Between Jerusalem and Benares:
Union and Unity in Hinduism and Judaism


Sunthar Visuvalingam

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  1. The Physiology of Sex: Temple architecture and the Body of God *
  2. The Ark of the Covenant: Embryogony and Sacrificial Death *
  3. The Bi-unity of God: the incestuous Twins *
  4. Theurgy and the Birth of the God-Man: the Politics of Unity *

The Physiology of Sex: Temple architecture and the Body of God

cakras and sefirots

By exploiting a system of correspondences between the microcosm and the macrocosm wherein the masculine and the feminine are the fundamental articulations, the sexual act has been transformed into a sacred means of unification, allowing a "self-deification" for the Tantrics and a "theurgical" realization for the Kabbalists. The three columns or pillars of the sefirotic tree correspond well enough to the ternary structure of the tantric physiology: the feminine left, symbolized by the moon, and the masculine right, symbolized by the sun, find their equilibrium in the center represented by fire. The erotic imagery of "the seven kisses, the secret of the union of the breaths, which constitute the interiority of the sefirot," sounds almost like a Jewish translation of Tantric techniques in relation to the cakras. The Shekhinah which remains at the lowermost sefirah Malkhut in exile from her King (who is yet to be "crowned") at the topmost sefirah Keter, would correspond to the dormant Sakti at the m�l�dh�ra. And just as kundalin� has an "ascending" (�rdhva) and a "descending" (adhah) mode, so too the Shekhinah repeatedly ascends to Keter before descending to the world of everyday experience in order to harmonize transcendence and immanence, which is precisely the aim of the krama-mudr� integrated into the practice of the kula-y�ga. The male Tiferet and the phallic Yesod correspond not so much to any particular cakra but to (the symbolic identification of) the "central column" (susumn�) and the linga--of the palm-tree and its branch, the lulab --during the interiorized sexual union which unites the totality of the sefirotic "wheels" (cakras). The remaining six sefirot form horizontal pairs--Hokhmah and Binah, Hessed and Gevurah, Netsah and Hod--on either side of the central column, whereas the remaining four cakras of the navel, heart, throat and forehead are all strung along the susumn�. However, the number of cakras is not constant in the different Tantric schools, and it could well be that the paired sefirot correspond to virtual cakras envisaged as polarized by the lateral breaths. For example, the Lurianic meditation on the two eyes as correlated to Hokhmah and Binah (cited in Green), would tend to equate their union with the cakra between the eyebrows. The pairs at the shoulders (Hessed and Gevurah) and the thighs (Netsah and Hod, identified in the present context with the right and left testicles) could likewise be correlated with the union of breaths at the level of the heart (hrdaya-cakra) and the base of the spine (m�l�dh�ra) respectively. The mediating and synthesizing role of Tiferet in these processes would justify its further identification with the heart (Green), which plays a central role in unifying the upper and lower "wheels" during the kula-y�ga. In both traditions, the unification is often said to take place in the "heart of man," especially when its specifically sexual modality is placed on a par with other non-sexual modes of unification. Hence the "seventh day" (Sabbath = Tiferet), the hub of the weekly cycle, is assimilated to the "heart" of the sefirot (Bahir 159), the middle stem of the seven-branched candelabrum (menorah) and to the Tree of Life itself (Ginsburg, pp. 87-8, 91).

"physiology" of sex

Gershom Scholem (MJ, p. 199-202) has underlined the parallelism between Sakti and Shekhinah, between the Sr�- yantra and the union on High. The eternal union of the creative energy (sakti) and the absolute Siva around their common point (bindu) at the heart of the compenetrating triangles that constitute the Sr�-yantra, corresponds, in the Zohar, not so much to the Ein-Sof itself but rather to the inconceivable Sophia wherein all contraries are annulled within an undifferentiated point. "This primordial point is indissolubly linked to the superior Shekhinah represented by the symbol of the house or the maternal womb, where it is sown as the seed of the worlds. It is in this way that the Kabbalistic couple of the sefirot Hokhmah and Binah seem to really comprise many elements of the Sakti and her supreme consort" (p. 200). Considering the ultimate identity of the "higher" (Binah) and the "lower mother" (Malkhut), the horizontal union of the Male (Hokhmah) and the Female (Binah) on high corresponds to the fusion of the lower triangle with the upper triangle at the level of the eyebrows (bhr�-madhya) and this is indeed the ultimate aim of copulation in both the traditions. The total fusion of Siva and Sakti into the non-differentiation of the Absolute (Anuttara) is depicted by the elevation of their union to the level of the brahmarandhra (or dv�das�nta), and this condition is probably represented by the topmost sefirah Keter which, though distinguished from the transcendental void of Ein-Sof, serves to reflect its "Nothingness" ('ayin) within the inverted sefirotic tree. The doubling of Keter-Malkhut by the horizontal couple Hokhmah-Binah, both being synchronized with the external sexual union of (Tiferet qua) Yesod (penis) and the "Rose" (Malkhut = yoni), is particularly appropriate when juxtaposed to the triple union of the kula-y�ga, where the vertical unification of the two triangles or lotuses through the central column (Tiferet = linga) is accompanied by and dependent upon the fusion of the lateral breaths, the sun and the moon, resulting in the abolition of all duality. It is only when Tiferet and Malkhut are (sexually) united--as in the representation of the linga emerging from the yoni, which Abhinava identifies with the whole body--that they can be said to effectively comprise all the remaining sefirot of the "Righteous One" (Tzaddiq) and his Female respectively so as to form the androgynous "body of God" (shiur qoma). Like the phallic sacrificial post subsequently made of female wood (sam�), the "feminine" (tamar) palm-tree has the same "measure" as the human body and is essentially bisexual (Cant. 7:8; Bahir 166, 198). Through the mediation of the union on high, the seminal Yod (bindu) of Hokhmah descends from the highest center, Keter or dv�das�nta, to the lowest, Malkhut or m�l�dh�ra, so much so that the external conception is simultaneously fertilized by a luminous drop within which is concentrated the (sefirotic) totality of the divine body. The sexual substances are thus assimilated to "consecrations" (argha = qiddushin) by virtue of the "internal" emission (visarga): "when the seed of the Righteous [the Father, Hokhmah] is about to be ejaculated, he does not have to seek the Female [the Mother, Binah], for she abides with him, never leaves him, and is always in readiness for him." The encompassing of the whole sefirotic structure within a single member--Tiferet in the case of the male and Malkhut in the female--would thus correspond to the double sense of the "mouth of the yogin�" as designating both the integrated totality of the wheels and (its access through) the sexual center. Throughout its successive identifications with Yesod, Tiferet, Malkhut, Binah and ultimately the unification of all the sefirot, the Sabbath thus seems to retain its essential meaning of internalized sexual union (Ginsburg, pp. 69-74). Themselves crowned by her superior form as the "Mother" (Binah, as including all three upper sefirot), the three patriarchs (Hesed, Gevurah and Tiferet) crown with their three prongs (of the letter Shin    ) the "Daughter" (Bat = Malkhut) to form the totalizing unity of the "Great Sabbath" (      ), a figure which surprisingly recalls the unifying trident-lotus diagram (tris�l�bja-mandala) of the Trika. Despite the apparent male bias encoded into the Tiferet-Yesod axis which frequently pits all the superior sefirot against the lowermost Malkhut, this final sefirah nevertheless ascends (at the height of the union) to Ein Sof and becomes the "Diadem" (atarah) on their head. "Atarah to let you know that it is also Keter [Crown]; and if you reverse the sefirot, then Malkhut will be the first sefirah" (cited in Ginsburg, p. 55). When the Jewish "housewife" (Matronit) is finally released from her bondage at Malkhut to unite (via Tiferet) with her Lord at Keter, she becomes truly indistinguishable from the Hindu Goddess, whose "mouth" (yogin�-vaktra) is simultaneously the vagina, the m�l�dh�ra, the heart and the supreme dv�das�nta.

