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.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Bahir and Reincarnation: A Hebrew Catholic Opinion

As I have mentioned in a previous blog the idea of gilgul as reincarnation is a misintrepretation of Jewish meditative and mystical concepts through the penetration of pagan eastern ideas into Judaism increasing in recent centuries. Many writers following Gershom Scholem claim that it is taught in the mystical book "Bahir". "In contrast with the conspicuous opposition of Jewish philosophy, metempsychosis is taken for granted in the Kabbalah from its first literary expression in the Sefer ha-Bahir (published in late 12th century). The absence of any special apology for this doctrine, which is expounded by the Bahir in several parables, proves that the idea grew or developed in the circles of the early kabbalists without any affinity to the philosophic discussion of transmigration. Biblical verses (e.g., "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh" (Eccles. 1:4), taken as meaning that the generation that passes away is the generation that comes) and talmudic aggadot and parables were explained in terms of transmigration. It is not clear whether there was any connection between the appearance of the metempsychosic doctrine in kabbalistic circles in southern France and its appearance among the contemporary Cathars, who also lived there. Indeed the latter, like most believers in transmigration, taught that the soul also passes into the bodies of animals, whereas in the Bahir it is mentioned only in relation to the bodies of men.

After the Bahir the doctrine of gilgul developed in several directions and became one of the major doctrines of the Kabbalah, although the kabbalists differed widely in regard to details. In the 13th century, transmigration was viewed as an esoteric doctrine and was only alluded to, but in the 14th century many detailed and explicit writings on it appeared. In philosophic literature the term ha'atakah ("transference") was generally used for gilgul; in kabbalistic literature the term gilgul appears only from the Sefer ha-Temunah onward; both are translations of the Arabic term tanāsukh. The early kabbalists, such as the disciples of Isaac the Blind and the kabbalists of Gerona, spoke of "the secret of ibbur" ("impregnation"). It was only in the late 13th or 14th centuries that gilgul and ibbur began to be differentiated. The terms hitḥallefut ("exchange") and din benei ḥalof (from Prov. 31:8) also occur. From the period of the Zohar on, the term gilgul became prevalent in Hebrew literature and began to appear in philosophic works as well."
This however demonstrates a total misunderstanding of the original meditative and mystical nature of the concepts of gilgul and ibbur. Gershom Scholem makes many mistakes because he perceives Kabbalah as part of Gnosticism- rather than Gnosticism as a perversion of the authentic mystical traditions of Judaism and Christianity.

Perle Besserman a student of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan and Rabbi Zvi Yehudah Kook and a descendant of the Baal Shem Tov writes about this in her book "Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism". "Gershom Scholem cites the twelfth-century Sefer Bahir as the first kabbalistic reference to the idea that the soul travels from one body to another after physical death. Identifying Jewish mysticism as an antiphilosophical, antiaristolean phenomenon and likening it to its Christian and Islamic counterparts, he links the three dualistic (and therefore heretical) traditions under the common heading of "Gnosticism". Defining the kabbalistic term gilgul as, "literally, 'turning over' or 'rolling over', " he asserts that the underlying assumption in all three dulaistic belief systems is the desire for redemption outside the physical body. Impeccable as his scholarship is, however, Scholem's literal interpretation of the term distracts him from its symbolic function. To the practitioner of Kabbalah, the soul is neither a physical or an ethereal entity, but a figurative representation of a level of consciousness. Whether it is referred to as ruach, neshamah, or nefesh, the soul corresponds to a stage in the meditation process. Therefore, rather than transmigrating, literally, from body to body after death, the soul (consciousness) "rolls" and 'skips" from one world (sefirah)to the next as it "ascends" in meditation to the highest realm of nonthought. In their instruction manuals, mystics from the Merkavah period to the present point out that the ruach level of the soul is synonymous with the breath, and that 'planting" alludes to a meditative technique which demands a lifelong commitment to the practice of permuting and chanting the sacred Names."

