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© JAMES L. KELLEY
Purusamandala, from an ancient Indian manual of temple architecture. Image found in Alistair Shearer, The Hindu Vision: Forms of the Formless (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1993), 66.
“…[T]he beginnings [are] not only different from but contrary to those which have been hitherto imagined…”. —Giambattista Vico2
During the drafting my last book—Anthropos3—I came across a few bald facts that changed quite radically my views on the history of religion. I don’t believe I will ever be the same, and I would like to tell you why. Perhaps you, dear reader, will find yourself transformed in hearing my tale. In Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism samsāra indicates the illusory wheel of birth and death that everyone must escape in order to merge with the Ultimate. The world of rocks, animals, air, and people are just an illusion, or rather a de-lusion, true existence being outside of the world of space, time and matter. Here in the West, samsāra, along with the corollary doctrine of karma, remains the most recognized teaching of the so-called “Eastern” religions. However, one searches in vain for any mention of samsāra in the earliest Indian texts, the Vedas. Karma is found there, but, shockingly enough, the Vedic meaning
The New Science of Giambattista Vico, trans. from the 3rd edition (1744) by Thomas Goddard Bergin and Max Harold Fisch (Ithaca, NY: Cornel University Press, 1948), 5-6, emphases added. 3 James L. Kelley, Anthropos: New Studies (forthcoming).
of karma turns out to be the opposite of the later otherworldly version of the concept.4 In the Vedas, the Brahmanas, and in the earlier Upanishads, karma means “work,” specifically “the pious work of Vedic sacrifice.” The more recent doctrine of karma, indeed, is nothing if not a veritable spiritual revolution, a total reversal of perspective vis-à-vis the original karma. In the original Vedic version, one’s karma—one’s standing based upon pious liturgical deeds—was an actual material seed or kernel that achieved heaven by undertaking a physical ascent to the highest sphere of the sky. In this material heaven, the pious one is given a glorious body.5 (Later on we will delve further into this mysterious—to Westerners—notion of heaven as glorified material existence.) This heavenly rebirth is replaced in the later Asiatic doctrine of karma by punarjanma, an earthly rebirth befitting the karmic standing of the person being reborn. 6 So, here is bombshell number one: In the earliest known layer of Indian religious tradition, there is no doctrine of reincarnation. Rather, there is a belief that only pious ritual acts of a specific type can grant to the dying a glorified corporeal life in a material heaven. However, this jarring revelation about Indian religious history has equally far-reaching implications for universal religious history, that is, for human history in general. As we will show, our realization that little or no evidence exists for ancient man’s belief in an immaterial soul may require us to rewrite religious history, in the process discarding much mistaken research that has hitherto based itself upon marshy ground in presupposing that the immaterial “immortal soul” has been the norm since time immemorial.
See J.N. Farquahar, An Outline of the Religious Literature of India (London: Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press, 1920): “There is no trace of transmigration in the hymns of the Vedas ; only in the Brāhmanas are there to be found a few traces of the lines of thought from which the doctrine arose” (33). 5 Rigveda 10.14.8. Even the Jains, who claim to have formulated the pre-Vedic, “original” version of the doctrine, define karma as the super-fine particles of matter (karma varana) that cling to the soul, and which must be purged from its more immaterial (though not purely immaterial!) counterpart—the matter of the soul itself. The Sicilian physicians and philosophers from whom Plato probably derived his “immortal soul” were, according to scholar Thomas McEvilley, indebted to Jain notions of an ethereal yet nonetheless material soul. See Thomas McEvilley, The Shape of Ancient Thought: comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies (New York: Allworth Press, 2002), 197ff. 6 Yuvraj Krishan, The Doctrine of Karma: Its Origin and Development in Brāhmanical, Buddhist, and Jaina Traditions (Delhi: Matilal Banarsidass, 1997), 31.