sex as sacrifice

Beating the Temple altar with the lulab--a long palm twig tied together with shorter branches of willow and myrtle--on the seventh day (Sabbath) of the pilgrimage Feast of Tabernacles (sukkoth) is clearly a symbolic copulation resulting in the fertilized egg in the form of the citron (erthrog) which was subsequently eaten. "In this way, the semen is conceived as an oblation offered to the body of the woman by the body of the man, just as the sacrifice is addressed in the first place to the Shekhinah, the feminine aspect of the divine. And the 'intentions' which preside over this offering are similar to those that the priest must entertain while performing the gestures of oblation. The sexual relation is in this way transformed into a liturgical ceremony." Cordovero's identification of various ritual moments in dispersed Biblical passages with elements of the sanctified union merely prolongs this homology with the sacrifice. The Talmudic figure of the two cherubim in intimate embrace is more than a mere metaphor of the love of Israel for its God, for their union is understood by the later Kabbalists as constituting the bi-unity of God. The Holy of the Holies was indeed considered a nuptial chamber wherein God himself sexually united with the Matronit particularly on the Sabbath. Having entered the Hindu temple between the two breaths--often represented by Gang� and Yamun� on the door jambs--one faces the sanctum, the "womb-house" (garbha-grha) to worship the God enthroned within. Since the two lateral columns seem to correspond so well to the two pillars, the lunar Jachin and the solar Boaz that stood in the Temple built in the image of the world and the body (MT, pp. 105-17), the activity within the central column would represent the creation of the world within the Holy of the Holies. Even in Philo's theosophizing account, the Holy of the Holies and the cherubim in particular are endowed with not only a properly cosmogonic significance but the process of creation is unequivocally represented as procreation (MJ, pp. 154-5; HG, pp.111-6).

embryogonic waters beneath the temple

Sukkoth was celebrated just before the rainy season with the daily singing of the fifteen "Songs of Ascents" from the Psalms (120-134) sung by the Levites standing upon the fifteen steps leading from the Women's Court to the inner Court of the Israelites (MT, pp. 29-71). The following libations of water into the perpendicular shafts (shitin) underneath the altar--synchronized and identified with the libation of an equal quantity of thick red wine--were meant not only to bring rain from the heavens but to induce the subterranean waters to (re-) ascend from the Deep. The erthrog is itself equated to the sea (Bahir 178); and the portable desert Ark, equated with God's Throne on high, was covered with an entirely blue cloth representing the firmament and the (celestial) sea (MT, p. 131). The metal "Sea" (yam) in the courtyard of the Jerusalem Temple (1 Kgs 7:23-26) suggests "the Mesopotamian aps�, employed both as the name of the subterranean freshwater ocean...and as the name of a basin of holy water erected in the Temple." When king David dug the pits into "virgin" earth to lay the foundation, the waters of the Deep were prevented from deluging the world only by a sherd bearing the ineffable name of the Lord, which was later identified with the Stone of Foundation (Even ha-Shetiyyah) on which rests the Holy of the Holies. God built the earth concentrically around this "Navel of the Earth" (Omphalos), just as the embryo in the womb is fashioned around its navel through which it continues to receive nourishment. After the destruction of the Temple, this nuptial and embryonic sanctity was extended not only to the Mount on which it had stood but to the entire city of Jerusalem identified with Mother Zion (MT, pp. 220-33), and ultimately to the Sabbath itself (Ginsburg, pp. 85-6, 155-9). The fertile primordial mound into which the holy "City of Light" (K�s�), Banaras, was transformed by the amniotic flood waters of the menstruating mother Gang�, was likewise the site of the temple of Omk�ra, the ineffable (anirukta) syllable of Brahman (CG, p. 179). The union of Father and Mother on high is described as (the coupling of) the "feminine waters" (bride) which God had separated from the "upper male waters" (bridegroom) and relegated, despite their resistance, not only into the ocean but also into the subterranean Deep (tehom). The simultaneous birth of the Son (Tiferet) and the Daughter (Malkhut), whose union is now equated to that of the parents, is also occasionally presented as a single back-to-back pair of Siamese twins. The androgynity of God on the Sabbath--which, for Gikatilla, is clearly reflected in the cherubim and is behind the mystery of the shape of His chariot-throne (merkaba)--would hence reflect the undifferentiated sex of the embryo (HG, pp. 172-4, 194; CG, p. 435). The union of the human couple in both the Kabbalistic and the Tantric contexts would thus inwardly re-actualize--through a total sexualization of consciousness --that union (of Hokhmah and Binah) in which they were themselves conceived in the "beginning" (reshit). During the "cosmic jubilee" of the "world-to-come" at the end of time, all creation will be "swallowed up" (hitballecut) by "the great sea" (Binah) and the lower sefirot will "return" (teshuvah) to the "primordial sheath" and be reduced, like Siva, to the point of generation (bindu = yod) in the womb of the "divine Mother" (Ginsburg, pp. 31-2, 98-9).

