The Paroxysm of Absence

Martin Buber wondered in the early 1950s how the survivors of Auschwitz, whom he called the « Job of the gas chambers », could understand the verse with which Psalm 118 begins and ends: « Pay homage to the Lord, for he is good, for his grace is eternal ».

Emil Fackenheimi noted that Buber did not actually answer the question.

Jean-Christophe Attias adds that this question can never die and will always haunt the descendants of the survivors and that « it is always possible to account for the genocide in any way, and to see in it a punishment or the effect of a voluntary veiling of the divine Face, leaving man totally free from his acts, and therefore free to accomplish absolute evil ».ii

If a silent or absent God deliberately gives man the most total freedom, and allows him to deploy « absolute evil » in the « irreducible singularity » of a historical event, then that same God could, in the future, allow this same « total freedom » to be deployed again in other equally singular historical events, setting free the possibility of paroxysmal evils in the future.

Job’s misfortunes could in no way prefigure or announce those of the Holocaust. Yet Martin Buber chose the figure of Job to ask a question that transcends the millennia.

The « singularity » of absolute evil in a certain historical context in no way prevents its repetition or aggravation in measures that exceed any human imagination.

Today it is necessary not only to live with the question posed by Buber, that of God’s silence or voluntary absence from the world scene, for reasons that are completely incomprehensible to us, but also to imagine the man capable of doing much worse.

In an overpopulated planet, deprived of a decidedly absent God, how many hundreds of millions of dead will the next « absolute evil » instigated by man cause in the apparent indifference of Heaven?

Can we then, in a devastated world, sing with faith: « Pay homage to the Lord, for he is good, for his grace is eternal »?

Again, Buber did not answer this question.

There are limits to human speech and intelligence that cannot be overcome. But absolute, paroxysmal evil, can quite easily surpass itself ever more easily.

And the Face of God can always become ever more veiled, ever more opaque.

Between this paroxysm and this absence, human intelligence falters.

iEmil Fackenheim. The Jewish Bible after the Holocaust. A Re-Reading. Manchester, 1990, p.26

iiJean-Christophe Attias, Les Juifs et la Bible, Paris 2014, p. 245

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

Les mots et la mort

Il y a une mystérieuse affinité entre les mots et la mort. Les mots renvoient par leur nature même, qui est d’être partie d’un langage, à la permanence (supputée) d’un Logos, à cette raison qui relie, et à la mémoire qui ne veut mourir. Les mots portent tous en eux, au moins symboliquement, une sorte d’aspiration à l’universel, et à la vie éternelle, par-delà les idiosyncrasies, les particularismes, les ethnocentrismes, les décadences, — et les barbarismes.

Les mots, quoi qu’on en dise, témoignent au fond d’une volonté inconsciente (quoique souvent inaboutie, fugace) de se souvenir, de transmettre et de dire l’avenir. Par leur être verbal, solidaire, total, les mots s’opposent aux vies individuelles, partielles, émiettées, et surtout saisies dans des rets, toujours tendus, entre naissance improbable et mort assurée.

Les mots s’engendrent volontiers eux-mêmes, copulant sans retenue, entre les virgules, les points et les blancs de la page, où sans retenue ils prolifèrent, ils pullulent.

La mort se résume, par contraste, à un seul point apparemment final, dans le livre de vie, souvent composé de chapitres non terminés, de paragraphes décousus, de lignes tronquées.

Oui, vraiment ,les mots sont l’exact contraire de la mort, du point de vue ontologique comme du point de vue phénoménologique. Ils vivent, ces êtres cannibales, de notre propre vie. Et quand ils nous ont bien sucé la moelle, quand ils ont épongé l’encre de notre sang, ils laissent de côté nos dépouilles, et, parasites avides, ils cherchent d’autres bouches, d’autres souffles, d’autres âmes à investir.

Bien sûr les mots meurent aussi, un peu, à chaque fois qu’un homme meurt. Mais c’est d’une petite mort, une mort pour de rire, que les mots meurent. Ils reprennent vite du poil de la bête avec les nouvelles générations de parleurs. Ils oublient derechef les lèvres fanées qui les murmuraient encore dans l’agonie, ou qui criaient des cris étranglés dans les affres (littéralement) indicibles de la fin, — préférant venir habiter des bouches fraîches, des langues pulpeuses, des joues incarnat et des dents de lait.

Ils préfèrent, nul n’en doute, se laisser emporter par le souffle puissant des gorges profondes et le rythme sûr de cœurs neufs.

Ces mots mêmes que j’écris là, pour vos yeux, lecteur, alors que je suis encore bien vivant, pressentent déjà, par quelque mystérieuse antenne, qu’un jour je serai bien mort, et qu’eux seront encore vivants, quoique quand même un peu morts, blessés par toutes les morts de ceux qui les ont parlés.

Bien qu’ils ne savent pas clairement ce que signifient ces morts, puisque ils vivent d’une vie de papier et de raison, les mots savent cependant qu’ils meurent aussi toujours un peu, quand l’un de leurs locuteurs, l’un de leurs parleurs, meurt.

Ils ne le savent pas clairement, mais ils le devinent obscurément, parce que je les ai couchés ici, pensant cela. Ils ne le savent pas mais ils le sentent par mille fibres.

Ils ne savent pas clairement mais ils pressentent que, peut-être, quelqu’un les lira, ces mots (eux encore vivants, moi déjà mort), et considérera avec distance et commisération ces phrases désormais caduques, par la mort anémiées, en attente d’anéantissement, jetées indifféremment dans la fosse commune, la fosse de la mort à tout vivant promise, et même aux mots.

Les phrases qui précèdent peuvent sans dommage être lues d’un œil froid, le sourire aux lèvres, – comme un laborieux hommage de ma part à Platon, qui sut dire sur la mort beaucoup plus en peu de mots:

« Il est bien vrai que ceux qui, au sens exact du terme, se mêlent de philosopher s’exercent à mourir et que l’idée même d’être mort est pour eux, moins que pour personne au monde, objet d’effroi. »i

iPlaton. Phédon 67 e

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 Transhumance of Humankind

At the last song of Purgatory, Beatrice said to Dante: « Do not speak like a man who dreams anymore ».i If Dante complies with this injunction, the rest of the Divine Comedy can be interpreted as a reference document, as far from the dream as from fiction.

In the immediately following song, which happens to be the first song of Paradise, Dante makes this revelation:

« In the heavens that take most of the light I was, and I saw things that neither knows nor can say again who comes down from above; for when approaching its desire our intellect goes so deep that the memory can no longer follow it there ».ii

Dante didn’t dream, one might think. He really saw what he said he saw « in the heavens », he didn’t make up his visions at all, and he was able to tell us about them after coming down « from up there ».

His memory has kept the memory of light, depth and desire, even if the memory is always behind the spirit that goes, and if it cannot follow it in all conscience, in exceptional, unheard of, unspeakable moments.

Without preparation, the spirit suddenly rises into heavens, sees the light, desires it, sinks into the depths, goes into the abyss.

On the way back, stunned, blinded, without memory, the intelligence begins to doubt what it has seen. Was it only a dream?

In the same song, Dante elliptically explains the true nature of his experience:

« In his contemplation I made myself like Glaucus when he tasted the grass that did it in the sea, the parent of the gods. To go beyond the human cannot be meant by words; that example is enough for those to whom grace reserves experience »iii.

To say « going beyond the human », Dante uses the word trasumanar.

Glaucus’ herb, what was it? Hashish? One of those herbs that are used in shamanic concoctions? Sôma? Haoma?

« Going beyond » implies a disruption. « Overcoming the human being » means leaving humankind behind, leaving it in its supposed state of relative helplessness.

Translated more literally, and playing on the common origin of homo and humus, the word trasumanar could be translated as a sort of ontological, metaphysical « transhumance« .

Like a transhumance out of human nature, an exodus out of inner Egypt, forged by millennia.

This is also the recent dream of « transhumanism ». The accession to a supernatural, a trans-natural, trans-human other state of nature.

The body or soul reaches an extreme point, and with a single pulse they are driven out of themselves, to reach an « Other » state.

Which « Other » state? There are many answers, according to various traditions.

Teilhard de Chardin described this leap towards the Other as a noogenesis.

Akhenaten, Moses, Zoroaster, Hermes, Jesus, Cicero, Nero, Plato, had a brain similar to ours. What did they see that we don’t?

Materialists and skeptics do not believe in visions. Nothing has really changed for thousands of years. But materialism, skepticism, « realism », lack explanatory power, and do not take into account the deep past nor the infinite futures.

Life has evolved since the oyster, the mussel and the sea urchin, and it continues to rise. Where is it going?

The question becomes: when will the next mutation occur? In a few million years? In a few centuries? What will be its form: biological, genetic, psychological? Or all this together? A tiny but decisive genetic mutation, accompanied by a biological transformation and a mental rise, a psychological surge?

The planetary compression is already turning to incandescence. The anthropocene crisis has only just begun. Environmental, societal, political, the crisis is brewing. It remains to mobilize the deep layers of the collective unconscious. There are many warning signs, such as the death drive claimed as such.

The growing forms of an immanent neo-fascism that can already be diagnosed in our times represent a warning.

They indicate the birth of the death drive, the need to bypass the humankind, to leave it behind, perplexed by fears, blinded by false ideas.

Glaucus’s grass, Dante’s trasumanar, will take on other forms from the 21st century onwards. Which ones?

Poetry, the one that reveals, always gives lively leads.

« As the fire that escapes from the cloud, expanding so hard that it no longer holds within itself, and falls to the ground against its nature, so my spirit in this banquet, becoming greater, came out of itself and no longer knows how to remember what it did. »iv

Lightning falls to the ground, and Dante’s spirit rises to heaven. Dante no longer remembers what he does there, but Beatrice guides him in his self-forgetfulness. « Open your eyes, » she said, « look how I am: you have seen things that have given you the power to bear my laughter. »

Dante adds: « I was like a person who feels like a forgotten vision and who strives in vain to remember it. »

I would like to highlight here a crucial relationship between vision, laughter and forgetting. Beatrice’s laughter is difficult to bear. Why? Because this laughter sums up everything Dante has forgotten, and evokes everything he should have seen. This happy laugh of the beloved woman is all she has left. This laughter is also what is necessary to find the thread. Not all the poetry in the world would reach « a thousandth of the truth » of what that « holy laugh » was, Dante adds.

Dense, Dantean laughter. Opaque, obscure. This laughter reopens the eyes and memory.

There are other examples of the power of laughter in history. Homer speaks of the « unquenchable laughter of the gods »v. Nietzsche glosses over Zarathustra’s laughter. There are probably analogies between all these laughter. They burst like lightning without cause.

Dante says, in his own way: « Thus I saw superabundant light, dazzled from above by fiery rays, without seeing the source of the lightning. »

He sees the lightning bolt, but not its source. He sees the laughter, but he has forgotten the reason. He sees the effects, but not the cause.

There is a lesson in this thread: see, forget, laugh. The transhuman must go through this path, and continue beyond it. Laughter is the doorway between memory and the future.

Since his Middle Ages, Dante has warned modernity: « We now preach with jokes and jests, and as long as we laugh well, the hood swells and asks for nothing ».vi

The hood was that of the preachers of the time, the Capuchins.

Nowadays hoods have other forms, and preachers have other ideas. But the jokes and jests continue to fly. And we laugh a lot these days, don’t we?

The transhuman hides away, probably far beyond all these laughter.

i Dante, Purgatory, XXXIII

ii Dante, Paradise, I


iv Dante, Paradise, XXIII

v Iliad I, 599, et Odyssey VIII, 326

vi Dante, Paradise, XXIX

Luther, Resurrection and Black Holes

In his History of Hermetic Philosophy, Father Lenglet Dufrennois described the genesis of Hermetic ideas in a remote, fragmented and diverse Orient. He traces their origin back to Noah, and follows their trace to the Egyptians (with Thoth, son of Osiris, and Siphoas, the « second Thoth », known as « Hermes Trismegistus »), then to Moses, the Greeks, the Arabs (Avicenna), the Persians (Geber, who is considered to have been the first « chemist » in history).

In Europe, from the Middle Ages to modern times, many scholars, philosophers and theologians have dealt with these same questions: Morien, Roger Bacon, Albert le Grand, Arnaud de Villeneuve, Thomas d’Aquin, Alain de Lisle, Raymond Lulle, Pope John XXII, Jean de Meun, Jean de Rupescissa, Nicolas Flamel, Jean Cremer, Basile Valentin, Jacques Cœur, Bernard Trevisan, Thomas Northon, Cardinal Cusa, Tritme.

From the 16th century onwards, the hermetic tradition continued with Jean Aurelio Augurelli, Henri Corneille Agrippa, Paracelse, Georges Agricola, Denis Zacaïre, Edouard Felley, Jean-Baptiste Nazari, Thomas Erastus, Blaise de Vigenère, Michel Sendivogius.

This litany of names, eclectic and far from being exhaustive, has a kind of phatic, incantatory poetry.

Some of them are famous, and rightly so.

Albert the Great (1193-1280) was called a « magician ». Above all, he was a great philosopher and an even greater theologian: « Albertus fled Magnus in Magia, Major in Philosophia and Maximus in Theologia. »

But most of these names smell like library dust, and don’t mean much anymore.

Hermeticism has fallen, if not into complete oblivion, at least into discredit.

In 1854, Louis Figuier could write: « Was Alchemy the most insignia of the madness of men, his study would not yet be to be neglected. It is good to follow the activity of thought down to its strangest aberrations. »

At the beginning of the 3rd millennium, hermeticism remains a fertile ground for the anthropological study of the « secret » and its quest.

Seekers of occult truth used to carefully maintain the darkness of their science and intentions. It was necessary to remain impenetrable to the uninitiated. It was no secret that we wanted to keep the mystery alive. The light was suspicious, the shadow propitious.

« When philosophers speak frankly, I distrust their words; when they explained themselves in riddles, I think, » says Guy de Schroeder.

