Freemasonry and Judaism - Leon de Poncins

The Jewish Race

"[Editor's note: This chapter discusses the 'Jewish soul' and is based mainly on Nomades, by Kadmi Cohen, a Polish Zionist. It was published in 1829 when intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews was rare.]

The Jews form a distinct race, a race which cannot be assimilated and with clearly marked physical and spiritual characteristics.

"When some Jews say that they consider themselves as a religious sect, like Roman Catholics or Protestants, they do not analyze correctly their own attitude and sentiments . . . Even if a Jew is baptized or, — that which is not necessarily the same thing, sincerely converted to Christianity, — it is rare if he is not still regarded as a Jew; his blood, his temperament and his spiritual particularities remain unchanged."

On the physical plane it is an obvious fact:

"The extraordinary, the absurd persistence of the Semitic race. And in the race the persistence of physical types: perfectly Westernized Jews sometimes preserve in their features a striking resemblance to the Arab bedouin from whom they are separated by a period of three thousand years.

"The permanency of certain tastes is moreover significant. Centuries of life among Slav and Nordic populations have not taken from the Jew his frenzy, his need of gesticulation. not even his immoderate love of the highly spiced foods of the Mediterranean.

These examples of stability, so surprising that one is obliged "to give to them the name of survival, are so numerous that they indeed comprise the whole of Arab life and the whole of Jewish life. . .

"There is in the destiny of the race, as in the Semitic character a fixity, a stability, an immortality which impress the mind. One might attempt to explain this fixity by the absence of mixed marriages, but where could one find the cause of this repulsion for the woman or man stranger to the race? Why this negative duration?

"There is consanguinity between the Gaul described by Julius Caesar and the modern Frenchman, between the German of Tacitus and the German of today. A considerable distance has been traversed between that chapter of the "Commentaries" and the plays of Moliere. But if the first is the bud the second is the full bloom.

"Life, movement, dissimilarities appear in the development. of characters, and their contemporary form is only the maturity of an organism which was young several centuries ago, and which, in several centuries will reach old age and disappear.

"There is nothing of this among the Semites. Like the consonants of their language they appear from the dawn of their race with a clearly defined character, in spare and needy forms, neither able to grow larger nor smaller, like a diamond which, can score other substances but is too hard to be marked by any.

"'I am what I am' says the Eternal. The Eternal — is the race. One in substance, one in time, constant, eternal".

On the mental side the Jewish character is as distinct as it is on the physical.

The writer whom we have just quoted, Kadmi Cohen, has recently published under the auspices of A. de Monzic, ex-French minister, a work entitled Nomades which is a remarkable essay on the Jewish soul. According to him the Jews are nomads and this fact explains their actual character:

"The unity of the Semitic conception finds a principal and absolute explanation in the nomadic character of the way of living of the Semites. A race of shepherds rather than of agriculturists they have been nomads. They have remained nomads. The mark is indelible like a cut on the trunk of a young tree, the trunk grows and develops, the mark grows longer and seems to alter its shape but it remains none the less recognizable.

"If nomadic life has been the principal guardian of the unity of the race, that is because it has preserved it from a too-prolonged contact with the Earth, from being too long established on the same soil."

"It should be particularly noted that the nomadic state, contrary to what happened among other peoples, has never had among the Semites a character of transition or of a passing phase which precedes and prepares the settled life: its source lies in the bottom of the Semitic heart. . . .

"That the nomadic life should alone have been sufficient to preserve the ethnical purity of the race is easily conceivable. The wandering life of a human group means its isolation, and in spite of its migrations from place to place, and indeed because of them, the tribe retains its individual nature.

"Thus the blood which runs in its veins has kept its original purity and the passage of centuries will only serve to strengthen the importance of the race: it is definitively the predominance of the jus sanguinis over the jus soli (citizen ship based on blood over citizenship based on territory).

The Semites and particularly the Jews, have furnished and still continue to furnish an historical and natural proof of this phenomenon. Nowhere has respect for blood been more fiercely enjoined . . .

"The history of this people, as it is related in the Bible, continually stresses the prohibition against marriage with strangers. And in our day just as it was thirty centuries ago, the vivacity of this racial exclusiveness is strengthened and can be measured by the rarity of mixed marriages between Jews and non-Jews.

