Cipher of Genesis: Excerpts on Circumcision and Note 2: Circumcision
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Abraham was not a believer. He recognized the presence of life as an ally and made with it a covenant. That pact was twofold: it included (a) the Qabala, that is, a direct penetration of knowledge through comprehension, examination, vision and writing, and (b) circumcision on the eighth day that is, directs penetration of vital energy, transmutation of animal sexuality for the benefit of a sensitivity of the entire nervous system awakened and alert. A few pages will later be devoted to circumcision, one of the keys to the mystery of Israel. I say that there are two keys. One is for the body, the sensory apparatus, the psyche: the circumcision on the eighth day. The other is for the mind, the contained, the human and cosmic germ of life unconditioned, which can only "be" when it is indeterminate: the Qabala.
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The two Sephiroth, Rigour and Clemency, accompany the action of Mosheh-Aaron. The two keys to the mystery of Israel, circumcision and the knowledge of the Name, are given to Mosheh. It is a new departure and the beginning of a very long story, which lies outside the scope of the present essay. We must, however, include this story and the new expression of the Qabala as we give it in the general field of the occult tradition.
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And that is the Qabala. It is easy to understand it when one knows the game, the game that the Aleph-life-death-life-death and the Yod-existence must play continuously; the Aleph discontinuous pulsation, at times immanent, at times activated, and Yod permanent and continuous: Yod the perpetual loser in spite of the psyche that does not want to die. All this is easy to understand when one knows that all life is two lives and that Adam is Aleph inside the blood.
Such is the revelation granted to Mosheh of one of the two mysteries of Israel: the Qabala. The other mystery is the circumcision. It will be granted, as we all know, by Zifforah when she will save Mosheh from YHWH's aggression (Exod. 4:25-26 ): Then Zifforah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, a bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.
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The Qabala knows that YHWH is not a deity but an immanence which can become alive and active when the two vitalities in us, the container and the contained, fecundate each other. Historically, those vitalities of Israel came into being when the mistaken expression, material and materializing, of the Temple and of Jerusalem, was destroyed. The Qabala, for the time being, obeyed the Law, and reciprocally the Law held the Qabala in great respect and honour. Such was the truth of those times: the biological necessity of Israel's mystery. If the first three centuries following the destruction of Jerusalem were the most intense in the life of Israel, it was because everything had been destroyed. The great initiator of the Qabala in the second century was Simeon-Bar-Yohai. Against the powerful movements called the Talmud and the Qabala, the Christians were helpless. They found all sorts of arguments. They said -- erring profoundly -- that Abraham's faith was more important than the circumcision, that Abraham is "the father of nations," that the Patriarchs obviously did not obey the Law of Moses, and that, conditioned by these laws, the Jews were only a lateral branch of the human tree. Interpreting an important theme of Genesis in a certain fashion (which will be explained later on), the Christians proclaimed themselves to be the "eldest" because they had come "after" Israel. Had they been more mature ontologically, they would have had, perhaps, some reason for saying so. But, in fact, they were not mature.
On the Jewish side, other currents were seeking to express themselves. One thought the Law of Moses to be monolithic, and decreed that it must be obeyed in its every detail. They reasoned that, the Temple being destroyed, it was absolutely impossible to follow all the prescriptions, and that therefore it would be a sin to interpret them according to circumstances. Others said, "Better transform than do nothing; at least, it will help to keep them in memory." In Alexandria these developed a strong tendency not unlike that of our "reformed" synagogues. Other Jews declared themselves to be more Jewish than all other Jews, because they were disciples of the Rabbi Jesus, in whom they saw the embodiment of the essence of Israel, which is life- death and resurrection.
We cannot have an adequate idea of the great turmoil which marked the period from approximately the third to the seventh centuries. Its centre was Alexandria. All the documentation of those centuries was stored in its library, which was burned at least three times.
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Circumcision (Genesis XVII, 10-15) THUS SARAI attains the perfection that is required of her. She reaches it at an age symbolizing the perfection of woman: 90 years. At the same time Abram reaches the symbolic age of perfection in man: 100 years. YHWH then reveals to Abram his mission, and Elohim confers upon him a new life. This is symbolized by a new syllable in his name "Thy name shall be Abraham" (Gen. 17:5). Immediately, there follows, clearly and explicitly stated, the covenant of circumcision.