In my recent review of much of the earliest documents of Indian, Iranian, Greek, Hebrew, and Chinese religions, I have not been able to find a single unequivocal reference to an “immortal soul,” if what is meant is an utterly immaterial existent that serves as a kind of essence or mover of animate matter. Nor have I found a heaven or hell that stands outside of the material cosmos.7 The so-called “immortal soul” seems to have originated with the Orphics and the Pythagoreans in Asia Minor in the century just before Plato. We would be warranted in consigning this odd aberration to a footnote in the history of religion, were it not for a disquieting fact: Since its invention about 2,500 years ago, this bizarre Orphic idea of the immortal soul has become the most important, or at least one of the most important, foundations of Western thinking about God, man, cosmos and society. Plato’s immortal soul and its concomitant cosmos of spiritas-aperfect-realm-that-contrasts-with-an-imperfect—becausemutable—world-of-matter, was the main inspiration for Blessed Augustine of Hippo when he—the man who more-or-less defined
Take, for instance, the Greek Tartaros. Hesiod has this to say about the Hellenic Hell: …And though the Titans’ spirit was bold, they were vanquished and then hurled beneath the earth of the wide paths and bound with racking chains, as deep down below the earth as the sky is high above it; so deep down into the gloomy Tararos they were cast. a bronze anvil falling from the sky would travel nine days and nine nights to reach Tartaros on the tenth day. Tartaros is fenced with bronze and round its gullet drifts night in triple array, while above it grow the roots of the earth and of the barren sea. there, by the decree of Zeus the could-gatherer, the divine Titans have been hidden in the misty gloom in a dank realm at the utmost limits of giant earth. (Hesiod, Theogony, 717-731; cit. Hesiod. Theogony, Works and Days, Shield, trans. Apostolos N. Athanassakis, 2nd ed. [Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004], 29). Here we see that hell is a material place, not some realm beyond the cosmos.
Christianity for the West8—first encountered it. We will leave it to the eminent historian of late antiquity, Peter Brown, to set the scene: It is difficult nowadays to enter into the extent to which this otherworldliness [of the Platonists] must have appeared as quite revolutionary to Augustine. With the exception of the Platonists, most thinkers in the ancient world, the most religious included, were ‘materialists’ in the strict sense. For them, the divine was also an ‘element,’ though infinitely more ‘fine,’ more ‘noble,’ and less ‘mutable.’9 So, what is said about the soul in the ancient world? Let’s compile a list of interesting facts, and then we will draw a few conclusions: • In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for soul— nepesh—originally meant “throat” or “breath,” but was taken to refer to man as a psycho-physical whole, there being no trace of any mind-body or soul-body dualism in any OT text.10 • In Greek literature before the Pre-Socratics, we find that dead heroes “roam the earth enveloped in mist,”11 and that these souls or shades, far from being disembodied, are rather forced to enter rooms through keyholes and often make their exit via cracks in the floor. For Heraclitus, souls in Hades receive “pneuma” into themselves in the form of effluvia or vapors, and let us not forget the Epicurean teaching that the gods are sustained by a very material supply of soulatoms.12
Bl. Augustine “is in a sense the Christian thinker, for Western Christendom at least,” according to Andrew Collier in Christianity and Marxism: A Philosophical Contribution to Their Reconciliation (London and New York: Routledge, 2001), 8. 9 Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo: A Biography (London: Faber and Faber, 1967), 85, emphasis added. 10 Thomas W. Toews, Biblical Sources in the Development of the Concept of the Soul in the Writing of the Fathers of the Early Christian Church, 100-325 C.E. Ph.D. dissertation (Andrews University, 2011), 22. 11 Hesiod, Works and Days, 1.10; cit. in John Mansley Robinson, An Introduction to Early Greek Philosophy: The Chief Fragments and Ancient Testimony, with Connecting Commentary (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1968), 13. 12 William Arthur Heidel, “Antecedents of Greek Corpuscular Theories,” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 22 (1911): 111-172, here 129. Heidel cit. Heraclitus, Fr.