Arnaud de Villeneuve has much harsher words: « Hide this book in your womb, and do not put it in the hands of the ungodly, for it contains the secret of the secrets of all philosophers. This pearl should not be thrown to the swine, because it is a gift from God. »

The famous Roger Bacon had as a principle « that all the secrets of nature and art that we discovered should be kept hidden, without ever revealing them, because those to whom they would be communicated could abuse them, or for their own loss, or even to the detriment of society. »

Basile Valentin, in his Char de triomphe de l’antimoine, confides: « I have now spoken enough, I have taught our secret in such a clear and precise way, that to say a little more would be to want to sink into hell ».

The fundamental idea, the unique intuition, which has brought together for centuries all these shadow researchers, whether chemists, alchemists, philosophers, theologians, poets, is that there is a « wisdom of the world », which remains to be discovered.

This is a belief still shared by many « modern » people, even those who are most reluctant to think metaphysically.

It is the idea that there is a hidden, deep, difficult to understand, or even unspeakable order that keeps everything together.

If the world « holds together », it is because it has an inner « glue ».

What is this « glue »? What is this hidden « order »? Einstein also believed in the existence of an immanent order. God doesn’t play dice.

This internal order « holds together » the infinitely small and the largest cosmic units. Without this order, the world would not last a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second. It would disintegrate from the very first moments of the Big Bang, physicists say.

Long before Einstein and modern physicists, Hermeticism said something similar, with the language and forms of another age: « Hermetic Philosophy is nothing other than the Knowledge of the General Soul of the World determinable in its generality and universality »i..

Alchemists have long searched, without apparent success, for the famous « philosopher’s stone ». This « stone » was only a metaphor, or a mirror in which one hoped to see the « wisdom of the world », its « General Soul », which is perhaps another name for the « glue » of the universe.

The philosopher’s stone is a metaphor for the laws of the world. « The stone of philosophers brings help to everyone in need; it strikes man of vain glory, hope and fear; it removes ambition, violence and excess desire; it softens the most severe adversityii « , writes the English alchemist Thomas Norton, towards the end of the 15th century.

Humanist program if ever there was one!

Shortly afterwards, Martin Luther himself gave his approval to « hermetic science » because it offered, he said, magnificent comparisons with the resurrection of the dead on the last day.

In any image, we can find the trace of a desire. To better speak to the people, Luther thought it would be useful to compare the resurrection to an alchemical operation. Hermeticism was still at that time, in all minds, the science of fundamental transmutations, and a vast reservoir of spiritual metaphors.

Today, alchemy is derided, as is the resurrection.

Did our times lose all intuition of the mystery, and the taste of the ultimate secrets?

The anthropology of the secret and the mysteries is linked by a thousand fibers to the litany of the millennia, it is linked to the history of terror and the hopes of the human soul.

We are living in a curious era, which has almost lost the intuition of the last ends, the desire for vision, the sense of excess, even hope.

Would Luther today look for a metaphor of the resurrection in black holes, in dark matter or in dark energy?

i M.I. Collesson. L’idée parfaite de la philosophie hermétique (Paris, 1631)

ii Thomas Norton. Crede mihi

Artificial Intelligence and Resurrection

In the 2nd century AD, the Roman Empire was at its height and dominated much of the ancient world. On the religious level, the era was one of syncretism. For its part, the nascent Christianity began to spread around the Mediterranean and reached Carthage. But it already has a lot to struggle with the Gnostic sects and other various heresies.

It was better not to mix religion and politics. The Empire did not tolerate claims of autonomy or religions that could encourage them.

The second Judeo-Roman war (132-135), triggered by Bar-Kokhba, ended with the expulsion of Jews from Judea. Jerusalem was razed to the ground by Hadrian, and a new city was built on its ruins, Ælia Capitolina.

Judea was renamed and called Palestine, from the word « Philistine » referring to one of the indigenous peoples, which is quoted in the Bible (Gen. 21:32; Gen. 26:8; Ex. 13:17).

Emperor Hadrian died three years after the fall of Jerusalem in 138, and these verses, of which he is the author, were written on his grave:

« Animula vagula blandula
Hospes comesque corporis
Quæ nunc abibis in loca
Pallidula rigida nudula
Nec ut soles dabis iocos ».

Which can be translated as follows:

« Little soul, little vague, all cuddly,

hostess and companion of my body,

you who are now going to places

livid, icy, naked,

you won’t make your usual jokes anymore. »

Around the same time, Apuleius, a writer and Roman citizen of Berber origin, born in 123 in Madauros, Numidia (now Algeria), came to complete his studies in Carthage. Apuleius was to become a famous speaker and novelist. His neoplatonism led him to believe that direct contact between gods and men was impossible, and that there had to be « intermediate » beings to allow exchanges between them.

To dramatize the question of contact between the divine and the human, Apuleius detailed the loving, direct and fusional relationship of the god Eros (divine love) and the princess Psyche (human soul), in a passage from his famous Metamorphoses. This meeting of Eros and Psyche received an extraordinary welcome and entered the pantheon of world literature. Since then, it has been the subject of countless repetitions by artists of all time.

But Metamorphoses is also a novel, picaresque, erotic and metaphysical, with a good layer of second and third degrees. There are several levels of intertwined reading and comprehension, which have ensured its modernity for almost two millennia.

The end of the novel focuses on the story of Lucius’ initiation into the mysteries of Isis, carried out at his request (and at great expense) by the high priest Mithras. Lucius can reveal nothing of the mysteries of initiation, of course.

The only concession to the curiosity of profane intelligence, Apuleius places in Lucius’s mouth a few cryptic verses, just before the hero walks into the sacred building, dressed in twelve priestly robes, in order to be presented to the crowd as « the statue of the sun ».

Lucius said then:

« I touched the edge of death, after crossing the threshold of Proserpine, I was carried through all the elements, and I came back. »

For sure, it seems like it was a descent into the underworld, a real one.

The descent into Hades was the ultimate adventure of the initiate. There had already been in the literature some prestigious predecessors, such as Orpheus, or in another order of reference, less literary and certainly less known in the Greek-Roman world, such as the descent of Jesus into Hell.

The time was fond of travelling to the land of the dead. At the same time, around 170, under Marcus Aurelius, a curious text appeared, the Chaldaic Oracles, presenting itself as a theurgic text, with a much more serious tone:

« Do not lean down towards the world of dark reflections; it is underpinned by an eternal, shapeless, dark, sordid, ghostly, devoid of Intellect, full of precipices and tortuous paths, constantly rolling a mutilated depth »i.

Nineteen centuries later, where are we now? Should we look at the depths or should we not talk at all about them?

The main religions of the moment offer a confusing picture of the problem, and seem to have little ability to formulate a solution.

But popular culture remains fascinated by the issue. In Battlestar Galactica, Humans are in total war against the Cylons, revolted robots that have evolved rapidly, reproducing in particular in the form of clones with a biological body, similar in appearance to that of human beings.

Humans are adepts of a polytheistic religion. They pray to the « gods of Kobol » and wander through space in search of a mythical planet called Earth, of which no one knows exactly if it exists or where it is located. They are guided by their President, who has visions, and who already knows that she will die without seeing the Promised Land. They are mercilessly pursued by the Cylons who have already exterminated almost the entire human race.

The Cylon robots profess, with great energy, their faith in a single god, whom they call « God ». The Cylons are very intelligent. They are not afraid to die, because they say (to the Humans who threaten them), that if their bodies are destroyed, then their minds will be « downloaded » into this « God ».

However, there is a problem. Intergalactic communications can be very weak in the event of a crisis. What happens to the spirit of a Cylon being downloaded, wandering through space without being picked up by a communication relay?

Battlestar Galactica. The Chaldaic Oracles. The Gospel of Jesus. The Metamorphoses of Apuleius. Hadrian’s epitaph.

There are those who wander endlessly in the icy night (Hadrian, the Chaldaic Oracles). And those who, after descending into Hell, return from the kingdom of the dead (Orpheus, Lucius, Jesus).

Between these two options, Battlestar Galactica‘s Cylons, these very intelligent and religious robots, have resolutely chosen the most promising one.

The transhumanist movement promotes similar ideas. The downloading of memory and consciousness is for tomorrow, says Ray Kurzweil.

Let’s do some science fiction. Imagine that ubiquitous networks and memory silos, supported by futuristic artificial intelligence techniques, will one day record and process all the thoughts and actions of all humans, from birth to death.

Then future generations would have at their disposal a kind of constantly evolving memory of humanity as a whole. And from this interactive memorial, from this human mine, they could permanently extract pearls of wisdom, sweet madness, unfulfilled dreams and fantastic projects.

Perhaps they would even come to consider this living memory as a kind of divine incarnation.

We would plunge into it, as Lucius once explored the ends of death, in order to live a new life.

iOracles Chaldaïques. Fr. 163 (tr. fr. E. des Places, Belles Lettres, 1996, p. 106).

In Memoriam Kenji Goto’s Sacrifice

Kenji Goto’s throat was slit and then he was beheaded by ISIS on 30 January 2015. This Japanese man converted to Christianity in 1997, at the age of 30. As a war journalist, he had covered many conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, including investigations into « blood diamonds » and « child soldiers ». He focused on reporting on the lives of ordinary people in exceptional situations.

He returned to Syria in October 2014, despite numerous warnings from the Japanese government, and despite his wife having just given birth to a second child. He had decided, through his knowledge of the field, to do everything possible to help his friend, Haruna Yukawa, who was already a prisoner of ISIS.

Kenji Goto was kidnapped the day after his arrival in Syria. We know the rest.

About his Christian faith, he told the Japanese publication Christian Today: « I saw horrible places and risked my life, but I know that somehow God will always save me.  » He then added that he never undertook anything dangerous, however, quoting a verse from the Bible: « You shall not tempt the Lord your God. »

Looking at the photos of Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa, dressed in the fatal orange tunic, one is struck by Goto’s emaciated face, cut with a serpent’s knife (metaphorically speaking), and his firm, intense, open look.

There are several possible angles of analysis of this case. The courage of a man who is trying one last chance to help a friend in danger of death.

The naivety to believe that Japan offers its nationals a passport of neutrality in the Middle East, because it does not bombard the belligerents, as some Western countries do.

The abyss of the professional journalist who always stands somehow outside the event to be able to grasp and comment on it, and forgets to see how much his own tortured body can do the whole desirable event for purposes he does not suspect.

One of Kenji Goto’s Twitter messages, published in September 2010, gives an idea of what was driving this man:

« Close your eyes and be patient. If you get angry and scream, it’s over. It’s almost like praying. Hating is not the domain of men, judging is the domain of God. My Arab brothers taught me that. »

The Japanese public was particularly affected by the double beheading of its two nationals. I am struck by the limited relative response elsewhere, and by a complete lack of analysis and perspective on this subject.

This is one more symptom of the frightening misunderstanding of what is really at stake.

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)

The 24-letters Names of God

Apocalyptic and esoteric books have a definite taste for the ‘names’ of God and for His multiple ‘attributes’.

These ‘names’ are supposed to embody aspects of the divine essence.

You might think they are immutable by nature, but human language and human-made names are not immutable, by nature, so the names keep changing.

Philo of Alexandria devoted a whole book (De mutatione nominum) precisely to the question of changing names in the Bible.

Examples abound. Abram becomes Abraham, Sarai is renamed Sarah, and Jacob Israel.

In this book, Philo dealt with the important question of the names that God gave to himself.

About the specific name that God revealed to Moses, « I am that I am » (Ex 3,14), Philo has this comment: « It is equivalent to : my nature is to be, not to be said ».

In the original Hebrew, Ex 3,14 reads: אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה « Ehyeh asher ehyeh« .

A literal translation might sound like: « I am who I am », — or « I shall be who I shall be », since « ehyeh » is the 1st person of the present-future of the verb to be, — if we want to somewhat preserve the Hebrew idiosyncrasy of the original text.

We could also simply focus on the word ehyeh that doubly expresses the notion of « Being », in two different modalities: « I am ‘I AM’ « .

We could then assume that God’s name might be ‘I AM’, which may be confirmed by the fact that God also said to Moses, just immediately after:

« Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel: I AM hath sent me unto you. »i

In the Exodus, God clearly affirms a key aspect of his essence through his Name. This essence is « Being ».

In John’s Gospel, another aspect of the essence of God is given: Word, or Logos.

« In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. »ii

But can this Word be His Name?

It does not seem so, at least if we consider what John quotes about Jesus addressing God:

« I have manifested thy name (onoma) unto the men, which thou gavest me out of the world. Thine they were, and thou gavest them to me; and they have kept thy word (logon). « (John 17, 6).

Clearly, here, the Word (Logos) is not the Name (Onoma).

The Name is ‘manifested’. The Word is ‘kept’.

What does that mean?

The Name embodies the very ‘presence’ of God, it « manifests » his presence.

In many texts, the Hebrew word Shekhina is used to celebrate God’s Presence’.

But the Word is something else entirely. It is neither the Name nor the Presence.

What is it then?

It is what was « in the Beginning », — and what was « with God », — and what was « God ».

More complex, admittedly.

Something else entirely than ‘just a Name’.

Logos is not God’s Name, and Logos is not God’s Shekhina.

Jesus also said to God: « And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name (onoma) whom thou hast given me, so that they may be one, as we are. « (John 17, 11)

According to John’s original text (in Greek), Jesus asked God to « keep » the men through His Name (onoma).

Jesus, who is the Logos (Verb), asks God to « keep » men through His Onoma (His Name).

This indicates that Logos and Onoma play indeed a different role.

What are these different roles?

The Logos « is with God » and « is God ». The Onoma is a ‘Name’ and is not God.

The men « keep » the Logos. The Onoma « keep » the men, « so that they may be one ».

The Logos is said to be « one » with God. The Onoma can make the men be « one »with God.

Though obviously not synonymous, ‘Onoma‘, ‘Logos‘ and ‘God’, are however somewhat converging into ‘oneness’.