It appears as a covenant not between YHWH and Abraham, but between Elohim and Abraham and it is only after its establishment that Sarai's name is changed to Sarah
Circumcision at eight days is generally considered a hygienic measure, though actually something far more important is involved: the transformation of the human body. The rationale is the need to sever manhood (as typified by Adam) from the purely animal heritage through a process of sublimation and transformation.
In the biblical allegory, we have seen Esha in the Garden of Eden taking the initiative in man's ensorial and cerebral development. As we shall see later on -- with Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Mary-mother-of-Jesus -- the human germ develops into manhood if the woman is able to sublimate the primordial female within herself. But the fact of circumcision in the human male actually makes a profound contribution to the development of woman. It affects both sexes, physiologically and psychologically.
This shock is deeply felt by the individual. Undergone eight days after birth, as it is among the Jews, its effects are so decisive within the structure of the unconscious and the vital centres that it is justifiable to find in circumcision a factor of the exceptional history of the Jews. We may well suppose that those who instituted this practice did so with a specific goal in view. Circumcision intensifies the development of the sensorial apparatus through an effective coordination of sensory activity; it awakens the intellectual faculties; the sexual energy is utilized by the body prior to the awakening of sex.
The result is a freer self which transforms and assimilates the elements of its environment according to the needs of its own individual development. At the same time this self is carried along by the inner movement which engenders that faculty of assimilation. The individual is in perfect harmony with the rapid changes of the world. These remarks may give insight into the manner in which the vital and contradictory movement set up in the human process by the circumcision is considered, in mythical terms as a "pact" with Elohim (which is this process). This pact causes the movement of the universe to penetrate into the very flesh of the body, and into the mind as well. In fact, it has "conquered the flesh" by obliging it to transmute, to transfigure, itself. [cp. John 6:53 "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you"
This is a theme already familiar to us; the transmutation of what is fixed and static (in this case, the flesh, the blood, the "dam" of Adam, so that it can eventually allow the life of Aleph to be resuscitated. [For further elaboration upon the subject, see Note 2, "Circumcision" p. 294.]
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Note 2 Circumcision
WE BELIEVE that circumcision is an important factor in the Genesis of man (or resurrection of Aleph. We therefore offer here a tentative introduction to the study of its physiological and psychological consequences.
The foreskin, in enveloping the gland, shelters it from all contact. Because of this protection the non-circumcised child lives until the age of puberty as if that organ, as a sexual organ, did not existexcept in those momentary states of excitation to which, as everyone knows, the child is subject. At such times the mucous lining, which is very sensitive, causes a strongly localized pleasure in the sexual organ. It is not until puberty that the gland undergoes exterior contacts sufficient to establish an active transmission throughout the whole sexual system. Until that time, the system can be compared to a dead end street, without traffic, without exchange, inasmuch as the fixation of the centre of interest is blocked at the entrance. The practice of circumcision on the young child results in (1) a physiological shock, accompanied by (2) a partial desensitizing of the gland (which makes, later on, for a lack of violently concentrated sensation) and followed by (3) an indefinite prolongation of the sexual shock in the whole organism because of the uncovering of the gland. From that time on, the gland will continually undergo contacts which will be transmitted to nerve centres, to an entire apparatus still in the original stage and incapable of any impulse towards sexual functioning. We know that the sexual instrument is not isolated. It is in contact with the sensorial functioning of all the senses. (This is evident when an erotic state transforms the five senses, conferring upon them an erotic character and focusing them for its own use.) This awakening in the child obviously cannot bring forth in him capacities which he does not possess. However, with equal opportunity, his faculties will be better organized and exploited. This is not the only aspect of the question, nor is it, perhaps, the most important. Circumcision in the extremely young child creates a shock around which the psyche builds itself. It is true that an important shock has already taken place: the birth trauma, recorded in the crystallization of a "snowball" of reactions which will become the self. But the trauma of circumcision immediately introduces within that psyche a mobile element; it is not buried as soon as it is produced, but is prolonged indefinitely and radiates within the vital centres during their formative periods.
