St. Paul Wrestles Lilith

Why would Paul suggest a young man not be married? Answer, because Paul’s converts to a Judiac religion believe the world in coming to an end, and thus, they only need wrestle with Lilith.

Jon the Nazarite

 25 Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26 Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is.

Kabbalah and Sex, part 2

by Jacobus Swart

It would seem the ancient Israelites had a particular horror of nakedness, etc., yet they swore solemn oaths by laying hands upon each other’s penises, and that not even above clothing. It is interesting that, whilst one could lay ones hand on the phallus of another man when taking an oath, it was pretty much taboo laying your hand on another man for sexual reasons, or on your own penis for the same reasons.
Masturbation and “nocturnal emissions” were considered “polluting experiences.” As someone once said: “The seed must not go into the earth, but must go into the womb, because on the Last Day Lilith would collect this spilled semen and turn it into demons.” Actually in some Kabbalistic legends it is believed that Lilith, a female demon and the first wife of Adam, is all the time changing spilled semen into demons, who would haunt the soul of the guilty party after death. This checked back to the Talmudic legend that Lilith lurks around for shed seed, stealing it with which to make little demons in order to torture mankind. Thus in theory man, shedding his seed outside its proper place, would populate the “spirit world with devils!” This is addressed in two specialized works, i.e. The Book of Lilith by Barbara Black Koltuv and The Hebrew Goddess by Raphael Patai.
Even though common or garden masturbation worries few these days, only a couple of decades back people were told it was almost the “Ultimate Sin,” scarcely better than murder. They were told by serious medical men, let alone priests and rabbis, that they would go mad, blind, get terrible diseases, die lingering and horrible deaths – God knows what. Now we might ridicule these old rumours, which in all cases was sheer lack of knowledge of biology, and wrong attribution of cases, since what most of the doctors assumed to be caused by masturbation, was factually inherited syphilis or genetic tendencies attributable to sexual diseases.
The stupid part is that they called it the “Sin of Onan” without having the slightest clue of what Onan really did as reported in the Hebrew Bible. It had nothing to do with masturbation at all. Even the fact that he pulled out during sexual intercourse and spilled his semen in the sand, had nothing to do with it. His sin was theft. Onan broke the law of inheritance by refusing seed to his brother’s wife. His Coitus Interruptus, not masturbation, was purely incidental to the act. Looking closer we notice Onan had stolen the inheritance that should have gone to his brother’s children, since his brother died and did not have children. According Levirate Marriage laws, it was his duty to give offspring to his brother’s wife, technically his sister-in-law, and the offspring would then be considered his brother’s children and heirs. As there was no heir, Onan wanted to grab the property for himself, and therefore, strictly speaking, his sin was thieving from a dead man, and worst of all from his own brother.
It seems that the real reason for classifying infertile sex as taboo and connecting it with succubi and other “bogey-images,” was tribalistic concern with the fertility of their species and the prevention of hereditary diseases. Yet the neuroses caused by all these laws must have been incredible, and did not only affect the secular life and orthodox religion of Jewry, but had a deep influence on Jewish mystics, carrying great guilt for sometimes many years, like in the case of Abraham Abulafia. He was having serious problems with his own sexual drive, and constantly complained that “for fifteen years, the Satan was at my right hand to mislead me.” He used Gematria to show that the Hebrew word Shatan (Satan) had the same numerical value as Zera Lavan (white seed) and Diabolos (Devil). He connected the word Diabolos to Duo Bolos (two balls), thus Satan was in his case his masturbatory tendencies, which left him filled with self loathing and ideas of his body being “defiled with seed” and deserving death since it committed murder, so to speak.