Besserman then quotes the two passages in the Bahir that Gershom believes speak of reincarnation and demonstrates that they are a hidden set of meditation instructions. "In the first passage, the "rest" that follows the image of the souls flying out corresponds to the period assigned to holding the exhalation while permuting the letters of the sacred Name a thousand times." In the Zohar this flying out of the souls imagery is linked to the divine song and melody connected with the nekudim and the musical cantillations. Besserman continues by discussing the allegory of the the vineyard: "The second passage gives prepartory instructions for the mediation technique known as the planting.. One is enjoined to 'place a fence' around the area (isolate oneself from worldly affairs in meditation, hitbodedut): to engage in "repairing" the breaches around the grapevines (perform a tikkun meditation linking one's consciousness to one of the red or green lower or upper sefirot); and to prune' distracting thoughts before reciting the Names no less than a thousand times. Where Scholem goes on to argue that the Bahir's references to 'garments' stands for the numerous impure bodies assumed by the human soul in transmigration (including those of animals!), we ought to see these as prefiguring the Zohar, which warns aspirants not to be fooled by the "garments" (i.e. the exoteric level of the Torah) that hide the Skekhinah from the uninitiated." The Shekhinah sometimes refers to the concept or aspect of the Mystical Mother who is clothed with all the garments of the Divine King as Matronita (Virgin Mother),G'virah (Queen Mother)and Ark of the Covenant, Sovereign of the whole Universe (see the Zohar) among others.

These insights of Perle Besserman seem to be confirmed by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov in Likutey Moharan Vol.1:2 [Emor El ha Kohanim]on the mystery of prayer. He speaks about entering into mystical union with the spirit or aspect of Joseph in prayer and the spirit or aspect of Moses through righteous connectedness. By entering into the charisms of Joseph and Moses one enters into aspect of the Messiah. We know that this has nothing to do with reincarnation as all the scholars referred to each other as Moses. "Therefore, before praying it is necessary for each individual to attach himself to the true saints of the generation. For each true saint is an aspect (type/sign/behinat)of Messiah, an aspect of Moses. Thus we find the saints addressing each other as Moses (shabbat 101b): "Moses, you said it well". And Moses is a type (behinat) of the Messiah..."[Likutey Moharan Vol.1:2;6]This is further demonstrated in the next section (2:7) where Rebbe Nachman refers to the teachings contained in the Sefer haGilgulim. He also confirms what Besserman wrote about the garments having nothing to do with reincarnation but is a prayer state of the soul. " Now all the Torah a person studies for the purpose of observing and fulfilling-all these are sparks of souls, and they are clothed within prayer. There they are renewed in an aspect of pregnancy (ibbur). As is brought in the Sefer haGilgulim: All souls enter Malkut (the Sefirah of kingship/kingdom)in the aspect of pregnancy (ibbur) and are renewed there...Thus these souls together with prayer are termed 'glory' on account of prayer's clothing them. Just as Rabbi Yochanan called his garments 'my glorifiers'..." Rebbe Nachman then alludes to the souls clothed in glory through the prayer and praise ascent uniting with the Mystical Mother's female waters (mayin nukvin)in her mystical womb. This mystical pregnancy brings to birth new insights of Torah represented as mystical maidens of the Mother. These new insights can only be embraced when united with one's saintly spiritual guide (tzadik of the generation). "...The souls shine to prayer in an aspect of raising female waters and prayer shines to the souls in the aspect of new insights. For She [the Mystical Mother] renews them in an aspect of pregnancy. And the souls, when clothed in prayer and brought to the Tzadik of the generation, are an aspect of "maidens, Her companions who follow Her, shall be brought to you"(Psalm 45:15)." Unfortunately many followers of Breslov have also read back into Rebbe Nachman's writings the doctrine of reincarnation and thus polluting the pure Mother's milk of the Torah with the flesh of the demonic goat. Rebbe Nachman is a true master of the Zohar and Bahir. He was a True Master of Prayer for his generation and teaches cryptically at times the deep mysteries of prayer and the Kingdom and not the impure klippot of reincarnation and eastern occultic wisdom. These impure and pagan demonic teachings mixed with Kabbalah are found today unfortunately in many books even by orthodox Jewish Rabbis including Breslov Rabbis.
see Reincarnation and Judaism

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