, Philo of Alexandria comments: « This expression (he breathed) has an even deeper meaning. Indeed three things are required: what blows, what receives, what is blown. What blows is God; what receives is intelligence; what is blown is breath. What is done with these elements? A union of all three occurs. »

Philo poses the deep, intrinsic unity of breath, soul, spirit and speech.

Beyond languages, beyond cultures, from the Veda to the Bible, the analogy of breath transcends worlds. The murmur of the Adhvaryu, the song of Udgatṛi, the word of Hotṛi, and its very cry, form a union, analogous in principle to that of the divine exhalation (neshmah, נשׁמה), the living breath (nephesh, נפשׁ ), and the wind of God (rua, רוּח ).

In all matters, there are those who excel in seeing the differences. Others see especially the similarities. In the Veda and the Bible, the latter will be able to recognize the persistence of a paradigm of speech and breath in seemingly distant contexts.

The Aryan Veda and Semitic Judaism, beyond their multiple differences, share the intuition of the union of word and breath, – which is also a divine prerogative.

Non-Death and Breath

Who can tell us today the smell and taste of soma? The crackle of clarified butter, the rustle of honey in the flame, the brightness, the brilliance, the softness of the sung Vedic hymns? Who still remember the sounds of yesterday, the lights, the odors, the flavors, concentrated, multiplied, of the sacred rita?

In any religion, the most important thing is its living, immortal soul. The soul of Veda has crossed thousands of years. And it still inhabits some whispered, ancient words.

« Thou art the ocean, O poet, O omniscient soma… Thine are the five regions of the sky, in all their vastness! Thou hast risen above heaven and earth. Thine are the stars and the sun, O clarified soma!”i

As of today, scientists do not know if the soma was extracted from plants such as Cannabis sativa, Sarcostemma viminalis, Asclepias acida or from some variety of Ephedra, or even from mushrooms such as Amanita muscaria. The secret of soma is lost.

What is known is that the plant giving soma had powerful, hallucinogenic and « entheogenic » virtues.

Shamans all over the world, in Siberia, Mongolia, Africa, Central America, Amazonia, or elsewhere, still continue to use the psychotropic properties of their own pharmacopoeia today.

The « entheogenic » dives are almost indescribable. Often nothing can be told about them, except for some unimaginable, distant, repeated certainties. Metaphors multiply and stubbornly try, vainly, to tell the unspeakable. To poetry is given the recollection of past consciences so close to these worlds.

« The wave of honey has risen from the bosom of the ocean, together with the soma, it has reached immortal abode. It has conquered the secret name: ‘language of the gods’, ‘navel of the immortal’. »ii

One should believe it: these words say almost everything that can be said about what cannot be said. It is necessary to complete what they mean, by intuition, experience, or commentary.

For more than five thousand years, the Upaniṣad has been trying to do just that. They hide nuggets, diamonds, coals, gleams, lightning.

« He moves and does not move. He is far and he is near.

He is within all that is; of all that is, He is outside (…)

They enter into blind darkness, those who believe in the unknowing;

And into more darkness still, those who delight in knowledge.

Knowledge and non-knowledge – he who knows both at the same time,

he crosses death through non-knowledge, he reaches through knowledge the non-death.

They enter into blind darkness those who believe in the non-death;

and into more darkness still those who delight in the becoming (…)

Becoming and ceasing to be – the one who knows both,

he crosses death by the cessation of being, and by the becoming, he reaches non-death. » iii

These words were thought, quoted and contemplated more than two thousand years before the birth of Heraclitus of Ephesus. They must be read and spoken again.

Now it the time to drink the soma again, in a novel way, and to stare at the clear flame, which fills the air with new odors. The wind will then stir up the flame.

It is time to praise again the Breath! Breath is master of the universe, the master of all things. Breath founds the world. Breath is clamor and thunder, lightning and rain!

Breath breathes, Breath breathes in, Breath breathes out, Breath moves away, Breath moves closer!

Words also breathe, pant, keep moving away and coming closer.

And then they open up to other escapes.

Breath caresses beings, like a father his child.

Breath is the father of all that breathes and all that does not breathe.

i Rg Veda 9.86.29

ii Rg Veda 4.58.1

iii Īśāvāsya upaniṣad, 5-14

Many Names and One God

Some say that God is infinitely distant, totally incomprehensible, absolutely different from anything human minds can conceive. So much so, in fact, that this God might just as well not « exist » in the sense that we understand « existence » and its various modalities.

Others think that God creates, speaks, justifies, gratifies, condemns, punishes, saves, in short actually interacts, in various ways, with the world and with human beings.

At first glance, these two lines of thought are contradictory, incompatible.

But there is yet another hypothesis: the possibility of a God who is at once infinitely distant, incomprehensible, and at the same time close to men, speaking to them in their language.

Some texts describe forms of interaction between God and man. In the Book of Exodus, for example, God says to Moses:

« There I will meet thee, and I will speak with thee from the mercy seat between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the Testimony, and I will give thee my commandments for the children of Israel. « (Ex. 25:22)

How can we justify the use of these words: « from », « upon », « between »? Are they not, inasmuch as they indicate positions and places, rather strange for a divine Spirit, who is supposed to be disembodied?

According to Philo of Alexandriai, God thus indicates that He is « above » grace, « above » the powers symbolized by the cherubim, i.e. the power to create and the power to judge. The Divine « speaks » by occupying an intermediate place, in the middle of the ark. The Divine fills this space and leaves nothing empty. God mediates and arbitrates, placing Himself between the sides of the ark that seemed separated, bringing them friendship and harmony, community and peace.

The Ark, the Cherubim, and the Word (or Logos) must be considered together as a whole.

Philo explains: « First, there is the One who is First – even before the One, the Monad, or the Principle. Then there is the Divine Word (the Logos), which is the true seminal substance of all that exists. And from the divine Word flow as from a source, dividing, two powers. One is the power of creation, by which everything was created. It is called « God ». And there is the royal power, by which the Creator governs all things. It is called « Lord ». From these two powers flow all the others. (…) Below these powers is the Ark, which is the symbol of the intelligible world, and which symbolically contains all the things that are in the innermost sanctuary, namely, the incorporeal world, the « testimonies, » the legislative and punitive powers, the propitiatory and beneficent powers, and above them, the royal and creative power that are their sources.

But between them also appears the divine Word (the Logos), and above the Word, the Speaker. And so seven things are enumerated, namely, the intelligible world, then above it, the two powers, punitive and benevolent, then the powers that precede them, creative and royal, closer to the Creator than to what He creates. Above, the sixth, which is the Word. The seventh is the Speaker.»ii

The multiplication of the names of God, of His attributes or His « emanations », is attested to in the text of Exodus just quoted, and is confirmed by Philo’s interpretation.

The idea of a One God to whom multiple names are given (a « God myrionymous », i.e. God « with a thousand names ») was also familiar to the Stoics, as it was to the followers of the cult of Isis or to the followers of the Orphic cults. Among the Greeks, God is at the same time Zeus, the Noos, or « the one with many and diverse names », πολλαίϛ τε έτεραις όνομασιαϛ.

We also find this practice, multiplied beyond all measure, in the Veda.

For example, Agnî has been called by the following names: “God of Fire”. “Messenger of the Gods”. “Guardian of the domestic hearth”. “His mouth receives the offering”. “He purifies, provides abundance and vigour”. “Always young”. “His greatness is boundless”. “He sustains and protects man”. “He has four eyes”. “He has a thousand eyes”. “He transmits the offering to the Gods with his tongue”. “He is the Head of the sky and the umbilicus of the Earth”. “He surpasses all the Gods”. “His child is his rays”. “He had a triple birth”. “He has three abodes”. “He arranges the seasons, he is the son of the waters”. “He produces his own mothers”. “He is called the Benefactor”. “He is born by Night and Dawn in turn”. “He is the son of strength and effort”. “He is the Mortal God ». “Called Archer”. “Identified with Indra, Vishnu, Varuna, Aryaman, Tvachtri”. “His splendor is threefold”. “He knows all the hidden treasures and uncovers them for us”. “He is present everywhere”. “His friendship delights the Gods, everything animate or inanimate”. “He is in the home of the singer, priest and prophet”. “He is in heaven and on earth”. “He is invoked before all the Gods”.

Both the God of Moses and the God Agnî have one thing in common: they have many names. No matter how many, in fact. What is important is that these two Gods, who are both ‘unique’, do not have just one single name. Why is that?

Perhaps no single word, no (however sacred) language, is worthy of bearing the name of God. No spirit, either, is deemed worthy to think about God only through His (many) attributes.

iPhilo. Q.E. II, 68

iiPhilo. Q.E. II, 68

De deux choses Lune

L’autre c’est le soleil.

Lorsque, jouant avec les mots, Jacques Prévert célébra la lune ‘une’, et le soleil ‘autre’, il n’avait peut-être pas entièrement à l’esprit le fait qu’il effleurait ainsi le souvenir de l’un des mythes premiers de la Mésopotamie ancienne, et qu’il rendait (involontairement) hommage à la prééminence de la lune sur le soleil, conformément aux croyances des peuples d’Assyrie, de Babylonie, et bien avant eux, d’Akkad.

Dans les récits épiques assyriens, le Soleil, Šamaš (Shamash), nom dont la trace se lit encore dans les appellations du soleil en arabe et en hébreu, est aussi nommé rituellement ‘Fils de Sîn’. Le père de Šamaš est Sîn, le Dieu Lune. En sumérien, le Dieu Lune porte des noms plus anciens encore, Nanna ou Su’en, d’où vient d’ailleurs le nom Sîn. Le Dieu Lune est le fils du Dieu suprême, le Seigneur, le Créateur unique, le roi des mondes, dont le nom est Enlil, en sumérien,ʿĒllil ou ʿĪlue, en akkadien.

Le nom sumérien Enlil est constitué des termes ‘en’, « seigneur », et ‘líl’, «air, vent, souffle ».

Le terme líl dénote aussi l’atmosphère, l’espace entre le ciel et la terre, dans la cosmologie sumérienne.

Les plus anciennes attestations du nom Enlil écrit en cunéiforme ne se lisent pas ‘en-líl’, mais ‘en-é’, ce qui pourrait signifier littéralement « Maître de la maison ». Le nom courant du Dieu suprême en pays sémitique est Ellil, qui donnera plus tard l’hébreu El et l’arabe Ilah, et pourrait avoir été formé par un dédoublement de majesté du terme signifiant ‘dieu’ (ilu, donnant illilu) impliquant par là l’idée d’un Dieu suprême et universel, d’un Dieu des dieux. Il semble assuré que le nom originel, Enlil, est sumérien, et la forme ‘Ellil’ est une forme tardive, sémitisée par assimilation du n au l.

L’Hymne à Enlil affirme qu’il est la Divinité suprême, le Seigneur des mondes, le Juge et le Roi des dieux et des hommes.

« Tu es, ô Enlil, un seigneur, un dieu, un roi. Tu es le juge qui prend les décisions pour le ciel et la terre. Ta parole élevée est lourde comme le ciel, et il n’y a personne qui puisse la soulever. »i « Enlil ! son autorité porte loin, sa parole est sublime et sainte ! Ce qu’il décide est imprescriptible : il assigne à jamais les destinées des êtres ! Ses yeux scrutent la terre entière, et son éclat pénètre au fin fond du pays ! Lorsque le vénérable Enlil s’installe en majesté sur son trône sacré et sublime, lorsqu’il exerce à la perfection ses pouvoirs de Seigneur et de Roi, spontanément les autres dieux se prosternent devant lui et obéissent sans discuter à ses ordre ! Il est le grand et puissant souverain, qui domine le Ciel et la Terre, qui sait tout et comprend tout ! » — Hymne à Enlil, l. 1-12.ii

Un autre hymne évoque le Dieu Lune sous son nom sumérien, Nanna.

« Puis il (Marduk) fit apparaître Nanna
À qui il confia la Nuit.
Il lui assigna le Joyau nocturne
Pour définir les jours :
Chaque mois, sans interruption,
Mets-toi en marche avec ton Disque.
Au premier du mois,
Allume-toi au-dessus de la Terre ;
Puis garde tes cornes brillantes
Pour marquer les six premiers jours ;
Au septième jour,
Ton Disque devra être à moitié ;
Au quinzième, chaque mi-mois,
Mets-toi en conjonction avec Shamash (le Soleil).
Et quand Shamash, de l’horizon,
Se dirigera vers toi,
À convenance
Diminue et décrois.
Au jour de l’Obscurcissement,
Rapproche-toi de la trajectoire de Shamash,
Pour qu’au trentième, derechef,
Tu te trouves en conjonction avec lui.
En suivant ce chemin,
Définis les Présages :
Pour rendre les sentences divinatoires. »iii

Ce que nous apprennent les nombreux textes cunéiformes qui ont commencé d’être déchiffrés au 19ème siècle, c’est que les nations sémitiques de la Babylonie et d’Assyrie ont reçu de fortes influences culturelles et religieuses des anciens peuples touraniens de Chaldée, et cela plus de trois millénaires av. J.-C., et donc plus de deux millénaire avant qu’Abraham quitte la ville d’Ur (en Chaldée). Cette influence touranienne, akkadienne et chaldéenne, s’est ensuite disséminée vers le sud, la Phénicie et la Palestine, et vers l’ouest, l’Asie mineure, l’Ionie et la Grèce ancienne.

Le peuple akkadien, « né le premier à la civilisation »iv, n’était ni ‘chamitique’, ni ‘sémitique’, ni ‘aryen’, mais ‘touranien’, et venait des profondeurs de la Haute Asie, s’apparentant aux peuples tartaro-finnois et ouralo-altaïques.

La civilisation akkadienne forme donc le substrat de civilisations plus tard venues, tant celles des indo-aryens que celles des divers peuples sémitiques.

Suite aux travaux pionniers du baron d’Eckstein, on pouvait affirmer dès le 19ème siècle, ce fait capital : « Une Asie kouschite et touranienne était parvenue à un haut degré de progrès matériel et scientifique, bien avant qu’il ne fut question des Sémites et des Aryens. »v

Ces peuples disposaient déjà de l’écriture, de la numération, ils pratiquaient des cultes chamaniques et mystico-religieux, et leurs mythes fécondèrent la mythologie chaldéo-babylonienne qui leur succéda, et influença sa poésie lyrique.