As noted, in traditional Kabbalah, as in orthodox Judaism, masturbation was considered a terrible sin, but whereas in the exoteric Jewish faith it is a sin because of it being infertile, in Kabbalah it was objectionable because of the sexual fantasies invoked during masturbation, which distracted the mind of the Kabbalist from using his imagination towards Higher Spiritual aims. I suppose that it was inevitable that someone would have come up with a “remedy” for this “terrible sin.” Rabbi Nachman of Breslav, the inimitable eighteenth century Chasid and Kabbalist, prides himself on the fact that he managed to discover a method of rectifying the spiritual damage caused through masturbation, i.e. the “Tikkun Ha-Klali.” I am sure this must be a great relief for many who would happily indulge their wildest fantasies with hopes of total restoration through the recitation of special Psalms. From the biographical sources of Kabbalists, it would seem that a number of religionists, other than Abulafia, were faced with a similar dilemma in their lives.
Being aware of Abraham Abulafia’s “personal problems,” sexually speaking, one can perhaps understand why he maintained that “Intercourse is called the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil and it is a matter of disgust and one ought to be ashamed at the time of the act” (Otzar Eden Ganuz). However, as shown in numerous sources, this view was certainly not held by all Kabbalists, even in the thirteenth century of Abulafia.
By the way, the English words “semen” and “sperm,” signifying the fertilising, reproductive fluid of the male animal, originated from the Latin and Greek respectively meaning “seed” and “to sow.” Some of the ancient Greeks believed semen to originate in the brain, from whence it was transported down the spinal column to the genitals, but the germ-cells in the sperm were mostly said by the ancients to be formed from the blood. Thus the ancient Egyptians believed it to be produced in the heart, and accordingly Atum said of semen that “I established it in my heart.” These words derive from the most popular creation myth in ancient Egypt.
Atum, meaning “the Complete One,” was the earlier name for Ra, the High God as the Sun, and although he is spoken of as “He,” the Egyptians saw him as bisexual. It is told in the ancient texts, that he created the first creatures Shu (the Primeval Sky, Life and Eternity, here seen as male), and Tefnut (Order, considered to be female), through masturbation. These gods were held for a long time in the embrace of their father, Atum, while he was passing his vital essence on to them. Then “he puts his penis in his hand that he might obtain the pleasure of emission thereby and there was born brother and sister – that is Shu and Tefnut,” reads the text. This act of masturbation is said to have taken place in the “Primeval Waters,” and interestingly enough, during his creative act Atum was seen to be entirely male, whilst his hand was seen as female. The Pyramid texts talked of Shu and Tefnut being “spat forth,” and here we have some clever puns. The words for spitting in Egyptian are “ishesh” and “tef,” resembling closely the names Shu and Tefnut.
Now, in the Talmud semen was said to be formed from the food man eats but generally in esoteric traditions it was supposed that blood actually turned into seed in the human body, and although they were utterly mistaken biologically, they were mystically closer to the truth than they might have guessed. Semen was believed to consist of two kinds of fluid: 1. “Liquor Vitae” meaning “Life Liquid,” which was said to contain and nourish the sperm cells, and 2. “Aura Seminalis,” an oily, fiery and superphysical substance. Thus, many esotericists believed semen to be a condensation of a spiritual fire.