"It is indeed in this exclusive love of race, this jealousy of race, one might say, that the profound meaning of Semitism is concentrated and in all appears its ideal expression. The race is an autonomous and homogeneous entity, which belongs to no territory, which does not accept the established laws of the countries where it dwells, and which energetically refuses the rich portions that might be brought to it by intermixture and crosses with other peoples. Without material support or external support it cares only for its unity. Its life is confined within itself and depends only on the vital power of its inward will, which pure and unalloyed, disdains and dismisses all contingencies of time and tide.

"It is the formidable value thus conferred upon the race which alone explains this unique phenomenon full of contradictions: of all the numberless races only one, the Jewish people surviving its own past prolongs a paradoxical and illogical existence, and in spite of all attacks, all dismemberments, all studied persecutions, imposes the blinding light of unity, the resplendent sign of eternity, the supremacy of the idea. A people has remained one forever and despite everything.

Not being endowed with the necessary competence to discuss this opinion I shall confine myself to verifying the result, that is the present character of the Jews which alone concerns us here. In the first place:

"All those who had occasion to enter into contact with Jews or to have personal relations with them have been struck by the passion with which they enter into everything. This is what is called the sombre fire of the Prophets.

"A special violence, eagerness, and acrimony enters into all their activities. Whether the question is of the arts or the sciences, domains in which serenity should reign, or business, and even more in politics, Jews immediately become over passionate, never failing to impart their passion to the debate. This is so well-known, each day brings us so many living examples of this singular enthusiasm that it would be tiresome to insist further. . ."

"This passionate enthusiasm of the race . . . explains . . . the phenomenon so often verified, of the incoherence of Arab and Jewish histories. It has indeed abolished in them the control and influence of logic which co-ordinates and regulates not only the whole of the facts constituting life, but even the succession of events composing history.

"Jewish history since the Dispersion is a veritable paradox; a challenge to common sense.

"To live for two thousand years in a state of permanent rebellion against all the surrounding populations, to insult their customs, their language and their religion by an uncompromising separatism, is a monstrosity. Revolt is sometimes a duty, dignity often commands it, but to accept it as a definite state, when it is so easy to allow oneself to become absorbed and thus avoid contempt, hatred and the opprobrium of twenty centuries is not to reason properly; it is being illogical, it is madness. . . ."

"The unity of the race, the individual passionalism, both influenced by the nomadic life, necessarily possess as corollaries in the Semitic conception, the rejection of the principle of authority and a natural contempt for discipline. . . "

"The principle of authority is among the Jews so incompatible with the deepest feelings of the race that the Bible goes as far as to give a divine origin to the prohibition against the establishment of royalty. . . "

"While other civilisations were founding or have founded more or less lasting establishments on a principle of external authority sovereign in itself, the Semites have founded nothing in the way of permanent institutions; having failed to understand or even to suspect the social strength and virtue of this principle, believing only in the principle of the intimate will of individuals grouped together."

Let us go further:

"The idea of authority — and therefore the respect for authority - is an anti-semitic notion. It is in Catholicism, in Christianity, in the very teachings of Jesus that it finds at once its lay and its religious consecration.

"If the respect, perhaps exaggerated, for the individual will was opposed among the Semites to the establishment and the extension of the principle of authority, it favoured on the other hand, naturally, the budding and blossoming of the idea of equality . . .

"It is thus, that in Semitic hearts, to speak as ibn Khaldun, flourished like living realities, Liberty and Equality, these twin principles which, ever since have been no more than capital letters inscribed in the preambles of modern Constitutions and on the pediments of public buildings.

"This principle of human equality prevents the creation of social inequalities. Whence it is clear why neither Arabs nor the Jews have hereditary nobility; why the notion even of "blue blood" is lacking. The primary condition for these social differences would have been the admission of human inequality; the contrary principle, is among the Semitics, at the base of everything.

"The accessory cause of the revolutionary tendencies in Semitic history resides also in this extreme doctrine of equality. How could a state, necessarily organized as a hierarchy, subsist if all the men who composed it remained strictly equal?

"What strikes us indeed, in Semitic history is the almost total lack of organized and lasting States . . . Endowed with all qualities necessary to form politically a nation and a state, neither Jews nor Arabs have known how to build up a definite form of government. The whole political history of these two peoples is deeply impregnated with indiscipline . . .