Huit siècles avant notre ère, les bibliothèques de Chaldée conservaient encore des hymnes aux divinités, des incantations théurgiques, et des rites magico-religieux, traduits en assyrien à partir de l’akkadien, et dont l’origine remontait au 3ème millénaire av. J.-C. Or l’akkadien était déjà une langue morte au 18ème siècle avant notre ère. Mais Sargon d’Akkad (22ème siècle av. J.-C.), roi d’Assur, qui régnait sur la Babylonie et la Chaldée, avait ordonné la traduction des textes akkadiens en assyrien. On sait aussi que Sargon II (8ème siècle av. J.-C.) fit copier des livres pour son palais de Calach par Nabou-Zouqoub-Kinou, chef des bibliothécaires.vi Un siècle plus tard, à Ninive, Assurbanipal créa deux bibliothèques dans laquelle il fit conserver plus de 20 000 tablettes et documents en cunéiformes. Le même Assurbanipal, connu aussi en français sous le nom sulfureux de ‘Sardanapale’, transforma la religion assyrienne de son temps en l’émancipant des antiques traditions chaldéennes.

L’assyriologue français du 19ème siècle, François Lenormant, estime avoir découvert dans ces textes « un véritable Atharva Veda chaldéen »vii, ce qui n’est certes pas une comparaison anachronique, puisque les plus anciens textes du Veda remontent eux aussi au moins au 3ème millénaire av. J.-C.

Lenormant cite en exemple les formules d’un hiératique hymne au Dieu Lune, conservé au Bristish Museumviii. Le nom assyrien du Dieu Lune est Sîn, on l’a dit. En akkadien, son nom est Hour-Ki, que l’on peut traduire par : « Qui illumine (hour) la terre (ki). »ix

Il est le Dieu tutélaire d’Our (ou Ur), la plus ancienne capitale d’Akkad, la ville sacrée par excellence, fondée en 3800 ans av. J.-C., nommée Mougheir au début du 20ème siècle, et aujourd’hui Nassiriya, située au sud de l’Irak, sur la rive droite de l’Euphrate.

L’Hymne au Dieu Lune, texte surprenant, possède des accents qui rappellent certains versets de la Genèse, des Psaumes, du Livre de Job, – tout en ayant plus de deux millénaires d’antériorité sur ces textes bibliques…

« Seigneur, prince des dieux du ciel, et de la terre, dont le commandement est sublime,

Père, Dieu qui illumine la terre,

Seigneur, Dieu bonx, prince des dieux, Seigneur d’Our,

Père, Dieu qui illumine la terre, qui dans l’abaissement des puissants se dilate, prince des dieux,

Croissant périodiquement, aux cornes puissantesxi, qui distribue la justice, splendide quand il remplit son orbe,

Rejetonxii qui s’engendre de lui-même, sortant de sa demeure, propice, n’interrompant pas les gouttières par lesquelles il verse l’abondancexiii,

Très-Haut, qui engendre tout, qui par le développement de la vie exalte les demeures d’En-haut,

Père qui renouvelle les générations, qui fait circuler la vie dans tous les pays,

Seigneur Dieu, comme les cieux étendus et la vaste mer tu répands une terreur respectueuse,

Père, générateur des dieux et des hommes,

Prophète du commencement, rémunérateur, qui fixe les destinées pour des jours lointains,

Chef inébranlable qui ne garde pas de longues rancunes, (…)

De qui le flux de ses bénédictions ne se repose pas, qui ouvre le chemin aux dieux ses compagnons,

Qui, du plus profond au plus haut des cieux, pénètre brillant, qui ouvre la porte du ciel.

Père qui m’a engendré, qui produit et favorise la vie.

Seigneur, qui étend sa puissance sur le ciel et la terre, (…)

Dans le ciel, qui est sublime ? Toi. Ta Loi est sublime.

Toi ! Ta volonté dans le ciel, tu la manifestes. Les Esprits célestes s’élèvent.

Toi ! Ta volonté sur la terre, tu la manifestes. Tu fais s’y conformer les Esprits de la terre.

Toi ! Ta volonté dans la magnificence, dans l’espérance et dans l’admiration, étend largement le développement de la vie.

Toi ! Ta volonté fait exister les pactes et la justice, établissant les alliances pour les hommes.

Toi ! Dans ta volonté tu répands le bonheur parmi les cieux étendus et la vate mer, tu ne gardes rancune à personne.

Toi ! Ta volonté, qui la connaît ? Qui peut l’égaler ?

Rois des Rois, qui (…), Divinité, Dieu incomparable. »xiv

Dans un autre hymne, à propos de la déesse Anounitxv, on trouve un lyrisme de l’humilité volontaire du croyant :

« Je ne m’attache pas à ma volonté.

Je ne me glorifie pas moi-même.

Comme une fleur des eaux, jour et nuit, je me flétris.

Je suis ton serviteur, je m’attache à toi.

Le rebelle puissant, comme un simple roseau tu le ploies. »xvi

Un autre hymne s’adresse à Mardouk, Dieu suprême du panthéon sumérien et babylonien :

« Devant la grêle, qui se soustrait ?

Ta volonté est un décret sublime que tu établis dans le ciel et sur la terre.

Vers la mer je me suis tourné et la mer s’est aplanie,

Vers la plante je me suis tourné et la plante s’est flétrie ;

Vers la ceinture de l’Euphrate, je me suis tourné et la volonté de Mardouk a bouleversé son lit.

Mardouk, par mille dieux, prophète de toute gloire (…) Seigneur des batailles

Devant son froid, qui peut résister ?

Il envoie sa parole et fait fondre les glacesxvii.

Il fait souffler son vent et les eaux coulent. »xviii

De ces quelques citations, on pourra retenir que les idées des hommes ne tombent pas du ciel comme la grêle ou le froid, mais qu’elles surgissent ici ou là, indépendamment les unes des autres jusqu’à un certain point, ou bien se ressemblant étrangement selon d’autres points de vue. Les idées sont aussi comme un vent qui souffle, ou une parole qui parle, et qui fait fondre les cœurs, s’épancher les âmes.

Le Dieu suprême Enlil, Dieu des dieux, le Dieu suprême Mardouk, créateur des mondes, ou le Dieu suprême YHVH, Dieu unique régnant sur de multiples « Elohim », dont leur pluralité finira par s’identifier à son unicité, peuvent envoyer leurs paroles dans différentes parties du monde, à différentes périodes de l’histoire. L’archéologie et l’histoire enseignent la variété des traditions et la similitude des attitudes.

On en tire la leçon qu’aucun peuple n’a par essence le monopole d’une ‘révélation’ qui peut prend des formes variées, dépendant des contextes culturels et cultuels, et du génie propre de nations plus ou moins sensibles à la présence du mystère, et cela depuis des âges extrêmement reculés, il y a des centaines de milliers d’années, depuis que l’homme cultive le feu, et contemple la nuit étoilée.

Que le Dieu Enlil ait pu être une source d’inspiration pour l’intuition divine de l’hébraïque El est sans doute une question qui mérite considération.

Il est fort possible qu’Abraham, après avoir quitté Ur en Chaldée, et rencontré Melchisedech, à qui il demanda sa bénédiction, et à qui il rendit tribut, ait été tout-à-fait insensible aux influences culturelles et cultuelles de la fort ancienne civilisation chaldéenne.

Il est possible que le Dieu qui s’est présenté à Abraham, sous une forme trine, près du chêne de Mambré, ait été dans son esprit, malgré l’évidence de la trinité des anges, un Dieu absolument unique.

Mais il est aussi possible que des formes et des idées aient transité pendant des millénaires, entre cultures, et entre religions.

Il est aussi possible que le Zoroastre de l’ancienne tradition avestique ait pu influencer le Juif hellénisé et néoplatonicien, Philon d’Alexandrie, presque un millénaire plus tard.

Il est aussi possible que Philon ait trouvé toute sa philosophie du logos par lui-même, plus ou moins aidé de ses connaissances de la philosophie néo-platonicienne et des ressources de sa propre culture juive.

Tout est possible.

En l’occurrence il a même été possible à un savant orientaliste du 19ème siècle d’oser établir avec conviction le lien entre les idées de Zoroastre et celles du philosophe juif alexandrin, Philon.

« I do not hesitate to assert that, beyond all question, it was the Zarathustrian which was the source of the Philonian ideas. »xix

Il est aussi possible de remarquer des coïncidences formelles et des analogies remarquables entre le concept de ta et de vāc dans le Veda, celui d’asha, d’amesha-spenta et de vohu manah et dans l’Avesta de Zoroastre/Zarathoustra, l’idée du Logos et de νοῦς d’abord présentées par Héraclite et Anaxagore puis développées par Platon.

Le Logos est une force ‘raisonnable’ qui est immanente à la substance-matière du monde cosmique. Rien de ce qui est matériel ne pourrait subsister sans elle. Sextus Empiricus l’appelle ‘Divin Logos’.

Mais c’est dans l’Avesta, et non dans la Bible, dont l’élaboration fut initiée un millénaire plus tard, que l’on trouve la plus ancienne mention, conservée par la tradition, de l’auto-mouvement moral de l’âme, et de sa volonté de progression spirituelle « en pensée, en parole et en acte ».

Héraclite d’Éphèse vivait au confluent de l’Asie mineure et de l’Europe. Nul doute qu’il ait pu être sensible à des influences perses, et ait eu connaissance des principaux traits philosophiques du mazdéisme. Nul doute, non plus, qu’il ait pu être frappé par les idées de lutte et de conflit entre deux formidables armées antagonistes, sous l’égide de deux Esprits originels, le Bien et le Mal.

Les antithèses abondent chez Zoroastre : Ahura Mazda (Seigneur de la Sagesse) et Aṅgra Mainyu (Esprit du Mal), Asha (Vérité) et Drūj (Fausseté), Vohu Manah (Bonne Pensée) et Aka Manah (Mauvaise Pensée), Garô-dmān (ciel) et Drūjô- dmān (enfer) sont autant de dualismes qui influencèrent Anaxagore, Héraclite, Platon, Philon.

Mais il est possible enfin, qu’indo-aryens et perses, védiques et avestiques, sumériens et akkadiens, babyloniens et assyriens, juifs et phéniciens, grecs et alexandrins, ont pu contempler « le » Lune et « la » Soleil, et qu’ils ont commencé à percevoir dans les jeux sidéraux qui les mystifiaient, les premières intuitions d’une philosophie dualiste de l’opposition, ou au contraire, d’une théologie de l’unité cosmique, du divin et de l’humain.

i Hymne à Enlil, l. 139-149 . J. Bottéro, Mésopotamie, L’écriture, la raison et les dieux, Paris, 1997, p. 377-378

ii J. Bottéro, Mésopotamie, L’écriture, la raison et les dieux, Paris, 1997, p. 377-378

iiiÉpopée de la Création, traduction de J. Bottéro. In J. Bottéro et S. N. Kramer, Lorsque les Dieux faisaient l’Homme, Paris, 1989, p. 632

ivFrançois Lenormant. Les premières civilisations. Études d’histoire et d’archéologie. Ed. Maisonneuve. Paris, 1874, Tome 2, p. 147.

vFrançois Lenormant. Les premières civilisations. Études d’histoire et d’archéologie. Ed. Maisonneuve. Paris, 1874, Tome 2, p. 148.

viIbid. p.148

viiIbid. p.155

viiiRéférence K 2861

ixEn akkadien, An-hur-ki signifie « Dieu qui illumine la terre, ce qui se traduit en assyrien par nannur (le « Dieu lumineux »). Cf. F. Lenormant, op.cit. p. 164

xL’expression « Dieu bon » s’écrit avec des signes qui servent aussi à écrire le nom du Dieu Assur.

xiAllusion aux croissants de la lune montante et descendante.

xiiLe mot original porte le sens de « fruit »

xiiiOn retrouve une formule comparable dans Job 38,25-27 : « Qui a creusé des rigoles à l’averse, une route à l’éclair sonore, pour arroser des régions inhabitées, le désert où il n’y a pas d’hommes, pour abreuver les terres incultes et sauvages et faire pousser l’herbe nouvelle des prairies? »

xivFrançois Lenormant. Les premières civilisations. Études d’histoire et d’archéologie. Ed. Maisonneuve. Paris, 1874, Tome 2, p. 168

xvTablette conservée au British Museum, référence K 4608

xviFrançois Lenormant. Les premières civilisations. Études d’histoire et d’archéologie. Ed. Maisonneuve. Paris, 1874, Tome 2, p. 159-162

xvii Deux mille ans plus tard, le Psalmiste a écrit ces versets d’une ressemblance troublante avec l’original akkadien:

« Il lance des glaçons par morceaux: qui peut tenir devant ses frimas? 

 Il émet un ordre, et le dégel s’opère; il fait souffler le vent: les eaux reprennent leur cours. »  (Ps 147, 17-18)

xviii Tablette du British Museum K 3132. Trad. François Lenormant. Les premières civilisations. Études d’histoire et d’archéologie. Ed. Maisonneuve. Paris, 1874, Tome 2, p. 168

xix« Je n’hésite pas à affirmer que, au-delà de tout doute, ce sont les idées zarathoustriennes qui ont été la source des idées philoniennes. » Lawrence H. Mills. Zoroaster, Philo, the Achaemenids and Israel. The Open Court Publishing. Chicago, 1906, p. 84.

xxIgnaz Goldziher. Mythology among the Hebrews. Trad. Russell Martineau (de l’allemand vers l’anglais). Ed. Longmans, Green and co. London, 1877, p. 28

xxiCf. SB XI.5.6.4

xxiiIbid., p. 29

xxiiiIbid., p. 35

xxivIbid., p. 37-38

xxvIbid., p. 54

Noire métaphysique du ‘blanc mulet’ – (ou: du brahman et de la māyā)


Un ‘blanc mulet’ (śvata aśvatara) a donné son nom à la ŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad. Pourquoi ? Son auteur, Śvetāśvatara, était-il amateur de beauté équine, ou de promenades équestres? Siddheswar Varmai et Gambhīrānanda préfèrent comprendre ce nom comme une métaphore signifiant ‘celui dont les organes des sens sont purs’ (‘One whose organs of sense are very pure’)ii.

Il fallait sans doute une réelle pureté de sens (et d’intelligence), en effet, pour s’attaquer aux questions que traite cette Upaniṣad :

« Le brahman est-il la causeiii ? D’où sommes-nous nés ? Par quoi vivons-nous ? Sur quoi prenons-nous appui ? »iv

La réponse à toutes ces questions se trouve dans l’Un.

