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Kabbalah As Model For Healing

Dr. Yitzhak (Isaac) Hayutman, cybernetician

Presentation of the Academy of Jerusalem at the 1st Dead-Sea Conference on Interaction between Western and Eastern Medicine.

 


CONTENTS

    ABSTRACT

    INTRODUCTION

  1. THE TEN-FOLD PATTERN OF THE SEPHIROT

  2. THE FIVE WORLDS AND FIVE LEVELS OF THE SOUL.

  3. THE DETAILED KABBALISTIC MODEL OF MAN.

  4. THE LETTERS AS "LETTERS".

  5. NOTES

  6. REFERENCES

 


ABSTRACT

The Kabbalah is a vast store of esoteric insights and concepts, the formal structure of which developed openly and systematically since the 12th century, yet is based on living traditions of over two thousand years, and is the underlying structure of the Western scriptures - the Bible. While the main field of application of Kabbalah is for restitution in the trans-personal and spiritual realms, there are Kabbalist-healers giving talismans and individual treatments as well as Hassidic masters giving counsel for any aspect of a person's life. Knowing the concepts of the Kabbalah would enrich the knowledge of both healers and scientists.

We shall survey briefly several Kabbalistic systems:

  1. The basic tenfold pattern, based on physiology, which is a whole repeated in every section of it, in concept and physiology. It can be shown that all the paradigms of the social sciences are basically degenerate cases of this pattern and that these sciences will mature if they consider all the levels and interactions it entails.

  2. The five-level structure of the soul and of the many universes we inhabit. Much richer and more exact than the usual (and confused) paradigm of body-soul-spirit, this structure integrates the functions of healing, art, counselling, and social and spiritual guidance.

  3. The 248 "members" (each encompassing bone-ligaments--tissue-skin) and 365 ligaments of the human body as they correspond to the structure of the soul of the divine commandments contained in the Bible.

  4. The textual-phonetic system of the Hebrew letters as it mediates in the flow of divine intelligent-vitality (Hayut) and of human virtuous action (Mann).


INTRODUCTION

Jewish mystical and esoteric knowledge is known mainly as the Kabbalah - meaning transmitted esoteric knowledge, and literally "Reception". Perhaps the earliest Kabbalistic text is the short Sefer Yetsira - The Book of Formation - which has many hundreds of commentaries and is still studied as a basic text of Kabbalah. (It is dated by academic researchers to the 2-4 century C.E. (see note 1), but its own text claims its source to be the biblical patriarch Abraham, about 2000 B. C.E.). The Kabbalah appeared as a more or less open discipline in Provence, France, in the 12th century, and the canonic Kabbalistic text, the Zohar, appeared in Catalonia, Spain, in the 13rd century, in the format of a 2nd century Biblical commentary by a circle of sages of that period. The Christian Kabbalah of the Renaissance, which fed most European esoteric schools, issued from this early Kabbalah. Modern Jewish Kabbalah, however, issues from the 15th century teachings of Rabbi Isaac Luria in Safed, Israel, mainly through Vital's Etz Hayim ("The Tree of Life"). There are many thousands of Kabbalah manuscripts extant and the Kabbalah is still a living tradition, mainly as a field of religious study based on a few scores of texts, mainly of the 15-20th century. It is not easy to explain to an outsider, gentile or Jew, the meaning of this study, which purports to maintain the whole world and to heal it. But the current use of the Kabbalah is just a fraction of its potential uses, including uses in healing, inducing prophecy and social guidance. It is generally understood by religious Jews that the redemption of the whole world is conditioned upon the wide application of the inner meaning of the Bible, namely the Kabbalah.

The Zohar, as well as most Kabbalah texts, stay close to the original Hebrew Biblical scriptures (known in the West as "The Old Testament", a name repugnant to the Jews) and mainly the five Books of Moses, the Psalms, the Proverbs and the Canticles. Thus every claim of the Kabbalists, be it about the composition of souls and their transmigrations, the analysis of character by facial features or healing practices, is regarded by them as the true, albeit esoteric, meaning of the scriptures that form the core of Western Spirituality to this day. This means that, with the renewed interest in religious traditions in the West, the insights of the Kabbalah may yet become a major source of inspiration worldwide.

This author is not a healer or medical practitioner, and thus cannot offer much specific healing information. But he has become familiar with a range of Kabbalah teachings and made comparative studies of cognitive structures in the Kabbalah and in the social sciences. It may thus be possible to suggest potentially fertile models and approaches to social and medical scientists.


