Provincial Minds for a Skimpy Planet


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

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

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

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

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

God has nothing in common with the world, He has withdrawn totally from it, and yet His presence still penetrates it, and even fills it completely, in spite of this absence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The mystery was spread everywhere, emphatic, putative.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just Hit the Road לֶך 


 

There are many ideas running around, nowadays.

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

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

There is the idea that progress is doomed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds familiar?

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

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

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

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

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

The word haran originally means « the hollow ».

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leave the dwelling of words.”

Leave the words. Leave the metaphors. Just leave.

Just hit the road, Man.

Lekh לֶךְ

i R.V. I.58.2-4

iiGen. 12, 1-3

iiiPhilo. De Migratione Abrahami. 14,7

iv Ibid. 14,12

v Gen. 13,9

vi Ibid. 14,12

The sudden rapture of Enoch


 

It was very brutal, very sudden. « Enoch walked with God, and then he was no more, for God took him away. »i A real trick. The construction of the sentence is straightforward, without nuance. If we translate word for word: « Enoch walked with God (in the text: ‘to the Gods’: et-ha-Elohim,  אֶתהָאֱלֹהִים ), then, ‘nothing more of him, vé-éïnénou, וְאֵינֶנּוּ ‘, because God (Elohim) took him away (or: seized him), ki-laqa oto Elohim  כִּילָקַח אֹתוֹ אֱלֹהִים

The expression used to render the key moment of Enoch’s disappearance (‘nothing more of him’ – éïnénou) evokes a kind of nothingness, an ‘absence’ instantaneously substituting for the ‘presence’ of Enoch, for his walking in ‘presence of God’, during three centuries.

Rachi comments as follows: « Enoch was a righteous man, but weak in conscience and easy to turn to evil. So God hastened to take him out of this world before his time. That is why the text expresses itself differently when it speaks of his death, and says: AND HE WAS NO LONGER in this world to complete his years. »

Therefore, Rashi does not believe that Enoch was taken up to Heaven in the manner of Elijah, like in a ‘rapture’. According to Rashi it is only a metaphor, a vigorous one admittedly, but which only translates the death of a « just », who was also a little « weak ».

I find that Rashi’s commentary falls rather short of the text.

Why demean Enoch by calling him a « weak man and easy to incite to evil »? Enoch is a « just » man. This is no small thing. Moreover, « he walks with God ». This is not a sign of weakness. Secondly, why does Rashi say that God « hastened to take him out of this world before his time, » when Enoch had already been walking with God ( וַיִּתְהַלֵּךְ חֲנוֹךְ, אֶתהָאֱלֹהִים ) for three hundred yearsii?

If we add the years that Enoch lived before giving birth to Methuselah, Enoch lived a total of three hundred and sixty five yearsiiiThat is a long time before God decided to “hasten”...

A thousand years before Rashi, Philo of Alexandria had proposed a completely different interpretation. « Enoch was pleasing to God, and ‘they could not find him’ (Gen. 5:24). Where would one have looked to find this Good? What seas would one have crossed? On what islands, on what continents? Among the Barbarians, or among the Greeks? Aren’t there not even today initiates in the mysteries of philosophy who say that wisdom is without existence, since the wise man does not exist either? So it is said that ‘he could not be found’, that way of being which was pleasing to God, in the sense that while it exists well, it is hidden from view, and that it is hidden from us where it is, since it is also said that God took it away ».iv

Philo goes from the figure of Enoch to that of Good. Where to find the Good? Where to find Wisdom? Just because we can’t find them, doesn’t mean they’ve suddenly disappeared, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Philo sees in the text an incitement to take flight towards high ideas. Probably an influence of Pythagoras and Plato. A form of encounter, the spirit of Israel and that of Greece.

After Philo and Rashi, what can we still see in this passage of Genesis?

The name Enoch (חֲנוֹךְ ) gives a clue. It means « the initiate », « the one who is dedicated ». The word anukah has the same root. Long before it meant the feast of the same name, which commemorates the victories of the Maccabees, this word had the generic meaning of « inauguration », of « dedication »: the dedication of the altar (Num. 7:11) or the inauguration of the temple (Ps. 30:1).

