Kabbalah-Vehicles As Models for Healing
Dr. Yitzhak (Isaac) Hayutman, cybernetician
The following will be a compilation of two lectures given at the first two Dead Sea Conferences on Interaction of Eastern and Western Medicine plus some topics added in the context of introducing a comprehensive project on "Kabbalah and Healing".
- Kabbalah Proper
- Angels and Magidim
The first paper (Kabbalah As Model For Healing) surveyed the subject of Kabbalistic models in a fairly strict sense. The additions would be about the Kabbalah as vehicle, introducing several subjects which are not commonly considered as a study of Kabbalah, but were experientialy important in the development of the Kabbalah tradition, and exemplify Kabbalistic "vehicles". The second paper (Personal Well-being, Ecological Health & Holistic Peace) surveyed the range of potential healing objectives, not just for individual well-being, but also for ecological health and for peace-making. The vehicles will then be seen as dynamic connectors, or conveyers, between subject and object and for inter-subjective cooperation.
1. Kabbalah Proper
The very word "Kabbalah" is a major vehicle. The word means literally "reception" or "receptivity". It is likely that originally the word meant just "transmitted tradition", but recently it was noted (largely by the modern Kabbalist Yehudah Ashlag and his students) that Kabbalah means "training in the art of receiving". Thus it is sometimes claimed that Kabbalah deals with the transformation of the egoistical "will to receive" for one's self to an altruistic skill in "receiving in order to give". This understanding of Kabbalah thus delineates a practice of strengthening, rather than discarding, the will - but also a change in life goals which ultimately amounts to a change in self-definition. Thus Kabbalah may mean reception of the divine, including also the reception of the "higher self" or "divine soul" and of the reception of the divine in the other and of "divine other" of "the Eternal Thou" (in Buber's phrase).
This word means both "chariot" and, generically, "assembly" or anything that is complex or assembled in an integral manner. Ecstatic visions in line with those of the visions of the prophet Ezekiel dealt with the divine "throne" constructed as a vehicle and thus helping to convey the human adept to the divine realms. A Key expression is that of the sages that "the Patriarchs are the Merkavah", and later Kabbalah explained that the examples of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (and also Moses, Aharon, Joseph and especially King David, and Lurianic Kabbalah added much about Rachel and Le'ah in this assembly) add up in a systematic manner to form the supreme model of humanity. The original Jewish mystical tradition of engaging in "ma'asei Merkavah" (referred to in the Talmud) may thus mean "engaging in acts of integration" and of assembling various appropriate vehicles for reaching spiritual and holistic goals.
The earliest known Jewish mystical texts are characterise as the "Heikhalot Texts". The word is taken to mean "(heavenly) mansions", but in a more generic sense it means "special spaces" or "(spiritual) containers". In this sense, Heykhalot are much related to the basic Kabbalistic concept of "Kelim" (vessels or vehicles), and the Zohar, for example, includes sections where spatial imagery is used to describe the experiencing of the various Sephirot and fundamental ontological stances such as Will, Love, Compassion, etc. The adept may make a spiritual pilgrimage (Lekh Lekha, Higrah, Pilgrimage, Aliyah, Night Journey, Spiritual Crusade, etc.) of rising through several such special spaces in a certain significant order. Obviously the narrative form of journey or adventure (as romance, pilgrim's progress, or nowadays computer adventure games) is very suitable for charting the order of progression. Significantly in the Heykhalot texts, passage is often conditioned on acquiring a "key" of a charmed formula or a divine name that convinces the gate-keeper that the adept is worthy to enter. Later Kabbalah uses many "key and lock" metaphors.
4. Angels and Magidim
The idea of divine messengers is universal and is certainly developed in Jewish tradition, from the Book of Genesis down to the latest Kabbalah. Angels appeared in history and were sought by later ecstatic contemplators. Apparitions of prophets (especially Elijah) and sages may appear in dreams and mystical contemplations, whether in a sudden or an almost-regular manner. Again, the very Biblical word for angel - Mal'akh - merits scrutiny. Mal'akh is the male form of Melakha, a work that causes some change in the world. (As is often noted about the Shabbat observances - the avoidance is not of a physical exertion per se, but on causing some artificial change). Thus, "artificial" is in Hebrew Melakhuti. The sages learnt from the three angels of Abraham and Lot that no angel does two different types of work. The Kabbalah indeed teaches that many, if not most, angels are man-made artifacts, created out of each person's deeds, for good or evil, that surround that person and facilitate or hinder his life choices. Angels may form bands and even complex assemblies like of the Merkavah. Thus in the Biblical passage of the journeys of Jacob-Israel away and back to the holy land, bands of angels help him. In the customary Jewish bedtime prayer, one quotes: "On my right Michael, on my Left Gabriel, ahead of me Uriel, behind me Rephael (not the Ninja turtle!) and above me the presence (Shekhinah) of the divine. Thus one is surrounded by divine Love on the right, Might on the left, Light ahead, Healing behind and the complete divine presence above, forming a safe envelope for the night-journey of the soul during sleep.
We may mention here that dream ascents are fairly common practice of Kabbalah and a person may train to have a "dream question" which he brings to divine councillors whom (s)he may meet during the dream ascent. It is clear that early Jewish mystics were very occupied with the images of ascended patriarchs, prophets and sages, and in particular with the images of Enoch and Elijah who ascended to heaven without dying and apparently became arch-angels. The apocryphal and Dead-Sea Sect texts about the ascent of Enoch who became the arch-angel Metatron (Idel, 198x) as God's viceroy probably developed eventually to the Christian beliefs in Jesus as the man who ascended to the divine status on the "right hand of God" (and that's probably why these texts were suppressed in later Judaism). There is a continuous resort in Judaism, Christianity and Islam to encounters with an apparently similar figure, known alternatively as the Prophet Elijah, Saint Michael and the Hidr in the respective cultures. "Giluy Eliyahu" (a revelation of, or encounter with, Elijah) has been the chief surviving Judaic mode of prophecy from the Second Temple period to the present, and the public appearance of Elijah is expected to precede the Coming of the Messiah (a belief strongly attested in the Christian gospels). This is based on the prophecy (Mal'akhi 3:23) that God "shall send you Elijah, the prophet, before the before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers... ", a great process of human restitution.
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