"The whole of Jewish history . . . is filled at every step with 'popular movements' of which the material reason eludes us. Even more, in Europe, during the 19th and 20th centuries the part played by the Jews in all revolutionary movements is considerable. And if, as in Russia, previous persecution could perhaps be made to explain this participation, it is not at all the same thing in Hungary, in Bavaria, or elsewhere. As in Arab history the explanation of these tendencies must be sought in the domain of psychology.

A very lively sense of equality is then clearly one of the most characteristic aspects of the Semitic soul.

"It would however be incomplete, in this respect if we did not join to it, cause or consequence of this stale of mind, the predominance of the idea of Justice.

"Moreover and the offset is interesting, it is the idea of Justice, which in concurrence, with the passionalism of the race, is at the base of Jewish revolutionary tendencies. It is by awakening this sentiment of justice that one can promote revolutionary agitation. Social injustice which results from necessary social inequality is however, fruitful: morality may sometimes excuse it but never justice.

"The doctrine of equality, ideas of justice, and passionalism decide and form revolutionary tendencies. Indiscipline and the absence of belief in authority favours its development as soon as the object of the revolutionary tendency makes its appearance. But the object is possessions: the object of human strife, from time immemorial, eternal struggle for their acquisition and their repartition. This is communism fighting the principle of private properly.

"Even the instinct of property, moreover, the result of attachment to the soil, does not exist among the Semites — these nomads — who have never owned the soil and who have never wished to own it. Hence their undeniable communist tendencies from the days of antiquity.

"This passionate enthusiasm could take them far, up to the end: it could decide the disappearance of the race by a succession of deadly follies . . .

"But this intoxication had its antidote, and this disorder of the mind found its corrective in the conception and practice of a positive utilitarianism . . . The frenzy of abstractions does not exclude the arithmetic of interest. Sometimes straying in Heaven the Semite does not, nevertheless, lose his belief in the Earth, in his possessions and his profits. Quite the contrary! Utilitarianism is the other pole of the Semitic soul. — All, let us say, in the Semite is speculation, both of ideas and of business; and in this last respect, what a lusty hymn has he not sung to the glorification of worldly interests!

"The names of Trotsky and of Rothchild mark the extent of the oscillations of the Jewish mind; these two limits contain the whole of the society, the whole of the civilisation of the 20th century.

Let us sum up:

"From the ethnical standpoint two kinds of Jews are usually distinguished: The Portuguese branch and German branch. (Sephardim and Askenazim).

From the psychological standpoint there are only two kinds: the Hassidim and the Mithnagdim. In the Hassidim we recognize the Zealots. They are the mystics, the cabalists, the demoniacs, the enthusiasts, the disinterested, the poets, the orators, the frantic, the heedless, the visionaries, the sensualists. They are the Mediterranean people, they are the Catholics of Judaism, of the Catholicism of the best period. They are the Prophets who held forth like Isaiah about the time when the wolf will lie down with the lamb, when swords will be turned into plough shares for the ploughs of Halevy, who sang: "May my right hand wither if I forget thee O Jerusalem! May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I pronounce not thy name", and who in enthusiastic delirium upon landing in Palestine kissed the native soil and disdained the approach of the barbarian whose lance transfixed him. They are the thousands and thousands of unfortunates Jews of the ghettos, who during the Crusades, massacred one another and allowed themselves to be massacred to the sound of the ancient cry "Hear ye o Israel . . . " rather than forswear themselves or deny their God; they are the innumerable victims, and martyrs who line the road of humanity from the remotest times of barbarism towards a better age.

"The Mithnadgim, are the Utilitarians, the Protestants of Judaism, the Nordics. Cold, calculating, egoistic, positive, they have on their extreme flank vulgar elements, greedy for gain without scruples, determined to succeed by hook or by crook, without pity.

"From the banker, the collected business man, even to the huckster and the usurer, to Gobseck and Shylock, they comprise all the vulgar herd of beings with hard hearts and grasping hands, who gamble and speculate on the misery, both of individuals and of nations. As soon as a misfortune occurs they wish to profit by it; as soon as a scarcity is known they monopolize the available goods. Famine is for them an opportunity for gain. And it is they, when the anti-Semitic wave sweeps forward, who invoke the great principle of the solidarity due to the bearers of the Torch . . .

"This distinction between the two elements, the two opposite extremes of the soul has always been.