The Ark of the Covenant: Embryogony and Sacrificial Death

ark of the covenant

In both Kabbala and Tantra, the symbolism of the twins brings together the ideas of (sexual) union (through their duality) and unity (through their identity). Though in their last version the cherubim depicted a man and a woman in sexual embrace, the ivory cherubim from King Ahab's palace are both female and those of the Solomonic temple, of equal size and form, were apparently of undetermined sex and hence identified in Ezekiel's vision with the androgynous palm-tree (HG, pp. 101-7, 126-7). The downward-facing couple of cherubim were made of one piece with the cover of the Ark below, which they enveloped with their inner wings (HG, pp. 101-36). The assimilation of the cherub to the watery cloud as the mount of (Baal and) YHWH fits in perfectly with this embryogonic significance of the Ark, for it is in the form of a divine cloud that the "glory" (= Shekhinah) of YHWH descended into its prototype in the desert Tabernacle (mishkan) to cover the entire Tent of Meeting (HG, pp. 137-8). In the painted murals of the Dura synagogue, the baby Moses is uplifted by a nude woman--whom Patai (HG, pp. 275-91) has identified as the Shekhinah--from a rectangular ark with a triangular garbled roof in the unmistakable "shape of a miniature temple. The same shape was given to the Torah shrine or Ark in most Jewish representations from the 1st to at least the 10th centuries A.D.... The Torah shrine, whose presence in any room turned it into a synagogue, actually symbolized, represented and substituted for, the Temple of Jerusalem which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.... the ark of bulrushes is shown in the shape of a miniature Temple, and it, most probably, is symbolic of the Temple, or its predecessor, the desert Tabernacle" (ibid., pp. 288-9). YHWH, who spoke to Moses upon the ark-cover from between the twin cherubim, the two wheels of the "chariot" (merkabah), just as Bhairava is heard between the two "wheels" of Siva and Sakti at the climax of sexual union, would no more than hypostatize the inner embryonic condition of the male adept. For Moses, who "alone of all men, not only became the husband of the Matronit (= Shekhinah), but copulated with her while still in the flesh" (HG, p. 282), is just another appelation for Binah, the "supernal mother" (Ginsburg, p. 55, n. 87). The later Kabbalists identify the entire "home" with the wife (bayit) on Sabbath and sought to achieve this regression through conjugal copulation, for the mother of Moses had covered the baby in the ark with a "wedding" canopy (HG, p. 283; Ginsburg, pp. 113, 116, 218-20). It has been argued that the two sacred stones in the desert Ark, the dwelling of the Shekhinah, must have originally represented Yahweh and his female consort--perhaps Anathyahu or Astarte (HG, pp. 135-6, 284-5). The original meaning of the name Astarte (Ashtoreth) was "womb" or "that which issues from the womb" (HG, p. 56). The two tablets of the Law--on which the Torah and the performance of the mitzvot is still founded--would correspond not only to the two Holy Names (YHWH-Elohim) and the twin cherubim (HG, p. 122) but also to the moment of conception which, in the kula-y�ga, is attributed a truly cosmogonic function. The betrothal and coronation of the Shekhinah on Friday night with the Qiddush over the blood-red wine (Gevurah) is perhaps related not only to the violence of the penetration but also to the moment when, having devoured the sperm, the fertilized egg attaches itself to the wall of the uterus. For this "rousing of [supernal] Love" which can come only from the "left side" (Gevurah) is specifically correlated to the moment "when the Ark came to rest" (Gen. 8:4) (Ginsburg, pp. 114-5, 118-21).

human sacrifice and the merkabah

Effaced in both the Trika and the Kabbalistic experience of unity through union, the inner embryonic death involved reveals itself only through mythico-ritual notations which are focussed especially around the archaic sacrifice. The Shekhinah (Malkhut) ascends from the altar through the burnt offering of the animal sacrifice (qorban), likewise credited with unifying all the sefirot, so as to unite completely with her Lord (Tiferet). Samael, the serpent who always succeeds in defiling the Matronit because of Israel's sins, releases his hold on Yom Kippur in order to seize the scape-goat, thus allowing the Queen to re-ascend to the Holy King. The distinction that the "flesh of the sacrifice is offered to the demonic, the Other Side, while the intention of the heart is directed toward God," suggests however that it is the high priest--on behalf of the whole of Israel--who is sacrificing himself in the fire. This is obvious because the two goats, which wear a replica of his crown, ultimately translate the identity of sacrificer and victim not only on the Day of Atonement (CG, pp. 446, 452-3, 458 n.41), but understood as a daily occurrence at the Temple. During the daily foot-race between young priests who wished to remove the ashes from the altar, it happened that two evenly matched contestants arrived at practically the same moment within four cubits off the altar. One pushed the other who fell and broke his leg; in another version, the priest plunged a knife into the heart of his opponent. As the young priest lay writhing, his father consoled him with the blessing: "May he be an atonement for you...." (MT, p. 73). The Zohar (3:100b) assimilates the ten Days of Awe to "the stages in the divine wedding, consummated on Yom Kippur" (Ginsburg, p. 174). The High Priest ran the risk of death when he penetrated on this "Sabbath of Sabbaths" alone into the womb of the sanctuary, which was the just punishment for the blasphemous--but now obligatory--utterance of God's name. This inner equation of sexual union and self-sacrifice must have been realized during a "shamanizing" trance expressed in terms of a perilous ascent to the chariot-throne of God, itself a representation of the womb. The adept of the Heikhalot literature is generally a sage cruelly executed by the Romans (Akiba), particularly the reputed (son of the) High Priest (Ishmael; LHH, pp. 50-1, 160-4), or again a blasphemous heretic (Abbuya; LHH, pp. 110, 245-8). The fatal self-revelation of God is described as if it were occurring in the Holy of the Holies as soon as the priest-shaman is enveloped and (literally) "transported" by the Shekhinah (LHH, p. 169). The embryonic dimension has been encoded into the archetypal child-sacrifice of the "sinful" Enoch (LHH, pp. 44-72), who thereby became the "juvenile" (na'ar, LHH, pp. 179, 189-91, 226-8) Metatron, the highest archangel, entrusted with sacrificing the souls of the just above just as the animals sacrificed on the altar below (LHH, pp. 64, 159, 180-2). Having been devoured by the Fire of God, Metatron, the celestial transposition of the High Priest, has a body of flames (LHH, pp. 109, 240-3). The symbolism of sacrificing children to "Moloch" in the "place of Fire" (Tophet) was central enough to be scrupulously and systematically retained long after the abomination of "the Valley of Slaughter" (Jeremiah 19:6) had been relegated to hell (Gehinnom). The Rock of the Foundation is identified with Mount Moriah where Abraham (almost) sacrificed his son, and Jews reverently recall the "binding of Isaac" each year at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The enigmatic episode (Ex 4:22-26), where Zipporah cut off her son's foreskin before Moses with a flint and declared "Surely a bridegroom of blood art thou to me," inscribes the symbolic identification of the "sacrificed" Son and the murderous Father into the very "sign of the covenant" (circumcision). "The Rock, perfect is its action" (Deut 32:4)--like that of YHWH, "the Rock of Israel" (Isaiah 30:29)--because the "twins" (teoumim)--who appear below "as two things, a thing and its contrary, as the advocate and the prosecutor," the sacrificer and the victim--form a "perfect" (tamim) unity on high. The unification of the "loving grace" (Hesed) of Abraham and the "stern judgement" (Din) of Isaac within the sanctuary of Jacob (Tiferet), the third Jewish patriarch (Ginsburg, p. 32), is no doubt an inner re-enactment of the terror (yir'ah) of the primordial sacrifice.