1. THE TEN-FOLD PATTERN OF THE SEPHIROT

The kabbalists follow the Biblical saying: "from my flesh... I would see God" (Job 19:26), and their model for describing most divine and spiritual phenomena is anthropomorphic. The generic human form is seen here as a tenfold, even decimal, structure of nodes with 22 specific connections between them*. The ten nodes are further divided, upper and lower, right, left and center. There are three nodes on the right and three corresponding nodes on the left, while the four nodes in the center are always above or below the level of the peripheral nodes {fig. 1}. The seven lower nodes are regarded as the more visible and manifest, or pertaining to "This World" (Olam haZeh), and can be shown as corresponding to the two arms, trunk (the solar plexus), the two thighs, the genitals and the ground. The three upper nodes are regarded as more hidden, or pertaining to the yet unseen "World to Come" (Olam haBa), and can be regarded as corresponding to the two hemispheres of the brain and the crown of the head.

With these anthropomorphic correspondences, comparison can be drawn readily between this model and the Hindu Tantra model of the Chakras. All that is needed is to regard each vertical pair of nodes on the right and left as having their weighted balance in the center, and we have the system of the seven Hindu Chakras and in another way the four Buddhist Tantra Chakras. While this is useful enough for comparison, we can also start to appreciate what is gained by the specific reference to the right and left sides of man, and even to "the right and left side of God". Continuing our comparison with the classical oriental models, we can see that the Kabbalah scheme of the two sides encompasses the Taoist notions of Yin and Yang. The right side is seen as male, as the expansive and giving, while the left side is seen as female, as the contracting, constricting and the receiving side. So this anthropomorphic model integrates the Chakras and the Taoist models. But this view of the sides may help us to appreciate the significant, sometimes paradoxical, nature of the center.

Take the notion of the right side as Love or Grace (Hesed), giving because it is its nature to give, even without regard to the recipient's needs. The left side is the side of Judgment (Din) and Rigour (Gvurah) and wants to weigh and restrict. Their proper balance is the quality of Compassion (Rahamim), of giving judiciously to the extent of need. We could say that the center is objective and the sides are subjective.

Before we turn to interpretations of this model, we should note that the correspondence with the human body that we made is only one application of the general structural model which repeats at each level. Each node again contains all the ten node structure which is, using the language of current (fractal) mathematics, a self-similar structure. It is really much like the famous Mandelbrot set with its Buddha-like figure repeated endlessly, only that here it is an erect figure, geared for action. Thus the ten-fold structure can be found again just in the head, and even in each of the limbs and so on to the smallest details, and the principles gained from the general structure supply insights as to the workings and the balance, or lack thereof, of the parts. It is a nested holistic structure of wholes within wholes.

If we now turn from the traditional models to the modern world, the prevailing models are the scientific paradigms. The cybernetician Gordon Pask has compared several of the social-science paradigms current in the 70's with his own general theory of cognition, called Conversation Theory, using a series of over 20 "icons" to represent them on a comparable basis (Pask, 1975). Pask represented cognitive systems, be they cultures, systems of belief, actors, or even sub-personalities within people's heads, as three-level organizations of "Concepts", "Memories" and "P-Individuals", and he characterised a humanly meaningful situation as a conversation, where two such individuals discuss a topic over at least two levels of communications. The present author has extended this scheme (Hayutman, 1981) by positing these two interacting entities, each having a 3-level cognitive organization and between them four levels of possible common experience:

  1. physical facilities they share;

  2. agreements;

  3. understandings; and

  4. realizations (see note 2).

The salient point is that this framework for comparison was explicitly based on the above-mentioned ten-fold Kabbalistic scheme, known also as "The Tree of Life". It was shown that the general theories or paradigms of Action, Interaction, Transaction, Symbolic-Interaction, Game Theory and the Theory of Meta-Games are all, in fact, degenerate cases of the Conversation-Theoretic paradigm which, in its full stature, is isomorphic with the Kabbalistic model, and that no lesser representation can do justice to the whole human experience, especially when innovation, healing, personal transformation or social/cultural reconstruction are to be considered.

Noting these correspondences with traditional oriental models and with the Bible, as well as with modern scientific paradigms, the ten-fold Kabbalistic model should be explored further, using the many traditional Hebrew connotations and insights associated with it. The following suggestion incorporates some such Hebrew insights in an English-language prototype.