Let’s add that any ‘Name’ of God has therefore to be considered to have a formidable power.

Any ‘Name’ of God potentially includes all the other Names, those that are revealed and those that will remain ever hidden.

In all likelihood, Hidden Names abound.

To speak metaphorically, there are as many Names as there are angels, and conversely, each angel « bears » one of God’s Names.

The Babylonian Talmud teaches on this subject: « The Archangel Metatron, who is said to bear the Name of God » (« Metatron che-chemo ke-chem rabbo) » (Sanhedrin 38b).

All these (infinite) Names are not just names.They are divine beings, or rather they are figures of the divine Being.

A text belonging to the Nag Hammadi manuscripts, the « Gospel of Truth », composed by Valentine in the 2nd century, specifies it in this way:

« The Name of the Father is the Son. It is He who, in the Principle, gave name to the one who came out of Him, who was Himself and begot Him as Son. He gave Him his own name. (…) The Father. He has the Name, He has the Son. We can see him. But the Name, on the contrary, is invisible, because it alone is the mystery of the Invisible destined to reach the ears which are all filled with it (…) This Name does not belong to words and it is not names that constitute its Name. He’s invisible.»iii

The same idea is expressed in a slightly different way in the Gospel of Philip, also from the Nag Hammadi manuscripts: »‘Jesus‘ is a hidden name, ‘Christ‘ is a manifested name »iv.

But if ‘Jesus’ is a hidden name, how can he be known?

Irenaeus of Lyons gives a possible answer: « Iesous is only the sound of the Name, not its virtue. In fact, the entire Name consists of not only six letters, but thirty. Its exoteric (or pronounceable) composition is IHCOYC [Iesous], while its esoteric composition consists of twenty-four letters.»v

The exoteric name IHCOYC consists of six Greek letters. The full Name contains thirty of them.

Simple arithmetic: 6 (exoteric letters) + 24 (esoteric letters) = 30 letters of the full Name

But Irenaeus of Lyons does not reveal what are the 24 esoteric letters. if he had done so, would they have stayed ‘esoteric’?

It is up to us then, to try figuring them out.

Knowing that the Greek alphabet includes precisely twenty-four letters, the first one being ‘alpha’, the last one being ‘omega’, we could imagine that this esoteric Name is not a fixed name, but that it is constantly woven from the infinity of all their possible combinations, like this one:


or this one:


There 2424 such names…

Here is a selection of names that I like a lot:






and :




We could also try with Hebraic letters such as:






and :


A lot of research ahead of us!

iEx 3,14

iiJn 1,1

iii Quoted by Guy Stroumsa, Ancient Christian Magic : Coptic Texts of Ritual Power. Princeton, 1993.

iv Gospel of Philip 58, 3-4

vIreaneus of Lyons .Adv. Heres.I. 14, 1-9. Trad. A. Rousseau. 1979

Towards a Cosmo-Theology of Humanity — or a new « Cosmotheandric » Mythos

The comparative anthropology of religions is based on the intuition that they have a common, original foundation, or at least that they share striking analogies.

But are these analogies really significant?

Do they reveal structural invariants, hidden in the diversity of apparent forms?

Is it legitimate to compare and compare, today, from an anthropological point of view, the worship of the God Osiris, King of Death, the sacrifice of the Purusa in the Veda, the immolation of Isaac required of Abraham by YHVH, the humiliating death of Jesus on the cross?

Despite all the obvious differences, do these examples not offer certain common points that transcend eras, civilizations and particularities?

In these cases, the death of an innocent, a deity lowered into humanity.

If so, then it opens the door to an anthropology of the divine.

It is a paradoxical time for us.

Religion seems to play a major role in some parts of the world, for example in the southern Mediterranean, or in the Middle East. But elsewhere, in much of Europe, on the contrary, there is a weakening of religious sentiment, or at least conventional religiosity.

On the one hand, extreme forms of religious violence, even fanaticism, and identity affirmation based on religious faith, claim millions of victims, modify the map of the world, provoke mass emigration, with global geopolitical consequences.

On the other hand, skepticism, materialism, agnosticism, atheism and atheism are flourishing, replacing old dogmas, now difficult to accept without criticism, with the discourse of « humanism », based on various achievements such as « secularism » and « tolerance ».

It is a global fault line, which passes through each society, and is drawn every day on the map of the world.

On the one hand, some peoples are more or less carried away by religious passion. On the other hand, entire populations, once subject to the religious spirit, seem to be moving away from it, and even despising it – forgetting the fanatical fury that may have overwhelmed them in earlier times.

These global, religious and geopolitical lines, what are they the symptoms of?

By studying the ancient religions, their foundations, beliefs and excesses, it seems to me that we can make a contribution to this question. We can hope to discern fundamental trends in human cultures, trends that can be identified in one form or another at all historical periods, and that are still active today.

If we can identify some trends, some principles, we will have taken an important step.

The context of the analysis is essential. The crisis of the « anthropocene » has begun. It has been given a geological name to highlight its importance in the long history of the Earth. This is a crucial period, and perhaps even a new « axial » period in the history of humanity.

Any progress, however small, in the anthropological analysis of the « crisis of the mind » would be of immeasurable importance.

Skeptics, materialists, agnostics, atheists and unbelievers undoubtedly share, in spite of themselves, some anthropological invariants with « believers ». They just don’t believe in the same gods. They do not believe in gods that have the name of gods. But they believe in gods who are abstractions, ideas, or even absences of ideas, as the nothingness of any belief.

Structurally it is the same fundamental mechanism. These abstract gods, these idea gods, or these gods of nothingness, let us note that they existed in some religions. The Zend Avesta, for example, had invented gods embodying pure abstractions such as « good thinking ».

It is also worth noting that skeptics, materialists, agnostics, atheists and unbelievers also have their expiatory victims, their scapegoats. Nor do they hesitate to make their own gods die as a holocaust, on the cross of their doubts.

If an anthropology of religions is at all possible, then it will reveal infinitely more about Man than about the Divine.

Then we’ll perhaps need to continue with the next step.

After this (badly needed) anthropology of the Divine, — there is, waiting for us, a new field of research to be opened: a Cosmo-Theology of Humanity, or as Raimon Panikkar labelled it, we have to invent a « cosmotheandric » Mythos.i

iRaimon Panikkar. The Rythm Of Being. The Unbroken Trinity. The Gifford Lectures. Orbis Books, New York, 2010

Nous sommes co-responsables de tous les mondes futurs

Différentes religions, dont le Véda et le Christianisme, affirment que Dieu s’est ‘sacrifié’ pour l’Homme. Or ce dernier semble n’être rien de plus qu’un peu de boue animée.

Pourquoi un si grand Dieu se sacrifie-t-Il pour une créature qui Lui est si inférieure à tous égards?

La seule réponse (logique), à mon avis, est que Dieu se sacrifie parce que la réalité qu’Il rend possible par son sacrifice Le ‘dépasse’ alors Lui-même, ontologiquement.

Dieu se ‘dépasse’ dans son ‘sacrifice’, et ce ‘dépassement’ semble être la condition sine qua non du dépassement qu’on est alors en droit d’attendre de l’Homme.

Pour introduire plus avant la réflexion sur ce sujet, remarquons que cette question du dépassement divin s’est déjà plusieurs fois posée dans l’histoire des religions, et ailleurs que dans le cadre du monothéisme chrétien.

« Les Orphiques et les Pythagoriciens ont opéré le dépassement du sacrifice par le haut, le dionysisme par le bas. » remarque Marcel Détienne dans son livre Dionysos mis à mort.i

Se tournant résolument ‘vers le haut’, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin remarque que l’Univers se présente désormais, non plus comme un Cosmos (statique), mais comme une Cosmogénèse (dynamique, évolutive).

Il affirme également que l’Évolution de ce Cosmos en gésine ne fait que commencer. Et que l’aventure de l’espèce humaine est encore tout au début d’un stade encore embryonnaire.

Les conséquences cette vision des choses sont radicales.

Si le Monde est de nature évolutive, Dieu ne peut plus être conçu seulement comme une cause ‘initiale’. Il est aussi une cause « formelle », constamment à l’œuvre, et coïncidant (sans se confondre) avec le Centre de convergence de la Cosmogénèse.

On observe, dit Teilhard, « la montée irrésistible d’un Dieu évolutif de l’En-Avant, – antagoniste, à première vue, du Dieu transcendant de l’En-Haut »…

On ne peut que constater « le conflit apparent désormais éclaté entre le Dieu traditionnel de la Révélation et le Dieu « nouveau » de l’Évolution » .ii

La substitution du ‘Dieu d’En-Haut’ par un ‘Dieu de l’En-Avant’ remet en cause les Grands Récits des monothéismes, dont celui de la Genèse, du premier Adam, du paradis terrestre, de la Chute, du Péché originel,… et aussi le mythe de la singularité et de l’élection de l’Humanité, au regard du Cosmos où se pressent des milliards de nébuleuses, à propos desquelles on peut poser la question de savoir combien ont eu aussi leurs Moïses, leurs peuples élus, leurs Terres promises, leurs Bouddhas et leurs Messies…

L’Humanité probablement, n’est ni « unique », ni « singulière » : elle est « une entre mille ».

« L’idée d’une Terre « choisie entre mille » arbitrairement pour foyer de la Rédemption me répugne, dit Teilhard, et d’autre part l’hypothèse d’une Révélation spéciale apprenant, dans quelques millions de siècles, aux habitants du système d’Andromède, que le Verbe s’est incarné sur la Terre, est risible. »iii

Il pense que la religion de l’avenir se définira comme une « religion de l’Évolution », et qu’elle devra « prendre en compte les myriades de possibles révélations dans le Cosmos », et considérer « la possibilité d’un Messie non pas réservé à un peuple élu, ou à l’Humanité, mais d’un Messie universel, cosmique, centre des mondes »…

Au regard du Mouvement cosmique de Complexité-Conscience,  » le Christ, tel que la théologie classique continue à le proposer au Monde, est à la fois trop limité (trop localisé) astronomiquement, et trop excentrique évolutivement, pour pouvoir « céphaliser » l’Univers tel que celui-ci nous apparaît maintenant. « iv

Teilhard théorise l’existence probable, en avant de nous, d’un « Ultra-Humain ».

« L’Humanité, prise dans sa forme actuelle, ne peut être scientifiquement regardée que comme un organisme n’ayant pas encore dépassé la condition de simple embryon. (…) Un vaste domaine d’Ultra-humain se découvre en avant de nous, dans tous les cas. »v

Comment concevoir une issue, — convenable —, à cette Évolution grandiose de l’Humanité vers l’Ultra-humain?

L’alternative est radicale:

« Ou bien la Nature est close à nos exigences d’avenir : et alors la Pensée, fruit de millions d’années d’effort, étouffe mort‑née, dans un Univers absurde, avortant sur lui-même. Ou bien une ouverture existe, — de la sur‑âme au‑dessus de nos âmes : mais alors cette issue, pour que nous consentions à nous y engager, doit s’ouvrir sans restrictions sur des espaces psychiques que rien ne limite, dans un Univers auquel nous puissions éperdument nous fier ».vi

Ce qui est sûr, c’est que la Vie, une fois dotée de la conscience et de la pensée, ne peut pas continuer « sans exiger de monter toujours plus haut. »

C’en est assez pour être assuré « qu’il y a pour nous, dans l’avenir, sous quelque forme, au moins collective, non seulement survivance, mais survie« , et que, « pour attein­dre cette forme supérieure d’existence, nous n’avons qu’à penser et à marcher, toujours plus outre, dans les directions où prennent leur maximum de cohérence les lignes passées de l’Évolution. »

Les signes abondent.

« Peuples et civilisations parvenus à un tel degré, soit de contact périphérique, soit d’interdépendance économique, soit de communion psychique, qu’ils ne peuvent plus croître qu’en s’interpénétrant.(…) Sous l’influence combinée de la Machine et d’un surchauffe­ment de Pensée, nous assistons à un formidable jaillissement de puissances inoccupées. (…) Comment ne pas voir dans ce double phénomène un pas nouveau dans la genèse de l’Esprit ! »vii

La Noogénèse monte irréversiblement vers le point Oméga — et l’Évolution ne peut s’achever sur Terre qu’à travers un point de dissociation radical, « la fin de toute Vie sur notre globe, — la mort de la Planète, — la phase ultime du Phénomène humain. »viii

« Ce que sera, dans ses apparences finales, la Noosphère, nul n’oserait se le représenter. La fin du Monde est inimaginable. Mais comparée aux nappes zoologiques qui la précèdent, et dont la vie moyenne est au moins de l’ordre de 80 millions d’années, l’Humanité est si jeune qu’on peut la dire tout juste née. (…) Entre la Terre finale et notre Terre moderne s’étend donc vraisemblablement une durée immense, marquée, non point par un ralentisse­ment, mais par une accélération, et le définitif épanouisse­ment, suivant la flèche humaine, des forces de l’Évolution. »ix

Tout ce que l’on peut dire c’est que le plus inattendu est peut‑être ce qu’il y a de plus probable…

On peut « se demander sérieusement si la Vie n’arrivera pas un jour à forcer les barrières de sa prison terrestre, — soit en trouvant le moyen d’envahir d’autres astres inhabités, — soit, événement plus vertigineux encore, en établissant une liaison psychique, avec d’autres foyers de conscience à travers l’espace.

