MYTHS of THE SOURCE: A (Partial) Commentary on “The Hymn of Creation” (Rg Veda 10.129) With Comparisons to Sumerian, Babylonian, and Biblical Examples

26 August 2012

The Rg Veda (one of four canonical Vedas in the religious/philosophical history of India) is “far more archaic than any other Indo-Aryan text” (c.f., here). By saying this, however, I want to keep things in perspective.

The oldest books (or texts) in the world (per here) are currently: the Sumerian Instructions of Shuruppak (~3000 BCE), which is an obvious source for the general mythology of the region (Mesopotamia) and thus biblical mythology some two thousand years later, the Akkadian epic of Etana (~2600 BCE), which prominently features the Great Goddess Ishtar, the Egyptian pyramid texts (~2400 BCE), the Code of Urukagina (~2350 BCE), generally considered to be the first political treatise, the Egyptian Palermo stone (~2400 BCE), one of Egypt’s earliest works of historical literature, the Egyptian Wisdom of Ptah-Hotep (~2400-2600 BCE), En-Hedu-Ana’s Hymns (~2250 BCE), written by a female priestess and the world’s first recorded (named) author, the Sumerian (or Akkadian) epic of Gilgamesh (~2000 BCE), the Sumerian Code of Ur-Nammu (~2100 BCE), and the Egyptian coffin texts (~2200 BCE).

In this context, the Rg Veda’s oldest purported date must be after the Indo-Iranian separation, which occurred ~2000 BCE. It has been suggested as well that the Rg Veda reflects cultural and linguistic similarities with the Iranian Avesta (the primary collection of sacred writings in Zoroastrianism) associated with the Andronovo culture (dated to ~2000 BCE). So, from all of this, one would expect significant contact and/or influence between the primary ancient Iraqi cultures in the area from ~5000 BCE to the date of the Rg Veda’s composition (i.e., Sumerians, followed by the Akkadian people who, in any case, seem to have taken over Sumerian religion entirely when they conquered Sumer, perhaps in the same way Rome retained the Greek deities). In particular, a significant part of the Sumerian creation story involves a flood story (and the construction of an ark by the hero, Atra-Hasis) so widespread that “waters” (saltwater Tiamat as “the deep” and freshwater Apsû) become expected and taken-for-granted motifs in later creation stories (e.g., the Babylonian Enûma Eliš, composed ~1800 BCE):

e-nu-ma e-liš la na-bu-ú šá-ma-mu When the sky above was not named,
šap-liš am-ma-tum šu-ma la zak-rat And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,
ZU.AB-ma reš-tu-ú za-ru-šu-un And the primeval Apsû, who begat them,
mu-um-mu ti-amat mu-al-li-da-at gim-ri-šú-un And chaos, Tiamat, the mother of them both,
A.MEŠ-šú-nu iš-te-niš i-ḫi-qu-ú-ma Their waters were mingled together,
gi-pa-ra la ki-is-su-ru su-sa-a la she-‘u-ú And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen;
e-nu-ma dingir dingir la šu-pu-u ma-na-ma When of the gods none had been called into being.

(All of this uncontroversial information is pulled together from summary sources for the sake of convenience.)

The widespread flood accounts (see here for more detail, &c) in many cultures (and not just ancient Iraqi but also Mesoamerican, Ojibwe, and Indian civilizations) has led to attempts to find a historical instance of this flood. Geologically, this should involve nothing more than digging down into the earth until a level of total devastation is found corresponding either to the (untenable) judeochristian claim of world-wide destruction or the more modest Sumerian/Akkadian/Babylonian, etc claims of merely local destruction.  Archaeologically, some Sumerian cities present evidence of flooding, though this evidence comes from different periods and so could not be the Great Flood. In Israel, there is no such evidence of a widespread flood. Ancient texts reporting the discovery of sea fossils in mountains and other high places has been advanced as an explanation for flood myths. Volcanic eruption, a meteor strike, the sudden draining of a lake, and other natural disasters have been proposed, but the specific historical locations of each such explanation thus fail to explain (even by transmission) the myth elsewhere, particular the flood myth in Mesoamerican civilizations.

