Sunday, November 20, 2005

Yemaya (not La Siren!) and Yesod


Funny that one querent always focused on the foetus in this card, and that happened when she saw it in my Tarot (funny that my Tarot also picked up on the foetus idea, i.e. the fecundity of Yemaya; funny that Kabbalists see Yesod, represented by the 9s in the Tarot, as a male generative organ making fertile the earth of matter, i.e. the 'male moon', or the astral light of wishes and desires making itself manifest upon the 'female, material' plane of creation?) ;-))

"Teth, la neuvième [lettre], est l'archétype de toute énergie femelle, attirant
la vie du Heth et la construisant graduellement en structures." - Carlo Suares, "The Cipher of Genesis".

Redemption of the Shechinah
about the Shechinah and Eros
by
Rabbi Marc Gafni

In the Hebrew mysticism, Shechinah is the name for the feminine aspect of the Divine. Her name means Indwelling Presence, “the one who dwells in you.” She is presence, poetry, passion. She is the sustaining God force which runs through and wombs the world. She is the underlying erotic, sensual, and loving force that knows our name and nurtures all being.
Shechinah captures an experience, a way of being in the world, for which we do not yet have an English word. For this is a way of being which we in the West are hard pressed to articulate. It is the experience of waking up in the morning full of utter joy for the arrival of the day. It is weeping over the splendor of the sunset or the scent of the ocean or the fragility of a newborn. It is a way of living in love.
Our best move in language is to turn towards the term Plato introduced in the Symposium: Eros. For Plato “eros” is “love plus.” It is precisely the kind of fully charged life experience which is evoked by the Hebrew term Shechinah.
But over time the term “eros” has been so narrowed and limited that it has lost most of its original intention. Usually when we hear the word “erotic” it evokes only the sexual. And although the sexual is a part of eros, it is only a limited part. This narrowing of a term is an expression of a spiritual dynamic which the kabbalists called the exile of the Shechinah.
Now open your hearts and minds to hear the next sentence.
The exile of the Shechinah means no less than the exile of the erotic.
But where did it go? To where was eros exiled? The answer is that the exile of the Shechinah is the exile of the erotic into the sexual. That is to say, when the only place you access the core qualities of eros is in the sexual, then eros, or the Shechinah, is in exile. When intense desire is a feeling you touch only before exploding in orgasm, then your life is poor indeed. The Shechinah is exiled. Eros has fallen.
Eros Expanded
The redemption of the Shechinah from exile will come when we learn how to re-expand eros from the narrow confines of the sexual back into the road expanse of living. The goal of life is to live erotically in all facets of being.
One of the core qualities of the erotic is imagination. The Zohar, magnus opus of Hebrew mysticism says it explicitly in many places "Shechinah is imagination."
In popular understanding, the imagination is implicitly considered to be ‘unreal.’ Indeed “unreal” and “imaginary” are virtually synonyms in common usage. To undermine the reality of an antagonist’s claim we say it is “a figment of his imagination.” In marked contrast, the Hebrew mystics held imagination to be very real. Indeed it would not be unfair to say that they considered imagination to be “realer than real.”
The power of the imagination is its ability to give form to the deep truths and visions of the inner divine realm. Imagination gives expression to the higher visions of reality which derive from our divine selves. Language and rational thinking are generally unable to access this higher truth. The imagination is our prophet, bringing us the word of the divine that speaks both through us and from beyond us. We imagine God. That is what biblical mystic Hosea meant when he exclaimed the words of God, “By the hands of my prophets I [God] am imagined.”
But why don’t I feel like such a prophet, handily imagining God? Why don’t we have access to this experience of prophecy? Because the Shechinah is in exile. The erotics of imagination has been exiled into the sexual.
The simplest evidence of this exile is that we all have no problem accessing the power of imagination in the sexual. But we have enormous difficulty accessing that same faculty of erotic imagination, not only in a non-sexual visualization, but in all of our non-sexual lives. What that means is that this core erotic quality of imagination no longer plays in all the arenas of our lives where she is so desperately needed. For it is imagination which allows us to access the wisdom and vision we need to re-chart our lives.
This exile of the erotic Shechinah power of imagination is reflected both in our language as well as our most intimate experience. Our English word fantasy derives from the Greek word phantasi, a verb that means “to make visible, to reveal”. For the ancient Greeks, this fantasizing had nothing to do with sex. It meant “a making visible - through imagining - the world of the gods,” the realm of pure spirit and forms.
So why is it that in modern usage the word “fantasy” first and foremost conjures up images of the sexual? We very rarely talk about economic, political or social fantasies. We don’t even talk about food fantasies. We do talk about sexual fantasy.....all the time. Just like the adjective “erotic,” the verb “fantasize” has found itself relegated to the narrow confines of the merely sexual. The reason is clear. In modernity we have lost much of our ability to make visible, to imagine, the deeper visions of the spirit. It is mainly in the sexual where we use imagination to conjure up images of that which is hidden or not revealed. The limiting of erotic imagination to the sexual is the exile of the Shechinah.
So the goal of a truly erotic existence is to expand imagination beyond the merely sexual and invite it into all the other realms of our lives. This expanded and fully embracing form of imagination is no less than our greatest human birthright.
Bachelard was right when he wrote of the imagination, “More than any other power it is what distinguishes the human psyche.” Or listen to the twentieth century prophet of eros, Norman O. Brown: “Man makes himself, his own body, in the symbolic freedom of the imagination. The Eternal Body of Man is the Imagination.” Hebrew mystical master Nachman of Bratzlav writers: “It is for this reason that man was called Adam: He is formed of adama, the dust of the physical, yet he can ascend above the material world through the use of his imagination and reach the level of prophecy.” The Hebrew word ”I will imagine” is adameh.
For Nachman, the core human movement which gives birth to our spirit is the evolution (within the same root structure) from adama to adameh. Adamah is ground, earth, Gaia. Yet it can also be read as adameh, “I will imagine.” Man emerges from Nature to live what philosopher Joseph Soloveitchik called “a fantasy-aroused existence.”
Imagination is not a detail of our lives nor merely a methodological tool. It is the very essence of who we are. We generally regard ourselves as thinking animals, homo sapiens. Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am” is hardwired into our cultural genes. Yet, biblical myth offers an alternative understanding of the concept of “humanness.” The closest Hebrew word to the English “human” or the Latin “homo” is “adam.” The word “Adam” derives from the Hebrew root meaning imagination (d’mayon). The stunning implication is that the human being is not primarily homo sapien, but what I will call “homo imaginus.”
At the very dawn of human existence, man is described as being created in the divine image. “Divine image” does not mean a fixed and idolatrous copy of divinity. God has no fixed form. God is, instead, the possibility of possibility. Consequently, the human being’s creation in the divine image needs to be understood in two ways. First, humanity is not so much “made in God’s image” as we are “made in God’s imagination, a product of the divine fantasy.” Second, as human beings we ourselves participates in divine imagination – homo imaginus.
How different is this understanding from the bleak depression of modern existential thinking! Our longing for the good is dismissed by Sartre as a “useless passion.” Human imagining, writes Camus, condemns us to misery, for it is absurd. We long for goodness, beauty, and kindness in a world perpetually marred by ugliness, evil, and injustice.
But for the biblical mystic, our erotic imaginings of a world of justice and peace marks the immanence of God in our lives. Our creative discontent, that which drives us to imagine an alternative reality, is the image/imagination of God, of Shechina, beating in our breast. The cosmos is pregnant with hints that guide our imaginings. We are called to heal the world in the image of our most beautiful imaginings. The eros of imagination is the elixir of God running through the universe.