L’Un, – c’est-à-dire le brahman, se manifeste dans le monde par ses attributs et ses pouvoirs (guṇa), auxquels on a donné des noms divins (Brahmā, Viṣṇu et Śiva). Ces trois noms symbolisent respectivement la Conscience (sattva, la pureté, la vérité, l’intelligence), la Passion (rájas, la force, le désir, l’action) et la Ténèbre (támas, l’obscurité, l’ignorance, l’inertie, ou la limitation).

La ‘grande roue du brahmanv donne la vie au Tout, dans le flux sans fin des renaissances (saṃsāra).

L’âme individuelle erre ici et là’ dans le grand Tout, comme une ‘oie sauvage’ (haṃsa)vi. En quête de délivrance, cette volaille à la dérive s’égare lorsqu’elle vole séparée du Soi. Mais lorsqu’elle s’y attache, lorsqu’elle en goûte la ‘joie’, elle atteint l’immortalité.

Le Tout est un grand mélange, de mortels et d’immortels, de réalités et d’apparences. L’oie qui vole libre en lui, sans savoir où elle va, est en réalité liée, garrottée. Elle se croit sujet conscient, mais n’est qu’un simple soi, sourd et aveugle, ignorant la joie, le Soi du brahman.

Pour se mettre sur sa voie, elle doit trouver en elle une image trinitaire de l’Un, une triade intérieure, composée de son âme (jīva), de son seigneur personnel (Īśvara) et de sa nature (prakṛti). Cette triade est à la fois trine’ et ‘une’, ce qui est aussi une image familière au christianisme, – apparue sous la plume de Jean, plus de deux mille ans après le Véda.

Cette âme trine n’est pas simplement une image, elle est déjà brahman, elle est dans le brahman, elle est avec le brahman. L’Un.

L’Un gouverne le Tout, le périssable, l’impérissable et le Soi. C’est en méditant sur l’Un, et s’unissant à lui, que le soi peut se délivrer de la ‘puissance de la mesure’ qui règne sur le monde, – la fameuse māyā.

La māyā signifie originairement et étymologiquement la ‘toute-puissance divine’, – une puissance de création, de connaissance, d’intelligence, de sagesse.

Lacception de māyā comme ‘illusion’ n’est que dérivée. Elle prend ce sens (paradoxalement) antonyme de ‘tromperie’, d’‘apparence’, lorsque le soi ne reconnaît pas la présence de la puissance. Quand la connaissance, l’intelligence et la sagesse sont absentes, l’illusion prend leur place et occupe tout le terrain.

Ainsi māyā peut se comprendre (véritablement) comme puissance, mesure et sagesse, lorsqu’on la voit à l’œuvre, ou bien (faussement) comme illusion, lorsqu’on lui est aveugle.

Ce n’est pas la māyā en tant que telle qui est ‘illusion’. L’illusion ne vient, à propos du monde, que lorsque la puissance créatrice de la māyā n’est pas reconnue comme telle, mais qu’on se laisse prendre par le résultat de son opération.

Par sa nature duelle, par sa puissance d’occultation et de manifestation, la māyā cache mais aussi révèle le principe divin, le brahman qui en est le maître et la source.

Connaître l’essence de la māyā, c’est connaître ce principe, – le brahman. Pour y atteindre, il faut se délier de tous liens, sortir de la voie de la naissance et de la mort, pour s’unir au Seigneur suprême et secret, accomplir Son désir, et demeurer dans le Soi (Ātman).

La māyā est comparée à un filetvii. Elle enveloppe tout. On ne lui échappe pas. Elle est la puissance cosmique du Seigneur, en acte dans le Tout. Elle est le Tout.

Pour lui échapper enfin, il faut la voir à l’œuvre, la comprendre dans son essence, s’en faire une compagne.

Double face, donc, dualité de la vérité et de l’illusion. C’est par la māyā que l’on peut connaître māyā, et son créateur, le brahman.

C’est pourquoi il est dit qu’il y a deux sortes de māyā, l’une qui conduit au divin (vidhyā-māyā) et l’autre qui en éloigne (avidhyā-māyā).

Toute chose, même le nom du brahman, est doublement māyā, à la fois illusion et sagesse.

« C’est uniquement grâce à māyā que l’on peut conquérir la suprême Sagesse, la béatitude. Comment aurions-nous pu imaginer ces choses sans māyā ? D’elle seule viennent la dualité et la relativité. »viii

On a aussi comparé la māyā aux couleurs innombrables que produit l’Un qui Lui, est « sans couleur », comme la lumière se diffracte dans l’arc-en-ciel.

« L’Un, le sans couleur, par la voie de son pouvoir produit de multiples couleurs dans un but caché. »ix

La nature témoigne, avec le bleu, le vert, le jaune, l’éclat de l’éclair, la couleur des saisons ou des océans. Le rouge, le blanc, le noir, sont la couleur du feu, de l’eau, de la terrex.

« Tu es l’abeille bleu-nuit, [l’oiseau] vert aux yeux jaunes, [les nuages] porteurs d’éclairs, les saisons, les mers. »xi

Pour voir la māyā il faut la considérer à la fois sous ses deux aspects, indissociables.

Un jour Nārada dit au Seigneur de l’univers : « Seigneur, montre-moi Ta māyā, qui rend possible l’impossible ».

Le Seigneur accepta et lui demanda d’aller lui chercher de l’eau. Parti vers la rivière, il rencontra une ravissante jeune fille près du rivage et oublia alors tout de sa quête. Il tomba amoureux, et perdit la notion du temps. Et il passa sa vie dans un rêve, dans ‘l’illusion’, sans se rendre compte qu’il avait devant les yeux ce qu’il avait demandé au Seigneur de ‘voir’. Il voyait la māyā à l’œuvre, mais sans le savoir, sans en être conscient. Seulement à la fin de ses jours, peut-être se réveilla-t-il de son rêve.

Appeler māyā « l’illusion », c’est ne voir que le voile, et non ce que ce voile recouvre.

Une tout autre ligne de compréhension du sens de māyā se dessine lorsqu’on choisit de lui rendre son sens originaire, étymologique, de « puissance () de la mesure (mā)».

Tout est māyā, le monde, le temps, la sagesse, le rêve, l’action et le sacrifice. Le divin est aussi māyā, dans son essence, dans sa puissance, dans sa ‘mesure’.

« Le hymnes, les sacrifices, les rites, les observances, le passé et le futur, et ce que les Veda proclament – hors de lui, le maître de la mesure a créé ce Tout, et en lui, l’autre est enfermé par cette puissance de mesure (māyā). Qu’on sache que la nature primordiale est puissance de mesure (māyā), que le Grand Seigneur est maître de la mesure (māyin). Tout ce monde est ainsi pénétré par les êtres qui forment ses membres.»xii

Ces deux versets essentiels de la ŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad (4.9 et 4.10) se lisent, en sanskrit :

On reconnaîtra les mots importants :

माया māyā, «la puissance de la mesure » ou « l’illusion »,

महेश्वरम् maheśvaram, « le Grand Seigneur »,

मायिनं māyin, « le maître de la mesure » ou « de l’illusion »,

प्रकृति prakṛti, « la nature matérielle ou primordiale ».

Il y a une réelle différence d’interprétation entre les traducteurs qui donnent à māyā le sens de « puissance de la mesure », comme on vient de voir chez Alyette Degrâces, et ceux qui lui donnent le sens d’ « illusion », ainsi que le fait Michel Hulin :

« Comprends la nature matérielle (प्रकृति prakṛti) comme illusion (माया māyā) et le Grand Seigneur (महेश्वरम् maheśvaram) comme illusionniste (मायिनं māyin). »xiii

Le célèbre sanskritiste Max Müller a choisi de ne pas traduire māyā, proposant seulement entre parenthèses le mot ‘Art’, ce qui donne:

« That from which the maker (māyin) sends forth all this – the sacred verses, the offerings, the sacrifice, the panaceas, the past, the future, and all that the Vedas declare – in that the other is bound up through that māyā.

Know then Prakṛti (nature) is Māyā (Art), and the great Lord the Māyin (maker) ; the whole world is filled with what are his members. »xiv

En note, Müller commente :

« Il est impossible de trouver des termes correspondant à māyā et māyin. Māyā signifie ‘fabrication’ ou ‘art’, mais comme toute fabrication ou création est seulement phénomène ou illusion, pour autant que le Soi Suprême est concerné, māyā porte aussi le sens d’illusion. De manière semblable, māyin est le fabricateur, l’artiste, mais aussi le magicien, le jongleur. Ce qui semble être signifié par ce verset, est que tout, tout ce qui existe ou semble exister, procède de l’akara [l’immortel], qui correspond au brahman, mais que le créateur effectif, ou l’auteur de toutes les émanations est Īśa, le Seigneur, qui, comme créateur, agit par la māyā ou devātmaśakti. Il est possible, par ailleurs que anya, ‘l’autre’, soit employé pour signifier le puruṣa individuel. »xv

A la suite de Max Müller, Alyette Degrâces refuse catégoriquement d’employer les mots ‘illusion’ et ‘illusionniste’. A propos du mot māyin elle explique, s’inspirant manifestement de la position du sanskritiste allemand :

« Ce terme est impossible à traduire, et surtout pas comme ‘illusionniste’ ainsi qu’on le trouve dans beaucoup de traductions (mais pas Max Müller ni les traducteurs indiens). La māyā, d’une racine MĀ « mesurer », signifie « une puissance de mesure », où la mesure désigne la connaissance. Si la mesure est mauvaise, on parlera alors d’illusion, mais pas avant. Brahman est ici māyin « maître de la mesure, de cette puissance de mesure », par laquelle le monde se manifeste. Lorsque le brahman prend un aspect relatif et qu’il crée le monde, le maintient ou le résorbe, il est défini par des attributs, il est dit saguṇa, aparaṃ brahman ou le maître de la mesure (māyin) par lequel le monde est déployé et par rapport auquel l’être humain doit actualiser son pouvoir de mesure pour ne pas surimposer ni confondre les deux niveaux du brahman, dont l’un est le support de tout. »xvi

Aparaṃ brahman, c’est le brahman « inférieur », non-suprême, doué de « qualités », de « vertus » (saguṇa). Il est le brahman créateur de l’Univers et il se distingue du brahman suprême, qui est quant à lui, sans nom, sans qualité, sans désir.

En consultant le dictionnaire de Monier-Williams au mot māyā, on voit que les sens les plus anciens du mot n’ont en effet rien à voir avec la notion d’illusion, mais renvoient vers les sens de « sagesse », de « pouvoir surnaturel ou extraordinaire ». C’est seulement dans le Ṛg Veda, donc plus tardivement, qu’apparaissent les notions que Monier-Williams énumère ainsi : « Illusion, unreality, deception, fraud, trick, sorcery, witchcraft, magic. An unreal or illusory image, phantom, apparition. »

Ces dernières acceptions sont toutes franchement péjoratives, et contrastent nettement avec les sens originels du mot, « sagesse », « pouvoir », s’appuyant sur l’étymologie de « mesure » (MĀ-).

On peut considérer qu’il y eut avant l’âge du Ṛg Veda, déjà lui-même fort ancien (plus d’un millénaire avant Abraham, Isaac et Jacob), un renversement presque complet du sens du mot māyā, passant de « sagesse » à « tromperie, fraude, illusion ».

Ces considérations peuvent nous mettre en mesure, si je puis dire, de tenter de répondre à la question initiale du « pourquoi ? » de la Création.

Pourquoi le brahman paraṃ’ , ‘cause’ suprême, a-t-il délégué le soin au brahman aparaṃ’ le soin de créer un univers si plein de maux et d’illusions ?

La raison est que māyā, originairement, représente non une illusion mais sa « Sagesse » et sa « Puissance ».

Le brahman est le maître de Māyā, Sagesse, Puissance, Mesure.

Et toute la Création, – le Tout, a aussi vocation à s’approprier cette Māyā.

Un millénaire plus tard, les Écritures (hébraïques) reprirent l’idée.

D’abord, elles mirent la sagesse au fondement et à l’origine du Tout.

« Mais avant toute chose fut créée la sagesse. »xvii

Avant le Siracide, les Upaniṣad avaient aussi décrit cette création primordiale, avant que rien ne fût :

« De lui est créée l’ancienne sagesse. »xviii

« Ce Dieu qui se manifeste pas sa propre intelligence – en lui, moi qui désire la délivrance, je prends refuge. »xix

Ensuite, les Écritures mirent en scène une sorte de délégation de pouvoir comparable à celle que l’on vient de voir entre le paraṃ brahman (le suprême brahman) et l’aparaṃ brahman (le non-suprême brahman).

Dans les Écritures, YHVH joue un rôle analogue à celui du brahman et délègue à la Sagesse (ḥokhmah) le soin de fonder la terre :

« YHVH, par la sagesse, a fondé la terre. »xx

Enfin il est intéressant de noter que le prophète (Job) ne dédaigne pas de contempler la Sagesse (divine) à l’œuvre, immanente, dans toutes les créatures.

« Qui a mis dans l’ibis la sagesse ? »xxi

Job avait compris l’essence de Māyā, en la distinguant même sous le couvert d’un volatile des marécages, au plumage blanc et noir. Ce n’était certes pas une ‘oie sauvage’, mais l’ibis pouvait lui être avantageusement comparé sur les bords du Nil (ou du Jourdain).

En citant l’Ibis comme image de la sagesse, Job n’ignorait pas que cet oiseau était le symbole du Dieu égyptien Thôt, Dieu de la Sagesse.

Non effrayé de reprendre des éléments culturels appartenant aux goyim égyptiens, Job préfigurait avec grâce le génie de l’anthropologie comparée du divin, sous toutes ses formes…

Puisqu’on en est à parler de syncrétisme, Thôt est une étrange préfiguration égyptienne du Verbe Créateur, dont un texte trouvé à Edfou relate la naissance et annonce la mission : « Au sein de l’océan primordial apparut la terre émergée. Sur celle-ci, les Huit vinrent à l’existence. Ils firent apparaître un lotus d’où sortit , assimilé à Shou. Puis il vint un bouton de lotus d’où émergea une naine, une femme nécessaire, que Rê vit et désira. De leur union naquit Thôt qui créa le monde par le Verbe. »xxii

Après ce court détour par la ḥokhmah des Écritures, et par l’Ibis et le Dieu Thôt, figures de la sagesse dans l’Égypte ancienne, revenons à la sagesse védique, et à sa curieuse et paradoxale alliance avec la notion d’ignorance, , en brahman même.