Lilith and the Sabbath-soul

While performing the Sukkoth water-libation, the Sadducee priest was pelted with the "sacrosanct" erthrogs which, like the "egg of Brahm�" (brahm�nda), represented the "magnificence" (hadar) of the Totality (Bahir 173-5); the rounded clots of coagulated blood-red wine were subsequently burned in a holy place in the Temple (MT, pp. 31, 37). The Heikhalot scenario of the celestial "Palace" (Binah) suggests that the adept is reduced to a seed-state within the fiery womb of the Shekhinah to be killed and resuscitated in a union which is assimilated to a marriage (LHH, pp. 166-7, 170-1, 184-6). On emerging from the bath of Sabbath eve, the ordinary soul--even the wicked in Gehinnom--receives the "additional soul" (neshamah yeterah) brought by the enveloping presence of the Shekhinah which shelters Israel as a mother does her fledglings (efrohim) or eggs (Ginsburg, pp. 121-36), in order to expand and ascend into the messianic "World-to-Come" (Binah). According to the Tiqqunei ha-Zohar, the ordinary soul must first be "buried" like the corpse on the Tree (Dt 21:23); the confining "shoes" (naal) of the soul must be removed before the burning Bush for "No man shall see Me and live" (Ex. 33:20). The departure of the "additional" soul on Saturday night is marked by Havdalah, the formal rite of Separation, involving the recitation of three series of blessings over wine, fragrant herbs and fire (Ginsburg, pp. 259-76). The mystery of the "wine that cheers Elohim and humankind" (Jud. 9:13) and has its origins in the supernal "grape cluster" (Binah) probably alludes, as in the Friday night Qiddushin, to (menstrual) blood as the source of all fertility. The smelling of spices, particularly myrtle, suggests the fragrant ascent of the soul to Eden through the burnt offering of the sacrifice (qorban) and is particularly effective in counteracting the sulfurous stench of Gehinnom (ibid., pp. 262-7, 279, n. 14). Finally, the meditative gazing at the reflection of the candle-flame on the fingernails recalls (this vestige of) Adam's "multi-colored garment of nails" called the "lights of fire" which "shone like the Cloud of Glory" (ibid., p. 281-3). For the entry into Sabbath was a return to the Tree of Life through the "flaming sword which turned every way" to be garbed--like Metatron--in an "Edenic garment of light" (ibid., pp. 95, 97, 128, 132; Bahir 99). In Philo's description, the fiery guardian of paradise stands instead "in the midst between the two" cherubim and "united them" like the ark-cover in the Holy of the Holies (HG p. 112-3). The "supernal Fire" (Hesed) of the (four camps of the) Shekhinah and the "river of Fire" (nehar di-nur) flowing through Eden in which the souls are ritually immersed during the week (Ginsburg, p. 185, n. 294) are confused--in the flickering candlelight--with the flames of hell (Din). The murderous side of the Shekhinah is generalized in the popular figure of Lilith (HG, pp. 207-45), the fatal seductress of men, who laughingly kills (new-born) babies on the night of the New Moon even as they laugh with pleasure (cf. CG, pp. 437, 453, on sacred laughter). On the otherwise melancholic day of Saturn (shabbeta'i), when Lilith "remains in darkness, wearing black garments like a widow," the "child of Sabbath" must exhibit joy (oneg shabbat). The gate of the inner Temple court (Shekhinah) was opened only on the Sabbath, that is, when the (new) moon united with the sun (Ginsburg, pp. 96-7, 241, 116). Lilith even took possession of the cherubim surrounding God's throne, whom the Zohar calls "small faces" because they have child-like faces, and abandoned them only in attempting to unsuccessfully re-unite with Adam as the first Eve. She is rendered harmless by the seal of Solomon (-Ashmodai), who bore the ineffable name of God, for its interlocking triangles represent the sacred union of Solomon (Tiferet) with Lilith herself in the form of the Queen of Sheba. "Whoever keeps the Sabbath properly becomes like a throne for the divine Chariot" upon whom God rests, "therefore, the Sabbath is called 'Rest'" (Gikatilla, cited in Ginsburg, p. 286). After the destruction of the Temple and the exile of Israel, God himself was obliged to unite with Lilith who took the place of the Matronit. The profound "rest" (menuhah) of the Sabbath within the womb-like "canopy (sukkah) of peace" (Ginsburg, pp. 230, 242-3) is perhaps only a prefiguration of--and an euphemism for--the death of God Himself.

Moses and the kiss of the Shekhinah

Throughout its desert wanderings, Israel carried a casket containing a corpse (of Joseph) beside the casket of the Shekhinah containing the two stone tablets of the Law (HG, pp. 141-2). Immune to (ordinary) death, those closest to God--Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron and Miriam--were said to have died through a kiss from the compassionate Shekhinah. According to another passage, it was God himself who took the soul of Moses by kissing him on the mouth, leaving it to the winged Shekhinah to carry him to his unknown grave (HG, 153). Already God had to be reminded not to let the baby die in the ark of bulrushes, and angel Gabriel had to even deal Moses a blow to make him cry so as to awaken the compassion of Pharaoh's daughter (HG, 282-5) who delivered him in the first place. The redeeming role of this "daughter of God" (Bat-Ya)--later associated with defilements like leprosy, boils, and (her father's) idolatry --was played in the Bible (Ex 2:5) by an anonymous "slave girl" which later became one of the epithets of the infanticide Lilith, who is herself the "nakedness" of the Shekhinah (HG, pp. 287, 239). Freud had gone so far as to claim that Moses was not a Jew adopted by the Pharaoh but an Egyptian prince who had forged together a nation of slaves to incarnate his egalitarian monotheistic ideal. Whatever may have been his physical genealogy, Moses had the voice of a youth when he was only a three-month old baby delivered by the Nile. "The Exodus at Passover marks the redemption of the Shekhinah (the divine Community of Israel) from the impurity of Sitra Ahra/Egypt; or, to use the physiological trope, the cessation of her period of menstrual bleeding" (Ginsburg, p. 174). The birth of Judaism into history is perhaps no more than the death and rebirth of an immortal Pharaonic Wisdom.

