Rabbi John said: to bring together a true couple from among mankind is more difficult than Moses’ miracle in parting the Red Sea.
So says the rather odd Mr. Egyolk, a Russian Hasidic Jew, in Gustav Meyrink‘s The Green Face. One of the subplots in the book involves a group of Christian mystics, in which Mr. Egyolk nevertheless plays a role. In some ways they are similar to Pentecostals with their ecstatic trances; one character even goes down and barks like a dog!
Curiously, each member of the group takes on the name of some Biblical character: Abraham, Gabriel, King Balthasar, Mary Magdalene, and so on. This is reminiscent of Guenon’s point that such figures are not simply individual historical or mythic characters. Rather, they represent prototypes, exemplars of certain characteristics. In particular, Mr. Egyolk’s prototype is “Simon, the cross bearer”, i.e., the Simon who carried Christ’s cross for a spell along the Via Dolorosa. Hence, we anticipate that Mr. Egyolk will take onto himself the burdens of someone else.
A fascinating, and discomforting, contrast is the one between Mr. Egyolk and Dr. Sephardi. Both Jews, there is nevertheless no possibility of full understanding between them. Dr. Sephardi is a scholar, very erudite, rational, with his theories of religion and spiritual evolution. Mr. Egyolk, on the other hand, actually has had a real conversion of some sort, and experienced directly a spiritual intuition. He describes his conversion as the reversal of the positions of his head and his heart. Because of this, he does not think, but rather “sees”; and when he does think, it is very detached, without any feeling.
Dr. Sephardi understands that Mr. Egyolk has experienced what he had only theorized or read about; nevertheless, he does not envy Mr. Egyolk and is glad not to be like that. Mr. Egyolk claims to be instructed by Elijah, whose presence is always with him. Curious, Dr. Sephardi presses him to describe exactly what he means by that: does he see Elijah? does Elijah speak to him, and so on. Denying that he sees or hears Elijah, Mr. Egyolk provides a totally unexpected explanation.
You cannot understand it by reason, Dr. Sephardi. When you’re happy, is happiness there with you? Yes, of course it is. But you can’t see or hear your happiness. That is what it’s like.
Dr. Sephardi began to question his whole life, which was devoted to the study of religion. “Now it seemed to him that there was much that he had overlooked, and that he had missed the most important part.”
To return to the opening quote, Dr. Sephardi was stung on hearing it, because it reminded him of Eva, whom he apparently had design on, although she decided to be with another. Obviously, the name is significant. Meyrink understands the Biblical narrative, from Adam to Christ, as the story of the primordial state, its loss, and its fulfillment. The original true couple was Adam and Eve. Eve was Adam’s perfect help meet, without which creation was incomplete. Symbolically, they are one, since Eve is a genetic duplicate of Adam, other than taking two of his X chromosomes. In them, all the possibilities of the race descending from Adam are embodied. Remember that Rene Guenon claimed that Deliverance, or the Supreme Identity, means actualizing all the possibilities of the Being. Hence, we can understand the Spiritual Marriage as the means to actualizing those possibilities. The sole remaining question is whether we understand it like Dr. Sephardi, i.e., by reading about it, or rather like Mr. Egyolk, by experiencing it.