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 bibliothé 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

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



Bound to Build the Collective Unconscious of Humanity

Several centuries before Abraham left Ur in Chaldea, the Zend-Avesta religion revered in ancient Iran a ‘Lord of Lords’, a ‘supreme God’, named Ahura Mazda,which translates, in Pehlevi, or Middle Persian, as Ormuzd. Ahura Mazda has also other names, such as Spenta Mainyu, literally: « the Holy Spirit ».

Ahura Mazda reigns unique over all other, lower ranking, divinities, called ‘Gâthâs’.

Ahura Mazda being a supreme God, far beyond human reach or understanding, the prayers of the Zend-Avesta are addressed to the Gâthâs, rather than to Ahura Mazda, though they are only ‘intermediate divinities’, or more exactly ’emanations’ of Ahura Mazda. The Yasna says about the Gâthâs: « All the worlds, the bodies, the bones, the vital forces, the forms, the consciousness, the soul, the Phravaṣi, we offer them all and present them to the Gâthâs, Saints, Lords of time, pure; to the Gâthâs who are for us supporters, protectors, a food of the spirit.»i

In Avestic, which is the ancient Iranian language, Ahura means « lord ». Mazda means « highly learned », according to the eminent Burnouf, who breaks down the word mazda into maz – dâ. Maz is a superlative, and means « to know ». In modern Persian, dânâ means « learned ». There is also an equivalent in Sanskrit: « mêdhas« .

When asked by Zoroaster about the meaning of his Name, Ahura Mazda declared, as reported in the first Yast:

« My name is the Sovereign, my name is the One who knows ».

Zoroaster did not stick to this answer and continued to question Ahura Mazda. He urged him to reveal what is most powerful, most effective against the Spirit of Evil, Aṅra Mainyu (in Pehlevi: Ahriman), and against all the demons.

Ahura Mazda replied that what is most powerful is the names he bears.

And he added:

« My name is the One to be questioned; my second name is the Head of the flock; the Propagator of the law; the excellent Purity; the Good of pure origin; the Intelligence; the One who understands; the Wise; the Growth; the One who increases; the Lord; the One who is most useful; the One who is without suffering; the One who is solid; the One who counts the merits; the One who observes everything; the Helper; the Creator; the All-Knowing (the Mazda) (…). Remember and pronounce these names day and night. I am the Protector, the Creator, the Suspender, the Savior, the Most Holy Celestial Being. My name is the Auxiliary, the Priest, the Lord; I am called the One who sees much, the One who sees far away. My name is the Supervisor, the Creator, the Protector, the Connoisseur. I am called the One who augments; I am called the Dominator, the One who should not be deceived, the One who is not deceived; I am called the Strong, the Pure, the Great; I am called the One who has good science.

Whoever remembers and pronounces these names will escape the attacks of demons. »ii

In passing, we note the obvious analogy of these lines with comparable, but much later, texts of Judaism, and even later texts of Islam.

Avesta has all the characteristics of a revealed religion.

First of all, it was God (Ahura Mazda) who initially revealed himself to the Mazdaites.

Then, the Avesta refers to a great prophet, Zoroaster, who boasts of having served as an intermediary between God and man, and who was the great reformer of Mazdeism. The most recent scientific work shows that Zoroaster lived before Abraham, between 1400 and 1100 BC. He was the prophet who transformed the initial dualism of Mazdaism and the multiplicity of the various Gâthâs into an absolutely transcendental monism, after having discussed it directly with Ahura Mazda.

The interaction between Ahura Mazda and Zoroaster is not without analogy with the encounter between God and Moses, several centuries later.

From this strident comparison we may derive the following rough alternative.

The Materialistic Hypothesis :

The « world from above », the world of the divine, whose variations, analogies and anagogies, similarities and echoes one tries to identify in the long history of religious ideas, simply does not exist. The ‘spiritual’ world is really empty, there is no God, and it is the materialists who are 100% right. So the wars of religion, the sacrifices, the martyrs, the passions of belief, and all the blood shed today, yesterday and tomorrow, are all facets of a sinister farce played by scoundrels or Machiavellian policies at the expense of the unfathomable naivety of peoples, victims of their credulity and superstition.

This farce is continually developed and rewritten over the millennia by the so-called ‘enlightened’, the mad, the deranged, the cynical and the war criminals, all contributing to making this Earth a place without meaning, without past and without future. In this hypothesis, the world would be condemned to self-destruction, moral suicide and absolute violence, as soon as the trickery is finally blown up.

The Spiritual Hypothesis:

The « world from above » does indeed exist, in one way or another, but it escapes our perception, our understanding and intellection. It’s a Mystery, or the Mystery. In this case, there is a good chance that religions that have appeared since the dawn of time, such as Shamanism, the ancient Egyptian religion, Veda, Avesta, Mazdeism, Zoroastrianism, Chaldaic magic, Orphism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, far from being able to claim an elective singularity, are as many instances of various perceptions and intuitions of the divine by man, as many testimonies of the plurality of possible approaches to the Mystery.

Each one of these religions represents a unique and special way of understanding the divine emanation, more or less adapted to the time and the peoples who receive it.

It would then be futile to rank or classify religions among themselves. It would be more productive, particularly from a forward-looking perspective, to examine the systemic relationships between a given era and the way in which religious fact is inscribed, at that moment in history, in the social, cultural, political and economic fabric.

Let us add that the general state of the world today, unfortunately suggests hat none of the religions mentioned above is now in a position to claim a monopoly on the ultimate truth or the final revelation on the fundamental questions that humanity keeps asking itself since millennia.

If such a « world from above », inaccessible to human reason, does in fact exist, it also implies that something extremely important, vital, and also beyond human comprehension, has been at stake for thousands of years at the core of Mankind, with the active but hidden and (most of the time) silent complicity of the Divine.

It should be assumed that since the dawn of humanity there has been a kind of cosmic, sidereal « great game », whose meaning and purpose are clearly beyond our grasp, but in which men are invited to take part, within the limits of their limited means.

Humanity is composed of generations that fleetingly pass through the earth like insects in the light on a summer evening. It is therefore very likely that these successive generations can only apprehend in a deficient way, the unspeakable challenge of this super-natural arrangement.

But it is possible to assume that successive human generations may from time to time generate in their midst enlightened spirits capable of intuitively perceiving, imaginalement (‘imaginally’), as Henry Corbin would say, the grandiose stake of this divine part.

All we can do in an era like ours, where materialism seems to pervade everything, is to refuse to let ourselves be caught up in the trap of preconceived ideas, to refuse sectarianism, dogmatism, the prisons of thought and imagination. We can actively contribute, soul by soul, to the slow, fragile and ungraspable building of the immanent Noosphere, the collective Unconscious of all humanity.

iYasna, ch. 54

iiQuoted by Abel Hovelacque, Avesta, Zoroastre et le mazdéisme. Paris, 1880.

The Sad Fate of Oriental Theosophy

In Aleppo, Syria, on July 29, 1191, Saladin had a philosopher, Sohravardî, killed.

Why? He was too subversive. Rulers do not like ideas that do not comfort them.

Sohravardî had been searching all his life for what he called the « True Reality ». He recorded the results of his investigations in his book: Oriental Theosophy. Henry Corbin wrote that he had « resurrected the ancient wisdom that the Imams of India, Persia, Chaldea, Egypt and the Ancient Greeks up to Plato never ceased to take as their pivot, from which they drew their own theosophy; this wisdom is eternal leaven. »i

This short sentence, full of names, has immense implications. It summarizes the dream, the common aspiration of many minds, that fly from century to century, leaping through space and time, or creeping in discreetly, invisibly, in a few chosen minds.

It evokes the idea of a shared intuition, a unique wisdom, a common thread linking the Indus to the Aegean Sea through the Oxus, the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Jordan and the Nile.

These rivers have been irrigating the nations that crowd their shores for thousands of years. The roads that cross them from East to West never ceased to transport words, cultures and ideas.

But today, the dream of a common wisdom shared by all humanity seems more chimeric than ever.

Nothing has been learned.

Dead is the idea of a common wisdom, spread among countless peoples.

Diverse religions, during millennia, Vedism, Avestism, Mazdeism, Zoroastrianism, Chaldean Magism, Hermetism, Orphism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (be it Sufi, Shi’ite or Sunni), all bear witness in their own specific and unique way to the fundamental unity of the human spirit. They are as many yeast in the same dough.

But they all failed, in their own way, since none of them succeeded in bringing real peace and lasting wisdom in the minds of men.

A universal cradle of ancient visions, the Middle East is still or again devastated by war.

Universal hatred, encouraged by specific interests, seems unabated.

We need to reassert what Sohravardî pointed out in Aleppo, eight centuries ago.

But the Powers, the Rulers, and their diplomats, the Sykes, the Picots, or the men of the day, have been playing their own Great Game in this vast region all over again. They laid the groundwork for today’s suffering. New corrupt leaders, men of little meaning and wisdom, have brought more harm on this part of the world, but they will not be judged by some International Court for all the suffering they have inflicted, after deliberately provoking endless disruptions, wars and mass migration.

i Henry Corbin, En Islam iranien. Aspects spirituels et philosophiques, t.2, p.35

The God of Israel had a Wife

« It is difficult to admit, but it is clear to researchers today that the people of Israel did not stay in Egypt, that they did not wander in the desert, that they did not conquer the Promised Land in a military campaign, that they did not share it among the twelve tribes of Israel. More difficult to digest is the now clear fact that the unified kingdom of David and Solomon, described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom. Moreover, it is with a certain unease that we will have to live, when one knows that the Lord, the God of Israel, had a wife, and that the ancient Israelite religion did not adopt monotheism until the end of the monarchical period, and not on Mount Sinai. »

These provocative lines, not devoid of a kind of transgressive jubilation, were published in the Haaretz newspaper, on 29 October 1999 by Israeli archaeologist Zeev Herzog, professor at Tel Aviv University.

Archaeology is a discipline that requires a lot of rigor, both in the treatment of discoveries in the field and in the interpretation that makes them.

It is interesting to analyze the way in which this archaeologist prioritizes his conclusions. What seems to him « the most difficult to digest », among the revelations he is entitled to make, is that the kingdom of David and Solomon was not a « regional power » at that time, but only « a small tribal kingdom ».

Why is this more difficult to « digest » than, for example, the revelation that the account of the Exodus has no historical or archaeological basis? Would the political power of the moment be more important than the symbolic power of the myth and epic guided by Moses?

Or does this imply that the « Great Story » that Israel gives to itself may vary according to time and circumstances?

