ARYAN MYTH, ABRAHAMISM AND THE BEGINNING OF THE EUROPEAN CULTURAL NEUROSIS
by Daniel Gurpide
The Indo-Europeans introduced not only practical techniques for the appropriation of the physical and biological world but also, above all, a new technique for organising socio-political and juridical relationships. It developed concepts such as ‘genos,’ ‘polis,’ and ‘imperium’—in their classical, medieval, or modern translations—and this constituted the difference that came to define Indo-European identity when confronted with other populations, cultures, and civilisations.
Such a way of organising society derived from a particular Weltanschauung. This world view, expressed in all fields of human activity, gave birth to a cosmogonic myth, around which Indo-European man understood, explained, and organised the universe and history. Its unique character is better perceived when contrasted with the mentality and culture of the Book of Genesis. The latter narrative, in its religious and secularised forms, continues to obsess contemporary Western civilisation.
What is most striking when studying Indo-European cosmogony is the solemn affirmation, found everywhere, of man’s primacy. Indo-European cosmogony places a ‘cosmic man’ at the ‘beginning’ of the current cycle of the world. It is from him that all things derive: gods, nature, living beings—and man himself as historical being. In the Indian world, the Rig Veda names him Purusha; his name is Ymir in the Edda; and, according to Tacitus, he was called Mannus among continental Germans. For the Vedic Indians, Purusha is the One through whom the universe begins (again). He is ‘naught but this universe, what has passed and what is yet to come.’ In the same fashion, Ymir is the undivided One: and by him the world is first organised. His own birth results from the meeting of fire and ice.
Kalidasa’s poem Kumarasambhava—one of the summits of Indian poetic reflection on the traditions of the Vedas—marvellously explains the allusions of the Indo-European cosmogonic myth. The opposition between Purusha (cosmic man) and Prakriti (which corresponds, approximately, to natura naturans) is revealing. Through being able to see without depending for this on Prakriti, Purusha is at the origin of the universe.
Since the universe is but indistinct chaos, devoid of any sense or significance, it is only by means of the outlook and word of cosmic man that the multitude of beings and things may emerge—including man fully realised as such. Purusha’s sacrifice is the Apollonian moment at which is affirmed the principium individuationis—‘cause of all that exists and shall exist’—until that time when the world will crumble: the Dionysian end that is also the condition of new beginning.
The universe does not derive its existence from something not part of it. It proceeds from the being of cosmic man: his body, his gaze, his word—and his consciousness. There is no opposition between two worlds—between created being and uncreated being. On the contrary, there is incessant conversion and consubstantiality between beings and things, between heaven and earth, between men and gods.
In such a Weltanschauung, the gods are themselves a quarter of the cosmic man. They are superior men in the Nietzschean sense; in a certain way they perpetuate the transfigured and transfiguring memory of the first ‘civilising heroes’: those who brought humankind from its precedent stage—and truly founded, by ordering it into three functions, human society, Indo-European society. These gods do not represent ‘Good’—neither do they represent ‘Evil.’ Insofar as they represent sublimated forms of the good and evil that coexist, as antagonists, within life itself, they are both good and evil. Hence, each presents an ambivalent aspect—a human aspect. This explains why mythical imagination tends to split personality: Mitra-Varuna, Jupiter-Dius Fidius, Odin/Wotan-Tyr, etc. In relation to present humankind, which they have instituted as such, these gods correspond indeed to their mythical ‘ancestors’ and ideal models. Legislators, inventors of social tradition, they remain present, are still active. However, they also remain subject to fatum: destined in a very human way to an ‘end.’
In brief, we are referring not to creating gods, but rather to creatures—human gods who are, nevertheless, organisers-orderers of the world: ancestral gods for current humankind; gods who are great in both good and evil and who place themselves beyond such notions. On Olympus, says Heraclitus, ‘the gods are immortal men, whereas men are mortal gods; our life is their death and our death their life.’
What are labelled ‘Indo-European people’ correspond to a society which came to the fore at the beginning of the Neolithic Age and whose cosmogonic myth was organised by a new perspective gained at this historical juncture—a perspective allowing reflection on the prior belief system and its revolutionary reinterpretation.
If belief in a ‘supreme being’—not to be mistaken for the one god of monotheism—was common to ‘primitive humankind’—that is, to the human groups who lived at the end of the Mesolithic Age, the Indo-European cosmogony is a reformulation of that idea—or rather a discourse that explodes and overcomes the language and the ‘reason’ of the preceding period. It is legitimate to consider that, for the Mesolithic ancestors of the Indo-Europeans, the supreme being has become none other than man himself; has become, more precisely, a ‘cosmic projection’ of man as holder of magic power. Similarly, one may conclude that this particular Indo-European idea of the supreme being was not shared by the other human groups who descended from the Mesolithic Age.