Dans le Véda, c’est laparaṃ brahman qui crée la Sagesse. En revanche, dans le paraṃ brahman, dans le brahman suprême, il y a non seulement la Connaissance, il y a aussi l’Ignorance.

« Dans l’impérissable (akṣara), dans le suprême brahmanxxiii, infini, où les deux, la connaissance et l’ignorance, se tiennent cachées, l’ignorance est périssablexxiv, tandis que la connaissance est immortellexxv. Et celui qui règne sur les deux, connaissance et ignorance, est autre. »xxvi

Comment se fait-il qu’au sein du brahman suprême puisse se tenir cachée de l’ignorance’ ?

De plus, comment pourrait-il y avoir quelque chose de ‘périssable’ au sein même de ‘l’impérissable’ (akṣara), au sein de l’immortel,?

Si l’on tient à respecter la lettre et l’esprit du Véda (révélé), il faut se résoudre à imaginer que même le brahman n’est pas et ne peut pas être ‘omniscient’.

Et aussi qu’il y a en lui, l’Éternel, quelque chose de ‘périssable’.

Contradiction ?

Comment l’expliquer ?

Voici comment je vois les choses.

Le brahman ne connaît pas encore ‘actuellement’ l’infinité infinie dont Il est porteur ‘en puissance’.

Imaginons que le brahman soit symbolisé par une infinité de points, chacun d’eux étant chargés d’une nouvelle infinité de points, eux-mêmes en puissance de potentialités infinies, et ainsi de suite, répétons ces récurrences infiniment. Et imaginons que cette infinité à la puissance infiniment répétée de puissances infinies est de plus non pas simplement arithmétique ou géométrique (des ‘points’), mais qu’elle est bien vivante, chaque ‘point’ étant en fait une ‘âme’, se développant sans cesse d’une vie propre.

Si l’on comprend la portée de cette image, on pourra alors peut-être concevoir que le brahman, quoique se connaissant lui-même en puissance, ne se connaît pas absolument ‘en acte’.

Sa puissance, sa Māyā, est si ‘infiniment infinie’ que même sa connaissance, certes déjà infinie, n’a pas encore pu faire le tour de tout ce qu’il y a encore à connaître, parce que tout ce qui est encore à être et à devenir n’existe tout simplement pas, et dort encore dans le non-savoir, et dans l’ignorance de ce qui est encore à naître, un jour, possiblement.

La sagesse, ‘infiniment infinie’, du brahman, n’a donc pas encore pu prendre toute la mesure de la hauteur, de la profondeur et de la largeur de la sagesse à laquelle le brahman peut atteindre.

Il y a des infinis qui dépassent l’infiniment infini même.

On pourrait appeler ces sortes d’infinis infiniment infinis, des « transfinis », pour reprendre un mot inventé par Georg Cantor. Conscient des implications théologiques de ses travaux en mathématiques, Cantor avait même comparé à Dieu l’« infini absolu », l’infini d’une classe comme celle de tous les cardinaux ou de tous les ordinauxxxvii.

Identifier un ensemble transfini de transfinis au brahman ne devrait donc pas être trop inconcevable a priori.

Mais c’est la conséquence de l’interprétation métaphysique de ces empilements d’entités transfinies qui est potentiellement la plus polémique.

Elle nous invite à considérer l’existence d’une sorte d’ignorance ‘en acteau cœur du brahman.

Un autre verset accumule les indices en ce sens.

On y parle du brahman, ‘bienveillant’, qui ‘fait la non existence’.

« Connu par le mental, appelé incorporel, lui le bienveillant qui fait l’existence et la non-existence, lui le Dieu qui fait la création avec ses parties – ceux qui le connaissent ont laissé leur corps. »xxviii

Comment un Dieu suprême et bienveillant peut-il ‘faire’ du ‘non-existant’ ?

On peut comprendre que ce que ce Dieu fait ne se fait que parce qu’il s’ampute de certaines ‘parties’ de Lui-même.

C’est avec ce sacrifice, ce départ du divin d’avec le divin, que peuvent advenir à l’existence ce qui serait demeuré dans la non-existence.

Autre manière de comprendre : c’est parce que le Dieu consent à une certaine forme de non-existence, en Lui, que de l’existant peut venir à l’existence.

Il n’est pas inutile de comparer la version de A. Degrâces avec la traduction de Max Müller, qui apporte une clarté supplémentaire sur ces lignes obscures.

« Those who know him who is to be grasped by the mind, who is not to be called the nest (the body), who makes existence and non-existence, the happy one (Śiva), who also creates the elements, they have left the body. »xxix

Traduction de la traduction :

Ceux qui le connaissent, lui qui doit être saisi par l’esprit, lui qui ne doit pas être appelé le nid (le corps), lui qui fait l’existence et la non-existence, cet heureux (Śiva), lui qui crée aussi les éléments, ceux-là ont quitté leur corps.’

The nest, the body’. Le mot sanskrit vient du verbe: nīdhā, नीधा, « déposer, poser, placer ; cacher, confier à ». D’où les idées de ‘nid’, de ‘cachette’, de ‘trésor’, implicitement associées à celle de ‘corps’.

Cependant, Müller note que Śaṅkara préfère lire ici le mot anilākhyam, ‘ce qui est appelé le vent’, ce qui est prāṇasya prāṇa, le ‘souffle du souffle’.

L’image est belle : c’est par le souffle, qui vient puis qui quitte le corps, que se continue la vie.

Who also creates the elements.‘Lui qui crée les éléments’, kalāsargakaram. Müller mentionne plusieurs interprétations possibles de cette expression.

Celle de Śaṅkara, qui comprend :’Lui qui crée les seize kalās mentionnés par les Âtharvaikas, commençant avec le souffle (prāṇa) et se terminant avec le nom (nāman).La liste de ces kalās est, selon Śaṅkarānanda : prāṇa,śraddhā, kha, vāyu, jyotih, ap, pṛthivī, indriya, manaḥ, anna, vīrya, tapah, mantra, karman, kalā, nāman.

Vigñānātman suggère deux autres explications, ‘Lui qui crée par le moyen du kalā, [sa puissance propre]’, ou encore ‘Lui qui crée les Védas et les autres sciences’.

L’idée générale est que pour ‘connaître’ l’Immortel, le brahman, le Bienveillant, le créateur de l’existence et de la non-existence, il faut quitter le ‘nid’.

Il faut partir en exil.

Il y a la même idée chez Abraham et Moïse.

La dernière partie de la ŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad évoque le ‘Seigneur suprême des seigneurs’, la ‘Divinité suprême des divinités’, expressions qui sont, formellement du moins, analogues aux noms YHVH Elohim et YHVH Tsabaoth, – apparus dans la conscience des Hébreux plus de mille ans après l’idée védique.

« Lui, le Seigneur suprême des seigneurs, lui la Divinité suprême des divinités, le Maître suprême des maîtres, lui qui est au-delà, trouvons-le comme le Dieu, le Seigneur du monde qui est à louer. »xxx

A nouveau, proposons la version de Max Müller :

« Let us know that highest great Lord of lords, the highest deity of deities, the master of masters, the highest above, as God, the Lord of the world, the adorable. »xxxi

Le premier hémistiche se lit:

तमीश्वराणां परमं महेश्वरं

Tam īśvarāṇām paramam Maheśvaram.

Lui, des seigneurs, – le suprême Seigneur ’.

Qui sont les ‘seigneurs’ (īśvarāṇām)? Śaṅkara, dans son commentaire, cite la Mort, le fils du Soleil et d’autres encore (Cf. SUb 6.7).

Et surtout, qui est ce ‘Lui’ (tam) ?

Une série de qualifiants est énumérée :

Lui, le Dieu suprême des dieux (devatānām paramam Daivatam).

Lui, le Maître (patīnām) des maîtres, le Maître des Prajāpatis, – qui sont au nombre de dix : Marīci, Atri, Aṅgiras, Pulastya, Pulaka, Kratu, Vasiṣṭa, Pracetas, Bhṛgu, Nārata.

Lui, qui est ‘Plus-Haut’ (paramam) ‘que le Haut’ (parastāt)

Lui, qui est ‘Plus-Haut’ que la Sagesse (la Māyā)

Lui, qui est le Seigneur des mondes (bhuvaneśam)

Lui, qui est digne d’adoration (īdyam)

Et la litanie continue :

Lui, il est la Cause (saḥ kāraṇam)xxxii.

Lui, le Dieu Un (ekaḥ devaḥ), caché (gūḍhaḥ) dans tous les êtres (sarva-bhūteṣu), le Tout-pénétrant (sarva-vyāpī), il est le soi intérieur de tous les êtres(sarva-bhūta-antarātmā), il est le Veilleur de tous les actes (karma-adhyakṣaḥ), il réside en tous les êtres (sarva-bhūta-adhivāsa), il est le Témoin ou le Voyant (en anglais Seer, et en sanskrit sākṣī), le Connaisseur, celui qui donne l’intelligence (cetā), l’unique Absolu (kevalaḥ), celui qui est au-delà des qualités (nirguṇa).xxxiii

Lui : « Il est l’Éternel parmi les éternels, l’Intelligent parmi les intelligents, l’Un qui accomplit les désirs de beaucoup ».xxxiv

A nouveau, il faut se tourner vers Max Müller, pour déceler ici un autre niveau de sens, qui mérite l’approfondissement.

Müller écrit en effet en note : « I have formerly translated this verse, according to the reading nityo ’nityānām cetanaś cetanānām, the eternal thinker of non-eternalxxxv thoughts. This would be a true description of the Highest Self, who, though himself eternal and passive, has to think (jivātman) non-eternal thoughts. I took the first cetanah in the sens of cettā, the second in the sense of cetanamxxxvi. The commentators, however, take a different, and it may be, from their point, a more correct view. Śaṅkara says : ‘He is the eternal of the eternals, i.e. as he possesses eternity among living souls (jīvas), these living souls also may claim eternity. Or the eternals may be meant for earth, water, &c. And in the same way, he is the thinker among thinkers.’

Śaṅkarānanda says: ‘He is eternal, imperishable, among eternal, imperishable things, such as the ether, &c. He is thinking among thinkers.’

Vigñānātman says : ‘The Highest Lord is the cause of eternity in eternal things on earth, and the cause of thought in the thinkers on earth.’ But he allows another construction, namely, that he is the eternal thinker of those who on earth are endowed with eternity and thought. In the end all these interpretations come to the same, viz. that there is only one eternal, and only one thinker, from whom all that is (or seems to be) eternal and all that is thought on earth is derived. »xxxvii

On lit dans le commentaire de Śaṅkara de ce même verset, traduit par Gambhirananda : « nitya, ‘the eternal’, nityānām, among the eternal, among the individual souls’ – the idea being that the eternality of these is derived from His eternality ; so also, cetana, the consciousness, cetanānām, among the conscious, the knowers. (…) How is the consciousness of the conscious ?»xxxviii

A cette dernière question, ‘Comment est la conscience du conscient ?’, Śaṅkara répond par la strophe suivante de l’Upaniṣad:

« There the sun does not shine, neither do the moon and the stars ; nor do these flashes of lightning shine. How can this fire ? He shining, all these shine ; through His lustre all these are variously illumined. »xxxix

« Là ni le soleil brille, ni la lune ni les étoiles, ni les éclairs ne brillent, encore moins ce feu. A sa suite, quand il brille, tout brille, par la lumière ce Tout est éclairé. »xl

Le sens en est que le brahman est la lumière qui illumine toutes les autres lumières. Leur brillance a pour cause la lumière intérieure de la conscience du Soi qu’est le brahman, selon Śaṅkaraxli .

Le brahman illumine et brille à travers toutes les sortes de lumières qui se manifestent dans le monde. D’elles on induit que la ‘conscience du conscient’, la conscience du brahman est en essence ‘fulguration’, le Soi ‘effulgent’.

Max Müller avait initialement décidé de traduire le verset SU 6.13 en le lisant littéralement : nityo ’nityānām cetanaś cetanānām, ce qu’il comprend ainsi : ‘le penseur éternel de pensées non-éternelles’.

Idée paradoxale, ouvrant d’un coup, immensément, la réflexion métaphysique sur la nature même de la pensée et sur celle de l’éternité…

Cependant, vu l’accord presque unanime des divers commentateurs historiques qu’il cite a contrario de sa propre intuition, Müller semble renoncer, non sans un certain regret, à cette stimulante traduction, et il traduit finalement, en reprenant la version de Śaṅkarānanda :

« He is the eternal among the eternals, the thinker among thinkers, who, though one, fulfils the desire of many. »xlii

Il est l’Éternel entre les éternels, le Penseur parmi les penseurs, Lui, qui quoique Un, accomplit les désirs de beaucoup.’

Dommage. Il y a beaucoup à creuser dans l’idée d’un ‘penseur éternel’ qui penserait des ‘pensées non-éternelles’.

L’implication littéralement sidérante de cette idée est que des pensées non-éternelles de l’Éternel seraient constitutives de l’existence du temps lui-même (par nature non-éternel). Elles seraient aussi, de plus, la condition de la possibilité d’existence des créations (non-éternelles).

Ces pensées et ces créations ‘non-éternelles’, seraient intrinsèquement en croissance, métamorphiques, évolutives, en gésine, en puissance.

Peut-être serait-ce là aussi le début de intuition d’une métaphysique de la pitié et de la merci, une reconnaissance de la grâce que le Dieu pourrait éprouver pour sa Création, considérant sa faiblesse, sa chute et son éventuelle rédemption ?

Autrement dit, le fait même que le Dieu, le brahman, pourrait avoir des pensées non-éternelles serait la condition nécessaire pour que, par sa grâce, par son renoncement à l’absoluité et à l’éternité de ses jugements a priori, les créatures non-éternelles soient admises à passer de la non-éternité à l’éternité.

Car si les pensées du brahman devaient être éternelles par nature, alors plus moyen de changer un monde clos, prédéterminé de toute éternité, et conséquemment manquant tout-à-fait de sens, – et de miséricorde.