I suggest that what Jung points to as the egregious literal-minded of Western epistemology is (with typical extraversion) looking outward when it would do better to look inward. Specifically, this flood imagery (especially as expressed in ancient Iraqi civilizations and then parodied in Genesis) are drawn from, or make a metaphor, of human birth. The following illustrates a slightly abbreviated version of this point:

The biblical invasion of Canaan amounts to an incursion by nomadic people into a traditionally agricultural milieu where Great Goddess worship was already paramount. Also, Great Goddess worship figured prominently in ancient Iraqi civilizations’ religions, so both in the “insult” of the destruction of the northern kingdom by a Great Goddess culture (Babylon), the mere existence of a Great Goddess culture when followers of Joshua (according to the myth) returned to the conquered land, and the absence of a Great Goddess figure in that nomadic people’s mythology all would have contributed to a distinctly anti-Woman orientation. The kind of neurotic denial (if you will) of this resembles the pattern of emulation and revulsion seen in Papua New Guinea. (I have to add in passing that the further one gets along the lines of settled agriculture, the more and more the status of women tends to decline.) One sign of this emulation and revulsion appears in the blood taboos (i.e., revulsion for menstruating women, i.e., terror of blood, and emulation in the blood sacrifice of animals, i.e., the harnessing of the power of blood).

This is evident in the first chapter of Genesis, which I informally paraphrase in the following due to vast differences in translation. In the beginning was a Void, and darkness moved over the face in the deep. In Hesiod’s cosmogony, he gives “chaos” as that which exists first; contrary to modern usage, “chaos” means “gap” (or void) in Greek. It the opening out of which all creation comes, so it is obvious what piece of a woman’s anatomy is being referenced by this. (It is notable that Woman has been reduced to merely a hole at this early moment in a late BCE culture.) Hence, in the beginning was the Void, and darkness moved over the face in the deep. This “face in the deep” is a literal unborn fetus (I suggest). The deep, of course, is the salt-water amniotic ocean (Tiamat, in the later Enûma Eliš) out of which we all originate, just as we all originated out of the salt-water ocean itself.

Next: And the spirit of the lord brooded over the face of the waters, and YHVH said, “Let there be light. Mark Twain had the adorable objection to the creation story that it proposes light before there are stars or a sun (to provide light). This misses the what is happening here. In that “strange” episode much later, when YHVH sends Moses to ask Pharaoh to let his people go, YHVH keeps manipulating Pharaoh into saying, “No.” This seems weirdly petty at this point, because no one believes that Pharaoh really was a deity. at the time, however, it supposedly really meant something that YHVH could jerk Pharaoh (a god) around. In Genesis, the same claim to “manipulate a deity” is at work in “Let there be light.”

Even the most unregenerate sexist can’t really deny that he (or she) was not born of Woman. And the nomadic people invading Canaan had no illusions that they were the first people on the stage of history in the region. (In fact, the first chapter of Genesis has been established as being added later.) In the days when this faith of those people staked no claim except that it was valid unto itself, with no aspirations to annihilate its historical neighbors, Eden was simply a nifty place specifically created for the tribe. It appears that only later did it become necessary to start making bolder, intolerant claims about everyone deities generally; hence, intolerant monotheism (in Gerda Lerner’s phrase). So, no one could seriously pretend that YHVH originated ex nihilo (out of nothing). And this is why the text of Genesis resembles the Sumerian creation myth (or the Enûma Eliš, or whatever local Great Goddess creation tale that was “in the air” at the time), because Genesis proposes a parody of it. When YHVH declares, “Let there be light,” the claim is being made that he can manipulate the Great Goddess herself (probably Astarte). He is in Her womb, and is declaring he shall free himself. This “proves” he is a superior power. This is what I take Hyers (1984) to be getting at when he describes the purpose of the Genesis myth as repudiating “the divinization of nature and the attendant myths of divine origins, divine conflict, and divine ascent”. because his point is to set the creation myth in its cultural context, the conclusion from his work that Genesis does not borrow or appropriate the Enûma Eliš itself may be exactly true, without denying that the Genesis account is abusing the general mythological tenor of the region.

So then, the cervix dilating, this divides darkness from light, etc. And the next thing is another otherwise curious statement: let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. This restates the Sumerian cosmology that had a firmament between water above and below. But this itself seems already a very literal rendering of the circumstance at birth, as women who have given birth likely know; that is, when one’s water breaks, there is typically water still retained inside behind the infant; he divided the water that was above the firmament [the air] from that which was below the firmament. After this literal display of birthing himself, and thus simultaneously acknowledging and negating Woman, YHVH then goes on to the business of creating the cosmos, etc. This denigration of Woman was posited subsequent to her demonization as Eve, of course (in chapter 2, which is textually older than chapter 1).