• Both the Sanskrit word ātman and the Greek atmos derive from the Proto Indo-European root * ēpma-, meaning “breath” or “vapor.” 13 Thus, like the Hebrew soul—nepesh—and the Greek soul-shade, the HinduJain-Buddhist ātman, often taken to mean that part of man that is identical with the Brahman, that is, with the uncreated essence of the divine, turns out to be a physical substance, however vaporous or airy. 14 • One Chinese word for soul—hún—originates from yún, which means “cloud,” just as ātman, nepesh, psyche, and spiritus/pneuma all originate in breath, mist, or some form of airy substance. Also, the notion of the Chinese soul leaving the body at death and going on shamanic journeys in life is represented in texts that insist that these souls are not absolutely unbodied. Note the ancient Chinese text that states: “O soul, some back! Why have you left…and sped to the earth’s far corners…. (-) There are giants there…who seek only for souls to catch / And then suns that come out together, melting metal, dissolving stone… (-) In the south you cannot stay. There the people have tattooed faces and blackened teeth, they sacrifice flesh of men, and point their bones to paste” 15 The soul of the deceased does not ascend to any otherworldly “heaven,” but rather must worry about very real monsters and barbarians on the rim of the world who would like to grind the map-trekking soul into powder! • Many historians of religion have claimed that the pervasive evidence of shamanism in ancient religious texts the world over somehow proves that the soulbody opposition was the original view of prehistoric man, since shamans seem to have left their bodies to go on spirit journeys to the underworld (and to the sky
98. 13 Stephen E. Flowers, “Toward an Archaic Germanic Psychology,” Journal of IndoEuropean Studies 11 91983): 117-138, here 123. 14 The Greek soul-word thymos (see Homer, Iliad, 13.163 and 20.174) has been traced by several Indo-European linguists, to “the root term which in Latin became fumus or smoke” (Paul S. Macdonald, History of the Concept of Mind, 2 vols. [Aldershot, Hants, England: Aldershot, 2007], 1.17). 15 “The Summons of the Soul,” 73-78 in Cyril Birch, ed., Anthology of Chinese Literature. Volume I: From Early Times to the Fourteenth Century (New York: Grove Press, 1965), 73.
realms). However, as Peter Kingsley has shown, “hardly ever does the shaman specify that he or she only travels as a soul. On the contrary, the shaman invariably descends to the underworld in a body of flesh, blood, bones and very physical feelings: a body that is as likely as not to be threatened in the process, wounded, mutilated, dismembered, boiled or 16 burned.” Now, a few conclusions: (1) The corporeal soul of the Vedas, far from standing alone as some kind of discordant historical fluke, rather turns out to be the norm for all known ancient societies. All believe that man is a psychosomatic whole and that his soul is a substance that, after death, can carry on an existence in space and time that often differs qualitatively little from that of the “living.” (2) The Platonic tradition, its roots lying in Orphic and Pythagorean thought, changed this original ancient tradition by insisting that the soul of man is his most worthy part, having a kinship to an immaterial, immutable world utterly opposed to the cosmos of space, time and bodies.17
Now, in order to widen our scope somewhat, we will examine some ancient texts that deal with the creation of the material cosmos. Our discussion will provide a framework for a proper understanding of why ancient man did not believe in an immaterial soul.
Peter Kingsley, “Greeks, Shamans and Magi,” Studia Iranica 23 (1994): 187-198, here 190. 17 Macdonald, Concept of Mind, 1.23-24. On Plotinus’ characterization of sensible matter as “primal and absolute evil,” see Enneads I.8.3.38-40; cit. in Gregory Shaw, “Neoplatonism I: Antiquity,” 834-837 in Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism, Wouter J. Hanegraaff, ed. (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2006), 835.