Now that Israel has at least two hundred nuclear warheads, a huge qualitative and quantitative leap has been made in terms of ‘regional power’ since the days of David and Solomon. On the other hand, with regard to the « Great Story », it remains to be seen whether the progress made since that distant time has been comparable.

As for the very late adoption of monotheism by the people of Israel, around the 8th century BC, the period corresponding to the end of the Kingdom of Israel, it is worth noting that, more than a millennium before, the Aryas of the Indus basin already worshipped a single God, a supreme Creator, Master and Lord of all universes.

In ancient Iran, the Zend Avesta, a religion that derives in part from the Veda, professed the same belief in a good, unique God in the second half of the 2nd millennium BC.

With regard to the alleged « wife of God », it should be pointed out that in the ancient religion of Israel, this « wife » could be just be interpreted as a metaphor, and assimilated to Wisdom (Hokhmah). In another interpretative configuration, this « wife » was Israel itself.

It should also be noted that in the Veda and Zend Avesta, metaphors such as « the spouse of the Divinity » were widely used since very ancient times.

Conceptually, then, it is legitimate to argue that a form of Vedic or Zoroastrian monotheism existed long before Abraham left Ur in the Chaldea.

But it must also be noted that Israel’s faith in one God is still alive today, after three millennia.

The Veda or Zend Avesta have apparently had less success in the long term.

But these religions have left a huge memory, which still irrigates the minds of entire continents today, with Buddhism and Hinduism.

Life is proven by life, like the cake by the eating. This is true of life as of ideas. And the memory of what was « life » also has its own « life », from which we can expect anything to be born, some day.

The ‘God of the Gods’ and the’ Idolaters’

Secrets are to be kept untold, and to remain so. But what about their very existence? The owners of essential (or even divine) secrets, though not allowed to reveal any of their content, sometimes give in to the temptation to allude to the fact that they are the custodians of them.

They cannot and will not reveal anything, of course, but they maybe inclined to leak that they know ‘something’, that could be revealed some day, though it has to remain secret, for the time being.

Of course, this attitude is childish, and dangerous.

Exciting the curiosity of outsiders brings problems, and can turn sour.

If a secret is a secret, then it has to be absolutely kept secret, and its very existence has also to be kept hidden.

Voltaire points out the problem that those claiming big, ‘magical’ secrets may encounter: « Let us see some secret of your art, or agree to be burned with good grace, » he writes in the article « Magic » of his Philosophical Dictionary.

Secrecy, magic and religion have had, over the centuries, chaotic, contradictory and confrontational relationships. Those who openly claimed knowledge of higher levels of understanding, but who refused to share them, were exposed to jealousy, anger, hatred and ultimately violence. They could be accused of fraud or heresy, so much the vaunted knowledge of ultimate secrets could be a source of cleavage, of suspicion.

The famous Magi kings came from Mesopotamia, or present-day Iran, to pay tribute to a newborn child, in Bethlehem, bringing gold, incense and myrrh in their luggage. Undoubtedly, they were also carriers of deep secrets. As Magi, they must have known the mysteries of Mithra, the achievements of the Zoroastrian tradition and maybe some other teachings from further East.

In those days, ideas, mystical traditions and mysteries were traveling fast.

There is no doubt for instance that the Latin word ‘deus’ (god) came all the way from the vedic ‘deva’, which is a Sanskrit word.

According to Franz Cumont, a ‘deva’, in the Veda, is first and foremost, a « being of light », and by a metaphorical extension a « god ». One also finds, in Avestic texts of Zend-Avesta, attributed to Zoroaster, the very similar term of ‘daêva’, but with a very different meaning.

« Daêvas » are not « gods », they are « devils », evil spirits, hostile to the beneficial power of Ahura Mazda, the Good and Almighty God of Zoroastrianism. This inversion of meaning, « gods » (deva) being turned into « devils » (daêva), is striking.

The peoples of ancient Iran borrowed their gods and much of their religion from the neighboring people in the Indus basin, but reversed the meaning of some key words, probably to better distinguish themselves from their original tribes.

Why this need to stand out, to differentiate oneself?

Jan Assman in his book, Moses the Egyptian, points to the fact that the Hebrews reportedly borrowed a number of major ideas from the ancient Egyptian religion, such as monotheism, as well as the practice of sacrifice, but then « inverted » the meaning of some of these fundamental ideas.

Assmann calls this borrowing followed by an inversion, the « Mosaic distinction ».

For example, the ‘Bull’ stands for a sacred representation of the God Apis among Egyptians, and the bull is thus a ‘sacred’ animal, just as in India cows are.

But, following the « Mosaic distinction’, the Hebrews sacrificed without restraint cattle and sheep, which were considered sacred in Egypt.

The Veda and the Zend Avesta keep track of the genesis and decadence of almost forgotten beliefs. These texts form an essential milestone for the understanding of religions that were later developed further west, in the Chaldea, Babylon, Judea-Samaria. The clues are fragile, but there are many avenues for reflection.

For example, the Avestic god Mithra is a « God of the Hosts », which reminds us of the Elohim Tsabaoth of the Hebrews. He is the Husband and Son of a Virgin and Immaculate Mother. Mithra is a Mediator, close to the Logos, the word by which Philo of Alexandria, Jewish and Hellenophone, translates Wisdom (Hokhmah), celebrated by the Hebrew religion, and also close to the Evangelical Logos.

As such, Mithra is the Intermediary between the Almighty Divine Power and the created world. This idea has been taken up by Christianity and Jewish Kabbalah. In the cult of Mithra, sacraments are used, where wine, water and bread are the occasion for a mystical banquet. This is close to the rites of the Jewish Sabbath or Christian Communion.

These few observations indicate that there is no lack of continuity in the wide geographical area from Indus to Oxus, Tigris, Euphrates, Jordan and Nile to Greece and Rome. On this immense arc, fundamental beliefs, first intuitions, sowing seeds among peoples, intersect and meet.

The Vedic Mitra, the Avestic Mithra are figures that announce Orpheus and Dionysus. According to an etymology that borrows its sources from the language of Avesta, Dionysus must be understood as an Avestic name : div-an-aosha, that is: « the God of the drink of immortality ».

The Jews themselves, guardians of the tradition of the one God, bear witness to the antiquity of the belief, common to all the peoples of this vast region, in the God of the Gods. « As our masters note, the Name of the God of the Gods has always been a common tradition among idolaters.»i

The prophet Malachi also said: « For from sunrise to sunset, my Name is great among the nations. »ii

One can assume that ‘monotheism’, whatever the exact meaning given to this relatively recent concept, therefore has a very long history, and extremely old roots.

The intuition of a God of the gods has undoubtedly occupied the minds of men for thousands of years, long before it took on the monotheistic form that we know today.

iRabbi Hayyim de Volozhin. L’âme de la vie

iiMalachie 1, 11

Music and Religion

Music plays a special role in all religions. Part of the Vedic ceremonies consisted of songs from the Sâma-Veda. David’s psalms sang the praise of the Lord and the signs of cantilation guided how they should be sung during prayer. The deliberately dissonant music of flutes and tambourines accompanied the Dionysian thiases.

Plato presented a theory of music in its relationship with philosophy and religion, based on Egyptian ideas, introduced in Greece by Orpheus and developed by Pythagoras.

This musical science was subject to secrecy. Pythagoras openly explains the theoretical part of the system to be used, but he remains silent about the fundamental meaning of sacred music, reserving that knowledge for the initiated.

The initiates had access to these mysteries only after painful trials, and after swearing silence about them. Aeschylus was suspected of having publicly unveiled a subject supposed to be covered by the Mysteries in one of his plays. He only narrowly escaped the fury of the people who wanted him dead for committing this blasphemy. Antoine Fabre d’Oliveti writes that, according to Aristotle, Aeschylus denied having revealed the Mysteries by saying that he did not know that these things should not be said. He could only be absolved of this crime by proving that he had not been initiated himself.

But according to Clement of Alexandria, Aeschylus in fact admitted to having been initiated, but this gave him, unlike his accusers, the ability to disentangle precisely what could be said about the Mysteries and what should be kept quiet.

Fabre d’Olivet also reports that Diagoras’ head was put at a price for the same reason as those of Andocides and Alcibiade. Diagoras de Melos, nicknamed « the atheist », discredited the Mysteries by disclosing them, explaining them, and went so far as to mimic them to make fun of them. He recited in public the Orphic Logos, and told the Mysteries of Eleusis and the Cabires.

Times were not conducive to freedom of criticism and analysis of religion. Aristotle escaped the prosecution of the hierophant Eurymedon with great difficulty. Long before Galileo, Philolaos of Crotone and Aristarchus of Samos were publicly accused and dragged before the court, one for saying and the other for writing that the Earth was not at the centre of the universe.

Philolaos was himself an initiate.

It was through him that Plato was able to read the books of Pythagoras, and to acquire the foundations of his own initiation to the « Pythagorean Gospel ». If this initiation included teachings denying geocentrism, as early as the 5th century BC, their relevance can only be underlined, confirmed by the patronage of such eminent minds as Pythagoras and Plato.

The initiation was supposed to provide a deep understanding of the mechanisms governing the universe. Music was one of the elements of this initiation. It was exoteric (by its public manifestation) but esoteric (by its true meaning, which had to remain hidden).

There are still some traces of this cult of mystery in the solfeggio today.

The musical notes (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si, i.e. C, D, E, F, G, A, B) were named after Guy d’Arezzo, who used the first syllables of a sacred hymn to Saint John to name them:

Ut queant laxis

Resonare fibris

Mira gestorum

Famuli tuorum

Polluted Solve

Labli reatum

Iohannes Sancte

It should be noted that the B (SI) is made up of the initials of Sancte and Iohannes (S.I.).

This hymn is translated as follows:

« So that your servants

can sing with their throats extended

the wonderful deeds,

dissolves the stain

of their sinful lips,

Saint John! »

The fact that the initial Ut replaced Do does not change much in terms of substance. Do is the first syllable of Dominus, the « Lord ».

Whatever the sound of music, it sounds the praise of Lord…

iAntoine Fabre d’Olivet (1767-1825) in La musique expliquée comme science et comme art et considérée dans ses rapports analogiques avec les mystères religieux, la mythologie ancienne et l’histoire de la terre.

Le Sacrifice et l’Amour

Si l’on observe qu’il y a des êtres de par le monde, des univers multiples, des arrière-mondes, et de l’Être même, on peut en inférer que l’on peut construire dès lors une idée comme celle du « Tout », un « Tout » qui comprendrait (par le miracle de la pensée) tous les êtres, tous les mondes et tout l’Être.