Enoch was a living « dedication ». He had « dedicated » himself to God. He was a “walking” sacrifice (like Isaac, walking to the place of his sacrifice).

Enoch had given his own life as a sacrifice. God was pleased with him, and God walked « with him ». Then, one day, suddenly, God took him away.

Why that day, precisely, and not before or after?

I think that Enoch was taken away on the day he was 365 years old. He had spent 65 years until he became the father of Methuselah, and 300 more years of walking in the presence of God. A life of 365 years, that is, a year of years.v

A « year of years » is a good metaphor to signify the perfection of time accomplished, the sum of the life of a righteous man.

But why was Enoch ‘suddenly’ no longer seen?

When God takes hold of a soul, it is not done in a picosecond or a femtosecond or even as one might say, ‘immediately’.

It is done in a time without time, infinitely short in the beginning, and infinitely long, immediately afterwards.

i Gen. 5, 24

ii Gen. 5,22

iiiGen. 5, 21-23

iv Mutatione Nominum, 34-38

vGen. 5, 21-23

A Jewish, Greek, Indo-European and Exotic Rabbi


Jews pythagorized a lot in Alexandria, several centuries before the Christian era. Philo and Josephus are excellent examples of Hellenizing Jews, belonging to the high class of this city, and sensitive to ideas flowing from elsewhere. Pharisaism and Essenism, which flourished at the time, can be interpreted as effective outcomes of Pythagorean and Alexandrian Judaism.

The Pharisees, the « Separated », indeed constituted a « separate band », they wanted to distinguish themselves from traditional Jews, and even to innovate with regard to the Law. Josephus says that the Pharisees imposed rules on the people that were not enshrined in the Law of Moses.

Death and resurrection occupied the minds a lot, then.

The Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead. So did share this belief Rabbi Joshua ben Youssef, better known as Jesus, while still finding Pharisees « hypocrites », and « bleached graves ».

By contrast, the Sadducees, faithful to the letter of the Law, were « Old Believers » and they denied the resurrection.

The core idea of the resurrection was indeed not Jewish. It was widespread in Hellenism, pythagorism, with palingenesis and metempsychosis. All this originated in a more distant East. Iran. India. The vast world had many different views on these difficult subjects.

But the Pharisaic belief in the resurrection was undoubtedly « a decisive innovation, which made Pharisaic and Talmudic Judaism a religion quite different from that of the Law and the Prophets, » wrote Isidore Lévyi.

Pharisaic Judaism has adapted and modified the concepts of resurrection and palingenesis: the resurrection is not as a recurring opportunity offered to migrant souls, but a singular, unique event, which occurs once and for all on the day of Revelation.

As for the Essenes, another sect of Judaism, they are called Hassa’im, the « silent » ones. Josephus describes them as follows: « No scream, no tumult ever defiles the house; everyone in turn is given the floor. To people outside, the silence inside gives the impression of a frightening mystery.»ii

They are also fanatics, » adds Josephus. « They swear not to reveal anything about the members of the cult to strangers, even if they were to be tortured to death.»iii

It was already, let us remember, Pythagoras’ oath: « Rather die than speak », as reported by Diogenes Laertius (VIII, 39). And it also reminds us of Jesus’ obstinate silence before Pilate.

Flavius Josephus summarizes the belief of the Essene sect: « The soul is eternal. Freed from its carnal chain, the soul, as if liberated from a long servitude, joyfully takes off towards the heights.» iv

Other sects still competed with them in this troubled period: the Zadoqites, the Nazarenes, the Dositheans, the disciples of Johanan Ben Zakkai, those of Hillel…

In this world open to the influences of many heterodox cultures, the parallel between the birth of Jesus and that of Pythagoras is worth to be underlined.

There is more. Pythagoras in Crotone refused to be called a son of Apollo, just as Jesus in Capernaum does not want to be known as the son of God. Another similarity: Pythagoras and Jesus knew how to talk to women. Jesus had several of them as unconditional followers, three of whom are named: Mary Magdalene, Mary Mother of James, and Salome. This sole fact is in itself extremely remarkable, if we take into account the context and the time. Only Pythagoras has had a similar behaviour in the past.