Jung describes a symbol as that which attempts to adequately express unconscious material; that is, when material emerges from Unconscious, the form we encounter it in (in consciousness) is already a re-presentation of material that (by virtue of being unconscious) cannot have been presented. Mythology, then, represents a memorialization, elaboration, rescension, and further extrapolation of originally symbolized archetypal (Unconscious) material. To the extent that this material was originally projected (onto the world)–Jung would say, I believe, that it was originally and invariably projected “outward” onto the world–it then becomes an object of discourse (i.e., a sign, rather than a symbol) subject to all matter of cultural manipulation, denial, valorization, revision, &c. Thus, it can become ambiguous in Jung’s work to what extent he is referring to archetypal material still in its symbolic guise or in its acculturated semiotic form. (For instance, while Jung is careful to warn people not to equate “from overweening rationalism or sheer short-sightedness” our biological mothers with the Mother archetype (as the authentic Source we all originate from), even the notion of “Mother” as an archetype is itself an (obviously extremely ancient) archetypal sign, rather than symbol. Even with the advent in human knowledge of the male’s contribution to procreation, there remains something of a quality of the incidental about him (as a Source), so that the female, the biological mother, remains as the most immediately “to hand” if not the most compelling symbolization of our sense of Origination or Source.

There are, of course, many other symbols for the Source, despite the tendency (even among critics not inclined to be Freudians) to reduce the symbol to the Feminine (or some part of the Female). In this way, the number 0 or simply the image of a circle itself gets likened to a womb; the egg (and by a slight topological transformation, the vase) similarly means something midway between a closed or open uterus. And so on. On the one hand, to the extent that a symbol (in Jung’s sense) is still a symbol, it can be reduced this way only by doing violence to its numinosity. The maneuver amounts to transforming the symbol into a sign, which can be an authentic gesture of culture (when the countervailing tendency to revisit, renew, or not leave static the signs is also honored). So the idea that the above makes of “the flood” that it is the breaking of water antecedent to birth is as much concretizing and literalizing a symbol of the Source into a sign as undertaking a Grail Quest to discover where the Great Flood actually occurred.

Where one can more sense the symbolic embodiment of “the Source” in these discourses is in the way that Woman as Earth (who contains the ocean) mirrors and coexists with the notion of Earth as Woman (whose inward sea is our origin). Someone recently rather incautiously claimed that Greeks originated the idea of evolution. Whatever this claim was supposed to mean, as an argument for the precursor of Darwin’s sense of evolution, it falls woefully short; and as an argument for some original intuition about our origins, it’s egregiously anachronistic, insofar as the very first imagery humankind seems to have recorded on the matter already asserted (or intuited or guessed) that we come from the ocean. Perhaps it is somehow a bit backward of me, but I find this insight impressively perspicacious; I seriously doubt that most people strolling around today, if asked without the benefit of widespread scientific assertion, “Where did life originate,” that the answer would be the ocean.

So this is to say explicitly that it’s not at all that humans, experiencing the numinosity of archetypal material around “the Source” realized the Ocean was the Source because amniotic fluid is salty or vice versa. In one respect, it’s chicken-or-egg which came first. In one respect, the emphasis on water is curious, since humanity from the oldest times must have noted with much greater frequency the mysterious appearance of life (nature) out of non-watery things (i.e., the appearance of fruits on trees, the appearances of new leaves on seemingly dead branches). Perhaps it is a testimony to anthropomorphism in human thinking that was most astonished by the appearance of small humans out of women, but even that miracle was explained by the operation of Mother Nature (i.e., children were “implanted” in women by rocks, streams, trees, &c; Jung noted traditions where rubbing stones on women could induce pregnancy); the transformation that baptism purports is apparently a much later human invention.