The Bi-unity of God: the incestuous Twins

the covenant and sexual politics

But the historical self-definition of the Jewish faith was founded in systematic opposition to the imperial politico-religious hierarchy, so much so that Egypt and the Pharaoh became the perfect embodiment of the hostile Nations and the demoniac powers of the Other Side (sitra ahara). "The crucial difference between Israel and its neighbors was the emphasis of the Hebrews on the role of Yahweh as liberator, as redeemer from slavery, as donor of land and political sovereignty to a newly formed people. Because the exodus tradition was so pervasive in Israel, it made for a concentration on the role of Yahweh in history rather than in nature;" the new polity "drew its religious metaphors primarily from what we would now call 'politics' or 'government.' Early Israel was viewed as the kingdom of Yahweh (Judg 9:23; Sam 8:7) to whom the people were allied by berit or 'covenant';" and "the political covenant is the inspiration of the biblical divine-human berit." Whereas popular male Canaanite divinities like Baal and El were ruthlessly exterminated and their polytheistic attributes and functions usurped by the One God, the "Hebrew Goddess" (Asherah) was relatively tolerated in pre-exilic Israel as a sort of consort of Yahweh, at times even within the Holy of the Holies, before she was finally incorporated into the covenant itself as the theological equivalent of the polity of Israel. The primacy of the historical community, which informs both the rabbinical representations of God and the Kabbalistic techniques of copulation, is best revealed in the constant equation of the unity of Israel around its King with the union of the Shekhinah and her Lord and later with the union of Malkhut and Tiferet. So interwoven are the unity of God, of Israel and of the body, that sexual union is in some way reduced to a mere prefigurement of the unity of God which will be consummated only when Israel has fulfilled its historical destiny amidst the Nations. Such a messianic significance is totally absent in the kula-y�ga, which is undertaken by an individual for his own salvation and self-divinization and in a manner that rather dissolves his ties with his specific community. The exile of the Shekhinah at Malkhut is more particularly identified with the political bondage of the diaspora amidst the Nations; the imprisonment of the (kundalin�) Sakti at the base of the spine is at most equated with the universality of human bondage within the realm of M�y� (cf. MJ, p. 201). Her liberation during the kula-y�ga transforms the d�t� into the receptacle of the Sophia (vidy�), a veritable Goddess to be worshipped here and now by the feminized male adept. The Matronit's loud proclamation of her own equality outside the domain of conjugal relations would have no doubt compromised the messianic mission of Israel, whose (social) foundation was the male Tzaddiq who alone bore "the sign of the covenant." Yet, the purificatory Sabbath preparations of clipping the nails and (bathing later transformed into a full) ablution (tevilah) clearly assimilate the Jewish patriarch to a menstruating (niddah) woman (Ginsburg, pp. 224-31). The Safed Kabbalist immersed himself in the river with his wife as a form of mystic union and finally emerged walking "backwards like one departing from the Temple" (ibid., p. 251), which would suggest rebirth from the womb of the sanctuary. His (subsequent) wearing of fresh clean garments, the (cosmic) cloak of the Shekhinah, in order to receive the "Sabbath soul" identifies this "bridal attendant" (shoshevin) not only with the Holy One but with the regal Bride herself (ibid., pp. 231-43). Generally addressed as a "King" by the earlier Rabbinic tradition, the androgynous Sabbath is seated upon His Throne of Glory through (Heikhalot) language that not only equates their wedding with enthronement but goes so far as to suggest that "He" is only She in disguise (ibid., pp. 101-21, 167-9; LHH, pp. 211-4). The Alliance (through circumcision) is itself assimilated not only to the (vagina of the) wife (Malkhut) but to the whole body of the Tsaddik (Yesod) transforming him into the living embodiment of the linga-in-the-yoni (Bahir 82, 168). The royal "Son" (Tiferet) is only the vertical copula W (Vav) that unites the "Daughter" H (H�) with the "paternal" seed Y (Yod) in the womb of the "Mother" (Ginsburg, pp. 30, 158 n. 126; Bahir 54). The specificity of unity through union in Judaism is thus defined by the dialectical tension between these two conflicting exigencies: the universalizing political sovereignty under the historical banner of the one invisible yet "masculine" YHWH (Sperling, pp. 28-9; HG, pp. 21-3) and the sexual polarization, even "maternalization," permanently encoded into his very Name.

shema and bi-unity of God

Just as Indra's annual victory over the demonized Asuras was embodied in the erection of his phallic banner (dhvaja), Israel's triumph over the gentile Nations in the danger-fraught contest of the New Year is confirmed by their emergence from the world-court bearing lulabs in their hands (MT pp. 38-39). Unlike the overt sexual polarization of the Tantric unity into Siva and Sakti, iconographically represented and worshipped not only as the linga-in-the-yoni but also as a married couple, the bi-unity of God--of YHWH and ADONAY in YAHDONHY--is shorn off its feminine dimension at the theological level (MJ, p. 192) even in the context of sexual union. It is through the mediation of the figure of the twins--as constituting the perfect unity of the male-female couple--that the androgynity of God, the Father, is discreetly revealed. Though the sexual polarity of YHWH, corresponding to the male attribute of Mercy, and of Elohim, corresponding to the female attribute of Judgement, is not too explicit in the patriarchal and monotheistic Jewish context, (the declaration of) their unity (shema) on the cosmogonic Sabbath nevertheless provides the archetype for the sexual union of the Jewish couple on the terrestrial Sabbath. The loud proclamation of the Shema with respect to Him alone is, at most, correlated to the union of the upper sefirot, Hokhmah and Binah, whereas the Shekhinah's rightful share of this Unity--the full evocation of the feminine in the lower union of Tiferet and Malkhut--is conceded only through the following formula enunciated in a low voice. It is only when both formulas are equated, as necessarily implied in the practice of conjugal union to effectively realize the supernal union, that the esoteric conception of the divine Unity as the union of a sexed couple fully emerges. What is particularly striking is that the image of the twins is now replaced--given the universal equivalence between food and sex--by the union of the King with his daughter, the incestuous nature of this conception of the divinity being implicitly recognized by the loud proclamation of the Shekhinah's claim on the day of Kippur alone. This "Day of Atonement" wherein so many other fundamental taboos of Judaism--beginning with the utterance of God's Name--are temporarily lifted, could just as well be understood as the "Day of Transgression," the most sanctified in the Jewish calendar. The dilemma of the king's daughter unable to reveal nor conceal her secret desire before her father epitomizes the whole problem of the relation between transgression and symbolism. The choice of imagery would suggest that Kabbalistic union, even when restricted to the conjugal pair, is symbolically--that is, in essence--an incestuous one.