In Rigveda 10.90 the birth of the material cosmos is brought about through the dismemberment of a primal man—Purusa— whose body parts are turned into the various elements that together make up the cosmos. It is important to note that, at the time of Purusa’s sacrifice, there is no cosmos. The cosmos is made from the divided body of the first man, Purusa. Note the thought-pattern shared by the following pair of texts: [A.] “The moon was produced from [Purusa’s] soul (manas); the sun from his eye; Indra and Agni from his mouth; and Vayu from his breath. From his navel came the atmosphere; from his head arose the sky; from his feet came the earth; from his ear the four quarters: so they formed the worlds” (RV 10.90.13-14).18 [B.] To Purusa: “May your eye go to the sun. May your ātman go to the wind, and may you go to the heaven and the earth, according what is right—or go to the waters if you are placed there. May you establish the plants with your flesh” (RV 10.16.3). 19 Scholar Bruce Lincoln, drawing upon these texts as well as a number of others from Greek, Iranian, Norse, Old Russian, and Judaic traditions, shows that the Vedic notion of the cosmos as resulting from the sacrifice and division of a primordial man must have originated earlier than the Vedas; specifically, there must have been an ur-culture from whence all of the others fanned out, carrying with them similar linguistic and cultural features. Lincoln identifies this ur-culture with what has been called “ProtoIndo-European.”20 (We have gathered together a few more examples of texts from disparate cultures and eras that reflect the P-I-E creation myth in the Appendix. ) The idea
“Rigveda 10.90,” trans. J. Muir, 353-356 in J. Muir, “Progress of the Vedic Religion towards Abstract Conceptions of the Deity,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, New Series. 1.1-2 (1865): 339-391. 19 As cited in Bruce Lincoln, “Death and Resurrection in Indo-European Thought,” Journal of Indo-European Studies 5 (1977): 247-64, here 251. 20 It was Sir William Jones (1746-1794) who first formulated the Proto-Indo-European hypothesis in 1786, though he did not coin the term “Proto-Indo-European,” on the origins of which see Wouter W. Belier, Decayed Gods: Origin and Development of Georges Dumézil’s ‘Idéologie Tripartie’ (Leiden: Brill, 1991), 1-2. Lincoln’s originality lies in his discovery that at the heart of the P-I-E Purusa myth is a consistent and pervasive set of cosmo-anthropic homologies.
that a Proto-Indo-European language and culture lies at the headwaters of most Western (and many Near and even Far Eastern) cultures presents many interpretive hurdles that are too complex to detail in these pages. Suffice to say critics have noted that “Proto-Indo-European” is nothing more than a scholarly construct pressed into service to explain uncanny correspondences between a great number of European and Asiatic languages. However, there are cultural parallels among Eurasian societies (reflected in historical sources and even in today’s European, Asian and African successor cultures) that go hand-in-hand with the compelling linguistic similarities. These latter have led to the positing of P-I-E as a kind of original High Culture from whence flow the disparate cultural tributaries— Greek, Indo-Iranian, Teutonic, etc. Lincoln noted that a central feature of this large group of purusal texts (See Appendix) was the notion that the primal man’s bodily regions or parts are “consubstantial” with particular regions or parts of the cosmos. That is, the body of Purusa is divided, each piece’s form or shape (this “form” not being conceived as being other than the material body of Purusa/cosmos) being changed into a homologous part of the world, no portion of the giant’s corpse being wasted or “thrown away.” What’s more, these body-world relationships form a kind of system of “alloforms,” which can be arranged as follows: Head Navel Feet Flesh Stones : : : : Heaven : Atmosphere Earth Earth Bones Sun Moon21
Right eye : Left eye :
The most striking implication of this Indo-European theory of creation is its concomitant idea of what Lincoln has termed “creative death.”22 In order to illustrate the significance of the I-E theory of creative death, let us take a look at a text cited by
Bruce Lincoln, Myth, Cosmos, and Society: Indo-European Themes of Creation and Destruction (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1986), 7-8. 22 Ibid., 2.
Lincoln from an ancient Iranian text, the Pahlavi Rivayat that accompanies the Dādestān ī Dēnīg: (Regarding) that which dies, Sōšyans, together with the accomplishers of the Renovation, who are his assistants, they set out to the dead body. And Ohrmazd summons the bone from the earth, the blood from the water, the hair from the plants, and the life from the wind. He mixes one with the other, and in his manner he keeps on creating.23 Here the body is not reanimated with a “soul” or with any other immaterial entity, but rather the revivification is engineered by Ohrmazd as a “reversal of death, the re-assembly of those parts which were dispersed” at death. 24 According to this logic, odd perhaps to our 21st century ears, the cosmos is created out of the body of one of the first men. Henceforth, when men die, their bodies return to the material cosmos from whence they came. Here, creation/cosmos and death/body of man are the two sides of a process that runs both “forward” and “backward” in the sense that the birth of a man is a death or a “using up” of the cosmos, and the birth of the cosmos is accomplished via the sacrificial death of a man, Purusa. A few implications of the I-E theory of creative death include: (1) There is no immaterial soul that can be absolutely opposed to the matter that makes up the cosmos. Indeed, man and cosmos are different forms of each other. It is possible that we have a further illumination of Einstein’s famous equation— E=mc²—for space, in the ancient conception, is a part of the Cosmic Man’s body, all of these members constituting points in a unitary field of “energy.”25 There is no “matter” or “space” outside of the body of Purusa in the doxaphysical scheme,
Lincoln, “Death in I-E,” 253-254. Ibid., 254. 25 Note Einstein’s words: “…[T]he field [of energy] is the only reality,” and “The apparently concrete matter of experience dissolves away into vibrating pattern of quantum energy” (Quoted in Eric Ackroyd, Divinity in Things: Theology Without Myth [Eastbourne, UK and Portland, OR: Sussex Academic Press, 2009], 51).