Mais cela n’épuise pas le mystère.

Avoir l’intuition de quelque chose comme le « Tout » est un bon début. Mais il faut aller plus loin: qu’est-ce que le « Tout », qu’est-il essentiellement?

Et, question liée, qu’est-ce que quelque microscopique partie de ce Tout (ou quelque « étant » relevant de l’infiniment presque rien face au Cosmos total) pourrait être en mesure de « penser » ou de « dire » à propos du Tout?

C’est là le paradoxe de l’être humain, et le défi de l’être pensant. Il est sans doute ‘presque rien’ vis-à-vis du Tout, mais il n’est pas rien quand même. Il est presque complètement incapable de concevoir ce qu’est effectivement le Tout, mais pas totalement. Tension stimulante.

Ce sont les philosophes Grecs qui ont été les premiers en Occident à réfléchir sur la nature ultime du Tout, au moins un millénaire après leurs prédécesseurs védiques, mais non sans une précision spécifique et une profondeur réflexive propre.

C’est d’ailleurs là un des avantages intrinsèques de la langue grecque, qui permet par sa structure même de forger et de manipuler les abstractions, par l’effet quasi-miraculeux de l’article défini (τό, le) transformant aisément un adjectif, un verbe ou un adverbe en substantifs, et partant, en ‘substances’, au moins putatives, mais invitant par là-même à la réflexion.

Ainsi l’adjectif πᾶς (au féminin πᾶσα, au neutre πᾶν) signifie ‘tout, toute’. Mais lorsqu’on le fait précéder de l’article défini, il peut prendre divers sens, nettement ‘philosophiques’. Ainsi τό πᾶν (to pan) peut signifier « le Tout, le tout ensemble, l’univers » ou « la chose principale, l’important », et dans un sens temporel: « toujours » (l’éternité?). Au neutre pluriel (πάντα), il signifie « tout le possible », ou encore « toutes sortes de choses, toutes les formes ».

Au neutre singulier, et avec une majuscule, Πᾶν, il est le nom du dieu Pan.

On conçoit que ce mot puisse induire philosophiquement une conception panthéiste ou moniste du monde.

Mais il faut compter avec les capacités retorses des penseurs grecs, en particulier les philosophes néo-platoniciens, qui se sont efforcés de donner à ce mot le sens de « l’Être universel ».

Ainsi Plotin, tel que traduit par Émile Bréhier, dit:

« Si vous êtes capable d’atteindre l’être universel, ou plutôt si vous êtes ‘en lui’ [ἐν τᾦ παντὶ], vous ne chercherez plus rien; si vous y renoncez, vous inclinerez ailleurs, vous tomberez, et vous ne verrez plus sa présence parce que vous regardez ailleurs. Mais, si vous ne cherchez plus rien, comment éprouverez-vous sa présence? C’est que vous êtes près de lui et que vous ne vous êtes pas arrêté à un être particulier; vous ne dites plus de vous-même: ‘Voilà quel je suis’; vous laissez toute limite pour devenir l’être universel.

Et pourtant vous l’étiez dès l’abord; mais comme vous étiez quelque chose en outre, ce surplus vous amoindrissait; car ce surplus ne venait pas de l’être, puisqu’on n’ajoute rien à l’être, mais du non-être.

Par ce non-être, vous êtes devenus quelqu’un, et vous n’êtes l’être universel que si vous abandonnez ce non-être. Vous vous agrandissez donc vous-même en abandonnant le reste, et, grâce à cet abandon l’être universel est présent.

Tant que vous êtes avec le reste, il ne se manifeste pas. Il n’est pas besoin qu’il vienne pour être présent; c’est vous qui êtes parti.

Partir ce n’est pas le quitter pour aller ailleurs, car il est là; mais, tout en restant près de lui, vous vous en étiez détourné. C’est ainsi souvent que les autres dieux n’apparaissent qu’à un seul homme bien que plusieurs hommes soient présents, – c’est que cet cet homme seul est capable de les voir. Ces dieux, ‘sous mille aspects divers parcourent les cités’. Mais c’est vers le dieu suprême que se tournent les cités, ainsi que le ciel et la terre entière; c’est près de lui et en lui qu’ils subsistent tout entiers; les êtres véritables, jusqu’à l’âme et la vie, tiennent de lui leur être, et ils aboutissent à son unité parce qu’elle est infinie et inétendue. »i

Qu’on l’appelle le « Tout », ou l’ « être universel », ou de quelque autre nom transmis au long des millénaires, l’important c’est de chercher à l’atteindre, ce « Tout », cet « Être », et de désirer entrer « en » lui, d’aller au-delà de toute limite, et devenir à la fin le Tout, cet être-là.

Tant qu’on n’a pas réussi à aller au-delà de soi-même, au-delà de ce ‘soi’ qui n’est pas grand chose, tant qu’on n’a pas réussi à devenir un « être véritable », on reste toujours au fond dans le non-être.

Mais comment devenir un « être véritable », et atteindre le « Dieu suprême », celui que d’innombrables cités jadis révéraient, celui que le ciel et la terre entière louent?

Tous ont leur chance. Mais il faut commencer par se mettre en marche. C’est un long voyage.

Tant que l’on n’est pas « en » lui, (et le sera-t-on jamais? – nul ne le sait), il faut sans cesse s’efforcer de s’en approcher, pour en être toujours plus « près », car c’est seulement quand on est plus « près » que l’on commence d’être « véritablement », « entièrement », « absolument » (πανταχοὖ).

Et comment s’en approcher?

Plotin dit que quand on s’ajoute quelque chose (en plus du Tout), quand on devient « quelqu’un » (par opposition au Tout), alors on devient ‘moindre’ que le Tout par cette addition même. Il faut donc retrancher tout ajout, écarter toute négation, enlever de soi tout ce qui n’est pas seulement le Tout, tout ce qui n’est que partie du Tout.

Pour prendre une autre métaphore, il faut « sacrifier » le soi et ses « parties », si l’on veut approcher de l’idée du « Tout ».

Serait-ce que le soi encombre, voile, aveugle? Oui, sans doute. A quoi sert donc le soi ? Pourquoi a-t-on un ‘soi’ s’il s’agit ensuite de s’en débarrasser?

Le soi est un vêtement, ou une ‘cosse’, sans doute nécessaire pour grandir. Mais un jour il faut changer de vêtement quand on a grandi au-delà du premier âge.

On ne peut rester petit. C’est Platon qui le dit:

« La petitesse d’esprit est incompatible avec une âme qui doit tendre sans cesse à embrasser l’ensemble et l’universalité du divin et de l’humain (…) Mais l’âme à laquelle appartiennent la grandeur de la pensée et la contemplation de la totalité du temps et de l’être, crois-tu qu’elle fasse grand cas de la vie humaine? Un tel homme ne regardera donc pas la mort comme une chose à craindre. »ii

Mais si l’âme individuelle doit grandir, ne pas rester petite, qu’en est-il du Tout lui-même? Doit-il grandir aussi? Ou sa taille de « Tout » est-elle optimale? Pérenne? Ou encore: s’il s’ajoute de l’être se diminue-t-il par cette addition même?

Cette question n’est pas rhétorique. Le Véda l’a posée formellement, en évoquant l’auto-sacrifice du Dieu suprême.

Que se passe-t-il lorsque le Tout, que le Véda appelle le Dieu suprême, le Seigneur des créatures, décide de se « sacrifier » Lui-même, avant même (et peut-être afin) que quelque création n’advienne ?

Le Ṛg Veda décrit en effet le Sacrifice du Dieu (devayajña), ou l’auto-immolation du Créateur (dont le nom est Prajapāti) comme étant la condition de la Création même.

C’est seulement parce que Prajāpati se sacrifie Lui-même en oblation qu’il peut donner à la Création son propre Soi.

Par cet acte unique, le Sacrifice divin devient le « nombril » de l’univers :

« Cette enceinte sacrée est le commencement de la terre ; ce sacrifice est le centre du monde. Ce soma est la semence du coursier fécond. Ce prêtre est le premier père de la parole. »iii

D’où le célèbre commentaire :

« Tout ce qui existe, quel qu’il soit, est fait pour participer au sacrifice. »iv

Pour nous qui réfléchissons sur cette tradition plurimillénaire, si longtemps après, les questions abondent. Tout ce qui existe est-il donc fait pour participer au Sacrifice, y compris le Tout lui-même?

Mais si c’est le Tout lui-même qui se « sacrifie », qu’est-ce qu’il « reste » après que le Tout se soit sacrifié?

Quant le Tout se sacrifie, il ajoute à son être du non-être, c’est à dire qu’il ajoute des étants au monde. Il se diminue, mais en se diminuant il s’augmente. Il s’éloigne de Lui-même, il se vide de lui-même, il s’absente de lui-même, il n’est plus « présent » à lui-même, mais il est « présent » (dans les deux sens du mot) à ses créatures, et à sa Création.

L’on voit là que l’être du Tout n’est pas de même nature que l’être de l’étant qui participe au Tout.

Quand l’étant participe au Tout, tout ajout, tout surplus, l’amoindrit.

Quand le Tout « ajoute » des étants à l’être, en les créant, il sacrifie une part de son propre être. On peut le reformuler ainsi: en ajoutant de l’être créé, il s’ajoute à lui-même du « non-être ».

Le Sacrifice crée de l’être en renonçant à l’être.

Un autre mot pour le dire: le Sacrifice c’est l’amour.

i Plotin. Ennéades VI, 5, 12, 13-36. Traduction Émile Bréhier. Ed. Les Belles Lettres, Paris, 1983, p. 212

iiPlaton. La République. 486 a, cité par Marc Aurèle, Pensées VII, 35. Cf. Pierre Hadot. Exercices spirituels et philosophie antique. 1987.

iii RV I,164,35

ivSB III,6,2,26

The Ink in the Sand

Iamblichus thought that humanity is composed mainly of fallen souls, but that the gods have sent some wise men like Orpheus, Pythagoras, Plato, or Hermes here to help them. Iamblichus also boasted being knowledgeable about theurgy.

What is theurgy? It is the idea that the human can unite with the divine through special practices. The soul is called, by means of intense religious gestures, initiation rites, sacrifices, invocations aimed at ecstasy, to unite degree by degree with beings of a higher nature, heroes, « demons », angels and archangels, and ultimately with the One, the ineffable God.