Pharisaism, born in Alexandria in the midst of a maelstrom of cultures, religions, political, economic and migratory movements, tried to reconcile the ideas of Moses and Pythagoras. The time aspired to forms of syncretism, to conjunctions of points of view.

If Judaism was then influenced by Pythagorism, how can we not see that Christianity too was influenced by its aura? Long before Jesus, Pythagoras had been known as the God-Man of Samos, while being the son of Mesarch and Parthenis. He embodied on earth the manifestation of Apollo. Through him, shone in Crotone, the torch that saved happiness and wisdom.

I. Levy interprets what he calls « the enigmatic fact of the triumph of Christianity » in this way: « Of the religion which under the Caesars left Palestine, the essential had only been introduced to Jerusalem a century earlier. The Gospel conceals under an oriental garment the belief system which, as we know from the writings of Virgil, Plutarch and many others, from the careers of Apollonius of Tyana and Alexander of Abonutikhos, captured the most diverse spirits on the Greek and Latin shores of the Mediterranean. It seduced the ancient world because it brought it, imbued with the most penetrating exotic charm, a product of Greek thought, heir to an Indo-European past. »v

All this sounds curious in the 21st century, used to the strangest extrapolations, and sensitive to the most improbable reinterpretations, never without putative provocations.

Jesus, a slandered rabbi, condemned as « king of the Jews », now may reappear in the collective consciousness as an « oriental », « exotic » product, an heir to « Greek thought » and to an « Indo-European past ».

In the Jewish world, trying to survive after the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD, it was probably not desirable to allow the seeds of heresy to develop. It was necessary to gather minds, after the political, symbolic and moral disaster. Yet Jesus was Jewish, as were the Pharisees, Sadducees or Essenes who occupied the field of Jewish thought at that time. More Jewish than Indo-European, we might say.

It is certainly not indifferent, today, to want to see in Christianity only an « oriental », « exotic », « Greek » and « Indo-European » non-Jewish heresy, rather than the sucker of the Jesse trunk, – that Judaeo-Christians celebrated then.

It might be more significant, from a very long-term perpective, to consider Christianity being, at the same time, and without contradiction, an interesting innovation: a Jewish-Greek-Indo-European and exotic religion, – transcending in its unique way cultures, borders, classes, sects, centuries.

i in La Légende de Pythagore de Grèce en Palestine, 1927

ii Bellum II, VIII, 5, §132

iii Bellum II, VIII, 5, §132

iv Bell. II, VIII, §155-157

vIn Op.cit.

La philosophie des effluves


 

« Il n’y a pas beaucoup de philosophes juifs », déclare Léo Straussi.

Cette affirmation, pour provocante qu’elle soit, peut être relativisée.

Il est aisé de lancer une poignée de noms…

Le premier d’entre eux peut-être, historiquement parlant, Philon d’Alexandrie, tenta une synthèse entre sa foi juive et la philosophie grecque. Il eut peu d’influence sur le judaïsme de son temps, mais beaucoup plus sur les Pères de l’Église, qui s’en inspirèrent.

Un millénaire plus tard, Moïse Maïmonide s’inspira de la philosophie aristotélicienne pour tenter de concilier foi et ‘raison’. Il fut le célèbre auteur du Mishné Torah, un code de la loi juive, lequel souleva de longues polémiques parmi ses coreligionnaires au 12ème et au 13ème siècle.

Autre célébrité, Baruch Spinoza fut « excommunié«  (חרם herem ) et définitivement « banni » de la communauté juive en 1656, mais il fut admiré par Hegel, Nietzsche...

Au 18ème siècle, Moïse Mendelssohn s’efforça d’appliquer l’esprit de l’Aufklärung au judaïsme et devint l’un des principaux instigateurs des « Lumières juives », l’Haskalah (du mot השכלה, « sagesse », « érudition »).

On peut évoquer aussi Hermann Cohen, un néo-kantien du 19ème siècle, et « un très grand philosophe allemand », selon le mot de Gérard Bensussanii.

Plus proches dans le temps, Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig et Emmanuel Lévinas

C‘est à peu près tout.

Il n’y a pas foule, mais on est loin de la pénurie que Léo Strauss se plaisait à souligner.