transgressive sexuality

In archaic religion--as in the Vedic myth of Yama (Death) and Yam� whose names are derived from the same root 'yam-' from which y�mala is also derived--twins are symbolically linked to transgression in general and to incest in particular. Though each of Jacob's children had his own twin for companion, they are taken to be symbols of perfection and incest itself is supposedly so sacred that--in the normal Kabbalistic context--it is permitted only above and not here below. But since the whole aim of the ritual is to sacralize the sex act, to make what is below as above, should not the logical requirement, at least the most radical option, be incestuous union? Or to put the question differently, why should the sacred be defined in opposition to the profane norm, unless the principle of transgression was at the very heart of the sacred? True, the Jewish ritual is practiced in the context of normal sex between husband and wife and primarily for the socially desirable aim of producing progeny, whereas the Hindu ritual is considered especially effective in the context of illicit, particularly incestuous, intercourse and has spiritual realization for its primary goal. Yet this difference is deceptive for, on the one hand, a child (yogin�bh�) born of the extra-marital or incestuous Kaula union was considered exceptionally endowed and, on the other hand, within Hindu Tantrism we also find moderate "right-hand" currents that sought to adapt the same techniques to a socially conformist mentality while still retaining much of the symbolic superstructure. Though proscribed by Abhinava, the wife is prescribed as sexual partner by less radical currents which also provide innocuous substitutes for the forbidden ingredients. In the Shekhinah as the tenth sefirah, Malkhut, "all the interdictions of the Torah have their foundation (...) and it is for this reason that women are also bound by the respect for these interdictions, for they originate from the same source." Yet, incestuous symbolism is intrinsic to Malkhut who, as the Matronit, is simultaneously bride, sister, daughter and mother (MJ, pp. 171), and Scholem speaks of "a marriage with a maternal sophia whose mystic virginity is being perpetually renewed. Thus the sophia truly assumes here the form of virgin bride and mother" (MJ, p. 155), which is precisely the image of the Hindu Goddess (HG, pp. 157-85). The "virginity" of the (fertile) mother and the "maternity" of the (barren) courtesan (amb� = "mother") both ultimately express the idea that the real birth is that of the adept himself from the ever unadulterated womb of Consciousness. This "secret of the constellation Virgo...the constellation of Israel," is revealed even through the anti-Christian facade of the Sefer ha-Meshiv, which identifies the birth of the "bastard" Messiah ben Joseph (Jesus) from the "adulterous Asherah" (Mary) with the "birth" of the Messiah (ben David) from the all-devouring vaginal fire of the virgin Shekhinah.

Sabbath, incest

The "awesome mystery" underlying the stringent Kabbalistic rule which prohibits cohabitation prior to midnight: whereas at other times the "impatient" Small Face (the Son) is engaged in intercourse with the lower aspect (the Daughter) of the Shekhinah called Leah, after the Sabbath midnight he copulates instead with her higher aspect (Binah, the Mother) as Rachel (HG, pp. 266-8). "The Shekhinah in the state of union continues to be named the mother, and in the state of separation, the wife.... now that she is in exile she is only called the 'father's wife'" (MJ, p. 192; citing Zohar III.75a). The celebration by the Safed Kabbalists of the arrival of the "Bride" in the Lekha Dodi--the Sabbath song which was universally accepted later, and is sung to this day in every synagogue on Friday evening--was followed on the return home from the synagogue on the Sabbath eve by "mystical" homage to the physical mother. The hymn to the matron is followed by the "mystery of the meal" in which the Shekhinah is invoked to partake with her "small-faced" Bridegroom and the "Ancient Holy One." Whereas the male is apparently split into two, both daughter and mother, as indicated by the doubling of the single letter H in YHWH, are represented by the Shekhinah alone, who is incarnated in the Jewish housewife, the Matronit. The Tantric ritual jealously reserved for adepts intent on inwardly annihilating their psycho-social identity and the Jewish ritual recommended to all pious couples as an almost civic duty, both incorporate a transgressive symbolism based on the (inverted) formula: "the ascent is for the sake of the descent" (Ginsburg, p. 199). The purifying ascent which is supported by the prohibitions of the Torah is to be ideally followed by a sort of "descending realization" whereby the adept plunges into the depths of impurity: "In the Lurianic exercise of kavannah, the conclusion of the morning prayer, in which the devotee originally threw himself on the ground, involved a mortal peril. Once the devotee has risen to the highest height and knows himself to be encompassed in the divine name, which he has 'unified,' he is supposed to leap into the abyss of the 'other side,' in order, like a diver, to bring up sparks of holiness, there held in exile." For the transgressive Sabbataians this "redescent" entailed the messianic abrogation of the legal framework of rabbinical Judaism whose understanding of the "oral Torah" merely reflects the conditions of the Exile (galuth). Zohar II.135 figuratively assimilates Israel's love for the Lord's Shekhinah to human adultery, and it is precisely such passages that were later used by the antinomian Sabbataians to legitimize their own orgiastic practices of ritual union which included not only the exchange of wives--as in the Tantric "circular worship" (cakra-p�j�)--but also incest (MJ, p. 190, n. 79). The Kaula assimilation of the d�t� to the legitimate and indispensable wife of the Vedic sacrificer is justified precisely by the incestuous symbolism encoded into the sacrifice and the twin fire-sticks.

Theurgy and the Birth of the God-Man:
the Politics of Unity

transcendent consciousness and the language of theurgy:
the unity of God

Though sexual union is sacralized in both the Kabbalistic and the Tantric traditions as the means of achieving unity, and despite the striking convergences in the sacrificial paradigms, in the underlying "physiologies," in the corresponding representations of the divine bi-unity and even in the transgressive symbolism, it cannot be overlooked that, on the theological level, their understandings of unity are diametrically opposed. Biblical monotheism not only insists on the uniqueness of God but also underlines His radical separation from man and the world, later philosophically formulated even in terms of creation ex nihilo. The rabbinical gulf between Creator and creature is well retained in the tzimtzum of Kabbalistic "panentheism," whereby God contracts (his light into) Himself before projecting (only) a part or reflection of Himself into the Void left by His absence. Though the world and man partake of the inner life of God, the latter still retains His transcendence as the hidden Ein-Sof. But because the stages of intra-divine emanation also exist within man in the form of the ten sefirot, the Kabbalists could even see themselves as actually restoring the One otherwise fragmented in the very process of creation. Kabbalistic "theurgy" thus remains focused on reintegrating multiplicity back into the ineffable Name, a "linguistic" entity that in some respects resembles the archaic brahman of the Vedas more than it does the liberated yogic consciousness represented by the Hindu gods of the totality like Siva. Consciousness could legitimately be raised to a key soteriological category only in a philosophical culture where the mediation of society is no longer indispensable for the meeting of the individual and the divine, and this is precisely the case in Hinduism where the paradigm of the perfected (siddha) individual stems from the world renouncer who has cut his ties with his own community. This is evident in the Trika elevation of Siva, the archetype of the lone ascetic, or Bhairava, the outcaste god of transgression, to the most tangible mythical symbols of that supreme undifferentiated Consciousness. YHWH too manifested himself, like Bhairava, as an all-devouring Fire that consumed the sacrificial offerings of animal fat on the altar (Lev 9:23-24, cf. Isa 33:14, Deut 4:24, I Kings 18:38, etc.) and his first creation was Light, which continued to emanate from the Ark in the Holy of the Holies to illuminate the whole universe (MT pp. 84-5). Yet the theosophical Kabbala--preoccupied as it was with defending the (esoteric) necessity of observing the commandments against the rationalizations of the philosophers--never succumbed to the Trika option of reducing the fiery luminosity of the Absolute to a supreme mode of (individual) consciousness. The Vedic "Word" (brahman) could easily become the transcendental Ved�ntic Self (�tman) for the brahmin renunciate before it was assimilated to the immanent Trika Consciousness (cit) by the Kaula householder. Whereas the Trika valorization of the phenomenal world as the real content of Consciousness still reacts against, reflects and hence concedes the "ascending" ideal of "liberation" (moksa), the transcendence of YHWH has had the paradoxical effect of guaranteeing the fundamental this-worldliness of a "god-fearing" Israel. Despite all the risks involved in the ascents of the Merkabah--which Abulafia took as a model for his ecstatic Kabbala--and the cleaving to God (devekut) of the Hassidim, the "Christian" itinerary of interiorization was barred from the outset for YHWH. If the one universal God insists on hiding Himself behind his signature on the Covenant, this is only because the autonomy (sv�tantrya) of Consciousness--so central to the adepts of the Trika--must above all find expression in the realm of political sovereignty for all peoples.