In the Mysteries of Egypt, a book devoted to Chaldeo-Egyptian wisdom, Iamblichus evokes the idea of a progressive « degradation » of man, of his fall from the divine plan. The hierarchy of this fall includes divine beings, archangels, angels, demons, heroes, archons. Human souls are at the end.

Iamblichus also describes two kinds of ecstasy, analyses the causes of evil, the theurgic power of sacrifice and presents the symbolic mystagogy of the Egyptians as well as hermetic theology and astrology. Every soul is guarded by a « demon » who helps it to reach its goal, happiness, union with the divine.

Unity is possible, but not through knowledge. « Actually, it is not even a knowledge that contact with the divinity is. Because knowledge is separated by a kind of otherness. »i

The contact with the divine is difficult to explain. « We are rather wrapped in the divine presence; it is it that makes our fullness, and we take our very being from the science of the gods. « ii

Iamblichus uses well-documented Egyptian metaphors and symbols, such as silt, lotus, solar boat. These are effective images to explain the background of the case. « Conceive as silt all the body, the material, the nourishing and generating element or all the material species of nature carried by the agitated waves of matter, all that receives the river of becoming and falls with it (…) Sitting on a lotus means a superiority over the silt that excludes any contact with it and indicates an intellectual kingdom in the heavens (…) As for the one who sails on a boat, he suggests the sovereignty that rules the world. » iii

Through the magic of images, the silt, the lotus, the boat, the whole order of the universe is revealed. Why go looking elsewhere for distant and confused explanations? Just look at the Nile.

Where does the anaphoric, anagogic power of these images come from? They are the equivalent of divine names. « We keep in our souls a mystical and unspeakable copy of the gods, and it is by the names that we lift our souls to the gods. »iv

Names have this magical, mystical and theurgic power because they have the ability to touch the gods, even if only in a tiny way, in a language that is their own, and that cannot leave them indifferent. « As the entire language of sacred peoples, such as the Assyrians and Egyptians, is suitable for sacred rites, we believe we must address to the gods in the language known to them, the formulas left to our choice. »v

All the religions of the region, from the Nile to the Indus, the religion of ancient Egypt, the Chaldean religions, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Vedism, have multiplied the names of God.

Each of these names represents a unique, irreplaceable way of knowing an aspect of the divine.

Men use multiple invocations, prayers, formulas. Religions give free rein to their imagination. What really matters is not the letter of prayer. The important thing is to place yourself on the field of language, the language « connatural to the gods ». We don’t know this language, of course. We only have a few traces of it, such as names, attributes, images, symbols.

Of these minute traces, we must be satisfied. In the early 1970s, an archaeologist, Paul Bernard, headed the French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan, and conducted research in Ai Khanoun, at the eastern end of the Bactria River, near the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

This city, located at the confluence of the Amu Darya River (the former Oxus) and the Kokcha River, had been nicknamed « Alexandria of the Oxus » by Ptolemy. The archaeological team uncovered the ancient Greek city, its theatre and gymnasium.

In a room of the great Greco-Indian palace of Ai Khanoun, invaded by the sands, Paul Bernard found « the traces of a papyrus that had rotten, leaving on the sand, without any other material support, the traces of ink of the letters. Wonderful surprise! The traces of papyrus fragments were barely visible in the corners, but the text in Greek could still be read: it was the unpublished text of a Greek philosopher, Aristotle’s disciple, who had accompanied Alexander on his expedition! »vi

The communist coup d’état, supported by the Soviet army, ended the archaeological work in 1978. The result of the excavations, deposited in the Kabul Museum, was heavily damaged by successive bombings, and a little later was vandalized by the Taliban.

Have the tiny traces of ink finally disappeared?

iMysteries of Egypt, I,3.

ii Ibid. I,3

iii Ibid. VII, 2

iv Ibid. VII, 4

vIbid. VII, 4

viCf. P. Bernard, Fouilles d’Ai Khanoun I, Paris, 1973. Qoted by Jacqueline de Romilly. Petites leçons sur le grec ancien.

The sacrifice of Puruṣa, the dismemberment of Osiris and the crucifixion of Christ

The Rig Veda is without doubt the most sacred text of ancient India.

It has been translated into several Western languages, but with significant differences of interpretation, that may reveal different worldviews, within the West itself.

Focusing here on one of the most fascinating hymns of the Rig Veda (RV, X, 90), dedicated to Puruṣa (i.e. the Man or the Supreme Being, depending on the interpretations), it is interesting, I think, to try to retrieve these points of view, as they are revealed by how they understand the role of the Supreme God’s ‘Sacrifice’.

A. Langlois, the author of the first French translation of Rig Veda in the beginning of 19th century, translates the first two verses of this Hymn, in this manner:

« 1. Pourousha has a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, a thousand feet. He kneaded the earth with his ten fingers, and formed a ball of it, above which he dominates.

2. Pourousha, master of immortality, strong of the food he takes, has formed what is, what was, what will be. »i

H. H. Wilson, a professor of Sanskrit at the University of Oxford (1888) translates:

« 1. Purusha, who has a thousand headsii, a thousand eyes, a thousand feet, investing the earth in all directions, exceeds (it by a space) measuring ten fingers.iii

2. Purusha is verily all this (visible world), all that is, and all that is to be; he is also the lord of immortality; for he mounts beyond (his own condition) for the food (of living beings)iv. »

A famous German scholar, active in the first half of 20th century, Karl Friedrich Geldner, proposes:

« 1. Tausendköffig, tausendaügig, tausendfüssig ist Puruṣa; er bedeckte vollständig die Erde und erhob sich noch zehn Finger hoch darüber. »

2. Puruṣa allein ist diese ganze Welt, die vergangene und die zukünftige, und er ist der Herr Unsterblichkeit (und auch über das), was durch Speise noch weiter wächst. »

Finally, here is another translation of the same verses by the famous French Indianist, Louis Renou:

« 1. The Man has a thousand heads. He has a thousand eyes, a thousand feet. Covering the earth from side to side, he still exceeds it with ten fingers.

2. The Man is none other than this universe, what has passed, what is to come. And he is the master of the immortal domain because he grows beyond food.»v

We see that Renou translates the word पुरुष Puruṣa, as « The Man ».

Langlois, Wilson, Geldner, prefer not to translate the word Puruṣa (or Pourousha in the 19th century spelling), but to keep it as a proper name. Why?

Maybe they thought that this word was too ambivalent or too complex to be rendered by an apparently too simple equivalent like « the Man »?

Huet’s dictionary defines Puruṣa as « Man, male, person; hero ». In a philosophical sense, this word means « humanity ». According to Huet, Puruṣa can also be understood like a proper name, and it then translates into: « the Being; the divine spirit; the macrocosm ».

In effect, the spectrum of Puruṣa’s meanings is quite wide.

In Monier-Williams’ Sanskrit dictionary, which may be the most complete one that we have in the West, we find the following explanation for Puruṣa: « The primaeval man as the soul and original source of the universe; the personal and animating principle in men and other beings, the soul or spirit; the Supreme Being or Soul of the universe. »

Let us now look at verses 6 and 7, which are rather singular.

Renou translatess:

« 6. When the Gods offered the sacrifice with Man as an oblation, spring served as butter, summer as kindling wood, and autumn as an offering.

7. On the litter, they sprinkled the Man – the Sacrifice – who was born at the beginning. Through him the Gods made the sacrifice, as well as the Saints and the Seers. »

Langlois gives:

« 6. When the Devas with Pourousha sacrificed by offering the offering, the butter formed the spring, the wood the summer, the holocaust the autumn.

7. Pourousha thus born became the Sacrifice, accomplished on the (holy) lawn by the Devas, the Sadhyas and the Richis. »

Wilson has:

« 6. When the gods performed the sacrificevi with Purusha as the offering, then Spring was its ghí, Summer the fuel, and Autumn the oblation.

7. They immolated as the victim upon the sacred grass Purusha, born before (creation); with him the deities were Sadhyasvii and those who were Ṛishis sacrificed. »

Geldner gives:

« 6. Als die Götter mit Puruṣa als Opfergabe das Opfergabe vollzogen, da war der Frühling dessen Schmelzbutter, der Sommer das Brennholz, der Herbst die Opfergabe.

7. Ihn besprenten (weihten) sie als das Opfer auf dem Barhis, den am Anfang geborenen Puruṣa. Diesen brachten die Götter, die Sādhya’s und die Ŗși’s sich zum Opfer. »

One can see here a serious divergence of interpretation of verse 6:

Langlois is the only one to place (ambiguously) Pourousha alongside the Devas, the all of them apparently sacrificing together: « the Devas with Pourousha sacrificed by offering the offering ».

On the contrary, Wilson, Renou, Geldner, present Puruṣa as the very object of sacrifice, the unique (and divine) victim of oblation: « the gods performed the sacrifice with Purusha as the offering » or « the Gods offered the sacrifice with Man as an oblation ».

The verse 7 offers another significant difference of interpretation.

For Langlois, « Pourousha thus born became the Sacrifice », as if his birth happened at this moment, and this « (re-)birth » allowed him to « become the Sacrifice ».

For Wilson, Geldner, Renou, Puruṣa is treated like the very material, the essence of the Sacrifice: « They immolated Purusha as the victim upon the sacred grass ». « On the litter, they sprinkled the Man – the Sacrifice – who was born at the beginning. »

In a recent article discussing the « self sacrifice in Vedic ritual » and commenting the same hymn, one can read these lines about Puruṣa’s sacrifice :

« By immolating the Puruṣa, the primordial being, the gods break up the unchecked expansiveness of his vitality and turn it into the articulated order of life and universe ».viii

By immolating Puruṣa, the primordial Being, the gods break the uncontrolled expansion of its vitality, and transform it into the articulated order of life and the universe.

The same article cites verse 6 as particularly significant: « With sacrifice the gods sacrificed sacrifice, these were the first ordinances « ix

What a strange formula! « With the sacrifice, the gods sacrificed the sacrifice. »

This verse presents itself as an enigma, it is an incentive to research.

Man is the sacrifice. The gods sacrifice Man, and in doing so they « sacrifice the sacrifice. »

What is the meaning of this?

This formulation is irresistibly reminiscent of another divine sacrifice, which happened more than two thousand years after the Rig Veda was composed, — the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, « the Son of Man », in order to save Man.

The similarity of the sacrificial structures suggests the hypothesis of a trans-historical permanence of a trans-cultural « myth » or « paradigm », establishing a sacrificial link between God and Man.

However, it is also interesting to underline that this sacrificial structure (in the Veda and in Christian sacrifice), is the exact opposite to the one represented by the sacrifice that the Biblical God asked Abraham to perform with his son Isaac.