Again in ancient Egypt it was believed that when a Pharaoh was crowned his blood would be magically combined with the “Sa” or semen of Ra, the Sun God, thus he would be a “Sacred King” ruling with Divine authority. In fact, in the days when Sacred Kings were still sacrificed, some of the very arcane lot believed that the ritual slaying of the Sacred King should be at the very moment of an ejaculation, so that “Blood and Seed” flowed at the same moment. Hence too, the belief that virginity was the essential requirement for receiving the seed of a Divine King, because blood was shed by the girl’s broken hymen, and that could only be done once in her lifetime.
Now, whilst certain Kabbalists extolled the virtues of sexual intercourse, others were quite prudish and even nasty about sex – and women for that matter! Those who aligned themselves with Abraham Abulafia, the famous thirteenth century Kabbalist, and Moses Maimonides, believed sexual intercourse to be a most disgusting activity and the sense of touch to be a vile and evil one. In fact, sex was considered “unclean” amongst many mainstream religionists, who considered it something to be left outside the “Presence of God.” The Kabbalistic arena itself has always been divided between the absolute ascetic and the outright erotic, and human beauty and sensuality were for many actually Divinity in the flesh.
There were, and still are, many Kabbalists who hail sexual intercourse as an extremely high form of worship, and amongst the literature which emanated from this specific faction can be found the very illuminating “guide on sexual techniques” titled “Iggeret ha-Kodesh” (The Holy Epistle). It was originally attributed to Nachmanides, but it appears to have been penned by an anonymous thirteenth century Spanish Kabbalist. Contrary to mainstream Jewish opinion following Maimonides’ very narrow mindset regarding women and sexuality, the author recognized female orgasm and denounced Maimonides. The unknown Spanish author hailed the pleasures of sexual intercourse as well as its spiritual / theurgic values, and the text appears to be on a par with the great Sufi mystic al Ghazali’s “Book on the Etiquette of Marriage.”
In “The Holy Letter” we find wonderful depictions of human intimacy and the sense of touch. The author tells us that “The matter is not as Rabbi Moses [Maimonides] thought and supposed in his Guide of the Perplexed, where he praises Aristotle for saying that the sense of touch is despicable to us. God forbid! That impure Greek is wrong inasmuch as his statement contains an imperceptible trace of heresy. For if he believe that the world was created intentionally [by God], he would not have said this. But we who have the Torah and believe that God created all in his wisdom [do not believe that he] created anything inherently ugly or unseemly. If we were to say that intercourse is repulsive, then we blaspheme God who made the genitals . . .”
I have been told that the sentiments expressed in this quote represent the unique and isolated ravings of an obscure thirteenth century Kabbalist, totally out of touch with the general feeling regarding sexuality in the broader domain of Kabbalah. I was further reminded to consider the sexual purity of “ascetics” like the Holy Ari and his “cubs.” However, it was these very sixteenth century Safed Kabbalists who taught the virtue of sexual intercourse as a sacred act. They were certainly no ascetics. In fact they maintained the Sh’chinah, the Female Counterpart of God, to be represented by all women alive, hence they believed that if you spend your time studying Torah, thus being in the company of the Sh’chinah all the time it was your obligation to give pleasure to your spouse on the seventh day since it was through her that the Sh’chinah or “Divine Presence” came to you. The seventh day, or Sabbath, itself became associated with the Sh’chinah as a “Divine Bride,” and her arrival at the Friday evening meal was greeted with ecstatic hymns, like this one written by Isaac Luria:
I sing in hymns
to enter the gates,
of the field of apples
of holy ones.

