Finding Voice, Part Three: The Sacred Protest

Author's Note: Part Three of a series on Finding Voice. This is an essential part of the contribution of Hebrew Mysticism, often referred to as Kabbalah, to the great symphony of World Spirituality. Read Part One and Part Two.

The Second Stage: From Silence to Sound
The beginning of freedom is the emergence of voice. This stage is expressed both by the initial cry of the Israelite slaves that broke their silence, as well as by Moses' arrival on the scene. "When Moses came, voice came," writes the Zohar. Moses does what the charismatic revolutionary always does: he gives voice to the people. Indeed, biblical myth text records the beginning of redemption with the following words: "It came to pass in the course of many days that the King of Egypt died and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage and they cried out and their cry came up unto God."

The enslaved Israelites are received by the presence of God at the point when they move from the dumb silence of the slave to sound, which is the beginning of speech, the characteristic of a free people. This "cry" is not an elegantly articulated protest; it is a cry as in the cry of a wolf, or the cry of an infant. It is primal, impassioned, pre-civilized, a howl of protest that makes it into the halls of heaven, heard by God himself.

For the first time the enslaved can express distress. They seek to articulate words that are not yet ready to form themselves on their lips. At this stage of moving toward freedom, we do not yet know how to tell our story. We do not know what we would do with the world if it were given over to our stewardship. We just know that we must protest.

The biblical myth symbol (Lev. 25) for the transition from slavery to freedom is the primal blast of a ram's horn. No trumpet of gold, it is rather the rawness of the ram's horn that captures the slave's first fitful sounds. The first thing a revolutionary movement must do is sound its ram horn—start a newspaper, set up a radio station, build an internet site. It is not by accident that the fundamentalist and totalitarian states are trying to disallow or severely limit internet access. Freedom's beginnings are expressed in the first shouts of protest.

The '60s and '70s were such second-stage revolutionary generations. This helps explain why so many '60s hippies became late '70s and early '80s yuppies and then transformed again into the establishment of the '90s. The feeling of distress generated protest—sound and even the first glimmerings of voice—but there was no alternative vision of society to generate "speech." Similarly, many third world revolutionaries reflect such second stage thinking. Consequently, as we all know, not a few third world revolutionaries became the leaders of far more repressive regimes than the ones they overthrew. Because they lacked speech to articulate the primal manifestations of voice, they needed to repress all of their own pain, the very distress and disease that initially led to the revolution.

What can they do when the revolution has happened and the dis-ease remains? Only two choices are available. The revolutionary can choose to look inside personal and societal soul in a very profound way, attempting to wrestle with the dis-ease at its source and not merely on a symptomatic level. This would involve addressing the ills of society that provoked revolution—through the creation of a new society with just laws and a conceptual framework to insure the continued freedom of the people. This is the move from primal voice to speech. Or the revolutionary can lash out to avoid the necessity of confronting his own emptiness. Lashing out is always easier but not a stage of growth. It continues and repeats the stage-two voice of protest. The repression it produces is often brutal and animalistic.

Like all stages of growth, stage two is necessary and positive when it is part of a process. Arrested growth, however, always produces some form of pathology.