Il semble que ce dernier ait surtout voulu faire valoir, pour des raisons qui lui sont propres, « la vieille prémisse juive selon laquelle être juif et être philosophe sont deux choses incompatibles », ainsi qu‘il le formule explicitement.iii

Il est intéressant de le voir préciser son point de vue en analysant le cas emblématique de Maïmonide : « Les philosophes sont des hommes qui essaient de rendre compte du Tout en partant de ce qui est toujours accessible à l’homme en tant qu’homme ; Maïmonide part de l’acceptation de la Torah. Un Juif peut utiliser la philosophie et Maïmonide l’utilise de la façon la plus ample; mais, en tant que Juif, il donne son assentiment là où, en tant que philosophe, il suspendrait son assentiment. »iv

Léo Strauss ajoute, catégoriquement, que le livre de Maïmonide, le Guide des égarés, « n’est pas un livre philosophique – un livre écrit par un philosophe pour des philosophes – mais un livre juif : un livre écrit par un Juif pour des Juifs. »v

Le Guide des égarés est en effet entièrement consacré à la Torah et à l’explication du « sens caché » de plusieurs passages. Les plus importants des « secrets » qu’il s’efforce d’élucider sont le Récit du Commencement (le début de la Genèse) et le Récit du Chariot (Ezéchiel ch. 1 à 10). De ces deux « secrets », Maïmonide dit que « le Récit du Commencement est la même chose que la science de la nature et que le Récit du Chariot est la même chose que la science divine (c’est-à-dire la science des êtres incorporels, ou de Dieu et des anges) »vi.

Les chapitres d’Ézéchiel mentionnés par Maïmonide méritent sans aucun doute l’attention et l’étude des plus fins esprits, des âmes effilées. Mais ils ne sont pas à mettre dans toutes les mains. Ézéchiel y raconte avec force détails ses « visions divines ». On imagine volontiers que les sceptiques, les matérialistes, les rationalistes ou les ricaneurs (qu’ils soient juifs ou non) ne font pas partie du lectorat visé.

Qu’on en juge.

« Je regardai, et voici, il vint du septentrion un vent impétueux, une grosse nuée, et une gerbe de feu, qui répandait de tous côtés une lumière éclatante, au centre de laquelle brillait comme de l’airain poli, sortant du milieu du feu. Au centre encore, apparaissaient quatre animaux, dont l’aspect avait une ressemblance humaine. Chacun d’eux avait quatre faces, et chacun avait quatre ailes. Leurs pieds étaient droits, et la plante de leurs pieds était comme celle du pied d’un veau. Ils étincelaient comme de l’airain poli. Ils avaient des mains d’homme sous les ailes à leurs quatre côtés ; et tous les quatre avaient leurs faces et leurs ailes. Leurs ailes étaient jointes l’une à l’autre, ils ne se tournaient point en marchant, mais chacun marchait droit devant soi. Quant à la figure de leurs faces, ils avaient tous une face d’homme, tous quatre une face de lion à droite, tous quatre une face de bœuf à gauche, et tous quatre une face d’aigle. »vii

La vision d’Ézéchiel prend alors un tour renversant, avec l’apparition de la gloire de l’Éternel.

« Je vis encore comme de l’airain poli, comme du feu, au dedans duquel était cet homme, et qui rayonnait tout autour, depuis la forme de ses reins jusqu’en haut, et depuis la forme de ses reins jusqu’en bas, je vis comme du feu, et comme une lumière éclatante, dont il était environné. Tel l’aspect de l’arc qui est dans la nue en un jour de pluie, ainsi était l’aspect de cette lumière éclatante : c’était une image de la gloire de l’Éternel. A cette vue, je tombai sur ma face, et j’entendis la voix de quelqu’un qui parlait. »viii

L’homme au milieu du feu parle à Ézéchiel comme s’il était une « image » de Dieu.

Était-ce le cas? Quel philosophe se risquerait à en juger?

Peut-être que cet « homme » environné de feu était une ‘réalité’? Ou bien ne s’agissait-il que d’une illusion?

Quoi qu’il en soit, il est clair que ce texte et ses possibles interprétations n’entrent pas dans les canons philosophiques habituels.