Again, this material may not “reconcile” because what is in play are manifold symbols of the Source and not only two of the most concretized signs of the Source (ocean/Nature and Woman) humankind has elaborated. At least one the face of it, from the evidence available it seems as if woman-as-source at least provides more symbolic/imaginative detail than ocean or nature-as-Source. In the Sumerian story, for instance, the gods merely wish to be rid of humankind, visit a deluge upon it, and one hero (Atra-Hasis) is saved in an ark. The dissection of Genesis above show much greater specificity of birth imagery. this, however, may be simply a function of being later in history (when greater detail involved in human birth was available); it could be a function of the parodying function of the text; or it could be merely an elaboration of an already existing sign (of the Source).  What both stories have in common is a preexistent entity, housed within the timeless eternity of primordial chaos (before creation), which (with the expulsion of water in a Great Flood) heralds the beginning life, the creation of the world (as an egotistical sense that the world did not exist before I was created). This Great Flood (like the tower card in the Tarot deck) is “the end of your world as you know it, but also release from prison”. In this sense, the “humanity” that is destroyed is something pre-human relative to what we now understand as human. In a rather literal sense, what was before the Flood was an error; either by the genealogical founding by Atra-Hasis or Noah, there are worthy humans brought into being. These worthies, of course, both antedate the Flood, which is why they are permitted to serve as culture bearers and heroes for the new humanity. In other words, (the exigencies of stumping for intolerant monotheism aside) the greater literal detail in Genesis adds nothing essential to the much older Sumerian story. (These details are, in any case, discernible still in the Enûma Eliš, but on the cosmic rather than personal level, i.e., the separation of the waters.)

This still does not particularly explain how water should have become the primary focus; when fruit (or a leaf) appears on a tree, the tree is not ignored for the sake of the tree’s pith, or when lava oozes out of a mountain, the mountain is not excluded from the vision. From a human perspective, we might have germinated within an amniotic sea, but why ignore that that sea is a part of Woman or the Earth. This emphasizes the reminder to not take symbols as signs–the image of Ocean and Woman were deemed adequate symbols, but they were still symbols of an ineffable Source; their transformation into concrete signs (and subsequent elaborations thereupon) does not oblige us to accept the symbols as signs ourselves.

In particular, the Sumerian tradition (and its partial representation in the Enûma Eliš) point to “the deep” more pointedly than “waters” per se; that is, “waters” are already a symbol or sign for “the deep” (which even the text of Genesis manages to retain in “the face in the deep”). Jung would be quick to observe that “the deep” may be understood as an authentic symbol for the Unconscious, and this point to why “water” (more than “earth”) per se would serve as the symbolic metaphor of choice. Thus, the emergence of consciousness itself (ultimately constellated around the ego, in Jung’s sense) is even “further back” historically in terms of a sense of Source. Inasmuch as Jung says all such earlier apperceptions would have been projected, they then alit on birth, ocean, the number zero, the circle, etc, as ways to represent this emergence out of the deep. This emergence, as the death of the previously inadequate human (the nonselfconscious one), the end of our world and everything we know of it, but also liberation from the prison (of nonselfconscious life), along with the preservation of whatever was noble in our precious nonselfconscious condition are all present in this sense of Source as Unconscious.

In the Genesis text, as well as the earlier Enûma Eliš and other mythic texts from the era, we are already very far underway into an era where the Great Goddess has been transformed from a symbol into a sign to a large extent; so much so that misogynist authors such as Hesiod (~750 BCE) and the Ezraic and Nehamitic cultists (~450 BCE) could expressly denigrate it (the latter more brutally than the former). In this respect, it would seem plausible that the further back in time we go, the less explicit a parallel between Source and Woman (per se) in a denigrated sense would become. Evidence for this may be seen in the comparatively more cosmic emphasis on the Flood (as an emergence of self-consciousness, i.e., gods) in the Sumerian creation story generally, but also in the reactionary legislation against women in the Code of Ur-Nammu (~2100 BCE) compared to the earlier the Code of Urukagina (~2350 BCE).

It is against this complicated background that I propose to look at Rg Veda 10.129 (one of its hymns of creation). At the end is the Sanskrit text with transliteration[1]; here is the English translation (from here):

Existence then was not, nor nonexistence
The world was not, the sky beyond was neither.
What covered the mist? Of whom was that?
What was in the depths of darkness thick?

There was no death then, nor yet deathlessness;
of night or day there was not any sign.
The One breathed without breath by its own impulse.
Other than that was nothing at all.

Darkness was there, all wrapped around by darkness,
and all was Water indiscriminate, Then
that which was hidden by Void, that One, emerging,
stirring, through power of Ardor, came to be.

In the beginning desire arose,
which was primal germ cell of mind.
The Seers, searching in their hearts with wisdom,
discovered the connection of Being in Nonbeing.

