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

The Metaphors of Monotheism in India, Israel and the West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The same questions are still running through humanity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

iEusèbe de Césarée. Préparation évangélique, 4,15

iiṚg Veda I, 164,24.

iiiṚg Veda I, 164,4.

ivJob, 38, 4-19

vṚg Veda I, 164,44.

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