On a peut-être une indication permettant de soutenir cette vue, lorsqu’on lit :

« Lui, qui d’abord créa Brahmā, qui en vérité lui présenta les Veda, ce Dieu qui se manifeste lui-même par sa propre intelligencexliii – en Lui, moi qui désire la délivrance, je cherche refuge. »xliv

Ce Dieu qui se manifeste lui-même par sa propre intelligence’.

Śaṅkara donne plusieurs autres interprétations du texte original.

Les uns lisent ici en sanskrit ātma-buddhi-prasādam, ‘celui qui rend favorable la connaissance du Soi’. Car, lorsque le Seigneur suprême en fait parfois la grâce, l’intelligence de la créature acquiert un savoir valide à Son sujet, se libère alors de son existence relative, puis continue de s’identifier avec le brahman.

D’autres lisent ici ātma-buddhi-prakāśam, ‘celui qui révèle la connaissance du Soi’.

Autre interprétation encore: ātmā (le Soi) est Lui-même le buddhi (la Sagesse, la Connaissance). Celui qui se révèle Lui-même en tant que connaissance du Soi est ātma-buddhi-prakāśam.xlv

En Lui, désireux de délivrance (mumukṣuḥ) je cherche (prapadye) refuge (śaraam)’ : n’est-ce pas là l’intuition védique, avérée, de la miséricorde du brahman envers sa créature ?

On le voit, le Véda était pénétré de la puissance explosive de plusieurs directions de recherche sur la nature du brahman. Mais l’histoire montre que le développement explicite de ces recherches vers l’idée de ‘miséricorde divine’ devait faire plus spécifiquement partie de l’apport subséquent d’autres religions, qui restaient encore à venir, comme la juive, la bouddhiste et la chrétienne.

En les attendant, le Véda affirme déjà en grand éclaireur, en témoin premier, son génie propre : le brahman, Lui, il est ‘l’oie sauvage’, il est le Soi, il est ‘le feu entré dans l’océan’, il est la ‘matrice’ et le ‘tout-pénétrant’.

« Il est Lui, l’oie sauvage, l’Une au milieu de cet univers. Il est en vérité le feu qui est entré dans l’océan. Et seulement quand on Le connaît, on dépasse la mort. Il n’y a pas d’autre chemin pour y aller. »xlvi

Il est Lui, l’oie sauvage, l’Une au milieu de cet univers’. On a déjà rencontré au début de l’Upaniṣad l’image de ‘l’oie sauvage’ (haṃsa)xlvii, qui s’appliquait à l’âme individuelle, errant ici et là’ dans le grand Tout. Désormais cette oie est plus que l’âme, plus que le Tout, elle est le brahman même.

Et seulement quand on Le connaît, on dépasse la mort. Il n’y a pas d’autre chemin pour y aller.Śaṅkara décompose chaque mot du verset, qui révèle alors son rythme 3-3 4-3 4 4-3 :

Viditvā, en connaissant ; tam eva, Lui seul ; atiyety, on va au-delà ; mṛtyum, de la mort ; na vidyate, il n’y a pas ; anyapanthāḥ, d’autre chemin ; ayanā, par où aller.xlviii

Les images de la ‘matrice’ et du ‘Tout-pénétrant’ apparaissent dans les deux strophes suivantes (SU 6.16 et 6.17) :

« Il est le créateur de Tout, le connaisseur de Tout, il est le Soi et la matrice, le connaisseur, le créateur du temps.»xlix

Il est le Soi et la matrice’, ātma-yoniḥ. Śaṅkara propose trois interprétations de cette curieuse expression : Il est sa propre cause – Il est le Soi et la matrice (yoni) – Il est la matrice (la source), de toutes choses.

Si le brahman est yoni, il est aussi le Tout-pénétrant.

« Lui qui devient cela [lumière]l, immortel, établi comme le Seigneur, le connaisseur, le tout-pénétrant, le protecteur de cet univers, c’est Lui qui gouverne à jamais ce monde. Il n’y a pas d’autre cause à la souveraineté. »li

Au début et à la fin de l’Upaniṣad du ‘blanc mulet’, on trouve donc répétée cette image, blanche et noire, de loie – du Soi – volant dans le ciel.

L’oie vole dans un ciel qui voile.

Que voile ce ciel? – La fin de la souffrance.

C’est ce que dit l’un des versets finaux :

« Quand les hommes auront enroulé le ciel comme une peau, alors seulement prendra fin la souffrance, au cas Dieu n’aurait pas été reconnu. »lii

Quand les hommes auront enroulé le ciel.’

Plus loin vers l’Occident, à peu près au même moment, le prophète Isaïe usa d’une métaphore analogue à celle choisie par Śvetāśvatara :

« Les cieux s’enroulent comme un livre »liii.  

וְנָגֹלּוּ כַסֵּפֶר הַשָּׁמָיִם Vé-nagollou khasfèr ha-chamaïm.

Il y a en effet un point commun entre ces deux intuitions, la védique et la juive.

De façon parfaitement non orthodoxe, je vais utiliser l’hébreu pour expliquer le sanskrit, et réciproquement.

Pour dire ‘enrouler’ les cieux, l’hébreu emploie comme métaphore le verbe גָּלָה galah, « se découvrir, apparaître ; émigrer, être exilé ; et au niphal, être découvert, à nu, se manifester, se révéler ».

Lorsqu’on ‘enroule’ les cieux, alors Dieu peut ‘se manifester, se révéler’. Ou au contraire, Il peut ‘s’exiler, s’éloigner’.

Ambiguïté et double sens du mot, qui se lit dans cet autre verset d’Isaïe : « Le temps (dor) [de ma vie] est rompu et s’éloigne de moi ».liv

L’homme juif enroule les rouleaux du livre de la Torah, quand il en a terminé la lecture.

L’homme védique enroule les rouleaux du ciel quand il a fini sa vie de vol et d’errance. C’est-à-dire qu’il enroule sa vie, comme une ‘tente’ de bergers, lorsqu’ils décampent.

Mais cette tente peut aussi être ‘arrachée’ (נִסַּע nessa’), et jetée (וְנִגְלָה niglah) au loin.lv

Ces métaphores ont été filées par Isaïe.

« Je disais : Au milieu de mes jours, je m’en vais, aux portes du shéol je serai gardé pour le reste de mes ans.

Je disais : Je ne verrai pas YHVH sur la terre des vivants, je n’aurai plus un regard pour personne parmi les habitants du monde.

Mon temps [de vie] est arraché, et jeté loin de moi, comme une tente de bergers; comme un tisserand j’ai enroulé ma vie. »lvi

Le ciel védique, comme la vie de l’homme, est une sorte de tente.

L’oie sauvage montre le chemin.

Il faut enrouler le ciel et sa vie, et partir en transhumance.

iIntroduction to the ŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad by Siddheswar Varma.The Sacred Book of the Hindus, Ed. Major B.D. Basu, vol.xviii, The Panini Office, Bhuvaneshwari Ashrama, Bahadurganj, Allahabad,1916

iiŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad with the commentary of Śaṅkarācārya. Trad. Swami Gambhirananda. Ed. Adavaita Ashrama. Kolkata 2009, p.v

iiiJ’adapte ici légèrement la traduction d’Alyette Degrâces du mot karāṇa en ajoutant l’article, m’appuyant sur la traduction de Max Müller :  « Is Brahman the cause ? », qui s’adosse elle-même, selon Müller, sur les préférences de Śaṅkara. Cf. Max Muller. Sacred Books of The East. ŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 1.1.Oxford 1884.Vol XV, p.231, note 1. Le dictionnaire Huet donne pour karāṇa : ‘raison, cause, motif ; origine ; principe’. Quant à lui, Gambhirananda traduit par ‘source’: « What is the nature of Brahman, the source ? »

ivŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 1.1. Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p.396

vŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 1.6. Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p.397

viŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 1.6. Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p.397

viiŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 3.1. Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p.403

viiiL’enseignement de Râmakrishna. Trad Jean Herbert. Albin Michel. 2005, p.45

ixŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 4.1. Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p.407

xSUb 4.5. Cf. Note 1760. Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p.407

xiŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 4.4. Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p.407

xiiŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 4.9-10. Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p. 408-409

xiiiŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 4.10. Trad. Michel Hulin. Shankara et la non-dualité. Ed. Bayard. 2001, p.144

xivMax Muller. Sacred Books of The East. Upaniṣad. Oxford 1884. Vol XV, p.251, n.1

xvMax Muller. Sacred Books of The East. ŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 4.9-10.Oxford 1884.Vol XV, p.251-252

xviLes UpaniṣadŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 4.9. Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p. 408, note 1171

xviiSir 1,4

xviiiLes UpaniṣadŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 4.18. Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p. 410

xixLes UpaniṣadŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 6.18. Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p. 417

xxPr 3,19

xxiJob 38,36

xxiiiLe param brahman est ce qui est au-delà (para) de Brahmā.

xxivPérissable : kṣara. Śaṅkara explique en Sub 5.1 que ce caractère ‘périssable’ est la ‘cause de l’existence au monde’ (saṃsṛtikārana). Immortelle : akṣara. Śaṅkara explique que ce caractère d’immortalité est la ‘cause de la délivrance’ (mokṣahetu).

xxvPérissable : kṣara. Śaṅkara explique en Sub 5.1 que ce caractère ‘périssable’ est la ‘cause de l’existence au monde’ (saṃsṛtikārana). Immortelle : akṣara. Śaṅkara explique que ce caractère d’immortalité est la ‘cause de la délivrance’ (mokṣahetu).

xxvi ŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 5.1.Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p. 411

xxviiIgnacio Jané, « The role of the absolute infinite in Cantor’s conception of set », Erkenntnis, vol. 42, no 3,‎ mai 1995p. 375-402 (DOI 10.1007/BF01129011)

xxviiiŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 5.14.Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p. 413

xxixMax Muller. Sacred Books of The East. ŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 4.9-10.Oxford 1884.Vol XV, p.258-259

xxxŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 6.7.Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p. 415

xxxiMax Muller. Sacred Books of The East. ŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 6.7.Oxford 1884.Vol XV, p.263

xxxiiŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 6.9.Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p. 416

xxxiiiŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 6.11.Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p. 416

xxxivŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 6.13.Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p. 416

xxxvMüller lit : nityānām, non éternel (mot souligné par moi).

xxxviCes nuances correspondent à deux cas déclinés du nom cetana, respectivement, le premier au nominatif (penseur) et le second au génitif pluriel (des pensées). Le Dictionnaire Sanskrit-Anglais de Monier Monier-Williams donne pour cetana : ‘conscious, intelligent, sentient ; an intelligent being; soul, mind ; consciousness, understanding, sense, intelligence’. Pour cetas : ‘splendour ; consciousness, intelligence, thinking soul, heart, mind’. Par ailleurs, le Dictionnaire Sanskrit-Français de Huet donne pour cetana : ‘intelligence, âme ; conscience, sensibilité ; compréhension, intelligence.’ La racine est cet-, ‘penser, réfléchir, comprendre ; connaître, savoir.’ Pour cetas : ‘conscience, esprit, cœur, sagesse, pensée’.

xxxviiMax Muller. Sacred Books of The East. ŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 6.13.Oxford 1884.Vol XV, p.264, note 4

xxxviiiŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad with the commentary of Śaṅkarācārya. Trad. Swami Gambhirananda. Ed. Adavaita Ashrama. Kolkata 2009, SU 6.13, p.193

xxxixŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad with the commentary of Śaṅkarācārya. Trad. Swami Gambhirananda. Ed. Adavaita Ashrama. Kolkata 2009, SU 6.14, p.193

xlVoir des strophes presque identiques dans MuU 2.2.11, KaU 2.2.15, BhG 15.6

xliMuUB 2.2.10

xliiMax Muller. Sacred Books of The East. ŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 6.13.Oxford 1884.Vol XV, p.264

xliiiMax Muller traduit : « I go for refuge to that God who is the light of his own thoughts ». Sacred Books of The East. ŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 6.18.Oxford 1884.Vol XV, p.265

xlivŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 6.18.Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p. 417

xlvŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad with the commentary of Śaṅkarācārya. Trad. Swami Gambhirananda. Ed. Adavaita Ashrama. Kolkata 2009, SU 6.18, p.198

xlviŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 6.16.Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p. 417

xlviiŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 1.6. Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p.397

xlviiiŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad with the commentary of Śaṅkarācārya. Trad. Swami Gambhirananda. Ed. Adavaita Ashrama. Kolkata 2009, SU 6.15, p.195

xlixŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 6.16.Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p. 417

lŚaṅkara comprend ici le mot tanmaya (‘fait de cela’) comme signifiant en réalité jyotirmaya, ‘fait de lumière’, cf. Sub 6,17

liŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 6.17.Trad. Alyette Degrâces, Fayard, 2014, p. 417

lii« Only when men shall roll up the sky like a hide, will there be an end of misery, unless God has first been known. ». Max Muller. Sacred Books of The East. ŚvetāśvataraUpaniṣad 6.20.Oxford 1884.Vol XV, p.266

liiiIs 34,4

livIs 38,12

lvIs 38,10-12

lviIs 38,10-12

Veda Without Desire

The poet is alone these days, and this world is filled with emptiness.

He still lives off past bonfires, yearning for ripe tongues, or future ones.

René Char, one day, invited « Aeschylus, Lao Tzu, the Presocratics, Teresa of Avila, Shakespeare, Saint-Just, Rimbaud, Hölderlin, Nietzsche, Van Gogh, Melville » to appear with him in on the cover of Fury and Mystery (1948). He also invited a few poets of centuries past, who had reached « incandescence and the unaltered ».

Given a choice, I would have added Homer, Tchouang-tseu, Zoroaster, Campanella, Donne, Hugo, Baudelaire, Jaurès, Gauguin, Bradbury.

Infinite, are the fine lines drawn in the memories.

Millions of billions of dream lines, multitudes of unique horizons. Each one has its own suave flavor, and each one reveals an awakening, setting one spirit ablaze with sparkle, another with blaze.

One day poets will be elected companions for every single moment.

They will weave the universe, and undress the Being:

« All the poems recited and all the songs without exception are portions of Vishnu, of the Great Being, clothed in a sonorous form.»i

René Daumal learned Sanskrit to translate the Veda and Upaniṣad into sincere and sounding words. Did he get the ‘incandescence’?

Hymn 69 of the Rig Veda was the first challenge to his fresh science:

« Arrow? No: against the bow is the thought that is posed.