Tantra versus Kabbala

Without reducing these soteriologies to mere social ideologies, we may recognize the contrast between their enveloping cultural projects. "Even in its present form, the covenant tradition of the chapter [Joshua 24] reveals that Israel, a new group allied with Yahweh, came into existence in Canaan. The theological construct of a covenant with Yahweh was a means of expressing the mundane fact of political union. Through covenant to Yahweh and to each other, diverse groups became Israel, which then began to describe itself as a kinship group unrelated to Canaan. It was only natural after that to find common blood ancestors. In the course of time as Israel coalesced, opposition grew to the continuing inclusion of new members. Covenants with them were forbidden (Exod 23:32), and early traditions were reworked to distinguish sharply between Israel and Canaan.... At the time of Israel's formation, the exclusive worship of Yahweh unified various groups who sought independence and autonomy. Yahwism served as a kind of political banner for those whose concerns were primarily with warfare" (Sperling, pp. 26-7). The obligation of intercourse on the Sabbath, the proclamation of Unity (shema israel), the paradigmatic Temple sacrifice, the exegesis of Genesis 2:3-4 and other Biblical passages, in short, the very infra-structure of the spiritualized union was directly inherited from the larger "legalistic" tradition of rabbinism, which was merely reinterpreted, amplified and preserved by the Kabbala (Ginsburg, 187-90, 206). Tantrism with its own authoritative scriptures and frame of reference constituted, on the contrary, an institutionalized parallel, alternate and even counter-tradition to the nominally central but, in practice, marginalized Vedic revelation. Whereas Tantrism bracketed aside purity and caste in order to address non-brahmins including outcastes, with some of its more radical forms even tailored for the latter, Kabbala reinforced the cohesion and survival of the socio-religious community at the mercy of a hostile environment by providing the orthodox Jew a soteriological foundation for observing the law. Radical tantrism can be understood as the extrapolation of a pre-existing brahminical ideology of transgression so as to open up the dominant Vedic tradition to a process of accelerated acculturation. This is perhaps most strikingly underlined through the acceptance by the Trika brahmins of an outsider, even tribal, deity like the lowly Bhairava to embody that same Otherness which YHWH conveys for the exclusivist Jew. As far as sexual politics is concerned, the Kabbalistic eugenics of conjugal union aimed at multiplying the Jewish community in the image of YHWH, whereas the radical brahmin Tantric had a predilection for union with low-caste women, which could have at most issued in "mixed" castes. Tantric violations of orthodox norms, which could even take on an ostentatious public character in organized ascetic currents like the K�p�lika and the P�supata, were the means to, or an effect of, the de-socializing of the individual consciousness. The paramount mediating role of the community is evidenced by the "heterodox" and more so the "apostate" Sabbataians still attributing an eschatological (tikkun) significance even to their ritual violations of fundamental Jewish laws like the incest barrier. It was only at the risk of "hastening the end" that the "catholic" Frankists, who anticipated a female Messiah whom they even identified with the Virgin (Messianic Idea, pp. 125, 132), could encourage Daughter Zion to go awhoring (MT, p. 227). The unity of God is so inseparably linked to the unity of the socio-historic community, that even those Kabbalists who resorted to a transgressive mode of sacrality had to necessarily employ the future tense of a universalizing Messianism.

Sabbatianism: transgressive sacrality

Patai (HG, pp. 124-5) suggests that the "light-headed" mingling (qaluth rosh) of men and women during the "Joy of the House of Water-Drawing" may have been occasioned by the sight of the two cherubim in the sanctuary and was in fact an euphemism for an orgiastic outburst of sexual license, such as had earlier greeted YHWH when he was exposed by Aaron in the form of the Golden Calf. Just as the women were subsequently confined to special galleries around the three sides of the Temple courtyard, the violent and promiscuous scramble for the lulabs led to the legal decree "that on the Sabbath each one should use his lulab only at home" (MT, pp. 26-7). The equation of the study of the Torah, the observance of the commandments, and the reading of the shema--insofar as they are means of reuniting the "two cherubim" Tiferet and Malkhut--with Kabbalistic copulation, makes no sense except from a semiotic perspective wherein the commandments are no longer merely universal moral "judgements" (mishpatim) but ritual "decrees" (huqqim) which are part of a larger symbolic system, the key to whose unity would be hidden in an esoteric understanding of the Torah. Adopted by the Sabbatians to justify their ritual transgressions against rabbinical Judaism, the paradoxical Talmudic dictum, that "the annulment of the Torah is its fulfillment" (Talmud Menahot 99b), is itself based on a symbolic understanding of the orthodox injunctions and interdictions deriving from the Tree of Good and Evil, that unveils this outer garment of the Shekhinah (God's indwelling in the community of Israel) in order to realize its original and still essential identity with the natural freedom of the Tree of Life. The Sabbataian exegesis of these "books which defile the hands," beginning with the Pentateuch itself, would thus imply that even the strict observance of the commandments (mitzvot) is caught up in a constituent dialectic which culminates in their systematic transgression. The Sabbath itself was understood by the Sabbataians as the cosmogonic day of transgression so much so that the Messianic age, when all the laws would be abrogated, would be a perpetual Sabbath (Binah). Whereas the Rabbinic tradition celebrated the Sabbath to recall particularly the Exodus from Egypt and the Giving of the Torah, the Kabbalists commemorate the Creation and foreshadow the World-to-Come which they seek to make effectively present (Ginsburg, pp. 60, 65, 72, 94-100). Had it not been for Israel's acceptance of the commandments on Mount Sinai--which coincided with the establishment of the Stone of the Foundation--the whole earth would have dissolved back into the primeval waters of the void, Tohu (MT, pp. 55-8, 86, 155). The (bi-) unity of God on the post-cosmogonic Sabbath--the "coupling of the waters" which is the ultimate aim of the shema--reflects within the order of Creation the pre-cosmogonic chaos before the imposition of the Law. The role of transgression in acceding to the origin and end of creation is perhaps best symbolized by the two Talmudic words "living throughout 2,000 years of Jewish tradition: 'the freedom of the tablets' of the Law and the 'broken tablets,' which still lie together with the holy tablets in the Ark of the Covenant."