Thus, in the non-circumcised, the psyche is crystallized around a birth trauma, which is slowly but reactions to his environment. The younger the child, the more malleable he is, so that these reactions act upon him like a mold. This procedure is violently troubled by circumcision at eight days, because it introduces a purely individual shock, a moving traumatism that concerns the very fibers of his being. Instead of a slow condensation of fluctuating elements determined by the surroundings, we find an active, awakened, vital centre in full process of organization, capable of transforming its reactions to the environment into purely individual elements. Not only does the individual consciousness -- the "I" -- construct itself more rapidly, but its foundations are laid in a living, flexible element constantly related to the development of the individual. But how is a woman affected by all this? And is the social attitude of the Jew influenced by circumcision? The Jewish woman is, indeed, transformed by the fact of the man's has been circumcised. This practice, having existed for many centuries, has brought about certain hereditary modifications in both male and female: these include a great nervous sensibility due to an especially complex nervous system, always on the qui vive, always mobile and on the watch, ready to shift balance, even to lose balance; a precocious, sometimes excessive intellectuality; and a mind which, though strongly determined, is nevertheless mobile and pliable.
Besides the hereditary transmission of qualities such as these, there exists a Jewish mode of behaviour, on the part of man which necessarily reacts upon woman, and also a particular state of consciousness that expresses itself socially. (It is dangerous to venture into generalizations. Besides, "the circumcision of the hearts" which was mentioned some two thousand years ago, would be, if understood, the quickest and most revolutionary way towards human fulfillment.)
Sex is obviously a determining factor in every society. Being a projection of cosmic energies, it can well be translated in terms of Aleph versus Yod. At the bottom of the scale, in one of the most primitive manifestations, we see the male bee dying in the sexual act. In such societies, the female organizes an immutable functional order, in which the Aleph is constantly murdered. On a higher animal level, the sexual activity is dependent on recurrent needs, and both males and females are conditioned by seasonal rhythms. The species cannot evolve; they remain within the framework of Tov, which is continuity in time.
The human condition is a state of conflict, a struggle, symbolically between YHWH, who aims at freeing the Aleph, and Eretz (the earth) who, as we have seen, "drinks the blood" of Hevel, his Adam, bereaved of Aleph (dam meaning blood).
Let us now consider the three following cases: (a) non- circumcision; (b) circumcision at puberty: that of Ishmael, son of Hagar, the enslaved woman; (c) circumcision at eight days: that of Isaac, son of Sarah.
The uncircumcised. For the uncircumcised, the eruption at puberty of a centrifugal force generally leads to an upheaval. At that age, a deep sexual disturbance may be felt by an unprepared organism. New, unexpected sensations upset the static balance prevailing hitherto (or, alas, not upsetting it, leave it static). An outburst takes place, as after the bursting of a dam. Naturally, these cases are extreme; and once again, one cannot generalize, for one can easily find cases of sexual development which invalidate these remarks in one way or another. But one thing is certain: cases of sexual "revelation," of disturbance of masculine vitality, of interior realization, or of reorganization of spiritual life due to coitus, are not the case of Israel. It is equally certain that the search for union by identification of two beings in the sexual act and the desire to plunge into the sexual abyss in order to be identified with the great "vital currents" of nature (as sung or described by writers and vaunted as being the source of spiritual, artistic and passionate ideals) are an abomination in the eyes of Israel, circumcised at eight days and carrying in his flesh the pact with Elohim.
Circumcision at puberty. Quite different is the result of circumcision when it takes place at the age of thirteen (the boy's age of puberty), as is the case among followers of the Moslem faith. With the violent sexual shock, at the prodrome of puberty, the sensorial perceptions suddenly become purely sexual. This drains the masculine energy towards sex, maintaining it there in a continually erotic state. As a consequence of this practice, a stoppage of the intellectual faculties and even a regression due to sexual excess may be produced.
Circumcision at eight days. A manner of confronting the paradoxical double movement of which we are made is presented by circumcision at eight days (Aleph versus Yod ). It not only polarizes the subconscious around an awakening vital energy and constructs within a mobile psyche, but the contributory elements are, themselves, mobile. When, at the age of two or three months, the intelligent coordination of movement begins to occur, there is already, in the circumcised child, a subconscious "nucleus" around the sensorial activity which engendered it. The psychophysical exchanges become intense. The young self, attached to its vital centres, gradually eliminates the elements imposed by its environment, and, because of this, finds itself carried away by a permanent contradictory movement within itself. The developing self is in a state similar to that of a chicken which, during its life in the egg, devours its own substance (the white of the egg). Later on, when the male centrifugal force assumes its sexual character, it finds that its "enemy" (the psyche), grown strong because of having fed upon its substance (sexual), has proclaimed itself master of the house. What takes place psychologically is clear enough. The sensibility of the sexual organ has been dulled -- whereas eroticism is, on the contrary, highly branched and subtle. Thus sensuality becomes imaginative but does not disrupt the individual's consciousness. Erotically, the man is more like a valley watered by innumerable streams than like a deep gorge where an overwhelming torrent rushes along. Instead of the man being carried away, his mind rules. Sensuality and imagination are at work, but the individual remains "himself" He does not lose consciousness of himself. He cannot possibly lose this awareness during the act of coitus. Thus we see that man, endowed with his self (which, though static by nature, shelters living seed) must struggle against and overcome the centrifugal sexual movement which tends to lead him into the abyss of the female. Circumcision at eight days helps him powerfully. It gives him the additional dynamism necessary to ensure his escape from the "queen bee" aspect of woman.