A new table
we lay for her,
a beautiful candelabrum
sheds its light upon us.

Between right and left
the Bride approaches
in holy jewels
and festive garments.

Her husband embraces her
in her foundation,
gives her fulfilment,
squeezes out his strength.

Torment and cries
are past.
Now there are new faces
and souls and spirits.

He gives her joy
in twofold measure.
Lights shine
and streams of blessing.

Bridesmen, go forth
and prepare the bride,
victuals of many kinds
and all manner of fish.

To beget souls
and new spirits
on the thirty-two paths
and three branches.

She has seventy crowns
but above her the King,
that all may be crowned
in the Holy of Holies.

All worlds are formed
and sealed within her,
but all shine forth
from the ‘Old of Days’.

To southward I set
the Mystical candelabrum,
I make room in the north
for the table with the loaves.

With wine in beakers
and boughs of myrtle
to fortify the Betrothed,
for they are feeble.

We plait them wreathes
of precious words
for the coronation of the seventy
in fifty gates.

Let the Shekhinah be surrounded
by six Sabbath loaves
connected on every side
with the Heavenly Sanctuary.

Weakened and cast out
the impure powers,
the menacing demons
are now in fetters.
I think Luria’s magnificent hymn aligns nicely with the advice offered to all men regarding courtship by that unknown Spanish author of “The Holy Letter.” He exhorts men to “engage her first in conversation that puts her heart and mind at ease and gladden her . . . Speak words that arouse her to passion, union, love, desire, and Eros [agavim] . . . Never may you force her . . . Rather win her over with words of graciousness and seduction . . . Do not hasten to arouse passion until her mood is ready; enter with love and willingness so that she ‘seminates’ first . . .”
The last stanza of Luria’s hymn is referring to the Klippot (Demonic shells – a Kabbalistic term, alluding to the “frustrating forces” of the Sefirot, once believed to be demons). The legend behind the “shells” is that they consist of all the imperfections of Creation, which “filter down,” as it were, to the bottom before being finally consumed by the “Abyss” system. As such, they obscure and obstruct the Sh’chinah in this world, except on the Sabbath, when they are said to be powerless because of the regenerating forces operating within the “Union of God and His Sh’chinah.”
The task God intended for man was to “redeem” the fallen Sh’chinah. Since his “Highest Soul,” his Neshamah, the Divine Spark Itself, is in fact part of the Sh’chinah, man should redeem this Divine Presence in himself, and thus perfect the whole “Plan.” Adam failed to do this, and his descendants are still struggling. It has been said many times that when the Messiah comes, everything will be made plain, and man will achieve the “Mystical Marriage” with the Sh’chinah or his “True Self,” and regain his Heaven-state.
The sexual union referred to in Luria’s hymn actually pertains to the union of the male and female aspects of God. In this light we might understand what Chaim Vital, Luria’s closest disciple, meant when he wrote in his Etz Chaim that “This is the mystery of Unification (Yichud). The individual who is worthy of the World to Come must unify the name of the Blessed Holy One . . . This is the mystery of ‘Hear O Israel, God is our Lord, God is One,’ . . . Yod is the mystery of the Holy Covenant [the male sex organ]. Heh is the chamber, the place in which the Holy Covenant, which is the Yod, is concealed [in the female sex organ]. And even though we have stated [elsewhere] that this is the Vav [in the Tetragrammaton, YHVH] here it is a Yod. The mystery is that the two are united as one.”
Of course, these are again not new notions in Kabbalistic teachings. Such ideas can be found in numerous texts tracing back the very birth of Kabbalah. In the Sefer ha-Bahir, considered one of the very first Kabbalistic texts, the union between God and his Kavod, or Sh’chinah, is described in highly erotic terms, and this was greatly expanded upon in the Sefer ha-Zohar. It is certainly clear that Kabbalah does not forbid or deride sex as such, neither encourage it unduly or advocate anything unsavoury such as cruelty and humiliation. Instead, it shows us how to use sex with intelligence and enjoyment combined, so as to benefit by the God-force it was, and is, meant to be. It is wonderful to find modern thinkers willing to look at the topic in the clear light of common-sense. I fully resonate with Jay Michaelson who wrote in God in Your Body: Kabbalah, Mindfulness and Embodied Spiritual Practice:
One might think that the Kabbalah, concerned as it is with higher states of consciousness, would have an ascetic impulse. However, although asceticism was present in some kabbalistic movements, the dominant trend is that sexuality is holy; that sexual union embodies, actualizes, and reflects the fundamental dynamics of cosmic and even theological processes; and that union must be actualized to maintain the flow of the shefa, the divine effluence. For the Zohar, the masterpiece of Kabbalah, God, creation, the balance of energies in the world – all are understood through the prism of the union of opposites, a union reflective of and expressed in sexuality. This is no mere metaphor: the world of the Zohar is a dynamic universe in which energies are always combining, breaking apart, and then combining anew. Human agency, including sexuality, is an essential part of this process: the process of God itself. We are not meant to return to God by leaving the body behind . . . Rather, the Zohar says that we are meant to imitate God, who creates, manifests into separation, and unites the separate back into One . . . Exactly how those energies are united will vary from individual to individual, since all of us contain both masculine and feminine aspects. But in general, manifestation, separation, and union are not just the ways of the birds and bees; they are the imitation of God.

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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1 Response to St. Paul Wrestles Lilith

  1. Reblogged this on rosamondpress and commented:

    We need a committee to investigate how this voo-doo affects human sexuality that ISIS also targets.

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