Let’s continue with verses 11, 12, 13, 14

Renou translates:

« When they had dismembered the Man, how did they distribute the shares? What happened to his mouth, what happened to his arms? His thighs, his feet, what name do they get?

His mouth became Brāhman, the Warrior was the product of his arms, his thighs were the Artisan, his feet were born the Servant.

The moon was born from his consciousness, from his gaze the sun was born, from his mouth Indra at Agni, from his breath the wind was born.

The air came out of his belly button, from his head the sky moved, from his feet the earth, from his ear the orients. Thus were the worlds settled. »

Through the magic of metaphors, we seem to move from the Indus Valley to the Nile Valley. These verses of the Rig Veda evoke formulas from the Book of the Dead. The dismemberment of Man is reminiscent of the dismemberment of Osiris.

Plutarch reports that after Osiris’ murder by his brother Seth, the latter tore Osiris’ body into fourteen pieces and dispersed them. « His heart was in Athribis, his neck in Letopolis, his spine in Busiris, his head in Memphis and Abydos. And Plutarch concluded: « Osiris rose again as king and judge of the dead. He bears the title of Lord of the Underworld, Lord of Eternity, Sovereign of the Dead. »

The sacrifice of Puruṣa, the killing and dismemberment of Osiris, the crucifixion of Christ and the communion of his Body and Blood, share a deep structural analogy.

It is the idea of a God, primordial, supreme, sacrificed and then dismembered. In India, Egypt and Israel, God is sacrificed on the altar or on the cross, and its « dismemberment » allows universal communion.

iA. Langlois. RV Lecture IV, Section VIII, Hymn V: « 1. Pourousha a mille têtes, mille yeux, mille pieds. Il a pétri la terre de ses dix doigts, et en a formé une boule, au-dessus de laquelle il domine. 2. Pourousha, maître de l’immortalité, fort de la nourriture qu’il prend, a formé ce qui est, ce qui fut, ce qui sera. »

iiWilson comments: « As one with all creatures, Purusha or Viraj may be said to have a thousand, or thousands of heads, eyes, etc., a thousand being put for an infinite number. »

iiiWilson explains in a footnote: « Mahídhara gives the same explanation as Sáyaņa, but adds that it may also mean that the human soul, extending from the navel, takes up its abode in the heart — a doctrine to be found in the Upanishad. Hence Colebrooke renders it ‘stands in the human breast’; compare Burnouf’s version, ‘il occupe dans le corps de l’homme une cavité haute de dix doigts qu’il dépasse encore.’ All, however, that seems intended is that the supreme soul, having animated the universe, is moreover present in man, either in a minute form or of definite dimensions, a doctrine taught in the Upanishads and by the Vedántists. »

ivWilson adds here in a note: « Literally, ‘since he rises beyond by food.’ This may well admit of different explanations. Colebrook has ‘he is that which grows by nourishment’. Muir, ‘that which expands by nourishment.’ Burnouf has, ‘Car c’est lui qui par la nourriture (que prennent les créatures) sort (de l’état de cause) pour se développer (dans le monde)’; which follows Sáyaņa rather closely. Sáyaņa explains annena as práņinám bhogyenánnena nimittabhútena, and lower down adds, ‘Inasmuch as he assumes the condition of the world in order that sentient beings may enjoy the fruit of their acts (práņinám karmaphalabhogáya), that is not his true nature.’ The notion is that the supreme spirit, which in its own state is inert and undiscernible, becomes the visible world, that living beings may reap the fruit of their acts; and inasmuch as they may thereby acquire moksha, or final liberation, the supreme spirit is the lord or distributer of immortality. The word anna, ‘food’, which constitutes the chief difficulty here, is used in the Upanishads in a very vague and mystical sense; see, for example, the Muņḍaka, I. 8 [where it is translated ‘matter’ by Max Müller, Sacred Books of the East, vol. XV, p.28]. »

v In French : « 1. L’Homme a mille têtes. Il a mille yeux, mille pieds. Couvrant la terre de part en part, il la dépasse encore de dix doigts. 2. L’Homme n’est autre que cet univers, ce qui est passé, ce qui est à venir. Et il est le maître du domaine immortel parce qu’il croît au-delà de la nourriture. « 

viAccording to Sáyaņa, the sacrifice here was imaginary, or mental (mánasam).

viiWilson notes: « Sadhya, meaning ‘competent to create’, i.e. Prajápati and the rest ».

viii Cf. Essays on Transformation, Revolution and Permanence in the History of Religions (S. Shaked, D. Shulman, G.G. Stroumsa)

ix Cf. Essays on Transformation, Revolution and Permanence in the History of Religions (S. Shaked, D. Shulman, G.G. Stroumsa)

Leaving aside Joy and Sorrow

All religions, all beliefs, play their part in this world.

They are all quite different in a sense, But they all play a role in the current global, political and moral crisis.

Whether Vedic, Egyptian, Zend, Chaldean, Jewish, Buddhist, Hinduist, Christian, Islamic, all religions have something essential in common: they all have some kind of responsibility for the misfortune of the world.

Whether they say they are « outside » the world, or « inside » the world, they are responsible for what they say or let say, for what they do or let do on their behalf.

They are part of the world, taking on the most eminent place, that of judge, master and sage.

How could they not be linked to the actions and speeches of their followers?

How can we not judge them as much on what they say as on what they don’t say?

How can we not bring their great witnesses to the public arena and ask their opinion on the state of the world, as we would on election night or on a day of disaster?

We don’t really know where the chain of prophets began or when it will end.

Is the seal of the word sealed for eternity? Who will tell?

Will the Messiah return? Who will see that day?

Will eschatology come to an end? Who will hear the final Word?

If ten thousand years is not enough to lower the pride of the presumptuous, let us give ourselves a hundred centuries or a million millennia, just to see what will remain of the dust of words once tables, once stones, once laws.

Lists of names can be listed, to stimulate memories. How far back do we go?

Agni, Osiris, Melchizedek, Zoroaster, Moses, Hermes, Buddha, Pythagoras, Isaiah, Jesus, Muhammad…

In a few million years, we will see that they all shared their differences, their aspirations, their visions, their breaths, their ends.

What does the « religion » of these prophets have to do with « entities » now called Palestine, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United States, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt, India, Greece, China, France, Germany?

Will History teach us some day the essence of the difference between the « religion » of the Khârijites, the Zaydites, the Imâmites, the Ismaili Shi’ites and the Sunni ‘majority’ of Islam?

What was really the origin of the « religion » of the Nizarrians, and that of Hassan ibn al-Sabbah’s Assassiyoun?

What is the « religion » of the Taliban?

These questions are pointless, useless, apparently. There are better things to do, as it seems, such as fighting, killing people, bombing cities, beheading bodies, murdering children.

The religions of the past illuminate the wanderings of the present and those of the future with a special light, a premonitory aura.

Their slow epigenesis must be observed.

Their (implicit, slow) convergence must not be excluded, in the long run, beyond their differences.

Memory is necessary for understanding the present, as time takes its time.

But who still has time to remember?

Religions highlight, with words, curses and targeted blessings, much of the world’s misfortune.

They reveal the fragility, weakness, instability, irreducible fracture of Man.

They encourage us to take a long and global perspective, to observe the events of the day, to understand them, to anticipate their consequences, and to overcome pain, anxiety, fatigue and the desire for revenge, the drive for hatred.

For more than fifty-five centuries, several religions have been born and deployed in a limited geographical area, it is worth noting.

This privileged area, this node of beliefs and passions, extends from the Nile Valley to the Ganges basin, via the Tigris and Euphrates, the Oxus, and the Indus.

Geography changes more slowly than the hearts of mortals….

Between the Indus and the Oxus, which country best reflects today the past millennia, the erased glories?

Pakistan? Afghanistan?

How can we forget that Iran and Iraq (like Ireland) take their names from the ancient Aryas, attesting to the ancient Indo-European ties of Persia, Elam and Europe?

The Aryas, long before they even received their « Aryan » name, founded two major religions, the Veda in India, and the Zend Avesta in Iran.

Colossal forces! Immaculate memories!

Antoine Fabre d’Olivet reports that Diagoras de Melos (5th century BC), nicknamed « the atheist », a mocking and irreverent character, discredited the Mysteries by disclosing and ‘explaining’ them. He even went so far as to imitate them in public. He recited the Orphic Logos, he shamelessly revealed the Mysteries of Eleusis and those of the Cabires.

Who will dare to unveil today, like Diagoras, the actual mysteries of the world to the amazed crowds?

« Religion » is a prism, a magnifying glass, a telescope and a microscope at the same time.

« Religion » is above all an anthropological phenomenon.

Dogma bring nothing to this debate, or rather ignite it without benefit to the heart or the mind.

A global anthropology of « religion » could possibly reveal some constants of the human mind.

These constants do exist. Thus, the latent, impalpable or fleeting feeling of « mystery ».

This « mystery » is not defined. It escapes any categorization. But implicitly, indirectly, by multiplying approaches, by varying angles, by accumulating references, by evoking the memory of peoples, their sacredness, perhaps we sometimes manage to see the shadow of its trace, its attenuated effluvium.

There is also the idea of a unique, principal, creative divinity. It is found in various forms, in ancient times, long before Abraham’s time, before the Zend, even before the Veda.

Constant again is the question of origin and death, the question of knowledge of what we cannot know.

What breath then goes through the pages of the Book of the Dead, the manuscripts of Nag Hammadi, the hymns of Ṛg Véda or the Gāthās of Zend Avesta? What breath, even today, runs through the world, in a time so different from the origins?

This breath, it is still possible to perceive it, to breathe its smell.

A world of ideas and beliefs, distant, astonishing, serves as a foundation for today’s world, filled with violence and lies, populated by « saints » and murderers, wise men and prophets, fools and crooks, death cries and « divine winds » (kami-kaze).

Who, today, thinks the world’s destiny?

When reading the Upaniṣad, let us also think of the « masters of the world », the « gnomes » enslaved to the banks, the political « dwarves » governing the peoples, perched on the shoulders of centuries?

« Those who are agitated in ignorance consider themselves wise. They run wildly around like blind people, led by a blind man. »i

It is a fact that we often observe, at the highest level, hypocrisy, lies, baseness, cowardice, and much more rarely wisdom, courage, truth.

But it is also a fact that anything can happen, always., at any time.

Anything is possible, on principle. The worst. The best. The mediocre. The unspeakable. The unheard of.