"More than two thousand years ago, the great sage Confucius was sitting and talking to four young scholars about what would bring happiness to them. The first said that he would achieve happiness if he achieved the rank of Minister of Defence.
The second said that he would have ultimate joy if he became Minister of Finance.
The third said that he would reach the peak of human pleasure if he became the Emperor's Master of Ceremonies.
The fourth student was bored by the discussion. He played his lute.
Confucius said to him: 'Tseng Tien, I want you to answer the question.'
The young man said: 'Happiness is to be with a group of friends, bathing in the River Yi in late spring. A cooling breeze blows through the rain altars. We sing at the tops of our voices as we stroll home.'
Confucius said only Tien understood anything about happiness.

No wisdom has ever surpassed that of Confucius. But one who may have been equally wise was Lao Tzu, Blade of Grass. Two and a half milleniums ago, he said: 'He who is satisfied, is rich.'

(Some Gleanings of Ancient Chinese Wisdom by C. F. Wong, part 351)"

- from the Feng Shui Detective Goes South, by Nury Vittachi. I love this book, lent to me by mythos, for its wit and wisdom; however, I disagree profoundly with Wong that the Sydney Opera House amounts to the 'feng shui horror house from hell' (maybe, because, unlike him, I happen to find myself a native Aussie!). 'Water (dragon) building in a water environment': what could seem more awesome and spectacular as a national icon, and treasure? I agree with him about the Coathanger, though! lol

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