Faut-il donc suivre Léo Strauss, et admettre en conséquence que Maïmonide n’est pas un « philosophe », mais qu’il a écrit en revanche un « livre juif » pour les Juifs, afin de répondre à des besoins d’éclaircissements propres aux mystères recelés dans les Textes?

Peut-être… Mais le lecteur moderne d’Ézéchiel, qu’il soit juif ou non, qu’il soit philosophe ou non, ne peut manquer de se prendre d’intérêt pour les paraboles qu’il y trouve, et pour leurs implications symboliques.

L’ « homme » au milieu du feu demande à Ézéchiel d’ « avaler » un livre, puis d’aller « vers la maison d’Israël », vers ce peuple qui n’est point pour lui « un peuple ayant un langage obscur, une langue inintelligible », pour lui rapporter les paroles qu’il va lui dire.

Les ressources habituelles de la philosophie semblent peu adaptées pour traiter de ce genre de texte.

Mais le Guide des égarés s’y attaque frontalement, dans un style subtil et charpenté, mobilisant tous les ressorts de la raison, et de la critique, afin d’apporter quelques lumières aux personnes de foi, avancées dans la réflexion, mais saisies de « perplexité » face aux arcanes de telles « visions ».

Le Guide des égarés implique une grande confiance dans les capacités de la raison humaine.

Il laisse entendre que celles-ci sont bien plus grandes, bien plus déliées que tout que ce que les philosophes les plus éminents ou les poètes les plus éclairés ont fait entrevoir, à travers les siècles.

Et ce n’est pas fini. Des âges viendront, sans doute, où la puissance de la pénétration humaine en matière de secrets divins sera, osons le dire, sans comparaison avec ce que Moïse ou Ézéchiel eux-mêmes ont pu léguer à la postérité.

Autrement dit, l’âge des prophètes ne fait que commencer, et celui des philosophes est à peine émergent, à l’échelle des Temps à venir.

L’Histoire humaine est dans son premier âge, vraiment, si l’on en juge par ses balbutiements.

Notre temps tout entier fait encore partie de l’aube, et les grands soleils de l’Esprit n’ont pas révélé à ce jour autre chose qu’un infime éclat de leurs lumières en puissance.

D’un point de vue anatomique et fonctionnel, le cerveau humain offre à la contemplation des mystères bien plus profonds, bien plus obscurs, horresco referens, que les riches et bariolées métaphores d’Ézéchiel.

Le cerveau d’Ézéchiel lui-même a été un jour, il y a quelques siècles, en proie à une « vision ». Il y avait donc à ce moment-là une forme de compatibilité, de connaturalité entre le cerveau du prophète et la vision qu’il rapporte.

On en induit qu’un jour, vraisemblablement, d’autres cerveaux de prophètes ou de visionnaires à venir seront capables de se porter plus loin qu’Ézéchiel lui-même.

De deux choses l’une: soit la « vision » prophétique est une illusion, soit elle possède une réalité propre.

Dans le premier cas, Moïse, Ézéchiel et la longue théorie des « visionnaires » de l’humanité sont des égarés, qui ont emmené leurs suivants dans des chemins d’erreurs, sans retour.

Dans le second cas, il faut admettre que toute « vision » prophétique implique a priori un (autre) monde enveloppant de façon subliminale le « voyant ».

A tout « voyant » il est donné de percevoir dans une certaine mesure la présence du mystère, qui environne de toutes parts l’humanité entière.

Pour reprendre l’intuition de William Jamesix, les cerveaux humains sont analogues à des « antennes », branchées en permanence sur un monde immense, invisible.

D’âges en âges, des chamans, des prophètes et quelques poètes en perçoivent les effluves, les pulsations.

Il reste à bâtir la philosophie de ces effluves.

iLéo Strauss. Maïmonide. 1988, p.300

iiGérard Bensussan. Qu’est-ce que la philosophie juive ? 2003, p.166.

iiiLéo Strauss. Maïmonide. 1988, p.300

ivIbid., p.300

vIbid., p.300

viIbid., p. 304

viiÉzéchiel, 1, 4-10

viiiÉzéchiel, 1, 27-28

ixWilliam James. Human Immortality: Two Supposed Objections to the Doctrine.1898. Ed. Houghton, Mifflin and Company, The Riverside Press, Cambridge.