A crosswise line cut Being from Nonbeing.
What was described above it, what below?
Bearers of seed there were and mighty forces,
thrust from below and forward move above.

Who really knows? Who can presume to tell it?
Whence was it born? Whence issued this creation?
Even the Gods came after its emergence.
Then who can tell from whence it came to be?

That out of which creation has arisen,
whether it held it firm or it did not,
He who surveys it in the highest heaven,
He surely knows – or maybe He does not!

Structurally, what is perhaps immediately striking about this is the presence of three verses prior to where most creation tales begin, “In the beginning.” In terms of a symbolism of the Source as a Flood (whether oceanic or amniotic), the three opening verses are tantamount to an acknowledgment of what is absent in oceanic and amniotic creation tales–the condition before creation (be that Earth, Mother, or Void). Here, it is not simply a matter that there was “nothing” (and not even a chaotic “gap”), but a “something” for which the terms “existence” and “nonexistence” neither apply. Here, it is not that there is nothing here, but rather something that (because /we/ are as yet uncreated) cannot compass or name. But it is “something” of which we can ask questions, like “What covered the mist? Of whom was that?” Fully three verses are given over to naming (by not naming) this unnameable precondition for Creation. Moreover, this Source is not gendered. Nor even is it identified with the “One”. Only after six lines does the statement occur, “The One breathed without breath by its own impulse.”

Indian philosophy is frequently confused as paradoxical, but more frequently this is due to a misreading on the part of the (Western) mind encountering the seeming paradox. For instance, the notion that “existence then was not, nor nonexistence” appears to propose a paradox, since one or the other of the conditions must prevail. But insofar as limited human concepts (necessarily limited by sheer incarnation as human beings) cannot conceive  (much less describe) the inconceivable, then a human concept like existence or like nonexistence both are inadequate descriptions of that (unnameable) condition prior to Creation. The statement, which on one view is true by virtue of being a tautology and by another view is true because it reminds us no human terminology for the Inconceivable can be adequate, is not paradoxical at all. With “The One breathed without breath by its own impulse,” however, veers closer to paradox. That the terms “breathed” or “breath” cannot apply to the “One” is platitude enough, but the more difficult image being conveyed here is the first emergence of (human consciousness); here, language is being asked to do the impossible, to represent literally that which is (i.e., is coming into being) and that which is not (the One, properly or still understood as Inconceivable). In this moment, one cannot quite see, but can “feel” numinously the identity of Brahman and Atman (or, in Jungian terms, the identity of the Self and the ego). In the literal birth imagery version, this is exactly the moment of breathing and not breathing, when we are still “breathing water” prior to breathing air. To the extent that “air” participates in the symbolism of spirit (the breath of life, inspiration, expiration, aspiration), the moment of breathing that is not yet breathing (air) is indeed the quintessential moment; in Genesis, this moment of the imminence of air is captured in “and the breath of YHVH hovered over the face of the waters”. To compare sequences:

Existence then was not, nor nonexistence
The world was not, the sky beyond was neither.
In the beginning Elohim created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void
What covered the mist? Of whom was that?
What was in the depths of darkness thick?
And darkness was upon the face of the deep
There was no death then, nor yet deathlessness;
of night or day there was not any sign.
 
The One breathed without breath by its own impulse.
Other than that was nothing at all.
And the spirit of Elohim moved upon the face of the waters.
Darkness was there, all wrapped around by darkness,
and all was Water indiscriminate, Then
that which was hidden by Void,
 
that One, emerging,
stirring, through power of Ardor, came to be.
And Elohim said, Let there be light: and there was light.
In the beginning desire arose,
which was primal germ cell of mind.
 

Whereas in Genesis, which this first chapter is intended as a later addition and metaphysical grounding, so to speak, for the revealed history in chapter 2 and onward, there is an extraverted inattention to the details involved. As a demonstration of the Elohim’s power, who cares what kind of “mind-states” there were. The purpose is to demonstrate the inferiority of whatever Great Goddess is being defamed (be it Ishtar, Astarte, etc). And so the Rg Veda expends considerably more attention and imagination on the mechanism and (symbolic) phenomenology of the emergence of the self. One may infer, perhaps generously, that to arrive at the demand, “Let there be light,” Elohim must have, through the power of ardor and due to the Logos (here, rather, the “primal germ cell of mind”) developed the desire and will to make the demand. Similarly, where the personification and avoidance of paradox is complete an thus problematic in Genesis (when the breath of Elohim hovers over the waters), the Rg Veda maintains a more intellectually candid depiction of the difficult-to-express moment of the relationship between Self and ego at the moment when they are (or begin to) differentiate. Also significant (as a depiction of the emergence of consciousness from Unconsciousness) is how the verse “Darkness was there, all wrapped around by darkness” (etc) comes before “In the beginning”; this is reversed in Genesis. It is not that the Genesis text somehow fails at the outset to invoke an earth without form and Void, but rather that this condition is identified as “the beginning”. In the Rg Veda, it is only in the third verse that that which Genesis identifies as “the beginning” comes into view, and even then, “the beginning” itself occurs only in the next verse.