Woman. Whereas through all the symbols, allegories and legends concerning YHWH in the Book of Genesis, emphasis is laid on the sublimation of womanhood as a determining factor in human evolution, the covenant between YHWH and Abraham in view of this may well appear as a contradiction; for it aims to dissociate man from the animal species by an operation upon man's flesh only.
It may, however, be noted that, the human psyche being of the same centripetal nature as the feminine sexual function, two contrasting energies to be readjusted do not exist, in womanhood. So woman's problems can and must, psychologically, be dealt with directly. In this field she cannot but respond to Abram's deep and constant wish: "Woman, thou art my sister, my companion." In the truest Hebrew tradition, where the male cannot possibly sink into the primordial female abyss, a psychological and physiological relationship comes into being, thanks to which the woman is given every chance to become supremely intelligent. This is far more real than the projection (in an imaginary heaven) of a mere symbol of the feminine archetype to be worshipped, such as, for instance, Mary, Mother of Jesus.
Social. Centrifugal boys and centripetal girls have different centres of emotional and mental activity, and this well before puberty. Puberty is the result of a slow process of development which has, over a period, been leading the boy outwards and the girl inwards. In this sense it can be said that the emotional and mental life of the child is of the same nature as his sex. While the development of the self (which is cumulative) finds no opposition in the maturing sexual process of the girl, whose elements are primarily static, with the boy the case is different: there is conflict. As soon as a centrifugal vitality develops in him, it tends to carry the self along with it. Here we see the circumcised and the uncircumcised behaving in opposite ways (with innumerable exceptions). The former does not succeed in ridding himself of the self-consciousness which is well trained to gallop without faltering over moving elements; on the contrary, the latter (the uncircumcised) has the greatest difficulty in not letting himself be carried away by the collective torrent in which his individuality is drowned. He is centrifugal at a moment when his individuation is not assured; and because of that, he risks losing it. It is difficult for him to free himself from his environment and to achieve maturity, because his faculties are conditioned by collective automatisms. He may even go so far as to let himself be swept into some sort of a turbulent current.
We need seek no further for an explanation of the bands of turbulent youths which nowadays are to be found in all countries. Carried away by centrifugal, erotic passion that has drained their emotions as well as their reason, these young people, in love with those who impose themselves on them, carrying emblems, repeating slogans and waving flags, undergo a heroic exaltation which only tears them away from individual egocentricity to topple them into the collective self, which is as functional and "female" as any hive of bees. Their immature freedom breeds conformity of a kind that tends to regress to a would-be sub-species, where the individual would be in danger of getting lost in a feeling of "belonging."
YHWH is absent from manifestations such as these. (em+)
CARLO SUARÉS (1892 -1976) dedicated a great part of his life to unraveling the revelatory symbolism hidden in the code of the Bible. He was born in Egypt and studied at the Icole des Beaux- Arts in Paris, where he earned a degree in architecture. Between 1927 and 1939, while living partly in France and partly in Egypt, he published a number of books, including La Nouvelle Creation, La Comidie psychologique, and Quoi Israël. In 1940, while still in Egypt, he considered his writing career finished, and turned to painting. He researched the composition of light, which he expressed by using turquoise blue and rose mauve as the basic colors of his palette. It took him fifteen years of intense work to master his new technique. During this period he wrote L'Hyperbole chromatique. In 1945 Suarés started to write again, and among his more notable works are: Krishnamurti et L'Unité humaine, Critique de la Raison impure, La Kabale des Kabales, De quelque Apprentis-Sorciers. Suarés gives us the fruit of forty years' study of the Qabala in The Resurrection of the Word, The Cipher of Genesis, and The Song of Songs. (CoG p.304)
Sepher Yetsira: Dual Covenant of the One