Christianity, Nature, and the Mystical Zohar

Discussion in 'Esoteric' started by ScholarlySeeker, Jan 27, 2021.

  1. ScholarlySeeker

    ScholarlySeeker Active Member

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    Hi all!
    I'm new here, and hope my first post isn't too far out. I wrote this the other day while reading in the Zohar. I'm looking forward to being here and sharing and learning from all of you, becoming friends, reading some great stuff too. This looks like a good, solid forum for good discussions and materials that make us think. That's a hard kind of forum to find these days.
    Best to all,
    ScholarlySeeker
    The Natural Earthly Wisdom Found in the Zohar Weirdness

    The first thing one meets on beginning reading the Zohar, that greatest and most important of Jewish mystical texts, is a detailed look at a rose. A lovely red and white striped flower. Its details of the thorns and 13 petals, its 5 leaves of the observation of Rabbi Hizkiyah truly impresses me. The way he interweaves three items, a natural flower, a sacred text, and a religious, spiritual commentary, all on the very first page is amazing. There is a lesson here worth looking into for a little bit.[1]

    The school for mankind’s higher spirituality is grounded in nature. The Zohar is full of this. Its wisdom is correlated and interweaved with rivers, clouds, mountains, dust, stars, flowers, trees, rocks, the sun, oceans, as they wander through nature together in small groups gabbing, looking, learning, arguing, and teaching on many occasions.

    This concern as it were, this inclusion of so many natural features is actually a useful idea, as the Zohar is anything but easy to understand, deliberately written, to put it mildly, to help us think outside the box, concerning nature, the scriptures, and what spirituality might actually be. That so many ideas are down to earth comments with many aspects of nature is a big help. As Arthur Green has reminded us however, “The purpose of the book is precisely to mystify rather than to make anything ‘clear’ in the ordinary sense. Here the way to clarity is to discover the mysterious.”[2]

    On one particular occasion, Rabbi El’azar said “the moon was concealed and descended from a perfect rung to another rung, conjoined by a serpent.”[3] The moon and a serpent are the subject, having something to do with rungs, of which we won’t concern ourselves for right now as to what it means. The interesting thing is the connection of the moon with a serpent, since both are ancient mother-goddess symbols, as well as symbols for the resurrection, the snake sloughs its skin becoming young again, while the moon sloughs its shadow, and returns full after 3 days of being gone on its monthly journey around the earth, being the “celestial sign. This is the lord and measure of the life-creating rhythm of the womb, and therewith of time, through which beings come and go: lord of the mystery of birth and death - which two, in sum, are aspects of one state of being.”[4]

    A lot of the imagery, and weird congruences of things and animals and places are mythological in the Zohar, one of the reasons it is sometimes difficult for us to understand, forcing us to enlarge our capacity to fathom, to grow, and increase our understanding, all of which is designed to increase our own spirituality and knowledge.

    Just what is the meaning of the weird idea that “a north wind arouses in the world and joy prevails; the wind blows on those spices and aromas rise above. The righteous are adorned fittingly in their crowns and bask in the radiance of the resplendent speculum. Happy are the righteous who attain that supernal light! The radiance of the resplendent speculum shines in all directions…”?[5]

    In Jewish mythology, wind is one of the elements God creates with, fire and water are the other main two items.[6] Perhaps the wind was from God shouting to the chaos and beginning the creation, as sound (God’s voice) is one of the key characteristics in Jewish thinking that involved creation of the universe.[7] The legend is King David’s harp was suspended in his bedroom, and the wind blew it and its chiming reminded him to wake up and begin studying Torah. It was through the study of Torah that the rabbis and humans help God create the universe, as creation is an ongoing process.

    God is actually said to have spoken the Torah and it was this energy of the sound and words which caused the creation. As rabbis engage in Torah study, they too participate with God in creating heavens and worlds.[8] A heady concept! The resplendent speculum was a bright and shining window, perhaps a mirror of which the light of heaven shined on the righteous, which gave them actual power, actual knowledge, as it was supernal light, not natural light.