A Calf being born? No, it is she who rushes to her mother’s udder;

Like a wide river she drags her course towards the headland…

In her own vows the liquid is launched.»ii

Daumal launched himself – like a liquid, during the rise of Nazism, into an ocean of metaphors, into the infinite Sanskrit sea, its cries, its hymns, all the breaths that emanate from its verses.

In the din of the times, he alone searched for the right words to sing the Bhagavad Gita, in a faithful, concise style:

« Roots up and branches down…

imperishable is called Açvattha.

The Metres are its leaves,

and whoever knows him knows Knowledge (the Veda).»iii

Emile-Louis Burnouf had proposed in 1861 a more laminated, fluid version of this same passage:

« He is a perpetual fig tree, an Açwattha,

that grows up its roots, down its branches,

and whose leaves are poems:

he who knows it, knows the Veda. »


Who is the Açwattha, who is this « fig tree »? The fig tree is an image of the Blessed (Bhagavad).

Who is the Blessed One? Burnouf indicates that it is Krishna, the 10th incarnation of Vishnu.

In the Katha-Upaniṣad, we again find the image of the fig tree, – this time associated with the brahman :

« Roots above, branches below…

is this evergreen fig tree,

he’s the shining one, he’s the brahman,

he who is called immortal,

on him lean all the worlds,

no one gets past him.

This is that. »iv


Who are these « Blessed » (Bhagavad ), of whom the fig tree is but an image?

The Taittirîya-Upaniṣad offers the following explanation.

Take a young man, good, quick, strong, educated in the Veda, and possessing the whole earth and all its riches. That is the only human bliss.

One hundred human bliss is only one Gandharva bliss.

One hundred bliss of Gandharva are one bliss of the gods born since creation.

The Upaniṣad thus continues the progression, with a multiplicative factor of 100 at each stage, evoking the bliss of the gods, then the bliss of Indra, then the bliss of Brihaspati, then the bliss of Prajāpati, and finally, the bliss of the brahman.

The gist of the Upaniṣad is in its conclusion:

The bliss of the brahman is similar to that of « the man who knows the Veda, unaffected by desire.»



iRené Daumal. Pour approcher l’art poétique Hindou, Cahiers du Sud, 1942

ii« Flèche ? Non : contre l’arc c’est la pensée qui est posée.

Veau qu’on délivre ? Non, c’est elle qui s’élance au pis de sa mère ;

Comme un large fleuve elle trait vers la pointe son cours

Dans ses propre vœux le liquide est lancé. »

iiiBhagavad Gîta 15, 1. Transl. René Daumal :

« Racines-en-haut et branches-en-bas,

impérissable on dit l’Açvattha.

Les Mètres sont ses feuilles,

et qui le connaît connaît le Savoir (le Véda). »

Emile-Louis Burnouf’ s translation (1861):

« Il est un figuier perpétuel, un açwattha,

qui pousse en haut ses racines, en bas ses rameaux,

et dont les feuilles sont des poèmes :

celui qui le connaît, connaît le Veda. »

ivKatha-Upanishad 2, 3

Provincial Minds for a Skimpy Planet

Philo of Alexandria attempted a synthesis of the Greek, Jewish, Egyptian and Babylonian worlds. He navigated freely between these heterogeneous, trenchant, distinct, cultures, religions and philosophies. He took advantage of their strengths, their originality. He is one of the first to have succeeded in overcoming and transcending their idiosyncrasies. It was a premonitory effort, two thousand years ago, to think globally.

Philo was also a master of contradictions. In this, he can be a model for the troubled, contracted, stifling, reactionary periods we have entered.

On the one hand, Philo can be characterized as a neo-Platonic philosopher. He takes up and develops the concept of Logos as the « axis » of the world (ἔξίς). « It is a Logos, the Logos of the eternal God, who is the most resistant and solid support of the universe. « (De Plantat. 10).

Founding axis, ground of being, the Logos is at the same time principle of change, the divine word, an intelligible being, and the immemorial Wisdom. Neither begotten like men, nor un-begotten like God, the Logos is the « intermediate being » par excellence.

On the other hand, Philo affirms that God remains superior to any idea that might be formulated about Him. He declares that God is « better than virtue, better than science, better than good in itself » (De Opifico, m.8). Nothing is like God and God is like nothing (De Somn. I, 73). In this he takes up the point of view formulated by Deutero-Isaiah (Is 48:18-25, 46:5-9, 44,7).

God has nothing in common with the world, He has withdrawn totally from it, and yet His presence still penetrates it, and even fills it completely, in spite of this absence.

So, is God the Logos or a silent and absent God? Or both?

One could seek an answer by thinking over the variations of the nature of the created world, and over the various combinations of divine presence and absence.

Philo distinguishes two kinds of creation: the ideal man – which God « made » (ἐποίήσεν), and the earthly man – which God “fashioned” (ἒπλασεν). What is the difference? The ideal man is a pure creation, a divine, immaterial form. The earthly man is ‘fashioned’ plastically (it is the same etymological root) from matter (the raw mud).

The mud, the matter, are only intermediaries. Terrestrial man is therefore a mixture of presence and absence, of matter and intelligence. « The best part of the soul that is called intelligence and reason (νοῦς καί λόγος) is a breath (pneuma), a divine character imprint, an image of God. « (Quod. Det. Pot. Ins. 82-84)

Through these puns and ad hoc mixes of concepts, Philo postulates the existence of various degrees of creation. Not everything has been created by God ex nihilo, in one go: there are second or third creations, delegated to a gradation of intermediate beings.

On the one hand, God, and on the other hand, various levels of reality, such as the Logos, the ideal Man, the Adamic, earthly, Man.

Only the best beings are born both of God and through him. The other beings are born not of and through him, but through intermediaries who belong to a level of reality inferior to the divine reality.

Such a world, mixed, complex, a mixture of mud and soul, divine and earthly, is the most universal religious and philosophical idea possible in a time of transition.

This idea was widely spread in Philo’s time through mystery cults.

Mystery has always been part of the very essence of the religious phenomenon, in all traditions, in all cultures. In Egypt, Greece, Rome, Chaldea, mystery cults were observed in Egypt, Greece, Rome, Chaldea, which had sacred, hidden words. Initiation allowed progressive access to this secret knowledge, which was supposed to contain divine truths.

The mystery was spread everywhere, emphatic, putative.

For Philo, the Torah itself was a deep « mystery ». This is why he begged Moses to help and guide him, to initiate him: « O Hierophant, speak to me, guide me, and do not cease anointing until, leading us to the brilliance of the hidden words, you show us its invisible beauties. « (De Somn. II, 164).

The « hidden words » are the « shadow » of God (Leg Alleg. III, 96). They are His Logos. They come from an impalpable world, an intermediary between the sensible and the divine.

The Logos is also a means of approaching God, a vehicle of supplication. The Logos is the great Advocate, the Paraclete. He is the High Priest who prays for the whole world, of which he is clothed as of a garment (Vita Mos. 134).

The idea of an « intermediary » Logos, a divine Word and an intercessor of men before God, was already expressed, I would like to emphasize, in the RigVeda, in the plains of the Ganges more than two thousand years before the time of Moses. In the Veda, the Word, Vāc (वाच्), is the divine revelation, and it is also the Intermediary that changes our ears into eyes.

This ancient and timeless idea is also found in Egypt and Greece. « Hermes is the Logos whom the gods sent down to us from heaven (…) Hermes is an angel because we know the will of the gods according to the ideas given to us in the Logos, » explains Lucius Annaeus Cornutus in his Abstract of the Traditions of Greek Theology, written in the 1st century A.D.

Hermes was begotten by Zeus called Cornutus. Similarly, in Philo, the Logos is « the elder son of God », while the world is « the younger son of God ». In this respect Philo bases himself on the distinction made in the Egyptian myth of the two Horuses, the two sons of the supreme God Osiris, the elder Horus who symbolizes the world of ideas, the world of the intelligible, and the younger Horus who symbolically embodies the sensible world, the created world.

Plutarch writes in his De Isis et Osiris: « Osiris is the Logos of Heaven and Hades ». Under the name of Anubis, he is the Logos of things above. Under the name of Hermanoubis, he refers partly to the things above and partly to the things below. This Logos is also the mysterious « sacred word » that the Goddess Isis transmits to the Initiates.

Osiris, Hermes and the Logos belong to different traditions but point to a common intuition. Between the Most High and the Most Low there is an intermediate domain, the world of the Word, the Spirit, the Breath.

In the Vedas, this intermediate and divine realm is also that of sacrifice. Likewise, in Christianity, Jesus is both the Logos and the sacrificed God.

What can we conclude today from these resemblances, these analogies?

Obviously, the religious phenomenon is an essential, structuring component of the human spirit. But what is striking is that quite precise ideas, « technical », if I may say so, like that of a world « in between » God and man, have flourished in many forms, in all latitudes, and for several millennia.

One of the most promising avenues of « dialogue among cultures » would be to explore the similarities, analogies and resemblances between religions.

Since the resounding irruption of modernity on the world stage, a central disconnection has occurred between rationalists, sceptics and materialists on the one hand, and religious, mystical and idealist minds on the other.

This global, worldwide split is in itself a fundamental anthropological fact. Why is this? Because it threatens the anthropological idea itself. The idea of Man is being attacked in the heart, and as a result it is Man himself who is dying. Philosophers like Michel Foucault have even announced that this Man is already dead.

Man may not be quite dead yet, but he is dying, because he no longer understands who he is. He lies there, seriously wounded, almost decapitated by the axe of schizophrenia.

The modern era is indeed ultra-materialistic, and at the same time religious feeling remains deep in the human psyche.

Lay people, agnostics, indifferent people populate the real world today, and at the same time, religious, mystics and fundamentalists occupy seemingly irreconcilable ideal worlds.

Religious extremism, in its very excesses, nevertheless bears witness to a search for meaning, which cannot be reduced to the death drive or hatred of the other.

Is a meta-religion, a meta-philosophy, of worldwide scope and value, possible today? That is a vain wish, a crazy idea, a void dream, one might answer.

Yet, two thousand years ago, two Jews, Philo and Jesus, independently and separately testified to possible solutions, and built grandiose bridges between opposing abysses.

And, without knowing it, no doubt, they were thus reviving, in their own way, very old ideas that had already irrigated the minds of great predecessors several millennia before.

Today, two thousand years after these two seers, who carries this powerful heritage in the modern world?

No one. We have entered a time of narrowedness of mind, a very provincial time indeed, for a very skimpy planet.

Just Hit the Road לֶך 


There are many ideas running around, nowadays.

There is the idea that there are no more ideas, no more « great narratives« .

There is the idea that everything is rigged, that a conspiracy has been hatched by a few people against all.

There is the idea that progress is doomed.

There is the idea that the coming catastrophe is just ‘fake news’, or just part of an ideology.

There is the idea that anything can happen, and there is the idea that there is no hope, that the void is opening up, just ahead.

Every age harbours the new prophets that it deserves. Günther Anders has famously proclaimed the « obsolescence of man », – and that the absence of a future has already begun.

We must go way beyond that sort of ideas and that sort of prophecies.

Where to find the spirit, the courage, the vision, the inspiration?

Immense the total treasure of values, ideas, beliefs, faiths, symbols, paradigms, this ocean bequeathed by humanity to the generations of the day.

The oldest religions, the philosophies of the past, are not museums, fragmented dreams, now lost. Within them lies the memory of a common world, a dream of the future.

The Divine is in that which was born; the Divine is in that which is born; the Divine is in that which will be born.

A few chosen words from beyond the ages, and the spirit may be set ablaze. The soul may be filled with fulgurations, with assailing prescience.

Power is in the air, in the mother, the father, the son, the daughter.

It is in the Gods, and in all men. In all that is born, in all that will be born.

One thousand years before Moses’ times, the poets of the Rig Veda claimed:

The God who does not grow old stands in the bush. Driven by the wind, He clings to the bushes with tongues of fire, with a thunder.”i

Sounds familiar?

Was then Moses in his own way a Vedic seer? Probably.

The greatest minds always meet at the very top. And when they do, the greatest of the greatest do come down from up there, they do go back down, among us, to continue to go further on.

Go for yourself (לֶךְלְךָ lekh lekha), out of your country, out of your birthplace and your father’s house, to the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation. I will bless you, I will make your name glorious, and you will be blessed. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who reproach you, and through you will be blessed all the families of the earth.”ii

Rashi commented this famous text. When you’re always on the road, from one camp to another, you run three risks: you have fewer children, you have less money, you have less fame. That’s why Abram received three blessings: the promise of children, confidence in prosperity, and the assurance of fame.

The figure of Abram leaving Haran is a metaphor for what lies ahead. It is also a prophecy. We too must leave Haran.

The word haran originally means « the hollow ».

We too are in « the hollow », that is, a void of ideas, a lack of hope.

It is time, like Abram once did, to get out of this hollow, to hit the road, to seek new paths for new generations, yet to come.

The word haran can be interpreted in different ways. Philo wrote that haran means « the cavities of the soul and the sensations of the body ». It is these « cavities » that one must leave. “Adopt an alien mentality with regard to these realities, let none of them imprison you, stand above all. Look after yourself.”iii

Philo adds: « But also leave the expired word, what we have called the dwelling of the father, so as not to be seduced by the beauties of words and terms, and find yourself finally separated from the authentic beauty that lies in the things that the words meant. (…) He who tends toward being rather than appearing will have to cling to these realities, and leave the dwelling of words.”iv

Abram-Abraham has left Haran. On the way, he separated from his traveling companion, Lot: « Separate yourself from me!  » he said to himv.

Philo comments: « You must emigrate, in search of your father’s land, that of the sacred Logos, who is also in a sense the father of the ascetics; this land is Wisdom.”vi

Philo, an Alexandrian Jew, wrote in Greek. He used the word Logos as an equivalent for “Wisdom”, – and he notes: « The Logos stands the highest, close besides God, and is called Samuel (‘who hears God’). »

Migration’ is indeed a very old human metaphor, with deep philosophical and mystical undertones.

One may still have to dig up one or two things about it.

Go, for yourself (לֶךְלְךָ lekh lekha)”. Leave the ‘hollow’. Stand above all, that is. Look after the Logos.

The Logos. Or the ‘Word’, as they say.

A ‘migrant’ is always in quest of good metaphors for a world yet to come. Always in quest of true metaphors yet to be spoken.

Metaphor’. A Greek word, meaning: “displacement”.

