I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Reincarnation and Judaism: A Hebrew Catholic Opinion

One of the greatest and most secret and hidden concepts in Jewish Mysticism is the concepts of the World of Galgalim (Rounds/ spheres). Perverted concepts of Gilgul which in English is translated as reincarnation has come to dominate in certain branches of Judaism eventhough Jewish authorities such as Saadia Gaon condemned such beliefs. In recent centuries this concept of gilgul has come to mean reincarnation in Jewish circles. It comes from the words galgal (circle/round) and Gilgal (places of stone circles mentioned in the Bible). It actually refers to mystical rounds of ascent of the souls in the spiritual life/world. It is linked to the wheel (or Galgal ) in Ezekiel. This has been linked to the Buddhist and Hindu concepts of reincarnation and the Wheel of Life etc. but this is a perversion of the original concept. These modern developments are then read back into old Jewish texts such as the Bahir and the Zohar confusing the issue even more. The problem occurs when those not so mystically advanced misinterpret the mystical insights of the great mystics whether they be Jewish or Christian. Perle Besserman a descendant of the Baal Shem Tov in her book "Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism" discusses how those references in the Jewish mystical texts that have been interpreted as referring to reincarnation are actually texts revealing the stages of meditation in the mystics practice of prayer.

In Judaism there are different levels to the soul called nefesh, ruach, neshamah and coverings of the soul chayah and yechidah. The nefesh is the soul we are born with- or the vessel of the soul. The concept of Gilgul refers especially to the level of neshamah and Gilgul is also called Gilgul Neshamot. The four higher levels according to some are states the soul merits or attains to. It is also connected to the universal soul of Adam (Adam Klalit) in which all mankind shared but with Adam's sin it broke into many individual neshamot. So we see the idea of the soul as Neshamah is not what most of us think about when we use the term soul. Just as John the Baptist and Elisha shared in the spirit/soul of Elijah in some mystical way- this does not mean reincarnation in the sense of the person/nefesh of Elijah being reincarnated. We see that Elisha received the double portion of the spirit of Elijah and Elisha was alive at the same time as Elijah. This concept reminds one of the Catholic idea of entering into the charism of certain saints and founders of spirtitual works. The concept of Gilgal and rounds is alluded to in the life of Samuel the Prophet: "And he went every year and made rounds of Beit El, Gilgal and Mitzpeh"(1 Samuel 7:16)

Rav Avraham Brandwein writes: "There is another kind of gilgul that can take place while a person is still alive. The Ari calls this form of reincarnation, Ibur. It is usually thought that gilgul takes place after a person passes from this world, after the death of the body, at which time or soon after the soul transmigrates into another body. Ibur does not work like this. It involves receiving a new (higher) soul sometime during one's lifetime. That is, a new soul comes into a person's heart while he is still alive. The reason this is called Ibur, gestation or pregnancy, is because this person becomes "pregnant" with this new soul while he is still alive. This phenomenon is the deeper explanation behind certain people going through drastic changes in their lives. They either undergo a change of mind about certain things or change their lifestyle, and thereby ascend to the next spiritual level. This is also included under the general heading of gilgul-incarnation because they are now hosting a new soul [or an aspect of their own soul or a higher soul of which they are a part] in order to be a vehicle for that soul's rectification. This is what occurs when a person is ready to advance in his soul evolution. This is why the soul has five names, each higher than the other, nefesh, ruach, neshamah, chayah and yechidah. [According to the Zohar, the four higher levels of the soul usually enter a person during his lifetime in Ibur: First, a person receives nefesh when he or she is born; then, when they merit it, they receive ruach; when they merit it, they receive neshamah; when they merit it, they receive chayah. The higher the level, the rarer its occurrence. Very few have ever merited to neshamah, let alone chayah. Nobody has ever received the highest level, yechidah. Adam would have received it had he not sinned. " We thus see that the terms gilgul and gilgulim (which mean cycle and cycles rather then reincarnation)is referring more to spiritual states and graces that the soul attains to in the spiritual realm of the galgalim.

Eli Dahan writes:"..."Know, that no person on earth can escape from these Gilgulim". The Ari claims that if a purified soul has neglected some religious duties on earth, it must return to the earthly life, and attaching itself to the soul of a living man, unite with it in order to make good such neglect. Further, the departed soul of a man freed from sin appears again on earth to support a weak soul which feels unequal to its task..." Here the Ari (or rather his disciple Chayyim Vidal) is not speaking about reincarnation in the Eastern sense but of souls coming back and attaching themselves in some mystical way as a form of purgatorial penance (tikun). Many similar accounts are found in Catholic writings of souls who cling to the living or who come spiritually to people or places connected to their lives in order to do reparation in order to purify the soul before the ascent to Heaven. Catholics also believe that the souls of purgatory can visit and assist the living. Luisa Piccaretta's concepts of doing rounds in the Divine Will clarify what the Jewish mystics glimpsed by 'running and returning' of these mysteries of galgalim or gilgulim.