Consider the ten-node Tree of Life model with the three vertical lines as a psychological, or even spiritual, model of either intrapersonal or interpersonal interaction. Let us use a semantic or mnemonic aid and call the right-hand line "The Line of Love", the left-hand line "The Line of Law", and the middle line as "The Line of Laugh(ter)" {fig. 2}. Thus implied by this strange name is some of the paradoxical nature of this middle-ground and complementarity between two contradicting tendencies. If the right-hand path entails moving from the top down, and the left-hand path entails going from the bottom up, then the middle path entails moving both ways at once, and the ascent along this middle path means transcending. The same can be said in another way: each side represents an autonomous actor, a different subjective "I", wanting more for the self, as if saying "I-more". But the place between them, where the twain can meet is in the area of wanting "You-more", thus of humor, of regarding the self as small (or recall Bergeson's theory of humor - that we laugh at the mechanical in human behavior, in others as well as in us). The middle line of the Tree of Life is the path of comprehension and transcendence, going up from conflict to agreement, to understanding and finally, to realization of the divine (see note 3), of a true Self which is not contained in the subjective self only.


2. THE FIVE WORLDS AND FIVE LEVELS OF THE SOUL.

The last comments alluded to and somewhat encapsulated, the complex Kabbalistic teaching about the human soul and its relation to the divine and infinite. The Kabbalah of the Zohar and of that period noted three levels of the soul, called Nefesh, Ru'ah and Neshama (see note 4) and four "worlds" which these human aspects (as well as other spiritual entities, see Steinsalz, 1980) inhabit. The Nefesh, or animal soul, which is associated in the Bible with the blood, has to do with the maintenance of the self, both physically and psychologically, and operates in the "World of Action" (Asiyah). The Ruah, or spirit, may become evident at one's teens and deals with mental (including intellectual, aesthetic and "spiritual") operations for their own sake, in the scintillating "World of Formation" (Yetsira). Most commonly, the Ruah is subject to the more selfish Nefesh and helps to express the self, yet in a personal style. These two worlds, of Action and of Formation are components of the manifest "This World" (Olam haZeh) of the lower seven Sephirot. The Neshama is the divine spark in man, which is generally not evident, as it has to do with the more hidden "World of Creation" (Bri'ah), where creation means "ex nihilo", out of nothing and nowhere.

Kabbalists associate the Neshama mainly with the People of Israel. This is because they see the manifestation of the divine within This World via the Torah, the Godsent original Hebrew Scriptures. In which Israel is defined as "the People who know Thy Name" and by which are supposed to study continuously and to live by The Name. In fact, the different Neshamot are seen as corresponding to the different letters of the Torah. Thus people are associated as "soul mates", regardless of their worldly situations, associated as letters are joined in the words and sentences of this supra-personal divine text. Thus the World of Creation is a part of the more vast plan and system of the yet unmanifest World to Come, or more accurately, "Coming World" (Olam haBa). The World of Creation is associated with the three higher Sephirot, and the Chariot or Vehicle of Creative Power. The still higher World of Atzilut (translated, partially, as Emanation) is the unseparated realm of the divinity and the very thought of the Creation in total.

In the later, Lurianic, Kabbalah and its development in Hassidut, two further levels of the soul and another world are discussed. These levels, called Haya (literally "living", perhaps "anima mundi") and Yehida (literally "singular") are considered as "surrounding lights" (Makifim). In current language, the "surrounding lights" might be called "environmental" or "transpersonal" levels of spirituality. Thus the three higher levels are associated with the three higher, and hidden, Sephirot. The Haya and Yehida are really not personal aspects as such and can be identical for ostensibly different persons (which may explain paranormal phenomena). Since the very concept of "environment" and environmental issues was a startling innovation for Western rationalistic thinking just a couple of decades ago, and in light of the current popularity of environmental concepts and issues, there should be interest in the insights of the Kabbalah about environmental levels of the soul. The level of Haya corresponds to the divine World of Atzilut, and perhaps also to that of all life and the whole living earth, the Adamah. The level of Yehida is associated with that most hidden world not explicitly mentioned in the scriptures and called by Luria "Adam Kadmon" (Primordial Adam) which generated the World of Atzilut.