The world is saturated with ideas from all ages. Sometimes, from nowhere, new forms are born, shimmering above the rubble and catacombs, relics and hypogoria, crypts and hidden treasures.

Who will see these incredible visions, yet to appear?

Those who will be able to « meditate on what is difficult to perceive, penetrate the secret that is deposited in the hidden place, that resides in the ancient abyss ».

Those who « leave aside the joy and sorrow. »ii

i KU. 2.5

iiKU. 2.12

Three Fires and the One

Unlike the religion of the Old Egyptian Empire with its monuments and tombs, the religion of the Veda left no material trace. It just left the sound of words.

Only its liturgy keeps its memory, preserved orally for thousands of years.

The Vedic ceremony is a liturgy of songs, hymns and cries.

Song, hymns and cries are voices, and voices are ways, as the French language allows to say (‘les voix sont des voies’).

The Ṛg Veda talks about it that way:

« Through the Song, He creates the Cry, at his side;

by the Cry, the Hymn;

and by the three invocations, the Word. »i

Who is this « He »? Who « creates the Cry »?

One of His names is Agni. Agni is the Fire, which ignites, enlightens, inflames, consumes the Sôma. The Fire burns, crackles, rumbles, and « shouts » in its own way, in the middle of the circle of priests, who sing, shout and chant.

The Fire « sings » as it burns, « shouts » as it crackles, « speaks » as it rumbles, – with the Sôma. Fire feeds on it, it draws power, light and strength from it.

The Sôma accomplishes its nature through Fire.

What is this Sôma? It is composed of water, a kind of oil (from clarified butter) and a fermented juice, intoxicating – and with psychotropic properties.

Scientists say it could have been produced from Cannabis sativa, or Sarcostema viminalis, or Asclepias acida or Ephedra.

This union of substances (water, milk, plants) is highly symbolic.

Water comes from the sky; oil comes from the milk of cows, which are fed with herbs grown by water and sun; Cannabis sativa also comes from the earth and sun, and contains an active ingredient that creates « suns » and « fire » in the minds.

The Sôma, liquid, can flow on the altar. By its fat and oil, it can catch fire. Through its active ingredients, it can then reach the minds of men.

The ceremony is a microcosm. It is not confined to the scene of sacrifice. The necessary elements come from the far reaches of the universe. And its possible extensions, after the consumption of the sacrifice, go beyond the worlds.

Three cycles of transformation are at work, three times are at stake.

A long, cosmic cycle, starting from the sun and the sky, results in water, oil and liquor, forming the Sôma.

The short cycle begins with the new fire, the first spark of which is produced by the « igniter priest » using two rods (one made of acacia wood, the other of fig tree wood). One rod (called arsani) is arrow-shaped, and the other offers a slot to receive it, the yoni.

The short cycle also involves the production of the « fresh » Sôma. The oil is made from milk and clarified butter. Cannabis leaves are crushed in the mortar with the stone pestle. And it takes time to mature, to ferment.

An even shorter third cycle includes singing, shouting and prayer, as well as the consumption of the Sôma by the priests, with its psychic effects.

Three cycles of metamorphosis, intertwined.

Three fires « cry out »: the fire of the sun at its origin, the fire of sacrifice here and now, and the fire of the spirit, with its future projections.

Everything, in sacrifice, is symbol and metaphor?

Everything aims at unity.

Nature, words and spirit unite, while contemplating the One.

i« Gayatrena prati mimîte arkan ; arkeṇa sâma ; traiṡṭubhena vakam! » Ṛg Veda I, 164, 24

How to Start Fighting the Looming Global Civil War

There are words that are almost completely untranslatable from one language to another.

To give an idea of their meaning, they may require the mediation of several metaphors, and an accumulation of approximations. These words cannot travel easily.

Is it then wiser to let them marinate in their own juice?

Take as an example the Sanskrit word tajjalān in this text of Chāndogya-upaniṣad:

« In reality Brahman is all this. Whoever is appeased must worship it as tajjalān. »i

Sanskrit scholars suggest that the word tajjalān can be broken down into four syllables: tad + ja + la + an ii.

Each syllable embodies a symbolic meaning, related to a Brahman attribute.

Thus the world is tajja: « That – begotten ». Tajja is formed by the assimilation of tad « that » and ja which is related to the root JAN « to be born, to produce ».

But the world is also talla: « That – attached and dissolved » [tad + la = talla], where the root of la is LĪ, as used in words like liyate, « attach » and layate, « dissolve ».

Talla and tajja are then two opposing processes, of « birth » and « dissolution ».

Finally the world is tadana: « That which breathes and lives in it »[tad + an + a], where an has as its root AN « to breathe, to live ».

The word tajjalān thus describes in a dense, concentrated way, the world as having three states (engendering, dissolution, life/breathing), identified with the essence of Brahman.

Through the ambivalence of the root LĪ, the word also evokes the world’s attachment to Brahman, excluding any idea of separation.

One word, four ideas.

If we tried to give a kind of equivalent of tajjalān in English, we could perhaps propose a concatenated series of words like « That-born-dissolved-linked-alive »…

Let’s generalize.

If certain essential words of a particular civilization have no plausible equivalents in another culture, one could conclude that the world of ideas, religions and cultures is fundamentally fragmented, divided into more or less autistic provinces, keeping before them their idiosyncrasies, secret gardens, intimate grammars, gods and codes.

And this would be an argument to highlight the difficulty of a unified conception of humanity.

However, the hypothesis of the looming Balkanization of ideas and cultures does not necessarily exclude other possibilities, such as the idea that man can be defined by a unique ‘essence’.

For example, the Aristotelian idea that « man is a rational animal » could be entirely compatible with the reality of a Balkanized world.

Idea and reality would only be juxtaposed, circulating in two orbits of meaning not intended to meet, and able to ignore each other royally, for a long time to come.

Nor does the idea of an « essence » of man mean that humanity does not conceal, in its thicknesses, in its depths, in its past or in its future, immense and impenetrable areas of darkness, which no « essence » can define.

It is quite possible that Plato’s Ideas, or Aristotle’s reason, may coexist with a world deprived of meaning and internal cohesion, even if in theory this seems to be incompatible, or contradictory.

It is possible that, if translated otherwise, into a language that perhaps does not yet exist, or will never exist, these ideas would then no longer be contradictory, but would appear obviously compatible, and even necessary.

At this stage, it can already be argued that the hypothesis of a humanity less one than divided, less transparent than obscure, less communicative than hostile is completely compatible with the exactly opposite hypothesis, because it is obvious that so much everything is already mobile, diverse, evolving in a world that is both one and multiple.

Anthropology lets us know of the existence of tribal or religious groups, which are defined by exclusion. These tribes or groups decree the principle of their metaphysical separation from the rest of humanity.

They may draw a feeling of absolute singularity from a « principle », revealed only to them, in their own language, or following a « decision », communicated only to them, from a « God » who would only be « their » God.

However, the very idea of religious or ideological exclusion of entire segments of humanity is neither new nor reserved for specific cultures. Paradoxically, it is in fact quite commonplace.

The ideas of exclusion, separation, ostracism, seem as constitutive of the human essence as the opposite ideas, that of union, unity, community, society.

There are « first » tribes that only call themselves « men » in their language, implying that all those who are not of their tribe, all the rest of men, are not really human.

What the genius of these languages of exclusion has been able to do, symbolically, genetic engineering to modify the human genome can do, really, and on a large scale.

The dream of a « trans-humanity », capable of genetically and neurologically modifying itself, and thus gaining access to a completely unthinkable mutation of the human race, is no longer a distant utopia.

This tangible dream is there to remind us of the burning relevance of a project of an « exodus » reserved for a privileged subset of humanity outside human contingencies.

For the time being, this « exodus » seems to be only of an economic, fiscal or political nature, but it could soon become genetic, neural, anatomical and one day perhaps biological.

The Hollywood myth of a planetary « exodus », of a flight of a few mutants from a polluted Earth, irradiated and deeply scarred by a world civil war, is in everyone’s mind.

The general Balkanization and the bantustans imposed by all kinds of apartheids will be the first step.

In such a case, scholarly debates on words « almost untranslatable » would then be very derisory, very useless.

Those who then correctly pronounce the shibboleth of the day will be able to board the interstellar shuttle or take part in the meta-genetic adventure of trans-humanity.

All the others will be condemned to remain in the earthly hell.

While waiting for this perspective, closer than we may want to believe, we must affirm that words count, that they are semaphores.

It is really worth studying the « untranslatable » words, because they are like symptoms, verbal clues to the global separation, the progressive cultural and religious dislocation, in the making.

And it is worth trying to translate these « untranslatable » words, if we do not want a global civil war to happen some day.

i CU 3.14.1

iiCf. Les Upaniad.Trad. A. Degrâces. 2014, p.128

Breath, Wind, Spirit in the Veda and the Bible

There are fundamental intuitions that penetrate minds, elect in them a permanent residence, magnify their substance, and invigorate their dreams.

Some of them transcend ages, lands, cultures, languages, religions.

So, the breath.

This word brings together the air and wind, the breath of life, but also the soul and the spirit.

These three areas of meaning, meteorological, biological, spiritual, combined in a word, create a space of echoes.

They link nature, mankind and the divine with a tight knot.

The Veda and the Bible, separated by more than a thousand years of age and several thousand kilometers, are tied from this knot, too.

The Veda says:

« Tribute to the Breath! Under its watch is this universe.

It is the master of all things.

Everything has its foundations in it.

Tribute, O Breath, to your clamour,

Tribute to your thunder!

Tribute, O Breath, to your lightning bolt,

Tribute to you, Breathe, when you rain! (…)

Tribute to you, Breathe, when you breathe,

Tribute to you when you inspire,

to you when you walk away,

Tribute to you when you approach!

The Breath covers the beings,

like the father his beloved son.

The Breath is master of all things

of what breathes and what doesn’t….

Man inhales, exhales,

being in the womb.

As soon as you animate it, O Breath,

he is born again. »i

Wind, rain, thunder, lightning are only signs, they denote the Master of the universe.

Signs also — the spirit and soul of man, and the love of the Breath for the creature.

The Book of Genesis says:

« And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים ( Ruah Elohim) moved upon the face of the waters. »ii

« And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (neshmah); and man became a living soul. (נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה nephesh hayah)iii

The Hebrew text uses three different words to mean the « wind » (ruah) of God, the « breath » (neshmah) of life, and the living « soul » (nephesh).

If we open dictionaries, we notice that the meanings of these words circulate fluidly between them.