only created purusal matter/time/energy and the absolutely immaterial divine essence and energies. (2) Originally, before the cosmos existed, before the purusal sacrifice, there was only (a) the divine and (b) whatever beings god had already created. Since there was no cosmos—and thus no “empty space” between bodies—these beings must have formed a kind of synédrion or world-council around God, as in St. John’s Apocalypse, which offers a prophetic vision of heaven as a city of worshippers encircling the central divine throne, no longer in an earthly temple, but within the divine glory or energies. However, since this is a material city, the body of each member of this glorified host retains its position on a special grid. We propose that these heavenly worshippers are arrayed around the body of Christ, this heavenly city being the site of the eternal Liturgy: “And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (-) And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (Rev 21.14, 22 [KJV]). (3) With the creation of the cosmos out of the body of Purusa, we have the stage set for the eschaton, the final judgment, wherein the cosmos disappears, and the original synédrion reappears, this time as the vast multitude of humanity incorporated into a cosmo-anthropic body or ekklesia around the Altar (for Christians this must be the Lamb, Christ’s body made available in the Eucharistic Chalice).26 Since (2) broached the topic of St. John’s vision of the New Jerusalem, let us note in passing that St. John likens the twelve gateways of the Holy City to the twelve stones of the zodiac:
The notion of heaven as a reunification of the dead body with its living elements in the cosmos and its glorification in a divine Liturgy or Sanhedrin is indicated in a Vedic hymn to Yama (Yama being a purusal “first man” figure): “Meet Yama, meet the Fathers, meet the merit of free or ordered acts, in highest heaven. / Leave sin and evil, seek anew thy dwelling, and bright with glory wear another body” (RV 10.16.8; Rig Veda, trans. Ralph T.H. Griffith , accessed 19 December 2011, http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/rigveda/rv10014.htm).
And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst (Rev. 21.19-20 [KJV]). Notice that the ordering of the stones is the reverse of the traditional zodiacal sequence. Though biblical scholar R.H. Charles held that this radical reordering indicated that the New Jerusalem has nothing to do with pagan or non-Christian knowledge or culture, it is obvious that St. John is asserting that there is a fundamental continuity between (1) the material universe and its laws, on the one hand; and (2) the High Purusal Council of all, knees bowed, before the Lamb.27 What has carried over from the here and now to the Heavenly Throne? We submit that it is the visible, tangible matter that makes up the cosmos, every last particle of which has returned to its respective glorified body in the council of the ingathered faithful. Iconographic corroboration of our vision of the New Jerusalem as a rotiform polis based upon the I-E theory of creative death is presented in figures 1 and 3.
On Charles’ wrongheaded approach, and on the zodiac stones in St. John’s Apocalypse, see Adela Yarbro Collins, Cosmology and Eschatology in Jewish and Christian Apocalypticism (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 131ff.
FIGURE 1. CIRCULAR ZODIAC OF DENDERAH28
In light of the great confusion that surrounds the issue of the human soul and its relation to matter, I have found it meet to coin a new term to describe the Indo-European view of cosmoanthropology: doxaphysics. Doxa is the Greek word that is used in the New Testament to indicate the glory or energies of God, which suffuse and sustain creation, and which constitute the goal of all creation as well as the means of this telos’ realization.29 In the pure, unplatonized Christian view, matter was created “very good,” with a unique openness to a process of taking on more and more of the attributes of the uncreated, divine nature, though creation is never hereby confused with the uncreated. Physis, also from the Greek, which usually means “essence,” “nature,” or something like “the substance wherein
Image was taken from Robert G. Bauval, “The Lion (Leo) Was Known in the New Kingdom,” accessed 18 May, 2012, http://robertbauval.co.uk/articles/articles/nkleo3.html. This citation does not indicate an avowal of the speculative and highly problematic research of Bauval. His cite was simply the closest source at hand that contained the arresting image of the Denderah Zodiac. For a scholarly treatment of the zodiac as a cosmo-eschatological image par excellence in Jewish and Christian iconography, see Rachel Hachlili, “The Zodiac in Ancient Jewish Art: Representation and Significance,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 228 (December, 1977): 61-77. 29 See my A Realism of Glory: Lectures on Christology in the Works of Protopresbyter John Romanides (Rollinsford, NH: Orthodox Research Institute, 2009), 88.