La rencontre et la mutuelle fécondation de deux Noosphères… Supposition qui au pre­mier abord peut paraître insensée, mais qui après tout ne fait qu’étendre au Psychique une échelle de grandeur dont personne ne songe plus à contester la validité pour la Matière. La Conscience se construisant finalement par synthèse d’uni­tés planétaires. Pourquoi pas, dans un Univers où l’unité astrale est la galaxie ? »x

« Mort de la planète, matériellement épuisée ; déchirement de la Noosphère partagée sur la forme à donner à son unité. Non pas un progrès indéfini, — hypothèse contredite par la nature convergente de la Noogénèse, mais une extase, hors des dimensions et des cadres de l’Univers visible. »xi

L’aventure de l’Être ne fait que commencer… Dieu lui-même n’est pas « immobile », et il n’a pas fini d’évoluer. « Un énorme événement psychologique est en train de se produire, en ce moment même, dans la Noosphère : rencontre, ni plus ni moins, de l’En-Haut avec l’En-Avant (…) Anticipations conjuguées d’un Surhumain transcendant et d’un Ultra-humain immanent. »xii

C’est la « Plérômisation », ou l’union du monde et de Dieu. Dieu s’achève, se complète, en quelque façon, dans le Plérôme. Son ‘union’ avec le Monde lui apporte, peut-on conjecturer, quelque chose de vitalement nécessaire. Une Métaphysique de l’Union se substitue à l’ancienne Métaphysique de l’Être. Dans une Métaphysique de l’Union, un degré supplémentaire d’unification absolue est possible, qui raménerait au centre divin « une auréole ‘antipodiale’ de multiplicité pure. »xiii

Avec la perspective de l’union de l’Homme, du Cosmos et du Divin, nous nous découvrons « atomiquement responsables d’une cosmogénèse »xiv.

Traduction: Nous sommes tous co-responsables de l’évolution de tous les mondes futurs, dans la moindre de nos actions, dans la moindre de nos pensées, dans le moindre de nos désirs.

iMarcel Détienne .Dionysos mis à mort. Gallimard 1977, p.149

ii Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Ce que le monde attend en ce moment de l’Église de Dieu (1952).

iii Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Comment je crois. Paris Seuil, 1969, p.56

iv Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Comment je crois. Paris Seuil, 1969, p.290

v Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. L‘avenir de l’homme. Œuvres complètes,Tome V. Seuil. 1959, p. 354.

vi Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Le Phénomène humain. Œuvres complètes,Tome I. Seuil. 1956, p.258 sq.

vii Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Le Phénomène humain. Œuvres complètes,Tome I. Seuil. 1956, p.280

viiiPierre Teilhard de Chardin. Le Phénomène humain. Œuvres complètes,Tome I. Seuil. 1956, p.304

ix Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Le Phénomène humain. Œuvres complètes,Tome I. Seuil. 1956, p.308

xPierre Teilhard de Chardin. Le Phénomène humain. Œuvres complètes,Tome I. Seuil. 1956, p.319

xiPierre Teilhard de Chardin. Le Phénomène humain. Œuvres complètes,Tome I. Seuil. 1956, p.322

xiiPierre Teilhard de Chardin. Comment je crois. Paris Seuil, 1969, p.291

xiiiPierre Teilhard de Chardin. Comment je crois. Paris Seuil, 1969, p.208

xivPierre Teilhard de Chardin. Comment je crois. Paris Seuil, 1969, p.131

Christ’s Laughter on the Cross : Caricature and Religion

In his book Christ‘s Laughter (2006), Guy Stroumsa recalls that the Gnostics of the first centuries of our era represented Christ « laughing » on the cross. What was he laughing at? « At the stupidity of the world, » they said.

In the Gospel of Judas, an apocryphal text composed in the 2nd century, Jesus also laughs.

Another Gnostic text, found in 1978 in the Nag Hammadi manuscripts, the 2nd Treatise of the Great Seth, gives this explanation: « It was another, the one who carried the cross on his shoulder, it was Simon. It was another one who received the crown of thorns. As for me, I rejoiced in the height, above all the domain that belongs to the archons and above the seed of their error, their vain glory, and I mocked their ignorance. »

This explanation is based on the thesis of heresy called docetism. According to this thesis, Jesus would not have really suffered on the cross. His nature being divine and spiritual, his physical body was detached from him, simple appearance, simple clothing. He would have remained « impassive » (impassibilis), nailed to the cross.

The fact that God could laugh at men, kings, peoples and nations was not absolutely new. There is this verse from David’s Psalms: « He who sits in heaven amuses himself, YHVH makes fun of them » (Ps. 2:4): Yochev ba-chammayim yitzhaq.

Yitzhaq. « He laughs. » Abraham gave this very name to Isaac. For Christians, Isaac is a prefiguration of Christ. Isaac, led by his father Abraham who intended to slit his throat, carried the wood necessary for the sacrifice himself, just as Christ carried the wood of his cross.

Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish and Neo-Platonic philosopher born in 25 B.C., evokes the history of Isaac’s miraculous conception, in order to draw, as he often does, an anagogical lesson. His thesis is that Isaac was miraculously born of God himself and Sarah, then a very old woman. Sarah says: « The Lord has made laughter for me » (Gen. 21:6).

Philo comments: « Open your ears, O mysteries, and welcome the most holy initiations: « Laughter » is joy, and the word « he has done » is equivalent to « he will beget » so that these words mean this: the Lord will beget Isaac; for he is the Father of perfect nature, who in souls sows and generates happiness. « Legum Allegoriae III, 219

Christ nailed to the cross laughs, – while derided and ridiculed by the soldiers.

Sara affirms at Isaac’s birth, the birth of « He laughs », that it is the Lord who generated the laughter in her.

Christ dying and laughing, Sarah conceiving « laughter » through the divine operation.

Humanity’s closeness to the divinity can be sensed in nakedness, death, conception.

This is one of the fundamental problems faced by religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. How can we reconcile divine transcendence with historical, material, immanent reality?

If God is absolutely transcendent, how can He generate Isaac in the womb of an old woman?

Isn’t the simple fact of asking the question, based on the letter of the Scriptures, already a « caricature »?

Is not the fact that Jesus is a naked God, who died on the cross, in humiliation and derision, not in itself susceptible to being caricatured in a thousand ways?

The prohibition of the representation of the Prophet Muhammad testifies to the same problem. How can we reconcile the prophet’s humanity with his divine mission? The difficulty of the question seems unrelated to the simplicity of the answer: the outright prohibition of any representation.

Let’s take a step back. Isn’t any critical, distanced, and sometimes even a little ironic question a form of caricature – for those who don’t ask questions, and don’t ask themselves them, either?

When it comes to religion, it is so easy to fall into caricature, or to be accused of it.

The Black God

Alphonse Constant, aka Eliphas Levi, gave a precise description of the « mysteries of Eleusis », of which this is the final scene:

« When the initiate had triumphed through all the trials, when he had seen and touched the holy things, if he was judged strong enough to bear the last and most terrible of all the secrets, a veiled priest came running towards him, and threw this enigmatic word into his ear: ‘Osiris is a black God’. Words darker and brighter than jet! »

André Breton, in his book Arcane 17, quotes these same words, ‘Osiris is a black God’, which he describes as a « magic formula » that « works ».

« So, every time an association of ideas treacherously brings you back to that point where, for you, all hope one day has been denied and, from the highest point you then hold, threatens, soaring in search of the wing, to rush you back into the abyss, testing myself the vanity of every word of consolation and holding any attempt at diversion as unworthy, have I convinced myself that only a magic formula here could work, but what formula could condense in it and instantly restore to you all the strength to live, to live with all the intensity possible, when I know that it had returned to you so slowly? The one I decide to stick to, the only one by which I find it acceptable to remind you to me when you suddenly lean towards the other side, is in those words of which, when you start turning your head away, I just want to touch your ear: « Osiris is a black God ». »

What is actually behind the name of this « magic », and whose help Breton invokes?

What do these words really mean: « Osiris is a black God »?

Anubis, funerary god, reigning over the necropolises, one of Egypt’s oldest deities, dates back to the pre-dynastic period, more than 5500 years ago. Anubis is usually represented as a large black canid. Is it a wolf? A jackal? A wild dog?

Being a hybrid, it has the ears of a fox, the tail and head of a jackal, and the silhouette of a greyhound.

Anubis is the adulterous son of Osiris, according to the version of the myth transmitted by Plutarch in his Isis and Osiris.

« 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. »

In some manuscripts Osiris is also represented with a black face.

It can be noted that the cruel death of Osiris murdered by his brother Seth, the dismemberment of his body and his resurrection are irresistibly reminiscent of an analogy, at least in form, between the faith of the ancient Egyptians and the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection in Christianity.

But why a « Black God »?

I propose the following down-to-earth explanation.

The flooding of the Nile (in its part called the « white » Nile) brought a black silt each year, allowing to cultivate its banks.

In those days, this phenomenon remained mysterious and unexplained for a long time.

It is from this black silt that Egypt’s ancient name, Kemet, comes from, which means « the black land », that is, the « arable land ».

Osiris is a « Black God » because he brings life, every year, covering land with black silt.

The three colours of the Egyptian flag, black, white and red, still bear witness to this mythical belief long after. These three colours are a reference, respectively, to Osiris, Isis and Set, Osiris being the black God, Isis the white goddess, and Set, bound to the desert, being symbolized by red.

Black is the colour of life, of eternal life.

Le dépassement de la psyché

Peut-on ‘dépasser’ le monde ‘psychique’ dans lequel nous semblons être enfermés et rendus totalement dépendants de l’inconscient (comme l’affirme C.G. Jung) ?

Il y a plusieurs témoignages en ce sens qui valent d’être cités.

Paul de Tarse écrit: « On est semé corps psychique (σῶμα ψυχικόν), on ressuscite corps spirituel (σῶμα πνευματικόν). S’il y a un corps psychique, il y a aussi un corps spirituel. C’est ainsi qu’il est écrit : Le premier homme, Adam, a été fait âme vivante (ψυχὴν ζῶσαν); le dernier Adam, esprit vivifiant (πνεῦμα ζῳοποιοῦν). Mais ce n’est pas le spirituel qui paraît d’abord ; c’est le psychique, puis le spirituel. »i

La référence au premier homme (Adam) vient de Gn 2,7 :

« Il souffla dans ses narines un souffle de vie (neshma hayyim), et l’homme (ha-adam) devint une âme vivante (néphesh hayah). »

Paul, Juif hellénisé, dit ‘esprit vivifiant’ (πνεῦμα ζῳοποιοῦν) pour traduire l’hébreu ‘âme vivante’ (néphesh hayah).

La nuance met en lumière le rôle de l’esprit — qui comme l’âme, ‘donne la vie’…

Dans une autre épître, Paul emploie le mot ‘esprit’ dans une très curieuse formule: ‘l’esprit de la pensée », et ce passage a été souvent repris par d’innombrables commentateurs. Je cite:

« Renouvelez-vous (ἀνανεοῦσθαι δὲ) en l’esprit de votre pensée (τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ νοὸς ὑμῶν), pour revêtir l’Homme Nouveau. »ii

Il me paraît significatif que Thérèse d’Avila use d’une expression analogue:

« Tout ce que je puis en dire et tout ce que j’en comprends, c’est que l’âme, ou mieux l’esprit de l’âme, devient une même chose avec Dieu »iii

On peut en déduire que la ‘pensée’ (noos), ou l’âme (psyché), possèdent une sorte d’ ‘esprit‘ propre (pneuma), indépendant, qui peut leur donner ‘vie’, et surtout les renouveler de l’intérieur.iv

Et cette ‘vie’ du noos, cette ‘vie’ de la pensée est comme un « vêtement », dont l’ ‘Homme Nouveau’peut se « revêtir »….

Maître Eckhart cite lui aussi le passage de Paul sur le ‘renouvellement dans l’esprit de la pensée’, et fait le commentaire suivant:

« Maintenant l’âme dit, comme la fiancée du Cantique : « Tous les sommets de la montagne je les ai escaladés, oui j’ai même été au-delà de mon moi impuissant, j’ai été jusqu ‘à la puissance obscure du Père éternel : là j’ai entendu sans bruit, j’ai vu sans lumière (…) Là mon cœur devint insondable, mon âme insensible, mon esprit sans forme et ma nature sans être. » v

Et ailleurs il ajoute qu’il faut être de « ceux qui sont tout à fait sortis d’eux-mêmes et qui jamais ne soupirent vers ce qui est à eux. »vi

Les mystiques, décidément, ont du goût pour l’anéantissement, le vide, le néant, le rien… Nada!

Nada! Mot rendu célèbre par St Jean de la Croix,…

« Pour parvenir à goûter tout

N’aie de goût pour rien.

Pour parvenir à être tout,

Ne cherche à être rien de rien.

Pour parvenir en tout au tout,

Tu dois te quitter totalement en tout ».vii

L’avancement ou le dépassement obéissent à des lois de mouvement paradoxales.

« Il y a des âmes qui, en repos et en tranquillité, avancent rapidement » viii

« Ne pas avancer c’est retourner en arrière »ix

« Ne pas reculer, c’est avancer »x

« Plus cette divine lumière de contemplation investit une âme simplement et purement, plus elle la plonge dans les ténèbres, et plus aussi elle la vide (…) Moins la lumière est simple et pure, moins elle dépouille l’âme et moins elle paraît obscure. » xi

C’est à ce prix qu’on obtient le « ravissement », « le vol spirituel », « les fiancailles spirituelles »xii, « le souffle d’un murmure », « la brise caressante »xiii… et aussi « l’extase » — qui cause à l’âme « frayeur et tremblement », « épouvante et dislocation des os »xiv

Thérèse d’Avila, pour parler des mêmes phénomènes, use d’une autre métaphore, celle du ver à soie:

« Le ver s’est développé, il commence à filer la soie et à construire la maison où il doit mourir »xv

« Meure, ensuite, meure notre ver à soie, comme l’autre, quand il a terminé l’ouvrage pour lequel il a été créé. Alors nous verrons Dieu, et nous nous trouverons aussi abîmées dans sa grandeur, que ce ver l’est dans sa coque. (…) Il meurt entièrement au monde, et se convertit en un beau papillon blanc ».xvi

La métaphore, comme il se doit, est filée jusqu’au bout de sa logique propre:

« Le ravissement, je l’appelle, moi, vol de l’esprit. »xvii

De ces expériences mystiques, il ressort que le véritable dépassement de soi exige le sacrifice de tout l’homme, la mort à soi-même.