Gilgal Refaim- Ancient Stone Circle in Israel

Saadia Gaon refers to the eastern concept of reincarnation of souls returning into physical bodies as coming from avodah zara (foreign or alien worship). Many have read the Sava de Mishpatim in the Zohar as speaking of reincarnation in this sense but in fact the Zohar is condemning such concepts using the analogy of the soul as a Daughter of Abraham-Bat Kohen who has united with a alien or foreign man (ish zar). The Zohar confirms that the Eastern concept of reincarnation is connected to avodah zara. However it goes on to state that some of the Goyim and others who believe such errors may be more holy and sincere than the Jewish High Priest who is insincere and ignorant. This part of the Zohar is highly mystical and speaks of spiritual states and mysteries. However when one interprets them in a literal way great mistakes occur. The Zohar here speaks about tormented souls and new born babies however one should not necessarily interpret this as literal babies but as referring to those who are entering into a new spiritual state. However God foresees that they will be corrupted by the evil side (represented by Lilith)so he takes them out of this world while they are still suckling on their mother's breast (still connected to goodness). In the same way Luisa is referred to as the new born in the Divine Will and she speaks of mystically bringing to birth divine lives. It would be easy for one to misunderstand her teachings and think they referred to some kind of reincarnation if one read her in a literalistic manner. Sadly the words of the old donkey driver (Elijah who is connected to the mystery of Gilgal)are still misunderstood and mistaken for those of the impure foreskin which is the teachings of Lilith on the demonic,reincarnation etc. It was near the stone circle of Gilgal that the Israelites of Joshua's generation were circumcised and rested at Gibeath Haaraloth (the Hill of Foreskins)before entering the Holy Land. Gilgal from this origin was also associated with a spiritual place of rest.

The Zohar also alludes to the virginal nuptial unions in the spiritual realms of the soul. In this regard it refers to Solomon and the Shekhinah or Mother who is also known as Solomon's Shekhinah or Hokmah (wisdom) as opposed to the higher Shekhinah or mother who is Elohim's Shekhinah or Wisdom (Sophia). Both the Talmud and the Midrash Mishle speak of the heavenly Sanhedrin that wished to damn Solomon but he was saved because the Shekhinah appeared before God and prostrated herself and pleaded on behalf of Solomon. We could say that Solomon represents the nefesh (vessel of the soul) in the World of Assiyah and the first Nuptial union with the lower Mother and nukvah (Luisa) is the level of ruach (spirit/wind/breath). She is represented by the south wind and the eagle in the World of Yetzirah. The next level is Neshama (soul) and associated by the Zohar with Joseph. He is represented by the west wind and the Ox (Bull/Unicorn) in the World of Beriah. The next level Chaya (life)is nuptial union with the little chaya Matronita (Our Lady). She is represented by the North wind and Lioness in the World of Atzilut. The highest level of the soul is yechidah (union)with Yeshua ha Mashiach. He is represented by the East wind and the Man who is the Adam Kadmon.

Kabbalah also speaks of three stages of growth of the soul Ibur (embryo), Yenika (suckling/nursling)and Mochin (brain/mind). However many Kabbalists don't understand that once one reaches the highest spiritual level the process is reversed. One moves from gradlut (greatness)where one is a fully developed intellectual being to katnut (smallness) where one moves into the darkness of faith to become as a nursling child dependant on its Mother's care. Then the soul must descend to katnut d'katnut as a mystical embryo with no independent action outside the Divine Will. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov understood this mystery but knew that in his time one could only experience this temporarily as 'running and returning' but he looked forward to the future time when one could attain this stage in a continuous, eternal and divine manner. One would then live simultaneously in this world and the Universe of the Third Heavenly Realm called Atzilut (third Yehi or fiat). This grace of the Divine Will(not present on earth with the death and assumption of Our Lady)was given potentially to all who desire it beginning with Luisa Piccarreta in 1889- less than a hundred years after the death of Rebbe Nachman.

The great Sage Saadia Gaon writes on Reincarnation in Emunoth veDeoth:"Yet, I must say that I have found certain people, who call themselves Jews, professing the doctrine of metempsychosis (reincarnation) which is designated by them as the theory of “transmigration” of souls. What they mean thereby is that the spirit of Ruben is transferred to Simon and afterwards to Levi and after that to Judah. Many of them would go so far as to assert that the spirit of a human being might enter into the body of a beast or that of a beast into the body of a human being, and other such nonsense and stupidities. This in itself, however, indicates how very foolish they are. For they take it for granted that the body of a man is capable of transforming the essence of the soul so as to make of it a human soul, after having been the soul of a beast. They assume, furthermore, that the soul itself is capable of transforming the essence of a human body to the point of endowing it with the traits of the beasts, even though its form be that of men. It was not sufficient for them, then, that they attributed to the soul a variable nature by not assigning to it an intrinsic essence, but they contradicted themselves when they declared the soul capable of transforming and changing the body, and the body capable of transforming and changing the soul. But such reasoning is a deviation from logic. The third [argument they present] is in the form of a logical argument. They say, namely: “Inasmuch as the Creator is just, it is inconceivable that he should occasion suffering to little children, unless it be for sins committed by their souls during the time that they were lodged in their former bodies.” This view is, however, subject to numerous refutations. The first is that they have forgotten what we have mentioned on the subject of compensation in the hereafter for misfortunes experienced in this world. Furthermore we should like to ask them what they conceive the original status of the soul to be – we mean its status when it is first created. Is it charged by its Master with any obligation to obey Him or not? If they allege that it is not so charged, then there can be no punishments for it either, since it was not charged with any obligations to begin with. If, on the other hand, they acknowledge the imposition of such a charge, in which case obedience and disobedience did not apply before, they thereby admit that God charges His servants with obligations on account of the future and not at all on account of the past. But then they return to our theory and are forced to give up their insistence on the view that man’s suffering in this world is due solely to his conduct in a previous existence."

also see Bahir and Reincarnation