    Novalis, one of the originators of the Romantic Movement in the 1800’s wrote in his Logologische Fragmente “Everything we come to know is a communication. Thus the world is indeed a communication - revelation of the spirit.”[9] This strikes a cord with Ralph Waldo Emerson who similarly stated “...the noblest ministry of nature is to stand as the apparition of God. It is the organ through which the universal spirit speaks to the individual, and strives to lead back the individual to it.”[10]

    The approach of the Zohar that happy are the righteous who attain to the resplendent supernal light is very much in the spirit of W. B. Yeats - “I am content to follow to its source every event in action or in thought; Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot! When such as I cast out remorse so great a sweetness flows into the breast, We must laugh and we must sing, We are blest by everything, Everything we look upon is blest.”[11] “The sacred tree, the sacred stone are not adored as stone or tree; they are worshipped precisely because they are hierophanies, because they show something that is no longer stone or tree but the sacred…”[12]

    Right after the rose is expounded and actually extended, we read on the 2nd page of the Zohar right in the beginning of the cup of salvation. The 5 leaves of the rose are called Salvation! This cup is to be held up by 5 fingers and no more. “This rose is the cup of blessing.” What is going on here? Notice how nature is incorporated directly into salvation for mankind. The close-knittedness of nature with man and our own creations (the cup) is a theme throughout the Zohar. A cup of blessing reminds us, of course, of the cup of Christ at the last supper, as well as the cup which Joseph of Arimathea is said to have collected the blood of Christ on the cross, the Holy Grail. A Christian Kabbalist would have no problem with this imagery.

    In Robert Frost’s poem “Directive,” the drinking goblet he finds he likens to the Grail ending the poem with the directive “Here are your waters and your watering place. Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.”[13] The idea here is that “any drink that quenches man’s spiritual thirst and makes him whole, is, like the one offered in ‘Directive,’ holy.”[14] The number 5 is also the number of man (2 legs, 2 arms, and one head), so we have nature, number symbolism, man, a creation of man, and all wrapped together in a most important subject, the salvation of man.

    Yet the rose we are told also is the entire community of Israel! And this community, as the rose has 13 petals, has 13 qualities of compassion surrounding her on every side according to the Zohar. These compassions are described from God in Exodus 34:6-7. It is also a Jewish custom during their Bar-khu (call to prayer) to actually bless God. The idea is that by blessing God one blesses himself as well “In this way, blessing is not supplication, but symbiosis.”[15]

    This theme of man in nature is what Novalis said was “a relation of mutual representation (Wechsel Repräsentation) with man, the true being of nature and the true being of man are analogous… many things are linked by the One unifying spirit that underlies them all, the spirit that expresses itself in nature and is hidden beneath nature’s veil is also the spirit that animates man… the universe in us and the worlds of the past and future are the worlds of the depth of our spirit.. Time and eternity are conjoined in a coincidence of opposites.”[16]

    This is what we find in the Zohar, that most mystical of Jewish texts, attempting to get us and our attention onto the two things that matter the most, the Universe (Nature), and ourselves as beings, partners with God in the creation of that universe. The difference in thrust is in Christianity, mankind does not help in creation, but in some denominations of Christianity man is mere creature, God is wholly other, aloof, and unapproachable.