Hence the stinging and deep irony of Philo’s metaphor:

Leave the dwelling of words.”

Leave the words. Leave the metaphors. Just leave.

Just hit the road, Man.

Lekh לֶךְ

i R.V. I.58.2-4

iiGen. 12, 1-3

iiiPhilo. De Migratione Abrahami. 14,7

iv Ibid. 14,12

v Gen. 13,9

vi Ibid. 14,12

Circumcised Ears

Rationalist, materialist minds generally consider the sacred texts of Egypt, China, India, Mesopotamia, Persia, Israel, Chaldea, as esoteric reveries, compiled by counterfeiters to mislead the common public.

For them, treasures such as the Book of the Dead, the texts of the Pyramids, the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Zend Avesta, the Tao Te King, the Torah, the Gospels, the Apocalypse, are only vast mystifications, settling down over the centuries, across the continents.

They are the expression of tribal or clan practices, or a desire for temporal and spiritual power. The social illusion they encourage would be fostered by the staging of artificially composed « secrets » that leave a lasting impression on the minds of peoples, generation after generation.

But broader, more open minds, may see all these ancient testimonies, so diverse, but tainted by the same central intuition, as a whole, – coming from the human soul, and not as a collection of heterogeneous attempts, all of them unsuccessful.

History has recorded the failure of some of them, after a few millennia of local supremacy, and the apparent success of some others, for a time more sustainable, seemingly better placed in the universal march.

With a little hindsight and detachment, the total sum of these testimonies seems to be nestled in a common drive, a dark energy, a specific genius.

This drive, this energy, this genius, are not very easy to distinguish today, in a sceptical environment, where miracles are rare, crowds cold, passions exacerbated.

Not easy but not impossible.

One can always walk between the flowers of human thought, smelling their unique scent, sensitive to the continuous rise of sap in their flexible stems.

The word « esotericism » has become malignant. Whoever is interested is considered a marginal in rational society.

But this word also has several divergent, and even contradictory, meanings that may enlighten us, for that matter.

For example, the Jewish Kabbalah is intended to be a revelation or explanation of the « esoteric » meaning of Moses’ Books. It is even doubly esoteric.

It is esoteric in a first sense in so far as it opposes exotericism. In this sense, esotericism is a search for protection. There are ideas, secrets, that must not be disclosed to the crowd.

It would deeply distort its meaning, or project mud, contempt, lazzis, spit, hatred against them.

It is also esoteric in that it deepens the secret. The text is said to contain profound meanings, which only initiation, prepared under strict conditions, can reveal to hand-picked entrants after long trials. Esotericism is not there prudence or protection, but a conscious, characterized method, elite aspiration.

There is yet another form of esotericism.

R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz defines it as follows: « Esoteric teaching is therefore only an « Evocation » and can only be that. Initiation does not reside in the text, whatever it may be, but in the culture of the Intelligence of the Heart. Then nothing is more « occult » or « secret », because the intention of the « Enlightened », the « Prophets » and the « Envoys from Heaven » is never to hide, on the contrary. »i


In this sense, esotericism has nothing in common with a desire for secrecy. On the contrary, it is a question of revealing and publishing what several minds can, through a common, sincere effort, discover about the nature of the Spirit.

The Spirit is discovered through the Spirit. It seems to be a flat tautology. But no. Matter is incapable of understanding the mind. The mind is probably better equipped, however, to understand matter. And if matter can merge with itself, only the spirit can take the measure of the infinite depth and understand the height of the Spirit without merging with it, undoubtedly relying on analogies with what it knows about itself.

Mind is, at the very least, a metaphor of Spirit, while matter is never a metaphor of Matter. The material, at most, is only an image, invisible to itself, drowned in the shadows, in its own immanence.

Jewish Kabbalah developed in the European Middle Ages, assuming obvious filiation links with the former Egyptian « Kabbalah », which also has links with the Brahmanic « Kabbalah ». I hasten to concede that the nature of the Jewish mission reflects its specificity in the Jewish Kabbalah. Nevertheless, the links of filiation with older “Kabbalahs” appear to be valuable subjects of reflection for the comparativist.


The various « Kabbalahs » of the world, developed in different climates, at times unrelated to each other, are esoteric according to the three meanings proposed above. The most interesting of these meanings is the last. It expresses in action the sincere Intelligence, the Intelligence of the heart, the intuition of the causes, the over-consciousness, the metamorphosis, the ex-stasis, the radial vision of the mythical nucleus, the intelligence of the beginnings and the perception of the ends.

Other metaphors are needed to express what needs to be expressed here.


Pharaonic Egypt is no more. But the Book of the Dead still speaks to a few living people. The end of ancient Egypt was only the end of a cycle, not the end of a world.

Osiris and Isis were taken out of their graves and put into museum display cases.

But Osiris, Isis, their son Horus, still produce strange scents, subtle emanations, for the poet, the traveller and the metaphysician.

There are always dreamers in the world to think of the birth of a Child God, a Child of the Spirit. The Spirit never ceases to be born. The fall of the Word into matter is a transparent metaphor.


Where does the thought that assails and fertilizes us come from? From a neural imbroglio? From a synaptic chaos?

The deep rotation of the worlds is not finished, other Egypts will still give birth, new Jerusalems too. In the future other countries and cities will appear, made not of land and streets, but of spirit.

The Spirit has not said his last word, for the Word is endless.

In the meantime, it is better to open one’s ears, and to have them circumcised, as once was said.


iR. Schwaller de Lubicz. Propos sur ésotérisme et symbole. Ed. Poche. 1990

A Religion for the Future

The Mazdayasna religion appeared in Persia several centuries before Christ. Its followers, worshippers of Mithra, multiplied in Rome under the Caesars, but they failed to make Mazdeism a dominant, significant, world religion. Why is that so?

The Roman armies had strongly helped to spread the cult of Mithra throughout Europe. Mithra was worshipped in Germany in the 2nd century AD. The soldiers of the 15th Legion, the Apollinaris, celebrated its mysteries at Carnuntum on the Danube at the beginning of Vespasian’s reign.

Remains of temples dedicated to Mithra, the Mithraea, have been found in North Africa, in Rome (in the crypt of the Basilica of St. Clement of the Lateran), in Romania, in France (Angers, Nuits-Saint-Georges and other places), in England (London and along Hadrian’s wall).

But Christianity finally prevailed over Mazdeism, though only from the 4th century onwards, when it became the official religion of the Empire under Theodosius.

The origins of the Mithra cult go back to the earliest times. The epic of Gilgamesh (2500 BC) refers to the sacrifice of the Primordial Bull, which is also depicted in the cult of Mithra with the Tauroctonus Mithra. A scene in the British Museum shows that three ears of wheat come out of the bull’s slit throat, – not streams of blood. At the same time, a crayfish grabs the Taurus’ testicles.

These metaphors may now be obscure. It is the nature of sacred symbols to demand the light of initiation.

The name of the God Mithra is of Chaldeo-Iranian origin, and clearly has links with that of the God Mitra, celebrated in the Vedic religion, and who is the god of Light and Truth.

Mithraism is a very ancient religion, with distant roots, but eventually died out in Rome, at the time of the decline of the Empire, and was replaced by a more recent religion. Why?

Mithraism had reached its peak in the 3rd century AD, but the barbaric invasions in 275 caused the loss of Dacia, between the Carpathians and the Danube, and the temples of Mazdeism were destroyed.

Destruction and defeat were not good publicity for a cult celebrating the Invincible Sun (Sol Invictus) that Aurelian had just added (in the year 273) to the divinities of the Mithraic rites. The Sun was still shining, but now its bright light reminded everyone that it had allowed the Barbarians to win, without taking sides with its worshippers.

When Constantine converted to Christianity in 312, the ‘sun’ had such bad press that no one dared to observe it at dawn or dusk. Sailors were even reluctant to look up at the stars, it is reported.

Another explanation, according to Franz Cumont (The mysteries of Mithra, 1903), is that the priests of Mithra, the Magi, formed a very exclusive caste, very jealous of its hereditary secrets, and concerned to keep them carefully hidden, away from the eyes of the profane. The secret knowledge of the mysteries of their religion gave them a high awareness of their moral superiority. They considered themselves to be the representatives of the chosen nation, destined to ensure the final victory of the religion of the invincible God.

The complete revelation of sacred beliefs was reserved for a few privileged and hand-picked individuals. The small fry was allowed to pass through a few degrees of initiation, but never went very far in penetrating the ultimate secrets.

Of course, all this could impress simple people. The occult lives on the prestige of the mystery, but dissolves in the public light. When the mystery no longer fascinates, everything quickly falls into disinheritance.

Ideas that have fascinated people for millennia can collapse in a few years, – but there may still be gestures, symbols, truly immemorial.

In the Mazdean cult, the officiant consecrated the bread and juice of Haoma (this intoxicating drink similar to Vedic Soma), and consumed them during the sacrifice. The Mithraic cult did the same, replacing Haoma with wine. This is naturally reminiscent of the actions followed during the Jewish Sabbath ritual and Christian communion.

In fact, there are many symbolic analogies between Mithraism and the religion that was to supplant it, Christianity. Let it be judged:

The cult of Mithra is a monotheism. The initiation includes a « baptism » by immersion. The faithful are called « Brothers ». There is a « communion » with bread and wine. Sunday, the day of the Sun, is the sacred day. The « birth » of the Sun is celebrated on December 25. Moral rules advocate abstinence, asceticism, continence. There is a Heaven, populated by beatified souls, and a Hell with its demons. Good is opposed to evil. The initial source of religion comes from a primordial revelation, preserved from age to age. One remembers an ancient, major, Flood. The soul is immortal. There will be a final judgment, after the resurrection of the dead, followed by a final conflagration of the Universe.

Mithra is the « Mediator », the intermediary between the heavenly Father (the God Ahura Mazda of Avestic Persia) and men. Mithra is a Sun of Justice, just as Christ is the Light of the world.

All these striking analogies point to a promising avenue of research. The great religions that still dominate the world today are new compositions, nourished by images, ideas and symbols several thousand years old, and constantly crushed, reused and revisited. There is no pure religion. They are all mixed, crossed by reminiscences, trans-pollinated by layers of cultures and multi-directional imports.

This observation should encourage humility, distance and criticism. It invites to broaden one’s mind.

Nowadays, the fanaticism, the blindness, the tensions abound among the vociferous supporters of religions A, B, C, or D.

But one may desire to dive into the depths of ancient souls, into the abysses of time, and feel the slow pulsations of vital, rich, immemorial blood beating through human veins.

By listening to these hidden rhythms, one may then conjecture that the religion of the future will, though not without some contradictions, be humble, close, warm, distanced, critical, broad, elevated and profound.

Silent Fire

The “wryneck” is quite a strange bird. It has two fingers in front and two fingers in back, according to Aristotle. It makes little high-pitched screams. it is able to stick its tongue out for a long time, like snakes. It gets its name, « wryneck », from its ability to turn its neck without the rest of its body moving. It is also capable of making women and men fall in lovei.

But more importantly, the “wryneck” is a divine « messenger », according to the Chaldaic Oraclesii.

There are, admittedly, many other divine “messengers”, such as the Platonic « intermediaries » (metaxu) and « demons » (daimon). Among them, there is the « Fire », which is a metaphor for the « soul of the world ». All souls are connected to the Fire, because they originated from it: « The human soul, spark of the original Fire, descends by an act of her will the degrees of the scale of beings, and comes down to lock herself in the jail of a body.» iii

How does this descent take place? It is an old “oriental” belief that souls, during their descent from the original Fire, clothe themselves with successive ‘veils’, representing the intermediate planes they have to cross through.

Every incarnating soul is in reality a fallen god. The soul strives to come out of the oblivion into which she has fallen. She must leave the « flock », subjected to an unbearable, heavy, somber fate, in order « to avoid the brazen wing of the fatal destiny »iv. To do this, she must succeed in uttering a certain word, in memory of her origin.

These « chaldaic » ideas have greatly influenced thinkers like Porphyry, Jamblicus, Syrianus and Proclus, inciting them to describe the « rise of the soul », ἀναγωγη, thus replacing the more static concepts of Greek philosophy, still used by Plotinus, and opening the possibility of theurgy, the possibility for the soul to act upon the divine.

Theurgy is « a religious system that brings us into contact with the gods, not only by the pure elevation of our intellect to the divine Noos, but by means of concrete rites and material objects »v.

Chaldaic theurgy is full of signs, expressing the unspeakable, in ineffable symbols. « The sacred names of the gods and other divine symbols raise to the gods.”vi Chaldaic prayer is effective, because « hieratic supplications are the symbols of the gods themselves »vii, wrote Edouard des Places.

“Angels of ascension” make souls rise towards them. They remove the souls from the « bonds that bind them », that is, from the vengeful nature of demons, and from the trials human souls suffer: « Let the immortal depth of the soul be opened, and dilate all your eyes well above! ».viii

Many challenges await those undertaking the spiritual ascension. The Divine is beyond the intelligible, entirely unthinkable and inexpressible, and better honored by silence.

It’s worth noting that, in Vedic ceremonies, silence plays a structurally equivalent role in approaching the mysteries of the Divine. Next to the priests who operate the Vedic sacrifice, there are priests who recite the divine hymns, others who chant them and yet others who sing them. Watching over the whole, there is another priest, the highest in the hierarchy, who stands still and remains silent throughout the ceremony.

Hymns, psalms, songs, must yield to silence itself, in the Chaldaic religion as in the Vedic religion.

The other common point in these two cults is the primary importance of Fire.

