Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Romancing the Tome: Lost Books of Heavenly Secrets

The Hebrew Scriptures make reference to a number of "lost" books, books which the Biblical readers would have known of to consult, but no longer exist, such as the The Book of the Wars of the Lord.

[Ornamented 18th Century siddur. Picture found at www.codart.nl/exhibitions/details/1052/]

But there are also occult books that are only mentioned obliquely. These are special books, books of secret knowledge. The tradition that there is a primordial book of power known to the worthies of the past appears multiple times in two overlapping Jewish traditions, the “Book of Adam” and the “Book of Noah.”

The Biblical basis is Gen. 5:1, “This is the book of the generations of Adam…,” assumed to refer to a book distinct from Genesis, which contains a genealogy of all the human generations that will ever exist.

It starts with the teaching that God showed Adam all the generations:

The Holy Blessed One, blessed showed Adam all succeeding generations, together with their preachers, leaders, prophets, mighty men, criminals, and their pious (Avot 5), and …that is what Resh Lakish meant when he said: What is the meaning of the verse, 'This is the book of the generations of Adam? It is to intimate that the Holy Blessed One, showed him [Adam] every generation and its thinkers, every generation and its sages. When he came to the generation of Rabbi Akiba, he [Adam] rejoiced at his learning but was grieved at his death, and said: How weighty are Your companions to me, O God. (Sanh. 38b).

Elsewhere in the Talmud, it is made explicit that the generations actually exist in book form:

And in that day the deaf hear the words of a book” (Is. 24:18) [this refers to] the book of the generations of Adam (Gen. Rabbah 24:1)

The belief that the book not only contains the names of all the generations but also has some healing powers probably got its start in this passage, where a physician consults it, though as the perceptive reader will see, Samuel does so only to determine his destiny, not his course of treatment:

Samuel Yarhinaah was Rabbi's physician. Now, Rabbi contracted an eye disease and Samuel offered to soak it with a lotion, but he said, 'I cannot bear it.' 'Then I will apply an ointment to it,' he said. 'This too I cannot bear,' he objected [even to this]. So he placed a poultice of medicines under his pillow, and he was healed. Rabbi was most anxious to ordain him, but there was no opportunity. Don’t you be grieved, he said; I have seen the Book of Adam, in which is written, 'Samuel Yarhinaah shall be called "wise'', but not "Rabbi'', but Rabbi's healing shall come through him (Baba Metzia 85b-86a).

The Noahide tradition of the “book” is as follows –

References to a “Book of Noah” first appear in the Apocryphal books Enoch I (passages 6-11; 39:1-2a; 54:7-55:2; 60; 65:1-69:25; and 106-107 are ascribed to the “Book of Noah”) and the book of Jubilees 10:13 and 21:10.

Fragments of a self-styled “Book of Noah” have been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (1QNoah or 1Q19 and 4Q534).

Later medieval magio-medical books such as Sefer Asaf ha-Rofe claim the “Book of Noah” as their source material.

Zal G'mor: To learn more, consult the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism - http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

In the course of two days I have received five (5) comments on last week's entry on the the tzohar / tsohar stone. That's a record for a single entry on this blog. So lets take a look at what people wrote:

1) Based on the descriptions, it sounds like they all are absolutely and accurately describing as a similar stone or jewel that was possessed is the same thing as is often termed Philosopher's Stone in spiritual alchemy, or kundalini yoga.

"Absolute" is a word I'm very shy about using in any context. Bill Maher's recent mock-umentary gets most of its juice from focusing on those whose certainty (spiritual, moral, intellectual) far outstrips their knowledge. I am both hopeful and confident in my beliefs, but never absolutely certain. That aside, its an intriguing proposal. The philosopher's stone does make several appearances, primarily in Jewish achemical literature. One source claims that the stone Jacob rested his head on when he dreamt of the angels was the P. S. It has also been connected to the divination device fo the priests, the Urim v'tummim. I've seen no attempt, however, to equate the tzohar with the philosopher's stone in my source, which is surprising.

In the "The Chicken Qabalah of Rabbi Lamed Ben Clifford" by Lon Milo Duquette he puts the case that the ark of the covenant was an ancient battery. Could the stones in your article also be referring to lamps powered by electricity?

Yet another cool idea. I'm not familiar with the "Chicken Qabalah..." (sounds schmultzy - get it?). Getting well past Van Daniken and his mostly moronic Chariot of the Clods, there is actual suprising yet compelling archeaological evidence that the ancients built low-powered battery vessels. There is no evidence, however, that they used them for anything more than shock value. No diss on our avot, but making a resistent filiment in a vacuum container that could produce light from electricity was still well beyond human engineering of the time.

3) Any thoughts as to the etrog representing the tzohar?

Jewels > Jews > Juice? Bold associative thinking there from Louisiana, especially when you see Hasidim examining the quality of etrogim with a jeweler's glass, but I've never seen a source that connects the two. A goodly collection of etrogs would have helped the ark on the olfactory front, however.

The philosophers stone is not an actual stone. The alchemists coded their works to give the impression they were dealing with actual objects, but in reality they were after the transformation of consciousness or spiritual awakening. IE:Turning lead to gold was actually turning the animalistic lower man into the heavenly spiritual man. Same goe for kundalini yoga, bringing the spiritual energy up the spinal column from pelvis to pineal gland is representative of going from animal consciouness to spiritual consciousness, for lack of a better term.

I agree with the first part of this comment. I think some writers actually imagined a lithic object, while others used the term as an allegory for something more abstract, such as a formula, the mind, the enlightened spirit, or a specific insight. Can't really comment on the rest. I had never heard of the philosopher's stone playing a role in yoga, but then the things I don't know are legion. The only yoga I practice is the Jewish variety: shrug your shoulders, hold up your hands in puzzlement, sigh, and say "Oy." Repeat as necessary.

5) Heh, I always learn something when I come by here...and I thought I was fairly well versed in esoterica. Thanks.

No, thank you for taking an interest. I always learn something from your comments. Hag sameach/Happy Festival of Ingathering. May may all the ushpazin but none of the rain call upon you in your sukkah.

Zal G'mor: To learn more, consult the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism - http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050