Self and Self-Transformation, 4-5

I. Alternative Oikonomies of the Self






Body Made of Words

Charles Malamoud



Paradoxes of Immortality

Wai-yee Li



Transformations of Subjectivity

Wendy Doniger



Madness and Divinization

Guy G. Strousma



4. (pp. 57-72) Wendy Doniger : "Transformations of Subjectivity and of Memory in the Maha-bharata and in the Rama-ayan.a".

pp. 59, 67 'hare-dotted'; Big-reed

p. 59 Ila's "son is named S`as`abindu, "Hare-marked,"" {the dots on the hare referring perhaps to its forehead, the site of the "horns of a hare".}

[supra, p. 52, n. 4 : "carp have ... red dots on their foreheads."]

[supra, p. 32 : "his carp state is described as "dream among the reeds.""]

p. 67 Arjuna's "assumed name is ... "Big-reed," Br.hannad.a".

p. 58 Ila had attendants until they were "transformed into centaurs" (Kid-purus.a-s).

{Pholos the Kentauros was son of Seilenos (GM 126.b).}

p. 59 Ila's kingdom was Pratis.t.hana ('Foundation'). {<ibri 'foundation' /ydo^d/ is derived from /so^d / 'secret'.}

{cf. the red of gold's colloidal suspension, with Midas' golden touch.}

{cf. the dream of Seilenos in the flower-garden of Midas.}

{cf. the reeds whereto Midas whispered his his "secret" (GM 83.g)}.

GM = Robert Graves : The Greek Myths. 1955.

pp. 59, 62-3, 69 gendre-reversal via mirror-image / reflection {cf. left-right differences in symbolic attributions to gendres generall (in various cultural milieu)}

p. 59

"Ila says that her form is "unrivaled by any copy" (pratima, a reflected image) ...; and their child [Pururavas] is said ... to "seem to be of the same class or kind" (savarn.a). {cf. Savarn.ika future Manu-s} When Ila does not recognize himself after he has been restored to his primary form as a man, he is said to be someone whose power of recognition (samjn~a) {cf. goddess named "Samjn~a"}; as a woman, in his secondary form, she is not himself, but only his (female) ... inverted mirror image (pratima)."

p. 62

"One day a great monkey named R.ks.araja {'Ursine King'} saw the reflection of his own face in a lake. ... he plunged into the water, but when he came out of the water he was a beautiful woman. The gods Indra and Surya ... desired her ... . Indra shed his seed on her head ...; but ... she gave birth to ... [a son]; and

because the seed had fallen on her hair

{Goddess Athene, onto whose body semen had been ejaculated (GM 25.b), protected the grandson of Arkesias ('ursine').}

p. 63

[vala], he was named Valin.

{In Skt, /vala/ hath the meaning 'cave' : cf., perhaps, (in Ithake) the Cave of the Numphai for storage of Phaiakian gifts.}

The seed of Surya ... was sprinkled

{"Sprinkle' is (in <arabi) /T.ALa/ (also menaing 'to eLONGate') : cf. Skt /veTALa/ 'ghoul'.} {God Surya is also named /Ravi/.}

on her neck; and he said not a good word {like the various keepers of silence, supra pp. 46-7} ...; Sugriva was born from the semen that had fallen on her neck [griva]."

{The name /RAVi/ may be cognate with the name of /R<U^/ the father of /S`rug/, from (<arabi) /s`araj/ 'loop, RING, eyelet' [cf. passage through the eyelet of a needle by the LONG-necked camel? -- a camel was said to have transported the RING-shaped foreshin of Christ to its shrine in France the reign of Charlemagne].}

He [R.ks.a-raja 'Bear-king'] suckled them with honey".

{[In <ibri^,] /DoB/ 'bear' is source of the word /DBas^/ 'honey'.}

p. 69

Similar to gendre-partition via mirror-image is, e.g., "the prince who married his own left half" [Doniger 1999].

Doniger 1999 = Wendy Doniger : Splitting the Difference. Chicago.

ghosts, beans, & bears

Budha was begotten when his own mother was abducted and raped. The name /BUDHa/ is cognate with that of /PUTH-agoras/, who instituted the prohibition against eating beans, on account of beans' being sacred to ghosts.

[infra, p. 81] Sumeon of Emesa was "eating beans like a bear".