Cette idée n’a rien de neuf, elle est en fait extrêmement ancienne.

On la trouve dans la plus ancienne religion du monde, le Véda, dont certaines traces mémorielles, orales et écrites,remontent il y a plus de six mille ans…

Dans le Véda, il y a cette intuition originaire que le Dieu suprême, le Seigneur des Créatures, Prajāpati, est lui-même le sacrifice.

« Puisqu’il est le sacrifice, Prajāpati est la première des victimes, et comme il est le premier des sacrifiants. Il faut qu’il s’immole pour permettre aux dieux d’accomplir les rites sauveurs. »xviii

« Prajāpati se donne lui-même aux dieux en guise de sacrifice ».xix

« Moi Dieu magnifique, le Feu divin,

le prêtre, Ministre du Sacrifice,

l’Offrant de l’oblation, Donneur suprême de trésors. »xx

Le sacrifiant védique opère le sacrifice, parce que le Seigneur suprême s’est offert lui-même en sacrifice pour ses créatures. En mimant le sacrifice du Dieu, il s’élève jusqu’au monde céleste et il se fait surhumain.

On trouve des échos de ce paradigme en Égypte avec le sacrifice et le démembrement d’Osiris et en Grèce avec celui de Dionysos.

Les anthropologues ont forgé à ce propos le concept d‘homophagie : la manducation de sa propre chair, ou par extension, la dévoration du Soi. L’homophagie consiste dans le contexte de l’anthropologie du sacrifice à s’incorporer une part du Dieu sacrifié, et dans le même temps à sacrifier son propre moi dans l’ekstasis pour faire place à la présence divine.

C’est là aussi un point commun entre la Bakhta shivaïte et les Bacchantes dionysiaques.

Bakkheuein et pratiquer la Bhakta c’est faire disparaître son moi en se résorbant dans la divinité.

« Les ascètes śivaïtes ont réellement parfois passé les limites : on a dit que certains ont vécu sur les terrains de crémation, se nourrissant des restes. Ce que faisant, ils imitaient les dieux. »xxi

L’idée du sacrifice divin n’est pas sans résonance avec les idées du christianisme (incarnation divine, sacrifice christique, résurrection, corps glorieux, communion avec le divin). Notons aussi l’étonnante anticipation (avec plusieurs millénaires d’avance) de l’idée de kénose christique incorporée dans le mythe védique. Après chaque acte de création Prajāpati se sent « vidé ».

« Quand il eut émis tous les êtres, Prajāpati pensa qu’il était vidé; il eut peur de la mort. »xxii

Faut-il supposer la prévalence et la persistance d’un mythe plurimillénaire , pluricultuel et pluriculturel du ‘sacrifice’, qui se révélerait alors être une sorte de constante anthropologique?

Pour le Véda, au commencement «est» le Sacrifice de Prajāpati qui donne la vie à l’Être et aux êtres. Le Sacrifice divin est l’acte primordial, fondateur, l’Acte qui fait être les êtres, les fait surgir du néant absolu, et est responsable de leur devenir, sans nécessiter un « Être » préalable duquel ils proviendraient.

Dans le Christianisme, « au commencement  » était le Verbe. Et le Verbe, incarné, se sacrifie lui aussi, non avant l’Histoire, mais au cœur de l’Histoire….

Dans ces deux visions, le tissu de l’univers est le sacrifice, l’acte qui produit tout ce qui est, et par lequel la réalité subsiste.

Prajāpati se sacrifie pour laisser place à la Création. Celle-ci le ‘dépasse’ en un sens, tout comme un nouveau-né dépasse ses parents.

Prajāpati se sacrifie, et par ce sacrifice il se dépasse, lui le Dieu, le Seigneur suprême. .Il se dépasse, et le sens de son propre sacrifice le dépasse aussi….

Le Christ se sacrifie pour la rédemption du monde, entaché du Péché originel. Son sacrifice dépasse le Mal et rédime les Créatures, pour les transformer par communion en « dieux ».

Le sens ultime de ces sacrifices divins ‘dépasse’ l’idée seule du sacrifice en tant que tel; ce dernier rend rend possible tous les mondes, et toutes leurs puissances…

Mais le mal est là, dans le monde, et il y a aussi l’échec de « l’humanisme ». Tout ça pour ça?

L’Homme qui doit son être au sacrifice du Dieu, en quoi peut-on le comparer au Dieu suprême, qui se sacrifie?

Qu’est-ce que l’Homme, cet humus, cet Adam, cette ‘terre rouge’, pour qu’un tel Dieu, si grand, si glorieux, se sacrifie pour lui?

i1 Co 15, 44-46

iiEph 4,23

iiiThérèse d’Avila. Le Château intérieur. Trad. Marcel Bouix. Éditions Payot, Paris, 1998, p.347

iv Là où l’hébreu emploie des mots comme neshmah, néphesh ou ruah, le grec distingue psyché, noos, pneuma et logos. Psyché = ‘souffle, respiration, haleine ; âme séparée d’un mort’ (racine *bhes, ‘souffler’) (Neshma, Nephesh). Pneuma (de pnéo ’souffler’) = ‘souffle, respiration, haleine, odeur’, et dans le NT , ‘esprit’ et ‘Esprit’ (Ruah). Noos = pensée, jugement. Logos = parole, raison (du verbe lego « rassembler, cueillir, choisir »

vMaître Eckhart. Sermons-Traités. Gallimard. 1987. p. 146

viMaître Eckhart. Sermons-Traités. Gallimard. 1987. p. 105

viiJean de la Croix. La montée du Carmel. Œuvres complètes. Cerf. 1990. p.563

viiiJean de la Croix. La montée du Carmel. Œuvres complètes. Cerf. 1990. Prologue, 7

ixJean de la Croix. La montée du Carmel, 1,11,5. Œuvres complètes. Cerf. 1990. p.619

xJean de la Croix. Vive flamme d’amour A, 3,41. Œuvres complètes. Cerf. 1990. p.1153

xiJean de la Croix. Nuit obscure, 2,8,2. Œuvres complètes. Cerf. 1990. p.995

xiiJean de la Croix. Cantique spirituel B, 14,2. Œuvres complètes. Cerf. 1990. p.1284

xiiiJean de la Croix. Cantique spirituel B, 14,18. Œuvres complètes. Cerf. 1990. p.1294

xivJean de la Croix. Cantique spirituel B, 14,18. Œuvres complètes. Cerf. 1990. p.1295

xvThérèse d’Avila.Le Château intérieur. Editions Payot, Paris, 1998, p.165

xviThérèse d’Avila.Le Château intérieur. Editions Payot, Paris, 1998, p.167

xviiThérèse d’Avila.Le Château intérieur. Editions Payot, Paris, 1998, p.253

xviiiSylvain Lévi. La doctrine du sacrifice dans les Brāhmanas. 1898, p.29

xixTaņḍya-Mahā-Brāhmaņa 7.2.1

xxRV, I,1,1

xxiBernard Sergenr. Le dieu fou.Essai sur les origines de Śiva et de Dionysos. Paris, Belles Lettres, 2016, p. 112

xxiiSatapatha-Brāhmaņa 10.4.2

Is the (real) Tradition the Talmud, the Kabbalah or the Zohar?

Alphonse-Louis Constant was a French clergyman and a controversial figure of occultism in the 19th century. As the author of an abundant work, he took the pen name Eliphas Levi, or Eliphas-Levi Zahed, which is a translation of his name into Hebrew. In 1862, he published Fables and Symbols, a work in which he analyzed the symbols of Pythagoras, the Apocryphal Gospels, and the Talmud. Here is one of these fables, « The Fakir and the Bramin », and its commentary, which are not unrelated to a certain topicality:


Carrying an axe in his hand,

A fakir meets a bramin:

– Cursed son of Brama, I can still find you!

I love Eswara!

Confess before me that the master of heaven

Is the best of the gods,

And that I am his prophet,

Or I’ll split your head open!

– Strike, » replied the bramin,

I don’t love a god who makes you inhuman.

The gods do not murder anyone.

Believe or not that mine

Is more forgiving than yours:

But in his name, I forgive you.


« When the opposing forces do not balance each other, they destroy each other.

Unfair enthusiasm, religious or otherwise, causes the opposite enthusiasm through its excess.

That is why a famous diplomat was right when he said: ‘Never be zealous’.

That is why the great Master said: ‘Do good to your enemies and you will build fire on their heads’. It was not revenge by occult means that Christ wanted to teach, but the means to resist evil by learned and self-defense. Here is indicated and even revealed one of the greatest secrets of occult philosophy. »

Eliphas Lévi also made an interesting statement on the veil, a difficult subject admittedly, not unrelated to current events.

« Absconde faciem tuam et ora. Veil your face to pray.

This is the use of the Jews, who, in order to pray with more contemplation, wrap their heads in a veil which they call thalith. This veil originates from Egypt and resembles that of Isis. It means

that holy things must be hidden from the profane, and that everyone must only count on God for the secret thoughts of his heart. »

Finally, here is an extract from a small dialogue, quite lively, between an Israelite and Eliphas Levi.

Israelite: I am pleased to see that you are making cheap of the mistakes of Christianity.

Eliphas Levi: Yes, I suppose so, but it’s to defend the truths with more energy.

Israelite: What are the truths of Christianity?

Eliphas Levi: The same as those of the religion of Moses, plus the effective sacraments with faith, hope and charity.

Israelite: Plus idolatry, that is, worship that is due to God alone, given to a man and even to a piece of bread. The priest put in the place of God himself, and condemning the Israelites to hell, that is, the only worshippers of the true God and the heirs of his promise.

Eliphas Levi: No, children of your fathers ! we do not put anything in the place of God himself. Like you, we believe that his divinity is unique, immutable, spiritual and we do not confuse God with his creatures. We worship God in the humanity of Jesus Christ and not this humanity in the place of God.

There is a misunderstanding between you and us that has lasted for centuries and has caused much blood and tears to flow. The so-called Christians who persecuted you were fanatics and unholy people unworthy of the spirit of this Jesus who forgave by dying to those who crucified him and said: Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do (…)

Israelite: I arrest you here and tell you that for us the Kabbalah is not authoritative. We no longer recognize her because she was desecrated and disfigured by the Samaritans and the Eastern Gnostics. Maimonides, one of the greatest lights of the synagogue, sees the Kabbalah as useless and dangerous; he does not want us to deal with it and wants us to stick to the symbol of which he himself formulated the thirteen articles, from the Sepher Torah, the prophets and the Talmud.

Eliphas Levi: Yes, but the Sepher Torah, the prophets and the Talmud are unintelligible without the Kabbalah. I will say more: these sacred books are the Kabbalah itself, written in hieroglyphics, that is, in allegorical images. The Scripture is a closed book without the tradition that explains it and the tradition is the Kabbalah.

Israelite: That’s what I deny, the tradition is the Talmud.

Eliphas Levi: Say that the Talmud is the veil of tradition, the tradition is the Zohar.

Israelite: Could you prove it?

Eliphas Levi: Yes, if you want to have the patience to hear me, because it would take a long time to reason.

Brief Comments on Ten God’s Names

Paulus Ricius, also known as Paulus Israelita, was a humanist and Kabbalist of Jewish origin, converted to Christianity in 1505. He is known for his contributions to « Christian Hebraism » and for his refutation of Jewish arguments against Christianity through Kabbalah. He was one of the architects of the ‘Christian Kabbalah’ . His work Sha’arei Orah – in Latin Portae lucis, the « Gates of Light », was a source of inspiration for comparable projects initiated by scholars such as Conrad Pellicanus or Guillaume Postel.

By consulting Ricius’ Artis Cabalisticae – Hoc est reconditae theologiae et philosophiae scriptorum (1587), as well as De Arcana Dei Providentia and Portae lucis, I found a list of ten names of God that is worth studying.

1. אדנּי Adonai – The Lord

2. אל חי El Hay – The One who Lives

3. Elohim Zabaoth – The God of the Armies

4. Adonai Zabaoth – The Lord of the Armies

5. יהוה YHVH – Yahweh

6. אלהים Elohim – God (literally: The Gods)

7. אל El – God

8. יהֹוִה The YHVH Tetragram, with Elohim’s vocalization:YeHoViH

9. יה Ioh – First and last letter from YHVH

10. אהיה Ehieh – « I am »

The order of these ten names of God is relatively (but not entirely) arbitrary. No hierarchy is possible or relevant in such a matter, one may assume. Let us note that Guillaume Postel, Thomas Aquinas and Paulus Ricius (and many other specialists) offered very different views on the Names to be retained and listed.

As a matter of principle, God’s Names should be considered to have equal value or status.

However, that does not mean that these Names convey the same meaning, the same weight or have the same value.

Almost two centuries after Ricius, Leibniz proposed thirteen names of God, based on God’s own statement to Moses in Ex. 34:6-7 (as already discussed in my blog The other Other) .

It is interesting, I think, to compare Ricius’ list and Leibniz’ one, with their differences, additions, and yawning gaps.

While comparing and weighing both approaches, one has to remember that the count made by Leibniz is indeed arbitrary, and the base for his reasoning quite fragile, though intellectually stimulating.

There is no certainty either that Paulus Ricius’ version of the ten Names may be more accurate.

We should not be too shy entering this field of questioning, either. What is here at stake is to look for some kind of heuristics, akin to serendipity, to help us, poor humans, in mapping our way around a very difficult subject.

For that matter, it may seem relevant to analyze the relationship between the ten names of God and the ten Sefirot, which are divine emanations.

Here is the list of Sefirot as declined in Latin by Paulus Ricius:

Corona. Prudentia. Sapientia. Pulchritudo. Fortitudo. Magnificentia. Fundamentum. Confessio. Victoria. Regnum.

The Hebrew names of Sefirot quoted in the Kabbalah are the following:

Keter (crown), Hokhma (wisdom), Bina (understanding), Hessed (mercy), Gevurah (discipline), Tiferet (beauty), Netzah (victory), Hod (splendour), Yesod (foundation), Malkuth (kingship).