    Endnotes
    1. Daniel Matt, “Zohar,” Pritzker edition, 12 vols., Stanford University Press, 2004, 1:1.
    2. Arthur Green, “Introduction,” “Zohar,” Pritzker ed., 1: xxxviii.
    3. “Zohar,” Va-Yeshev, Matt, vol. 3: 135.
    4. Joseph Campbell, “Occidental Mythology:The Masks of God,” Penguin Books, 1964: 9.
    5. “Zohar,” Va-Yhi, Matt, vol. 3: 400.
    6. Howard Schwartz, “Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism,” Oxford University Press, 2004: 90.
    7. Schwartz, p. 90. Also see “The Bahir,” Translated by Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Weiser, 1st paperback, 1989: 17.
    8. “Zohar,” Haqdamat Sefer ha-Zohar, Matt, vol. 1: 28-29.
    9. Kristin Pfefferkorn, “Novalis: A Romantic’s Theory of Language and Poetry,” Yale University Press, 1988: 82.
    10. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Essays and Poems,” Intro and notes by Peter Norberg, Barnes & Noble Classics, 2004: 41.
    11. W. B. Yeats, “A Dialogue of Self and Soul,” selected by John Kelly, Barnes & Noble Books, 2nd impression, 2003: 94.
    12. Mercea Eliade, “The Sacred and the Profane, The Nature of Religion,” Harper Torchbook, 1961: 12.
    13. “The Poetry of Robert Frost,” edited by Edward Connery Lathem, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1969: 379.
    14. “Contours of Belief, Robert Frost,” Dorothy Judd Hall, Ohio University Press, paperback, 1986: 110.
    15. “My People’s Prayer Book,” edited by Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, Jewish Lights Publishing, 4th printing, 2001: 34.
    16. Pfefferkorn, “Novalis,” p. 127. Jacob Boehme exulted that “The entire visible world with all its beings is a sign or figure of the inner spiritual realm.” (p. 91.)
     
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  2. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    Welcome and thanks for the well written post
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2021
  3. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Staff Member

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    Welcome, @ScholarlySeeker! Would you like to introduce yourself, in the introductions section of this forum?

    A rose, or "a lily among the thorns" by another translation.

    The text assigns the qualities of severity and mercy to the red and white petals, right at the beginning. These qualities play a major role.

    You draw quite the arc, from the Zohar to Christian Kabbalah, to Novalis and German Romanticism, and to Robert Frost. Fascinating! Do you study on your own, or is there a tradition you consider yourself a member of?
     
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  4. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    Your article has been added to our Homepage here:
    https://www.interfaith.org/christianity-and-the-zohar/
    with a link back to this thread for full references and discussion
    Thank you
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2021
  5. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi ScholarlySeeker –

    Nice post.

    As a matter of interest, the 'anonymous author' of Meditations on the Tarot, a Journey into Christian Hermeticism was accepted as the heir to Rudolf Steiner's School of Anthroposophy, but underwent a conversion to Catholicism while contemplating the Rose Window at Chartres Cathedral.

    And the Catholic Cardinal Avery Dulles (1918-2008) spoke of a personal 'epiphany' while watching a rose bloom through the rain on a window pane.
     
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  6. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi again –

    By way of welcome, please accept this, from The Meditations, but let it not side-track you from your contemplation of the Rose, but rather enrich it:

    +++

    Authentic inspiration always entails an inner upheaval. It pierces the soul like an arrow in wounding it and in making it experience that profound emotion which is a synthesis of sorrow and joy. The symbol of the Rose Cross – a cross from the centre of which a rose blossoms out – renders the essence of the experience of inspiration in the best way that I know.

    The Rose Cross expresses the mystery of tears, i.e. that of inspiration, with force and clarity. It portrays the joy of sorrow and the sorrow of joy, which together comprise inspiration. With respect to intuition, it is no longer a matter either of the weight of riches or of the romance of the engagement of the Rose and the Cross, but rather of consummating the marriage of life and death. What lives, thereby dies; and what dies, thereby is reborn. Thereby blood is mingled with the Blood and is transformed alchemically from the "fluid of separation" into the "fluid of union".

    There are three ways of "seeing" the Cross: the Crucifix, the Rose Cross, and the Gilded Cross bearing a rose of silver. The Crucifix is the greatest treasure of vision. It is the vision of divine and human love. The black Cross with a rose blossoming from it is the treasure of inspiration. This is divine and human love speaking in the soul. The Gilded Cross bearing a rose of silver is the treasure of intuition. This is love transforming the soul.

    But the Mystery of the Cross is one and indivisible. Whoever does not worship the Crucifix cannot be inspired by it to the point of accepting it (which is inspiration) and still less can he identify himself with it (which is intuition). It is a matter of a single Cross – a single indivisible Christian Mystery.]