{The word /bean/ (< */BaUN/) is cognate with the Siberian name /BUNi/ of the realm for ghosts of the dead.}

{Ghost-god Bhava is famed for his semen's flowing out from the vagina of his ghost-wife BhaVaNi to form the netherworld river Hat.aki of luminous nuggets (like a ghost shining in the dark) sacred to hat.ha ('violence' -- alluding to forcible rape?) yoga).}

[infra, p. 81] Sumeon of Emesa "skips dances in the middle of the whole circus." {This is similar to the behaviour of a trained bear, intended to simulate the pirouetting pole-star.}

{The word /bean/ (< */BaUN/) may also be cognate with Latin /Faunus/, who "was further identified with Inuus" (OCD, s.v. "Faunus", who (according to the Saturnalia) pirouetteth.}

OCD = The Oxford Classical Dictionary.

pp. 59-61 unconventional sexual behaviour

p. 59

p. 60

"Budha is in effect ... engaging in what Hindu law classifies as the "marriage of a ghoul," which "takes place when a man secretly has sex with a girl who is ... out of her mind."" [Laws of Manu 3.34]

{The <arabi word /GuL/ is perhaps cognate with the Samskr.ta name (as, on p. 61) /ELa/.}

p. 61

"the sages came to see ... Parvati was naked, and when she saw him she became ashamed" [O'Flaherty 1973, pp. 304-5].

[cf. infra, p. 80 "He ... enters the women's baths ... (whence the women, of course, ... kick him out)."]

O'Flaherty 1973 = Wendy O'Flaherty : S`iva : the erotic ascetic. London.

p. 62 Muladeva ('Rooted Deity')

"A man named S`as`in, a friend of the great trickster and magician Muladeva, was in love with a princess who was closely guarded in a harim. Muladeva gave S`as`in a pill ... which turned him into a woman so that he could gain access to the harim. ... Once inside the harim, S`as`in ... became a man, and made love to his princess. ... Eventually, Muladeva married the princess secretly, while S`as`in married her officially." [KSS 89 (12:15)]

{Shellfish shift their sexual gendre annually. Of them, bivalves tend to be rooted in place.}

KSS = Katha-Sarit-Sagara ('Story-River-Ocean')

p. 63 heroine was to become a hero

The heroine Amba was imprecated "to become a crooked river ... teeming with crocodiles. Amba did become a river, but only with one half of her body;" with the other 1/2 of her body she sought to "become a man" [Maha-bharata 5:170-87].

{Crocodiles are of indeterminate gendre when begotten; they opt to become of a specific gendre whilst they are being incubated as embryoes within eggs.}

{The word /amba/ hath also the signification of 'waterlily' : the 'waterlily' (imix) hieroglyph is the Maya grapheme aequivalent to the Aztec day-sign 'Crocodile'.}

pp. 64, 68 exchange of sexual gendres

p. 64

"When Drupada's daughter, S`ikhan.d.ini, ... met a goblin named Sthun.a ("Pillar") ... The goblin said that he would give her his own sign of manhood [pum-linga] ...; meanwhile, he would wear her sign of womanhood [stri-linga]. They made this agreement and exchanged sexual organs." [Maha-bharata 5:188-93]

p. 68

"in one Hindu myth, the soul of a yogi enters the body of a whore, and her soul enters his body; the resulting ... is the subject of a Sanskrit farce (the Bhagavadajjukiyam), in which the whore thinks and acts like a yogi, and vice versa."

p. 64 gendre-shifter as "shield"

The female, S`ikhan.d.ini, became a male, S` : S` was "to remain male until S`'s death" [Maha-bharata 5:188-93]. "Then Arjuna and the rest of the Pan.d.avas used S` as a shield" [Maha-bharata 6:112.80].

{One type of univalve shellfish (the conch) is able (after its death) to have its shell serve as a house, and as armor-shield, for the hermit crab.}


5. (pp. 73-88) Guy G. Strousma : "Madness and Divinization in Early Christian Monasticism".

pp. 78-82 hagios Sumeon of Emesa (H.oms)

p. 78

Euagrios Skholastikos [Hist. Ekkl. IV.34] (in the 6th century) "tells us quite simply that Symeon was playing the fool in the agora, but that with his close friends he did not act any more."