The Sefirot names are organized in a figure, which evokes a kind of human body, very schematic, with corona for head, sapientia and prudentia as two eyes or two ears, fortitudo and magnificentia for both arms, pulchritudo for heart, confessio and victoria for both legs, fundamentum for ‘foundation’ (euphemism for anus) and regnum for sex.

It is certainly worth trying to meditate on possible equivalences or connections between the Sefirot and the ten Names of God, looking for analogies or anagogies :

CoronaKeter may be linked to ‘Adonai’. The Lord wears the only crownthat be. However, who anointed Him? And what this crown is made of? Gold or thorns?

PrudentiaBina may be linked to ‘YHVH’. God is prudent, and understanding. This is why He did not reveal the meaning of His Name, nor its vocalization.

SapientiaHokhma may be linked to ‘El Hay’. Wisdom is always alive in God.

PulchritudoTiferet may be linked to ‘Elohim’. The Scriptures mentions the beauty of the three Men ‘who were God’, meeting Abraham under the oak of Mamre.

FortitudoGevurah may be linked to ‘Adonai Zabaoth’. The ‘Lord of the Armies’ incarnates the essence of forceand discipline.

MagnificentiaHod may be linked to ‘Elohim Zabaoth’. How could the ‘God of the Hosts’ not embody magnificence in all its glory?

FundamentumYesod may be linked to ‘Ioh’. The Name Ioh incarnates the foundation of divinity, with its two fundamental letters.

ConfessioHessed may be linked to ‘Yehovih’. How can you get mercy without at least requesting it, by confessing your sins? The Tetragram YHVH intertwined with the vowels of Elohim is analogous to mercy penetrating the heart.

VictoriaNetzah may be linked to ‘El’. Only El, at the end of times, — or at the ‘extreme’ summit of His eternity –, will be victorious.

RegnumMalkuth may be linked to ‘Ehieh’. By saying « I am whom I will be », God establishes His reign once for all, for the present and the future.

Of course Kabbalah literature is rich in temptatives to link the sefirot to different Names of God.

For instance, just to give a glimpse of possible, acceptable, variations on the same theme, one may quote the following series of associations, that I found in the online literature on the subject.

I would like to note in passing that, after having forged the associations listed above, I discovered that two associations (out of ten) were similar in the list quoted below. I mention this only to show the power (and the limitations) of heuristic serendipity in this obscure arcane.

RegnumMalkuth linked to Adonaï ha Aretz, The Lord of the Earth.

FundamentumYesod linked to ‘Shaddaï El Haï (The Omnipotent Living God).

Magnificentia – Hod linked to Elohim Zabaoth (The God of Armies), — like we did (see above).

VictoriaNetzah linked to ‘YHVH Zabaoth (YHVH of the Hosts).

PulchritudoTiferet linked to ‘Aloah‘ (The Divinity).

FortitudoGevurah linked to ‘Elohim Gibor’ (The Strong God).

ConfessioHessed linked to ‘El‘ (God).

PrudentiaBina linked to ‘YHVH‘, — just like we did (see above).

SapientiaHokhma linked to ‘Iah‘ (another vocalization of the short Name ‘YH’)

CoronaKeter linked to ‘Eyeh‘ (‘I am’).

What can we learn from this sort of exercise?

We learn that all divine Names are ‘ living’ metaphors, which means that they ‘live’ and the may ‘die’.

But all these metaphors, in a way, are also (metaphorically) ‘gravid’, ‘pregnant’ with other, unheard of, new Names, yet to be born out of the most profound depths of language and of our souls.

The Divine Omnipotence vs. Contingency, Chance and Fortune

Tommaso Campanella (1568-1639), a Dominican monk, spent twenty-seven years of his life in prison where he was tortured for heresy. He wrote an abundant worki there after narrowly escaping the death penalty by posing as mad.

He said of Aristotle that he was « unholy », « a liar », « father of the Machiavellians », and « author of amazing errors ».

He said of himself: « I am the bell (campanella) that announces the new dawn. »

Campanella wanted to found a philosophical republic, « The Sun City », referring to Plato, Marcile Ficin and Thomas More.

In his Apology of Galileo, he describes the world as « a book in which eternal Wisdom wrote his own thoughts; it is the living temple in which she painted her actions and her own example (…) But we, souls attached to dead books and temples, copied from the living with many errors, interpose them between us and the divine teaching. » ii

Nature is the « manuscript of God ». It is necessary to look for « all ugliness and all evil ». They are « beauty masks ».

From the « living book » of nature, Man is the « epilogue ». Man can be compared to a « windowpane ».

He is a « spark of the infinite God ». He can reach the level of the « archetypal world » by means of ecstasy, – even if it is « denied by the stupidity of the Aristotelians ».

Through his immortal soul, man can escape the condition of other living beings, who are « like the worms in a belly or in a cheese ».

The characteristic of a good metaphor is that it can be followed ad libitum, and given unexpected directions.

If the world is a « book », many of its pages may be stained, incomplete, unreadable; other pages are simply missing, or have not even been written.

In other words, in this world made for « being », there are also many « non-being ». In this light, there is a lot of darkness. There is wisdom and a lot of ignorance; there is love and hatred.

Everything derives from a mixture of necessities and contingencies, destinies and chance, harmony and antagonisms.

But it is from this contingency and chance that the possibility of freedom is born for man.

Contingency, chance, fortune are defects inherent in the very texture of the world. From the beginning, all creation is affected by a « deficit » of being. Hence the rifts, the blindness, the gaps in the world.

However, it is in these gaps and blindness that man can find freedom.

Campanella’s theory (freedom through « lack of being ») was both revolutionary and « heretical » at the beginning of the 17th century.

It was difficult for the authorities to accept that contingency, chance, fortune could contradict the supposed manifestations of divine omnipotence and omniscience.

Contingency (contingentia) unnecessarily breaks the chain of necessity (necessitas) willed by God. It limits the power of causes, it denies the tyranny of determinism, it undoes the inflexible chain of causality.

Chance (casus) counters fatality (fatum), and « contradicts » what has been « predicted » (by God). In this way, he invalidates the idea of absolute, divine prescience.

Fortune (fortuna) thwarts universal harmony (harmonia). It thwarts world order and the will that drives it.

Thus are marked the necessary limits of necessity, and the constraints that are imposed even on divine power, knowledge and will.

Contingency, chance and fortune are all obstacles to divine « omnipotence », and therefore all openings to human « freedom ».

Subversive ideas!

If God is omnipotent and omniscient, how could He be limited in His power or prescience by contingency or chance?

If God wants universal harmony, how could His will be thwarted by the whims of fortune?

If God wants the necessary sequence of causes and effects, how can He tolerate contingency? How can His « omniscience » be compatible with the effects of chance?

Campanella replied that creation was drawn from nothing by God. It is therefore a combination of being and non-being. It comes from the Being, but its being « lacks being ». Contingency, chance and fortune are the concrete expressions of this lack, and the visible expression of the possible freedom of man.

Contingency, chance and fortune can be interpreted as providential figures of God’s absence in the world, as signs of his voluntary withdrawal, to leave man a responsibility in his creation.

This absence and withdrawal from God is reflected in the ideas of kenosis (S. Paul) and tsimtsum, (Kabbalah).

I will evoke these concepts in another article.

i Philosophia Sensibus Demonstrata, La Cité du soleil, Atheismus Triumphatus, Aforismi Politici,

ii « Mundus ergo totus est sensus, vita, anima, corpus, statua Dei altissimi, ad ipsius condita gloriam, in potestate, sapientia, et Amore (…) Homo ergo epilogus est totius mundi, ejus cultor et admirator dum Deum nosse velit, cujus gratia factus est. Mundus est statua, imago, Templum vivum et codex Dei, ubi inscripsit et depinxit res infiniti decoris gestas in mente sua. » (De Sensu Rerum et Magia, 1619) Cité par J. Delumeau Le mystère Campanella

The Metaphysics of the Lotus

In Biblical Hebrew, some letters of the alphabet can be swapped, i. e. replaced by phonetically close letters.

For example, the ninth letter, Teth, ט, corresponds to the t of the Latin alphabet. Teth means « snake » because of its shape. This letter can be switched with the sibilant ז (z) or צ (ts), and with the letter Taw, ת (th), which is the 22nd and last letter of the alphabet, and which means « writing sign ».

Permutation allows word games, which then generate other word games, giving rise to new meanings or altering those already known.

Let’s give an example.

The word תֵּבֵב, tevah, means « box », but also « ark ».

Noah built a tevah out of gopher wood (Gen 6:14).

And it was in a rush tevah that Moses, a newborn child, was placed (Ex. 2:3).

With the letter צ (ts), tevah gives tsavah, צָבָה, « to gather to fight », and again « to swell up ».

Noah’s Ark, by a slight shift of meaning, can thus embody a general assembly of the life forces fighting the flood. It also evokes a kind of belly that swells, as living beings destined to be saved penetrate into it…

By switching with the letters ז (z) and ט (t) things get tricky. The verb טָבַח tavaha has the meaning « to sacrifice, to kill cattle ». The word טַבָּח tabah means « the one who kills ». The verb זָבַח, zavaha, means « to cut, immolate, sacrifice » and the word זָבַח tavah: « victim, sacrifice ».

By simple permutation, the ark then evokes a huge oblation. We know now that this whole noachical affair turned out well. But the ark could have been shipwrecked. It would have been a disaster, the ultimate sacrifice: all the eggs of life in the same wooden basket.

We can also cut the last and weak letter of the word, ה. Then we get טָב, tav, « good », as in טָבְ אֵל « God is good ».

A rich assortment of meanings, convergent or contrary, through the magic of permutations. Language conducive to innuendoes, or even misunderstandings, depending on the attention, acuity available.

In Latin, it is the word arca that is supposed to translate tevah, and which gave in French « arche ». Arca means first of all « chest, wardrobe ». Hence the adjective arcanus, « hidden, secret », and the name arcanum, « secret », which is found with the French « arcane ».

Arca also means « coffin, prison, cell, cistern, tank ». But, strangely enough, it never means « ark ».

Arca refers to the verb arceo, « to contain, to confine, to retain ». But also: « to keep away, to divert, to spread ». This double meaning can well apply to Noah’s Ark.

Coerceo means « to contain, to repress ». Exerceo: « to tame, to exercise ». The adjective arctus, « locked, tightened, tightened » is part of the same family as is the verb arto, « tighten, press, reduce ».

« The world encloses (coercet) and encloses everything with its embrace (complexus) » said Ciceroi. Complexus is embracing, kissing, embracing. This word means ‘struggle’ as well as ‘love’, the hand-to-hand combat and the carnal embrace.

For anyone interested in the mysteries of the world, it is useful to start with the words that carry them, hide them and transport them.

These words are also like an arch, an arch of meaning, floating and precarious, through the flood of nonsense, or sometimes, a prison or a tomb.

To translate Tevah, the Septuagint translators chose to take a Greek word borrowed itself from Egyptian. They translated tevah by the word κιϐωτός, « cash register, box ». This word refers to κιϐώριον: « water lily flower », but also « cup », and even « tomb ». The word « ciborium » comes from there.

The word chosen by the Septuagint to embody both Noah’s Ark, the cradle of Moses and the Ark of the Covenant, then comes from a very ancient botanical and religious metaphor, the lotus flower (the « Egyptian water lily »).

The seeds of the sacred lotus hold the record for longevity (dormancy). A team of researchers successfully germinated a seed about 1,300 years old from the dry bed of an ancient lake in China.

Some words also germinate long after their dormancy.

In ancient Egypt (3500 BC), the lotus was a symbol of the creation of the world and an allegory of rebirth after death. The lotus flower was worthy to be offered to the God who had overcome death, Osiris.

In India, and also in China, the lotus is considered worthy of offering to the gods.

The lotus grows in the mud, which feeds it. It does not float on the water like the water lily, it emerges clearly out of the water. That is why it is an allegory of the resurrection.

The tevah floats on the flood. The lotus stands really above the water.

Times are changing. We now need a new Noah, and a new ark. This new ark will not just be a tevah (i.e. a big box). It will not just help a (very limited) subset of mankind to « float » in order to survive, like the old Noah’s Ark did.

This new ark will be more like a lotus, and it will help raise all of mankind above the water, like a wind of God did, a long time ago…

i « Mundus omnia complexu suo coercet et continet » (Nat. 2, 48).

« Je suis tombé dans le mystère » (Jung)

Jung affirme qu’il existe dans l’âme des choses qui ne sont pas faites par le moi, mais qui se font d’elles-mêmes et qui ont leur vie propre.i

« Tous mes écrits me furent imposés de l’intérieur. Ils naquirent sous la pression d’un destin. Ce que j’ai écrit m’a fondu dessus, du dedans de moi-même. J’ai prêté parole à l’esprit qui m’agitait ».ii

« En moi il y avait un daimon qui, en dernier ressort, a emporté la décision. Il me dominait, me dépassait ».iii

« J’ai fait l’expérience vivante que je devais abandonner l’idée de la souveraineté du moi. De fait, notre vie, jour après jour, dépasse de beaucoup les limites de notre conscience, et sans que nous le sachions, la vie de l’inconscient accompagne notre existence ».iv

L’inconscient est illimité, et il « dépasse » le conscient, qui lui reste nécessairement limité.

L’inconscient est illimité parce qu’il est un processus. Les rapports du moi à l’égard de l’inconscient et de ses contenus déclenchent une série d’évolutions, une métamorphose de la psyché, v une métanoïavi, littéralement une ‘conversion’, un ‘changement d’esprit’.

Seul l’inconscient est vraiment réel, — et le moi conscient manque de réalité, il est une sorte d’illusion.