The classical Middle East has ‘reflected’—imagined and interpreted—the same set of Mesolithic beliefs in a manner diametrically opposed to the one taken by the Indo-Europeans. The Judeo-Christian Bible—summa of the religious Levantine Weltanschauung—stands at the antipodes of the Indo-European vision.
Yahweh has not extracted the universe by subdivision and ‘dismemberment’ of himself. He has created it ex nihilo, out of nothing. He is not the coincidentia oppositorum: the ‘Undivided Self,’ the place where all relative oppositions meet, melt, and surpass themselves. He is not simultaneously ‘being and non-being.’ He is being only: ‘I am that I am’ (Exodus 3:14).
Entirely alien to the world, Yahweh is the antithesis of all tangible reality. He is not an aspect, sum, level, form, or quality of the world. ‘The world is entirely distinct from God, its creator,’ the First Vatican Council of 1870 reminds us. Consequently, since the created universe cannot be identical to the creating god, the world lacks essence. It has existence only. More precisely, it is a being of ‘inferior degree’—imperfect.
Indo-European polytheism is the complementary ‘reverse’ of what might be defined as mono-humanism or pan-humanism: man is the law of the world (anthropos o nomos tou kosmou) and the measure of all things. In contrast, Jewish monotheism appears to be the conclusion of a process of reabsorption: reduction to unity of a multiplicity of non-human deities (personified natural forces) operated by Elohim-Yahweh. In short, it is the outcome of a mental speculation that also leads the plurality of things back to a single principle; not man, in this case, but matter and energy: ‘nature.’
From being the one and only god, non-ambivalent, Yahweh evidently represents absolute Good. It is understandable that he often shows himself to be cruel, implacable, jealous. Absolute Good could only be intransigent against Evil. What is less logical is the biblical conception of evil. Not deriving from absolute good, evil should not exist in a world created from nothing by a god who is ‘infinitely good.’ The Bible tries to solve the problem by explaining away evil as the consequence of the revolt of certain creatures—notably Lucifer—against the authority of Yahweh. Hence, evil seems to be the refusal of a creature to play the role assigned by Yahweh. The power of evil may at times seem considerable. However, as compared to the power of good (Yahweh), it is nothing of the sort: the final outcome of the struggle between Good and Evil is never in doubt. All problems, all conflicts are already solved before they take place: history is pure decay, the effect of the blindness of impotent creatures.
In this way, from the start, history is devoid of sense. The First Man—the first humanity—has blundered in giving in to a suggestion from Satan. In consequence, he has declined the role Yahweh had assigned to him. He has picked the forbidden apple, and entered history.
Creator of the universe, Yahweh has also played—in relation to the ‘current’ human society—a role entirely antithetical to that played by the Indo-European sovereign gods. Yahweh is not a ‘civilising hero’ who invents a social tradition. Rather, he constitutes an omnipotence that opposes Adam’s ‘fault’—the sort of human life the latter wished to enjoy: a post-Neolithic urban civilisation—implicitly referred to, in the Book of Genesis, in the story of the Tower of Babel. However, long before this, Yahweh had refused the land’s produce offered by the farmer Cain, and ‘had regard [only] for Abel and his offering’ (Genesis 4:3–5). Abel is not a farmer; rather, he is but a nomad who has abandoned hunting and survives from carrying out razzias. He extends the Mesolithic tradition into a new society—born of the Neolithic Revolution—and rejects the new way of life.
Subsequently, the mission of Abraham—the nomad who had deserted the city of Ur—and that of his descendants, will be to negate and reject, from the very interior of the world, any form of post-Neolithic civilisation, since its very existence perpetuates the memory of the ‘revolt’ against Yahweh. After Abraham, Moses maintains this commitment. Just as the people of Israel were able to escape captivity in Egypt, the whole of humanity is called upon to escape the ‘captivity’ of history. The law of Yahweh, handed down at Mount Sinai, is presented as the means of rescinding, once and for all, Adam and Eve’s transgression.
Man, in relation to the ‘god’ of the Bible, is not really a ‘son’; rather, he is a mere creature. Yahweh has made him, as any other living being, just as a potter models a vase. He has made him in ‘his own image’ (Genesis 1:27) in order to have his steward on Earth: the guardian of Paradise. The power man holds over the world is a power by proxy: a power entrusted to him that he may use only on the condition he not use it fully. Adam, seduced by the Devil, challenged the role that Yahweh had wanted him to play. But man will forever remain God’s servant (‘And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified,’ Isaiah 49:3). The superiority of man over beast is as nothing—for all is vanity. ‘All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again’ (Ecclesiastes 3:20).
Man, according to the teachings of the Bible, has to remember unfailingly that he is dust; that historical existence has the sense only of that implicitly ascribed when history is actively rejected.