something exists,” I have dovetailed with doxa to indicate that, in the I-E theory of man and the universe, there can be no soul/matter or man/cosmos opposition, since nothing exists apart from the cosmo-anthopos and the God that sustains it. Diametrically opposed to doxaphysics, I aver, is dokephysics, from the Greek dokeo, “to seem.”30 Dokephysics is the view of man and cosmos that may have originated with the Orphics and Pythagoreans, but which without doubt saw its first systematic presentation with Plato and the Neoplatonists. The dokephysical view holds that the soul is a divine spark imprisoned within matter. The cosmos is opposed to spirit or soul in this view, the latter being immutable, changeless, and thus morally superior to the mutable world of space, time and matter.
“The Divine seed descends, and…this seed from on high gives our soul the Food of Immortality. The earth has yielded its corn, wine and oil, and now the ineffable Birth approaches of Him who through his mercy bestows the Bread of Life upon the Sons of God.” —from the Liturgy for the Advent Ember Days31
See my Anatomyzing Divinity: Studies in Science, Esotericism and Political Theology (Walterville, OR: TrineDay, 2011), xvii. 31 Cited in Christopher Dawson, The Making of Europe: An Introduction to the History of European Unity (New York and Cleveland: World Publishing Company, 1971; orig. pub. Sheed and Ward, 1932), 179.
With our realignment of ancient texts on either side of a doxa/doke-physical divide, we have set the stage for a fresh interpretation of universal history. Our notion of doxaphysics offers a more specific explanation for the amazing unity of ancient cultures that so struck Giambattista Vico, Sir William Jones, and many others since. For if the material cosmos is— quite literally—a body, a result of Purusa’s dismemberment, and if this material cosmos will, at the end of history, disappear into the bodies of all people, it is no wonder that early man’s many far-flung empires and societies all featured strikingly similar visions of society. Incidentally, each of these ancient gentile societies spoke of a divine or semi-divine race of giants or sages (nephilim?) that possessed esoteric knowledge. This knowledge pertained to the workings of the cosmos, and gave man knowledge of, and thus power over, the material world. It included what would now be called magic (alchemy, astrology), but also much of what now falls under the rubric of science (physics, engineering). Following J. Collins, I refer to these categories of worldly gnosis as the “worthless mysteries,” as opposed to the highest wisdom—theosis—that constitutes direct communion with the divine. The latter—called by the Church Fathers the stages of “illumination” and “glorification”—I call the “worthy mysteries.” However, before moving ahead, it is important to understand the context of Collins’ term “worthless mysteries.” Collins took his term from the Ethiopic Book of Enoch. Here is the full passage: You were in heaven, but (its) secrets had not yet been revealed to you and a worthless mystery you knew. This you made known to the women in the hardness of your hearts, and through this mystery the women and the men cause evil to increase on the earth ( 1 Enoch 16.3).32
Trans. from Michael A. Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch: A New Edition in the Light of the Aramaic Dead Sea Fragments , 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1978), 2.102-103; cit. in John Jerome Collins, Worthless Mysteries: Forbidden Knowledge, Culture Heroes, and the Enochic Motif of Angelic Instruction (Ph.D. dissertation. Sarah Lawrence College, 1995), 25.