« Notre existence inconsciente est l’existence réelle, et notre monde conscient est une espèce d’illusion ou une réalité apparente fabriquée en vue d’un certain but. »vii

Le mot ‘inconscient’ est un mot qui relève de la psychologie des profondeurs, mais ce qui importe c’est la ‘réalité’ que ce mot recouvre. Et notre compréhension de la réalité de l’ ‘inconscient’ change tout-à-fait d’échelle simplement par la magie d’une appellation ‘mythique’, si on l’appelle ‘Dieu’ par exemple.

« Je préfère le terme d’ ‘inconscient’ en sachant parfaitement que je pourrais aussi bien parler de ‘Dieu’ ou de ‘démon’, si je voulais m’exprimer de façon mythique. »viii

Si notre ‘inconscient’, traduit dans la langue des ‘mythes’ est ‘Dieu’ même, ce n’est pas l’idée de ‘Dieu’ qui s’en trouve diminuée, c’est bien plutôt la nature de notre ‘inconscient’ qui s’en trouve soudainement élevée à une hauteur prodigieuse.

Alors nous prenons conscience que notre ‘inconscient’ est comme ‘Dieu’ en nous. Et la vie de ‘Dieu’ en nous est aussi la vie (divine) du ‘mythe’ en nous. Et « seul un être mythique peut dépasser l’homme ».ix

« Ce n’est pas ‘Dieu’ qui est un mythe mais le mythe qui est la révélation d’une vie divine dans l’homme. Ce n’est pas nous qui inventons le mythe, c’est lui qui nous parle comme ‘Verbe de Dieu’.x« 

Jung est un « psychologue », et la science nouvelle qu’il a contribué à façonner, d’abord en compagnie de Freud, puis en s’éloignant de ce dernier, lui a apporté gloire, fortune et reconnaissance.

Pourtant , de son aveu même (un aveu qui d’ailleurs resta longtemps caché dans ses écrits non publiés de son vivant), la psychologie n’était pour lui qu’une simple préparation au mystère.

La psychologie ne peut jamais que s’efforcer de fournir des méthodes pour une première approche de celui-ci.

Tout ce qu’il importe vraiment de reconnaître reste inaccessible à la science de la ‘psyché’.

« La psyché ne peut s’élancer au-delà d’elle-même (…) Nous ne sommes pas en état de voir par-delà la psyché. Quoi qu’elle exprime sur elle-même, elle ne pourra jamais se dépasser. (…) Nous sommes désespérément enfermés dans un monde uniquement psychique. Pourtant nous avons assez de motifs pour supposer existant, par-delà ce voile, l’objet absolu mais incompris qui nous conditionne et nous influence.xi« 

Il faut reconnaître les limites qui entourent la ‘psyché’ de toutes parts, si l’on veut réellement tenter de lever le voile.

Lever le ‘voile’, vraiment? Est-ce seulement possible?

C’est dans son Livre rouge que Jung révèle ce qu’il a pu, pour sa propre part, et pour son propre usage, dévoiler, et qu’il indique jusqu’où il a pu cheminer — par-delà le voile.

Mais il s’agit là d’une tout autre histoire.

Je ne peux ici que l’introduire brièvement:

« J’ai, encore et toujours, accompli mon vouloir aussi bien que je le pouvais. Et ainsi j’ai assouvi tout ce qui était aspiration en moi. A la fin, j’ai trouvé que dans tout cela je me voulais moi-même, mais sans me chercher moi-même. C’est pourquoi je ne voulus plus me chercher en dehors de moi, mais en moi. Puis je voulus me saisir moi-même, et ensuite je voulus encore davantage, sans savoir ce que je voulais, et ainsi je tombai dans le mystère. »xii

Jung, « tombé dans le mystère »? Est-ce donc un abîme, un gouffre sans fond?

D’autres que Jung se sont aussi lancés à la poursuite du « mystère », avec un tout autre résultat, et ce qu’ils en racontent ne peut se résumer à la métaphore de la « chute ».

Ce sera l’objet d’un prochain billet…

iC.G. Jung. Ma vie,Gallimard, 1973, p. 293

iiC.G. Jung. Ma vie,Gallimard, 1973, p.355

iiiC.G. Jung. Ma vie,Gallimard, 1973, p. 560

ivC.G. Jung. Ma vie,Gallimard, 1973, p. 474

vC.G. Jung. Ma vie,Gallimard, 1973, p. 335

viIbid. p.515. Le mot métanoïa est composé de la préposition μετά (ce qui dépasse, englobe, met au-dessus) et du verbe νοέω (percevoir, penser), et signifie une ‘métamorphose’ de la pensée. Il désigne une transformation complète de la personne, comparable à celle qui se passe à l’intérieur d’une chrysalide.

viiC.G. Jung. Ma vie,Gallimard, 1973, p. 509

viiiC.G. Jung. Ma vie,Gallimard, 1973, p. 528

ixC.G. Jung. Ma vie,Gallimard, 1973, p. 26

xC.G. Jung. Ma vie,Gallimard, 1973, p. 534

xiC.G. Jung. Ma vie,Gallimard, 1973, p. 550-552

xiiC.G. Jung. Le Livre Rouge. Ed. L’Iconoclaste/ La compagnie du Livre rouge. Paris. 2012. p. 229

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

Pourquoi un Dieu « exterminateur »?

« Le Seigneur a envoyé la mort sur Jacob et elle est venue sur Israël. »

C’est Isaïe 9, 7 qui annonce cette très mauvaise nouvelle.

La mort, vraiment? Sur Jacob? Et sur Israël? Et c’est le Seigneur Lui-même qui l’a « envoyée »?

C’est bien le mot « mort » qui est employée dans la fameuse traduction des Septante, établie vers 270 av. J.-C. à Alexandrie, à la demande de Ptolémée II. La Septante (notée LXX) emploie en effet le mot θάνατον, thanaton, qui signifie « mort », sans doute possible.

Mais dans d’autres traductions, dédaignant cette leçon catastrophiste de la LXX, le verset d’Isaïe est traduit plus neutralement par « parole ».

La Bible de Jérusalem donne ainsi: « Le Seigneur a jeté une parole en Jacob, elle est tombée en Israël. »

Dans la version originale, l’hébreu utilise le mot דָּבָר , davar, dont le sens premier est « parole, mot ».

Mais en effet, le dictionnaire nous apprend aussi que ce même mot, דָּבָר , davar, peut signifier « peste » ou « mort », comme dans Exode 9,3: « Une très forte peste » ou « une peste très meurtrière ». Ici, la LXX donne θάνατος μέγας, « une grande mort ». Dans Osée 13,14 le mot davar signifie « les pestes ».

Si le substantif דָּבָר , davar, porte cette étonnante dualité de sens, le verbe דָּבַר, davara, la confirme en y ajoutant une nuance de démesure. Davara signifie « parler, dire; dire du mal, parler contre », mais aussi « détruire, exterminer ».

Tout se passe comme si la sphère du « parler » et du « dire », était d’emblée grosse de menaces ou d’agressions (verbales), comme dans Nb 12,1 (« Miriam et Aaron parlèrent contre Moïse ») ou dans Ps 78,19 (« Ils parlèrent contre Dieu »), mais comme si elle était toujours lourde d’un potentiel, fatal et mortifère passage à l’acte, comme dans II Chr 22,10 (« Elle extermina toute la race royale ») ou dans Ps 2,5 (« Dans sa colère, il détruira leurs puissants »).

Davar. Parole, Mot. Mort, Extermination.

Une telle ambivalence, si radicale, implique que l’on ne peut réellement trancher la compréhension du sens, effectuer le choix entre les acceptions « parole « et « extermination« , qu’en analysant le contexte plus large dans lequel le mot est employé

Par exemple, dans le cas du verset d’Isaïe: « Le Seigneur a envoyé la mort sur Jacob et elle est venue sur Israël », il est important de souligner que le prophète continue un peu plus loin à proférer de terribles prédictions, plus sombres encore:

« L’Éternel élèvera contre eux les ennemis de Retsin. Et il armera leurs ennemis. Aram à l’orient, les Philistins à l’occident, et ils dévoreront Israël à pleine bouche. » (Isaïe 9, 10-11)

« Aussi YHVH a retranché d’Israël tête et queue, palme et jonc, en un jour. » (Isaïe 9,13)

« Par l’emportement de YHVH Sabaot la terre a été brûlée et le peuple est comme la proie du feu. » (Isaïe 9, 18)

Le contexte, clairement, donne ici du poids à une interprétation de davar comme « mort » et « extermination », et non comme simple « parole ».i

La leçon de la LXX paraît correcte.

Une autre question se pose alors.

Est-ce que cette parole « exterminatrice » citée par Isaïe est unique en son genre?

Un autre prophète, Ézéchiel, a lui aussi rapporté de terribles menaces proférées par Dieu contre Israël.

« Je ferai de toi une ruine, un objet de raillerie parmi les nations qui t’entourent, aux yeux de tous les passants. » (Ez 5,14)

« J’agirai chez toi comme jamais je n’ai agi et comme je n’agirai plus jamais, à cause de toutes tes abominations. » (Ez 5,9)

« Tu seras un objet de railleries et d’outrages, un exemple et un objet de stupeur pour les nations qui t’entourent, lorsque de toi je fera justice avec colère et fureur, avec des châtiments furieux. Moi, YHVH, j’ai dit. » (Ez 5,15)

« Et je mettrai les cadavres des Israélites devant leurs ordures, et je disperserai leurs ossements tout autour de vos autels. Partout où vous habitez, les villes seront détruites et les hauts lieux dévastés. » (Ez 6,5)

On retrouve chez Ézéchiel le mot davar employé dans le sens de « peste »:

« Ainsi parle le Seigneur YHVH: bats des mains, frappe du pied et dis: ‘Hélas!’ sur toutes les abominations de la maison d’Israël qui va tomber par l’épée, par la famine et par la peste (davar). Celui qui est loin mourra par la peste (davar). Celui qui est proche tombera sous le glaive. Ce qui aura été préservé et épargné mourra de faim car j’assouvirai ma fureur contre eux. » (Ez 6,11-12)

Dieu ne plaisante pas. Cette peste n’est pas « seulement » un fléau de plus. C’est la perspective d’une extermination, d’une annihilation, de la fin finale.

« Ainsi parle le Seigneur YHVH à la terre d’Israël: Fini! La fin vient sur les quatre coins du pays. C’est maintenant la fin pour toi. Je vais lâcher ma colère contre toi pour te juger selon ta conduite. (…) Ainsi parle le Seigneur YHVH: Voici que vient un malheur, un seul malheur. La fin approche, la fin approche, elle s’éveille en ta direction, la voici qui vient. » (Ez 7, 2-5)

Devant cette accumulation de menaces d’extermination du peuple d’Israël proférées par le Seigneur YHVH, une question plus profonde encore se pose.

Pourquoi un Dieu créateur des mondes, ayant « élu » Israël, décide-t-il de lui envoyer la « mort », menaçant de lui assurer la « fin » ?

C’est une question de simple logique qui se pose, d’abord.

Pourquoi un Dieu omnipotent et omniscient crée-t-il un monde et des peuples qui lui semblent, après coup, si mauvais, si pervers, si corrompus, qu’il décide alors de les exterminer?

Si Dieu est omniscient, il aurait dû toujours déjà avoir su que sa création finirait par provoquer sa fureur inextinguible, n’est-ce pas?

S’il est omnipotent, pourquoi n’a-t-il pas d’emblée fait d’Israël un peuple suffisamment satisfaisant, à ses yeux, pour au moins lui éviter la peine de devoir lui envoyer, quelque siècles plus tard, la mort et l’extermination?

Il s’agit là d’une question qui dépasse en fait la question du rapport entre Dieu et Israël, mais qui touche au problème plus vaste du rapport entre Dieu et sa Création.

Pourquoi un Dieu « créateur » est-il aussi amené à devenir, après coup, un Dieu « exterminateur ».

Il y a seulement deux réponses possibles.

Soit Dieu est effectivement omniscient et omnipotent, et alors il est nécessairement aussi cruel et pervers, ainsi que le révèle son intention d’exterminer un peuple qu’il a (sciemment) créé « mauvais » et « corrompu », afin de pouvoir ensuite l’ « exterminer ».

Soit Dieu n’est pas omniscient et il n’est pas omnipotent. Il a fait, en créant le monde, une sorte de « sacrifice », le sacrifice de son omnipotence et son omniscience.

Il a fait ce sacrifice pour élever ses créatures à son niveau, en leur donnant la liberté, une liberté telle qu’elle échappe d’une certaine et étrange façon, à la « science » et à la connaissance » divines.

Notons que c’était déjà, là aussi, l’intuition profonde du Véda telle que représentée par le sacrifice de Prajāpati, le Dieu suprême, le Seigneur des Créatures.

Mais pourquoi un Dieu suprême, créateur des Mondes, décide-t-il de sacrifier son omnipotence et son omniscience, pour des créatures qui, on le voit, finissent par se conduire de telle manière que ce Dieu suprême, étant en quelque sorte retombé sur terre, doive se résoudre à leur envoyer ensuite la « mort » et leur promettre la « fin »?

Il y a une seule explication, à mon humble avis.

C’est que l’ensemble [Dieu + Cosmos + Humanité] est d’une manière mystérieuse, plus profonde, et en un sens infiniment plus « divine » que la « divinité d’un Dieu tout court, d’un Dieu « seul ».

Seul le sacrifice de Dieu, le sacrifice du Dieu « seul », malgré tous les risques abondamment décrits par Isaïe ou Ézéchiel, rend possible une « augmentation » de sa propre divinité, lorsqu’il la partage avec sa Création, et lorsqu’il y ajoute les puissances propres du Monde et de l’Homme.