‘Roman’ Christianity, born with the Constantinian arrangement, was from the start an attempt to establish, within the ‘ancient’ world transformed by Rome in orbis politica, a compromise between the Indo-European Weltanschauung and the Judaic religion, adapted to Roman imperial civilisation by the alleged efforts of Jesus. The one and only god became, through dogmatic ‘mystery,’ ‘one god in three persons.’ The old trinity that the Vedic Indians called Trimurti has been integrated and, broadly, these ‘persons’ have assumed the three functions of Indo-European society, now in an inverted, spiritualised form. As creator and sovereign, Yahweh nevertheless continues to reject the dual aspect of reality: evil is the exclusive province of Satan. The new name ‘Deus Pater’—‘eternal and divine father,’ revered by the Indo-Europeans—is substituted for the old name given by the Bible. Yahweh is father only of his ‘second person’: a son sent to Earth to play a role opposed to that of ‘founding hero.’ He is a son who decides to become alienated from this world in order the better to show a way to the world beyond, and who, if he renders unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, does this only because to him what belongs to Caesar is of no value at all. He is a son, finally, whose function is not to ‘make war,’ but to preach a jealous peace that will benefit only the ‘men of goodwill’—the adversaries of this world—those to whom is reserved the only nutrient of eternity: the grace administered by the third ‘person,’ the Holy Spirit.
Man, as a creature—and as a created being—is the serf of God’s serfs: ‘excrement’ (stercus, as Augustine of Hippo put it). However, at the same time, he is also the brother of the incarnated son of Yahweh, which ‘almost’ makes him a son of God—provided he knows how to will and deserve it, something that depends on the grace the Creator administers according to unfathomable criteria. The day shall come when humankind will be definitively and eternally divided between the saints and the damned. There is a biblical Valhalla: the Celestial Paradise, but it is now reserved for the anti-heroes (In To Have or to Be? (New York: Harper and Row, 1976), Erich Fromm observes: ‘The [Christian] martyr is the exact opposite of the pagan hero personified in the Greek and Germanic heroes. . . . For the pagan hero, a man’s worth lay in his prowess in attaining and holding onto power, and he gladly died on the battlefield in the moment of victory’). The others belong to Hell.
This compromise has for centuries moulded the history of what is called ‘Western civilisation.’ For centuries, according to the deepest affinities, ‘pagan’ and ‘Levantine’ man has been able to see—in the ‘one and threefold’ god—his own respective divinity. This explains the numerous confusions that have always characterised historical Christianity. The coexistence of two antagonistic spiritualities—often confronting one another, even in the hearts of the same individuals—eventually crystallise into a veritable neurosis of the European mentality.
Today we can confidently state that the Constantinian ‘arrangement’ arranged nothing, and that the day the motto ‘In hoc signo vinces’ was proclaimed had detrimental consequences for the Greco-Roman and Celto-Germanic world. Until recently, the Church of Rome particularly, and the Christian churches in general remained, as organised secular powers, attached to the appearances of the old compromise. However, in more recent times they began to recognise the authentic essence of Christianity. Hence, Yahweh, finally casting off the mask of luminous and celestial Deus-Pater, was rediscovered and proclaimed anew. In 1938 Pope Pius XI declared: ‘Through Christ and in Christ we are the spiritual progeny of Abraham. Spiritually, we [i.e., Christians] are all Semites.’
However, long before the churches reached that point, ‘profane’ (demythicised and secularised) Christianity, i.e., egalitarianism in all its forms, had found its path according to biblical truth. This was marked by the rejection of history; the proclaimed will to ‘step out of history’ in order to return to ‘nature’; the tendency to reabsorb human specificity into the ‘physical-chemical’; all determinist materialisms; Marcuse’s condemnation of art on the grounds that by integrating man in society it would betray ‘truth’; finally, the egalitarian ideology that wants to reduce humankind to the anti-hero model: the chosen one, hostile to any specific civilisation in that he wishes to see in it nothing but unhappiness, misery, exploitation (Marx), repression (Freud), or pollution. All this has invariably restored—still continues to restore today, at that precise moment when a new technological revolution is inviting us to overcome old ‘forms’—that motionless, ‘eternal’ (if there ever was such) Judaic vision: an unequivocal ‘No’ to any present pregnant with a future.
Saying ‘Yes’ to history—ever-becoming, ever re-proposing new foundations—implies assuming new forms and content. Saying ‘Yes’ is creation, the work of art. ‘No’ exists only by denying any value to such work. The Indo-European cosmogonic myth reassures us that saying ‘Yes’ is always possible. In a different world, arising from the ruins of the old, the mission of ‘civilising heroes’ is eternal, and it assumes, serenely, the splendid and tragic destiny of one who creates, gives birth to himself, and accepts, as condition of any historical adventure, of any life, the idea of his own end.