Here God is pronouncing his judgment upon the nephilim, those angelic sages who bred the ancient race of giants (Gen 6.1-4) and who brought the highest form of Adamic wisdom to the mass of men, leading to man’s sublime genius in creating both polis of the Greeks and the empire of Rome. However, this cultural forge showered dangerous sparks, leading to conflict and cataclysm on an unheralded scale (Tower of Babel). Indeed, Collins and others have pointed out that these “worthless mysteries” were presented in the Ethiopic Enoch and in other ancient writings, not as evil per sé, but rather as the highest relative good. That is, the worthless mysteries are the secrets of how physics, society, and magic work. These mysteries can be used for good or for ill, but one cannot do without them any more than one can wake up one fine morning and declare “I am not going to have governments, power, gravity, or rain in my life…starting now!” The worthless mysteries pertain to categories of earthly existence that are ineluctable, whether Libertarians or Anarchists like it or not. The counterparts to the ancient notion of worthless mysteries are the aforementioned worthy mysteries. Since the West enshrines the worthless mysteries as the greatest good, we must turn our sights elsewhere to find a suitable paradigm that links the doxaphysical thinking of the ancients with modernity. According to the teachings of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, there are three levels of justice, the lowest being “purification,” and which is equivalent to the worthless mysteries. 33 In societal terms, this lowest level of justice is concerned with preserving a harmony amongst the members of society, but also it goes beyond this utilitarian function. The worthless mysteries, though pertaining primarily to the lowest level of justice, remain open to the higher levels of justice. These latter—the levels of illumination and glorification—are the worthy mysteries. They are achieved not by entire nations, but rather by groups of saints and prophets within each society who have, through the uncreated energies of God, partially or completely overcome all self-concern and passion, living only for others. These “friends of God” still live in societies full of citizens who are still in need of protection under the lowest level of justice, what we might call,
On the three levels of justice according to the Eastern Orthodox tradition, see John S. Romanides, “Justice and Peace in Ecclesiological Context,” 234-249 in Come, Holy Spirit Renew the Whole Creation: An Orthodox Approach for the Seventh Assembly of the World Council of Churches Canberra, Australia 6-21 February 1991 , ed. Gennadios Limouris (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1990), 234.
hearkening back to Vico, the “Jovian” mode of life, where one obeys laws for fear of punishments. In this sense, the doxaphysical view allows for the material world’s systems of scientific and societal laws to operate for all of those who remain subject to passions and thus whose search for happiness can lead to violence against other individuals or groups. However, since matter is naturally open to higher levels of participation in divine glory, each person has the freedom to ascend above and beyond the worthless mysteries to the worthy mysteries, where there is no need for law since “love seeks not its own.” The two divisions of mysteries are not opposed to each other in the doxaphysical view, just as the matter that makes up the cosmos (and all human bodies) and the uncreated glory of God are not at odds with each other. This is the importance of the I-E theory of creative death, which conforms perfectly with the Eastern Orthodox view of the eschaton, at which point there is no “matter” outside of the chorus of all humanity, who, in their new glorified bodies, ceaselessly worship the divine body of Christ. Though there is no analogy of being between the created and the uncreated (such analogical thinking being the spinal column of Western Augustino-Platonic thinking), there is an analogy between the harmonia of the cosmos and the actual material city of the New Jerusalem. Just as the center of the flower head of a sunflower is composed of numerous harmoniously spaced florets (tiny flowers) arranged in a pattern that is both the most efficient and the most beautiful, so will be the experience of the vast chorus of humanity, who will relate harmoniously both to each other and to the center (the Sun, Christ).
However, it should be pointed out that it is precisely the “openness” of Jovian society allows it to be informed by those illuminated ones who no longer have any need for law. There is progress in the realm of politics, though this progress has heretofore been accompanied by lateral developments, as when the destruction of feudalism led both to representative democracy and to the nightmares of industrial capitalism. All such subtleties are absent from the West’s notion of authority. Many social theorists in the West actually waste their time debating whether or not authority is inherently good or bad! This Western “fallacy of optional authority” is the foundation stone of so-called Libertarianism. No better are today’s Liberals, who insist that it would be insensitive to minority groups to even suggest that there are higher levels of justice that we can pursue. American Liberals seem to believe that the key civilizing virtue is “avoiding cruelty,” 34 though their
Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 65.