Ruah: « Breath; wind, air; soul, spirit ».

Neshmah: « Breath of life, soul, spirit. »

Nephesh: « Breath, smell, perfume; life, principle of life; soul, heart, desire; person ».

It is important to underline the intimate union of their meanings. These three Hebrew words come together in a symphony.

Philo of Alexandria writes in his commentary on Genesis:

« The 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 the soul. What is being done with these elements? There is a union of all three. » iv

Usually the wind blows and disperses the dust. Here, the wind gathers the dust, gives it breath and makes it live.

The Veda and the Bible breathe the same breath, the same wind blows, the same spirit shapes the same knot of life.

i AV. 40.4.1-2;8;10;14

ii Gen. 1,2

iii Gen. 2,7

iv Legum Allegoriae, 2, 37

The power of whisper

« But among the humble is wisdom. » i.

In Hebrew, the word « humble » derives from the verb צָנַע, to hide, to humiliate oneself. A more literal translation might then be possible: « But among those who hide is wisdom. »

The humble are hiding. So is wisdom, hiding.

The idea of hidden wisdom is old. It is found in many religious, exoteric or esoteric traditions.

« I speak to you, O Nacitekas, heavenly Agni, who knows how to obtain the endless worlds and the sojourn. O thou, know it, [this wisdom] is deposited in a secret place. » ii

The secret is first and foremost a “place”. And wisdom also is a “place”.

Going to this secret “place” is akin to a “revelation”. To penetrate the divine secret is to penetrate this divine place, and to plunge into the abyss. When you enter it, you lose all balance, all connection, you leave everything to go beyond the human.

« When he meditated, applying himself, on the union with the supreme soul, on the God who is difficult to perceive, who has penetrated into the secret, who has settled in the hiding place, who resides in the abyss, – the wise leaves aside joy and sorrow. » iii

Not everyone can imitate the wise man. The Holy of Holies is a very empty, solitary, place.

If the revelation reveals anything, it is that nothing sheds light on the mystery. It only deepens it without measure, always more so.

Abrahamic, Mosaic or Christian “revelations” are in a way an “unveiling”. But this unveiling brings in reality many new veils, many questions, throwing inconceivable, unexpected perspectives.

Among them: any divine revelation threatens the state of things and life itself. How many prophets stoned or crucified for sharing their vision? Death is the companion of their truth.

R. Isaac of Acra comments: « When Moses our master said: « Show me your glory » (Ex. 33:18), it is death that he asked for, so that his soul may break the light of his palace, which separates him from the wonderful divine light, which she was eager to contemplate ».

The union with the Divine presents an extraordinary challenge: death.

Elsewhere, in other traditions, it is called dissolution. It is compared to a drop of water in the sea. « As pure water poured into pure water becomes like it, the soul of the discerning wise man becomes like Brahman.»iv

The same image can be found in the Jewish Kabbalah: « The soul will cling to the divine Intellect and the intellect will cling to the soul (…) And the soul and the Intellect become the same thing, as when a jug of water is poured into a gushing spring. This is therefore the secret of the verse: ‘A fire that devours fire’. » (R. Isaac of Acra).

A drop of water in the spring. A fire that devours the fire. Wisdom is well hidden. Why is she concealing herself, shying away from glory, from revelation?

A passage from Paul can put us on the track. « Should we boast? It’s not worth anything, though. (…) For me, I will only boast of my weaknesses.» v

An « angel of Satan » is in charge of blowing Paul so that he does not take pride. If Paul asks God to remove this satanic angel from him, God answers: « My grace is enough for you; for power unfolds in weakness.» So the blows continue.

And Paul concludes: « That is why I take pleasure in weaknesses, in outrages, in distress, in persecutions and anguish endured for Christ: for when I am weak, it is then that I am strong ».vi

It is strange (and maybe inaudible) in our modern times, to hear that weakness, distress, persecution,, may be a « strength ».

Strength and power in effect veil and muffle everything. In the noisy storm, in the midst of the devastating hurricane, only the humble, the wise, have a little chance of hearing the zephyr, which will follow, in a whisper.


iiKatha Upanisad 1,14

iiiKatha Upanisad 2,12.

ivKatha Upanisad 4,15

v2 Cor. 12,1-10

vi2 Cor. 12,1-10

The Metaphors of Monotheism in India, Israel and the West

The philosopher must travel among the nations, following the example of Pythagoras.

« Pythagoras went to Babylon, Egypt, all over Persia, learning from the Magi and priests; it is reported that he also got along with the Brahmins. »i

No people, no culture, no religion has a monopoly on knowledge. Under the appearance of their multiplicities, we must seek a deeper, original unity.

In the Vedas, Agni is « God of Fire ». Fire is an image. It’s only one of his names. Agni is the Divine in many other aspects, which its names designate: « Agni, you are Indra, the dispenser of good; you are the adorable Viṣṇu, praised by many; you are Brahmānaspati… you are all wisdom. Agni you are the royal Varuṇa, observer of the sacred vows, you are the adorable Mitra, the destroyer. »

Agni embodies the infinite multiplicity and profound unity of the Divine. Agni is in the same time innumerable, and the only God.

The religion of the Vedas has the appearance of a polytheism, through the myriadic accumulation of God’s names. But it is also a monotheism in its essential intuition.

The Vedas sing, chant, invoke and cry out the Divine, – in all its forms. This Divine is always Word, – in all its forms. « By the Song and beside it, he produces the Cry; by the Cry, the Hymn; by means of the triple invocation, the Word. »ii

Agni is the divine Fire, which illuminates, it is also the libation of the Soma, which crackles. He is one, and the other, and their union. Through Sacrifice, Fire and Soma unite. Fire and Soma contribute to their union, this union of which Agni is the divine name.

The same questions are still running through humanity.

« Where is the breath, the blood, the breath of the earth? Who went to ask who knows? « asks Ṛg Veda.iii

Later, and further west, the Lord asked Job: « Where were you when I founded the earth? Speak if your knowledge is enlightened. Who set the measures, would you know, or who stretched the line on her? (…) Tell us, if you know all this. On which side does the light dwell, and where does the darkness dwell? » iv

There is an instinctive familiarity, a brotherhood of tone, an intuitive resemblance, between a thousand years apart.

The ancient Hebrews, dedicated to the intuition of the One, also sought and celebrated His various names. Is this not analogy with the multiple names and Vedic attributes of the Divinity, whose essence is unique?

When God « shouts » three times his name to Moses’ address « YHVH, YHVH, EL » (יְהוָה יְהוָה, אֵל), there is one God who pronounces a triple Name. Three screams for three names. What does the first YHVH say? What does the second YHVH mean? What does the third name, EL, express?

Christianity will respond a thousand years after Moses to these questions with other metaphors (the Father, the Son, the Spirit).

A thousand years before Moses, verses from Ṛg Veda already evoked the three divine names of a single God: « Three Hairy shines in turn: one sows itself in the Saṃvatsara; one considers the Whole by means of the Powers; and another one sees the crossing, but not the color. »v

The three « Hairy » are in fact the only God, Agni, whose hair is of

The first « Hairy » is sown in the Soma, as a primordial, unborn germ. The second « Hairy » considers the Whole thanks to the Soma, which contains the powers and forces. The third « Hairy » is the dark being of Agni (the Agni « aja », – « unborn »), a darkness that God « passes through » when he passes from the dark to the bright, from night to light.

For the poet’s eye and ear, this ‘triplicity’ is not a coincidence. Millennia pass, ideas remain. Agni spreads the fire of his bushy and shiny « hair » three times, to signify his creative power, wisdom and revelation. From the burning bush, Yahweh shouts his three names to Moses to make sure he is heard.

The figure of a God « one » who shows Himself as a « three », seems to be an anthropological constant. The same strange, contradictory and fundamental metaphor links Aryan and Vedic India, Semitic and Jewish Israel, and Greek-Latin and Christian West.

iEusèbe de Césarée. Préparation évangélique, 4,15

iiṚg Veda I, 164,24.

iiiṚg Veda I, 164,4.

ivJob, 38, 4-19

vṚg Veda I, 164,44.

viOne of the attributes of Apollo, Xantokomès (Ξανθόκομης), also makes him a God« with « fire-red hair »

The Kundalini Serpent and the Kabbalah Candlestick

The Gods have received many names in history, in all the languages of the earth. The unique God of monotheisms, himself, is far from having only one name to represent his uniqueness. There are ten, one hundred or even many more, depending on the variations of different monotheisms, on this subject.

In Guillaume Postel’s Interpretation of the Candlestick of Moses (Venice, 1548), based on the famous sephiroth, we find listed the ten names of the One God, as they are transmitted by the Jewish Kabbalah.

The first name is EHIEH: « I am ». He is associated with Cheter, the crown, superiority, multitude and power.

The second is IAH, which is found in compound expressions, for example HALLELU-IAH. His property is Hokhmah, wisdom, sapience, distinction, judgment.

The third is JEHOVIH, associated with Binah, intelligence, science, understanding.

The fourth is EL, associated with Hesed, that is mercy or sovereign kindness, and Gedolah, greatness.

The fifth is ELOHIM, which refers to Pashad as fear, terror and judgment. We associate Geburah with it, strength, punishment, judgment.

The sixth name is JEHOVAH, whose property is Tiphaeret, which means the honour and perfection of the beauty of the world.

The seventh name is JEHOVAH TSABAOTH, associated with Netzah, the perfect and final victory, which means the final achievement of the works.

The eighth name is ELOHIM TSABAOTH, whose property is Hod, praise and direction.

The ninth name is EL SHADDAI, to whom the property of Iesod answers, which means the foundation and base of all the perfections of the world.

The tenth name is ADONAÏ, which is accompanied by Hatarah and Malcut, which means « lower crown ».

This seemingly heteroclite list of ten main names calls for comments, the most salient of which I would like to report.

The order in which these names are placed is important. They are arranged in a figure (the « candelabra ») that has a vague body shape.

The first and tenth names (the beginning and the end) are under the sign of the crown, which is well suited to a reign.

The first three names refer to God in the higher world. The next three to God in the intermediate world. The next three to God in the lower world. Finally, the last name is a generic name, which refers to God in all his states.

EHIEH, אֶהְיֶה « I am » (Ex. 3,14). This is the very essence of God, the essence of Him who was, is and will be. It is the sovereign power.

IAH, יה. This name is composed of a Yod and a Hey, the two letters that symbolize respectively the masculine and the feminine. They are also the two letters placed at the beginning and end of the « very high and inexplicable name »: יהוה, the Tetragrammaton. It is associated with Wisdom.