Jung has emphasized many times the vastly more archaic character of the Unconscious; consciousness is a very recent emergence, by comparison, and here the Rg Veda more faithfully captures this. This also permits a certain amount of reclamation of Hesiod’s Theogony. Hesiod, like Genesis, will minimize any reference to whatever is “before” creation on misogynistic grounds, but once he does get around to laying out a genealogy, it proceeds from “gap” (Chaos) to earth (Gaia) through two kinds of “darkness” (Tarteros & Erebus) and then “desire” (Eros).  The necessity of Gaia in this second position is what I would call the misogynist’s compromise, the unavoidable necessity (even for those who would defame Woman) of acknowledging female origins. Int his case, it is a compromise because Chaos is already a denigration of Woman as a “hole”; that is, the figure that Gaia is supposed to account for already exists in Chaos.

Quite obviously, Chaos in the sense of an abyss participates entirely in the sort of “deep” that Tiamat points to, etc. What is at issue here is that Hesiod is understanding it at best in a negative sense. The best I can say of him is that he doesn’t even really understand the symbolism he is putting down on paper. But the sequence of chaos, presence, darkness, and desire [Eros] follows precisely the third and fourth verses of the Rg Veda 10.129.

Darkness was there, all wrapped around by darkness,
and all was Water indiscriminate, Then
that which was hidden by Void, that One, emerging,
stirring, through power of Ardor, came to be.

In the beginning desire arose,
which was primal germ cell of mind.
The Seers, searching in their hearts with wisdom,
discovered the connection of Being in Nonbeing.

It might seem I’m being unreasonable. It is not at all controversial to note Hesiod’s misogyny. Nor is his genealogy here having as its primary purpose to provide a (symbolic) representation of coming to consciousness. Just as Genesis uses some variety of a Babylonian or Sumerian creation myth to puff up its own deity, here Hesiod is merely trotting out a genealogical fantasy as a prelude to describing the Greek pantheon proper. The fact that these partially informed literalizations have been used for major cornerstones (in Western culture generally, and Greek culture specifically in the case of Hesiod) makes them worth debunking.

As just one more observation, one of the more striking lines in 10.129 would be “A crosswise line cut Being from Nonbeing,” which effectively appears out of nowhere. The visual image that can result, of a sudden crosswise line “cutting across” can be quite a surprise. In the first place, this is nothing less than the cognitive capacity of making a distinction, which we still semiotically signal with the / character. There’s s a lot of mileage one could traverse for how elemental and essential making a distinction is; G. Spencer Brown in his Laws of Form states this as the first logical operation. It is precisely by this crosswise line, this /, that the distinction between existence and nonexistence itself comes into being. At once, we are plunged into a world where subject-object duality is available, even if we are somehow not affected by it.

This all being so, this crosswise line, this /, marks the boundary between nonbeing and being, and so (in a literal reading of the emergence archetype) would be the passage out of the O of the womb and past the / of the mother’s genitals into the (created) world. In the oceanic version of the story, it is the moment of expulsion. But for the “emergence” version, this / becomes the ongoing moment of self-consciousness that is our boundary between what Sartre called the pre-reflective and reflective consciousness. If we imagine for a moment, the seemingly paradoxical sense of being somehow the Self and not the Self (the ego), then Bertrand Russell’s “solution” to this kind of apparent paradox was to specify a new logical level. (If it’s not clear what this means, just bear with me.) Another way to resolve the apparent paradox is to “invent time.” (Ditto if this is not clear.) Francisco Varela developed a three-part logic that allowed for self-referential items in a logical system; the sort of item that caused Bertrand Russell trouble in the first place. Varela’s solution was met with pleasure by Russell, who had never really been pleased with having to resort to a “new logical level” in the first place. A part of Varela’s insight involved the recognition that when one makes a distinction, when one proposes a / that divides this from that, we then actually occupy mentally (in a literal way) the distinction itself. That is, if I make a distinction of hot/cold, for the purpose of analyzing whether something is hot or cold, I “stand on the distinction” itself in order to survey the world 9even as I might be hot or cold myself). This poor exposition on my points back to the crosswise line in consciousness, the one that divides nonbeing from being. This is why, in the hymn, there is activity on both sides of the distinction, which is being viewed from the (literal) standpoint of the distinction itself.