The two traditions, which are so far apart, transmit a light from a very old and deep night. They both refer to the power of the original Fire, and contrast it with the weakness of the flame that man has been given to live by:

« [Fire] is the force of a luminous sword that shines with spiritual sharp edges. It is therefore not necessary to conceive this Spirit with vehemence, but by the subtle flame of a subtle intellect, which measures all things, except this Intelligible Itself. » ix

iIn his 4th Pythic, Pindar sang Jason’s exploits in search of the Golden Fleece. Jason faces a thousand difficulties. Fortunately, the goddess Aphrodite decided to help him, by making Medea in love with him, through a bird, the “wryneck”. In Greek, this bird is called ἴϋγξ, transcribed as « iynge ». « Then the goddess with sharp arrows, Cyprine, having attached a wryneck with a thousand colours to the four spokes of an unshakeable wheel, brought from Olympus to mortals this bird of delirium, and taught the wise son of Eson prayers and enchantments, so that Medea might lose all respect for her family, and the love of Greece might stir this heart in fire under the whip of Pitho.» The magic works. The « bird of delirium » fills Medea with love for Jason. “Both agree to unite in the sweet bonds of marriage”.(Pindar, 4rth Pythic)

iiChaldaic Oracles, Fragment 78

iiiF. Cumont. Lux perpetua (1949)

ivChaldaic Oracles, Fragment 109

v A. Festugière. Révélation (1953)

viCf. Édouard des Places, dans son introduction à sa traduction des Oracles chaldaïques (1971). (Synésius de Cyrène (370-413) énonce un certain nombre de ces noms efficaces. Άνθος est la « fleur de l’Esprit », Βένθος est le « profond », Κολπος est le « Sein ineffable » (de Dieu), Σπινθήρ est « l’Étincelle de l’âme, formée de l’Esprit et du Vouloir divins, puis du chaste Amour » : « Je porte en moi un germe venu de Toi, une étincelle de noble intelligence, qui s’est enfoncée dans les profondeurs de la matière. » Ταναός est la « flamme de l’esprit tendué à l’extrême », et Τομή est « la coupure, la division », par laquelle se produit « l’éclat du Premier Esprit qui blesse les yeux ».Proclus s’empara de ces thèmes nouveaux pour éveiller la « fleur », la « fine pointe de l’âme ».)

viiÉdouard des Places, Introduction. Oracles chaldaïques (1971)

viiiChaldaic Oracles, fragment 112

ix Chaldaic Oracles, fragment 1.

Infinite Journeys

The age of the universe

According to the Jewish Bible the world was created about 6000 years ago. According to contemporary cosmologists, the Big Bang dates back 14 billion years. In fact the Universe could actually be older. The Big Bang is not necessarily the only, original event. Many other universes may have existed before, in earlier ages, who knows?

Time could go back a very long way. Time could even go back to infinity according to cyclical universe theories. This is precisely what Vedic cosmology teaches.

In a famous Chinese Buddhist-inspired novel, The Peregrination to the West, there is a story of the creation of the world. It describes the formation of a mountain, and the moment « when the pure separated from the turbid ». The mountain, called the Mount of Flowers and Fruits, dominates a vast ocean. Plants and flowers never fade. « The peach tree of the immortals never ceases to form fruits, the long bamboos hold back the clouds. » This mountain is « the pillar of the sky where a thousand rivers meet ». It is “the unchanging axis of the earth through ten thousand Kalpa.”

An unchanging land for ten thousand Kalpa

What is a Kalpa? It is the Sanskrit word used to define the very long duration entailed to cosmology. To get an idea of the duration of a Kalpa, various metaphors are available. Take a 40 km cube and fill it to the brim with mustard seeds. Remove a seed every century. When the cube is empty, you will not yet be at the end of the Kalpa. Then take a large rock and wipe it once a century with a quick rag. When there is nothing left of the rock, then you will not yet be at the end of the Kalpa.

What is the age of the Universe? 6000 years? 14 billion years? 10,000 Kalpa?

We can assume that these times mean nothing certain. Just as space is curved, time is curved. The general relativity theory establishes that objects in the universe tend to move towards regions where time flows relatively more slowly. A cosmologist, Brian Greene, says: « In a way, all objects want to age as slowly as possible. » This trend, from Einstein’s point of view, is exactly comparable to the fact that objects « fall » when dropped.

For objects in the Universe that are closer to the « singularities » of space-time (such as « black holes »), time is slowing down more and more. In this interpretation, it is not ten thousand Kalpa that should be available, but billions of billions of billions of Kalpa

A human life is only an ultra-fugitive scintillation, a kind of femto-second on the scale of Kalpa, and the life of all humanity is only a heartbeat. That’s good news! The incredible stories hidden in a Kalpa, the narratives that time conceals, will never run out. The infinite of time has its own life.

Mystics, like Plotin or Pascal, reported some of their visions. But these visions were never more than snapshots, infinitesimal moments, compared to the infinite substance from which they emerged.

This substance is comparable to a landscape of infinite narratives, a never-ending number of mobile points of view, each of them opening onto other infinite worlds, some of which deserve a detour, and some may be worth an infinite journey.

The Egyptian Messiah

Human chains transmit knowledge acquired beyond the ages. From one to the other, you always go up higher, as far as possible, like the salmon in the stream.

Thanks to Clement of Alexandria, in the 2nd century, twenty-two fragments of Heraclitus (fragments 14 to 36 according to the numbering of Diels-Kranz) were saved from oblivion, out of a total of one hundred and thirty-eight.

« Rangers in the night, the Magi, the priests of Bakkhos, the priestesses of the presses, the traffickers of mysteries practiced among men.  » (Fragment 14)

A few words, and a world appears.

At night, magic, bacchae, lenes, mysts, and of course the god Bakkhos.

The Fragment 15 describes one of these mysterious and nocturnal ceremonies: « For if it were not in honour of Dionysus that they processioned and sang the shameful phallic anthem, they would act in the most blatant way. But it’s the same one, Hades or Dionysus, for whom we’re crazy or delirious.»

Heraclitus seems reserved about bacchic delusions and orgiastic tributes to the phallus.

He sees a link between madness, delirium, Hades and Dionysus.

Bacchus is associated with drunkenness. We remember the rubicond Bacchus, bombing under the vine.

Bacchus, the Latin name of the Greek god Bakkhos, is also Dionysus, whom Heraclitus likens to Hades, God of the Infernos, God of the Dead.

Dionysus was also closely associated with Osiris, according to Herodotus in the 5th century BC. Plutarch went to study the question on the spot, 600 years later, and reported that the Egyptian priests gave the Nile the name of Osiris, and the sea the name of Typhon. Osiris is the principle of the wet, of generation, which is compatible with the phallic cult. Typhoon is the principle of dry and hot, and by metonymy of the desert and the sea. And Typhon is also the other name of Seth, Osiris’ murdering brother, whom he cut into pieces.

We see here that the names of the gods circulate between distant spheres of meaning.

This implies that they can also be interpreted as the denominations of abstract concepts.

Plutarch, who cites in his book Isis and Osiris references from an even more oriental horizon, such as Zoroaster, Ormuzd, Ariman or Mitra, testifies to this mechanism of anagogical abstraction, which the ancient Avestic and Vedic religions practiced abundantly.

Zoroaster had been the initiator. In Zoroastrianism, the names of the gods embody ideas, abstractions. The Greeks were the students of the Chaldeans and the ancient Persians. Plutarch condenses several centuries of Greek thought, in a way that evokes Zoroastrian pairs of principles: « Anaxagoras calls Intelligence the principle of good, and that of evil, Infinite. Aristotle names the first the form, and the other the deprivationi. Plato, who often expresses himself as if in an enveloped and veiled manner, gives to these two contrary principles, to one the name of « always the same » and to the other, that of « sometimes one, sometimes the other ». »ii

Plutarch is not fooled by Greek, Egyptian or Persian myths. He knows that they cover abstract, and perhaps more universal, truths. But he had to be content with allusions of this kind: « In their sacred hymns in honour of Osiris, the Egyptians mentioned « He who hides in the arms of the Sun ». »

As for Typhon, a deicide and fratricide, Hermes emasculated him, and took his nerves to make them the strings of his lyre. Myth or abstraction?

Plutarch uses the etymology (real or imagined) as an ancient method to convey his ideas: « As for the name Osiris, it comes from the association of two words: ὄσιοϛ, holy and ἱερός, sacred. There is indeed a common relationship between the things in Heaven and those in Hades. The elders called them saints first, and sacred the second. »iii

Osiris, in his very name, osios-hieros, unites Heaven and Hell, he combines the holy and the sacred.

The sacred is what is separated.

The saint is what unites us.

Osiris joint separated him to what is united.

Osiris, victor of death, unites the most separated worlds there are. It represents the figure of the Savior, – in Hebrew the « Messiah ».

Taking into account the anteriority, the Hebrew Messiah and the Christian Christ are late figures of Osiris.

Osiris, a Christic metaphor, by anticipation? Or Christ, a distant Osirian reminiscence?

Or a joint participation in a common fund, an immemorial one?

This is a Mystery.

iAristotle, Metaph. 1,5 ; 1,7-8

iiPlato Timaeus 35a

iiiPlutarch, Isis and Osiris.

Three sorts of God.

In an essay published in 1973, Jacques Lacarrière violently attacked Christianity, that of the first centuries, and that of our time. « Christians, with their compensatory and castrating mythology, have totally evaded the daily problems of their time and perpetuated to this day the acceptance of all social injustices and submission to established powers.»i

This harsh judgment does not accurately reflect the history of Christianity, but the intention is elsewhere. Lacarrière’s real aim is to give strong praise to Gnosticism, in contrast. « The Gnostics, on the other hand, have consistently advocated insubordination towards all powers, Christian or pagan, » he explains.

By taking up the cause of the Gnostics, he poses himself as a « reincarnated Gnostic, two thousand years later », and emphatically adopts their fundamental thesis: « All institutions, all laws, all religions, all churches, all powers are only jokes, traps and the perpetuation of a millennial deception. In short: we are exploited on a cosmic scale, the proletarians of the executioner-demiurgist, slaves exiled in a world viscerally subjected to violence.»ii

For the Gnostics, the world is a « prison », a « cloaca », a « quagmire », a « desert ». In the same vein, the human body is a « tomb », a « vampire ».

The world we live in was not created by the true God. It is the work of the Demiurge, a god who ‘simulates’ the true God. The Gnostics reject both this ‘evil’ world and the ‘false God’ who created it — a God that they call ‘Jehovah’.

Where and when did the Gnosis appear?

According to Lacarrière, it was in Alexandria in the 2nd century. This town was then « a crucible, an hearth, amortar, a blast furnace, where all the skies, all the gods, all the dreams are mixed, distilled, infused and transfused (…) All the races, all the continents (Africa, Asia, Europe), all the centuries (those of ancient Egypt which keeps its sanctuaries there, those of Athens and Rome, those of Judea, Palestine and Babylonia) are discovered there. »iii

In theory, such a place of encounter and memory would have been ideal for generating an inclusive and globalizing civilization. But the Gnostics had no use for these utopias. They deny the very reality of this world, which is from the beginning entirely dedicated to evil.

All signs are reversed. The Serpent, Cain, Set, symbols of evil and misfortune in the Jewish Bible, are for the Gnostics « the first revolts in the history of the world », and they make them « the founders of their sects and the authors of their secret books ».

The Gnostic sects, listed by Epiphanus, are very diverse. There are Nicolaitans, Phibionites, Stratiotics, Euchites, Leviticus, Borborites, Coddians, Zachaeans, Barbelites, etc. These terms had an immediate meaning for Greek-speaking populations. The Stratiotics meant « the Soldiers », the Phibionites are the « Humbles », the Eucharists are the « Prayers », the Zachaeans are the « Initiates ».

Lacarrière is fascinated by the Gnostics, but he also admits having great difficulty in discovering their « secrets », in finding « their veiled paths », in understanding « their hermetic revelations ».

There is in particular the question of ecstatic ceremonies, with their frenetic music, using the Phrygian mode (flutes and tambourines), their orgiastic dances, the consumption of drinks causing phenomena of transes and collective possession, and « horrible bacchanals where men and women mixed », as reported by Theodoret de Cyr.

The Gnostics, according to Lacarrière, had understood that the world was « a world of injustice, violence, massacres, slavery, misery, famine, horrors ». This world had to be rejected, contrary to what Christianity advocates. « It takes all the impudent hypocrisy of Christian morality to make the dispossessed, exploited, hungry masses believe that their trials were enriching and opened the doors of another world to them. »

Lacarrière concludes by claiming the need for a « new Gnosticism ». The Gnostic of today must be a « man turned towards the present and the future, with the intuitive certainty that he possesses above all in himself the keys to this future, a certainty that he must oppose all reassuring mythologies. »

These martial and hammered sentences are half a century old, but they certainly appear outdated. Today, the thousand-year-old debate between Christianity and Gnosticism seems to have lost its meaning. Current events seem to be more interested in the relationship between religion and fundamentalism, and in the issue of terrorism.

In the Bardo Museum of Tunis, where the memory of ancient Carthage still lives, in ancient Palmyra, on the shores of the Bosporus and the Gulf of Sirte, and in so many other places, blood has abundantly been shed.

Fanatics willing to give their lives to destroy a world order they consider vitiated to the very roots now occupy the headlines.

Can democratic states defend themselves against determined men or women who despise life, the lives of others like themselves?

The radicality of the Gnostics of the past, the war they had waged against the pagans, Jews and Christians at the beginning of our era, has found a successor. The jihadists embody it today vis-à-vis the Western world, the world of democracies and their allies.

History is on the lookout, and no one knows how things will turn out. The fact that the extreme right is now growing so much in countries that were vomiting it just yesterday is perhaps a sign of future disasters in preparation.

And what about God in all this? Is He even aware of all the misery, proliferating down this world?

Marguerite Yourcenar wrote in her Œuvre au noir: « Suffering and consequently joy and consequently good and what we call evil, justice and what is for us injustice and finally, in one form or another, the understanding that serves to distinguish these opposites, exist only in the world of blood and perhaps sap… Everything else, I mean the mineral kingdom and that of the spirits if it exists, is perhaps insensitive and quiet, beyond our joys and sorrows or below them. Our tribulations are possibly only a tiny exception in the universal factory and this could explain the indifference of this immutable substance that we devoutly call God. »

Blood flows, seemingly in God’s indifference.

But which God? The God of the Book? The One God? The God of Jihad? The « universal », « Catholic » God, or the God of the « Chosen Few », whether they are Calvinists, Gnostics or fundamentalists?

The heart beats, the sap and blood flows. God stays silent. Why?

It may be that this indifference comes from what God does not exist.

It may also be that God being immutable, his indifference follows from it, as Yourcenar suggests.

There is a third possibility. God’s mutity may only be apparent. It is possible that He speaks with a very low voice, that he whispers, like an uncertain zephyr. To perceive and hear, one must be a poet or a seer, an initiate or a mystagogue, a shaman or an ishrâqiyun.

So we are left today with tree options to choose from:

A non-existent God, an indifferent (or absent) God, or a very discreet God, speaking with an extremely weak voice?

What’s your bet?

iJacques Lacarrière, Les gnostiques. 1973