    Therefore someone would certainly be in error if, instead of seeing in the Crucifix the way, the truth and the life, he were to think of founding, for example, a community or "fraternity of the Resurrection" with the Gilded Cross and rose of silver as its symbol, replacing the universal symbol of Christianity – the Crucifix. He would be in error, I say, because the Gilded Cross or the Rose Cross in no way replace the Crucifix, but are included and implied in it. It is the Cross of the Crucifix which becomes inspirative (the Rose Cross) and which is transformed into solar light (the Gilded Cross) bearing the receptive soul (the rose of silver). Resurrection is only crucifixion having reached the stage of fructification. It is realised crucifixion.

    Therefore one should not —one cannot! —separate from one another the mortal sweat of the Crucifix, the inspirative tears of acceptance of the Cross (Rose Cross), and the blood transmuted through identification with the Cross (the Gilded Cross bearing the rose of silver). The mystery of sweat, tears and blood is one and indivisible.

    It is the same with Christianity. It is one and indivisible. One should not – one cannot! – separate from so-called "exoteric" Christianity its gnosis and mysticism, or so-called "esoteric" Christianity. Esoteric Christianity is entirely within exoteric Christianity; it does not exist – and cannot exist – separately from it. Christian Hermeticism is only a special vocation within the universal Christian community – the vocation specific to the dimension of depth. Just as there are in the universal Church vocations to the priesthood, monastic life, religious knighthood, etc., so there is a vocation – as irresistible and irrevocable as the others – to Hermeticism.

    Letter XIV: Temperance, p389-390
     
  7. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I may add that the Jewish Cabbala — above all the Zohar — teaches admirably the lesson of thinking of things here below as the reflection of things from above, and not inversely. The Zohar is truly one of the better schools of purity and chastity ... at one and the same time in the spiritual, soul and physical worlds. For true chastity is not to refuse to look at and to see, or even to deny, but rather to see the celestial prototypes through and beyond things here below. And it is this chastity that one finds and apprehends in the Zohar, the 'Book of Splendour' of the Jewish Cabbala.

    Letter XIV: Temperance, p378

    I'll dig out other references if they are of interest.
     
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  8. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Staff Member

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    Another book for my to-read pile. Thanks, Thomas!
     
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  9. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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  10. ScholarlySeeker

    ScholarlySeeker Active Member

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    I study it on my own more or less. I do meditate, but not consistently in the Kabbalah tradition. I really need to go introduce myself and tell my personal philosophy. I really enjoy the esoteric in many traditions, but approach them from more a scholarly comparative approach, even though I do believe mankind needs to remythologize ourselves and begin again looking into the spiritual. Much more later, I'm going to go introduce myself in the introductions. I didn't even see that section! Ayiyi! I had no idea there was an esoteric section. I have a boatload of materials like this to share... I love to learn, what can I say man?
     
  11. ScholarlySeeker

    ScholarlySeeker Active Member

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    Thank you that is very kind. I had no idea there was even an esoteric section or I would have posted here first, sorry bout that. I actually wasn't sure where to put something like this.
     
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  12. ScholarlySeeker

    ScholarlySeeker Active Member

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    Oh how interesting! I had no idea that was what caused his conversion. I used to have that book, dunno where I put it, a great book! I probably loaned it out and now its gone....sigh...Lol! I don't loan books anymore for that reason.
    Tarot is one of my very most favorite subjects of them all! Not as a way of telling others their future, but through personal growth with the symbolism. I need to go introduce myself and then get back here, I have a lot of stuff I am writing right now on the Tarot. It'll be fun to see what others know and how they view things I have always wondered about. I am enjoying this forum very much.
     
  13. ScholarlySeeker

    ScholarlySeeker Active Member

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    OHMIGOSH!!! I just realized this is the entire book! I had no idea it was available online! I have no idea what I did with my copy, but this is a seriously great book. THANK YOU for the link man! I owe you a hamburger and fries!

    I am soooooo slow sometimes.....sigh. That is the thorn in my side of the flesh.
     
  14. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Throw in a banana shake? :D
     
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  15. ScholarlySeeker

    ScholarlySeeker Active Member

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    Will do amigo!
     

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