Leontios of Neapolis (Limassol) wrote (in the 7th century) "the Life of Symeon the Fool", beginning the story with "two young Syrian pilgrims in Justinian's Jerusalem ... : John ... has left his young bride, and Symeon, his elderly mother. ... A dream reveals to them that both Symeon's mother

p. 79

and John's bride have died. ... Symeon ... "nearly exceeded the limits of human nature" ..., behaving at once like an angel and like a beast. After twenty-nine years of this regimen, Symeon ... will enter the world ..., mocking the world ... under his disguise as a laughing fool. ... Symeon begins his new life by spending three days in prayer at the Holy Sepulchre, asking that his virtue remain hidden from now on until his death, whether he cures ..., accomplishes miracles, prophesies ... . ... . ... he is an eccentric who does everything to attract attention ..., misbehaving in church, letting himself be accused as a rapist ... . ...

p. 80

He relieves himself in the open, walks naked, enters the women's baths as if "it did not matter at all" ... . ... The text gives us ... Symeon's clearly thought-out decision that saving people by going into the world could be achieved only incognito, or rather by hiding under the cloak of madness -- ... only he who lives like an angel can seek to live like a beast. ... Those who consider him mad are themselves prisoners of material reality {so-called}, unable to see truth. ... A somewhat similar story is found in Rabbinic literature : Rabbi Joshua be Levi accompanies Elijah ... . Elijah's behavior is perceived as odd, as its reasons remain misunderstood by everybody, including Rabbi Joshua. ...

As ascetics from the Judean desert come to Emesa to meet him, ...

p. 81

they ask him to bless them, saying : "Truly we have come to see a great sage (gnostikos) ... ." To which he answers : "... the one who sent you is an idiot." He ... gorges himself on Holy Thursday {a fast-day}. Moreover, he "skips and dances in the middle of the whole circus." He ... is seen flirting with prostitutes, dancing naked and whistling with them, and even being whipped by one of them. ... Symeon ... intends to save souls, by both his "strange deeds" ... and his puzzling words. ... Yet he is once seen conversing with two angels at the baths. ... Those who believe in his miraculous power are healed ..., while the others he calls "idiots." ... "Fool," salos, has become ... his nickname, to the extent that people invoke for help "the God of the Fool." ...

At his death, too, the angels will be called to take part in his funeral. As two men were carrying his body slently to the plot of land reserved for foreigners,

p. 82

the converted Jewish glassblower heard "psalm singing, music such as human lips could not sing ... ." ... the angels themselves had come down from heaven to sing for him. ... When John searched for the body of his friend, he could not find it in the grave, "for the Lord had ... translated him." As had the bodies of Enoch, Mary, and Christ himself, Symeon's body had reached heaven."

pp. 82-3 H.assidic & S.ufi sainhood

p. 82

" "Descending in order to climb :" a major stance in H[.]assidism associated with the Ba<al Shem T[.]ov." [Scholem 1971, p. 219]

{cf. (in the Qabbalah) "descent" to the Merkabah}

"The Malamatia saints in medieval Islam offer a very striking parallel." [Dols 1992, pp. 366 sqq] ... The H[.]assidic movement in the late eighteenth century is certainly another movement on whose origins ... Christian ...

p. 83

influences ... probably originate in Orthodox monasteries in the Carpathians, ... close to ... the Moldavian staretz Paissij Velitchkovskij. ... Ba<al Shem-T[.]ov, the founder of the movement, is often considered to be a madman. So is Rabbi Nah[.]man of Bratslav, whom the sources present as ... close to madness, shaken by involuntary convulsions and behaving ... like a madman" [Cunz 1997].

Scholem 1971 = Gershom Scholem : The Messianic Idea in Judaism. NY.

Dols 1992 = M. W. Dols : Majnun : the madman in medieval Islamic society. Oxford.

Cunz 1997 = M. Cunz : Die Fahrt des Rabbi Nahman ... . Tu:bingen.

pp. 83-4 mockery & laughter

p. 83

p. 84

"it was Simon of Cyrene who bore the cross on his shoulder and the crown of thorns on hi head, while Christ, from heaven, was laughing at the ignorance of those who did not realize what was happening. This ..., reported by Irenaeus [Adv. Haer. I.24.4] in the name of Basilides, is repeated in the Second Treatise of the Great Seth" [Cairoensis Gnosticus VII.55.9-56.19]."

"the shocking behavior of the salos was meant to poke fun at the world, empaizen toi kosmoi." [Krueger 1996]

p. 84 In "monasteries around Chenoboskion ... it is ... probable, that some Egyptian monks were fond readers of the Gnostic texts. ... for such monks, the declared stance of the Gnostics as aliens in a threatening world that must be fooled and fought through ruse was perceived as a model for their own behavior".

Krueger 1996 = D. Krueger : Symeon the Holy Fool. Berkeley.


David Shulman & Guy G. Strousma : Self and Self-Transformation in the History of Religions. Oxford U Pr, 2002.