vague definition of cruelty allows them to skirt the most important issue: what is society’s goal? Conservatives vary widely in their opinions, but the main element that goes into their worldview is a crass and unabashed enlistment of government and business power to serve the economic and policy interests of a handful of billionaires and their upper-middle-class allies. Oddly, the lion’s share of those who support the Conservatives today is from the lower middle class and even the poor class. Either (1) a strange kind of Social Darwinist thinking is at work here, where poor people believe elites deserve their position and that poor folk will join their ranks if only they work hard and embody “family values,” or (2) large sectors of the poor have bought into the obscene American delusion that they are “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” 35 Neither Conservatives nor Liberals are concerned with any save the lowest level of justice in their plans for society. Thus they accept the pursuit of happiness (eudaemonia) as the highest goal of society. However, since happiness is conceived as security and as the satisfaction of one’s own passionate desires (this latter is called “freedom”), the modern global economy limps along through booms and busts, both of which cause untold suffering for billions the world over. We will close this discourse with the following indication of the significance of doxaphysics for our lives today: The ancient doxaphysical worldview, ironically, makes much more sense than either of the wobbly “poles” of American politics. Doxaphysics sees the world as having its own particular energy, its own biocosmological power and its own system of laws. However, though these laws are fit for protecting members of society from a Hobbesian “war of all against all,” they are not sufficient to fulfill man’s highest destiny, which is to transcend all law through a self-crucifixion of one’s happiness by means of an ascetic therapy that leads to glorification. Man’s conscience and God’s revelation of the meaning of history in the Incarnation of Christ proclaim that self-concern and eudaemonia are where man starts, not where he is supposed to end up. The worthless mysteries are never neglected in the doxaphysical view, though, for they pertain equally to (1) the good order of society, (2) the continual improvement of the forms of social organization, and to
John Steinbeck, as quoted in Ronald Wright, What Is America? (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2008), 105.
(3) the liturgical/ascetical therapies that lead individuals into the higher levels of justice.
FIGURE 3. MANDALA OF DEITY AND HUMANS. KASHMIR.36
Shearer, Hindu Vision, 7.
[C.] “From Ymir’s flesh the earth was made and from his sweat (or: blood), the sea; Mountains from his bones, trees from his hair, And heaven from his skull. From his brows built the gentle gods Miðgarð (the human realm) for the sons of men; And from his brain shaped they all the clouds, Which were hard in mood.” (Grímnismál, v. 40-41; from Lincoln, Myth, 1) [D.] “Poem on the Dove King” (Old Russian) Our bright light comes from the Lord, The red sun from the face of God, The young shining moon from his breast, The bright dawn from the eyes of God, The sparkling stars from his vestments, The wild winds from the Holy Spirit. From From From From From From this our little Czars are on earth: the holy head of Adam. this princes and heroes come into being: the holy bones of Adam. this are the orthodox peasants: the holy knee of Adam.
Strong bones come from stones, Our bodies from the damp earth.” (ibid., 4)
[E.] A Manichaean cosmogony from the 800s A.D.: Škend Gumānīg Wizār 16.8-20: This also is said [by the Manichaeans]: the bodily, material creation is of Ahriman (‘the Evil Spirit’). More precisely, the sky is from the skin, the earth is from the flesh, the mountains are from the bone, and the plants are from the hair of the demon Kūnī…Kūnī was the general of Ahriman’s army, who at the beginning of the first battle swallowed the light in order to steal it from the god Ohrmazd (‘the Wise Lord’). And in the second battle, [Ohrmazd] seized the demon Kūnī and many demons, and he bound them on the sphere, and killed the demon Kūnī. This macrocosm was created and made from her” (ibid., 9) [F.] Ovid, Metamorphoses, 4.655-662: As large as he was, Atlas is made into a mountain; for his beard and hair Are changed into forests, his hands and arms are ridges. What had previously been his head is the utmost summit of the mountain, And his bones become stone. Then, grown great in all his parts, He grew to an immense size—thus you established it, O gods—and the sky With all the stars rested upon him (ibid., 10). [G.] II Enoch 30:8-9: And on the sixth day I ordered my Wisdom to make man out of seven elements put together: his flesh from the earth, his blood from dew and sun, his eyes from the abyss of the sea, his bones of stone, his thought from the speed of angels and from cloud, his nerves and hair from the grass of the earth, his soul from my spirit and from the wind. And I gave him seven faculties: hearing to the flesh, vision to the eyes, smell to the soul, touch to the nerves, taste to the blood, endurance to the bone, and sweetness to the thought (ibid., 11).
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