Cette piste de recherche est fascinante. Elle implique que nous avons une responsabilité quasi-divine à propos de l’avenir du monde, et pour commencer, à propos de l’avenir de cette petite planète.

iIl est instructif de noter que ce débat sur le sens à donner à davar dans ce verset a fait couler des flots d’encre. Théodoret de Cyr note: « Il faut savoir que les autres interprètes ont dit que c’est une « parole » et non la « mort » qui a été envoyée. Néanmoins leur interprétation n’offre pas de désaccord:ils ont donné le nom de « parole » à la décision de châtier.  » Basile adopte λόγον (« parole »), et propose une autre interprétation que Théodoret: il s’agirait du Verbe divin envoyé aux plus démunis, symbolisés par Jacob. Cyrille donne aussi λόγον,mais aboutit à la même conclusion que Théodoret: la « parole » comme annonce du châtiment. Cf.Théodoret de Cyr , Commentaires sur Isaïe. Trad. Jean-Noël Guinot. Ed. Cerf. 1982, p.13

The End of Judaism

« I am the end of Judaism »i.

Jacques Derrida wrote this sentence in his 1981 Notebooks.

The context? Starting from a question asked by Saint Augustine: « Quid ergo amo, cum Deum meum amo? », Derrida adapted it in his own way: « What do I love, who do I love, whom do I love above all? I am the end of Judaism. »ii

« What God do I love? « asks Derrida, fifteen centuries after Augustine.

Answer: He loves a « unique » God, – unique as birth, unique as death, unique as circumcision (because it only happens once).

What does Derrida like most of all? Answer: Judaism.

Who does he love above all? His mother, who is dying, and who no longer recognizes him.

His mother represents « the end of a Judaism, » adds Derrida (« la fin d’un judaïsme »).

As for him, he says he is « the end of Judaism » (« la fin du judaïsme »), of that Judaism that his mother embodied, to which his mother gave her face, and which he will not transmit.

The maternal face has now disappeared, although indelible.

« It’s over. »

His own face, disfigured by a viral facial paralysis, affects him, and opens up an unpredictable future for him.

Derrida claims that he is the end of this Judaism, that of his mother. But why does he generalize by saying: « I am the end of Judaism« ?

What allows him to make this assertion, this prophecy? His name Elijah?

After the end of this Judaism, Jacques Derrida wanted to found another one. He says that he will start a new Judaism, a « Judaism out of religion, inherited from his people but detached from them »iii.

He wants to found another religion, and even, through his philosophy, « to rebuild all religions »iv.

Colossal project, amazing idea. Questions quickly come to mind. Is there any analogy between Derrida’s new religion and Christianity?

Hadn’t Christianity already been a kind of first ‘exit’ from Judaism, and perhaps was it not even a project to « re-found » religion?

No and no. Derrida is categorical: « Christianity has abandoned the letter and circumcision ».

Is it worth starting a dispute? In Christian services, the letter is read. The Bible is a reference. The letter is there, literally. As for circumcision, it has not really been abandoned, either. Of course, it is not the foreskin (« orla », עָרְלָה), but rather the heart, eyes and ears that are recommended to be circumcised.

Derrida says he is faithful to the letter and circumcision. But since he wants to found another religion, which would be an « other Judaism » after the « end of Judaism », how will he go about innovating?

Let’s consult his program.

He says we must « re-found religions by playing with them, reinvent circumcision, re-circumcise what is uncircumcising, thwart the re-appropriation of languages by a God-Unity »v.

These formulas call for some comments.

« Re-founding religions by playing with them ».

The metaphor of « play » is curious, even surprising, in this charged context. « Playing » with religion is a dangerous game. Nowadays, a mortal one.

Moreover, where there is only one game, how can we judge what is at stake? What can be based on a game? When a foundation stone « plays », the temple trembles, religion falters.

« Reinventing circumcision. »

In what way is this idea new compared to what the Judeo-Christian Paul already said about circumcision, not of the foreskin, but of the heart?

What more can we invent to circumcise after the sex, the soul, the heart, the eyes, the ears? The fruits of the trees? Atoms? The stars? DNA? Eschatology? Or Judaism itself?

« Re-circumcise what is being uncircumcised. »

Derrida says that circumcision is a unique act, a founding event. How would flesh foreskins « uncircumcise »? Or would « uncircumcision » be only a metaphor, applying not to the flesh but to the spirit? But then isn’t this just Paul of Tarsus’ proposal?

« To defeat the re-appropriation of languages by a One God ».

Again a metaphor of a game. It is no longer a question of playing, however, but of « thwarting God ». Babel’s confusion had indicated a lead. The God « One » had then shown himself hostile to the idea of a « one » language among men.

Why would God – who once allowed the confusion of languages – have « re-appropriated » languages and unified them in the process?

What does Derrida want to thwart in God? Words, language? He plays them, he plays with them, he thwarts them. He is a poet of the word who opens, and who provokes.

« I am the last of the Jews. »vi

Here is Pierre Delain’s comment on the Derridex website: « This sentence, « I am the last of the Jews », Jacques Derrida signs it, and at the same time he mocks it (UTD p101). It must be put in quotation marks. It is the ironic sentence of the one who listens to himself speak, a stereotype, an outrageous statement. By quoting and reciting it, he staged the mockery, he laughed and cried too. From a certain angle where writing is put in abyss, it can be taken seriously. »

The philosopher Derrida wants to have the last word. This is his last card in the big game. The last one was a stunt. « Religious is a fighting sport (especially not for journalists!) ».vii

He is the last thinker, the thinker of eschatology.viii

« The most advanced is the one that keeps the future open. « Always open, even at the last minute…

« I am the last » means, really: « I am the one who opens, again, always. »




iv Cf. Circonfession, p.206


vi « Cette formulation de Jacques Derrida, « Je suis le dernier des Juifs » [avec une majuscule], est reprise des carnets de 1976, non publiés mais cités dans Circonfession (1990). En septembre 1991, elle est rappelée dans une interview donnée à Elisabeth Weber, et enfin reprise le 3 décembre 2000 à l’occasion du colloque Judéités, qui s’est tenu au Centre communautaire de Paris. Elle est donc constamment réaffirmée sur plusieurs décennies. (…) dernier des Juifs, c’est aussi celui qui habite ce qui reste du judaïsme. Le dernier des eschatologistes maintient l’avenir ouvert. S’il annonce la fin du judaïsme, c’est pour en fonder un autre, qui ne serait plus le même. Tout se passe « comme si » le moins pouvait le plus (il insiste sur le « comme si ») : moins tu te montreras juif, plus tu le seras (c’est la formule du marrane). Le dernier des juifs peut être le pire des juifs, mais aussi celui qui garantit la série. Exclu-inclu, dehors-dedans, il n’appartient pas de fait à la culture juive, il est au bord de la série et la débordant. »


viii « Il n’est pas seulement le dernier des eschatologistes, il est aussi le plus avancé (p91) : « ils n’ont m’ont jamais pardonné d’être l’eschatologiste le plus avancé, la dernière avant-garde qui compte ». Le plus avancé, c’est celui qui maintient l’avenir ouvert, sans horizon. »

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

Making Love to the Torah

Eagle eye. Core target. Intimate penetration. Some images hit hard the nail on the head. Other metaphors are just weak words, which fall down, flaccid, emollient.

Where does the strength of vivid images come from? What vibrates and resonates through words, when they are uniquely glued together?

In a small 16th century book, Deborah’s Palm Treei, written by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, a sober, concise, sparkling passage offers a raw image of the unveiling of some high mysteries:

« The Torah, a subtle and material reality, was clothed in material narratives. Her narratives are very wise, and anyone who studies them gets a good salary. However, whoever stripes her of her materiality, lies with the King’s daughter and penetrates her according to her path (kedarka). She is married to him. He knows how to undo her from her dresses, one after the other, clothing under clothing, until he penetrates her into her intimacy. Happy who came in and didn’t deviate. » ii

What does the image of this straight penetration teach us? Three things, it seems to me.

First, any ‘material’ is nothing but a veil, veiling other veils.

Secondly, when the « Law » is stripped of « her » obviousness, « she » always reveals herself deeper, always more desirable. Like a King’s daughter who, slowly, agrees to let herself undress.

Thirdly, naked, the Law still remains « black » (kedar), like the tents of Kedar, like the pavilions of Salma. We must enter into this darkness, this obscurity. And then, we must never lose the right way.

The golden rule, the diamond rule, is that a (good) metaphor is a world, in itself. It always gives more meaning, more juice, as it is pressed further.

And when you’ve expressed everything, there’s still something to be desired. It is not enough to dare to say, as in Safed, in the 16th century, that knowing the Law is like « knowing » the King’s daughter. It must also be suggested, modestly, that there is still much to be understood when one has « known » her.

It remains, for example, to understand how the intelligent member knows the dark inner self, how he keeps the path straight, how he procreates, and gives flesh and life to the Law herself. It also remains to assume the consequences, in the face of the Law, in front of the King.

Writing makes it possible to multiply the meanings, to speak with several voices to various kind of intelligence. Among the metaphors, those relating to the body are most relevant to the soul, because everything, always, is in relation.

Does the metaphor of mystical « penetration » scandalize anyone?

Then let us choose more measured ones.

Ramaq said that God is an « insulted king », adding that this is the real meaning of Micah’s cry: « Who is a God like you? »

He also said: « What contains everything is the measure of humility ».

Let’s measure carnal words, bodily images, by this yardstick.

From the ‘mouth’: only emit good.

Regarding the ‘face’: it must shine.

About the ‘nose’: anger must not rise.

Regarding the ‘eyes’: they will not look at anything despicable.

About the ‘ears’: constantly stretched out to hear the good.

About the ‘front’: pure, without hardness.

Regarding the ‘thought’: it must be like a secret crown.


i R. M. Cordovero (1522-1570)

ii Chiour Qoma, 82a

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

An « automatic » prophet

As its name suggests, surrealism wanted to transcend a little bit the reality, but not too much. That is, surrealism wanted to establish itself, modestly, just a little « above » the common reality.

André Breton, who coined the word, had considered for a moment the word « supernaturalism« , but it was too close to the adjective « supernatural », and its metaphysical connotations: then it was not okay at all. The Surrealists weren’t going to let us think that they were interested to deal with the back worlds and supernatural entities…

In this temporary elevation above reality, the surrealist poet only seeks to occupy unexpected points of view, to produce symbols, to collect images — not falling from above, but spontaneously rising from below: surrealism really is a materialism.

Arcane 17 by André Breton gives some indications on the surrealist way to penetrate the « great secret »:

« This was for me the very key to this revelation I spoke of and that I could only owe to you alone, on the threshold of this last winter. In the icy street, I see you moulded on a shiver, your eyes alone exposed. With the collar high up, the scarf tightened with your hand over your mouth, you were the very image of the secret, one of nature’s great secrets when it was revealed, and in your eyes at the end of a storm you could see a very pale rainbow rising. »

We cannot believe for a moment that this so-called ‘revelation’ belongs to the anecdote, the banal memory, the autobiographical emotion. This would not be worthy of a ‘pope’ like Breton (even if he were to be a surreal one).

« The very image of the secret », it is obvious, cannot just be the figure of a beloved woman, – such as a Jacqueline Lamba, so revealed, so nude in her nautical dance, or an Elisa Claro, so naked in her mystery.

« The very image of the secret » is really a figure of ‘revelation’, of the « great secrets of nature at the moment when it is revealed ».

What is this « great secret »? What is this image « molded on a shiver »?

In a letter dated March 8, 1944, Breton confided: « I am thinking of writing a book around Arcanum 17 (the Star, Eternal Youth, Isis, the myth of the Resurrection, etc.) taking as a model a lady I love and who, unfortunately, is currently in Santiago. »

The « great secret » is therefore that of Arcanum 17, the metaphor of the Star, the (surreal) vision of the resurrection, the intuition of Isis, a dream of dawn and rainbow.

No woman of remembrance, no spectre of the future, no « godmother of God », no « ambassador of saltpetre » or « of the white curve on a black background that we call thought » …

Then who is this Star?

Who is this Isis?

Isis is here, as already in ancient Egypt, a metaphor (‘surreal’ or ‘supernatural’?) of Wisdom, even if Breton, an automatic poet, a Marxist and a Freudian, was probably voluntarily overtaken by his writing process.

Let’s see.

Only the eyes of the « revelation » are exposed. Everything else is wrapped, hidden – like Wisdom, all of it « vision ».

The scarf is tightened from hand to mouth, – like Wisdom, with a rare speech.

His gaze is between the storm and the dawn. Wisdom remains between the past and the future.

The « icy » street is a world without warmth, slippery, without foundation; only Wisdom announces the end of the storm, a saving sign (the very pale rainbow).

Three quarters of a century earlier, Verlaine had already used the adjective « icy ».

« In the old lonely and icy park

Two forms have just passed.

Their eyes are dead and their lips are soft,

And you can barely hear their words. »

Two past shapes, dead-eyed. Two indistinct spectra – unreal.

The « icy street », the revelation « molded on a shiver » – as for them, surreal.

When will the « last winter » end?

When will appear the miracle of heat and light that « pale eyes » provide?

The poet recognized the sign of mystery, he goes back to the source.

« This mysterious sign, which I knew only to you, presides over a kind of exciting questioning that gives at the same time its answer and brings me to the very source of the spiritual life. (…) This key radiates such a light that one begins to worship the very fire in which it was forged. »

Breton, surrealist and materialistic, thus brought to « the very source of the spiritual life »!

Breton, immersed in the light of the mind!

Breton, fire worshipper!

Breton, a Zoroaster from the left bank!

Breton, declaiming the Zend, in a bistro in the Vieux Portof Marseilles!

Why not?

The church of Saint Germain des Prés was built on the site of an old temple of Isis, just like in Marseilles, the Cathedral of the Major.

Always the poet must conclude – with precise words.

« The virtue among all singular that emerges from your being and that, without hesitation, I found myself referred to by these words: « Eternal youth », before having recognized their scope. »

Breton spoke too quickly. He concedes it a posteriori. « Eternal youth », the « virtue among all singular » is still a metaphor, imperfect and surreal.

Carried away by the automatic momentum, Breton finally recognized its scope, and its essence.

The « Eternal youth », this Isis, shouts loudly: Breton is only an automatic prophet of Wisdom.