3. THE DETAILED KABBALISTIC MODEL OF MAN.

While it is not possible to discuss here the Lurianic concept of Adam Kadmon, we can appreciate some of the results of this concept. A related Kabbalistic model of having the Form of Man is largely based on physiology. Jewish tradition regards the Torah, the divine symbolic structure pertaining to this world, as containing 613 specific commandments. The Commandments are generally divided into 248 positive commandments (what to do) and 365 negative commandments (what not to do). These are, significantly, the same numbers which the tradition assigns to the human body - 248 "members" and 365 "ligaments" that connect them. This notion of members is somewhat peculiar and pertains really to bones, as well as the ligaments, tissue and skin associated with them, that which determines the human frame and its stature (see note 5). The Kabbalists make much of this correspondence. The Kabbalah teaches that man also has a psychic structure with the same number of components. And further, that failure to fulfill any of the commandments of the Torah harms the corresponding psychic member. Again, it should be noted that not all components of the whole psyche are personal. A majority of the commandments of the Torah pertain to the collectivity of people and not only to individual behavior. Nowadays, when the Temple of Jerusalem, which is supposed to maintain the contact between heaven and earth for all humankind, is still in ruin, it is possible to fulfill only up to about a third of the commandments. The remaining 2/3, and the relationship between humankind - Adam - and the living earth - the Adamah (grammatically the feminine form of the same name Adam) - are out of joint.

The concept of Adam Kadmon, and in fact the very Biblical story of Adam, implies that there is a unified soul of all humankind, even if this is not patently manifest as yet. Lurianic Kabbalah teaches that this soul of Adam is also built upon this model. It has 613 major roots and each one of them has 613 minor roots, and each one of them can have up to 600,000 (see note 6) parts, or sparks, which are the souls of individual persons in their various levels. Note that the total number is thus much larger than that of all the people alive now, or in the past, and that these associations of souls pertain to the phenomena of "soul mates" mentioned earlier.


4. THE LETTERS AS "LETTERS"

The ancient Kabbalah of Sefer Yetsira was concerned mostly with the Hebrew letters, which are seen as the very "building blocks" out of which the universe was created. Alongside with the theosophic Kabbalah of the Sephirot, which climaxed with the Zohar, there also developed systems of Kabbalah based on work with the letters, their combinations, permutations and pronouncement. The Kabbalah of the Sephirot and of the letters were sometimes rival systems and sometimes complementary. The great Kabbalist synthesizers (notably Moses Kordovero in the 15th century and the author of the Tanya in the 18th) integrated the two systems as they developed. Currently, the Sephirot system dominates though Kabbalistic explorations with greater emphasis on the letters are still going on (Ginsburg, 1990). The most basic integration, hinted already at Sefer Yetsira, is where the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet denote the connections between the ten Sephirot, and hence that the letters stand for the relations between the Sephirot and for the specific processes that transfer their states and unite them.

The basic premise of the Kabbalah of letters is that since the Hebrew scriptures teach that God created the universe by speech. The letters of which those (ten) divine utterances are made are the very elementary units out of, or through which, the manifest elements of this world came into being, or were called into being (Steinsalz, 1989). Another related Jewish notion is that the whole Torah is the Great Name of God, and hence that by studying and by reading from the Torah, one is actually calling God by His proper name. The same Hebrew word means both reading and calling. Therefore, most of the meditation methods of the Kabbalah (Kaplan, 1982) and especially those of Abraham Abulafia (Idel, 1987), employ work with letters and names, such as visualization, chanting, contemplation or letter permutations. This calling of the symbolic names and letters of God is in order to re-create or simulate in the psyche/mind of the meditator these same divine processes.

Such practices, which would have been considered magical superstition in the 19th century, are becoming re-viewed and re-valued nowadays. In Israel, Kabbalist-healers (such as Aliyahu Azrad in this conference) are practicing with the chanting of the letters and are finding that specific energy blocks are effected with the verbal expression of specific letters and phonemes and can be removed by uttering the later forcefully enough.

Letters and sounds are not just internal-personal objects (what Kabbalists call "the letters of thought"). They are primarily means of communications in social, and hence in inter-personal and even trans-personal, contexts. Hardly any attention is paid nowadays to the cultural and environmental effects of the words and sounds broadcasted forcibly into the environment. But as Michell (1992) argues, ancient societies were held up against cultural entropy by enchantment, which was produced, literally, by the chanting of sacred texts and melodies (see note 7) by perpetual choirs. Noting the importance of the choirs and the chanting of the psalms in the Temple of Jerusalem, this could perhaps explain the paramount role that the Temple service was supposed to exercise, as noted above.