symbolism and iconoclasm

It is the Absolute "I am that I am"--whether the ineffable Name of the Kabbalist or the supreme Egoity of Abhinavagupta--which is effectively realizing its own unification through the mediation of the human couple. The total dependence of the "transcendent" King of monotheism on the Kabbalist--with his esoteric understanding of the Shema, the Torah and the mitzvot--for His effective existence, certainly implies that YHWH is ultimately the reification of a unified state of consciousness, like that achieved in the kula-y�ga. The fundamental issue is thus not so much the relative status of the unio mystica in either tradition but rather the Indian emphasis on "individual" salvation as opposed to the fundamental Jewish commitment to "national" autonomy. The formulation of this political ideal in terms of an uncompromising monotheism had as its logical corollary the prophetic ban on idolatry which was punishable by death. The opposition between the sacralization of nature in polytheistic non-dualism and the unredeemed political world of monotheistic iconoclasm is already inherent in the materiality of symbols. The necessity of somehow preserving this inner experience of unification for posterity through a minimum use of cultic symbols without however allowing them to regress into idolatry would thus define the "inner conflict" specific to the Jewish tradition. On the one hand, the Temple constitutes the whole focus of religious aspirations even after its (repeated) destruction and the end of the sacrificial cult (Levenson, pp. 32-61) and, on the other hand, the rabbinical project of "a community that would live as if it were always in the Temple sanctuary" conveys the equally compelling idea that it is an outmoded institution. Maimonides subsequently interprets the sacrifice as a mere concession to our inherent paganism and already Solomon's dedication speech on the use of the Temple (1 Kgs 8:12-53) "never once mentions the most frequent and obvious function of the Temple, to serve as a place for sacrifice!" (Levenson, p. 57). After all, it was from the Holy of the Holies, from the very womb of the Temple, that there emerged the "Genius of Idolatry," which was Wickedness itself (HG, pp. 24-5). The Sabbath, which "gradually supplanted the Temple as the central unifying religious symbol of the Jewish People" by transposing its sacred space onto the weekly cycle of domestic life, is defined by the prohibition of precisely those thirty-nine categories of work (mela'khah) required to (re-) build the Tabernacle (Ginsburg, pp. 62-4, 74-93). Relegated to its relatively abrupt beginning and drawn-out end, the "liminality" of rituals like the lighting of fire which symbolically identify the Sabbath with the Temple suggests that even they are only a provisory expedient aiming at the eventual transformation of the whole weekly cycle into a perpetual Sabbath (Ginsburg, pp. 210-1, 276). The real focus of Judaism was hence never so much the external sacrifice but the promise of the universal, uninterrupted and direct accessibility of the inner experience encoded within it.

Despite its radical response to the crisis of Judaism by underlining the human sacrifice at the core of the Temple and postponing the political ideal till the second coming of the Messiah, Christian imperialism has served, in its own way, to generalize this internalization of the "final" sacrifice even among the pagans. The polarization of the Hebrew Bible between the "conditional" covenant of the "proletarian" Mosaic confederacy with its portable sanctuary and the "unconditional" covenant of the "landed" Davidic monarchy built around the "permanent" Temple, would ultimately reflect the common project of transforming every Jew into a "king" in the sense of being (no more than) the ideal sacrificer. "A chief paradox of biblical tradition rests in the fact that, whereas the monarchy symbolized the unity and sovereignty of Israel among the nations, the actual exercise of monarchic power entailed Israel's descent back to a condition resembling the Egyptian servitude.... The institutional contradictions of Israel are in a sense the personal heritage of every Israelite. In this manner, political history is a domain of spiritual lore" (Rosenberg, pp. 104-5). The telos of God's relationship with Israel--the symbolic identification of (the Revelation of the Law at) Mount Sinai with (the edification of the Jerusalem Temple in) the Promised Land (Levenson, pp. 34-7, 53-57, 60 n. 32)--seems to converge rather in the claim to individual sovereignty and world citizenship. The Pharisaic tentative to bring the Temple into every home was transformed, after its destruction, into the even more ambitious Rabbinical project of making every Jew a priest, a sage and a son of David. By internally re-enacting the sacrifice within the weekly duty of conjugal union, the Kabbalists have simply drawn the logical consequence of transforming the body itself into the House of YHWH and grieving Mother Zion into the virgin womb, in which her children are (yet to be re-) born (cf. MT, pp. 220-33). The embryogonic "mystery" of the archaic sacrifice of the Red Heifer, in whom the transgressive Sabbataians recognized the secret of the Messiah himself, is not only shared by Christianity and Islam; it was already present in the "barren" Vedic cow offered to the priestly Mitra-Varuna and has continued in the rituals of African kingship (see note below). The destruction of the Temple thus shattered the unity of YHWH and dispersed the collectivity of Israel only in order to weave together the unity of all the Nations in His Name (Messianic Idea, 121-3). The classical Hebrew prophets, who were "divinely inspired interpreters of reality from a covenantal perspective," did not spare the kings, nor even the priests, and much less their own nation, when the latter fell prey to false gods who sought to subvert the historical realization of the Mosaic blueprint. Even Moses' bronze serpent, which must have had far deeper significance than that of a mere "healing cult," was removed from the Temple and destroyed in the reign of King Hezekiah. Whereas exilic Judaism had become increasingly preoccupied with the preservation of its traditional identity, the iconoclastic egalitarianism of Biblical monotheism has since returned with an Islamic vengeance to level not only the last pantheon of polytheism in Hindu India but also the politico-economic hierarchies of the old world order. Today, it is no longer the divine Pharaoh but the secular totalitarian state that enslaves, Mammon has enshrined his insatiable appetite for human sacrifices in the fetishism of the world stock-exchange, and the "return to Zion" has become the intransigent nationalization of a "Greater Israel" that had once been a "great liberation" promised to all (Ginsburg, pp. 96, 99). At the same time, the now transparent images of paganism are yielding before our eyes those very secrets they had reserved of yore for rare god-men like Abhinavagupta. Indeed, this encounter with the yogin�bh� of the kula-y�ga suggests that YHWH is no more than the long illegible signature for a unified state of consciousness that is the messianic birthright of not only every Jew but of every human being.

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