On the Hebrew Cycle & Islam:

a more Recent Tradition among Semitic Races

(from "Revolt against the Modern World")





The failure of the attempt of the Chaldean hero Gilgamesh corresponds to the fall of Adam in the myth of another civilization within the Semitic cycle, the Hebrew civilization. Here we find a fundamental and characteristic motif: the transformation into sin of what in the Aryan version of the myth was regarded as a heroic, bold deed, often crowned by success, but that in Gilgamesh's myth had a negative outcome only because the hero was caught asleep. In the context of Hebrew Semitism, the one who attemps to take possession of the symbolic Tree is univocally transformed into a victim of woman's seduction and a sinner. The curse he has to suffer and the punishment that has been meted out to him by a jealous, terrible, and omnipotent god, follow him; there is no better hope, in the end, than that for a "redeemer" who will provide a vicarious atonement.


In the ancient Hebrew tradition there are also elements of a different type. Moses himself, though he owed his life to a woman of the royal family (i.e., pharaoh's daughter, Exod. 2:5), was conceived of as having been "rescued from the waters"; likewise, the events described in the book of Exodus are capable of esoteric interpretation. Besides Elijah and Enoch, Jacob too was a heroic type, because he fought an angel and won; in relation to this, even the name "Israel," which the angel gave him, conveys the idea of a "victory over the deity" (Gen. 32:29). These elements are still sporadic and reveal a curious oscillation, which is typical of the Jewish soul, between a sense of guilt, self-humiliation, deconsecration, and carnality and an almost Luciferian pride and rebelliousness. Maybe this could be explained by the fact that even the initiatory tradition, which is also found in Judaism (e.g., the Kabbalah) and which played an important role in the European Middle Ages, has some particularly involuted traits, which characterize it at times as an "accursed science."


The Jews originally conceived the otherworld as the dark and mute Sheol, or as some kind of Hades without the counterpart of an "Island of Heroes"; not even sacred kings such as David could escape it. This is the theme of the "way of the ancestors" (pitr-yana in Hinduism), which in this context has special relevance as the idea of an ever greater distance between man and God. Even on this plane, however, we find a double characteristic. On the one hand, according to the ancient Hebrews, Jehovah is the true king; thus, the Jews saw in the full and traditional understanding of regal dignity a disparagement of God's privilege (whether historical or not, Samuel's opposition to the establishment of a monarchy is very significant). On the other hand, the Jewish people considered themselves to be a "chosen people" and "God's people," who had been promised dominion over all the other peoples and possession of all the riches of the earth. They even derived from the Iranian tradition the theme of the hero Saoshyant, who in Judaism became the "Messiah," retaining for some time the traits typical of a manifestation of the "Lord of Hosts."


Not without relation to all this, in ancient Judaism we find a very visible effort on the part of a priestly elite to dominate and coalesce a turbid, multiple, and turbulent ethnical substance by establishing the divine Law as the foundation of its "form," and by making it the surrogate of what in other people was the unity of the common fatherland and the common origins. From this formative action, which was connected to sacred and ritualistic values and preserved from the first redactions of the ancient Torah to the elaboration of the Talmuds, the Jewish type arose as that of a spiritual rather than a physical race.(1) But the original substratum was never totally eliminated, as ancient Jewish history shows in the form of the recurrent betrayals of God and his becoming reconciled with Israel. This dualism and the ensuing tension help to explain the negative forms that Judaism assumed in later times.


(1) Originally Israel was not a race, but a people, or an ethnical mixture of various elements. This was a typical case in which a tradition "created" a race, and especially a race of the soul.


For Judaism, as in the case of other civilizations, the time frame between the seventh and the sixth century B.C. was characterized by upheaval. Once the military fortunes of Israel declined, defeat came to be understood as a punishment for "sins" committed, and thus an expectation developed that after a dutiful expiation Jehovah would once again assist his people and restore their power. This theme was dealt with in Jeremiah and in Isaiah. But since this did not happen, the prophetic expectations degenerated into an apocalyptic, messianic myth and in the fantastic eschatological vision of a Savior who will redeem Israel; this marked the beginning of a process of disintegration. What derived from the traditional component eventually turned into a ritualistic formalism and thus became increasingly abstract and separated from real life. To be aware of the role the Chaldean priestly sciences played in this cycle would allow one to connect to this source everything that was successively articulated in Judaism in the form of abstract thought and even of mathematical insights (up to and including Spinoza's philosophy and the modem "formal" physics in which the Jewish component is very strong). Moreover, a connection was established with a human type, who in order to uphold values that he cannot realize and that thus appear to him increasingly abstract and Utopian, eventually feels dissatisfied and frustrated before any existing positive order and any form of authority (especially when we find in him, though in an unconscious way, the old idea according to which the state of justice willed by God is only that in which Israel rules) so as to be a constant source of disorder and of revolution. Finally we must consider another dimension of the Jewish soul: it is like somebody who, having failed to realize the values typical of the sacral and transcendent dimension in the course of the attempt to overcome the antithesis between spirit and "flesh" (which he exasperates in a characteristic way), eventually rejoices wherever he discovers the illusion and the irreality of those values and wherever he ascertains the failure of the yearning for redemption; this becomes for him some kind of alibi and self-justification. These are specific developments of the original "guilt" motif, which acted in a disaggregating way as Judaism became increasingly secularized and widespread during the most recent Western civilization.