Let us argue the case explicitly: we live in a world that is rife with spiritual entropy. Cancer, that is sociopathologic behavior of cells in the body, is claiming millions of victims. And there is also so much, and probably growing, incidence of plain sociopathologic behavior endangering modern society. We have argued, from the Kabbalah, for the existence of transpersonal structures and transcendental levels expressed as, or even made of, sacred verbal-melodious utterances. Scred expressions have largely disappeared in the modern world of mass-media and mass society, and their lack may be a cause of many social ills. The Kabbalah gives us a handle for experimenting with these missing expressions, and we call for the exploration of these possibilities. Ideally, the Temple chants would be reconstructed and performed in a new rebuilt Temple. But even much before this, chanting and expression of the letters and sacred sounds should be tried in various social contexts and media to test their effects.


NOTES

  1. Many books on Kabbalah are currently published by many publishers, including major university presses, and are too numerous to list here. The classical lectures by Scholem (1961, 1969 & 1974) may still be the best scholarly introductions. Scholem's theories about the origins of the Kabbalah are now being challenged by Idel (1988) of the Hebrew University. Idel finds support for the traditional view that the fundamentals of the Kabbalah are contemporary with the mainstream Jewish oral tradition, written down during the 1-5th century C.E. Idel contends that the publication of books of Kabbalah since the 12th century was caused by the publication of the books of Maimonides in the 11th century, whose rationalistic and Aristotelian interpretation of the ancient Jewish mystical teachings forced the hidden Kabbalists to come out with their own transmitted theories.

  2. The terms are based on Pask's work and on that of Laing, Philipson and Lee (196_). I have further employed the terms used by Maruyama (19__) of "classificational", "Relational" and "Relevational" levels of discourse, and added a fourth, higher, level of "revelational" discourse.

  3. As Buber (1970) has shown, the divine is the realm of the You (or Thou) in the I- Thou relationship. God is thus "the Eternal Thou", and a genuine turning to the other is to the divine in him/her.

  4. Etymologically, all the three terms have to do with breathing (as in the Greek concept of Pneuma and the Hindu concept of Prana, hinting at breathing meditation practices that might have led to these realizations). These terms are related to the Genesis story of the creation, where "the Lord breathed a Neshama of life (Nishmat Hayim) into the nostrils of Adam"(Gen 2:7). In the same passage are employed distinct terms for the Making, the Formation and the Creation of Adam, implying different processes, time scales and levels of the soul.

  5. There are different accounts for the number of the bones in the human body. Gray's anatomy lists 200 bones, but does not count the teeth, and combines several bones which the Jewish tradition regards as separate bones.

  6. The number 600,000 is found first in the count of the Children of Israel in their exodus from Egypt (often interpreted as a birth process) and at the revelation in Mount Sinai when Israel received the Torah. Tradition says that this is also the number of letters of the Torah. This is not evident, as the count of the written letter gives only 304,880 letters. The written letters are infact only the consonants and so perhaps when we add to the sum of consonants the sum of unwritten vowels it would bring a total of about 600,000.

  7. Very similar claims were made by Gurdjief in the 20's.


REFERENCES

Buber, M. (1970): I and Thou. N.Y. Charles Scribner.

Ginsburg, Y. (1990): The Hebrew Letters - Channels of Creative Consciousness. Gal Einai. POB 14132 Jerusalem.

Hayutman (Haissman) Y. I. (1981): Cybernetic Basis for Human Reconstruction. Unpublished Ph.D Thesis, Brunel University, UK.

Idel, M. (1987): The mystical Experience in Abraham Abulafia. Albany, NY Univ. Press.

Idel, M. (1988): Kabbalah, New Perspectives. Yale Univ. Press.

Kaplan, A. (1982): Meditation and Kabbalah. NY, Samuel Wiser.

Kaplan, A. (1991): Inner Space. __________

Pask, G. (1975): Conversation, Cognition and Learning. Amsterdam, Elsevier.

Laing, R. Philipson, __ & Lee, __ (19__): Interpersonal Perception. London, Tavistock.

Maruyama, M. (19__): Three Universes of Information. General Systems Yearbook,

Michell, J. (1992): Twelve-Tribe Nations and the Science of Enchanting the Landscape. London, Thames and Hudson.

Scholem, G. (1961): Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. NY, Schokem.

Scholem, G. (1969): On the Kabbalah and its Symbolism. N.Y.

Scholem, G. (1974): Kabbalah. Jerusalem, Keter.

Steinsalz, A. (1980): The Thirteen Petaled Rose. Basic Books. (1991) Jason Aronson.

Steinsalz, A. (1989): The Sustaining Utterance. Jason Aronson.


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