JEHOVIH is the name of God, as it relates to Intelligence. It represents one of the ways to distribute vowels on the Tetragrammaton (supposed to be unpronounceable).

EL is the name of power, goodness and mercy. It is in the singular, and refers in a way to its plural form: ELOHIM.

ELOHIM, plural of EL, is the name of terror, fear and also of strength and resistance.

JEHOVAH, which presents another reading of the Tetragrammaton (another vocalization), is the virtue of the whole world.

JEHOVAH TSABAOTH is the Lord of armies, multitudes and final victory.

ELOHIM TSABAOTH is a similar name, meaning Gods of the armies.

EL SHADDAI which means « Almighty » is interpreted by Kabbalah as « feeding » and « udders of the world ». But it is also logically enough the « foundation », or « base ». Some add that this name of power, is « at the right of the seminal place in the great divine man ».

ADONAÏ is the common name of God. It summarizes and embodies all its properties.

These ten names are arranged to draw the mosaic  »candelabra ». Upon careful observation, it is not unworthy, I think, to propose the idea of a possible comparison with the « snake » of the Vedic kundalini.

In other words, the comparison of »names » with Vedic and Tantric shakras seems stimulating.

Let’s start with the three lower shakras. They can be associated with the three divine names that Kabbalah associates with what she calls the lower world.

EL SHADDAI, which is the « foundation » of the world according to Kabbalah, can be associated with the first shakra, Muladhara (which literally means « foundation support » in Sanskrit). In Veda culture, this shakra is associated with the anus, the earth, the sense of smell and the inciting awakening. As it is at the place of the « seminal place », the name EL SHADDAI can also be associated with the second shakra, the Svadhisthana (« seat of the self »), which refers in the Vedas to the genitals, water, taste and enjoyment.

The names ELOHIM TSABAOTH and JEHOVAH TSABAOTH can be quite easily associated with the third shakra, the Manipura (« Abundant in jewels »), which refers to the solar plexus, sight, fire and life force, which seems to apply to the qualifier of Lord or God of the « hosts ».

The name JEHOVAH, as it refers to the virtue of the world, can be associated with the fourth shakra, called Anahata (« Ineffable »), which is related to the heart, air, touch and subtle sound.

The names ELOHIM and EL, in so far as they relate to power, kindness and mercy, can be associated with the fifth shakra, Visuddha (« Very Pure »), which is related to the larynx, hearing, ether and sacred Word.

The name JEHOVIH, as it refers to Intelligence, can be associated with the sixth shakra, the ajna (« order »), which refers to the forehead, mind, spirit and truth.

The name IAH, which refers to Wisdom, can be associated with the seventh shakra, Sahasrara (« Circle of a thousand rays »), which is associated with the occiput, « vision » and yoga, with the ultimate union.

The name EHIEH will be left aside, not affected by these metaphorical analogies, since it is used as a tautology.

As for the name ADONAÏ, it is the most general name, we said. Therefore, it is not appropriate to involve it in these kinds of comparisons.

I would like to retain from this correspondence between the « kundalinic serpent » and the « mosaic candelabra » the idea that archetypal, permanent forms are sculpted, in the depth of our bodies as well as in the depths of our minds.

These archetypes, the « snake » or the « candelabra », represent a « tree » or « ladder » of hierarchies, and symbolize an ascent towards divine union, from a « base », the most material of all, the « foundation ».

These metaphors in Kabbalah and the Vedas refer to the same intuition: the ascent of man to the divine.

“I nothing saw” (Dante)

One of the best French Kabbalah specialists is named “Secret”, Mr. François Secret. Proper names sometimes carry in them collective fates. François Secret wrote Le Zohar chez les Kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (1958), a book in which such romantic names as Bartholomeus Valverdius, Knorr de Rosenroth, Blaise de Vigenère, Alfonso de Zamora, Guy Le Fèvre de la Boderie, or Gilles de Viterbe, the famous Guillaume Postel, and of course Johannis Reuchlin and Pic de la Mirandole appear. These names appear like shooting stars in the night. We would like to follow their trajectories, engraved in the ink of long nights.

But Mr. Secret, so learned, reveals no secrets, one can regret it.

It encourages us to continue searching, at the sources, or among the apparently initiated.

One of the most famous books of Kabbalah is called, without excess of modesty, Siphra di Tsenniutha (The Book of Mystery). It begins as follows:

« The Mystery Book is the Book that describes the balance of the balance. For before there was balance, the Face did not look at the Face. »

Compact style. From the outset, we get into the subject. ‘Balance’. ‘Face’. ‘Look’.

What could be higher than the Face? What could be deeper than his gaze?

Verse 9 of the Siphra di Tsenniutha suggests the existence of a depth scale (the unknown, the occult, the occult in the occult): « The head that is not known (…) is the occult in the occult ».

Verse 12 specifies important, scattered details: « Her hair is like pure wool floating in the balanced balance ». Chapter 2 of the Mystery Book refers to a « beard of truth ». The « head that is not known » wears, we learn, « hair » and « beard ».

According to one commentary, the « truth beard » is « the ornament of everything ». From the ears, where it begins, « it forms a garment around the face ».

Truth clothes the Face.

There is this passage from Revelation: « His head, with its white hair, is like white wool, like snow, his eyes like a burning flame. »i

These materialistic images, beard, hair, wool, flame, are common to the Christian Apocalypse and the Jewish Kabbalah. They have been deemed relevant by our elders for the representation of the « Face » of God. Why?

The millennia have passed. A concrete image, even if unreal or misleading, is better than an empty abstraction. As a trope, it suggests openings, avenues, encourages criticism, stimulates research.

Kabbalah projects the surreptitious idea that all the symbolism with which it is steeped is not only symbolic. The symbol, in this context, is the very thing. Each word, each letter of the Text, is a kind of incarnation, literally literal. Metaphors and images also carry the burden of incarnation.

This is one of the most constant paradoxes of the fickle science of interpretation. The more concrete is the best symbol of the abstract.

The verbal alchemy of Kabbalah transmutes words, transforms them into an acute surface, with a bushy, burning aura, pulverizes them and disperses them in all directions, sparkling with opalescence.

Let us add this. The Law is supposed to be transparent, since it is intended to be understood and fulfilled. But the Law is also full of shadows, darkness. How can this paradox be explained?

Kabbalah explains the Law in its enlightened parts. But what remains obscure is the totality of its meaning, drowned in shadows, and its ultimate purpose is incomprehensible, inscrutable. The darkness of the Law is systemic. Kabbalah, verbose, confused, provides fewer answers than it forges infinite questions. It shows that the Law is irreducible, insubordinate to reason, to sight, to understanding.

The whole of the Law, its meaning, its end, cannot be grasped by biased, narrow minds. Through the centuries, the shadow, the hidden, the occult always appear again.

“O ye who have undistempered intellects,

Observe the doctrine that conceals itself

Beneath the veil of the mysterious verses!”ii

Song IX of Hell describes the 6th circle, where the heresiarchs and followers of sects are confined, who have not known how to understand or see the deployment of the Whole.

The researcher walks in the night. Surprised by a flash, the gaze discovers the magnitude of the landscape, an infinite number of obscure details. Immediately, this grandiose and precise spectacle disappears into the shadows. The lightning that reveals deprives the blind eye of its strength.

“Even as a sudden lightning that disperses

The visual spirits, so that it deprives

The eye of impress from the strongest objects,

Thus round about me flashed a living light,

And left me swathed around with such a veil

Of its effulgence, that I nothing saw”iii.

i Rev. 1,14

iiDante, Hell, IX, 61-63

iiiDante, Paradise, XXX

« You, Israel, are joyful, but my servants are grieving. »

Everything contributes to deceive, delude, mislead, the seeker who ventures into the slippery terrain of mystery, – without guidance, compass or bearings. The shoehorns are multiplying underfoot, in words. There are a thousand opportunities to get lost. The material is too rich, too vast, too flexible, too subtle. It is covered with too many veils, protected by thick walls, buried in the depths of forgotten cenotaphs, vanished into a clear azure, lost in the inaudible murmur of the zephyr.

You need a singularly piercing eye, a fine ear, a gentle touch, to only feel the fleeting shadow of a clue.

The mystery seeker reminds us of this character from Ṛg Veda: « Sullen, without knowledge, I question with my mind what are the hidden traces of the gods. »i

The seeker contemplates with his thoughts Isaiah’s seraphim, with their three pairs of wings, two of which are to cover their face and feet, and the third to fly, and he cannot be satisfied with what he sees, since they hide from him what he cannot see.

He tries to understand the meaning of Greek words that are only outer envelopes, without content: mystery (μυστήριον), symbol (σύμϐολον), enigma (αἲνιγμα), sign (σημεῖον), shadow (σκία), shape (τύπος) or similarity (εἰκών).

Origen has shown as clearly as possible, without being discouraged, how the mystery is constantly being hidden, and how, without interruption, it is being overlooked. He stated with a sense of evidence: « We feel that everything is full of mysteries”ii and also: « Everything that happens, happens in mysteries.»iii

In terms of mysteries, a higher irony haunts some Kabbalah texts, such as this one: « You, Israel, are joyful, but my servants are grieving. For it is a mystery from the mysteries that leaves my treasure. All your schools prosper like fattened calves (Jeremiah 46:21), not by sorrow, not by labor, but by the name of this seal and by the mention of the terrifying crown. »iv

How would one interpret that sentence, nowadays?

Without waiting too long for an answer that will not easily be spit out, the researcher picks up other grains of knowledge that were collected thousands of years ago: « What is manifested and secret, what moves here in the secret heart of our being is the powerful foundation in which is established all that moves and breathes and sees. »v

He meditated on the details of Ezekiel’s experience, wondering about the differences between brightness, fire, and amber: « And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.» vi

The researcher measures the inanity of his efforts, the derisory nature of his strengths. He is aware that the idea of mystery could be nothing more than an illusion, a chimera, a pretext to collect in sheer waste scattered symbols, a propensity to tear diaphanous veils, to plunge into a verbal abyss, to overestimate the signs, to desire to see, instead of live.

Origen had warned: true knowledge is love. Plunged in sweet madness, the seeker seeks love in the true mystery.

iŖg Veda I,164,1

iiOrigen, Lev. Hom. 3,8

iiiOrigen, Gen. Hom. 9,1

iv Cf. Section Sar Ha-Torah (« Prince of Torah ») from Hekhalot Rabbati (« Great Palaces »)

vMundaka 2,2,1

viEz 1, 4