So, just as the oceanic version of the Flood (the emergence into consciousness) proposes a distinction that one crosses (from the unworthy condition to the worthy condition, from nonbeing to being), while nevertheless retaining some sense of continuity, this is much more concretely realized in the amniotic version of the Flood, where the boundary between Nonbeing and Being still retains, perhaps wholly by accident, the sign of the / that we cross from the womb into the world. In general, then, we see that if the symbol of Woman has since been turned into a sign (and denigrated in that embodiment as a sign), if the Unconscious has been turned into a womb and the cognitive capacity of desiring distinctinos into the / of female genitals, then 10.129 provides us with an (introspective) imagistic/literary symbol of the Great Flood, in the form of our expulsion out of the Nonbeing of the Unconscious into the created world of Being. an emergence that, again like the Tower card int he Tarot, signals the end of our world as we know it, and a release from prison and all that that portends.


[1] नासदासीन नो सदासीत तदानीं नासीद रजो नो वयोमापरो यत |

किमावरीवः कुह कस्य शर्मन्नम्भः किमासीद गहनं गभीरम ||

न मर्त्युरासीदम्र्तं न तर्हि न रात्र्या अह्न आसीत्प्रकेतः |

आनीदवातं सवधया तदेकं तस्माद्धान्यन न परः किं चनास ||

तम आसीत तमसा गूळमग्रे.अप्रकेतं सलिलं सर्वमािदम |

तुछ्येनाभ्वपिहितं यदासीत तपसस्तन्महिनाजायतैकम ||

कामस्तदग्रे समवर्तताधि मनसो रेतः परथमं यदासीत |

सतो बन्धुमसति निरविन्दन हर्दि परतीष्याकवयो मनीषा ||

तिरश्चीनो विततो रश्मिरेषामधः सविदासी.अ.अ.अत |

रेतोधाासन महिमान आसन सवधा अवस्तात परयतिः परस्तात ||

को अद्धा वेद क इह पर वोचत कुत आजाता कुत इयंविस्र्ष्टिः |

अर्वाग देवा अस्य विसर्जनेनाथा को वेद यताबभूव ||

इयं विस्र्ष्टिर्यत आबभूव यदि वा दधे यदि वा न |

यो अस्याध्यक्षः परमे वयोमन सो अङग वेद यदि वा नवेद ||

 

nāsadāsīn no sadāsīt tadānīṃ nāsīd rajo no vyomāparo yat |

kimāvarīvaḥ kuha kasya śarmannambhaḥ kimāsīd ghahanaṃ ghabhīram ||

na mṛtyurāsīdamṛtaṃ na tarhi na rātryā ahna āsītpraketaḥ |

ānīdavātaṃ svadhayā tadekaṃ tasmāddhānyan na paraḥ kiṃ canāsa ||

tama āsīt tamasā ghūḷamaghre.apraketaṃ salilaṃ sarvamāidam |

tuchyenābhvapihitaṃ yadāsīt tapasastanmahinājāyataikam ||

kāmastadaghre samavartatādhi manaso retaḥ prathamaṃ yadāsīt |

sato bandhumasati niravindan hṛdi pratīṣyākavayo manīṣā ||

tiraścīno vitato raśmireṣāmadhaḥ svidāsī.a.a.at |

retodhāāsan mahimāna āsan svadhā avastāt prayatiḥ parastāt ||

ko addhā veda ka iha pra vocat kuta ājātā kuta iyaṃvisṛṣṭiḥ |

arvāgh devā asya visarjanenāthā ko veda yataābabhūva ||

iyaṃ visṛṣṭiryata ābabhūva yadi vā dadhe yadi vā na |

yo asyādhyakṣaḥ parame vyoman so aṅgha veda yadi vā naveda ||

 

 

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