It is necessary to point out a characteristic moment in the development of the ancient Jewish spirit. The abovementioned period of crisis witnessed the loss of anything that was pure and virile in the ancient cult of Jehovah and in the warrior figure of the Messiah. Already in Jeremiah and in Isaiah there emerged a rebellious spirituality that condemned and disdained the hieratic, ritual element; such was the meaning of Hebrew "prophetism," which originally displayed traits that were very similar to the cults of inferior castes, and to the pandemic and ecstatic forms of the Southern races. The figure of the "seer" (roeh) was replaced by the figure of the one obsessed by the spirit of God.(2) Other features of prophetism were the pathos of the "servants of the Eternal," which replaced the proud and fanatical self-confidence of being ''God's people," and also an equivocal mysticism with apocalyptic overtones. The latter feature, once freed from the ancient Hebrew context, played a relevant role in the general crisis that affected the ancient Western world. The Diaspora, or the scattering of the Jewish people, corresponded to the by-products of the spiritual dissolution of a cycle that did not have a "heroic" restoration and in which some sort of inner fracture promoted processes of an antitraditional character. There are ancient traditions according to which Typhon, a demon opposed to the solar God, was the father of the Hebrews; various Gnostic authors considered the Hebrew god as one of Typhon's creatures. These are references to a demonic spirit characterized by a constant restlessness, by an obscure contamination, and by a latent revolt of the inferior elements; when this substance returned to a free state and when it separated itself from the "Law," that is, from the tradition that had formed it, all these factors acted upon the Jewish substratum in a more dramatic and decisive way than in other people.


(2) Originally the prophets (nebiim) were possessed people who, through a natural disposition or through artificial means achieved a state of excitement in which they felt dominated and guided by a higher power, superior to their own wills. When they spoke it was no longer themselves but the spirit of God who made utterances. See J. Reville, Le Prophetisme hebreux (Paris, 1906). Thus the prophets were regarded by the priestly caste as raving lunatics; opposed to the prophet (nabi) originally there was the higher and "Olympian" figure of the seer (roeh): "In former times in Israel, anyone who sent to consult God used to say: 'Come, let us go to the seer,' for he who is now called prophet was formerly called seer." 1 Sam. 9:9.


This is the origin of one of the main hotbeds of those forces that exercised an often unconscious, though negative influence during the last phases of the Western cycle of the Iron Age.


Even though it began relatively recently, I will briefly refer to another tradition, Islam, which originated among Semitic races and succeeded in overcoming those negative motifs. As in the case of priestly Judaism, the center in Islam also consisted of the Law and Tradition, regarded as a formative force, to which the Arab stocks of the origins provided a purer and nobler human material that was shaped by a warrior spirit. The Islamic law (shariah) is a divine law; its foundation, the Koran, is thought of as God's very own word (kalam Allah) as well as a nonhuman work and an "uncreated book" that exists in heaven ab eterno. Although Islam considers itself the "religion of Abraham," even to the point of attributing to him the foundation of the Kaaba (in which we find again the theme of the "stone," or the symbol of the "center"), it is nevertheless true that (a) it claimed independence from both Judaism and Christianity; (b) the Kaaba, with its symbolism of the center, is a pre-Islamic location and has even older origins that cannot be dated accurately; (c) in the esoteric Islamic tradition, the main reference point is al-Khadir, a popular figure conceived as superior to and predating the biblical prophets (Koran 18:59-81). Islam rejects a theme found in Judaism and that in Christianity became the dogma and the basis of the mystery of the incarnation of the Logos; it retains, sensibly attenuated, the myth of Adam's fall without building upon it the theme of "original sin." In this doctrine Islam saw a "diabolical illusion" (talbis Iblis) or the inverted theme of the fall of Satan (Iblis or Shaitan), which the Koran (18:48) attributed to his refusal, together with all his angels, to bow down before Adam. Islam also not only rejected the idea of a Redeemer or Savior, which is so central in Christianity, but also the mediation of a priestly caste. By conceiving of the Divine in terms of an absolute and pure monotheism, without a "Son," a "Father," or a "Mother of God," every person as a Muslim appears to respond directly to God and to be sanctified through the Law, which permeates and organizes life in a radically unitary way in all of its juridical, religious, and social ramifications. In early Islam the only form of asceticism was action, that is, jihad, or "holy war"; this type of war, at least theoretically, should never be interrupted until the full consolidation of the divine Law has been achieved. It is precisely through the holy war, and not through preaching or missionary endeavor, that Islam came to enjoy a sudden, prodigious expansion, originating the empire of the Caliphs as well as forging a unity typical of a race of the spirit, namely, the umma or "Islamic nation." Finally, Islam presents a traditional completeness, since the shariah and the sunna, that is, the exoteric law and tradition, have their complement not in a vague mysticism, but in full-fledged initiatory organizations (turuq) that are characterized by an esoteric teaching (tawil) and by the metaphysical doctrine of the Supreme Identity (tawhid). In these organizations, and in general in the shia, the recurrent notions of the masum, of the double prerogative of the isma (doctrinal infallibility), and of the impossibility of being stained by any sin (which is the prerogative of the leaders, the visible and invisible Imams and, the mujtahid), lead back to the line of an unbroken race shaped by a tradition at a higher level than both Judaism and the religious beliefs that conquered the West.




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